Last Saturday, WWE took a chance on broadcasting a live house show from the historic Ryougoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan. They used the occasion to display some pretty prestigious moments that you wouldn’t usually get on a show in front of such a modest audience with a fairly small screen setup. Here’s what we learnt from this bold experiment.
WWE Can Do Indie.
WWE’s narrative with the NXT brand has always been about how much the big dogs are teaching wee, little indie kids. But I think if you look at this WWE Network exclusive you can clearly see the lessons that NXT has taught World Wrestling Entertainment. That exposure to such raw indie talent so close to their own world has clearly been opening the minds of WWE creative who still refer to the Cruiserweight Style as “that flippy shit”. But this show, with its minuscule production values, lack of mic time, and with an audience that doesn’t understand English, they had to use every bit of their ingenuity, and that is the very essence of anything Indie.
They Don’t Need All That Glitz And Glamour.
I’ll be perfectly honest. The Beast In The East is one of my favourite shows of the year. Easily the second best WWE show behind ‘Mania. This event showed me that WWE can do wrestling on the low down. That they don’t need all that sound and fury. This was as unplugged as a company that regularly uses 80,000 lightbulbs can get. They don’t need pyro, they don’t need props, they don’t need twenty minute long promos. They sure as hell don’t need three hours. They just need two dudes (or dudettes), a ref and a ring.
NXT Still Ain’t Worth A Main Event While Cena’s In Town.
The NXT title was on the line at Beast In The East. It involved Kevin Owens, a man WWE have been building up for the last two months as a guy who can take Cena down a peg, and there may not be a more powerful angle to give a man in 2015. His opponent was Finn Balor, formerly Prince Devitt, a huge star in Japan and former champion for New Japan Pro Wrestling, the WWE of Asia. The title changed hands in one of the best battles seen on WWE programming in months. Yet still, a tag team match pitting Cena and Ziggler against Kane and Barrett was considered to be more of a marquee event. I still think they are learning NXT’s worth, I just wish they’d learn it quicker.
The Superstars Know How To Work More Than One Type Of Match.
Having said that, the main event was still pretty awesome. The match took a more old school approach to the point where I wasn’t sure if they were broadcasting from Japan or 1987. The way the match was worked was very different from the high energy, fast-paced matches they believe are the only way to keep a western audience awake. The pace was more deliberate and the action more mat-based, with more use of holds and locks. It shows that WWE are, in fact, more than capable of producing more types of matches than the usual highly kinetic and striking based style that is making so much of their product one dimensional.
WWE Apparently Know That There Are Other Wrestling Promotions. Go Figure.
Perhaps the most surprising thing that I learnt is that, in the right circumstances, WWE is willing to admit that they aren’t the only wrestling company on Earth. During the match between Neville and Jericho the announce team spent some time going back through the histories of these two combatants on this continent. Only they didn’t do it using vague terms and swerves. They did it by referencing companies like Dragon Gate and Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling. They even remembered to call Jericho’s old submission The Liontamer after they made him change it and call it The Walls of Jericho.
This whole show, and the success it proved to be on social media, was a huge move for hardcore fans who are desperate for WWE to have a more laid-back attitude. To let go of the reins and let their performers take control. To lose their egos go for a minute and have a show that was less than three hours long, that barely had any promo time on it, and took a more old-school approach to in-ring action. It was refreshing to see NXT stars so far up the card, to watch the wrestlers and not hear them, and to finally see that the announce team do know an elbow lock from their arseholes. Hopefully, due to the success of the show, WWE will be more open to this kind of show in the future. Here’s hoping for a Beast in the East End.