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Friday, 4 January 2013

Get Hooked on Wrestling

I have received many questions asking about the content of the new digital-only wrestling magazine Hooked on Wrestling, of which I am a co-editor. I thought this was an ideal forum to inform you of the need-to-know intelligence about HOW.....which you can purchase, by the way, at

I am the co-editor, along with Mr Patrick Lennon. Pat is the editor of Fightin' Talk in the Daily Star, the co-host of WrestleTalk TV and owner of the finest beard in British media. He's also a great friend of mine and someone I've wanted to work with for a very long time. Is it getting above my station to suggest that he and I, working for The Sun and The Star, are the two most prominent journalists in wrestling in the UK? Possibly. I truly believe we are the among the best, though. And I think we have some great stuff for you.

Our ethos is "It's Wrestling - enjoy it!" Too often in these seemingly open times the knowledge we possess can be dangerous, and we end up being analytical to a numbing degree. Nothing is good enough. We find ourselves watching and imbibing a product which to all intents and purposes we have forgotten how to enjoy.
That's where we come in.

We aim to provide a glimmer of light into the dark cynical world of wrestling; to treat with the respect whilst highlighting some of the more positive aspects. For we actually LIKE watching Raw. We look forward to watching Impact. We celebrating British wrestling. We appreciate the archives and look forward to the future. We like wrestling. And we're not afraid to say it.


We feature some words that Patrick got with WWE's Sheamus. He talks about his role in WWE, his pride in  his Irish heritage and his thankfulness for working in the UK on the way up.

Everyone loves the Royal Rumble, don't they? We have an extensive preview of this year's Rumble match, detailing our list of potential winners. We have some Rumble memories about favourite matches and moments from our team, as well as guest contributors such as world number 16 dart player Paul Nicholson and acclaimed Scottish writer, comedian and actor Greg Hemphill.

We also have our "Fantasy Rumble" - Pat selected 30 wrestlers, across all eras, in their primes, and tasked me with booking a Rumble match. We have some fantastic pictures of them and some mouth-watering hypothetical clashes

Pat takes a look at the next month on store for TNA, including their visit to our shores for another potentially exciting tour.

In our "A Minute With" feature, where we ask a tag team questions about themselves and each other, we feature exciting British duo The Bhangra Knights - Darrell Allen and RJ Singh.

In this month's "Big Question", Pat and I answer the question "Is there a place for blood in wrestling in 2013?"

We place moments in wrestling history that are monumental into our Hall of Wow - and this month it's the moment where Stone Cold Steve Austin won the King of the Ring and uttered a phrase comprised of six letters, three numbers and a colon that would change his life - and wrestling forever. "Austin 3:16" was born.

We talk to Greg Lambert, author of the book Holy Grail: The True Story of British Wrestling's Revival.

Kurt Angle talks about his peers - see what he has to say about Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Samoa Joe, CM Punk, AJ Styles and Shawn Michaels. Which of them did he describe as "The absolute greatest of all time"?

Pat previews the visit of Dragon Gate to the UK once again, as they visit us in February for three more show. DGUK always provide some of the greatest matches you'll ever see live, and here we offer some introductions to some of their top stars and some video evidence of their greatness.

I watched Eastenders the other day. No really, I did. It had Kat and Alfie in it and everything. Weirdly, it made me think deeper about wrestling than usual. Read about why Eastenders' Christmas shows made me think about Wrestlemania, and what bringing old stars can mean for wrestling.

We welcome to the team Mr Dean Ayass, who British fans will know as a confrontational manager known as "The Twisted Genius" Dean Ayass. Dean pens his debut piece with a cracking essay on just Paul Heyman is a master of his craft.

We have some excellent photographs from around British wrestling - we aim to heavily promote the art of wrestling photography.

In our Recipe of a Wrestler feature we analyse the influences on a top wrestlers career. We look at the facets of other wrestlers that combine to make a top-notch worker. This month - Dolph Ziggler.

John Canton writes on the 20th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw.

Stand by for another bout of "Who, What, Where, When and HOW" - the most fiendish wrestling quiz you'll ever see.

And you have a chance to win WWE 13 on PS3 - SIGNED by CM PUNK!

And it's 99p. I think that's pretty fair, to be honest. It just takes about 2/3 minutes to sign up for a username and password and pay via card for the magazine, which you can view online. We hope soon to have apps available so that you can view HOW on your smartphone or tablet.

For now, please support our venture. Come on, 99p, eh? What are you waiting for?

Buy Hooked on Wrestling here

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Raw Number 17

It's the seventeenth ever edition of Monday Night Raw! Huzzah. We start with Our epic trio of Vince, Randy and Bobby, the latter looking fetching in the same bloody horrible lurid orange shell suit jacket as the week previous. We see some footage from the Special Olympics with Randy Savage and the Smoking Gunns on hand.

Vince says we have Razor Ramon on tonight's show. Also, he says Tatanka is on, and is still undefeated. That's interesting, as last week there was a plug for him fighting Giant Gonzales on Superstars. I wonder if they'll tell us (show us?) how that match went, or whether I'll have to google it. There's also an interview with Shawn Michaels and Kamala v Yokozuna says Vinny Mac.

We see the footage from last week of Shawn and Perfect fighting in the street, before the worst actor/commentator/interviewer/presenter in the entire world (Lord Alfred) greets us. Now I cannot do just to what he just said, so here is the entire transcript, and you'll have to imagine it said in a plummy English accent with an odd timbre to it.

"Vincent... (yes, he started with the word Vincent) I couldn't believe my eyes last week, but I certainly couldn't believe them this week. Something happened that you cannot imagine. I saw somebody here before we came on the air, IN DISGUISE! And shortly, you there, on Monday Night Raw, are going to be as surprised as I was, when you find out who it is."

Right, firstly, I take exception that this is a scenario that I "couldn't imagine". How stunted is your imagination if you can't even stretch to this. Second, does he mean they will be surprised to see someone, or surprised at his identity? Because if it's the first, then they won't be surprised because you'll just bloody told them, Alfie Boy, and second, if you just mean they will be surprised at who it is, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO IT IS IF HE IS IN A FLAMING DISGUISE.

Sorry about that, I got a little bit unnecessarily angry there. It was just so badly done. It's actually quite a good idea, but the execution was terrible. Savage and Heenan sell that they want to know what Alfred saw, but it seems we are not going to find out yet. Firstly, we'll get The Smoking Gunns against some jobbers  (Glenn Ruth and Tony Vajda, apparently. The last named sounds like nasty infection, to me.)

The Gunns dominate, as is the point of the match, and the comms chat about what Hayes may have seen. Heenan suggests it was Alfred's first girlfriend, and he can't believe she is 103. The match ends with an astonishing finishing move. Billy flips Ruth over for a back body drop, only for the jobber to be caught by Bart, upside down, and turned into a piledriver. Not a good looking one, either. Ouch. That was extraordinarily dangerous.

Time for another HBK in-ring interview. Shawn says he is a man of word. He told you he'd win the title, and he did. He said he'd defend it, and he did. He also told us he was better than Mr Perfect, and that he took Mr Perfect's best shot, and is still the champ. Vince says he is a reluctant champ, Shawn denies this. He says he fears no man, and will defend against anybody, anywhere, at any time.

At this point, into the ring hops someone in shorts, a hoodie and sunglasses. Shawn assumes it's someone from the crowd. The person disrobes a little's Marty Jannetty! Actually that's a pretty cool surprise. Marty asks Shawn if he is a man of his word, and if he'll defend against him. Shawn is backed into a corner, and the match is set. Wow. I genuinely don't remember this, so I'm intrigued as to what will happen.

Next up it's Razor Ramon, and he'll be squashing which jobber this week? Oh my, it's "The Kid". Not "The Kamikaze Kid". Not "The Cannonball Kid". Just "The Kid". So I think I know where this is going. Let's just watch and see.......

Savage asks about what "The Kid"s name is this week, and after Razor throws the toothpick at him, Randy sarcastically suggests that this is the best he's ever done already. Razor just tosses The Kid around, and the announcers acknowledge how much Ramon is dominating.

Soon, Razor tries a splash in the corner, and misses. The Kid goes upstairs and hits a moonsault to a standing Ramon. It transitions into a cover, and he gets the (say it with me) 1-2-3. The crowd goes nuts and The Kid high-tails it to the outside fearing a reaction from Razor. Razor does freak out, but goes to remonstrate with the announcers. Savage tells Ramon "You got beat", while Heenan declares it was a fast count.

Back after a break, it's Tatanka v Scott Taylor. Yes, that Scott Taylor. He is presumably looking at Tatanka's ludicrous red mohawk and thinking "I can do better than that". Tatanka, it's worth pointing out, had been in WWF nearly 18 months at this stage and was still undefeated. He goes to work on Taylor, as Heenan talks about toilet paper. I'm not kidding, Bobby actually starts talking about how you fold your toilet paper.

To be fair, I don't blame him. I think anyone who looks back fondly on Tatanka is just sugar coating their memories. He is truly dreary to watch. The announcers actually do a lot of talking about Razor's loss and what a shock it was. That's great as it truly makes it feel like an event, like a big deal. They even start mentioning that he might now be called the 1-2-3 Kid.

Taylor makes a brief comeback on Tatanka, but only so that Tatanka can get tanked up and do his big comeback for the win. Off to Gene Mean for a KOTR report, and he too starts by exclaiming about the Kid's upset. Good stuff. He also tells us that as well as Hogan v Yokozuna, it's Bret v Razor, Duggan v Bam Bam and Luger v Tatanka in opening round matches. Shawn v Crush is a qualifier on Superstars, and Mr Hughes v Kamala will be on Challenge. Now I thought Hennig was in this tourney (I thought Bret wrestled him), so I'm interested to see how he gets worked in.

Next, it's Kamala. Now he might not have been much of a technical wizard, but the guy played his role to the hilt. Great mannerisms as he comes to the ring. He's up against Yokozuna here, who is being set for Hogan at King of the Ring, so don't expect anything other than a Yokozuna one-sided victory.

We start with a running collision of the pair, and Kamala appears to have the best of things, but Yoko soon gets the upper hand. With Kamala well placed for the Bansai Drop, Vince suggests Kamala is playing possum. Heenan says Kamala isn't smart enough to play possum. Guess who is right.

Yoko wins, and after an All American Wrestling plug we have an Intercontinental Title match. Jannetty, as you might expect, starts like a house on fire. A nice reversal of a hip toss (he landed on his feet) is followed by well executed baseball slide and plancha. The crowd chant 'Marty' and we have a nice set-up.....

Marty stays on top, and Shawn does the old 'get the belt and leave' routine, but Mr Perfect appears to block his to path. After a break, Shawn is back in the ring and Marty is still on top. Michaels swings it back in his favour, and I make it four minutes left of the show.

Marty makes a big babyface comeback with a series of nearfalls. Perfect is looking on, as an interested spectator. Michaels counters with a superkick, and it's still strange seeing a time when that was not a finisher. Michaels turns his attention to Perfect, who throws his towel at Michaels. As Michaels flinches, Jannetty hits a small package (not perfectly applied, I have to say) for the three count. Perfect looks joyous as Marty celebrates and Bobby goes apoplectic on the mic.

To be honest, that was the kind of match that today we'd probably consider to be a slight letdown, but of it's time it was fine, and it had a good intensity to it, which kept the crowd going. They were into it and popped huge for the finish. Vince and Savage frantically round off the show as Bobby looks glum. Perfect v Doink in a KOTR qualifier need week, says Vince. Hang on, we've got six spaces filled and three matches to fill remaining two. Doesn't make sense!

I'm sure all will be revealed next time.......

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Look within.....

Right, let's get something straight from the off. The hypothesis I am about to offer is not necessarily what I think WILL happen, nor is it what I WANT to happen. It certainly isn't what I think SHOULD happen.

But it COULD happen. It really could.

Recently, the hottest talking point in wrestling has been the series of quirky videos involving a small boy in a classroom talking about a major return on January 2. The smart money seems to be on Undertaker, returning for his annual run towards Wrestlemania, or Chris Jericho, who has been gone for some time and has been rumoured for a comeback.

I talked at length on my latest One Sided Ring Podcast about who I felt could be candidates, after I had seen the first video. You can listen to that podcast here - or on iTunes. The podcast also contains an interview with Ken Anderson.

But since I have seen all three something else has been whirring in my mind. Are we all missing the point? Is the wording so cryptic that it does not mean that someone we haven't seen for a while will return but instead, someone we are familiar with might have a change of heart?

What if this is the foreshadowing of a John Cena turn?

The first of these videos, entitled "It Begins2012" was advertised during Raw on November 21. The following week, when Raw pointed to the second of the videos (cleverly entitled: "Second2012") was the week when Rowdy Roddy Piper confronted John Cena about fans booing him. The commentators played this angle up on this week's show, suggesting that something in creative is putting this angle in motion, not just a one-week thing with Hot Rod.

My point is that although surely the videos will have been produced ahead of time, is it a coincidence that the two seemingly separate angles started only a few days apart?

Let's have a look at each video, shall we, and I'll point out what could be hinting at Cena turning heel on January 2.

"Come my people and shut thy doors about thee" - is this a reference to Cena addressing the unit of fans he has built up that are still loyal to him?

"A power shall come to punish the meek for their inequity" - Maybe this is Cena saying that he is going to punish those who didn't back him, after all he did for them in doing the right thing and being a good hero.

"A familiar force shall arrive to claim what is his." - He certainly is a familiar force. Is claiming 'what is his' the WWE title? Or maybe his dignity?

"The end of the world as you know it" is a line I'll come back to after all three videos.

Let's have a look at the next one.

To be honest, there is less in this one than either of the other two, but here goes.

"to claim what others have taken" could be a reference to the title belt or perhaps Rock 'taking' Cena's popularity.

"Those who are unjust, destruction will come upon them and they shall not escape" - More talk about those that have let him down.

Here's number three:

"Behold the power will come vengeance to render his anger with fury. The deception the meek have perpetrated will be castigated." More talk of getting back at fans booing him?

"The second day of 2012 the prophet will emerge and destroy the weak." Here is where the theory starts to gain traction. What if the 'return' is simply another part of Cena's psyche? What if it is a return of 'ruthless aggression' Cena? 'Emerging to destroy the weak' suddenly sounds to me like a man transforming his character. The 'heel' part of John Cena will finally emerge, after he has been holding it back, and the 'weak' it will destroy is 'babyface John Cena'. The weak is the 'Hustle, Loyalty, Respect' part of Cena,

The third video is called "Look within". That led me to thinking that the videos are not the heralding of someone who is missing but the metamorphosis of one we are familiar with. It could convey that we, looking for clues, must look within - and that the person in question has to 'look within' themselves and find their true self.

Going back to the first video, it is called 'It begins'. The most talked about subject for years in WWE has been the Cena heel turn. Perhaps that was signifying that this was the week it began - the following week was the Piper's Pit episode previously mentioned.

"The end of the world as we know it" - or perhaps the end of the universe as we know it? The WWE world that we know right now is dominated by Cena and his ethos. If he turns heel it means Punk takes over as number one baby. It could be the end of the 'PG world'.

Look, I don't think I really believe that this is the aim of the video. I still hold the impression that it's meant for Jericho, but if things fall through they can relate it to Taker.

But if you want to look closely enough, as I have done, you can find clues for Vince, Shane, Steph, HHH, Batista, Brock Lesnar, JBL, the NWO or many others. That's why the videos are so terrific, because they have so many possible answers.

I've read some of the comments under the videos on Youtube, and people have heard Cena's name mentioned, seen DX logos on the kid's buttons, heard a part of Vince's music, noticed faces in the clouds, deformities in the girl's face, seen the letters NWO written down. They have worked out the Roman numerals of DX and worked out how to do a sum which gets you to the year the Walls of Jericho came down. One person even posted that "It Begins" is an anagram of "I BE STING".

You can find what you like in these videos. I still think that if clues are to taken then more point to Shane than anyone, but he ain't coming back, so I don't think it's him.

Anyway, roll on Monday when we get to see a new video - and all of our theories go out of the window once again. I love it.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Bound For Glory live notes

Here are my 'as-live' notes as I watch TNA Bound For Glory....

  • Could Tenay sound any less excited at the start? IT’S YOUR BIGGEST PPV OF THE YEAR YOU IDIOT! Sorry, that’s harsh on Mike, who is a good guy, but even Michael Cole tries to sound excited about where he is.
  • I would suggest that starting your biggest PPV of the year with Kendrick’s stupid music is a horrific decision.
  • POP for Aries. With TNA’s knowledgeable audience, it’s always going to be staggeringly difficult for A-Double to boo him. He is too good, these people know that.
  • The arena is dressed well, but the high-angle crane shot makes it look very obvious that the hard camera side has barely any seats at all.
  • Terrific match. Aries is fantastic in every manner. His mannerisms and confidence in his character – he gives the impression he knows he is a star – are awesome. Kendrick’s in ring work was very good indeed, but I just feel his character is not connecting with anyone, so it felt a little awkward that the crowd were cheering Aries.
  • That said, the pace of the match, the storytelling, the execution were all very good indeed. The crowd made a big noise for the false finish of Aries getting out of the pin cover after the Sliced Bread. And the right man went over too. Good start.
  • Talking about Jerry Lynn and Rob Van Dam, at the very moment where Taz said that the two men ‘haven’t missed a beat’ they messed up two spots.
  • Another quote from Taz: “I feel like I’m going back in time” – he didn’t mean it the way I do, but I agree 100%. We should be going forwards, not back.
  • I detested that match. Hated it. It made me feel sick. If I want to see Jerry Lynn and RVD fight (this wasn’t wrestling) I’ll get an ECW DVD from a dozen years ago. I don’t need to see all this again. Especially not when both guys are miles off of what they used to be.
  • Much of this match made me feel physically sick. The suplex spot (which I assume was basically botched) was appalling. Why are people doing this in 2011? This match wasn’t going to make either guy’s career? Why would you do that to yourself?
  • Have two wrongs made a right in this triple threat? Typically you don’t put two babyfaces in a three-way match. TNA have, but the crowd want to cheer for Joe anyway.
  • After a series of big moves to the outside, Phillie are so into Joe/Crimson/Morgan that they chant ‘You Screwed Bret’ at Hebner.
  • Crimson is so perfect for a heel turn right now. Similar to when Rock was pushed heavily in 1996 and no-one bought it.
  • I sort of like that Taz is acknowledging that the fans aren’t towing the line.
  • Nah. Not a great match. Not a terrible one, I suppose, but nothing seemed to click. Joe worked really hard with the two big fellas, but nothing about the match flowed, for me. Crimson was the obvious man to go over, and it was no surprise that he won.
  • Good, sensible decision to have Bully Ray trash Philadelphia.
  • I’ve been trying to work out for ages who Bully Ray reminds me of. It’s the One Man Gang. That’s a compliment, by the way.
  • Shots to the head? Fuck me. Pardon my French, but oh my goodness. What is going on here?
  • Unless you are positioning Joe as a wuss, or Anderson as the toughest guy in the world, how can someone kick out of a piledriver to concrete and not an ordinary looking spear.
  • This won’t surprise you, but I hated that too. No place for crappy garbage wrestling in 2011.
  • Pretty awful call by Taz, I thought, at the end of the match. ‘Anderson called an audible’ he said. Well what the hell has he been doing the rest of the match? Calling a match as an athletic contest, that didn’t make sense.
  • I wonder if whoever made Madison Rayne’s music deliberately made it terrible and annoying, or whether he thinks it’s a good song.
  • It’s weird calling Madison the ‘Queen Bee’ and having her come out to ‘Killer Queen’ when Karen is positioned as The Queen, too.
  • OK, she gave her tiara, that makes more sense.
  • Genuinely laughed at Taz calling that the KO title was upside down.
  • Sorry, but the girls four way bored me to tears. Too many moving parts, as Taz might say. That was all about Karen, not about the wrestlers.
  • This is a big match coming up for Styles and Daniels. There last match, in my mind, was a let down. They have a legacy to live up to, they are supposed to be two of TNA’s franchise guys. This needs to be good. 
  • Murdered? MURDERED? Daniels is actually talking about KILLING someone. This is bleak, now. I feel very uneasy watching this.
  • OK, so next time I’m in an I QUIT match, I should just walk to win with a gun, right? Point the gun. If they don’t quit, shoot them. That should do it.
  • Jeff v Jeff in  the type of pull apart brawl which we see EVERY week on Impact. Isn’t this a PPV?
  • So the big gimmick going into Hogan v Sting is that the referee is on Immortal’s side. He’s Eric’s boy. So then, was it a good decision to already have a crooked ref deal earlier in the night?
  • Hogan is so good at branding he did a signature taunt of one of the biggest factions in the rival company’s history. Great work, Terry.
  • “It’s not like the referee’s going to do a damn thing to stop it because it’s Bischoff’s kid”. Erm, isn’t it No DQ?”
  • That could have been a lot worse. Really it could. I didn’t enjoy it particularly, but I can’t fault it too heavily, I guess.
  • It’s the Rock/Hogan match, basically. That’s the booking of it, just with a few different personnel. As I queried on the Ministry of Slam this week, they needed a way that Hogan could carry on with the company, and the babyface turn does it.
  • You know what? This wasn't terrible. I didn't necessarily enjoy it, it's not my thing, but it served it's purpose. It got an awesome reaction. It told a story. It's another example of something that would work so much better if there wasn't two matches on every show which had outside interference or a brawl. 
  • I'm going with a broad thumbs up for the match because it was actually a pay off. Months of Sting talking about finding the Real Hulk Hogan. Eric Bischoff getting his. Dixie getting the company back. That's a long term storyline (a year, really) which has let to a pay off. So I shall commend them for that, and for not trying to do too much. 
  • I could have done without about the blood, but that's a personal thing, and I can understand why it was just another bell or whistle to distract from the fact that Hogan v Sting would actually be a dire match if it was just a straight up wrestling bout. 
  • Why did JB do the ring announcements as Roode and Angle were en route to the ring? Do you think the show is running over?
  • This must be running over. I'm near the end (I think) of Roode v Angle, because it’s into near fall sequences, but it felt like ten minutes of the match were missing. There was no build at all, it was straight into the action.
  • Taz said something about Kurt pulling his groin in training, perhaps that wasn’t a kayfabed comment.
  • Wow. They ended their biggest PPV of the year, their WRESTLEMANIA, with a screwy finish. AGAIN.
  • I feel bad for some of the guys, because sometimes it happens, but there were enough major spots missed that they built up during the night to make TNA look bad. From a sloppy RVD/Lynn exchange mid match (and a missed bump from RVD which is amongst the most stupidly dangerous things I have ever seen) to Anderson missing the finish to his match to the finale of this one. Not only was a bad decision to have Angle CHEAT to win, but Brian Hebner basically got the count wrong (he hit Bobby Roode's foot and the crowd thought it was a two count). I'm not bashing Brian, who's a good dude and good at his job, it was just a mistake and they happen. It was just a rotten time for it to occur.
  • I thought this was a staggeringly underwhelming show. The opener was the best match of the night by far. The main event was fine, but ‘fine’ is not good enough for Bound For Glory. It was cut way too short to be believable or star-making. I could live with Roode losing if he lost to Angle straight up. If we are supposed to be believe that Kurt is the best wrestler ever, and to back up Bobby’s quotes, why would he cheat to win. Having him win clean wouldn’t hurt Bobby – actually it would make him look better if he wins down the road.
  • This was a mess. An overbooked, overhyped let down of an event. I'm frankly left a little bit physically sick at it. I can live with bad booking decisions (Angle/Roode) and ordinary matches (most of the card) but to have a cop out finish in two of three biggest matches on the card as well as a MURDER threat, unprotected shots to the head and career/life threatening bumps, this show unsettled me greatly. There was only one match I felt was of a high enough standard, and that was the opener. I feel hugely let down. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Impact Thoughts

Decided to offer some thoughts on Impact this week. The last few weeks have been fairly decent, and I'm intrigued about Bound for Glory.

  • I didn't think the wide shot of the arena in Knoxville at the start of the show did them any favours. I thought it looked a bit small time. Don't get me wrong, I like them being in arenas and outside of the Impact Zone, but it was obvious this was a small crowd.  
  • Great decision, though, to start with their most over act (Beer Money) in one of their home states (Storm's) - got the crowd up.  
  • I didn't like Storm's promo. Probably not his fault, as I doubt he scripted it. But there was way too much of the insider stuff like 'we're in the semi-main event', 'we're going to have a great match', 'we're being held back by the old guys'. I think Storm is better than that. 
  • I particularly hate it when they mention having a great match. You wouldn't hear footballer saying they HOPE they have a good game. They want to be 4-0 up at half time and to cruise to victory.  The promo picked up. 
  • TNA have done a GREAT job with Roode. Fans genuinely want him to beat Angle.  
  • The Hogan storyline has been, in contrast, awful. Every time I see him on my TV I feel the need to scream "YOU'RE A HEEL!". It's so confused. Why are they running celebrations of this bloke who has been a heel in the company for a year and has ousted Dixie Carter through nefarious means. Do we cheer for Sting? Are we supposed to want Dixie back at all? I'm ok with Gunner going over Kaz. I honestly think Gunner has more upside right now. 
  • The decision reversal was way too quick. Post match attacks happen all the time. Why reverse it for this one? And why was Gunner so happy after the match? If all he was interested in was hurting Kaz, why didn't he just get DQed from the off? Shouldn't he have been pissed off that he lost the match? After all, that's what is supposed to count. 
  • Mr Anderson's promos are just classless now. He's had a poor year. "swinging off nutsacks" and innuendo about Bully Ray's chain and his penis. The asshole thing has totally run it's course.  Bully Ray, on the other hand, has had a great year. But I have zero interest in seeing these two wrestle. 
  • Hang on, Mike Tenay just said that Anderson v Bully Ray is signed for Bound For Glory, and then Bully Ray started to deny that he would fight him. After the promo, Tenay said 'challenge issued' and then in his next sentence said something to the tune of 'these two will meet at Bound For Glory'!!! It's just too confusing.  
  • Why are wrestlers shown doing press ups before a match? Is that really a pre-match workout? Shouldn't they be stretching? 
  • Hey, it's the march of time and TV shot in HD, but Bischoff looked OLD in that backstage interview.  
  • If you saw Kendrick and Aries build to a real fight (MMA, boxing, whatever) would you even consider that Kendrick had a chance? 
  • The five knockouts involved in this match (Mickie, Velvet, Angelina, Madison, Winter) I think do good to great jobs with their characters. Winter's one is a daft concept, but she does a good job with it.  
  • I would have liked to have seen Velvet get a better build to her challenge. I think she could be a great lead babyface for the division for a while. She is undeniably attractive, but also very charismatic and likeable. I'm not saying she is a great worker, but her character is strong enough to carry her through in what is a weak wrestling division right now.  
  • I just typed about six sentences explaining how I thought it was possible that Angelina could be plotting to get the belt off of Winter and onto herself - then I realised she isn't in the match. I'm a clown.  
  • I liked Hardy's other theme music. "Modest to the Top" doesn't make sense. "Another me is what there will never be. Another like like this you will never see" is absolutely what Hardy is. I thought it was perfect.  
  • BOOM! 'Pave the way' is said. Take a shot. Whoa, and 'drop the ball'. Wow, it's cliché central tonight. 
  • I didn't care for Hardy attacking Bischoff. For one, it does nothing to sell the PPV next week, and secondly it didn't exactly solidify Hardy as a sympathetic character who is trying to make himself better. He just attacked when provoked. He is the same, impetuous guy he has always been. And everyone attacks Eric anyway, so it means very little. 
  • Big piped cheers for Crimson. People don't want to boo Joe. 
  • Another great video package showing why we should care about Bobby Roode. They have done a brilliant job on those. 
  • Tenay, at the start of Roode v Storm, like a colossal idiot, said that 'both men are one step ahead'. How the hell does that work, prey tell?
  • What is the justification for making Daniels v AJ Styles an 'I Quit' match?
  • Speaking of AJ, I wonder if he ever bitches and moans about guys like John Morrison stealing his moves? Or I wonder if Kurt Angle ever sounds off in Storm's company about Randy Orton nicking things from him.  Because Storm is very blatant about some of the moves he used. Not only does he use Carlito's backcracker and Jericho's Codebreaker, but he's worked Randy Orton's draping DDT into his arsenal. 
  • Good match. I didn't understand Angle's interference to help Roode, but I'll let them off that as I assume it will be explained next week. I didn't particularly think it was necessary, whatever the storyline motivation. Would it have really have killed them if Roode simply beat Storm?
  • Huge "Hogan" chants. This is ego driven. It's awful business to turn him de facto babyface by spouting platitudes and pandering to the people. It's noticeable that Bischoff has done all the slimy stuff of late. But are we still trying to sell Sting v Hogan? I think Sting will get booed. I really do. And that's awful business. 
  • If Hogan's story is that he is retiring from the Wrestling business, they haven't explained who is going to own TNA. They showed a clip of Hogan telling Dixie earlier this year that he owns 100% of the company. So who is he giving it to?
  • I obviously typed all of the above before the final revelation. Actually, I think it was quite a good idea. That's a good way to reinforce a heel. Build up some reasons to cheer someone so you think they are turning back babyface, then pull the rug out from underneath the fans. Good booking. They have extra reason to hate Hogan now, because the anger you feel when someone makes (or tries to make) a fool of you is very potent. 
  • That said, I hated the big Hogan blow up. Firstly, the look on his face - the hand over the mouth - was ludicrous. It was so hammed up. It was the kind of moment where you might have the wrestling on while your buddy is in the room and they turn to you and say "you watch this shit?". 
  • And here's the other thing. Hogan is a heel. He wouldn't care about his word. Hell, he just lied to the fans trying to convince them he is retiring. So it wouldn't bother him to go back on his word and say that he withdraws the stipulation he mentioned to Sting. It's hardly binding, is it? If Sting had come out with a contract, and goaded Hogan to sign it, only to reveal to Hulk that there was a stip Hogan hadn't read that said that control would go over to Dixie, then I'd be ok with it. It would be a nice callback to the way Hulk and Eric stitched Dixie up in the first place. But Hogan has an 'out' here. Why would he not sneak out of it?
  • I know I've complained a lot here, but all in all this wasn't bad at all. They've done an AWESOME job of selling their BFG main event. That's very crucial. So I can't get at them too much because their central storyline is so good. But there was plenty of stuff I turned my nose at. I didn't care for most of the talking segments, actually. The in-ring work, though, was pretty good. 
  • I'd like to see more from Angle next week. It's been great to see Roode built up, but we need a strong Kurt next week to give us an idea of who Roode is trying to beat. Perhaps some clips of Kurt's best TNA matches, major moves and moments. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Can you smell a conspiracy?

After the Hell in a Cell PPV we can now be sure that the Miz/Truth/HHH conspiracy storyline is THE major storyline in the company. The mass confrontation and the strong characterisation of Miz and Truth (particularly Miz) is where the focus is, and the build is that Triple H cannot keep control of his own company. 

One hopes that they have a payoff for this. You would like to believe that there is an endgame to this storyline, and that the WWE creative team have a plan for where this whole thing is going. 

In many ways I am sceptical about that. In more ways I am not sold that the whole storyline has taken off. Well, just look at the ratings. As much as we all loved the initial CM Punk promo that started something very different for a while earlier this summer, to be honest WWE will look at buyrates and ratings, and aside from a bumped up buyrate for Money in the Bank (which could have been even higher had it not been free in the UK) there is no evidence that WWE has turned any sort of corner. 

The 3.0 mark has long been the absolute bottom limit of where a Raw rating should be, but things have dipped as low as 2.7 lately. There has only been one proven ratings grabber and buyrate-spiker in Wrestling in 2011. I'll let you have a think about who that might be for a second - I'll name him shortly.

WWE have a tendency to react in a big way when their ratings dip severely. This often involves Vince McMahon, and most are fairly confident that this conspiracy angle will involve Vince at the helm. We've been assuming it's Vince that is behind Miz & Truth, helping them into buildings, via his stooge John Laurinaitis. It's Vince that was pulling Kevin Nash's strings. Vince that has Johnny Ace still on his side. Vince that has the contacts backstage to lift up the Cell structure. All this could be true. But what if.......

........there is another layer to this. What if the conspirators have a different leader? What if they are using Vince to get at HHH? After all, several of the complaints that many protagonists have were true when Vince was in charge, not just complaints of Hunter's COO-ship. Might they be using Vince to leverage their position, then will ditch him as soon as they get a foot in the door. What if there is another leader?

Let's jump cut to Survivor Series. After another month or so of Miz, Truth & co causing havoc - a period in which Johnny Ace is fired - Triple H finally blows up and admits that he is losing control. So he signs the match - it will be his team at Survivor Series against Miz's insurgents team. If HHH's team loses, then he's gone. He'll walk. And Miz & co can help install a new COO, which we shall all assume is Vince McMahon. If Hunter's team prevail, then Miz & Truth are history. To press this home, the contract signing involves Miz & Truth agreeing that if they lose and ever attempt to comeback, they will be sued for everything they own or something. 

So you need to work the teams out. Let's have HHH convince Cena to be his guy, and that means that Rock will be on that team too. Hunter can put the boots on as well. So that's three. HHH can ask Punk to be on his team, but Punk says no. Hunter can plead for weeks, and eventually Punk agrees. Cena questions the decision - can Punk be trusted? That can be a nice hook going in. Can Punk be trusted to help HHH and the babyfaces? 

We need one more for that team, and it's sort of arbitrary who it is in this plan, since the match would be an elimination match, so we need some people to get beat. Let's make Orton the fifth guy. I was going to suggest Sheamus since it plays into his babyface push right now and would be an interesting display of Triple H uniting his troops. 'Look at Hunter, everyone believes in his cause so much that Sheamus can put aside his hatred in order to fight the good fight.' HHH, for his part, can say he chose Sheamus because he knows full well how tough Sheamus is because the Irishman put him out for so long. I'll explain why I chose Orton in a second, but Sheamus would be a decent alternative. 

So we have a team of HHH, Cena, Rock, Punk and Orton. Who do they face?

Well for a start it's Miz and Truth. We'll add Nash to that mix. He can be protected well enough in a ten-man environment and the story fits. We need two more. Most likely it would be Christian and/or Cody. They are in positions where they can do something heinous enough to get fired in the coming weeks, and things have been built that they are being allegedly sinned against. I'd quite like to see Wade Barrett be one of these guys, since he has previous for being part of an anti-establishment gimmick as Nexus leader, and he'd fit well. He'd also add a bit of size and presence to the group. 

But you know who I'd love to add to this? Chris Jericho. It's just - JUST - about possible, since the last show of Fozzy's European Tour is the day before Survivor Series in Germany. It would be tight, but he could make it. 

It's far from ideal, because my fantasy way of booking this would be to have Chris Jericho appear on Raw before Survivor Series and use his famous orartory skills to cut an awesome promo against Punk, against Cena, against Rock and especially against Triple H, explaining why he is siding with Miz. This is the main reason why I've gone, in this scenario, with Randy Orton. Orton featuring would provide the same sense of solidarity as Sheamus (Randy siding with HHH after their storied past) but would offer Jericho a perfect reason for coming back to get revenge, since Orton put him out of commission with a punt to the head. 
Jericho would be a fantastic addition to the Miz team, but I strongly doubt it would be practical. There is a great alternative, though - Batista. 

The big man, in storyline, quit in a strop because he wasn't getting his own way. He has heat with Cena. He can bitch and whine about Triple H quite easily, I'm sure. He'd be a good fit. 

I want Jericho or Batista involved to give the Miz side of the equation that extra credibility and intrigue. In storyline, no-one could really believe, could they, that Miz, Truth, Nash, Cody and Christian (for example) could beat Cena, Orton, Punk, Rock and HHH. Adding Batista and/or Jericho would add more weight to Miz & co's chances, not to mention that it would make Miz's powers of persuasion all the greater. 

In many ways, the personnel of the heel team is not the most important thing. There is one major storyline issue which we need to get to. 

It's a risky one. It might well piss off a number of people - but I would hope that it will be a big enough story that they would forgive WWE. Or at least the intrigue would draw in more people than it drove off. 

I'd need Rock to give me one Raw episode. Preferably the one before the PPV, but it can be the one before that if necessary. We go off the air on that Raw with a to-the-point Rock promo highlighting why he loves WWE, the reasons why he can stand side by side with Cena, despite their past. He can stand side by side with Punk, despite Punk's jibes. He can align with HHH, in spite of their history together. He can stand shoulder to shoulder with Orton, even though Randy ostensibly brought Rock out of retirement at Wrestlemania XX. 

The gist of Rock's speech will be that this threat to WWE by Miz is too great. He loves WWE, as he has said before, and will do whatever he has to to make sure it is in the right hands. 

The Pay Per View arrives. I'd make it a major priority to stack the undercard with high quality matches. Let's say Daniel Bryan v Cody Rhodes for the IC title (if Cody is not in the main event), Dolph Ziggler v John Morrison for the US title, Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston v The Kings of Wrestling (I can dream, can't I?) and Sheamus v Mark Henry. I know most would say "No other Survivor Series matches?" but I'd just have one to keep the main event special. 

I'd make the main feature of the Raw shows post Vengeance the putting together of the teams, especially the babyface team. There has to be focus on how they will get along. Are the past rivalries of Cena/Orton, Punk/Cena, Punk/HHH, Orton/HHH and so on too much for them to all co-exist? Can Punk be trusted? Does HHH really have their respect?

The intro of the show itself would be all about the main event and it's consequences. Before we even go live to the arena I'd screen some 'earlier today' clips, voiced over by Jim Ross and Michael Cole, of first Triple H arriving at the building looking stressed, then quick clips of Cena and Orton getting there too. The announcers sell the magnitude of the match and the babyfaces getting along. Then we have pyro and the first match. 

After the first match, we go backstage and see the arrival of none other than The Rock. he cuts a typical Rock promo then asks where CM Punk's locker room is, since he needs to speak to him. Josh (or whomever) says he hasn't arrived yet. Rock looks concerned. 

During match two, Miz and his entire team arrive as one. It's really important they are portrayed as a unit. Josh goes to interview but they have an escort to the locker room and Josh is refused access to them. We see this on a split screen during the match in progress, to give a sense that things are happening, and not always choreographed to occur coincidentally during a break. In fact Rock's arrival earlier on could happen during match one, then the announcers say that the interview was recorded during the match. 

After match three I'd go backstage and show Punk arriving. He starts to explain that there was traffic and he was late. He is confronted by Cena who questions Punk's commitment. Punk starts to rebut and then commotion is heard. Cena, Punk and cameraman charge to the source of the noise. We see some of Miz's crew scuttle away and find Rock laid out in his dressing room. 

So the question now is whether Rock will be fit for the match. When the times comes, all individual entrances are done, with Rock's coming last. He does not emerge. We start the match 5 on 4. Because of the numerical advantage, Miz's team are able to distract and play enough games that Orton and Punk are eliminated. It's five on two. Out comes Rock, limping to ringside. 

Rejuvenated, the faces fight back. Cena eliminates Christian and then Jericho. Triple H pedigrees and pins Nash. Nash, though, returns with a sledgehammer and lays out HHH. Miz pins him. 

It's left with Rock and Cena v Miz and Truth. Miz and Truth dominate Cena, with the crowd crying out for a Rock tag. Just as Cena gets there, Rock removes his hand. 

Cena looks bemused. Rock flashes a Hollwood smile. Miz grabs Cena - Skull Crushing Finale. Truth picks Cena up and hits Paydirt. In comes Rock. He hits a Rock Bottom and a People's Elbow. Miz pins Cena. They laugh together. Rock stands toe to toe with Miz, who pokes him with one finger. Rock sells it, and allows Miz to pin him. Out come all the heels, including John Laurinaitis, and they celebrate. 

This gives Rock a prominent position on the show. You don't need him to be around all the time. Maybe just half a dozen Raws before Mania. The fact is that Rock is the single proven ratings getter that I referred to near the top of this column. His lustre will wear off eventually, but if used strategically he could be vital to getting WWE back on track. 

So the plan is revealed. Rock is the mastermind. Or is he? It's Raw, and the heels are all out at the start of the show. Rock says that he was only ever going to come back for something groundbreaking, and this is it. He looked at Raw and saw HHH conniving to get the top spot, and was sickened. He was doing this ten years ago when Rock was on the scene the first time. So Rock was sickened to see this, and had to put it right. And as for Cena? He's just as bad as Hunter. Too much power. We will now make sure things are put right. 

Laurinaitis gets the mic. But of course there was only one man who could make this right, he says. Only one man who could pull the right strings - it's Vince McMahon. Out comes Vince. He says how else could the Cell get lowered, who else could get hold of Nash and get him to 'stick Punk'? Vince is not quite reinstalled, because 'the board' won't let him run the show again, but Miz was allowed to name a COO as per the deal of the match, and he chose Rock. But Rock knows that I (Vince) am the only man capable of running this place, so he'll be directed by me. Next week we will have the second ever Vince McMahon appreciation night - and Triple H is going to join the Kiss My Ass club. 

The following week, they tell HHH he will join the Kiss My Ass club or be fired. Vince says Rock is not there, he's in Hollywood, but he's watching on. "We couldn't have done it without you Rock." Trips comes to the ring to confront them and refuses to kiss Vince's ass. Vince says anyone who helps HHH will be fired immediately. The heels jump HHH and Miz hits a SCF on HHH. From that position he lifts Trips up for the horrible deed. Vince cackles. In front of him, Johnny Ace gets a text and the camera focuses on the shock on his face. As he goes to tell Vince something, Nash boots Ace in the face. Vince looks confused. Miz low blows Vince. Out comes the Rock. "So you got my text, Johnny?" he says. He Rock Bottoms the VP (Talent Relations). 

"Vince, Johnny. You're fired." he says.

After this, in the coming weeks, the group try to court Punk to get him in their stable. Punk wavers but ultimately doesn't join. Del Rio petitions to be part of Rock's group but they rebut him and say they want his belt. If the fans went for it you could (possibly) turn ADR babyface. Punk can become a Sting like figure (in terms of mood, not specific character) who is only out for himself. 

Rock doesn't have to be there all the time, just sporadically, but he is running things, and Miz is the shining star of the group. I'd add to the group a little - Barrett would be a good addition. So would Henry. In fact Henry could be there from the start to add muscle and credibility - though I'd get the belt off him first by dubious means to give him the complaint of being sinned against too. 

I'd be tempted to get them oust Nash after a while as he represents an old guard that they don't need. So Rock, Miz, Truth, Christian, Jericho, Barrett and Henry rule the world. 

Look, I haven't got as far as the Rumble and Mania. I'll be honest, not all of the above is that palatable to even myself, because do we really need another heel faction in power? Some of it is more than a little derivative of previous ideas - a hash of Immortal, nWo, InVasion you might say. 

This is less fantasy booking and more a stream of conciousness on something that might happen. I don't honestly expect it too, and neither would I fully endorse it. But it might be a good instigator for change. Have Rock & his gang change loads of things - end the brand split, the title belts, the amount of titles, the set design, the commentary teams - anything. 

There is something about WWE which feels sanitised and clinical. I don't even mean the PG-level booking people talk about. I've said many times that I don't have a problem with PG booking. Punk's big promo and the build to MitB was within the PG boundaries. It's not about PG or non PG. It's about good TV and bad TV. 

What I don't like about WWE is how safe it all feels. How predictable it is. Not predictable angles necessarily, but predictable in that someone will go to the outside of the ring and the announcers go to a break.You know it's coming.  It's predictable that announcers will bicker, that Twitter will be overhyped for no reason, no angles will ever be analysed in depth. Nothing feels important, it's style over substance. 

The attitude era worked not only because of edginess, blood, violence and bad language. It worked because it had characters fans could get behind, or were hooked into watching. They were perhaps lucky that they struck upon Austin, Vince, Rock, Foley & DX at basically the same time, but it was the nature of larger than life characters that pushed them over the edge. 

Have a look back to the initial Hulkamania boom - Hogan, Savage, Warrior, Andre, Piper. There are others. Colourful, loud, gripping characters. Look at the mid-90s. I love Bret to death, but did he, Luger, Diesel, Razor, Sid, Shawn really have you in the same way? Of course not. And that's not huge knocks on those guys necessarily, it's just the ensemble coming together. 

The difference now is that WWE does not have an environment in which these characters can breed, or breathe. Punk happened by accident and they've stifled him. They like a safe character way more, possibly for their corporate image, or possibly because they can't bear to see someone succeed with a character that isn't really theirs. 

Let Miz and Barrett be the men to lead them on. Let them have that rub from The Rock. Let Punk with a new band of brothers (not Cena, Orton and HHH) be the ones to dethrone Miz & co eventually. 

More importantly let someone have a go at changing the look and feel of wrestling shows in the 21st century which have served major companies well, but are now stale, overplayed and predictable. 

OK, maybe I've gone too far. Expecting miracles. 

But The Rock as the heel in the swerve. Could happen. Couldn't it?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

TNA No Surrender "As Live" notes

Ongoing No Surrender observations.....

I think I heard the crowd, in the first match, chant “Alex Riley” at Jesse Sorensen. I also thought I heard a small group chanting. “That was decent”, presumably as a counter to the overdone “This is Awesome” chant. I heartily approve.

Tazz pronounced the ‘r’ in ‘Frustration’. Will wonders never cease. Well done, Peter.

Kash is a decent addition to the company, because he has a bit of name cache, he can work, he plays a good heel, and can be used to elevate younger talent. After the initial Hardcore Justice PPV last year, I suggested that I’d have signed CW Anderson after it, because he’d have been a decent designated jobber to put people over.

Sorensen has potential, but has a long way to go. Although the crowd were chanting ‘Riley’ at him, I think Cody Rhodes is a better comparison. Cody was miles away from ready when he was first called up, but he got there, and now I think he has a great character. Sorensen looked hesitant at times, and the match never really flowed. But let’s not be too critical. He’s young, and he’ll get better.

OK, so there goes my theory about Roode screwing Storm out of it, because this match is up second. Although I did suggest having set out my idea that it could be flipped, and Storm could stitch Roode up. This is still on.
 I have a HUGE problem with the positioning of this on the show, though, because typing this before the match starts, what happens if Bully Ray wins? He’ll be in an unassailable lead at the head of the BFG standings and the second match will count for nothing, because neither Gunner nor Roode will be able to catch him. Now, I suspect Storm will win this, and he’ll do it by submission, so that Roode or Gunner has to repeat the dose, but if you go deep with the logic it is very flawed.

A guy yelling ‘fag’ into the camera. Classy. Apology forthcoming?

Awesome heel behaviour by Bully Ray at the outset to this one. He might be as good a heel as there is in the business right now. I mean that. He’s terrific.

I smiled at the long pause when Storm applied a....let’s say Leg Grapevine. I don’t know if any produces the announcers in TNA like Vince McMahon does in WWE, but I imagined someone screaming in their ears “DON”T SAY SHARPSHOOTER! SAY SCORPION DEATH LOCK”

I enjoyed the hell out of that match for a long time......but I wasn’t crazy about the finish – both the execution of it, and the ramifications. I’ll start with the positives. I think both guys have great characters, and believe them. They played their parts brilliantly, and I thought the psychology of the match, and the storytelling, was terrific.

I wasn’t crazy about the end, but I am typing this before the show finishes. It may turn out to make sense. Instinctively I don’t like that they did it this way thus far, but what it does is leave two guys fighting for a submission to get a tie at the top of the leaderboard. That could be exciting.

Of course, if you get right down to it, what kind of committee would not know what happens if it was a draw? There ought to be a contingency plan – i.e. who won the most matches cleanly, how did those who drew fair against each other? And so forth.  – but you know there won’t be. Logically, too, Bully Ray should just run to ringside after five seconds and punch Roode in the face. Then Gunner will lose ten, Roode only gain three, and Bully will win.

Mostly, though, there should be a forum to let this sink in. Would it hurt to cut one match out of the card (do we need another Woman’s title match or Tag title match really?) and have 10-15 minutes on the show which you can use to reflect on what you have seen. When a big incident happens in a big sport – and Storm losing his big chance in controversial circumstances ought to be a big incident – you go to a studio and you watch replays, and experts talk about what happened. They assess what built to it, what went down, what the consequences are. This needed two people to discuss and say what it meant, what Gunner and Roode would have to do. You have to keep up so closely in this, and even then things can be a shade confusing.

Mickie v Winter was the best v the worst music in the company. I’ll let you work out which is which.

Mickie, while not being a wonderful technical wrestler and never really having great matches, just ok ones, is a really good babyface. Her fire and mannerisms are excellent.

The match itself was again ok until the finish. How come senior referee Earl Hebner, with his 483 years in wrestling, can’t look at Mickie’s face and know something is seriously wrong? And if that blood stuff is so debilitating, how come Winter can have it in her mouth.

My head hurts and we’ve only had three matches.

Kissing a girl by force then dangling her by the hair outside the ring. That’s being a babyface, is it?

Oh look, the girls help Mexican America win. Three out of four matches so far are screwy finishes. Two of those are heel wins by interference.

I am so sick of the word ‘frickin’’ on this TV show. Anderson’s promo was awful. What was it supposed to achieve? He seemed to lose his train of thought. If that wasn’t intentional, then that’s worrying. If it was intentional, then I don’t understand it. It went nowhere.

I don’t like Tazz defending Samoa Joe’s action of late. I wouldn’t mind at all if Tazz was established as a heel commentator, but he is usually pretty down the line. His defence of Joe was flimsy, and was effectively promoting the idea that if you can’t win something, then you spoil it for everyone else. That is a heel trait, which is why a heel Joe is using it. Tazz defending it will simply conflict more viewers that don’t really want to boo Joe anyway.

Morgan v Joe was fine. It was certainly on the good side of average. But I sort of felt that needed to be better to raise the standard of the show. There were moments in the match that looked sticky, but I forgive that sometimes, especially if the story is there. Points, definitely, awarded by me for the clean finish.

Decent match between Roode and Gunner. I never felt that it got near to reaching a crescendo, but after Bischoff’s assertion that there would be a tournament final between Roode and Ray, I guess that’s why. Part of me thinks that if they were going to do a final, why not just book it and advertise it that way from the start? An extra benefit to that would be the tease to fans of Storm v Roode.

And what’s with Bischoff? Fair enough that he would book the Bully Ray v Roode match, but why did he address Roode on it like he was stitching him up? Wasn’t it fairly obvious that they’d have to do a final when the scores were tied? Was it necessary to boast about the match being unadvertised? Doesn’t that highlight a flaw?

Tenay and Tazz spent ages talking about Brian Kendrick’s headgear. Tenay said: “It’s what separates Kendrick from the rest of the pack.” What is? A hat?

It took Tenay under this match – on September 11 – to say “Crash and Burn”.

Really, really enjoyed Aries v Kendrick. Great match with excellent, physical looking action. I might have made more of the fact that Sorensen was waiting for the winner, but that’s nitpicking. One other nitpick is that I wouldn’t have had Aries do that draping, twisting DDT, for the sheer fact that if you had to have him win by Brainbuster, then the DDT looked much more devastating. Either don’t have Kendrick kick out, or don’t do the move full stop. Long term it makes it harder for places to go.

As I say, though, nitpicking. It was a great match. The best on the show so far, by miles.

The look on Bully Ray’s face when Roode no-sold the first chop was fantastic. Sold fear and confusion. Like I said, fantastic heel activity. The crowd are going crazy for Roode in this match, where they didn’t in the Gunner match. It’s not that they don’t like Roode, but that they are not sold on Gunner as a heel. He simply isn’t that dislikeable. Bully Ray (and I’m talking the character here – I don’t know the man personally) is a dick, so people want him to get beat and they rally behind the babyface.

Match is over. Right, first of all, purely from a storyline consistency perspective, why didn’t Immortal help Bully Ray? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that they didn’t, as it was a far better match, but if you get inside the psychology of the TV show, why didn’t they get involved?

Anyway, let’s forget that. I thought the match was great. Not the technical or speedy affair that Aries v Kendrick was, but it was full of emotion and terrific storytelling. They got that crowd into it from the very start and they never let up. It was classic heel v babyface. I loved it.

The post match was ok, but I think I’d have had Fortune celebrating with Roode. It didn’t quite feel as special as it could have been. AJ, Storm and Kaz (Daniels maybe) greeting Roode backstage or running to ringside would have suggested that the win was a big deal. They could perhaps have had Roode going into the Fortune dressing room or behind the curtain and being greeted by them. Small thing, perhaps, but it would reinforced how special the group is.

The main event was just fine. TNA have to realise at some point that Sting matches are simply not good anymore. This was very much a formula three-way match, except for the fact that it contained two babyface and one heel, which was slightly awkward. We all knew Hogan would get involved in the main event – it’s just a matter of when, these days – and as expected he popped up to cost Sting the match.

I simply can’t remember the last TNA PPV which had a great main event. That’s shocking, really, given the talent they have, but it’s just been combos of a bombed Jeff Hardy, Angle, Anderson and Sting for a while. Matt Morgan occasionally. Might you, even at Destination X AJ v Daniels didn’t quite nail it. I’ve good hopes for Angle v Roode, and Angle winning was definitely the right decision, so he can defend the belt at BFG.

Possible Bound for Glory card? (Admittedly, at 10 matches, it’s a little long)
Bobby Roode v Kurt Angle
Sting v Hulk Hogan
Samoa Joe v Crimson
AJ Styles v Daniels (add a stip)
RVD v Jerry Lynn
Bully Ray, Gunner and Scott Steiner v James Storm, Mr Anderson and Jeff Hardy
Mexican America v D-Von & Pope v British Invasion v Ink Inc
Austin Aries v Jesse Sorensen
X-Division multiman Spotfest match
Mickie James v Velvet Sky v Winter

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A BFG series idea.......

This is a very off-the-cuff, unscheduled blog, based solely upon an idea I had whilst doing my regular stint on the Ministry of Slam podcast tonight. 

We were talking about TNA No Surrender which takes place tonight, and I admitted that I am a couple of weeks behind on my Impact viewing, so taking a look at the card was a bit puzzling to me, as I wasn't up to date. In particular, the final four of the Bound For Glory series had me scratching my head a little. 

You see, at the point of my current viewing (about three shows back) I haven't heard the announcers explain the format of the matches at No Surrender. Or perhaps they have but because I have been watching on Sky+, and hence fast forward liberally, I may not have heard them explain. My understanding was that there would be two semi finals and then a final, in the style of the Rugby Premiership, or football's Play Offs. Apparently, that's not correct. 

Instead, the final two matches will simply count toward the general standings, and I am informed that they stand as follows: Bully Ray 49pts, Bobby Roode 42pts, Gunner 42pts, James Storm 40pts. 

So then, using a sensible booking structure (that may be my first mistake) I would suggest that what happens is that Bobby Roode wins his match by pinfall, scoring seven points and tieing for the lead with Bully Ray. This then leaves the field open for Storm to win by submission, therefore getting ten points and getting to 50pts, just one ahead of Ray and Roode. Game over. Finito. 

Now I'm not saying that's not what they'll do. In fact, it would be an excellent plan. But is there an alternative. Is there that rarest of commodities, a genuinely shocking but logical booking swerve that TNA employ that actually works and makes sense. 

Here's how I see it. The first half of the plan is fine. Roode beats Gunner, possibly with Storm at ringside to fend off Immortal interference, and he goes on to 49pts. So the stage is set for later that night, with Storm needing a submission to win it all. 

And so that is the talk. He acknowledges it in an interview, the commentators play it up. The match begins. Immortal are represented at ringside, but Roode is there in his partner's corner. As could be the rest of Fortune. Immortal try to get involved, and are run off by Daniels, Kazarian and Styles. In the ring, after dozens of submission attempts which have failed, Storm locks in a submission hold. Perhaps a figure four or a fujiwara arm bar, or something that fits the story. Whatever it is, he has it locked in, and Bully Ray can't escape. It's over.....isn't it?

Not so fast. At the point where Bully Ray looks poised to tap, Bobby Roode slides in......and kicks Storm in the head. He picks up Storm and nails him with a huge spine buster or something. The bell rings. 

Storm wins the match by DQ. So he gets three points. He moves on to 43pts. That's not enough. But better than that, Bully Ray loses 10 for being disqualified. He goes down to 39pts. So the table reads Roode 49, Storm 43, Gunner 42, Bully Ray 39. Roode wins. He goes to BFG as the number one contender. It works on every level. 

It makes sense. He didn't facilitate the break up before now because he needed Storm's help to gain points and watch his back. Why do it? Well, for one he wants the glory of being number one contender and being the champion. Two, what happened when he was injured? Storm buddied up to Alex Shelley, and defended the title belts. Ok, they won, but Storm was risking Roode's livelihood. How could he?

There is one major flaw. In makes Roode v Storm the biggest feud in the company, and they can't do anything about it at Bound For Glory because it's Roode v the Champ. And there is a further problem, because there is then no heat on the title match, because if we assume Kurt retains, then it's heel v heel at the biggest show of the year. If Anderson wins to make it face v heel that's better, but Anderson isn't over. And who does Kurt wrestle at BFG? 

Look, it's not perfect, I admit. But I've only just come up with it. In fact, it could work the other way around. Storm could win the first match, and then screw Roode later on. But I don't feel that Storm would be right as the scheming heel. I'm championed Roode as potentially the biggest star anywhere if he is booked correctly. All the comparisons to Curt Hennig, Rick Rude and others are fair, but I see a lot of 1999/2000 Triple H in him. And say what you like about Hunter, he was a mega heel at that time. 

I'll be honest, I think I'd rather see either Storm or Roode win it fairly and have the momentum going forward to face Angle (or whomever) at BFG, but this is a decent alternative. We'll wait, and watch, and see.......

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Raw: Number 16

I've got my check shirt on and my chopper in hand (ooh, hello) because it's Lumberjack time! I will work all night and work all day to provide you with up to the minute coverage of, erm, something that happened eighteen years ago.

Anyway, it's Raw and it's the scheduled rematch between that tedious oaf Hacksaw Jim Duggan and the staggeringly brilliant Shawn Michaels. Both of whom are going into the same Hall of Fame class. No justice, is there?

Michaels starts the show chatting to Lord Alfred saying that Duggan is going to find out why he is the IC champion, when a blonde chap in a sports coat attacks. Hoorah, it's Curt Hennig, who blasts Michaels into the door of what appears to be a parked taxi. Nice. He follows this up with a modified hip toss as various New Yorkers look on at an incident the likes of which they have probably only seen three times that day. A group of people eventually try to break the fight up. To begin with they look like civilians, but eventually more and more of them have ties on and I spot Tony Garea who I'm sure broke up more fights in a suit than he had matches.

It's quite a cool visual and an interesting segment as it was very different. It felt like chaos, which was what they were trying to get across. After the fight is broken up we have the annoying theme song and then it's Vince signing in, with Savage 'ooh yeah'ing all over him. Heenan completes the comms trio, wearing a lurid orange jacket.

McMahon excitedly plugs the lumberjack match. The combination of a crowd chanting something I can't quite work out (egged on by Savage, so perhaps something offensive to Heenan) the announcers shouting and the annoying siren make this a very hard opening to watch/listen to. Heenan says Duggan paid off Perfect to do that. He says that Yokozuna will be one of the Lumberjacks. Savage says Perfect will be too.

His yammering is interrupted by the strains of "bam bam" and Mr Bigelow's uninspired theme music. Bammer is facing Typhoon - Vince says there is more than 700lbs in there, not including the official. What an odd qualifying statement.

Speaking of qualifying, this is a qualifier for the King of the Ring. It probably ought to be Prince of the Mints or Lord of the Cheeseboard, really. These two hefty fellas exchanged some shoulderblocks and slams, and I can't help but notice that the ropes look really slack. I don't know if that is due to girth or because I'm not used to seeing matches from this era.

As we get a nip slip on live TV (don't get too excited - it's Typhoon coming out of his his singlet a little. Ugh) Vince says that he thinks that the Intercontinental Title is going to change hands tonight. Oh well, that's Duggan's dreams dashed already. Unlucky, Jim. Might as well not bother since Vince "Kiss of Death" McMahon has proclaimed you champion elect.

Bigelow takes control of the match, keeping Typhoon on the outside, while Heenan rightly points out a huge gash in Bam Bam's head. Typh mounts a comeback just as we go to break, and when we return, it's a slugfest which the former Tugboat wins. However, he misses an avalanche to the corner, and Triple B nails him with a pretty awesome looking Samoan Drop. He goes up for a top rope headbutt and it's over. BBB in the KOTR.

Great call by Vince, by the way. Bam Bam is feuding with Tatanka at this point, and McMahon points out that Bigelow used Tatanka's finishing move in that match. More piebald horses and cacti herald another Smoking Gunns vignette, and Vince says they'll be on "Saturday Morning Mania" this week. Bobby stands up to get a good look at the bikini-ed up ring girl, who appears to have a killer body but also eyebrows like Groucho Marx's moustache (oh, just Google him).

Next, we have a man to make Bam Bam and Typhoon look like Victoria Beckham on one of her skinny days, it's Yokozuna. He's facing PJ Walker, which is of course Justin Credible/Aldo Montoya in a former life. By the way, if you enjoyed Bigelow and Typhoon plodding around, you get Yoko v Kamala next week.

Yoko obviously annihilates Justin Montwalker in short order, but it's really impressive. I sorely miss these type of squash (literally in Yoko's case) matches as it does so much for a character. This took about 90 seconds of TV time, tops, and the announcers did a good job of talking up his upcoming match with Hogan at King of the Ring.

Off to Gene Mean for a plug for a ICOPRO dressed up as a KOTR preview. He mentions Hogan v Yoko, then tells us Bret, Luger, Razor, Duggan and now Bam Bam are all in the tournament. Doink v Perfect is on for Wrestling Challenge and Tatanka meets Giant Gonzales on Superstars, says Gene Mean.

Back to Raw, and it's one of the deliberate unattractive, plumper ring girls. "Is that Knobbs or Sags?" says Bobby. Mr Perfect, for it he who is up next, starts to flirt with her, tenderly grabs her face and shapes to kiss her - then puts his gum in her mouth. Lovely. She liked it, though.

Jobber of the Millennium Iron Mike Sharpe is the opponent for Hennig, cast and all, and Vince calls him a veteran. The announcers talk about the upcoming Lumberjack match, which Perfect will be on hand for. Vince said last week that it's the first ever Lumberjack match, but Heenan says he has been in them before and they hurt.

Heenan says he is bored of watching Mr Perfect, and starts playing with his TV monitor like he did last week.
Again, I assume this is to prove WWF is live. After some standard action, Hennig wins with the Perfect Plex. Coming next is another 'Mr'. It's Mr Hughes.

Heenan attempts to get a (slim, attractive) ring girl's number, whilst in the ring I think I spy 'The Kamikaze Kid' aka X-Pac waiting to be jobbed. We get ICOPRO and Slim Jim ads, then we are back with Mr Hughes and Harvey Whippleman. McMahon did say last week that Hughes was being eyed up by managers, it seems old Bruno got him. Meanwhile, Sean Waltman is advertised as "The Cannonball Kid", which is different to last week. I wonder if they'll make anything of that.

Aha, yes they do. Vince calls him the Kamikaze Kid, then corrects himself. Savage points out that he was called the Kamikaze Kid the week before. Hughes is again wrestling with his sunglasses on again. After a big boot which Vince oversells, it's a Boss Man Slam variant for the win.

A commercial airs for All American Wrestling. In it, Gene Mean and Heenan mention Paris, France (That's not All American) and Mars (Neither is that). Back in the arena, Vince and Bobby hype Crush v Blake Beverley for the next show. Oooh, that's a hook, isn't it? (Note sarcasm)

Here come the Lumberjacks! First out is Terry Taylor, and he's got red and black checks on, pure lumberjack style. Oh, actually, they all have.  They haven't entered to music, they've just wandered out, so I'm trying to pick out who they are. Mr Hughes is back, as is Yokozuna (no checks for him). I think I see Typhoon again. Bigelow, too.

Hacksaw Jim is out to his 'hoooo' music, and he runs into the ring.....then out again to punch Yoko to the floor. Good move, Jim, anger the biggest Lumberjack. That'll work.

Michaels arrives on crutches. He is obviously suggesting he can't wrestle. Perfect sneaks up behind him, punches him, and throws him in the ring. At this point Shawn is obviously ok, and as a true American hero, Duggan attacks Shawn from behind. Shawn goes to the outside, and Perfect throws him back again. I think I see Tatanka and Bob Backlund as lumberjacks, too. Michaels is dressed in jeans and cowboys boots, by the way.

This is now a virtual re-run of last week. Slow, dull offence by Duggan, "Shawn is Gay" chants from homophobic idiots in New York, pointless "U-S-A" chants to follow (they are both American, you spanners) and Shawn desperately overselling. Can you tell I'm not enjoying it?

At one stage, Shawn tries to leave, but Perfect and Backund bring him back. Shawn has had no offence for the entire match so far, which is probably about six minutes. Duggan misses a legdrop, and when he stands, Shawn has taken off his boot and nails Jim with it. Ref knocked down and didn't see it. Duggan to the outside, but the heels roll him in.

We go back and forth with this for a while before HJD takes over, and hits his three-point-stance clothesline which knocks Shawn to the outside. Stupidly, WWF go to break at this point. Are you kidding? We had to sit through that then a finisher hits and you go to commercials? Wow.

We're back, though, and now Shawn is on top and looks fine. Michaels misses a splash in the corner, and Bam Bam pops up onto the apron. Duggan is distracted, Shawn knees him in the back and throws him to Yokozuna. The big Samoan chops and legdrops Hacksaw then rolls him in. Shawn places one foot on Duggan for a pin, but on the count of two Perfect runs in and smashes Shawn. So it's a DQ. After all that, it's a DQ and Shawn wins. Vince says 'there's going to be trouble here' and we go to....Macho Man in a pretape plugging action figures. Random. Back to the ring, and Bam Bam is inside it and pacing about. Shawn comes running back in and attacks Perfect. Then all the Lumberjacks (except Yoko) come in and start a mass brawl.  Duggan swing his plank at everyone and they scarper (hey, was that Iron Mike Sharpe?).

And that's your lot. A mess of a show that. No action to truly speak of, and an awful main event. Next time, we have Kamala v Yokozuna to look forward to. Oh joy..........

Monday, 5 September 2011

Blue Meanie interview

I have a brand new podcast now up with an 80+ minute interview with former WWE and ECW star The Blie Meanie - check it out -