By Connor Lee Bradley
The night after Overdrive Publications put on our Rocky Horror Picture Show Valentine’s Day Screening, the second screening at that, Teresa and I went to a wrestling show. Not just any wrestling show, a WWE Smackdown Live Event, and not just any WWE Smackdown Live Event; but a Road to Wrestlemania WWE Smackdown Live Event. This was going to be a big deal. With that in mind, and a need to cheer for my new best friend, WWE Superstar Becky Lynch (I get to call her Becky), we dragged our tired bodies down to the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho to take in some wrestling.
Live Events are a very special thing in wrestling. The wrestlers are a lot more relaxed, they have a little more fun, and no one has to sit through a commercial break. With the Santa Ana Star Center as a perfect venue for wrestling and the Wrestlemania buzz in the air, the Smackdown superstars put on a show Rio Rancho (and the two people who drove in from Albuquerque just so they could write an article) will never forget. As with my excellent, Pulitzer-worthy interview with Becky Lynch (my new best friend), I’m not going to expect you to know who these people are and why I sobbed when Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance, but do your best to keep up dear reader.
When we got into the building, the night had already started with a Triple Threat Match for the United States Title featuring Baron Corbin, a giant, mean-looking man; Jinder Mahal, another giant, mean-looking man; and defending United States Champion, the Glorious One Bobby Roode, who is not giant or mean-looking. For a while during the match Corbin and Mahal ganged up on the Champion, tossing him around and stomping on him. Eventually their respective egos would get in the way and they started beating on each other. After lots of back and forth action, seeing multiple clotheslines (or lariats if you’re a nerd), knees to faces, a Deep Six (a signature move Corbin does that looks AWESOME live), spine-busters from Bobby Roode, multiple pin-falls broken up and kicked out of, and non-stop action causing the crowd to go crazy. The finish finally came when Bobby Roode hit his Glorious DDT on Jinder Mahal and got the three-count, retaining his title in an excellent match.
The next match saw Dolph Ziggler take on the masked sensation Sin Cara. Lots of fast-paced action between these two as expected. This match saw Dolph Ziggler trying to keep up with the High-Flying Sin Cara who delivered on that title. Multiple springboard moves, dives over the top rope, and a whole list of other moves I cannot possibly name made it seem like this was Sin Cara’s match. However, the crafty bad guy Dolph Ziggler managed to out-smart the luchador and get off a Superkick that gave Ziggler the match. However, what I remember at the end of that match is Sin Cara standing back up and showing the crowd his appreciation for their support.
After a pretty entertaining 6-Man Tag Match which had Zack Ryder and The Ascension (a party guy who chants “Woo Woo Woo, You Know it” and two big, mean-looking Mad Max Road Warrior type of guys) beat Mojo Rawley, Primo Colon, and Mike Kanellis; it was time for a Women's Tag Match featuring the Riott Squad (a rebel group of women comprised of Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, and Ruby Riott) taking on Naomi (who Teresa INSTANTLY liked) and my new best friend as of a month ago, the Straight-Fire Lass Kicker Becky Lynch. In a very fun match that saw excellent Tag Team action, Naomi hit a Rear View (a move where she hits you in the face with her butt) on Liv Morgan to win the match for her team. After the three-count, Becky Lynch and Naomi celebrated doing the Kid-N-Play dance from “House Party”. My friends are so cool.
The next match started with Aiden English and Rusev making their entrance as the crowd chanted “Rusev Day” (it’s a wrestling thing). Then the arena went dark, and the sounds of a violin echoed as Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance. Ladies and gentlemen, I won’t lie to you; I lost my sh**. I lost it all over the Santa Ana Star Center as the King of Strong Style made his way to the ring. He tagged with the Viper Randy Orton in a match that saw them go over Rusev Day when Orton hit an RKO on Aiden English to win the match. Short match but to see Shinsuke make his entrance is a moment I will never forget.
After a brief intermission, we kicked off the second act with a Fatal 4-Way match for the Women’s Smackdown Championship pitting champion Charlotte Flair (yes, she is the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair) against Natalya (Niece of WWE Hall of Famer Bret the Hitman Hart), Lana the Ravishing Russian, and the Fabulous One, Carmella. This was a fun match that saw every woman hitting their signature moves. At one point Natalya and Lana were laid out in the ring and Carmella kept trying to pin them. One would kick out, she would rush to pin the other, but they would kick out, so she would go back to the last one. This went on for a minute and the crowd ate it up. The end of the match came when Natalya and Carmella had Lana in a submission move; Charlotte used the distraction to hit Natalya with a Natural Selection for the three-count, winning the match and retaining her title.
Next up was another Fatal 4-Way Match, this time in Tag-Team Action. The defending Champions, The Usos, had their hands full going against Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable, The New Day (who the crowd went nuts for), and The Bludgeon Brothers (“Those guys are HUGE”- Teresa). This match had non-stop action, with multiple Super Kicks, high-flying antics, distractions from The New Day, and The Bludgeon Brothers… well… bludgeoning people. The finish saw The Usos hit what seemed like 100 Super Kicks on everyone and finally hitting a Double Superkick on Chad Gable for the victory, retaining their title. Another very fun match in a night of excellent matches.
Finally, it was time for the Main Event. It was Handicap match which saw Kevin Owens and Sami Zayne take on WWE World Heavyweight Champion the Phenomenal One AJ Styles. Owens and Zayne often used their numbers advantage to beat down on Styles, but Styles would continue to fight back. At one point he hit an inverted DDT AND a regular DDT at the same time. AT THE SAME TIME! AJ picked up the victory after he knocked Owens off the apron and then hit Zayne with the Phenomenal Forearm (a move where Styles flies over the top rope and basically punches you in the face), getting the pin, and proving why Smackdown really is the House that AJ Styles built.
As we filed out of the Santa Ana Star Center, I thought to myself about all the excellent wrestling I saw and why I love it so much. In the parking lot while we waited for the traffic to disperse, I gushed about how amazing it was to see Shinsuke Nakamura live in person. On the long drive back to Albuquerque, I talked about how awesome it was to see my new best friend Becky Lynch do what she loves doing. I love wrestling, people. It is amazing, and I honestly want everyone to attend at least one live wrestling event in their lifetime. It might just become your new favorite thing.