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WWE wrestling hits the O2: A bluffer's guide
The World Wrestling Entertainment extravaganza hit the O2 this week, ushering in two nights of matches from the Raw and Smackdown franchises. But if the names John Cena, Kane and Randy Orton mean nothing to you, we’re here to help. Step inside our squared circle (that's a ring to the rest of us) and embark on our beginner's guide to the battles and barmy plots that make the WWE so brilliant…
WWE? Is that the same as the WWF?
Well, the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is what the WWF (Worldwide Wrestling Federation) became after years of legal battles with the World Wildlife Fund, which shared the same abbreviated moniker. Despite being committed to extreme poundings rather than saving pandas, the WWF was forced to become the WWE.
The name change hasn't stopped the juggernaut, founded by Roderick McMahon (the current WWE CEO Vince McMahon's grandfather) in 1915 as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation. The WWE brought in $115m in revenue during 2010.
It says here that WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown are coming to the O2. What's the difference?
RAW and Smackdown are WWE's two big franchises. When WWE swallowed up two rival wrestling companies (WCW and ECW) in 2002, it split into two promotions with separate rosters of wrestlers, distinct story lines and bosses. Raw and Smackdown are both weekly shows, although superstars from both sides of the WWE occasionally meet for special events, such as Wrestlemania and Royal Rumble.
Is wrestling real?
The wrestlers you see in the ring are genuine athletes, at their peak physical condition and able to perform amazing sporting moves. If you’re looking for a genuine display of human endurance, look no further than Mick Foley, aka Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love. He might not be the most musclebound wrestler, but makes up for his lack of physical grunt with sheer guts, and a willingness to push his body to extreme physical exertion.
There’s also a very real element of risk. Wrestlers can and do get seriously injured, so don’t believe anyone who tells you wrestling is all make-believe.
So who decides who's good and who's bad?
The concept of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ is in constant flux for the wrestlers of the WWE. Most fall into one of two categories: good guys are called "babyfaces" or "faces". Their opposite numbers are known as "heels" who break the rules and are outrageously villainous. Sometimes you'll come across a "tweener" who's neither fully "face" or fully "heel". You’ll need to know these terms if you’re heading to The O2, or you’ll stand out like a sore thumb.
Wrestlers often turn from face to heel and vice versa with extreme dramatic effect. Hulk Hogan turned heel after over a decade as a face, while Vince McMahon has bounced between heel and face dozens of times.
Wrestlers and other performers in the WWE usually appear in character, but they do sometimes break out of it for interviews outside of what is usually called the "WWE universe". A great example is The Rock, who has a mainstream acting career, but returns to his wrestling persona for occasional matches.
How does a wrestling match work?
Standard WWE matches can be won in a number of different ways. The most common is to pin an opponent's shoulders to the floor for three seconds. Opponents can also be knocked out cold to score a victory. Forcing an opponent to submit is also a valid route to a victory, as is having them disqualified for spending too much time outside the ring.
Non-standard matches include cage and ladder matches. Cage matches take place, predictably, inside a cage. Ladder matches see the prize, usually a title belt, suspended above the ring. The first wrestler to ascend a ladder in the centre of the ring to retrieve it, is the victor. It’s not easy though, with several other wrestlers doing their best to get there first.
Tag team battles are also common, where pairs of wrestlers face off against each other and tag in and out of the ring.
Who's performing at the O2?
The bill at the O2 features a host of well-known wrestlers but here's the lowdown on the biggest names appearing over the two nights.
John Cena is one of the WWE's biggest stars. He's currently involved in a feud with The Rock, who recently made a big return to the WWE. The pair clashed back in March on an edition of Raw and will battle at next year's Wrestlemania in a match that is being trailed a year in advance.
Randy Orton is a bad boy in and out of the ring, having been suspended from the WWE on at least one occasion for misconduct. He has been a heel for much of his career, having feuded with Hulk Hogan for some time, and is now involved in a long-running clash with current superstar, The Miz.
Winner of series one of WWE’s new talent contest NXT, Wade Barrett was previously leader of The Nexus, a group of heels, who repeatedly clashed with John Cena. He was recently exiled from the group by his former friend CM Punk.
An Irish import into the WWE, Sheamus aka King Sheamus is the current WWE United States champion. He’s also the closest thing you'll get to a hometown champion during the O2 shows. He joined the franchise in 2006 from the Irish Whip wrestling promotion and has become incredibly popular since.
WWE women wrestle in the Divas championship and Melina is one of them. She used to be a face but turned heel at the end of last year when she slapped former-friend, and fellow diva, Natalya. This began a feud, which continues to this day.
According to the storyline currently playing out, Kane is the half-brother of the infamous Undertaker. Of course, he’s not really related, but in WWE’s world he was a masked bad guy for many years before having his identity revealed in 2003. Kane has gone from heel to face and back again numerous times. Right now, he's one of the good guys, standing at an imposing 7ft tall.
The Big Show is another 7ft tall superstar who has maintained an on again/off again alliance with Kane. He joined the WWE as a heel in 1999 but after frequent returns and departures he's now a face and the nemesis of Wade Barrett.
Don’t forget your O2 Priority!
If you’re heading to The O2, don’t forget to follow the O2 lanes and get fast-track entry into the arena. Access to the O2 lanes is exclusive to O2 customers, and lets you find a seat faster and with less hassle. Read up on more O2 Priority advantages before you head to the show!
Did you head to The O2 to see the WWE shows? Let us know who you most enjoyed seeing in the comments below.