Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Night at the Show

Story, photos, video and interviews by Jon Cerio

Click here for the video

SYRACUSE, N.Y. --  St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty big deal in Syracuse.  People often call in sick, or take vacation time, to head to Tipperary Hill on the seventeenth of March.  93Q’s Ted and Amy were there for the 25th straight year, bright and early at seven am, broadcasting live from Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub.  Though early in the morning, all of the bar stools were spoken for.

Throughout the day, the bar saw more and more authentic and would-be Irishmen come to its doorstep. 

Few dare hold a non-Irish-themed event on St. Patrick’s Day, off Tip hill no less.

World Wrestling Entertainment bucked the trend, and scheduled it’s live event at Onondaga County War Memorial on St. Patrick’s Day evening, a mere two miles away.  

Call it an oversight of Syracuse culture, or confidence in brand popularity, but WWE anticipated a strong turnout.

In fact, WWE Live was the bigger draw on the night – 3,500 strong according to
Of course Coleman's can't fit that many inside.

Step right up

They came to the War memorial in droves.  Dozens at a time crossed the intersection of Harrison and State Streets.  They all passed the usual saxophonist playing for events in the area as they approached the front doors to the building. 

They had to walk past one of the large WWE trucks that hauled ring and production gear, plastered with the faces of John Cena and Roman Reigns. 

WWE t-shirts of superstars like Cena and Reigns, along with Irishmen Sheamus and Finn Balor, outnumbered the green gear on this block.

Whether WWE recognized it or not, some fans agreed that scheduling the event on this night changed their plans.

“Well of course, St. Patrick’s Day is partying night,” Jared Crimmins said.  He came from Oswego to see superstars such as Kevin Owens.  “Why drink when you can see things guys live in action for the first time ever?”

He was there, wearing a black Sheamus t-shirt with green shamrocks on the front, to represent both parts of the special day.  He brought his girlfriend, Shirley Congdon. She was interested in seeing another Irishman, the up-and-coming superstar Finn Balor.  When asked why she was in downtown Syracuse, instead of out celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, her answer was simple.

“Oh we love WWE,” Congdon said.  “We watch it every Monday and Tuesday night.”
“The price for this is priceless,” Crimmins added.

And children of all ages

There were more than a few children heading into the War Memorial, accompanied by moms and dads, aunts and uncles.  Many claimed they were there for their kids, but there was a gleam of excitement in their eyes as well.

One father said his son had been watching for five years.  He’s watched for 35-40 years.

Matt Lyon brought his son Jacob, a Brock Lesnar fan, to the event as well. Asked if they changed their plans for the day to come to the event, the father had a simple answer.

“No,” he said with a laugh.  “He had to see it.”

Click here for the video interviews

Storm brewing?

When Joe Jarmuz and his friend Wes Alberts arrived on the scene, they were hard to miss.  It wasn’t because of any outlandish gear or crazy hairstyle, rather Jarmuz’s unique personality.

He immediately jumped in front of the camera, and gave a fake weather report as if about to be blown away by a grade-five hurricane.

“Wes and I have been talking about it forever,” Jarmuz said.  “We’ve been watching pay-per-views together, and it finally came to our town.  Here we are.”

When asked why they weren’t out celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, they immediately answered.

“We are celebrating!” Jarmuz said.

“This is the real American way of celebrating St. Patty's,” Alberts added.

Arthur Hunt wasn’t shy about letting his thoughts known, though his wife would have preferred he didn’t.  The lifelong fan from Mississippi knew exactly who he came to see.

“Bayley and Roman Reigns!” Hunt said.  

He said the fact that it’s St. Patrick’s Day didn’t affect his plans either.  While some call in to work to go party – he scheduled the day off ahead of time to see WWE live.

“My boss called me and asked if I wanted to work tonight, and I said ‘Nope, I’ve got plans,’” he said.  The boss then asked if he was going to wrestling.

“Yes I am,” he said with a wide grin.

Obstacle course

Once they all headed inside, there was a long, and very slow line to buy tickets for the unfortunate ones who didn’t plan ahead. 

To make matters worse for them, the doors to the arena were open, and they could see the popular combo of Enzo Amore and Big Cass in the ring, addressing the crowd.  Amore is a very charismatic, over-the-top sort of character, who isn’t afraid to speak out – so long as his seven-foot-tall friend Big Cass has his back.

Though several missed it, Big Cass ended up winning a one-on-one matchup with the nefarious Jinder Mahal.

Once fans got their tickets, they likely hopped at the end of the next line to grab some WWE merchandise – conveniently located on the way to the arena doors.  The vendor seemed frustrated with the children belaboring the decision between a Roman Reigns’ vest or the latest John Cena t-shirt.

But eventually, families and friends found their seats, and focused their attention on the show.  The closer the better, per usual with the seating, but even up high the seats weren’t all that bad.

Slide show here:

In the house

House shows, or untelevised live events, typically draw a different reaction from the crowd as do the weekly broadcasts of Monday Night Raw or SmackDown Live.  Fans more or less cheer for the superstars that the company wants them to cheer for –ahem, Roman Reigns for example.

The first match of the night after the Enzo and Cass segment was an eight-man-tag match.  The good guys, or faces as they’re known in the business, consisted of R-Truth, Goldust, Sin Cara and Curtis Axel.  They squared off with the likes of Bo Dallas, the tag team of Epico and Primo, and Titus O’Neill.

All eight men are very capable in the ring, and have been performing for years.  Goldust in particular started wrestling with the company in the late nineties. 

The fans gobbled up everything the performers did, including singing along with the rap entrance as Goldust and R-Truth headed to the ring.  If this match had taken place on Monday Night Raw, there would either be boos from the crowd - or far worse, the dreaded silence.

The show

As the night went on, the names got bigger.  A Cruiserweight Championship match between champion Neville and challenger Rich Swann.  A tag match featuring the popular stars Finn Balor and Sami Zayn against the much larger tandem of Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. 

Owens, the top bad guy, or ‘heel’ in the company, opened up to the crowd before the match about his ties to Syracuse.  He endeared himself to the fans by saying he spent a lot of time training here, and had a lot of good memories of Syracuse, leading to loud cheers from the crowd. 

He then followed up by saying how things seem better the farther away you get from them, coming to the stark realization now that “Syracuse sucks.”  Fans were no longer enamored of him after that comment.

After a great performance with four of the company’s top grapplers, Zayn and Balor came away with the win. 

Fans were given a 15-minute intermission.  Restrooms and concession stands were a popular choice during the break, but they had nothing on the merchandise booth. People were still waiting in line for gear when the entrants for the next match came out. 

Cherish the ladies

The arena crowd cheered loudly for the women’s champion, Bayley, as she made her entrance with the wacky inflatable tube men on stage.  Arthur Hunt was probably among the loudest supporters.

She partnered with Sasha Banks for a women’s tag match against the monstrous Nia Jax and Charlotte Flair, daughter of the 16-time world champion Ric Flair. 

Though the top women’s heel, Flair was met with a chorus of “Woos,” the catchphrase made famous by her hall of fame father.

The ladies put on a high-level performance, where the good side ultimately won, per the norm for untelevised live events.  The only time that a heel will win is if he or she is the champion.  Titles don’t change hands at house shows.

Irish eyes

One of the highlights of the night came during a triple threat tag match for the tag team championship belts.  The champions, notorious bad guys Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, garnered their fair share of boos from the crowd.  Though they ended up winning the match, they were disposed of at the end to make way for an entertaining segment for the crowd.

The other two teams, the New Day and Cesaro and Sheamus, were in the ring, dancing to the New Day’s music.  Sheamus, your typical tough-guy Irishman, wasn’t having it.  So Kofi Kingston of the New Day convinced the production crew to play something he’d be more comfortable with, since it was St. Patty’s Day after all.

After about 30 seconds of an old Irish song playing throughout the arena, and Sheamus’ tag partner Cesaro giving him a blinking green shamrock necklace that he borrowed from a fan at ringside, Sheamus obliged and sang the song for a few bars.

“Happy Patty's Day!” he yelled to the crowd, receiving a big reaction.

Literal big finish

In the main event, the polarizing new face of the company, Roman Reigns, took on the massive Braun Strowman.  Thus far, Strowman has steamrolled through the competition, with his lone loss coming at the hands of Reigns a few weeks back on the pay-per-view “Fastlane.”

Strowman dominated for much of the match, with Reigns getting in a few spurts of offense here and there.  He had his chance toward the end of the match, delivering three “Superman punches” – a running jump with a fist to the opponent’s head - to knock his foe down.  When Strowman kicked out, the action spilled to the outside.  The fans oohed and ahhed with each traded blow.

In the end, Reigns won by disqualification on the outside, the cause of which was hard to discern.  Still, fans were treated to a more enjoyable resolution when Reigns gave Strowman his patented “spear” to send him packing.

Reigns’ music played as he walked around the ring, posing for fans, and climbing up on the turnbuckles to pander to the crowd.

Children, as well as some older fans, scrambled to the ramp to get an up close glimpse at their conquering hero, and maybe if they were lucky, get a picture or autograph, or even a fist bump.

Reigns raised his hands confidently one last time at the top of the ramp before heading backstage, and concluding the show.


Fans immediately gathered their things and made their way through the throngs of people to the exits.  While some lingered to soak in the experience, the majority pushed their way ahead through the arena doors. 

The merchandise booth got a few people to stop, but the bulk of the crowd made their way into the cold St. Patrick’s Day night.  They were buzzing about the experience as they made their way down State Street, back to their vehicles.

When one older father and son pairing, Don and Mike Schad, were asked if they were glad they chose seeing WWE instead of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, they didn’t hesitate with their answer.

“Oh yes!” the father said.

“It was awesome!” the son added.

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