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Friday, 2 November 2007

Rob on Tour: Birmingham, October 2007

Apologies for the lack of updates as of late. I was indeed at the Raw and Smackdown tapings in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll give you some observations in just a second.

I’ve been on the road around the country for the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t had much opportunity to clock in with you, especially for Cyber Sunday. However, it was a hell of day when I got back home with two weeks of Raw and a Pay Per View to watch (I don’t always bother with Smackdown). I strapped myself in for a 7 hours WWE marathon, and waited to see the return of Y2J...........

Well, that went well.

Thoughts to follow, but let me give you the brief highlights of my time in Brum.

I got up there on the Monday, with the exciting prospect of having some interview time with some WWE superstars. I was attending the shows, as in April at Earl’s Court, as a guest of Sun Wrestling head honcho Simon ‘lilsboy’ Rothstein, but he was otherwise engaged on that Monday morning, despatching me instead to get some words of wisdom with the guys, rumoured to be Jeff Hardy, William Regal and Layla from Extreme Exposé.

It was not to be. Instead of the Intercontinental champion and the UK’s own GM of Raw, I joined Sky Sports’ Richard Parr and a group of Swedish journos in a kind of mini-press conference with Raw Diva Maria Kanellis and newby Cody Rhodes.

Cody seemed a little pensive and would have been happier to have been elsewhere, but I am pleased to report that Maria is a beautiful in person as she appears on screen, and a lovely person to boot.

After getting a few little gems from the superstars (including an exclusive on Maria’s relationship with CM Punk) we reconvened in a sort of lobby area, just in time to see tag team champions Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch meeting a greeting some lucky youngsters, who believe were form the Make a Wish charity. The champs posed for many pictures and came across as two cracking guys. Murdoch in person, by the way, looked much leaner than on TV.

Simon arrived in due course, and after a catch up beer or two with Rich, his brother Matt who is a very talented magician (check out and the Daily Star’s Patrick Lennon, who took great joy in explaining how well his 45-minute interview with William Regal had gone!

We headed to the show, and found ourselves sat directly behind 100 metre runner Jason Gardner. I don’t know whether Jason is a big WWE fan, but this Raw taping would not have converted him if he wasn’t.

Nowhere near the quality of the Earl’s Court show which came shortly after a strong Wrestlemania and featured a 50-minute John Cena v Shawn Michaels, the highlights of the night were seeing the late, great Davey Boy Smith’s son Harry in action (albeit a dark march), and a surprisingly strong Brian Kendrick v Highlander Rory contest.

We retired to the plush Hotel in which the office staff of WWE UK were staying, as I made it my mission to inform new employee, the lovely Claire, exactly what was right and what was wrong with the WWE. I’ll let you know when my new ideas get implemented!

We managed to gain the knowledge of the hotel at which the superstars were staying, and as it happened it was basically next door to our own lodgings. We had a wander by, and saw Ken Kennedy, Jeff Hardy, Gene Snitsky, Umaga (sans face paint) and Santino Marella hanging outside the hotel’s front door.

Simon interviewed Mr. Kennedy recently and Jeff Hardy not so long ago, so got chatting and they invited us to join them for a drink. Unfortunately, the bouncer (who was only doing his job, please don’t hurt me) wouldn’t grant us access as we were not staying at the hotel.

The following morning, however, we were having breakfast at a Cafe when last night’s debutant Harry Smith walked in. Mr Rothstein once again declared a past interview, and we were able to wish Harry all the best for being called up to the roster. It’s good to see him on TV now, as DH Smith, and I predict a big future for him. Another nice, seemingly down to earth guy.

We headed to the arena with the prospect of Rey Mysterio and CM Punk being our interview guests on Smackdown/ECW day, but again hopes were dashed when the, still creditable but slightly lacking star power, duo of John Morrison and Matt Striker were introduced to us.
We got 15 minutes or so with each man. Morrison seemed keen to conduct the interview in character, but we managed to talk him out of it quickly. He was a very low-key individual after the transition, somewhat at odds with his on-screen persona.

The most controversial moment of the two days came during this interview, when Simon enquired about the former Tough Enough winner’s alleged breach of the wellness policy, but was quickly interrupted by the presiding WWE official, who simply told us “No Comment”. Interesting.

Matt Striker was a great interview, except for the fact that we had nothing to ask him. The WWE policy on who we were granted interview time was very strange. You’d think that being on tour in their third biggest market outside of the US and Canada, something they only do twice a year maximum, would be an opportunity to allow us time to speak with some of the top names, such as Batista, Orton, Mysterio or Punk.

I can understand the likes of Triple H, HBK or Undertaker being held back from scrutiny, I suppose, but surely a guy with bigger profile than Matt Striker could have been found for us.
That said, he was a heck of a guy, and fun to talk to. I’d love to see him translate the charisma he showed to us to a larger scale. He would make a great Colour Commentator some day.

The show that night was marginally more exciting than the previous evening’s offerings, but by very little. The Smackdown/ECW ‘talent trade’ is just a way of trying to cover the cracks of a paper thin roster, and seeing Kane and Big Daddy V repeatedly is not quite like seeing Austin or Rock in their heyday, is it?

Possibly the coolest moment of the trip was waiting for Morrison and Striker to show up. We were position basically in a hospitality unit at the top of the stand, awaiting the ECW stars’ arrival. Through the blinds in windows, we were able to look upon the ring and view developmental talent working out under the watchful eye of various agents like Michael Hayes and Arn Anderson. Wrestlers like Elijah Burke and MVP were working with the likes of the Major Brothers and Drew Galloway, and you could see a host of wrestlers chatting away with each other.

I had only been talking to Claire from WWE about how the backstage experience, getting to see what goes on behind the scenes must be very enlightening, and she said yes, but I’d likely never see it. It was nice, even through glass from 100 feet away, to get a little glimpse of what goes on.
I’ll give you my thoughts on Cyber Sunday in due course, and will make a concerted attempt to update this page a little more often.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to keep checking The Sun’s Wrestling section at the link on the left of the page. I’ve done a piece about Santino Marella which should be posted in due course.

Have a great weekend,

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