Tonight was WWE’s annual swing through Peoria at the Peoria Civic Center, and I have to say: this crowd seemed like it could have cared less.
I should also say at this point that, while I may rip on the choices WWE made with this show, I had a great time. I went with my friend Lucas and joined up with another friend, Mark, who just so happens to work for a radio station. Mark had free tickets for the radio groups party suite, so we had a bird’s eye view of the show. After intermission, some of his coworkers left, and up came 95.5 GLO’s Jeff Stevens and his son. Jeff was a gag.
Onto the show…
Peoria isn’t the hotbed of pro wrestling fans like it’s bigger sister, Chicago. But, WWE doesn’t help things much when the first Superstar it sends out is Chris Masters. Yep, a poor guy who barely catches a break on Superstars – a show relegated solely to the Internet without the backing of a television network or, really, the WWE as a company – is the first guy sent out to rile up a crowd of 2,000 people. Next comes Jack Swagger, an individual who I believe has all the potential in the world but hasn’t yet connected with the fans. For each of these two, this has to be an uncomfortable position to be in. Somehow, Masters is able to flex enough for the crowd to get behind him and pick up the pinfall.
The show doesn’t drag. As Masters is leaving, R-Truth runs out from the back and starts a-clubberin’ him. Masters is saved by Long Island Iced Z himself, Zack Ryder. But The Miz can’t take it, so he starts wailing on Ryder. Finally, Alex Riley comes out to settle this nonsense. After a short brawl, Riley issues a tag team challenge – him and Ryder taking on Miz and Truth. Ryder shouts, “Woo woo woo!” I thought for sure Miz or Truth would respond, since the Miz is a great antagonist and Truth’s been getting some good mic time lately. Nope. Instead we see Zack Ryder get crushed the whole match only for Alex Riley to make the tag, until he eats a Skull-Crushing Finale from the PWI’s top-rated wrestler in the world, the Miz.
Surely, I thought, at this point in the show, somebody would get on the microphone. But then came Tyler Reks, a guy who I was legitimately surprised to see still around. What is his gimmick, anyway? Why does he have dreads? Has he ever talked? Wasn’t he in a Survivor Series match or something and pushed as a big deal? By the time I asked myself and my friends these questions, I snapped back into reality and noticed Primo was high-fiving people left and right. Since when did Primo become a babyface? The bell hadn’t even rung yet and I was tired of this match since I had to ask so much before we even began. Thankfully, Primo hit the Backcracker and was headed to the back.
The mariachi band hit and out came Mr. Money in the Bank, Alberto Del Rio. I was so relieved when Del Rio took the mic. “Yes,” I thought. “Give us a reason to hate you.” And he did. Del Rio talked about destiny. It was his destiny to be world champion. Then he turned to the audience. It was the destiny of the guy in the blue shirt to be married to his ugly wife. It was the destiny of the people up top to be poor. Easy, Del Rio. I may have gotten free tickets to that party suite, but I’m definitely not poor. Either way, the Mexican aristocrat finally gave people somebody to dislike, which meant Kofi Kingston would be cheered even more. They had a pretty good back-and-forth match, with Del Rio teasing he would leave during the start. Del Rio wound up winning via the armbar.
Eve Torres came out and told us she was the guest host, but was immediately interrupted by a Bella (I’m assuming it was Brie). Brie wanted Kelly Kelly, who readily accepted the challenge. I kind of stopped paying attention at this point, and when I returned my focus to the ring, I was surprised they were still performing. Kelly won with the leg drop…thing she does, and thus retained the WWE Divas Championship.
Eve, who remained at ringside, climbed back into the ring to host a dance contest. You’d think after so many years, WWE would find something else for Divas to do on the house shows. Eve’s duty as host was to emcee a dance contest between four fans to get a chance to go backstage. The winner was based on crowd reaction. I’m guessing – and this is a legit guess, based on WWE’s charitable work – that the first guy was a mentally retarded fan, named Charlie. The crowd showed Charlie their support with one of the loudest reactions up to that point. Next up was some girl did some worn-out dance and got booed by the fans, so she gave up. I could not get over that Peoria fans cared so much to actually boo a fellow fan. In a bigger city, maybe, but not Peoria. Mama Woo Woo looked like the twin sister of King Kong Bundy, who flirted with Justin Roberts before performing some kind of stripper move on the ropes. Some kid wound up winning.
After intermission, Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov d. Michael McGuillicutty and David Otunga after Santino hit the Cobra on McGuillicutty. This was a non-title match, and Santino had an arm sock on that appeared to be a snake. Seriously, why not give Santino three minutes on the microphone? This guy is hilarious.
Dolph Ziggler d. Evan Bourne to retain the WWE United States Championship. No surprise there, given it was a title match. Dolph actually got on the mic and heeled the crowd. He was the night’s heel who pretended like he was going to walk out.
Finally, the Champion vs. Champion bout. “All right,” I told myself, “This has all just been a warm-up for the crowd to go nuts for CM Punk.” WWE had done a terrible job promoting the fact that CM Punk was actually going to wrestle, and John Sharp of the Peoria Journal Star called them out on it.
nernernerner, nernernerner…nernernerner, nernernerner…LOOK AT MY EYYYYYES what do ya seeeeee? The cult of personaaaaaalityyyyy
AND THE CROWD GOES WILD! THESE FANS ARE KNOCKING OVER THE RAILING TO GET A GLIMPSE OF THE MOST ELECTRIFYING SUPERSTAR IN THE PAST TEN YEARS! CM PUNK HAS CREATED PANDEMONIUM IN PEORIA!
I wish. As Punk meandered his way out, WWE title around his waist, he got a reaction. But not one nearly as deafening as the one he received a few weeks ago in his hometown that’s THREE HOURS AWAY. It turns out the crowd was saving its orgasm for John Cena. Really? Has the whole CM Punk angle just gone over the heads of every single child? This kid who was sitting in our party suite didn’t even know who Punk was. Call it gimmick infringement, but…ARE YOU SERIOUS, BRO?
Cena and Punk went more or less back and forth. As the match was hitting its climax, they hit a double clothesline. Both men prone, out came Alberto Del Rio toting his Money in the Bank briefcase and yelling at a referee. But which champion does he go after? Del Rio finally hauled off and crashed the briefcase into CM Punk, and then John Cena. The bell rang. With Del Rio and two referees trying to figure out this mess – and the conundrum of cashing in while a match is taking place – CM Punk nailed Del Rio with the GTS. Del Rio then rolled right into John Cena, who delivered the Attitude Adjustment. As Del Rio limped to the back, Cena and Punk each posed with their title as Cena’s music played. Punk finally walked off. Cena hoisted the title up one more time before heading out to high-five some fans and ringside.
And that’s it. That was how they ended the show.
Chris Masters pinned Jack Swagger with a roll-up.
The Miz and R-Truth d. Alex Riley and Zack Ryder when The Miz pinned Riley.
Primo d. Tyler Reks with the backcracker.
Alberto Del Rio d. Kofi Kingston with the armbar.
Kelly Kelly retained the WWE Divas Championship against Brie Bella.
Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov d. David Otunga & Michael McGullicutty when Santino hit McGuillicutty with the Cobra.
John Cena vs. CM Punk went to a no-contest when Alberto Del Rio interfered, attempting to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.