SmackDown in Bridgeport or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Hecklers
Shaun Horgan does not believe that professional wrestling is a spectator sport. In fact, the mere act of watching an event with him often becomes a sport of its own.
Hogan’s usually the loudest person in the section, if not the arena, and has a deep knowledge of wrestling history. He loves to trumpet old-school references anytime there’s a quiet moment during a match, especially if one of the wrestlers has been around or assumed a slew of different identities.
Hardcore Holly, for instance, would hear “Sparky Plugg."; Goldust would hear “Hey Dustin, hey Dustin”; and Tony Atlas, on this night was serenaded with “Samba Simba” and “Tony, you still eating fried baloney?”
I’m told Mr. Atlas made an appearance on MTV several years back when he was down on his luck in the gym league circuit and said he ate baloney every meal.
But attending this week's ECW/Smackdown taping seemed like it might be a little different. For starters, the ride into Bridgeport, Connecticut, from northern New Jersey, is not a fun one during rush hour. After a brief run of dark highway, we quickly found ourselves immersed in a sea of brake lights that showed no sign of easing up.
In the backseat, Vessie started making quick calculations as to our estimated time of arrival and he frantically tapped his GPS looking for alternative routes. The device answered in a steely Bristish accent, telling us that Route 15 ran parallel to I-95 and might be a quicker option to get to the Arena at Harbor Yard.
After a quick pee break in front of WWE Headquarters, we took this route, only to find that half of Connecticut was already wise to the Route 15 shortcut.
We finally arrived in the muddy parking lot around 7:15, quick to sneak in a few shots of Bacardi and Jack Daniels in order to get a leg up on the high arena beer prices. Inside, our seats took us about 25 rows behind newly crowned Slammy Winners Matt Stryker and Todd Grisham.
We took a moment to settle in. Vessie was off to the surprisingly reasonably priced beer stand, and Horgan was already off down the aisle to the front of the barricade where Finlay and Hornswaggle were battling Mark Henry and Tony Atlas. It didn’t take long for Horgan to get comfortable.
“Hey Tony Atlas, hey Tony Atlas, where did you get those tights? Where did you get those tights?” he yelled, as some heads started to peer away from the action and onto our row.
My attention from this was temporarily diverted as I noticed the old man in the row in front of me, blazing eyes, sternly cursing at what I was assuming was one of his kids. “Stop it. I want you to stop it right now,” the man shouted.
There was a giant slam in the ring, and before I knew it, Mark Henry was holding his hands up in victory—and ECW was over. Vessie returned with beers, and Horgan sat back and surveyed the setting, proud of his ticket score. I sat back for a moment myself and took a sip off my Guinness.
“What the hell are you doing to my back? What, are you pulling some kind of funny business?” the ill-tempered old man in front of us said, shooting his eyes at Vessie.
“No, I think you’re coat fell off the back of the chair. I was just putting it back,” Vessie calmly explained.
“You trying to take my wallet or something?” the man shot back.
“Am I trying to take your wallet?”
Horgan and I were watching this unfold. This weird old bat was obviously upset with the racket that someone like Horgan immediately injected into the evening.
“Well, I don’t know what you’re doing. It feels like your knees are in my back and the next thing I know you’re holding up my jacket,”
“I’m not taking you’re wallet. I was just picking your jacket up off the ground. I figured that was better than leaving it on the ground.”
“You’re accusing him of stealing your wallet?” I asked.
“Well, how the hell should I know. You guys come in hear and are yelling,” the man said.
“No, I was yelling. They weren’t saying anything. Why don’t you just calm down,” Horgan said, cutting him off.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with you,” the man fired back.
“Yes, it does. You’re accusing my friend of stealing your jacket or your wallet. Just calm down and turn around.”
“I’m not going to calm down. We’re talking about it here. Now I apologize to you,” he said, looking at Vessie. “But you should just mind your business and maybe keep your voice down.”
“Yeah, you really are loud. You shouldn’t be yelling like that,” the woman (his wife) sitting next to him said, swinging around while chewing gum with efficiency of a Long Island waitress.
“I’m not going to…” Horgan paused for a minute as if to collect his thoughts. “I’m not going to be quiet. This is wrestling, man. This isn’t the Ice Capades, this is a wrestling event. Part of the fun is being loud.”
The couple mumbled a “whatever,” which Horgan returned. Then he called the guy “Stone Cold,” which for some reason re-triggered his anger.
“What did you call me?”
“Stone Cold,” Horgan answered, as if surprised this upset him.
The man looked for a minute and then returned his attention the ring as the Smackdown pyro hit. It was a weird scene to watch, but there was no encore of tension. Horgan went right along with rushing the barricade, working in the obligatory Kamala and Strike Force references, and even getting a reluctant hand slap out of J.R.
After about $40 was spent on imported beer we upgraded to the third row, which was abandoned for the Dark Main Event, where the Undertaker fought the Big Show in a steel cage that looked like it was going to clumsily fall over at any second.
And even with the blaring chants Horgan blasted towards the Undertaker of "Michelle McCool", I concluded that it had been a fun time in Bridgeport, Connecticut—even if my ears were ringing.
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