Thursday, 18 October 2018

TV Review // NXT UK #1 // Pete Dunne vs. Noam Dar

It feels like we've been waiting a long long time for NXT UK to finally begin. The rumours, the non-starts, the Takeover classics, Pete Dunne battering Enzo Amore on RAW, the three sets of tapings with no episodes had been almost two years since WWE UK first began to take shape. But on 17th October 2018, WWE finally aired the first episode of NXT UK on the WWE Network, with footage coming from the 28th July taping at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in Cambridge, England. 

The premiere episode brought us a United Kingdom Championship main event as Pete Dunne put the title on the line against 205 Live regular Noam Dar, whilst Moustache Mountain's Tyler Bate & Trent Seven, Toni Storm, Mark Andrews, Dave Mastiff and Joe Coffey all appeared. But was it any good? Lets take a look. 

A big ol' pompous opening that felt very Triple H, as it discussed building an empire and showed some of WWE's history with the UK. 

The first match of the show saw ICW's Joe Coffey get the better of PROGRESS' Mark Andrews in a battle of UK Championship Tournament semi finalists. The pair had a rock solid bout, that played to their strengths, with Coffey able to display his power and Andrews pulling out a lot of very pretty fast paced offence, with a healthy dollop of the underdog babyface fire that made him a top name on the BritWres scene. Mark Coffey's distractions at ringside worked well to develop the dynamic between the brothers, whilst also building to the spot of the match nicely when Andrews nailed a moonsault onto both men at the same time. Cambridge was super hot for Mandrews from the very beginning and I think that had a massive impact on my enjoyment of this one, as it bought a new dimension to the dynamic and meant that every fight back from the smaller man felt that little bit more important. I'm still unsure whether WWE realises how much of a diamond they have in Mark Andrews. On that note, Coffey would pick the win moments after the moonsault spot, nailing an overhead belly to belly suplex and the Aw'ra Best for the Bells lariat to earn the first ever victory on NXT UK. 

Stat - The only other match between the pair had the same result when they battled at Discovery Wrestling in Edinburgh, Scotland back in November 2015.

After the match, the Coffey Brothers began to lay into Andrews, with "Flash" Morgan Webster heading out for the save. A nice early bit of storyline and what could a fun feud between these two teams. All good so far. 

Moustache Mountain were seen wheeling their suitcases through Cambridge, looking like a pair of b i g s t r o n g b o i s. 

Eddie Dennis made his debut in a video package, discussing his history with Pete Dunne and Mark Andrews, with some classic pictures of all three flashing on screen, before Dennis revealed he had some stories to tell. This has a lot of potential and was one of the elements of this episode that made me most excited to see what was to come from the brand.

Former NXT Tag Team Champions Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) came out to say a few words. I don't really know what else I can say here, because nothing really happened, with the segment seemingly acting as a way to simply shoe-horn Bate & Seven onto the first episode without having them compete. I mean, there was nothing wrong with the pair interacting, they're both entertaining to watch and managed to hold the crowd with their banterous chat, but there also wasn't anything resembling substance. There was no feud to push or surprise interruption, this was just a thing that happened for a bit. Even the discussion of the NXT Tag Team titles ended up abruptly, because at this point there's not enough teams to have a division, which is an odd thing to have to point out on your first episode. The rest of the promo was a bit circle-jerky, discussing the achievement of NXT UK and how the fans had been a big part in it happening. I'm hoping NXT UK doesn't continue this habit of repeatedly patting it's own back, because it will get old fast. 

Dave Mastiff is in action next, so we get a little look at what Mastiff is all about, which is basically bodying lads. 

A recap of how Noam Dar earned his WWE United Kingdom title shot last June, with his four-way victory over Travis Banks, Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews.

Dave Mastiff picked up his first victory on WWE TV in a quick, one-sided match with the debuting Sid Scala (IPW:UK). Mastiff looked very impressive here, showing off not only his range of power moves, but also his innate charisma as he laughed at any offence that Scala managed to get in on him. The 16 year veteran owned the space, showing off his range of agility with a wicked closing sequence of moves that included a front dropkick, release german suplex and a 315 lb cannonball. Scala is someone who could offer a lot to NXT UK in the future and his bumping performance here should have put him in good stead to do just that.

Match stat - This was Dave Mastiff's first televised victory since defeating Grado to win the vacant World of Sport Wrestling Championship on New Year's Eve 2016.

Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyanganya (strangely uncredited) interviewed Nina Samuels backstage as Samuels said she wanted to make a name for herself at the expense of Toni Storm. For me, the promo felt a little forced, with Samuels coming across as nervous throughout, whilst it also taught me very little about Samuels or her character, with a general "insert name" here feel. This could have been anyone. 

Considering Toni Storm's only previous WWE losses have come against NXT Women's Champions Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler, it was no surprise to see her pick up a clean victory over the debuting Nina Samuels (Pro Wrestling EVE) here. This match didn't click for me, with Samuels looking awkward when on both attack and defence, whilst she also struggled to stand out as anything other than a generic heel foil. Obviously the match was designed to showcase Storm, but considering the amount of offence Samuels got in, I felt like I learnt next to nothing about her from this performance, with the character coming across your basic wrestling villain. This wasn't helped by some sloppy offence, including a poor tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. That isn't to say that the match didn't have it's bright spots, because some lovely stiff forearms from Storm as part of her comeback and an early tease of the running double knee smash that would later help Storm on route to her victory. The finish felt a little familiar with a similar set-up to how Dave Mastiff went over Sid Scala a few minutes earlier, as Storm hit a German suplex into the corner to set up the knee smash, with the addition of a Storm Zero adding a little differentiation. 

Stat - These two had previously faced off at WrestleForce in Southampton in 2015, British Empire Wrestling in Tooting and Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Tufnell Park both in Greater London in 2017, with this match leaving Storm with a 3-1 record. 

Next week - Tyler Bate vs. Wolfgang in a 2017 United Kingdom Championship tournament semi-final rematch.

The main event saw Pete Dunne successfully retain the United Kingdom Championship in a very good match with Noam Dar. A strong example of the meshing of a classic British technical outing and WWE style main event, this clash gave plenty of hope that NXT UK will be able to find its own distinct style, whilst still appealing to a wider audience. The match managed to be both all-action and storyline-based with the early part of the match showing this off perfectly as whilst numerous threads for later in the match were being woven we also got a great spot as Dunne's trademark backflip out of the corner was thwarted by a chop block, before Dunne also used his signature X-Plex and then a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Dar worked as the matches aggressor, targeting Dunne's knee in anticipation for the Champagne SuperKneeBar, but the crowd split about 70/30 in favour of Dunne, which created a cool football match type atmosphere on the screen. A series of delicious back and forth strikes, followed up by a superb submission exchange seemed to have the Cambridge Corn Exchange rocking and would be my pick for the best wrestling in the match, although the gorgeous Bitter End reversal into the CSKB by Dar was also a major contender. I'd have loved to see these two go another ten minutes, because their work was so crisp and precise and it felt like they'd only scraped the surface of their creativity together. The finish had been hinted at all match with Dunne attempting the finger snap on Dar multiple times and Dar repeatedly flashing his pinkies up with cocky swagger, so therefore it was only fitting that Dunne would eventually bend Dar's pinky back and stomp it right into the mat. The spot looked horrible but in the absolute best way and set up for the Bitter End to seal the victory.  For me, this was the best that Dar has looked in his time with WWE, given the opportunity to work a type of match that suits his style with an opponent capable of helping him to raise his game when needed. 

I was half expecting a big attack angle to close the show and lead into next week, but instead the commentary posed the question of who could possibly take the belt off Pete Dunne. This was a pretty cute way to end the first episode, especially because, as of now, it's rather difficult to pick someone from the pack as the person who could do it. Building the show around a dominant champion is an interesting move to kick off the brand with, but one that should provide plenty of scope for storytelling, as well as a number of top class matches. With the thought that it can surely only be a matter of time before Dunne finds himself on an even bigger stage, I can't wait to see who will the one chosen to step up from the pack and take over his role as the face of the brand.

Stat - Pete Dunne continues to be undefeated in singles action on WWE TV since losing the final of the 2017 United Kingdom Championship tournament. With the run now at 16 matches, Noam Dar joins a list that includes Roderick Strong, Ricochet and Adam Cole, Dunne's overall singles records stands at an impressive 19-1.

A strong debut episode for NXT UK, booked ended by a good opener and a very good main event. The middle of the episode could have been tighter, with the women's match and the Moustache Mountain appearance not really working for me. There's certainly lots of space for improvement, which will come as the wrestlers become more acclimatised to regularly working with WWE and WWE becomes more aware of the performers it has on it's books and what they are capable of both in the ring and within the various storylines and feuds that we'll hopefully see develop. It's clear that this isn't the finish product, just like the early episodes of NXT only showed glimpses of what that show would become and Iooking forward to seeing how the show finds it feet and who from the roster of talented performers steps forward and takes this considerable opportunity by the horns.

Written by James Marston 

Friday, 28 September 2018

FCP The Eighth Rule of Fight Club Review // Sekimoto vs. Bate

After a three night stretch at Bush Hall in London, Fight Club: PRO was back at Starworks Warehouse in Wolverhampton for the first time in just over a month on 31st August 2018. Whilst all title holders (World Champion Meiko Satomura, Tag Team Champions Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos and Infinity Trophy (deceased) holder WALTER), were all absent, alongside other regulars like Travis Banks, Angelico and Clint Margera, the originators of British Strong Style still managed to put on a rather tasty looking card on paper. This included the only advertised match in the main event between former BJW Strong World Heavyweight Champion Daisuke Sekimoto and former WWE United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate in a mouth-watering international clash. Elsewhere, Pete Dunne & Trent Seven were joined by Millie McKenzie to become British Strong Mates as they took on The Rascalz (Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wents joined by Trey Miguel) and the newest member of Schadenfreude, Mark Davis, took on FCP Original MK McKinnan, as well as action featuring Jordan Devlin, Kyle Fletcher, "Session Moth" Martina, El Phantasmo and Chuck Mambo. But was it any good? Lets find out! 

Six Person Tag Team Match // 

British Strong Mates (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven & Millie McKenzie) def. The Rascalz (Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz & Trey Miguel) // 


This international six person tag was a strong start to the evening, presenting varied action throughout. Underlined by some fun character work from all involved, the bout followed what has become a trademark of British Strong Style (and the Bruisermates) beginning with almost pure japes, before launching into more serious and exciting work in the stretch. The comedy was highlighted by some variation on some of Trent Seven's spots as the Wulfrunian looked to prove his lucha credentials. Seven's run as face in peril had it's moments, but the match really hated up following a hot tag to Pete Dunne, with the pace lifting and leading into a wonderful sequence between Dunne and Trey Miguel. In his Wolverhampton debut Miguel really impressed for me with this delightfully fast and crisp exchange with Dunne, being followed up by a series of truly impressive dives to the floor later on in the bout. For me, a few more convincing near falls could have elevated this one just that little bit more, with jumping piledriver from Seven that was preceded by duel headkicks from Dunne and McKenzie being the only moment I can remember as feeling like it could have been match-ending, but perhaps that's the difference between an opening match and a main event. Destroyers from all three members of British Strong Mates to Xavier was a neat way pulling the matches two strands together, with Starworks popping big for Seven pulling out the move for the eventual pin. 

WrestleHouse Stat // This leaves poor Trey Miguel with a 0-5 record in Fight Club: PRO.

- Trent Seven stuck around, being joined by Martin Zaki, to welcome Project London Super Trainee Stars Of The Future Tournament winner Scotty Davis. This was all fun and games until Davis mentioned wanting to do Ireland proud, bringing out Jordan Devlin. Some words later and we had ourselves a match...

Singles Match // 

Jordan Devlin def. Scotty Davis // 


As someone who hadn't seen Scotty Davis before this was a great introduction to what he can offer to FCP, as he took part in an even contest with one of the top singles performers in the company. The two have previous in Over the Top Wrestling (OTT) meaning that the familiarity allowed for a heated and mostly smooth clash, with Davis showing impressive babyface fire from the very beginning. I was particularly impressed with some of his strong style strikes out of the gate, as well as some solid selling in the later stages. Obviously, Davis will need to evolve past a relatively generic babyface role later down the line in FCP, but as a first introduction to Wolverhampton this worked just fine. For me, this one lagged a little in the middle, losing some of the impact it had in the opening exchange and perhaps could've been improved by being a little shorter and punchier. As the story developed in the later stages, there were plenty of near falls for both sides, including a Fisherman buster for Davis and an avalanche DVD from Devlin, which really put over Davis to the new audience as he held in their with a more seasoned wrestlers and showed a tonne of fighting spirit (something which would become quite a theme for the evening going forward). A desperation headbutt leading to Devlin falling into the pin for the victory deepened the narrative and should lead to a very interesting rematch down the line.

WrestleHouse Stat // Jordan Devlin's one on one record in FCP goes to 7-2, with only Travis Banks and Jeff Cobb managing to beat the Irishman in singles action since August 2017.

Singles Match // 

Kyle Fletcher def. Omari // 


The first half main event was the match of the night for me, as Kyle Fletcher got his win back on Omari after their match at June's World Warriors event. Obviously since June, we've seen Fletcher turn to the bad side and join Schadenfruede and Omari lose his Infinity Trophy to WALTER, so this was a very different match-up from the original clash. Like the previous bout this was one was heated from the very beginning with Omari getting a massive slap for the face from Fletcher after the Big O had repeatedly called his opponent "Chris Brookes' bitch", before Omari replied with a barrage of offence. After his match with Travis Banks last month was cut short by an injury to Banks, this was my first real chance to get to see Fletcher's new heel persona and the Aussie Arrow impressed heavily as he targeted Omari's bandaged hand for long periods, with vicious stomps and submissions, often varying his offence to focus on the injury, whilst also spending time to soak up the heat from the crowd. On the flip side, Omari sold the injury well, continuing to perform effectively in the sympathetic babyface role. The damage played a big part in the closing stages with Omari unable to get the cover after his lifting reverse STO finish in a dramatic moment, before a miss tope conhilo would see Fletcher captalise with as series of moves that concluded with a nasty looking modified crossface (with a heavy focus on the hand of course) gave the Aussie the win. This was a much more mature display from each than their previous outing, bringing the story to the forefront, lifting the intensity and opening up a number of possibilities for both men going forward. With the pair at one a piece, a rematch would seem possible before the end of the year.

WrestleHouse Stat // This loss leaves Omari without a win in his last six in FCP, since beating Fletcher at World Warriors in June.

Singles Match // 

Mark Davis def. MK McKinnan // 


"Find a well known hard man...and start a fight" - MK McKinnan's Arctic Monkeys entrance music acted as an omen of things to come as he scrapped with "Dunkzilla" Mark Davis in the Aussie's first Wolverhampton appearance since joining Schadenfreude, coming hot straight out of the gate. In one his best performances since returning to action, McKinnan took an absolute beating from the bigger man, including a barrage of vicious looking chops and just kept on plugging away. I've felt that McKinnan has struggled to gain a connection with the larger Starworks crowd since returning, with many unaware of his past or his importance to the promotion, but his performance here should hopefully have won a lot more people over, as he sold tremendously throughout, not just the beating, but his desire to prove himself. McKinnan's facial expressions and body language in particular were spot on, drawing me further into the match and almost feel the pain myself. This was, of course, made easier by Dunkzilla being a big violent bastard and the ongoing Schadenfruede story in general, something which was maybe missing from other recent MK matches. It's much easier to root for the underdog, when you've got a connection with the villain of the piece! Davis would pick up the win with Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck, but both men came out better off following this one. All we need now is for more promotions to start booking McKinnan because he's only going to benefit from further ring time and exposure.

WrestleHouse Stat // Mark Davis remains undefeated one on one in FCP, having previously put away Kyle Fletcher in June 2017, Kay Lee Ray in December 2017 and Clint Margera this May.

WrestleHouse Scramble Match // 

Chuck Mambo def. "Session Moth" Martina and El Phantasmo and Drew Parker and Charli Evans // 


A well-placed and welcome scramble match, as Chuck Mambo finally got his chance in Wolvo and completely owned it, alongside strong performances from Martina, El Phantasmo, Drew Parker and Charli Evans as well. Particular moments that I noted down were Phantasmo's rope walking escapades, which I don't think could ever not be entertaining, as well as a strong sequence with Martina and Evans, who both put on impressive displays. A couple of slip-ups here and there, including a nasty blockbuster from Mambo, but it's rare to have a six-way bout at this pace without something going slightly awry at some point.  It was pleasant surprise to see Mambo so dominant in the victory as he cleared the field with a series of moves in quick succession including a dive to the floor before a top rope splash was enough to put Parker away. A fun change of pace from regular scramble finishes, which can come off a fluke, this seemed to be a way of establishing Mambo as a regular roster member going forward.

WrestleHouse Stat // This loss means that still Martina's only FCP victories in England were shooting Chief Deputy Dunne with a nerf gun and in a three-way that involved a stuffed giraffe as one of the participants. 

Singles Match // 

Tyler Bate def. Daisuke Sekimoto // 


Whilst it was a very good and extremely physical encounter, the real strength of Tyler Bate's victory over absolute unit Daisuke Sekimoto was the groundwork that had gone in across the previous couple of hours. Each singles match on the show followed a similar pattern, with one performer having to fight from underneath (Scott Davis, Omari, MK McKinnan) whilst the other (Jordan Devlin, Kyle Fletcher, Mark Davis) dominated the majority of proceedings, before the underdog was unable to overcome the odds. That meant that when Bate hit a gorgeous spiral tap to pull out an unlikely victory over an opponent that was bigger, more experience and had shown to be a consistently stronger boi, it felt like a much bigger moment than if the match had been consumed in a vacuum. 

The match itself was a meaty affair with the Big Japan star using strength and size to control, absorbing almost all of Bate's offence (including some big chops). With a much more considered pace than the rest of the card, this match took it's time to tell the story, holding the crowd more through the presence of the performers than a blow-away series of action, especially in the early goings. It was refreshing to see Bate back in a role in which he performs so well, as he got plenty of time here to show the fighting spirit and guts that saw him rise to the top of British wrestling, with some delightful facial expressions as he looked to find a way past Sekimoto. For me, I would've liked to have seen Sekimoto go in a little harder when the two were exchanging strikes, as Bate's chops almost always came across as more impressive, when it felt like Sekimoto's should have been the exclamation point on the exchange, whilst I think the bout could also have benefitted from a gear change down the stretch and perhaps one more good near fall. Overall though, this was a very good conclusion to the show, that tied things together nicely and provided a brilliant and rare opportunity to see Daisuke Sekimoto perform in England.  
WrestleHouse Stat // One on one Tyler Bate is undefeated in Fight Club: Pro since All the Best in February 2016 (a loss to Pete Dunne at the Planet) with Daisuke Sekimoto joining a list that also includes Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb and Travis Banks (twice).

ATPW Scale Rating // 

A lovely show once again from Fight Club: Pro who have real hit a rich vein of form since Dream Tag Team Invitational. Whilst this show didn't have the stand out match that other shows this year have had, everything seemed to hit around the good to very good range, with nothing that really dragged the show down. The pacing was some of the best I've seen FCP this year, with the right matches opening and closing each half and the scramble match coming at just the right point to clear the palette before the main event. The story told throughout the show was also a masterful piece of booking that could easily be overlooked. I touched on this in my Bate vs. Sekimoto review, but it really does need bringing up again, because it's not something that I can remember happening in FCP for quite a while. 

Review by James Marston

Photo Credit - The Ringside Perspective 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

WWE Monday Night RAW Review // 27th August 2018 // Reigns & Strowman vs. Ziggler & McIntyre

This week's RAW was a weird one as WWE looked to build a number of big shows at the same time. We got a major surprise heel turn, a classic Intercontinental Championship match between Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, Trish Stratus making a surprise appearance to confront Elias in her hometown, as well as Baron Corbin's first week as Acting RAW General  Manager. But was it any good? Lets take a look!

The opening segment was as pretty paint by numbers situation, giving us both a main event for the next PPV, Hell in a Cell, as well as the evening, as Braun Strowman officially announced he'd be cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Universal Champion Roman
Reigns in San Antonio on 16th September, before Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre challenged the Monster and the Big Dog to a match. The interaction between Reigns and Strowman was decent enough, the two clearly still have some chemistry from their surprise hit rivalry last year, whilst the Toronto crowd reacted well to a few well-placed verbal jabs. After Ziggler & McIntyre interrupted though the segment lost any of it's sting. The pair seemed to talk for a long time without actually saying anything, firstly complaining about Ziggler losing to Seth Rollins and then rambling on about wanting to face Reigns and Strowman for reasons that they didn't really make clear, all while getting little to no reaction from the crowd. Things weren't made better when Acting General Manager Baron Corbin came out and made all the confirmed matches official, taking his sweet time in doing so. I get what they're going for with Corbin, with him attempting to take credit for the work done by everyone else, but he's got so little charisma that he ended up sucking more air out of a segment that was already dying. The entire segment went about 15 minutes, felt like 25 and could've been done in 8 or 9.

No Disqualification Match – Acting RAW General Manager Baron Corbin def. Finn Balor via Pinfall

Under the section labelled “Feuds that have gone on way too long”, we have Baron Corbin and Finn Balor in their fourth singles match since the middle of July. This wasn't a feud that anyone was clamouring to see in the first place. The match itself was okay, some good back and forth in the later stages, once we got past an endless stretch of the same weardown hold from Corbin. It was clear to see that the two have been working together regularly from the couple of slick sequences they put together during the second half of the match, with some good variations on stuff like Corbin's Bossman clothesline spot. The highlight came from a slingblade on the outside from Balor that lead into the ad break, whilst a Tope con Hilo in the closing stages also looked great. The finish was used as a way to establish Corbin as Acting General Manager further, with the Lone Wolf causing a Disqualification with a steel chair, only to announce he'd forgotten to make announce that the bout was No DQ, following up with another chair shot and an End of Days for the win. You'd expect that this feud is finally done now, but with Balor unable to get the victory without the Demon it's hard to see where he goes next, especially if Corbin is staying as AGM for any amount of time.

Despite the match being six weeks away still, we got a package looking at Triple H vs. The Undertaker at Super Show-down with Ric Flair, Christian, Mick Foley, Jeff Jarrett and Kevin Nash discussing what we could see and who they thought would win.

We learned that Dana Brooke would be facing Sasha Banks next in her first RAW singles match since November 2017 in a backstage segment with Titus Worldwide crew. There seemed to be some tension teased between Titus O'Neil and Apollo Crews, with Crews confused at O'Neil's optimism for Brooke's chances.

Singles Match – Sasha Banks (with Bayley) def. Dana Brooke (with Titus O'Neil & Apollo Crews) via submission

In the first of a number of short matches on the show, Banks put Brooke away with the Banks Statement in two and a half minutes. For what it was, I found this relatively entertaining. Brooke going for a number of roll up attempts early made storyline sense, whilst the wrestler, who has consistently been towards the lower end of the female performers since debuting in 2015, actually didn't look awful here, hitting a nice looking enziguiri, pulling out some flippy type stuff, before going for her Samoan Driver finish and getting caught with a backstabber. I'm not quite sure what this match was for, with very little storyline development, but with Evolution not to far away it makes sense to give some depth to a couple of women at the far reaches of the division to fill out that card.

Backstage, there was an interaction between Dean Ambrose and Jinder Mahal that filled sometime and would eventually lead to a match in the third hour.

The first very good segment of the show was next as we got promos from Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, with the latter accepting an open challenge from the former. Rollins promo was alright, not offering much beyond crowd pandering, but effective enough to keep Toronto engaged and getting pops when necessary, before issuing the challenge. Owens on the other hand was on fire, full of anger at not having Sami Zayn by his side anymore, like Rollins had Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam, whilst also discussing how RAW hadn't been as much fun as he'd expecting. The Toronto crowd was super hot for their fellow Canadian, that is until he mentioned he's from Quebec and began speaking exclusively in French to a chorus of boos. It was timed to perfection with Owens spending enough time reeling in the crowd to get them to believe in his cause, only to turn on them just before the match began. Although with the skill and fire of the segment of his babyface promo it's curious that Owens has yet to be seen in this role regularly since his very first match with WWE at NXT Takeover: R Evolution back in December 2014.

Singles Match for Intercontinental Championship – Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens via pinfall to retain

A superb television match here, with Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins putting on what was almost certainly their best singles match in WWE, and definitely the best match on the show. Part of why this match worked better for me than their series over the Universal Championship in Autumn 2016 was that Rollins has grown and grown as a babyface since that point, becoming arguably the best performer on the main roster since then, honing his moveset, whilst also making better use of his impeccable selling. That was on full display here as Owens targetting the Architect's shoulder, including a lovely senton onto the afflicted area. A couple of tremendous sequences in the middle of the bout with Rollins looking to hit either the Curb Stomp or the Ripcord Knee, only for Owens to block with an attack to the shoulder, would eventually string together into Owens locking in a Crossface and then modifying the submission to block Rollins arm reaching the rope, in a well-done dramatic moment was a personal highlight. Some back and forth series of reversals that would conclude with Owens hitting a Stunner as an answer to Rollins' Avadra Kedavra was brilliant in a completely different way, more reminiscent of their indy work than their early WWE series, as both men continued to show their versatility as in-ring performers. I would have liked to have seen Rollins' shoulder used further in the closing stages, as whilst Rollins still sold well the injury was put on the back burner in the final third, whilst playing very little role in the eventual finish. I think that with a little work on that this bout could've been pushed even further. However, it was super cool to see Owens pull out a double jump moonsault from his bag of tricks and, of course, missing the move would lead to Rollins retaining his belt at the first time of asking, collecting a W with a Curb Stomp to bring a stellar Intercontinental Championship match to an end.

Backstage, Braun Strowman handed his Money in the Bank briefcase to Baron Corbin, signalling that his cash-in at Hell in a Cell is now official.

There was an intriguing angle post-match as a frustrated Owens, who has struggled for victories since moving to RAW in April, sat in the ring, muttered the words “I quit” before slowly walking to the back. Like most, I'm very intrigued to see what happens next, which is the most important part of any weekly wrestling show.

Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre managed to improve on their promo from the opening segment in an interview with Renee Young. The pair bought a whole heap more energy to their performances, whilst also seeming to have a better idea of why they were challenging two of the most dominant performers on the RAW brand. This boiled down to the idea that Reigns' body wasn't ready to compete following gruelling matches with Brock Lesnar and Finn Balor last week, whilst Braun Strowman's mind wasn't ready to compete after two thwarted Money in the Bank cash-ins in the same time period.

Tag Team Match – The Revival def. RAW Tag Team Champions The B-Team via pinfall

The B-Team's undefeated streak finally came to an end at the hands of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder this week as The Revival went over Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas in a rematch from SummerSlam Kick-Off. This was a fairly basic tag match in structure, failing to get any real reaction out of the crowd. A lot of the action felt contrived and clunky, including a couple of roll-up spots that went on for way to long and killed an energy the match could have had. WWE seems to have no idea what made either team popular and even less of an idea about how it wants to present them to it's audience. Are the B-Team a comedy babyface act? Because there was very little in the way of shenanigan or attempted shenanigan from them here. This meant that the Revival's cutting off the ring schtick simply comes across as boring, because there's little to no promise of anything exciting or entertaining later on in the match. With The Revival's act, if the crowd aren't behind the face in peril then it falls flat. It's difficult to see how RAW's tag division can recover at the moment, as whilst there is some talent there, especially in Dawson & Wilder, the creative and attention to detail, both big and small, simply isn't there.

An entertaining segment saw Trish Stratus interrupt Elias, after The Drifter began ripping into Stratus' hometown of Toronto. Neither performer was without their slip-ups during their promos, but both has enough charisma to keep the crowd and the vocal talent to roll with their mistakes. There was a couple of really well-written lines in this with Elias making a reference to Torontonian Drake's song “Started from the Bottom”, whilst a pair of barbs from each wrestler later on in the promo got great pops from the crowd, even if it did feel like they were papering over that they had no legitimate chemistry. A Stratus slap closed the segment, with Ronda Rousey and Natalya's entrance for the next match being used as a way to swiftly move on from the fact that there wasn't any real ending in place.

Before, Natalya took on Alicia Fox, we got to here from Alexa Bliss, with the revelation that she was revoking or invoking or devoking perhaps, her rematch clause for Rousey's RAW Women's Championship at Hell in a Cell. Bliss also reintroduced Mickie James who hadn't been seen for quite a while, for a nice pop.

Singles Match – Natalya (with RAW Women's Champion Ronda Rousey & WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus) def. Alicia Fox (with Alexa Bliss & Mickie James) via submission.

A quick and simple win for Natalya in her home-country in her first match since her father, Jim Neidhart, passed away. Natty won with a Sharpshooter in a few minutes and whilst there was nothing of note in the bout, it's difficult to complain about WWE allowing for such a sentimentally sweet moment. This was made especially heart-warming/heart-breaking by Natty pointing to the sky and proclaiming the match was for her Dad afterwards. WWE doesn't always handle death well on it's television products, here's hoping that Jim Neidhart becomes an exception and makes a new rule.

Backstage, Natalya, Rousey and Stratus were met by the Bella Twins. Brie and Nikki talked awkwardly for a few seconds, before it was revealed they'd be returning to action on next week's show. Yay. (For fact fans, this will be their first TV match as a duo since the 17th October 2015 edition of Main Event, where they went over Team B.A.D.'s Naomi and Tamina on a show that also included Stardust vs. Fandango and Ryback vs. Adam Rose!)

Another look at what various WWE alumni thinks about The Undertaker facing Triple H in Melbourne in October. This time we heard from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Booker T, The Big Show and Diamond Dallas Page, which was nice.

In a surprisingly entertaining segment, Baron Corbin informed Bobby Lashley that he had a match next, but that Corbin couldn't remember who he'd booked him against. I got a kick out of Lashley laughing it off, pretending to be pals with Corbin whilst slapping him on the shoulder. Corbin later informed Lashley that his match was a handicap match once the former Impact World Champion had got in the ring. I'm interested to see how long WWE pushes Corbin as the heel GM using his power irresponsibly and what the actual pay-off is, considering his boss is still the villainous RAW Commissioner Stephanie McMahon.

Two-on-One Handicap Match – Bobby Lashley def. The Ascension via pinfall

This was a thing. A rather stupid piece of booking, as Lashley going over two guys who haven't looked like a threat in years, but are also considered to have never been booked correctly since leaving NXT, isn't going to help him get over, whilst neither placing him in a feud with Baron Corbin. With the RAW tag team division a mess it's irresponsible to kill another team off in what was a pretty throwaway contest.

Singles Match – Dean Ambrose def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall

Completing a trifeca of short matches, Jinder Mahal's run at the top of the SmackDown brand seemed a distance memory as he lost cleanly to Dean Ambrose in under five minutes. Mahal had pretty much the whole match, controlling after a distraction from Sunil Singh, leading to dull and forgettable contest that offered very little in the way of entertainment. Ambrose's comebacks were repeatedly cut off by Mahal, the Lunatic Fringe reversed a Khallas attempt with a Dirty Deeds. Out of the three matches The Shield members had on the show, this was the weakest and ultimately most pointless, coming across as generic time-filler. I suppose Ambrose needed to be continued to be reintroduced to the audience and a quick win over a former World Champion is a solid way to do, but the delivery came off as lazy and unimaginative.

In the lockeroom, Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns had a confrontation, although seemed to be on the same page before the main event.

Tag Team Match – WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns & “Mr. Monster in the Bank” Braun Strowman vs. Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre ended in a no contest

Less of a match and more of a set-up for a shock conclusion to the show, as Braun Strowman turned on Roman Reigns, appearing to side with Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre as the trio turned away both Dean Ambrose and Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins, before inflicting further punishment on Reigns. The match was alright up until this point, as Reigns battled against Ziggler and McIntyre as the face-in-peril with McIntyre and Ziggler continuing to work well as a team and showing plenty of intensity and physicality throughout as they thwarted various Reigns comeback attempts. But I'm not sure how effective the angle was or if it was the right decision to turn Strowman at this point. The Toronto crowd didn't seem to know what to make of what was happening, especially at the start, when it was very unclear where the angle was heading, but even then the reaction from them didn't match what was going on in the ring, mostly because nobody wanted to see a Braun Strowman heel-turn just 10 months after he became a babyface. Following the Becky Lynch heel-turn at SummerSlam, this feels like another case of WWE being out-of-touch with what it's core audience wants to see and how it is connected with the performers in the ring.

There's intrigue from this reviewer in how this plays out next week and going forward and it has been a while since RAW ended with a genuinely surprising moment. There is also potential in a Strowman/Ziggler/McIntyre vs. The Shield match to main event RAW with variational singles match also having promise whilst also filling valuable minutes of content. Like any good episodic TV ending, I was left asking questions about how the relationships between the characters were effected and whether there was an full and proper alliance between the villainous trio or whether this was one-off or month-long partnership, but I was also left questioning whether the timing was right, whether the correct person had made the turn and how WWE's insistence of keeping Reigns as the babyface star of the show could negatively impact on not just Strowman, but on Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose also.


As episodes of RAW go, this was high on big impact moments and talking points, but low on good quality content across the three hours, with some horrible booking seen throughout. Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins stole the show with their Intercontinental Championship match, whilst Owens' walk-out was probably the most interesting storyline development. Alongside this we had Braun Strowman's questionable heel turn and alignment with Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler, whilst we also got a surprise appearance from Hall of Famer Trish Stratus in a fun appearance with Elias. We also got a look at Baron Corbin in the role of Acting General Manager for the first time, something which feels like it could be fun in the short term, but could get tiresome if a pay-off doesn't come by Survivor Series at the very latest. A nice moment for Natalya and a surprisingly competent performance from Dana Brooke aside, the rest of the show was a mix between filler matches and dull matches with bad booking as WWE continued to struggled to know what to do with it's tag teams and Bobby Lashley.

Try to check out the gem of a match between Rollins and Owens in full, but I'm sure all of the moments worth seeing from the rest of the show are available on YouTube.

Review by James Marston

Monday, 25 June 2018

Retro Review // TNA Lockdown 2006

April 2006, Gnarls Barkley's Crazy was blasting out, everyone was about to die of bird flu and TNA were hosting Lockdown 2006. Gosh golly, it was a mad time to be about. The second ever all steel cage event was still a pretty novel concept at the time, with the show being headlined by Abyss challenging for Christian Cage's NWA World Heavyweight title and a Lethal Lockdown match with Sting being joined by AJ Styles, Rhino & Ron “The Truth” Killings to battle a Jeff Jarrett-led team that included America's Most Wanted (James Storm & Chris Harris) & Scott Steiner. But how was Lockdown 2006? Here's our review.

Brutality meets Hardcore”, the opening package throws up random words, focusing on Christian Cage vs. Abyss for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Samoa Joe defending his X Division title against Sabu and the Lethal Lockdown match pitting a Jeff Jarrett-led team against a group headed up by Sting. This promo is too much, man.

Screw McMahonism, I'm a TNAthiest” reads a sign in the crowd, as Mike Tenay and Don West welcome us to the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida.

Six Man Tag Team World X Cup Preview Steel Cage Match - Team Japan (Minoru, Hirooki Goto & Black Tiger) vs. Team USA (Sonjay Dutt, Alex Shelley & Jay Lethal)

A sweet opener here with six talented young performers combining well to present an exciting preview to that year's World X Cup. Whilst the steel cage was barely used and the match would probably have been much better without, the six lads worked well within the confines, working a number of tight sequences and bringing in a number of sick fucking tag moves that hyped the crowd up well. Team USA worked particularly well together with the majority of their offence coming in short bursts of double and triple team offence, highlighted early on with a wheelbarrow gutbuster combination from Jay Lethal & Alex Shelley that was followed up with a lionsault from Sonjay Dutt. Whilst Team Japan would get the win with a tasty bridging Tiger suplex from Black Tiger (better known as Rocky Romero in New Japan Pro Wrestling) on Jay Lethal, I feel like Team Japan still could've been better presented in the main body of the match, often coming across as a little generic whilst Team USA got the majority of the exciting offence in. Lethal showed signs of the world-class performer he'd develop into in Ring of Honor, pulling out a good variety of action with his three opponents and looking the smoothest and most reliable performer on Team USA, whilst also doing a great job of selling his arm following a sequence that concluded with him getting caught in Minoru's signature submission, the Minoru Special (flying cross armbreaker).

Next PPV – On 14th May at Sacrifice, all six men would compete in the World X Cup Final Gauntlet match that also featured Eric Young, Incognito, Johnny Devine, Jushin Thunder Liger, Magno, Puma, Shocker, Tyson Dux and eventual winner Petey Williams. This would be the final TNA PPV appearances for both Hirooki Goto & Black Tiger.

Mike Tenay and Don West chatted a bit and showed us some of the matches that were still to come, whilst pushing the idea that Lockdown was a unique show because of the all steel cage gimmick

Jeremy Borash pushed the new TNA action figure set, before interviewing a Team 3D who all very intense with Brother Ray proclaiming he'd rather work for “that company in Conneticut” than hear the Canadian national anthem...also Latte Zbssskfko to ask Borash something, it was unclear what was going on.

Steel Cage Match - “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels vs. “Formerly Known as Low-Ki” Senshi

Considering the pedigree of the talent involved, this match comes out feeling surprisingly throwaway and whilst it's still a pretty good outing, it doesn't come close to reaching the potential that a match between Christopher Daniels and Senshi had at this time when looked at on paper. This is partly down to a relatively basic match structure and a couple of teases of big highspots that ultimately came to nothing. Neither man seemed completely into the bout, perhaps feeling pissed at being chucked into the second match on the card with no build and this leads to a middle section with little direction and a surprising lack of high-quality sequences. There was however some strong psychology at work in the opening with Senshi taking the action to Daniels with the commentary team pushing that Daniels had been caught off guard by his former Triple X stablemate answering his open challenge with the former and future Low Ki unloading some stiff strikes on the Fallen Angel, including a brutal looking double foot stomp. The highlight of the match was a strong near fall for Daniels off a Best Moonsault Ever, but the finish ended up falling flat for this reviewer as Senshi escaped an Angel's Wings attempt into a pinning combination picking up the win with his feet on the middle turnbuckle. I've probably been a bit hard on this match and I'd still say it would be worth checking out, but if you're pushed for time and want an example of a singles match between the two then you'd probably be better served by watching their encounter from earlier in 2006 at Ring of Honor's Tag Wars event.

Next PPV – At Sacrifice, Christopher Daniels would tag with AJ Styles in a losing effort against America's Most Wanted for the NWA World Tag Team titles. On the other hand, Senshi missed Sacrfice but would return for Slammiversary in June, winning a six way elimination bout that also included Alex Shelley, Jay Lethal, Petey Williams, Shark Boy and Sonjay Dutt.

Jeremy Borash had a chat with “Bullet” Bob Armstrong and the James Gang ahead of Armstrong's arm wrestling match with Konnan...there's a lot of weird cliches that I'm sure sounded good when they came up with them...

The promo package for the Arm Wrestling match is an absolute dumpster fire, acting more as a promo video for whatever mad song is being played in the background than telling me what has actually happened in this feud.

Konnan cut a promo on Orlando, the crowd didn't react because the show is in a theme park, so the crowd is mostly tourists. Brilliant work Konnan, you cunt.

Steel Cage Arm Wrestling Match – Konnan (with The Latin American Xchange (Homicide & Hernandez)) vs. “Bullet” Bob Armstrong (with The James Gang (BG James & Kip James))

63 year old Bob Armstrong got the win in an overly theatric arm wrestling match, despite repeated attempt at cheating from Konnan. What else can I say?

As per the pre-match stipulation the James Gang got to administer ten whips with belts to LAX...this was a bit of a shambles, but did included an unintentionally funny moment when BG accidentally called Kip “Billy”, leading to Mike Tenay quipping on commentary that Kip had “jumped the Gun(n)”.

Next PPV – Whilst this was Konnan's final PPV match, Bob Armstrong would return for February 2008's Against All Odds event, tagging with BG James for an unsuccessful shot at AJ Styles & Tomko's TNA World Tag Team Championships.

Latte told Jeff Jarrett that his team had won the coin toss for Lethal Lockdown, as the rest of Team Jarrett chatted to Jeremy Borash about the upcoming Lethal Lockdown match, including Scott Steiner absolutely murdering the English language and a surpringsly competent performance from America's Most Wanted's Chris Harris.

X-Division X-Scape Match – “Primetime” Elix Skipper (w/ Simon Diamond) vs. Petey Williams (w/ Coach D'Amore) vs. Puma vs. Chase Stevens vs. Shark Boy vs. “The Captain of Team USA” Chris Sabin

Despite a convoluted gimmick, the X-Scape match featured the best action of the show so far with strong performances from the likes of eventual winner Chris Sabin and Petey Williams. If you're unfamiliar with the gimmick, it's basically an elimination match with pinfalls or submissions until the final two competitors have to attempt to “X-scape” the cage (seriously, Tenay really hammered home that they would be “X-scaping”) to earn the victory. The earlier part of the match is hampered by the competitors having to tag in and out for some illogical reason, but once Shark Boy gets eliminated and everyone begins flying around the ring at the same time it became an exciting spot-heavy clash, featuring a number of intricate fast-paced sequences. The match peaked with a ridiculous shooting star press off the top of the cage from Chase Stevens, where everyone failed to catch the Hoosier. The spot could've ended up much worse for Stevens and it's damn good job he performed the move perfectly. Wrestling-wise the best action resulted in Puma's elimination as the man now known as TJP had a brilliant exchange with Petey Williams with the pair going back and forth repeatedly before Williams catapulted Puma straight into a Cradle Shock from Sabin. I'm not sure how much the X-scape gimmick helped the finale between Sabin and Williams as the wrestling stopped and both men simply tried to jump over the top, which would have been cool if there was something on the line, but without anything to fight for it was hard to buy into the drama of those moments. The finish itself came across as a little hokey with Williams ending up falling on his manager Coach D'Amore's shoulders when trying to escape, allowing Sabin to pick up the win and the momentum heading into the World X Cup. With a few tweaks to the gimmick and perhaps a better performance from a lacklustre Elix Skipper, this match would've been brilliant, however it's still a very fun watch that doesn't outstay it's welcome.

Next PPV – At Sacrifice, Petey Williams would lose to Jushin Thunder Liger in the World X Cup, before going on to win the final Gauntlet match that also included Puma and Chris Sabin. Shark Boy had to wait another month for PPV action, taking part in the aforementioned six way elimination match that was won by Senshi, whilst Chase Stevens & Elix Skipper returned at July's Victory Road show as Steven's teamed with Andy Douglas at The Naturals to defeat Skipper and his partner David Young, known collectively as The Diamonds in the Rough (which is an awful tag team name)

Jeremy Borash had tracked down Abyss & Father James Mitchell backstage and Mitchell cut a mad promo about Christian Cage not being a real champion and promising that Cage's head will roll later tonight. Odd stuff, but oddly compelling also.

The promo for Samoa Joe vs. Sabu, showing us lots of mad things that have happened, but it appears there's not much of a feud here.

Mikey Tenay gave us the “X Factors” for the Samoa Joe vs. Sabu match, which included that Joe was yet to be defeated in TNA, that both men were the epitome of the X-Division's “no limits” ethos and that Latte had chosen to bring in someone from outside TNA in order to push Joe further than before.

X Division Championship – Sabu vs. “The Undefeated Samoan Submission Machine” Samoa Joe ©

This is neither man's best effort, but it does the job of putting Samoa Joe over strong as a dominant force capable of tackling an opponent with a unique style as Joe beats the shit out of the former ECW Champion. The match is probably 80% Joe as he lobs his opponent around the cage with Sabu being busted open pretty early, which really helps towards the aura TNA were trying to build around Joe at this time. I'm not a massive fan of Sabu, but he actually manages to hit most of his offence effectively here, including a number of old favourites, even if he called every move ridiculously loudly. There's some weird stuff with Sabu having a cast on a supposedly broken arm, which I don't think achieved anything as despite Joe repeatedly going after the cast, Sabu couldn't sell because he had a cast on and even if he didn't I'm not sure he'd have sold it anyway, because he's Sabu. Could the two have had a better match? Probably, under different circumstances, but considering Sabu would be challenging John Cena and Rey Mysterio for titles in WWE a few months later, this was a massive victory for Samoa Joe at the time.

Next PPV – At Sacrifice, Samoa Joe continued to build momentum as he teamed with Sting to defeat Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner. Sabu would jump ship to WWE, appearing on the ECW One Night Stand show just two month's later in June, going to a no contest with Rey Mysterio over the World Heavyweight title, before returning to TNA PPV in August 2010, losing to Rob Van Dam at Hardcore Justice – The Last Stand.

Team Canada (Coach D'Amore, Bobby Roode, Eric Young & A1) sang “O Canada” and Coach D'Amore explained that most of the issues between them and Team 3D come from Team 3D being fat or something. Latte was back as he continued to try to find out what the big announcement is going to be, but received no help from Team Canada.

Hype promo time in which we learn that Team 3D are furious for being covered in a Canadian flag at some point by Team Canada and some more weird nationalistic weird shit. The backbone of this was a ridiculously cringey promo from Brother Ray.
Six Man Tag Team Steel Cage Anthem Match - Team Canada (A1, “The Canadian Enforcer” Bobby Roode & “Showtime” Eric Young) (with Coach D'Amore) vs. Team 3D (Brother Ray, Brother Devon & Brother Runt)

Whilst there was a handful of great spots and nice creativity here, this match becomes a painful watch thanks to the awful gimmick and some horrible booking. Firstly, lets discuss the idea of the Anthem match. The aim of the match is to retrieve your country's flag from the top of the cage, which will then result in your country's national anthem being played and victory. Why? Team Canada had already came out to their usual entrance theme...”O Canada”...and also sang the anthem in the backstage segment earlier. Lads. Onto the booking which is very poor indeed. After a ref bump, Team 3D grabbed the Stars and Stripes, which, of course, didn't result in the end of the match because the referee was down. Team Canada managed to put the flag back and after Coach D'Amore nailed the “gatekeeper” with a steel chair, he got a table in the cage, which eventually Eric Young ended up going through with a diving elbow drop attempt on Brother Runt, before A1 took an Acid Drop from Runt and Roode a 3D from Ray & Devon, leading to Team 3D getting the flag down for the second time and winning the match. This made Team Canada look like an absolute bunch of chumps. They lost the match twice, despite underhanded tactics and spent a long time in control without even attempting to get their flag. Despite all this shit, there were a couple of great moments, including Roode taking an Avalanche Bubba Bomb early on and a lovely spot with A1 blocking an Acid Drop and setting up Roode for a wicked sitout powerbomb.

After the match, a terrible version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” played and Brother Ray and Brother Devon gave Coach D'Amore a 3D.

Next PPV – At Sacrifice, Brother's Ray and Devon came out on the losing side of a match with The James Gang (BJ James & Kip James), whilst it was a mixed night for Team Canada as despite Bobby Roode's victory over Rhino, A1 put over Raven and Eric Young was unsuccessful in the World X Cup Final Gauntlet match. Brother Runt's next PPV match would be for the HUSTLE promotion in June as he tagged with his storyline brother's Kinetaro Kinemura, Masato Tanaka and Tetsuhiro Kuroda at House Vol. 16 – The Road to HUSTLE Aid, before returning to TNA in July at Victory Road for another six man tag, this time seeing Team 3D losing to Abyss & The James Gang.

Mike Tenay and Don West attempted to talk about the two matches left on the card, but the crowd obviously wanted to actually sing the US National anthem still, because the version TNA played was impossible to join in with. Team 3D recognised this and ended up leading a sing-a-long at the top of the babyface ramp in what was actually a pretty cute moment.

After being heavily pushed in every backstage segment on the show, it turned out that TNA's major announcement was that they were going through a corporate restructuring. Come on guys, that's not going to get anyone excited about anything. What this boiled down to was that there was a new “face of TNA management”, who would be revealed at a later date. Latte was put on probation as the “Head of the Championship Committee” and former ECW World Heavyweight Champion Raven returned to the company, chasing Latte around the ring for reason's that I'm sure were clear if you were watch iMPACT at the time. Oh, Christy Hemme also made her TNA debut in this segment, delivering an envelope to the commentary bois.

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Christian Cage refused to be interviewed by Jeremy Borash

Good golly, it was all going on in the Abyss vs. Christian Cage feud in '06. Abyss and Father James Mitchell had stalked Cage's wife and beaten Cage up in his home and attempted to drown him, whilst Cage had looked to use a tyre iron on Abyss. Why are we having a wrestling match and not a day in court?

Mike Tenay ran down the tale of the tape for the NWA World title match, with some shit puns and stuff.

Steel Cage match for NWA World Heavyweight Championship - “The Monster” Abyss vs. Christian Cage ©

Whilst at times over-booked, Abyss vs. Christian Cage is a fun World title cage match, that has good variety and remained entertaining for over 20 minutes. The match is packed with strong near falls with Abyss kicking out of an Unprettier, whilst Cage survives a Blackhole Slam, as well as featuring a number of big highspots with the highlight being a Frog Splash from the top of the six sides of steel from the champion. The double ref bump was gratuitous, but both bumps were creatively done and allowed for a little added drama down the stretch, whilst the second showed signs of desperation from The Monster as he threw the ref into the cage to prevent Cage diving off the top, which in turn added a little depth to the storytelling in the later stages. I think at times the match lost sight of how serious the feud had been between the two, as after the opening brawl there's a slight lack of intensity from either man and things almost settle into a typical power vs. technique type contest. Whilst the thumbtack spots are brutal, they have more of an air of trying anything possible to win the top prize in the NWA than anything else. The finish, however, is done very well, with Cage countering a chokeslam and nailing the second Unprettier of the match, this time onto a massive pile of thumbtacks, whilst Tenay and West sold the moment on commentary. This is probably a Top Five singles match for Abyss in TNA, whilst also being the strongest match on the card.

After the match, Christian Cage attempted to gain some revenge on Father James Mitchell, but was instead low-blowed by Abyss, before being bloodied and hung by a chain using the steel cage in what was an unnecessary angle. Mitchell handed Abyss the NWA World Heavyweight title belt before the pair left.

Next PPV – The two would collide again at Sacrfice, with Christian Cage retaining once more in a Full Metal Mayhem match, which main evented the show.

Ron Killings, AJ Styles and Rhino were all interviewed by Jeremy Borash with Rhino giving the best account of himself on the mic, pulling out an intense promo, ending with his “Gore, Gore, Gore” catchphrase. Sting showed up at the end to say “It's showtime, folks”.

The hype package for the main event focused on the issues between Jeff Jarrett and Sting, whilst never actually explaining what those issues were, whilst also pushing Lethal Lockdown as the most

Lethal Lockdown – Team Jarrett (NWA World Tag Team Champion “Wildcat” Chris Harris, NWA World Tag Team Champion “Cowboy” James Storm, Jeff Jarrett & “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner) (with Gail Kim & Jackie) vs. Sting's Warriors (“The Phenomenal” AJ Styles, Rhino, Ron “The Truth” Killings & Sting)

Lethal Lockdown produced an entertaining main event, that whilst at times lacking in substance, used the gimmick to keep the momentum building, whilst two massive spots make this a more than worthwhile watch. One of the spots is probably one of the most memorable moments in Lethal Lockdown history as AJ Styles and James Storm battled on top of the cage, concluding with Styles scaling a tall ladder and using some trussing to splash Storm through a table. Whilst this isn't shot particularly well by TNA, it still looks incredible and is a testament to what Styles was willing to do for the company at this time. This is also seen in the other spot as Styles is at the top of a ridiculous tower of doom spot that sees him fall from the top of the cage. Had their been more of an issue between anyone other than Jeff Jarrett and Sting, I think the latter stages could've been a much more compelling watch, as things essentially boil down to a sequence where everyone hits their signature moves, before an awkward sequence where Sting reversed a Sharpshooter from Chris Harris into a Scorpion Deathlock, which struggled following the massive spot from Styles and Storm on top of the cage. The undisputed lowlight was Jackie removing Gail Kim's skirt as she attempted to scale the cage, something which makes it seem like 2006 was a world away from the modern day.

Performance wise, there's no doubt that Styles is the MVP of this bout as he works his arse off throughout, helping others look like a million bucks, especially when starting the match with Harris, whilst taking part in the matches two biggest spots of the evening. Everyone else almost fades into the background, mainly appearing during their entrances to hit a number of big moves before coming back into the action for the finishing sequence. Everyone manages to look pretty good when first out the gate, with Rhino and Steiner's entrances in particularly lifting the contest at the right time, when they unleash a series of power moves, whilst Ron Killings also pulls out a greatest hits of his funky offence. For me, the two captains of the team put in disappointing efforts, as aside from a melodramatic stand-off with their guitar and baseball bat respectively, it's hard to point out anything particularly impressive or memorable from either man.

2006's incarnation of Lethal Lockdown is certainly worth a watch and has a case for being the best version of the contest, that has never quite fufilled its potential as TNA's version of WarGames. Although I'd put the Team Angle vs. Team Cage bout from the next Lockdown show as slightly ahead.

Next PPV – The feud between Sting and Jeff Jarrett continued at Sacrifice with Sting picking up another victory as he teamed with Samoa Joe to take on Jarrett & Scott Steiner. America's Most Wanted succesfully defended their NWA World Tag Team Championships against AJ Styles and his partner Christopher Daniels at the same event, whilst Rhino ended up putting over Bobby Roode. Ron Killings wouldn't be back on PPV til July at Slammiversary, taking part in a King of the Mountain match for Christian Cage's NWA World Heavyweight title, in a match that also included Abyss and Sting and saw Jeff Jarrett walk out with the ten pounds of gold.

Lockdown 2006 was a really solid PPV that, despite some issues with the booking, featured a number of entertaining matches. The opening stretch of X Division action (albeit broken up by a lame arm wrestling match) is an inspired way to do the first half, that also displays the sheer amount of talent that TNA had in that area at the time as we see appearances from Samoa Joe, Alex Shelley, Low Ki, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin, TJP and Jay Lethal. There's a definite lull in the middle with the Joe vs. Sabu match not setting the world alight, whilst the Anthem match has it's moments but features six men fighting against a poorly conceived gimmick, whilst the constant interruptions from Latte resulted in a disappointing “major announcement” (something that would become a running theme for TNA in later years). The prevalence of multi-man matches gets a little much by the end of the show as TNA seems dead set on trying to get as many men inside the steel cage as possible, but that does also mean that when it comes time for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship match the match gains more of a big match feel than it perhaps would have got following a series of particularly good singles matches. Indeed, for me, the Abyss vs. Christian Cage match is the best on the show, going heavy on the drama that is at times missing from the Lethal Lockdown main event, whilst also showcasing what was a perhaps surprising chemistry between The Monster and Captain Charisma. For the first time on Retro Review, I'd recommend this PPV as a complete watch, as despite it's flaws it is a good show that is mostly carried well across the three hours. You can check it out on the Global Wrestling Network

Next time - NWA Starrcade 1985 feat. Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard in an I Quit Steel Cage match and The Rock N' Roll Express vs. The Russians in a Cage match.

Written by James Marston