Dallas has had a long relationship with professional wrestling, as home to one of the most renowned independent promotions of the '70s and '80s, World Class Championship Wrestling. And in a seeming nod to this history, WWE has come to town twice this year, first for the record-setting Wrestlemania in April, and then on Tuesday night to tape an episode of Smackdown Live at the American Airlines Center.
Last week, we caught you up on all the changes within the company, including a move in July to split the WWE brand into two competing rosters. That meant that a lot of the superstars Dallas WWE fans are accustomed to seeing, including Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, were not at the American Airlines Center. But while those wrestlers are now exclusive to WWE's flagship Monday night program RAW, there were still plenty of familiar faces in action on Tuesday.
Randy Orton and John Cena, known as widely for their meme-generating potential as their wrestling accomplishments, are both Smackdown exclusive. Orton came out Tuesday for a face-to-face confrontation with the creepy Bray Wyatt, inspired by season 1 of the HBO crime drama True Detective.
Cena did not appear on the telecast, but after the TV cameras packed up he made an appearance "for the live audience only" that included a tag-team match with Roman Reigns against Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt. The non-televised fight ended up being the most entertaining one of the night.
The rest of the card was a hodgepodge. The night began with a classic Shakespearean confrontation between the cruel, self-absorbed, cowardly heel, played by The Miz, and a noble, proud hero, played by Dolph Ziggler. The Miz bragged about his accomplishments, both in the ring and out, and belittled the crowd. Ziggler interrupted him and challenged him to a fight "right here, right now!"
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It went about how you would expect, with The Miz inviting a big brawl only to slink away when he had a real challenger. But the audience in the arena still came unglued, a testament to what two professionals who have mastered their craft can do with such a clichéd storyline.
The actual in-ring action Tuesday included three tag-team matches. The highlights were a surprise return from '90s tag team The Headbangers and a bout featuring female wrestlers.
But the main event was a match between WWE champion Dean Ambrose and challenger Baron Corbin, who won the Andre the Giant Battle Royale the last time he was in the area at Wrestlemania. Ambrose lost the match by disqualification when AJ Styles, who was sitting at ringside, accidentally kicked his opponent in the head. That outcome was pretty disappointing to fans, but the crowd still cheered and booed with gusto throughout the battle.
Watching wrestling on TV isn't always that enjoyable. It's more eye roll-inducing than anything else. But it's fun to see a professional wrestling match live in Dallas, where wrestling has been a fixture for over five decades now, and shows no sign of dying out. The crowd's thirst Tuesday was as strong as ever to watch good and evil do battle in a wrestling ring, with all of the theatrical flair of a superhero movie.