Monday, 22 December 2014

WWE Attitude Era Vol. 2 DVD Review



WWE's Attitude Era Vol. 2 is out now on DVD (There's a Blu Ray version too), available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. The three disc set features twenty nine matches and five segments from the Attitude Era, from between 1997 and 2000, with a interviews from a number of the era's stars interspersed throughout. The set includes matches featuring the likes of Shawn Michaels, The Hardy Boyz, Chris Jericho, The Legion of Doom, The Undertaker and more.

     Unlike the original Attitude Era set, Vol. 2 takes the form of a match compilation, originally presented by the dull flannel that is Michael Cole, whilst a series of interviews are placed in between the matches. Sometimes the interviews connect nicely with the following match, such as Sunny talking about managing LOD 2000 before a LOD 2000 bout or Mark Henry introducing a series of vignettes demonstrating the "Sexual Chocolate" gimmick. However, there is a number of the interviews that feel very thrown together, as if these are parts of interviews that WWE Home Video simply had knocking around from previous sets, such as Chris Jericho talking about his WWE debut, after we've just seen a Chris Jericho match on the set and a completely random story from Ron Simmons. There's also a real lack of star power in terms of interviews, with short clips of The Rock and Chris Jericho the only real appearances from major stars, and whilst it is nice to hear from guys like The Godfather and X-Pac, having the majority of the main event stars missing does give this set a slightly second rate feel. Throw into the mix the random clippings of interviews and it's difficult to feel that this set has been given the love and attention that it needed. The presentation really let's it down.


Mike Tyson - Not on this set (but part of the press pack, so there)



The Matches and Segments


The set kicks off with a Bikini Contest from the 1997 Slammy Awards, with Sable, Marlena and The Funkettes, to get over that the Attitude Era was all about frustrated teenage boys. Vince McMahon on commentary is hilarious with quips such as "She is looking mighty fine" being the pick of the bunch. Luckily, we get some wrestling next as Owen Hart and Shawn Michaels battle on a December 1997 episode of Raw. It's a grudge match style bout, happening a mere month after the Montreal Screwjob, with some great wrestling sequences and Hart's offence looking superb, this is a decent TV match and a good way to start the wrestling content. The New Age Outlaws take on the team of Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie on a January 1998 Raw in a basic and dull brawl, that is almost saved by the everything going nuts after the match.

 Strangely, the sets chronological order is broken as we jump back to Royal Rumble (surely helping the case that this set was thrown together) as Rocky Maivia and Ken Shamrock tangle in a decent Intercontinental Championship match. Raw in April teases Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon with a shit tonne of stalling, it never delivers what it promises but the swerve is still entertaining to watch. A few weeks later Triple H teams with The New Age Outlaws against LOD 2000 and Owen Hart in a fun six man tag, that's structured to play to the strengths of each man in the match. Again, everything Owen does looks flawless. 


Jerry Lawler talks about breasts.


     June segment from Raw see's D Generation X head to New York to promote SummerSlam in an uncomfortable segment that is chock-full of racist and sexist verbiage. Maybe not the best segment to include at time when the WWE (and specifically Triple H) have had claims of racism sent their way. A month later, Mankind and "Kane" battle to become Number One Contender to the WWF Championship, complete with Kane's red lighting! It's quick and swervy with an infamous finish, one of the iconic moments of the Attitude Era here. Just as iconic as this are Sable's breasts, which are on display in a bikini contest against Jacqueline from Fully Loaded. Jerry Lawler presents the contest, acting in the role of 13 year old boy seeing a breast for the first time. 


Val Venis teams with Taka Michonoku to take on KaiEnTai's Dick Togo and Sho Funaki, which quickly descends into madness on an August Raw. On the same show in September, Steve Austin and Ken Shamrock work an acceptable TV main event over the WWF Championship, with a hot crowd that is let down by a dodgy finish. A week later on Raw, Sgt. Slaughter faces Al Snow in a Bootcamp match with Al Snow's contract on the line and whilst the commentators Shane McMahon and Jim Cornette have no idea of the rules and Sgt. Slaughter is horrendously out of shape, Snow manages to carry him to a tolerable match, with a number of fun spots.


Road Dogg shouts words at Owen Hart
 

A week later, a six man four corners match is on offer as Edge, Gangrel, Jeff Jarrett, Droz, Marc Mero and D'Lo Brown battle to become Number One Contender to the European Championship. The match is enjoyable, with a lot going on and allows a number of on-going stories to progress, but the crowd and D'Lo Brown's bumping ability are questionable. The bout is also a little short to fully show off all six men. On a November Raw, X-Pac get's a shot at The Rock's WWF Championship and while there is about as much doubt today as there was then as to who would walk out the winner, this is still a well put together match with a solid swerve finish. The opener from In Your House 26: Rock Bottom see's The Godfather and Val Venis team up to take on Mark Henry and D'Lo Brown. The match lacks any real pace or notable offence, but is entirely watchable, helped along by how over D'Lo Brown is!

Triple H vs. Edge from Raw in January 1998 is an extended squash match. Most likely included because of Edge's later star power, it's good for the two and a half minutes it lasts. Kane and Steve Austin main event a March Raw, in a bout that attempts to tell a decent story, but struggles because Kane refuses to sell at all. There's a couple of big spots and appearance from the then "Big Nasty" Paul Wight, as highlights. Two weeks later, Billy Gunn challenges Hardcore Holly for the Hardcore Championship. It's a good representation of the Hardcore division with plenty of random weapon shots, alongside one silly table spot. There's way too much focus on Jim Ross' stupid separate commentary table.


X-Pac - Has A Sex Tape with Chyna


On Raw in April, Paul Wight takes on The Rock and Triple H in a handicap match main event, which is much more of a segment than a match. The booking of Wight makes him look like a beast and the pop for Steve Austin entrance is HUGE! A week later, The Big Boss Man is supposed to face Goldust for the Intercontinental Championship. The match doesn't go to plan, but what is provided is an awkward and plodding title contest. Five days later on Shotgun Saturday Night, Edge & Christian go up against The Hardy Boyz in an enhancement match. There's some suspect booking, with Gangrel at ringside, but a superb finish makes this one worthwhile.

The Rock and The Undertaker tussle in a Casket Match on an May Raw, although again this is more of a segment with wrestling in it, than an actual match. There's interruption for a backstage brawl and a tonnes of interference, with a decent story peering through. It was strange to see the Casket match gimmick used in such a throwaway manner to build other feuds. A surprisingly entertaining contest comes in the form of Jeff Jarrett defending the Intercontinental Championship on a July episode of Sunday Night Heat. A quick match, with sound wrestling and good flow, it's a shame about the super silly finish. A Tag Team Championship match pitting X-Pac & Kane against The Acolytes is a perfectly booked, yet basic tag team match, played out in front of a red hot crowd. It also see's Kane talk for himself for the very first time, without his special talky stick.


Papa Shango Kama Mustafa The Godfather


Mark Henry's Sexual Chocolate days are represented through a series of promos and vignettes. These were straight up embarrassing to watch, as Henry revealed such lovely nuggets about his past as losing his virginity to his sister, aged 8 and that he was still having sex with his sister, I honestly don't understand the logic of this booking. Was it simply to embarrass Henry? Next up, there's more Henry action (literally) as he spends Valentines' Night with Mae Young in a hotel. How on earth do you review that? Luckily, wrestling returns as Chris Jericho and Tazz chase Kurt Angle's European Championship on a March 2000 Raw, unluckily the bout goes for only just over three minutes, and whilst all cut strong promos before the match, the match just isn't long enough for these three to reach their full potential.

Jericho and Angle are back on a May Raw with Jericho defending the European Championship. Angle's pre-match promo is a gem, but the match is not the strongest these two have had, whilst the wrestling is crisp, there is nothing resembling substance or drama to be found here. The next month on Heat, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero have a similar problem with timing, as whilst there are a number of cool looking moves, this match isn't given any real time to get going. There is also a genuinely shit finish. WWF's style storytelling suits a mixed tag team match, pitting The Rock & Lita against Kurt Angle & Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, main eventing an August Smackdown much better. The bout allows the Triple H-Stephanie-Angle love triangle storyline to progress, whilst pushing the Triple H vs. Angle vs. Rock for the upcoming PPV. Rock and Angle also manage to fit in some nice wrestling, whilst Lita is elevated from appearing in the main event, as are The Hardy Boyz appearing later on!


Frilly shirts and sunglasses in doors. The Brood were cool.


A truly awful Women's Championship match sees Lita defend against Jacqueline and Ivory on a September Sunday Night Heat. Lita is extremely over with the crowd, but this short, sloppy, botch-laden match does little show off why. Things continue on this downward spiral, as strangely we jump back to a June Raw to witness Gerald Briscoe and Crash Holly clash over the Hardcore Championship in a silly silly silly match. The King of the Ring PPV witness' more of Gerald Brisco's antics, as he takes on Pat Patterson in the infamous Evening Gown match. I don't think I'll ever be able to remove these images from my brain. Thank fuck the Hardcore title is gone and shall never ever return!

Another mixed tag bout rounds of the set, as The Rock and Lita team up again to take on Triple H and Trish Stratus to main event a July Raw. It's a little on the short side for a TV main event these days, but is still a lot of fun to watch, being well booked and contains a saucy finish. Even one loves a saucy finish!




Finally...

 
The Rock is the biggest name to get interviewed for this set.
 

     If you were an avid viewer of WWE between 1997 and 2000 this set could act as a nice little nostalgia trip, reliving a handful of iconic moments, whilst being remembering some that you had forgotten about. However, this set didn't do much for me personally, it's quite clearly chucked together from old interviewers and doesn't attempt to follow a chronology or any other discernible pattern. There also isn't a single match on here that I'd recommend going out of your way to watch and whilst the majority are at least watchable, there's also Briscoe vs. Patterson which no one should ever have to watch. Approach this set with caution.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

WWE Super Smackdown Live (16th December 2014) Review

Heading into 2015, the plan for ATPW is to review as many televised championship matches as possible, whether that be WWE, TNA or elsewhere, whilst including a full review of the show in which the title match takes place to add context to the importance of said title match. I thought I'd kick things of early, with this review of WWE's Super Smackdown Live, which aired as part of WWE week on the USA Network on Tuesday 16th December 2014 and included Naomi challenging Nikki Bella for the Diva's Championship. Sounds like a blast, eh? 

Seth Rollins 

with J&J Security 

vs. 

Dolph Ziggler




This match was originally advertised as being Seth Rollins taking on Ryback, which I was genuinelly intrigued to see. I was interested to see if Rollins had the skill to put together a decent match with Ryback, who isn't particularly known for his technical prowess, but has had passable matches with guys like Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. However, at the top of the second hour, Rusev attacked Ryback, sambo superkicking him off the stage and then over some conveniently placed boxes. This feud seems to be heating up nicely, but I'm not sure I actually want to see Ryback vs. Rusev. It's going to take some creative booking to make the match worth watching when it does go ahead. 

     With Rollins already in the ring with his pals Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury by his side, the Money in the Bank contract holder cut a whiny promo that suited the character down to the ground. Whilst also throwing in things like believing he beat John Cena on his own the previous night on Raw, before agreeing that he did, indeed, deserve a night off. This built well to Rollins being interupted by Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler, with the two having some enjoyable back and forth on the microphone, before Rollins agreed to face Ziggler in the main event of the show. It felt like the two had a lot of chemistry on the mic and I couldn't help but wonder why these two haven't been placed in a long-term singles feud yet. 

     Following an interview with Renee Young, in which Rollins went over his on-going feud with John Cena, whilst touching on the Ziggler match, it was time for the main event. This match only cemeted the fact that these two guys should've been placed opposite each other in a long-term and meaningful feud at some point. This was a great TV main event, with an enjoyable story that saw Ziggler fighting from underneath, thanks to the involvement of J&J Security on the outside, whilst Ziggler's comeback attempts would be focused on Rollins injured ribs, which Rollins sold well. The two have clear chemistry in the ring and put together some crisp sequences, like a sequence seeing Ziggler attempting to hit a Jumping DDT, that saw Rollins initially block and attempt a Roundhouse Kick, only for Ziggler to hit the Jumping DDT for two. 

The closing sequence managed to satisfy one of the matches on-going storylines as J&J Security were kicked out by the referee for interfering in the match, with Ziggler using the opportunity to hit a Zig Zag and pick up the pinfall victory. I was a little disapointed to not see the rib injury play into the closing stages, as it seemed to be forgotten about towards the end of the bout. However, this was still an enjoyable television main event and a solid story that was told soundly throughout the second hour of the show, keeping my attention and giving me a reason to keep watching the rest of the show! 


The Usos & Erick Rowan
vs.
The Miz, Damien Mizdow & Luke Harper




The Miz and Damien Mizdow's feud with The Usos continued as the two teams were joined by a former member of the Wyatt Family in Luke Harper and Erick Rowan respectively. It seemed a strange decision to have Rowan in this match considering he had lost clean to Kane earlier in the night on Main Event. There was no particular need to have Rowan wrestle twice in one night (especially after jobbing to Kane), and another wrestler could've benefitted from this slot. If Rowan was needed for this match, why not have someone else job to Kane on Main Event? Usually this wouldn't be a problem, as the shows airs three days apart, but with Smackdown airing directly after Main Event, this made the booking feel a little bit rushed. 

     The match itself however was a fun six man tag team match, with each element of the match being implemented in a way which played to their skillset. For example, Luke Harper spent the majority of the match in control of an Uso, with The Miz tagging in when Harper was fully in control and Mizdow dicking around on the outside. Whilst I'm tiring slightly of Mizdow's antics, this match allowed his relationship with The Miz to be spotlighted nicely, with Miz often refusing to tag in his partner and the two almost coming to blows when Mizdow started mimmicking Harper which was a nice touch. There was also a well done sequence that saw Mizdow tag himself in on Harper, only for Miz to do exactly the same to Mizdow, almost immediately. 

     All these antics kept me entertained to a degree, but it was the finish of the match that bought this match together. Rowan was used very well here, as he battered Miz for a few minutes, with a series of explosive powers moves, including a Full Nelson Slam for a near fall, before the Usos twatted Harper and Miz with superkick, and hit stereo suicide dives on Harper and Mizdow, before encouraging Rowan to head to the top rope to hit a big splash and pick up the win. It was an exciting finish that allowed both The Usos and Rowan to look good in their own way, whilst opening doors for some other interesting storylines going forward.

My main concern coming out of the match, continued to be Erick Rowan. That may sound strange considering I praised how "Big Red" was used here, but I'm still not sure if Rowan is ready for a singles push and neither is WWE apparently considering the even steven booking they gave him on Tuesday night. He looked comfortable in a six man here, but it would be weird if he didn't considering he's spent the majority of his WWE career working in six man's as part of The Wyatt Family, alongside experienced guys like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper, and was helped a lot by The Usos who know how to connect with the audience, I'd like to see more of that from Rowan himself going forward.


Diva's Championship Match
Naomi
vs.
Nikki Bella (C)
with Brie Bella



     Divas! This match was tied into the previous one, as Miz's feud with Jimmy Uso continued, as Miz somehow got Jimmy's wife Naomi a title shot. I'm not quite sure how that works because apparently no one is in charge, but we'll quickly skip over that. Before the bout, Naomi was seen backstage with Jimmy, as Jimmy gave some kind of generic pep talk to his wife, who revealed she didn't want him at ringside. This felt a little superfluous as I don't remember ever seeing Jimmy at ringside with Naomi or vice-versa, but hey, at least this match was getting a little bit of build.

     I was incredibly surprised with this match, as it held my attention, and didn't once look awkward or botchy. I enjoyed seeing Nikki Bella going for the pin after every move she hit, which all looked, at least, decent, including a well done slingshot suplex. Naomi's offence all looked good, and different to what a lot of her contemparies are doing, like a Stunner on the apron using the top rope. The storyline elements of The Miz and Jimmy Usos involvement costing Naomi the match worked nicely and moved their feud forward, whilst Jimmy and Naomi's relationship was also thrown into the spotlight. It didn't set the world a light, but it didn't stink out the place either, which when it comes to Diva's matches on the main roster is always a bonus.

Fandango
with Rosa Mendes
vs.
Roman Reigns


      Roman Reigns made a return to in-ring action, ending his mini-feud with Fandango in a sub-five minute squash match. Maybe extended squash match would be a fairer term, as Fandango did get some offence in (mainly headlocks and such), before Reigns made his comeback and hitting a number of his signature moves, including the Superman Punch and Spear, en route to picking up the victory. Fandango did a good job of bumping for Reigns and allowing him to look like a star, whilst Reigns still seems to be over with the fans recieveing "Roman Reigns" and "Let's Go Roman" chants whilst trapped in Fandango lengthy headlock. Reigns looked good and that was the purpose of the match, so there's no complaints from me here.

Dean Ambrose & Bray Wyatt Segment



     The Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt feud continued as the pair engaged in a war of words, seemingly to promote their Boot Camp match on the following nights Tribute to the Troops. Ambrose's delivery of his promo felt fresh, as he allowed all the important information to settle in with the fans in the arena and at home, whilst still remaining completely captivating to watch on screen. With Wyatt interupting, to reveal he was "enjoying this so much", similar to Ambrose, Wyatt's delivery makes him captivating to watch, but I'm begining to believe his promos are more style than substance, as whilst I couldn't take my eyes of the screen, I have no idea what he was trying to get over here.


 Adam Rose

vs.

Kane




This match was entirely pointless. Kane had already destroyed Rose on Raw and defeated Erick Rowan on Main Event, and I'd imagine anyone watching was aware of what Kane can do in the ring, because he's been around for almost TWENTY YEARS! I'm not sure what him destroying Rose and Tombstone Piledriving "The Bunny" was supposed to achieve going forward. 

Finally...


      It had been a long time since I'd watch Smackdown and I have to say I was impressed with this episode. Two hours works so much better than the three hour long Raw, from a viewers perspective, at least. Ziggler and Rollins did a great job of their main event, with the build up throughout the second hour of the show aiding the match nicely. Everything else (with the exception of Kane vs. Rose) was at least passable, with the Six Man Tag bout standing out amongst the rest of the card. Maybe, it was because this was the special live episode, but I'm hoping to see more of this level of show heading toward the Royal Rumble.

Monday, 15 December 2014

WWE TLC Tables, Ladders, Chairs...and Stairs 2014 Review

Rejoice internet, rejoice! Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt main evented a Pay-Per-View in 2014! It had to be awesome...right?





Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match

Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt

 

 
 
I can't help but feeling that Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt's Tables, Ladders and Chairs match was a wasted opportunity for both men. This should have been the match where both men announced their arrival onto the main event scene with an awe-inspiring TLC match that would have people talking way into new year. Instead, what was produced was an overly long bout, that lacked any real drama or storytelling.
 
That isn't to say that this was a bad match, not by any stretch of the imagination. Both Ambrose and Wyatt formed some decent spots, that used the TLC gimmickry well with all weapons being used a number of times. Ambrose hitting multiple elbow drops off ladders of increasing sizes was impressive, but I would have much preferred seeing a bit more variety thrown into the mix here. The brawling style of the two suited the match well and this was highlighted early on, with the pair going into the crowd and Ambrose jumping off of the Kick Off show table, I would've like this brawl to have gone on for a little longer, as it was when the pair seemed to be at their strongest.
 
Whilst a lot of the spots (Wyatt's senton onto a ladder etc.) were recycled from previous match ups, the one spot that stood out here, for me, saw Wyatt place a kendo stick under the cover of the turnbuckle and send Ambrose directly into the stick, with the commentary team commenting that it seemed to have connected with Ambrose's eye. This would be the matches biggest missed opportunity, as as quickly as the injury developed it was forgotten about and never mentioned again. This could've given the match an interesting and unique story to play with, but instead it was left as another random spot with no real explanation to why the Kendo Stick was legal in the first place in a TLC match.
 
The finish, oh, the finish. A TV monitor from under the ring, that as far as I'm aware has never been seen before, exploded in Ambrose's face, because Ambrose is so crazy he refused to simply remove the wires from the monitor before attempting to twat Wyatt in the head with it. It was wrestling's answer to Dues ex machine, as Wyatt picked up the pinfall victory following a Sister Abigail, and boy was it silly. And I'm not talking good silly, like a slinky or TV's Bodger and Badger. Now, I can completely understand the reasoning for wanting to both Wyatt and Ambrose looking strong, I'd imagine both are pencilled in for major matches at WrestleMania in a few months, but I'm not sure this finish did either, Ambrose looked a bit dense, whilst Wyatt won because Ambrose's stupidity.
 

Tables Match

Seth Rollins vs. John Cena

 
 
 

This was your classic "against the odds" story, with John Cena playing the part of the dashing hero, against the remnants of the villainous Authority. It was a tale we've seen time and time again with Cena in a more than familiar role, however it still managed to hold my attention throughout the mostly enjoyable contest, perhaps down to the sound use of the tables match stipulation. Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble continue to prove their worth as on screen characters, looking good in their interactions with Cena throughout the bout and contributing to the story nicely.

It was important that Seth Rollins be allowed to look, at least half way competent within this narrative, to continue to allow the Money in the Bank holder to move towards his title victory. Luckily, for Rollins, and the audience, this did occur at a number of points throughout the contest, where it seemed Rollins could be about to seal the victory on his own. Rollins looked at his best in an exhilarating sequence that saw Rollins flip out of an Attitude Adjustment attempt, narrowly avoiding a table, before leaping over the table an connecting with an Enziguiri. More of this type of action and the match would have been even better.

Whilst the story was strong, the match also provided it's fair share of big spots, that were well placed and allowed the match to peak at the right times. Noble taking a suplex on a barricade, Rollins taking a Super Attitude Adjustment through a table and Rollins' suicide dive onto Cena whilst Cena was on the floor outside, were all enough pique the interest of the audience, whilst never threatening to look particularly innovative, however with the story driven nature of the tangle this wasn't much of a requirement.

Roman Reigns making his return in the closing stages to save Cena from an interfering Big Show was a good way to bring back Reigns, who looked great as he dismantled Show and allowed Cena to pick up the victory sending Rollins crashing through a table with another AA. Less exceptional was the strange spot that saw both Rollins and Cena crash through a table at the same time, leading to the match to be restarted, as this added very little to the match itself. It will be interesting to see if Rollins attempts to bring this up on Raw, but I can't see the benefit, to be honest, with Cena now nailed on to face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble.
 

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match

Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper (C)

 
 
 
 
The strongest match of the evening came in the form of Dolph Ziggler and Luke Harper's Ladder match over the Intercontinental Championship in the opening contest. As soon as Ziggler was finally announced as from Cleveland, Ohio (instead of Hollywood, Florida) his real hometown and the host city for the Pay-Per-View, the crowd was firmly behind their hometown hero, giving the match an extra edge and making it a much more enjoyable watch than it may have been otherwise.
 
This is down to how the match was structured, with Harper dominating for the majority of the bout, cutting Ziggler's comeback attempts short at almost every turn. This not only created a good story, but also suited each man down to the ground, with Harper allowed to show off a power, size, and even agility, hitting a love enziguiri that connected with a ladder and sent Ziggler off the top rope to the floor, whilst Ziggler was allowed to play the plucky underdog, a role that he seems to have really grown into as of late. Even Ziggler's habit of rushing sequences didn't rear it's head, as the former World Heavyweight Champion took his time and allowed the match to breath correctly.
 
Similar to Cena and Rollins' table match, the spots in this one weren't particularly innovative, but there was plenty of them and each one felt like it had a purpose and furthered the story of the bout. Both men took a number of big bumps during the match, with Ziggler taking a powerbomb onto a ladder set up in the corner and a catapult in the ropes using a ladder (that busted Ziggler open), whilst Harper was sent crashing onto a Ladder bridging the announce table and the ring apron.
 
Ziggler picked up the win with Shelton Benjamin-esque use of the ladder, before connecting with a Superkick to keep Harper down and scaling the final few rungs to retrieve the belt and become a four-time Intercontinental Champion. With the match being in Ziggler's hometown, this definitely seemed like the right end to the match, with the crowd reaction cementing this, for me. Hopefully, Ziggler gets more than a few months with the belt, as his matches over the belt over the last six months or so have helped to elevate the belt and make it seem like a prize that is worth winning. A big singles match at WrestleMania would surely complete the restoration of the title.

 

Stairs Match

Big Show vs. Erick Rowan

 
 
 
 
Two big guys twatting each other with big bits of metal. What's not to like? Honestly, when this match got announced I was looking forward to the next time I accidentally stand on a plug slightly more. Whilst this wasn't what I would describe as a "bad" match, it was certainly dull. The crowd gave about as many shits as I did, with one mild "Big Show Sucks" chant the only sound that could be heard from them for entire match.
 
The only notable moments of the match saw Rowan bodyslam Show onto the steps (or stairs, because it rhymes with chairs) and Show spearing Rowan through a deadly WALL OF STEPS! Show winning by slightly leaning on the steps whilst placing them across Rowan (despite having hit Rowan with a Chokeslam on the steps and a WMD) looked ridiculous as the steps were across Rowan's chest and not shoulders, surely a normal pin would have been much more effective? Expect Big Show to get squashed by Roman Reigns in the coming months, whilst personally I'd seen Rowan back to NXT until after WrestleMania to polish up his skills as a singles wrestler.
 

Chairs Match

Kane vs. Ryback

 
 
 
 
Two big guys twatting each other with smaller pieces of metal. Played out in front of dead crowd for everything but the finish, this match was marginally better than the Big Show and Erick Rowan clash, boasting a handful of decent spots, like a DDT from Kane on a chair and Ryback hitting a Spinebuster onto two chairs in a seated position. If I had any real reason to care about either competitor, this could have actually been a decent PPV match.
 
The pair seemed to have something, almost, resembling chemistry and did put together a number of decent sequences, including the finish, that saw Ryback escape a Tombstone Piledriver attempt to deliver a Meathook Clothesline and Shellshocked to pick up the pinfall victory, which was actually done very well. Ryback picking up a clean victory was what the character needed going forward, although I can't quite see where Ryback fits into the picture on the Road to WrestleMania.
 

Diva's Championship Match

AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella (C)

 
 
 
When one of your positives for a match is "surprisingly few botches" then it says a lot about how good the match actually was. There was a few decent moves thrown into this one, like AJ's Tornado DDT and Nikki's use of the ringpost to bend AJ almost in two, but there was no substance to the action and a distinct lack of selling throughout, in particular AJ after the aforementioned ring post spot. It's difficult not to compare this match to Charlotte and Sasha Bank's match from NXT Takeover: REvolution and wonder what exactly goes wrong between developmental and the main roster.
 

Tag Team Championship Match

The Usos vs. The Miz & Damien Mizdow (C)

 
 
 

 
This tag bout did very little for me at all and I think that may be because I'm losing patience with the Mizdow gimmick. Seemingly, I'm not alone as the act got a lot less of a crowd reaction here as it did at last months Survivor Series. The one spot that did stand out was Mizdown mimicking Miz whilst the Usos had Miz in a delayed vertical suplex. Jimmy Usos debuted a new submission hold, but with zero build towards it during the match it felt pretty inconsequential. The bout didn't flow particularly well and a disqualification ending didn't help either, these four guys could have done a ot better than this.
 

United States Championship Match

Rusev (C) vs. Jack Swagger

 
 
 
Essentially, this was a squash match to tie up the loose end of Rusev and Swagger's Summer feud, where Swagger refused to tap out to the Accolade at SummerSlam. Unfortunately, this match didn't come close to their SummerSlam bout, but I'm not sure it was ever supposed to be. The crowd were too busy watching something else for most of the match, but did at least get behind Swagger for a few minutes during the match. Rusev obviously needed something to tide him over to the Royal Rumble and keeping the title present on PPV was a good move. There isn't much more to say!
 

Finally...

 
The three big matches on the PPV were, at least, good matches, with Cena vs. Rollins and Ziggler vs. Harper both delivering on what I had expected from them. Ambrose and Wyatt didn't put on the show stealing match that they should have done, but it was still a decent match when viewed in isolation. Where this PPV falls apart is a piss poor undercard, that struggled to hold my interest for any real amount of time. WWE needs to get this sorted in the next few months, as with WrestleMania just over three months away there isn't much time to get all the major players in the right places.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Best of British I - Revolution Pro Wrestling

In the first of a new series of articles, that will see British wrestling fans writing about their favourite promotion from across the country, Sean Taylor-Richardson takes a look at his favourite company, Revolution Pro Wrestling.

Photo credit - prowrestling.wikia.com


In 2013, I had a moment. As a dedicated wrestling fan of 18 years, I experienced an epiphany as it dawned on me that I had only really followed the televised American promotions. During the 1990s, when my interest was piqued and my obsession formed, I was fed a steady diet of grappling from the States: from the WWF on Sky to WCW via TNT and ECW by means of Bravo. In the noughties, WWE’s presence on Sky grew greater whilst TNA regularly found its way onto my screen. However, whilst in New York in April of 2013 (for a week of WWE related festivities), I had the chance to attend my first indy show. ROH were playing the Manhattan Centre. 

Now what happened that night is, without exaggeration, a blur (I’ll revisit the evening in a future article, Wrestling and beer: the drinking chronicles). Fortunately I managed to soak up more than pint after pint of Heineken and absorbed enough of the action and atmosphere to convince me to try indie wrestling when I returned to our British Isles. So later that year, I looked at the upcoming cards on the UK Indie circuit to see what took my fancy. In a wonderful moment of serendipity, a certain name appeared. It was the same name that appeared on my Sky Sports screen when I first fell in love with Wrestling in 1994. That name was Bret “Hitman” Hart.


Photo Credit - Revolution Pro Wrestling


On Friday 18th October 2013, myself and my brother attended the Revolution Pro Wrestling event, An Evening with Bret Hart. Photos were taken with a childhood hero and we left the Walkabout venue thinking nothing that weekend could top the previous few hours. But then the very next day we attended Rev Pro’s other offering: Uprising at York Hall. And what a show it was! Prince Devitt vs Ricochet and Zack Sabre Jr vs Davey Richards were 5 star belters. Noam Dar vs Michael Elgin and Marty Scurll vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (which featured a Bret Hart run-in) delivered in spades. As well as state of the art 21st Century wrestling, there was incredible comedy as Colt Cobana teamed with Grado! This event was one of the best shows I’d ever attended and proved that Indie wrestling was as deserving of my time and money as the big leagues.

Since then, I’ve attended all three of the York Hall super shows held in 2014. Rev Pro guarantees the best quality imports on our shores. You want future WWE stars, Rev Pro books ‘em:  Kevin Steen and Prince Devitt (now going as Kevin Owens and Finn Balor respectively) spring to mind. How about a nostalgia act? Sting, Rikishi and Two Cool should be right up your street. If it’s the stars of New Japan, how about The Young Bucks, Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura and The Bullet Club. Invariably these acts matched up with the best of British talent: Will Ospreay, Martin Stone, Joel Redman and Sha Samuels to name a few. Samuels is particularly entertaining as he and his stable mates Terry Frazier and Josh Bodom work the crowd into a frenzy during their entrance and remind us all just how were supposed to feel about heels (speaking of Samuels, at a show in Sittingbourne, he once threw my brother’s shoe onto a window ledge).


Photo Credit - Sha Samuels


The matches work both as stand-alone, fantastic indie spectacles but also as part of on-going stories that entice you into counting the weeks until the next card. Nothing feels inconsequential. At the recent October Uprising event, world title matches and tag team wars were masterfully built for the forthcoming February show, High Stakes. This allows regular attendees to feel attached to the product and see each show as a must-see, an episode of wrestling drama not to be missed. My anticipation for Marty Scurll vs Spud and the eventual showdown between Redman/ Stone and Team Paige is undoubtedly greater for having been part of the live crowd that witnessed the electric angles unfold. 
   
Another thing that makes Rev Pro such a hot ticket is the setting: York Hall is special. Whilst the leisure centre on Old Ford Road in Bethnal Green, London garnered its reputation for
being one of Britain's best known boxing venues, it is quickly becoming a hotbed of wrestling (as evidenced by TNA recently filming some of British Bootcamp within its famed walls). Its history and legitimacy is an aspect that adds credibility to proceedings and is a factor many other indie venues just can’t match. The stars booked are skilled and the matches captivating but it is the combination of talent and venue that creates that oh-so-special atmosphere.  And the fans are fun fans to be around, loud and passionate but not too smart for their own good. There are cheers and chants but never an attempt to steal the spotlight from what happens in the ring. The people appreciate quality wrestling and show that respect by engaging purposefully with the show.


Photo Credit - UKFF



I’ve attended multiple Indie shows in the last two years. I enjoy Progress shows from Camden and had a good time at the IPW Super 8 tournament in Tonbridge. I’ve been to see Rev Pro in my local market, Sittingbourne, fairly regularly. But it’s the York Hall shows that I look forward to like I look forward to a Summerslam or Royal Rumble. The talent, the stories, the rich history of the venue; it’s a combination that in my opinion delivers the best night of wrestling that our thriving indie scene has to offer. If you haven’t checked them out yet do: in a couple of months, at February’s High Stakes show, AJ Styles is coming to play. Daniels and Kazarian step into the ring. And the most talked about podcaster of the year Colt Cobana returns in an angle already heavily promoted on the company website. Whether its hard-hitting wrestling, high spots or big gags, I can assure you Rev Pro at York Hall always delivers all that and more.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Best of British will return in 2015! If you are interested in championing your favourite promotion, you can get in touch at acrossthepondwrestling@hotmail.com

Friday, 12 December 2014

WWE NXT Takeover: REvolution Review

WWE NXT's fourth live special had a lot to live up to, following on from the red hot Arrival and Takeover, and the decent Takeover: Fatal 4Way, Takeover REvolution couldn't afford to dissapoint. Did Takeover: REvolution live up to the hype? Could it reach the heights of Arrival and the original Takeover? Let's find out shall we?! 







You're So Zayn

 



You probably think this section is about you. Well, it's about Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville who main evented the show with an exhilariting NXT Championship bout that had the crowd on the edge of their seats from the outset. This was a drama filled, rollercoaster of technically sound wrestling action that topped of the show perfectly.

The two men moulded together nicely, it was clear that the two had made the most of their numerous matches before WWE TV Tapings and at WWE and NXT house shows over the past year. The sequences of action flowed very smoothly indeed, without ever feeling over rehearsed, with a series of action ending in an Blue Thunderbomb dropped from an Electric Chair position from Zayn being a highlight amongst highlights.

Whilst there was a number of impressive moves (REVERSE RANA!) it was in the WWE main event style of story telling that this match really came into it's own. Neville working to ground Zayn early on made perfect sense, with the commentary team working hard to get over the reasons for this, with the crowd being so into Zayn that they stayed hot throughout a series of main event chinlocks from Neville. This put down a solid foundation for a Zayn comeback, with the pace quickening and the match going back and forth with a series of well worked near falls for either man, with Zayn coming close with a Koji Clutch and the aforementioned Reverse Rana from Neville being amongst the best efforts.

Other strong story telling elements included Neville rolling out of the ring after a number of big moves from Zayn, most notably a Three Amigos that closed with a beautiful half and half suplex. This got the crowd even more behind Zayn, as the frustration on Zayn's face emanated through the screen, this also allowed Zayn to reach into his impressive catalogue of aerial offence. Zayn's moral dilemma whilst holding the title belt, with referee having been bumped for the second time, was also strong, if not a little too long, but worked nicely into the closing sequence, rounding off Zayn's story well, as he went on to pick up the win with a Exploder Suplex into the turnbuckle, followed up with a Helluva Kick for the pinfall.

In many ways, this felt like the Performance Centre coming full circle, as Zayn and Neville showcased that their Indy stylings could be meshed with WWE's sports entertainment style, with both men looking more than ready to make the step up to the main roster, more so than at any point during their run in Developmental. Zayn's celebration was given more than enough time to settle in, something that is sometimes lacking from WWE title changes, whilst a storyline twist that saw the debuting Kevin Owens attack Zayn post match with a Powerbomb onto the ring apron seemed to set up the main event for the next NXT special.

 

Captain Charlotte





It was terrific to see two females competitors featured so heavily on the show and Charlotte and Sasha Banks did everything they could to make sure that NXT continues to treat it's females this way going forward. A big improvement on Charlotte's bout with Bayley on the previous special, this was an engaging and athletic encounter, with both ladies character work being allowed to shine through.

Sasha Banks' character in particular came across very well, with her constant mocking of Charlotte and her father Ric Flair, making it easy to dislike The Boss of NXT. She seemed to have everything about the character thought out, and this played well against Charlotte's more athletic based approach to the match. I was, however, a little disappointed to see her pulling out a suicide dive, mid-way through the match, as it did seem a little out of character and out of place during this match. A sequence where Banks repeatedly went for covers on Charlotte helped to make up for this however.

At the times the bout was not quite as crisp as it could have been and there were a few communication errors, with the two rushing a few of the earlier sequences. However, these errors were quickly ironed out and the two finished the match looking more than comfortable in the ring together. Charlotte landing on her feet following a missed Moonsault and turning it into a Senton, followed up by a strong closing sequence ending up with a Top Rope Natural Selection was some of the strongest women's action WWE has put on in 2014.

With these two performers fitting together nicely in the ring, it would be a shame for their feud to finish her, although with Charlotte picking up a clean victory it's difficult to see where they can go from here. Becky Lynch could make the step up ahead of her BFF, although it's difficult to see how Sasha would take the backseat in the feud. Perhaps Bayley will be thrown back into the mix to keep things interesting? The division could definitely do with a fresh injection of talent with Carmella and Alexa Bliss the only other two active women on the roster.

The Undercard

 



The highlight of the undercard was a well booked tag team encounter pitting The Ascension against relative NXT newcomers Hideo Itami and Finn Balor. Of course, Balor's new paint job was a big talking point heading out the show, but I was equally impressed with both Konnor and Viktor who did more than enough opposite two internet favourites to make me take notice. Viktor, in particular, was part of some nice wrestling opposite Balor. For me this was the strongest Ascension bout to date and to suggest that Itami and Balor carried the bout would be naïve, as the two put in more than their fair share in order to allow Itami and Balor look the best they possibly could.

The build to the hot tag was done nicely, with Itami working the face in peril role, with a refreshing scrappy style. Itami always looked like he was trying to make the tag, whilst Konnor and Viktor looked incredibly comfortable whilst in control of the match, which made for a great moment as soon as Itami eventually made the tag to Balor. This is where the match really got going with both Itami and Balor able to show off an excited arsenal of offense, with a handful of false finishes thrown into the mix. Towards the finish there was a number of momentum changes between the two teams, including a huge pop for a GTS attempt from Itami, before Balor hit Viktor with a Pele Kick, Itami hit Konnor with a Busaiku Knee Kick and the pair hit Double Double Stomps with Balor picking up the pinfall victory.

In another tag team match, The Lucha Dragons defended the NXT Tag Team Championships against The Vaudevillains, in a rather basic bout. It was a very paint by numbers match, that was livened up by some unique offense by Kalisto and Aiden English who both looked like the stars of their respective teams when given the chance. Sin Cara on the other hand looked like he'd rather be anywhere else, with almost everything the former Hunico did in the ring looking sloppy and lethargic. With the Lucha Dragons picking up the victory, I'm not quite sure what's next for the paper thin NXT Tag Team division.




Before he turned on Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens was in action against CJ Parker. Owens couldn't have hoped for a better debut, as he looked incredible ploughing through Parker who certainly isn't a crowd favourite at NXT. An impressive series of offense including a Tope Conhilo, Pumphandle Neckbreaker and Pop Up Powerbomb allowed Owens to quickly get over his style to anyone who hadn't seen him before. Parker's minimal offense did lead to Owens getting busted open, which added even more to Owens image and the match itself.

Baron Corbin also continued his run of squashing opponents as he ran through Tye Dillinger in a matter of seconds. Finishing off Dillinger with his End of Days move, Corbin is beginning to feel like a one trick pony, and whilst it is fun to see him destroy opponents week after week, he's going to need to show something else if he's going to move forward as a WWE wrestler. The feud teased with Bull Dempsey doesn't fill me with hope for Corbin's future.

Finally... 

 
 For me, this was the strongest NXT special to date, with almost every element of the show delivering in spades. The main event was the Match of the Night no doubt, with Neville and Zayn presenting a great mash-up of Indy and WWE styles, whilst the Women's Championship bout and Itami & Balor vs. The Ascension working nicely in supporting roles. Kevin Owens debut also worked well, presenting a destructive force in ring, whilst thrusting him straight into a main event storyline. The only match that felt like it struggled was the Tag Team Championship bout and even that had Kalisto and English shining through.

This show get's a big thumbs up from me, and WWE's next PPV offering TLC will have to work extremely hard to better this two hours of action.

Over The Border III - Rock N Wrestle 3 Preview

As part of the Over The Border series, OSWtv's Billy Strachan presents a preview of Rock N Wrestle 3!





Deck the halls with festive baubles, get your tinsel out and get ready for some wrestling to blow the roof off The Ironworks. Rock N Wrestle returns to The Ironworks for the third time but for the first time under the solo Rock N Wrestle banner. Back in March for PBW Rock N Wrestle 2 the special guests included Joe E Legend, Ricochet, Sonjay Dutt and Jay Lethal so it will have a lot to live up to and by golly, I think it might just do that.

The main selling point of Rock N Wrestle 3 is the crowning of a Highland Champion  and after Jack Jester’s win at Strathpeffer over Timm Wylie and Kenny Williams defeating Kid Fite at the same event, it leads to the final and with such high stakes it’s only appropriate that it’s officiated by one of the greatest champions in Scotland. 

Lionheart.

Rock N Wrestle Highland Championship Final
Jack Jester vs Kenny Williams
Special Guest Referee: Lionheart


Jack Jester, a big, sadistic, brawling beast. At the last two Rock N Wrestle events at The Ironworks he has taken great pleasure in ripping musician Toby Michaels apart, almost literally last time. This time his focus is to win the Highland Championship, having held the WrestleZone Undisputed Championship and ICW Heavyweight Championship in Scotland this year, it would be an extra feather in the cap for someone that has had a fantastic 12 months in terms of promotion and popularity to be the inaugural champion for the Highlands. Kenny Williams is also having a great year, the current PBW King of the Cruisers and ICW Zero G Champion brings a lot of speed and fun to any match he takes part in. He’s currently undefeated at Rock N Wrestle and is on a wave of momentum. He will have to rely on his speed and agility as Jester will be looking to ground Williams and pick him apart. Lionheart will be the dark horse in this one, we would assume he would show no allegiance to either party but this is professional wrestling, we’ve all watched it long enough to be keeping an eye on the official for any shenanigans. Overall this will be a show stealer and if it stays in the ring I’d say Williams could nick this one but if he allows Jester to ground him and take it to the outside and brawl it could be a long, painful and empty journey home for Kenny Williams.   


6 Man Tag Team Match
Just Uz (BT Gunn & Stevie Xavier) and Noam Dar vs Fight Club (Kid Fite & Liam Thomson) and Lou King Sharp w/ Donnie T




The amount of talent in this match is insane. Noam Dar is hot off the heels of making the final six of TNA British Bootcamp, Just Uz and Fight Club have faced some of the greatest tag teams to ever grace a wrestling ring and Lou King Sharp will be a megastar in the future and is, of course, your Mother’s favourite wrestler. I suspect there will be bodies flying everywhere and you’ll get a little bit of everything in this match. Much like the Jester-Williams match I think Fight Club will be hoping to ground Just Uz and also try and avoid Noam from working their legs for the Champagne Superkneebar. Sharp will be out to get his first win at Rock N Wrestle as he’s currently 0 and 2, he has the least experience in this match but has shown already he is a confident and clever individual so he will find ways to take advantage of situations for his own gain. Expect a lot of things to happen in this one. 

TJ Rage vs “The Freak” Rob Terry




Former TNA Global Champion Rob Terry will be making his debut for Rock N Wrestle, currently wrestling in TNA as The Freak, the Welshman will be looking to make a lasting iMPACT! in Inverness. TJ Rage is no slouch though and will be aiming to forge a foundation to crash into the Highland Championship picture and a win over the TNA star would do just that. I don’t expect this to be a mat classic, it’s going be all about strength and who will tire first. 

Drew Galloway vs Big Damo




The first guest announced for Rock N Wrestle 3 was former WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, the current Evolve and ICW Heavyweight Champion, Drew Galloway. He will face a bear, a human bear, the Beast of Belfast, if standing on someone’s chest was an Olympic sport he’d win Gold, the Sloshmaster, the King of Kicking Cu…I mean, Big Damo is coming to The Highlands where beards are mandatory and body hair is compared in local establishments. With that introduction aside this is a big one. Two huge men will battle it out for pride, both men are well versed in multiple styles and can adapt to a submission game or an all out brawl. Like the other matches announced I’d expect a lot to happen in this one and same with the others, there is no clear favourite as they are equally matched. 

So that’s what has been announced so far for The Ironworks. Also scheduled to appear are The Owens Twins, Kay Lee Ray, Carmel Jacob, Davey Blaze and Wolfgang. The music will be provided by Toby Michaels’ Rolling Damned.

TICKETS ON SALE NOW FROM IRONWORKS BOX OFFICE

0871 7894 173
www.ironworksvenue.com
www.rocknwrestle.net

All photos from the Rock N Wrestle Facebook Page.

Tweets by @ATPWrestling