Say what you will about being a pro-wrestling fan. One thing is for sure, it is pretty darn fun. I have heard every stereotype and nickname out there. Many think that wrestling fans are nothing but "inbred hicks" or are possessing neckbeards. While some portions may be true, often someone you know watches professional wrestling and they are completely normal.
I can remember being a young kid growing up watching WWE and WCW and my mother being grossly opposed to the practice. Granted, I grew up in the WWE's "Attitude Era" in which WWE focused on creating more adult-oriented content. In retrospective, I could see why my parents wanted to keep me far away from the product. However, my parents did tolerate WCW as it was a bit more toned down than WWE. As I progressed in age, I began to hide my fandom a bit as I felt my folks and colleagues would deem it odd that I still found it interesting at my age.
It wasn't until 2013 when I began working for a former boss and now colleague, that we actually bonded over WWE in a job interview. It was a fantastic icebreaker and he actually took me to my first WWE event. We then parlayed that into a road trip to a WWE Pay Per View. It was at that moment, I realized it was normal to be a WWE fan and have no shame in cheering loud and proud for your favorite wrestler. Some of my favorite celebrities and athletes are loyal WWE fans and members of the "WWE Universe."
Let's fast forward to the 2015 Arnold Sports and Fitness festival. It is the first time that WWE has taken their developmental territory NXT on the road outside of the state of Florida. Several thousand people crowded the LC Pavilion in Columbus in eager anticipation. Formerly Florida Championship Wrestling, NXT is headed up by former WWE Superstar Paul "Triple H" Levesque. Some would debate that he has made the developmental territory a better product than what one may see on the main roster.
NXT has revolutionized how people view the WWE product. Many wrestling fans old and new will be familiar with the RAW and Smackdown brands as they broadcast live on the USA networks on Monday and Tuesday at 8pm. NXT was a bit harder to find until the emergence of the WWE network. When the network came into existence in 2014 the programming selection was light. That is when Triple H decided they were going to take a chance and put NXT programming on the network.
They marketed it as "The Future is Now" allowing WWE fans to see talent like Seth Rollins, Big E, and Paige way before they became stars on the main roster. Prior to the Arnold in 2015, NXT traveled exclusively in Florida. Their first journey out of Florida lead them to Columbus. This was my first ever "house show" and I was attending it with two friends who were veterans of what I like to call "the house show lifestyle".
As we approached the venue we saw people from all walks of life getting in line for a good seat. One of the best sights that we had was "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair walking across the street and then shooting hoops behind the venue. Which unfortunately spoiled one of the surprises for us, but we were too awestruck to care. The mere presence of Flair (albeit he was more than 100 feet away from us) made us forget that the temperature was about 17 degrees and what felt like -2 with the wind chill.
If you take away anything from this article, pay attention to what I say next. If your purchase general admission tickets, ARRIVE EARLY. We arrived incredibly early and we still got stuck with poor "seats" as we got caught up in the standing room only section. That being said, I made myself comfortable with my fellow wrestling fans. Although being a 5'9 guy at the show was kind of a drag as the incredibly tall people found it very necessary to made their way up to the front of the group so it was nearly impossible to see. Make sure that you actually spend a bit more and get yourself a physical seat. The following occasions when I have seen an NXT show, I have splurged on box seats which might have been the best decision that I have made.
I saw some pretty incredibly sights, from the athletes and the spectators a like. Including the man in front of me that downed an entire large pizza. He folded it in half and made it look like nothing. I couldn't decided if I wanted to be impressed or completely grossed out. What happened to him you ask? I never found out if he died of an immediate heart attack or if he defecated himself.
The NXT performers tore the house down. NXT's modus operandi is that they take chances, and for the diehard wrestling fans this is a welcome sight. Since the talent on the main roster is more concerned about ratings rather than quality matches. Even though that mindset has heavily shifted since the WWE brand split. I was fortunate enough to see the likes of Finn Balor, Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and an amazing match between Neville and Cesaro. The atmosphere was electric, and it is truly a wonderful experience. I definitely recommend that you check out NXT whenever they roll into town. The program is definitely a great value but expect to pay a bit more as the venues are smaller and more intimate then RAW or Smackdown. Don't be S-A-W-F-T and check out NXT!