Chinese appreciation for savage beatings was on stage again Friday night when World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) rolled through Shanghai for another series of smackdowns. Unfortunately, apart from standout performances by Daniel Bryan and John Cena, WWE appears to have backed off on the marketing push. Friday’s event was untelevised, fine, but it was also short on pompous speechmaking and video support, so those in the nosebleeds had to invade the lower levels just to see.
That didn’t stop the crowd from rising to the occasion when prompted. They howled “You suck, You suck!” from time to time, brandished battery-powered neon signs, and rooted for their favorites, in particular The Miz and Bryan. But a concluding speech in Chinese by mega-star John Cena sent people through the ceiling. “My opponent (Ryback) isn’t very smart,” Cena said in elementary but comprehensible Mandarin. “Also, he doesn’t like you. But I like you a lot.” He then leapt to the top of the ropes, brandished his champion’s belt, and if he had called on the crowd to Bombard Party Headquarters the revolution might have started right then and there.
The crowd was dominated, unsurprisingly, by teenage boys, but peppered throughout the crowd were less conventional fans, including a 50-plus year old couple that appeared to have come unchaperoned and smiled beautifically throughout the match like monks.
WWE came into China in 2007, signing distribution agreements with 10 provincial television stations and with online video platform Youku.com, but this was only the second commercial match it has held here. It has assembled a stable of fanatic fans, who come hours in advance in full regalia to demonstrate their loyalty, despite the fact that the sport has yet to develop a Chinese character with whom fans might identify.
To the WWE, a few recommendations. Next time send cameramen so the top rows can see facial expressions, and for God’s sake, can we deal with the merchandising? All I wanted was some evidence, in the form of an overpriced stadium knicknack, that puts WWE and Shanghai in the same place. It looked like WWE cleaned out a junk closet and shipped it to China for resale. For a Chinese character, I suggest recruiting amongst the chengguan, and recruit a lot of them so they can fight at their preferred ratio of 40 to 1.
Also, we’re going to need those kiosks to start selling beer, and lots of it, stat.
Stone Authority Brother works for a beatings outsourcing consultancy in Shanghai. Also see: our post on last year’s WWE Smackdown house show in Shanghai.
John Cena speaks Chinese:
Daniel Bryan and Kane vs. The Shield:
John Cena vs. Ryback, full match:
John Cena vs. Ryback, with Cena addressing the crowd at the end (top vid):