Last week, (March 4th) after a 20+ year absence, I finally made my return to Professional Wrestling, as a fan (with my buddy, Shaun). Friday Night Smackdown! The last time I went to a Smackdown it was still on Thursday nights, and it was still called WWF Smackdown.
In preparation for attending my first Smackdown in over 20 years, I went back to October or November of 2021 and started watching every Raw, Smackdown and WWE Premium Event to prepare. By the time we went to Smackdown I was fully caught up on the past few months of WWE wrestling, and now I’m back to being a wrestling fan.
A lot has changed in 20 years…
Back when I started watching the WWF they had Monday Night Raw or Raw is War each week. It wasn’t until later on that Smackdown became a thing, on Thursday nights. The top Superstars were The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Mankind, The Undertaker and Kane. We had groups like DX, The Brood, The Rock and Sock Connection, T&A and the Acolytes.
I remember my first time at Monday Night Raw, when I realized that these shows were pre-taped. All of the wrestlers were talking as if it were Monday, even though the show was being recorded on a Tuesday or Wednesday. I knew that wrestling wasn’t “real combat” but for some reason this sort of took me out of it even more. I thought I was being lied to. It didn’t stop me from watching though.
Today, Smackdown is recorded Live for television on Fridays. The show started at 8 PM (after a pre-show match), and ended at 10 PM (with an after-show match). I’m pretty sure Monday Night Raw is also recorded live today.
Seat Fillers & Live Taping
We arrived at our seats a few minutes into the first match, and since our seats were directly across from the cameras filming the action we had seat fillers holding our spot (making the crowd look full). Two of the seat fillers kindly scattered off to find another empty seat to fill.
It’s fun to get to see how the whole show is made behind the scenes. We also got to see what happens during commercial breaks. Shows will cut to commercial mid-match, usually when someone is down. The match doesn’t stop though, it keeps on going.
There are also many times where the first Superstar is introduced for a match, but they cut to commercial before their opponent comes out. It’s funny to see them come out and do their thing, then the music and lights sort of go out and the Superstar chills in the ring for a bit, until the music starts back up again and we return from the commercial break to introduce their opponent.
We also got to see some commercial break crowd games. Games like “Best sign,” “Best People’s Eyebrow” and “Best DX Suck it!” Too bad they didn’t have one for best homemade shirt, or I would have won.
There are also many pre-recorded promos. You can tell when you’re there which Superstars aren’t really in the building. Those who are in promos, but never come out to the ring. There was a whole Poker bit with Happy Corbin and MadCap Moss backstage messing with Drew McIntyre, but since Happy and MadCap never made it out, it was most likely pre-recorded. Maybe even in another arena.
I also noticed that the Superstar intros are jazzed up a bit for television. Everyone knows that Xia Li’s electricity on television is CG, but I think there is even more being added into the background.
When Drew McIntyre came out we got to see some fire and explosions. It just felt like there was more thunder than lightning. Meaning I heard more than I saw, so they most likely just add some extra sparks and explosions on the TV.
Overall, being at a WWE event live was an awesome time. The one problem was that FTX Arena didn’t allow me to bring in my DSLR camera, so you’ll have to check out pictures from my iPhone. Now, let’s go over some of the matches and Superstars we got to see here in Miami.
Matches & Superstars
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Sami Zayn (Champion) vs Ricochet
The night began with an Intercontinental Title Match. Sami Zayn who snaked his way into being the Intercontinental Champion lost to Ricochet. There was some outside interference by Jackass’s Johnny Knoxville.
AUSTIN THEORY CHALLENGES PAT MCAFEE TO WRESTLEMANIA MATCH
Next Austin Theory came out, which was strange since he’s a Raw Superstar. Now that Smackdown and Raw are split with their own unique rosters. Theory came out to challenge Smackdown commentator, Pat McAfee, to a match at Wrestlemania after Vince McMahon had been on Pat’s podcast earlier in the week. He also slapped Pat in the face.
NAOMI VS CARMELLA
The second match of the evening was Naomi vs Carmella, to prepare us for the Women’s Tag Team Championship match at Wrestlemania: Naomi & Sasha Banks vs Carmella & Queen Zelina. Now that Naomi isn’t worried about being harassed by Sonya Deville, she can get some good matches in.
Both Superstars had their tag team partners at their side. Sasha was able to stop Queen Zelina from interring by smashing her face into the steps. This helped Naomi secure the win with a moonsault on Carmella. Tonight, we’ll see Sasha face Queen Zelina, one on one.
*I guess I only got a few pictures of Naomi’s “Feel the Glow” entrance, because I don’t really care for Carmella.
DREW MCINTYRE VS JINDER MAHAL
Before Drew’s match, we saw that whole Happy and MadCap pre-recorded promo I had talked about. That was to set up Drew vs Happy at Wrestlemania, a match I’ve been waiting to see.
After the promo, we took a bathroom break and missed this whole match, and Drew McIntyre’s perfectly-timed “Claymore.” We almost had another chance to see a Claymore in the bonus match, but it got reversed.
*I also only caught a few pics of Drew McIntyre’s Intro with Angela (his giant sword).
RICK BOOGS & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (ATTACKED BY THE USOS)
I didn’t think Rick Boogs (MY NEW FAVORITE SUPERSTAR) would be here for SMACKDOWN with Shinsuke Nakamura. Last I heard, they were both injured. So, this was a sweet surprise to get to see my favorite intro live, even if it was cut short by the Usos.
I recorded the intro myself on my iPhone, but the video I found online is way better. Plus, you’ll get to see me in the background as Roman Reigns calls out Brock Lesnar, giving him the thumbs down. I’m also hoping this assault on Boogs and Nakamura will lead to a Tag Team Title Match for them vs the Usos.
TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: THE USOS VS THE VIKING RAIDERS
When I first saw the Viking Raiders I thought they seemed sort of silly, but after seeing them in action, I’m all about the Raiders. Ivar is a 300 lb high flyer, and I love when him and Erik team up and throw each other at their opponents.
The Usos are just Roman Reigns baby heel cousins. Their his little goons, but for some reason so many people in Miami love the Usos and Roman. I will admit they are fun to watch, but I’m always rooting for them to lose.
The Usos won this match to retain their title with some slight cheating. Of course, they had the Viking Raiders fly out to Saudi Arabia just to ambush them before their match and have it postponed until SMACKDOWN a few weeks later.
BIG E VS SHAEMUS
Even though I wasn’t able to see King Woods (aka Xavier Woods aka Austin Creed), I was happy to see both of his New Day compatriots, Kofi Kingston and Big E! They rode out on Big E’s fresh new ATV.
There was no match between Big E and Shaemus though. There was only about a minute of actual match time before Rich and Shaemus went dirty and stole Big E’s birthday present, the ATV, to take it outside and smash it with sledgehammers.
This rivalry is definitely not over, I’m sure we’ll see more of Big E vs Shaemus, and even The New Day vs Shaemus and Rich Holland. Bring back King Woods and have him take on Shaemus or Rich.
Next we got to see Johnny Knoxville challenge Sami Zayn to a Wrestlemania match from backstage. After that we saw more of Happy Corbin and MadCap’s silly antics, before Drew McIntyre showed up and ruined their fun. Perhaps they were in the building?
This was all to get us ready for the main event of the night.
RONDA ROUSEY VS SONYA DEVILLE
It was very cool to see Rowdy Ronda Rousey in her first ever SMACKDOWN match, especially to see her fight Sonya Deville. When Charlotte Flair came out to watch the match from ringside, I thought she would try to do something to help Sonya win. She didn’t.
It was after the match that Ronda invited Charlotte into the ring. Charlotte went after her, but Ronda quickly put her into an ankle lock.
BONUS: 6-MAN TAG TEAM: USOS & ROMAN REIGNS VS VIKINGS & DREW MCINTYRE
This was the best match of the night. Once the show is officially over, the crowd gets a goofy, over the top match to enjoy. It’s the end of the night and many of these Superstars have participated in a match by now, so the wrestling is a bit more sloppy. The character work is way over the top though.
The match began with one of the Usos vs one of the Vikings. The crowd kept cheering for Roman to fight, since we hadn’t seen him fight earlier in the night, and he’s the self-proclaimed “Head of the Table” and our “Tribal Chief.”
Roman kept egging us on to chant and roar, and when he finally was tagged in he would tag one of the Usos back in. It was silly, but fun. It even made me like him a little more. We also got to see Paul Heyman go after some guy in the crowd. Well, he tried to, but the Usos were holding him back.
Roman ended up taking part in the match and spearing a viking for the win. Seeing wrestling live is great, but this end of the night match made me think of our Wednesday night rehearsals at the improv theater. Doing shows for live audiences is great, but on Wednesday it was just the cast, trying stuff out for each other. That’s when we were our silliest.
If you ever find yourself at a live taping of Raw or Smackdown or anything else in the WWE Universe, make sure to stay for the extra match. Also, get there early so you don’t miss the opening “pre-taping” match.
Overall this was an amazing night. I would attend WWE live shows each and every week if I could. Instead, I will continue to watch them on TV until they come back to Miami some time later this year or next year.
Ferdi’s Learnings E&E (Events & Entertainment) is something new I’m trying out this year. This is the first of hopefully many more to come this year. It’s just my way of including more of the stuff I love on this site.
*Side note: My goal for this post was to also post my WWE 2K22 (the Video Game) review/thoughts at the same time on my other site (myVGBC.com) as a Crossover post. I’m still working on that one, but it will be up later today or over the weekend.