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Monday, 19 May 2008

Judgment Day........well, Judgements

Welcome to your Judgment Day, folks. That’s my Judgment that the word Judgment should have an extra “e” in it, and that this PPV looks shit.

We’re about to go live for the show, and for a fun fact, I just put the correct channel on my TV (it’s on Sky Box Office here in England) and the film showing on the channel next door is “The Heartbreak Kid”. That means nothing, of course, but I thought I’d bring it to you. You can tell how excited I am about this show, can’t you.

By the way, I watched TNA’s last PPV today, and quite liked it. I’ll try to review them in future, but we don’t get them live over here.

Oh joy, JBL v Cena to kick off. To be fair to Cena, his crowd reaction was immense it seemed, and mostly positive too.

Three minutes in, we have a wrench of Cena’s arm, by JBL, on the ropes. Another PPV of relentless working a body part?

I think Cena may be hurt. However, I though HBK was hurt last time, so you probably shouldn’t listen to me. They definitely botched a spot, though, as Cena tried to lift JBL in powerbomb-esque fashion, and failed. They’ll make it out to be a symptom of Cena’s arm hurting, but they didn’t mean it.

Meanwhile, the match is terrible, and an injury wouldn’t worsen what is already snooze-worthy .Cena jerking the curtain is so bizarre.

Actually, I shouldn’t be so down on them missing spots. AJ Styles is a genius whose work might just be my favourite of anyone’s right now, and he made two howlers at Sacrifice. Everyoone Mokes mastikes II suppooose.

JBL needs to pick the match. He needs to convince me, and everyone else, that he is worthy of watching, and to do this he.............steals the signature move of Chris Masters. Wow, go John, go John.

*Picks up phone

“Hello? Yes, I’d like to order 17,000 boxes of Mamajuana please..........”

Yes, I am being sarcastic.

Cena wins after...........16 minutes? Did I time that right? They gave it 16 minutes? OK, to be fair, the pace got the fans into it, and they popped a couple of times for Cena nearly making a comeback, and then for the quick finish. However, it may have heat for the opening match.

The ECW show is so important that the recap of the feud shows features from with really, REALLY, lame impersonations of Kane and Punk by Miz and Morrison. E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub! boring.

We’re ready for the match, and to be fair, it probably won’t be that bad. I wonder if Punk is being deliberately lost in a tag match to make the fact that he could cash in his briefcase later less likely?

Sorry to keep going back to TNA, but when Borash did the announcement of the title match between Jo, Kaz and Steiner, it felt appropriate. Tony Chimel (or whoever it was – I was looking down typing while he spoke) announcing the WWE Tag Team Championships, which no-one gives a damn about, takes away the shine from doing the announcements that way in the big ones.

Kane pulls out an old submission hold he used as Isaac Yankem which resembles pulling teeth. Not to be confused with watching a JBL match – which is preferable to pulling teeth.

(Cheap plug – check out a future issue of Fighting Spirit magazine, which will feature an article about Glen Jacobs by yours truly. But I don’t need to plug, because you always by that magazine........don’t you? If you don’t, you should)

Morrison pins Punk to retain the titles in a ok bout which never grabbed me in a meaningful way. No disagreement between Kane and Punk, no shenanigans for the champs to retain. While I enjoyed the match itself, to an extent, matches like these opening two kill me on PPVs. What’s the point? There is very little build-up, there is no real reason for fans to care. It doesn’t warrant PPV inclusion. The next one, however, does.

Right, don’t overbook this for goodness sakes. Jericho and Michaels are both great in the ring, and have built this up well. I don’t mind a shoddy finish, because this is clearly going to carry on, and there is a PPV in a few weeks. I’m guessing we may see Batista here, making it lead to a Triple Threat next time.

I’m just keen that they let this one roll, and don’t go stupid with an injury spot leading to more “is he hurt?” nonsense. Just have a match, it’ll probably be good if you give it 15 or so, let each man get a near-fall, and if you don’t want to make it a clean finish, let Batista come in a demolish Michaels. When Jericho shows dissent at the interference, Big Dave bashes him too.

As a quick, late prediction, if it goes clean Michaels will win, because otherwise, why not put the IC title on the line?

Lots of points to make – firstly that my signal wasn’t perfect during this match, which is really annoying because it was perfect during the opening two contests.

Next, I really love Michaels ‘inverted figure-4’ move, but using it early, having Y2J escape reasonably easy and Jericho not really sell the leg didn’t help.

Next, the biggest thing that has ruined this otherwise excellent programme is that they cannot get the knee problem right. From the match with Batista, to his limping on Raw, Michaels has sold the left knee. At the start of this match, Jericho tried (in vain) to attack Shawn’s left knee. However, from the very first replay the night after the Backlash Pay Per View, JR and King have called the injury as being to HBK’s RIGHT knee. It is very, very poor inconsistency.

The crowd were not into this. I quite the like the intrigue of their characters of late, but although the people bought into a couple of holds and false finishes (notably the Lion tamer), they didn’t have an overwhelming favourite. I sensed plenty of Y2J support, but not to huge degrees.

I loved the idea of Jericho feigning injury to avoid a superkick, but if he knew what he was doing when he hit the codebreaker, why didn’t he follow up. HBK should have rolled to the outside if he was not going to be counted down.

I cannot stand seeing the crossface again and again. It is so unnecessary. Jericho sold it amazingly though.

That’s all me being picky – great match. Perfect emotions from each man, great technique in terms of execution of moves, and some very innovative spots to help the storytelling. I really liked the post-match stuff too. Furthered characters just that little bit more.

I’d prefer to put Jericho over here, because beating Shawn would help him greatly and wouldn’t really hurt Shawn, because of HBK’s lofty position and the fact that the match was a belter and evenly matched.

Loved it. Really loved it. Think how good it could have been with a couple of small flaws ironed out.

Quick interview with Todd with Mickie (bad hair day for the lass James, by the way) briefly mentioning her going out with Cena, but interruption comes from JBL.

JBL intimates Grisham, and sells himself really well as a bully, as a bad-ass, and as a legitimately mean guy. It would be believable if he ever won a match. He defends his match against Cena by saying that he beat Cena down for 20 minutes. Firstly, it was 16, with a lot of stalling, and second, JBL’s entire title reign was based on him squeezing out technical victories when he looked beaten. Great intensity, weak logic.

The ladies are on their way out for a triple threat between Beth, Mickie and Melina for the Women’s title, and I apologise for wrongly stating this was a singles match in my (admittedly late) predictions piece.

Recap is shown of Melina and Beth fighting backstage last week on Raw. I love the fact that, when so annoyed by someone that she felt the need to throw a......forearm. Because legal blows are necessary in a backstage brawl.

Hey, what do you know? It was short, but for what it was, it was very good indeed. Some fast-pacing, some neat spots and a great performance by Melina, who wrestled possibly the best match I’ve seen her have.

Bit of a weak finish, and the WWE has a long way to go in signing some legitimately talented females stars and build them characters, but as matches to rival the knockouts, this was better than the convoluted ‘makeover’ match at Sacrifice.

Batista confronts Shawn in the locker room, telling him that he’ll hurt him soon. Fair enough, but HBK should not be placed in close-up shots. Man, he is balding alarmingly.

Recap of the Edge/Taker recent programme on Smackdown – including Vickie being unable to deliver a decent promo or correctly say the word ‘larynx’.


As you may know, I am not a big Undertaker fan. Most of this match was typical Taker ‘blah’, but I’ll give them credit for a decent section as the end approached, with some credible near-fall action and with it actually making Edge look strong.

The finish itself I’ll let go as it is obviously a storyline point, and there was no point to them putting it back on Taker after stripping him of it, and always unlikely that Edge would win it clean. My God the segment with Vickie doing her speech was dreadful. Whether she took too long to build the tension and heat, or merely got the jitters and forgot her lines. There was a great deal of dragging of feet in the aftermath of this, considering the ladies’ match looked promising but was cut very short.

MVP is out bemoaning him being left off the card and his challenge for someone to come out and meet him is met by............Matt Hardy. What a surprise. But wait, it’s his brother that will challenge MVP.

I’m torn about stuff like this. I suppose if a match is good then I welcome it, but I hate having a Pay Per View match with no build up to it.

TNA throw a lot of stuff against a wall and hope it sticks, but when you think about MVP, Hardy (x2) Kennedy, Umaga, Finlay, Shelton, Chavo, Burke and Kennedy all standing out as good wrestlers with reasonable standing not booked on the card, as well as big names like Big Show and Batista and other talents like Carlito, Kingston and Wang Yang that can go, but are under-utilised.

I understand that spot fests like Money in the Bank are better if used sparingly, and that the “Terrordome” could have been much better, but having Miz and Morrison defend in a tepid 10 minuter and not using any of the aforementioned stars seems lopsided. Surely something could have been worked in for a bunch of these guys.

Hmm, once again.

A decent contest, with the booking key to be to push Jeff Hardy upon his return, and to have his “Whisper in the Wind” corkscrew moonsault to look like a credible finisher.

I’m annoyed that it took MVP to have to job again to push Jeff a bit, but I’d say that losing to Jeff won’t hurt him too much, as if and when he gets a big push, it will largely start from scratch (MVP, I’m talking about)

I do feel, though, that certain people never, ever lose cleanly when doing so could promote others in a major way. I’ll give Triple H a lot of credit for, at certain times, putting over Cena, Batista Jeff Hardy at vital times.

Michaels and Undertaker, though, could stand to drop a match or two. Yes, HBK lost to Cena and Taker to Batista, but both men got victories back at some point. Don’t forget, HBK and Taker are huge stars. It really wouldn’t kill them to put someone over from time to time.

I’m not necessarily blaming them I don’t know who books what, with whose influence and with which plan in mind. I just know that Jericho, Punk, Kennedy and MVP lose far too often, stopping their upward mobility, while Michaels and the Deadman always go over even though others would often benefit, even short term.

Orton is in the ring to some new music, which is typically generic and doesn’t really apply to him at all – what I can make out of it. It seems to be along the lines of “I hear voices” which he doesn’t. If he did, he could have blamed ‘the voices’ for him trashing hotel rooms, defecating in bags, breaching wellness policies............allegedly.

Announcements done, and we are underway. By the way, my satellite signal is struggling badly, so I may not be able to absorb the full nature of this match.

I really didn’t get a full view of this match so I cannot really comment on the nature of it, really. I have no idea if many of you had similar problems.

All I’ll comment on is the outcome, which was reasonably predictable. I’m not complaining. I liked that it was clean, and things have to move on. Although people will moan about Triple H’s standing in the company, he is a solid hand and is very, very over. Orton has had a great run in the last 12 months or so, and it is time to freshen it.

Triple H v John Cena seems to be the likely progression of the title picture for the summer, while hopefully the likes of Jeff Hardy and Ken Kennedy (behaviour permitting) can be placed as developing stars, getting to the status that Jeff did at the Royal Rumble, and maybe even giving them a run. None of them are ready for that right now, though, so a Triple H title run is not the worst thing in the world.

Oh, and my TV picture quality returned in time to see Triple H celebrating. Why didn’t it screw up with the first two matches? Oh well.

A half-decent PPV. I won’t cry if I never see it again, but a pleasant memory will be there with Jericho and Michaels putting on another terrific match, and some nice bits of progression with the Women’s division and several logical match finishes.

God knows how you build to another PPV in two weeks, though.

Judgment Day Predictions

Very, very late one - I'm sorry, but I've been ultra busy this week. Quick predictions then:

Triple H v Randy Orton

Really can't see them sticking the belt back on Orton so quickly after putting it onto The Game, so Triple H will win. Although there is the Regal factor to take into consideration. Trips may win despite the interference of the GM, setting up a HHH/Regal programme - although don't forget One Night Stand is just a fortnight away. Perhaps a further Trips/Orton encounter there to blow off the feud, with Regal getting involved then.

Taker v Edge

Good Lord I'm fed up of this. What is the point of stripping someone of the belt only to set up a rematch of the last bloody feud. Edge to win, purely because it's pointless having Taker win three times. Edge wins, with loads of interference.

The Miz & Morrison v Kane and CM Punk

One of two ways to go - whats the point of teaming these two up if they are not going to win? Answer - none, unless they are going to feud. Kane to cost Punk, these two to wrestle at One Night Stand.

Shawn Michaels v Chris Jericho

Hmmmm...........this has been weird. Who is face, who is heel? I'm suggesting one fakes and injury here somewhere, bizarre ending, then Last Man Standing match. Maybe HBK to win.

JBL v Cena

It will be boring like every other JBL match, and Cena will win. Like every other singles match Cena has and every match Cena has.

Beth v Mickie

I don't care - Beth probably.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Rob's diary of the UK Tour - part two

Those that work or live near the O2 arena could be forgiven for thinking that the 14th & 15th of April brought two similar shows to London. But that wasn’t really the case.

For although it said WWE on the banner each night, the contrast between the Monday Night Raw show and the Tuesday night Smackdown/ECW taping was extremely marked.

We brought you a Raw Report straight after Monday’s show, and we were very positive about it. The live WWE show really is very different to the armchair experience, and Raw was a good example about the live crowd being hot, and caught up in the show’s action.

Tuesday was slightly different though. Smackdown’s target audience is different to Raw, and the demographic disparity was clear to see inside the arena from one night to another.

Monday’s crowd was noticeably older on average, with more groups of men and more couples on hand to watch major stars like Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton.

On Tuesday, it was more of a family night, with definitely more kids in attendance, and looking at the Smackdown and ECW rosters you definitely find more evidence of child-friendly acts – Kofi Kingston (very impressive and very over in London) Jesse & Festus and Rey Mysterio all obvious examples of this.

To us, the Smackdown and ECW tapings were nowhere near as exciting as Raw. There certainly was less star power. OK, the main event of Smackdown featured such marquee names and indeed a marquee match in Undertaker v Batista, but three other major names failed to excite. CM Punk, possessor of the Money in the Bank briefcase, was buried in an 8-man tag match on ECW. Big Show took part in a snoozefest with Mark Henry which will likely be a precursor for a similarly lumbering match with Great Khali at Backlash, while the brilliant Edge simply took a seat at ringside alongside his Edgeheads to watch the main event.

Elsewhere it was left to Raw’s Chris Jericho to add some spice to the Batista/HBK feud again by hosting a Highlight Reel with The Animal, while MVP will surely hit the big time soon, but here he just had a standard outing with Tommy Dreamer.

But for all the matches, the stars and the build up to a Pay Per View, one segment elicited a far bigger reaction than anything else. It wasn’t the Wrestlemania rematch, it wasn’t the Highlight Reel.

It was a leprechaun.

Hornswoggle, accompanied by his ‘father’ Finlay, came to the ring to take on Matt Striker, and a comedy match ensued. Your very own Sun Wrestling team were watching from a hospitality box at this point, and found it very difficult to inform those in close attendance, many of whom had not before seen a WWE show, exactly what was going on.

When we struggled, though, we simply pointed to the crowd. The WWE’s marketing department would have been proud of us as we said that no matter what you say about pro wrestling, this was bringing the smiles to the faces of thousands.

Hornswoggle used the age-old Greco-Roman SuperSquirter move to good effect, as well as the Tennis-Ball-Throw-to-the-Crotch first utilised by Frank Gotch on George Hackenschmidt in 1910. Classic stuff.

Depending on your age and your outlook on wrestling is was either hugely entertaining or seriously embarrassing. WWE, however, are trying to recruit more younger viewers to a show like Smackdown, and it was no coincidence that on the TV show when it aired on Friday that this match was the backdrop for Michael Cole advertising the new WWE Kids Magazine.

Back in the box, we watched as Jamie Noble took on Chavo Guerrero. The crowd had fallen virtually silent by this point, as Chavo and Jamie, two very talented and underrated individuals, actually tried some chain wrestling. One of our non-wrestling companions commented that this match was the most real-looking of the evening. And the crowd was probably the quietest. We couldn’t help but wonder what this audience would make of a Ring of Honor show.

But this wasn’t ROH, it was WWE, and an example that could thrust two fingers at all the purists and marks who scoff at the alleged lack of class and lack of wrestling purveyed by Vince McMahon’s media juggernaut.

This tour is rumoured to be on course to be WWE’s most profitable ever, and although we would indisputably rather be at a Raw show than Smackdown/ECW any day of the week, perhaps we are not the audience WWE is now looking for on Friday nights.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Rob’s diary of the London WWE Tour pt 1

Once again it was time for WWE to tour the UK, this week, and I type this travelling back on a train from London having spent two days in the capital taking in the Live tapings of Raw, Smackdown and the other one (don’t tell me, it’ll come to me) at the O2 Arena in London’s fashionable.......well, scrubland near Greenwich really, but it’s a bloody nice looking arena.

This is my third little trip to take in the UK tapings of the three shows (ECW, that’s it. Got there in the end) and I’ll be honest the one I’ve been looking forward to least. Mainly because I think the novelty has worn off a bit.

Last year at this sort of time it was destination Earl’s Court for my first UK show in 11 years, and my first as a wrestling journalist. I was, of course, psyched to be attending, and my excitement paid off when we were treated to a sterling John Cena v Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania rematch which went nearly and hour, and was a cracking match.

My second trip was England’s second city of Birmingham, and while the trip itself was fun, and although it was nice to get some interview time with a few wrestlers, the shows were poor.

(You can read my diaries from both previous trips by checking the archive on this blog. I’m not going to link it, there’s an archive page on the right, look. Find it yourself. Lazy sod.)

Since the last set of shows in this country were hardly ground-breaking, and with many wrestlers surely burnt out from a major Pay Per View like Wrestlemania followed by a exhausting tour, I wasn’t expecting fireworks. (Just like those people who got burned at the Citrus Bowl. Ouch)

However, I was heartened by the call that I should get myself from my base in Devon (for those outside the UK or those in it with no sense of geography, Devon is about 200 miles from London) to the O2 arena by 2pm on the Monday when Raw was in town. Interviews? You betcha. Chris Jericho, Beth Phoenix and possibly Ken Kennedy were lined up to speak to me. Now that was more like it

Boarding the train with a renewed sense of optimism, my mood grew brighter as I took in the gorgeous South Devon coast scenery and trundled towards London thinking about the kind of questipns I could ask the Women’s champion and The Ayatollah, of Rock and Rolla, whose book I have recently read and reviewed. Me and Chris would get on like a house on fire. I knew it.

The journey was a decent one, brought to life on this sleepy Monday by the staggering posh, almost caricatured , couple who drifted along the carriage, much to the amusement of all. Mr Poshman decided he’d grab the only seat which was free in the carriage, meaning his wife (mind you, he probably calls her ‘Memsahib’ or some other posh term) had to settle for a standing berth near the loos.

Now you may well be rebuking me for not giving up my seat to a lady on a train. I would like to point out that I had the foresight to book in advance, secure myself a reserved seat and actually sit in my designated, allocated place. I believe that a combination of punctuality, efficiency and organisation is the cornerstone of this great country of ours, and I should not be punished for being having a structured life.

Plus the girl a sitting opposite me was fit as you like. Bada-bada-bada-bada-bing!

Arriving at Paddington on time was a bonus, as I had timings to work to. Now, I’m not a fan of the tube network, not because I’m scared of terrorism or being mugged or anything, but because I am very claustrophobic, and don’t particularly enjoy being encased in a metal container unearth the Earth’s surface with a businessman’s armpit in my face and his briefcase slamming into my leg.

Taxi it was, and gratifyingly the massive queue for one of London’s black cabs that greeted me on my last visit to the smoke was non-existent, and a miniscule number of people lay between me an no doubt a chirpy (maybe too chirpy) cock-er-ney geezer.

So I got my cab pretty sharpish, and as predicted got a chirpy cock-er-ney geezer, but he actually turned out to be a cracking bloke. I wish I’d caught his name. He told me it would be quite a way, but I asked him to proceed, and off we ambled across that there London place.

Only a few minutes in I felt obliged to explain the purpose of my visit, and although he wasn’t exactly a connoisseur of the Pro Wrestlng business (I wasn’t really expecting “Awight, saan, those Laadaan and Kendwick, they oughta ‘ave more TV time, innit. Annat Layla bird, he’s from raand ‘ere – she’s luvverly!”) I did get the standard line about which people in that field he had picked up: “I ‘ad that Jackie Pallo and Mick McManus in the back of my cab once.” Said he. Nice one.

He did tell me some other sporting names he had escorted to their destination of choice, but if I say to you that 1980’s Welsh snooker legend Terry Griffiths headed the list, you’ll forgive not detailing all the names concisely, I’m sure.

In all seriousness (I wonder how long that will last) the guy was a delight, and as I confessed to being a country boy who visits London very sporadically, he took great pleasure in driving me past Buck House, down the Mall to Trafalgar square, and past various other London landmarks, pointing them out and giving a brief history lesson. He wasn’t Simon Scharma, but he as he pointed out the site of the start of Great Fire of London and a statue of Brunel (I love old Isambard, but he was started to get a bit random now, the old driver) I was grateful for someone enthusiastic and friendly.

Then the first snag happened. Driver had explained to me that the O2 was not the easiest to get to, and as the large Dome structure loomed into the horizon, he informed me that it was close, but would still be a little while before we got there. The words had barely left his mouth as we saw and heard police sirens. Then Fire engine sirens. Then a policeman directing us in the opposite direction.

The Blackwall tunnel, a major thoroughfare to get south of the River Thames, was closed, meaning logjam traffic and a major diversion. My 2pm schedule meeting time for interviews was looming, and looking a forlorn hope.

I asked my driver where the nearest underground station was, and decided the Claustrophobia 3:16 said I just had to face it. I was dropped by the driver, still friendly and chirpy, although my mood now did not mirror this state of mind, at Bromley-by-Bow, and as I walked in a big sign said “GOING TO THE O2?”

Indeed I was. The instructions were oh-so-helpful. “TAKE BUS ROUTE BLAH BLAH BLAH....” Bus? If a Taxi couldn’t hack the traffic, a bus was no good. So a study of the map (it was now teeming with rain, I should point out) showed me I needed to take a short journey to Mile End, another to Stratford and a final one to North Greenwich for the short walk to the O2 complex. Three train journeys to get to a building that I could actually see with my own eyes.

I made it, even after a helpful automated ticket machine decided I was not worthy of dispensing a ticket to, despite me deeming it suitable for depositing money within. Use of walkie talkies to allow me to allow me to avoid ticket gates ensued, and I was on my way. However, by this my mood was foul, as I was 30 minutes late, Jericho, Beth and Kennedy were off the table. Instead we had Maria & Cade and Murdoch lined up as alleged replacements.

I arrived wet, late and slightly annoyed at the deterioration in the day’s fortunes, and when ushered backstage at the arena, was met with the news that Maria had dropped out. My heart rose as I saw Chris Jericho merrily chatting to a female journalist (who I later found out was from the Daily Mail.) Y2J was here, junior!

But not to speak to me.

I could sight of Richard Parr, Sky Sports’ Wrestling Expert (I know that, because it was in the Observer) who I’d met at the last two sets of tapings. Rich was interrogating Cade and Murdoch with sharp, hard-hitting questions and observations. Or he was falling asleep, I couldn’t tell.

Anyway, our WWE PR team soon advised me that Mr Jericho would be departing after his chat with the lady from everyone’s favourite middle-class, xenophobic daily rag, so it was simply the Redneck Wrecking crew for me.

Rich finished up, and I sat down with Trevor and Garrison Lance to talk about.........what the hell would I talk about? This was the Wrestlemania revenge tour, and rather than getting participants in Money in the Bank Ladder match, or even Bunny-freaking-mania, we got two guys who weren’t even on the card for WM24.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Cade and Murdoch, and think they are much underutilised. They were really nice guys too, but not particularly a major scoop for me. I saw a minor ray of light when, after asking they guys if they were in action on the card that evening, was told that Trevor would be in singles action against JTG of Cryme Tyme.

I decided to pursue the line of enquiry about the rumours of Cryme Tyme being released several months ago, and that Cade and Murdoch were chiefly responsible for this. Trevor came back in character, stating that they hated Cryme Tyme, but then they hate every tag team.

Lance looked more anxious to let off steam, but seemed restrained, possibly by the presence of a WWE official, so I got a line about how there was an issue but it will stay between themselves, and that he thinks Cryme Tyme are a talented team who are liked by the fans, so they deserved to be rehired.

Ironically, Murdoch would go on to lose his match against JTG in short order, with Cade looking like he was annoyed with him post-match, perhaps sowing the seeds of a break-up.

I say this is ironic, as all Cade could talk about for the second half of the interview was how he and Trevor were the only tag team that were truly a team, on and off camera. I took his comments to be out of character, and I still do, but they lost a bit of credibility after the events on camera.

So that was it for Interviews. Worth the hassle of Trains, Taxis and Tubes for, I think you’ll agree.

Fortunately, our WWE host organising interviews kindly offered to buy us lunch. Richard declined, and instead simply nursed a beer. I, however, decided that if I wasn’t getting Y2J, I would take a free meal. Even then, though, my day continued to hit low points, as our first destination, Nandos, was full. I bloody love Nandos, but instead we opted for a specialist Burger joint, which I forget the name of. (It was like Gourmet Burger Kitchen, but it wasn’t Gourmet Burger Kitchen) Anyway, it was crap. Fitting, since I’d been fed crap all day. (Just kidding HJ, the gesture was much appreciated)

As our hosts departed, with work to do before the night started in earnest, Rich and I quenched our thirst in the Slug and Lettuce. I’ll say for the O2 complex, it’s choice of bars, cafes, and restaurants is extremely good and very varied.

Richard’s brother joined us, the World Brighton renowned magician, who since he said he reads this blog, I shall give another plug to. Check out While you are at it, you should go and see the new WWE section of which Richard contributes to. And just in case you forget, and so I ask in the interests of fairness, as Vince once said, you must also see

Shilling over, Matt was followed by Rich’s housemate Mike, and then by my colleague Simon Rothstein’s two mates Stuart and Gareth.

Simon was unable to attend this show having been in the States for TNA Lockdown. He actually missed a good event.

The show began at 7.30pm with the usual series of non-televised encounters including a surprise appearance (fighting Hardcore Holly) of Chad Collyer. We also got to see Snitsky destroy Val Venis (well, I didn’t I chose it as a toilet break), Cody Rhodes besting Charlie Haas (still doing the bizarre luchador mask gimmick) The Canadian Bulldog DH Smith, with no mention to the live crowd of his link to father Davey Boy, but this was probably since he was facing Super Crazy. Harry didn’t show any heelish tendencies though.

There was one final match, as Maria and Ashley took on Jillian and Melina in a shockingly bad contest, which really highlighted the lack of depth to the WWE Women’s division. As I would later discuss with Simon who had been immersed in TNA the previous weekend, the TNA Knockout division is so superior to the Divas of WWE that it isn’t funny. Seriously, if they start booking more wrestling, more logic, and get the X division going again, TNA really could make it. They have a lot of upsides which the WWE don’t.

This is a good point, having detailed the pre-show and heat matches, to let you know of some of the signs which abounded over the two days. My favourites were:
“Maria – cook my dinner”“I saw Lillian Garcia in Sainsburys”“Mania 26 = Villa Park”“Cena fears Lee Trundle”“Regal for London Mayor”

There were other good ones, but those were my particular favourites.

After a fantastic, and pleasingly well-received, rendition of our national anthem by ring announcer Lillian Garcia, the show opened with a very strong segment. Shawn Michaels talked about Ric Flair and Batista, before the crowd (including me) jumped up to welcome the music of the Nature Boy.

It was not to be. Instead of Naitch, we were treated to the sight, after a lengthy pause, of Chris Jericho. He got in the face of HBK and drew gasps from the crowd for suggesting that Shawn enjoyed retiring Ric Flair, just like he enjoyed screwing Bret Hart and throwing Marty Jannetty through a window. Jericho is a genius on the stick.

For his troubles, though, he got superkicked by HBK. Ouch.

It wouldn’t be the last we’d see of Y2J, but this isn’t a full review. You can see that on the Sun wrestling page.

Next up was Santino and Carlito beating Londrick to gain the number one contendership. Santino was probably the heaviest cheer of all in this match. Britain clearly loves this guy, and so do I, although it was disappointing that he didn’t have his usual comic head one. A ‘wiener’ joke was lost on the English crowd (including yours truly) and a mix up of names between the two men fared little better. I still love you though Santino. Actually, it’s a little unfair that Carlito is a little overlooked, because the guy is a solid hand in the ring and also does his bit vocally. This could well be a team to watch.

The reason why Beth was pulled from interviews may well have been revealed next, as we saw Mickie James wrest away the Women’s Championship in a good contest with the Glamazon. Mickie was very over, and the reception that greeted her title win was possibly the loudest on the show proper. It was frustrating that this wasn’t built up a little more, but it’s nice to see Mickie featured more prominently. In fact, it’s always nice to see Mickie.

Earlier in the show Regal had faced off with JBL on the screen, with a big cheer going up for the English GM. More followed as Jericho’s character continued to develop heelish and perhaps tweener characteristics, and confronted Regal in the back. Nice to see Regal over, but at this point I’m worried about Jericho.

Hooray, chalk one up for petty thuggery as we are all told to cheer for Cryme Tyme. Their usual “Money, money, yeah, yeah” gets the crowd going, but the follow up “euros, euros,yeah, yeah” doesn’t do the trick. We are only a mile or so from Canary Wharf, boys, with all those banking headquarters. Don’t bring up the bloody Euro, if you don’t mind. The short match that I mentioned previously between JTG and Murdoch then takes place. Nothing to see here, move along. Oh, except the tag team that I interviewed earlier on during the day had expressed to me that the reason they had done well was that they are more of a team in and out of the ring. And then they teased a break-up. I think I’ve already mentioned this –can’t tell I’m bitter can you?

At this point I hear Matt’s voice and turn to see him having joined the lively crew just behind him as they begin a quest to start a Mexican wave. This would continue for much of the evening, with limited success, but fair play to them for getting the atmosphere going and getting a wave going at one point which went round the arena at least twice.

The familiar music of the WWE champion Randy Orton resounds through the arena as he is out for his match with our very own William Regal. To be fair, the match doesn’t last particularly long, but for what it was it was pretty good, and the crowd were as into this as anything else over the two days.

The match was predictably won by Orton, and built his RKO a little more as a devastating finisher out of nowhere. I loved hearing the “Eng-er-land” chant that met the Raw GM. Speaking of England, the WWE’s usual stage get-up for coming over here has been the Union Jack Titantron and, for Smackdown, the bus, taxi and phone box. This time we had a throne and beefeaters (that doesn’t quite work because the Beefeaters are at the Tower of London. I think WWE were thinking of the Queen’s guards. They are the one with the Black Marge Simpson hat on).

We thought this was a tip of the hat to the British Royal family, but it turned out to be a reference to...........KING OF THE RING??? That was news, but when they played a vignette stating that King of the Ring was “The biggest honour of them all”. That statement is flawed on so many levels, but I’ll simply say two words: “Billy Gunn”.

Next up some ultra-LOUD pyro for Y2J, back out once again, but this time to a huge ovation. I was expecting a bit of a crowd split here, but not such split occurred. The crowd were all Y2J.

Just to confuse everyone that little bit further, Y2J won the match, but he did so with his feet on the ropes, retaining his Intercontinental title with a distinctly heelish manoeuvre. Hmm.

More Britishness next, but Paul Burchill is a heel, so no big fanfare for him and the beautiful Katie Lea, and in fact because he was facing Hacksaw Jim Duggan, some morons – who had only 10 minutes ago been chanting “England” for Regal, started backing Duggan with ‘USA’ chants. Bizarre.

Burchill wins quickly, and if I may, right here, a petty annoyance I have. Paul Burchill was announced as being from “England”. Not “Blackpool, England” like Regal. Why is there no consistency in these announcements? Sometimes there is there is no weight mentioned, sometime no place, sometimes both. If this is going to be done, why can it not be done consistently? That probably doesn’t matter to anyone apart from me, but I had to get it off my chest!

In the main event, Triple H v JBL was ticking along before Randy Orton got involved. To the TV audience the show ended when JBL was standing tall, although in the arena we saw Orton go for another RKO on Trips, and have it reversed into a Pedigree. Triple H then spent the best part of 5-10 minutes posing for the crowd, building them up in to a frenzy, then not only circling the ring but going to basically every accessible part of the arena to greet fans.

He ended the evening by climbing into the throne, after saluting each Beefeater – and throwing them a DX crotch chop. How elegant.

It was a good night all round, and except for waiting for a tube station to allow thousands of fans in, while we were waiting in the pouring rain, it would have almost faultless.

A quick note on standing waiting outside North Greenwich Underground – the noises in the air were Ric Flair “Wooo”s and Hacksaw Duggan “hooooo”s.

It doesn’t matter how many new superstars you bring through – the old boys still have their pullinh power and attraction. And when ever you question why Hacksaw is still on the roster. You get a far bigger reception for him than a great deal of others.