Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Time For A Change

Sean Taylor-Richardson presents his first article for ATPW, a look at how the WWE landscape could change in 2015.


2015 is going to be a big year for the WWE. Maybe it’s biggest yet. 2014 presented the sports entertainment juggernaut with a considerable number of problems, from a CM Punk sized whole in the roster to financial reviews that left Wall Street investors calling for their lawyers to get the tables. For every defining moment that took place in the ring, and to be fair there were a few, there was an equally significant negative lurking around the corner: the rise of The Shield was tempered by the false dawns for Bray Wyatt and Cesaro whilst the untimely injury to Daniel Bryan that followed his epic Wrestlemania moment left fans wondering what might have been. For me,  the year never reached the heights promised by the spectacular 24 hour spell that encompassed the outstanding WrestleMania XXX and the electric Raw that followed it. So what does the company do now to rejuvenate those jaded fans who are so down on the product? What are the compelling feuds and potential world class match ups that will lock in those much sought after Network subscribers? 

There is only one place to start when forecasting the WWE of 2015: Wrestlemania 31. 
Simply put, this show has to be a hit. Whether it is through Network subs or traditional PPV buys, WWE needs to draw a million plus viewers to this show and to do that they need a card that combines the requisite dose of nostalgia with a sense of forward planning. Anyone who has had but a cursory look at the internet recently knows the rumoured current plans for the main event in Santa Clara. Roman Reigns (the sure-fire winner of the Royal Rumble) will challenge Champion Brock Lesnar, who will be fresh off a victory over John Cena at Royal Rumble. As a main event, this could go two ways. It could be a hard hitting brawl that ends in a star-making moment as the momentum of the streak is handed over to a young man destined to lead the company into a new era. Alternatively the crowd could turn on the still “green” Reigns, undermining his big moment with incessant booing and irrelevant chants. Despite the risk, don’t expect the company to change course like they did with Batista and Bryan last year. Vince and Trips are hot on Reigns and know that the company needs a new star- they will press on with this regardless. Whilst the Wrestlemania moment may not be passionate or as anticipated as that bestowed on Bryan this year, it will occur. And if nothing else it will guarantee a fresh line up of main events in the subsequent months. 

Roman Reigns making an appearance at Survivor Series. Photo credit - WWE

With Reigns established as the next big thing, it is imperative that WrestleMania season be used to cultivate a host of worthy contenders so that Reigns has a series of competitive, credible title matches that define his title run. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins could well revisit their rivalry come ‘Mania which could lead onto a spring title programme in which Roman defends against his former Shield brethren in a triple threat, a tantalising prospect for sure. But Vince and co need to use ‘Mania to generate a bevy of challengers. For that reason, I'd expect Bray Wyatt to finally get a truly big PPV win, possibly at the expense of the rejuvenated Randy Orton, and be established as a future foil to the Roman Empire. Also at the big show, Rusev could tangle with Cena in the conclusion of the Russia v USA dispute; if the WWE has the conviction to have the Bulgarian Brute go over, Reigns would have a tailor made opponent and the possibility of a genuine feel good moment should he be the one to topple the surrogate Russian. However, the likelihood of Cena letting down his fans on the biggest show of the year is slim. Such has been the consistency of Rusev’s build that even a competitive loss to Cena shouldn’t harm him too much; one would expect him and Reigns to headline a B show at some point next year. 

But what of Cena himself? If the plan is to make Reigns the perennial champion, Cena will find he is in a role not dissimilar to that held by Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker at the end of their careers. Big enough to not need the belt, Cena’s real issue is who is there left for him to fight throughout 2015? The inevitable Rusev programme will be fresh, as would a one on one encounter with Reigns (I'd expect Cena to do the job there, possibly when SummerSlam returns to New York/ New Jersey) but who else could he have a meaningful programme with across the year? Luke Harper is a possible feud but they’ve already met on TV on multiple occasions; the Big E contest that Cena campaigned for in 2013 now looks along way off. What Cena, and indeed the WWE needs, is for NXT to provide us with the next generation as soon as possible… 

John Cena hitting Seth Rollins with an Attitude Adjustment on this week's Raw. Photo credit - WWE 

Unquestionably the current roster, talented though it is, feels stale. An analysis of the rosters from two distinct time periods demonstrates the need for new faces in the present day. Discounting celebrity appearances and focusing purely on professional wrestlers, WrestleMania 1-10 featured 134 wrestlers whilst Wrestlemania 21-30 showcased 118 performers. Quite comparable one might think but this data includes both male and female performers and there have been far more female wrestlers appearing in the recent era, thus skewing results.  If the study focused only on male wrestlers it would reveal a total of 128 men competed for Vince at Mania between 1985 and 1994 whereas only 88 did so in the spell from 2005-2014. Interestingly, no male performer wrestled on the cards of both WrestleMania 1 and 10 (one female did: Leilani Kai) whereas 9 of the card from WrestleMania 21 also stepped into the ring for Mania 30. 

Clearly far more wrestlers passed through Titan Towers in relatively quick order in the 80s and 90s. Now the reasons for this are fairly obvious (where else is there for a mid-card act to go nowadays?) but it is time for WWE to shake things up. NXT allows them to do this- a flux of new talent should be available to step up to the main roster whilst mid-carders in need of a reboot could drop down to the Performance Centre in anticipation of a character overhaul. In 2015, the WWE’s mid card should be bolstered by the arrivals of Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Kevin Owens, Tyler Breeze, Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville. Dream matches await when these men tangle with the likes of Ziggler and Cesaro whilst consistent, measured pushes (see Rusev and The Shield) could elevate them to the point where Cena and Orton genuinely have new opponents to tangle (2015 surely couldn't result in Cena vs Orton again…could it?) 

Hideo Itami & Finn Balor picking up a victory on last week's NXT. Photo credit - WWE 

Whilst the NXT migration is key to the long term future of the WWE, such pushes will take time. Adding some familiar acts to the roster would do no harm in the short term. Many forsee Sting finally appearing for the WWE at Wrestlemania but this will likely be a one shot deal tied into his Hall of Fame induction in March. The troubled waters that rock TNA could lead to acts like The Hardy Boys and The Dudley Boys becoming available for one last run. Their star power could transform a stale tag division or lead to interesting single pushes. At the risk of upsetting fantasy bookers everywhere, it is probably unlikely that many old stars will return next year: The Rock and The Undertaker are at best 50/50 for Mania whilst Austin and Punk are pipe dreams. Even Brock, the current champion, may wrestle only twice more for the company. There is one return that could well happen though… 

Yes (yes, yes, yes), I’m talking about Daniel Bryan. How WWE have missed him this year; a return from the flying goat will be pivotal to them turning the tide in 2015. If Lesnar’s contract is extended, he and Bryan could contest a series of dream bouts whilst pairing Daniel with any of the aforementioned NXT stars could yield match of the year contenders. His energy in the ring may be curtailed but he is so over now, and such is his adaptability as a performer, that he would surely mould himself into a new but equally captivating act, one that could enliven Raw each week. 

Daniel Bryan as Guest General Manager on Raw this week. Photo credit - WWE 

So 2015 could be the year we say goodbye to Brock and welcome back to Daniel Bryan. It could be the year Sting finally wrestles for Vince but the first Wrestlemania since 2000 not to feature the Undertaker. Cena and Orton could move into legend status and the mid-card could enjoy its biggest talent injection since the Radicals joined the Fed in 2000. New PPV matches could bolster Network subs and Roman Reigns could take the first step to joining an elite club (not that one, Vince). 2015 is a huge year in the history of the WWE. I’m ready for it. I hope they are.


So what did you think of STR's first article for ATPW? Don't forget if you want more of Sean, you can follow him on Twitter @SeanTaylorR 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

TNA British Bootcamp's Grado Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, what does 2015 hold for Grado? 

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

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

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


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

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Over The Border II - Wrestling with Social Media

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


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

An example of the posters one could see

But this 2014...things have changed! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oop's...How did that get there? 

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

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

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

WWE Slam City (Episodes 1-26) DVD Review

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

WWE SummerSlam 2014 DVD Review

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

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

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

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

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

Special Features

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


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