Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Non-Fan Review // DEATH HOUSE from Project Mayhem VI

*Photo Credit - The Ringside Perspective*

This is an "unsanctioned deathmatch" - with lots of swearing. It's also a tag team match, two on two, and a crowded one given that the ring is a LOT smaller than the WWE version.

First, Drew Parker and Ricky Shane Page enter - one is a large man in a black leotard, while the other appears to be the Joker with a ponytail. He loses the white facepaint before the match starts. Shame. It's his most impressive feature.

Then strange horns blare. The audience start to sing along to the music (I don't recognise the tune, I'm afraid). Is someone else coming? Drew and Shane pace the ring for a while. Then, at last, we see a big bearded guy and a chap with a white labcoat and a hockey mask. They go by the band name of "Callous Hearts" and they have their own ring. If they have individual names, I'm unable to hear them over the music.

It's like one of those awkward meetings when you don't confirm the details beforehand and you and your date are waiting in different places.

Suddenly everyone runs from both rings and meets in the middle, amongst the audience. There's a brief fracas in the crowd. Chairs are thrown, as are punches, but it's hard to make out what's happening. This is camerawork so shaky it would not be out of place in a Jason Bourne film. The big guy in black (Shane or Drew, I'm not clear which is which) is slapped around by one of the Hearts (the guy in white, though he's lost his mask and coat and now looks barely recognisable - if I didn't know better, he could be someone from the audience).

While Drew/Shane is dragged back towards the ring by one Heart, Shane/Drew is tackled to the floor by the other. I think. The light here is dreadful, and there seems to be only one camera tracking two separate fights. Badly. As Ponytail crawls away, the other Heart throws a chair at him. Ponytail dodges, but it's two on one here. Where's the big guy?

Here he comes! Then Black Heart throws a folding chair at him and he hits the ground. Black Heart shrugs to the audience before returning his attention to Ponytail.

White Heart, meanwhile, is taking Big Guy back towards the ring. There's time to smack his head into some metal railings first.

Ponytail is now meekly following Black Heart around the set as White Heart continues to smack Big Guy around. The two pairs catch up to each other. White Heart calls Ponytail a bad word and shoves him down to the floor. Then he picks him up, smacks his head into some scaffolding and kicks him.

So far, Shane and Drew have been a bit rubbish. But the Big Guy is finally doing something useful as he intercepts White Heart and gives him what looks like a cuddle. White Heart screams, especially when he's manhandled by his, er, man handle.

Meanwhile, Ponytail has caught Black Heart and is trying to make him eat barbed wire. It doesn't go well. The Big Guy comes by with what appears to be... no, that's ridiciulous. But the audience agree - "he's got a cheese grater!" Which would be more impressive if Black Heart didn't simply steal it from him and use it to give him a shave.

A short distance away, Ponytail is punching White Heart. Whitey responds by throwing Ponytail into the railings. He then slaps his thigh, which apparently causes the other guy pain. I don't know how that works.

Big Guy punches a metal drum, then limps after Black Heart. White Heart has stopped for a beer. When Ponytail asks for one, he gets slapped. But with Big Guy coming out on top, White Heart goes to his mate's help and punches the Big Guy down.

There's blood all over Big's face now.

White Heart (ugh, those terrible trousers!) starts rearranging the security barriers while the two guys in black continue their brawl. The big guy is unable to resist as the two Hearts take him under an arm each and then flip him over their heads and into the barrier, which has been arranged like a very uncomfortable ramp, complete with barbed wire. Big Guy shouts out in pain.

I've no longer got any clue where Ponytail has got to.

As Big Guy crawls off his metal bed, still yelling, the Hearts enter the ring. Looks like Ponytail is already there, crawling along as though trying to stay out of sight - to be fair, given how this "match" has gone so far, the ring is the place that's seen the least action. Who'd think to look for him there?

With the Big Guy out of action, Ponytail just stands there and takes it as the others take turns punching him. The nipple tweak is particularly unsporting. Ponytail then learns why so many wrestlers eschew long hair as Whitey drags him along by those long luscious locks, and then introduces his forehead to the metal of the same security barrier as before. Those wire bits can be sharp. Ponytail says a rude word.

Things suddenly take an unexpected turn. Mounted in the corner of the ring and slapped a little, you'd expect Ponytail to go down fast. But then Whitey takes a run up and hits the post as Ponytail darts away. Then Black Heart charges in and Ponytail darts away again, the two Hearts colliding in the corner. Where the hell did that come from?

As the two Hearts argue, Ponytail dives in to take advantage - bad idea. They're not so distracted that they don't see him coming, and he's soon thrown back into the post and slapped a little more. Black throws himself into his opponent, leaving Ponytail winded on the mat again. White steps out of the ring while Black goes for an unusual pin - he seems to be holding Ponytail by the eyebrows.

White returns with some sort of implement. But what's this? Is that Big Guy I see returning to the ring? It is! White is clobbered to the floor, giving Ponytail the opportunity to break free of Black. The Drew/Ricky pair (I wish I knew which was which) swap partners, ready to do something to them both, but the Hearts reverse their move - simultaneously throwing both of them into the fencing around the ring. It splinters like it's made out of matchsticks.

The Hearts (five, six) pick up sticks and (seven, eight) put the other boys straight. This seems to involve laying sticks against bare skin and hitting the sticks. I vaguely recall this being a thing at school with plastic rulers.

The Hearts decide to team up again, but the same thing happens again - the victims reverse the throw and it's the Hearts that end up in the now rather pointy wooden barrier. This is probably why WWE uses the traditional ropes - much less dangerous... The Drewrickies take the opportunity to push sticks on their enemies' foreheads. Well, Ponytail just uses his hands. I guess he couldn't find a stick.

Big Guy clobbers Black, then invites his friend over to assist. Together, they throw Black into the corner and a fresh bunch of kindling. Black screams in pain and then crawls out of the ring. Meanwhile, the Drewrickies team up on White and sling him out of the ring, head first. There's some scattered applause from the audience.

Since the Hearts don't seem to be coming back, the others go out to get them. Ponytail helps White to his feet, gives him a quick punch and then gets him in a bear hug from behind. Meanwhile, Big Guy (still with a face covered in blood) seems to be carrying what looks like a pane of glass. He carefully props this up in the ring and goes back for something else.

In the few seconds the cameraman was distracted by this, Ponytail has lost his advantage and is about to be shown the benefits of scrubbing your face with barbed wire. A quick elbow to the ribs puts White off, and he runs away into the crowd for beer.

Big Guy has found... I'm not sure what it is. Looks like a collection of white planks all bound together. Regardless, he literally walks into White coming the other way and gets booted in the stomach. White picks up the thing. Ooh, it's a collection of poles. They sound like metal... or... fluorescent lights? Oh dear. Big Guy backs away as White pulls one pole free and advances. He places the pole against Big Guy's forehead and headbutts him - the impact snaps the pole in twain and leaves Big Guy reeling.

Ponytail picks this exact moment to walk back in and gets kicked in the shins. He drops to his knees. White picks up another pole and does the same again. He picks up a third pole, ready to go again... but Big Guy is back on his feet and kicks him to the midriff. He grabs the pole, ready to do something 'orrible, but then Black reappears (where's he been hiding?) and now Big Guy is the one being molested by a pole. This particular one is put between his teeth while White punches him. The third punch shatters that pole. I think they really are tube lights. Not what I'd recommend for a light snack.

Ponytail struggles to his feet, attempting to help Big Guy up. The crowd chants something - Lucifer? You Sit Up? I have no idea - and then the Hearts are back. Black kicks Ponytail away, who so far has been about as effective as a Teletubby, so he can carve his initials into Big Guy's head with a piece of broken lightbulb. White does the same to Ponytail. There is more blood.

Black changes tactics, now trying to insert the lightbulb into Big Guy's hand in an attempt to replicate stigmata, or something. White takes Ponytail and his lightbulb into the ring. Having tried and failed to turn him into a unicorn, White goes back to his favourite trick of headbutting lightbulbs into dust against his opponent's forehead.

Outside the ring, Big Guy yells a lot. But is he reaching for something...?

Whitey comes back with a white bag. It seems to be filled with something, as he's using it to clobber Ponytail around the head. He tips some out - it looks like gold dust? Golden somethings, anyway.

I don't know what's been happening outside the ring but it's all change. Big Guy is on his feet and clubs Black with a fluorescent lightbulb. It shatters into dust and Black drops to his knees. Meanwhile, White is carrying Ponytail on his shoulders, but drops him after a few too many elbows to the face. Ponytail fights back, forgetting he's a Teletubby, and White turns his flying leap into a 69. Ponytail struggles for freedom - after getting an extreme close-up of those ghastly trousers, I'm not surprised. Whitel then begins walking him around the ring like a wheelbarrow, inexorably closer to those gold things from his sack.

You know, I think they're drawing pins.

Ponytail gets to crawl his hands through the pins, and then Big Guy comes to the rescue. Ponytail is now being held up at either end. But what's this? Black sneaks in behind, and kicks down at those much abused hands. The Drewrickies fall into the pins. White then throws Ponytail into the pins, and Black uses a flying kick to push Big Guy into them.

Our wrestlers suddenly realise they are actually supposed to be wrestling, and Black attempts to pin the big guy. He kicks out and breaks the hold. Ponytail reaches out feebly to White, who kicks his hand away. There's a brief moment where both teams regroup, and then Black goes for a charge at Ponytail in the corner. Ponytail gently tosses him out of the ring. Then Whitey decides to get mean and slap Ponytail around a bit. This includes the positively lethal move of holding a stick against his forehead and then tapping the back of his head. Okay, then.

The Big Guy crawls back into the ring (I didn't know he'd left!) and is "helped" to his knees by White, who decides the best way to bring him round is to wrap his legs around Big Guy's head. Ponytail is not impressed, coming in with a surprise flying kick to send White sprawling. Black returns, not impressed either, and throws Ponytail into that pane of glass that Big Guy brought in earlier.

I'm not quite sure what happens next. It looks like Big Guy tries to help Ponytail up, and then Black half flies, half slides into him. Big Guy sails across the ring into the corner post. Black pulls him back in, then goes for another pin. It fails.

Everyone stops for breath before they crawl away from each other.

Black decides to get creative. He positions Big Guy in the corner, props him up with a stick AND a lightbulb across his chest and goes for a charge. Big Guy moves aside and swings down with the bulb. Goodnight, Black Heart. Though I think he just took out the cameraman instead.

There's a shocked pause. Ponytail and Big Guy stare at each other in horror. The Hearts... I have no idea what they're up to. More camera guys run to their fallen comrade's aid. The crowd begin chanting about the Pope's morning ablutions.

Then it's back on. Black charges into Big Guy, who reverses the throw and drops him to the mat. Whitey charges in and there's a quick tussle before the two men spin and Big Guy lands hard. Ponytail comes in swinging, but misses. He picks up White and tries to throw him but it doesn't quite work as intended. Ponytail tries again, picking the dazed and fashion-unconscious Heart up before flipping him over his head and into the mat behind him. It's a cool looking move. It also doubles as an unconventional pin, but White easily shrugs it off before the count expires.

Ponytail exchanges a quick word before climbing the corner post for a flying leap - which, as always, goes horribly wrong. White moves away and Black is waiting with another lightbulb. Swing and SMASH! Ponytail is left red-faced and embarrassed. No, wait, that's not embarrassment. That's blood. Black swiftly picks up the helpless Ponytail and slams him into the mat, which is now covered in so many shards of glass and drawing pins that it must be an even more painful experience than normal. Time for another pin? Not the drawing kind. But in comes Big Guy, pushing Black away with a flying punch before the countdown can hit three.

Big Guy is really narked now. White moves in and gets a punch to the face for his trouble, then thrown into the corner. Big Guy mounts him on the ropes ready for an impressive throw - but Black smashes something into his face (a bit of lightbulb, perhaps?) and Big Guy goes reeling. While he's gone, Black clears some of the detritus away - or sweeps it together? I'm not sure - before picking up the feebly struggling Ponytail and throwing him back onto the mat.

Now White picks up Ponytail and tosses him back down like a sack of potatoes. There's no fight in this kid any more, is there? Both Hearts pin him down. One! Two! But no - Ponytail jerks free. The fight continues - twenty minutes in now. But where is the Big Guy?

Never mind him - while Ponytail crawls away, White's gone underneath the ring to pull out a FREAKING AXE. Seriously?? Ponytail asks him to be reasonable as he (very sensibly) backs away. Quickly. He climbs up the gantry holding the match banner, while back in the ring Black returns with what looks like a folding chair. Ahh, the stalwart of wrestling weapons...

Ponytail is trapped up top while White climbs after him, slowed a little by one hand holding a FLIPPIN' ENORMOUS AXE. Have I mentioned the axe? He does the sensible thing of punching White in the head as he comes closer, though trying to pull his nose off is more successful. White drops the axe and falls back.

Big Guy returns from nowhere and has a go at White, but it doesn't go well for him. Whitey climbs back up the gantry (sans axe) while Black does some interior design work in the ring - though I think all those boards and chairs and whatever else he's gathered together will prove to be very bad feng shui. White discovers that climbing up just leads to getting punched again. Lucky for him that Teletubbies don't punch very hard.

None of this impacts on Black's grand designs in the ring. He even politely asks for donations of chairs from the audience. He seems to have made two benches out of some chairs and some plywood boards. Whatever for? Is he building a fort? Shouldn't he be wrestling or something?

Satisfied that his work in the ring is ready, Blacky climbs up the other side of the gantry. Ponytail seems to spot him too late. The two trade feeble punches at the top before Black picks up his rival and - ah, now I see what those homemade benches are for. Both men spin down into them, breaking all Black's hard work, but Ponytail takes the brunt of it. The crowd return to the subject of the Pope's bowel movements.

Big Guy returns to the ring, as does White. The former greets the latter with a boot to the head. Big Guy helps Ponytail up, clearing the ring and giving Whitey another boot to the head on the way. He then arranges two chairs with a pane of glass between them - only losers use plywood, right? - before giving White the same head-between-my-legs treatment that White gave him earlier.

Black breaks up the party, but his efforts to lift the Big Guy are too weak. Big Guy shrugs him off, punches him in the face and lifts him up over his shoulders. But not to throw him into the glass pane - oh no. There's a whole row of those fluorescent lightbulb tubes waiting in the ring. SMASH!

Big Guy proudly shows off to the crowd while, behind him, White is getting back up. Big Guy turns to fight but gets a fist in the head. You should have been watching him! White follows up with another glass tube to the head - how many of these things do they have?! - but his efforts to chuck Big Guy into his own pane of glass backfire. Big grabs the charging Heart and flips him into the makeshift glass table. SMASH!

I feel sorry for whoever has to clean up all this stuff.

Astonishingly, White is the first up. He pins the Big Guy to the mat, there's a count to three and... is that it? Is it over? That was a bit sudden. All four men seem to be in immense pain. But they're up, and they're hugging - the two Hearts in victory (painful, painful victory) and the Drewrickies in (just as painful) defeat. And then the two rivals acknowledge each other, all enmity forgotten, before they leave the arena.


This was a long and brutal fight, but not entirely dissimilar to the WWE ones I've previously watched. They even have the same folding chairs. We have the same ghastly outfits, the same overambitious moves swiftly reversed, the same level of overacting. But WWE was never this bloodthirsty. Drawing pins? Lightbulbs? Panes of glass? Barbed wire? It's ludicrously violent, like Tom and Jerry tagteaming Wile E Coyote and the Roadrunner, and just as believable.

I'm afraid this match doesn't quite work, but not because of the match itself. As a member of the audience, I'm sure it would be thrilling (not least because you might end up in the middle of the fighting). It's the logistics that spoil it - the word to describe the filming of this match is "chaotic". I'm pretty sure braining a cameraman with a lightbulb was scripted (it was just too perfect) but the opening section was so choppy and confused that I had no idea what was going on until the match finally got into the ring. It was some time before I realised they even had more than one cameraman.

The story too lacked cohesion. To start with it seemed to descend into an immediate brawl, and wrestling was forgotten in favour of throwing chairs and experimenting with cheese graters. Then they seemed to remember it again at the end and this brutal, bloodthirsty match was won by a simple pin. What was the motivation for all this? Are we supposed to think these guys are rivals who hate each other, or is there a prize at stake? Who are meant to be the villains here and who are the heroes? A lot of this could be cleared up with some simple commentary, but I'm already missing the badly acted storylines that surround the WWE matches. Fighting for Santa or over a luchador mask may be ridiculous but it gives the fight a purpose that seemed lacking here.

Drew and Ricky are an interesting pairing (if in completely different weight classes - the big guy was carrying the fight most of the time) but it's the Callous Hearts that really work here - they have the look, the cohesion and the sadism to make a great villain combo. For that alone, they were worthy winners.

As for me, after all that shaky camerawork and confusion I'm going to take some headache tablets and go for a lie down...

Next time for Andrew // 
The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian in a Ladder match from WWF No Mercy 1999

Written by Andrew Williams 

The Non-Fan Review // Kane vs. The Big Show vs. Raven from WrestleMania X-7

Before we go any further, may I make a small confession?

I absolutely HATE The Lord of the Rings. The books, films, all of it - I’ve always found the thing a slow, self-indulgent plod-athon with occasional bits of violence to tickle up the tedium: a potentially good story dreadfully told.

What could any of this possibly have to do with the Hardcore Championship Match from April 2001, I hear you ask (not unreasonably)? A good question with a surprisingly simple answer: this match is the same as Tolkien’s acclaimed Catholicism metaphor, in that it’s mostly walking at a leisurely pace with the odd smack here and there. Allow me to explain:

A weird echoey remix track of carrion birds plays out loud. “CAW CAW CAW CAW,” sing the raptors, as out strolls current Hardcore Champion Raven. Sadly not the Teen Titan of the same name, this fellow is adorning a white t-shirt, odd facial hair and Fonzie jacket; he pushes a shopping trolley full of wacky props to the ring, as an advert pops up for "WWF The Music, Vol 5”, featuring What about me? by Raven. Odd first impression for a 225 pound wrestler to make, having a song with a title that sounds like it was written by a whining 13-year-old girl?

But now for the challengers: pyrotechnics galore as a giant strides out, with girly black hair, flaming red tank top/leggings and a red/black mask like a Power Rangers villain. He also has a glove only on his right hand, maybe he burned it while making muffins? But whatever the case, he is KANE! The commentator starts gibbering incoherently about this 6 foot 10, 326 pound behemoth: “Kane scares the hell out of me and I am a fearless man.”…Isn’t that a bit like saying “he’s the best singer I’ve ever heard and I’m deaf”? Meh, who knows - Raven hits Kane with a wet floor sign just before the DING DING DING can sound, only to be thrown into the corner by the Brobdingnagian.

“WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELL,” goes the music. Lulu? If only. The music goes all Killer Instinct as our third and final combatant makes his way out: it’s the 500 pound leviathan known as the Big Show! In his black leotard and extremely neat beard, he has inspired the commentator to start singing the Danger Mouse theme: "He’s invincible! He’s invulnerable! Quite possibly, he’s impervious to pain!” Whatever this commentator’s taking, I want some.

As Biggy (as I’ve affectionately decided to call him) struts his way to the ring, Kane chucks Raven at him; Biggy catches the Lilliputian and shoves his face into his armpit. Quite understandably, this makes Raven thrash about like he’s dying; he is saved by Kane leaping off the ropes onto Biggy! Raven dashes over and grabs Biggy’s enormous fetlock - ONE, TWO… But Kane kicks him away! Whose side is this giant in a gimp mask on??

Kane punches Raven over the soft foam barricade (just like on ITV’s Gladiators), only for them both to run through the crowd, followed by the tiny ref. As they get halfway to the gate through which they all entered, Kane puts Raven into a fireman’s lift, only for Biggy to appear out of nowhere like Hong Kong Phooey and kick the masked meddler in the chest, causing him to drop his mini-foe. Fans mug to the camera as the two massive fighters plus referee make their way to the gate; bizarrely, just as Kane catches up and grabs Biggy’s bonce, the camera cuts to the outside of the crowd. WHY? What is the point of that?

Back to the action and it looks like we’ve missed nothing, they’re STILL slowly making their way over to the gate, only to turn right away from the gate and towards the camera from before, still outside the crowd. Biggy hits Kane in the head, then they walk a bit more. This is a VERY odd thing to witness; again, the camera cuts away just as it looks like something interesting is about to happen. Whoever directed this needs to be taken off whatever he’s currently taking and given whatever the commentator is using.

Kane throws Biggy into a wall, then simply wanders off… It’s as if these wrestlers are bored of fighting and just want to walk about. However, Kane walks straight into Raven, who hits him in the head with a sign! I wondered when his wacky props from earlier would make an appearance. #ThatsSoRaven

Not approving of signs, Kane smacks the prop away and throws his enemy into a wall, ACTUALLY DENTING THE WALL IN THE PROCESS. Surely that’s going cost a bomb to fix, since they’re only renting this stadium?

Before Kane can hit the little birdy again, Biggy once more appears from the shadows like Darkwing Duck and picks up the masked madman, dropping him into a nearby stack of wood.
This leaves Raven to try to limp away from the slow, relentless Biggy. It’s exactly like the end of the first Terminator film; Raven even has Linda Hamilton’s girly hair.

Raven stagily falls down, allowing Biggy to throw him AND the ref into an enclosure and lock the camera out! A slight 50 Shades vibe coming off this part of the match, as gradually this chainlink enclosure prices to be better stocked than your average B&Q.

Very impressively, Kane tears the locked door off, just as Biggy drops a set of shelves onto Raven; as Kane starts hitting Biggy’s enormous head with a fragile block of wood, Raven proves to be supremely ungrateful by wrapping a bit of hose around Kane's neck. “Last I time I help you out, dwarfy,” Kane probably thinks. The mask is too tight for him to do anything more than hum a bit. 

Kane slams Raven into a chainlink fence, then uses the same bit of hose to throw the little ingrate through a window into what looks like a security room! I strangely find this satisfying. Perhaps I’m more evil than I realised.

SURPRISE BIG SHOW KICK! Yep, it’s uncanny how he keeps doing it but he’s managed it yet again, this time literally kicking Kane through a door into a room. Drunk off his amazing ninja kick powers, Biggy takes to opportunity to indulge in Brian Blessed-style enunciation as he picks up kane by the neck: “YA WANNA PLAY? WELL SCREW YOU. I’M GONNA… WRITHING ON THE FLOOR, AAAAAH.” Laurence Olivier, eat your heart out. But NO! Kane has graced Biggy by the neck, causing him to gurn like Sylvester McCoy mid-ferret. They slam each other THROUGH A WALL and end up writhing on the floor; they’re going to need Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen at this rate, they’re making such a mess of the architecture!

And that it happens. As the two Brobdingnagians are rolling on the ground, Raven calmly walks through the door behind them, tips a table on top of Big Show, gives him a couple of kicks for good measure and then toddles off.

This fight is basically Godzilla vs Godzilla with the occasional input of Godzooky, when you stop and think about it.

The chase continues as Raven assaults a perfectly innocent security man and steals his golf cart. Somehow able to catch up to a vehicle moving slower than K9, Biggy gets Tweetie in a headlock, causing him to crash the thing ever-so-slowly into a chainlink wall. Bullitt, this is not.
As the pair once more grapple, Kane and the ref get into another golf cart to drive the 30 yards or so to the brawl. Actually, come to think of it - WHERE IN THE NAME OF WICKET THE EWOK HAS THE REFEREE BEEN ALL THIS TIME? More to the point, why doesn’t he do anything when Kane runs near Raven, which somehow makes his leg hurt?

Time for more traipsing about the place as our plucky trio takes turns to punch each other, throw each other into snack tables and chuck wheelie bins at each other. Then the trio climb a ladder, followed by the referee who has somehow picked up a championship belt— SERIOUSLY, IS THIS MAN ONE OF THE ANIMANIACS? HE JUST APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE AND BRINGS CONVENIENT PROPS OUT OF THIN AIR!

Out they pop from the ladder and they’re back in the arena, having done one giant loop of the place. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of a random stadium in Houston as much as I did. More, if that’s possible.

A Glasgow kiss from Biggy knocks Raven down and he lifts the little man over his neatly barbered head. Seizing his chance, Kane kicks the Big Show’s big kidney, causing both of this adversaries to tumble into the the scenery new to the podium! The perfect finishing move from Kane as he jumps off and ground-pounds them both, just like in Super Mario Sunshine!
(On a side note, that is a BLOODY BRILLIANT GAME. It doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should do.)

Our referee appears on the side of the scenery - he’s also teleportation - and counts ONE, TWO, THREE - Kane is the winner!

So, what have we learned from this experience?
First of all, it’s possible to have a wrestling match without a ring. Moreover, walking around and occasionally hitting each other makes for surprisingly poor television. But at least we can say it’s been tried once.

Short people got, no reason...

Next time for Nicholas // 
Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy in THE FINAL DELETION

Written by Nicholas Peat //

WWE Monday Night RAW Review // 19th March 2018

With just under three week's until WrestleMania, the latest episode of Monday Night RAW came to us from Dallas, Texas for the first time since 2016's RAW after Mania. The show featured the culmination of the Bray Wyatt and "Woken" Matt Hardy feud as the two faced off in Ultimate Deletion at the Hardy Compound, Asuka putting her streak on the line against RAW Women's Champion Alexa Bliss, the return of Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, a six man tag between The Miztourage and The Balor Club, an escalation of the issues between Bayley & Sasha Banks as they faced Absolution's Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville, John Cena demanding an answer to his WrestleMania challenge to The Undertaker, Braun Strowman vs. RAW Tag Team Champion Cesaro and Titus Worldwide taking on The Revival...but was it any good? Here's our review. 

Commentary - Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Jonathan Coachman & Seth Rollins 
Interviewer - Charly Caruso 
Ring Announcer - JoJo

The Ultimate Deletion // 
"Woken" Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt

Before the match - As Queen Rebecca played the piano, Matt Hardy introduced us to King Maxel and Lord Wolfgang, told Vanguard1 to scan the Hardy Compound for an intruder and Senor Benjamin to prepare the battlefield - Hardy discussed his plans for the match with the spirit of George Washington, now inside a giraffe - Hardy took a trip around the Lake of Reincarnation, inside his dilapidated boat, Skaarsgard

So, The Ultimate Deletion finally arrived, with Matt Hardy victorious over Bray Wyatt, and it was...good. I'm not sure it was TNA's Final Deletion levels of madness, but it was much closer to that than the House of Horrors thing we saw last April, which is a massive positive. The close camera work produced a claustrophobic feel, that was difficult to get used to at the start, because of the match coming at the tail end of a three hour RAW. The idea of the two moving between different "zones" within the Hardy compound was a cute one, with the on-screen graphic helping to create the feel, with the match shifting in tone numerous times because of this. This could have been jarring, but I felt like the darker moments gave the comedy a more unexpected feel, which helped some of the more out there times. I would've liked Bray to have been a bit more engaged in the wackiness, as his character has more potential than what was shown here, with most of the memorable moments coming from Hardy's utterances, like when he tried to work out whether to use a "chair with wheels" or a "mower of lawns" on his opponent. The finish was the best part of the whole thing, being completely absurd and felt like WWE fully embracing the concept, as Hardy disappeared after Vanguard1 had caused a distraction, Senor Benjamin throwing an inflatable globe (take that Flip Gordon!) at Wyatt (who had found Benjamin hiding under Skaarsgard) to catch, with Benjamin and a debuting Brother Nero singing "He's got the whole world in his hands", before Hardy returned to win with a Twist of Fate. It was very daft and presumably not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed this a lot, especially the second half. Overall, it was simply just a treat to see the Broken Universe fully realised on WWE television, making what felt like an endless and, at times, directionless feud feel worthwhile.

After the match - Matt Hardy pushed Bray Wyatt into the Lake of Reincarnation, with it being insinuated that Wyatt had perished in the water by Senor Benjamin.

RAW Women's Champion Alexa Bliss (with Mickie James) vs. "The Empress of Tomorrow" Asuka 

Before the match - Alexa Bliss made it clear that she wasn't sorry for what she said about Nia Jax last week in a fairly run of the mill promo for the Goddess. Your classic Bliss bait and switch situation, before being interrupted by Asuka for the match. 

Asuka remained undefeated this week as Alexa Bliss ended up losing by countout after attempting to walk out on what had been a sloppy match. I'm not quite sure what the issue with this bout was, but as soon as Asuka got on offence it went downhill quickly with Bliss taking a number of weird bumps off Asuka's attacks, alongside a weird moment where they dicked around the ropes for a bit and then Bliss took a back bump. Whatever it was it didn't work. Whilst 80-90% of the match didn't come together as well as it should have, there were two nice moments of action that stopped the match from being a complete dud, as Bliss jumping out of the way of a leg sweep from Asuka and immediately landing a dropkick, as well as a Code Red out of the corner from the RAW Women's Champion both looked lovely. It's also worth noting that Dallas was pretty into the match, especially the Code Red near fall. After some fumbling around Bliss spent a lengthy period in the ankle lock before attempting to get out of dodge with the help of James, which at least wasn't another pinfall or submission loss for the champion before WrestleMania.

After the match - Nia Jax charged down to ringside and chased Alexa Bliss through the crowd after sending Mickie James head-first into the ringpost - After Bliss complained about Jax, Kurt Angle made a match between Bliss and Jax for the RAW Women's Championship at WrestleMania. 

Brock Lesnar returns 

Ruddy hell. After week's of boiling under nicely with no appearance from Brock Lesnar, the Universal title feud was kicked up a gear or two as The Beast returned and brutally assaulted WrestleMania challenger, Roman Reigns. Takeaway the transparency of what WWE have been doing with Reigns lately, because elements of the fanbase will never be convinced for whatever reason they have, this was a great piece of WWE theatre from start to finish. Reigns turning up despite being suspended last week gave him a rebellious edge and even if destroying three US marshals whilst handcuffed was a bit heavy handed and should probably result in Reigns missing WrestleMania, it was at least a fun thing to watch. I think that was the main takeaway from the segment, as the subsequent appearance from Lesnar, as he destroyed a still handcuffed Reigns was at what ever you chose to watch it at an entertaining situation, with a number of well-timed moments tent-poling the segment. Both the initial appearance of Lesnar and when he returned as Reigns was being carted out on a stretcher produced a good sense of foreboding as you knew exactly what was going to happen (whilst Reigns played both moments well) and either you got excited because you dislike Roman Reigns or it made it dislike the Brock Lesnar character for assaulting a defenceless Big Dog. I'm big into this feud at the moment and look forward to seeing what WWE has in store on the final two episodes before WrestleMania.

Intercontinental Champion The Miz, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel vs. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson & Finn Balor

Before the match - The Miz cut a promo about not being on the cover of "WrestleMania Magazine", which had echoes of CM Punk once again, whilst also promising to send "Tyler Black and Prince Nevitt (sic)" back to the bingo halls in a weird moment. 

Nothing special to be found in this six man tag, as Finn Balor got the win for his team with a schoolboy roll-up pin on WrestleMania opponent The Miz. Most of the action was solid, yet unspectacular, with it often feeling like the teams were simply trying to get through the bout and move on to next week, with nothing getting past second gear. The Miztourage have their act pretty nailed on, with lots of creative heely cheating here, as they targeted Balor early on, which made a lot of sense considering Balor challenges for Miz's title in less than three weeks. The one moment of weirdness came as Karl Anderson seemed to struggle with Miz's snap DDT routine, leading to an atrocious looking chain of action, that hurt the match heading into the break. I wasn't a massive fan of the finish either, as Balor and Miz went for the overused reversal of Skull-Crushing Finale, where the person taking jumps when taking the move and rolls through for a pin, before a slightly clunky series of reversals and nearfalls lead to Balor getting the win. The three-way rivalry between Balor, Miz and Seth Rollins (who was on commentary) had been moving at a nice pace and whilst this week didn't quite put the brakes on the IC title feud, it did end up taking the creative foot off the accelerator a little.

After the match - Seth Rollins made the save for Finn Balor after The Miztourage attempted to assault the Irishman, with the Rollins and Balor having a staredown to conclude the segment. 

Sasha Banks confronts Bayley 

We got the closest we have so far to getting some form of explanation for the ongoing issues between Bayley and Sasha Banks this week as the pair got some mic time before their match with Absolution. Whilst I am interested in the feud and there's a couple of good ideas in there, this segment felt a little forced to me, with Bayley especially not bringing much conviction to her promo. That being said, the content she was supposedly given to work with wasn't the best as she had lines like "it ate at my core" and motivation being that Banks smiled after she kicked her off the pod at Elimination Chamber. We again saw glimpses of Banks "Legit Boss" character when she told Bayley she'd allow her to apologise to her, but I think it's taking a little bit too long to get into the meat of this feud. Sometimes a slow-burn can be effective, but the content needs to be stronger than what these two are being given and actually play to their strengths, rather than putting them in awkward positions like this one. It wasn't a bad segment, but it could have been a lot better with either better or looser scripting. Absolution would interrupt before we'd find out anything significant and we'd head into the match.

Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville (with Paige)

A decent tag team encounter saw Absolution's Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville pick up a big victory over Bayley & Sasha Banks as the issues between the later continued to cause them issues. This was a pretty standard tag team match structure, with the relationship between Bayley & Banks being used as fuel to keep things interesting throughout as both women would tag in on each other at various points. It was hardly revolutionary storytelling but it worked well enough within the time and was highlighted by a rather lovely hot tag from Bayley in the final third. There were a couple of moments of awkwardness, mostly revolving around the Absolution duo struggling with pinfalls, as well as a sloppy hiptoss from Banks to Rose at one point. The finish obviously played on the Bayley/Banks relationship as Banks ended up inadvertently distracting the referee by attacking Rose as Bayley had a backslide pin on Deville, before more arguing between the pair allowed the New Jersyan to pick up the win with a jumping roundhouse kick. I'd like to see WWE get a bit more creative with this feud sooner rather than later, as whilst it's been okay, it's been very paint by numbers and has quite often failed at getting into what had made the relationship between the pair interesting in the first place, that being their juxtaposed characters and history in NXT.

John Cena wants an answer from The Undertaker

Another firey promo from John Cena this week, as Big Match John looked to find a way to get The Undertaker to face him at WrestleMania, before Kane turned up and chokeslammed the 13 time WWE Champion, leaving the audience with more questions than answers with just two more episodes before WrestleMania. Cena's promo was a natural progression of what we saw last week, with no answer from The Undertaker on Cena's Mania challenge, as John went in hard on The Deadman with an angry, almost rant-like speech about what he believed to be cowardice. Cena's performance the last two week's have been spot on, managing to portray a number of different things at the same time, as it appears more like the character is simply trying to rile up Undertaker, rather than believing what he's actually saying. Some of the lines in this were superb as well with the pinnacle being "You are not the God that they made you, you are the man that you've allowed yourself to become. And that man, Undertaker, is a coward. The Undertaker is a coward.", as it built towards the coward line and pulled on a number of topics Cena had discussed previously. Adding Kane into the mix is a good way to prologue the feud with Undertaker having to appear, but having the commentary team wonder whether it will be Cena vs. Kane at WrestleMania seems counter-productive, as I'm not sure many people would either be interested in seeing that match on the biggest stage or would even buy into the possibility. It'll actually be Cena vs. Kane next week on RAW , when hopefully Kane's brother will finally make his appearance post-match.

Braun Strowman addresses having to choose a tag team partner for WrestleMania

So we didn't actually find out who Braun Strowman will be tagging with at WrestleMania, but we did get a Mighty Boosh reference from Sheamus. I can forgive Sheamus stumbling all over his promo and having to repeat himself a few times, because he mentioned "Old Gregg" and Old Gregg's got a mangina. What more do you want from a promo? Seriously though, I wonder how many people watching actually got the reference that was tucked away in between Black Panther, Captain America, Ricky and Morty and Dallas Cowboy's owners references. Who cares it worked for me, so fuck everyone else. The rest of the segment was Cesaro & Sheamus telling Strowman they'd give him a beatdown and Strowman being like "Nah pals, you wo" and we'd transition into a match between Cesaro & Strowman, after Sheamus had bluffed that he'd help fight the Monster as well. Oh, there was also a weird moment where it was implied that Cesaro & Sheamus were sleeping together that really popped Dallas for some reason, but felt kinda dated from where I was sitting. 

Braun Strowman vs. RAW Tag Team Champion Cesaro 

A fairly straightforward Braun Strowman match here as the Monster Amongst Men put away one half of the RAW Tag Team Champions with a running powerslam after catching a crossbody attempt. With just over of five minutes of television time for the bout, the two worked a solid encounter, that saw most of Cesaro's offence coming from dodging a Strowman attack or from a Sheamus distraction, whilst the Swiss Cyborg struggled against the power of his #1 contender. Within the structure there was a number of good highspots, including Braun catching Cesaro diving off the steps and ramming him into the barricade and Strowman charging around the ring to shoulder barge the fuck out of Sheamus, whilst the best wrestling could be found in a nice sequence where Cesaro attempted the Neutralizer and the springboard spinning uppercut to no success. I guess next week we'll see Sheamus step in against the Monster and then at some point we'll find out Strowman's partner of choice, with my money on a returning Big Show.

Apollo & Titus O'Neil vs. Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder

The Revival put away Titus Worldwide with a Shatter Machine to Apollo in what was a completely random, but all-action tag bout. There was some really nice stuff in this bout, especially when Apollo got tagged in, with the Georgian working well with Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder on a couple of sequences. 

After the match - The Revival announced themselves as the first entrants into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Also on the show 

- An extended sit-down interview with Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle, featured an emotional Rousey discussing her previous exploits and how they've lead her to be ready for the Grandest Stage of The All, with very little from Angle. It's weird that WWE announced Rousey would be at every RAW between Fastlane and WrestleMania and now she's missed two in a row.

- Mark Henry was announced for the 2018 Hall of Fame class, with a package including interviews with The Godfather, Xavier Woods, The Big Show and The Rock. No problems with Henry's induction here, he's given the company over 20 years of services, had over 1000 matches with them and his 2011 World Heavyweight title run and Hall of Pain gimmick was one of the highlights of the early part of this decade. 

- This week's "Hungry for Mania Moment" was John Cena defeating John "Bradshaw" Layfield for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21. 

ATPW Scale Rating //
5.5 out of 10

Written by James Marston //