Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Non-Fan Review // Ospreay vs. Ricochet from BOSJ XXIII (Day 6)

He who chases two rabbits catches neither.
- Japanese proverb

And that’s the major problem with this wrestling match: THE COMBATANTS ARE WAY TOO SODDING FAST! Seriously, this match is like the Flash made a baby with the Road Runner and that baby was christened by Usain Bolt with Billy Whizz and Cheetara from Thundercats as godparents. And then that baby was turned into a wrestling match. Allow me to elaborate:

Let’s go back to May of 2016; unlike me at that time, you were probably not furiously learning the best man's speech to my brother's wedding (it all rhymed, it needed extra rehearsal!), so you’re probably in better shape than I am to go to New Japan Pro Wrestling Best of the Super Junior XXIII (what a snappy title).

This Japanese show is such a subdued affair compared to the American extravaganzas we’re used to seeing: the arena is small but exceptionally well lit. Far from holding up signs about liking boobies or offering fish sandwiches, this crowd is extraordinarily controlled, sitting and clapping politely along with the music. But most gregarious of all: THERE IS NO COMMENTARY. I mean it: no odd observances from old chaps in cowboys hats, just silence.

Sorry, but this IS professional wrestling, isn’t it? Not a competitive sewing circle?

At this point, with zero fanfare, out walks our first hero: dressed like Adam Ant taking part in an am dram production of “The Mikado”, he’s a blonde chap with a union flag around his shoulders. Keeping the British end up - I approve. Chewing gum, shaking hands with the polite audience and doing little jigs, our hero poses like Darkwing Duck in front of the ropes, then does an impressive flip into the ring. The announcer in the ring gives him a hero’s introduction: “WIRU OSSUPURAE!” That’s Will Ospreay, a strangely-spelt raptor from Essex. Not much fake tan or “OH SHAAAAT AAAAAP YA FILFY CAAAAAAH” about this lad though.

But now the music gets more guitar-y and in dances our other fighter. His outfit of red y-fronts, Wonder Woman boots and a leather waistcoat is complemented nicely by his Matthew Corbett beard and big, shiny belt (I think it’s a prize of some description). Stopping constantly on his way to the ring to clench his fist and point at random people like a male Eurovision singer, he finally leaps into the ring and starts breakdancing. The announcer can hardly contain his excitement: “RIKOSHAE!” Ricochet is an American. But we aren’t holding it against him, he can’t help it.

* * *

A single wooden “tonk” sound means we’re off. After prowling around each other like lions for several seconds, the two finally get stuck in and grapple: Ricochet gets Will in a wrist lock. This is a VERY GOOD MOVE: the first thing I learned in my self-defence course from Sensei Gary was how easy it is to break an attacker’s wrist; but Will is no amateur, he does elaborate rolls and twirls on the floor to take the pressure off, like a disco caterpillar. But then Will bounces up, trips his foe over and gets him in an ankle lock, triumphantly saying “WHOO!” like a hyperactive Thomas the Tank Engine.

Ricochet flips out of this predicament but Will isn’t finished: he tries bending the colonial over his shoulders like that one scene in Men in Black II. (Am I the only one who remembers that film? Thought so. You’re missing nothing.) But beardy-weirdy isn’t standing for that! He rolls out of it and stares Will down, while making his nipples dance for the crowd. Alas, Will sadly can’t do this trick.

(It’s also one of the few I haven’t mastered either, though I can wiggle my ears and move each eyebrow independently. I can be booked for birthdays and weddings.)

But enough of party tricks: Will gets Ricochet in a headlock, only for the latter to pull the former’s hair and make him shriek “REF!”

Hang on - so kicking each other in the bollocks, hitting each other with furniture AND tearing off each other’s clothing is totally fine in wrestling, but PULLING HAIR IS AGAINST THE RULES???? Meh, the ref isn’t bothered either way so I’ll follow suit and watch the two combatants fight.

Sorry, did I say “fight”? I meant “bounce off the ropes constantly and flip over and under each other for a good 45 seconds like Power Rangers on ecstasy”.

I’m honestly not sure what I’m watching right now.

Somehow, Will crawls over Ricochet like a centipede - you have to see this to believe it - and flips him, but the American bounces back. Then, for some reason unknown to man, both combatants choose that moment to cartwheel into the ropes, backflip and land in the middle of the ring like Spider-Man. All in perfect synchronisation.

Is this how the Japanese like their wrestling, with sprinkles of Super Sentai-style aerobics? Because from my western point of view, it’s just going to tire them out quicker!
In fact, they really ARE tired after that little display: they square off to each other like kids in a schoolyard, then just stand still for a good 24 seconds.

Until Ricochet kicks Will in the goolies and slaps his face, to the ref’s disapproval. Finally, 5 minutes and 41 seconds in it’s more like a wrestling match rather than a West End musical!
Ricochet gives Will a pimp-slap, causing the Brit to emit “OOH YOU BASTARD.” Will is my spirit animal.

More twirling kicks and landing dramatically between the pair and Will gains the upper hand, pinning his adversary: ONE, TWO - nope, not over yet.

Creatively, Will puts his rival in an interesting hold where he clings to his back and pulls one arm up; if Will had just tickled him under the arm at this point, the match would be over with 7 minutes. Sadly, Will lacks my imagination and just grinds his fist into his enemy’s side. But Ricochet wriggles out and does a flip while holding Will’s head, so the Essex boy rolls out of the ring with a hearty “FACKIN ELLLLLLLLLL”. (I might have made up that last quote.)
Ricochet somersaults out of the ring and into Will, even making contact with the fans. In the west, H&S would have a heart murmur at this idea; Japanese fans seem to love it though. They’re a hardy breed, these Super Junior fans.

Shoving Will back in, Ricochet dives in over the ropes and ends up head butting Will’s chest while so doing, leading the Essex wonder to scream “YOU MOTHERFUCKER”. Mouth of trucker, this one. I wonder how many Japanese fans were introduced to naughty language from this match alone? But Ricochet isn’t finished! He presses his booty on Will’s collarbone, making his little legs wiggle like a six-year-old’s. Cute.

A few more blows, triumphant nipple-wiggles and a hearty “come on, Will” from Ricochet finally galvanise the limey to get up and punch his foe in the dong, only to end up being having his back hurt against Ricochet’s knee like Bane did to Batman. But that’s not all: Ricochet immediately stamps on the air around Will’s head, which somehow hurts Will’s eye.

How frightfully odd.

More elbowing each other’s faces and flipping about like Zebedee until Will jumps off the ropes and punches Ricochet with a hearty “PIP PIP CHEERIO, MOTHERFUCKER!” #britbantz
The American rolls out of the ring but the Briton flips onto hm, again making contact with audience members; I notice this time there are people with yellow t-shirts acting as human shields for the audience.

Then Will gives the camera a big, sweaty kiss. I have no idea how to process it and I need to ask myself some very searching questions.

Will drags Ricochet back in and they both seem to have sore backs suddenly; trying to get each other in locks, they’re both looking a little peaky. After a couple more attempts at getting each other in a lock, and kicking each other’s faces like Hero Turtles, the referee stands over the air, rolling around in agony, and shrugs. I admire this “I don’t really give a toss” attitude.

They both stumble out the ring and take turns in kicking each other in the face; once they’re supine on the floor, barely moving, the ref again comes over and seems indifferent.
But NO! The referee is slowly counting: “ONE, TWO, THREE…” Is the match over if they’re out of the ring for a certain amount of time? Well, they’re rolling on the floor, seemingly hardly capable of movement. Yet magically when the ref says “NINETEEN” they both leap into the ring like gazelles. CONVENIENT…

More blows exchanged, though the pair are certainly tired. Getting the upper hand, Ricochet is face-first in the canvas with his bum sticking out. Will pulls a face that says “I SHALL FEAST ON HIS ARSE!” and tries to bear hug him, only to be kicked away. This is a strange one.
They’re so tired and it’s getting infectious. Bet they regret those OTT gymnastics now! They take turns in trying to pin each other and even simultaneously pin each other at one point - would that have been a draw?

But in the end, it’s Will who jumps off the corner and pulls down Ricochet’s head, dazing him enough for a ONE TWO THREE - and it’s finally over!

So from first impressions, Japanese wrestling is much more subdued. I’m not entirely convinced this is a good thing: it’s much faster than any other match I’ve seen to date but harder to follow.

Ah well, at least Essex finally has a trophy to call its own.

Watashi wa Essex-jin desu.

Next time for Nicholas // Kane vs. Raven vs. The Big Show for the Hardcore Championship (WWF WrestleMania X-7) 

Written by Nicholas Peat // @NPChilla 

The Non-Fan Review // Mysterio vs. Guerrero from Halloween Havoc '97

So far, I've seen Hulk Hogan fight an actual giant; I've seen blood in the ring; I've seen Vince McMahon shaved, the unstoppable Undertaker, the women of wrestling - even Santa Claus had a go. But those are all heavyweights (well, maybe not the women). Now it's time to see what the lighter wrestlers are up to. They're athletic, they're keen, they want to show what they can do. How different can it be?

First, a chap in purple lycra emerges from a graveyard. Fireworks go off around him. This is Rey Mysterio Jr. He reminds me of a cartoon superhero I saw years ago, called the Phantom. On the other side, Eddie Guerrero appears, wearing shiny metal trousers and a smirk. He ain't popular. The trousers alone may be responsible for that.

The two wrestlers seem to be fighting over... a mask? Well, whatever. Makes as much sense as fighting over a belt (which I think is also at stake). Rey gives a spare mask to a boy in the audience. Couldn't he just give one to Eddie and save all the hassle?

So far, this is wrestling as it always has been - flashy and over the top. A good start!

The match begins. We have a few moments of trash talking before Eddie throws a punch. Rey ducks, clobbers him back and then all hell breaks loose. Rey Mysterio Jr seems to think he's Spiderman, leaping over his opponent, throwing backflips off the ropes and even reversing a throw in midair. When he does end up on his back, he sends Eddie flying with a well-timed push from both legs.

I'd like to see Hulk Hogan try to pull off these moves. He'd probably break a hip - and not the other guy's.

More gymnastics ensue as the two collide against the ropes. I'm not sure who tried that charge but they both go spinning over the top of the ropes and Eddie lands hard. Rey goes one better - while his opponent is getting up, he bounces off the far ropes, flips over the top of the near ones and attempts to land on top of him.

It seems his purple spider sense isn't working for him, as he misses his mark and Eddie slings him down onto the floor. A kick to keep him down, and then Eddie runs him around the ring and into the steel steps. Ouch! When will they put some padding on those?? Eddie isn't done - he chucks Rey back into the ring, then mounts the rope and somersaults onto his opponent. Rey jerks in pain as his back takes the brunt.

Well, that's what you get for showing off, kids.

Eddie showboats to the booing crowd while Rey staggers to his feet. Eddie punches him, slaps him down again. Pulling Rey back up to his feet, Eddie slings him into the far ropes, clearly having never watched another wrestling match - predictably enough, Rey reverses the throw and it's Eddie that bounces off the ropes... and into a flying kick.

Rey is back, and the Ghost Who Walks has summoned the power of ten tigers (seriously, go watch that cartoon). He doesn't just bounce off once set of ropes - no, he bounces off TWO - and then he gets creative again. Eddie responds to his reverse-flip-starjump by snatching him out of the air and slamming him on the mat. Rey writhes in pain, again.

Eddie stands back for a moment, but it's clear that the other man isn't giving up. Eddie picks Rey up by his neck, lifts him up in the middle of the ring and drops him back down. As Rey sits up, Eddie shoves him back down and lies on top of him. One! Two! Thr- nope, he's moving again. The referee calls Eddie off. Eddie is displeased.

Time for another round of abuse. Once again, Rey is helped up by the head. He's slung into the ropes, then grabbed on the way back and thrown back down. Another pin! One! Two! Rey kicks out, and the hold is broken.

Eddie argues with the referee. Rey struggles to hold onto his mask as Eddie tugs at it, wanting to claim his prize regardless, and the referee merely shouts louder. But it seems to work. Eddie gives up and returns to wrestling with what seems little more than a lifesize ragdoll. And what better way to pick up your opponent than by giving him a wedgie?

Pinned under one arm, in a standing position, Rey seems helpless. Eddie can't resist tugging at that mask again. But it won't work - this mask is part of the whole suit! We really don't want to see Rey stripped of his entire outfit, do we?

Half a minute goes by, and then Eddie grows bored. Time to do something else - like pick Rey up, hold him over his head, then slam him down onto his knee. Rey sprawls. Eddie pulls him back from the ropes, flips him over and sits on top of him. The referee counts, but Rey kicks out. Eddie sits back down on him. Rey kicks out. And a third time. And a fourth. The commentators have lost interest at this point as they start talking about other wrestlers.

It's now clear that, having been unable to do anything of note for several minutes and apparently half dead, Rey is going to make a comeback and win the match.

Eddie's fifth (sixth? I lost count) pin is a little more adventurous - he decides to push off with his feet and kick Rey in the chest. Maybe then he'll lie still? But Rey seems to know it's coming - he plants his feet in Eddie's chest and kicks him away. What happens next is hard to describe - Eddie pulls him up, Rey jumps onto the top rope, then he somersaults back down and takes Eddie with him. Both hit the mat, both winded.

The two men get back up, Rey immediately bouncing off the ropes and kicking Eddie in the face with both feet. Eddie rolls out of the ring. Rey doesn't even wait for Eddie to get back in - he's bouncing off the ropes, ready to carry out some more deft gymnastics and jump onto Eddie as he returns to the ring - but Eddie slips in too early, Rey lands on empty ropes, and Eddie kicks him out in return.

They never learn. Stop showing off!

Eddie follows him out. He picks Rey up, shoves him into the metal railings. Eddie throws him back into the ring. Rey crawls away as Eddie strides in for the kill, opting for a squatting hold with Rey's arms across his legs and his back arched in a rather uncomfortable angle. Rey screams, not for the first time. And Eddie's ripping at that mask again - dude, no! You'll ruin it!

Eddie squeezes with both arms, trying to pop Rey's head off, but the referee breaks them up. Eddie picks Rey up, wearing him like a backpack - this is apparently the "Gory Special", named after Eddie's father, Mr Gory. I'm not sure what the idea behind it is as it doesn't seem to be causing any harm - and then Rey suddenly flips off his back and throws Eddie over his head!

As Eddie gets up, the Ghost Who Walks aims a flying kick with both feet - and misses. Eddie's kick to the back of Rey's head doesn't miss.

Eddie follows up with a complicated move that doesn't seem to do anything, picking Rey up and dropping him again in a staggered descent while he drops to one knee. Rey looks finished anyway; Eddie rolls him onto his side and tries to pull his arm off, one knee planted in Rey's back and one leg tucked behind his other arm. This carries on for another remarkably long time.

Rey, unable to perform his trademark gymnastics, returns to his trademark screaming.

Eddie seems to grow bored and lets him go. Rey rolls away, but Eddie soon pulls him back to his feet. Another complex move takes place - Eddie throws Rey into the ropes, then drops to the floor as Rey runs over the top of him, then slams into him as he bounces off the opposite ropes. Another pin takes place, but Rey kicks out straight away - probably because those hideous trousers ended up right in his face. Those things could get a reaction out of a corpse.

The referee separates them. Eddie pulls Rey up by the mask, whacks his head into the corner of the ropes, then slaps him in the chops for good measure. Rey falls to his knees. Eddie lands another punch, but Rey blocks the next and lands one of his own. The two slap each other a few more times and then suddenly Eddie's in the corner and Rey is elbowing him repeatedly in the face. I'll say this for Phantom Rey - he goes down quickly but he comes back just as quickly.

Slap! Eddie is reeling. Rey grabs his arm and throws him towards the centre of the ring, but Eddie reverses it and Rey gets a kick in the keks for his trouble. Eddie then runs him towards the far corner and Rey tries to pull a somersault off at the worst possible time - he ends up hanging from the corner by his feet, arms twitching like a crazed spider. Eddie wastes no time kicking him in the chest while he's vulnerable.

The commentators seem to think that Rey is trapped and cannot get out of this position (by, for example, lifting his feet off the top rope). Eddie grins, a smirk so wide the top of his head is in danger of falling off. He walks to the far corner. If he had a moustache he could twirl, he would be twirling it like crazy right now. He runs to the corner, feet ready to deliver a fatal kick to Rey's helpless body.

Rey pulls his upper body away from the mat, and Eddie slides into the corner post. The only fatalities are the contents of his trousers. Hey, bloodstains could only improve them.

Eddie staggers painfully out of the ring. Rey unhooks himself (trapped, indeed!) and climbs onto the top rope, ready to leap - and he does! More like a flying fox than a tiger (or a purple spider, come to that). He collides with Eddie, and Eddie collides with the railings that keep the audience away. Both stagger upright, but Rey is first to recover and throws a backhanded punch to Eddie's face.

Eddie is thrown gracelessly back into the ring, and Rey follows. Rey picks him up and throws him into the ropes. Which, predictably enough, leads to a reversal! Eddie switches roles, sending Rey flying into the ropes instead, and grabbing him on the return. Rey goes up, Eddie throws him down, and then... double reversal! Rey flips in midair, lands on his feet and leaps crotch first into Eddie's face. He somersaults end over end, landing with Eddie underneath him. Pinned! The referee counts - 1! 2! And Eddie kicks free.

Rey turns to find Eddie running towards him. A mighty arm slams the purple spider phantom back onto the mat. While Rey gets his breath back, Eddie and the referee have a brief discussion. I have no idea what about, but one hopes it might be fashion tips. Those trousers are giving me a headache.

Rey seems dazed now. Eddie throws him into the ropes, bouncing him off and towards the far ones, but suddenly Rey is awake again. He jumps onto the ropes, using them as a springboard to somersault over Eddie's head and land behind him. This is followed by another complicated string of movements - Rey leaps for Eddie, Eddie dodges, Rey grabs the ropes, Eddie grabs his legs and spins him around, Rey grabs the ropes again, Eddie gets flipped over the ropes and out of the ring. This whole sequence takes about five seconds at most.

Rey goes for another unwise attempt to bounce off the far ropes and leap onto his opponent. This time it actually works - the two men go spinning into the railings, Eddie taking a bash to the head while the Amazing Spider-Phantom has a slightly softer landing. It takes a moment for both men to get back to their feet, and it's Rey half walking, half dragging Eddie back into the ring. Eddie gets to his feet while Rey climbs the ropes.

Sigh. More trick shots. This one is apparently called a corkscrew. Rey spins backwards into the other guy and they both go sprawling. But when Rey goes for a pin, Eddie comes back to his senses. The hold is broken. They both seem to take a moment to catch their breath. Sorry, guys, you'll both have to keep going a little longer!

Rey almost gently helps Eddie back up. Then he's picking the man up, and chucking him back down. I don't know whether he has the strength left for any more fancy moves. Or maybe he does - he climbs the ropes, then flips backward onto Eddie - who raises his legs at a pivotal moment and sends Rey sprawling. Eddie responds to these showy gymnastics by picking him up, sitting him on his shoulders and slamming him down onto the mat. There's another one of Eddie's weird pins, this time with his head between Rey's legs (any attempt to describe it further will only sound weird, so you'll just have to see for yourself). But Rey kicks out, and Eddie is shoved away.

We're coming to the end now, and it looks like Eddie and his terrible trousers are going home with a new mask after all. Eddie picks Rey up like a rag doll, then runs into the corner post with him. Rey cries out on impact. As Eddie walks to the far corner, ready for another charge, Rey can only stagger slowly and painfully to his feet. Eddie charges in, screaming, but Rey is more alert than he looks - he drops down and sends Eddie flying over him, head first into the post. Ouch.

Eddie seems surprisingly intact, but is still unable to resist when Rey leaps backwards with the back of his fist in Eddie's face. Quite why Rey feels the need to fall over as well I don't know. Rey is up and raring to go again - an astonishing recovery - and he's going to try something stupid, signally to the referee and crowd with some arcane finger twiddling. As Eddie rises to his knees, the Amazing Spider-Phantom makes an agile leap onto the top ropes.

Rey leaps into Eddie's waiting arms. Rey hits the mat, Eddie apparently wondering what the hell just happened. Oh well. Eddie decides to do something stupid himself. (The commentary suggests this is going to be a "frog splash" or something like that - is Rey about to croak?) Eddie climbs the ropes, and LEAPS across half the ring. Rey simply rolls out of the way.

Eddie recovers fairly well, rolling on impact and soon back on his feet, but Rey is already charging for him. But his attack - apparently an attempt to suffocate Eddie with his underwear in a flying leap - goes awry AGAIN. Eddie pushes him up and over his head, and Rey lands astride that corner post by his delicates.

Before he has chance to recover, Eddie is climbing up behind him for a hug. Or maybe not. Rey throws his elbow back to dislodge the unwelcome advances of his opponent - no means no, Eddie - and a few punches eventually do dislodge him. Eddie changes his approach, sitting back to back with the Mysterious One and lifting him up, up, up... it's time for a throw! The two men tumble to the mat, but it's Rey on top when they land. One mighty leg hold and a three second count later, the bell rings - it's over!

Rey "The Phantom" Mysterio has, incredibly, managed to win the title. The referee hands him the customary belt. And then WHAM! Eddie's back, and he's MAD. He grabs Rey's mask again, still tugging as the two men spiral back into the middle of the ring, and Rey is flung out, still clutching his new belt. Eddie stands in the ring and gets booed; Rey, however, has what he came for and strides purposefully (but quickly) for the exit. I don't really blame him.

Summary: This is what happens when wrestlers see "The Matrix" - they start leaping about the place and pulling off somersaults. And, like most of these showy tricks, they usually go wrong. If you want to win a wrestling match, it seems the best tactic is to be boring.

It also looks like the winner of most of these bouts is the one with more fashion sense, though that usually isn't saying much.


I also had the opportunity to watch Nick's match, the 2016 NJPW bout between Will "Captain Britain" Ospreay (flashy and ridiculous) and Ricochet (tattooed bad boy in beard and not quite enough leather - he looked less naked when he took the leathers off and stood in his red undies).

Rey Mysterio Jr loves his gymnastics, while Steady Eddie seemed to prefer a more traditional wrestling style. Here we have two Reys at once - they leap over each other, spinning in cartwheels and somersaults, more an elaborate dance than a wrestling match. It's fast, it's flashy, it's a much more complex arrangement than Rey and Eddie, and I got the sense that the two men were performing together more than fighting each other.

It's a thrilling watch, but it's also bristling with humour. There's overacting aplenty. There's actual SWEARING (you'd never get language like Will's on WWE). There's even spitting! But the funniest moment for me was when both men struck each other with a roundhouse kick to the head at the same time - and both hit the mat at the same time straight after.

But maybe there's more going on between these two than we know. At the end, as they squared up and shook hands, I wasn't sure whether they were going to come to blows one last time or kiss...

Next up for Andrew // Jimmy Havoc & Clint Margera vs. Rickey Shane Page & Drew Parker in DEATHHOUSE from Fight Club: Pro Project Mayhem VI - Night One.

Release Date - 20th March 2018

Written by Andrew Williams // @ADW_Author

Monday, 19 February 2018

5 Star Wrestling [Live] Review // 15th February 2018

On 16th February 2018, 5 Star Wrestling came to us live from the Fly DSA Arena in Sheffield, England. Our main event for the evening saw a Teddy Long Special occur as the previously announced match of Rampage Brown against Rey Mysterio became a tag match with the additions of Zach Gibson & Rob Van Dam respectively. With action also featuring 5Star Tag Champions Max Money taking on the UK Hooligans, 5Star Champion Jake Hager taking on Ryan Hunter as well as Colt Cabana, Flash Morgan Webster and many more. It' not exactly controversial to state that 5Star have picked up a bit of reputation in the BritWres community, not necessarily a good one, but could they counter that and put on a show good enough to silence the doubters?

'Tango' Timm Wylie def. Ricky Knight Jr. // Pinfall

This was a reasonably standard face v heel, junior v heavyweight encounter but with some nice touches with Wylie using the tech fuck-ups that plagued the show right from the start to generate some heel heat, in fact considering the crowd was half not in the room and the other half were reasonably unresponsive, it must be said Wylie and Knight Jr. did a good job of actually getting people into the match. Extra points for Wyle using the Brian Danielson 'I have till five' shouts. Wylie would eventually get a pin with a Twisting Suplex Slam.

Matty Mayhem def. HT Drake and Anthony Young // Pinfall

Not much to comment on here really as this was 9 minutes of crowd-popping spot work, though I must commend them for actually never breaking down into the rotating singles match structure and keeping all three men in the ring practically for the entire match duration. Drake played the bigger lad in this throwing suplexes like no one's business, Young pulled off the night's second Danielson tribute by hitting Yes Kicks on both men, Mayhem hit a GTS, indie-galore. The finish came when Mayhem got a surprise reversal into a Paul Smackage on Drake. Nice stuff, did the job, got the crowd's energy up a bit.

So we opened on a shite promo from Jake Hager which left the crowd going '...k' only for it to be interrupted by a very good promo from Zach Gibson who railed on Hager for being dull and said he's the reason people are switching over to Takeshi's Castle. It was at this point the crowd started to wonder, 'do we like Gibson now? He's right and Hager's the bad guy. But Gibson's also the bad guy...what?' After Gibson left, Hager said he would defend his title, not against Gibson but against one of the UK's best talents. What do you bet this sets up the 'Hager beats up a jobber' story?

Joey Axl def. El Ligero // Submission

We come to part three of the evening's Danielson tribute as Ligero and Axl reinterpreted the classic 'you can't pin a ball' spot from when Daniel Bryan fought Tyson Kidd on Saturday Morning Slam. Beyond that glorious moment, this was a solid match with Ligero giving Axl his best match so far of the 5Star tour. The problem this match had was that it had to follow a laboured Hager promo (more on that later) and an ad-break so any excitement the crowd might have had from the dark matches had been lost by this point so it had to build it back up again. The finish came as Axl tapped out Ligero with the Ayers Rock Lock stretch muffler. Decent enough stuff.

Gibson would pop up again, attacking Rey Mysterio before his match with Rampage Brown, opening the door for Rob Van Dam to make the save, setting for our main event: Gibson & Brown vs Mysterio & Van Dam.

Eddie Ryan def. 'The Wrestling Vegan' Marcus Burke // Pinfall 

First off, Burke walking around the crowd shouting 'I am a vegan! Nooo meat!' was perfect character work, I got where he was coming from and Marcus, if you're ever back in Sheffield, hit me up, we can get some Avocado Wings from Make No Bones. The match itself was a little light on action as there seemed to be a lack of connection between both men thought Ryan, positioned as the top UK babyface of the roster was beloved of the younger fans in the audience. Worth mentioning: this match broke the Danielson tributes with instead Ryan entering with his lion mask and cape combo and Burke hitting a Tiger Driver for a good near fall suggesting a move to Tiger Mask tributes. Ryan eventually won with the Sitout Side Slam for the pin. During the match, Bram was at ringside in a baseball cap and what looked like one of those ponchos they give you at Splash Canyon at Drayton Manor.

Colt Cabana & Grado def. Carlito & Chris Masters // Pinfall

There was another edition of Morgan Webster's Modcast but before it could begin properly, the Masters of Cool interrupted, complaining that they wanted to make it an episode of Carlito's Cabana. Talking of cabanas, actual guest Colt Cabana turned up and was attacked by the Masters but Grado made the save. It wasn't entirely clear to the audience that this was a heel turn as the announcer came out during the ad-break to make sure we knew to boo Masters and Carlito and cheer Cabana and Grado. Luckily once the match began, the team known to many as Irn Jew made sure there was no doubt who to cheer for as they delivered an incredibly fun match, putting on not just the best match of the night but probably my favourite pure piece of entertainment from this entire tour thus far. They worked a simple tag structure but they peppered it with a lot of fun details and most importantly didn't outwear their welcome. It's harder to describe comedy focussed matches than pure wrestling as it's akin to explaining the joke but suffice to say, you won't see a more joyous moment this week than Grado trying to put the Master Lock on Chris Masters. The finish came as Carlito when to spit apple at Grado but he dodged, the apple hit Masters, Cabana pulled Carlito out of the ring opening up Masters for an R-Grado out of naewaer for the pin. Not exactly complicated but just good, clean fun plus Colt and Grado turning up were a genuine surprise and an extremely pleasant one at that.

5 Star Championship // Jake Hager (c) def. Ryan Hunter // Submission

Hager came out first to introduce his opponent, AOW regular Ryan Hunter. This was the standard 'heel champion beats up a jobber but occasionally the jobber does something close to a move which pisses off the champion so he drags out the match to beat the piss out of his opponent' match with Hunter being massively over in a way that you almost felt they could have put the title on him that night and the crowd might not have complained. It went on far too long, all things considered as the crowd weren't into it at all. Hager hit the Ankle Lock for an easy tapout.

Joe Hendry def. Big Grizzly // Pinfall

This match happened because Dave Mastiff and Big Grizzly called out Joe Hendry for hiding behind the commentary desk, so, of course, Mastiff took over on commentary because nothing says 'I'm calling you out' like then not wrestling and instead taking his job. A quick match with Grizzly playing the big man heel and Hendry working underneath till he got a good comeback and shocked the crowd by getting a pin off a Fallaway Slam. Hendry, Grizzly and Mastiff have enough charisma to make this work but this didn't really feel like it achieved much, especially if Hendry is going to stay behind the commentary desk for the foreseeable future.

PJ Black def. Flash Morgan Webster // Pinfall

This was probably the evening's best singles action as the former 3-time WWE Tag Team Champion took on the current ATTACK! Champion is a fast paced bout full of the signature high-flying action that both men are known for. The main things that hurt this match were a lack of time but also that the short snippets of commentary they played in the arena suggested that this was meant to be building the story of plucky underdog Webster seeking his first win in 5 Star yet they put him against Black who was just as over, especially amongst one very vocal group of children. It's not that Webster wasn't able to build sympathy nor Black incapable of working a good subtle heelish performance, more that especially in the arena, a lack of crowd support for the chosen hero hurts the storytelling. Perhaps they could have come out before all the matches and told us who to cheer for, it would have made things easier. Black got the pinfall victory off a Lionsault.

5 Star Tag Team Championship // Charlie Sterling & Adam Maxted (C) def. Roy Knight & Zak Knight // Pinfall

If there's one thing that I hope comes from this 5Star tour, it's more bookings for Charlie Sterling and Adam Maxted as they work well together, really showing a lot of tag team fundamentals and heel characteristics that a lot of people forget. It probably helps that the Hooligans were probably the most over thing on this entire show, well, if judging by the row or two behind me who all were constantly doing the 'hoo-hoo-hooligans' chant and as that was directly in my ear, I can't tell about anything else. They worked a good, solid tag match, making the crowd believe that there was a chance that Norwich's finest might take home the belts and making them all the more upset that they lost their chance due to a surprise roll-up. I did feel oddly sorry for Maxted early on as the Knights seemed to be throwing some particularly stiff-looking shots his way but I guess that is their style. Not much to add but still impressive that this far into the show they were still getting responses as fatigue had set in for this writer somewhere around Jake Hager's title match. Before the match, Pure Dead Brilliant (Kid Fite, Lou King Sharp & Krieger) would invade the ring and talk about once again being deprived of a match and issued a challenge for a tag match before the Hooligans scared them off. The lack of booking for these lads is a really bizarre storyline as they were some of the talents brought to the Press Conference announcing the roster, quite similar to their limiting of Jack Jester to pre-show or not at all this week. In kayfabe, why do it?

Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam vs. Zack Gibson & Rampage Brown // No Contest

By this point, it became quite difficult to actually see what was going on from floor level as a hoard of replica mask-wearing children had surrounded the ring, leaning over the barricade to see two true legends of the sport. They also seemed interested in their opponents, some pair of former WWF guys I think. The match worked an odd structure as they seemed to let Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam make their opponents look like fools for the longest time before they were able to cut off the faces, twice, because both men wanted to have their hot tag sequence. What worked very well about this match was the psychology behind the heels approach as they could see the crowd were waiting for Rey and RVD to hit their finishers so they knew to wait for them to try and use that to cut them off, making the crowd wait and hate them more each time they delayed their gratification. The faces did work hard to make their opponents look good, Rey, even if he's not quite as quick as he used to be, still is a damn sight better than most and it was a treat to get to see him. Rampage is a sure hand and a great, vicious performer though it really can't be said enough, Gibson is the best thing about 5Star, with every little action he does being used to push forward his agenda, especially with little details like pointing out to the referee about his opponent's breaking rules before using it as a distraction to break some of his own. The finish was a fascinating clusterfuck as after Rampage had taken a 619 and a Five Star Frog Splash, Gibson would pull the ref out of the ring and knock him out before Max Money came in to beat down Rey and RVD but Irn Jew would come in to even the odds, this would lead to a No Contest in theory but it wasn't entirely clear as after they'd sent the heels packing, the faces just raised each others hands and left, no actual bell, no referee response, just a 'let's hear it for Rey and RVD, ok bye everyone'. This did however feature the best moment of the show as after clearing out the heels, RVD seemingly got a bit confused and superkicked Grado out of the ring before trying to go for him while Cabana did the 'Chris Pratt calms the velociraptors' pose. Hilarious stuff. This wasn't necessarily a bad finish to a match but certainly, not exactly the most exciting high-point upon which to end an episode. But if it leads to Cabana and Grado challenging for the tag titles, I'm all-in.

Also this Week

There were some on-screen promos from Hager where Ryan turned up and challenged him for the title in Plymouth next week, that mysterious masked man who screamed about wrestling next week, Nathan Cruz spoke about how he wasn't wrestling but was there anyway to pick up a cheque because he bought an expensive watch with his cheque from last week and something from RVD, Rey and Irn Jew where the sound cut out so who knows what was said? Something about Twixes, probably.


As a product, 5Star still has a long way to go with a lot of the book representing the same errors that overly sacrificial WWE booking has suffered from. As an arena spectacle, it is plagued with technical issues and feels empty in the arena spaces as you can hear the sound travel to the back of the room and get lost there. As a spectacle of wrestling, it has enough talent in its roster to put on a good show with obvious standouts like Gibson, Ligero & Webster really showing their talents in a larger arena setting and even certain talents like Carlito and Chris Masters surprisingly really showing up this week. As a wrestling show clearly for a family audience, it's harder to say it's a complete failure. It doesn't quite translate to the television perhaps as well as might be hoped but there was a sense of palpable excitement amongst the kids who crowded around the barrier to watch their favourites like Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam and interestingly enough, Eddie Ryan. Perhaps this really isn't designed to be a product for us, the overly informed snarkastic fans of the internet, maybe it's purely for the kids who either don't know or are willing to overlook the lack of reality. I don't know, it's hard to hate something that's so clearly trying to push beyond what it's capable of in the present yet at the same time, there's a certain air of content 'that'll do' to the overall presentation that equally it's very difficult to love. Also, where was Haskins?

Written By Jozef Raczka // @NotJoeRaczka

SLAM Wrestling Live in Cannock Review // 18th February 2018

When I heard my Mom had booked tickets to SLAM Wrestling at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cannock for my nephew Freddie's birthday present I have to say I was already a little apprehensive about joining them. The previous show I went to at the theatre had been at best okay, but had also involved a bafflingly large table being pulled out during a women's table match, which then was accidentally dropped onto a child. SLAM employ a campy "Shall I hit him type" style, prevalent at British holiday camps, but without much technicality or psychology. This is fine for some, but really isn't my cup of tea. However, considering Freddie's brother Joe and my nephew's Nathaniel and Tobias were also going, at the very least I had to attend to keep some of the children under control (especially after a visit to the nearby McDonald's before the show). I thought at the very least, I'd have fun watching the children interact with the various characters and maybe get a little chuckle out of some of the action as well. We had a 30-man Royal Rumble and a Fatal Four-Way SLAM Wrestling Heavyweight Championship match featuring Johnny Diaz (who I think I remember working a few Fight Club: Pro dark matches as Johnny T), Eddie Woods, "The Submission Technician" James Terry and "Smethwick's Only Son" and champion Corey Johnson on hand, but how did it all go down in Cannock? Lets take a look. 

Production & Venue 

The venue was pretty well packed out, pushed as sold out by the ring announcer, although there was a number of empty seats on the stage and in the raked seating too, but still a solid 300 for a Sunday afternoon at the Prince of Wales. The production at first looked impressive, with a nice little entrance way and a pair of dry ice machines, leading to one of those ramps that goes straight into the ring, like WCW or TNA had for a bit. Unfortunately one of the dry ice machines broke pretty early and spat a watery substance (wet dry ice?) onto the crowd around it, whilst the other seemed to go off at random half-way through. There was also a weird piece of hype audio that played before the start of each half, ripping audio clips of Michael Buffer and the guy that does the voice overs for TNA PPVs. It confused the hell out of me and seemed unnecessary, especially when the ring announcer then spent a good ten minutes explaining to the crowd how to boo and cheer. Before the main event we also had to sing happy birthday to four ladies, not once but twice. Some of their birthdays weren't for over a fortnight. If anyone's name is spelled incorrectly, blame it on my complete lack of knowledge of a lot of these guys and a ring announcer who was often difficult to understand. 

30 Man Royal Rumble 

Ruddy hell, where to begin with this one? Lets begin at the end, because it was the most interesting, yet also stupid parts of the match. Lets break it down, shall we? Firstly, the 30th entrant Axl Carter didn't appear and then about a minute later he did appear to no music (I can only imagine he was on the loo and missed his entrance), then once he got to the ramp, some music hit and out came two lads with red steel chairs with the words OBK printed on them, in a style almost exactly similar to the font CCK uses. They battered Carter and proceeded to twat everyone left in the ring with the chairs and some of the biggest Kendo sticks I've ever seen, as well as a baking tray (Seriously, these lads must be really into Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos). In the end, despite guys appearing to come back in the ring, the OBK tandem chucked everyone over the top as their music played liked they were the bloody Gangstas and "won" the Royal Rumble. WHAT? No. 1. They weren't in the match. 2. That's not how it works. 3. WTF? Why would you choose to end a family show in a venue you run twice a year like this? Why would you think any of this was a good idea? The crowd seemed bored for most of the Rumble, but it felt like a lot of people switched off when an already complicated match for non-regular wrestling watchers descended into whatever the hell this was. It wasn't even the most stupid part. That came when one of the lads tried to attack a referee on the floor with the kendo stick, only for the ref to no sell three or four shots and take the stick off him. This was after at least eight wrestlers had sold the shots like car crashes in the ring. 

Beyond a few things I'll talk about in a moment, the match was painfully dull. Twenty minutes of wrestlers coming in and doing very little of note, before joining in punching and kicking someone in the corner or getting punched and kicked in the corner. One of my notes was "nothing happens" and that's because NOTHING HAPPENED. Very few of the guys came in and made anything resembling an impact and the main positive was that the entrances were around every thirty second, so at least we got to count down from five quite often, which as a wrestling fan is one of my favourite things to do (counting down from ten being higher on the list). That being said, for some daft reason, all the wrestling came out to the exact same entrance music. It was mildly amusing that the track was paused and then played from the same point for the next entrant, making it feel like the world's maddest game of musical statues, but I don't think this was the feel they were going for, because no one stood still when the music stopped. There was some kind of Rumble reference in the song, but even still I didn't need to hear the repetitive hook time and time again throughout the 30 minute match.

Lets close on some positives, because despite the fact I hated my life for almost the entire 35 minutes of this bout, there were a handful of decent moments. A lot of this had to do with the brawl between Johnny Diaz and Eddie Woods. Woods had eliminated Diaz from the four-way earlier in the night, with Diaz aiding Woods exit later on, so when Woods hit the ring and eliminated Diaz and then chucked himself over the top rope there was, at least, an element of good storytelling. It would've been cooler if Woods had done the classic Cactus clothesline spot, but you can't have everything in this world, James. Throughout the match the two would continue to brawl, disapearring behind the various doors in the theatre (having worked in this theatre myself, this was actually some rather clever use of that space). Each time Woods and Diaz would reemerge it would perk up the crowd, who at least had something interesting and intense to watch, whilst twelve or thirteen guys threw half-arsed punches in the ring. I also thought Athena Furie bought a little something to the bout as the first female entrant, coming in with more energy than the guy and even if her missile dropkick was perhaps the worst I'd seen, she was at least trying to do something entertaining.

SLAM Heavyweight Championship // Elimination Match //  "Smethwick's Only Son" Corey Johnson (C) def. "The Submission Technician" James Terry and Eddie Woods and Johnny Diaz 

You thought the finish of the Rumble was over-booked and/or confusing? There couldn't possibly be another daft finish on the same show, could there? Could there? COULD THERE? Yes, dear reader, there could. Get your head around this one, kids. We're down to Corey Johnson, the champion, and James Terry, who is apparently returning from a lengthy injury lay off, with Johnson's fellow Tag Team Champion Nate Lewis at ringside. Terry has a clear pin, but Lewis has the ref distracted, no problem so far, then the ref is pulled to the floor and Lewis puts the striped shirt on, which now means he's the referee, this is the start of the slippery slope. Slow pin falls ensued, with Lewis refusing to count the three, at least twice, before another referee arrived and argues with Nate, the original referee gets back in the ring and they send him packing. It's needlessly complicated for the audience, but if this was it and we headed to a finish it wouldn't have been too bad. But there was more. Lewis came back in the same boiler suit that Johnson was wearing, replaced Johnson in the ring, after throwing powder in the referees eyes and ended up taking the pinfall. Holy overbooking, Batman. Terry ended up looking like a fool for celebrating with the belt, because he'd clearly pinned a man with hair instead of the bald champion, whilst both Johnson and Lewis had both clearly been pinned, despite their being two of them. The match was restarted and Johnson won somehow, at this point, I think my head was too busy being in my hands to notice what the actual finish was. 

The rest of the match was mostly sloppy action, including an awful superplex that eliminated Diaz. This wasn't helped by numerous pinfalls and submissions (despite being the submission technician I think Terry only put one hold on all match) being broken up. Lads, its an elimination match. Both in and out of kayfabe this makes you look really dumb. I know these matches are rare, but it shouldn't take that much of an adjustment. Out of it all, I thought Woods seemed to have the most potential in the mix and this was compounded in the Rumble with his brawl with Diaz. He hit a nice somersault plancha at one point, that was impressive for a big chap. Honestly, though this coming straight before the Rumble and the two awful finishes back to back completely killed the show for me, but after the match it was revealed there would be a Lumberjack rematch between Johnson and Terry at the 30th August show in the same venue, after an angle where Terry threatened to break Lewis' leg. I'm tempted to return just to see how much over-booking they can fit into a Lumberjack match!  

SLAM Inter-Counties Championship // Aaron James def. Ricky Riot and Jimmy Dean and Luke Kedgeley // Pinfall

Another Fatal Four-way, but this time not an elimination match saw Aaron James able to retain his title with a pin over one of the other guys. I put "one of the other guys", because beyond Ricky Riot, the other three lads in this match seemed to have come out of the same factory. Very similar gear, very similar mannerisms, very similar everything. These guys were very similar. This meant most of the match was confusing to follow, whilst the crowd seemed unsure who they were supposed to be getting behind. Riot was the only guy with anything resembling a character, coming out in a funky shirt Christmas?), but I'm still not sure exactly what his character was and whilst he was clearly positioned as the matches main villain, he had the most exciting offence out of the four and therefore got a decent amount of support from the audience. The action was mostly disjointed, but there were a couple of highflying spots, such as a double suicide dive to star, a nice somersault plancha and a mid-rope moonsault, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you who hit them. 

"Big" Tim Burns & Bobby Vegas def. Liam Roberts & Lloyd Atari // Pinfall 

The opening match of the evening saw "Big" Tim Burns & Bobby Vegas, collectively known as XXXXL (maybe one less or one more X) go over Liam Roberts & Lloyd Atari when Burns picked up the win with his version of the World's Strongest Slam. It seemed a weird decision to have the heels go over in the opener, but considering some of the booking later on, it doesn't seem all that strange now. This felt like it was going to be a basic tag match with the younger and fast Roberts & Atari against the massive Burns and pal and for the most part that's what we got, with a handful of baffling moments. The general story played out that the babyfaces couldn't handle Burns, but had no real problems with Vegas, which is cool and made sense for how the characters were presented. What didn't make much sense was Roberts/Atari a comeback once Vegas was tagged and then locking on a head lock. Followed up by more low level submissions once Atari/Roberts was tagged. This killed the crowd, who were obviously awaiting a hot tag, that didn't come. The highlight was a pair of diving crossbodies to the floor from Roberts & Atari towards the tail end of the bout, which still ended up managing to be the second best on the show. 

Layton Cole def. "Simply Wonderful" Adam Idol // Pinfall 

The best match on the show, by quite some way as Layton Cole picked up a clean win over Adam Idol in what was announced as a grudge match. The match stuck to simple things, with two clearly defined roles, as Idol stalled from the beginning after telling the crowd they sucked in a promo. The bout mixed in a handful of big spots that helped to produce the feeling that this wasn't a regular match between the pair, including Idol reversing a piledriver attempt on the wooden ramp into a backbody drop and a diving leg drop from Cole that ended up being the moment of the show. In fact, the main problem the match had had nothing to do with either wrestler as it was the referees ridiculously slow count that threatened to rob the match of any drama that had been created from a number of otherwise good near falls. If the rest of the show had been of a similar quality then I would've come away having had a much better time. Believe it or not, without this match the show would be receiving a significantly lower rating...

ATPW Scale Rating // 1.84 out of 10

Written by James Marston // @IAmNotAlanDale