Thursday, 30 March 2017

Rampage Brown Interview - WOS Wrestling/IMPACT Wrestling

Recorded at ITV's WOS Wrestling press conference on at MediaCityUK in Salford on Monday, here's our interview with former PROGRESS World Champion, Rampage Brown! 

ATPW - So Rampage, how does it feel to be here today with WOS Wrestling and ITV and to be part of such a big project?

Ramage Brown - Yeah, it feels really good. Obviously anything to do with British wrestling being on TV again is "sign me up". I'm happy with that. It feels great to be apart of it. 

On the special, you tagged up with Ashton Smith, how do you feel that went? 

Yeah, it was good. Surprsingly, because no one had seen me and Ashton as a team before, but we got a lot of good feedback. Me and Ashton are good close friends, that's the thing with a good tag team, you've got to get on outside the ring as well as inside the ring. It was good to share the ring with him definitely. 

You faced off against the Coffey Brothers, who've you've worked with in the past, how was it to share this stage with them?

It was an experience as always, you're in their running about, blowing up and slamming yourself around. It is what it is. But they're a highly respected tag team. I've got so much respect for them both. Good guys. I couldn't think of a better think of a better team to share the ring with. 

The WOS taping is coming up in Preston in May, obviously a place you're very familiar with from working for PCW, what do you think the city will bring to the show? 

They will bring their own atmosphere. As long as other fans don't get intimidated by that and jump in their and have fun, because not everybody's a wrestling fan in that capacity. There'll be families and things like that. Yeah, it should add to the atmosphere, as long as they're aware that there's other people around as well. I think it'll be great and add to the show. As long as it's lively. 

I think that came across on the special and created a good soundtrack for the show...

There's nothing worse than when people sit on their fingers and do nothing. Without a doubt, they definitely did a good service to the show. 

You've worked both sides of the coin in wrestling, you've been a good lad, you've bad lad, do you have preference or is it all about getting a reaction? 

No I don't have a preference, I used to do, but now I don't really care. It's all about going out there and doing your job, going out their and doing what you're hired to do. 

With IMPACT Wrestling coming in, you were on the second series of TNA British Bootcamp, did you take anything from that experience or was it all about the opportunity?

It was just a situation that came up at the time and it was a just a way of making money. I'm sorry that I can't tell you anything other, but that's just what it was at that time. 

Do you think there's going to be an opportunity for guys who work for WOS to get seen on American TV? Would you be open to that?

Possibly. Only the future will tell. 

What was it like to be featured on a main stream channel and get such a prestigious slot on New Year's Eve? 

It was one of those things where it just kind of came out of nowhere, so it was hard to take it all in. When you actually saw it on the TV at the time, it was a bit surreal. But again, it's all apart of the journey.

Did you ever, ever think this was going to happen? 

Not in my lifetime, not in my time in the ring. I feel fortunate that it has and that I'm apart of it. 

I'd like to thank Rampage for taking the time to speak to us on Monday and we'd love to get an opportunity build on this short interview in the future. WOS Wrestling tapes for TV at Preston Guild Hall on 25/26 May and tickets go on sale on 9th April at 9am for Gigs and Tours, Tickermaster and Preston Guild Hall.

Interviewer - James Marston 

Twitter - @ATPWrestling 
Instagram - @ATPWrestling

Johnny Moss Interview - WOS Wrestling/IMPACT Wrestling

Recorded at the ITV WOS Wrestling press conference at MediaCityUK in Salford, here's our interview with veteran of the British and European wrestling scene, Johnny Moss. 

ATPW - How did you performing on the WOS Wrestling on New Year's Eve come about? Who contacted you about appearing? 

Johnny Moss - Well, it was as simple as this. I had a phone call one day from the people at ITV, asking if I'd like to be part of the rebirth of WOS Wrestling. I said "Absolutely". At first, I was sceptical because after being around for twenty years, you get all these things "This is gonna happen, that's gonna happen" and they never pan out. I've been involved in so many failures, that have never got off the ground, I was sceptical. So when it actually became, "Oh my God, this is actually going to happen", it was an amazing feeling. 

So, you're one of the guys on WOS who have been wrestling for the longest times, so you've had one of the longest journeys to this point, how did it feel to finally get to work with a company like ITV? 

Yeah, nearly twenty years. It made it all worthwhile. I never ever thought this day would happen. In all honesty, I have told people in the past, I don't think we'll ever see British wrestling back on national television. So to be a part of it is overwhelming for me, especially with being such a huge fan of World of Sport. I collected all of the videos, all the bootleg videos, everything and studies it. I became friends with some of the old guys, Marty Jones, Johnny Saint and to be able to follow in their footsteps on the special on New Year's Eve meant a lot. It's took twenty years but if you want something, you'll stick at it. 

I think it meant a lot to the fans as well who had wanted to see British wrestling on the telly, because they knew how good the performers were and to see you guys get the opportunity it certainly meant a lot to people like me. 

It was great for the fans who stuck with British wrestling for so long. Now, is probably the greatest time to be a wrestling fan in Britain, with everything that's going on. So much happening. From when I first started it's like chalk and cheese. It was nothing like this. Nobody could have imagined it would be like this. The fact that WWE is involved in this country now, which I think's great, I think it's great for everybody what's happened with WWE and World of Sport and everything else, the other promotions. There's lots of other promotions that are doing well. It's only good for everybody. It's good for the fans because there's more choice, it's good for the wrestlers because there's more work. 

So, you mentioned watching the original World of Sport, how do feel that the special from New Year's Eve compared to the original?

To me they're two totally different animals, that are that far apart, you're talking over thirty years and things do evolve and things do change. The only similarities are that there is wrestling on both shows. It was very nice to pay tribute to the people that paved the way for us, but to me it's totally different. Things have changed so much, it'd be very different to back to that old style of rounds and everything else, which I'm a huge fan of, but not everybody would be sitting their on a Saturday afternoon with the kids. Things do evolve. 

Would you like to see the Rounds come back, perhaps as a one-off or a gimmick match?

Maybe, I think it would have to be a gimmick match and it would have to be explained why we're doing it. If it was every week I think people would lose interest, especially with the rounds. There are a lot of guys who could that style of match, no problem, but you've got to think what would appeal to the masses. That's what people have to realise, it's a show on ITV on a late Saturday afternoon, appealing to the masses. It's gonna have some good wrestling on there, but it's appealing to the masses. 

You also run a training school...

That's right, Johnny Moss School of Pro Wrestling up in Egremont, Cumbria. I've had that open for just over two years now, it's been great, I wish I'd opened it earlier! I've had such a great response and people travelling from all over the world to come and train there. 

If someone was looking at training to be pro wrestler, what could they learn from coming to Johnny Moss School of Pro Wrestling?

There is a lot of schools around the country, but [those who attend my school] learn all the knowledge that I've picked up, over my years of travelling, wrestling some great people and the places that I've been. I can show them the other way of doing things. I've been to the Performance Centre, I've coached there, I know what they're looking for. I know what World of Sport are looking for. I think I could certainly give them a very good foundation in wrestling from just starting out or even if they have wrestled a few years. I've had people who've been wrestling for four, five, six years come and see me and they've learnt a lot of new stuff. I think I've got something to offer everybody. You never stop learning in this job, but look at Jeff Jarrett, he's been doing it nearly twice as long as me, imagine how much experience he's got! 

With IMPACT Wrestling coming in, how do you think that could change the product from what we saw in the special? 

I think it's going to be very similar to what we saw on New Year's Eve, to be honest, I don't think it will be too different. It's very good to have someone like Jeff Jarrett involved, who, of course, has a long and storied history with wrestling and promoting, plus he's worked with TV companies before. It's very good to have his knowledge on board. I think, there will be some small changes, but I think it'll be very similar to what we saw on New Year's Eve. 

A big thanks to Johnny Moss for giving us the time for this interview. WOS Wrestling tapes for TV at the Preston Guild Hall on 25/26 May. Tickets go on sale on 7th April at 9am.

Interviewer - James Marston

Twitter - @ATPWrestling 
Instagram - @ATPWrestling

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Ain't No Party Like a Dan Severn Party - Your Guide to WrestleMania and Beyond.

Bayley had a great line on Raw the other night, one that once again underscored her relatability to us die-hard fans, when she confessed that WrestleMania was her favourite day of the year. For me, Mania is right up there with the first day of the football season and Christmas: it evokes an energy and excitement that is palpable. And listen, I reckon that deep down all wrestling fans feel this way: from the markiest of marks to the smarkiest of smarks, we can all get enthusiastic about WrestleMania and what it entails. Hell, I’m currently navigating a frantic week in which I’m juggling multiple work deadlines and dealing with the reality that my wife is due to give birth at literally any minute. Despite such serious commitments, I’ve still spent an undue amount of time pondering whether the Smackdown women will be stuck on the pre-show again (yes, they will as it happens).

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of UK fans will be making the familiar trans-Atlantic commute to be a part of it all but for those who can’t be there in living colour, there are more ways than ever to sample the various action. Streaming services such as WWE Network and FloSlam are offering hours of coverage to ensure that all corners of fandom can find something to suit their fancy. Remember, WrestleMania  isn’t just one night, it’s not even just a weekend event: it’s a week-long celebration of the art form and pretty much every company that plies their trade within this wonderful, crazy genre is at the party.

So with so much on the horizon, what should we, the insatiable wrestling fan, be looking out for? Here are some choice picks of the week’s action.

Dan Severn is in the house.

As was aforementioned, the streaming potential for this year’s indie offerings have been enhanced by the emergence of Floslam, a pro wrestling division of Flosports.  I’ll be sampling this service for the first time this weekend and I must confess that the reason for my imminent subscription is rather left-field: it’s not the EVOLVE cards that see Brit hero Zack Sabre Jr. mix it up in main events with ACH and Michael Elgin; it’s not WWN’s Supershow of PROGRESS vs EVOLVE match ups; no, it’s something far more random and ridiculous. It’s Joey Janela’s Spring Break show, an offering from Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) which airs in the UK at the frankly offensive time of 5am this Friday morning. This show is a gift that keeps on giving. Matt Riddle vs Dan Severn! Marty Jannetty vs the eponymous Joey Janela! Glacier will be there. Dink the Clown is advertised and an Earl Hebner run-in has been promised. I always wanted to do Spring Break and that was before I realised that Dan Severn would be there. Hook me up Floslam. 

Spring BROKEN, Super-Kick Party

Us wrestling fans haven’t always had this much variety during Mania week. For some time, outside of the WWE shows, the only alternative that had real buzz was Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor. In recent years, ROH have had to up their game in the face of the increasingly wide array of competition and this year, they have gem of an attraction to ensure that they hold their own. In what might be the most anticipated tag team match in years, The Young Bucks face The Hardys in a Ladder match! Yes, they’ve had some brief altercations lately but they were only taster dishes: herein lies the feast. Given that Messrs Matt and Jeff have other plans from April 2nd, this is likely the last time these teams will meet (for some-time at least), suggesting that they’ll leave it all in the ring. Spring break just landed a super kick party.

Old Man Yells at Crowd

Astonishingly, Jim Cornette has been invited to the WWE the Hall of the Fame and will be given a live microphone! Now, James E. might play this one safe. He might, out of respect for the Rock N Roll Express on their big night, toe the company line; he may even rationalise that a conservative speech and reliable performance here might paint him as a trustworthy figure and soon tempt Vince into inducting his beloved Midnight Express (an act he would surely be honoured alongside). So we might get a reflective, nostalgic Cornette who uses his time on stage at the Hall of Fame to play nice, to share some fascinating historical tit-bits and pay tribute his friends. Or he might totally lose it, burying Vince, modern wrestling, the fans, the PROGRESS dress code and Donald Trump (Linda McMahon’s career don’t need that) before telling all of America to go forth and multiply. Either way will be entertaining. But I hope he does it the second way.

KO-Mania 2

Contrary to the views of some, I think that KO-Mania 2 has a pretty good card and the build-up to the show has been consistently engaging and, at times, enthralling. The stand out match is the battle between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho: their tale of friendship gone awry has been well crafted and skilfully executed and theirs is a match that has sizzle and substance. Other match ups generate intrigue because of the significance of their result: Bray Wyatt badly needs the win to establish his title reign as legitimate whilst the finish in Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker could clarify the future of the latter performer. Other contests are intriguing due to the potential layout of the matches: will Rollins and Triple H be over-booked in a similar manner to The Game’s bout with Sting? Will Shane McMahon rely on his customary high-risk spots or will AJ draw a wrestling match out of him? Will Goldberg and Lesnar go more than 2 minutes? I doubt this will be the best WrestleMania of all time (that’s X-7, now and forever) but I expect the show to perform above the expectations of many. Just spare us an encore Pitbull, yeah?

When is a surprise not a surprise? When it’s  sensible, long term booking!

The post-Mania Raw crowd is a cliché now: it even has its own WWE 24 tribute show so it is in itself not an excuse to get particularly hyped. As for the content, the idea of this being a night when we have to have surprises has become somewhat counter-productive. Can we be shocked if we are permanently braced for a shock? Can an air of unpredictability exist when Asuku starts touring with Smackdown in March and the WWE twitter feed removes semblances of doubt by writing BROKEN in block caps whenever it tweets about old Hardy matches? I’d argue no.

Most annoying of all is that many in the crowd, programmed to be anticipating unexpected twists, might suddenly seek to derail a segment because it had the temerity to not feature someone shiny and new. The solution to this predicament is to move away from booking to pop a crowd in the moment to ensuring that hot angles are designed with a medium to long term view in mind. To that effect a triumphant debut for Shinsuke Nakamrua, a Sasha heel turn on Bayley, a quick Asuka title win and the introduction of Kurt Angle as Raw GM would be productive moments that, whilst not overly unpredictable, serve purpose. As long as the Orlando TV tapings set the table for the coming months, then the WWE will have given us shows worthy of the occasion.  

In closing, wherever you’re at right now, I urge you to fill your boots and consume as much grappling as is humanly possible. This is a week to embrace the glory of wrestling and appreciate it for what it is: an ultimately meaningless but undeniably fun distraction from the real world, a simple narrative given layers by skilled performers who are there to entertain you. If you’re attending shows live then be loud, be passionate and only chant CM Punk if he actually shows up.  If you’re at home, tweet about the moments that remind you why you’re a fan and not why Roman sucks. Wrestling should be pleasurable and if you can’t find any fun to be had this week, chances are you’re not looking hard enough.

Writer - Sean Taylor-Richardson

Twitter - @ATPWrestling 
Instagram - @ATPWrestling

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Alex Shane Interview - WOS Wrestling

On 27th March, ITV's WOS Wrestling and Anthem Sports and Entertainment, parent company to IMPACT Wrestling, held a press conference at dock10 at MediaCityUK in Salford, Greater Manchester on the heels of announcing that WOS will return to our screens for a 10 part series later in 2017. Before hand, ATPW got the chance to speak to three members of the roster, beginning with WOS commentator and veteran of the British wrestling scene Alex Shane. 

ATPW - World of Sport is back on ITV after thirty years, what's been your involvement in bringing UK wrestling back to a main stream audience?

Alex Shane - I think really, the people that really deserve credit, there's obviously a lot of people, producers and wrestling insiders, but I think what happened was ITV were smart in seeing there was a real revival in British wrestling. Nobody could have done it more than the fans done it, by supporting it and actually getting behind it. All of sudden because there was more fan interest and more promotions and because there was more promotions there was more fans. We essentially reached what ever industry needs, when it reaches it's zenith, which is a tipping point. The tipping point happened and ITV was the first major broadcaster, it happened on a few smaller channels before, but ITV, always with their finger on the pulse said "Now's the time to bring it back". I think, it really was, even though there's lots of people, who've helped this go to a series, Tom McClennon, Jeff Jarrett, the people like that who have done the inner workings of getting it going, really I think it's down to the fact that the industry was just ready.

It's taken a long time, but I think that time was needed. To get the talent ready, to get the promoters ready and even to get the fans ready. Because even a few years ago, the wasn't really the same fanbase that we see today.

Yeah and also I think the important thing is wrestling is a skill, but wrestling on television is a different skill and because there hadn't been British wrestling on television, it was almost impossible to find the guys ten years ago that were British with the experience wrestling on television and any that showed any promise were snapped up by WWE. So anytime anyone came along who had that ability, a Sheamus, a Wade Barrett, an Adrian Neville, they would be plucked for stardom in the States, but it, kind of, left a drought on our scene. Now we've got a situation where this generation, because there's lots of wrestling companies in England, some tremendous ones, that have done a lot to build the scene, now they film their stuff and because of that they use two, three, four, sometimes five cameras and that's given the guys the experience of going "Hold on, where's the hard camera?". So now the wrestlers are actually ready for television. Whereas I was trying to get wrestling on television, for most of my adult life, but if I'm honest, ten years ago, I don't think we were ready. Now, we're more than ready, that's why everyone's ready to explode and get a full series which is what today is all about! 

On the special on New Year's Eve, you commentated with WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross, someone you'd worked with earlier in the year at WCPW, how was that experience?

It was amazing. There's so many compliments than you can give JR, but one of the ones I had to tell him was, "When I commentate I hear your voice", which was a compliment, but was intended as me being nervous. There was one point where I said "That clothesline turned him inside out, inside out!" and suddenly as I said I thought "Oh my God, I've just done Jim Ross, to Jim Ross, on TV!" The fact that JR is such a legend and the fact that he is the voice of my childhood and some many others, if I hadn't worked with him one time before, I think I would've been terrified for the pilot. Actually as it turned out, all the planets aligned, I think in life, when something's meant to be, you feel it in the moment and I felt it was meant to be. It was great, really really great and he's a legend. 

Do you know if there's a plan to bring JR back for the series?

I hope so. At this point in time, obviously it's the last thing that anyone's going to ask him about, because of what happened with Jan, which is a really sad situation. Even though he's at the top of everyone's thoughts, I don't think his television schedule is, but let's see what happens. 

How did feel about the reaction that special got when it aired?

It was pretty amazing. I watched it at a New Year's Eve party with my family, my Mom, my Dad, my Auntie, my Uncle, my Missus, we all sat and watched it and it was surreal. I make television programmes as well, but not on the scale of ITV World of Sport. I think that was the point when all of the wrestler that were on that show, came together and realised, "Wow, this is The X Factor, but with us!". The fan reaction was fantastic.

At the moment you're working with a couple of different companies, the likes of WCPW and NGW, how will those experiences pull into creating WOS? 

I think the experience is fantastic. As a TV producer I look at what's happening on screen and I think what should the soundtrack to this be. So for WCPW because it's more tongue in cheek, I'll make it a bit more funny and not so serious. With NGW, it's essentially a brand for kids, that's also cool enough for adults to go "There's a good match", but it's aimed really at children, so I don't do any of those kind of jokes. I think with World of Sport, it's perfect, because it's exactly in the middle. It's got to be engaging enough, that you might crack a joke here or there, but it's not a joke show, also you want to make it accessible enough for wrestling fans so it's serious. So with all of those experiences, World of Sport is the perfect mixture of all those style. 

Just to turn the questions round on you, what did you particularly like about the show? 

I liked that there was something for everyone. I didn't feel it was a blowaway show, but it was sound throughout. You had El Ligero vs. Zack Gibson, the tag team match and you had the story between Dave Mastiff and Grado throughout. There was something to pull the audience in and it was a good way to introduce the product. 

I agree. It did what it needed to do. I always say if you look at World of Sport in 1988 and you look at Gladiators in '92, that's five years in real time, but in TV time it looks their thirty years apart. British wrestling needed that influx of light, sound. This press conference is better produced than most of the World of Sport stuff in 80's, which says a lot. I think that's really what it needed to show. It needed to show to a whole new audience, that British wrestling can do the production, it can do the elaborate lighting rigs, video screens. I think that's what it did and it did a great job of doing that. It showed a colourful, flashy cast of character. 

So WOS is currently scheduled to tape ten episodes. Would you prefer to tape those ten and then take a break or would you prefer to do more of a weekly soap opera style?

That is a very good question! I am a fan of series'. NGW, you mentioned earlier, I do that in seasons and now a few other companies in Britain are in seasons. I think, you have a burnout, Coronation Street is a perfect example. Not of something that's "burnt out" but of something that needs a massive turnover of writers, but then with new writers you lose people who were familiar with the product. So, what you need is a team of people who know wrestling, one, people that can write, two, that have a rapport with the wrestling, three, and also know what else a wrestler has in the tank. You go "I know, this guy has got that amazing blow-away match in him, particularly with this person", so if you actually narrow it down, even though everyone wants to be a wrestling writer, it's a really narrow group of people. You don't want those people to get burnt out by doing 52 weeks a year, plus specials, so I'm a big fan of the concept of doing series. I like it personally, all my favourite shows are in series, in fact, I don't have another show that isn't in a series. Just from my own personal tastes that's what I like, but other companies have been very successful running forever, but I think it could potentially create burn out. If you compare it to the original, you used to have one match sometimes that would go on for half an hour, depending on how many rounds it was, but now people want it quick and so I think series are the way to go. 

Do you know how many episode will be taped per taping? 

That's the magic question! Probably best for me not to say anything that might be an accidental world exclusive! "Alex Shane crucified in World exclusive shocker". That's the great thing though, when you're in the hands of a TV channel, not just a production company, but an actual TV channel, you can't find anyone better at making television. Whereas a lot of the time you have a wrestling company that tries their hand at making television, which can be a problem. Then sometimes it can go the other way, you get a television company, that's trying to do wrestling without wrestling people. Which is why I think with IMPACT Wrestling, we've got people who've got a lot of experience, Jeff Jarrett, Jeremy Borash, who have a lot of experience of doing large scale, American television, but there's enough influence from us Brits in there to keep it British as well. I think that's going to be a massive Godsend. So, the long answer to your question'll be good, no matter how many they shoot. 

I think with the talent already involved and IMPACT Wrestling/Anthem Sports and Entertainment coming in as well, it should create something that the British wrestling fans can be really proud of. With ITV you've got the potential to take the product around the world, do you see the product being able to spread internationally?

Well, yeah, Anthem has the Fight Network. The Fight Network is in 36 countries. I know that because I make two shows from them. So it's in a lot of countries, it's just because we don't have it here, a lot of people don't realise, but it's everywhere. So, that's a great thing as well, because I can only imagine, that means more people in different countries will be watching World of Sport and potentially who knows maybe some of the archive stuff, it could be really exciting. I'm speculating on that, but that's exactly what I would do. It's perfect.  

I'd like to thank Alex for taking the time to talk with us on Monday. WOS Wrestling will tape at Preston Guild Hall on 25th/26th May with tickets going on sale on 7th April at 9am from Gigs and Tours, Ticketmaster and Preston Guild Hall. 

Interviewer: James Marston

Twitter - @ATPWrestling 
Instagram - @ATPWrestling

Friday, 24 March 2017

WWE Roadblock: End of the Line 2016 DVD Review

WWE's last PPV of 2016 is available on DVD now from all reputable home video stockists and we've got the full details of what's included in a snappy review! A RAW branded event , Roadblock: End of the Line 2016 saw the likes of Chris Jericho, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns in action, multiple titles changes hands and a 30 Minute Iron Man Match, but was it any good? Let's take a look.

The best match of the three hours comes first as The New Day's Big E & Kofi Kingston defend their record-breaking RAW Tag Team title run against Cesaro & Sheamus, with the five (incl. Xavier Woods on the outside) fitting a lot of exciting content and a barrel load of near fulls into just ten minutes. Sami Zayn attempting to last ten minutes with Braun Strowman is intriguing on paper, but doesn't quite come together in practice, despite a wonderfully melodramatic babyface performance from Zayn. Seth Rollins v Chris Jericho is a match that you would perhaps label as a show-stealer when looking at the line-up, but unfortunately the duos work here is uninspiring, lacking in tension and anything remotely interesting until the last few minutes. Of course, Rollins and Jericho are both premier technicians, so the wrestling doesn't really put a foot wrong, but there's definitely a sense of the two treading water for fifteen minutes before Kevin Owens makes his inevitable appearance. 

A three-way Cruiserweight title clash between champion Rich Swann and challengers The Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins is patchy at best, with the three struggling to hit their marks, although it's worth sticking round post-match for the return of Neville. The RAW Women's Championship 30 Minute Iron Man match between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair is a rewarding experience for anyone willing to stay with the match after an unspectacular start. The second half of the match is brilliantly theatrical, with a pair of top draw performances that make it difficult not to be drawn in. The story twists and turns, keeping clear of a couple of cliches and feeling much more like a sports-based presentation than some of WWE's previous Iron Man efforts. It perhaps wasn't the strongest outing for Banks and Flair throughout the year, but it does cap off their feud rather well...for now. 

The show-closer comes in the shape of United States Champion Roman Reigns getting a shot at Kevin Owens' Universal Championship in a long-winded plodding encounter. The contest suffers in a similar way to Rollins v Jericho, seemingly waiting for the right moment to get going, without ever actually reaching that moment, producing just enough to hold your attention but rarely rewarding you for sticking out the 23 minutes. The finish is unacceptable for such a lengthy match, even if Chris Jericho and Seth Rollins' reappearance does end the event as a whole on a high. 

Special Feature 

The single special feature is the Kick-Off match, Big Cass v Rusev, which quite honestly might as well have been left off the release, it's a dull brawl with another shoddy finish. 

ATPW Scale Rating - 5.48/10 

One of the weaker PPVs of 2016, Roadblock: End of the Line 2016 is littered with hackneyed booking and lacklustre performances. The opener over the RAW Tag Team titles is the best match on display, closely followed by the Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks' Iron Man Match. Looking at the card, it's difficult to argue against their being a degree of unfulfilled potential with the show, considering that Rollins v Jericho should have been a humdinger and Reigns and Owens had a much better match just a month later at Royal Rumble

Review - James Marston

Twitter - @ATPWrestling 
Instagram - @ATPWrestling

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Changing Face of WrestleMania - Part 2

The second part of this series asks how much has changed in the last 30 years of WrestleMania history and, more pertinently, has it changed for the better?

WrestleMania 23 "All Grown Up"

In a previous article for this website, I’ve reflected that a significant factor in my wrestling fandom is pure, unadulterated nostalgia: well, WrestleManias 23 and 33 imply that a wistfulness for the past is part of Vince McMahon’s psyche too. On April 1st 2007, McMahon took WWE back to Detroit, staging the 23rd instalment of WrestleMania at Ford Field, thereby marking a return to the stadium show, a booking policy that is now synonymous with the granddaddy of them all. Twenty years on from the classic that was WrestleMania III and Aretha Franklin was back to reprise her "America the Beautiful" duties while it was strongly rumoured that the plan for one of the featured contests was to book a returning Hulk Hogan against The Big Show. It wouldn’t have been the greatest match in the world (it was just a tribute) but the fervent desire to pay homage to Mania 3 was testament to how McMahon perceived that particular event as a personal favourite and one of the most important shows in company history.

That aforementioned Hogan bout didn’t come to pass; indeed, this was a card that had a decidedly 21st century feel, making it feel markedly different from the Manias of the 80s and 90s. The action was largely exciting: in the earlier shows, the excellent matches stood out amongst the short, formulaic bouts but here the duds, notably the match between Kane and The Great Khali, were more noticeable as the action maintained a fairly high standard. The booking leaned on high profile gimmicks, from ladders and special referees to the stipulation of hair vs hair and by this era, such shortcuts had overtaken championship titles in terms of adding value to a card. Take the Intercontinental title as an example: it was the semi-main event in 1987; early card fare in 1997; not even defended in 2007.

Of course, the biggest gimmick of the show was the use of one Donald’s Trump. Mr President’s role at WrestleMania has been discussed before ( see here: but his cameo served as both a link to the Manias of old while also foreshadowing the events of the future: it reflected Vince’s love of courting celebrities and mainstream attention whilst also providing the blueprint for his quick fix booking policy, demonstrating the relative ease of  importing an outsider to generate buzz in lieu of backing a lesser star on the main roster.

WrestleMania 33

WrestleMania has undergone some adjustments through the years, with its visual presentation, work-rate and celebrity involvement varying from era to era. However, this year’s version of the show has much in common with the prototype McMahon formulated with WrestleMania III. As ever, the company has striven to get everyone on the card, and not just through the shortcut of the Andre Battle Royal and multi-woman scraps on both Raw and Smackdown. If fact this year’s event seems like a throwback to those shows of old, with regard to the sheer quantity of matches; however, with two pre-show hours to play with, chances are few matches will feel as rushed as they were back in the day. All these years later, and very much in keeping with the practice of the 80s, we have McMahon’s beloved big man match in Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg (a match that also maintains a more recent tradition of relying heavily on part-timers). The celebrity involvement seems to have fallen through but we were a Shaq booking away from experiencing serious shades of those early Mania days.

I’ve seen some people online lament the quality of this year’s card and bemoan the lack of classic matches. Whilst I have some gripes with the line-up (Cena vs Undertaker is going to be the new Sting vs Undertaker, isn’t it?), I feel that this year’s show will supply exactly what the famed Mania 3 delivered in spades: a sensory spectacle on a huge scale, an extravaganza of epic entrances and a presentation of wrestling unlike that we see every other day of the year. In that respect, when reviewing/previewing the Manias of 87, 97, 07 and 17, it was the 90s version of the show that caused the most offence: for my money it had the single best match in Hart v Austin but being held in an arena, filmed like any other show, emphasised how WrestleMania is about more than just match quality. If Vince’s baby should serve one function, it should be to take your breath away. And as that opening shot from March 29th 1987 proved, as a suited McMahon bellowed his welcoming address to the screaming masses that packed the vast expanses of the open air stadium, sometimes it doesn’t take a 6 star match to do that.

Article - Sean Taylor-Richardson
Editor - James Marston

Twitter - @ATPWrestling 

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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

WWE The Best of RAW and SmackDown Live 2016 DVD Review

Across 2016, there was a number of changes across WWE's two major TV shows, as RAW and SmackDown (Live) were separated into two distinct brands in July. Of course, that means that the 2016 edition of this regular "Best of" release produces one of the most varied cross-section of a WWE year, as we jump from RAW and SmackDown running the same storylines on Monday and Thursday nights to two parallel live shows on Monday and Tuesday. Jerry "The King" Lawler host this year's compilation, with the likes of John Cena, Chris Jericho, Triple H, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, The Miz, Cesaro, Mick Foley, Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins all spotlighted at some across the six hours plus of footage. 2016 might have been eventful, but is The Best of RAW and SmackDown Live 2016 any good? Let's have a look! 

Jerry Lawler is our host for proceedings but he only turns up twice on each disc, probably talking for about ten minutes all together, he isn't all that necessary and I would've preferred to have some interlinking narration between each month instead. After each month's chosen matches or moments have played out, there's a highlight vignette looking at the rest of the month, which does as good a job as a video trying to squash 20 plus hours into 3 minutes can. I'm not sure that these couldn't have been better utilised at the start of each month, although perhaps a chronological timeline that jumped out for full matches or segments would have worked even better. 

January - We begin with Charlotte defends the Divas Championship against Becky Lynch, in a match, that whilst is technically solid, struggles to grab the Laredo audience, making it a questionable choice to kick things off with. In another match that has it's moments, but plays out in front of a mostly uninterested New Orleans as Kalisto challenges for Alberto Del Rio's United States title. 

February - Daniel Bryan's "I Am Grateful" retirement speech is still an emotional watch over a year on. Bryan's natural understated charisma manages to add to his heartfelt promo, whilst being in front of what he calls his hometown crowd in Seattle makes for some spine-tingly, eye-watery viewing. AJ Styles and Chris Jericho's rematch is the first properly good match, as the Portland crowd laps up the physical back and forth action, as the duo put on a match on par with their WrestleMania outing a few months later. Shane McMahon's return  is included in full (apart from Vince saying fuck, obviously) and in all it's Vincent K. McMahon Legacy of Excellence award glory. Honestly, this is a fantastic piece of television in general, as Shane, Vince and Stephanie bounce off each other and get the audience hanging off their every word.

March - The shortlived Y2AJ tag team battling The New Day's Big E & Kofi Kingston over WWE Tag Team Championships is a real forgotten gem, followed up by a brilliant tag split angle that has some interesting parralels to Jericho's current storyline with Kevin Owens. A super-rare televised bout for then WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H opposite Dolph Ziggler plays out in front of a Pittsburgh crowd that doesn't seem to be buying what The Game is selling, but does include a couple of nice near falls for The Show Off. Roman Reigns post-match return and torrential attack on the Champ is much more entertaining, but still did little to win over the audience to the story. AJ Styles and Kevin Owens give us a taster of what they could do together in the ring, but their match on the RAW after was a better outing and would have been much better suited for the set.

April - Apollo Crews' debut squash of Tyler Breeze  is a strange addition, but Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles from a week later is expectedly good, with the pair showing great chemistry as they weave a compelling story that concludes with a series of exciting near falls, as Styles continues to be the MVP of the release.

May - There's a decent tag bout with Kevin Owens & The Miz facing Cesaro & Sami Zayn, that focuses heavily on the relationships between the four characters ahead of their instant classic Fatal Fourway at Extreme Rules. The wonderful altercation between AJ Styles and John Cena from Memorial Day still brings a smile to my face because of the sheer energy and excitement that Green Bay brought. Cena and Styles could have simply stood in the ring and looked at each other for fifteen minutes and it would have been gold, this was a vital cog in the wheel that was their magnificent 16/17 feud.

June - A segment with The New Day interacting with Enzo & Cass is mostly innuendo regarding the potential infidelity of Xavier Woods' trombone, which is nice. It's followed up by the two teams joining forces against The Club and The Vaudevillains in a well-paced outing, that's let down by a scrappy finish. An intriguing six man tag with Dean Ambrose, Cesaro and Sami Zayn taking on Kevin Owens, Alberto Del Rio and Chris Jericho is a little disappointing considering the wealth and depth of talent in the ring, but does a solid job of creating issues ahead of the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. 

July  - As the brands split, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose put on an explosive World title bout on the first SmackDown Live, full of urgency from the very beginning and with a physical brawling style throughout. Sasha Banks challenging for the RAW Women's Championship against Charlotte comes from one of the strongest episodes of RAW from 2016 and was arguably the match of the night from that show from Pittsburgh. The match builds logically towards its conclusion with each moment feeling like it directly rolls into the next, before coming to a close with a great slice of submission wrestling, all in front of a hot crowd. From that same episode, Finn Balor v Roman Reigns, for the chance to wrestle Seth Rollins over the first Universal Championship, is a strong example of taking two opposing style and meshing them together to create a story that an audience can invest in. Back on SmackDown, a #1 contender's six man scramble, featuring Bray Wyatt, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles and John Cena, sticks to the one in one out pattern for the most part, but does offer some intriguing combinations and an exciting finish. 

August - Bayley's RAW debut is a lovely moment, with the crowd seeming genuinely happy to see Mick Foley introduce the former NXT Women's Champion, however, it's Charlotte Flair who makes the most of the segment with some great one-liners, before Bayley battles Dana Brooke in an extended squash. Another big 2016 call-up saw American Alpha's Chad Gable & Jason Jordan jump to SmackDown and their SmackDown Tag Team Championship Quarter Final with Breezango is a surprisingly balanced outing as both sides play their roles well in what may be the sleeper contest of the set. Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Big Cass battling over the vacant Universal Championship is probably the most memorable RAW match from the year, full of dramatic twists and turns, including the return of Triple H. The booking is perhaps questionable, but in a vacuum this is brilliant multi-man bout, with quality performances from all four and a shocking conclusion. 

September - The Cruiserweights arrive on RAW, which is unfortunately means we get Mick Foley butchering a promo on their return, before reading out his introductions off a piece of paper. Luckily, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik, Cedric Alexander and The Brian Kendrick, put on a fun aerial display, that gives each guy an opportunity to display their style. The Miz and Dolph Ziggler's verbal duel in their hometown, in front of their parents, is expertly put together and has a breathtaking crescendo as the wheels are set in motion for their No Mercy barnburner.

October - Michael Cole introduces Goldberg's comeback, in which the former World Heavyweight Champion discusses how much he loves kids and looks menacing for a little while. Dean Ambrose v AJ Styles is a solid encounter, with the pair working past a lack of real chemistry, that is unfortunately cut short by James Ellsworth just as it seems to be finding it's groove. 

November - Alexa Bliss challenging Becky Lynch for the SmackDown Women's Championship starts hot, but quickly cools in front of a Glasgow audience who seem to get bored and things aren't helped by a screwy finish. Fortunately, the set concludes with a very good Falls Count Anywhere match over the RAW Women's Championship as the Sasha Banks v Charlotte Flair feud rolled on, in a bout full of creativity, physical wrestling and strikes and two world class performances.

December - There was no December 2016.

ATPW Scale Rating - 6.71/10 

Set in a Sentence - A very strong collection of matches and moments from 2016 and with a few exceptions, this three disc set manages to cherry-pick from the higher end of WWE's television output throughout the year. 

Review -  James Marston

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