WWE LIVE @Newcastle Utilita Arena
Squeezed between WrestleMania and their next Premium Live Event, WrestleMania Backlash, WWE found the time to jet into Europe for a high octane tour of the UK, France and Germany.
With just two UK dates in Newcastle and London, fans were treated to a host of SmackDown Superstars and a couple of mouthwatering nights of action. If that wasn’t enough, Drew McIntyre not only promised, but delivered some blockbuster news for the WWE Universe.
April saw WWE announce the first major event in the UK would emanate from the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on September 3. That information was enough to send British and European fans into raptures with a record number registering their interest in the event’s presale.
Four months out, McIntyre took to the microphone in London to give a little more info, once again sending social media into meltdown. The Premium Live Event has officially been named The Clash At The Castle and presale tickets will go on sale May 18 with general sale commencing two days later on May 20.
“The city of Cardiff is ready for WWE Clash at the Castle on September 3, and I know that everyone in Wales, across the UK and around the entire world is ready to make history with us, too. Get your tickets and be part of the magic. I can’t wait to hear just how loud Principality Stadium can get.” said the Scottish Superstar.
The chance to see WWE Superstars in the UK feels like a welcome relief after the global travelling restrictions over the past couple of years have loosened. This tour marked the second time the company has returned to Newcastle since the pandemic and although the Utilita Arena was far from sold out, the noise generated inside would have told you otherwise.
Matches that wouldn’t look out of place on a WrestleMania card with more than enough time to showcase every Superstar’s talent were met with roars and screams of approval. The rigid timing restrictions of advertisement breaks on television tapings that hamper the ebb and flow of matches aren’t needed at house shows and boy does it show.
Superstars can enjoy their entrances, shake hands with the fans that have turned out and more importantly put on some damn entertaining matches where both sides look strong. Veterans like Shinsuke Nakamura, Sheamus, Natalya and Naomi who may only get a few minutes on SmackDown shows, instead get a chance to tell their story in the ring.
Although McIntyre continues to be popular over here due to his proud British roots, it was the tag team of RK-Bro that received the loudest welcome of the night. Randy Orton recently celebrated 20 years with WWE, and if anything his popularity appears to be on the increase since tagging with Riddle.
Ahead of WrestleMania Backlash this weekend, the Raw Tag Team Champions faced off against their SmackDown counterparts, The Usos, in a fantastic bout. Orton revealed in a recent interview that he has been having the most fun he’s ever had inside a ring during this tag team run.
Strong words from a Superstar who has won pretty much every accolade the company has to offer. His body language certainly echoes the sentiment as the Viper looks relaxed and eager to interact with fans before and after the bell rings. But in between those ropes he appears to be the ultimate professional.
The Intercontinental Championship and SmackDown Women’s Championship were on the line with Ricochet vs Butch and Charlotte vs Sasha Banks respectively. Most fans are savvy enough to understand there is little to no chance the titles will change hands at live shows like these, but with all four involved the matches were good enough to make you forget that point even if just for a few minutes.
The title of pantomime villain of the night easily goes to the fantastic Sami Zayn. Cutting a lengthy promo before his match with GUNTHER, Zayn lamented his recent luck and preached his conspiracy theories, all the while tearing through Newcastle and the UK in general.
From lovable underdog in NXT to losing a comedic match against Johnny Knoxville at WrestleMania, Zayn is without one of the most talented in the business. Featured multiple times across the night, including a backstage segment at the arena, he is finally getting the exposure he deserves.
After losing his match, he appeared at ringside in the main event of the night, Drew McIntyre vs Bobby Lashley. A curious matchup with both men currently faces, it appeared Lashley reverted to his heel persona during the course of the match as Zayn seemed intent on helping claim victory.
There was, however, to be one last moment for the show in Newcastle to make headline news over in the States even without the announcement that McIntyre would deliver just one night later.
Towards the end of the main event a seemingly routine Irish Whip to the ropes created enough tension for the top rope to snap sending Lashley spiralling out of the ring and crashing to the floor.
The Almighty was able to get back to his feet and finish the match, but it was a scary moment for the former WWE Champion that could have ended up a lot worse on another night.
Lashley would help McIntyre lay out Zayn one last time as the pair shook hands and sent the crowd home happy. With only three other European dates after the Newcastle show before flying straight back to America, this tour had the air of a starter before the main course is served in September.
With Roman Reigns and Ronda Rousey disappointingly limited to appearances in London and Paris, the roster looks in good shape heading into the rest of the year. New favourites have started to emerge, veterans are getting their dues and, dare we say it, storylines feel more focussed.
WWE are heading into new territory with three stadium shows booked over July and September. With thousands of seats to fill, they will have to remain laser focussed, tours like this one certainly won’t do any harm to their cause.