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Saturday, August 22, 2020

The (Various) SummerSlam Watching Experience

08/22/2020 01:59:52 AM

It's a Holiday Monday in August 2017. My cab ride from my place in Marikina to BGC lasted for 20 minutes – faster by a whopping 55 percent compared to the usual travel time. As the clock ticked 6:21 AM, I rushed my way up to the second floor of Skinny Mike's Sports Bar and grabbed my ticket as the World Wrestling Entertainment's annual summer party is about to explode right before our very eyes.  

Meanwhile, in 2015, it's just another usual Monday morning. But I have to get out of the house and forget my hopes of watching the entire show. Forget how Sheamus defeated Randy Orton because damn it, it's 7:15 am,  and I need to get my fuckin' ass moving because of my duties as a corporate scum.

Not to be confused with a head-bangin' music festival here in the country, but SummerSlam is WWE's third-scheduled annual event (just after Royal Rumble, the flagship  program called WrestleMania, and before Survivor Series). For the better part of its 33 years, the showcase featured some of the hottest feuds that either took place by post-WrestleMania season, while a few of them just kept the pace on some heat-seeking level like the Shawn Michaels-Razor Ramon rivalry and that of Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker. 

As we dabbled on these two different tales of the viewing experience, they have one thing in common – the actual venue, Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, NY. While it has been regarded as the homecourt for the Nets in the NBA, the World Wrestling Entertainment had been staging their shows (Raw, SmackDown, NXT, and PPV events) in this building for years. Hell, the venue housed the Fallout shows for two WrestleMania gigs that happened during the past decade (2013 and 2019). But let's not talk about the vicinity because we don't live there anyway.

Inside Skinny Mike's, several fans stay glued even before the official launching at 7:00 AM. For some of us, SummerSlam brings the "big fight feel" in the morning, like those Sunday afternoons of Manny Pacquiao (pre-entertainer and politician) days as a boxing world champion. We don't care if the morning rush outside has already kicked to the highest gear. Just hope someone would not yell, “Where is my fuckin' beer?” 

And in what universe does someone find sipping a hot coffee while watching a spectacle of bodyslams and story-telling acceptable? Oh, that's me, so fuck all of you suckers who thought otherwise. 

On the flip side, since I am missing SummerSlam 2015 at the office, I could only afford to get myself spoiled by the results and not hating at all. Hey, I would've watched it at my house by 10:00 PM on FOX anyway. 

As I hit the living room, I better hope I don't wake up my parents from disturbance as I stay glued to the boob tube until 2 in the morning with a footlong sandwich from the nearby Angel's Burger and a liter of RC Cola I bought from my uncle's sari-sari store. Yup, no late-night gigs for me, but I just hope to wake up by 6:00 AM and won't make it late to the office.

For those who aren't familiar to the 2015 edition, it was the event when Seth Rollins became a double-champ (with an assist from the double-crossing Jon Stewart), and Stephen Amell steps inside the squared circle for a tag team match. SummerSlam 2015 also featured the match that started New Day's longest reign as tag team champions and the main event where 'Taker went low to even up the score against Brock Lesnar. 

It was the first SummerSlam in recent memory that went on for almost four hours – way above their usual 2:40 to 3-hour duration. No wonder why the next WrestleMania was to extend beyond their norm.

And you know what actually sucks? I didn't know I won a promo on FOX until two years later, I got a new phone which translates to having a better experience in using Instagram (simply because IG in Windows Phone are stuck in stone age – the beta, only-squared photos, and no inbox features). Damn it.

Meanwhile, the same 'Party of the Summer' that took place two years later saw a lot of good stuff.  There was the near-complete reunion of The SHIELD. Then, two tag team championship matches stole the show for real. Once again, the Demon King suited up against a somewhat psychotic rival. SummerSlam 2017 also saw two Asian wrestlers clash for WWE's top prize, and four juggernauts clash for the Universal Championship.

The show ended around 11:00AM, and almost a hundred people went out happy and buzzin' about the event. 

So, how was watching a WWE program on TV alone? Well, as someone who always flies solo on watching live basketball games at The Big Dome, movies, PWR events, and music shows, this isn't special at all. I'm not like those somewhat bitches who wouldn't dare to go out to see their favorites if they don't have a companion or two. And I don't even mind if I'm the only one who still digs professional wrestling in a family of six. So the fuck what? 

But one can't deny the fact that watching a wrestling program with other people around the corner is a very, very fun experience. Let's face it: audience participation is so vital to such an event. They're part of the story, and if you don't believe it, watch any recent televised wrestling show – those that don't involve a crowd. You'll probably end up bored because neither chants nor jeers were present. Imagine how the performers have to endure a tough time to make things work out, and they hope everyone who's watching from their respective screens is reacting as if they're physically present at the venue. 

I remember watching this year's WrestleMania only to see myself getting dragged with the way things went on (just except for the boneyard match, though). Since then, two of the world's biggest wrestling companies – WWE and the rival All Elite Wrestling – tried injecting some elements of crowd noise by putting some of their performers as spectators from ringside in very socially distant fashion as per universal rules of this pandemic. 

Recently, WWE has joined the virtual bandwagon with Thunderdome. Think of today's NBA arena that had a lot of fans through their LED boards on three sides of their court – just in WrestleMania-ish fashion with all those drone-like camera work, graphics, and pyro as a bunch of addition. I hope SummerSlam would still be fun to watch if that's the case.

Meanwhile, if you're a wrestling fan, how does it feel to watch the spectacle alone and at home? Does watching parties suit you better? And how's the watching experience during the sudden change of recent times?

(Screenshot photos from WWE)

Author: slickmaster | © 2020 The SlickMaster's Files

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