Monday, 27 October 2014

WWE Hell in a Cell 2014 Review

After a run of three Hell in a Cell PPV's that have failed to deliver anything close to the level of match quality one would expect from a PPV, could WWE manage to do the unthinkable at Hell in a Cell 2014 and actually put on a decent show? Let's take a look!

Cena It All Before?





There was a lot made about this being John Cena and Randy Orton's 121st match against each other, which let's be honest is a bit silly. That number includes house show matches (and even a match in HWA back in 2001!), the number that gives the clearest view of the situation is 21. This was Cena and Orton's 21st televised match, which is obviously still a ridiculous number and with 10 of those coming on PPV, I can understand why many were not particularly looking forward to this bout and why this, as well as the outcome, will have clouded the judgment of many of the online wrestling community. But I went into this one with a fairly open mind, as more often than not Cena and Orton have put together good matches when called upon on PPV.

That's exactly what we got this time out. This was a good match, possibly the match of the night. I enjoyed the early storytelling, with Orton dominating most of the match up and going for a pin after hitting every offensive maneuver, whilst continuing to cut off Cena's come back attempts. Orton was on top form throughout, bringing an aggression that the majority of his heel run has been missing. The look of frustration on his face everytime he failed to put Cena away really sold those moments and the importance of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for me.

Almost more importantly was that the pair produced something different, which had been my major complaint of their bouts at TLC and Royal Rumble, as well as using enough of the Cell structure to warrant the stipulation being used. A lovely Inverted Headlock Backbreaker using the ringpost from Orton and Orton reversing Cena's familiar shoulder block comebacks into an RKO were particular highlights for me, alongside Orton's block of the Five Knuckle Shuffle before hitting his Snap Scoop Suplex for a near fall.

My only real problem with this match were the final few minutes, as it didn't seem to suit the style the pair had used for the majority of the match, ending up in a finisher fest similar to Cena's WrestleMania 29 match with The Rock. At times the timing was off, such as Cena not giving Orton enough time to recover from Orton's near fall off of an RKO, before hitting an Attitude Adjustment for another near fall, meaning the false finish got almost no reaction from the crowd.

However, Cena picking up the win after a dramatic series of reversals on the top rope lead to an Attitude Adjustment through was a satisfying conclusion to the bout, although I still think it would have had more impact if a handful of the other AA attempts earlier on were taken out. Personally, I believe Cena was the right guy to win this match, as a bout with Brock Lesnar so early into (what is believed to be) a babyface turn for Orton, would have essentially crushed Orton's face run before it even began, whilst Cena has a legitimate reason to face Lesnar after a strong Night of Champions showing against the Beast Incarnate.

If Ambrose Wins, We Wyatt




This match needed to be significantly different enough from the previous Hell in a Cell match. Not only to differentiate itself from it predecessor, but also because there was a different dynamic between the competitors. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have been having one of the fiercest and most believable in WWE since the break up of The Shield in June. This needed to look, feel and sound like a grudge match and that's exactly what we got. 

It was clear from the opening of the bout that this is exactly what we were going to get. Ambrose battling Rollins and his lackeys Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble on top of the Cell was a great way to start the bout, as whilst it was a great spectacle, it also allowed Rollins to get plenty of heat for sending Mercury and Noble up before him, whilst the crowd quickly sided with Ambrose and stayed vocal throughout the rest the match. 

With the crowd clearly choosing their favourites, this gave the pair a canvas on which to place a series of impressive spots (especially for WWE in 2014). Starting with the pair battling on the side of the cage and both ending up crashing through the announce tables (monitors conveniently removed), and running through Ambrose front kicking Rollins off the apron into the cell, a back suplex from Rollins onto a pile of chairs, a terrific Cactus Elbow from Ambrose with Rollins laid out on a table bridging the apron and the cage and Rollins powerbombing Ambrose through a table propped against the cell. This match had some of the most impressive Hell in a Cell spots of the PG Era.

I thought about bringing up the huge amount of interference on Rollins' part, with Mercury and Noble involved earlier on, with Corporate Kane firing a fire extinguisher through the cell later on (Nice metaphors and some really good camera work here). But I think a quick series of moves towards the end of the match, with a number of reversals, made it look like Rollins could hold his own against Ambrose, yet chooses to take the cheap road because it's easier. I'd have liked to have seen this developed a little more in the match to make this assumption a little more solid, but it's not a massive criticism.

The finish is another one that is a funny one to gauge as things stand. In case you can't tell from the picture above, Bray Wyatt interfered hitting Ambrose with a huge Ura-Nage, allowing Rollins to pick up the win. This was after it seemed like Ambrose was about to hit Rollins with a Curb Stomp on a pair of flimsy cinder blocks. It was a freaky moment with some smoke and a bizarre chant, that perhaps took a little to long to set up, but it certainly built a level of intrigue going forward. It allows for a potential Ambrose vs Wyatts feud, whilst keeping the door open for Rollins and Ambrose to lock up again later down the line. Yes, I'd have prefered to have seen a conclusive ending tonight and if I were doing a star rating the ending would lose the match at least half a star, but without knowing what is exactly going to happen in the future, I wouldn't want to condemn this ending just yet.


Ziggler Act 2 - Back in the Habit






One of the most-oft cited criticism of WWE over the past few years has been that it's too predictable, but I'd love to know how many people had Dolph Ziggler to win two straight falls against Cesaro to retain the Intercontinental Championship in their Two Out of Three Falls opener. 

The opening fall was quick and pacy, with a handful of roll ups early on, before Cesaro managed to get Ziggler into the Cesaro Swing, which still get's a big pop from the crowd. As soon as Cesaro went for the pin however, Ziggler managed to slip out and catch Cesaro with an small package to gain the first fall. It was just over three minutes for the first fall to take place and this kind of finish is why Two Out of Three Falls Matches are one of my favourite gimmick matches, they force the wrestlers to come up with creative ways to get have early falls without the fans feeling cheated. 

It was however, the second fall where this match really came into it's own. With Ziggler hitting a gorgeous Leaping DDT variant on Cesaro's arm, this quickly became the focus of the match. Cesaro's selling of the arm was top drawer throughout and gave the match a rather interesting slant. It was clear the match was being used to showcase Cesaro's strength and aggression, with a terrific submission sequence that saw Ziggler transition from a Guillotine choke-esque move into a double wristlock, before Cesaro scaled the ropes and pulled out a Dead-Lift Superplex. A truly incredible sequence of moves. Cesaro earns extra points for the holding the injured arm and therefore being unable to get the three count. 

The finish came after the pair had gone back and forth following the superplex, with Cesaro attempting the Neutralizer, only for Ziggler to get free and hit a Stunner on the arm, followed up with a Superkick and a Zig Zag to allow the Show-Off to get the second fall and retain the Intercontinental title. Having the arm play a major part in the finish made me very happy indeed. This match was also cleverly constructed to help both men, as whilst Ziggler looked great winning in straight falls (and his post-match selling made it seem like he'd been an absolute battle, helping both he and his opponent), Cesaro was allowed to look like a beast using his strength despite an injury to the arm. With the way this match was booked I wouldn't be surprised to see a Cesaro face turn in the near future.


The Undercard





Elsewhere, Stardust and Goldust put their tag titles on the line against former champs The Usos in a decent tag team bout. The majority of this match operated a fairly basic tag team psychology, as The Cosmic Twins isolated Jimmy Uso. The crowd were almost silent at this point, however, with the action being kept fairly basic and none of the four guys in the ring attempting to draw the live audience into the match. It would have appeared that the veteran Goldust noticed this as he did try a bit later into the match to get the crowd to turn on him, it's a shame Jey Uso on the other side hadn't got the message.

Luckily, once Jimmy did get the hot tag, a series of exciting moves and quick paced sequences did liven the crowd up and luckily for The Usos they sided with them over the Cosmic Twins. A couple of nice near falls later, and the finish saw the referee distracted by the interfering Jimmy Uso, allowing Stardust to kick the legs from underneath Jey who was attempting a Samoan Drop on Goldust, and allowing Goldust to get the pin and retain the titles for his team. This wasn't exactly a good match, but I think the two teams could have done much jobs at getting the crowd involved earlier.

Given the unenviable task of following the first Hell in a Cell match, Sheamus and The Miz' United States Championship bout was a dull affair... is what I would have been saying had it not been for the involvement of Damien Mizdow at ringside. Mizdow brightened up a fairly mediocre bout, with some hilarious antics at ringside, as he mimicked Miz's every move in the ring, highlights included when Miz took Sheamus' Beats of the Bodrin and using the steel steps to represent a Steam Roller from Sheamus on the outside.

The action in ring saw Sheamus almost completely dominate Miz throughout, and whilst a few sequences managed to grab my attention, like Sheamus blocking Miz's Figure Four Leg Lock attempt by sending him into the ring ropes and hitting a nice Tilt-a-Whirl Powerslam. The closing section also went a way to keep this match from bombing, with a good false finish off a Skull Crushing Finale for the Miz and a well-timed Brogue Kick as Miz attempted an Axe Handle off the top rope, that allowed Sheamus to get the win. It's good to see the United States Champion being booked strongly, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming Miz vs Sandow feud, but I'd still like to see Sheamus get a real feud to get his teeth into before dropping the belt.





I'll make it clear that I have absolutely no interest in this USA vs Russia feud, but this was a jolly good match. It did exactly what it needed to do, telling a good story and using sound psychology to allow Rusev to keep control of Big Show by working his legs. Of course, this made it much easier for Rusev to lock in the Accolade. Rusev hitting a Suplex on the World's Largest Athlete was also an incredible sight. Big Show got in enough offence to make Rusev's win feel even bigger, getting near falls off a Spear and a "Chokeslam for America". I'm not quite sure the reason for Mark Henry coming out half way through the match, only to eat a Superkick from Rusev in the closing stages, and then hug Show at the end, but the main body of the match was much much better than I had expected.

AJ Lee and Paige delivered an enjoyable Diva's Championship bout. Plenty of back and forth action, that allowed both women to show their aggressive side. It was great to see Paige working closer to the gimmick she had in NXT as she delivered a vicious giant swing into the barricade, a series of nasty corner elbows and some tasty knee drives on the apron early on. The finish worked nicely for me, as AJ tripped Paige off the barricade causing her to crash to floor, Alicia Fox then rolled Paige into the ring to break the 10 count, only for AJ to lock in the Black Widow to retain the Diva's title. A nasty looking spot allowed Paige to remain looking strong, whilst AJ retained the title and a potential reignition of the Alicia and Paige feud we saw earlier in the year, which with Alicia as a babyface should work a lot better this time round. I would however have liked this match to receive an extra five minutes or so, as there were parts of the match and ideas that were dropped way to quickly as they simply didn't have the time.

The match I was least looking forward to on the show, and I'm sure many felt the same, was the Bella vs Bella match. The feud has done absolutely nothing for me for months and months and I genuinely couldn't care less about either women. But I'll give credit where credit is due, this match didn't stink the place up. It was kept nice and short, told a decent story with a clear heel and face divide and there wasn't a botch insight. It was disappointing see the Rack Attack move used twice, once for a false finish before returning as the actual finish, I would have liked to have seen something extra, but maybe that was asking too much.


Finally...


I have to say that I rather enjoyed this PPV, as you probably will have been able to tell if you've read the review up to this point. The two Hell in a Cell matches and the Intercontinental Championship all had a lot to enjoy and presented something different from each other. Those were the three matches that needed to deliver and they did. The undercard was perhaps not as strong as it could have been however, with Rusev and Big Show's match being the stand out match. Both Diva's matches were of a passable quality. Damien Mizdow's performanced saved Sheamus and The Miz's match, whilst the tag team title bout felt like one of missed opportunities, whilst still being a decent encount. Certainly this PPV beats the passed three years Hell in a Cell PPV's into a cocked hat, whether I'd consider it the best one since it's 2009 inception has a lot to do with how Bray Wyatt's involvement in the main event is covered going forward.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Lost in Face - The Randy Orton Dilemma



Whilst many are debating which match should go on last at tonight's Hell in a Cell PPV, (seriously, does it really matter?) what's piqued my interest with WWE is the rumoured Randy Orton babyface turn. That's because it wasn't too long ago that the wrestling community seemed to be chomping at the bit for an Orton heel turn, after what had turned into a rather dull and formulaic face run. So what exactly, if anything, went wrong with Orton's heel run? How did we end up at this point? Is it simply an effect of Orton's surge in online presence due to the "Outta Nowhere" Vines? 





     I think to truly understand where Orton's heel run took a wrong turn, you have to first look at the reasons many wanted to see him turn in first place. It was the Summer of 2013 and apart from a terrific four month feud with Christian in 2011, Orton's three year run  as a babyface had failed to bear any creative fruit. Spells playing second fiddle to John Cena, stop-start feuds with the likes of Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes, numerous injuries, a 60 day suspension for a Wellness Policy Violation, as well as being overtaken by CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in the babyface pecking order had left us with a clearly frustrated Orton, who would simply go through the motions in matches and do that weird awkward smile thing he used to do. It was clear that Orton needed a change in direction, both for himself and the audience. 

     Ever PPV of 2013 seemed to be rumoured to be the one where Orton would turn, firstly in his awkward pairing with Sheamus and in similar situation with Team Hell No, WWE quickly lost any element of surprise for the heel turn and it began to become even more frustrating waiting for WWE to pull the trigger than it really should of been. This was the slowest of slow burns, that had none of the subtleties that were needed to keep things interesting over such a prolonged period. This meant that when the turn came with Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, the impact of the turn was mediocre at best. To make matters even worse for The Viper, Triple H turned heel at the same time, taking the spotlight away from Orton in what would become a theme for the majority of Orton's heel run.




Now, before I get into breaking down Orton's heel run, I'd like to propose that Orton's in-ring work has been not only some of the most consistent of his career over this period, but also that he has been one of the most reliable performers in WWE over this period. Singles matches with Daniel Bryan (Night of Champions 2013, Hell in a Cell, episodes of Raw in December and February) John Cena (TLC, Royal Rumble, a February episode of Raw), Cesaro (Smackdown in February), Roman Reigns (SummerSlam) and Chris Jericho (Night of Champions 2014), a Triple Threat with Batista and Daniel Bryan (WrestleMania XXX), a pair of six man tags against The Shield (Extreme Rule and Payback), a Four Way bout with Cena, Reigns and Kane (Battleground) as well as strong showings in multi-man matches at Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank. You'll struggle to find a performer on WWE's roster who has delivered that many bouts of such quality over the same time period (Seriously, try it? John Cena and Cesaro are the only two to come close)

So why exactly hasn't Orton's heel run connected with a large cross-section of the audience? An audience which is adamant that it is all about work rate and match quality? Quite simply, booking. The way Orton has been portrayed on screen has rarely made him look like someone who should either be feared or despised for his action, or even look like he was supposed to be the main focus of our attention. 




Take Orton's long series of matches with Daniel Bryan. Orton lost to Bryan at Night of Champions, only to have the title handed back to him because of referee Scott Armstrong's "fast count". At Battleground, the Big Show came out and punched everyone in the face. At Hell in a Cell, Orton won because referee Shawn Michaels superkicked Bryan in the face. Not exactly the booking you'd expect for "The Face of WWE". Throw into the mix Orton spending most of his on-screen time bickering with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon and more often than not coming off as a lackey for The Game, and you've got the makings of a boy bitch champion. 


Despite numerous attempts to push a more aggressive side of Orton, more a kin to his Legend Killer gimmick or that time he had Intermittent Explosive Disorder for a bit, including beating The Miz up whilst Miz' Dad watched. The bastard. How could he do that to everyone's favourite babyface The Miz?! It would be forgotten about as quickly as it was brought up every time. That's before going into the time he lost to Kofi Kingston for no apparent reason.




So, whilst Orton's heel run has produced a fairly fruitful run in terms of in-ring performance, the lack of character development and what has been essentially a supporting role in The Authority storyline, Orton's heel run hasn't produced what those calling for it in the first place had wanted to see.

With Orton's becoming somewhat of a cross-over personality, with the help of Vine, and a depleted babyface roster thanks to the injuries to Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns and the departure of CM Punk, now would seem like a good time to turn Orton. If he remains fit and clean, and the same energy that was put into his feuds with Christian and Wade Barrett, then this could reignite Orton's spark character-wise. There's no real need to have him revert to the smiling babyface that sent the crowd to sleep in early 2013, as we've seen with Dean Ambrose the crowd will happily take to someone who plays something other than generic babyface and in fact they even seem more likely to do so. Orton could easily reproduce his more erratic self, RKO-ing every sumbitch in sight for a few months and it would be lapped up by the audience. If this is built towards a competitive feud with someone like Seth Rollins or Cesaro and you've got something that could be both extremely watchable storyline wise and produce quality matches that people want to see. 





Or Orton could be fed to Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, which could potential crush his fledgling face run before it's even begun. Only time will tell, but I do hope I'm not sat here in 18 months writing a similar article about Orton's face run! 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Reckless Intent "Over The Top" Preview

OSWTV's Billy Strachan takes a look at another upcoming event in Scotland. 

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Reckless Intent are a relatively new promotion from West Lothian. Having only been active since early 2013 they have started to make waves in Scottish professional wrestling. Their next big event takes place on November 1st with Over the Top. Debuts, grudge matches and great action is on the cards. Let’s take a look at the match card so far.

Rawlins vs Falcon

 

 


Reckless Intent Original Rawlins will have his mind elsewhere with the mysterious Sons of Silence around. Falcon will have a chance to score a huge win over the former RI World Champion.


Ian Ambrose Will Debut at Reckless Intent





After Saint George successfully defended his World Title against Scottish Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Martyn Stallyon, he invited the current SWE Heavyweight Champion, and #Scumbag, Ian Ambrose to Reckless Intent to celebrate both of them defeating Martyn Stallyon in recent months. General Manager Jason McKinlay has advised that Ian Ambrose will compete at Over the Top. Ambrose is hot off his debut at Discovery Wrestling in Edinburgh and will be preparing by adding even more finishers to his arsenal and will be showing off his uncanny ability to kick out at 2.


The Superstar” Darren Lewis vs Craig Valant

 

 


The current holder of the Wooden Spoon, Darren Lewis, faces a newcomer to professional wrestling. Craig Valant will be hoping to get an upset victory and curtail the momentum that The Superstar has been building. The ever cocky Darren Lewis may be looking past the youngster towards the World Title match and waiting for his chance to cash in his Wooden Spoon, so if Valant wanted to make an impact, tonight may be the night to do it.


6 Man Elimination Match To Determine Entry Number In The Battle Royal Main Event


(First Man Eliminated Enters #1 - Second Man Eliminated Enters #5 - Third Man Eliminated Enters #10 - Forth Man Eliminated Enters #15 - Runner Up Enters #18 - Winner Enters #20)
 

Jackie Grady vs Venym vs AJ Russell vs JJ Russell vs ??? vs ???







Two wild cards have yet to be announced for this one. With a win you have the best number for the main event battle royal, however, if you get eliminated first then you have to outlast 19 other competitors to win. High risk with high reward in this match. Jackie Grady should be the early favourite from the competitors announced after several high quality bouts in the recent months along with reigns as UK and Hardcore Champion recently.

Reckless Intent UK Title Match

Mikey © vs “Global Hero” Joe Hendry

 


Joe Hendry received his title shot against Mikey for the UK Title in return for returning the Hardcore Title that he refused to defend the belt 24/7. Mikey has been having trouble with the Sons of Silence and will have trouble keeping his mind on, the always dangerous, Joe Hendry. Joe Hendry has a list as long as your arm with championships and accolades in the last year, so will relish adding the Reckless Intent UK Title to that list.

Reckless Intent World Title Match

The Prodigal Son” Saint George © vs “The Butcher” Scott Renwick

 

 

Saint George has done everything he can to avoid defending his championship, most recently losing to Jam O’Malley by count out, he’s also took the time challenging members of the audience or those that are not prepared. But to beat Renwick and retain his title, he has to play by the rules. Scott Renwick has had his ups and downs in Reckless Intent but this is his chance to get on top of the mountain. Darren Lewis will also be watching this one closely, waiting for his chance to cash in he Wooden Spoon.


20 Man Rumble

 

 


The main event of the evening. At least six men in this will have competed earlier in the night, fighting to enter last. The winner will get their chance to face the World Champion, whether it’s Saint George or Scott Renwick, at The Battle of West Lothian. I’d expect a couple surprise entries and, as always, a few twists and turns. 


Tickets are available online at http://www.reckless-intent.com/top-2/
£10 for an adult
£5 for a child
£25 for a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children)
Doors open at 6.30pm, first bell at 7pm.

Monday, 20 October 2014

WWE Brothers of Destruction DVD Review

WWE's Brothers of Destruction is out now on DVD (There's a Blu Ray version too), available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. The single disc set features a number of matches featuring The Undertaker and Kane as a tag team, during their 2001 and 2006/08 runs, featuring matches against the likes of Edge & Christian, John Morrison & The Miz, The Dudley Boyz, Mr. Kennedy and MVP.




A rather curious addition to the WWE Home Video library, this single disc look at Kane and The Undertaker's on-off tag team, whilst skirting around their numerous feuds in between. The set kicks off with a No Disqualification match against Edge & Christian from an April 2001 episode of Smackdown. This is a decent start to the set, showcasing Kane's selling ability as he works the Demon in Peril role nicely whilst Edge & Christian take turns picking apart Kane's injured arm. It's a shame that this is a TV bout, as it leads to a lot of over booking to build towards BOD's match with The Two Man Power Trip at Backlash 2001, as there is a lot of chemistry between the two teams that goes to waste in closing stages. 

Three months later on Raw and it's a Tables Match against The Dudley Boyz. Whilst the crowd is red hot throughout the bout, this match doesn't offer much, with the tables stipulation really adding nothing to the match. After showing promise early on with some nice brawling between the four, the bout is too short to really present anything of merit. Highlights include Jim Ross calling a table "a chair", some hilarious selling of a big boot by Bubba Ray Dudley and a horrendously timed finish. 

On the following week's episode of Smackdown, it's Sean O'Haire and Chuck Palumbo who are next in line to feel the Brother's wrath, this time with the WCW World Tag Titles on the line. This match pretty much sums up everything that was wrong with the Invasion angle, as whilst no one would attempt to argue that O'Haire and Palumbo were anywhere near Kane and Undertaker in terms of star power, they are made to look like complete chumps for the majority of the match. This, of course, makes this a rather dull affair, with nothing particularly standing out. 

The first and only PPV bout on the disc rounds of the look at the pair's 2001 run as they face Diamond Dallas Page and Kanyon in a Steel Cage bout at SummerSlam to unify the WCW and WWF Tag Team Titles. This match really should have been simply Undertaker vs. Diamond Dallas Page, as that is essentially what the bout spends it's time trying to set up in a rather convuluted way. Whilst there is a handful of nice spots like Kane's Powerbomb to Kanyon into the corner of the cage and a top rope Chokeslam from Taker, this is once again a rather onsided bout with no real drama, and a crowd that sits on it's hands for most of the action. 

After a short video package, it's onto the duo's 2006 run as they battle Mr. Kennedy and MVP on a December episode of Smackdown. Another dominant performance from the Brothers as the two build towards a pair of Gimmick matches against their opponents at the Armageddon PPV. The match itself is dull as dishwater, with a shoddy TV finish, the only highlight is a sick looking DDT from Kennedy to Kane on the outside after the match, before it all goes a bit nuts with a hearse. 

A February 2008 episode of Smackdown saw the pair take on the duo of Mark Henry and Big Daddy V. If that match sounds appealing to you, you should probably stop reading this blog. If I were to tell you that the bout goes over ten minutes and you still think it sounds like a good idea, you should probably stop watching wrestling. The bout takes what feels like an age to settle into anything resembling a flow and despite a nice spot involving a Henry bearhug to Kane, the bout falls apart when BOD are tasked with a "Double Chokeslam" to Big Daddy V, which essentially involves the big man taking a back bump. 

Luckily, the set manages to end on a high note with an April 2008 jaunt to ECW to face John Morrison and The Miz. This is a decent slice of tag team action, with some of the best psychology of the set as Miz and Morrison pick apart Kane's injured leg, with almost every piece of offence focused on the injured body part, not to mention Kane once again proving a fantastic seller. Throw in all of BOD's signature moves and you have a decent little match, that whilst never threatening to become a classic if a great relief after sitting through the Mark Henry & Big Daddy V bout. Also Mike Adamle is on commentary, Mike Fucking Adamle!

Finally...


This DVD was a frustrating watch, as whilst it does a good job of showcasing Kane and Undertaker as a dominant tag team that doesn't make the matches particularly interesting to watch on their own merit. The first and last matches are probably the only ones that I would say I enjoyed from this stand point and even then I wouldn't tell anyone to go out of their way to see them. It also feels like a missed opportunity to only have the pairs match against The Rock and Steve Austin and their six man tag alongside Daniel Bryan against The Shield from Raw in 1998 and 2013 respectively as Blu-Ray exclusives, as these are surely the pairs best matches as a tag team. If you catch it in the bargain section, maybe give it a look, but honestly you won't be missing out on anything if you don't.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

ATPW Hall of Fame Announcement Announcement

An announcement about an announcement! I'm going all BBC PR on your asses.

Usually we would have held a vote to see another wrestling personality enter our Hall of Fame to tie in with TNA's Bound For Glory PPV, but with TNA deciding it couldn't be bothered to promote to the PPV, I decided there wasn't much point announcing anything around a PPV that no one was actually interested in seeing anyway! 





So, I went away and had a bit of think...WWE's Survivor Series would be an obvious option, but over previous years WWE has put a lot less empathsis on this PPV and anyone that still believes it to still be part of the big four is either deluded or on some kind of narcotic. Big Show main evented the show last year for Dawley's sake. 

So I continued to ponder...pacing back and forth across a metaphorical floor. When on earth could I announce who our Panel has voted to join Bobby Heenan, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, The Undertaker and Ric Flair in our Hall of Fame! If only there was some company holding some big event, that has a certain buzz about it, perhaps a former WWE superstar causing shenanigans and maybe they're just about to launch a new on demand service (for only £3.99 a month?)

That's right! Our next Hall of Fame announcement will on Sunday 2nd November and will coincide with Insane Championship Wrestling's Fear and Loathing VII. Plus, the next vote will be exclusively for British wrestlers! As usual anyone is eligible and literally anyone could enter if our esteemed panellists vote for them. This one could be interesting.  





Saturday, 11 October 2014

PWK VI "Elevate to the Summit" Review

It had been quite some time since I'd gotten my arse down to a live wrestling show, so to say that I was excited for my return to Pro Wrestling Kingdom in Birmingham would be a slight understatement. Would PWK reward my sheer excitement with a quality evening of professional wrestling? Let's find out shall we!


The Venue



Having previously attended a PWK show at the mac, I was pretty familiar with the surroundings. This continues to be a venue that doesn't look like it should be hosting pro wrestling, miles away from the crumbling social clubs and dingy nightclubs that dominate the British wrestling scene. Wrestling appearing in this venue alongside the musical performances and art installations that occupied the downstairs area can only be a good thing for the British wrestling scene, as it provides an opportunity to attract a clientele that might not attend a Brit-Wres show otherwise.

The set up for the show itself also continues to impress, with a slight alteration to the last PWK show I attended, with the entrance way moving to a different corner. The lighting rig present allows for more elaborate entrances, whilst also providing a nice look to the action inside the ring (something which I'd imagine will look incredible on the DVD's). A smoke machine is also used, although I'm not quite sure if this worked all the time, especially when the machine was left on for no particular reason. I'd like to see this machine used specifically when it adds to a wrestlers gimmick (Joseph Conners springs to mind here), with a discussion of how much smoke the specific performer needed. 


It also needs to be pointed out that the doors for the show opened a whole hour and a half after the advertised start time. Whilst Mad Man Manson and Sebastian Radclaw headed out to provide some entertainment for those waiting, this was two out of two PWK shows I've attended where there has been a delay in getting into the building. I believe this time had something to with the Ultimate X set up, and to their credit the PWK staff kept the fans waiting outside informed of the ongoing situation and there was plenty of things around the venue to keep everyone occupied. 


Match 1 

Matt Myers vs. Danny Hope

 

This was my first chance to get a look at Matt Myers, wrestling under a comedy super hero gimmick not too dissimilar from former WWE wrestler The Hurricane. He couldn't have had a better opponent to introduce me to him, as he faced "Delicious" Danny Hope. Any previous time I've watched Hope I've spent the entire match with a huge smile on my face.

The bout was a lot of fun to watch, as the two seemingly both worked as babyface, using a number of comedy spots to keep the fans engaged in the action. Whilst the comedy was funny, it's important that the wrestling is strong enough to provide a base for the rest of the action, luckily the majority of the wrestling provided here was smooth with the two bouncing off each other very nicely in the ring.

The match flowed nicely, peaking and troughing at the right times to get the crowd hyped up for the rest of the show. The pair knew when to lift the pace and when to slow it down to allow the comedy to come through, with referee Paul Winstanley also playing into the action nicely.


 I was impressed with a number of the moves that Myers pulled out, including nice tilt-a-whirl arm drag early on, a sequence that saw Myers flip out of a Back Suplex attempt and reverse into a Reverse STO and an attempt at a Phoenix Splash. There was however a nasty looking Standing Shooting Star Press attempt, where Myers seemed to catch his head on Hope as Hope attempted to roll out of the way, luckily the pair recovered quickly, not allowing the crowd to dwell on the accident for long. 

After Myers picked up the victory, with the two paying homage to the finish of the WrestleMania 14 main event, there was a hilarious interchange between the two about whether the match had gone to plan. Just to prove there was no hard feelings between the two, Hope and Myers performed Hope's infamous cat walk, much to the delight of the crowd. An entertaining opener, that was a lot of fun to watch.


Ryan Smile calls out The Bitter Youth

 

In a change of pace from the opener PWK Promoter Ryan Smile called out The Bitter Youth, in an intense, well-paced segment. Smile's opening promo was calm and collected, cleverly mixing real life situations, with on-going storylines, which whilst embellishing the storyline for those aware of those real life situations didn't take away for anyone who wasn't. 

Pete Stevens is operating as the mouthpiece for the group, which is also includes Damien Dunne, Chris Ridgeway and PWK Champion Pete Dunne (who wasn't present for this segment) and despite some clear nervousness early on in the segment I thought Pete handled his job here well and you could see him growing into the character as the show went on. 

Talking of growing, Smile's build from calm and collected to losing his shit with his former friends was done very nicely. The tension built to cresecendo with Stevens delivering the line "You ain't got no stones, but here comes Goliath" leading to Dunne and Ridgeway unleashing a vicious attack, finishing off Smile with a kick to the nadgers. Smile's selling of the old chicken nuggets following the attack was superb, everything from facial expressions to vocal outbursts of pain were spot on. This guy knows what it's like to get a kick in love spuds apparently!

Whilst I really enjoyed this segment, it didn't seem over with the crowd as well as it should have. There really wasn't any heat here. I'm not sure why this was, as it would seem that a large section of the crowd had been to PWK shows before and would be familiar with the ongoing storyline. Maybe it was the crowd just wasn't willing to give out heat? Maybe they were too hyped up from the comedy match before hand?

Match 2

Mad Man Manson vs. Sebastian Radclaw

33 Minute Iron Mad Man Match

 

How on earth am I supposed to review this match? Genuinelly one of the funniest things I've ever had the pleasure to watch.

The story of the match saw Manson and Radclaw not wanting to wrestle for 33 minutes, with the pair coming up with more and more ridiculous antics to get the clock to tick down. There was wrestling in slow motion, silent wrestling, at one point we went outside in protest the lack of Wi-Fi availability and then there was the longest game of Rock, Paper, Scissors that has ever been played.

The crowd played a massive part in this one, coming up with some great chants, including the "This is Silence" whispered chant and really adding an extra dimension to the section where both men attempted to cover each other with one arm. Both men knew exactly how to work the crowd to get the reaction they were after and Manson's constant conflab about El Ligero and Doug Williams had every smarky Brit-Wres fan in the room giggling like a school girl.



Top marks and big thumbs up for the finish as well, as Manson's Powerbomb attempt was reversed by Radclaw into a Sunset Flip, with Manson holding on to stop himself from going down. After the pair had a conversation about who should win, it was time for a reference to Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair's WrestleMania 24 bout, with the classic "I'm sorry...I love you" line, as Radclaw managed to get the pin for the win. I could probably pull up that this match ended straight after the pinfall, but I honestly couldn't care less. 

Match 3

Chris Ridgeway vs. Lana Austin vs. Bubblegum vs. Damien Dunne vs. Nixon Newell vs. Tyler Bate

Elevate to the Summit Ladder Match

 

 

Essentially this was a Money in the Bank Ladder match, under a name that nicely fits with the theme with the promotion. 

Continuing with the theme of the night, this match was paced to perfection, a good mix of spot based action and storytelling, it felt like everything happening in this match was happening for a reason, rather than "Spots for the sake of spots". When Lana Austin's Tilt-a-Whirl Stunner and Nixon Newell's Vulture Culture Destroyer are some of the less notable spots in a match, you know you've been treated to something special. Lana's dive off the ladder to outside, Nixon's moonsault off the ladder to the outside and Bate chokeslaming Nixon off the Ladder stand out as particular highlights. 

In terms of storytelling, you had two members of the Bitter Youth in the match, as well as Bubblegum who's pre-match promo pointed out his reluctancy to work a match with two women, throw into the mix the history between Bubblegum and Tyler Bate in the promotion and the six wrestlers had a lot to play with. The on-going story with Bubblegum, Nixon and Lana built perfectly to a spot where Bubblegum asked for one of the girls to make him a sandwich, whilst the other "sorted him out", it was perhaps not quite appropriate for the children in attendance, but the reaction when the girls destroyed Bubblegum, finishing up with Lana's Tilt-a-Whirl Stunner was superb. 

After Dunne, Lana and Nixon had all taken big bumps, the match was wittled down to Bubblegum, Chris Ridgeway and Tyler Bate going at it, in a series of solid exchanges between the three. Bubblegum and Ridgeway worked together, before realising each other were trying to sneak up the ladder, leading to some hard chops and fantastic hard hitting sequence between the two. With Bate and Ridgeway trading some beautiful suplexes, before Bate launched in an exhililarting sequence with Bubblegum, climaxing in Bubblegum getting crotched on the top rope after falling off the Ladder. It seemed the stage was set for Bate to pull down the briefcase, however that wasn't to be the case as Ridgeway climbed up the ladder and hit a big roundhouse kick knocking Bate off the ladder before retrieving the briefcase. 

This felt like a true War of Atrition with every big spot built up as a way of "eliminating" someone from the match, rather than just happening. This put a big smile on my face indeed. Everyone involved in the match brought something different to the proceedings and everything seemed to slot together perfectly. However, as with most multi-man ladder matches, the finish felt slightly anti-climactic after what had gone before it, but that's me being a nitpicky bastard.

Match 4 - 

YOLO Squad vs. The Hunter Brothers

 

 

This was my first time getting to see Ethan Silver and Drew Parker work together as the YOLO Squad. In fact, it was my first time seeing Drew Parker at all! I'd previously seen Silver work a Three Way bout for Kamikaze Pro in June, in which he hadn't really impressed me all that much, but seeing as he's only 17 I was more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and went into this one with a completely open mind. 

And Sweet Mama Benjamin am I glad that I did. The bout told the time tested story of Rookie vs Veteran, as Parker and Silver went toe to toe and back and forth with the boys from Tipton. With both teams working as babyface duos, no team spent too long in control of the match, continually shifting momemtum, although the majority of the crowd was decidely behind the veteran duo. There was some lovely work early on where each team worked the arm of an opponent for a short while, not really long enough to have an impact on the match later on, but it told a good story of YOLO Squad learning and attempting to up their game as the match went on. 


Whilst the story itself was strong, the action in the ring was also of a high standard, with a number of inventive tag team moves from both teams, including an Assisted Double Stomp from YOLO Squad and a Giant Swing/Dropkick combination from the Hunters. The strongest part of the match for me was a terrific back and forth sequence between Lee Hunter and Drew Parker, with both men keeping up a high pace, before Parker hit a ridiculous looking Standing Double Stomp. 

 The closing sequence was a break neck series of action with all four men involved. Beginning with Parker breaking up a pinfall on Silver following the Hunters Supercanrana/Frog Splash combination (which in inself was a great false finish), the foursome launched into a series of inventive superkick deliveries, before The Hunters finally gained the upperhand with a Neckbreaker/Backbacker combo on Silver and another Supercanrana/Frog Splash combo to Parker to obtain victory. With the crowd receptive to everything the four had to offer for the last few minutes, this was a superb way to end the match. 


Following the bout it seemed a "Show of Respect" would be next, however following a handshake the YOLO Squad hit the Hunters with a pair of slaps, before quickly fleeing the ring. A nice exclamation point to the story and a rematch with a more vicious and heely YOLO Squad is something I'd be very interested in. Whilst the younger duo weren't always as crisp as they could have been and there were a few occasions where the action didn't quite click, for a duo of this age to be putting on a match of this quality is something that should be commended. As should the participation of the Hunters who allowed the YOLO Squad all the opportunities that they needed here.  


Match 5

Joseph Conners vs. Dan Maloney

 


Before the match got under way, Joseph Conners was given some mic time, where he clearly got over his character and his on-going story in PWK well. Whilst Conners hit all the marks in terms of information, I would have like to have seen some more levels to the performance, as I did find myself switching off from everything being delivered in the same way.

This match was right up my alley way, with even more story-telling and psychology. A relatively short bout, started with Conners ramming Maloney back first into the ringpost on the outside and the story was set. The majority of Conners offence was focused on Maloney's back, with any Maloney comeback cut off with a move to said back. I haven't had the opportunity to see Maloney work babyface all too often, but I was impressed with no only his selling of the pain in his back, but a fantastic set of facial expressions that really got over the pain that he was feeling, allowing the crowd to really get behind the "Superbeast". 

The only real slip up in this match was on a Gutwrench Bomb attempt by Conners, but the pair quickly recovered and managed to flow into the next part of the match without having to do the classic Indy repeat spot. Both men managed to get a nice false finish in, with Conners hitting a Crucifix Bucklebomb and Maloney coming close off a Sitout Backbreaker Rack Drop.

 The finish itself saw Maloney attempt a Powerbomb, and whilst it was not clear if Maloney would be able to due to the back injury, the lights went down and something played on the screen, when the lights where back up Conners hit an Arm Trap DDT to pick up another pinfall victory. Whilst the stuff on the screen was less than clear, I enjoyed the way the finish was booked to allow both men to continue to look strong with the doubt of Maloney would have been able to deliver the Powerbomb playing well into this.


Match 6 

Mark Andrews vs. Pete Dunne (with Pete Stevens)

Ultimate X-Central Match for the PWK Championship

 

 

Going in to this match, I was a little apprehensive that it would be too similar to the Ladder match from earlier on, with both match types known for their aerial spots. These thoughts were quickly cast aside as Andrews and Dunne wrestled a clever and engaging match.

With Dunne working as PWK's top heel, he avoided any fancy offence and instead spent most of the match strategically working over Andrews with a series of stomps and kicks, whilst cunningly pulling back on Andrews fingers a number of times, which of course would make it more difficult to climb the X structure above the ring. This played well into a soot where Dunne grabbed Andrews fingers while Andrews scaled the structure before transitioning into his signature DT3 Pumphandle Facebuster. 

Whilst Dunne was busy heeling it up, Andrews was his usual flippy self pulling out a number of inventive spots using the structure, including droping from the scaffold into a hurricanrana, a leaping Sitout Slam whilst Dunne scaled the structure and a huge Missile Dropkick with Dunne in a similar situation. Throw a missed Standing Corkscrew 450, a Moonsault Spike DDT and Northern Light suplex transitioned in a Shooting Star Press into the mix and it's easy to see why a crowd would get vocally behind Mark Andrews. For me, he is one of the most natural babyfaces in the country, at the moment. 

Pete Stevens was at ringside to support his Bitter Youth stablemate and looked comfortable in this role, working the crowd nicely. You could see Stevens gain in confidence every time the crowd would react to something he would say. I'm interested to where PWK will take Stevens in the next couple of shows and watching him develop further as a performer.

Stevens would be involved in the finish of the bout attempting to call the rest of the Bitter Youth out to ringside. Damien Dunne and Chris Ridgeway came down the aisle, only to be met with a flurry of Andrews offence, finishing with a spectacular Tope Conhilo. This allowed Dunne the distraction he needed to edge closer to the belt, and whilst Andrews springboarded onto the structure to provide some last minute drama, it was Dunne who managed to retrive the belt and retain his title. A great ending to the match, with the crowd with the competitors every step of the way, both furthering the Bitter Youth storyline and allowing some tension to develop between Pete Dunne and Elevate to the Summit Briefcase holder Chris Ridgeway. Unlike the earlier Ladder match this was a satisfying and climactic finish, that left me wanting to see more.


Finally...


You may have noticed by the rest of the review, that I enjoyed this show, just a little bit! From top to bottom this was one of the best shows that I've seen this year, with each match providing something different to the rest of the card. Most of it all, I felt like I was given a reason to watch every match intently and follow the stories being told in the ring, this is the kind of pro wrestling that I enjoy to watch the most and it's the kind that will make come back as a paying customer for PWK in  the near future.


Friday, 3 October 2014

What's Your Flava? aka Open Letter to the Disenfranchised WWE Fan



Kicking things off with a Craig David video, don't get that on your average wrestling blog!

From looking around social media, it would seem like WWE is the only option when it comes to professional wrestling in 2014. On any Facebook group or Twitter timeline, there's someone talking about what WWE should be doing to appeal more to them, critically forgetting that WWE isn't supposed to be aiming directly at them. If your expecting every single moment of WWE's 8 hours of original wrestling programming a week (a colossal 11 hours if there's a PPV), the likelihood is your going to be disapointed. WWE is (at least) attempting to be a mass market product, a product that appeals to everyone at the same time, which, of course, is never going to be a possibility. There isn't an artistic venture anywhere that appeals to everyone (Not even Craig David) 





During a Twitter conversation with British promotion Southside Wrestling Entertainment (promoted by Ben Auld, although I'm not sure if it was Mr. Auld using the Twitter account at the time), it was suggested that WWE's problem was that it's product (mainly Raw) wasn't aimed at the kind of fan who talks on wrestling forums and tweets about arm bars (Namely, you and I, dear reader). Herein lies a shocking revelation, even if we ignore casual fans and children and families and everyone else who chooses to watch WWE programming and doesn't feel the need to jump on Twitter to let us know their opinions, different wrestling fans like different types of wrestling! Incredible, I know. 

Just like any of area of entertainment, there are genres and subgenres within professional wrestling that many may never know about, because they don't look anywhere other than WWE, whilst simultaneously expecting WWE to adapt to suit them. Just like chart music, big budget theatre and Hollywood blockbusters, WWE may often miss the mark when it comes to your personal taste and that is absolutely fine. Because I'm sure there's some element of the show that you do like, and I can be almost certain that there's a professional wrestling company out there that's focusing in on that element and making it their niche.  





You like strong storylines, like Dean Ambrose's feud with Seth Rollins? There's plenty of promotions producing really good storyline based wrestling, especially here in the UK, where both Progress and ICW are doing very well for themselves. You like the technical exploits of Daniel Bryan or Chris Jericho? I'm sure indy stalwarts Ring of Honor, or if you're feeling exotic New Japan Pro Wrestling, will be to your tastes. Love a good spot-fest, like the Money in the Bank Ladder PPV? Then PWG is the place to be. Think Adam Rose and The Bunny are the best thing since sliced bread for their trippy antics? Chikara Pro will make you lose your shit. Wish WWE would bring back Drew McIntyre or Carlito or Maria Kanellis or any ex-employee? Get on their Twitter and find out where they're performing, places like FWE and PCW are a good place to start.

I genuinely could go on and on and on. I'm not claiming that my knowledge of the Indy scene is particularly vast, especially when it comes to promotions outside the UK, but the fact still remains that there is a promotion out there that will suit your needs perfectly. So rather than sitting every Monday night, knowing that you're probably not going to be into, at least, a third of what get's presented and then moaning about it online, why not go on a journey of discovery? Have a scour the internet, most promotions have at least some footage up on Youtube, many use on Demand services and almost all DVD's up for sale.







It's a simple formula, find what you like and support it, shout about it from the rooftops. Hey, your mate might like it as well, the one who hasn't watched wrestling in 20 years. Hey, they might not. That's the fun of any art form and a lot of the time the debate between people who enjoy two different styles is part of the fun.

If you kept eating Hawaiin pizza, but didn't really like the pineapple, I'd call you a fool for not taking the pineapple off. So, choose your flavour, maybe occassionally you might add something else to the mix or go back to your old faithful to see if they've taken off some of the pineapple. I really want a pizza now.




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