WWE visits Diddle Arena

WWE superstar performers flip each other during WWE’s SmackDown Road to WrestleMania at Diddle Arena Saturday.

Jordan Wells

An estimated crowd of 3,500 people were in Diddle Arena on Saturday to see the WWE SmackDown: Road to WrestleMania tour.

The event lasted from 7:30 p.m. to almost 10:00 p.m. and included some of the sport’s biggest stars like Randy Orton, Big Show and the Great Khali.

Rachel Rhodes, an Eddyville sophomore who works as an usher for the athletic department, said people were already lined up at the gates when she arrived for work at 5:30 p.m.

“We had to be here an hour before the gates opened,” Rhodes said. “I didn’t think people would be here that early, but they were already in line waiting to get inside.”

Ticket prices varied for early fans, from the cheapest price of $17 for an upper level seat, to $62 per seat on the floor.

Matt Morrison, assistant athletic director for ticket sales, said the ticket office sold almost 3,000 tickets in advance of the event, with about 500 expected walk-ups.

“That’s a really good number for the WWE tour,” he said. “They’ve had great attendance at both tour events they’ve hosted here.”

The event kicked off with the Great Khali, a fan favorite also known for his acting roles in several movies. Perhaps his most famous role was Turley, the monstrous offensive lineman from The Longest Yard (2005).

After a back-and-forth match that lasted several minutes, the crowd roared with cheers of “Khali! Khali!” as he “chokeslammed” his opponent into the mat, pinning him for the victory.

David Mokone, a Bultfontein, South Africa, sophomore and cross-country and track athlete for WKU, was one of many fans who said they enjoyed their experience.

Mokone shared a unique reason to be in Diddle Arena that night, saying he watched WWE often growing up in his home country of South Africa.

“My favorite is John Cena, but he’s not here tonight,” he said. “But wrestling was always one of my favorite things to watch on TV back home. It’s great to finally get to see it up close.”

The next big moment came when Mark Henry, a former Olympic weightlifter, grabbed the ring’s microphone.

“Those schools in Louisville and Lexington, they’ve got great basketball programs,” said Henry to the crowd, even mocking WKU mascot Big Red. “What do y’all got?”

A fan in the upper level shouted back, “The Hilltoppers!”

Much to the crowd’s delight, Henry’s opponent quickly sent him out of the ring with a loss, giving fans a feeling of payback.

Cameron Clemmons, a sophomore from Mt. Juliet, Tenn., who plays offensive lineman for the WKU football team, enjoyed the event with friend Matthew Dompreh, an Albuquerque, N.M., sophomore.

“I had the little wrestling toys and everything growing up,” Clemmons said. “I had to come see a match in person.”

Dompreh said he wanted to go for the same reasons as Clemmons.

“You grow out of stuff as you get older,” he said. “But I’ve always wanted to see an event.”

The “Main Event,” a triple battle between Orton, Big Show and Daniel Bryan, ended the evening. Bryan eventually emerged as the victor, but not without some post-match punishing moves from Big Show and Orton, accompanied by big roars from the crowd before they headed for the exits.

Morrison said WWE may end up scheduling a return trip to Bowling Green next year after the high fan turnout for the tour’s first two events in Diddle.