Sunday, 17 June 2018

Retro Review // WCW Slamboree 1993: A Legend's Reunion

May 1993 - What a time to be alive. This reviewer was an incredible two months old, Ace of Base were top of the UK singles charts and AC Milan put over Marseille in the UEFA Champions League Final. It really was halcyon days (especially for those Ace of Base fans from Marseille). Also who can possibly forget “hairgate”, eh? Well, amongst all that WCW was holding it's first ever Slamboree event! Presented as a “Legend's Reunion” event with appearances from heroes from yesteryear, the event pivoted around a pair of World title matches as Arn Anderson challenged for Barry Windham's NWA World Heavyweight strap and Vader put his WCW World Heavyweight title up against Davey Boy Smith! But how did all go down at the Omni in Atlanta, Georgia? Lets take a look.

A weird little video package leads us into the show, talking some nonsense about legends, because this show is a Legend's Reunion for some reason.

In the ring, a load of old lads are loitering, like Nick Bockwinkel and some other guys, who are all looking around awkwardly. 

Tony Schiavone and Latte Zbssskfko talk for a bit, with Zbssskfko saying something about time fearing pyramids and then something about Davey Boy Smith needing to bring his kryptonite tonight. 

In one of the weirdest moments I've ever seen in wrestling, Maxx Payne played some generic -tune on his guitar, whilst a load of oily slightly muscly blokes carry a velvet thing down to the ring, it has Fabulous Moolah in it. Nothing happens.  

Eric Bischoff and Missy Hyatt had a chat for a bit about Sting and The Prisoner and then the lights go off on them, but bless them they keep talking. Why are they still talking? Where is the wrestling? Stop running down the card. Stop it. 

Tag Team Match – Beautiful Bobby & Chris Benoit vs. 2 Cold Scorpio & Marcus Alexander Bagwell 

This was an odd match, as whilst it seemed to have a lot of potential early doors, the wheels fell off in the second half, concluding with a horrible looking finish. The highlight of the contest saw Chris Benoit & 2 Cold Scorpio produce some great exchanges at pace, getting the crowd excited. The two had just came off a hot bout at the previous PPV and it's clear to see that the two are well-matched for each other, with a developing chemistry, making it surprising that the two didn't get more opportunities together down the years (beyond a 1994 indy show in California). The match then settled into some heely cheating from Benoit & Beautiful Bobby, with Marcus Alexander Bagwell as your face-in-peril, which was fine, apart from the commentary team completely no-selling it. I was fully expecting a Scorpio hot tag to light the match up and send us home, but pretty much everything after the hot tag ended up coming across as awkward, with a real lack of timing, especially on the part of the veteran Bobby. There was an odd dive attempt from Benoit that got knees from Scorpio, where it was unclear what move Benoit was actually attempting, there was the camera getting the way of Scorpio as he attempted to climb the top rope and then there was Bobby breaking up a pin attempt off a strange looking diving splash from Scorpio at one. Oh yeah and that finish. Fuck me. Scorpio hit his Tumbleweed (Diving corkscrew somersault leg drop) and landed arse first on Benoit's head, which looked absolutely brutal. Things were not made any better by Bobby grabbing the referee who was attempting to count the pinfall for the finish, leading to a confusing ending. There was potential here for a good opener and whilst the match showed signs of heading that direction, the confusion of whatever Beautiful Bobby was doing in the end, the horrendous botch on the finish from Scorpio and Benoit and the deadweight that was Bagwell and you end up with a pretty disappointing contest.

Next PPV – WCW's next PPV was Beach Blast on 18th July, where 2 Cold Scorpio & Marcus Alexander Bagwell would team up again to take on Shanghai Pierce & Tex Slazenger (better known as Henry O. and Phineas I. Godwinn in the WWF). Chris Benoit & Beautiful Bobby had to wait a little longer for their return to PPV, however. AAA's When World's Collide show on 6th November 1994 saw Benoit (as Pegasus Kid) teaming with Scorpio, alongside Tito Santana, to take on Blue Panther, Jerry Estrada & La Parka, whilst it took Bobby over two years to make another PPV appearance as he became Lord Robert Eaton and tagged with Lord Steven Regal (bka as William Regal) as The Blue Bloods to challenge The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Saggs) for the WCW World Tag Team titles at The Great American Bash on 18th June 1995.

Schiavone & Zbssskfko chat some more shite for a bit, about not expecting the next match to be happening, but it is.

Colonel Rob Parker comes out to confront “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer for something Hammer had said previously. Parker gets some lads to bring out a stretcher and then introduces Hammer's opponents...golly, it's Sid Vicious. 

Singles Match - “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer vs. Sid Vicious (w/ Colonel Rob Parker)

A few punches and a powerbomb later and Sid had conquered Van Hammer. The crowd went mad for it, so what ever. 

Next PPV – At Beach Blast, Sid Vicious tagged with Big Van Vader as The Masters of the Powerbomb to face Davey Boy Smith & Sting, whilst it took Van Hammer over five years to return from this squash when he took part in the Three Ring Battle Royal at World War 3 on 22nd November 1998. 

Eric Bischoff interviewed Red Bastien & Bugsy McGraw, with McGraw wondering around aimlessly and looking into the camera in a weird fashion, whilst Bischoof looked inconvenienced by the supposedly coked up old guy.

Legend's Six Man Tag Team Match – “Dirty” Dick Murdoch, “Magnificent” Don Muraco & “The Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel, Blackjack Mulligan & “Jumping” Jim Brunzell 

In principle a six man tag featuring a group of legends sounds like a pretty good idea and I'm sure that these six men in their prime would have had a lovely trios bout under the right circumstances, but these men were not in their prime in 1993. As a theme for the show developed, the early exchanges aren't all that bad. It's basic stuff with a few bodyslams and a couple of headlocks, but it's acceptable, before a surprising headscissors takedown from Dick Murdoch to Jim Brunzell became the unexpected highlight of the match. After that it was downhill quicker than a round of Double Gloucester, with Murdoch hitting a nasty looking thing off the top rope on Brunzell, Jimmy Snuka randomly getting in the ring in the middle of a sequence that he was not involved in and then the match ending for literally no reason when everyone started brawling and the referee called it off. Why? What was the point? Did everyone refuse to job? It came off as a complete shambles with no sense of direction and considering none of these guys were part of any on-going storylines, the point of finishing with a never ending brawl seems completely pointless. 

The lads continued to brawl after the match, with Jimmy Snuka taking a mad bump over the top rope. The camera cut away

Next PPV – Dick Murdoch would be the first of these six to return to PPV, jumping to WWF and appearing in the Royal Rumble match on 22nd January 1995. Don Muraco was next as he'd main event for the short lived American Wrestling Federation against Greg Valentine on 12th May 1995, before later that month Wahoo McDaniel would return for another Legend's Reunion, facing Murdoch on 21st May in what would be both man's final match on PPV. Jimmy Snuka had to wait until 17th November 1996, teaming with Flash Funk, Savio Vega & Yokozuna agaisnt Diesel, Faarooq, Razor Ramon & Vader at WWF Survivor Series. This would however be the final PPV appearance for both Blackjack Mulligan & Jim Brunzell and indeed turned out to be Mulligan's last ever match before his death in 2016. 

Missy Hyatt interviewed Mad Dog Vachon & The Assassin, with Vachon weirdly grabbing the microphone away from Hyatt at one point, whilst The Assassin's mask was ridiculously too small for his massive head and neck. Assassin issued an “open challenge” to Dusty Rhodes for a future match. Okay, hen.

Thunderbolt Patterson got in the ring and said that “Bullet” Bob Armstrong had had some kind of bad knee surgery or something, Ivan Koloff kicked off saying the Armstrong's had weak stomachs and were cowards. This lead to Bob's son Brad Armstrong coming out and offering to be Patterson's partner for the evening. Delightful. The lads brawled for a while before the match officially began, whilst the commentary team laughed away.

Tag Team Match - “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff & “The Master of the Claw” Baron von Raschke vs. Thunderbolt Patterson & Brad Armstrong 

A short tag bout, that would end up becoming the best of the three “Legend's” matches on the card. It was hardly anything to go crazy about and I certainly wouldn't come close to calling it a good match, but there was some fun to be had as Ivan Koloff & Baron von Rascke looked on confused as Thunderbolt Patterson was shucking and jiving. Ol' Latte on commentary pulled out a bemusing line, after Schiavone had listed some facts about the competitors, as he proclaimed “You're just a human fax machine, aren't ya?”, which apart from a fun Patterson hot tag was probably the highlight of the five minutes. Patterson hit a thing for the win and we were out of there. 

Next PPV – Brad Armstrong returned to PPV in 1996 challenging Dean Malenko for the WCW World Cruiserweight title at Slamboree on 19th May, whilst Ivan Koloff waited 20 years for his return as he took on Brad's Dad, Bob, at the Superstars of Wrestling 1 event on 16th November 2013. The show would be Baron Von Raschke's last PPV match before retiring in 1996 and also the last ever match for Thunderbolt Patterson, bringing to a close a career that began almost 30 years earlier. 

Flair for The Gold segment

I get that the Four Horsemen were a big deal, but I have no idea why this segment occurred on the PPV. Billed as the return of the original Four Horseman, what we'd end up getting was the worst incarnation the group ever had, as Paul Roma replaced Tully Blanchard (with Arn and Ole Anderson still present). There perhaps wasn't a more puzzling line-up change until Mutya left the Sugababes in 2005. Everyone cut mild promos, whilst Flair said something weird to Ole Anderson about getting his feet wet, before the Naitch went on a mad one revealing he was ready to compete once again challenge The Hollywood Blondes to a match down the line. This would've been an acceptable TV segment, but on this PPV with so much time already given over to interviewing various legends, it felt more than unnecessary. Flair getting us to stare at his future partner Fifi the Maid's arse was also a weird moment.

Johnny Valentine joined the commentary for the next match.

A promo for Beach Blast 1993 aired, which was only really a cartoon beach with some waves and that. 

Legend's Singles Match – Dory Funk Jr. (w/ “Canada's Greatest Athlete” Gene Kiniski) vs. Nick Bockwinkel (w/ Verne Gagne) 

What could be more fun than watching two men in their fifties wrestle to a 15 minute time limit draw? If you said literally anything else then you're absolutely correct. It's hard to blame either man for this, as what would anyone expect from two chaps of their age who had previously worked a much slower style than had been seen earlier in the show, with the majority of the blame lying with whomever decided that this match would be worth doing in 1993. The first ten to thirteen minutes of this are painfully dull, mostly involving the two exchanging holds with no real direction, whilst an uninterested crowd wasn't even roused by a couple of stiff Bockwinkel forearms. The match isn't helped by a lack of character definition, leading to the Georgia crowd starting a quiet but notice “boring” chant as they struggled to remain invested in the NWA vs. AWA concept. The match did manage to pick up in the closing stages, with some decent near falls as the two get closer to the time-limit, but there's also frustrating moments like Bockwinkel putting his foot on the ropes before the referee can even make a count of one after a Funk piledriver, what might have been a world time record for a backslide attempt and Funk's second Gene Kiniski randomly wandering into the ring on numerous occasions without any admonishment from the referee. 

Next PPV – Dory Funk Jr. was back on PPV three years later as he participated in the 1996 Royal Rumble for the WWF on 21st January. This bout would Nick Bockwinkel's last, bringing an end to career that began in 1954 and saw Bockwinkel compete for the likes of AJPW, the NWA and most famously the AWA. 

Eric Bischoff conducted an interview with Lou Thesz and Bob Giegle, who said some things presumably.

Rick Rude called the crowd “inner city sweat hogs” and then he and Paul Orndorff took off their robes. 

Tag Team Match – “Ravishing” Rick Rude & “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff vs. “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes & Kensuke Sasaki 

The one thing I came away from this match with was just how much hotter that crowd was for members of the current roster than they were for any of the legends, as the Omni began to wake up after being put to sleep by two lads in their fifties. This was a basic tag team contest for the most part, with the heels working over Dustin Rhodes, until a really cool Tombstone Piledriver reversal acted as a hope spot for The Natural. Kensuke Sasaki looked great on his hot tag, appeared to be super over with the crowd and came across as  mad entertaining when he started mocking Rick Rude's hip gyrations and then unfortunately the Slamboree curse reared its head and the finish went to shit. I've no idea what was actually happening. Sasuke waited for ages on the top rope to get pushed off, there was some random aimless brawling with Orndorff and Rhodes and Rude hit a crap looking version of his Rude Awakening finish to take the win. With a solid finish and better timing this would have been a rather cool tag bout, but just like the opener it was let down by some sloppy in the final stages.

Next PPV – At Beach Blast, Rick Rude and Dustin Rhodes would clash in a 30 minute Iron Man match for the the vacant WCW United States Heavyweight title, whilst Paul Orndorff put his WCW World Television title on the line against Ron Simmons. Kensuke Sasaki wasn't back on PPV until 26th November 1995, where he was featured in the Three Ring Battle Royal for the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship at World War 3. 

WCW Hall of Fame Inductions

Gordon Solie struggled with the rowdy crowd as he introduced the first inductees into the WCW Hall of Fame. Solie listed some dead lads who couldn't be there, including Buddy Rodgers, Andre the Giant, Pat O'Connor, Gene Anderson, Dick the Bruiser, Wilbur Snyder and someone else, asking for a moment of silence that was not very well observed. Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Mr. Wrestling II and Eddie Graham (inducted posthumously and represented by his son Mike Graham) were the four inductees with Solie introducing each man and giving us some facts about their lives and careers.

It was back to Missy Hyatt who conducted interviews with Lord James Blears and John Tolos, with Tolos telling us that WCW was the only way to spell wrestling...okay, John, you mad egg. Blears presented Hyatt with a monocle for some reason, which lead to her saying “Tally ho” in what sounded like a German accent, for reasons known only to her.

Bounty Match – Sting vs. The Prisoner 

Come back Nick Bockwinkel and Dory Funk Jr all is forgiven. Good golly, The Prisoner (perhaps better remembered as Nailz in the WWF) is a trash wrestler and even though Sting was coming off an all-time classic with Big Van Vader at the last PPV, he was unable to do anything to stop this match being a car crash. The highlights mostly came from Latte on commentary as he wondered whether the Prisoner was wearing a “fist proof vest” after he no-sold a couple of body jabs from the Stinger and then uttered “nobody in the cell that time” after Prisoner had missed an elbow drop. I also noted that both men were wearing orange at one point, because nothing of interest was happened for quite some time. The action was sloppy from start to finish, with Prisoner being incompetent at both selling and gaining heat, with the crowd completely ignoring a moment when the former Nailz wrapped a cable around Sting's throat and attempted to hang him until he got bored. After a weird moment where Sting double-legged Prisoner as if attempting to go for the Scorpion Death Lock, only to just go for a pin instead, Sting would win with a crap diving clothesline after Prisoner had been arguing with the referee. Easily the worst match on the card, with absolutely no redeeming features, Sting vs. The Prisoner was a steaming pile of wank, in all honesty. Don't watch it. 

Next PPV – Sting would go on to main event Beach Blast tagging with Davey Boy Smith against The Masters of the Powerbomb (Big Van Vader & Sid Vicious), whilst The Prisoner would never grace the medium of PPV again, going on to have a short run with New Japan in 1994, before retiring officially in 2000. 

The same promo for Beach Blast is shown, just in case you'd forgotten what you saw less than an hour ago

Eric Bischoff was joined by The Crusher, who struggled to remember his Grand children's names as he challenged Ox Baker to a cage match, whilst Baker stood next to him randomly patting himself down. These lads keep trying to work themselves into storylines for some reason. The segment ended with Bischoff looking confused as fuck as Baker gave him a big hug. 

Ricky Steamboat explains that he and Shane Douglas are wearing masks, body suits and sombreros tonight, because the outfits had previously bought them a victory over The Hollywood Blondes. In reality they kept the mask on because it was Tom Zenk and not Shane Douglas that was tagging with Steamboat that night.

Steel Cage Match for WCW/NWA Unified World Tag Team Championship – Dos Hombres (Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Shane Douglas*) vs. The Hollywood Blondes (“Stunning” Steve Austin & “Flyin'” Brian Pillman 

*Actually Tom Zenk 

A good Steel Cage match with a terrific closing stretch, this was easily the best match on the card up to this point. The foursome use the cage well at points, including a creative spot with Steve Austin being hung upside down and a Ricky Steamboat double crossbody, but at times it feels like this would've been a better contest outside of the confines of the cage, with their being very little animosity between the two tandems. There's a couple of moments of sloppiness, especially in the middle, with the aforementioned spot with Austin almost ending in disaster, as well as rough looking dropkick from one of the Hombres moments later and a shit looking spinebuster (I think?) from Austin. However, everything from the Hombres hot tag (seemingly to Steamboat) is bloody superb work, with Steamy lobbing lads into the cage and pulling out the always popular, doubble noggin' knocker. It's then onto a brilliant sequence of near falls for the babyfaces, with Steamboat jumping off the top, followed up by DDT's to both Austin and Pillman and then a pair of dropkicks all not being enough to take the titles of the Blondes as the Omni comes unglued with the best reactions of the entire show. Whilst the Blondes then picking up the win feels like an anti-climax, the sequence that leads to Austin nailing a stungun and Pillman hitting a DDT is very well put together, with it's intricacies only really noticeable on the replay. The matches with Shane Douglas are better, but this is another decent addition to the Hollywood Blondes vs. Dos Hombres rivalry.

Next PPV – The Hollywood Blondes would put their tag straps on the line at Beach Blast against the Four Horseman tandem of Arn Anderson & Paul Roma. Ricky Steamboat would have to wait until Fall Brawl on 19th September, where he'd put his WCW United States Heavyweight Championship up against Lord Steven Regal. Tom Zenk would stay with WCW until March 1994, but didn't receive another opportunity on PPV, before a short-stint with AJPW and then retirement in 1996.

Stu Hart, Mr. Wrestling II and Dusty Rhodes joined Eric Bischoff for another bizarre interview as Rhodes accepted The Assassin's challenge and started taking his clothes off, whilst Wrestling II seemed to have no idea who either man was and then Hart babbled about his family and put over Davey Boy Smith's chances in the main event.

Singles Match for NWA World Heavyweight Championship - “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson vs. Barry Windham © 

Whilst it was held back by an eleven minute run-time, Arn Anderson's challenge for Barry Windham's NWA World Heavyweight title still manages to tell a strong story, with enough big spots peppered in between to give this clash a real main event feel at times. With both men being members of the Four Horsemen at times, the story centralises around Anderson attempting to get into Windham's head with early covers attempts as the two exchange sportsman-like holds, before quickly erupting into a wild brawl that spills to the outside. Windham being the first to crack with some big strikes and a gruesome looking knee strike, leads the match well towards it's storyline peak with Anderson clattering Windham's head off the barricade twice and the Texan beginning to bleed relatively heavily. The use of blood is very effective here as it sells just how far the issue between the men has come from their good-natured wrestling at the start, whilst also adding to moments later in the match as Windham grows more and more desperate to end the contest and walk out with the belt in anyway he possibly can. In terms of spots, a dropkick from Windham that knocked Anderson off the top rope to the floor and is then followed up with suplex on the floor are amongst the highlights, whilst a well-timed out of nowhere spinebuster from Anderson gets a spectacular pop, despite being undersold by the commentary team (with Windham quickly rolling to the outside). The finish does come across as flat, mostly because the match had struggled for convincing near falls previously, as Windham nails Anderson with the title belt, after the ref had been chucked across the ring by a frustrated Arn, before simply getting a cover for win. Perhaps it's the times we're living in or that it was only 11 minutes into a World title match, but I fully expected Anderson to kick out before the match would head towards a much more satisfying conclusion, but nope, that did not happen and I looked to a non-existent camera in a way that would've made Martin Freeman proud. As you'd expect with these two lads, they don't put a foot wrong here, with a number of well-done sequences, both pure wrestling and brawling, but there just isn't enough of it. This bout is worth checking out, but be prepared to feel slightly unfulfilled by the time it ends.

Next PPV – Barry Windham would successfully defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against 2 Cold Scorpio at Clash of the Champions (16th June), going on to face Ric Flair with the title on the line at Beach Blast, whilst Arn Anderson challenged for the WCW/NWA Unified Tag Team belts with Paul Roma opposite the champions, The Hollywood Blondes. 

The commentary team discussed Davey Boy Smith getting involved in Big Van Vader's public workout the previous night on Saturday Night, before leading into the main event. I guess this was the closest we got to a hype package in 1993.

Singles Match for WCW World Heavyweight Championship - Davey Boy Smith “The British Bulldog” vs. Big Van Vader © (w/ Harley Race)

Big lads, big lads, big lads. Big Van and Davey Boy put on a really good power vs. power contest, that is loaded with power moves, some splendid highspots and actually a couple of good wrestling sequences as well. The first two thirds of the contest are especially well done, beginning with some simple “show and tell” sequences as we see that Vader's power is having little effect on Smith, before quickly snowballing into big spots like Vader missing a crossbody attempt on the floor and flying over the guardrail, before Smith gets to  show off his power with a beautiful powerslam on the floor (after hoisting Vader up over the guardrail and onto his shoulder in one smooth motion). The two shows a good chemistry when working quicker sequences also and whilst the two keep things relatively simple, it's clear that both know what will work and stick to it, as they use the fake out sunset flip spot, as well as Vader blocking a crucifix pin attempt with a ring-rattling modified samoan drop. The match begins to lose its way a little when Vader comes flying off the top with a splash and then loudly shouts “SHIT” when he lands awkwardly on his knee. Harley Race plays for time on the outside as Vader looks to finish the match, but it's clear that the match would have been much stronger in the closing stages had Vader not suffered a minor injury mid-match. We do get a great looking electric chair drop, that gets an equally electric reaction from the Omni, as well as Race breaking the cover after a running powerslam, but the match eventually ends with Vader clobbing Smith with a four-legged chair for the DQ. Another disappointing conclusion, in a show that is riddled with uncreative booking and lazy endings.

After the match, Marcus Alexander Bagwell and 2 Cold Scorpio both attempted to save Davey Boy Smith unsuccessfully, before Sting was able to come flying down the ramp to save Smith from a powerbomb...setting up this supposedly...

Next PPV – Both men would remain in the main event for the next PPV, Beach Blast, as Big Van Vader tagged with Sid Vicious as The Masters of the Powerbomb, against the team of Davey Boy Smith & Sting. 

Eric Bischoff was joined by Magnum T.A. To discuss the result of the match with Magnum putting over the quality of the competitors.

Tony Schiavone & Latte Zbssskfko spoke to Verne Gagne, who put over the talent of WCW, saying he was shocked at the quality on the roster, before the lads wished us a good night. 

The credits roll to close the show as some lovely generic rock music plays us out. What a time to be alive 1993 was, lads. 

Seriously, take out the Legend's matches and there's a good PPV in here somewhere. Bobby & Benoit vs. Scorpio & Bagwell and Rude & Orndorff vs. Rhodes & Sasaki both aren't perfect but feature some good wrestling at points and whilst Sid Vicious's short return and the god-awful Sting vs. Prisoner match aren't worth your time at all, the show ends up finishing with three good to very good title matches that have plenty of variety. Whilst all three finishes are anti-climatic the trio of bouts that close the show are all well-worth getting your peepers on if you haven't seen them already. But the Legend's matches all coming back to back mean that I wouldn't recommend this show as a complete experience. That would be irresponsible. The whole legends concept sounds pretty cool on PPV, but with the multiple interviews and the fact that the crowd couldn't have given a crap for any of these lads that WCW dragged out to them, in execution it's a shitshow pretty much across the board. 

Next time - TNA Lockdown 2006 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Retro Review // WWE Judgment Day 2004

May 2004 – The Frankie/Eamon debacle was dominating the music charts, Friends aired its last ever episode and WWE's SmackDown brand was promoting Judgment Day. The show was promoted around three singles matches, with a lot of big name talent...and Rene Dupree. Dupree was set to challenge John Cena for his newly won United States Championship, whilst Booker T went head to head with The Undertaker and the newly rechristened John “Bradshaw” Layfield found himself with an opportunity for Eddie Guerrero's WWE title. Whilst the undercard didn't appear to offer all that much, there was potential for a good PPV if the top matches could deliver...but did they? Lets take a look. 

So, yeah, the show begins with the traditional video package...but this one takes on a much darker tone in retrospect and actually becomes a little hard to watch as it focuses on the theme of Judgement (because it's Judgment Day obvs). You're probably wondering what makes this dark, that would be the heavy focus on Eddie Guerrero as the voice over says “Is there actually life after death? Or are the memories we create here the only true after life?” In May 2004, this wouldn't have meant all that much (although I still feel it would've felt unnecessarily over-the-top), but considering Guerrero passed away less than a year and half later, watching the footage in May 2018 is a little uncomfortable. The open also included John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Booker T, The Undertaker, Rene Dupree and John Cena.

Our commentary team of Michael Cole & Tazz welcomed us to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, after some pyro and what have you. Hugo Savinivich & Carlos Cabrera were there to provide Spanish commentary, good lads. 

Tag Team Match - Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von)

This was a fun, well-booked opener, that played to it's strengths and despite going a little too long in this reviewer's opinion, managed to keep the Staples Center hot and behind the ultra babyface duo of Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam throughout. The Dudley Boyz dominated the majority with plenty of intensity and heely tactics, with Bubba Ray in particular shining as he repeatedly distracted the ref to do something dastardly. Bubba's character work was on point here, as he showed glimpses of what would become his Bully Ray character in TNA many years later and it was clear from this that he had the most potential for a singles run. Mysterio & RVD are a fun team and the brief flashes of offence from them provide just enough to buoy the bout at the right times, whilst also both selling the beating they take from the Dudleyz well. There's a couple of instances of awkardness, like a poorly conceived monkey flip from RVD to Bubba Ray and an overall lack of cohesion from the Dudley Boyz, who appear to operate as two singles wrestlers rather than the well-oiled machine that you'd expect at this point. However, the finishing stretch features a couple of nice near falls and the highlight of the match as RVD pops Mysterio straight up into a frankensteiner to D-Von. Probably not quite good enough to go out of your way to check out on it's own, but it works as the curtain jerker and the Staples Center loved everything Mysterio & RVD had to offer.

Next Pay-Per-View – At Great American Bash on 27th June, Rey Mysterio defended the Cruiserweight Championship (which he won on the 17th June SmackDown) against Chavo Guerrero, Rob Van Dam got a shot at John Cena's United States Championship in a Fatal Four-way, whilst The Dudley Boyz battled The Undertaker in the one and only Concrete Crypt match as the main event. 

A very young and oddly dressed Josh Mathews hosted a weird interview in Booker T's lockeroom, that for some reason was filled with candles, concluding with Booker revealing that a mysterious pouch will help him beat the Undertaker in their match later on the show. Booker's performance actually wasn't all that bad, but the gimmick is stupid and has very little to do with anything that he said.

Some shots of the outside of the Staples Center, which was bathed in sunlight on what looks like a lovely afternoon all round.

This show continues to get weirder as SmackDown General Manager Kurt Angle arrived in what I can only describe as a contraption, pushed out by Luther Reigns, with Angle rising up into the air whilst sitting in a wheelchair with a French flag on the back. Angle proceeded to cut a cheap heat promo on Los Angeles, ending by wishing an earthquake on the city, before calling out Torrie Wilson and telling her if she lost her match with Dawn Marie she'd be fired...this was apparently because Angle had blamed Wilson for the injury he'd suffered at the hands of the Big Show. I'm not familiar with the angle, but it sounded pretty lame. 

Singles Match – Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie

This match is trash, pure and utter trash. Apart from swathes of sloppy strikes and awkward reversals, the “highlight” of the match was Wilson attempting to hold the tights on pinfall (despite being a babyface) and “accidentally” revealing Marie's arse to the Staples Center. This gets a massive pop. Despite their being a clear storyline to be told, with Wilson being thrown straight into a career-threatening match against a woman who had previously shagged her Dad to death, the only thing that garners a reaction is the sight of woman's (almost) bare backside. Someone should let this crowd know about the internet or indeed actual women. If you ever want to show someone an example of how far women's wrestling has come in WWE over the last 15 years, this is probably a good place to start. 

Next PPV – The Great American Bash would see Torrie Wilson's momentum halted as she lost to Sable, whilst Dawn Marie wouldn't return to PPV until October's No Mercy where she'd tag with The Dudley Boyz in a losing effort against Charlie Haas, Miss Jackie & Rico. 

Whilst surrounded bottles of champagne, John “Bradshaw” Layfield cut a promo on America, with strong xenophobic overtones, before ending by claiming that he will be victorious over Eddie Guerrero later on. 

Singles Match – Mordecai vs. Scotty 2 Hotty

The ludicrously dressed Mordecai's first of just three broadcast WWE bouts saw the 6 foot 3 Memphian squash former WWF Light Heavyweight Champion Scotty 2 Hotty. If this had been on an episode of SmackDown it would've been a decent introduction to Mordecai as he looks pretty impressive at points, showing good intensity and has a couple of inventive spots like a sneaky submission hold around the ring post. But this is PPV and a match like this really has not place on an event that people are paying for. The highlight was a short Scotty comeback that got a massive pop from the crowd as he hit a superkick that busted open Mordecai's lip. The Crucifix powerbomb that Modercai wins with is a lame choice as finisher and nowhere near the best incarnation of the move. 

Next PPV – Mordecai took on Hardcore Holly at The Great American Bash, whilst Scotty 2 Hotty wouldn't be back on PPV until January as he took part in the 2005 Royal Rumble, with this bout being his final PPV singles match.

Jacqueline presented Chavo Guerrero with some underwear backstage, whilst Chavo Classic was seen with his trousers around his ankles for some reason. 

WWE Tag Team Championship Match – Rico & Charlie Haas © (w/ Miss Jackie) vs. Hardcore Holly & Billy Gunn

This really was a match of two halves, beginning with some dated homophobic comedy and concluding with a rather good closing sequence. The first six minutes of the match was bad comedy, which with 2018 vision is not a lot of fun to watch, as everyone seems afraid of the effeminate Rico, who constantly feels up his opponents. Basically, Rico was rehashing the Goldust gimmick and not doing so all that brilliantly, but it has to be said that the Staples Center seemed to lap up all the various sexual positions that the competitors fell into. 2004 was a world away in more ways than one it seems. Also why was Billy Gunn so afraid of Rico now? It's like Billy & Chuck has been retconned. The beginning is made all the more frustrating by the fact that the finish features some of the best work on the show so far, with all four men delivering high quality back and forth action, as the momentum changes repeatedly, before Rico nails Holly with a superkick just before Holly can hit an Alabama Slam on Haas. If the company had been more focused on putting on good wrestling than telling a bad joke, then this could have been a very satisfying ten minutes. 

Next PPV – After dropping the Tag Team titles to the Dudley Boyz on 17th June SmackDown, Charlie Haas would compete in a singles match with Luther Reigns at The Great American Bash, whilst Rico would wait until No Mercy in October for the aforementioned six person tag match, which would turn out to be his final PPV match with WWE. Billy Gunn and Hardcore Holly would both compete in singles matches at Great American Bash, against Kenzo Suzuki (Gunn's last ever one on one match on a WWE PPV) and Mordecai respectively. 

A quick backstage promo from The Undertaker and Paul Bearer that really offered up nothing of note.

The commentary team discussed how much “voodoo” Booker T would have to bring in order to defeat The Undertaker later on. Fuck off. 

Highlights of Chavo Classic beating Jacqueline on SmackDown and Jacqueline pulling Classic's trousers down after the match. Fuck off. 

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match – Chavo Guerrero (w/ Chavo Classic) vs. Jacqueline (C) 

This was lame. I hated pretty much everything that happened here, from the counterproductive gimmick of Guerrero having one arm tied behind his back to the presentation of Jacqueline to the multiple interference spots from Classic in the finish. No one came out looking good, no one got any extra heat, the Cruiserweight title looked like a joke and I wanted to scratch my eyes out with a rusty spoon. I don't want to talk anymore about it. 

After the match, Chavo Guerrero cut a short promo about something, before Chavo Classic kicked Jacqueline in the gut. Brilliant. Well done.

Next PPV – Chavo Guerrero would drop the Cruiserweight title to Chavo Classic on the SmackDown following this PPV (in a three way that also included Spike Dudley), with Classic later dropping the belt to Rey Mysterio. At The Great American Bash, Guerrero received a shot at Mysterio's title. Jacqueline would be released by WWE the following month, eventually resurfacing in TNA in November, facing Trinity at Victory Road.  Jacqueline would make her WWE PPV return 14 years later at the 2018 Royal Rumble. 

A quick package lets us know that Rene Dupree and John Cena are feuding because Dupree hates the United States and also for some reason, Torrie Wilson. The highlight of their feud seemed to be Dupree powerbombing Cena through the announce table. 

John Cena got to do a little rap before his match, which was not great and pretty much buried Dupree, but was over with the LA crowd. 

WWE United States Championship Match - John Cena © vs. Rene Dupree

Not a classic at all here, as Rene Dupree showed us why this was his one and only one on one WWE PPV match. The French Phenom looked sloppy when taking and receiving offence for pretty much the whole bout, whilst the early exchanges were particularly poor as Dupree struggled to get over the top rope on a clothesline spot, before taking a weird looking bump into the turnbuckle off an Irish whip. Whilst Dupree would later hit a number of big moves, including a spinebuster, DDT and a clunky neckbreaker, the Frenchman either didn't cover Cena or was slow to the cover, which made the then 20 year old grappler come out of the match looking like a bit of chump. Whether this was purposefully done to help John Cena, I'm not sure, but it certainly didn't help the match. For his part, Cena looked competent, but it would be stretch to say that the Massacusettsan appeared to have anywhere near the star potential that he'd develop in coming months and years, although he was notably over with the LA audience (although they appear to be happy with what has been a pretty awful PPV so far, so lets not trust their reactions anymore). The highlight was a big spot that saw Dupree dodge a crossbody while on the apron, sending Cena over the top and to the floor and even this didn't make a whole load of sense if you thought about it for more than half a second. It looked cool though, so there's that.

Next PPV – Both Cena and Dupree would be involved in a Four-way match for Cena's US title at The Great American Bash. 

Kenzo Suzuki is coming to SmackDown and he tells us so in Japanese, I imagine. 

The package for The Undertaker vs. Booker T showed once again how inept the SmackDown creative department was at the time as whilst the storyline appeared to initially be run of the mill as Booker attempted to establish himself after jumping from RAW to SD, it quickly devolved into Booker enlisting the help of a voodoo priestess and putting dirt from a graveyard into a bag. Why? 

Singles Match – The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Booker T

This would be a poor match if anyone was involved, but considering you have two top level talents in here, it makes for an even more painful watch. The gimmick that Booker has a bag of dirt that he keeps rubbing on himself for somekind of advantage is bad enough, but when you consider that it gives Booker absolutely no help, even when he resorts to lobbing the dirt into the Deadman's eyes it produces some of the most mind-numbing action either man has ever been involved in. It's clear that neither guy gives a shit about the match, with The Undertaker in particular half-arsing his performance, no-selling his leg after Booker spent some time on it, whilst also struggling with his ring positioning on a number of occasions. Both men do shit looking version of their signature holds for the finish of what must be considered some of the least inspired work of either man's career.

Next PPV – At Great American Bash, The Undertaker would face The Dudley Boyz in the main event, the first ever and indeed only, Concrete Crypt match, whilst Booker T would be involved in the four-way bout for the United States Championship. 

John “Bradshaw” Layfield's rise up the card was the main thrust of the promo package for the main event, until the despicable angle that saw Eddie Guerrero's mother “suffer a heart attack” at a live event after being confronted by JBL. Fuck off. Who is booking this shit? SmackDown was a pile of shit at this point and I'm glad I'm only watching this PPV and not sitting through what looks like a terrible time to be a fan of the blue brand.

JBL proceeded to cut a promo about Mexico being a shithole and wanting to put Eddie Guerrero on a raft back home (despite Guerrero being from El Paso, Texas), whilst also offering Guerrero's mother a job as his maid. Eugh. This doesn't make me hate the character or want to see him get his comeuppance, it just makes me cringe and want to watch anything else. 

Singles Match for WWE Championship – John “Bradshaw” Layfield vs. Eddie Guerrero © 

Okay, so this match is remembered for one thing and one thing only. Which is, of course, JBL nailing one of the dirtiest chair shots in WWE history and Eddie Guerrero slicing his head to fuck in a horrendous bladejob. More on that in a moment, lets skim over the rest of the bout first, even if it is pretty inconsequential stuff. There was some firey brawling early on and a botched spot in the mid-way point that leads to some awkwardness as the two, quite surprisingly, struggle to improvise their way back to where they need to be. That botch adds a lot of time that the match really doesn't need, as I feel a quicker match that escalated quickly to the chair shot would have been more fitting to the rivalry that had been built around JBL hating Mexico and almost killing Eddie's Mom, rather than JBL whacking on about six chinlocks. I guess the reason this had to go so long is that neither of the other featured matches went much over ten minutes and the pair were forced to kill time.

Let's talk about that blood baybeeeeeee. Because it is fucking horrific and super uncomfortable to watch at various times, meaning that this match is not one for anyone a little squeamish. That's without mentioning some of the nastiest chairshots that the WWE has ever seen being thrown by both men. The blood however does create some wonderful visuals, improve the strength of any near fall that JBL has on Latino Heat and make Guerrero's comeback an absolute experience to witness. Seriously though, Guerrero hulking up after kicking out of a Clothesline from Hell and a JBL bomb, whilst covered in, and dripping, blood is a moment that is so ridiculous that somehow it works. The crowd goes absolutely nuts for their hero as he refuses to lie down for a men who has criticised his heritage and people. Therefore, it's difficult not to say that the finish of the bout itself comes across as more than a little lame, as after multiple ref bumps, Guerrero nails JBL in the goolies and then clobbers him with the WWE title belt for a DQ finish. It makes logical sense that Guerrero couldn't see another way out, but couldn't bare to lose to JBL, but the fact that Eddie would never manage a victory over the man that basically caused his Mom a heart attack really doesn't sit right. 

The post-match attack makes up for the crappy finish somewhat as Guerrero went mad on JBL, with a pair of brutal unprotected chair shots and a Frog Splash, before the two are eventually separated by a number of WWE officials, including Fit Finlay, Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko and Steve Keirn.

Next PPV – Layfield would get a second chance at the WWE Championship as he got a rematch with Guerrero at the Great American Bash, this time in a Texas Bullrope match. 

This is not a good PPV, not a good PPV in the slightest. The only match I'd recommend going and checking out is the main event, because I think there's more merit to that bout than simply seeing the chair shot and brutal bladejob in a YouTube clip. There's moments in both the opening tag and the Tag title bout, but outside of that there's nothing on this show, as two of the top three matches fall flat, especially The Undertaker vs. Booker T clash. However, match quality isn't my biggest problem with this show. My biggest problem is that beyond the opening match, every single match on the card has an element of sexism, racism, homophobia or xenophobia, that (according to the crowd reactions from LA in 2004) has not aged very well at all. It feels like the only way the creative team knew how to get heat was to alienate elements of their own fanbase and the only way they knew how to get a reaction was to use lazy poorly conceived stereotypes. There's stuff on this show made me cringe and will I'm sure make others feel even more uncomfortable. Don't waste your time with Judgment Day 2004, lads. 

For an alternative look at this event, check out our good pal Marc Pearson's review from his 10 Years Ago series. 

Next time - WCW Slamboree 1993 

Friday, 6 April 2018

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans Preview

On 7th April, NXT is set to take over the Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LO, as part of the WWE's Wrestlemania weekend, however, in a confusing reversal of situations, the pre-Mania TakeOver is more like NXT's SummerSlam than it is their WrestleMania, their WrestleMania, of course, being the annual Brooklyn show, which takes place the day before Summerslam. Anyway, we here at ATPW sure do love our previews, so here's one for this show, think of it like a pre-show but with no Peter Rosenberg so much better. Talking of pre-shows, why not tune in for the KickOff at Midnight (if you're in America, please check your local listings) with an all-star panel including NFL All-Pro Punter Pat McAfee (whatever that means) giving us all the chat and discussion required for an hour before the actual show at 1am (once again, check your listings, US). Till then, why not enjoy this preview with the sounds of our themes for this show courtesy of New Orleans own, Cane Hill...

NXT North American Championship Ladder Match:     EC3 vs Adam Cole Velveteen Dream vs Ricochet vs Lars Sullivan vs Killian Dain

I would imagine there's a strong chance this match opens the show as its a match with little build, little in the way of emotional attachment but with six men and a whole load of ladders set to be in the ring, has the potential to set the stage with some good and crazy action. This match, and indeed, title, have been mostly made to accommodate the expanding ranks of the NXT Men's Single's division making it so that everyone going after one title is getting ridiculous. What about the United Kingdom Championship I hear you ask, surely that title could have been expanded in its focus in order to accommodate such a position? Well, the answer is fuck off, we don't need your kind of logic around here. Also, with UK Champion Pete Dunne in the Tag Title match later, it's not like they could have a non-full time talent working double duty. Still, what works well here is that there is no way to predict which of these six men will be taking the title with a strong mix of indie darlings like the debuting EC3 & Ricochet through to Velveteen Dream & Lars Sullivan, two men who've cut their teeth here in NXT and really made themselves cornerstones of their division. 

What to expect from this one is an interesting thought as beyond Ricochet, we don't really have many flippy boys in this so traditional WWE ladder match booking would suggest he'll do the really cool spot that everyone talks about but not win it, Dain & Sullivan still feel like even after this week's NXT, they still have some unresolved issues so likelihood is, the feuding between those two might distract them from climbing that ladder which leaves Cole who might not even be in the match as he might be helping O'Reilly defend the tag-team titles, Dream who is just wonderful in every way & EC3, a man who by the end of the night, everyone will realise he is what Bobby Roode pretended to be, if they don't know, now they'll know. This is my long-winded way of saying I don't know, spoiler alert though, it's probably going to be at least a little bit good.

NXT Tag Team Championship & Dusty Classic Cup: Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) (c) vs Strong x Bitter & Authors of Pain

You may notice that Adam Cole is in the photo above as well. This is because over the past month/s, NXT has been running the third Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic, an eight-team tournament for the prestigious title, previously won by Finn Balor & Samoa Joe and Authors of Pain, but also a shot at the Tag-Team Championships. On the one side of the finals, we had the previous winners Authors of Pain who smashed through TM-61 and Street Profits to get here and on the other side, Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong, a make-shift team formed after Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) were forced to bow out when Tyler aggravated an angle injury while at Brighton's Riptide Wrestling, who fought past Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan and SAnitY to make it here. With poor Bobby Fish out on injury, Kyle O'Reilly and Cole decided to crash the final and cause a double disqualification, no winners, no challengers, smart eh? so O'Reilly was given three choices: wrestle alone, Cole does double-duty or Cole drops out of the Ladder Match.

Unsurprisingly, it seems he's chosen to work double duty, so one of the major factors of this match in play is card order as Cole or Cole & O'Reilly are at a significant disadvantage depending on which match goes on last of the two, though if this is the first of the two, it puts all three teams on a roughly equal-footing as Undisputed Era have beaten Authors of Pain before (twice if you count War Games), Authors of Pain have won tag gold, dusty cups and tag three-way dances before and the team we here like to call Strong x Bitter have tag-team success written through their DNA with former PROGRESS, Ring of Honor & PWG reigns between them, a UK title still in their team's grasp and the knowledge that the first Dusty Classic was won by a makeshift team like them. If it's not clear, as a Midlands boy myself, I'm calling a win for Strong x Bitter and rooting for them but mostly, I'm just looking forward to watching some good, solid tag action. Expect lots of big strikes, big moves and at one point, if we're lucky, Pete Dunne will punch Adam Cole out of the air. Won't that be a treat?

NXT Women's Championship: Ember Moon (c) vs Shayna Baszler

If you're getting a sense of deja vu, yes, we did only recently see this match at the last TakeOver and also once more in between, as well as frequent attacks on each other. The dispute between these revolves around Baszler thinking Moon isn't fit to lead as she couldn't defeat Asuka, she couldn't hit the Eclipse on Baszler who kept her grounded having to use a roll-up to get victory and when Baszler was given another match, she won but via disqualification after an angry Kairi Sane returned and attacked her, only for Baszler to make reasonably easy work of Sane. Much like last time, expect this match to come down to a David-Goliath type match-up with Moon once again seeking that Eclipse top-rope stunner while Baszler will want to lock in and preferably never let go of the Kirifuda Clutch. As to whom shall walk out of that arena with the title, it's hard to call, it feels like Ember is only ever one Eclipse away from retaining but especially with her friend Ronda Rousey making her pro-wres debut the next night, it seems like maybe Baszler is being set up to take the title and run with it for a while, especially as there's still some unsolved animosity between Baszler, Sane and Dakota Kai to sort out if Moon were to make the move Main Roster-wards...

Unsanctioned Match: Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa

This has been a long time coming, almost a year in fact. Let me take you back to Chicago as after they'd just lost their last shot at the NXT Tag Team Titles, Ciampa would turn viciously on Gargano, knowing that he was going to be out for a while on injury time, he wanted to make a statement before he did, one that for a long time, broke Gargano, forcing him to try and exorcise the monkey on his back that is Ciampa because that's what you do to monkey. Eventually Gargano started winning again, earning a shot at the NXT title but even then, wasn't quite enough and just as he was at his lowest, having lost his shot, there was Ciampa again because exorcising doesn't work on back monkeys, especially when they get involved in your Title vs Career rematch and force you to lose your job. It's at this point, the waters get muddied as Ciampa spent a few weeks struggling to get a word in edgeways as he simultaneously continued to be the best heel in NXT and also it's greatest hero for standing up to the awful sturmundrang of the NXT audience till he got tired of their caterwauling and Gargano's hounding of him and agreed to a match, unsanctioned of course because let's not forget, Gargano is fired but if he wins, he gets his job back, loses, he's gone forever.

There's almost too much history behind this match to cover but regardless, this is going to be one of the most emotional matches of the weekend, just as much, maybe more important to the wrestling scene as a whole than Kenny Omega vs Cody as every single second has the entire heart of NXT hanging in the balance, this is for something more important than the actual title, this is a match for the philosophical centre of the developmental brand, is this a place of good or evil? Also, most importantly, can this top Gargano v Almas because that shit was tight? As it's unsanctioned, expect this one to be more of a brawl than a technical classic. Ultimately, this seems like it's Gargano's match to win as he needs his job and assuming they get enough time for this, it's unlikely Ciampa looks any weaker in loss, especially coming back from a lengthy spell on the injured list but never count out the Sicilian psychopath as he might well pull it out of the bag, setting up his own chance at going after that big slice of NXT gold (and who amongst us doesn't see money in Black v Ciampa?) while Gargano, surely the bright post-mania lights of RAW or Smackdown could be a' callin'.

NXT Championship: Andrade Almas (c) vs Aleister Black

Cast your mind back to NXT TakeOver: Orlando last year, Tommy End, now going by the name Aleister Black made his official NXT debut (having competed against Neville at the United Kingdom Championship tournament) against Andrade 'Cien' Almas. It was a well-fought match but in the end, Black came out on top with reasonable ease. That was, however, a different Almas, that was Almas before he met Zelina Vega, that was Almas before his five-star classic with Johnny Gargano, that was the Almas that I usually dismissed by just calling him a 'lad'. He was floundering, now he's at the very top of the NXT pyramid of greatness and the man who calls himself 'The Idol' and '100' is a far more motivated and more dangerous man than he was this time last year, for proof of that, see how he dragged Black from car park to the ring, destroying and nearly drowning him along the way. Though in the other corner, somewhere between good and evil, sits Aleister Black, a man with only two losses to this particular name in NXT and one of those he wasn't even in or around the ring for, he's someone who's been on a tear and seemed like he's been destined for the NXT title since he stepped into Full Sail but no one should expect Almas and definitely not Vega to go down without one heck of a fight.

Pardon the innuendo but expect this one to go long and stiff as even with their differing backgrounds, both men are known as much for their technical expertise as the swift, hard-hitting nature of their strikes. They are both also known to bust out a moonsault or two every so often so that'll be fun. As much as Gargano-Ciampa is the biggest story going into the show, I'd still expect this one to go on last as it's the main title, it really should and I don't see any world in which if Gargano and Ciampa haven't tore the entire house down, that these two don't tear down the rest. As to who's walking out with that lovely golden belt, as much as I'd love to see Almas hold on to it forever, I think that Black is walking out with his first WWE prize slung over his shoulder and you know what, if the crowd chant 'you deserve it' at him, yeah, he bloody well does.

Any Other Predictions...

So with Pete Dunne in the Tag match, it's unlikely there'll be a separate UK Championship match, as a result, I'm going to assume the card is just these five matches and I'm fine with that as I can't see any of them not being at least good. This being a TakeOver, this is really the bit where I mostly speculate about what 'hottest free agent' will be in the crowd, this time around, I will keep saying that it could be Christopher (Donovan) Dijak but really it could be anyone. I mean, as part of the deal with PROGRESS and EVOLVE, Keith Lee, WALTER, Zack Gibson and others will be participating in Axxess so who knows? If it turns out to be Jason Kincaid, I don't really know anything about him so you'll have to come up with your own thoughts. Of course, the big question we all have is will Triple H appear and do a big crowd warm-up 'we are NXT' speech? I hope so, who doesn't pop for those every, damn, time?

Article By Jozef Raczka (@NotJoeRaczka)