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A house show is a professional wrestling show run by a major promotion (such as WWE or TNA), that is not televised or taped. Promotions use house shows mainly to cash in on the exposure that they and their wrestlers receive during televised events as well as test reactions to matches that they think that the television viewing audience would like to see.
Each WWE brand (RAW and SmackDown!) runs four shows in a typical week, but televises only one. Promotions also use house shows to promote upcoming televised events, especially PPVs; typically, wrestlers who are scheduled to work a match at the promotion's next PPV will work matches against one another at house shows. This also allows them to test out parts of matches before they appear on pay-per-view.
Today, most major promotions try to develop their storylines only during televised shows, and will almost never book a major development (such as a storyline or a title change) for a house show. In 1992, Bret Hart won the WWF Championship from Ric Flair during a house show in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In 1994, Diesel defeated Bob Backlund for the WWF Championship at a house show at Madison Square Garden. In recent years, one of the few major events to take place at a house show was the MSG Incident. This was also a rare example of a shoot. Other examples of house show title changes include La Résistance defeating William Regal and Jonathan Coachman (substitute for injured champion Eugene) to win the World Tag Team Championship on January 16, 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Christian defeating Booker T to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship on August 10, 2003 as Booker had suffered an injury, and Nunzio winning the WWE Cruiserweight Championship from Juventud Guerrera in Rome on November 15, 2005.
World Championship Wrestling's house shows had occasionally featured title changes, only to have the change never officially recognized. Booker T and Chris Benoit traded the WCW World Television Championship back-and-forth on several house shows, with Booker (the official champion) always having the title back in time for Nitro. Terry Funk defeated Lance Storm for the WCW United States Championship in Funk's hometown of Amarillo, Texas, this title change remained unrecognized until World Wrestling Entertainment bought out WCW in 2001.
Controversial Events at House Shows
Another major event that took place at a house show, in this case planned, occurred in May 2004. As part of an ongoing feud between Eddie Guerrero and John Bradshaw Layfield, WWE ran a storyline in which Guerrero's mother suffered a heart attack while Layfield attacked Guerrero during an in-ring celebration in Guerrero's hometown of El Paso. The heart attack was a complete work and WWE taped the entire lead-in to the "heart attack" for broadcast on SmackDown! later in the week.
In June 2004, in an attempt to draw heel heat, Layfield gave the crowd several Nazi salutes while goose-stepping around the ring while wrestling in a house show in Munich Germany. Such a display is illegal in Germany if used for political purposes. However, since Layfield's actions were found to be for entertainment purposes only, no action was taken. Several days later, the financial cable [network CNBC fired Layfield as an analyst as a result of these actions. WWE was less concerned about the controversy and soon placed the WWE Championship on Layfield.
At a house show in Hidalgo, Texas on May 12, 2006, The Spirit Squad attempted to draw heel heat from the mostly Mexican-American crowd by saying "Calm down! Just because we are wearing green, doesn't mean we're with the Border Patrol." Fans in Hidalgo expressed outrage over what they perceived as racist remarks.
On September 8 at a WWE Raw house show in Tampa, FL, before a scheduled match between DX against Viscera and Charlie Haas, Chris Kanyon came into the ring from the audience and brought out two signs, one for Triple H and one for Shawn Michaels, saying "HHH, Please ask Vince McMahon WHY HE REALLY FIRED ME" and "SHAWN PLEASE PRAY FOR MY GAY SOUL." Kanyon later stated that he just wanted to find out that whether his sexual orientation was the reason he was released from WWE back in 2004. After the match was over X-Pac came in the ring and celebrated with Triple H & Shawn Michaels.
In November 2006, the tag team of the Voodoo Kin Mafia and several members of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling were seen at a WWE house show taping segments to be used on TNA iMPACT involving fans to say that "DX sucks". Only footage of outside of the arena was aired on television due to legal reasons.