Tuesday, 31 October 2017

RAW 1275 Review // The Miz vs. Matt Hardy


On 30th October 2017, WWE aired the 1275th episode of Monday Night RAW live on the USA Network from the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. The show featured The Miz defending the Intercontinental Championship against Matt Hardy, Finn Balor battling Cesaro in a first time TV bout and Mickie James challenging for Alexa Bliss's Women's Championship, as well as appearances from SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan, RAW General Manager Kurt Angle, Kane, Seth Rollins and a returning Samoa Joe...but was it any good? Lets take a look.

Commissioner Stephanie McMahon confronted General Manager Kurt Angle (5:26)



I've been looking forward to seeing an interaction between Stephanie McMahon and Kurt Angle ever since Angle was appointed RAW General Manager, the night after WrestleMania. So when McMahon made her first on-screen appearance since crashing through a table at WrestleMania 33, I was pretty hyped to see what went down and this short interaction between the pair was just enough to whet the appetite for a potential feud between the pair going forward. Whilst Angle's acting is still suspect at the best of times, there's no denying that he has a strong connection with the crowd and the same can be said for McMahon, but obviously in the complete opposite direction. After a lengthy time off, McMahon's act felt fresh again and having her compliment Angle before turning on her bitch cannons and continually rise in intensity as she went off on one on the 4 time WWE Champion was a lot of fun. Whilst the announcement that Angle would be the Team Captain for the RAW Men's team at Survivor Series would've had more impact if he hadn't competed on at TLC less than two week's ago, it still got a decent pop and opens up a number of intriguing storyline possibilities as we get closer to 2018.

In the parking lot, Stephanie McMahon left the show in a limo, before Intercontinental Champion The Miz and the Miztourage (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) arrived in one of their own, with a Miz rant, leading to Kurt Angle blowing up in his face and booking Miz in an Intercontinental Championship match later in the show.

In the arena, Alicia Fox, wearing a captain's hat because she's RAW Women's team captain at Survivor Series, named the returning Nia Jax as her replacement in a match with Bayley, so I guess the rumours about Jax leaving the promotion were false and Fox has match-making powers now. 

Nia Jax def. Bayley via pinfall (3:51)



An extended squash victory for Nia Jax here, which is a shame because these two have good chemistry and have shown in the past that they can put on good matches when given the opportunity, at a time when Jax was much greener as well! Putting Jax over so strong felt a little unnecessary as part of the Survivor Series build, but the two managed to do a decent job in the time they were given, pulling in call back to NXT Takeover: London and an impressive finishing sequence from Jax, alongside some lovely selling from Bayley.

After the match, Fox continued to be batshit insane doing a pilots impression, before offering Nia Jax a spot on the RAW Women's Survivor Series team.

Samoa Joe returned for his first appearance since SummerSlam, cutting a promo on the crowd for not reaching out during his time off, which whilst it might have been a little cliche was delivered with gusto and intensity. 

Samoa Joe def. Apollo Crews via submission (3:38)



Some decent stuff here, but it lacked the excitement level that an Apollo Crews vs. Samoa Joe match could potentially have, with Crews' offence being limited to headlocks and enziguiris. It did, at least, put Joe over strong and he looked like a bad ass in his comfortable victory with the Coquina Clutch.

Post-match, Titus O'Neil and Samoa Joe stared each other down, before Joe locked in a Coquina Clutch when O'Neil went to check on Apollo Crews.

Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (C) def. Matt Hardy via pinfall (9:57)



Matt Hardy's first televised Intercontinental Championship match since he lost to Test on a November 2001 episode of SmackDown was an interesting contest, being well-put together, but awfully sloppy in the first five minutes. The two struggled to connect for most of the match, often ending up out of sync with the action, leading to a couple of sequences that clearly didn't come off as well as they could have, including something that I think was Miz' old Reality Check (Running knee lift followed by a neckbreaker slam). That aside, Hardy worked well fighting from underneath having to combat the entire Miztourage, garnering good crowd support which made a couple of near falls feel much more important than they would have for a less over performer. Hardy's getting a series of near falls, whilst always looking for the Twist of Fate, gradually gave the former ROH World Tag Team Champion a feeling of momentum with the crowd popping big for a diving moonsault from the 43 year old. For me, the finish came across as a little uncreative, as after the best sequence of the match saw Miz miss the roundhouse kick in his IT Kick's combination, allowing Hardy to hit a Twist of Fate at the fourth attempt, Miz simply rolled under the ropes and when Hardy went to bring him back into the ring managed to pull Matt's throat across the top rope and hit a Skull-Crushing Finale for the win. I feel like the Miztourage could've been utilised to help get the most out of a near fall of the Twist of Fate, which felt like it was wasted after some good build up. Like most, I expect either The Miz or Baron Corbin to drop their respective titles before we get to Survivor Series, because a match between the two isn't particularly appealing.

In Kurt Angle's office, Women's Champion Alexa Bliss told Angle he should fire Mickie James and potentially replace her with Mae Young's corpse, which lead to Angle booking Bliss against Mickie James in a title match later in the show.

Asuka def. Stacie Cullen via submission (1:40)



A straight-up squash match for Asuka with the debuting Stacie Cullen getting in absolutely no offence before tapping out the Asuka Lock. 

Kane attacked SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan (3:07)


This curious angle was laid out across four consecutive segments, beginning with Kurt Angle shitting his pants when SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan turned up in his office, before subsequently locking his counterpart in the room. Later on, we saw the lights go off on Bryan, before Kane appeared, lit only by Bryan's mobile phone, with the Big Red Monster appearing to chokeslam SmackDown's GM, with it being clear that Bryan didn't take the bump, so I wouldn't get your hopes up that this is the start of Bryan's in-ring comeback trail!

Finn Balor def. Cesaro (with Sheamus) via pinfall (8:14) 



As soon as I saw these two come to the ring, I had a flashback to the tremendous series of TV matches Cesaro had with the likes of Randy Orton and John Cena in the build towards Elimination Chamber 2014 and whilst this bout didn't hit the heights of that classic run, there was still some very good wrestling on display here. With no real issue between the pair, the crowd wasn't massively into the action, but I enjoyed the crisp wrestling exhibited by the pair in only their second singles match (after a March 2015 NXT live event). The two mixed physical strikes and smooth back and forth grappling well, whilst peppering in a couple of big spots like Cesaro's wicked good deadlift superplex. The sequence of submissions from Cesaro as he switched from a Sharpshooter to a Crossface to a side headlock in an attempt to keep control of the match was a personal highlight. It was a shame that as soon as the match began to lift the pace that it was over, with Balor able to counter the threat of Sheamus on the outside and win with a diving double stomp to the back of Cesaro's neck. Balor had to be put over strong following his loss to Kane last week (and what would follow), but as always I just wanted a little bit more between these two world-class professional wrestlers.

After the match, Kane met Finn Balor on the ramp, quickly overturning Balor's offence and nailing a Tombstone Piledriver on the stage. 

Kane def. Tag Team Champion Seth Rollins via pinfall (5:42)



Ruddy hell, WWE is really set on turning Kane back into a monster, as he ran through one of the companies biggest stars Seth Rollins, in a rematch from Hell in a Cell 2015. I didn't really get much out of this one, with a number of repetitive sequences resulting in Kane hitting a throat thrust. Whilst I could question why a monster is putting on a conventional headlock, I'll instead choose to praise the energy in Rollins last burst of offence as he hit two enziguris and a blockbuster for a near fall and then two speedy suicide dives. The finish saw Rollins defend partner Dean Ambrose who got jumped by Cesaro & Sheamus at ringside, only to springboard into a ridiculously telegraphed chokeslam with the Big Red Machine having his hand in place for the move before Rollins even left the ground. WWE is putting an awful lot behind the Big Red Machine to build him up to put Braun Strowman over in his new babyface role, in a move that seems unnecessary considering the reactions that Strowman already receives and the limitations of a 300lb+ 50 year old. 

Dean Ambrose made the save for Seth Rollins hitting Dirty Deeds on Kane, only for the Big Red Machine sat up and aided by Cesaro & Sheamus went on to hit Tombstone Piledrivers on both Ambrose and Rollins as the weirdest push on 2017 continued.

Daniel Bryan was loaded onto a stretcher following the assault by Kane earlier on.

The Miz, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel discovered a bag full of rubbish in the lockeroom and jumped to the bizarre conclusion that Braun Strowman must be in the arena, this led to Miz searching out Kane backstage to let him know the news.

Santa Claus [Heath Slater] & Mrs. Claus [Rhyno] def. Chad 2 Badd [Karl Anderson] & Tex Ferguson [Luke Gallows] in a Trick or Street Fight via pinfall (4:53)




Well, good goly, this was a thing. Santa Claus & Mrs. Claus clashing with Southpaw Regional Wrestling's Chad 2 Badd and Tex Ferguson with halloween themed weapons, whilst Mrs. Claus flashed her knickers and the commentary team took the piss out of the whole thing, before a comedy pumpkin spot gave the Clauses the victory.

Backstage, The Miz told Cesaro & Sheamus about the bag of rubbish he found, they told him not to worry, but he was on his own, leading to Miz making a call to Curtis Axel telling him to pack the bags because they were leaving, as the sage continued. 

Jason Jordan attacked Elias (3:11)



A cute but poorly executed idea, as Elias sang a song for Jason Jordan over replays of Elias twatting Jordan with a guitar last week. Of course, this lead to Jordan coming out, hitting an overhead belly to belly on the Drifter and smashing up a new guitar. 

Kurt Angle caught The Miz and The Miztourage as they were about to leave the building, refusing to let them leave, because Miz arrived late at the start of the show. 

Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore had found his voice, but Drew Gulak still did most of the talking as they ran down Kurt Angle, before some wonderful mic work from Gulak as he comically miss-performed Amore's catchphrases. 

Kalisto def. Drew Gulak via pinfall (0:58)



Quick squash M9, with Kalisto nailing Salida del Sol for a sub-minute victory.

Of course, Enzo Amore attacked Kalisto post-match, hitting Jordunzo before quickly escaping with Drew Gulak.

The Miz instructed Curtis Axel to tell their limo driver to get their car ready for the end of the show, as the paranoia built.

Women's Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (C) def. Mickie James via pinfall (7:41)



I thought Alexa Bliss and Mickie James' match at TLC on 22nd October was alright and was hoping that this rematch would build on some of the solid storytelling and remove some of the sloppiness due to a growing familiarity between the pair. In fact, the complete opposite happened and we received a clumsy bout with little story and a crowd who could not have given less of a fuck. The pair seemed to lose the crowd within the first couple of exchanges with James hitting a horrible looking snapmare and following it up with a messy diving hurricanrana. The crowd was not encourage by a headlock which seemed to last half of the match, garnered no reaction and concluded with a scrappy STO from Bliss. The one thing that seemed to come out well was a neckbreaker from James as part of her comeback sequence. Then Bliss won with a slap/punch/palm strike to the face, after kicking out of a series of roll-ups from James way too early to build any drama or excitement. I did not enjoy this match.

Braun Strowman attacked Intercontinental Champion The Miz and The Miztourage (6:59)



Rightio. Lets start by addressing one of the most confusing moments in the history of RAW. The Miz and Miztourage are attempting to escape the building in their limo, they are blocked in by a bin lorry, out of the bin lorry came Braun Strowman, making his first appearance since TLC. Was the idea that Strowman had been in the bin lorry for over a week? Or was it that Strowman had enjoyed his ride at TLC so much that he'd decided it was his only way to travel? I'm not sure that visual was cool enough to justify the fact that it made no sense at all, whether it was the night before Halloween or not. Luckily Strowman destroying the Miztourage inside the arena, lobbing all three down the ramp and then beating the ever loving shit out of Curtis Axel, after The Miz and Bo Dallas escaped. Axel being carried like a child up the ramp to get powerslammed through the announce table was a sick moment and was made even cooler by the fact Strowman is now babyface and is getting brilliant reactions. I'd expect Strowman will take the Intercontinental title from Miz next week, before squaring off with Baron Corbin at Survivor Series, ahead of a showdown with Kane later down the line.


On paper this show looked stacked. The RAW returns of Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Stephanie McMahon and Braun Strowman, alongside two title matches and Finn Balor vs. Cesaro, this should have been a home-run. Finn Balor vs. Cesaro did end up being a solid match, whilst Matt Hardy challenging for the Intercontinental Championship was well structured and the Braun Strowman beatdown (not the bin lorry bit) was great stuff too, but nothing was good enough to carry the rest of the show. The final hour especially (until Strowman murdered Axel and a slight exception to the wonderful Drew Gulak) was dire, with Mickie James and Alexa Bliss's Women's Championship match proving a botched opportunity for the pair. Add alongside this Kane's bizarre 2017 monster push and you've got a Halloween RAW that was much more trick than treat.

Review by James Marston


Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Non-Fan Review #3 - The Battle of the Billionaires (WM23)


Three blokes who've had little time for professional wrestling...watch professional wrestling...then write about professional wrestling. That's pretty much the premise that we're building this series around. Our three non-fans will be given iconic moments from the history of wrestling and this month they'll be looking at Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga from WrestleMania 23, better known as the Battles of the Billionaires. With Donald Trump in Lashley's corner and Umaga representing Mr. McMahon, what will our intrepid graps newbies make of this one? 

---

Andrew suspects he may be an alien from another planet, frequently finding human rituals baffling. Wrestling is one of the many things that continues to baffle him, but no doubt his findings will be subjected to rigorous study back on his home planet (wherever that is).

--

We start with a barbershop rolling into the ring, with some jaunty music. I gather this is all based around a bet. Two billionaires, both immensely proud of their hair, have somehow agreed to risk their luscious locks based on a wrestling match. I suppose billionaires must get bored easily. If either of them loses their hair, I'm guessing there'll be hell toupee.

The music changes, and in walks Vince McMahon - one of our billionaires, and apparently the founder of all this lunacy I'm reporting on - who then proceeds to cut the hair of and then assault an invisible customer. He enters the ring, followed shortly after by a bizarrely dressed and heavily tattooed pyramid-shaped man called "Umaga". He's from Samoa, at least according to his tattoo. I shall instantly forget his name, because I already don't like him. Omaha is followed by a bad Michael Jackson lookalike who seems to be there purely to hold his pal's wrestling belt.

A moment later, the music changes again, and the future President of the United States enters - George W Bush! Wait, no, the other one. TRUMP. He too attends to the invisible customer, though apparently with a disposable razor.

This is like those trials by combat on "Game of Thrones" - the parties in dispute aren't fighting each other directly. So who has Trump brought along to represent him? A 273lb dark skinned behemoth called Bobby Lashley. Damn, that's a lot of beefsteak, every muscle gleaming in the studio lights... sorry, I was miles away for a moment there. As he leaps into the ring from a standing start, fireworks erupt from the posts. I don't think those were even pyrotechnics. I think that just happens whenever he touches the ground.


The referee is familiar - it's "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who we saw last month painting the ring red with his own blood. He doesn't know the meaning of the word "intimidation". Well, that's okay. We need to let him learn the meaning of words like "cat" and "dog" first. (I still haven't forgiven him for dropping Ken like that. It was uncalled for and most unsporting. Perhaps he will redeem himself in Ken's former role.)

Trump leaves the ring with reluctance, which I'm sure a lot of people today share. I'd love to see him thrown down a few times. Umhum replaces him, goes "ooga booga" at Bobby a few times, and then the two men start throwing punches. It's very fair to start with, trading one for one, but then Bobby takes an early lead, punching Umaga into the corner and following up with a charge. More punches follow.

Steve pulls Bobby off. Bobby is not happy. As he turns away from the referee, he walks right into Umbongo's raised foot. Oops. Omergod then throws the dazed Bobby into the corner post and follows up with a charge - but Bobby darts aside at the last moment and Umbrella leaps into the post himself. Oof! Go, Bobby!

Beefsteak Bobby climbs the ropes, then flies into his opponent. They both crash into the mat. Bobby grabs one of Umdrum's enormous legs and tries to pull it free of its owner. I'm not entirely clear what happens next - Umber's belt-holder places his other foot onto the ropes, and this is apparently cause to break the hold. It seems the rules in wrestling are obscure and arbitrary and routinely ignored whenever it suits whoever's running the show.

Bobby is a little narked by this, walking over to Michael Jackson's double and flipping him into the ring. He gets picked up, thrown down and loses his hat. Austin just watches it all happen. He doesn't care. Meanwhile, Ummingbird just chills on the mat - at least until Bobby flips Phoney Jackson clean over the ropes. This seems to annoy the big guy, who takes a flying charge at the other big guy. Bobby ducks, and Umdinger sails over the top of him, out of the ring.

This is proving to be a very silly match.

Omergod goes to check on his belt carrier, pawing at him like a hungry bear, but he looks like he's out cold. Angered, the Samoan mountain lashes out at Bobby as he peers through the ropes, sending him reeling. He returns to the ring, punching Bobby in the head. Bobby fights back with several meaty punches of his own, and once Ummybear is against the ropes he goes for a charge. Umbelievable darts to one side, and this time it's Bobby the beefcake that sails over the ropes and out of the ring. I'm half expecting Steve Austin to do the same at this rate.


Umbilical goes to fetch him, helpfully tossing him back onto the canvas, and then helps him to wake back up by leaping on top of him. Bobby is slow to rise, and a helpful boot to encourage him doesn't help, so Umsporting decides to strangle him instead. Steve Austin warns him off. When he does it again, Steve simply grabs Umpossible by his long hair and drags him off. Umposter is not happy about this, but after a long staring contest with the referee he backs down.

Bobby takes advantage of the lull to get to his feet, elbowing the Samoan as he moves in and aiming a few more punches at that ugly, ugly face. He tries for one too many, however, and Umbug strikes him down. Bobby writhes on the mat as Umbridge aims a savage kick at his back. Then he climbs the ropes and jumps back down, the full weight of that enormous backside landing on Bobby's chest. That's gotta hurt. When the beefcake doesn't get up, Um climbs the ropes and does the same thing again.

It looks like the end for Trump's terrible hair as Um picks up the ailing Lashley for a finishing move. But Bobby's ready - he lashes (lashleys?) out, taking the Samoan by surprise and landing a couple more blows. He goes in for a throw, but something goes wrong and it's Bobby that goes sprawling. Umpteen yells something incomprehensible to the sky before returning to the fight and kicking Bobby in the chest.

Bobby fights back, but attempting to pick up his opponent proves a foolish mistake. He collapses under the bulk of the monster, pinning himself to the mat. Bobby breaks free for a moment. Then McMahon leans into the ring, apparently to tell his representative how to do his job. Umhappy picks up Bobby, throws him over his shoulder... and Bobby spins in midair and lands on his feet! As a bonus, he knocks McMahon flying! Umexcuseme punches him in the back of the head, as if to remind him there's a fight going on.

McMahon and Lashley both writhe on their respective patches of floor, though I'm less convinced by the former. Trump yells for Bobby to "shake it off". It's only a concussion, big guy. You can do this. But I can't believe I'm rooting for Trump to win this contest...

As Bobby staggers drunkenly to his feet, Um is climbing the ropes behind him. Uh-oh... Bobby staggers into the arms of the giant, and then with one huge effort he throws Umpster over his head and into the mat. Kerpow! Bobby is visibly exhausted by this, but he gamely joins the charge as the two men run into each other. WHAM! Both bodies him the mat, and a piece of Umbroken's costume comes off in the collision. At least, I hope it's from his costume.


Both men sprawl for a moment. Surely this match can't go on much longer? Steve Austin starts counting, though I'm not clear which man he's counting out. Maybe both? If this is a draw, do both the billionaires get a haircut? But Steve stops counting at nine and walks away - perhaps to look up what number comes next, but apparently just to tell the two wrestlers to get up and fight. And slowly, painfully, they do just that.

McMahon's son Shane appears to check his dad's okay. In all the confusion, I'd forgotten about him.

Bobby punches Umble a few times, then goes for a rebound off the ropes. Umtiddlyum clobbers him down mid-charge, then pounds him several more times while he's on the floor. As he chokes him one-handed in the corner, Steve remembers how to count - but forgets that a moment ago he was refusing to count anyone out. All that blood he lost against Bret has clearly affected his memory. A moment later he's pulling the big guy away, a finger in one eye for good measure. Umseen flails pathetically. We're joined in the ring by the Michael Jackson impersonator, but only briefly - one angry look from Steve sees him backing off with hands raised.

Ummagumma strikes back - this time, against Steve Austin! The referee rolls out of the ring, while Vince McMahon basks in the reflected glory of Umstoppable. Shane McMahon enters the ring and gives Umabeliever a pep talk while Bobby drags himself up with the aid of the ropes. Shane then takes a pop at the black guy, showing a distinct lack of fear, sanity or self-preservation. Bobby takes his punches without resistance but soon has enough, grabbing Shane in a bear hug that's only released when Umbongo decides he wants to play too. With Bobby winded, Ominous steps away, and Shane throws in some kicks to the chest. Come on, Bobby! Throw this pipsqueak out of the ring already!

"Out Cold" Steve Austin is asleep on the floor outside the ring. No help there.

Umbug charges into Bobby from across the ring, one meaty foot landing in the crotch. As Bobby lies dying in the corner and the referee lies unconscious outside the ring, Vince McMahon pulls a metal trashcan from underneath the ring and tosses it to his son. First, this is increasingly unsporting. Second, are we suddenly watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon? Are they going to start pulling enormous frying pans out of nowhere next?


I'm not sure what they're doing now. Vince says something unheard to Trump while he and Umcultured hold the trashcan across Bobby's chest. The younger McMahon then climbs the ropes on the other side of the ring, takes a flying leap and kicks into the can with both feet. Bobby collapses. I'm not sure what that move would be called, aside from a flagrant disregarding of the rules. Not that wrestling seems to have any rules.

Shane then takes off his shirt. Underneath, he's wearing... a referee top? Do what now? I no longer have any idea what's going on. He drags Bobby into the middle of the ring and calls Ummerbund back in. The Samoan monster climbs the ropes and drops onto Bobby's chest - why is this still going on? Shane counts Bobby out, but before he can finish someone grabs his foot and pulls him out of the ring. It's the true referee - "Out Cold" Steve Austin - and he's NOT happy.

Shane McMahon takes a rapid beating. Steve has poorer fortune when he reenters the ring, however - Umnotlistening wallops him in the face and he goes down fast.

It's disturbing to see Trump being the voice of reason. It's even more disturbing to see him take direct action against McMahon and start brawling with him on the floor. Umwhatever throws his arms up in despair and decides to attack Steve Austin again, because this match has forgotten exactly who it was between. The tattooed terror holds him by the throat with one hand and prepares for a swing with the other.

Things then happen quickly, and all at once. Austin ducks, spins around him and kicks in in the stomach, then yanks his head down. Umptydumpty staggers into the ropes. Meanwhile, unnoticed in the background, Bobby gets to his feet. He bounces off the ropes, charges into Umrunningoutofpuns and pins him down. Austin joins him, counting out the Samoan. Lashley is declared the winner.

Well, that was insane. It's all over now, right? Well, apart from the haircut.

Trump cheers. McMahon looks pained. Suddenly the rules are back in play, and Vince is going to be shorn. I'm saddened that he's more concerned about his hair than his unconscious son. Steve Austin stares him down from inside the ring, and when it looks like Vince is going to renege on his deal he goes out to fetch the old man and throws him into the ring. Vince cowers pathetically. For pity's sake, Vince, it's just hair. They aren't cutting a leg off.

Trump and Bobby chat in the corner, ignoring them completely.

Ah, there's Shane, coming to his father's hair's rescue. He's no match for Austin, however, who hurls him into the ropes, then leaps down on his chest as he returns. Steve demonstrates a series of professional moves on the faux referee and then simply flips him through the ropes and out of the ring. That was pointless.


Except maybe it isn't. It's just the distraction Vince needs to crawl away, unseen by all except the camera crew. He stops at the aisle for a cheeky wave goodbye - bad idea. Bobby Lashley sprints after him and carries him back draped over his shoulder. The barbershop components are brought into the ring. Steve Austin drops him one last time. And then Vince is strapped in... Donald raises the clippers on high. This is a haircut he's going to deliver personally.

And he does, with Bobby clipping the other side. Soon the billionaire is as bald as Bobby and Steve are. But from the noise he's making, you'd think he was being tortured. Good thing Trump didn't lose - I'm not sure how that toupee would have coped. It's not enough for them to clip, however - out comes the shaving foam and the safety razors.

Steve Austin pauses for a canned beverage before he inspects the job, and declares it good. Bobby presents McMahon with the mirror, and the shock of it sees the bald billionaire fall out of his chair.

As Vince McMahon leaves on the verge of tears, Steve Austin kicks Donald Trump in the chest before strolling off. All is forgiven, Mr Austin (I don't even remember why I didn't like you. Ken who?). Bobby Lashley lets him go, choosing to comfort his sponsor instead. Tackling billionaires is one thing, but only an idiot takes on Steve Austin.


We leave the ring covered, not in blood, but in hair and shaving cream. Again, I pity the poor guy who has to clean up. Verdict - utter lunacy from start to finish. But Bobby Lashley and his endless muscles can shave my head any time he likes.

--

Nick is a 5'11" homo sapiens who never watched wrestling before in his life before embarking on the project.


Born at an early age, he is currently finishing off a PhD in linguistics and has never referred to himself in the third person. He doesn't intend to start now.

--

Let’s be honest: April Fool’s Day is kind of annoying, isn’t it? Its 2007 iteration was probably full of the usual tacky jokes and pranks (I was too busy revising for my end-of-year exams at the time to notice). But surely nothing would have sounded so outlandish as the idea that the creator of WrestleMania and the future President of the United States sponsoring wrestlers to beat seven bells out of each other with the prize being a haircut!

I can honestly say that NOTHING I have ever seen in my entire life has ever been given more buildup than this match; the commentators, Jerry (nice tie) and JR (fetching cowboy hat) are talking about this like it’s the most important event ever. We’ve even got a special guest watching: Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, who is a famous boxer (I’m told). Hey, it could be worse - there’s a famous pianist called Colin Fingers Henry.


The introductory video for this offers a cornucopia of celebrity cameos; even John Travolta and William Shatner get a moment each. From this video, I learn that Vincent Kennedy McMahon is the chairman of WWE and creator of WrestleMania and HOLY MOTHER OF BUCKY O’HARE, HE’S MUSCULAR UNDER THAT SUIT. But then Donald Trump (of all people) appears on screen, saying “The audience doesn’t like you Vince, give them what they want”, before money rains down from the ceiling. This incenses Vince… for some reason… as he screams “You’ve embarrassed me!”… somehow… So the logical thing to do is hire a wrestler each and arrange that the sponsor of the winner shaves the loser’s sponsor’s head.

*takes a deep breath* All right, I think I’ve got it. Let’s go to the match.

A leggy blonde in a blue dress who looks a lot like Sally from 3rd Rock from the Sun says it’s time! At which point, a platform with a barber chair, tray of razors and a barber’s pole VERY SLOWLY makes its way towards the ring, complete with swanky saxophone accompaniment. Even the commentators are struggling to fill the air time, it’s such a strange sight. Then the music becomes funkier and enter Vince, swinging his arm very theatrically like one of the Four Seasons singing “Walk Like a Man”. (Google it.) Miss Teen USA, Miss USA and Miss Universe start to boo Vince, then seem to lose interest after being distracted by something shiny. (On a side note, I once met a Miss Wales hopeful about 9 years ago, she was a real pain in the arse. Probably why she didn’t win.)

Vince advances to the chair and mimes clipping hair as aggressively one can doing such an action. We then see one of the signs an audience member is holding: “TRUMP CAN’T SHAVE VINCE’S GRAPEFRUITS.” …Well, it’s not factually inaccurate as statements go, I suppose.

Vince’s champion is the Samoan man-mountain Umaga (or, as my autocorrect insists upon calling him, “Usage”). Umaga, in his 350 pound glory, prowls down the aisle like a catwalk model in a grass skirt, flowery garland and what looks like a tickling stick made of hay resting on his shoulder. (If this is the kind of weapon we’ll be seeing in this match, it’s getting 10/10 from me.) The commentators are so overwhelmed that they seem to have lost their thesaurus: “Mr McMahon couldn’t stand for anyone to call him ‘cue ball’, he doesn’t want to look like… um… well… a cue ball…” Moreover, Umaga has metal teeth, black face paint/tattoos and an interesting hairdo, plus tattoos on his body with “SAMOA” on the front, presumably so they know his home address if he gets lost. Very thoughtful.


In strides the Donald himself, accompanied by Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner, who is 5’4” (same height as my girlfriend, who also an American; just throwing that out there). As money rains down from the ceiling once more, Donald gives the camera the V-sign - DON’T PRETEND HE DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS RUDE IN THE UK, HIS MUM WAS A SCOT - HE KNOWS! Approaching the chair, he mimes shaving a head very delicately - so delicately I think he’s been practising. It’s this kind of preparation you need to rake in the billions.

At this point, we meet Donald’s champ: as the commentator explains, he’s “from Colorado Springs, Colorado” (as opposed to the Colorado Springs near Ipswich?) and the current ECW world champ: from US Army sergeant Bobby Lashley. This man has a tiny, pouty little mouth like a grumpy toddler, described by the commentator as a “man with no beer” - is that why he’s in a mood? In either case, the 273 pound hulk, resplendent in black shorts and matching booties, squats like he needs to take a dump, then does the weirdest flex I’ve ever seen a man do, before skipping gaily to the ring. Interesting chap.

But never mind that, we have a special guest referee! It’s our old friend Stone Cold Steve Austin (see the second episode of this review series), although this is the first time I’ve seen him with trousers on. Wearing a striped vest that makes him look like a Murray mint, Steve makes Vince gulp theatrically. Showing his middle fingers to the crowd (an odd way to get them on your side), Steve the ref is raring to go. So are we all: this match has had more buildup than the Star Wars prequels.

Ting ting ting! They launch into each other, pose a bit, then take turns hitting each other in the head. Then Bobby shoves Umaga into the corner and buffets him his blows. (Speaking of buffets, that would be a fun billionaire to have if they do another one of these things: Warren Buffet.) Steve pulls Bobby off (AHEM), clearly he’s more proactive a ref than Ken Shamrock was. Bobby pouts a bit, then Umaga throws him into the corner with the intention of battering into him; but Bobby leaps away and then jumps on him from the ropes, putting his leg into a hold. Now would be a great opportunity for Bobby to use that tickling stick on Umaga's bare foot, but alas he lacks my creativity.

But hang on, Bobby is cross with Umaga’s handler (I gather he’s called Estrada) for badly explained reasons (he put Umaga's leg on a rope or something), so Bobby grabs him and drags him into the ring, slamming him onto the floor over and over again. Cuban cigars fly everywhere and Bobby chucks Mr Estrada out of the ring. Umaga, never one to see cigars go to waste, ROARS IN APOPLECTIC RAGE AND LAUNCHES STRAIGHT AT BOBBY LASHLEY… Only to end up flying out of the ring as Bobby ducks. This match is basically a Road Runner cartoon with added supermodels, when you think about it.


Vince grumpily asks for first aiders for the unconscious man-bitch. Bobby learns the price of gloating when Umaga clouts him from outside the ring. Umaga enters, more blows are exchanged then Bobby launches at him… only for the Samoan to step to the side so now Bobby launches out of the ring. WHY DOES EVERYBODY ALWAYS FALL FOR THIS TRICK? Cut to Vince, with the same overjoyed expression of a man who’s has just found his missing Pok√©mon card.

Umaga picks him up, throws him into the ring and slams his body onto him like a Snorlax. Donald doesn’t seem concerned: “come on, Bobby; come on, Bobby”. He keeps his cool a lot better than Vince does, that’s for sure. But wait, it gets even more worrying: Umaga starts strangling Bobby against the ropes, which Steve sometimes allows and then doesn’t. The second time, Steve drags Umaga off by his funky hair and Umaga gives him that same dirty look my bird gave me that one time I sent her a picture of me eating cake while she was at the gym. (I NEVER DID IT AGAIN.)

“Shake it off, Bobby, shake it off!” - good advice from the Donald; he’s certainly more helpful than Vince’s constant gurning. It works a bit, until our favourite Samoan smacks him down. Encouraged by Vince to finish him off, Umaga slams his arse onto Bobby’s chest a few times, but Bobby’s not beaten yet! He punches his foe, then bounces off the ropes intending to hit him but ends up flipped and SERIOUSLY IS HE EVER NOT GOING TO FALL FOR THAT? Bobby next tries to pick up Umaga and topples backwards from the weight and I’M BEGINNING TO SPOT PATTERNS IN THESE MATCHES IN THE BRIEF TIME I’VE BEEN REVIEWING THEM. THESE PEOPLE DON’T LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES.

The dreaded Umaga attempts to put Bobby in a hold but the plucky sergeant escapes! Vince takes this opportunity to leap up and give Umaga some pointers; Umaga nods in comprehension as he picks up his opponent… who then flips down and knocks Vince off the ring! Surely that’s a sackable offence, whacking your boss off the ring (AHEM!!)? Hoping to score brownie points from the head honcho, Umaga smacks the Colorado cad down, not least since Vince seems to have a sore lower back after all that. Donald: “shake it off, Bobby, come on!” Not even kidding, I want this man as my coach. Then Bobby propels Umaga through the air from the post he was perching on and the pair of them end up on the floor, winded. Steve counts to nine, then stops and tells them both to get up and fight. Maybe he forgot how too count beyond nine. We all have our weak spots when it comes to learning; I never got the hang of French. “No countout!” bellows Steve, as if that will convince us he knows how to count to 20 without removing his shoes. Oh, Shane McMahon - spawn of Vince - has appeared to ask if his dad is all right. That’s kind of him, wonder if he’ll do anything else this match.


Bobby gets up, lamps Umaga a few more times, then - yes, you guessed correctly: 
*HE BOUNCES OFF THE ROPES.
*HE ENDS UP WORSE OFF AFTER UMAGA MOVES UNEXPECTEDLY (in this case, he gets an elbow in the gob).
Not one for learning from his mistakes, is he? 

So, once again, Umaga has Bobby against a rope and is throttling him, only to Steve pull him off with what the commentator calls an “eye hook”. Shit. Sounds even worse than it probably is. Steve, clearly drunk with power, threatens to clock the younger Mr McMahon for the crime of  communicating with Umaga; it’s little wonder that Stone Cold’s got on Umaga’s tits so much that he punches him. Steve has the opposite problem of Ken Shamrock: he gets way too involved. I’m not even bothered that attacking the ref should be a disqualification. This brawl has descended into a comedy skit: now Shane McMahon, the owner’s son, has entered the ring and is whacking Bobby is the chops. In between blows, for some reason unknown by mankind, he does a little dance at one point like Donald Duck. Clearly more of a Bugs Bunny man, Bobby responds by giving the younger Mr McMahon a bear hug, only for Shane to be rescued by the Samoan savage who trounces the gimp. Now it’s a two on one melee! This is totally unfair, WHERE IS THE REFEREE— Oh, he’s knocked out totally inconscious. That seems to happen a lot to our Mr Austin, I notice.

Shane motions to his dad and Vince produces a suspiciously shiny dustbin (clearly it’s been sterilised), who holds it on top of Bobby with Umaga’s help. After exchanging finger points with Donald, Shane jumps onto the corner and does a very impressive kick onto the bin, which does Mr Lashley a right mischief. So pleased with his snazzy move, Shane starts to strip off… WAIT, WHAT???? He removes his jacket, then shirt… GASP, he’s wearing a referee’s shirt! The commentator calls it “insider collusion” and the crowd does NOT like it! Umaga flattens Bobby with his bulk and Bobby starts to count down… until Steve drags him off the ring! Yes, like the 7th cavalry, our favourite narcoleptic has woken up at last, punches the boss’s son several times and then throws him into stairs. We can expect a LOT of the people in the match to be receiving P45s afterwards. Not Umaga, though, since he punches Steve in the throat. It’s not looking great for the Donald right now, as his voice now sounds mildly perturbed: “what’s going on over there?”

Clearly Steve is the first against the wall, from how Vince is giving him the blocking of a lifetime. You’d think he’d be chuffed as anything since he’s winning— OH MY STARS. THE DONALD HAS APPEARED AND IS BEATING THE TAR OUT OF THE OWNER OF WRESTLEMANIA. MY LIFE UP UNTIL THIS POINT HAS BEEN A LIE. 


This seems to have been what finally galvanised Bobby into action: he leaps up while Umaga is smacking Steve some more, bounces off the ropes - I know, I know - but this time makes contact!

Steve counts ONE, TWO, THREE - that’s the end of the match! Bobby has won! The Donald’s peerless quiff is saved! Vince’s face is a picture. The commentator says he’s “walking in a comatose state”; I think I know who found their missing thesaurus from before. (Shame he’s clearly no idea how to use it.)

You’d think that’d be the end - but NOPE. Steve drags Vince onto the ring far more roughly than you’d expect with you’re billionaire boss, so much so that Shane intervenes and attempts to fight the giant off. It goes a well as you’d expect, with Steve destroying him. The billionaire head of WWE has been reduced to crawling on his hands and knees to try to sneak away - the crowd aren’t impressed with that - but the victors only notice when he’s vanished up the aisle. Stopping only to give a smug wave, Vince turns to leave; Bobby runs and knocks him down, getting him in a fireman’s lift and carrying him back. Steve slams Vince totally unnecessarily, then tells Bobby to put him in the chair. They strap him in, Vince screaming all the while: “No, don’t do this to me, I’m the chairman of the board, let me go, AAAAAAAGH! Don’t humiliate me!” Well, at least he’s a better loser than Hillary was.

FINAL SCORE: 10/10

There are some things in life money can’t buy.

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Sam is a giant in the world of non-WWF fans. His favourite wrestler is Stretch Armstrong.

--

Some quirky trumpet music starts off this Wrestlemania 23 match, alongside a woman who announces that the loser of this “battle of the billionaires” will be having their head shaved! 
At this, a mobile barbershop is brought into the area. It even has a barbers pole. 
“I’ve seen it all now!” Declares one of the presenters. You and me both, pal. And it’s not even started yet.

Mr McMahon, WWE Chairman is the first character we’re introduced to, and he is met with boo’s and thumb-down’s. (Mr McMahon is the first of the aforementioned billionaires - suited and booted, and looking like the resulting lovechild of a Simon Cowell, Christopher Lloyd and Nigel Havers threesome).  


Then some Maori Warrior/sumo-surfer enters the arena — our first Champion, named simply ‘Umaga’. Umaga heavy-foots it towards the ring, with a Michael Jackson impersonator following close behind him, with a boom box on his shoulder and a trilby. This wrestling lark gets odder and odder. 

Suddenly, a song called ‘Money’ fills the air (not the wonderful Pink Floyd tune, just some crap-rock anthem) and dollar bills fall from the heavens - just as Donald Trump walks on stage, flicking V’s to the camera. Now, our second Champion - Bobby Lashley - walks towards the ring. Lashley is topless, in fact wearing nothing but some shorts and a wrestling belt, and some wrist support-straps. In stark contrast to Umaga - with his tribal face tattoos and hair braids and visceral fat - Lashley looks like an angry Andy Peters on steroids. (You remember Andy Peters? CBBC broomcupboard presenter, with Ed the Duck?!)   

Anyway...Smashing noises!! Now what?? Aah, Stone Cold Steve Austin is announced as the Special Guest Referee and also enters the arena. Wow, it’s getting crowded!  

So, if I am correct, then Umaga (wrestler 1) is representing his billionaire, WWE Chairman Mr McMahon... and Bobby Lashley (wrestler 2) is representing his billionaire, Donald Trump... and he losing billionaire will be getting his head shaved at the end of all this?! Utter madness. Oh god, please let it be Trump. 

Ok.   The bell rings. It starts.

Straight away, I should say my money is on Lashley. The fat guy with his pretty braid-bunches and beach necklace looks out of place. (Mind you, that fat sumo guy from Street Fighter II - E.Honda - had a Fast bitch-slap on him when needed, so you never know)...

So, this all starts with our warring pair taking turns to punch each other in the head.  Lashley Juno’s off the ropes and down upon Umaga, pinning him, so that Steve Austin starts the count... but Umaga ‘S foot was resting against the bottom rope, so apparently none of that mattered. 
(Sounds like an actual RULE - the sportsman inside me gets momentarily excited)! In retaliation, Lashley grabs the Michael Jackson dude and flips him vertically over the ropes and into the ring, power slams him to the floor, and then tossing him back outside again. Brilliant!
Umaga is back up and goes to punish Lashley for such disrespect for the fake King of Pop, but ends up daftly throwing himself out of the ring, near to where MJ landed. Back up he goes... 
before Lashley “suicide dives” himself out of the ring too!  This move amuses Chairman McMahon greatly. Does no one want to stay and scrap within the actual wrestling ring?!


Back in the ring. Hoorah. Umaga throws himself down upon Lashley - but he only gets a count of 2 by Ref Austin before the brown Hulk throws him off and recovers. Umaga charges back over and pushes the back of Lashley’s neck against the rope - but Steve Austin doesn’t like this and so karate-chops his back to put a stop to it. 

There’s a bit of an angry stare-off between Austin and Umaga, but soon settles back down ok. 
Being a cheeky chap, Umaga repeats this same move upon his opponent. With Lashley not fighting back or escaping from this, Austin counts to 5 but then has enough again and pulls Umaga up by his tiny hair plaits. Oh dear, he resents this and you can imagine him doing some All-Blacks Haka war-cry in his head. But still, he’s the bigger man, literally, and so let’s it go. 
The fight carries on. Lashley gets knocked to the floor, gets head stamped on, and then smashes his hefty backside down onto Lashley’s solar-plexus. Not nice. With Bobby still lying there on the ring floor, the wrestling chubster does this again. Ouch.

The programme presenters are chuckling - “Donald Trump is gonna lose his hair!” One of them says gleefully! The Chairman is grinning, believing his hair is safe, patting it. A short and equal scrap follows and the Chairman McMahon climbs up onto the ropes and vocally encourages Umaga to win! Lashley attacks Umaga and bounces the Chairman billionaire off onto the ground.  Umaga knocks Lashley to the ground for this. “Shake it off, Bobby!” Yells Trump, supportively. (It dawns on me that this is the nice and popular Donald Trump before he was a jaundiced and racist President... When I was a kid, he was just a well-known businessman and Millionaire who had some Towers in New York named after him, and he was in the Home Alone films... so contextually, he was the popular billionaire here at Wrestlemania 23). 

So... Bobby Lashley flips Umaga off the ropes but they end up seemingly knocking each other out?! The pair are laying motionless on the ring floor, both dazed and physically exhausted... could it really be a Double KO?! Red Steve Austin starts the count! 1... 2... 3... He gets to 9... then stops!! It seems I have discovered another rule! To the disbelief of others spectating around the ring, the number 10 is never called!  Instead, Mr Stone Cold decides to shout “get up and fight”!! Austin wants one of these billionaires to go him with a shaved head. No draws. 
Slowly, the pair of wrestlers stand up and fight again. Once again, Umaga goes for his favoured “I’m gonna push his neck down hard against the ropes” move, and so once again Ref Austin responds by counting to 5 and then pulling him off by his hair. Oh. But it’s not his hair.  Austin’s managed to hook into Umaga’s eye. 


Umaga’s has enough now and so punches Austin out onto the floor. Oops. Shane McMahon - The WWE Chairman’s Son, who had appeared briefly before to check on his Dad (after he was bounced off the ropes to the ground) now enters the ring! Ferris Bueller in Jeans and a shirt and blazer. That’s we have in the ring now.  Madness descends. 

Shane actually starts fighting Lashley, giving him a series of punches and kicks. Odd. Lashley repays him with a bear hug. Lashley is slumped on the floor when Umaga charges at him, driving his meaty leg into Bobby’s bollocks. 

Then the recovered Chairman billionaire passes his son an empty trash can (stored under the ring, ready for use at any time) and so Shane places it onto Lashley’s chest.  It’s held in position by McMahon senior. In a new and bizarre twist, Shane McMahon, son of billionaire chairman, removes his shirt to reveal that he’s wearing a WWE Referee shirt! These guys are now playing dirty, mwahaha! 

New referee McMahon Jr climbs up on top of the corner ropes opposite to the dazed and still Lashley... and then jumps legs-first onto the trash can - which then smacks upwards into Lashley’s head, further ruining his day.  KO? Shane begins the count! What a cheat of an end!  

But no! Wait! 

Steve Austin is back with us!  He grabs Shane out of the ring by his foot and smashes him in the face repeatedly, before slamming him down against the steps. Steve Austin wants to be the only ref today, he didn’t like that one bit. 

Chairman now has words with Austin about this - before Donald Trump runs over and starts hitting McMahon Snr in the head! Haha! What am I watching?! 

Lashley ends the match against Gigantor by knocking him to the floor and lifting his opponents leg up for the count of 3! 

Lashley wins! Game over! 

There’s the usual bit of celebrating and posing at the end, before McMahon Snr ignores the awaiting barbershop and tries to make a comedic escape. He smiles nervously and gamely and just waves goodbye to the audience... but Lashley runs over and picks him up and brings him back!! The WWE Chairman is then strapped(!) down into a barbershop chair and has his head shaved by Donald Trump, with the others helping out too. First he is clippered and then actually shaved.  All I can think is that he actually looks better and more bad-ass with his head shaved, like some evil Arsene Wenger, but he’s having none of it! 


Screaming and pleading for his escape, like he was being subject to actual pain rather than a haircut.  A bit too much, even for wrestling acting. So there we are. Mayhem and nonsense with wrestlers and billionaires.  

Great stuff.

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I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into the mind of a Non-Fan once again. 

Next time - Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker from WrestleMania 33.


Article by Andrew Williams, Nicholas Peat & Sam Button