Tuesday, 25 November 2014

TNA British Bootcamp's Grado Interview

Thanks to TNA Impact Wrestling we recently got the chance to chat to British Bootcamp and Insane Fight Club star Grado. This, of course, wasn't the first time we've spoken with the former ICW Tag Team Champion, having previously had him on our (now discontinued) "Five Questions With..." series, as well as chatting to him prior to TNA TV Taping in Glasgow, which can be found on Youtube here.


ATPW - Hey Grado. The first question is quite a generic one, How have you found the British Bootcamp experience?


Grado - It's been amazing because I've got the chance to wrestle in America. I've managed to fulfil a childhood dream that I've always wanted to go and wrestle in front of a live crowd in America. There's nae better feeling in the world. Also because I've had a lot of people telling the Grado character wouldn't work in America, Grado wouldn't go over in America, I went to America and managed to get myself over with some of the crowds. I'm glad, the experience so far has been amazing. Getting to TNA and getting to share the ring with Samoa Joe, Al Snow and Gail Kim, has been a very good experience. 

Do you feel the process has helped you develop as a performer? Have you improved as the experience has gone on?


Every day is a learning day in wrestling. Every time you step in the ring, you always come back out with a few learning points for you to work on. So when you're being trained by Al Snow, Gail Kim and Joe, you're obviously going to adapt and learn and find out news ways of performing. 





If there were any TNA fans in America or elsewhere, who haven't seen British Bootcamp, what could they expect if you turned up in TNA? Would you perhaps change the character or keep to what us British fans know and love over here? 


I don't know. I'd probably keep the same character, go in there and I'm the everyman, that's the term, I'm the guy that probably shouldn't be in the ring, that's the way the other wrestlers could see me, that's the chemistry. I'm the guy whose living the dream here. I'm the guy that isn't six foot four, I don't look like a Greek God, I just go in there and try my hardest every time I wrestle. I hope that people can relate to me, as the guys who's just having a fun time. I'd probably keep the character, as a wrestling fan who's living beyond his means that's what go me to the dance so far, that's the reason I've had the opportunities that I've had. 

It's a feel good story as well. I think in the 90's you had the smaller guys, that made a lot of today's wrestlers realise they could become a wrestler and you offer something for the guys out their that aren't six foot four or whatever. Something different.


Exactly! Something different. Wrestling has been boring for too long, same six foot four, big body guys, there's never been chubby wee characters, in a long time. There's never been anything like that. It's time for a change and I think I could be able to flourish in TNA. 




Is there anyone from TNA's current roster that you think you'd work particularly well with in the ring or even in terms of a storyline? 


I love the stuff that Rockstar Spud's got going on with EC3, and I'd love to wrestle with Rockstar Spud, as well. Also, I think that me and Zema Ion would have a good X Division style match, I think that me and Rockstar Spud could challenge the Hardy Boyz to the tag titles. And probably big Magnus, he's like a big hard man bully, I'm sure that I could have a cool wee storyline with him. Me vs. Magnus would be brilliant actually, I think that could really work. Then bring in Spud and have a three way, imagine that! Me and Spud vs. Bram and Magnus!


Get it over on the tour! What effect do you think British Bootcamp will have on the British scene as a whole? Do you think we'll see a boost in local crowds?


Definitely. Even since the first British Bootcamp the numbers have been up, because a lot of the general public are unaware that there is this big brilliant British wrestling scene. So again, it's just another series for everyone to see that there is talent here in the UK and hopefully it encourages people to go and out and go their local shows and support the guys who that are trying to make a name for themselves and possibly could be on the next series of British Bootcamp. So aye, I think it's a good thing for British wrestling. 





If there was anyone who had watched Bootcamp but perhaps didn't know where to look to find British wrestling, where would you tell them to look? 


In Glasgow, there's Insane Championship Wrestling, an Over 18's company. There's loads of family shows that are run by British Championship Wrestling, Premier British Wrestling and then there's Preston City Wrestling, Revolution Pro, there's PROGRESS Wrestling which is a phenomenal outfit , that work outside Islington. I would go to these places, but if you go online and type in British Wrestling, I'm sure you could find links and stuff to local proffesional wrestling. Also www.gradowrestling.co.uk, if you want to come and see me wrestle then all the dates are on there. 

You broke into the British Wrestling "mainstream" via a social media, notably the "Get Grado Booked" campaign in ICW. What do you think social media can offer a professional wrestler in 2014? 


Well that's the thing, you're Twitter and your Facebook is your gimmick, it's your business. You need to make sure you've got a decent Twitter, you're not tweeting a load of shite, you're tweeting funny stuff or whatever suits your gimmick. So, Dave Mastiff, he is a grumpy bastard online and he is a grumpy bastard in real life. It's just another medium for you to develop your character, so if you want to post promos, pictures, anything. It's really important in 2014, that you're on the job, your on the button with Twitter and Facebook and Vine and FaceParty and things like that.





Finally, what does 2015 hold for Grado? 


Well I'm going to go on a diet, I'm gonna try and lose a bit of weight. I probably will mix up my gimmick one way or another, I'm not sure what I'm gonna do. Hopefully get the chance to wrestle in America again, keep wrestling in Britain, try and get new bookings in Europe and keep on doing the TV work that I'm doing. 

Oh, one last question....When are we going to finally get the big Grado vs. Goldberg match that everyone's waiting to see?


I really hope that Goldberg has seen my GradoBerg entrance! Hopefully next year, Goldberg, if you manage to get to this article, if your listening or reading to this, add me on Twitter, let's follow each other and I'll DM you. Then next year, Grado vs Goldberg at York Hall, we'll sell it out. 

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Thanks to TNA Impact Wrestling, Grado and Simon Rothstein for putting this interview together. TNA British Bootcamp can be found on Sunday evenings at 9PM on Challenge (Freeview - 46, Freesat - 145, Sky - 145, Virgin Media - 139) 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Over The Border II - Wrestling with Social Media

OSWtv's Billy Strachan returns once again with the second edition of Over The Border! This time Billy focuses on how important social media can be to Scottish wrestling.

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Back in ye olde days of UK professional wrestling, the barren times, once World of Sport was removed from ITV in 1985, the only way to advertise your local promotion would be through posters around town, newspaper advertisements, maybe an interview on your local radio or television station if you were lucky. 


An example of the posters one could see

But this 2014...things have changed! 

Here are a few figures for you. 3 BILLION active users on the internet, 1.23 BILLION active Facebook users, 1 BILLION active YouTube users, 284 MILLION active Twitter users. Social media is the most effective way to reach wrestling fans nowadays and there are promotions that have taken advantage of this by making sure that their audience is kept up to date with all the latest news and promotion. 

Here are the top 5 Scottish wrestling company pages on Facebook:

Insane Championship Wrestling: 17,000+ Likes
Scottish Wrestling Alliance: 7,241 Likes
Premier British Wrestling: 5,921 Likes
Scottish Wrestling Entertainment: 3,479 Likes
Pro Wrestling Elite: 3,330 Likes

So keeping your website or Facebook page up to date is so important. When you set up a company page/website you are not only making a commitment to your product but also to your fan base. You can't go on once a month and go "oh aye, this is happening". We are in the age where if people lose interest they will move onto the next thing without hesitation. Social media is also the quickest and most effective way to get a wrestlers character out there be it through a fan page, YouTube promo videos, podcast or interviews.

On the subject of keeping your page up to date, this is a personal preference, but if you don't write in a professional manner or have a basic grasp of the English language, I'm not going to be reading whatever you've written to promote yourself or your show. Basic common sense really. It's a business at the end of the day. This is different if it’s built towards a character, like Switch, but a wrestling promotion should have a professional look when writing.





Don't get me wrong, posters and newspaper adverts and all the things I mentioned at the start of this piece are still effective, they bring in the casual fan that maybe isn't aware of the social media presence the promotion has. Word of mouth is also being integrated into social media with blogs and fan podcasts. 


Oop's...How did that get there? 


If you don't believe what I'm saying I'll give you an example. Grado made a name for himself through YouTube videos, through a social media campaign "Get Grado Booked", he's arguably the biggest name in Scottish and UK professional wrestling today. Without social media, there might not be a “chubby wee chancer fae the tap end of Stevenson” shouting "IT'S YERSEL!" today. 





If you don't keep on top of your social media then it could stunt the growth of your promotion and possibly your growth as a wrestler. Getting yourself out there and making a name for yourself gets you from being a name on the card to THE name on THE card. 







Wednesday, 19 November 2014

WWE Slam City (Episodes 1-26) DVD Review



WWE's Slam City is out now on DVD, available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. The DVD contains the first 26 episodes of the stop-motion cartoon series, that see's WWE's wrestlers struggling to adjust to life after WWE. Expect appearances (of the likenesses) of top WWE superstars, including CM Punk, Steve Austin, The Rock, Daniel Bryan, Kane and more. 




How do I even begin to review Slam City? WWE's foray into stop-motion animation see's the evil Finisher take control of the WWE and send all the wrestlers out to get day jobs. So, John Cena becomes a mechanic, Alberto Del Rio becomes a barista, Kane becomes a diner lady and such other exciting things. Whilst it's clear that the main premise of the series is to sell more toys (strangely the DVD has a 12 certificate) that doesn't stop this cartoon from being an entertaining series on it's own merit.

The characters are well put together and it's easy to tell which WWE superstar most of them are supposed to be (with the exception of The Miz, who looks like a generic guy in a suit), which is handy, because none of the characters are voiced by the wrestlers themselves. At first this is a little annoying, as the voice actors don't seemed to have even attempted an impersonation of the people they are playing, but you soon become used to each characters new voice and by the end it's really not a problem at all. 




Some of the early scenes are a little tiresome, as each characters situation is set up and explained, but as the series progresses their is some well-scripted stories, some good dialogue and a plethora of visual jokes. This combination allows the show to work on two levels, as I can see children enjoying a lot of the visuals, whilst parents aren't completely left out with some humurous dialogue along the way. An episode with Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton was a particular favourite of mine.

As well as the self contained episodes, there's a few story arcs that can be followed throughout the series. Sheamus and Brock Lesnar's cinema duel, Mark Henry and The Rock's battle over a pizza and the story of The Finisher that's woven nicely throughout. These stories work well to add a little depth to the product and give the viewer a reason to continue to watch more episodes to see how the stories pan out. These stories can also be watched seperately in the Special Features section, which is a nice touch.




A "Making of..." documentary can also be found in the Special Features, which gives a deeper understanding of the effort that goes into producing the animation for the show, not just in creating the movements, but also in post-production. There's also an insight into the producers inspirations when creating the series, which certainly upped my appreciation of their work. Unfortunately, the documentary ends with an out and out advert for the toys, which cheapens the over piece. 

Finally...


As much as I enjoyed Slam City, it's difficult to reccomend this DVD, when the episodes are so readily available elsewhere, both on Slam City's website and on the WWE Network. It could work nicely as a stocking filler for any WWE obsessed kids out there, but if you're an adult looking for a few WWE-themed chuckles, just head to website and cherry pick the best episodes. 

WWE SummerSlam 2014 DVD Review


WWE SummerSlam 2014 is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now, available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. Broadcast live on Pay-per-View (and the WWE Network) from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA on 17th August 2014, the show features Roman Reigns taking on Randy Orton, John Cena defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Brock Lesnar, a rematch between Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho and five other matches. The special features include a look at the Wyatt/Jericho feud, a match from SummerSlam Kick Off and two Home Video Exclusive interviews. The commentary is provided by John Bradshaw Layfield, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler.




For me, the strongest match on the show is a terrific Rookie vs. Veteran style clash between Randy Orton and Roman Reigns. Despite Reign's inexperience showing up early in the match, this is a well-paced and well-booked back and forth match. The crowd laps up everything the two offer up, refreshingly cheering for the babyface, which in turn allows the performers to go even further in telling their story. This match seemed to get lost in excitement for the main event, but it's well worth a rewatch. 




There really isn't much to say about Brock Lesnar and John Cena WWE World Heavyweight Championship, other than it's one of the most dominant performances WWE has showcased as a main event. The story told works nicely, and Cena's selling is some of his best work. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Chris Jericho in his rematch with Bray Wyatt. Played out in front of a crowd that couldn't care less, the pair do put together some nice action, but it's few and far between and at pace that suits neither man.




The fact that I can't bring myself to empathise with Brie Bella's awkward babyface character, means that her clash with Stephanie McMahon isn't for me, but there's enough here for me to see why someone else might enjoy this. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose's Lumberjack match is an exciting and creative spot-fest, that doesn't get the time it deserves to tell a satisfying story. The surprise of the show comes from a good Flag Match between Jack Swagger and Rusev, that's chock full of great selling by both men an impecable storytelling. Dolph Ziggler's shot at The Miz's Intercontinental Championship works nicely as opener with cool sequences, but lacks any real substance. Paige and AJ Lee battling over the Diva's Championship has a similar problem to Rollins vs Ambrose, it's spot-heavy but doesn't have enough time to offer up anything else, this bout is criminally short at under five minutes.

One of my favourite things about this show is that there is relatively little filler, moving from one match to another at a good pace. The filler that is presented is the drizzling shits though. Hulk Hogan's opening appearance is fairly pointless, as he's wheeled out as "Host" to flog the Network on Network. A Tom Philips interview with Brie Bella is as poorly acted as you would expect and did nothing to make me want to watch her match any more. There's also an advert for crisps, with "Momma's Boy" "winning" an opportunity to "become a WWE Superstar" which is, quite honestly, painful to watch. 


Special Features


A video package on the feud between Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho actually manages to make the feud look vaguely interesting. Cesaro and Rob Van Dam do well with limited time on the SummerSlam Kick-Off show, putting together the best match of RVD's most recent run in WWE. In Home-Video exclusives Tom Philips interviews Roman Reigns and Renee Young interviews Nikki Bella. Reigns interview has the feel of post-match sports interviews, whether that works or not I'm not quite sure, whilst Nikki's piss-poor delivery of her lines makes her interview a rather pointless exercise.

Finally...


This is definitely one of the strongest PPV's WWE has put on in 2014, for me. Reigns vs Orton, Cena vs. Lesnar, Rollins vs. Ambrose and Rusev vs. Swagger are all worth checking out, if you haven't seen them already, and definitely worth a rewatch if you have. There's a couple cases of some matches (Brie vs. Stephanie) going too long, and others (Paige vs. AJ) going too short and the disapointing Jericho vs. Wyatt match, but those are minor complaints on what is a very strong show. This and WrestleMania XXX should be the two PPV's you definitely get your hands on this year. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

WWE John Cena - Greatest Rivalries DVD Review

WWE's John Cena - Greatest Rivalries is out now on DVD (There's a Blu Ray version too), available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. The three disc set features seventeen matches from John Cena's greatest rivals between 2002 and 2014, with a new interview with Cena talking about each opponent throughout the set. The set includes matches against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Edge & The Rock.




John Cena - Greatest Rivalries features a rather different format to what many will be used to from previous WWE set. Rather than following a chronological order, the set presents two matches for each of the chosen rivalries, with an excerpt of a new interview with Cena placed in between each match. This is a refereshing change of pace for WWE releases, getting to focus on the individual rivalries one at a time. Another plus point to the presentation of the set, is the Street Fighter-esque buffer screens used to present each match up, complete with 8-bit version of Cena's theme song.
The interview reveals some nice tid-bits about what Cena learnt from facing each of his opponents, with Cena being his usual humble and complimentary self, putting over his opponent abilities. I would have like to have Cena focus more on the rivalries themselves, rather than his rivals, as well as talk about the match that is about to be shown to give the matches a little more context.


The Matches


Disc One



The set kicks off with a look at Cena's rivalry with Eddie Guerrero, beginning with a Quarter Final Match in a WWE Championship Number One Contender's tournament from an April 2003 edition of Smackdown. It's a fun little match, that is way, way too short. It's also not a great showcase of the rivalry, as there's no real intensity between the two. Luckily, the following bout has intensity in spades, as Cena and Guerrero battle in a Parking Lot Brawl. There's silly spots a plenty, with both men taking some ridiculous bumps. It's a well put together hardcore brawl, certainly not the best showcase of Guerrero's technical talents, but still an entertaining watch.

Cena's feud with Batista is up next, beginning with a look at the pair wrestling in Ohio Valley Wrestling as The Prototype and Leviathan. Both are clearly very green at the time, with some awkward bumps and cringeworthy Hulk-up by Leviathan. There is an attempt at some psychology but the selling is no existent. Throw in an over-booked finish, Leviathan no-selling a briefcase shot and an irritating Jim Cornette on commentary and you've got a pretty horrible match. However, it works nicely as a contrast for the next match as the pair battle in a Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules 2010. Despite the infamous stupid finish, the bulk of this bout is well worked, with some cool spots, being exactly what you'd expect from a WWE Last Man Standing bout. 

Shawn Michaels is the next rival under the spotlight. The pair's epic near 60 minute bout from April 2007 on Raw is included, and is an absolute pleasure to watch. Some fantastic sequences, sound psychology and selling, false finishes and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler nailing it on commentary come together to make one of the best matches WWE has put on in the UK. A follow up match from March 2008 on Raw fails to recapture any of the magic of the original, including a DQ finish. The match is more of a part of Cena's rivalry with Randy Orton than it is Cena's rivalry with Michaels. 

Disc Two


Much has been made about the amount times Cena has faced off with Randy Orton but the two matches provided here are more than worth a re-watch. Firstly, Cena and Orton battle over the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2007 in a superb main event, that showcased both men's talents fantastically. There's a lot of back and forth action, with some nice near falls and a super hot crowd throughout. More recently, Cena and Orton went one on one on February 2014 episode of Raw. This one is notable for how Orton and Cena take a rebellious crowd, who are originally chanting for CM Punk, and pull them into the drama of the match with a series of false finishes. A good TV bout. 

Cena's encounters with John "Bradshaw" Layfield follow up, with their WrestleMania 21 WWE Championship match coming up first. It's a star making match for Cena, but it's certainly not a great match, if that makes sense. Cena looks incredible throughout and get's put over strongly on the big stage, but that doesn't stop it from being a rather dull brawl. The second match losses that big stage, but doesn't gain any entertainment factor as the two have a basic match on Raw in June 2008. 

Chris Jericho closes off Disc Two, starting with a "You're Fired" match for the WWE Championship from in August 2005. Another good television bout, with a strong "against the odds" type story, with then Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff in Jericho's corner. It's steeped in drama and has a satisfying finish. A Survivor Series 2008 bout over the World Heavyweight Championship match isn't quite as good as it's predessor, but still has plenty to enjoy, with a strong and enjoyable story.


Disc Three



Perhaps Cena's most fondly remembered feud kicks of Disc Three as Cena battled Edge in a Steel Cage match. It's a belting television main event, with (those words again) dramatic storytelling and a great use of the steel cage gimmick. It's ever so slightly let down by an over booked finish and a ridiculous unprotected chair shot that makes for uncomfortable viewing. The duos Backlash 2009 Last Man Standing is much the same, using the gimmick of the match well, with some terrific spots, but let down by an interference finish. 

Triple H is the next opponent for Cena, with their WrestleMania 22 main event over the WWE Championship. The Chicago crowd plays a big part in this one, showing off how "smart" they are, by cheering for the heel Triple H throughout the bout. This one takes a while to get going, as the two play around with the heel/face dynamic, but the closing stages are electric with the crowd losing their shit for each false finish. In my opinion, an October 2009 bout from Raw is slightly better than their Mania clash. It has the feel of an exhibition bout with both men going back and forth in a tense theatrical match. 

The final rival showcased is The Rock, and instead of showing both of the pairs WrestleMania bouts, only the second one is present here. Instead, the Hall of Famer's Q&A from a March 2013 episode of Raw is presented. Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes, Booker T and Bret Hart ask the questions that allow both Cena and Rock to deliver passionate duelling promos, whilst adding an extra spin to their WrestleMania 29 rematch. That match is still in my opinion underrated by many, as whilst it does have it's flaws (going way too long, little variation in moves and Cena chatting his head off so much a new camera angle had to be added) it's still a ridiculously, melodramatic contest that has the crowd popping for every false finish.


Finally...



If you're one of those wrestling fans that blindly hates John Cena, for whatever reason, this set will do nothing to change your mind. But that says more about the feeling towards Cena, than it does about the set itself or John Cena as a performer.

This is a well put together set, that flows nicely from match to match, with the interview segments work as a nice buffer between each one. The match quality is perhaps the strongest from start to finish of any three disc DVD WWE has produced in 2014, with bouts with Batista, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Edge, Triple H and The Rock all being well worth a watch.

I would have liked to have seen Cena's rivalry with CM Punk make it onto the actual feature, rather than as a Blu-Ray exclusive, and replace the JBL matches on this set with the two matches with Punk present on the Blu Ray and it would be very hard to argue against this being the strongest set (match quality wise, anyway) of 2014. I'd also have liked to have seen some focus put on Cena's rivalry with Kurt Angle, which is the only rivalry I think has been missed entirely from this set.

The biggest compliment I can give this set is that I watched it in one sitting, which is almost impossible with most of these DVD sets.



Next DVD Review - WWE SummerSlam 2014

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

WWE The Best of Sting DVD Review

WWE's The Best of Sting is out now on DVD (There's a Blu Ray version too), available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. The three disc set features thirty two Sting's matches between 1986 and 2001, with a short documentary chopped up and used as a bridge between matches throughout the set. The set includes matches against the likes of Bret Hart, Steve Austin, The Great Muta, Ric Flair & Vader.




Finally WWE produces a Sting DVD...and then doesn't include a new Sting interview. This set could easily have been realised whilst Sting was working elsewhere and it feels like a bit of a cop out for WWE only to use old interview clips from 1995 and 1998, both of which stick to kayfabe. That being said, the interlinking segments for the DVD do what they need to do, and whilst they won't offer up any new information for seasoned WCW fans, they will be useful in filling in the gaps for those not so familiar with the Stinger. There's a number of talking heads included alongside the voiceover, these include Sting's contemparies like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Lex Luger, to those who were fans during the period, like Brodus Clay, Natalya and Dean Ambrose, giving a good mix of how those inside and outside of the industry at the time felt. A full documentary would have been nice and perhaps that's what they're saving the Sting interview for. I wouldn't be surprised to see a "shoot" appear on the Network to help push the subscribers up, to be honest. 

The Matches

Disc One


Disc One goes from April 1986 to September 1990, covering Sting's runs in the UWF, NWA and WCW. Kicking off the set is the obligatory Blade Runners match, which is exactly as you would expect, as the pair take on the duo of Bret Wayne Sawyer and Sean O'Reilly on UWF Power Pro Wrestling. The footage here is not great at all. Things improve with a fun tag match teaming Sting with Rick Steiner against Ron Simmons and Mike Rotunda. Whilst the teams are clearly thrown together, there's enough in this one to keep you entertained. The first of four matches against Ric Flair comes from a January 1998 episode of NWA Pro Wrestling. This is curious simply for the finish, as whilst the pair are beginning to put together a compelling bout, the TV show finishes so the end of the match isn't present. Why include half a match on the DVD? 

An October bout from WCW Main Event against Stan Lane is unremarkable, nothing particular wrong with it, but nothing to write home about either. Into 1989, and Sting is really coming into his own as a babyface, as he takes on Butch Reed on a March episode of Main Event. An enjoyable contest with both men working hard for each other. The ascent to the top continues with a belter of a match with Mike Rotunda over the Television title on an April episode of World Championship Wrestling. Sting has the crowd in the palm of hands and with an electric comeback, some good false finishes and a dramatic conclusion this is the strongest match, so  far. 

An August edition of Power Hour witnesses a disapointing bout with Ron Simmons, as whilst the crowd is off, this brawling battle fails to get anything resembling a flow together, which is a shame. A month later on the same show, the pace completely changes as Sting takes on The Great Muta. It's a refreshing change with Muta and Sting really bringing something different, unfortunately the finish is dissapointing, but the crowd still loves Sting. Into 1990 and for the third time this year, The Great American Bash bout with Ric Flair is included on a DVD set. Check out the reviews of WCW's Greatest PPV Matches or The Best of The Great American Bash DVD for my thoughts! Disc 1 concludes with match with Dutch Mantell from Main Event in September, that is essentially a squash match to showcase Sting and build the feud with the Four Horsemen. 

 

Disc Two 


Disc Two picks up the action in June 1991 at Clash of the Champions XIV, as Sting and Nikita Koloff have a fun grudge match. I'll skip over the fact that Koloff no sells a piledriver! In a curious little match, Sting teams with The Great Muta to take on The Steiner Brothers at WCW/NJPW Supershow II. The Japanese crowd offer a completely different feel to their US counterparts and the flow of the match is completely different to anything else on the set. Sting's feud with Van Vader is also showcase, as the pair do battle on Worldwide in February 1992. Certainly not the best match the pair have had, but there's still plenty to enjoy here, with Sting being incredibly easy to get behind as a babyface. A weird finish let's this one down. 

An big eight man tag World Championship Wrestling in February, seeing Sting team with Ricky Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes and Barry Windham to take on Rick Rude, Larry Zbyszko, Arn Anderson & Beautiful Bobby, works nicely to build on current feuds and allows for a few more faces to appear on the DVD. In June, a bout with Diamond Dallas Page on Saturday Night is a pointless inclusion. Into 1993 and Barry Windham is the opponent on a February episode of Saturday Night. This is a rather basic match, that is well worked by the pair, with an extremely TV finish. 

Quickly onto 1994 and "Stunning" Steve Austin is the opponent for a technical bout from Pro Wrestling in January. The pair look to be having a terrific Veteran vs Rookie encounter, until the DQ finish that is. The set charges on 1995 and the third bout with Ric Flair on Nitro in November. A shift from the technical wrestling seen between the two earlier in the set, this is a brawling grudge match, with Sting no selling his arse off and Flair being the heely bastard that we all know and love. The Dirtiest player in the game uses every trick in the book. Not the strongest bout the pair have had, but still an entertaining encounter. Sting lost the bleach blonde hair in 1996, we see him taking on Arn Anderson on Nitro, in a match that never feels like the focus of the programme, due to the commentary teams focus on the events of Bash at the Beach the night before. Luckily, Sting's post match promo is absoutely electric and is worthy of inclusion on it's own. The final match for the set see's Sting team with Randy Savage to take on The Boys, The Boys, they're The Nas-ty Boys, in another nothing TV match, from Saturday Night in July, that was used to build up Sting and Savage's partnership.

Disc Three


Disc Three includes the only segment on the set, as Sting becomes a Free Agent in October on Nitro. It's tense and keeps the story ticking over, but I'd have preferred another match. Hulk Hogan is the opponent at Starrcade in a match that has big time written all over it. The crowd is red hot and completely hooked by the action throughout, which definitely helps the match. Unfortunately, the finish is completely botched and ridiculously overbooked, it could have been so much better. A brawling tag bout from a February 1998 episode of Nitro is next as the NWO slowly begins to choke WCW. Sting teams with Lex Luger against Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in a match that never really manages to live up to the star power in the ring. From Nitro in April, a World Championship match with Kevin Nash is surprisingly good, even if Konnan is at ringside. Sting works the big man's leg, an psychology abounds, until Hulk Hogan remembers he's the star of the show. 

A short brawl with Scott Steiner from Thunder in April, is another pointless inclusion, as the match has no substance at all. No one wants to be a heel as Sting teams with Kevin Nash against Harlem Heat on Nitro in June and the match suffers because of it. The four do put together some good action, but there's no one to get behind and the focus is clearly elsewhere. The Blade Runners reunite as Sting teams with The Warrior to take on Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan in a match bursting with start power. Try and find a fan of The Warrior's run in WCW and I won't even have to tell you have bad this match is. 

Bret Hart is the opponent on Nitro in October, a match that comes strangely the Monday before their PPV clash at Halloween Havoc. To be honest, this match is more of a segment than anything and does work nicely to set up their PPV contest. You'd think Sting facing Randy Savage in 1999 would be an appaling idea and it is. There's not a single wrestling move in the match, which is over booked to high heaven and feature Savage piledriving a referee, because WCW. Into the new millienium and Booker T on Nitro. The match is another that has bags of potential, with Sting's offence focused on Booker's knee and Booker selling like a bankrupt crack dealer. And then The Kiss Demon get's involved and you can almost hear the clicking of remote controls over to Raw.

The theme continues in a Two Out of Three Falls match with Jeff Jarrett on Thunder, as Sting and Jarrett's wrestling match struggles to shine through some silly over booking and ridiculous finish. Stevie Ray's obsession with commentary table is a highlight. Six man tag action from Thunder in October 2000, teams Sting with Goldberg and Booker T against Jarrett and Kronik for an enjoyable match. Goldberg is over as hell and the dynamic between the six men is nice, unfortunatley the finish is botched. 

The final match on set is the final match in WCW history. Sting vs. Ric Flair might not be the best match you've ever seen, but it's difficult not the feel the emotion between the two men and the weight of the occassion. It plays like a greatest hits and that's exactly how it should have been. 


Finally...


In terms of matches, the first two discs are where the bulk of the quality for this set comes from matches with Mike Rotunda, The Great Muta and Ric Flair are the stand outs for me, and there's a lot of good action elsewhere as well. Unfortunately, the final disc focusing on Crow Sting is severly lacking in satisfying action with almost every match that shows potential being crushed by some horrendous booking. Sting can clearly still go at this stage but is let down by those in charge, I would have liked to have seen a lot more clean finishes on this disc, or at least had the DQ endings build to the blow off match also being included.

Lacking the Sting interview does harm the set as a whole, and removes the "Must-Have" label that would have almost certainly been given to it, if that were the case. However, there is enough enjoyable action to satisfy the appetite, although I'd suggest throwing the third disc out of the window.



Saturday, 8 November 2014

WWE Battleground 2014 DVD Review


WWE Battleground 2014 is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now, available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. Broadcast live on Pay-per-View (and the WWE Network) from the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, USA on 20th July 2014, the show features a Two Out of Three Falls bout between The Usos and The Wyatt Family's Luke Harper and Erick Rowan for the WWE Tag Team Championship, John Cena defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Roman Reigns, Randy Orton and Kane in a Fatal Four-way bout, a returning Chris Jericho taking on Bray Wyatt and three other matches. The special features include two additional matches from Battleground Kick-Off, two interviews from Battleground Fallout and a Home Video Exclusive interview.

Pay-Per-View





The opening contest is the longest and strongest of the evening, as The Usos and The Wyatt Family's Luke Harper and Erick Rowan go at it in a Two out of Three Falls match. It's a well structured and exciting effort from the four, that has the Tampa Bay Times Forum eating out of the palm of their hands throughout. Harper and Jey especially put in a shift, crafting a slick and hectic sequence, laced with dramatic near falls that builds well towards the finish. It's a shame that nothing following this match manages to garner the same reaction from the crowd. 




Whilst predictable, the World Heavyweight Championship Fatal Fourway is entertaining enough, as John Cena, Roman Reigns, Kane and Randy Orton battling it out. It's most notable for how comfortable Reigns looks when in this World Heavyweight Championship situation and the potential that a match with Cena down the line could hold. On the flip side, Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho's match stands as one of the biggest disappointments of 2014. A damp squib of a feud, leads to a dull and unimaginative encounter here.





A battle royal for the vacant Intercontinental Championship has enough thrills and spills to keep the attention, especially once some of the deadwood is eliminated. Rusev continues to impress in a decent heavyweight encounter with Jack Swagger, his selling is particularly impressive here. Unfortunately, Paige and AJ Lee struggle to live up to hype, letting down the undercard, in a botch laden encounter, with a rather confusing heel/face divide. 

Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins don't get around to having their advertised match on this show. Instead there are a series of brawls between the two placed throughout, with Ambrose and Rollins working hard to create a believable feud that had me hooked throughout. These segments make me want to see them get their opportunity to fight each other even more. Other segments, include an awkward backstage skit with Orton and Kane to build to the World Heavyweight Championship match, Renee Young introducing a Kick-Off panel featuring Booker T, Christian and Alex Riley to give their predictions on the same match and a slightly random appearance from Stardust and Goldust.

Special Features


The special features offer, not one but, two matches from the Battleground Kick-Off show. Oh the joys. Fandango tangles with Adam Rose in a match that happened, as well as Cameron and Naomi putting on a piss poor display, as The Funkadactyls explode! Two interviews from Renee Young from the Battleground Fallout show are much more entertaining, as The Usos and John Cena both make light work of the Post match promos. The Miz is also impressive in a post-match interview with Tom Phillips, which is a Home Video Exclusive.


Finally...


This is clearly a bridge PPV, everything that happens here is to set up for SummerSlam the month after, meaning that you probably won't miss this DVD if you chose not to purchase it. The tag match and the Fatal Fourway are both worth watching in their own right, but I think this DVD would have been much better off in as part of a double set with SummerSlam. Maybe that's something for WWE Home Video to look into in the future? 

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