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Home » My Kolkata » Events » John Cena, Seth Rollins, Rhea Ripley & more shine at WWE Superstar Spectacle in Hyderabad

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John Cena, Seth Rollins, Rhea Ripley & more shine at WWE Superstar Spectacle in Hyderabad

WWE’s first event in India since 2017 was a jam-packed entertainer, also involving the return of the Great Khali

Priyam Marik | Published 10.09.23, 12:41 PM
(L-R): John Cena, Seth Rollins and Rhea Ripley were among the biggest names from WWE headlining Superstar Spectacle at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on September 8

(L-R): John Cena, Seth Rollins and Rhea Ripley were among the biggest names from WWE headlining Superstar Spectacle at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on September 8

WWE

Professional wrestling is a curious combination of contradictions. Suspended somewhere between sports and entertainment on its self-designed spectrum, nothing mixes the real and the contrived quite like pro wrestling. And nobody does pro wrestling quite like WWE, which has an audience of 56 million (on Sony Sports Network) in India, as of last year. In a country that loves high-octane action, WWE has never been more popular. Its three-hour-long events are roughly the length of a T20 cricket match and its storytelling borrows some of the classic Hollywood tropes to create a product that has proved irresistible, making India the largest market for the company outside the US.

On September 8, WWE returned to its incredible fan base in India, with its first live event in the country since December 2017. Superstar Spectacle, stacked with some of WWE’s biggest names, sold out the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium (part of the GMC Balayogi Sports Complex) in Hyderabad, providing an experience of a lifetime to more than 5,000 WWE fans, most of whom had only lived the thrill of sports entertainment from behind a TV screen before. As the likes of John Cena, Seth Rollins and Rhea Ripley shone in the City of Pearls, My Kolkata was there to witness it all unfold.

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‘This moment was far greater than I could ever have imagined’: John Cena

Cena went through his greatest hits in his first-ever match in India

Cena went through his greatest hits in his first-ever match in India

WWE

“You want some? Come get some” is one of Cena’s trademark catchphrases. On Friday night, members of the WWE Universe in Hyderabad got more than their fair share of Cena’s stardust, as the 16-time world champion teamed up with the reigning World Heavyweight Champion, Seth Rollins, to take down Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci (two-thirds of Imperium). A pedigree from Rollins and an Attitude Adjustment from Cena sealed Imperium’s fate, with a rare double pinfall bringing the main event to a close. In a topsy-turvy tag-team encounter, Imperium had more than held their own against two grizzled veterans. With a blend of streetsmart, smash-and-grab tactics and their inherent, immaculate technique, Vinci and Kaiser dominated large sections of the match, before a “hot tag” from Rollins to Cena changed the complexion of the contest. Going through his greatest hits, Cena had the live audience on edge throughout, with practically everyone in the arena on their feet (many were standing on their seats, too!).

Rollins working on the arm of Giovanni Vinci as the latter’s tag-team partner, Ludwig Kaiser, looks on

Rollins working on the arm of Giovanni Vinci as the latter’s tag-team partner, Ludwig Kaiser, looks on

WWE

As the “let’s go Cena, Cena s*cks” chants flooded Gachibowli, WWE’s “Franchise Player” showcased his vast reserves of experience to withstand a devastating beatdown by Imperium before turning the tide. Rollins did his bit, too, with a superb double drop-kick and a characteristic crossbody through the ring ropes being his brightest spots. Following his victory with Rollins, Cena grabbed the mic and paid a heartfelt tribute to Hyderabad and India: “Thank you for allowing me to be here tonight. You know, sometimes we feel something inside that grabs us emotionally. I’ve been imagining this moment right here for 20 years. I wanted to end tonight by saying that this moment was far greater than I could ever have imagined!”

Ripley and Gunther retain their titles

Rhea Ripley emerged victorious against Natalya with the Women’s World Championship on the line

Rhea Ripley emerged victorious against Natalya with the Women’s World Championship on the line

WWE

Before the leader of the Cenation took centrestage, Rhea Ripley and Natalya put on, arguably, the match of the night, for the Women’s World Championship. As two performers that know one another inside out, Ripley and Natalya did not miss a beat, crafting an exhibition of grappling and pounding that shows how much the women’s division has improved in recent times. From sharpshooters to belly-to-belly suplexes (which had the crowd go all “Suplex City”!), the two women exchanged every move in their fierce arsenals, with multiple nearfalls adding extra excitement to proceedings. Ultimately, just like their previous meetings, it was Ripley who came out on top, finishing Natayla off with the Riptide. Earlier on in the event, Natalya had beaten Zoey Stark to earn her title shot at Ripley, but it was the endurance of “The Eradicator” that turned out to be decisive.

In the first championship match of Superstar Spectacle, Gunther, the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion in WWE history, notched up another successful defence of his gold, beating local favourite Shanky. The seven-foot Shanky was back in competitive action after a lengthy layoff and left his heart and soul in the ring with a spirited display. But Gunther, who was happy to fight at his own pace and leave the squared circle to grab a break at every given chance, had too much quality. After cutting Shanky down to size with at least a dozen knife-edge chops, Gunther reversed a chokeslam and hit a massive splash off the top rope to get the all-important three-count.

In more singles action, two of WWE’s most promising youngsters, Bron Breakker and Odyssey Jones, got the adrenaline pumping, with Breakker executing a Gorilla power slam, followed by his patented spear, for the win.

Dancing to ‘Naatu Naatu’ and the Great Khali’s comeback

Indus Sher (Sanga and Veer Mahaan) pay tribute to the crowd and India alongside Jinder Mahal

Indus Sher (Sanga and Veer Mahaan) pay tribute to the crowd and India alongside Jinder Mahal

WWE

Even as sports entertainment’s who’s who kept electrifying the audience for close to three hours, the WWE fans could not help but invoke CM Punk, former WWE champion, with their “we want Punk” chants midway through. A resounding reception was also reserved for The Undertaker, although the Phenom only popped up on the big screen during show promos in between the matches. What was remarkable, though, was how much the audience was in sync with the wrestlers, with everything from the “this is awesome” shouts to wrestler-specific taunts, signs and posters demonstrating how most in the venue would not have been out of place attending WrestleMania in New York or SummerSlam in Los Angeles.

Drew McIntyre showed up to make the opening match of the card a six-man tag contest

Drew McIntyre showed up to make the opening match of the card a six-man tag contest

WWE

The entire jamboree had kicked off at 7.30pm on a nippy evening in Hyderabad with what was supposed to be a typical tag-team match between Indus Sher (Veer Mahaan and Sanga) and the duo of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. But before any of the four in the ring could get into their stride, Indus Sher’s manager, Jinder Mahal, interfered to result in an automatic disqualification for Veer and Sanga. That was not how the opening act of Superstar Spectacle was to pan out, though. Enter, Drew McIntyre (in an Indian men’s ODI cricket team kit to boot!), who equalised the numbers’ game, inviting the fans’ vote on a potential six-person tag match. The outcome was obvious, with McIntyre’s Claymore wrapping things up. The six men were not done, however, with Jinder urging the ever-ready Indus Sher as well as Drew and Co. to dance to the beats of the Oscar-winning number, Naatu Naatu!

In another highlight from Superstar Spectacle, the occasion also marked the heartwarming return of the Great Khali, India’s original WWE icon, to the ring. With his rallying cry of “Tiger abhi zinda hain (The tiger is still alive)”, Khali made it clear that his final chapter in the industry is yet to be written.

Overall, WWE’s fourth visit to India (after 1996, 2002 and 2017) conjured unforgettable memories for superstars and spectators alike. Going forward, WWE tryouts for Indians (to recruit new talent) should become more common, with the inauguration of a Performance Centre in the country (first stated in 2019 by Triple H, currently WWE’s Chief Content Officer) also on the cards. Most importantly, nights like Superstar Spectacle underline the unlimited passion for WWE in India, where love for professional wrestling, much like WWE’s motto, spans “then, now, forever”.

WWE Raw, SmackDown and NXT air LIVE weekly in India on Sony Sports Ten 1, Sony Sports Ten 3 (Hindi) and Sony Sports Ten 4 (Tamil/Telugu). Sony Sports Network is the broadcast home of WWE programming in India

Last updated on 10.09.23, 12:41 PM
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