The American Airlines Arena was packed to the rafters last night, but it wasn't to watch the Heat. WWE Monday Night Raw hit Miami with two huge themes: the capture of Osama Bin Laden and the birthday/return of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who made the night as much a celebration of our town as of himself, representing the Hurricanes every chance he got. From the moment he stepped out, "U"s were flying through the air, and when he jumped up on the ropes to throw it back at the crowd, everyone was no longer looking at their favorite superstar, but rather at their prodigal son returning.
The rest was just what anyone would have come to expect from Raw: freakishly well-executed stunts performed by men big enough to make you feel sorry for the floor they were hitting, women who looked like they'd just stepped out of a Maxim centerfold, and an audience expecting one hell of a show.
"I'm just surprised people aren't more wild out here," said the guy waiting next to us in line for tickets. We asked what he meant by wild. "Not that they'd be fighting for real, but, you know, wrestling in the street and stuff."
Far from taking things overboard, inside, people were amped, but never so much as to ruin the fun. We'd seen NASCAR stands get downright violent. But in here, for all the yelling and trash-talk and picking sides, in the end it was all in good spirits.
Things opened with Chris Masters taking on Primo for a clean one-on-one, and the crowd was clear on whom they stood with. "You suck balls, Primo!" two kids across from me kept yelling. Everyone else seemed to be of the same persuasion, and with a win by Masters, they all went nuts as divas Melina and Phoenix stepped in for the next bout.
Nothing made the hair stand on the back of our necks like hearing those women scream as they pulled each other's hair. It was genuinely terrifying--in fact, that we could hear them from our seats at all over the audience speaks for itself. By the time Melina was laid out uncounscious, it was kind of like waking up from a drunken one-night stand: you're not sure whether or not you liked it, but either way, you feel like you should get the hell out of there before anyone sees you.
As the night went on, watching the fights without hearing the commentators' remarks was definitely a bit weird, but more than that, being there live really gave us a new appreciation for the stunts these guys perform. The next match, in particular, was a good example. Evan Bourne conquered Zack Ryder with a forward-flying back flip, landing square on top of Ryder from upwards of 10 - 15 feet in the air. We knew it was all staged, but physics doesn't play along, and watching some of these moves can be really impressive, knowing how little it would take for things to go seriously wrong.
Once the ring was cleared, the National Anthem was led by Lilian Garcia before a pyrotechnics show erupted, and The Rock stepped out, putting his hands together to represent UM, and the crowd lost it. The entire arena reeked of gunpowder. He stepped into the ring, took the microphone, and after declaring that The Rock had come home, he announced that before he got started, he had one thing to say: "We got him!"
Everyone flipped all over again. He thanked the men and women serving our country before leading the arena in the Pledge of Allegiance. After that, it was the story of his life, told with thorough Rock humor, such as a demonstration of how his high school photo looked like the lead singer of Menudo.
When he was suddenly interrupted by an email received by Raw general manager Michael Cole, insults started to fly, and The Rock told Cole to come into the ring and speak face-to-face. Cole stood, and took his shirt off, revealing a Celtics jersey underneath (we're playing the Celtics in the playoffs at the moment, for those of you who obviously don't live around here).
Cole finally stepped into the ring, demanding an apology from The Rock for past insults, to which The Rock finally extended a hand to apologize, which he did. Of course, he busted Cole down for the jersey and exited to a performance by Pitbull and the Heat dancers.
After that, John Morrison stepped out, but R-Truth snuck up and took him down before they even got to the ring. Apparently, they had static from before.
Then, Maryse and Kelly Kelly began fighting, which lasted less than a minute before Kharma came out and destroyed Maryse while Kelly cowered in a corner. Can't say we know what that was about.
Finally, after countless failed holds, a couple scuffles outside the ring, and a dramatic reverse decision by the referee, The Miz was disqualified, and Cena retained his title, topping the victory with some closing words about Bin Laden and how proud he is to be an American.
Then it was on to a tag-team match between Kofi Kingston and Mysterio versus Jack Swagger and Drew McIntyre. Basically, Swagger and McIntyre sat there beating on Kingston for what seemed like a half-hour or so, until Kingston finally managed to tag Mysterio, at which point they were able to turn it around for the win.
Then came Mason Ryan versus Kane, during which, at one point, there were some four superstars stomping on Kane before Big Show came to his aid.
Meanwhile, throughout the entire event, television birthday wishes were being sent to The Rock from celebrities such as LeBron and Wade, Paul Walker, Samuel Jackson, Tyler Perry, Regis and Kelly, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Carell, Ludacris, George Lopez, and others.
Finally, he came back out to thank everyone for coming and after a personal birthday greeting from Mr. McMahon and song led by singer Mya, enough confetti to strip a forest came shooting out of cannons while balloons dropped from the ceiling. When it stopped, The Rock brought two kids up into the ring where they all threw a group "U" into the air.
And so it came back to the man-of-the-hour returning home, both to the industry that launched his entertainment career and the city where his future in sports took a solid hold. But what was most interesting about this as far as the WWE was concerned--and why attendees were so lucky--was that this was the first step in what will be a long dispute, culminating right back here in 2012 with WrestleMania, where he will fight John Cena for the title.
But whether you're a WWE fan or not, when WrestleMania comes around, one thing you will be able to smell--besides the mangroves--is some steaming hot local pride.
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