I’m a creature of habit. I have my sporting faves which consume my time, primarily the UFC but also football of various codes with other sports filling in any remaining free time which I find myself with. I'm a veritable sports nut (often to the detriment of other things I might add). I had never however attended a professional wrestling event and not since the halycon days of “The Big Boss Man”, “The Ultimate Warrior” et al have I even ventured in this direction.
A few weeks ago however I saw my nephew entranced in front of my TV watching one Jon Cena of WWE fame when I felt myself teleported back a quarter of a century to when the aforementioned athletes were in their heyday. We all had our favourites, Bret “The Hitman Hart”, the late great Randy “The Macho Man” Savage and Jake “The Snake” Roberts were names roared around many a school playground in the late eighties.
Upon seeing Mr Cena in full flow I in turn wanted to see whether that bygone entertainment fix could still be sated in the world of scripted wrestling. I ventured to Belfast's Odyssey Arena to take in my first live event and I wasn't disappointed. I’v e studied sportsmen (and women) and have witnessed at first hand the hardships that some must overcome to make it to the zenith of their chosen profession. What I saw earlier this month at WWE live was athletes at the top of their game. Whilst the action wasn't of the same physicality as full contact combat sports, the wrestlers, several of them former high achievers on the US amateur wrestling circuit, displayed a degree of athleticism which could only be commended. Of course there was no Ric Flair to enter the arena to the sounds of his famous "whooo" and animal and hawk weren't in the house either but in their place were some of todays rising WWE stars.
The Shield grabbed the audiences’ attention with a rousing entrance whilst Golddust almost stole the show with some lightening quick in-ring manoevures. Damien Sandow beat Dolph Ziggler in a match which in combat sport parlance would have been considered fight of the night as it had the crowd on baying for more. The plaudits however belonged to "Big Show". The bethmoth interacted well with the Belfast crowd and really did ratchet the atmosphere up another notch. His foe Randy Orton played the heel to perfection and whilst their battle didn't result in the title changing hands, as Show won by DQ it was entertaining and had the large crowd on their toes.
In fairness the arena wasn’t full to capacity and a lot of the mid card names I didn’t recognise but this was pure unadulterated scripted fun. The names may not roll off the tongue as easily as my eighties heroes but the content was there and for the throngs of kids in attendance it was awe inspiring stuff. The show returns in May and I for one may well make a return trip.
WWE wrestlers who headed for Hollywood
WWE wrestlers who headed for Hollywood
1/6 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
One of the biggest names in WWE made his Hollywood debut in ‘Recoil’ in 2011. The action film, which also stars Danny Trejo and Serinda Swan, sees Austin play a vigilante cop trying to exact revenge on a gang who murdered his family.
2/6 Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson
Arguably the most successful actor to stem from the WWE industry, 'The Rock' has appeared in 27 titles to date. Johnson's latest role sees him feature in 'Fast & Furious 7', set to be released next year.
3/6 Hulk Hogan
The 60-year-old is the longest-serving wrestler in WWE, but he also played lead character Randolph Spencer in TV series 'Thunders In Paradise', which aired between 1993 and 1995. He also starred in reality TV show 'Hogan Knows Best', as well as taking on several cameo roles in films such as 'Rocky III', 'Muppets from Space', and as a voiceover in 'Gnomeo and Juliet' in 2011.
4/6 John Cena
In run-of-the-mill action thriller 'The Marine', John Cena sets about tracking down a group of thieves who kidnapped his wife. Other small roles have followed, and Cena is set to feature in a new Scooby Doo movie, 'The Curse of the Ghost Bear', sometime this year.
5/6 Randy Orton
Relatively new to the acting scene, Orton appeared in his biggest role so far in '12 Rounds 2 Reloaded' in 2013. The 33-year-old plays an emergency medical technician who finds himself caught in a deadly 12-round game of cat and mouse. With his wife's life in danger, he has to find out why he was chosen before she is killed.
6/6 Mike 'The Miz' Mizanin
Nearly eight years after making his debut in WWE, the wrestler bagged his first film role in 'The Campaign' in 2012, which starred comedy kings Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, 'The Miz' was then chosen for the lead in 'The Marine 3: Homefront'.