Anybody who lights into the WWE creative team on a regular basis should’ve been on the Long Island Rail Road with me Sunday.
I headed to the house show at Madison Square Garden next to Miller Place’s John Grebe and sons Ryan, 12, Travis, 9, and Ty, 6, the boys all clad in John Cena “Rise Above Hate” T-shirts. As John Grebe and I talked about wrestling from a quarter-century ago, Ryan asked his dad if he ever saw Jake “The Snake” Roberts live. He thought he had but wasn’t sure.
Just then, Ty asked, “Is this show going to be on TV?”
When we said no, he lamented that his mom wasn’t going to be able to see the action.
“That’s OK,” John Grebe said with a smile. “I have a feeling Mom wants to watch something else tonight.”
The scene screamed “family entertainment,” and is the reason WWE traded the Attitude Era for its current PG incarnation. Too much money to be lost.
I rode back home with three frat boys behind me who also attended the show. (Well, I’m not sure they were frat boys, but with names like “MMA,” “Coach” and “Spice,” I feel comfortable inferring.)
They were your typical "Attitude Era" fans, who miss the days of WWE programming that provided shock and awe during the late 1990s.
Welcome to the creative team’s biggest problem: trying to please those two entirely different extremes of adolescence, both absolutely crucial to the company’s business model. I spoke with Dave Bautista in 2010, and he made it clear he had no interest in returning to a company that had gone so politically correct.
And yet, I’m thinking John Grebe is happy he only lets his boys watch RAW during the summer. Those school night bedtimes have avoided some uncomfortable explanations as The Rock and John Cena have pushed the envelope. I know if I were a father I would have trouble explaining the intricacies of Rock’s “lady parts” slights. And that’s one of more subtle ones.
The creative team has a more impossible job than ever, and I’m not sure it’s ever changing. I may disagree from time to time, but I’ll always have respect.
Oh, yeah, there was a wrestling show Sunday night.
* Zack Ryder pinned The Miz.
* Primo and Epico retained the tag title over R-Truth and Kofi Kingston. (Kingston got a pin and new tag champs were announced, but John Laurinaitis came out, noted a foot on the rope by the Primo/Epico team nullified the pin. Match restarted, Laurinaitis distracted ref and a backstabber on Kingston equaled a pin and title retention).
* Santino Marella retained U.S. title over Jack Swagger. (Swagger got a pin and new champ was announced, but Teddy Long came out, noting that Swagger used his feet on the ropes for leverage. Match restarted, Hornswoggle came out and bit Swagger on the butt, giving Marella time to hit The Cobra for the win.
*Alberto Del Rio submitted Mason Ryan with cross arm-breaker.
* After intermission, Natalya and Beth Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly and Tamina. (Eve made up for her useless promo by tripping Kelly Kelly, allowing Beth to hit her finisher.)
* Daniel Bryan retained the world title over Big Show and Mark Henry in a three-way dance. (Big Show hit chokeslam on Henry, but Bryan then slid into the ring, clipped Big Show and pinned Henry. Bryan scurried away, Henry tried to blindside show and got a knockout punch for his trouble.)
* John Cena defeated Kane in a last man standing match. (Cena got put through a table in the corner at one point, but recovered and laid out Kane with an attitude adjustment on another table. Kane couldn’t answer 10 count, and Cena got the win before getting on the mic and promoting WrestleMania XXIX in the NYC area to close the show.)
* Chris Jericho got one of the bigger babyface pops of the night when the combatants of the Jericho/Cody Rhodes/Dolph Ziggler vs. Triple H/CM Punk/Randy Orton six-man tag were announced. Jericho, wanting to maintain full heel status, grabbed the mic and railed at the fans that he, unlike CM Punk, is the “best in the world at what he does.” The crowd then wanted to throttle him. Jericho really does hold an audience in the palm of his hand.
* Triple H had Dolph Ziggler all set up for a pedigree finish. Instead, he took a rather unveiled shot at The Undertaker by shaking his head, planting Ziggler with the tombstone and getting the pin.
* If Santino Marella stays out of trouble he’s going to make money with a green nylon snake sock for the next 20 years. Good for him!
* New York wrestling fans know their history. So even though the Beth Phoenix/Natalya vs. Kelly Kelly/Tamina Snuka tag match didn’t get a lot of reaction, the crowd popped to Tamina hitting a big splash in the same building where her dad became so famous for doing the same to Don Muraco off the top of a cage.
* Kudos to Madison Square Garden for letting fans bring signs to a house show. When I went to Nassau Coliseum WWE house show last December they were all confiscated. I know, in theory they bring no benefit to the presentation of a house show because it isn’t televised, so all it does it obscure some fans’ views. But the bottom line is it makes people, especially little people, feel like part of the show. And 99 percent of wrestling fans understand the protocol of putting them away when the action is going on so nobody misses anything important.
* Alberto Del Rio came out and submitted Mason Ryan in one minute. Why? If Del Rio is in good enough shape to come back from his groin injury, a house show in the Garden is a perfect time for him to get some work in, both in the ring and in infuriating the crowd. He didn’t even do any mic work. It was downright weird.
* Couldn’t hear Eve Torres’ promo before the Divas tag team match. I was up in Section 307 and could hear everything else. Either she wasn’t enunciating, the sound guy wasn’t paying attention, or the crowd couldn’t care less and jabbered enough to drown her out.
* One message for Del Rio and Rhodes: Lose the white trunks. You look like you’re wearing tighty whities.