Tuesday, 25 June 2013

ROH Best in the World 2013 Review By Dave Hatton

The title of Satursday’s Best in the World presumably didn’t refer to the quality of the internet stream. Yep, ROH had issues in that area again. I've written about ROH's streaming problems so many times that I'm bored of the subject. The sentiment I've expressed before is basically that ROH should have more respect for their fans than to continually offer shoddy streams and that being owned by a broadcasting company should mean these issues are far rarer.

Since Saturday it’s become something of a moot point. Finally admitting defeat, Ring of Honor announced that they are discontinuing their internet pay-per-view offerings. They will instead record their shows and upload them as video on demand content, allowing them to ensure the highest quality possible.

I think this is a move they should have made a while ago. Streaming issues have been plaguing ROH’s internet broadcasts for years, so much so that it had reached the point that a flawless stream was considered newsworthy. The lack of a live atmosphere and the floods of spoilers are a small price to pay for offering a reliable product that fans know won’t let them down.


Best in the World’s opening match saw BJ Whitmer tangle with Mike Bennett. Their match was nothing special. What happened afterwards was more interesting. Maria blamed 'Brutal' Bob for 'The Prodigy's' loss. She didn't really have much of a point: Bob had run into the ring and been immediately thrown out by Whitmer. He had no impact on the match outcome. Bennett lost clean after being hit with an Exploder suplex.

Maria shouted at Bob as she left with Bennett. Bob followed them, bellowing pleas for reason. I assume the group is being split to free 'The Brutal One' up to manage someone else once Bennett leaves for NXT.

The second match was the one I'd looked forward to most: the American Wolves versus Adrenalin RUSH. What I saw of it lived up to my high expectations. Thomas and ACH didn't look at all out of place opposing two former world champions. Richards seemed to be on form, having fun encouraging "Yes!" chants and good naturedly using traditionally heel tactics. Free of the pressures of the main event Davey is a far more enjoyable personality.

The Wolves won. Adrenalin RUSH put up a strong fight though. I'd like to see a rematch on TV at some point. Singles matches wouldn't go amiss either. Richards v ACH could be incredible.

Match three was preceded by footage of recent altercations between Adam Cole and Roderick Strong. The story was that Cole refused a handshake after losing to Strong in San Antonio, which irked Roddy. They shook hands here though, which Kevin Kelly theorised was Adam Cole admitting he was wrong to refuse it to begin with. If only we could block Kev out.

The streaming issue cuts seemed particularly prevalent in this match, so certain transitions were lost on me. What I managed to see was great. Cole and Strong work very well against one another.

Eventually they headed on to the ring apron. Chops (needlessly stiff ones of course) were exchanged, with Cole ultimately giving up on them in favour of a superkick. That sent Strong tumbling off the apron and through a table.

Cole made out as though he was torn on what to do, take the count out win or be the good sportsman and help his opponent. Corino screamed at him from the commentary position, telling him to think of himself and take the victory. Cole's conscience seemed to get the better of him as he slipped out of the ring to help Strong to his feet.

Cole revealed his true nature after a few seconds, pushing Strong down to the floor and getting back into the ring just as the ref reached twenty (yeah, they get a twenty count in ROH, deal with it). He seemed very pleased with himself. I was just pleased the stream had held out long enough for me to make sense of the sequence.

Steve Corino followed Cole to the back. The official heel turn is a step closer.

Yet another chunk of footage went missing after that. The next thing I saw after Corino gushing over Cole (not like that) was Kevin Kelly being joined by RD Evans and Veda Scott. For some reason Kelly said he'd rather have RD with him at ringside so Veda Scott left. If there was a point to her presence it was lost on me.

The final match of the first half was Michael Elgin versus Tommaso Ciampa. The audience was split on who to support and remained so throughout the match. They did react more to 'Unbearable's' delayed suplex than to Ciampa's if that means anything to anyone. But then it's his move, so you'd expect that.

Thankfully the stream held out for the particularly exciting end sequence. Ciampa blasted Elgin with Project Ciampa and was astonished when he kicked out. 'The Sicilian Psychopath' took his foe out to the apron and gave him a Kryptonite Crunch, then took him back into the ring to attempt another Project Ciampa. Elgin reversed into a conventional power bomb and followed up with a buckle bomb. Ciampa managed to kick out and apply a triangle choke.

Elgin hoisted the mohawked one up and dropped him with a powerbomb but it wasn't enough to break the hold. Elgin went for another buckle bomb but 'The Dominant Male' rolled through and scored with a hard knee to the head.

That still wasn't enough to end the bout. Nor was the lariat that Elgin pounded Ciampa with seconds later. It would take three spinning back fists, a rolling elbow to the back of the head, and a final hellacious lariat for Elgin to finally put Ciampa down for the count.

The match, particularly the finishing sequence, was expertly paced. That's becoming one of Elgin's more obvious strengths as a performer. His bigger matches tend to build to frantic exchange of big moves and finishers.

After the match QT Marahall strolled to the ring. What he and the rather natty suit he was wearing got up to will remain a mystery as the video I watched cut out just as he neatly folded up his jacket. When it came back on QT and Evans were stood outside the ring. Presumably he attacked both Ciampa and Elgin. Maybe the two powerhouses will team up to take on the amusingly named Marshall Law? Hey, it's not like ROH prioritise turning Elgin into a star or anything.

The second half opened with a video that showed how the two triple threat matches came about. It was pretty well edited but it didn't do anything that Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness (who commentated the second half) couldn't have done with a sentence or two.

The TV title match was one of the more severe casualties of the streaking troubles. One moment I was watching Taven get introduced to some impressively loud boos, the next I was watching him land on his opponents at ringside to cheers. He followed that up with a Mark Henry impression, shouting "That's what I do!" into the camera. At least the stream managed to catch that!

The middle portion of the match was pretty slick. You'd expect that from MTV though: he's been in a ton of three-ways over the last few months (and I'm not talking about the Hoopla Hotties!). Everyone carried themselves well. It was a lively affair.

What I assume was the ending sequence was bizarre. Scarlet entered the ring to distract Jay Lethal and got her top yanked off for her troubles. As the referee pawed at her (by which I mean gave her a towel) Truth Martini entered the ring, allowing Jimmy Jacobs to spear 'Black Machismo'. Truth begged off from 'The Zombie Princess' until Solicia (the other Hoopla Hottie, whose name is probably spelt incorrectly) got in between them. Jacobs pie faced her out of the way. It was a bit of a dodgy thing to book but he is a heel and fans are smart enough to know it's an act. What came next is far harder to shrug off. Solicia scooped Jacobs up on to her shoulders and then took a full force super kick to the face from Jay Lethal.

Pie facing someone is one thing, booting them in the head is quite another. On top of how uncomfortable it was to see it was also done by a babyface. They're the ones who are supposed to have moral fibre and a sense of honour. Or at least they used to. Apparently in 2013 it's absolutely fine for a good guy to kick a defenceless woman in the head.

What that led to I have no idea. The next thing I saw was Taven celebrating and Jimmy Jacobs angrily pushing his way backstage as Kelly intimated that he'd had the match, and the belt, won.

The technical issues really ruined the flow of the match. I've no idea how it started or how it finished. The middle was good, as was the beginning of the presumed finishing sequence, but it felt very disjointed.

The three-way tag team title match, reDRagon defending against the C&C Wrestle Factiry and SCUM boys Rhett Titus and Cliff Compton, was decent enough. It was never going to be anything special with Compton and Titus involved. The good news is that O'Reilly and Fish defended the titles against Coleman and Alexander in a conventional two-on-two match at Sunday's TV taping. We'll get what I'm sure will be a superior match for free. That's not bad.

Back to Best in the World. reDRagon retained their titles after Fish knocked out Alexander with a kick to the head. It was a believable, if slightly sudden, finish.

The evening's penultimate bout saw Matt Hardy defeat Kevin Steen. Before the match started Corino cut a cheap heat promo and provided an introduction for Matt Hardy. Not to be outdone Steen performed some mic work of his own, requesting that matchmaker Nigel McGuinness add a no disqualification stipulation. McGuinness complied, which allowed 'Mr Wrestling' to once again draw inspiration from the Attitude Era in a wild brawl that went all over ringside and saw various objects, including a crutch, a trash can, and a ladder, incorporated into the madness.

Naturally SCUM intervened. Titus and Jacobs were first out, saving Hardy a trip through a table. Titus got a Package piledriver for his troubles while Jacobs got an apron bomb. Hardy eventually gained the advantage after Compton hit Steen with a chair.

Steen came back with a Codebreaker variant and an F5, which 'The Wrestling Jesus' kicked out of. Hardy hit a low blow and one of the match's many side effects on to the ladder for a two count of his own. Hardy finally secured the win when he gave Steen a Twist of Fate through some chairs.

Corino announced the victory as part of another attempt to convince people he can do the overblown announcer shtick (which he can't). SCUM continued to beat up Steen as referees came to the ring and the bell was rung (because heels always stop beatdowns when bells are rung). Eventually they just wandered off. Nobody made the save. Presumably this was designed to illustrate that Steen is still an unpopular member of the roster.

It was not a good night for Kevin Steen

In what has to be considered one of Ring of Honor's worst ever production choices Papa Briscoe was interviewed before the main event. He said the word family around a dozen times. It was awful. He'd clearly enjoyed a drink or six throughout the course of the evening.

I really wasn't into the Briscoe v Briscoe match. Neither was the crowd. They came alive at certain points but they were quiet for a lot of the exchanges. I think a large part of the problem was the lack of a storyline feud. Matt Hardy would have been a far more sensible choice of challenger, especially when you consider he faced Jay the following evening.

The pair went overboard when it came to the finish. Mark kicked out of a Jay Driller so Jay lariated him and hit a second. That also got two. Jay hit a series of superkicks (during which audience members were shown for some reason) and then hit a third Jay Driller for the win. The audience livened up during points of this bit for the most part they didn't seem to care. Frankly, it was not the greatest of matches.

The following evening's TV tapings saw Jay retain the championship against Hardy. Reading that on Monday morning was a big surprise. If you've read anything I've written about ROH over the last few months you'll be aware that I was convinced Hardy would have the belt by late June in order to setup a future clash with Kevin Steen. Not only is that not happening but it appears the SCUM stable as we knew it is over: the faction lost a stipulation match at the tapings which means they must disband.

So, where next for ROH? In a way the move away from iPPVs will benefit them. They now have a greater degree of freedom when it comes to pacing their stories. Without the need to ensure bigger matches are reserved for pay-per-views any card can now be turned into a "supershow". Obviously venue size and the town the show’s being held in will still need to be taken into consideration to an extent but with every show now potentially becoming a VOD ROH can do more with some of their smaller shows.

Storyline-wise I think a union between Adam Cole and Steve Corino seems like a safe bet. I don't think Matt Hardy's going anywhere either. He nicked Jay's belt at the TV taping, which indicates he's going to get a second shot at the title. If he doesn't win it I think Adam Cole will. I can't imagine (nor do I want to) a world in which Jay Briscoe is the ROH champion until the end of this year.

You can see more of Dave's great work over at http://blowbyblowwrestling.blogspot.co.uk/ and you can find/follow him on twitter @ThatDaveGuy

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

WWE Payback Review By Dave Hatton

Before it aired I said that Payback seemed like a predictable show. I felt that the majority of the matches on the card had obvious outcomes and WWE had left themselves with few opportunities to surprise us. I was proven right. With one notable exception every outcome on the card was either obvious or so inconsequential that nobody could be expected to care about it.

That didn’t make it a bad show. Actually I rather enjoyed it.

The evening kicked off with a spirited pre-show battle between Sheamus and Damien Sandow. ‘The Duke of Decency’ was permitted to look far more competitive than I’d expected but he still lost. Had the match taken place on the main show more people may have been convinced that Sandow would score the upset. Putting them on the pre-show made the outcome pretty clear.

The pay-per-view proper opened with a well-made but overly long video recapping the lead disputes for the show. It could have achieved the same result in half the time.

Payback’s opening match was for the Intercontinental title. Miz, the lone babyface in the triple threat, was met with boos when he entered the arena. Curtis Axel received a handful of cheers that quickly turned to half-hearted boos before the audience fell silent. Wade Barrett was met with almost total silence. It was disheartening to see and hear such a lack of interest in three men that should be over with fans. It’s WWE’s fault for not doing enough with them.

The match was very enjoyable, although it did feature some gargantuan gaps where one of the three men was written out to let the others clash without them. The audience took a while to warm to it but when they did they stayed interested. I think they would have appreciated Fandango’s involvement. They seemed like that sort of crowd.

The victory eventually went to Axel. He got a convincing near fall several minutes before the finish with a Perfectplex but it was ultimately a far more unique move that got him the gold: he pinned Barrett as he was trapped in ‘The Awesome One’s’ figure four leg lock. Perhaps that will make Miz stop using the hold. I doubt it though.

The audience reacted loudly to Axel winning his first singles title (he’s been a tag champ before, alongside the mighty David Otunga). That lifted my spirits regarding WWE’s star making process.

A video was shown reminding us that Mark Henry will return on RAW. It featured him squashing enhancement talent and roaring his catchphrases. The guy’s been gone a month. Does he really require a return video?

Backstage Vince McMahon congratulated Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel on the Intercontinental title match, moments after Heyman told Axel that it was the greatest IC strap match ever. That was clearly rubbish. Triple H was there too, blocking Axel’s path like a school bully with an ASBO. After Heyman and his charge left Vince asked ‘The Game’ how he felt about his upcoming match with Curtis Axel. ‘The Cerebral Assasin’ said he’s not feeling it one bit.

Match two was the Divas title match. Kaitlyn got a decent reaction but AJ got a better one. That was to be expected. AJ has been presented as the company’s top female star for around eighteen months now. Kaitlyn and her championship have been presented as afterthoughts for years.

The match was good. It wasn’t on the level of TNA’s Knockouts division or something from SHIMMER but it was certainly far better than anything we’ve seen from the WWE Divas in a long while. The crowd were silent for most of the bout but that was probably because years of booking have taught viewers to treat the Divas matches as breaks. In fairness WWE did try to combat that by placing the match early on the show, where the crowd could still be expected to be hot.

AJ won the championship clean with her Black Widow submission hold. Kaitlyn held out for a while but couldn’t make her way out of the hold and had to submit. A point that I’m sure will be revisited in the storyline is that Kaitlyn had the match won after a spear but chose to pull AJ up and mock her instead of going for a pin. Plot-wise it’s that mistake that’s credited with costing her the match.

Following the loss Kaitlyn moped in the ring. The crowd chanted “You just tapped” at her. She left the ring crying. That caused boos. Layla (yeah, I know, random right?) appeared in the aisle to console her. That only enflamed the boos. This treatment did Kaitlyn no favours at all. Presenting her as a whiney sore loser is not going to encourage fans to warm to her.

Josh Mathews was then shown in his luxury skybox. He’d presented the pay-per-view’s pre-show from there alongside Big Show, R-Truth and Cody Rhodes. They were all still with him, and had a spirited discussion about the two matches they’d just seen. Truth got on with the heels fine, despite being a face. There also appeared to be no bad blood between Cody and Show, even though they humiliated each other last year. Bill watts would not have approved of this.

The three wrestlers essentially said nothing but were entertaining nevertheless. I think these expert panels of WWE wrestlers would be a great show in their own right.

"That United States championship is one of the most important championships in sports entertainment" said JBL in the early moments of the Dean Ambrose v Kane match. It’s arguably WWE’s most worthless title, so I have no idea what ‘The Wrestling God’ was wittering on about. Maybe a Wikipedia entry said it’s a prestigious belt, that’s where JBL seems to get all his information from.

Their match was not as dynamic as the one they had on RAW. Ambrose worked over ‘The Big Red Machine’s’ leg before they rumbled out to ringside and Kane got dropped with a DDT. Ambrose won by count out.

That was followed by a surprise: a video informing us that Rob Van Dam will return to WWE at Money in the Bank. The crowd loved that. They would be chanting RVD throughout most of the evening’s remaining matches.

I was struck by how old most of the clips were. It brought home how long it’s been since Van Dam was full time with WWE. He’s slowed down considerably since then. If you’ve not seen much of him in TNA you may be disappointed with the weight RVD’s put on and the slower speed he works at these days. Presumably he’ll be in a ladder match competing for a briefcase at MITB. I doubt he’ll win, but he might.

Match four was Dolph Ziggler’s defence of the World Heavyweight championship against Alberto Del Rio. Ricardo was great at working the crowd for ADR. Without him it would be have been quiet as the challenger made his entrance. Ziggler didn’t have that problem. The crowd went nuts for him.

The enthusiasm for ‘The Heel’ continued throughout the ring introductions and into the match itself. The crowd let rip with a “Let’s go Ziggler!” chant in the early going, cheering his offence and reacting with either disinterest or hostility to Del Rio’s.

Big E got ejected fairly early after being tricked into a shoving match with ‘The Essence of Excellence’. The point of that was to write Langston out of proceedings, which was a necessity as Ziggler would be on sell duty for the evening. Having Langston out there not interfering would have looked odd so it made sense for him to go backstage.

ADR targeted ‘The Show Off’s’ head. We were reminded several times by Cole and JBL (Lawler is excused from advancing stories because he’s no good at it) that Ziggler had suffered a concussion that kept him from competing for over a month. The story quickly became clear: Alberto Del Rio was being absolutely ruthless and exploiting an obvious weakness while Ziggler battled on refusing to give up.

The longer it went on the more obvious it became that we were seeing a double turn taking place. Fans were encouraged to root for Ziggler as he spent the entire match selling and telling medical staff that he was fine to continue. Del Rio exhibited some of his old cockiness and arrogance as he booted Ziggler in the head over and over again.

When Ziggler made a surprise comeback with a kick to the knee and a Zig Zag I thought he’d win on a fluke rollup. It wasn’t to be. Del Rio was up to his feet first and floored a kneeling ‘Show Off’ with a superkick to win the match and the championship.

Del Rio posed and swaggered about in the ring like a heel as Ziggler lay on the mat looking dejected. The new champion left ringside first. Ziggler got a standing ovation and heard his name chanted by the crowd. When Del Rio was shown up at the entrance holding his prize aloft he was met with blistering heat.

It was an incredibly successful double turn.

Up in his luxury skybox Josh Mathews asked Show, Rhodes and Truth about what they’d just seen. They talked about ADR being like a shark, commenting that you could see ruthlessness in his eyes during the match. I think the three of them should write poetry. I bet it would be sublime.

They were interrupted by Del Rio re-entering the arena with a microphone. He asked Chicago to give it up for the new World Heavyweight champion. He said he’d proved why he deserved to be the champ and asked not just the people of Chicago but the people of the entire world to lend him their support, because he competes for the fans. After the performance he’d entered, he told us, he felt like he had earned the championship.

It felt like an impromptu promo to capitalise on the reaction he'd had. If it was it was the right call. Del Rio was almost drowned out by boos. It established him as the bad guy.

Chris Jericho got a nothing reception when he entered for his match with CM Punk. The crowd were neither rooting for him nor booing him as the foe of their beloved Punk. They chanted for Punk as soon as Jericho's music shut off. ‘The Second City Saint’ got a loud reaction when he finally entered (still to the strains of Cult of Personality) alongside Paul Heyman. The crowd were really into him. Or maybe they just approved of his new Wolverine-esque mutton chops.

I was not impressed with their display. The first half was fine, if a little slow, but they tried to pack far too much in to the latter half and went overboard on finishers. Punk hit the GTS at least three times (he hit the move twice to end the match for some reason), ‘Y2J’ locked in the Walls of Jericho three or four times, Punk milked a Macho Elbow for ages, and the Codebreaker was used at least one time too many. These two guys need to stop believing their own hype about having classic matches, pace things better, and make better use of their finishers.

One of the many times the Walls of Jericho was applied during the match

The match included a rather confusing moment where Heyman appeared to distract Punk by climbing up the stairs onto the apron. Neither Heyman or Punk made it clear with their body language or facial expressions what was supposed to be happening and the commentary team failed to elaborate (meaning they failed in one of their key roles). It was presumably meant to hint at a break up of Heyman and Punk. It did a lousy job.

The evening’s penultimate bout was the tag team championship match. Defending champions Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins were booed when they entered the ring. It’s good that they can draw that sort of reaction from an entrance. The Shield have been one of WWE’s big success stories of the last few years. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan were both met with cheers when they entered the arena. The crowd went crazy for Bryan, bathing him with “Yes!” chants.

The match was one of the best of the evening. In a change from the regular format it was ‘The Viper’ who got isolated in order to set up a hot tag to ‘The World’s Toughest Vegan’. Bryan came in with a series of drop kicks and charges. The inevitable miscue occurred when Bryan went for a suicide dive to his foes, only for them to move and leave Orton to take the move in their place.

Back in the ring Orton dodged a Reigns spear, leaving Bryan to take the move full force. Reigns was eliminated with an RKO, but Bryan got pinned after a Black Out from Rollins. The champs celebrated as Bryan lolled about looking depressed (or maybe angry, the beard makes it hard to tell). ‘The Apex Predator’ left in disgust.

Justin Roberts spent a metaphorical eternity explaining the rules for the main event. It really shouldn’t have taken as long as it did.

The lumberjacks were out first. All of the company’s big names were excused the duty, with the exception of Sheamus. I have no idea why he was included in what was clearly a mid-card role. Perhaps the decision’s been taken to de-push him to teach him some humility. He’s probably really arrogant backstage. He looks the type.

The first fall was dull. It was essentially a regular match, neither man’s strength, broken up with intermittent bouts of ringside brawling. The highlight was watching the reactions of the lumberjacks to the action. They were more animated than any member of the audience. Particularly amusing were Miz and Sweet T. The fans amused themselves with an RVD chant.

‘Big Hungry’ won the fall after a huge brawl erupted at ringside and Cena stupidly (but impressively) launched hismelf off the top rope into the fray. Both men got wiped out during the battle and were eventually tossed back into the ring. Moments later Ryback got a Shellshock on Cena for the pin.

The lumberjacks quickly made their way backstage as Ryback grabbed a table from under the ring. He tried for a power bomb, which would have won him the championship, but Cena slipped out. ‘The Franchise’ was speared to the mat moments later.

More tables were introduced along with the metal ring steps. Ryback unveiled a new move: chucking the steps around like a psychopath. His aim proved off whenever he lobbed the steps because, y’know, that would have hurt Cena for real. Doing things like that only harm the suspension of disbelief, not that Ryback or Cena care about something as trivial as match quality.

Cena got the fall when he slipped out of a Shellshock attempt and easily lifted Ry’ up to AA him through a table. Ryback no sold the AA like a trooper, springing up almost immediately and throwing Cena outside the ring. There he power bombed him through the announce desk. The crowd chanted for him to do it again. He didn’t.

The two brawled up to the ambulance parked at the entrance and proceeded to rip parts off it to belt each other with. “Talk about a drive-by” quipped Michael Cole as Ryback was Irish whipped through a car door. In kayfabe terms that could have quite literally killed Ryback. That Cole, along with JBL and ‘The King’, was cracking jokes killed the atmosphere of what was a very intense performance from both men.

After Ryback had torn another piece of the ambulance off and hit Cena with it Cena decided the only logical thing for him to do would be to climb on top of the vehicle. Ryback grabbed a crutch and followed him. Cole said two men (one in jorts and one in a singlet) battling atop an ambulance with a crutch was like something from a Bond movie. It wasn't. You have to wonder what makes Cole say some of these things.

After a brief tussle over Ryback’s crutch Cena scooped his opponent up and casually AAed him through the roof, gaining the win.

Cena went back to the ring to roar at the hard camera and hold his belt. The siren started playing. Sadly nobody in the crowd reacted as if Scott Steiner was making a surprise return to become Cena's next challenger. I would’ve marked out for that.

No, the siren indicated Ryback was being driven out of the arena a defeated, and presumably still hungry, man. I think it’s safe to say that Ryback doesn’t rule: that was his eighth straight non-win on pay-per-view. Cena did the you can't see me thing as he watched the vehicle leave then shook and slapped hands at ringside as the show went off the air.

The headline bout was a spirited performance. Cena does his best work in these kinds of matches and Ryback seems better suited to them as well. I assume their programme is now at an end. I can’t see how Ryback can justifiably be granted a third match with Cena after such a convincing loss. I also can’t imagine many people paying to watch such a match.

Payback was a very good show. The main event, the tag title match, and the Divas match were all very good, and the triple threat match was decent despite its flaws. We also got a superb story told in the WHC title match. If Dolph Ziggler ends up turning face that could be what this event is best remembered for.

You can find more of Dave's great work over at http://blowbyblowwrestling.blogspot.co.uk and you can find & follow him on twitter @ThatDaveGuy

Monday, 17 June 2013

WLH Book Review: The Hardcore Truth by Bob Holly Review By Shaun Nichols

Well who would have thought that I will be encouraging you all to go out and buy Bob's book? Well I am, it's a great book and is far better than anyone would have expected. Normally you'll only buy autobiographies or biographies of people you really liked, now I wasn't a big Bob Holly fan. I didn't particularly dislike him it's just that I didn't see him as anything more than a midcard geek who it didn't matter all that much if you watched his stuff or not.

Most people have the view of Bob as something of a bully or a dickhead and he didn't deserve to get further in his career than he did. Bob doesn't shy away from the accusation that he's a bully infact he discusses it on page one, when he states that he actually hates bullies and gives a story relating to being on the receiving end from his elder brother and his friends. He also explains how he rectified the situation, even as a young boy he didn't stand any messing.

One of the good points in the book is the style of it, it moves quickly and never becomes tiresome or boring to read. A snapshot of Bob's early life is that he had a great mother, won some bar fights which his partner at the time didn't like as it involved staying out all night. He also got involved in motocross and car racing which are two things I don't care about at all but as I said the style and the personable stories he tells means that you don't want to miss it.

His early wrestling stories involve Jerry Jarrett who gets ripped to shreds, then secondly Jim Cornette who he had tons of respect for and liked but didn't feel like he could risk leaving a well paid welding job a second time to wrestle full time. He also tells a story about wrestling Ric Flair in his very early days and was surprised how much Ric gave him in the match but how he got pissed when Flair totally ignored him even when Bob tried to thank him for the match as they went behind the curtain. He also explains who advised him to leave NWA/WCW when he was getting $200 a match working as a jobber and why they were right.

It's the stories though when he gets to the WWF that will be the most interesting chapters to most fans, now I won't go through everything but will select just a few particular highlights that hopefully you'll find interesting.

The first happened during an early trip to Europe, when he fell victim to someone ripping up his food card so he couldn't get anything to eat. This happened at least 3 times until Randy Savage found out and let Bob know that it was Shawn & the Kliq messing with him. At the point Bob threatened to use bolt cutters to cut Shawn's fingers off and knock out Kevin Nash and Scott Hall there and then. Needless to say they didn't mess with him any further.

Although he states that he found Shawn to a complete asshole, he doesn't stop him being able to praise him and he says that Shawn is the best wrestler in the world. You would think that he would side with Bret over Montreal, but you would be wrong. He liked Bret, but said he lost a lot of respect for Bret when he saw the 'Wrestling with Shadows' documentary because in his view, wrestling is a fake sport and if your the champion then your a fake champion and your job is losing the belt when the company wants you to and when they want you to do it. Just as the previous champion did for you. He also thinks that Bret lost more respect by only giving Vince a blackeye.

He doesn't think that having Bret leave to go to WCW was going to affect the 'Monday Night Wars' because in his view which ever side had Steve Austin was going to win. Another really funny story involves an angle that Bob and Crash Holly did with Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah, Bob was concerned about hitting Mae with a clothesline as he didn't want to hurt her but that as he worked a stiff style it could easily happen. Mae told him that if he didn't hit the move as he usually did then she would kick his ass in front of everyone. After the angle he went to check that she was ok only to be told 'That's how you lay a clothesline in, right there' as she left with a smile. This is why he gets pissed at people who complain that he's too stiff to work with, when a 77 year old lady was just fine with it.

He also spends time discussing his two major wrestling injuries which occurred at the hands of Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle.

Both were complete accidents, the Lesnar injury which basically led to a broken neck was Bob's fault although he explains that Brock felt really bad but when he got healthy again he found out that Brock didn't want to work with him again and explains the reasons for it and they are probably different to what you would think.

The Angle injury, a broken forearm was caused by a mistimed moonsault by Kurt where he didn't get as far across as Bob expected him to. What's pretty funny is Angle did a missed moonsault spot in every match but Bob talked him into hitting it so people didn't just assume he'd miss. That's karma for you.

Other stories include what Mick Foley did to him that was so serious that Foley appeared in front of the wrestling court. Who prosecuted and who barely defended him. Why his World Title match against Brock Lesnar became the shortest World Title match in WWF history.

He coves the Matt Cappotelli incident which only happened a couple of days after his injury with Brock before he went for surgery. The story goes that Bob took liberties with Matt and actually beat him up, Bob's side of the story was that he was doing the spot where he was kicking him in the corner and he told Matt to stay still but he wouldn't and was flopping and trying to get away which made things a lot worse. He also thinks that this made Matt look really bad and that wrestling was not for him.

He tells some great stories about some of the divas, including if he thought they were any good. There were a couple but not necessarily the ones you might think of. A time he did an angle where he spanked a diva so hard it left his handprint on her ass and how she reacted to it. Funniest though is probably the set of circumstances that led to the firing of Linda Miles, a winner of Tough Enough Series 2.

Arguably the best story though covers the 'Brawl For All' fiasco, including who Bob felt would have won it easily had he not got injured training for it. Which WWF superstar backed out at the last minute which allowed Bob to get into the tournament. The resentment that the locker room felt towards Jim Ross for saying how Steve Williams would kick everyone's ass in the tournament. When the realisation set in that the only way Steve wouldn't win the tournament was if someone knocked him out.

The 'Brawl for All' fight in which Bob won a bet with The Undertaker, how Steve Williams reacted when he did lose and how everyone else reacted when they found out that he had already been paid the winners purse of $100,000 before it had even started. Bob also discusses how Jim Ross got his revenge on Bart Gunn by arranging the boxing match with Butterbean at Wrestlemania, knowing that Bart had no chance to win. He also gives his thoughts on if the WWF were right to not bring the concept back and if and how his performance in it affected how the company saw him.

The Hardcore Truth is a fantastic book and I wholeheartedly encourage you all to buy, rather it will change your opinion on Bob or not at least you'll get read some great stories and he does come across as a pretty honest and straight forward character. Highly recommended.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Was The Montreal Screw Job in Fact A Work? By Stuart Rodgers

I watched 'The Montreal Theory' on DVD a couple of weeks ago, this of course is a documentary on the subject of that infamous 'screw job' back in November 1997. There are a number of wrestling personalities involved in this including Kevin Kelly who was in the WWF at the time.

The underlying thing in this documentary is the question, was Bret Hart involved in on the 'screw job' ?

For years I was so annoyed about this happening, I was a big fan of Bret and when this took place in 97 I always said, McMahon didn't need to do what he did, I knew he was fearing Bret would go on WCW TV as WWF champion and so needed to get the belt off Bret before he left. 

For me, at the time I thought no way would Bret show that disrespect for McMahon and the WWF, yes he was leaving but he was going into a very lucrative contract which came of course with a better financial package and a lot less dates than he was having to do in the WWF.

One of the other people interviewed in this documentary was Raven who of course had a couple of stints in the WWF, first back in 1993 as a manager of The Quebecers but also worked behind the scenes on the production side. Now Raven (Scott Levy) thinks it wasn't a 'work' as there was no pay-off, in short, he thinks that at no point did Bret come back and feud with Vince which is usually what happens at the end of a saga like this. 

I have a few theories on this. First, how do we know Bret wasn't going to come back if he hadn't suffered a concussion at the hands of Goldberg in WCW? Also, I think there was a pay-off as such as Bret earning a massive amount of money, Vince became Mr. McMahon the character and this subsequently played a big part in the Attitude Era which in turn, created a lot of money for the WWF.

In closing, after years of thinking Bret was screwed, I now think it genuinely was one of if not the biggest work in wrestling of all time.

I would like to know what other people think on this matter, if you're on twitter hit me up @WLHSTU