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Lockdown 2012

April 16, 2012

Last night, my brother Matt and I ventured to Municipal Auditorium to attend TNA Wrestling's Lockdown 2012 pay-per-view event. Save for a Green Day concert circa 1997, the last time I was at Muni was for World Championship Wrestling's Starrcade 1996 show.

The facility now known as Bridgestone Arena opened in December 1996, a modern arena that is still in outstanding condition and which serves as the current home of the NHL's Nashville Predators. Top-tier concerts and sports events began running there instead of at Muni, which opened in October 1962 and lacked the modern amenities that the new arena offered. I had my doubts about the long-term viability of the structure, but it has lasted more than 15 years after the grand opening of Bridgestone Arena.

Check out the old-style marquee, still in use at Muni.
My friend Lee South works as a photographer for TNA and is phenomenal at what he does. You really should check out his website to see the top-level photographs he has on display. Also, my brother went to high school with Matt Conway, who works behind-the-scenes with the company. I have other connections within TNA as well, and I was glad that they booked Nashville for their Lockdown event.

Prior to last night, the only pro wrestling cage match I had seen in person was the horrible Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man "Hell In A Cell" match at WrestleMania XV in Philadelphia. It's easy to forget now after his great matches with Shawn Michaels and Triple H in recent years, including at last year's WrestleMania in Atlanta, but some of Undertaker's early WrestleMania matches were, as they call them in the business, the shits. Granted, getting a good match out of the likes of Giant Gonzalez and King Kong Bundy wasn't exactly a realistic goal, but the Big Boss Man was someone I thought that Taker could have a good match with on a big stage. Boy, was I wrong about that.

The idea with Lockdown is that every match takes place inside of a steel cage. In some ways that waters down the idea of a cage match, which once upon a time was used in promotions as a way for two bitter rivals to settle the score without worrying about outside interference, but it's a gimmick that has worked well enough for TNA to use it over the past several years.

I have to admit: it was a bit surreal going to a wrestling show at Municipal Auditorium in 2012. It's the place I saw my first live pro wrestling shows as a kid growing up in Nashville when the WWF ran there seemingly every month in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My buddy Josh Tenisci saw Flair/Steamboat at WrestleWar '89 in that building, an event which I missed, and he has never let me forget it. I was at all three of the WCW Starrcade PPV events that ran there from 1994-1996, and you can see Matt, my father and me rather clearly at times on the hard camera shot from the 1994 show.

My attempt to get comp tickets through Lee didn't work out, but I know that comps don't pay the bills. Tickets were reasonably priced anyway, and I saved some cash from Ticketmaster's gouging online by instead buying two walk-up tickets for Matt and me.

As soon as we made it inside the arena, we saw the gimmick table with TNA merchandise for sale. Soon after that I heard a loud, familiar voice: it was Don West, a longtime TNA personality who was encouraging anyone who would listen to check out what they had for sale. His color commentary was never my cup of tea, but in his current role as a pitch-man he is tremendous.

I would ballpark the attendance at roughly 2,000 people. The crowd had some of the freak show element that I remember from USWA shows I went to at the Fairgrounds circa 1993. I drove a red Chrysler LeBaron convertible at that point in my life and I remember being more than slightly hesitant about parking it near the Fairgrounds Sports Arena, which isn't exactly located in a great part of Nashville.

But, along with the freaks, there were plenty of families and normal wrestling fans in attendance at Lockdown. Matt wore The Rock's "I Bring It" shirt that I bought for him as a birthday present at last year's WrestleMania. I joked with him that TNA might make him put it on inside-out like WCW did (seriously) when he wore an ECW shirt to Starrcade '96, but that didn't happen.

The show overall was fun. Since me taking my bro to the show was my birthday present for him (he turned 31 the day before), my biggest concern was him having a good time -- and he did. So, for me, everything else was gravy.

The best match of the night was Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Hardy. They tore the house down, with both guys busting their ass to put on an outstanding match. The near falls were tremendous with the crowd buying into them over and over and popping big. The finish saw Hardy hit a swanton bomb from the top of the cage before getting the pin on Angle.

For the uninformed: a swanton bomb is done from a standing elevated position, with Hardy doing a mid-air front flip and landing with his back slamming into his opponent's chest. Typically that standing position is the top rope, not the top of a cage, but they went big with it being a live pay-per-view event. That match was worth the price of admission alone.

Lee (middle) snapped photos through a small hole cut in the cage.

The main event match of TNA World Champion Bobby Roode taking on his former tag team partner in Beer Money, Inc., James Storm, was great. Unlike what happens all too often in pro wrestling where promotions do what's known as "hot-shotting" a major match, booking it without a long build, the match between the former tag team partners was set up several months ago and the slow build-up made this a match of particular interest.

Storm grew up in Williamson County, Tennessee, in the southern suburbs of Nashville, so this was a chance for him to capture the strap in his hometown. My brother never watches TNA, so I had to explain the back story and the nice build that TNA had for it. They saved blading (when a wrestler intentionally cuts his forehead open with a razor blade) for the main event, which was smart since it made it seem special and different when Storm sported the crimson mask (and later Roode as well).

Sadly, the wrong guy won. Instead of having Storm win the title in his hometown, they did an "escape the cage" finish where Storm superkicked Roode, sending him flying through the cage door and hitting the arena floor first. That gave Roode the victory and allowed him to retain the World Title. The setup for Storm pinning Storm in Nashville with friends and family in attendance would have been a great feel-good way to end the event, but that's not how it played out.

Questions that came my way that I couldn't answer: did WWE ever try to stop use of the Beer Money, Inc. name since they had Money Inc. in the 1990s? Why is a man a co-holder of the TNA women's tag team titles? Can't blame that one on Vince Russo. Why was there an upside-down table and a couple of chairs and ladders on top of the ceiling of weapons? It might not have been visible on TV, but they were up there.

Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan had an in-ring segment cutting promos on each other before Flair took a bump from a Hogan punch. It was notable to me since Matt and I saw Flair defend the WWF Title against Hogan in that building in March 1992. That was a fun memory until I realized it happened 20+ years ago, which made me feel old.

Overall the show was fun and well worth the time/money/effort to attend. Angle/Hardy is worth going out of your way to see if you missed it, at least if it came across on TV as well as it did live (and from what I read that is the case), and they can build from this point with another Roode vs. Storm battle. Those guys had a solid main event match. It's too bad they didn't put the strap on Storm in his hometown, but if that's the biggest complaint I have coming out of the show then I really don't have anything to complain about.

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