WWE returns to Save Mart Center as part of west coast tour

Wrestlers Randy Orton and Riddle celebrate their win. (Marc Anthony Lopez/The Collegian)

When David Emmett was 7 years old, his grandfather invited him over to his house to watch pro wrestling. He was instantly hooked. Little did Emmett know that watching that one hour of pro wrestling with his grandfather would turn into a passion that has lasted 43 years.

Emmett, now 50, has been to almost every WWE event held in the Central Valley over that span. His favorites include the 1996 Royal Rumble, which was held in downtown Fresno’s Selland Arena, and the 2005 Royal Rumble, which has been the only major pay-per-view held by WWE in Save Mart Center.

So of course, he and his family were on hand to watch WWE make its return to the Save Mart Center on Saturday night, Oct. 9 for the first time since February 2020.

“If you watch it on TV, it’s one thing, but when you get a chance to actually be there in person, it’s a whole ‘nother level,” Emmett said.

Unlike most other sports or performances with live crowds, WWE never stopped producing weekly episodes of Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown. WWE was relegated to filming in its performance center based in Orlando, Florida.

Its four-day California tour began Friday Oct. 8 in San Jose for Friday Night Smackdown before making a stop in Fresno, where a seven-match card which included three title matches took place.

“It feels great to be back,” said Rey Garza, who cosplayed as WWE hall of famer Macho Man Randy Savage. “I’m a huge wrestling fan. I think I was here for the last one, so it feels good. My  family are here and we have also been big wrestling fans since we were little kids.”

The show started with United States Champion Damien Priest issuing a U.S. Open challenge to anyone in the locker room. Former United States champion Kevin Owens responded to the challenge but so did Seth Rollins, a former United States champion as well. It turned into a triple-threat match where Priest retained his title.

Nikki A.S.H. and Rhea Ripley successfully retained the WWE women’s tag team championship in the following match.

In the third match, the fans got the opportunity to watch Karrion Kross, who was recently called up from WWE’s developmental brand NXT. He took care of veteran John Morrison quickly.

Right before intermission the crowd saw its third championship title on the line when the Raw tag-team champions RKBro, consisting of Riddle and 13-time world champion Randy Orton, defeated Omos and AJ Styles.

In the first match after intermission, intercontinental champion Shinsuke Nakamura, accompanied by his personal guitarist, Rick Boogs, defended his title against Happy Corbin, who brought along his right-hand man Madcap Moss. 

Originally scheduled as a singles match between Corbin and Nakamura, the match shifted into a tag-team match when Moss interfered with the match, forcing Boogs to back up Nakamura. They ended up taking home the victory.

Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair stole the show in the Smackdown women’s championship match, but ultimately snagged the victory over Belair to remain as champion.

The main event had the crowd roaring. Fan favorites Finn Bálor and the Street Profits teamed up in a six-man tag-team match against the Samoan bloodline, which included Smackdown tag-team champions the Usos and Universal champion Roman Reigns,  considered to be the biggest name in pro wrestling at the moment.

After the bloodline’s victory, Reigns took the microphone and had some words to say to the fans at the Save Mart Center. 

“We said we was going to go out and wreck everyone and that’s what we did,” Reigns said in his promo. “But before we go, I’m going to give you guys one last chance. Fresno, acknowledge me.”

WWE Supershow was also one of the first events held at the Save Mart Center to fall under the California’s mandate for events over 1,000 people, which requires fans to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the event. 

On-site COVID-19 testing cost $75. Fans who met these requirements received a stamp with the Save Mart Center logo to enter the venue.

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