WWE in Bakersfield

Taylor Jensen, Reporter

Rabobank Arena opened back in 1998 on Oct. 1 and has since held numerous incredible events such as concerts, sports games, musicals, plays, symphonies, circuses and many more.

However, one event that has stood out tremendously throughout the 20-year history of the arena is World Wrestling Entertainment.

The WWE, then World Wrestling Federation (WWF), was the first sold-out event the arena held.

The arena has had a total of 37 shows in the last 20 years. Bakersfield has had the opportunity to witness private house shows and live TV shows such as Raw and Smackdown.

House shows are when it isn’t aired live on television. Believe it or not, sometimes they are more fun and connecting compared to live shows.

The first WWE show held at the Rabobank Arena was on Nov. 20, 1998, and since then many wrestlers have made their stop in Bakersfield such as Steve Austin, John Cena, The Undertaker, and many others.

The earliest memorable WWE event was WWF Smackdown! on Dec. 13, 2001. It was televised and it even went outside of the arena. During the show, a segment took place with Vince McMahon, Booker T and Ric Flair in one of the suites. They had received food from catering that supposedly wasn’t theirs but was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s food.

Somehow, some of it caught on fire and eventually the fire department came in to evaluate. As they checked the suite, one “fireman” was still standing behind McMahon. McMahon eventually turned around and when the “fireman” took off his mask, Steve Austin was revealed which caused the Bakersfield crowd to erupt into a roar.

Austin attacked McMahon and then attacked Booker T. The beatdown was led through the crowd, down the steps, and into the backstage area. When they reached the backstage parking lot, Booker T climbed into a vehicle and peeled out of the arena’s vicinity.

However, Austin was only one step behind him. He got into his own truck and followed Booker T out.

When they came back to the storyline, Booker T was in the Green Frog Market where he was trying to hide from Austin who had his sights set on Booker. Eventually, Austin found him and the beatdown continued throughout the supermarket. Austin humiliated Booker T by spilling food, products, and beer all over him.

That segment is considered by WWE as one of the best segments in the history of the business and I believe Bakersfield is very fortunate to have hosted this history-making moment.

Since then, Bakersfield has hosted dozens of successful Smackdown tapings and even a few Raws.

WWE NXT had two shows in 2016 and 2017 at the Convention Center and I attended both of them.

The energy was through the roof. I’ve been to every WWE show in Bakersfield since 2009 and the atmosphere of NXT topped the main roster shows from the past to the present. The crowd was different at NXT as well. There were more adults than kids and it was refreshing because I can relate more to that age group.

WWE will return to Bakersfield in the near future and it will add to the history of WWE shows at this fantastic venue. Hopefully, they continue to “lay the smackdown” at Rabobank Arena for many years to come.