Saturday, 25 October 2014

NXTweet 23.10.14

This was a very enjoyable episode of NXT, everyone’s favourite one hour weekly wrestling show. Not watched in a while? It’s probably a decent jump on point.

The Ascension v Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan

Tweet 1: Right then, you bunch'a marks! Let's T some NX!
Tweet 2: "Next generation of WWE stars..." - A commentator as we were shown a shot of The Ascension
Tweet 3: Two weeks ago: Funaki stretcher job. #prayforFunaki
Tweet 4: The crowd should be chanting "Where's your hair gone?" at Jason Jordan.
Tweet 5: Jason Jordan should totally go singles and start calling himself 'The New Double J'.
Tweet 6: Slik Vik and Special K: The Ascension.

Imagine Joey Styles calling this. "FALL OF MAAAAAAN!!"

Tweet 7: Decidedly erotic cover from Viktor there. Tye was probably too intimidated to try a kick out.
Tweet 8: Fuanki's lad getting beaten down there. Remember when he debuted and sent The Ascension packing single-handed? Debut's over.
Tweet 9: "Just go home" - Konnor to Hideo Itami

CJ Parker v Tyler Breeze

Tweet 10: Rich Brennan, Tensai McBurgerson, and Alex Riley. What a dream team!
Tweet 11: No sign from CJ Parker this week? Poor form, bro.
Tweet 12: Ah no, he had it stashed at ringside so he wasn't weighed down on his entrance. Good lad.
Tweet 13: CJ is clearly hated and they insist on presenting Tyler as a heel so who are we meant to cheer here?
Tweet 14: Give CJP his own YouTube and-or Network show called Everybody Hates CJ Parker.
Tweet 15: Mojo Rawley has walked out to ringside. The quality of this show has dipped.
Tweet 16: Mojo staring lustfully at Breeze there.

Tyler's boots and CJ's hair are easily confused.

Devin Taylor interviews Titus O’Neil

Tweet 17: Loving this interviewer openly laughing at Titus O'Neil.
Tweet 18: Titus basically said he's going to win the NXT title and rename the promotion NXTITUS. He is not a money promo.

Baron Corbin vignette

Tweet 19: Sin City movies + American Wolves gear = Baron Corbin

The Vaudevillains v Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy

Tweet 20: #Vaudevillainspop
Tweet 21: The Vaudevillains are wearing T-shirts to the ring, have new music and are doing an Impact Players-esque pose.
Tweet 22: Tensai is putting this over as a game-changing new attitude.
Tweet 23: Murphy and Blake should use the ring name The Meaty Lads.

Cesaro would roll up an uppercut here...

Tweet 24: Why are they talking about the NXT Universe? Does NXT not exist within the WWE Universe? Maybe my alternate universe theory was right.
Tweet 25: I think they should refer to NXT as a galaxy. #justsaying
Tweet 26: Blake does a kip up and acts like it's the most impressive thing ever. It's not, mate. You're generic.

Bayley v Sasha Banks

Tweet 27: Bayley's great. Tell a friend.
Tweet 28: Sasha Banks is also great, even though her character doesn't really make much sense without the BFFs.
Tweet 29: Lots of hip action on Sasha during that entrance...
Tweet 30: Alex Riley is talking about putting Ws in the win column again. Why is on he on the commentary team? He's so bad!

That may be a Scyther on Bayley's trunks.

Tweet 31: The colour scheme of Sasha's outfit makes me think of Ultimo Dragon.
Tweet 32: The Banks Statement is great every time I see it.
Tweet 33: Swerve turn from Becky Lynch! Swerve! Swerve! Sweeeeeerve!! #swerve
Tweet 34: Lynch's post-match taunting needs work. Right now it's a weak head waggle and brushing imaginary dirt from her shoulders. No.

Enzo Amore, Big Cass and Carmella backstage

Tweet 35: Enzo and leopard print. That's all I got from that segment.
Tweet 36: Here's another thought: maybe Enzo and Cass will split after Enzo gets jealous of Cass and Carmella’s friendship.
Tweet 37: Because pecks on cheeks should lead to heel turns more often.

NXT championship: Adrian Neville (c) v Titus O’Neil

Tweet 38: What's with Byron Saxton saying "championship" in such a weird way?
Tweet 39: Newcastle? Boooooooooooo!!
Tweet 40: Has Titus been sent to NXT to get some good matches out of him for a Best of Titus O'Neil DVD?
Tweet 41: I'd buy a Titus DVD from WWE. I'd also buy a YouShoot interview with him if he ever got released.
Tweet 42: Not least because I, like everybody else, would mark out seeing Titus and Sean Oliver in the same room.
Tweet 43: Looking forward to the day Sean Oliver is considered enough of a name to appear as a talking head on WWE documentaries.
Tweet 45: "Would he represent NXT the way it deserves to be represented? I don't know. It's a good question" - Alex Riley to Alex Riley
Tweet 46: Titus runs into Nev's boots and goes down. Neville then hits the Red Arrow and pins him. It could be argued that Titus beat himself.

Titus taking the Red Arrow like a pro.

Tweet 47: Why are WWE protecting Titus to any extent? Because he's been presented as a monster on NXT? That's not enough.
Tweet 48: Zayn and Nev agreeing to a future championship match there.
Tweet 49: Zayn says Nev should appreciate having the belt while he can. Nev says Zayn can't "win the big one."
Tweet 50: A guy in the audience says Zayn got served. END SCENE

Friday, 24 October 2014

Second Opinion: RPW Uprising 2014

I wasn’t the only person at last Saturday’s RPW Uprising show. Michael King was there too. Sitting next to me, as it happens. On Sunday I asked him if he fancied contributing some thoughts to my write-up (you can find that here). What he sent over ended up being over one thousand words long. Which, y’know, is easily a blog post in its own right so I decided to present it in full. It’s presented below, with anything in italics added by me. Because why not?


Lionel Richie’s All Night Long runs four minutes 19 seconds. Rich Swann’s entrance, based around the song, felt significantly longer. By the end of the match the crowd had cheered itself out, much to the detriment of what followed. It’s a shame this didn’t go on after the interval.

The match was good. Think a PPV/Network Special opener, or post Cena-promo Uso tag match on RAW. Lots of reversals, combos and dives to the outside, all pulled off with exceptional timing and little to no regard for psychology. Aries is as crisp in person as he is on TV. 2 Unlimited bad-guyed it up despite their adorable denim waist coats and propensity to move their mouths as if to taunt the crowd, but not actually say anything. Maybe they have very silly voices (They’re Irish so they probably do). Aries took the mic after the match to tell the crowd to keep the energy up. He obviously knew what was happening before we did.

Britain's premiere hoss. That'd be a good moniker for him, actually.
The next match featured Dave Mastiff against Karl Anderson. You’d think Anderson, being used to wrestling to the sound of a dripping tap in the Tokyo Dome men’s room (and only getting a pop for re-entering the ring) would have adapted better to the lack of atmosphere, but it seemed to put him off. Mastiff lives his gimmick and generally held up his end of the match. On reflection this match was pretty decent. A good ol’ meat bash (Oh!) with some big spots and a decent finishing sequence, but it felt a little flat whilst it was going on. We have Swann and Richie to thank for that.

To take us into the break we saw the best wrestler in the world face Adrian Neville’s old tag partner. To be fair Joel Redman is a much better singles wrestler than viewers of NXT would believe, but he was the wrong opponent, in the wrong slot. A big part of these RPW shows is being part of the reaction these big ticket foreign stars receive. Seeing Hiroshi Tanahashi burst through the curtain twelve months ago (in the main event) was surreal, and the reaction appropriately massive. Okada got some weak chants and a single streamer. The crowd wasn’t ready for him.

The match itself was decent, despite a complete lack of chemistry between the two men. Redman seemed a little unsure of his role and Okada’s deadpan arrogance didn’t work with the smaller crowd in the same way as Tanahashi’s stiff  arm air-guitar or Nakamura’s nuanced epileptic routine. I can’t stress enough how insane it was that this went on pre-interval. Okada, at 26 years old, is the biggest star in the world’s number two promotion, and will most likely be on top for at least another decade. Anyway, enough of that. Okada won.

The show resumed with the Revolutionists facing Too Cool. I should preface this by saying that I spent a long time where my only access to WWE was VHS tapes and Sunday Night Heat, which at the time seemed to consist of lovingly framed shots of Trish Stratus; Mick Foley going to theme parks; and Too Cool main events. This probably goes some way in explaining why I enjoyed this so much (Amazingly other people enjoyed their tedious routine too. I think I was the only one who didn’t see the appeal in a former light heavyweight champ, a grossly overweight Samoan, and Jerry Lawler’s estranged son). I wanted to be angry for Okada, but seeing these three men go through their old routine moved me in a way I wasn’t prepared for. This was so, so, so stupid and I loved it.

That said, Sha Samuels is great and deserves better than this. (I couldn’t agree with this more)

The championship match was set up with a video package. I didn’t hear a word but most of it still came across. Stone was angry because he is less well thought of than Mojo Rawley. Scurll is crazy now because he has a beard and an umbrella and that’s why he is the best Martin. These two had by far the best match of the evening, with plenty of outside brawling, near falls, heelish shenanigans and Scurll’s Vince McMahon impersonation. Scurll seems a little restless with his gimmick and it’s easy to see why. He is so far ahead of those round him in terms of presentation, pacing, crowd interaction and work rate that he probably changes things up so frequently to keep himself entertained. I can’t get into Stone. As a wrestler he’s fine, but his ring gear, promo delivery and lack of personality give him the feel of a fill-in main eventer.

Michael isn't one for national pride.
The post-match angle involving the (wonderfully panto) Knight family was a fun bit of wrestling nonsense. It went on far too long, but so did everything on the show. Dave has said all that needs to be said about the pacing, so instead I’ll complain about the constant references to the UK made on the show. This was the first RPW offering in a while to not feature anyone in Union Jack trunks (the UK wrestler equivalent of black wrestlers wearing animal print), but we still had it incorporated into the set (see right for one of Michael’s least favourite aspects of the show), and the Knight family patriarch (who based on the relative appearances of his sons and daughter (Paige), is a dismal producer of XX chromosomes) referring to the invaders as The UK Hooligans.

No-one in the building was confused about where we were, neither will anyone be when watching a DVD. The ostensible main event featured a man called Martin fighting another man called Martin. Wrestlers used scarfs and umbrellas as foreign objects. Not one reference was made to college football. All the UK references make the production look as indy as anything.

Ospreay vs Sydal went on last. There were flips. I question the decision to put an amiable face v face crusierweight match on after a number a genuine star attractions and a hard fought, angle heavy, championship match. But hey I also like my brief intervals to last less than 40 minutes (He wasn’t interested in a picture with Austin Aries and former TNA megastar Rosita).

A strange show, bafflingly less than the sum of its parts. Too Cool were oddly perfect, but with so many indy free agents now snapped up by NXT and the NJPW roster tapped, I wonder whether RPW can channel some of it’s momentum into building the size and profile of its home grown roster. Scurll versus Gangrel at Summer Sizzler?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hell in a Cell 2014 preview

So here we are. The sixth annual Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. The sixth!  They shouldn’t have gotten to the first. A gimmick match being the focus of an annual event devalues it, as I’ve written many times before (usually during Hell in a Cell previews). The entire point of stipulation matches is that they get wheeled out when a rivalry calls for it, not because the name of a show dictates it.

But hang on a moment. This year we actually have a fitting feud for the Hell in a Cell, WWE’s premier gimmick bout and feud-ender. Former Shield brethren Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have been waging war on one another since the beginning of June. Clocking over four months and a surprisingly slim number of televised bouts1 they’re the natural pair to close this show inside the cage.

Only they’re probably not going to get to. John Cena and Randy Orton have also been booked to clash in the Hell in a Cell for absolutely no logical storyline reason. They’re meeting again because they need something to do. That’s it.  Ambrose defeated Cena to earn his match against Rollins, a foolish move in itself: Cena being in contention for a Cell match with Rollins detracted from the animosity between Rollins and Ambrose. Losing to Ambrose meant Cena got a Cell match with Orton.

Cena and Orton meeting in a Cell brings with it a barrel load of monotony. The two have collided on WWE television dozens of times over the years and have never produced anything beyond an average match together. They’ve faced off on pay-per-view a few times this year alone, most notably at Royal Rumble where they began their anything goes encounter (brought about by Orty viciously attacking Cena’s father) with a lock up. Had their programme rumbled on since then the Cell would have at least made sense, although we should probably be thankful that it didn’t. Eleven months of Cena v Orton (they’d started off with a staredown at the end of the 2013 Survivor Series) is depressing just to think about.

Also worth noting is that this isn’t even the first time the two have met inside the Hell in a Cell. They went on fifth at the inaugural 2009 HIAC pay-per-view (in what was billed at the time as their final encounter EVER), a show that was opened by CM Punk v Undertaker and closed by D-Generation X v Legacy. Yeah, Punk, ‘Taker, Orton and Cena all worked Cell matches lower down the card than Ted DiBiase Jr yet Rollins and Ambrose likely will not close the 2014 instalment.

Wherever they’re put on the card the former Shield lads will almost certainly produce the better bout. In an ideal world Cena and Orton would open up the card and do everything in their power to make it the best entry in their never-ending rivalry. With the rest of the card in between the two Cell encounters Ambrose and Rollins would be afforded as much cool down as possible and could go out and tear the house down with a Cell clash given a suitably different layout.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. WWE could pull these matches off (just) if they wanted to. But that would involve portraying Ambrose and Rollins as the biggest stars of the night. I just don’t think it will happen. Cena and Orton are the established names and they’re the ones WWE is convinced the majority of people are tuning in to see.

Let’s pick winners. Cena seems likelier than Orton to win. They’re not actually feuding with each other and when that’s said of a Cena PPV match then he’s usually the safer choice. Meanwhile Ambrose probably needs the win in his match more than Rollins. He’s only beaten Seth once on TV (and that’s the only place it counts in WWE) and this is the environment in which ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ has to win if he is to be the anti-hero we can believe in, overcoming everything Sethy B lobs his way. That includes the likely Kane interference.

The rest of the card is very clearly intended to be filler.

Paige and AJ Lee will have their fourth consecutive pay-per-view bout. Only one of the previous three was not a singles match (Night of Champions saw them joined by Nikki Bella for a three-way… get your minds out of the gutter) and they’ve had a few singles matches on TV too. None of them have risen above average. I had high hopes for the programme when AJ returned but it’s become one of the dullest long-running programmes in years.

I’ll pick Paige to win as that would get the title back on her and allow AJ to be put in the chasing babyface role she’s better suited to at this point. Note that I’m expecting their feud to continue. WWE doesn’t have any other women ready to step into a featured feud, even for the meaningless Divas championship. The frustrating thing is that they could have a stellar women’s division if they wanted one.

Sheamus’s United States title defence against The Miz is mostly an excuse to get the popular Damien Mizdow character on to the show. It’s a good call as he’ll get the crowd reacting while the two former WWE world champions put on a good match. I think this could play host to a title change. ‘Great White’ has done nothing with the belt since winning it in May. Putting it on Miz would allow Mizdow to do the replica belt shtick he did with the IC title on the September 22 RAW. Beyond that sight gag it could also lead to a Mizdow face turn and a feud between the star and his stunt double, perhaps restoring some credibility to the championship and making something of Sandow’s popularity.

We all know that Big Show versus Rusev will end in one of two ways. Either Rusev wins clean or Big Show wins via disqualification. I think it will be the former. There’s also a chance that Mark Henry will turn on Show to start a pointless rerun of that feud. They’d be of more interest contributing to the tag division as that’s something new for them but a split seems inevitable.

Goldust and Stardust will defend the tag team titles against the Usos. We’ve seen these teams face off many times. They can be trusted to produce something competent without burning the crowd out.  I’ll predict the champions to retain, because why not? As is the case with the Divas, WWE could have a solid tag division if they wanted one, making these constant repeats obsolete.
Not confirmed at time of writing but expected to happen is Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler. They are two of WWE's best and should put on the best match of the night outside of Rollins v Ambrose. An Intercontinental title reign would be nice for Cesaro at some point as he's the sort of guy who could have a good run with it. But before that happens the belt needs to be given meaning again, and the best way for to achieve that is to keep it on 'The Show Off' for a while and continuing to give him lengthy matches on TV and PPV. Ziggler to retain here, but let Cesaro take it from him in the future.

Finally, there’s the Nikki Bella versus Brie Bella match with one of the most wrestling stipulations WWE has done for quite a while. In a move straight out of the Jerry TV pilot in Seinfeld the loser of the match will have to be the winner’s PA for a month2. It’s the sort of scenario that can only work if a heel is the victor, and it would also provide a natural setup for a rematch. So I think Nikki will win. As for match quality… the match will certainly happen.

Hell in a Cell seems very much like a one match card. I can’t imagine anyone being interested in the Cena v Orton match, even with the desperation (overbooked, call it what you will) stipulation that the winner will get the next shot at Brock Lesnar’s WWE championship3. Ambrose versus Rollins in the top gimmick match the company has is the clear draw. The mid-card has nothing to offer beyond Cesaro v Ziggler and Miz and Sheamus’s match, and the latter’s only of interest because of a man at ringside. Hell in a Cell 2014 will have a tough job of being an interesting show.

Predictions summary:
Dean Ambrose to defeat Seth Rollins
John Cena to defeat Randy Orton
The Miz to defeat Sheamus for the United States championship
Dolph Ziggler to defeat Cesaro
Rusev to defeat Big Show
Nikki Bella to defeat Brie Bella
Goldust and Stardust to defeat the Usos
Paige to defeat AJ Lee for the Divas championship


1 They were both involved in the Money in the Bank Ladder match on June 29, won by Rollins; Ambrose lost to Rollins and Kane in a handicap match on the July 29 SmackDown; Rollins won their enjoyable lumberjack encounter at SummerSlam; and Ambrose picked up his sole televised win over Rollins on the August 18 post-SummerSlam RAW.

2 “Is this common in your legal system?”

3 Presumably this will take place at Royal Rumble. That will give WWE three months to promote their number two card of the year. Good move. Thumbs up!

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Part Time Squad

WWE’s reliance on the stars of the past has been well documented over the last several years. The Rock’s return at WrestleMania XXVII and matches at XXVIII and XXIX drew scorn from some. Triple H and Undertaker taking an annual ‘Mania spot has also failed to go down well with everyone. And guys like Chris Jericho, Batista and Hulk Hogan have also returned in one form or another, to a variety of reactions.

There could be said to be broadly two views on this. The first would be that the returning stars help to attract viewers who wouldn’t otherwise be interested and that their participation helps give the events that extra special feeling they’re meant to have. The second would be that the returnees take away spots from the roster members who work a full schedule and deserve to participate at a show of WrestleMania’s significance.

My view lies somewhere in the middle of the two. The returning stars are necessary for shows like WrestleMania to be distinguishable from the rest of the PPV pack. I don’t think WWE could expect to fill more than one stadium for a ‘Mania using only their current roster, and they’d only manage one because tickets are sold so far in advance. But at the same time I don’t think the list of returning names would need to be as long as it generally gets if WWE did a better job of making guys like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler seem like they’re genuinely big stars. Part of WrestleMania absolutely should be about celebrating the past and integrating older stars, but it should also be about building for the future.

Something that could be done differently is how the returning names are used. Right now they tend to interact exclusively with one another. Jericho v Fandango and Triple H v Daniel Bryan aside all the names listed above have been involved with other stars from past eras at the last few WrestleManias. An argument could be made for CM Punk being raised up with his matches against The Undertaker and The Rock, but Punk was already pretty close to that level anyway. And, y’know, he lost both matches. By the time he left he was definitely on that level.

I’d be far more interested in a Triple H versus Dean Ambrose match than I would in a Triple H versus The Rock match. The former is a match that could easily take place at WM31, WWE having ample time to prepare it. The latter is a match the men themselves talked about on the SmackDown fifteenth anniversary show and while I don’t think it’s especially likely to happen it’s not an impossibility. That it was brought up on company programming indicates that WWE were interested in seeing how people reacted to talk of the bout.

For whatever reason WWE doesn’t seem interested in pitting the veteran performers against the younger batch of stars. Perhaps they feel the youngsters are beneath the vets. That will cause a problem in years to come if true because sooner or later it will bleed through into the televised product and the current roster could be viewed as second rate in terms of star power.

More likely, given the matchups we’ve had over the last few years, they feel the Dream Match™ route is the best one to take. Their idea of what constitutes such a match can at some times be questionable (Cena versus Rock headlining two ‘Manias in a row f’r’instance) but it’s a solid enough approach. With all of this in mind I thought I’d run through the various part-timers WWE does and could make use of and look at the possible opponents, both part- and full-time, they could be pitted against at the next few ‘Manias.

We’ll start with Mr Hulk Hogan. He’s a pretty big star, right? Well, yes and no. He was undoubtedly wrestling’s biggest star in the 1980s and for much of the 90s, but his status has been somewhat diminished by the likes of Rock, Austin and Cena. His stint in TNA didn’t help him either. That gave anyone who saw it the impression that he’s washed up. He obviously was washed up but that TNA really emphasised it. It wore off what mystique he was still clinging to and he’s only started getting it back since he started the sporadic appearances for WWE.

He says he's got one more leg drop left in him, brothers!
‘The Hulkster’ has dropped a number of unsubtle hints about wanting to wrestle a retirement match for WWE. I suspect there are a number of motives for this. One would be the hefty payday. Another would be the chance to get himself into the spotlight one more time, something he has adored throughout his career. Third would be the opportunity to go out on top. I mean, Hogan clearly hasn’t been on top of wrestling since 19-take-your-pick, but having a retirement match on the upper half, possibly even in the main event, of a ‘Mania card would do a lot to sate his legendary ego.

There’s only one man I think Hogan could or should come back to face. That’s John Cena. The reason is pretty obvious. It would be the biggest current star against one of the biggest stars of the past. They would not have an especially good match but it would be a spectacle, and there’s always a room for spectacle at WrestleMania. Cena’s capable (though he wouldn’t necessarily be willing) of bouncing around to make Hogan look good. Hogan could probably take an AA. It’s the only feasible match should a Hogan comeback occur.

Next is the man who Hogan made his initial ‘Mania comeback against back at X8, The Rock. I’ve already mentioned the tease WWE made of a Rock versus Triple H ‘Mania outing. It would be interesting from a historical point of view because they never wrestled in a singles match at the event, despite having a feud that lasted years and took them both from the mid-card to the main event. While doing the match now would allow them to tick off an accomplishment it wouldn’t live up to their past standards. Between 1998 and 2000 the pair had a number of memorable matches on TV and pay-per-view. They’re older now, and ‘The Great One’ is extra cautious of doing anything that could inflict an injury for fear of losing work in Hollywood, and they wouldn’t be able to match their previous high standards. It’s a match best left in the past.

Rock versus Brock Lesnar has a certain appeal to it: the Hollywood A-lister facing the former UFC champion. It’s the sort of thing WrestleMania has always been built around: mainstream, outside-wrestling appeal. But it’s unlikely to happen with Lesnar’s status as champ as it would need to be for the title and I don’t think either would be back before SummerSlam. Rock’s health and safety gimmick would probably make this match a no, too.

Rock versus Rusev is a potential match after their surprise interaction on the October 6 RAW. I think it could be a very good match. Rusev’s selling and psychology are good and constantly improving and he’s got a convincing, and over, set of moves. It would make sense to promote this match and there’s a reason for it happening. But I don’t think WWE will do it. The most I think we can expect is a second meeting on TV which ends with Rusev looking strong. That would help him, but not as much as a WrestleMania victory in an official match would.

Other than ‘The Bulgarian Brute’ no characters from the main roster jump out as a particularly good match for Rock. I think Cesaro would be a particularly nice fit match-wise, but not enough time has been invested in his character to make it seem a realistic possibility. Meanwhile I think there’s a natural story to be told between Rock and Roman Reigns, not least because they’re cousins, but the in-ring action would let them down. Reigns is not yet experienced enough as a singles wrestler to make this bout work. But if Rock’s still around for WrestleMania 33 in 2017 it might be a good idea.

Going back to Brock Lesnar there are a surprising number of options. Roman Reigns is top of the list as beating Lesnar for the WWE championship at ‘Mania 31 would be a nice crowning-of-the-heir-apparent moment. But even though it would make sense it’s not been announced as a thing yet. ‘The Beast’ could just as easily find himself working a rematch with The Undertaker or having his first main roster dalliance with Randy Orton. Had a better job been done of splitting Paul Heyman and Cesaro then there’d be a compelling, natural story to be told for Cesaro versus Lesnar. It could still be done, but the time for making it mean as much as it could has slipped through WWE’s fingers.

Since the loss of his Streak I’ve found myself less interested in the concept of further Undertaker appearances. It’s not because the Lesnar bout was bad (although it was), it’s because the main appeal of ‘The Dead Man’ for me had become seeing him increase The Streak’s length. It added an urgency to his bouts that just can’t be there now. I’d convinced myself that he’d go for another year or two, announce his final match before it took place, and have Cena as his opponent. Cena, more than Lesnar, would have been able to convince people before the match that he was going to end The Streak. Because he’s Cena. My logic was that if WWE were going to end The Streak for anyone it would be Cena.

But that all fell apart when Lesnar pinned ‘Big Evil’ at WrestleMania XXX. ‘The Phenom’ will still be able to have good matches (if his body permits it) but they just won’t be as suspenseful. He could have his rematch with Lesnar and win, but ultimately it wouldn’t matter. The blemish on his record would still be there.

A lot of people seem to want Sting v Undertaker. I’ve said before that I would have no interest in seeing that match. Sting as a performer does nothing for me and any analogies between his role in WCW and ‘Taker’s in WWE are lost on me. One went off the rails because he felt betrayed during an invasion of cool heels, the other’s a zombie biker who digs MMA. The most that can be said in favour of them being a particularly good pairing is that they are both synonymous with their respective promotions. But WCW closed down in 2001. At this point Sting v Undertaker would be as much TNA v WWE as WCW v WWE.

But a lot of people want to see it. There’s obviously something I’m missing. That people seem keen on it makes me think that Undertaker versus ‘The Stinger’ is the most sensible match for both men at ‘Mania 31. Personally I’d be more interested in either man in a singles match against Bray Wyatt. He’s a better fit for the characters of both veterans. But I doubt that will come to pass.

I suspect a lot of people would argue that Sting v Triple H would be a good match. It’s true that both are top tier performers, but something about their respective styles makes me think they wouldn’t gel well together. Neither strikes me as a significant enough name to make the match work. There’s no obvious story to tell between the pair either.

‘The Game’ is best off working against guys getting established. He’s a respected (within WWE TV Land at least) performer, a former multi-time world champion, and the on-screen boss. His status is why guys would want a match with him and his job allows him to be easily written into necessary stories. The Daniel Bryan story worked well. More along those lines would be fine. Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and Cesaro would be my top choices for matches against Trips. In time there’s a very obvious Seth Rollins match waiting to be presented too.

One guy I’m not especially interested in seeing Tripper wrestle is Batista. Since leaving over the summer he’s mentioned in interviews that he’d be interested in returning for a retirement match against ‘The King of Kings’ at a WrestleMania. Which says a fair bit about how ‘The Animal’ sees his status within WWE history. In fairness Triple H v Batista would make sense as a retirement match, given their history as friends and opponents. It would be a neat ending to Big Dave’s career. It just doesn’t feel like a modern day ‘Mania match, partly because they faced off at a ‘Mania before and partly because I don’t think Batista quite deserves that level of send-off. To me it feels more like a SummerSlam idea.

I think Batista would be of more value facing an Ambrose or a Cesaro at future WrestleManias. But such matches are probably beneath his ego, even if he were to win them. A bout with Lesnar would likely satisfy him, with or without the title on the line, but the trouble there is the same as with The Rock: Batsy has to keep himself as healthy as possible for Hollywood duties and Lesnar is not conducive to that. It would be a fresh pairing though of established headliners though, and that counts for a lot with me.

A man it would be easy to overlook here is Goldberg. No, he’s never been on the best of terms with WWE. No, they don’t seem to regard him as any form of exceptional draw (and in fairness there’s little evidence that they should). But if Sting is going to get mentioned Goldberg should too. At his peak Goldberg was just as big a star for WCW as Sting.

Were The Streak still intact a decent story could have been built around ‘Taker pitting it against Goldberg’s mostly perfect win-loss record. WWE could have ignored ‘berg’s handful of jobs or acknowledged them and emphasised the screwiness of most of them, either approach would have done the job. A year and a half ago Goldberg would have been a good choice of opponent for Ryback. ‘The Big Guy’ was getting compared to Goldberg every week and it would have given him a boost to face and beat the former WCW champ. It may seem a peculiar thing to say now, given Ryback’s lower-card status, but had WWE handled him better during his rushed rivalry with CM Punk and into WrestleMania XXIX they could have made a headliner out of him.

Those are wasted opportunities. There’s no obvious scenario for Goldberg at a WrestleMania now. But he’s a big enough name to attract a few eyes, especially if he was given the Hall of Fame and retirement match package (not that WWE would deem him worthy of that). The Ryback match could still just about work, just not as well as it could have previously. Beyond that matches with Brock Lesnar, Cesaro or a more embedded Roman Reigns could work nicely.

One more year for Angle. But it probably won't be in WWE.
Goldberg is also one of the many names that could work as an opponent for Kurt Angle. WWE’s fledging roster split stopped it happening during Goldberg’s previous run, which was a pity as the pair seem like a natural fit: the powerhouse and the technician. The trouble is that Angle would likely be taken as the face and Goldberg the heel, and both do their best work in the opposite roles. The more significant trouble with doing this match nowadays is that Angle is falling to pieces and Goldberg isn’t exactly known for his safety.

The really obvious Angle match would be opposite Rusev. He’s a foreign heel who talks about his superiority to America whilst wearing a gold medal. It seems tailor made for Angle. The current leading hypothesis is that Rusev is destined for a ‘Mania showdown with Cena. That would work and work well, but the ultra-patriotic Angle would be just as good a fit, if not a better one.

At this point I should probably pause and acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t look like Angle will ever return to WWE for a match. He’s said he’ll wrestle one more year part-time and then retire. WWE are said to be sceptical about Angle’s ability to pass their health and endurance tests, and they’re almost certainly right to be. Angle was originally let go by WWE in 2006 because of health concerns and he’s visibly smaller now than he was then. As much as it would be great to see him return for one final run and matches against Rollins, Ambrose, Cesaro, Ziggler and Rusev (and basically everyone else on the roster) it doesn’t look as though it will happen. I suspect we won’t be seeing Angle back in WWE until he’s called it quits on his in-ring offerings and is ready to accept a (much deserved) spot in the company’s Hall of Fame.

The same isn’t necessarily true for Angle’s fellow TNA alums Bully Ray and Devon. The former Dudley Boyz have apparently cut ties with TNA and agreed to some sort of deal which will see them wrestle at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 9. It seems safe to assume Team 3D were added because the pay-per-view will be broadcast on PPV in the US (via Jeff Jarrett’s increasingly shady Global Force Wrestling “promotion”) and Bully and Devon are considered big enough names to help attract an audience.

While they’re far from being the biggest names in wrestling ever they are a known quantity. They have the Attitude Era rub that could attract lapsed fans and a very long list of accomplishments for longer term fans. I don’t personally feel that they are but I could understand an argument being made for them being the best tag team ever.

All of which could be used to argue in favour of bringing them into WWE on a part-time basis. Or it could if WWE had a healthier doubles division. I’m sure that the Dudleys versus Goldust and Stardust or the Usos would be good, but neither of the current WWE teams has the status of the Dudleys. To make the most of rehiring the Dudleys WWE would need a team (preferably several) with some history and status to pit them against. They’d need that Dream Match™ scenario, allowing the Dudleys to give the rub to a younger team. The only duo WWE has right now that look like they have the potential to become a significant team is The Ascension, and they’re still in developmental.

If WWE wanted to they could hire Bully and Devon as agents and use them as an occasional treat for house shows crowds. If they spent the time between WrestleManias 31 and 32 creating an interesting and worthwhile doubles division with The Ascension as the undisputed stars then a Dudleys match in 2016 could mean something. But we all know this isn’t something WWE will bother with.

Finally we come to the man whom I think would prove the most lucrative name on this list were he to return to the ring: ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. He seems fine with his retirement, having publically exhibited no burning desire to have one final match. It’s completely understandable. He went out in an extremely satisfying match in the semi-main event spot of a WrestleMania, losing to one of his greatest rivals, and friends, at a WrestleMania. He faced everyone there was to face during his time and became a massive star doing so. It’s hard to imagine him having any regrets about his career accomplishments or his last match in particular. While he’s always been careful to avoid committing to anything he has said that he’d come back for the right opponent and the right scenario. But I think another match with Austin is unlikely.

But that’s not to say there aren’t options for him. Because there are. There are tonnes. Austin against Ambrose, Rollins, Ziggler, or Cesaro. He has spoken highly of all of them in interviews and on his podcast, which indicates that he’d work a competitive match with them. Austin v Bryan could be a very good match too, although there you’d have the thorny issue of Bryan having to play the heel. Any of the four guys above could be switched to the antagonist role for an outing against Austin, but for several years now a defining attribute of Bryan’s character has been that he’s the chosen one of fans. He’s the man we want to see on top and the man we want to cheer for.

Even less likely than any of those matches is Austin versus CM Punk. It’s a match that WWE teased in a backstage segment on the 27 June 2011 on the episode of RAW that ended with Punk’s celebrated “pipe bomb”. The appeal of the match is obvious: they’re characters that have both a lot in common and some very clear differences. Each elevated their status within the company as outspoken anti-heroes railing against the management system. Each won several WWE championships and became credible headline talents. It’s the specifics where they differ. Austin was the beer-guzzling redneck who would attack anyone over anything. Punk doesn’t touch alcohol and was never booked to be as aggressive a presence as ‘The Rattlesnake’. The promos and interactions the pair could have in the build-up to a WrestleMania match would be sensational. With both men healthy and capable of hitting their signature spots a match would almost certainly be well-received. 

The match that never was.
Then there’s Austin versus Brock Lesnar. The promos there would have a different feel to them because it would be Austin dealing with Paul Heyman. There’s a lot that could be brought up there without even mentioning Lesnar: Heyman managing Austin early on in his career, giving him the opportunity to do a rough cut of the ‘Stone Cold’ character in ECW in 1995, and their time together in the Alliance. Then of course there’d be the history between Lesnar and Austin. The Texan famously walked out on WWE in 2002 after he was told he was to lose to ‘The Next Big Thing’ on an episode of RAW with no build-up. Heyman could spin that as Austin being scared of Lesnar and go on to talk up Lesnar various shoot credentials and WWE accomplishments to add validity to his claim. There are a lot of topics that could be covered to create a very tense, very real atmosphere for the bout.

Would it happen? I don’t think it would. While Austin would probably be more willing to risk injury than Batista and The Rock because he’s not got as many acting commitments or opportunities he does have a more serious medical history than either man (which, were it to happen, could be another topic for Heyman). Austin’s neck and knees would take a pounding in a match with ‘The Beast’ and I don’t think it would be worth the risk to his health.

Austin versus Hogan is another match with a very obvious appeal to it but I don’t think it could ever happen. ‘The Hulkster’ would need an opponent who could carry him, and that wouldn’t necessarily by Austin after twelve-plus years away from the ring. Then, of course, there’d be the question of winning. Can you imagine either man agreeing to lie down for the other? I can’t. And in this day and age anything less than a clear winner would not go down well.

There’s also John Cena. He’s already faced The Rock twice, losing once and winning once. Their matches were not received well and it’s tough to see things being any different in a Cena v Austin match. Rock actually seemed like a better fit for the Cena character as he was always a little more family-friendly than Austin, and Cena’s always about being family friendly. Something about their characters just made the pairing a natural fit, just as Austin and Punk would fit well together.

Were the match to happen Cena would obviously find himself booed. Austin, more than anyone else from the late 90s and early 00s, embodies the spirit of the Attitude Era. He was the man that sparked that movement within the company. It would be tough to see the match outside of the frame of Attitude versus PG and that’s a scenario WWE should want to keep Cena away from at all costs. The match would probably be as good if not better than Cena’s collisions with The Rock but that’s not really saying much.

Were Austin to return for a match there’s one match I’d want to see more than any other. It’s a match that has never happened but was once advertised as a pay-per-view main event: Austin v Triple H v The Rock. A triple threat match between the three biggest stars of the Attitude Era.

The match was originally advertised as the main event of Survivor Series 1999, a lovely bit of deliberate false advertising by the WWF because they knew from the start that it would never take place. Early on in the show Austin was “run over” in a car park to write him out of the match and storylines, allowing him to head off for a neck surgery. He was replaced by Big Show, who left as the new WWF champion.

Even back then I don’t think the match would have been incredible but it would probably have been very good. But it’s a bout that goes beyond concerns over quality. It’s appeal lies in seeing the three biggest stars of a generation together at the same time. And of course in seeing who’d be booked to go over. Had it happened in ’99 with all three men healthy it would have been hard to call. There were reasons for each man to win: Austin had been the company’s leading man for over a year and a half, The Rock was set to step up and become just as big a star, and Triple H was the era’s lead heel who always found a way to escape with the title. If it were to happen now none of that would be a factor. Times have changed and each man has a Hall of Fame career behind him. But it would still be one of the hardest matches to predict a winner for. And I think it would be an incredibly satisfying watch.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

RPW Uprising 2014 review

In October 2013 Revolution Pro Wrestling revived the Uprising name previously associated with the FWA for what was billed as their biggest show ever. In addition to using some of the best British wrestlers available they brought in foreign stars Michael Elgin, Prince Devitt, Ricochet, Davey Richards and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Colt Cabana was also there. It was an approach designed to do two things: demonstrate that the promotion was a big deal and attract fresh eyes. It certainly achieved the latter. Whether it achieved the former depends on your perspective, but I think they did a solid job and put on an excellent show.

This year RPW returned to York Hall for their second Uprising card, once again bringing in foreign stars. This time they took the form of Matt Sydal, Austin Aries, Karl Anderson, the triumvirate that is Too Cool, and Kazuchika Okada. There were actually a greater number of imports on this card than there had been the previous year, but somehow the event didn’t seem as significant leading into it.

Part of the problem here was that RPW had booked a second show the night after (it was originally titled Okada vs Ricochet although I suspect it will end up changed to Okada vs Aries). It’s possible that the company stretched itself a little thin by splitting some of the fly-ins over two cards. Concentrating everyone on this show would have added one or two matches and made better use of the time the show got.

The line-up for Uprising 2013 was incredibly strong. There was almost no way it could be topped. It was Tanahashi, the man who had carried New Japan through a rough patch and come out the other side as their unquestioned top star, wrestling in front of a thousand people in East London. That was very obviously a big deal. Using Nakamura and Okada since has almost made it an expected thing that New Japan talent will appear on the larger RPW cards. Tanahashi benefited from being the first (Liger had appeared a few months before him, at York Hall, but the show did not receive anywhere near the hype Tana’s did), and from being presented as the star attraction.

It also seemed hard to get into the rest of the import line-up to the same degree this year. Elgin and Richards were bona fide ROH main eventers (and personally I was delighted at the opportunity to heckle Richards). Devitt was a New Japan upper mid-carder who everyone was beginning to expect would move to WWE (which he did) or move up to New Japan main events. Ricochet could accurately be described as one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world (and it’s worth noting he went on to become the first non-Japanese grappler to win the Open the Dream Gate championship in March of this year).

By contrast Sydal was benched by WWE for years, Aries is booked pretty poorly by a flailing TNA, Anderson is a tag guy in New Japan, and Too Cool are Too Cool (but not too cool). Only Okada had flawless, unbridled star power. And none of the matches looked as though they’d be able to hold a candle to the 2013 match of the night Ricochet v Prince Devitt.

I know how unfair these complaints sound but it’s what was going through my mind going into the show, even though everyone had something to offer. For all of the poor booking they’ve been subjected to Aries and Sydal are very talented wrestlers. And ‘A Double’ wasn’t initially booked for the show, he was a last minute replacement for Ricochet following a scheduling conflict with Lucha Underground. Anderson is enjoyable enough if taken on his own terms. Okada is world class. Even Too Cool can be enjoyed as a nostalgia act. There was the British roster too, of course. But still there was a nagging sense that Uprising ’14 was not going to live up to its 2013 counterpart.

Sadly, these fears were merited. Uprising 2014 had some significant flaws.

One of the biggest problems was something that occurred before the first match started. It was Rich Swann’s entrance. He danced his way out to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long, a long-time staple of his act. It was very entertaining and the crowd got into it. But it went on. And on. And then it went on some more. It lasted so long, in fact, that the audience was burnt out from it. By the time match two rolled around reactions had died down considerably.

The second problem was the evening’s running order. This biggest misstep in that regard was Okada going on before the intermission. The audience clearly didn’t expect to see him that early in the night. He got a good response, but it was nowhere near what I’d expected. This wasn’t a result of the audience not knowing who he was: Tanahashi and Nakamura had got much louder responses in the same building for their RPW work. Everyone knew who he was, cared about him, and wanted to see him perform. They’d just expected him later.

The second half kicking off with Too Cool wasn’t the worst decision in and of itself, but their shtick would have been a better fit for the slot Okada was placed in, dancing people into intermission. And the final two matches should have been swapped around. The fifth match saw Martin Stone unsuccessfully challenge Marty Scurll for the British heavyweight championship. The sixth saw Matt Sydal defeat Will Ospreay. Each was followed by its own angle. They could have been combined and used to close the show, which would have trimmed the running time. Which was the other major problem the card had: it was far too long. Entrances were lengthy, there was a lot of stalling from pretty much everyone, the post-Stone-Scurll match angle featured a promo that was far too long, and matches were given too much time. Things could have been tightened up considerably without losing anything of value.

This man has a lot to answer for.
There were good points, and before I get to them I’ll run through the card itself. The opener saw Rich Swann and Austin Aries defeat 2 Unlimited in an exciting tussle. Swann, as already noted, milked the crowd, but he was able to do so because he was so over. I’ve knocked him for his lack of psychology in the past (and his willingness to eat up heat when he’s on first proves my point nicely, I think) but he’s fun to watch. Aries was, obviously, very popular too. Which meant the Irish lads were left to play heel, which they did a cracking job with.

The match featured flying spots, dancing, and some solid double team work from the brothers. Swann was worked over for a while before tagging out to ‘The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived’, who came steaming in to clean house. The faces picked up their win after Swann wiped out one of 2 Unlimited (I apologise for still being unable to tell them apart) with a dive to the floor and Aries dropped the other with a brainbuster. All four shook after the match and Aries cut a promo thanking the fans and telling them to keep the energy up (which I now suspect meant he knew Swann’s grandstanding would have a negative effect long term).

Match two pitted IWGP heavyweight tag team champion Karl Anderson against ‘Big Bad’ Dave Mastiff. I adore Mastiff for his Henry VIII look and kids’ TV facial expressions. The crowd favoured him too, although there were still a lot of people inexplicably into Anderson. Their timing was a little off throughout the match but they still pulled off some good power spots, including a ‘Double A’ spinebuster from Anderson, a deadlift German suplex from Mastiff, a German suplex into the turnbuckle on Anderson, the Swivel Gun Stun, and a cannonball reversed into a traditional Gun Stun. The last earned Anderson the win.

After the announcement that AJ Styles had been booked for the February 15 return date (which ring announcer and promoter Andy Quildan plugged incessantly, one of the many timing cuts that could have been made) it was time for the Okada match. As already noted the crowd were not expecting to see him that early on, which meant he received a slightly subdued response and no streamer treatment. The bout also suffered because Okada’s opponent, former NXT Superstar™ Joel Redman, didn’t seem to want to play heel. His build and the fact that he was facing a man who nobody in the building was going to boo meant that he should have switched to the antagonist role for the match.

Okada? He doesn't deserve to go on after an intermission?
The crowd didn’t get into the action until its second half. I suspect this was a combination of the surprise at seeing Okada so early, Swann burning people out, and nobody believing any of the early pin attempts. Things did eventually warm up when Okada went for a Tombstone piledriver and Redman reversed it, resulting in the best false finish of the night. From there we got a suplex from the apron into the ring, a lovely Okada drop kick, and, after a failed attempt earlier the night, a match-winning Rainmaker.

The intermission was another contributing factor to the unnecessarily long running time. It was closer to half an hour than the usual ten or fifteen minutes. The explanation for this was that Austin Aries and Rosita were at the merch stands signing pictures. Because there was money to be made from these pictures the break was extended to fit in as many signings as possible, a classic Quildan move.

The second half kicked off with the Revolutionists striding to the ring. They did their usual crowd-bullying stuff, Terry Frazier wading into the audience to shout at a particularly boisterous group of lads that I assume are regulars at RPW shows. To be fair the trio had a serious amount of heat on them. Too Cool also spent a long time milking their entrance, although as a nostalgia act that seemed to make more sense.

The match was not good but avoided being actively bad. Rikishi struggled to climb on to the ring apron so actual wrestling was obviously going to be tough for him. Meanwhile all Brian Christopher contributed was bad dancing and looking astonishingly like his dad. It was left to Scotty to do the bulk of the work for his team. He got worked over to set up a hot tag to Rikishi, who came in, pulled his trunks down, and gave Sha Samuels a bare Stinkface in the corner. It was not pleasant to watch. I can only imagine what it was like to take. The move got a loud reaction but I think Terry Frazier would have been the right man to take the “move”. He’s by far the most irritating member of the group.

Surprisingly it was Too Cool that won. As the promotion’s top heel stable I’d expected The Revolutionists to win after cheating and then get chased off by the faces. But no, they went down clean to the guys who have wrestled on TV. After the match Brian Christopher told us Rikishi had pulled his calf muscle (perhaps he has a doctorate nobody knows about) and said that celebratory dance may not happen. Rikishi took the mic and said it would happen… and then it did. There’s very little to say about it. An underrated wrestler, Jerry Lawler’s overly tanned 42-year-old son, and the out of shape father of the Usos boogied to WWE music they didn’t have a license to play. That’s it. Everyone else seemed to love it though, so clearly I was missing something.

The British heavyweight title match was preceded by promos played on the video screen. Marty’s was hard to make out but it seemed to be about Martin Stone moving to America and having to come back after he was released by WWE. Stone’s promo was about not getting the opportunities he felt he deserved and the demoralising atmosphere in which he worked while with WWE. He dropped some F-bombs that were bleeped out, but he managed to slip in a C-bomb that went unedited. Good work by Quildan there.

The crowd had heated up by this point and were evenly split between champion and challenger. Before the match Stone spoke to Norwich-based wrestler (and father of WWE’s Paige) Ricky Knight, who had been sat in the front row all evening. Scurll entered carrying an umbrella. This went unexplained. It was probably linked to the new character traits he was exhibiting: he had mostly dropped his bantering with the audience in favour of pulling peculiar facial expressions and generally trying to make out that he was unhinged (which basically meant he’d occasionally tilt his head to a funny angle). I always enjoyed Scurll’s Butlins circuit comedy but this was a welcome change of pace from him. He was also back to being introduced as the star of ITV’s Take Me Out and TNA’s British Boot Camp. The more time passes since his sole appearance on Take Me Out the funnier the gimmick gets.

Marty 'Penguin' Scurll there.
The match was styled on WWE main events. There was a lengthy brawl around the building, including a fireman’s carry on the entrance ramp by Scurll and a variety of guardrail bumps. Back in the ring Stone acted more and more like a Steve Austin knock-off, prompting me to ask Michael (yeah, Michael was with me) if he thought Stone was deliberately trying to evoke ‘The Rattlesnake’. He said “A little bit.” Then Stone did a Thesz Press.

Stone gave Scurll a running RKO, prompting cries of “Out of nowhere!”, taking chant of the night honours. Scurll skinned the cat but got caught with a concrete slam before he could right himself. Stone followed up with a power bomb and then went to the top rope for a superplex. ‘Party’ Marty ended up countering that and muscled Stone up for a crucifix bomb. It was a bit wobbly but he managed the move well enough.

Scurll hauled Stone back to his feet and set up for a Pedigree, screaming “You’re fired!” in a Vince McMahon voice before hitting it. Stone kicked out of that at one (probably designed as a metaphorical middle finger to WWE in general) and smashed the champ with a wild lariat and a top rope draping DDT. He locked in a Crippler crossface (it’s been seven years, jog on with your complaints) and Scurll tapped. The referee didn’t see it as Terry Frazier and Sha Samuels had rocked up at ringside to provide a distraction.

Moments later there was a contrived ref bump. Samuels got into the ring to crack Stone over the head with a steel chair. Scurll made the cover, the ref came to enough to make a slow count, and Stone just got his shoulder up before three, getting a great reaction. Stone tried to fight back but Scurll applied the crossface chickenwing, trapping ‘The Guvnor’ in the centre of the ring. There was no tap out. Instead the referee ruled the match in Scurll’s favour when he realised Stone could take no more.

It was a good finishing sequence. Stone looked strong in defeat and Scurll’s submission finisher got over as a powerful match-ender. I was initially against the use of the chair but because it was only used once it ended up being an effective addition to the match. Considering the finish, the heat, the storyline (which we’ll get to momentarily) and the fact that it was for the promotion’s top title Scurll versus Stone should have gone on last.

After the match Stone took a microphone to cut a textbook babyface promo. He said he’d tried his best and then moved on to the topic of his sojourn to NXT. Apparently he was told he was awful every day, although I find it hard to believe all WWE trainers would be that blunt. He put over Andy Quildan, saying the RPW boss picked up his phone the day Stone was released and offered him his old spot in RPW on the roster.

Then the angle went down. Ricky Knight left his seat and got into the ring. He called Stone a failure and said his boys Roy and Zak would have succeeded in NXT. He also referred to Joel Redman as Noel Edmonds, claimed Quildan wouldn’t pick up the phone for the Knight family, and announced that he’d never heard of Kazuchika Okada (which could very well be true). The holding down of the Knight family that he mentioned has been an aspect of his character for at least twelve years. I remember him calling into the Talksport radio show to claim that host and wrestling promoter Alex Shane was holding down The Zebra Kid (Roy) by not booking him. He’s nothing if not consistent.

Stop holding these lads down, Quildan.
Stone eventually had enough of this and grabbed hold of Ricky. Zak and Zebra left their seats and barged passed security, getting into the ring to attack Stone. Redman came out for the save but he was taken out too. There was an extended beatdown of Stone and Redman, who are the tag champions, and then Zebra and Zak took a turn on the microphone. Zebra responded to a “Who are ya?” chant with the classic playground heel response of “Ask your mum” while Zak said the Knights weren’t worried about bad write-ups from internet fans (they won’t be getting one here).

The Knights then walked out of the building’s (referred to as an arena during Knight’s promo) front door with the tag belts. Amusingly Zak went to walk backstage before remembering he was part of a worked shoot invasion angle. Redman and Stone recovered and gave chase, amusingly asking fans which way the heels went.

I liked the angle a lot. All the wrestlers played their parts well and it was about as believable as it was going to get. The only let-down was Quildan, who should have seemed more flustered as the promoter. He simply said he wouldn’t dignify the invasion with a response and went into announcing the main event like an idiot. That aside it was a sensible, interesting way to introduce a tag team and get a new feud underway. Presumably the angle will carry over to Okada vs Aries and we’ll get a match at the February 15 York Hall show.

Sydal vs Ospreay.
The main event couldn’t compete with the angle or the previous match in my mind. It was a babyface versus babyface cruiserweight encounter, ideal opening match material and out of place headlining a card that had featured a main event style match and Kazuchika Okada. It was a good match, it was just in the wrong spot.

Sydal won with the Shooting Star Press. After the match The Revolutionists returned to attack the faces. Scurll ended up alone in the ring and was confronted by his old British Boot Camp rival Rockstar Spud (hence the reference to that show during Scurll’s intro). Marty was sent packing and another fresh feud was established. Spud said a few words to send everyone home happy.

The planning for the future exhibited with Spud’s return and the introduction of the Knight lads was nice to see. It was one of the show’s greatest strengths, providing plenty of reason to give RPW’s next major show a try. And taken at face value all the matches delivered exactly what was expected. Even the Too Cool match avoided being actively bad. I imagine it would make a solid DVD.

But those positives were outweighed by the mistakes that were made. I can’t understand why Okada, easily the biggest draw on the card, went on third. Having him in the semi-main event spot would have made more sense, allowing the Brits-only title match to go on last. That could have been followed by the angle with the Knights and then a Revolutionists beatdown of Stone and Redman with Spud making the save. It felt as though there was no faith in Okada’s rep with British fans and that everything was built too heavily around the angles. And, for the record, only the match that didn’t involve a foreign talent featured a Brit winning. I’m all for fly-ins getting wins, but for them all to go over on what is apparently RPW’s biggest show of the year doesn’t seem quite right.

But hey, at least Terry Frazier didn’t spit at anyone. That’s something, right?

Results summary:
Austin Aries and Rich Swann defeated 2 Unlimited
Karl Anderson defeated Dave Mastiff
Kazuchika Okada defeated Joel Redman
Too Cool defeated Sha Samuels, Terry Frazier and Josh Bodom
Marty Scurll defeated Martin Stone to retain the British heavyweight championship
Matt Sydal defeated Will Ospreay