Last night, 14,496 fans filled the Toyota Center in Houston for WWE’s triumphant return to a full crowd. A hot crowd stayed quite active throughout the show, and despite some social media speculation of WWE piping in noise, fans could be audibly heard loudly cheering or booing various WWE Superstars during matches and promos.
WWE is very much in a honeymoon period with its at-times defiant audience, which cheered the babyfaces and booed the heels in line with how they were presented on television throughout the pandemic. There were little-to-no surprises as to who got the bigger reactions with fans saving these responses for top stars and surprise returns.
Honorable Mention: The Cesaro Swing
Cesaro received strong support from the Toyota Center during his match against Otis, particularly in anticipation for his popular Cesaro Swing. Fans were not only heard calling for the move, but as he teased the move, were seen performing the Cesaro Swing gesture by twirling their fingers in the air. After feuding with Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship in a fruitless attempt, Cesaro now appears to be headed for a midcard feud against Otis and Alpha Academy. One that is likely to end with Cesaro swinging the 330 lb. Otis.
5. Finn Balor
Finn Balor received an above-average reaction, though it did leave something to be desired. Balor and Sami Zayn waited awkwardly for fans to chant “welcome back,” which they did not, even when Zayn said the words to Balor himself. Fans still performed his signature pose during his entrance, however, which was a welcomed sight for the former two-time NXT champion after years away from the main roster.
4. Bianca Belair
Bianca Belair came off as an absolute star in her SmackDown Women’s Championship defense against Carmella. Fans really came alive for Belair during her entrance, ring announcement and throughout the match with loud “EST” chants filling the Toyota Center.
Regardless of who returns or gets called up, it should be a long time before Bianca Belair loses the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
3. Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns was both cheered and booed loudly as the first competitor to walk out in front of live fans. He easily felt like the biggest heel on this show, and these strong reactions either way should continue this Sunday at Money in the Bank. Given the rousing ovation that Edge received tonight, Reigns’ Universal Championship match against Edge at Money in the Bank should be one of the hottest, if not the hottest on the show.
2. Vince McMahon
Similar to WWE’s soft launch in its return to a limited live crowd at WrestleMania 37, Vince McMahon was the first WWE personality to greet live fans and they returned the greeting inkind. Vince McMahon, and his iconic strut, was cheered loudly as fans prepared for their first live wrestling broadcast in 70 weeks. Vince McMahon’s appearance was kept brief, however, as he simply asked “where the hell have you been?!” before sauntering off.
The moment Edge walked out to help kick off WWE’s return to live crowds it became apparent that nobody was going to top this pop for the rest of the night. WWE shrewdly set up the Hall of Famer for a big reaction after a series of entrances to open the show and he got the biggest of the night, thereby setting the standard for the entire weekend of events in Texas.
Edge’s famed opening lyrics of “you think you know me” were enough for these fans to shower him with cheers, not only upon his entrance but throughout this match.