Tuesday, 27 June 2017

WWE Monday Night RAW #1257 Review (26th June 2017)

This week's Monday Night RAW came from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California and featured a Women's Championship #1 Contender's Gauntlet match with Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, Dana Brooke, Emma and Nia Jax, The Hardy Boyz teaming with Finn Balor against Elias Samson and Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus and Enzo Amore calling out Big Cass for attacking him last week as well as Intercontinental Champion The Miz and his Miztourage, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe. But was it any good? Let's take a look.

Strowman chucked Reigns in an Ambulance

This segment was made for a GIF of one big guy throwing another big guy off a stage and into an Ambulance. That's pretty much all this eight minute slice was as Roman Reigns cut a promo about being attacked by Braun Strowman last week, then Strowman turned up in ambulance (leading inevitable Scott Steiner references on the ever-imaginative world of Twitter) and then as Reigns tried to take the action to Strowman he failed miserably and ending up leaving the back of the ambulance. The crowd was hot for it, it was entertaining and created a memorable and GIF-friendly moment. Hardly a classic, but it did what it was intended to do and did it well.

Hardy Boyz & Balor def. Tag Team Champions Cesaro, Sheamus & Samson

Our opening contest was a solid and simple six man tag, that finished hot with a couple of dives to the outside, before Finn Balor pinned Cesaro after a Coup de Grace. The match followed your usual six man structure with Balor and then Jeff Hardy taking on the face in peril role and Cesaro, Sheamus & Elias Samson working well as the bruising heels in control. This fairly basic, but otherwise enjoyable six man (the crowd absolutely loved it) was pretty much ruined when some guy joined the commentary desk and got interviewed by Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Tom Phillips on commentary. The bloke talked about a couple of movies he's in and apparently he was in the new Transformer film, but I had no idea who he was and he essentially just made the match feel even more inconsequential than it was. 

  • A Goldust promo about stage fright, ahead of his match with R-Truth next, like most of these promos the direction and performance is nice but there's nothing particular catching about the content.
  • Goldust came out with his own personal cameraman wearing a gold suit and beat the shit out of R-Truth. There was no match. 
  • Samoa Joe interrupted a Paul Heyman interview and it was fucking great.

The Worst Segment of the Year Happened 

Who the fuck are the Ball Family? These three dickwads turned up on Miz TV to advertise some horrible looking t-shirts and the family's Dad went on a mad one, running around the ring and generally making the Miz look stupid for not kicking him in his great balls of fire. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be or how this was supposed to get people interested in anything, but it was horrible. Arguably worse than This is Your Life because it had literally no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Apparently one of the kids said the N-word as well and thankfully WWE just played Dean Ambrose music when they realised things had gone down hill quickly than greased up fat guy. 

The Miztourage def. Ambrose, Rhyno & Slater

Six man tags, we all love six man tags. Honestly, I was still trying to get over the previous segment to pay much attention to what was going on here, but I did see Bo Dallas got a roll-up victory on Rhyno. Everything else was pretty basic stuff and with having already seen a six man tag as the shows only other match to this point it was difficult to get excited about. But, The Miztourag  won, which is a good thing I suppose and makes sense with them being the unit in the match as opposed to the hodge-podge team of Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater and Rhyno. 

Cass turned on Enzo...again. 

This was another weirdly put together segment, that included a great, heart-felt promo from Enzo Amore, but also showed that WWE wasn't 100% all-in, lacking the little touches that could have elevated both guys heading into their programme. Stuff like having Cass enter to the same music as Enzo and then using the same gimmick microphone made this segment feel like an afterthought, when both guys had clearly put a lot of work into it. Having Cass apologise and Enzo accept the apology, ended making Amore look like he was missing a couple of his marbles, but we're all used to our babyfaces being stupid af so why stop now. Cass obviously attacked his pal on the entrance ramp and managed to get a decent bit of heat from it, but this segment could have and should have been so much better, with just a little bit more attention to detail. 

Rollins def. Hawkins 

Seth Rollins picked up a swift victory over Curt Hawkins, pulling out all of his big hitters before winning with his ripchord knee situation.  Hawkins is pretty good in his job as "warm body" and his quick "star-maker" promo prior to each match makes the beatings he takes more entertaining than a win over a local competitor. Bray Wyatt's big face popped up on the screen post-match and he said some words about being a God and announced that the two would face off on 9th July in Dallas, Texas. Wyatt has been coasting since his WWE title programme with Randy Orton, I used to be captivated by promos, but now I find myself zoning out because the content is way too [Insert Name Here] and struggles to break it's formula. 

Joe ambushes Lesnar 

The trope-heavy build towards Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire continued as Joe jumped Lesnar from behind on the ramp and attempted to choke him out with the Coquina Clutch. NXT has shown over it's run that sometimes the simplest wrestling cliches are the best things to building rivalries and creating interest and that's exactly what we've seen between Joe and Lesnar so far. Joe's been built up as a credible threat to Lesnar's Universal Championship, which means even if he doesn't topple the Beast Incarnate (which let's face it he isn't going to do), he'll be in a much better place than where he was before and whoever manages to take the title from Lesnar will benefit even more. I mean, again, the babyfaces looked completely stupid, as anyone and his dog could have seen what was coming as Paul Heyman introduced his client, but that's by the by. 

  • Neville def. Lince Dorado in a purple ropes match, with Akira Tozawa looking to scrap with him after the match. Titus O'Neil stopped the fight and announced the two would face off at Great Balls of Fire in a pretty awful promo. 
  • Paul Heyman cut a magnificent promo when interviewed by Dasha Fuentes, telling us why we should get behind Brock Lesnar, why Samoa Joe was a threat and why we should want to see them fight, all in an entertaining and captivating two minutes of screen time. 
  • Women's Champion Alexa Bliss tried to kiss up to Nia Jax as their weird, will-they, won't-they saga continued, ahead of the Number One Contender's Gauntlet match.

Jax def. Bayley, James, Brooke and Emma, Banks def. Jax in a Gauntlet Match to become #1 Contender to the Women's Championship

It was cool to see the Women end the show this week and taken as an overall piece of storytelling, this was a strong near half hour of television. Yeah it had it's problems, like Nia Jax beating Bayley WAY too quickly in the first match for my liking, but we got a match that managed to build one contender up as a monster heel who is more of less unstoppable under regular circumstances, whilst also giving us a Number One contender who found a way to beat the unbeatable, with the caveat being it came after the unbeatable had already wrestled the rest of the women's division. Jax is brilliant in her role and deserves a tonne of credit for taking her look and making herself feel like a believe bad ass. The hip attacks with her opponents on the ropes and pushing Brooke to the mat as she attempted a cartwheel elbow were great examples. She's clearly being helped by the booking (pinning Bayley, Mickie James, Dana Brooke and Emma in speedy fashion!) and could still be more polished inside the ring, but she's more than capable of creating a story-based match that gets the fans invested when called upon. I also think she's got more potential as an ass-kicking babyface, due to her overtly likeable persona off-screen (see the new episode of Ride Along) 

The way Banks won the match made her feel like a credible contender, she didn't get a cheap win, she made Jax tap out to a version of the Banks Statement. She found a way to defeat the Woman who ploughed through the rest of the division, thus we're left with one challenger for Alexa Bliss at the next PPV and another being positioned as a new potential top female heel. It was exactly how the match should have gone. Kurt Angle coming out to celebrate with Banks was a little weird, but Women's Champion Alexa Bliss' appearance made much more sense. We've seen issues between the pair before, but this set the two up for their match in just under two weeks well with Banks landing a dropkick and ending the show posing with the Women's strap. I'm not sure where this leaves the rest of the Women's division, but with only one week of RAW to fill before the six-week build to SummerSlam begins I'm sure they'll find something for Nia to do until then. 


ATPW Scale Rating - 4.49/10 

The episode managed to finish strong with the Lesnar/Joe segment and then the Women's Gauntlet (with purple ropes in between) but there's no mistaking that this show featured one of the worst segments in television history and a lot of treading water. The two six men matches were fine, but both ruined by terrible celebrity appearances, Rollins and Wyatt haven't quite found what their feud is supposed to be (other than some time filler for both men) and despite strong performances from both Enzo Amore and Big Cass I found their segment lacked the attention to detail (from a booking and presentation stand point) that it deserved to feel like a fitting conclusion to their mystery angle. On the whole, I feel like the show managed to do it's broad strokes well, Reigns chucked Strowman into an Ambulance, Cass took out Enzo again, Joe choked out Lesnar, Jax dominated but Banks earned a title shot, but more often than not lacked the precision that should make being a long-time viewer of the product a satisfying experience. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

This is Some Kind of Happening - The Highest Profile Matches That Wrestling Has Left

In this industry, hype is King. So what high profile fights does wrestling have left?

Wrestling, like most things in life, is not as complex as it is painted out to be. It relies on few factors to truly excel: for a match to achieve its full potential it just needs performers that command an emotional investment from the audience; credible action that feels consequential; and an atmosphere that exudes excitement. Simple enough right? Creative stories and intelligent marketing can develop stars and attractions that produce matches that live long in the memory. It doesn’t need to be 5 stars or 6 stars or 6.3333 reoccurring stars; high work- rate is admirable and can elevate wrestling to art but it isn’t vital for creating defining moments. More than anything, for wrestling to really connect, the bouts needs to feel big time, it must have substance. Gorilla Monsoon would call such a match “a happening”: an event that grips the fan-base, as the result’s significance to the business is undoubted. These matches, built on the anticipation of personalities clashing, on outcomes that matter- are the foundation of what makes wrestling special. We admire an indie classic on the night; we remember a happening forever.

Unfortunately, excellent stories and skillful marketing aren’t as prevalent as they might be in the industry: most matches now, while entertaining enough to watch, don’t have the hype, the prestige or the magnitude that render them timeless. Wrestling is certainly fulfilling its mission statement of escapist fun: it’s rare that I switch off the TV or leave a building without having enjoyed the product on some level. But how often do I feel like I’ve watched something essential? Not often enough. Wrestling must do more to create the next wave of super fights to reclaim its relevance. However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t some huge matches on the horizon. There are a few “happenings” that would get Monsoon’s pulse raising. Some of these contests are certain to happen; some require committed negotiations to bring them to fruition. Given the business’ need for moments of consequence, let’s hope that they all come to pass in the coming years and that new memories can be emblazoned into the minds of the fan base.

Brock versus Rock 2

This match, the very epitome of box office sensation- really should have happened by now: after news broke of Brock Lesnar’s return in 2012, just a year after The Rock had re-joined WWE, this was the fight to make. And for a while, that was the plan. The night after Wrestlemania 29, an angle was planned in which Lesnar would decimate The Rock, setting up a scrap in New Orleans the following year. However, the injuries sustained by The Great One during his match with John Cena the previous night proved enough to curtail his involvement and, following the impact of said injury on his Hollywood commitments, he declined to step back into action, his 6 second squash of Erick Rowan at Mania 32 notwithstanding. If he does decide to wrestle again, would he face the explosive and rough Beast Incarnate when safer options such as Triple H are on the table? The Rock might be super human but does Dwanye Johnson want to go to Suplex City? And will Lesnar even be around for much longer? His contract expires in 2018 when the UFC will, despite his age and recent ban, be looking to add star power to their depleted main event scene. 

As Pro Wrestling’s most mainstream crossover stars, complete with a backstory dating back to 2002, this match would be electric and would draw in lapsed WWE fans, UFC fans, films fans- everyone could get behind this. I truly believe this is wrestling’s biggest match but I also doubt it will happen as Brock and Rock likely have other fish to fry. However, in a couple of years, Lesnar might be post-UFC (again) and Johnson’s career might slow down a tad. The prospect of a Mania main event, and the level of publicity and financial remuneration that entails, might be too tempting to resist…

Happening Scale: 5 Gorillas out of 5
Likelihood: 2 out of 5

Okada versus Omega 3

One of the biggest matches that can be staged in all of wrestling is nothing new; it has already happened twice this year. That is testament to the talent of the two men involved; so good are they that Meltzer has had to re-invent the wheel, dishing out stars we never even knew he had.  However superlative the action, and to echo my earlier point, this is about more than match quality. This result matters: can Omega finally beat Okada? Can his One Winged Angel put away the champion? The storytelling has been masterful, with the recent match re-visiting themes and riffs to carry the audience along on this epic journey, making them wait for the definitive pay-off. When the resolution of this feud does occur, this will be more than a stream of GIFs on our twitter feeds; this will be a part of New Japan history that fans discuss for years to come.

Happening Scale: 4 Gorillas out of 5
Likelihood: 5 out of 5

Cena versus Reigns

Some people will hate this match but I forsee it as a company defining moment. Likely to come in 2018 or 2019, this will be a modern day Hogan vs Warrior, with Cena likely doing the JOB for Reigns before one of the hottest crowds imaginable. The match is fresh- they’ve had very little ring time together at this stage- and even if both men are booed at first, chances are that a well booked scrap would encourage everyone to pick a side and get involved. The build to this will likely blend reality and fantasy to maximum effect, playing on the inherent similarities and differences between the two, all the while enforcing the importance of the result to the whole audience.

Happening Scale: 4 Gorillas out of 5
Likelihood: 5 out of 5

Styles versus Nakamura 2

The buzz these two men generated during their brief exchange at Money in the Bank this Sunday would not have been lost on anyone in the office: this match is coming. Again, quality of work-rate is undoubted but the personalities of the two and the fierce loyalties of their fans are hugely significant. AJ Styles is now a WWE fixture who commands respect; Nakamura still has a certain ‘newness’ to him that screams excitement: this would likely be a split crowd who fervently stand by their man in what will be a war to determine who can lead the Smackdown Live brand. Polished video packages and pointed references to their history could compensate for any promo shortcomings while the inevitable tension that arises as the friends slowly grow apart would allow audience anticipation to bubble and boil. This one could go down in WWE history, an equal of all-babyface scraps like Bret Hart vs Davey Boy. Furthermore, the image of AJ and Shinsuke hugging after an intense bout could replace the now white-washed visual of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit from Wrestlemania 20; in giving the platform to these talented and appreciated workers, WWE could provide an iconic image for a generation of fans. 

Happening Scale: 3.5 Gorillas out of 5

Likelihood: 5 out of 5

Of course, there are other big bouts that could occur if we allowed ourselves to get creative: Stephanie McMahon and Triple H vs Ronda Rousey and The Rock could potentially be the biggest bout in WWE history; anything involving Connor McGregor would have exemplary hype; an in-ring return of Stone Cold Steve Austin would print money; Daniel Bryan heading to New Japan and mixing it up with their stars would legitimise the company to the uninitiated. Could these happen? Of course but they shouldn’t be relied upon. WWE, NJP aW and every company in the world need to look at their stars and examine their programmes, determining what is working, what is not and where changes can be made. Who knows, if promoters resolve to embrace the ideals of consistency and creativity, then the next major box office attraction could be set to unfold before our eyes…

Friday, 23 June 2017

WWE Money in the Bank 2017 Review

On 18th June, WWE aired Money in the Bank, it's eight PPV of the year, live on the WWE Network from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The show featured a Money in the Bank ladder match for a future shot at the WWE Championship featuring AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin, Jinder Mahal defending the WWE title against hometown hero Randy Orton and the first ever Women's Money in the Bank ladder match with Natalya, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Tamina and Carmella, as well as appearances from The New Day, SmackDown Women's Champion Naomi, Breezango, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos and Lana. But was it any good? Let's take a look.

  • Promo - The opening video focusing on the two Money in the Bank ladder matches and Jinder Mahal's defence against Randy Orton.

Carmella def. Lynch, Flair, Natalya & Tamina 

in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match

You only get one shot at the first ever and unfortunately the SmackDown Women's division fumbled their first ever Money in the Bank ladder match, putting on a dull, uneventful affair, with very few notable moments. Perhaps, it was too big of an ask to put five women who all lack experience in Ladder matches, perhaps the ladies just weren't given any decent ladder match spots because...reasons, perhaps WWE just wasn't as all in on the idea of the women doing anything even remotely creative as they needed to be to make this match work. I have no idea. It was stupidly warm in the UK for 1am watching this and I wrote minimal notes, but then again there wasn't much to note down. A couple of spots with different people jumping off the ladder, Tamina taking a couple of awkward af spears into the ropes and steps and Flair diving off the top rope to the floor. These five would've been better off without being tied to the gimmick if WWE were going to put on such a conservative ladder match. 

Now, let's talk about THAT finish. James Ellsworth climbed the ladder for Carmella, perhaps in a desperate attempt to climb out of the friendzone and dropped the briefcase down to his bae. Apart from the slightly clumsy presentation of having multiple refs look confused, making it appear like we were about to get Shane McMahon or a returning Daniel Bryan to head out and restart the match, this was the best part of the match. The reaction it got on social media was perfect and surely exactly what WWE were hoping for, as furious fans jumped on their phones to let us know why the finish was sexist and having a man get the briefcase in the first women's MITB match was a disgrace. Those are the fans that will still tune into SmackDown next week and their complain has the potential to create a buzz and produces a much more clickbait worthy headline for the various mainstream media that cover WWE. Yeah, I think it would've been more effective after a blow-away, spotfest of a match, but it's still clearly had an impact on the audience who will watch WWE no matter what. 

  • Backstage - Dasha Fuentes interviewed Lana about her SmackDown Women's Championship match...it was too warm to pay attention. 

New Day def. The Usos by Countout 
Usos retain SmackDown Tag Team Championship

I spent most of this match trying to work out why this bout was more creative in the first five minutes than the entirety of the Women's ladder match. We had the Usos taking control by sending Kofi Kingston over the top rope backwards in a spot that really made you sit up and take notice as it appeared at first glance that Kingston had potentially died as he tumbled to the floor. The Usos in control with Kingston as the face in peril produced the strongest action of the bout as Usos hit a lovely double suplex into the ringpost and then we got the Big E hot tag baybeeeeeee. I'm not sure there's anything more joyous in the history of all things than that near 300lber running through two lads and tossing them left and right with suplexes of various shapes and sizes. It's one of my favourite things in WWE and I'm happy to see it make a much welcomed return. The Usos zeroing in on Kingston's leg later on in the match was also a well worked tag team sequence.  

Unfortunately, I feel like the latter portion of the match lost some of it's fluency with a couple of awkward and potentially dangerous moments, where things didn't quite go to plan. The stand out moment was Uso #1 (or possibly #2) overshooting on a top rope dive into Big E's Big Ending and almost ending up spiking himself on his head, but there were a few other moments in the home straight were the two teams seemed to forget what was going or what was about to come next. It's a shame then that the bout went on end with a countout as The Usos survived the Midnight Hour and then grabbed their titles and went home. On it's own the finish wasn't particularly offensive, but after the screwy finish to the ladder match and a less than stellar couple of minutes heading into it, it was at least a deflating conclusion to the match.

Naomi def. Lana to retain SmackDown Women's Championship

What a weird match this was. I'm not sure if anyone is still sure why this match was booked and I'm not sure we ever will. Lana got her title shot for nothing, which is supposedly a decent way of building heat for someone, but the fans don't particularly want to boo Lana and she quite clearly wasn't ready for a match at this level. It wasn't perhaps the carwreck that it could have been, but neither was it anything resembling a good match. The crowd was subdued, the wrestling varied between passable and clumsy and having Carmella come out and stand about did nothing for the bout and didn't make much sense either (at least, in kayfabe). Lana worked the leg a bit (for the second match on the show), with a couple of nice suplexes in the ropes, some awkward wrestling parts, Carmella came out after a near fall of Lana's spinebuster finish (yup, her first match had someone kicking out of her finisher) and then Naomi put on the Slay-o-Mission to retain her title. Not a classic.

  • Promo - The same WWE Network promo that feels like it's been running for two years at this point. 
  • Fashion Vice - Up to this point, I'd probably say this was the best part of the show as Breezango produced an 80's inspired version of the Fashion Files. We saw an ominous VHS threat from whoever destroyed the lads' office and the two made about five or six Michael Jackson reference before leaving.  
  • Arena - Mike and Maria Kanellis are here! The whole production on this segment was brilliant from the music, to the hands-free microphones, to having Mike Bennett take Maria's last name, I can't wait to see what WWE has planned for these two on the blue brand.

Mahal def. Orton to retain WWE Championship

A strong part of this matches charm was the St. Louis crowd absolutely adoring Randy Orton. The went nuts for anything the Viper did, whilst they were quick to pour scorn on Jinder Mahal's foreigner based antics. WWE went all-in on presenting Orton as the home-town boy, supported by a group of "St. Louis" legends including Ric Flair, "Cowboy" Bob Orton and Baron von Raschke and it worked with the crowd losing it the moment they heard the name of the place where they were read out by the ring announcer during Orton's introduction and whole heartedly supported him throughout the match. Partly due to this and partly due to the style, but this match felt like something that had been plucked from a bygone era, which certainly has it's own appeal. 

The in-ring stuff here was perfectably acceptable stuff and whilst it was never going to be accused of being ground-breaking or a spectacle, it did what it did very well and on as show like Money in the Bank didn't need to be anything more. After an early face shine where Orton ran through his greatest hits, The Apex Predator seemed to suffer an knee injury falling to the outside, with Mahal focusing on the injury and controlling the majority of the contest from there on in. Orton's selling was superb throughout this. If there's one thing Orton does well it's sell injuries, sell injuries and wrestle clinically. The only problem with this was that it was the third match on the show (fourth if you count the pre-show) in which the leg had been worked and we were only four matches into the PPV. Mahal running through some of the ringside guests signature moves was also a cute touch, with the Figure Four tying in nicely with the overall story. 

The bout's conclusion was a little too similar to the pair's Backlash match for my liking as we saw the Singh Brothers saved Mahal after he took one of the worst RKO's I've ever seen and then Orton losing his shit on the Sunil and Samir, before returning to the ring and taking a Khallas to lose the match and allow Jinder to retain. The addition of the Bollywood Boyz getting physical with Bob Orton at ringside was a positive, even if it seemed to take an age for Orton to save his Dad, but that aside this was almost a carbon copy of the ending of the previous match. There was no twist to it, no new take on the sequence to trick us or anything a little bit creative or different from what had gone before.  

Breezango def. The Ascension

I guessed the Ascension were going to be the ones who had trashed Breezango's offic but I was hoping it wouldn't be. They were the only heel team left on the SmackDown roster, so if you were shocked when they came out you weren't paying enough attention. This was a complete nothing match. A few minutes of filler and nothing else. No hijinks from Fandango & Tyler Breeze, but nothing to particularly note that they were furious at Konnor & Viktor for destroying their office either. A waste of a match and a waste of the mysterious reveal. Breeze got a roll-up win after the Ascension dominated. 

Corbin def. Styles, Owens, Ziggler, Zayn and Nakamura to win the Men's Money in the Bank Ladder Match

Easily the best match on the show and probably the only one that's worth your time. This was a well-put together six person ladder match which used it's cast of performers well, building to a fantastic crescendo (something which MITB matches often lack). It wasn't the greatest stunt show type affair that WWE has ever put on, it wasn't up there with the first from WrestleMania 21 or Daniel Bryan's win in 2011 or Dean Ambrose's last year, but it held it's near half hour running time well and remained entertaining throughout. Negating the awkward earlier portion that the Women's match had, the bout was carried by Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens' rekindling their feud, whilst Baron Corbin refused to buddy up with Dolph Ziggler. Whilst a lot of the earlier spots were a little tame...a Zig Zag off the first rung?...everyone appeared to know what they were doing and how their characters should interact with one another. It wasn't sparks flying everywhere, but there was at least some fire somewhere. 

Talking of Zayn and Owens, those two were all over this bout with almost every big spots involving one or the other. Owens in particular took the brunt of the punishment, bumping about the place like the New Face of America should. First a slam off the top rope onto an open ladder from Zayn to Owens, Zayn got hiptossed into a ladder in the corner by Ziggler, Zayn replied with a wicked sunset flip powerbomb off the ladder, a half and half suplex onto the apron from Zayn to Owens, a Phenomenal Forearm from AJ Styles to knock Zayn off the ladder, a Helluva Kick to Corbin, a low blow from Owens stopped Zayn climbing the ladder, Styles gave Owens a Death Valley Driver off the apron through a ladder bridging the ring and announce table, before both lads ended up bowing out after taking Kinshashas from Shinsuke Nakamura. Both lads worked their arses off throughout the match, providing the contest with more than their fair share of moments. But would you have expected anything else of these two workhorses? 

The bout also saw some of the best use of Shinsuke Nakamura since he debuted on SmackDown in April. Firstly, Corbin took out Nakamura, jumping the King of Strong Style on the ramp and then we didn't see Nakkers for most the match. It made Shinsuke feel special, it made a moment out of his initial exit and an even bigger moment out of his return and it made him feel like something other than another cog in the wheel. When he got to the ring, still selling the attack from earlier, he dominated with taking out Corbin, Ziggler, Zayn and Owens with Kinshasas and generally looking like a bad ass mother fucker bent on going after the briefcase. The reaction to his return was only bettered when Nakamura put his hand on the ladder, only for Styles to place his hand on the other side of the ladder, with the two moving the metal aside to focus on beating each other up. The two were absolute gold together with big strikes that whipped the crowd up, before Styles blocked a Kinshasha before the two climbed the ladder amidst duelling chants from the St. Louis crowd. If WWE can keep these two apart, with teases like this until a big show (preferably WrestleMania) then they should have something special on their hands. 

Of course, with the crowd going nuts for Nakamura and Styles on top of the ladder, it was the perfect time for Baron Corbin to push them both off and claim the briefcase for himself and that's exactly what he did. Corbin was the natural choice as winner as he had the most to gain from a stint with the briefcase, as he continues to grow as a performer (he's arguably improved more as a performer on SmackDown than his time on NXT). He's also got the character that is best suited to the MITB gimmick and there's a real opportunity to further the Lone Wolf persona with Corbin lurking in the background waiting to strike whenever the champion is at their lowest ebb. I'd love to see a long-run with the briefcase as I'm not sure that Baron is quite ready to carry the brand (although with Jinder Mahal as champion who knows what's what anymore) but after a 9 months or so being groomed to take the step up with a couple of major programmes with Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, even Luke Harper or Tye Dillinger, would put him in a position to realistically take the belt and have options going forward. It could also offer the elusive stand-out singles match that Corbin is yet to have. The SmackDown after WrestleMania would be the perfect place to switch things up.


ATPW Scale Rating - 5.2/10

Before the main event, this PPV was heading for a low four and whilst the main event was probably in the lower half of MITB matches, it was still good enough to effectively pull the event up to an above average rating. Outside of the Men's Money in the Bank ladder match, Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton was probably the best match from the undercard, with an old-fashioned charm, whilst The New Day vs. The Usos was also heading in the right direction until the screwy finish. The rest of the show ranged from a complete waste of a first to just a general waste of everybodies times, with Lana v Naomi also happening. Looked at as a whole the shows major drawback was just how many bloody matches involved someone working the leg. There's absolutely no excuse for half the main card to work the same body part, I wouldn't expect that from a thrown together indy, but WWE really should be above that kind of laziness.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

FCP DTTI Hangover (Live) Review

On 19th May, Fight Club: Pro found itself a new home at Starworks Warehouse in Wolverhampton and hosted the aftermath of their epic Dream Tag Team Invitational Easter weekender. The show featured a Six Man Scramble with Angelico, Jimmy Havoc, Jordan Devlin, Eddie Dennis, Dan Moloney and Clint Margera, the DTTI winners #CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) facing off with the debuting Scarlet & Graves (Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz) and The Hunter Brothers (Lee & Jim) and Travis Banks defending the FCP Championship against Trent Seven, as well as appearances from Kay Lee Ray, Joe Coffey, "The Regulator" Wolfgang, Kris Wolf and "Session Moth" Martina...but was it any good? Let's take a look, shall we? 

Omari def. Dallaway, Johnny T & Fletcher 

These multi-man trainee "dark" matches had become a bit of a tradition towards the end of FCP's run at Fixxion, so it was nice to see them return for the Starworks show. These usually short and pacy matches work quite nicely at whetting the appetite for some a more substantial graps feast to come, like a nice soup with a crusty cob or whatever your starter of choice is...prawn cocktail, whatever. The first half of the bout was 1i1o type stuff, with a number of big strikes that left Omari with a bright red chest, then into the obligatory dive sequence, before a double german suplex spot was aided with an Omari enziguiri. For me, the best action on offer came when Kyle Fletcher and Omari went at it, putting together hard-hitting slick strike sequence as well cool spot with The Big O slingshotting to the inside and straight into a Fletcher superkick. Overall, the timing could have been better at points, but nothing that had a major effect and with this technically being a trainee dark match those kind of things are to be expected as the four being to iron out their creases. As with any starter this was a nice lead in for what was to come, without ever threatening to fully satisfy the hunger.   

Wolfgang def. Coffey 

The opener of the show proper was an interesting choice, as Wolfgang and Joe Coffey met in their most Southern match to date. Originally, Coffey and Wolfgang were scheduled to take part in a six man match, but Wolfie cut a quick promo and we had an all Scottish affair to kick things off in Wolverhampton. Now, I've thought about how to review this match more than probably any other match on the card, because in the moment, I just didn't get it. Not that I felt I'd seen a bad match, but one that just hadn't grabbed me in the way I perhaps expected it to do. Being the conscientious reviewer that I am and knowing that I'd enjoyed both guys on previous occasions, I thought I'd ask some of my wrassle pals what they thought and almost every single one of them seemed to have a higher opinion of the bout than I did.  I wouldn't say anyone raved about it, but they enjoyed the big lads battle, Marc Pearson noted the psychology in particular, but I still wasn't buying into it. 

I'm not sure why I did...not enjoy isn't the right phrase, because there was some lovely stuff and a few spots that I'll always pop for (Coffey's triple jump crossbody)...so perhaps the best term is fully appreciate. I'm not sure why I didn't fully appreciate this match. I've purposefully not gone back and watched it since, because I wanted to give my feelings on it from being there in the space and how it affected me. Perhaps it was the new venue, which is much more spacious than Fixxion and it took some getting used to the new atmosphere. Perhaps it was the ring breaking early on, when it looked like one of the board came at the very least loose on a bodyslam, which threw me a little off. Perhaps it was coming off a four man into a singles match that I expected to be a six man did something to me. I'm not sure. Looking back on my notes, it reads like a decent opener with some big spots like Coffey's running jump over the barricade and mid-rope moonsault from Wolfgang, before Wolfie picked up his first FCP after blocking a superplex and nailing The Howling. I'm looking forward to rewatching this and hopefully reappraising in the future, as well as getting to see how both fit into Starworks plans going forward. 

KLR def. Wolf

Kay Lee Ray's first FCP singles win against the debuting Kris Wolf from Stardom was a fun bout whilst it lasted but I came away a little disappointed. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this bout and I had a ball of a time watching it, but there just wasn't enough of it. After a technical start, the two had some jokes revolving around the height differential (KLR is 5' 8'' and Wolf just 4' 10'') including a surprise appearance from Viper to even the odds, we had KLR replying to Wolf biting her arm, by biting Wolf's tail and the two looking to use the new FCP set-up as much as possible. Kay Lee jumped off the barricade with a forearm and then Wolf used the new entrance way as a set off monkey bars, initially thrusting out for a kick and then transitioning into hurricanrana onto the floor. Creative stuff on the outside with the exploration of the new venue being a bit of theme for the whole show. 

Once the action returned to the ring I was expecting business to pick up. We'd seen flashes throughout the match with some fast paced roped running stuff and a cool succession of near falls, but by this point I was chomping at the bit to see Wolf and KLR hit top gear and by the bouts conclusion I don't think we got anywhere close to seeing what the pair could have done together. A couple of near falls for each, KLR off a Gory bomb and a wheelbarrow suplex for Wolf and it seemed like the bout was heading towards it's crescendo and then Kay Lee slapped on a koji clutch and that was that. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, perhaps some more firey exchanges, perhaps a gear change, perhaps some cool submission escapes and just a general build up of aggression towards a conclusion, but I certainly wasn't expecting Wolf to tap so quickly. I'm hoping we get a rematch between the two, depending on how long Wolf spends in the country, because a second match building on the stellar work done here would take away my needy complaints. I want more, dammit.    

#CCK def. Scarlet & Graves and Hunter Brothers 

With Mark Andrews off the card, The Hunter Brothers joined #CCK's Chris Brookes and Kid Lykos and the debuting Rockstar Pro regular's Scarlet & Graves' Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz in a superb three way tag team match as the first half main event. I both hate and love #CCK, sometimes at the same time. I don't know when it happened but Brookes & Lykos have developed into one of the slickest tag team acts in the world. Ever little detail they've added over the past year or so, after branching out from Attack! into FCP, IPW:UK, Southside and elsewhere, Brookes spitting and chucking water at lads, Lykos never shutting up and never being able to hit a brainbuster and also those sicking fucking tag moves, those little details make them so easy to hate, but so entertaining to watch at the same time. When the best boys controlled, first Wentz and then Jim Hunter, they held the crowd in just the right place for the madness that was about to come our way. 

Christ, once the momentum swung towards the Tipton and Ohio connection, as Jim tagged in Xavier things became a balls to the wall sprint, with a shed load of highspots and more sicking fucking tag moves than you could shake a shitty stick at. Dives to the outside from all four of our heroes, big strikes, the Hunters swinging into dropkick, the sweet gory blockbuster that CCK do and that's not even the half of it, as Scarlet & Graves also won over a number of new fans with their high energy offence. My notes on this match got gradually less descriptive as the bout went on, to the point where my final bullet point was "Finish is a series of ridiculous things seemingly all happening simultaneously. It is fucking marvellous". If that's not a good enough description for you, go and watch the match and come back and tell me I didn't get it spot on.  

Devlin def. Angelico, Havoc, Dennis, Moloney and Margera 

OTT's Jordan Devlin picked up a big win on his FCP debut in an eclectic six man scramble, that showcased a real mixed bag of performers and went all over the building. With a variety of different styles, movesets and personas, this was never going to be boring, especially with the crowd so intent on trying to get the attention of Dan Moloney. The mach started with a series of strikes, before the six men worked a lovely sequence where Devlin and Moloney thwarted dive attempts from Angelico and Eddie Dennis, before Jimmy Havoc and Clint Margera got the better of the villain, hit stereo suicide dives and Dennis and Angelico went up and over to the floor. It was a structurally simple opening, but non the less it was effective, with the initial denial of the fan favourite flips meaning they meant a whole lot more when we got them, and more, shortly after. 

Then, of course, there was the crowd brawling. Boy was there some crowd brawling. Starworks is much larger than Fixxion so it seemed like everyone decided to make the most of the extra space. The enjoyment of this kind of stuff usually depends on where you happen to situated in the room and how much you can actually see and with most of the action happening towards the bar area at the far end of the room and me sitting front row towards the entrance way, I didn't manage to catch a whole lot of this. There certainly was some brawling, in different combinations. With six men in the match it would've been cool to have seen them split off into pairs and head into different sections of the crowd, so there was something different for each area to focus their attentions on, but unfortunately the bulk seemed to occur in the large space at the far end of the room. There was a great spot with Devlin reversing a Havoc piledriver into a backbody drop on the bar, which caused an odd series of hanging lightbulbs to swing about, as well as a sequence of back and forth forearms with the six sat opposite each other, however. 

Once back in the ring, the match produced its best action with some interesting combinations battling it out. Dennis cleaned house with forearms out of various situations, Margera and Moloney put together a good section together, Margera took an acid rainmaker as Havoc shouted "I'm sorry, I love you" for a nice pop and Dennis took out both the Callous Hearts with a Fallaway Slam/Samoan drop combination, a solid mixture of sleek sequences, back and forth wrestling, comedic near falls and multi-man spots. I would've liked to have seen a few more highspots making the most of the sheer numbers involved in the match, but that nitpicking didn't make this any less enjoyable. The finish saw each man consecutively taken out of contention with the aforementioned combination move from Dennis keeping Margera and Havoc down, before Moloney removed Dennis from the equation with a sitout fireman's carry facebuster, Angelico took out Moloney with a turnbuckle crucifix powerbomb, leading into a wicked Devlin package piledriver that gave the WWE UK competitor a surprising debut victory. 

Purser def. Martina in a Fans Bring the Alcohol Match 

I'm still trying to come to terms with the Fans Bring the Alcohol match and to be honest with you, I don't think that I ever will completely. Referee Shay Purser's first FCP show since turning 18 saw him facing off with notorious boozehound and potential sexual deviant Martina with the fans supplying the alcohol, because it would've been weird if they'd bought their own booze with them. Most of my notes on this bout were single words, written in all caps, for example..."CHRIST". There was drinking, there was singing, there was referee Joel Allen wearing a bin bag, there was a pissed up version of an international, there was bronco busters for anyone who wanted one and it all felt like some kind of glorious dream. The kind of dream that you awake from with a start, slightly confused and questioning everything you once knew to be true. This probably wasn't a match for all, I'm not even sure if it was for me, but it certainly was an experience I won't forget in a hurry. 

Banks def. Seven to retain FCP Championship 

Trent Seven and Travis Banks had been to war with each other before in FCP. Back at Rise Against in March 2016 when a frustrated came out with the victory in only Banks' second match in the promotion, before nine months Trav picked up his first singles win in FCP in a thrilling conclusion to the Infinity tournament. This match took a slightly different angle, as whilst Trent had become the default heel back in December due to the sheer investment the Fixxion crowd had in Banks' losing streak story, there was no mistaking that Seven was the villain here as the challenger cheap shotted the champion out of a handshake and we were off to the races. These two lads are two of the hardest hitters currently residing on our island and holy balls on a typewriter did they hit each other hard here. Strong style kicks and forearms and chops, brawling out into the crowd and doing a wonderful version of the spot where Seven misses a chop using the trussing for the lighting rig, when Seven and Banks face off you know you're going to get something physical, the kind of wrestling that makes you wince in a weird pleasure you're not quite sure how to deal with. 

Once the early brawling was done with, the two found the kitchen sink and through that at each other as well (obviously metaphorically, just in case you were wondering). The two went back and forth hitting big high impact moves, including a series of german suplexes one after the other, a dragon suplex, a seven star lariat and a burning hammer from Seven, a springboard roundhouse kick, a ringpost crotching and double stomp from Banks. Each move looked great, hit with ferocity and intent and that's not even the half of it. The proceedings seemed to get sillier and the reactions got louder as the match went on with each near fall seeming more improbable than the last. Banks kicked out a piledriver, Seven kicked out of a ridiculous coast to coast and then the champ kicked out of an avalanche piledriver, because why the fuck not? The best (or worst, if you're a miserable old bellend) part is that that wasn't even the daftest part of the match. Oh no, as we learned that Travis is pretty much indestructible as he took his third piledriver of the match and bounced back to his feet and the crowd went apeshit, before taking another dragon suplex and no selling the fuck out of that bad boy as well. A roundhouse kick and Kiwi Crusher later and Banks was still our Fight Club: Pro Champion after a thrilling 20 minutes of international strong style professional wrestling. I could watch Travis Banks v Trent Seven every day for the rest of my life and twice on Sundays and never get bored. Each of their matches in FCP has had it's own flavour, using different stories and situations to drive them, but always include great striking, crisp and dynamic big moves, some wonderful facial expression and terrific, awe-inspiring near falls. 


ATPW Scale Rating - 6.88/10

A very good debut show at Starworks for Fight Club: Pro and whilst I'm not completely sold on the new venue just yet, I am still sold on the wrestling content. Was the show on the same level as the Dream Tag Team Invitational weekend? No, but it didn't particularly need to be. I think the show took a while to find it's stride, but once the first half main event had blown me away with #CCK, Scarlet & Graves & The Hunter Brothers, the show didn't look back with a wonderfully varied second half, that concluded with main event owning the match of the night spot as Travis Banks and Trent Seven did what they do best. I can't wait to see what FCP has in store for us as we had into the summer, especially when Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate are available and there's not a chance I'm missing a single show.

Photo Credit - The Ringside Perspective.

Friday, 16 June 2017

WWE NXT #252 Review

On 14th June, WWE aired the 252nd episode of NXT, taped at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida on May 25th. The show's main event saw Asuka defend her NXT Women's Title against Nikki Cross & Ruby Riot in an eliminations match. With matches also featuring Drew McIntyre, Velveteen Dream, Authors of Pain and the newly contracted CWC competitor Raul Mendoza, why was all of this so dull?

McIntyre def. Ryzin

Drew McIntyre's out against a newly red-haired Rob Ryzin, they lock up to begin with Ryzin transitioning to a waitslock followed by a chinlock, Drew hits a big belly-to-belly and... you know, I can't be bothered. Drew hits a Claymore to win, it's fine, I yawned at one point and missed the match. Doing these matches to build up new signees is fine but don't just keep doing them because you have nothing for them.

  • Talking of people in need of a fucking storyline, here's an Aleister Black package. Seriously, just do the Bull Dempsey-Baron Corbin storyline with Black and McIntyre, do anything with them just give them something to do.

Authors of Pain def. Dominguez & Freyday

Akam is in first and he hits a big boot taking out Wilmer Freyday before in comes Anthony Dominguez to get taken out as well. Dominguez is thrown practically onto the ramp before Akam hits a Modified Death Valley Driver for the win. Another day, another NXT squash match that does little but add another notch to AoP's belts.

  • After the match, the AoP hit the Super Collider on Dominguez and Freyday. Paul Ellering calls out Heavy Machinery claiming that they haven't read the book of pain and that they're about to write a new book, the book of dominance, this one has music in it, in fact, it's where music comes from. Also that, Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight will be a footnote in the book. Out come Heavy Machinery for a four way big lad staredown. Intense, I guess.
  • Roderick Strong tweeted about Bobby Roode. Huge if true.
  • Sonya Deville gets a package. It's pretty good at aping the style of MMA video segments. She's in action next week. I can't wait.

Dream def. Mendoza

As Velveteen Dream makes his entrance, Tom Phillips makes a reference to a 'sign of the times', do you get it? Dream is like Prince! Ha! Dream plays with his Raul Mendoza to begin with using his collegiate wrestling background to wrestle him to the mat and then literally walks over him to taunt at the audience. They lock up, Dream hits a Little Red Corvette sized shoulder block, Mendoza rolls up but only for a 1 count. The two trade strikes till Dream cuts off Mendoza with a boot as Mendoza attempted a springboard. Dream makes Mendoza's chest look like a raspberry beret in the corner and throws a belly to back suplex. A Purple Rain of chops onto Mendoza's chest light him up. Mendoza comes back with a high kick and chops, but just as he's beginning to party like it's 1999, a flapjack, a rolling death valley driver and a Glam Slam Top Rope Elbow Drop from Dream earn him the pin. After picking up the win, he eye-fucks the camera, so much. Both men look solid but frankly, there is nothing achieved here. Still, hopefully Dream can build on this potential and move into an actual story.

  • Kassius Ohno is interviewed backstage and he regrets sinking into frustration like Hideo Itami and he's leading by example in a match with Aleister Black, now that's more like it.
  • Ember Moon package, she's back and facing Peyton Royce next week. The way Royce has been performing recently, this could be very fun.

Asuka vs. Cross vs. Riot ends in a No Contest

So, um, what was that? I'm not even commenting on the performance of the three women who are arguably three of the best performers in WWE at the moment but somehow they took the template of a match that was a fun mess a few weeks ago and re-created it as something that doubles down on how much of a mess it was but in terms of fun... 

It had promise as a match, especially if you love multiple dropkick variations as after all three women brawled to begin with. Cross hit Riot with a front missile dropkick, Asuka hit Cross with a side missle dropkick, Cross and Riot team up to get Asuka out of the ring before doing the lets fight each other but also keep Asuka out the match. The sections like this which focus in on Cross and Riot work best as they continue to suggest that when we actually get a singles match with these two it will be mental and amazing. Riot hits a superkick to Cross to take us into the Ad break. Post break, Asuka is back and hits Riot with running bum (because let's face it, she doesn't really use her hips) but Riot responds with a hurricanrana, Cross does her crazy attacking thing but Riot retaliates with her Wind-Up Overhead Kick finish going for a cover but Asuka breaks it up getting some Riotous slaps for her effort. Asuka kicks Riot in the head and gets a two count, Cross pulls Asuka out of the ring, Riot hits both of them with an apron dropkick on both women. Back in the ring and Riot hits a shotgun dropkick on Cross, she heads up top but Asuka pushes her out of the ring before attempting a dropkick, Cross with her Fisherman's Neckbreaker finisher but Asuka rolls out before she can be covered, Riot hits a Saito Suplex. From here on out, the fragile thread holding this match seems to fall apart without Riot as lets note that Tom Phillips makes every effort to remind us that this is all under Triple Threat rules so no countouts or DQs, only pins, submissions and maybe KOs but certainly no way that this is going to have to be thrown out on a double countout. 

So the two women fight in the ring briefly before taking it to the outside again, after a few near falls, they brawl near the audience and out into the wing and the referee throws out the match. For one thing, throughout this and the previous match, the most impressive performer has been Ruby Riot, so of course she is the only one to take a legal pinfall in both matches. For another, it may have been a symptom of the crowd being completely dead but this match just felt supremely messy and its finish was completely nonsensical. If you wanted to build up Cross to keep her on Asuka's level, there are cleaner ways to do it than just throwing out storytelling. It might have all been redeemed if the match had something we didn't get in the Chicago Triple Threat but this felt as much as rehash as a rematch at times. I wanted to like this so much more than I did. As it is, I think we're finally hitting the point where Asuka has almost jumped the shark. She's been built to look so unbeatable that when someone, be it Cross or Moon, eventually does beat her, it will be that much more difficult to make it believable.


ATPW Scale Rating: 3/10

I'm bored of this, I'm going for a twix.