Before I became obsessed with musical theatre, my Aunty Chris (who can regularly be seen alongside myself at press events around Cardiff) and I would travel around the country to attend Celtic Wrestling shows which were organised by on of her close friends! Even back then we knew the importance of supporting local wrestling companies as they don’t have the budget or cult following of the likes of the wrestling giants (such as WWE, AEW or TNA) and we encourage people to keep this in mind and consider helping independent companies! It was at these local shows where I met many of the famous faces from WWE for example the eccentric Eugene and the recently deceased Tracey Smoothers as well as meeting wrestlers before that meteoric rise to success such as the Welsh icon Mark Andrews and the Celtic warrior himself Sheamus! In fact, I recently encountered the latter in a McDonald’s (ahead of their show in Cardiff) where we talked about his time at Celtic Wrestling. It was at these shows where my love of wrestling grew and eventually discovered WWE live shows where my parents were queueing at the motor-point arena at midnight before tickets went on sale to ensure we had the best tickets available! Despite the last time I attended a show was just over ten years ago, I knew that when it was announced that WWE would be hosting a pay-per-view event in Cardiff I knew I had to get tickets!
The first thing I noticed about this event is that WWE are clearly not the most gifted at geography. Firstly, the event was titled “Clash at the Castle” (which is a clever bit of alliteration) however the event actually took place at a stadium that was around a ten-minute walk to the nearest castle. How cool would it have been to have the wrestling actually hosted in a castle? Secondly, the main event match featured a wrestler from Scotland but it was constantly promoted that he had a hometown advantage. While the crowd did go crazy for this wrestler and being from the UK, I imagine this was the first time he has wrestled in the principality stadium which is approximately a seven-hour drive! I don’t think the fact that Drew was wrestling back in the UK would provide any advantage apart from the general support from the audience which other non-British wrestlers were given. The second this that was very shocking for me was the fact that the play-by-play commentators that you can hear when watching the WWE on TV cannot be heard at live events. I assume that this is something to do with the sound mixing/editing but it did feel a little strange at first but after a while, the audience provide more than enough noise to underscore the matches. There were thunderous boos, cheers, chants, “woos” and songs (including a rendition of the Conga at one point) which was artfully channelled by the master storytellers in the ring. It is incredible that the wrestlers are able to stir the audience up with a simple gesture or even simply a specific look at the camera that would drive the audience into a frenzy to support their favourite or boo a dominated baddie! I have seen shows where the atmosphere at the front of the stadium with incredible but the further back in the venue you go the less energy the audience seems to have, but this was definitely not the case from this WWE event! Even the people sitting towards the back of this massive stadium (where I was Situated) were totally invested with the audience participation sections which was fantastic!
As you would expect from the biggest wrestling event in the UK for over thirty years, there was a plethora of famous faces sitting ringside in the audience! We saw appearances from Bret ‘the hitman’ heart and the family of the late, great British Bulldog (who actually headlined the Summer Slam premium live event in London before the latter passed away), the British wrestling icon Adrian Street and British boxing legend Tyson Fury who actually got very involved in the main event and actually led a little sing-song to close the show! Before the event could officially begin, however, the audience were treated to a short DJ set that helped to get the audience hyped before the first match could begin! The pre-show of the first ever ‘clash at the castle” event was a six-man tag match of Madcap Moss and the street profits vs Alpha Academy and Austin theory which was a wonderful match full of entertaining moments and high-flying action! I will forever be impressed by the amount of air that Montez Ford can get in his wonderful frog splash which is even more incredible live! After this match, there was a fifteen-minute break before the main show started which was an opportunity for people to use the toilet, check out the exclusive castle merchandise and grab a drink!
I have already discussed how the wrestlers were able to conjure thunderous reactions from every member of the audience (regardless of how far back in the venue they are sat) but there are the odd occasions where it is impossible to orally predict how the audition we’re going to respond to what they are seeing. During a six-person tag match between Bianca Belair, Asuka and Alexia bliss vs Bayley, Dakota Kai, and IYO SKY who are now known as damage control. Despite being the heels (or baddies) of the match the audience show incredible love for Bayley even starting a “Hey, Hey, Bayley oh ah! I want to know if you’ll be my girl” chant in the tune of Hey Baby by DJ Ötzi which was hilarious! I think it is incredible that wrestling icons such as Edge and Rey Mysterio still keeping up with the younger wrestlers as these were some of my favourites when I was a child. The fact that these two are still at the top of the game despite having just over sixty years of experience in the WWE between them! The crowd went absolutely crazy for both these icons when they were walking to the ring as they battled the team of Finn Balor and Damien Priest where Edge and Rey showed that they can still keep up with the younger guys! I think some praise needs to be given to Seth Rollins who walked to the ring in a brilliant Elton John-inspired devil outfit worn in the movie Rocketman (which made sense as he was the bad guy in his rivalry) where he faced fan favourite, Matt Riddle! My personal favourite match of the card however would have to be Sheamus vs Gunther for the universal championship. This was an intense match crammed full of hard-hitting moments that came to an end after both faced off visibly exhausted with one hitting a very powerfully strike to bring the match to a definitive end!
Overall, WWE’s first clash at a castle event was a fantastic show with the audience providing many of entertaining moments throughout! When attending WWE live events I think people need to be aware that what you are watching is essentially a TV filming and so you will see things that will not be shown on TV (such as things going wrong, the cameramen, the ring being reset/checked etc) and the backstage sections/commentary cannot be heard from the audience! We experience a shocking heel turn, an exciting debut as well as fan favourites getting between the ropes to show what they do best. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (as they have not hosted a PPV in Wales before and thirty years since a UK premium live event) but I would recommend families with young children to try and get tickets for the smaller tours that come to Wales semi-frequently! I would rate this experience 4 out of 5 stars!