Sports-entertainment giant plans its first-ever Tri-City area wrestling show July 13 at the multipurpose center
ETTRICK — July is a month known for fireworks, so perhaps it is fitting that the first-ever appearance in the Tri-City area by a company known for its over-the-top theatrical fireworks is taking place during the month.
The July 13 “WWE SummerSlam Heatwave Tour” show at Virginia State University’s Multipurpose Center promises fireworks inside the building, as superstars from the sports-entertainment behemoth will do battle on the mic and in the ring. It is also an opportunity for VSUMPC management to audition the 6,000-seat center as a primary go-to venue for nationally known entertainment, especially with the future of the Richmond Coliseum still up in the air.
Previously, WWE shows in the area have hit the Coliseum. However, that aging arena has been closed for the past six months, and will remain closed while Richmond leaders figure out what to do with it.
Victor Landry, VSUMPC’s general manager, said the process of persuading WWE to come to Ettrick “started about 6-8 months ago,” right around the time that Richmond was in the midst of eyeing redevelopment of the Coliseum and the surrounding Navy Hill neighborhood. While the Coliseum’s status was a factor, Landry also said he banked on longtime relationships he and other center staff had developed with WWE while working in Fayetteville, N.C.
“All that was just helping align things all up,” Landry said. “A lot of it centered around the Coliseum coming offline, and of course, we still want the show to play the market for all the fans who are here. So we began talking about how we could keep the show in the market and have some success here with it.”
This is not the first time the VSUMPC has hosted an event traditionally associated with the Coliseum. Last winter, it was the site of the annual Freedom Classic basketball game between Virginia State and Virginia Union University.
The event at VSU is classified as a “house show,” meaning that it will not be broadcast on television. However, just because it might lack the bells and whistles associated with a broadcast, that does not make the event any less entertaining.
House shows usually are held in smaller, more intimate venues. Storylines — the scripted feuds played out between the wrestlers — are nurtured, developed and sometimes intensified at house shows. In addition, there is more personal contact between the wrestlers and the fans at house shows, which makes many people who follow the industry prefer them to attending a broadcast show.
The show is expected to feature many of the WWE’s top stars from its “SmackDown” brand, which joins “Raw” as the company’s two major rosters. While cards are subject to change, the Ettrick show is expected to include WWE champion Kofi Kingston facing off against Dolph Ziggler, as well as stars Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, the New Day, Elias and Rusev.
The lineup also includes those stars who may be familiar to non-wrestling fans through various WWE TV projects such as “Total Divas” and “Total Bellas.” They include former titleholder Daniel Bryan and Charlotte Flair, daughter of wrestling legend Ric “Nature Boy” Flair.
The show is part of a series of run-ups to “SummerSlam,” one of WWE’s major pay-per-view events, that will be held Aug. 11 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Landry said that while the VSUMPC staff has been instrumental in getting the show to come to Ettrick, once the day of the show comes, WWE producers will take the lead. However, that does not mean the center staff is left out, as they will be assisting the producers with ensuring all the logistics, such as maintenance, security and anything unexpected, are followed.
“This WWE Live event is just going to be a great experience for the fans in the area,” said Landry.
Tickets for the VSU show range from $15 to exceeding $100. While the higher-priced tickets are at ringside and on the center floor, Landry noted that there is not a bad seat anywhere in the house. There is no “nosebleed” section in the arena, referring to the higher levels where the performers can almost resemble ants.
“If you are sitting in that seat right up there,” he said, pointing to the furthermost seat in the back row of the rising section, “you can still just as good as you could if you were down here. There is no obstructed view.”
Tickets are available through ticketmaster.com or through the center’s website, vsumpc.com.