Sunday, 21 October 2018
ATTACK!'s Halloween spectacular was back for the sixth time with the Trinity Centre in Bristol as the host of the grizzly graps. This year's edition was hit by taking place on the same day as a NXT UK taping and a big RevPro event, meaning a whole host of regulars, including ATTACK! Champion Wild Boar and 24/7 Champion Pete Dunne, as well as the likes of Chris Brookes, El Phantasmo, Aussie Open, Millie McKenzie, Travis Banks, Eddie Dennis, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate were all absent. It was definitely a blow and a test of the depth of the ATTACK! roster, but offered up opportunities to the likes of Drew Parker and Splits McPins who main-evented in Halloween Havoc 2018, as well as The Hunter Brothers colliding with Team WhiteWolf in a "Grudge" match. The show also featured action involving Martin Kirby, Mike Bird, Damian Dunne, Chuck Mambo and Spike Trivet...but was it any good? Lets take a look.
FUN fact - This was the first GooseBUMPS missing appearances from Pete Dunne and Eddie Dennis (with at least one of the pair having main evented every incarnation of the event, including together on the original and third shows), meaning Mike Bird and Damian Dunne are the only two to have wrestled on all six shows.
The show kicked off with an appearance from ATTACK! General Manager and general scamp Kid Lykos, who announced that former tag partners turned bitter rivals LK Mezzinger and Splits McPins would be taking part in Pick Your Poison at the show, with both men able to choose their enemies opponent. Cheers Lykos.
A solid opener saw 2 time ATTACK! Tag Team Champion LK Mezinger pick up a victory over former ATTACK! Champion Damian Dunne. The bout continued the narrative of a disheartened Dunne, still recovering from the breakup of the Anti-Fun Police at the hands of Nothing to Prove in August, keeping things short and sweet as we were provided with glimpses of the old Chief including a thunderous spear that garnered a big pop from the Trinity Centre and that felt like it could have been a turning point. Mezinger didn't look out of place with a more experienced performer, working well in the spoiler role, as he mocked Dunne and provided the early ammunition with a massive slap. I'd like to see the character fleshed out slightly and a few of the disparate elements (the outfit, the cane, the nickname of "Your favourite scumbag" etc.) bought together more to create a better defined persona, but that will surely come with more singles exposure over time. Dunne attempting his springboard lungblower finish (without trademark "No Funahhhhh") was a running theme throughout, so of course it would eventually be his downfall with Mezinger able to transition into a cradle belly to back piledriver. It was a shame that the following move, a senton bomb, missed by a mile taking the punch out of the finish that really didn't require the top rope move after the more impressive piledriver.
FUN Fact - This was LK Mezinger's first singles win in ATTACK!, having previously suffered losses to Big Grizzly and Tyler Bate.
Nothing to Prove continued to gain momentum as ELIJAH put away Niwa in what was a strong showing from both performers. This was probably the best singles work I've seen from either as they paced the bout well and plotted in a few brilliant spots. I've been waiting to be impressed by both men for some time and whilst both have shown potential in multi-mans and tag outings, this was the first singles match that I've been genuinely into from Elijah, whilst in the case of Niwa, it's difficult to buy into someone you mostly see in scramble matches. It wasn't a must-watch classic, but both men took the opportunity and produced a match that was full of action and physicality. The obvious highlight of the match was the massive springboard coast to coast dropkick that ELIJAH used to knock Niwa off the apron on the other side of the ring, because it came almost completely out of nowhere and took me completely by surprise. I'm hoping both men get more opportunities like this one around the country because it will only be a benefit to both the performers and the scene in general.
FUN fact - Niwa is still searching for his first ATTACK! singles win, after previously suffering losses to Travis Banks in July and Mike Bird in August.
Okay, the first two matches had been alright, solid stuff, but where the fudge was my Halloween goodness? It came in the form of a Grudge Match for the Tag titles, which the Hunter Brothers took literally as they appeared to have been transformed into the spirit from Halloween classic, The Grudge. Team WhiteWolf on the other hand reminded us that "No one expects the Spanish inquisition" as the Spaniards arrived as the Monty Python sketch to hilarious consequences. Seriously, I struggled to breath through portions of this match, with some utter silliness displayed by both teams as they played up the roles and had a number of ludicurous interactions in the opening portion of the match. The variant on the cliche bridging pin reversal spot was the highlight, before the Hunters were offered a beer and quickly snapped back into their usual selves. From then the match shifted into something much more recognisable as The Hunter Brothers continued to show why they're thought of as one of, if not the, best tag team in the UK with a number of sleek tag team sequences including a lovely superkick spot. Whilst there was some miscommunication that lead to a really awkward dive spot, Team WhiteWolf still had a strong showing, flying about the place with ease and pulling out a number of cracking tag moves, including a missile dropkick variant of Total Elimination (Totaller Elimination?), as well as a top-rope Spanish Inquisition Fly from A-Kid. They aren't the finished article yet, but more matches like this will help them get there.
FUN Fact - The Hunter Brothers have been undefeated since the break up of the Anti-Fun Police at WinterSlam 3, with their run as a duo extending back to the second night of Press Start VI.
The second half began with more Nothing to Prove success as Chuck Mambo (as a creepy face-painted Love Making Demon) defeated Martin Kirby (as Uncle Fester off of The Addams Family). A little bit spookier than the previous Nothing to Prove singles match, but with similar structure, it's difficult for those match not to merge into one in my head, but this was probably the strongest of the three. Whilst it lacked the emotional element of the opener and the big spot from ELIJAH vs. Niwa, this was just a good solid wrestling match, with the two working nicely together in their first one on one bout. Whilst it feels like Mambo is still settling into his heel character, the role allows for him to explore his style in ways that the happy-go-lucky surfer gimmick doesn't, with Chuck able to display (perhaps oxymoronically) both his technical talents and fiery brawling side. Kirby is, of course, one of the most dependable and consistent performers in the country and worked well in his role, getting the crowd behind him with ease, despite having not performed for ATTACK! in Bristol since December 2016, thanks to some offence like his springboard dropkick and by not being a part of Nothing to Prove. A nasty bump of heads on an O'Connor roll into sleeper hold could have derailed the finish, with Mambo suffering a nasty wound under his eye, but they kept on with a couple of good near falls for each, before the dreaded sleeper hold sealed the win for Mambo.
FUN Fact - Martin Kirby has never won a match at ATTACK! in Bristol.
HALLOWEEN MADNESS! If there's one thing this show will be remembered for it's that Spike Trivet dressed up as Theresa May and came out to Dancing Queen. As soon as I realised what was about to happen, a few seconds into the famous song, until the end of the match I was in absolute stitches, with Trivet owning every second of his Bristol ATTACK! debut. He was part of a four way scramble, that also featured Mike Bird (as Big Mummy), Shay Purser (as Kung-Fu Panda) and Nico Angelo (as Tarzan), that was stacked full of the silliness that ATTACK! is most loved for. There was the ridiculous Big Mummy character, a parody of World of Sport legend Big Daddy, full of lots of insider stuff to pop those who got it, the delightful Purser just trying to Kung Fu shit and Angelo with a more animalistic twist on his super flippy and athletic self, what more do you want from a batshit mad four way? Trivet pulled it all together with his various Spinnatory attempts, with the match peaking when Trivet offered £20 to Angelo to do a dive for him, quickly swapping for banana when he realsied Tarzan didn't understand the concept, before striking Angelo in the junglefruits. The finish saw Bird going nuts with piledrivers and Steiner Screwdrivers for all, before Purser completely no sold a top-rope over the shoulder Tombstone and won with a swift punch to the stomach. This had actually been set up earlier in the match with Purser unable to use the move because of Big Mummy's big belly (a hoodie inside Bird's singlet) but with the belly now gone Purser was clear to hit the move and pick up the win. Side note: Purser moving up the belt classes of pro wrestling is really cute gimmick that will hopefully become even more interesting and dramatic as things progress.
FUN fact - Mike Bird ties Travis Banks for most ATTACK! four-way appearances in 2018, although neither man has managed to win one.
The best thing to come out of all the absences on the show was that Splits McPins and Drew Parker got a big opportunity to main event in a singles match and grabbed that opportunity with both hands. With a Halloween Havoc No Disqualification type gimmick, this was a rough and tumble clash with plenty of menace behind it, with the pair having issues since the start of the year (including McPins' tag partner LK Mezinger (fka Lloyd Katt) defecting to NTP). The match built well throughout, shifting through the gears well, moving from back and forth seated punches to big shots with plastic wet floor signs to stapling balls and apron bumps, there was pretty much no let-up or lull as McPins and Parker consistently upped the ante. Parker's experience in the Hardcore zone/sphere meaning he was able to come out on top of number of exchanges was a nice little story, that threaded the match together, making this feel more main event than throwaway plunder brawl. Some big highspots helped towards this aim as well, with a nasty death valley driver on the apron from McPins and Parker's avalanche falcon arrow through a table being the most memorable. The finish saw things develop further with a clever ref bump that involved Parker stapling McPins mask back to front and putting referee Huw in place for a superkick, before thumbtacks and LK Mezinger arrived on the scene. Mezinger accidentally clobbering Parker with his cane almost immediately was a nice way of playing with the audiences expectations, especially after three previous Nothing to Prove victories, whilst McPins ended up with a convincing victory after a Full Moon and a solo More Bowl for your Buck into the drawing pins. These lads stepped up and using a few tricks to get there, produced a good main event that didn't look out of place on regular ATTACK! event.
Post-match - There seemed to be issues between Mezinger and Parker, I'm intrigued to see if that leads to anything on the last few shows of 2018.
FUN Fact - Splits McPins has only lost one singles match in ATTACK!, to Tyler Bate at Club One Hundred #2 in September 2016.
This was a lovely fun show, with every match being somewhere in the solid to good range and nothing looking to outstay it's welcome. Whilst it would be wrong to say the absences weren't noticeable and that no match was without its issues, pretty much everyone that had to step up on these shows did and I think that's part of what made it such a lovely experience as a fan. Perhaps ironically this was most notable with the group that calls itself Nothing to Prove with all four members proving their ability and/or potential as singles guys across the card and whilst it's arguable that the group was seen too much on a six match card, the experience will be invaluable to all four as they continue to grow. ELIJAH out performed my previous estimations, whilst Drew Parker looked extremely comfortable in the main event. It's difficult to pick a match of the night, because I wouldn't class any one match as "must-watch", but there were certainly stretches of the Hunters vs. WhiteWolf, the four-way scramble and Parker vs. McPins main event that would make any of those three worthy winners. It's been questioned recently the effect that WWE running NXT UK events reguarly in the UK will have on the Indy scene, but If GooseBUMPS VI is anything to go by ATTACK! Pro Wrestling and British wrestling as a whole has enough talent coming through to keep things entertaining for quite some time and perhaps not having to rely on big names will allow new and fresh talent to come through.
You can check out the On Demand version of this show for yourself here - https://vimeo.com/ondemand/goosbumpsvi/295116631
Review by James Marston
Photo credit - Ringside Perspective
Thursday, 18 October 2018
It feels like we've been waiting a long long time for NXT UK to finally begin. The rumours, the non-starts, the Takeover classics, Pete Dunne battering Enzo Amore on RAW, the three sets of tapings with no episodes aired...it had been almost two years since WWE UK first began to take shape. But on 17th October 2018, WWE finally aired the first episode of NXT UK on the WWE Network, with footage coming from the 28th July taping at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in Cambridge, England.
The premiere episode brought us a United Kingdom Championship main event as Pete Dunne put the title on the line against 205 Live regular Noam Dar, whilst Moustache Mountain's Tyler Bate & Trent Seven, Toni Storm, Mark Andrews, Dave Mastiff and Joe Coffey all appeared. But was it any good? Lets take a look.
A big ol' pompous opening that felt very Triple H, as it discussed building an empire and showed some of WWE's history with the UK.
The first match of the show saw ICW's Joe Coffey get the better of PROGRESS' Mark Andrews in a battle of UK Championship Tournament semi finalists. The pair had a rock solid bout, that played to their strengths, with Coffey able to display his power and Andrews pulling out a lot of very pretty fast paced offence, with a healthy dollop of the underdog babyface fire that made him a top name on the BritWres scene. Mark Coffey's distractions at ringside worked well to develop the dynamic between the brothers, whilst also building to the spot of the match nicely when Andrews nailed a moonsault onto both men at the same time. Cambridge was super hot for Mandrews from the very beginning and I think that had a massive impact on my enjoyment of this one, as it bought a new dimension to the dynamic and meant that every fight back from the smaller man felt that little bit more important. I'm still unsure whether WWE realises how much of a diamond they have in Mark Andrews. On that note, Coffey would pick the win moments after the moonsault spot, nailing an overhead belly to belly suplex and the Aw'ra Best for the Bells lariat to earn the first ever victory on NXT UK.
Stat - The only other match between the pair had the same result when they battled at Discovery Wrestling in Edinburgh, Scotland back in November 2015.
After the match, the Coffey Brothers began to lay into Andrews, with "Flash" Morgan Webster heading out for the save. A nice early bit of storyline and what could a fun feud between these two teams. All good so far.
Moustache Mountain were seen wheeling their suitcases through Cambridge, looking like a pair of b i g s t r o n g b o i s.
Eddie Dennis made his debut in a video package, discussing his history with Pete Dunne and Mark Andrews, with some classic pictures of all three flashing on screen, before Dennis revealed he had some stories to tell. This has a lot of potential and was one of the elements of this episode that made me most excited to see what was to come from the brand.
Former NXT Tag Team Champions Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) came out to say a few words. I don't really know what else I can say here, because nothing really happened, with the segment seemingly acting as a way to simply shoe-horn Bate & Seven onto the first episode without having them compete. I mean, there was nothing wrong with the pair interacting, they're both entertaining to watch and managed to hold the crowd with their banterous chat, but there also wasn't anything resembling substance. There was no feud to push or surprise interruption, this was just a thing that happened for a bit. Even the discussion of the NXT Tag Team titles ended up abruptly, because at this point there's not enough teams to have a division, which is an odd thing to have to point out on your first episode. The rest of the promo was a bit circle-jerky, discussing the achievement of NXT UK and how the fans had been a big part in it happening. I'm hoping NXT UK doesn't continue this habit of repeatedly patting it's own back, because it will get old fast.
Dave Mastiff is in action next, so we get a little look at what Mastiff is all about, which is basically bodying lads.
A recap of how Noam Dar earned his WWE United Kingdom title shot last June, with his four-way victory over Travis Banks, Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews.
Dave Mastiff picked up his first victory on WWE TV in a quick, one-sided match with the debuting Sid Scala (IPW:UK). Mastiff looked very impressive here, showing off not only his range of power moves, but also his innate charisma as he laughed at any offence that Scala managed to get in on him. The 16 year veteran owned the space, showing off his range of agility with a wicked closing sequence of moves that included a front dropkick, release german suplex and a 315 lb cannonball. Scala is someone who could offer a lot to NXT UK in the future and his bumping performance here should have put him in good stead to do just that.
Match stat - This was Dave Mastiff's first televised victory since defeating Grado to win the vacant World of Sport Wrestling Championship on New Year's Eve 2016.
Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyanganya (strangely uncredited) interviewed Nina Samuels backstage as Samuels said she wanted to make a name for herself at the expense of Toni Storm. For me, the promo felt a little forced, with Samuels coming across as nervous throughout, whilst it also taught me very little about Samuels or her character, with a general "insert name" here feel. This could have been anyone.
Considering Toni Storm's only previous WWE losses have come against NXT Women's Champions Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler, it was no surprise to see her pick up a clean victory over the debuting Nina Samuels (Pro Wrestling EVE) here. This match didn't click for me, with Samuels looking awkward when on both attack and defence, whilst she also struggled to stand out as anything other than a generic heel foil. Obviously the match was designed to showcase Storm, but considering the amount of offence Samuels got in, I felt like I learnt next to nothing about her from this performance, with the character coming across your basic wrestling villain. This wasn't helped by some sloppy offence, including a poor tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. That isn't to say that the match didn't have it's bright spots, because some lovely stiff forearms from Storm as part of her comeback and an early tease of the running double knee smash that would later help Storm on route to her victory. The finish felt a little familiar with a similar set-up to how Dave Mastiff went over Sid Scala a few minutes earlier, as Storm hit a German suplex into the corner to set up the knee smash, with the addition of a Storm Zero adding a little differentiation.
Stat - These two had previously faced off at WrestleForce in Southampton in 2015, British Empire Wrestling in Tooting and Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Tufnell Park both in Greater London in 2017, with this match leaving Storm with a 3-1 record.
Next week - Tyler Bate vs. Wolfgang in a 2017 United Kingdom Championship tournament semi-final rematch.
The main event saw Pete Dunne successfully retain the United Kingdom Championship in a very good match with Noam Dar. A strong example of the meshing of a classic British technical outing and WWE style main event, this clash gave plenty of hope that NXT UK will be able to find its own distinct style, whilst still appealing to a wider audience. The match managed to be both all-action and storyline-based with the early part of the match showing this off perfectly as whilst numerous threads for later in the match were being woven we also got a great spot as Dunne's trademark backflip out of the corner was thwarted by a chop block, before Dunne also used his signature X-Plex and then a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Dar worked as the matches aggressor, targeting Dunne's knee in anticipation for the Champagne SuperKneeBar, but the crowd split about 70/30 in favour of Dunne, which created a cool football match type atmosphere on the screen. A series of delicious back and forth strikes, followed up by a superb submission exchange seemed to have the Cambridge Corn Exchange rocking and would be my pick for the best wrestling in the match, although the gorgeous Bitter End reversal into the CSKB by Dar was also a major contender. I'd have loved to see these two go another ten minutes, because their work was so crisp and precise and it felt like they'd only scraped the surface of their creativity together. The finish had been hinted at all match with Dunne attempting the finger snap on Dar multiple times and Dar repeatedly flashing his pinkies up with cocky swagger, so therefore it was only fitting that Dunne would eventually bend Dar's pinky back and stomp it right into the mat. The spot looked horrible but in the absolute best way and set up for the Bitter End to seal the victory. For me, this was the best that Dar has looked in his time with WWE, given the opportunity to work a type of match that suits his style with an opponent capable of helping him to raise his game when needed.
I was half expecting a big attack angle to close the show and lead into next week, but instead the commentary posed the question of who could possibly take the belt off Pete Dunne. This was a pretty cute way to end the first episode, especially because, as of now, it's rather difficult to pick someone from the pack as the person who could do it. Building the show around a dominant champion is an interesting move to kick off the brand with, but one that should provide plenty of scope for storytelling, as well as a number of top class matches. With the thought that it can surely only be a matter of time before Dunne finds himself on an even bigger stage, I can't wait to see who will the one chosen to step up from the pack and take over his role as the face of the brand.
Stat - Pete Dunne continues to be undefeated in singles action on WWE TV since losing the final of the 2017 United Kingdom Championship tournament. With the run now at 16 matches, Noam Dar joins a list that includes Roderick Strong, Ricochet and Adam Cole, Dunne's overall singles records stands at an impressive 19-1.
A strong debut episode for NXT UK, booked ended by a good opener and a very good main event. The middle of the episode could have been tighter, with the women's match and the Moustache Mountain appearance not really working for me. There's certainly lots of space for improvement, which will come as the wrestlers become more acclimatised to regularly working with WWE and WWE becomes more aware of the performers it has on it's books and what they are capable of both in the ring and within the various storylines and feuds that we'll hopefully see develop. It's clear that this isn't the finish product, just like the early episodes of NXT only showed glimpses of what that show would become and Iooking forward to seeing how the show finds it feet and who from the roster of talented performers steps forward and takes this considerable opportunity by the horns.
Written by James Marston
Friday, 28 September 2018
After a three night stretch at Bush Hall in London, Fight Club: PRO was back at Starworks Warehouse in Wolverhampton for the first time in just over a month on 31st August 2018. Whilst all title holders (World Champion Meiko Satomura, Tag Team Champions Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos and Infinity Trophy (deceased) holder WALTER), were all absent, alongside other regulars like Travis Banks, Angelico and Clint Margera, the originators of British Strong Style still managed to put on a rather tasty looking card on paper. This included the only advertised match in the main event between former BJW Strong World Heavyweight Champion Daisuke Sekimoto and former WWE United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate in a mouth-watering international clash. Elsewhere, Pete Dunne & Trent Seven were joined by Millie McKenzie to become British Strong Mates as they took on The Rascalz (Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wents joined by Trey Miguel) and the newest member of Schadenfreude, Mark Davis, took on FCP Original MK McKinnan, as well as action featuring Jordan Devlin, Kyle Fletcher, "Session Moth" Martina, El Phantasmo and Chuck Mambo. But was it any good? Lets find out!
Six Person Tag Team Match //
British Strong Mates (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven & Millie McKenzie) def. The Rascalz (Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz & Trey Miguel) //
This international six person tag was a strong start to the evening, presenting varied action throughout. Underlined by some fun character work from all involved, the bout followed what has become a trademark of British Strong Style (and the Bruisermates) beginning with almost pure japes, before launching into more serious and exciting work in the stretch. The comedy was highlighted by some variation on some of Trent Seven's spots as the Wulfrunian looked to prove his lucha credentials. Seven's run as face in peril had it's moments, but the match really hated up following a hot tag to Pete Dunne, with the pace lifting and leading into a wonderful sequence between Dunne and Trey Miguel. In his Wolverhampton debut Miguel really impressed for me with this delightfully fast and crisp exchange with Dunne, being followed up by a series of truly impressive dives to the floor later on in the bout. For me, a few more convincing near falls could have elevated this one just that little bit more, with jumping piledriver from Seven that was preceded by duel headkicks from Dunne and McKenzie being the only moment I can remember as feeling like it could have been match-ending, but perhaps that's the difference between an opening match and a main event. Destroyers from all three members of British Strong Mates to Xavier was a neat way pulling the matches two strands together, with Starworks popping big for Seven pulling out the move for the eventual pin.
WrestleHouse Stat // This leaves poor Trey Miguel with a 0-5 record in Fight Club: PRO.
- Trent Seven stuck around, being joined by Martin Zaki, to welcome Project London Super Trainee Stars Of The Future Tournament winner Scotty Davis. This was all fun and games until Davis mentioned wanting to do Ireland proud, bringing out Jordan Devlin. Some words later and we had ourselves a match...
Singles Match //
Jordan Devlin def. Scotty Davis //
As someone who hadn't seen Scotty Davis before this was a great introduction to what he can offer to FCP, as he took part in an even contest with one of the top singles performers in the company. The two have previous in Over the Top Wrestling (OTT) meaning that the familiarity allowed for a heated and mostly smooth clash, with Davis showing impressive babyface fire from the very beginning. I was particularly impressed with some of his strong style strikes out of the gate, as well as some solid selling in the later stages. Obviously, Davis will need to evolve past a relatively generic babyface role later down the line in FCP, but as a first introduction to Wolverhampton this worked just fine. For me, this one lagged a little in the middle, losing some of the impact it had in the opening exchange and perhaps could've been improved by being a little shorter and punchier. As the story developed in the later stages, there were plenty of near falls for both sides, including a Fisherman buster for Davis and an avalanche DVD from Devlin, which really put over Davis to the new audience as he held in their with a more seasoned wrestlers and showed a tonne of fighting spirit (something which would become quite a theme for the evening going forward). A desperation headbutt leading to Devlin falling into the pin for the victory deepened the narrative and should lead to a very interesting rematch down the line.
WrestleHouse Stat // Jordan Devlin's one on one record in FCP goes to 7-2, with only Travis Banks and Jeff Cobb managing to beat the Irishman in singles action since August 2017.
Singles Match //
Kyle Fletcher def. Omari //
The first half main event was the match of the night for me, as Kyle Fletcher got his win back on Omari after their match at June's World Warriors event. Obviously since June, we've seen Fletcher turn to the bad side and join Schadenfruede and Omari lose his Infinity Trophy to WALTER, so this was a very different match-up from the original clash. Like the previous bout this was one was heated from the very beginning with Omari getting a massive slap for the face from Fletcher after the Big O had repeatedly called his opponent "Chris Brookes' bitch", before Omari replied with a barrage of offence. After his match with Travis Banks last month was cut short by an injury to Banks, this was my first real chance to get to see Fletcher's new heel persona and the Aussie Arrow impressed heavily as he targeted Omari's bandaged hand for long periods, with vicious stomps and submissions, often varying his offence to focus on the injury, whilst also spending time to soak up the heat from the crowd. On the flip side, Omari sold the injury well, continuing to perform effectively in the sympathetic babyface role. The damage played a big part in the closing stages with Omari unable to get the cover after his lifting reverse STO finish in a dramatic moment, before a miss tope conhilo would see Fletcher captalise with as series of moves that concluded with a nasty looking modified crossface (with a heavy focus on the hand of course) gave the Aussie the win. This was a much more mature display from each than their previous outing, bringing the story to the forefront, lifting the intensity and opening up a number of possibilities for both men going forward. With the pair at one a piece, a rematch would seem possible before the end of the year.
WrestleHouse Stat // This loss leaves Omari without a win in his last six in FCP, since beating Fletcher at World Warriors in June.
Singles Match //
Mark Davis def. MK McKinnan //
"Find a well known hard man...and start a fight" - MK McKinnan's Arctic Monkeys entrance music acted as an omen of things to come as he scrapped with "Dunkzilla" Mark Davis in the Aussie's first Wolverhampton appearance since joining Schadenfreude, coming hot straight out of the gate. In one his best performances since returning to action, McKinnan took an absolute beating from the bigger man, including a barrage of vicious looking chops and just kept on plugging away. I've felt that McKinnan has struggled to gain a connection with the larger Starworks crowd since returning, with many unaware of his past or his importance to the promotion, but his performance here should hopefully have won a lot more people over, as he sold tremendously throughout, not just the beating, but his desire to prove himself. McKinnan's facial expressions and body language in particular were spot on, drawing me further into the match and almost feel the pain myself. This was, of course, made easier by Dunkzilla being a big violent bastard and the ongoing Schadenfruede story in general, something which was maybe missing from other recent MK matches. It's much easier to root for the underdog, when you've got a connection with the villain of the piece! Davis would pick up the win with Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck, but both men came out better off following this one. All we need now is for more promotions to start booking McKinnan because he's only going to benefit from further ring time and exposure.
WrestleHouse Stat // Mark Davis remains undefeated one on one in FCP, having previously put away Kyle Fletcher in June 2017, Kay Lee Ray in December 2017 and Clint Margera this May.
WrestleHouse Scramble Match //
Chuck Mambo def. "Session Moth" Martina and El Phantasmo and Drew Parker and Charli Evans //
A well-placed and welcome scramble match, as Chuck Mambo finally got his chance in Wolvo and completely owned it, alongside strong performances from Martina, El Phantasmo, Drew Parker and Charli Evans as well. Particular moments that I noted down were Phantasmo's rope walking escapades, which I don't think could ever not be entertaining, as well as a strong sequence with Martina and Evans, who both put on impressive displays. A couple of slip-ups here and there, including a nasty blockbuster from Mambo, but it's rare to have a six-way bout at this pace without something going slightly awry at some point. It was pleasant surprise to see Mambo so dominant in the victory as he cleared the field with a series of moves in quick succession including a dive to the floor before a top rope splash was enough to put Parker away. A fun change of pace from regular scramble finishes, which can come off a fluke, this seemed to be a way of establishing Mambo as a regular roster member going forward.
WrestleHouse Stat // This loss means that still Martina's only FCP victories in England were shooting Chief Deputy Dunne with a nerf gun and in a three-way that involved a stuffed giraffe as one of the participants.
Singles Match //
Tyler Bate def. Daisuke Sekimoto //
Whilst it was a very good and extremely physical encounter, the real strength of Tyler Bate's victory over absolute unit Daisuke Sekimoto was the groundwork that had gone in across the previous couple of hours. Each singles match on the show followed a similar pattern, with one performer having to fight from underneath (Scott Davis, Omari, MK McKinnan) whilst the other (Jordan Devlin, Kyle Fletcher, Mark Davis) dominated the majority of proceedings, before the underdog was unable to overcome the odds. That meant that when Bate hit a gorgeous spiral tap to pull out an unlikely victory over an opponent that was bigger, more experience and had shown to be a consistently stronger boi, it felt like a much bigger moment than if the match had been consumed in a vacuum.
The match itself was a meaty affair with the Big Japan star using strength and size to control, absorbing almost all of Bate's offence (including some big chops). With a much more considered pace than the rest of the card, this match took it's time to tell the story, holding the crowd more through the presence of the performers than a blow-away series of action, especially in the early goings. It was refreshing to see Bate back in a role in which he performs so well, as he got plenty of time here to show the fighting spirit and guts that saw him rise to the top of British wrestling, with some delightful facial expressions as he looked to find a way past Sekimoto. For me, I would've liked to have seen Sekimoto go in a little harder when the two were exchanging strikes, as Bate's chops almost always came across as more impressive, when it felt like Sekimoto's should have been the exclamation point on the exchange, whilst I think the bout could also have benefitted from a gear change down the stretch and perhaps one more good near fall. Overall though, this was a very good conclusion to the show, that tied things together nicely and provided a brilliant and rare opportunity to see Daisuke Sekimoto perform in England.
WrestleHouse Stat // One on one Tyler Bate is undefeated in Fight Club: Pro since All the Best in February 2016 (a loss to Pete Dunne at the Planet) with Daisuke Sekimoto joining a list that also includes Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb and Travis Banks (twice).
ATPW Scale Rating //
Review by James Marston
Photo Credit - The Ringside Perspective
Wednesday, 29 August 2018
This week's RAW was a weird one as WWE looked to build a number of big shows at the same time. We got a major surprise heel turn, a classic Intercontinental Championship match between Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, Trish Stratus making a surprise appearance to confront Elias in her hometown, as well as Baron Corbin's first week as Acting RAW General Manager. But was it any good? Lets take a look!
The opening segment was as pretty paint by numbers situation, giving us both a main event for the next PPV, Hell in a Cell, as well as the evening, as Braun Strowman officially announced he'd be cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Universal Champion Roman
Reigns in San Antonio on 16th September, before Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre challenged the Monster and the Big Dog to a match. The interaction between Reigns and Strowman was decent enough, the two clearly still have some chemistry from their surprise hit rivalry last year, whilst the Toronto crowd reacted well to a few well-placed verbal jabs. After Ziggler & McIntyre interrupted though the segment lost any of it's sting. The pair seemed to talk for a long time without actually saying anything, firstly complaining about Ziggler losing to Seth Rollins and then rambling on about wanting to face Reigns and Strowman for reasons that they didn't really make clear, all while getting little to no reaction from the crowd. Things weren't made better when Acting General Manager Baron Corbin came out and made all the confirmed matches official, taking his sweet time in doing so. I get what they're going for with Corbin, with him attempting to take credit for the work done by everyone else, but he's got so little charisma that he ended up sucking more air out of a segment that was already dying. The entire segment went about 15 minutes, felt like 25 and could've been done in 8 or 9.
No Disqualification Match – Acting RAW General Manager Baron Corbin def. Finn Balor via Pinfall
Under the section labelled “Feuds that have gone on way too long”, we have Baron Corbin and Finn Balor in their fourth singles match since the middle of July. This wasn't a feud that anyone was clamouring to see in the first place. The match itself was okay, some good back and forth in the later stages, once we got past an endless stretch of the same weardown hold from Corbin. It was clear to see that the two have been working together regularly from the couple of slick sequences they put together during the second half of the match, with some good variations on stuff like Corbin's Bossman clothesline spot. The highlight came from a slingblade on the outside from Balor that lead into the ad break, whilst a Tope con Hilo in the closing stages also looked great. The finish was used as a way to establish Corbin as Acting General Manager further, with the Lone Wolf causing a Disqualification with a steel chair, only to announce he'd forgotten to make announce that the bout was No DQ, following up with another chair shot and an End of Days for the win. You'd expect that this feud is finally done now, but with Balor unable to get the victory without the Demon it's hard to see where he goes next, especially if Corbin is staying as AGM for any amount of time.
Despite the match being six weeks away still, we got a package looking at Triple H vs. The Undertaker at Super Show-down with Ric Flair, Christian, Mick Foley, Jeff Jarrett and Kevin Nash discussing what we could see and who they thought would win.
We learned that Dana Brooke would be facing Sasha Banks next in her first RAW singles match since November 2017 in a backstage segment with Titus Worldwide crew. There seemed to be some tension teased between Titus O'Neil and Apollo Crews, with Crews confused at O'Neil's optimism for Brooke's chances.
Singles Match – Sasha Banks (with Bayley) def. Dana Brooke (with Titus O'Neil & Apollo Crews) via submission
In the first of a number of short matches on the show, Banks put Brooke away with the Banks Statement in two and a half minutes. For what it was, I found this relatively entertaining. Brooke going for a number of roll up attempts early made storyline sense, whilst the wrestler, who has consistently been towards the lower end of the female performers since debuting in 2015, actually didn't look awful here, hitting a nice looking enziguiri, pulling out some flippy type stuff, before going for her Samoan Driver finish and getting caught with a backstabber. I'm not quite sure what this match was for, with very little storyline development, but with Evolution not to far away it makes sense to give some depth to a couple of women at the far reaches of the division to fill out that card.
Backstage, there was an interaction between Dean Ambrose and Jinder Mahal that filled sometime and would eventually lead to a match in the third hour.
The first very good segment of the show was next as we got promos from Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, with the latter accepting an open challenge from the former. Rollins promo was alright, not offering much beyond crowd pandering, but effective enough to keep Toronto engaged and getting pops when necessary, before issuing the challenge. Owens on the other hand was on fire, full of anger at not having Sami Zayn by his side anymore, like Rollins had Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam, whilst also discussing how RAW hadn't been as much fun as he'd expecting. The Toronto crowd was super hot for their fellow Canadian, that is until he mentioned he's from Quebec and began speaking exclusively in French to a chorus of boos. It was timed to perfection with Owens spending enough time reeling in the crowd to get them to believe in his cause, only to turn on them just before the match began. Although with the skill and fire of the segment of his babyface promo it's curious that Owens has yet to be seen in this role regularly since his very first match with WWE at NXT Takeover: R Evolution back in December 2014.
Singles Match for Intercontinental Championship – Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens via pinfall to retain
A superb television match here, with Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins putting on what was almost certainly their best singles match in WWE, and definitely the best match on the show. Part of why this match worked better for me than their series over the Universal Championship in Autumn 2016 was that Rollins has grown and grown as a babyface since that point, becoming arguably the best performer on the main roster since then, honing his moveset, whilst also making better use of his impeccable selling. That was on full display here as Owens targetting the Architect's shoulder, including a lovely senton onto the afflicted area. A couple of tremendous sequences in the middle of the bout with Rollins looking to hit either the Curb Stomp or the Ripcord Knee, only for Owens to block with an attack to the shoulder, would eventually string together into Owens locking in a Crossface and then modifying the submission to block Rollins arm reaching the rope, in a well-done dramatic moment was a personal highlight. Some back and forth series of reversals that would conclude with Owens hitting a Stunner as an answer to Rollins' Avadra Kedavra was brilliant in a completely different way, more reminiscent of their indy work than their early WWE series, as both men continued to show their versatility as in-ring performers. I would have liked to have seen Rollins' shoulder used further in the closing stages, as whilst Rollins still sold well the injury was put on the back burner in the final third, whilst playing very little role in the eventual finish. I think that with a little work on that this bout could've been pushed even further. However, it was super cool to see Owens pull out a double jump moonsault from his bag of tricks and, of course, missing the move would lead to Rollins retaining his belt at the first time of asking, collecting a W with a Curb Stomp to bring a stellar Intercontinental Championship match to an end.
Backstage, Braun Strowman handed his Money in the Bank briefcase to Baron Corbin, signalling that his cash-in at Hell in a Cell is now official.
There was an intriguing angle post-match as a frustrated Owens, who has struggled for victories since moving to RAW in April, sat in the ring, muttered the words “I quit” before slowly walking to the back. Like most, I'm very intrigued to see what happens next, which is the most important part of any weekly wrestling show.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre managed to improve on their promo from the opening segment in an interview with Renee Young. The pair bought a whole heap more energy to their performances, whilst also seeming to have a better idea of why they were challenging two of the most dominant performers on the RAW brand. This boiled down to the idea that Reigns' body wasn't ready to compete following gruelling matches with Brock Lesnar and Finn Balor last week, whilst Braun Strowman's mind wasn't ready to compete after two thwarted Money in the Bank cash-ins in the same time period.
Tag Team Match – The Revival def. RAW Tag Team Champions The B-Team via pinfall
The B-Team's undefeated streak finally came to an end at the hands of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder this week as The Revival went over Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas in a rematch from SummerSlam Kick-Off. This was a fairly basic tag match in structure, failing to get any real reaction out of the crowd. A lot of the action felt contrived and clunky, including a couple of roll-up spots that went on for way to long and killed an energy the match could have had. WWE seems to have no idea what made either team popular and even less of an idea about how it wants to present them to it's audience. Are the B-Team a comedy babyface act? Because there was very little in the way of shenanigan or attempted shenanigan from them here. This meant that the Revival's cutting off the ring schtick simply comes across as boring, because there's little to no promise of anything exciting or entertaining later on in the match. With The Revival's act, if the crowd aren't behind the face in peril then it falls flat. It's difficult to see how RAW's tag division can recover at the moment, as whilst there is some talent there, especially in Dawson & Wilder, the creative and attention to detail, both big and small, simply isn't there.
An entertaining segment saw Trish Stratus interrupt Elias, after The Drifter began ripping into Stratus' hometown of Toronto. Neither performer was without their slip-ups during their promos, but both has enough charisma to keep the crowd and the vocal talent to roll with their mistakes. There was a couple of really well-written lines in this with Elias making a reference to Torontonian Drake's song “Started from the Bottom”, whilst a pair of barbs from each wrestler later on in the promo got great pops from the crowd, even if it did feel like they were papering over that they had no legitimate chemistry. A Stratus slap closed the segment, with Ronda Rousey and Natalya's entrance for the next match being used as a way to swiftly move on from the fact that there wasn't any real ending in place.
Before, Natalya took on Alicia Fox, we got to here from Alexa Bliss, with the revelation that she was revoking or invoking or devoking perhaps, her rematch clause for Rousey's RAW Women's Championship at Hell in a Cell. Bliss also reintroduced Mickie James who hadn't been seen for quite a while, for a nice pop.
Singles Match – Natalya (with RAW Women's Champion Ronda Rousey & WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus) def. Alicia Fox (with Alexa Bliss & Mickie James) via submission.
A quick and simple win for Natalya in her home-country in her first match since her father, Jim Neidhart, passed away. Natty won with a Sharpshooter in a few minutes and whilst there was nothing of note in the bout, it's difficult to complain about WWE allowing for such a sentimentally sweet moment. This was made especially heart-warming/heart-breaking by Natty pointing to the sky and proclaiming the match was for her Dad afterwards. WWE doesn't always handle death well on it's television products, here's hoping that Jim Neidhart becomes an exception and makes a new rule.
Backstage, Natalya, Rousey and Stratus were met by the Bella Twins. Brie and Nikki talked awkwardly for a few seconds, before it was revealed they'd be returning to action on next week's show. Yay. (For fact fans, this will be their first TV match as a duo since the 17th October 2015 edition of Main Event, where they went over Team B.A.D.'s Naomi and Tamina on a show that also included Stardust vs. Fandango and Ryback vs. Adam Rose!)
Another look at what various WWE alumni thinks about The Undertaker facing Triple H in Melbourne in October. This time we heard from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Booker T, The Big Show and Diamond Dallas Page, which was nice.
In a surprisingly entertaining segment, Baron Corbin informed Bobby Lashley that he had a match next, but that Corbin couldn't remember who he'd booked him against. I got a kick out of Lashley laughing it off, pretending to be pals with Corbin whilst slapping him on the shoulder. Corbin later informed Lashley that his match was a handicap match once the former Impact World Champion had got in the ring. I'm interested to see how long WWE pushes Corbin as the heel GM using his power irresponsibly and what the actual pay-off is, considering his boss is still the villainous RAW Commissioner Stephanie McMahon.
Two-on-One Handicap Match – Bobby Lashley def. The Ascension via pinfall
This was a thing. A rather stupid piece of booking, as Lashley going over two guys who haven't looked like a threat in years, but are also considered to have never been booked correctly since leaving NXT, isn't going to help him get over, whilst neither placing him in a feud with Baron Corbin. With the RAW tag team division a mess it's irresponsible to kill another team off in what was a pretty throwaway contest.
Singles Match – Dean Ambrose def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall
Completing a trifeca of short matches, Jinder Mahal's run at the top of the SmackDown brand seemed a distance memory as he lost cleanly to Dean Ambrose in under five minutes. Mahal had pretty much the whole match, controlling after a distraction from Sunil Singh, leading to dull and forgettable contest that offered very little in the way of entertainment. Ambrose's comebacks were repeatedly cut off by Mahal, the Lunatic Fringe reversed a Khallas attempt with a Dirty Deeds. Out of the three matches The Shield members had on the show, this was the weakest and ultimately most pointless, coming across as generic time-filler. I suppose Ambrose needed to be continued to be reintroduced to the audience and a quick win over a former World Champion is a solid way to do, but the delivery came off as lazy and unimaginative.
In the lockeroom, Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns had a confrontation, although seemed to be on the same page before the main event.
Tag Team Match – WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns & “Mr. Monster in the Bank” Braun Strowman vs. Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre ended in a no contest
Less of a match and more of a set-up for a shock conclusion to the show, as Braun Strowman turned on Roman Reigns, appearing to side with Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre as the trio turned away both Dean Ambrose and Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins, before inflicting further punishment on Reigns. The match was alright up until this point, as Reigns battled against Ziggler and McIntyre as the face-in-peril with McIntyre and Ziggler continuing to work well as a team and showing plenty of intensity and physicality throughout as they thwarted various Reigns comeback attempts. But I'm not sure how effective the angle was or if it was the right decision to turn Strowman at this point. The Toronto crowd didn't seem to know what to make of what was happening, especially at the start, when it was very unclear where the angle was heading, but even then the reaction from them didn't match what was going on in the ring, mostly because nobody wanted to see a Braun Strowman heel-turn just 10 months after he became a babyface. Following the Becky Lynch heel-turn at SummerSlam, this feels like another case of WWE being out-of-touch with what it's core audience wants to see and how it is connected with the performers in the ring.
There's intrigue from this reviewer in how this plays out next week and going forward and it has been a while since RAW ended with a genuinely surprising moment. There is also potential in a Strowman/Ziggler/McIntyre vs. The Shield match to main event RAW with variational singles match also having promise whilst also filling valuable minutes of content. Like any good episodic TV ending, I was left asking questions about how the relationships between the characters were effected and whether there was an full and proper alliance between the villainous trio or whether this was one-off or month-long partnership, but I was also left questioning whether the timing was right, whether the correct person had made the turn and how WWE's insistence of keeping Reigns as the babyface star of the show could negatively impact on not just Strowman, but on Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose also.
As episodes of RAW go, this was high on big impact moments and talking points, but low on good quality content across the three hours, with some horrible booking seen throughout. Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins stole the show with their Intercontinental Championship match, whilst Owens' walk-out was probably the most interesting storyline development. Alongside this we had Braun Strowman's questionable heel turn and alignment with Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler, whilst we also got a surprise appearance from Hall of Famer Trish Stratus in a fun appearance with Elias. We also got a look at Baron Corbin in the role of Acting General Manager for the first time, something which feels like it could be fun in the short term, but could get tiresome if a pay-off doesn't come by Survivor Series at the very latest. A nice moment for Natalya and a surprisingly competent performance from Dana Brooke aside, the rest of the show was a mix between filler matches and dull matches with bad booking as WWE continued to struggled to know what to do with it's tag teams and Bobby Lashley.
Try to check out the gem of a match between Rollins and Owens in full, but I'm sure all of the moments worth seeing from the rest of the show are available on YouTube.
Review by James Marston