Taking a look back at my Friday night out on the town, with thoughts on attending the first WWE Smackdown on Fox show in person and the comedy of Felipe Esparza!
On Friday, I went to Downtown LA to attend the first episode of WWE Smackdown on Fox at the Staples Center. Call me naive, but the hype for this show actually had me optimistic. I got to Downtown LA and parked around 3:20 pm. After getting out, I saw a homeless man taking a piss in an alley. People aren’t kidding when they say Downtown LA has become more upscale in the last few years.
I was hoping to go check out the “blue carpet” thing WWE had been hyping, but I heard various people say you needed VIP passes or something to witness what was going on. So I went to find a short line to stand in. A few moments later, a member of the Staples Center staff told people standing on the sidewalk to follow him. We ended up going through a side entrance away from the main ones. This was pretty awesome, as it meant not having to stand in line with people who were having conversations that were causing my brain cells to melt. There’s seriously nothing worse the things people talk about while waiting in lines for pro wrestling shows. Especially WWE shows.
Once inside, the atmosphere felt upbeat. There was a feeling of genuine excitement and intrigue going into the first episode of Smackdown on Fox. Even I was looking forward to the show, as there was a lot to look forward to. The only dark match on the entire was a pre-show dark match between Ali and Buddy Murphy, which was a fun but short match. There was no post-show dark match, nor was there an episode of 205 Live. In fact, I heard about 205 Live not taking place after I saw a text from Steve as I was parking my car. When I heard this, I wondered what WWE had planned for after Smackdown.
The first hour of Smackdown was solid. The Rock was really over with the crowd during his segment with King Corbin and Becky Lynch. At the same time, he came off as corny when he called Corbin “STD” and “Cracky” after he said Corbin looked like a Burger King on crack. His only good line was saying Corbin looked like a 35-year-old virgin going to Comic-Con. The segment ended when Rock and Becky beat up Corbin.
Then we got Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley. It wasn’t bad, but it dragged. Before the match, Lita and Trish Stratus came out to ringside. They both got good reactions from the crowd. This continued throughout the night with various legends. Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Mark Henry, Bill Goldberg, and Ric Flair also made entrances. Flair got the loudest pop of the legends. No Undertaker, Sting, or Steve Austin though.
However, we did get Hulk Hogan. From where I was sitting, it didn’t seem like he got a loud pop for his entrance. Maybe it’s because people know how much of a massive piece of shit he is. Seriously, the guy is a fucking scumbag. I’m sure people probably think I’m referring to his use of the n-word, but he’s been a prolific scumbag for a long time. Look at his son Nick’s August 26, 2007 car accident that left Nick’s friend John Graziano severely injured and the conversation Hogan had with his son where he placed the blame on the US Marine and Iraqi war veteran Graziano for the accident despite the fact Nick was behind the wheel. I know pro wrestlers all have sketchy pasts, but Hulk Hogan is the grimiest of the other legends who appeared on this show. He needs to go away forever.
So yeah, now that I got that rant out of the way…
Erin Andrews did an interview segment with the New Day. This was sort of a big deal, as she’s a big name in the sports world. Tyson Fury was also shown in the crowd. Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura was next. Before the match, we got an episode of Firefly Funhouse with Bray Wyatt hyping his match with Seth Rollins at the now infamous Hell In A Cell event last night in Sacramento. I liked this segment, but sadly the show went downhill from here.
Rollins vs. Nakamura happened, and it was going well before the Bray Wyatt interrupted as his Fiend persona. Rollins ran out of the ring and to the stage while Nakamura stayed in the ring. Rollins was then attacked from behind by The Fiend and thrown off the stage, making him look like an idiot and a coward. On television, The Fiend gimmick seems really cool. In-person, it isn’t as impressive.
At this point, it was 6:00 pm seemed like the show was running long because nearly everything started to get rushed. Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon in a Loser Gets Fired Ladder match kicked off the second hour. This was the blowoff to a long-running feud between the two. It was a collection of highspots with very little build. I’m not complaining about this, but you could tell they were trying to do what they could with limited time.
Then there was a short eight-man tag match featuring AJ Styles that served no purpose other than to do an angle with Tyson Fury and Braun Strowman. Before the post-match angle with Strowman and Fury, a bunch of local workers who were doing enhancement work ran down before anything happened, making it obvious an angle about to go down. As they ran down, one of them looked like they tripped and fell on the ramp. I’m not sure about that though.
Then we got right to Roman Reigns vs. Erick Rowan in a Lumberjack Match. Daniel Bryan was on commentary. I kept laughing when Roman was getting beat up and taking heat from the heel lumberjacks, while Rowan beat up the babyface lumberjacks and made them look like geeks. Luke Harper ran in, which got Daniel Bryan to help Roman. Then there was a brawl with everyone, a dive from Roman, and then the finish with Roman getting the win. After the match, Daniel Bryan officially turned babyface by offering his hand to Roman Reigns. As this was going on, a referee was on the ring apron and clearly told them they had to hurry up. At this point, it was 6:42pm according to my phone.
Nine minutes later, at 6:51 pm, Brock Lesnar beat Kofi Kingston in eight seconds with just one F-5 to become the WWE Champion. Now, I’m sure you’re aware of the anger this caused. Maybe you were even probably angry about this yourself. But I loved this because it was a cool finish. Everyone will complain that Kofi was buried, but I thought it was fine. With everyone clamoring for a more “sports-like” presentation from WWE, this was EXACTLY that. Real fights end in seconds when a fighter rushes in on another. The best fighters can be laid out in seconds because of a mistake. On top of that, it was a surprise and an unpredictable finish. You don’t get that anymore in pro wrestling, so I really dug this.
After the match, the Rey Mysterio with Cain Velazquez confronting Brock Lesnar angle happened. At first, I didn’t know who was with Rey because it was hard to tell from where I was sitting. I thought it was Rey’s son Dominic, but I realized it was Velazquez once he got closer to the ring. The crowd came alive once they realized who Cain Velazquez was, and they were really into the interaction he had with Brock. Everything about this was awesome and it was the perfect way to end the show.
As for Kofi Kingston, he was laying around at ringside and selling Brock’s F-5 while the closing angle was happening. I didn’t see him move until the show was over and he was being helped out by a referee. While Kofi was booked to lose quickly, the way he was booked to lose made for a good opportunity to create a great angle that could build him up again for Wrestlemania. If WWE’s creative team and booking were smart, they would be able to book Kofi’s road to Wrestlemania as a major comeback story. But this is WWE in 2019. Even Jesus Christ would have a hard time getting over as a babyface in the Bible Belt with WWE’s current booking formula.
Once Rey Mysterio and Cain Velazquez left, the house lights came on and an image promoting a house show in December was shown. I looked on my phone to check ticket availability for another event that night (which I’ll talk about) and saw that it was 6:59 pm.
As I was looking up those tickets, I wanted to feel the vibe in the arena and compare it to the dismal atmosphere after the November 19th, 2018 edition of Raw at Staples Center the night after Survivor Series. That was probably the most depressing WWE event I had ever attended. The show was dreadful, and the crowd couldn’t care less about anything on it. To make things worse, people seemed to be more concerned with the Rams vs. Chiefs game at the LA Coliseum that night. There was also no post-show dark match that night, and everyone left feeling down it seemed.
Despite the crowd having a positive vibe early in the show, the atmosphere after Smackdown this past Friday was pretty negative. A lot of fans stuck around wondering whether there would be an episode of 205 Live after the show. Others wondered if there’d be a post-show dark match. At that point, the ring announcer didn’t get on the mic to thank the fans for coming out and let them know the show was over. There was nothing but confusion. Some fans were saying they couldn’t believe AJ Styles was wasted in an eight-man tag match rather than being in a post-show dark match. Others weren’t happy about how short the show was, as well as the lack of Steve Austin. While half the crowd was still sitting around, I headed out for the next phase of my adventure.
Smackdown’s first show on Fox was a tale of two shows. The first hour of the show was decently paced. It seemed like the show was going to be good. By the second hour, it became apparent the show was running behind schedule and the pacing started to suffer. This caused the show quality to suffer drastically. While I did like that Smackdown had more emphasis on in-ring action rather than lame-ass backstage skits and terribly scripted promos, I really wished this show was structured better. It had the potential to be really good, but there were so many unnecessary moments that made the show feel disjointed in the second hour. While there were some cool moments on the show, it was pretty boring overall. If this were a normal episode of Smackdown rather than being treated like a “major” show, it’d be acceptable.
False advertising Steve Austin, Undertaker, and Sting hurt too. I know they played a video of Austin talking about the lineup on the kickoff show, but people thought he’d be there live. WWE even sold merchandise specific to the LA market for Austin, only to not have him on the show at all. If there was a dark match or an episode of 205 Live after the show, I don’t think fans in attendance would’ve walked away feeling bitter about the show. Instead, WWE failed to deliver a satisfactory event for the live audience, and it left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. With WWE running a house show for their next visit to Los Angeles, I don’t see it being well attended based on the attitudes of people at the show,
Felipe Esparza’s The Bad Hambre Tour in Los Angeles, CA on October 4th, 2019
Across the street at the Microsoft Theater after Smackdown, comedian Felipe Esparza was doing a show as part of his Bad Hambre Tour. The show was advertised as starting at 8:00 pm. I only heard about the show just a few days before, so I started to think about the logistics of going after Smackdown. At the time, I wasn’t sure if WWE was going to do anything after the initial Smackdown broadcast or if the show would end in time for me to get a ticket, so it was going to be a game-time decision for me. When Smackdown ended early, I knew I had plenty of time to make the show.
As people were heading out of Smackdown and there were no signs of any other matches taking place, I checked the AXS app on my phone to see if there were still any tickets available. Thankfully, there were still a few. After putting my phone away, I headed out and made my way across the street to the Microsoft Theater box office. The Lexus All-Star Chef Classic was taking place at Xbox Plaza. This caused Chick Hearn Court to be fenced off, meaning you couldn’t just walk across the street like you usually can after events at Staples Center. Minor inconvenience aside, I was able to get to the box office and buy my ticket without having to pay any ridiculous online fees.
I had never been to the Microsoft Theater. It was really nice inside. The venue’s seating capacity is listed as 7,100, but the venue feels much more intimate inside. Since I had time to kill before the show started, I got my phone out and watched part of the Bellator event going on that night in Temecula while also checking the score of the Dodgers vs. Nationals game. As showtime approached, the seats began to fill up with people who had just stopped by the concession stands to grab some beers. The audience was full of likeminded Latinos and Latinas (I refuse to put an “x” at the end of Latin porque no soy un vendido) so I felt more comfortable there as I was among my people.
When 8:00pm rolled around, it was time for the show.
Opening the show was a band from East LA called Tropa Magica. The band is described as having a “psychedelic cumbia punk” sound according to its official website. These dudes started out with no real fanfare. Their instruments were on stage before the show. They didn’t have any introduction or an announcement of who they were. They just simply walked out for their set as people were making their way to their seats. After Tropa Magica grabbed their instruments and the lights went out, they started playing.
Tropa Magica had an awesome 15-minute set full of energy that put the crowd in a great mood. After seeing them live, I became a fan and have been listening to their music over the last few days. These guys can really jam. Some songs by Tropa Magica that I recommend are “La Flor,” “Koopa Cabra,” “Disco Queen,” and “Morena.” If you’re into really funky sounding rock music, are open-minded when it comes to music, and want to support local artists, give Tropa Magica a listen. They have several shows in SoCal coming up, so if you want to see them live you have several opportunities. Check out their site for more details.
Following Tropa Magica, it was time for the first comedian. Rodrigo Torres Jr., who is the co-host of the “What’s Up Fool?” podcast with Felipe, took the stage and had a funny, quick. He would also handle emcee duties for the night. After his set, he brought on local comedian Johnny Roque, who also had a very solid set.
Larry “Bubbles” Brown, the only white comedian on the show, followed Johnny Roque. Bubbles has been around comedy since the early 80s and has made appearances on David Letterman’s show. During his set, he said this was the biggest crowd he said he had ever performed in front of. His set ended up stealing the show, as the self-deprecating comedian had the audience really busting up at his material. He really connected well with the mostly Hispanic crowd and had them laughing hard. This dude really deserves to be headlining shows. If you ever get a chance to see him perform, do it.
The featured act on the show was Emilio Rivera. Some of you might know Emilio Rivera as the actor who portrays Marcus Alvarez on the shows Sons of Anarchy and Mayans M.C. Emilio took the stage before Felipe and delivered a short, but killer routine. His set included a poem he dedicated to his incarcerated side-chick he called “La Stomper.” In his poem, Emilio Rivera described her as being 4’9” and 316 pound Latina who was down to fight anyone for her man. A clip of the bit is on Instagram, but it doesn’t do the full poem justice. Rivera closed his set by saying a few words about Felipe before he brought him on stage.
Finally, it was time for the headliner to take the stage. Felipe Esparza came out to a huge ovation from the crowd. Esparza performed for over an hour with fresh material on numerous subjects. He touched on various topics such as being a deadbeat dad, his use of cocaine, illegal immigration, a surprise encounter with a hermaphrodite, and having to move back in with his parents whenever he argues with his wife. One of the funniest bits of the set was when he talked about snorting what he thought was a line of coke off a woman’s chest. It turned out they were just deodorant flakes that were in a straight line after she took off her bra. Another highlight of the set was his analysis of how people from El Salvador have the ultimate curse word in “Hijo/Hija De La Gran Puta.”
If you’re a fan of Felipe’s previous material or any type of stand-up comedy in general, you owe it to yourself to check him out in person. Tomorrow he’ll be doing a Spanish speaking show in Riverside, as well as the 14th and 15th in San Diego and Sylmar. On November 2nd, Felipe returns to San Diego at Humphreys Concerts By The Bay. Then on November 16th, he’ll be at the Fox Theatre in Bakersfield. On December 20th, he’ll be at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, CA, and on January 2nd, he’ll be at the Improv in Ontario, CA.
Smackdown was a major disappointment, but I should’ve expected it. I’m not mad over it, but I felt like it could’ve been a better show. Seeing Felipe Esparza was the highlight of the night though. As I said, if you like comedy, go see him live. The guy always kills it. And be sure to check out Tropa Magica as well.