By: Cole Swanson
(Cole is a guest blogger for The Corridor Review, who writes wrestling articles over on eightscreens.com).
On Saturday, March 5, the Road to Wrestlemania passed through Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With WWE’s “Show of Shows” a little less than a month away, the US Cellular Center found itself packed with a hyped crowd who was ready to drop big money on merchandise, yell at dudes in tights and, in my group’s case, drink $90 worth of Bud Light.
Here’s what went down:
* Match 1: AJ Styles def. The Miz *
Despite being in the WWE for little more than a month, Styles got a great, positive reaction from the crowd. Miz did an amazing job working the crowd into a frenzy of boos with his smarmy Hollywood persona.
* Match 2: Jack Swagger & Darren Young def. Curtis Axel & Adam Rose (Social Outcasts) *
In hindsight, this was the low-point of the night. Darren Young alone commands no real reaction from the crowd, so pairing him with Swagger was a good move, but Swagger doesn’t have much going for him these days, either. I was genuinely surprised to see both of them wrestle a match, let alone team up.
* Match 3: WWE United States Champion Kalisto def. King Barrett *
Of all the people who wrestled on Saturday, no one got a more polarizing reaction from the Cedar Rapids crowd than Bad News Barrett. There were competing chants of “Let’s go Barrett” and “Barrett Sucks.” Kalisto was a big hit with the kid demographic. Not so much the “my brother” demographic, who claimed he wanted to challenge Kalisto for the US Championship right then and there. Kalisto has yet to accept or decline.
* Match 4: WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) w/ Kofi Kingston def. The Dudley Boyz & The Usos in a triple threat tag team match *
With Big E being a U of I grad, we knew this was going to be an entertaining segment, and it didn’t disappoint. Before the match, Big E covered his ears as Kofi and Xavier talked about how terrible Iowa was, evidenced by their loss in both the Big 10 Championship game and the Rose Bowl blowout. The match itself was by far the most entertaining of the night, too.
* Intermission *
* Match 5: WWE Divas Champion Charlotte def. Becky Lynch *
Becky got a great, positive reaction from the crowd. Charlotte did a good job playing up her “elitist” attitude during the match. Not a bad match, but not a show-stopper either.
* Match 6: Sheamus def. Neville *
Neville kept his high-flying antics to a minimum during this one. It was pretty much all Sheamus from the get-go. I was bummed we didn’t get to see Neville hit a Red Arrow in person. Maybe next time…
* Main Event: Dean Ambrose def. WWE Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens via DQ *
After hearing the crowd’s reaction to Ambrose, there’s really no doubt in my mind he’s the most universally popular wrestler on the roster. And seeing Kevin Owens in person made me love him even more. He has the heel role down to a science. At one point, he yelled to a girl in the crowd who was recording the match to “Watch this!” and then proceeded to throw Ambrose over the ropes on the complete opposite side of the ring. The match ended when KO wouldn’t stop beating on Ambrose in one of the ring corners. While Ambrose was getting back to his feet, Kevin grabbed the mic and started talking trash. While he was gloating, Ambrose surprised him and hit him with a Dirty Deeds to end the night on a positive.
* Parting Thoughts *
Overall, this was a well-paced, entertaining show. Being able to see Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and The New Day in Cedar Rapids was well worth the price of admission, even for a casual fan.
Judging by the crowd turnout and reaction, I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of the WWE in the City of Five Seasons. If you’re looking for a crash course in the world of professional wrestling before that time, feel free to hit me up.
You can find more wrestling articles from Cole, as well as blog posts and podcasts on sports, music & culture on their Facebook.