Portland, Oregon is a city rich in history when it comes to professional wrestling. Starting with the territory owned by Don Owens, it saw the rise of performers like Billy Jack Haynes, Jimmy Snuka, and the legendary “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Today, the big dog in town of course is the WWE. Tonight at the Moda Center, the WWE held Monday Night Raw and I had the pleasure of attending the show live.
This was not the first Monday Night Raw I’ve ever attended. That distinction belongs to the episode that played on August 27th, 2001 at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Time flies when you’re having fun and to think that close to sixteen years have passed since I last attended an episode of Raw blows my mind. (I did attend the WWE Pay per View The Bash in 2009 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California.) I bring this up because of how much has changed on the show. I’m not referring to the talent roster of course. Sixteen years is a long time in a business that does a number on your body like professional wrestling. The show itself, the production involved in putting on such an undertaking week after week felt much smoother than it did back then.
The main treat on the show was the official introduction of Samoa Joe to the main WWE roster. As a long time wrestling fan, Samoa Joe has been on my list of all time great performers. Anyone familiar with his work in TNA can attest to this, despite the work that company put into stifling his career. When he walked to the ring in his suit and cut a promo explaining why he supported Triple H in his attack on Seth Rollins last week, you felt the seething anger coming from him. It was one hell of a way to open the show.
Roman Reigns promptly made his presence felt and challenged Joe to a match later that night. Yet Roman did something interesting. He referred to the ring as his yard. That folks is very much intentional. When he eliminated The Undertaker from the ring at the Royal Rumble, he yelled that the ring was his yard now. If rumors turn out to be true, and based on what he said tonight I fully expect them to be, expect to see The Undertaker return at some point to challenge Roman Reigns for a match at Wrestlemania.
Goldberg received one of the best ovations of the night when he came to the ring during a Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens promo. He also took the time to challenge Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship at WWE Fastlane later this month. Two observations here. When Goldberg heads to the ring for a match and he’s walking down a long corridor psyching himself up, it makes said match appear more special. Yet when he does the same to head to the ring for a spot on the microphone, it seems silly. If all he is going to do is talk, hit his music, have him breath smoke, and get him talking. The wait it took to get him to the ring dragged. Also, his challenging for the Universal Championship pretty much telegraphs how both Raw and Smackdown are going to shape up come Wrestlemania time. While things can certainly change, I strongly suspect we’re going to see Goldberg win the Universal Championship, making his match against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania for the title. As that matchup will get more people buying tickets, the WWE Championship match up more than likely will see Bray Wyatt win the title at Elimination Chamber to face Randy Orton at Wrestlemania earlier in that show. We’ll also see Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho’s friendship finally end resulting in the two facing off for the United States Championship at Wrestlemania. That’s three matches in the bag.
The main event of the night saw Samoa Joe’s Raw debut against Roman Reigns. When tickets first became available for the show, I never dreamed I would be seeing the Raw in ring debut of Samoa Joe. Joe is a certified legend and getting a chance to see him compete on the main roster for the first time was an honor. The match itself was pretty good apart from the fact that Roman was too dominant. It took the interference of Braun Strowman to cause Roman to lose the match. I would have liked to see Samoa Joe be a little more dominant in his debut.
Another thing I found curious was the crowd reaction for Roman Reigns. Crowds today are nothing like they were even back in 2009. While Roman received a heavy chorus of boos throughout the night, in his match with Joe, every time he was on the offensive the crowd cheered like crazy. Fellow audience members would profess their hatred for him…yet cheer him the first chance he hit his patented offense. My opinion on Reigns remains the same. I get what the WWE sees in the guy, I just don’t think he’s there yet in regards to being the top guy for the company. Yet based on the schizophrenic reaction from the crowd tonight, I can understand why the WWE feels confident in going full steam ahead with him. If the rumored match against The Undertaker turns out to be true, I really don’t know what to expect.
The show ended with Braun Strowman taking out Reigns much to the satisfaction of the crowd. Just as he walked off stage and folks started rising to leave, well, some music hit…
Brock Lesnar comes to the ring with Paul Heyman after Raw is off the air and proceed to challenge anyone in the locker room. The Big Show accepts but eats a quick F5. The reaction Brock Lesnar received was the loudest I’ve ever heard and I’ve seen folks like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Ultimate Warrior, and Hulk Hogan in their prime. It was a great way to treat the Portland fans for coming out in drizzly weather for Monday Night Raw.
Wrestling fans are a goofy bunch. We come in all shapes and sizes. Men, women, children, we all find ourselves drawn into this world, this insane world, of sports entertainment. I’ll be the first to admit that wrestling is far from the realm of Shakespeare. It’s theater at it’s most base. Yet the passions the superstars in the ring are able to elicit from the audience are something folks in theater, movies, and television wish they could tap into. For as much as we wrestling fans complain about the product, our love for what goes on in the ring and the off chance that the moment we stop watching is the moment something amazing happens brings up back for more. What you see in the ring is a living breathing comic book. For that, I have to say that if the WWE is coming to your town, you would do well to buy some tickets to attend the show. And then you can watch the replay on the WWE Network, which you can subscribe to for only $9.99 a month.