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A house show or live event is a professional wrestling event produced by a major promotion that is not televised, though they can be recorded. Promotions use house shows mainly to cash in on the exposure that they and their wrestlers receive during televised events, as well as to test reactions to matches, wrestlers, and gimmicks that are being considered for the main televised programming.
House shows are often used to promote upcoming televised events, especially pay-per-views, and will then feature matches between wrestlers who are scheduled to work a match at the pay-per-view. This allows them to secure a 'feel' for each other's style and test out specific parts of matches planned for pay-per-view.
From the 1950s to late 1980s, most major matches and title changes happened at house shows, largely due to the costs to produce a TV show at the time, plus the lack of more modern technology making it significantly harder to tape a TV show. TV shows were taped in small studios, and featured squash matches, run-ins, and promos which revolved around feuds to be settled at the house show. Some of these big matches later aired, often scheduled "for TV time remaining", which usually ran out as the match built to a finish, hopefully making fans regret missing it and buy tickets to the next show. This changed in the 1990s as the formula for TV shows had changed completely by the time, largely due to the advent of Monday Night Raw and the then-new Monday Nitro which changed the way TV shows were taped and proved to be a huge success for the WWF and WCW, respectively.
House shows are similar to dark matches with both being untelevised events. The only difference is that dark matches are untelevised matches in TV programs which were already being televised.
House shows are also often designed to make the face wrestlers to win most matches, largely to send the crowd home happy. Though, if a heel defends a title, the face may win by disqualification if this is the case.
Since house shows are not televised, promotions do not usually deploy the setup for staging or pyrotechnics used for their television counterparts. In the past, a WWE house show would consist mainly of a ring, essential lighting, and a crowd. In late 2011, WWE invested US$1.5 million in production improvements, which included three LED-lit entrance stages (one for Raw, one for SmackDown and one backup) featuring a ramp and video display. They also began utilizing the arena's multimedia equipment to play wrestler entrance and promo videos.
Because house shows are not televised, sometimes controversial things occur during them (although this is rare) which might not happen on a televised show. For example, on May 19, 1996, the MSG "Curtain Call", which was also a rare example of a shoot, occurred at a house show taped at Madison Square Garden. At the same show, The Bodydonnas lost their WWF Tag Team Championship to The Godwinns.
Most major promotions try to develop their angles only during televised shows and will rarely book a major development (such as a title change) for house shows. If there is a title change, the title usually changes back during the same show or at another show on the loop before another televised event. These changes are usually not mentioned on television and happen more frequently during tours in areas that get shows rarely.
Some notable house show title changes include an August 10, 1987 match where The Rougeau Brothers (Raymond and Jacques) went over the champion Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) to take the WWF Tag Team championship in the Rougeau's home town of Montreal. This change (and the eventual "decision reversal") was only ever mentioned during segments taped specifically for and shown in the Montreal market.
A similar incident occurred in 1990 when The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) took the title from the Hart Foundation. During the match a problem with the ring ropes meant the match could not air on television as originally planned, so kayfabe President Jack Tunney "reversed the decision" in print media which had reported the change before the decision not to air it was made. The match was not acknowledged on television at the time.
Even rarer is the top title of a promotion changing hands. This has occurred relatively few times, a notable occurrence including Diesel winning the then WWF Championship from Bob Backlund in 1994 at a live event in Madison Square Garden.
On January 17, 1992, The Mountie beat Bret Hart in Springfield, MA for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. The reason this was done is because Hart was going through contract negotiations. He lost the title two days later to Roddy Piper at the 1992 Royal Rumble.
On May 19, 1995, Razor Ramon beat Jeff Jarrett in a ladder match at the Montreal Forum for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Then Jarrett beat Ramon to regain the belt in a regular match two days later on May 21, in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Although neither one of these house show matches was taped, the title changes are officially recognized by WWE on its website. On the Monday Night Raw following the Sunday night match in Trois-Rivieres, Vince McMahon informed the audience about the title changes from that weekend, and they were referenced several times in the weeks that followed on WWF television whenever Jarrett appeared on TV with the championship belt.
House show title changes can occur both to test the reaction of the win or as a "special treat" for a specific audience. Edge was given his first Intercontinental Championship win over Jeff Jarrett in Toronto to excite the fans in Edge's hometown. As per usual, he dropped the belt back to Jarrett the following evening at Fully Loaded.
Title changes at house shows most commonly occur when a promotion is overseas promoting their brand. For example, Nunzio won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship from Juventud Guerrera in Rome on November 15, 2005.
At a French house show on April 24, 2007, Mickie James pinned Victoria to win Melina's WWE Women's Championship in a triple threat match. Two matches later, Melina had a one on one rematch with James and pinned her to recapture the title after. On its website WWE recognized both title changes, making James a three time Women's Champion and Melina a two-time Women's Champion.
Two years later, at a house show in Cape Town, South Africa on September 5, 2007, Paul London and Brian Kendrick defeated Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch to win Cade and Murdoch's World Tag Team Championship, but went on to lose the titles back to Cade and Murdoch just three days later at another house show on that South African tour.
On an international house show tour as well as a stop in Honolulu, Hawaii in September 2019, EC3 and R-Truth defeated each other three times each for the WWE 24/7 Championship, a title with the same 24/7 rule as the WWE Hardcore Championship.
World Championship Wrestling's house shows occasionally featured title changes which were never officially recognized. Recordings of certain house shows were occasionally televised by TBS midweek, including one in which Diamond Dallas Page used his Diamond Cutter finisher on the hosts of the network's Dinner and a Movie.
Terry Funk once defeated Lance Storm for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in Funk's hometown of Amarillo, Texas; this title change remained unrecognized until the World Wrestling Federation bought out WCW in 2001.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) has also featured title changes at house shows.
In September 2010 the TNA X Division Championship changed hands twice at house shows, when first Amazing Red defeated Jay Lethal at a house show in his hometown of New York City on September 23 to win the title and two days later Lethal regained it in Rahway, New Jersey, near his hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
On February 23, 2014 in Morgantown, West Virginia, The Wolves (Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards) defeated The BroMans (Robbie E and Jessie Godderz) to win the TNA World Tag Team Championship for the first time.
In 2019, Shawn Michaels defended his one-off return at WWE's 2018 pay-per-view Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia (reuniting D-Generation X to participate in a tag team match against The Brothers of Destruction) despite his retirement, describing the event as being a "glorified house show" that was not as important as WrestleMania or "coming back as the Heartbreak Kid". The phrase has also been used by others to describe WWE's Saudi Arabian events.