Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Rumble Memories and Predictions By Dave Green (@dagreeno)

It's that time of year when the WWE pulls it finger out of its arse and starts putting on some decent programming as they begin the "Road to Wrestlemania". Or at least that’s the idea. Anyway, the Rumble match itself is one I always look forward to. The unpredictable nature of the action as well as many other intangibles makes even the worse years something to anticipate. In this column, I shall take a look at the elements that make the Rumble so watchable and look towards this weekend’s event with those elements in mind. Don’t forget that everything you read here is my opinion and nothing more.

Individual performances

Despite the grandeur of its history, the Rumble match was never really seen as a major angle for a push. Hacksaw Jim Duggan won the first Rumble, but he lost in the first round of the WWF title tournament at ‘Mania IV. The next year, the first one on PPV, Big John Studd's win was followed by a guest referee role at Mania V. Hogan's wins meant nothing as he was already the top dog. It wasn't until 1992 for the Rumble to actually mean something. With the WWF Title on the line, the match had nearly every major name in the company vying for the win. As most of you know, Ric Flair fought for just under an hour to win in glorious fashion. From that Rumble on, the winner was rewarded a title match at Wrestlemania.

But Flair's performance showed that a major push could come from having a stellar performance. Whether it's lasting a long while or dominating the action, the Rumble can put focus on emerging talent. Diesel's 1994 performance eliminating seven men in a row was a show stopper at the time, as no one had dominated in that way before. Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio both entered at the start and went the distance in their Rumble wins (I know Shawn Michaels did it first, but that Rumble doesn't count in my mind, as it wasn't nearly as long as the others). Kane put both together in 2001 eliminating 11 men and lasting nearly an hour.

This year, the dominating Rumble performance seems to going one of two ways. Roman Reigns is coming off an impressive display at Survivor Series, so a similar performance here seems inevitable. What happens if and when he runs into another potential dominator in Big E Langston? I expect both these men to eliminate the most competitors and have good showings.

As for the ironman of the match, that seems to be going the way of CM Punk. As he has specifically been given the #1 entry, he is sure to have a long duration. In recent years, previous #1 entrants revealed before the PPV date have had that fact drawn into their performance, with Benoit, Miz and Ziggler coming to mind most vividly. Punk will probably go the distance only to be screwed out of the win by Kane.


In quite a number of Rumbles, the match was used to ignite feuds. Simple things such as a heel eliminating someone when they were already gone could set up a Mania match. A great example of this would be when Kurt Angle decimated Shawn Michaels in a Rumble, which was the catalyst for their classic at ‘Mania 21. Back when the superstar names weren't fighting on TV every single week, the Rumble could also be used as a new chapter in an ongoing feud. Who could forget Jake Roberts constantly being on the lookout for the entrance of Randy Savage in '92, before finally being eliminated by him? And of course, Macho eliminating himself by accident right afterwards only to be allowed back in. The feud starter tricks don't always work (that Wade Barrett / Bo Dallas feud didn't exactly go according to plan last year) but I expect some continuation of feuds being a major trend this year. In particular, the Punk / Authority storyline will have a lot of attention, as will the Daniel Bryan / Wyatt's feud, both in the Bray vs Bryan bout and the rumble itself. I'm just glad there isn't one overwhelming storyline being the main focus in the Rumble. 1999 was all about Austin v McMahon, meaning it was inevitably going to come down to them in the end.

Returns, Debuts & Surprises

With the start of the new year, it seems the Rumble is used to freshen things up. The return of a major name from injury has been used as a selling point in the past, such as Shawn Michaels in 1996, Triple H in 2002 and Undertaker in 2003. More often than not, a name from the past can make an appearance and be a huge deal. The 1996 rumble will forever be entrenched in my mind for the return of Jake Roberts. Even though he was advertised, I wasn't even sure it would happen. When his awesome music hit and the crowd erupted into a huge ovation, it gave me shivers down my spine - still does when I watch it back. 2002 saw the return of several attitude era stars as well as Mr Perfect. The big return this year of course is Batista, and how excited am I for that?...meh. I'm not a fan of a mid-forties muscle head being given a huge push to a position that other full timers deserve more. Don't get me wrong, as I was a fan of Batista's last run as a heel. His mic work was fantastic and it was a much needed freshening up of his character. But after four years away, is he really going to be able to deliver the performances needed? Time will tell, but I have my doubts.

Debuts in the Rumble match, on the other hand, have been a mixed bag. 1996 saw a huge debut - Vader. Those that knew of him anticipated a mauling when he entered the ring. Those that didn't know him were left awed. In the same Rumble, we saw the debut of the Squat Team, better known from ECW as the Headhunters. The 400-pound twins hadn't been seen on WWF TV so very few knew what to expect. One went in and got eliminated by Vader after a minute. The other went in next, joined by his twin to team up against Vader and Yokozuna. Both were eliminated 20 seconds later. To this day, I have no idea why they bothered building up the debut of a mystery new team and job them out so miserably. Other Rumble match debuts included Jacob & Eli Blu, Thurman "Sparky" Plugg (yep, Bob Holly) and last year, Bo Dallas from NXT. Not exactly memorable, although the idea of an NXT graduate winning a tournament for a Rumble spot is a good one, as long as there is follow up. As mentioned before, Dallas had a readymade feud with Wade Barrett through his performance, but it was given up on after a couple of weeks. No news on if they plan another NXT tournament this year, but if so then maybe we could see the debut of Adrian Neville or Sami Zayn?

The surprise return has become a staple of the Rumble. A lot of people order the rumble simply for the surprise factor. Look at last year - Goldust returned for one night and looked fantastic, which must have been picked up on by management due to how successful his year turned out to be. The Godfather made a two minute comeback to a big reaction. And of course, Jericho's unexpected return was another spine tingler that only the Rumble provides. Other memorable surprises include Booker T and Diesel in 2011, RVD in 2009, Kharma in 2012 and Cena in 2008 (come on, you know it was huge!) This year, the rumours are off the charts. The more realistic possibilities are Sheamus returning from injury, Rob Van Dam to start his road to Wrestlemania and, after he fooled us all last year, Chris Jericho will be expected. I'm going to throw in a name that hasn't been mentioned much at all - Evan Bourne. He's healed from his injury and he'd get a reasonable reaction, though nothing groundbreaking. Jake Roberts is someone that's been mentioned as the rumble has been a goal of his to be entered into for his comeback. After he returned at old School Raw, the likelihood is he won't be entered, much as I would still like to see it. As much as many are stating it to happen, none of the recent released TNA stars will appear - not Jeff Hardy, not AJ Styles, not Sting.

Big Spots & Moments

The biggest criticism any battle royal will get is that it’s just a bunch of guys punching and kicking and getting in each other’s way. While that can be true in early rumbles when the ring really filled, the more creative and action packed rumbles have given us extremely memorable moments. Some for the high drama – Michaels & Bulldog being the first two in and the last two out; Rock & Austin collide in 2001; Michaels & Undertaker final five minutes in 2007; Hogan v Warrior for the first time. Some have been there for shock value – Maven eliminating Undertaker in 2002 remains the only thing people really remember Maven for. Another big spot that’s not done as often as you might think it the one where two men are fighting near the ropes and someone pushes them both out. Depending on the competitors, that moment can be huge for the parties involved. In 1996, Vader and Yokozuna, the biggest men in the ring at the time, were pushed out simultaneously by Shawn Michaels. A big moment for someone receiving a massive push - Michaels went on to win the match and then the WWF Title. In 2010, the same spot took place. Big Show and Mark Henry were in the same compromising position and they eliminated simultaneously by.....R-Truth? A big moment for someone who received very little push – he went on to job to Big Show & Miz in the 5 minute opener of ‘Mania 26. Weird.

In the last few rumbles, the crazy elimination avoidance spot has come to fruition. John Morrison stunned everyone in 2011 with his leap from the apron to the barrier and back again to avoid hitting the floor. This was followed the next two years by Kofi Kingston hand standing and jumping on a chair to get back to the ring. I’m not how he can top those near misses, or even if he wants to, with rumours of a heel turn in the works. Humour spots are quite regular as well. You do need an element of comedy in these long form matches with so many different personalities, though anything in the past involving Hornswoggle was very much not welcome. Every year he’s in it, Santino Marella manages to pull off a memorable moment, whether it was being eliminated in 1 second, the cobra/socko duel or the time when it looked like he would the whole thing by nearly chucking out Alberto Del Rio.

So looking at the current roster and some of the storylines that seem to be being woven before our eyes, here are some spots I expect to see this year: Antonio Cesaro hits multiple Swings on the competitors in the ring, starting from the smallest to the largest, before getting eliminated due to his dizziness; Roman Reigns spears everyone in sight upon entering the ring, including Dean Ambrose (accidentally?); either Cody or Goldust mistakenly contribute to the other’s elimination; some kind of dance-off involving Fandango will take place.

The Winner

With every intangible that makes the Royal Rumble match watchable, the most important remains who the hell wins. Some years the winners have been more than obvious. Last year, Cena had to win in order to have that “Once in a Lifetime” match again. 2002 was built around the return of Triple H, so clearly he would come out on top. Personally I think the less obvious the winner, the better. Many bemoaned Chris Jericho not winning in 2012, but Sheamus winning was a breath of fresh air and a new program created. This year seems to centre around three potential winners – CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Batista. Punk has been placed into a feud with the Authority, with the focus at the moment being Kane. As mentioned earlier, I firmly expect Kane to be involved in Punk’s elimination, leading to the heavily rumoured Punk/Triple H at ‘Mania. Daniel Bryan hasn’t officially been entered as of this writing. He has a match with Bray Wyatt and I assume he will go on to face the rest of the family in the Rumble. This is the win that makes the most in my mind and clearly of those watching around the world. But there’s one minor problem – Batista. Despite my previously made feelings on his return, he has to be placed as the favourite. He wouldn’t be brought back unless it was for a major position. I just have no interest in seeing him take on Orton or Cena – been there, done that. Particularly as it’s Wrestlemania 30 that they’re building to, a more established name amongst older fans will probably be seen a bigger draw. So simply because it’s the worst option, Batista probably will win the 2014 Royal Rumble.

Then again, it was new main eventers that were on top at the previous decade-anniversary shows. Bret Hart stood tall at the first Hogan-less ‘Mania 10; Benoit & Guerrero had success at 20. Maybe 30 is Daniel Bryan’s time to shine? Sod it, I’m being positive – Predicted winner, Daniel Bryan.

Tweet me @dagreeno with your Rumble thoughts and memories. And, of course, your opinions.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Wrestling Gems By Keith Bennett @HugaKitty

The matches I am about to recommend are not all five star classics but I do feel that they are worth your time and attention as a wrestling fan no spoilers

CHIKARA - Jonny Saint/Skyde Rivera/Mike Quackenbush vs Claudio Castognoli/Bryan Danielson/Dave Taylor (3/28/09)

This match is one of counter hold after counter hold with Jonny Saint on fine form and Skyde doing some nice lucha spots. Castognoli, Danielson and Taylor work well together and Quackenbush is like a kid at Christmas teaming up with two of his idols and the crowd are loving every minute of it.

IWA MID-SOUTH - Trik Davis vs Chris Hero "Necro/Joe II"

While all the attention was on the Necro Butcher Samoa Joe rematch this match stole the show this is an exciting match with a lot of great wrestling and some nice highspots from Trik although Hero leads the match Davis deserves more exposure on the indy scene

Pro Wrestling Noah - Kenta KOBASHI vs. Naomichi MARUFUJI Spring Navigation 2006

This match is a great example of why japanese wrestling is the best in the world Kobashi is a living legend and Marufuji proves yet again that he is one of the greatest wrestlers on the planet treat yourself and watch this match

Ring of Honor - Michael Elgin vs. ACH Dragon's Reign 2013

Not only was this the best match on the card but it was one of the greatest matches of 2013 this match is a clash of styles and that is what makes it great Elgin is a power house and it shows here ACH is criminally underrated and puts his heart into the bout this match is so good that everything else on the card just fails to live up to it

AJPW - Bruiser Brody & Jimmy Snuka vs. Dory & Terry Funk Real World Tag League (12/13/81)

With the return of Stan Hansen from NJPW in the corner of Brody and Snuka this match automatically has the audience in a state of frenzy with all four men on top form and crazy crowd heat this is truly one for the ages great strong style action and great ring psychology make this one of the greatest tag team matches of all time

NJPW - Yuji Nagata -vs- Koji Kanemoto G1 Climax Block B (08-12-06)

With Kanemoto making the transition from junior heavyweight to heavyweight this bout is one of interest and excitement with great strong style moves from Nagata and excellent mat work form both wrestlers this is one match that is worth your time, and this match is below.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Breaking Kayfabe – Jim Cornette By Adam Timmins (@AdamTimmins83)

“Not another Cornette DVD” will be the response to this in some quarters. Personally I could listen to Corny all day; but for those who aren’t as enamoured, it should be pointed out that this one covers new ground, as essentially it recounts Cornette’s turbulent spell in ROH between 2010-2012.

To begin with however, they briefly touch on Cornette’s falling out with Kayfabe Commentaries over their YouShoot with Vince Russo. Cornette felt they were trying to imply in their advertising that he was going to contribute to said product; which of course, he would never do. But all that got sorted and they’re now friends again. Which is nice. Oliver then moves onto the Russo-Cornette beef – surely it has to be over more than differing wrestling philosophies? Cornette states that that’s precisely what it is; that he feels that Russo is in large part responsible for killing wrestling; wrestling is dead, there is now only sports entertainment.

They then have an interesting discussion with regards to what killed wrestling; Oliver argues that the development of technology – including, but not restricted to the internet –meant that wrestling could no longer control information like it used to. The business became exposed, and once the genie was out of the bottle it was impossible to put it back. Cornette uses the analogy of magic – no-one knows how Kriss Angel got seemingly flattened by a steam-roller and survived; but everyone knows not only that wrestling’s a work, but how it’s worked, and thus the suspension of disbelief is largely gone. Interestingly, Cornette also argues that one of the reasons wrestling died was because in the 80’s, the wrong people – i.e. television (or perhaps major television that should be) started taking an interest. A powerful argument and one I think you could apply to football in this country. Oliver argues that if wrestling has been in decline since the end of the Hogan boom period, how do you account for the resurgence of wrestling in the late nineties? Cornette makes the case that it was just a fad, and it subsequently petered out. I’d also be inclined to agree with this: a lot of the people who went to WWF events in the Attitude era went not because they liked wrestling, but because they wanted to see Steve Austin, and later The Rock. When Austin hugged Vince McMahon at WM17, it pretty much spelled the end of the Attitude era.

We then move onto the bulk of the DVD, which covers Cornette’s recent spell in ROH. Again, cynics might argue that the whole thing is an exercise in self-justification, and to an extent it is – Cornette largely fails to discuss in detail the creative direction of the company (and moreover, Sean Oliver doesn’t press him on it – perhaps the DVD’s biggest failing is that Sean let’s Cornette ramble on for too long. Granted, it’s entertaining, but it pretty much turns the DVD into a Cornette shoot rather than a Breaking Kayfabe release, if that makes sense) – it would have been interesting to hear his justification for the largely disastrous Richards/Edwards feud, or the booking of the dire WGTT – although one suspects that Cornette’s answer for the latter would be the standard line he trots out here, which would be “you don’t build a serious wrestling company around the Super Smash Brothers” (who he uses in this shoot of his exemplar of all that’s wrong with indy wrestling.) But he did make a couple of remarks about Kevin Steen which I thought hit the nail on the head, most notably “he’s the perfect guy to be your top star if you’re working in front of 400 people in a rec centre.” Talking about shooting TV, he also notes that instead of cutting a four minute promo like he was supposed to, Steen would cut an 8 minute promo to appeal to the 10% rather than the 90%. Apart from these and a couple of other asides however, Cornette largely leaves the booking alone. (To be fair to Steen, I agree with a lot of his criticisms of Cornette’s booking; but Cornette’s criticisms of Steen are spot on).

What he concentrates on is the technical set-up, Sinclair’s influence, and the iPPV disasters. When Cornette came back on board, he pitched that the company should essentially do what OVW did – run TV from a single building and produce it in-house – that is to say, buy their own lighting, cameras, equipment etc. The ROH website should be redesigned, and ROH should run their internet PPV’s in-house, as opposed to using Go Fight Live. However, when Sinclair bought the company, their goal was to run it as cheaply as possible – and there’s a difference between being prudent and cheap. This lead to the numerous PPV disasters; apparently when the feed went out during the Glory By Honor chain match between Generico/Cabana vs. Steen/Corino just before the finish, they had to get them to stall so they could try and restore the connection before they went home. The set-up for iPPV’s almost inevitably consisted of someone at some point saying “can someone run to Radioshack and get 100 metres of audio cable” – not the sign of a well-organised PPV provider. During Showdown in the Sun, the feed went out just before the Cole vs. O’Reilly match, leading to both men having to cut impromptu promos to stall for time. In the end they couldn’t get the feed up, and had to carry on with the show. The company then decided to run Border Wars in-house as suggested by Cornette – but the technology wasn’t up to scratch and the website crashed. On so on. It got to the point where they needed up running Boiling Point as iPPV, just to show that they could – even though the card was a b-show at best. The upshot of it all is now everyone’s mind connects “ROH IPPV” with the words “disaster” or “farce.”

Cornette recounts other nonsense that’s happened since Sinclair bought ROH. Joe Koff is a kind of ROH equivalent of Dixie Carter – someone knows little about wrestling heading up a wrestling company. Cornette reveals that Adam Pearce was supposed to be bought in as co-commentator after Nigel McGuiness became on-screen matchmaker – but the merchandise guy went to HR to complain (and the grounds that Pearce had threated to hit him back in 2010 when he left – Pearce has agreed to apologise to said guy as a condition of coming back), so HR nixed the potential return. Cornette also has a lot to say about a guy called Greg who was the admin guy, but came from Sinclair – once again, someone who knows nothing about wrestling making wrestling decisions. Apparently the plan for the Wrestlemania weekend shows was to bring in some NOAH guys; but this was nixed by the office, who felt that they could draw just as well without said talent. Cornette mooted bringing in Tom Pritchard to work as an agent, only for that to get shot down as well. It all came to a head at a TV taping in November 2012, when Steve Corino was injured in the last match, and Cornette found out that all of the Sinclair guys had fucked off, leaving him to deal with it on his own. Cornette blew a gasket, and the next day a mutual parting of the ways occurred between ROH and Cornette.

In many ways this is a depressing DVD to watch; in the sense that it’s sad to see someone like Cornette lose their passion for the business – if it can happen to him, then it can happen to anyone. But I remember when Bobby Heenan left WCW and did a shoot interview, he was ridiculously cynical about the business and prophesising it’s demise; a few years later he was raving about the Michaels vs. Angle match at Wrestlemania. So maybe Cornette will get his love for the business back in time. But surprisingly, the DVD ends on a heartening note. Sean asks Cornette what TV he’s watched recently, and this leads to a discussion about things like TV and Film, which Cornette has always loved, but due to wrestling commitments has never really had time to get into in the depth he would have liked. So maybe it’s time for Cornette to go away and do some other stuff for a while; after all – and this is a point most of us should probably take cognisance of – there is indeed more to life than wrestling.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

“The way I see it ….” Part three, Women’s Wrestling By Matt Bayliss (@MattMatt316)

Left: Emi Sakura in AWW

I have just finished reading the excellent “Spandex - Screw Jobs and Cheap Pops” by Carrie Dunn, comparable in quality to Greg Lamberts “Holy Grail” but very different in style and the story it is trying to put over. One of the most interesting chapters covered women’s wrestling and more importantly the perception and attitudes towards it. So I felt motivated or inspired to write about the way I see it.

I can’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy the WWE women’s “wrestling” in the attitude era, from a purely entertainment stand point, and to a teenage boy bra and pantie matches, pudding matches and puppies were all great! With hindsight and with a more mature opinion of wrestling as a whole I can see why all this was detrimental to female competitors at the time and up to the present. And now it is an uphill struggle to bring the perception around. There have been some great female performers in WWE over the years but they are rarely given the chance to shine either hiring people on looks alone or saddling them with appalling story lines or gimmicks. TNA on the other hand has given female performers a real opportunity to go out and steal the show. Gail Kim, to me, is one of the best female performers about and with Taryn Terrell has put on some of the best women’s matches I have ever seen.

Growing up Ladies football was often considered the same way, as a poor version of the “real” thing, at the time it wasn’t great and there were some laughable incidents but since then so much work and effort has gone into the game that it has improved massively. The same has been happening with women’s wrestling but I still feel that some people still see it as “filler” or even still just as “T&A.” Since I got into British wrestling in the last few years I have seen some great matches and competitors. The first I recall seeing was at a FWA show at Memorabilia at the NEC in Birmingham, the weekend coincided with BritWresFest so instead of FWA matches they highlighted matches from other promotions. The match I saw was Nikki Storm vs Pollyanna, Storm though small in stature really commanded the crowd and interacted as well as if not better than most male wrestlers. Most of the abuse came from 3 lads who took exception to her being Scottish and she handled them brilliantly, at the end of the match when there was an opportunity to get photos in the ring the 3 lads were first in line to get a photo with her, they were suitably impressed! Storm was great in the ring and really lived her character even after the match. The match itself was very good; both competitors looked every bit as good as “the boys” are.

At my first visit to AWW I got to see Erin Angel perform, when she came to the ring she looked great and once the bell rang she proved to be more than capable in the ring and put on a solid match. As I mentioned in a previous blog AWW are also responsible for one of my 2013 Matches of the Year – Emi Sakura taking on Shanna. Sakura was an 11th hour replacement for Kay Lee Ray who I was disappointed to not be seeing but boy was I amazed by the match. From start to finish both ladies threw everything at one another, technical skill, hard hitting and high flying moves back and forth with a tonne of near falls and times where the packed crowd was sure it was all over. It had everything any great match should have and why shouldn’t this be the case?

Kay Lee Ray is one of the best wrestlers I have ever seen – male or female. Not only does she have an amazing look, great personality and character but her in ring skills are top notch. I have only seen her live once – taking on Bubblegum at PWK – but I have seen plenty of DVDs and YouTube videos showcasing her talent against women, men and even in hardcore matches.

I can’t really write about women’s wrestling without mentioning Alpha Female – a giant of a lady, a monster in the ring with amazing technical skill and an absolutely lovely person! Alpha can command a ring and a match as well as anybody I have ever seen and is more than capable of power moves and technical wrestling.

Not all women’s matches are great, not all female wrestlers are great – but the same can very easily be said about men’s wrestling, but there is definitely a place for it regularly on cards. I personally look forward to women’s matches as you quite often see something or someone new. Carrie Dunns book alludes to some promoters deliberately putting down female performers or not letting them do much in their matches – if this is happening, and I’m sure it is, then those promoters are clearly missing out, and more importantly they are helping create a vicious circle, by holding back the performers they are preventing them from gaining experience and improving and by doing that they will always be proving their point – to themselves at least. Personally I can’t see why promoters wouldn’t want high quality females on their shows; it gives variety and a different dynamic to the show as well as introducing something potentially new to the audience. Most shows are sold as “Fun for all the family” having strong females on the show surely fits into this, girls attending shows can get string role models too and grow up knowing that wrestling isn’t just a boys club.

Well, that’s my ramble for now. This wasn’t a planned column so it may read a little erratic I just thought I would put my opinion forward. You may agree or disagree, you may like it or not, but it’s the way I see it


Monday, 13 January 2014

“The Way I See It ….” Part Two. The Year That Was And The Year To Come By Matt Bayliss (@MattMatt316)

Left: MK McKinnan, photo credit to Brett Hadley

For me 2013 started off with some great shows and experiences. Early in the year I went to AWW headlined by Brian Kendrick vs Mark Andrews – although the show was stolen by the best women’s match I have EVER seen! Emi Sakura vs Shanna – Sakura was a late replacement but they tore the house down, a load of false finishes, some big moves and the finish was a spectacular 450 splash by Sakura which bought the crowd to their feet. Main event was great too, good seeing THE Brian Kendrick who is a great performer taking on one of the best up and comers on the UK scene. Overall this was a good card with a good mix of matches and really well put together.

I also got to sit ringside or the TNA Maximum Impact tour in Nottingham. Was extremely pleased with myself for getting front row seats but discovered there is a real downside to it – people just think they can come and stand in front of you! I couldn’t believe it; it wasn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination so to constantly have to try and jostle for position was a bit disappointing. Particularly so when returning to our seats after the interval and we couldn’t even get to our seats until security came and moved people! That aside, it was a good show, as TNA always tends to be when they come over here. Great to see Spud, Marty Scurll and the Blossoms in a TNA ring and to see a cage match up close and in person.

My only real road trip of the year came early too, as I mentioned in Part one I went down to Sittingbourne for RevPro. Another great card featuring El LIgero, Haskins, Project Ego, The Hunter Bros, MK McKinnan, Zack Sabre Jnr, Colt Cabana, Dave Mastiff and headlined by Spud vs Scurll. The venue was great; the crowd packed in pretty tight to the action and really up for it. The only real problem with the show was that the PA system was barely working and cut out more than it worked, leaving Andy Quildan to shout his ring announcing duties more than anything. The other issue this day was the atrocious weather – hammering down with rain on the long journey down then a snow storm on the way back which makes the road trip “interesting” to say the least! On the up side got to stop off at a service station on the way back and chat with Spud, Mastiff, McKinnan and The Hunters. With regards to the action that night there wasn’t a bad match at all. McKinnon and Sabre Jnr probably the best match but would be a close call. This was my first time seeing Project Ego live as a team and was impressed; they certainly lived up to all I had heard about them. I have seen them a lot since and they never fail to impress as a team or individually.

The rest of my wrestling year was spent mostly around Birmingham – time and finances preventing getting too far away. I went to see SLAM Wrestling at Eddies Nightclub in Birmingham city centre, unfortunately for some reason hardly anybody showed up, however we still had a great time as it was like having a personal wrestling show with tonnes of interaction between our small group and all of the performers. I don’t think I have ever laughed as much at a show, it was genuinely great entertainment and worth every penny! I know the promoters obviously weren’t happy and came out to apologise after but it was unnecessary as we had had a great time. If you haven’t seen a match where a mask switches between wrestlers and the referee picks up the win then you haven’t watched enough wrestling! To be honest Tukay did a great job as referee that night having seen him wrestling previously at AWW has a cheeky heel, definitely somebody who has real potential to get over and is always developing. I recently got to watch a couple of his matches from Wutech Wrestling, one of which in particular was very good all around, the other was against Jonny Rose which was great fun – most of the match was rose talking to people in the crowd!

AWW have put on some great shows in Wolverhampton and pulled in some great talent, one of the many highlights being Jay Lethal vs Nathan Cruz (who was wrestling with a huge gash above his eye from the previous day) this was a great match to cap off a great card.

The start of the summer saw the beginning of two new promotions in Birmingham. Kamikaze Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Kingdom. PWK run by Ryan Smile is designed to offer a highly professional live show showcasing some great British talent. PWK put on two great shows at central Birmingham venues – The MAC and The Crescent Theatre – and they looked amazing. Due to outside factors both these shows unfortunately had fairly poor attendance, but were really great and I suggest that anybody who has not already done so should firstly check out the matches on YouTube then give PWK a follow and get along next time. The first show had a very solid card from top to bottom including a four team tag match which had some truly unique spots. The 2nd show had great atmosphere and some amazing action. Bubblegum vs Kay Lee Ray and Eddie Dennis vs MK McKinnon were the highlights but the whole card was solid including a great tag match with The Hunter Bros (who may get their own episode sometime soon taking on the team of Corey Johnson and Chris Ridgeway. Johnson is constantly improving as a talented big man and this was the first time seeing Ridgeway and I was very impressed, I have seen since that in a lot of places he is being tipped as one to watch and I have to agree.

Kamikaze Pro has been pretty prolific since their first show. Focussing on UK talent but have made great use of Uhaa Nation and Sabu who have been in 3 of the best matches I have had the privilege of seeing this year – not to mention Uhaa Nation having the single greatest entrance music in the history of wrestling! Nation has made two appearances, firstly against Eddie Dennis then against MVK Valkabious, both matches were all out wars with each participant showcasing their ability and throwing everything at each other. Nation is a huge man but moves and can fly like any cruiserweight.

Two of my years highlights came from Kamikaze pro, first getting a picture in the ring with Sabu – I got him to put me in a camel clutch and I can assure you he didn’t hold back! The second highlight was Eddie Dennis, such a nice guy and a great heel and great wrestler, the crowd were always over him for being Welsh, making sheep noises at every opportunity, I ended up taking an inflatable sheep (Eddies Baa-tner) which ended up getting thrown and kicked around by Eddie before being used as a weapon against him by Uhaa Nation – on the dvd commentary its described as a sheep shot!

The Hunter Brothers are a staple feature of Kamikaze and never fail to impress, a real tag team and always crowd favourites. I can’t mention Kamikaze Pro without mentioning the likes of Ryan Smile, Damian Dunne, Pete Dunne and Robbie X who seem to get better and better every time I see them.

I made the short train trip to Nottingham for HOP:Evolution in September having seen and heard some great things about their first two shows including a bare boards match between Clint Margera and Jack Jester. HOP:E was a quality show with a really good mix of matches, styles and action as well as progressing storylines very well. Myself and partner in crime Rob have agreed it’s the one show that we probably wouldn’t want to watch back on DVD, not because it was a bad show - it was really good in fact – but because we were drunk and front row and most likely louder and more obnoxious than we remember! I also won the raffle at this show, first time ever at a show despite buying lots of tickets! I scored myself the DVDs from the first two shows and tickets to the next show which unfortunately never happened as Harvey Dale was unfortunately having a lot of issues and getting affected by outside influences – I don’t know the ins and outs of it but really hope he can bounce back. We had a great time at the show and if or when HOP:E returns I will certainly be going back.

The year ended with a trip to Dudley for night 3 of ATTACK! Pro Wrestling’s Under the Mistletour. This was a great fun night with some quality action and comedy all wrapped up in a nice Christmas gift. I was meant to attend their show earlier in the year but got taken out by a migraine on the day, from what I have seen of what they do they go all out to entertain but use some of the best wrestlers in the county.

Star of the Year – Eddie Dennis

Shows of the Year – Kamikaze Pro – Rise of Uhaa (purely for personal reasons, banter with Kid Fite, stalking Eddie with a Sheep and the main event Eddie vs Uhaa) and PWK – The Howling of the Kingdom

Match of the year – Too many to choose from but Kay Lee Rae vs Bubblegum, Eddie Dennis vs Uhaa Nation, MVK vs Uhaa Nation, Emi Sakura vs Shanna and Jay Lethal vs Nathan Cruz are definitely in the top few

I know I have rambled on a lot about the year that was, the year to come I cannot wait to see more of the talented wrestlers this country has to offer and I really want to get to Southside, PCW and Progress all of which I have seen on the internet and on DVD but would love to get there in person. More locally I want to get to SWA who I hear very good things about and have been told by Simon Brown the owner that they have some real big things planned so I recommend you check them out! I also want to get back to Hull for NGW at some point this year. My ones to watch for 2014 would have to include Dan Moloney, Tyler Bate, Lana Austin, Robbie X and Damien Dunne. Also please keep an eye out for Craiguss Corleone who has been filming, editing and producing some great DVDs for shows in 2013.


Inside Grapple Wrestling By Craig Jarrett

Grapple Wrestling is a promotion and school based out of Leeds in West Yorkshire, they run three weekly sessions and are starting to make a noise on the local scene with the school attracting more students and the live shows attracting bigger attendances. I have decided to go and have a chat with Grapple's promoter and trainer Paul Clarke and ask if a few questions regarding his school/promotion and his hopes for it's future.

I started off by asking Paul, why he decided to start up a professional wrestling school, he responded by saying "A few reasons really. It had been suggested by several people that I should open something in Leeds; my wife, some people whom I trained with and a couple of friends. I had been training at City of Steel Wrestling (CSW) for a few months to get back into the flow of wrestling after a period away from the game. However when that closed down due to financial reasons I found myself coming around the idea of starting something locally. There was a breakaway group from CSW who were to set up NCWA (no one involved had anything to do with the downfall of CSW or its financial difficulties) in Dronfield. I would have naturally followed the group and continued training with them, but Dronfield was further still than Sheffield, not that I mind traveling but I wished there was something closer to home so I now committed myself to open my own place. One morning I thought of the name ‘Grapple Wrestling’, set up an email account and started searching for venues to host it. I came across Leeds Cage’s website whilst searching. I nearly didn’t send the email because I thought there was no way a MMA gym would want to have ‘Professional Wrestling’ training associated with it, but I had the template email ready so I had nothing to lose by sending it. Not sending it would have been a huge mistake. I am extremely lucky to be able to use such a great facility. With NCWA getting set up at the same time, I was fortunate enough to have regular contact with Andy and Danielle Hogg who shared their experiences of setting up with me and pointed me in the right direction of insurance and kindly gave me copies of their disclaimer forms and other essential stuff. It took a great deal of stress away from me. From that initial morning of sending emails, to actually opening was just three weeks"

With so many wrestling schools starting up these days and Yorkshire having one of the top schools in the country with NGW in Hull, what do you bring to training others how to be wrestlers? "As a trainer you have the task of teaching a huge amount of people to wrestle. All those people want to and need to have their own style. It’s my task to be able to give a load of moves and knowledge to each person as an individual. To be able to do this I need to deliver lessons that suit everyone. I seem to be doing this right as every class I teach is really busy and everyone in attendance arrives and leaves in a good mood and I often get great feedback afterwards."

With the nature of professional wrestling being both a sport and an entertainment business what can people learn at your wrestling school? "Wrestle!!! I try to cover it all. My lessons are split up in four different ways. Fitness- This is conditioning training and I include; strength training, shooting and drills.

Techinical- Mat wrestling, reversals, submission moves. Throws & bigger moves- Basically things you need a crash mat for; suplexing, dropkicks, backdrops etc. Ring- Sequences, match structure, drills and matches.

Recently Grapple had visits from former ECW, WWE and TNA stars Sabu and Kid Kash, was much learned from yourself and your students during these visits? "Kid Kash was great to have around. He showed what sort of a workout you’d need to be doing daily if you were to make it in Japan or one of the big companies in the US. He is very passionate about training people and is a perfectionist when it comes to how to wrestle. Generally a nice guy to have around, and he loves everything about Grapple. Sabu on the other hand was a great disappointment. With the visits from Kid Kash being so successful, I though getting a legend in like Sabu would also be great. He was offered to me by his agent. The dates he was available coincided with ‘Slammers Week’ (which I was doing for one week in the August summer holidays). I had tried and unfortunately failed to get Johnny Saint as a guest trainer, so when Sabu was offered I thought ‘why not?’ When he turned up, he asked me what I wanted him to teach? Slammer week was 25 hours of wrestling training, all he had to do was come up with something for three hours, I had done the other 22 by myself! I wasn’t impressed and was then told by his agent that he didn’t like doing seminars or teaching larger groups. He prefers one to one! We had 35 trainees waiting for him. He left without saying a word to me."

With the rise of the UK wrestling over the last few years would you say you do have or have had many trainees that you feel would make waves on the UK scene? "For sure; we have some great potential at Grapple. Some natural, some who work extremely hard to improve themselves. In a few years time I know there will be some working full time as wrestlers and others are not far behind. I’m not going to name names because from past experience some of the better talent disappear from wrestling for one reason or another, usually work or family commitment so it no longer possible to follow their dream."

Again with the nature of professional wrestling being about not only the sport and athletisism but also the spectacle of the entertainment and characters, what do you feel is the most important thing for you to teach your students when wanting to be wrestlers? "Two sides to this question. Initially they should be taught to wrestle safely and look after their self and whom they’re working with. The other side of it is the do’s and don’ts’ of the business when spreading their wings away from where they train. The handshakes, getting paid etc."

Thank you for taking this time out to do this interview for Wrestlings Last Hope,would you like to give the information to people in the West Yorkshire about how they can get involved with Grapple "My pleasure. People can get involved by turning up to any session and joining in. There is an age limit of 14, and all under 18 need parental permission. People wanting to enquire before they come can contact myself on" What upcoming live events do Grapple have to kick off 2014 with? "We have two upcoming shows. Saturday 18 January in Horsforth and Sunday 16 February in Boston Spa. Full details can be found at and tickets can be purchased from"

Again thank you to Paul for taking time out for this. For those of you wanting to know more information about Grapple, it's school and its events then you can follow them on Twitter @Wrestlingleeds, like them on Facebook at "Wrestling In Leeds" and as Paul said there is an email address to contact him and tickets for the two upcoming events can be bought from the website mention earlier.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Indy Wrestlers Making A Living In Japan By Keith Starr (@HugaKitty)

The life of an independent wrestler is one of hard work and dedication for the thing they truly love pro wrestling. For many WWE will never come calling but for some there is Japan the land of Puroresu over the years many independent wrestlers have made a living in Japan, Chris Jericho and Mick Foley worked regularly in Japan before getting the call from the WWF or WCW.

A lot of wrestlers from outside of Japan or Gaijin as they are called spend much if not there whole career wrestling in Japan. Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody not only spent the majority of there time in Japan but they also had their best matches in the land of the rising sun. The Dynamite Kid had not only the best matches of his career but some of the best matches in the history of pro wrestling against the original Tiger Mask.

Doug Williams and Nigel McGuinness spent time working for Pro Wrestling NOAH and were a credit to the roster.

Karl Anderson has made a great career for himself working for NJPW and Doc Gallows has had a new lease of life for his career working there too. Ricochet, The Young Bucks and Rich Swann tour Japan regularly. Many independent wrestlers strive to get better at their craft and therefore look to get booked in Japan.

The fact that Dave "Fit" Finlay and John "Johnny Ace" Laurinaitis two men who spent the vast majority of their wrestling life's in Japan now work for the WWE as backstage road agents speaks volumes about the knowledge and experience that wrestling in Japan brings you.

Who Can Be 2014’s Daniel Bryan? By Adam Ferguson

Three years ago Daniel Bryan was set to make his Wrestlemania debut versus the United States champion Sheamus, only for their bout to be shunned off the main card and touted as glorified dark-match instead. Fast-forward to the present day, and having finally contested that match with Sheamus then a year later wrestled in a tag title bout at the Granddaddy of ‘em all, it looks like Daniel Bryan is on his way to the main event of Wrestlemania 30. At least, he should be.

Bryan’s unparalleled rise to the top only really ignited during this past summer, substantiating the idea that with the right push and audience admiration, just about anybody can make a main event impact in a fairly short period of time.

Onto today and it’s the beginning of a new year - perhaps the biggest in WWE history given the recent Network announcement and fast-approaching Road to Wrestlemania 30 - and since us wrestling fans love a good, debatable list, what better to time unveil another? I can promise the ‘list’ part anyway.

Out of the current crop of up-and-comers, who might just see themselves as part of the main event in this year? In 2014, who has the potential to ‘do a Daniel Bryan’?

Don’t forget to share your thoughts too!

The Long-Shots

10. Corey Graves

CM Punk comparisons are obvious, but the heavily tattooed, punkish Corey Graves will be looking to make a name for himself this year. He’s only 29 years old and has been wrestling around the world since 2000, so Graves is no stranger to putting a shift in. The unique look will separate him from the pack in an era where more guys of his stature are given their due in the big time. Graves’ knuckles may say “Stay Down” but he will only have eyes on rising up in 2014.

9. Adrian Neville

The first of two British inclusions on this list, Adrian Neville is one of a kind (Hey! Hey! Hey!). The Geordie high-flyer rarely flatters to deceive and has built up a reputation which sees him heralded as “The Man That Gravity Forgot” due to his exciting work. Neville should make it to the main roster sooner rather than later and when he does, stealing the show will probably become a mainstay rather than simply an objective.

8. Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn has been tearing up NXT with brilliant match after brilliant match over the past year. In fact, the man formerly known as *ERROR* had been doing the same throughout the independent circuit in promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Chikara before WWE collected his much sought-after signature. Who knows if he’ll ever make it to the very top, but hard work and popularity pay dividends (just ask Daniel Bryan) and Zayn is arguably the most popular member of the NXT roster.

7. Wade Barrett

Injuries, stop-start booking and disastrous gimmicks have all played a huge part in holding back the winner of NXT Season 1, a time when the show was filled with pros, rookies and Michael Cole. Wade Barrett has been through a lot in his short career, from leading a dangerous and promising faction of misfits (nope, it ain’t The Union) to ‘not leading’ a dangerously awful gang of misfits (yep, that one was The Corre). Barrett is good in the ring, solid on the microphone and comes across as a level-headed guy, so there’s no glaring reason for him not to hit his stride this year. Ah, wait… I’ve got some bad news for you Wade.

6. Big E Langston

The current Intercontinental Champion presently holds the second most prestigious title in the ‘E, but he hasn’t been able to do much with it - defending against Curtis Axel and Damien Sandow does not count. Big E has shown charismatic glimpses on commentary and is a powerhouse in the ring, but there’s still something missing. He’s new to the main roster though, having spent less than a year on the card, so Big E has his whole career ahead of him. What does 2014 beckon? It’s not likely to offer a main event spot, but with friends in very high places (by all accounts John Cena is a fan) you just never know.

The Aspiring Ascenders

5. Bray Wyatt

Since debuting as leader of the Wyatt Family last summer, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in professional wrestling who has cut a more diverse plethora of weird, encapsulating promos. Bray Wyatt boasts a unique look, unique in-ring offence and a unique method of crossing the canvas (that inverse spider walk is creepy). He certainly could make an impact in 2014 and although unlikely, there has even been a rumour suggesting John Cena versus Wyatt at Wrestlemania 30. Providing Bray can remain in tip-top condition, the cultish man-of-beard might need to invest in some more main-event-level rocking chairs this year.

4. Cody Rhodes

The WWE tag division saw a resurgence in 2013, benefiting from a number of newly introduced pairings such as Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, and the exceptional Rhodes Brothers. In tow with Goldust (who wrestles like a spring-chicken himself these days), Cody Rhodes has successfully made that teeter-ish transition from long-time heel to much-loved baby face. He’s been around for a while and though many probably expected him to be in and around the main event picture by now, Rhodes is well on his way to the top. As tremendous as the duo have been, Cody and Goldie will likely see the back of each other in 2014 and after that, Rhodes has the perfect platform to springboard from.

3. Dolph Ziggler

Every year there’s a moment that sticks out for its sheer electricity. Three years ago it was The Rock’s return. A year later, Brock Lesnar caused a Miami-based eruption. And in 2013, we watched Dolph Ziggler cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and win the World Heavyweight title. Then it all went wrong. The Ziggler-paradox has shrouded WWE like a disorienting mist for a long time now. “Why isn’t he consistently main eventing?” has been the question on the lips of many a wrestling fan, probably as far back as his program with Edge. His excellent in-ring work speaks for itself, but other issues seemingly have held the former golf caddy back. Who knows? Maybe 2014 will be his year; Ziggler always finds a way to the pinnacle of lists such as these and is forever on the cusp of propulsion. The longer he’s ignored though, the more difficult time he’ll have making an impact. If it were down to me I’d have Dolph Ziggler main eventing this year - if not for his talent, for anxiety over a searing missed opportunity.

2. Antonio Cesaro

Another ‘Indy Darling’ on the up in the proverbial promised land. Much like Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro has wrestled successfully all over the world and, much like Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro has kicked off his efforts this year as the more-promising half of a tag-team (sorry Swags). The Swiss sensation is a chip off the old block, blending astute technical wrestling with power and even some comedy - we all loved counting the number of dizzying pirouettes as part of his Cesaro Swing. Admittedly with Kane’s aid, Daniel Bryan took a team gimmick that probably shouldn’t have worked and made it the most entertaining part of many an viewing of Monday Night RAW before his ascension to the main event. Perhaps Cesaro can do the same.

1. Roman Reigns

He has ‘the look’, is a former American football player and is related The Rock, so it’s very likely that Roman Reigns will make it all the way to the top. The only question is: how soon? With Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Reigns is one third of the most consistently dominant wrestling faction since Evolution. In truth, all three guys have an air of stardom about them. However unlike his mates, Reigns joined the WWE developmental system at the premise of his career and has only been around the business since 2010. Given the lengths he’s swam in only three years, and the break-up of the Shield on the horizon, I’d have my money on the impressive Roman Reigns being the prime candidate to propel himself to main event status in 2014.

Thanks for reading, if you would like to follow me on twitter or just let me know what you think of this debut column for Wrestling's Last Hope - @elloJasonIsaacs

Saturday, 11 January 2014

“The way I see it ….” Part one, the opening package By Matt Bayliss (@MattMatt316)

Everyone has a different opinion on British Wrestling, everyone has their favourite promotions, their favourite wrestlers and their favourite venues as well as the people they hate – most of this is down to what you have experienced and what you have been fortunate enough to see, or in some cases unfortunate enough to see! I dare say that if I mention people that I love to watch it may create rage in other peoples minds as they can’t stand that person, such is the joy being a wrestling fan!

A bit about me before I start, I have been a wrestling fan for a long long time. I remember watching World of Sport as a kid and I know the names involved but I was too young and it was too long ago to really remember. I first got to watch WWF around age 10 thanks to finally getting cable TV and got hooked instantly and started watching as much as I could. I was a huge Bret Hart fan from day one (I have since had the pleasure of meeting him and even drove him from Birmingham down to Heathrow which is one of the real high points of my life!) I watched more and more wrestling and lived through the Attitude era and the Monday night wars and saw wrestling reach unbelievable highs and got to go to see several live events. I even got to meet Scott Hall when the nWo was in full swing – I got to meet him again several years later and had a really long chat about where is was at that time in light of everything that has happened to him. As I got a bit older and had more and more going on I started to watch less wrestling, I kept a casual eye on what was going on and watched what I could but it didn’t really rule my life.

A few years ago I started to get back into things, partially through TNA which was different and enticing, I stumbled across one of their first tours over here taking place at the Coventry Skydome, I only found out about it a few days prior but was still able to get tickets and drag my other half and step daughter along and we had a great time. My interest however was mostly reinvigorated due to the FWA matches that were taking place at the Memorabilia and Expo shows I was working at. I used to sneak at peak whenever I could but then the son of one of the organisers got into wrestling and nobody really wanted to take him to watch the matches so I had the perfect excuse. I got to see guys like Rockstar Spud, RJ Singh, El Ligero and Jonny Storm performing and also had the opportunity to meet Alex Shane and had regular chats with him. This was my first real introduction to British Wrestling and I was impressed from the off. One of the guys I got to see in one of these matches was “The Showstealer” Nathan Cruz who really impressed me with his in ring work and his character, so I looked into him more and discovered NGW and have followed the promotion as closely as I can from so far away ever since. Many people have divided opinions on Cruz but there are few better than him based on his abilities, character and dedication to his craft.

I found some local shows and some other people who shared my interest. Rob McDermott has an intellectual yet beer fuelled love of wrestling and Hope Brookes (Queen of the Internet don’t you know) is a truly rabid fan! I was even fortunate enough to start working for a boss who was a wrestling fan and we managed to get 2nd row ringside seats for the RAW tapings in Birmingham. Soon enough my other half decided she didn’t want to go anymore but I had found some kindred spirits by then so I was undeterred! Since then I have watched more and more and some local shows have turned up which have been amazing, through which I have met some great people pretty randomly through attending shows – one in particular being Stuart who I first met properly down in Sittingbourne, Kent at a Rev-Pro show headlined by Marty Scurll vs Rockstar Spud but had some amazing talent throughout the card. I think we had interacted briefly on twitter beforehand but he recognised me and asked if I could send him the photos I had been taking. Little did we realise that we lived really close to one another back in Birmingham yet met in a snow storm down south! Other people locally like Ryan Smile and Corey Barnett have really opened my eyes to the business. I first saw them both at what can only be described as a clusterfuck of a show that was still amazingly entertaining but have since met them both and seen them both perform at much higher levels, Smile in particular in my opinion is one of the best in the country and constantly wants to be the best at everything he does.

In the last 12 months I have drifted away from the big wrestling companies, I keep an eye on what is going on in WWE and watch little bits and pieces that tickle my fancy, I watch TNA occasionally although more lately since Spud is getting screen time. Despite drifting away from them I think I have been watching more wrestling than ever before with Kamikaze Pro, Pro Wrestling Kingdom and AWW all local plus a few others too there is no shortage of shows to go to not to mention a regular flow of DVDs and the internet. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to write some live show and DVD reviews for The Indy Corner/Wrestlings Last Hope – this has given me opportunity to see some new promotions as well as getting to see the last two PROGRESS shows which I had heard so much about.

Personally I think the UK Indy scene is on a massive high at the moment and there are some amazing shows taking place, a lot of the import talent coming over too is helping draw more crowds, helping the UK talent learn and giving them opportunity to step up and show what they can do. There is so much going on it can get a bit confusing at times but that adds to awe of it all. Heel Bubblegum and Face Bubblegum are so very different in character but both are as entertaining as hell. Social media is amazing as well as you get to see the real people and their characters molded into one, and you get to see the ups and downs of life in the business.

I’d say I have a good, broad wrestling knowledge and I’m sure my opinion will be good for some – but like I said that’s the joy of wrestling, two people could attend the exact same show and take home two completely different opinions. I have wanted to write something for ages and have felt really encouraged and confident lately so now is as good a time as any to start. I always wanted to write a really “Heel” column, partly for fun partly to prove a point but then I realised that would be counter productive so instead I want to write a semi-regular piece just to share my observations on things I have seen and what I think about what is going on in the industry. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and welcome any feedback or questions people may have. There are wrestlers and promotions I’ve not seen or not seen much of so hopefully this will help broaden my knowledge further too

You don’t have to like my opinion, you don’t have to share my thoughts but that’s the whole point!


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

From The Heart By Craig Jarrett (@Craig_Jarrett)

(Left: Rising star Liam Lazarus)

There has been a discussion on the UK scene of late which has involved attacks regarding work ethics and commitment from UK based professional wrestlers against "part time" wrestlers or "weekend warriors". The discussion has even brought in some rather nice merchandise from Defend Indy Wrestling and Screw Indy Wrestling, who both appear to have a different outlook on the UK scene although not many people are exactly sure what that is.

I personally think that having part time wrestlers on the UK scene is unavoidable simply because there is not enough money on the scene for everybody to be full time, I am sure ever wrestler would love to be able to work full time in the ring but the fact is the scene has so many talented wrestlers and not enough big paying promotions for everybody to make a proper living at it. A lot of workers have families to support, houses to run and a lot of them are in education so they have something to fall back on should wrestling not work out for them.

To really be able to make comfortable living on the UK wrestling scene you need to pretty much have a similar schedule to that of a WWE wrestler which granted there is more than enough promotions around these days for you to be able to fill up your calendar with bookings but like I said earlier there just isn't enough big paying companies in operation.

On a similar note I think any wrestling promotion in the UK that makes merchandise of a wrestler on their roster such as a shirt or DVD and sells that said piece of merchandise then they should pay the wrestler a percentage of the sale, no ifs or buts about it.

Next I would like to talk about something I have witnessed over the years in British wrestling and lately I have been the victim of myself, that is being bad mouthed for have an opinion. Now I know my three article related to the BWA "scandal" of the Summer of 2013 may have caused some controversy among some people but I feel like I was completely down the middle on that by giving both parties their chance to speak their mind. Some people have said that unless you have been in the ring then you have no business talking about wrestling on any wrestling site. I have had a number of other fans who think they are in the business because they know people that are, "wrestlers" who have been going to school for a few month and guys bitter that they just don't have what other guys around them do have bad mouth me over the past week and tell me that I shouldn't be around the wrestling business.

I don't claim to be "in the business", the articles and interviews that I do are done for free, I don't have to do them, I do them for the love of wrestling and because I like to help put others over. Anybody who follows me on Twitter or is a friend of mine on Facebook will know that I constantly go out of my way to put people over, never to put myself over. I had one comment on my BWA article that I was just in it to get views but that was far from the truth, I felt it was a story that others needed to hear about, that is why I did it. I don't do interviews to help myself get over, I do it to get the wrestler over and I am damn proud of what I have done in the last few months.

Being involved in writing wrestling in one way or another has been something I have wanted to do for the past ten years and when I was given the chance to do so I took it with both hands and saw it as my chance to help further promote wrestling in the UK which is what I do every day of my life. I promote the British wrestling scene more than two of my biggest haters Dan James and Jacob Page do and yet because I have never stepped foot in a wrestling ring, just because I am doing this through social media and not outlets such as FSM or Powerslam then I am a nobody who doesn't belong and who's opinion means nothing.

There are many workers on the West Yorkshire that I think are very talented that don't get enough exposure who I do my best to help, there are many local promotions that I do my best to promote, there is a very talented artist who I do my best to promote constantly and I hope that he finally gets a job in wrestling soon. In a recent article of mine a talented local comedy wrestler who I have promoted for a long time got some great praise off a well respected name on the UK scene, all I do in wrestling is go out of my way to put others over, I am not in it for money or to make friends but simply to help other people.

For instance my pick for breakout wrestler of 2014 is Liam Lazarus, Liam isn't a huge name and hasn't been booked on many huge shows but the guy is a super talent who very much like Dolph Ziggler does in WWE he makes his opponent look good. I have really got behind this guy a lot and I will continue to do so because I want to see him have more attention payed to him, not for my own benefit. I would certainly like to thank everybody who has had kind things to say about my writing and to Stu for supporting me and appreciating what I do for British wrestling. I don't expect everybody to like me, I don't expect you to enjoy what I write but you can never say that I don't belong because I have given so much of myself and I will continue to do so because that is who I am.

Monday, 6 January 2014

And That’s My Opinion...on Wrestle Kingdom 8 By Dave Green (@dagreeno)

January 4th at Tokyo Dome. A major date on the wrestling Calendar. Since 1992, New Japan Pro Wrestling has held their biggest card of the year on this date. This year’s Wrestle Kingdom played before a crowd of 35,000 people. I’ll warn you right now that this is a long column. It’s a long show. Roughly 5 and a half hours. Yes, 5 hours and 30 minutes! But with this show, the production values are off the chain. Video packages are superbly produced, nearly everyone has a specially created entrance, live music. It’s a huge event. What will happen in the latest chapter of Tanahashi vs Nakamura? Will Naito get the negative reaction that demoted his title shot from the main event? Will the Gracies produce a watchable match? Let’s find out

Kicking things off is the dark match. Yes, a dark match is broadcast for everyone to see.

Dark match – Team 1 - Bushi, Captain New Japan, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Tomoaki Honma vs Team 2 - Jushin Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Super Strong Machine and Yohei Komatsu

Team 2 whip Komatsu into the entire team 1 to kick off a brawl. Bushi hits a nice top rope dropkick and breakdances up to his feet. As Liger breaks up a Boston Crab, he also stomps Komatsu in his head to fire him up! CNJ calls for a top rope headbutt and inevitably misses. Nakanishi hits Tenzan with the most awkward looking spear I've ever seen. Komatsu hits some good offense on Tenzan and gets several near falls. CNJ chokes Komatsu into position for top rope headbutts from Honma and Tenzan. Tenzan cinches in a high angle Crab for the submission on Komatsu in 8 minutes. Decent enough, but very little if any action from Liger and Machine. Bit of a waste of them. Despite being a last minute substitute, Komatsu was actually the star of this match, as the young lion worked hard against some big names and did himself proud.

The iPPV kicks off proper with some live traditional music while the English speaking announcers run down the card. The female voice keeps singing the name of everyone she announces – “Tetsuya NaitoOoOoOoOoOoO!!!!!” Both annoying and hilarious at the same time.

Match 1 - 4 Way Tag Match for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Title - The Young Bucks (c) vs Timesplitters (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley) vs Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero) vs Taka Michinoku & Taichi

After a great opening video and some live music, the night kicks off properly with one of the matches I'm most looking forward to.

Prediction: Young Bucks.

Timesplitters enter in a delorean! Amazing. Kushida even wears a Marty McFly duffle jacket. Koslov sings the Russian national anthem but the Bucks double superkick him. Can't say I blame them, what with everything going on in that country. Apparently this is tornado tag rules, though Taka and Taichi decide to do some guest commentary while the Bucks and Splitters run through some great tandem offense. Romero's multiple clotheslines in the corner get a great reaction, as do Koslov's Cossack dance kicks. All eight men hit a quadruple suplex. Multiple dives from everyone lead up to the Bucks suplexing Taichi off the top to everyone else outside! The ref counts to 19 but everyone dives back in the ring just in time. Doomsday Device only gets two for the Hooligans. Timesplitters hit their neckbreaker/moonsault combo on Romero but Taka comes in with a chair to distract the ref from counting the pin. Double Air Raid Crash gets two for Taka & Taichi. Bucks hit the spike Tombstone, double superkick for Taka, More Bang for Your Buck on Taichi gets the win in 11 minutes.

Not a long match, but they packed a huge amount in there. A spot fest certainly, but a damn good one. Hope we get a feud between the Bucks and Timesplitters from this. Ha - Nick just gave Kevin Steen a shoutout. Keeping the PWG connection going.

Match 2 – IWGP Tag title match – Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr) vs Bullet Club (Doc Gallows & Ken Anderson w/Tama Tonga)

Interested to see how this match is taken to, being all heels and all Gaijin.

Prediction- KES.

Bullet Club enter in camouflage war clobber. Not to be outdone, KES enter on motorbikes. KES start strong and dominate, even bringing Tonga in with a huge hiptoss and nearly hitting the killer bomb. Bullet Club take advantage and isolate Smith. Archer comes in with some hard clotheslines. Goes for Old School, but Tonga crotches him behind the refs back. Archer hits the Blackout, but Tonga pulls the ref out! He gets the Killer Bomb for his trouble. KES try it twice more, but it's countered each time. Archer hits a HUGE choke slam. 2nd attempt is countered with the Gun Stun - only for 2. DBS is taken out with a flapjack. Magic Killer! New champions in 10 minutes! Wow I'm surprised at the result. Then again, it's a fresh team at the top, which he division does need. The match was good, lots of high impact moves and kept a good pace. Crowd reacted well and treated KES like faces, which may continue as the interference made it a tainted win

Match 3 – NWA Championship match – Rob Conway (c) vs Satoshi Kojima

Prediction - Kojima. Well, actually I know Kojima won as it was spoiled by a certain web host ;)

Harley Race is introduced to the crowd, he's going to present the belt to the winner. Nice way of making this a big deal. Bruce Tharpe gets in his face before the match starts, so Harley decks him with a left hand.

Crowd are really behind Kojima. Say what you want about the NWA and it's place in today's wrestling world, but Conway and Tharpe have done a great job of getting reactions from the Japanese crowds. An exchange on the apron sees Kojima hit a DDT. Dane interferes before the Bakayaro elbow, Conway knocks Kojima off the top to the floor. Conway hits Tenzan's Mongolian chops whilst taunting the man at ringside. Kojima cuts him off with a Koji-Cutter and brainbuster. Dane puts a sleeper on Kojima right in front of the ref. Tenzan slams Dane on the outside. Conway ducks the lariat and hits a spear. Ego Trip is countered with a lariat to the back. Running lariat! Kojima wins in 9 minutes. The match was decent, but the crowd was very into the action which helped a lot. After Kojima's matches in the G1, this win is thoroughly deserved and Race presenting the belt to him is a real feel good moment.

Match 4 – Yuji Nagata & Kazushi Sakuraba vs Daniel & Rolles Gracie

Prediction - Nagata & Sakuraba.

I don't know much about the Gracie clan. I'm aware that Sakuraba took on the clan and beat most of them in the MMA world, but Rolles and Daniel were not in that list. What the Gracie's wrestling background is, I know not, so this match could be a train wreck. Rolles catches Sakuraba in a few submission situations leading Nagata to break it up. Daniel gets into trouble when Nagata kicks his legs. Daniel tries shoving him back, but his shove looks weak. That's a first - a weak looking shove! A chokehold gets Nagata in trouble, but transfers into a cross arm breaker, which Daniel reverses. Sakuraba drops a knee in his face. Daniel looks really awkward going for strikes, like he realises he has to hold back and not go full power as he would in his fighting environment. Nagata hits the backdrop, but Daniel kicks out! Rolles and Sak brawl - well, hold each other - on the outside. Daniel counters the backdrop and chokes Nagata with his gi, the ref admonishes him. Nagata's out, the bell sounds at 10 mins. The Gracie's celebrate, but they've been dq'ed. Well that was underwhelming. It was hold, then a hold, then a hold ad infinitum and ends with a pathetic DQ. Rolles was poor, but Daniel was awful! New Japan left names like Tomohiro Ishii off this card and had this instead? Waste of time. The promos after the match took as long as the match!

Match 5 – Minoru Suzuki & Shelton Benjamin vs Toru Yano & The Great Muta

There've been some good entrances tonight, but this is the one I’ve been looking forward to - the return of the great Muta. Live band, multiple dragon dancers, and a typically bonkers warrior robe and mask.

Prediction – Yano & Muta.

Muta and Suzuki start, but not before a green mist spit which pops the crowd. Exchanges with Suzuki and Benjamin don't quite go Muta's way, so he pulls from under the ring....a lighting truss?? That's a new under-the-ring item. Yano tags in and immediately gets into trouble. Suzuki-gun dominate a brawl on the outside. Yano's worked over until he manages to expose the turnbuckles and Benjamin leaps right into them. Hot tag to Muta. Running kick in the corner followed the Dragon Screw. Muta uses a chair on the outside. Hits the Muta elbow. Benjamin fluffs the dragon whip kick. Yano runs through his usual routine of doing his RVD pose and getting stopped. Yano counters the Gotch piledriver and sets Muta up for the Shining Wizard. Taichi tries interfering and gets the red mist! Yano's caught in a sleeper and is shouting at Muta to help, who just stands and watches. As the ref puts a chair out, Yano low blows Suzuki and shoves Muta! Muta goes for Yano but hits Suzuki with green mist. Yano cradle gets the three at 11 minutes. Not a technical classic by any means, but it was great fun. I just hope the Yano/Suzuki feud is over and they can move on.

Match 6 – Togi Makabe vs Bad Luck Fale (King of Destroyer Match)

Second half kicks off with a long running feud where the match can only be won by submission or knockout. This also Fale's singles debut.

Prediction - Fale.

As expected its strikes a-plenty as they brawl to the outside almost immediately. Fale takes over quite quickly once outside. His offense ranges from kick to punch to stomp. Makabe comes back with a slam but misses the King Kong knee drop. Fale grabs Makabe’s chain, but gets it and waffles Fale with chain punches and a lariat. Makabe gets a table - I think I see where this is going. Makabe goes to the top rope, but Fale knocks him back into the ring. Fale hits the Grenade (Samoan Spike) but Makabe gets up before 10. Splash Mountain Bomb! Makabe gets up again - first man to survive that move. Fale gets desperate and goes to the top and misses a splash. Fale gets caught posing on the apron and Makabe catches him with a powerbomb through the table - really rough bump! The lower back of Fale hit the table but his upper body and head smacked against the floor. Makabe gets him back in the ring and hammers him with clotheslines in the corner. Makabe with the King Kong knee drop to the back of Fale's head, and another to the chest and that's it at 15 minutes. This went a lot longer than I expected it to. Dull first half but it picked up once Makabe got on offense. Fale took a bad bump through the table and still finished the match, so he still looked strong in his first loss.

Match 7 – Katsuyori Shibata vs Hirooki Goto

Goto's return from injury against his long time friend turned rival. In a series of matches last summer, Shibata's won one and the other matches all went to draws, so prediction - Goto.

Shibata starts strong and barely misses a penalty kick in only the third strike of the match. Figure four locked in. Shibata in control early, playing off Goto's ring rust. Goto hits a great spin kick in the corner but Shibata comes straight back with kick to the face! Shibata with vicious forearms to the previously injured jaw. Goto finally hits a massive lariat to get some control. Each man tries a running strike, with the other absorbing the blow. Stiff German Suplex by Shibata. A sequence of each man no selling backdrop drivers leads to a Shibata enziguri. Oh my god - clotheslines, roundhouse kicks, only getting one-counts in absurdly quick sequence. DVD over the knee followed by the penalty kick - Goto kicks out! Goto hits a face first powerbomb over the knee (!) followed by two neckbreakers on the knee, Shibata kicks out. Spinning face buster, another kick out. Goto goes for the Shouten, but Shibata reverses into one of his own! Shibata goes for the GTS, Goto counters, unprotected headbutts 'from both, ugh. Double KO tease. Massive lariat, Shouten, Goto wins in 15 minutes. Shibata raises Goto's hand and they leave together. Apart from the headbutts, this match was awesome. Intense and even throughout. I predict both these men will have a title before the year is out.

Match 8 - IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title match – Prince Devitt (c) vs Kota Ibushi

Prediction - Ibushi.

I was back and forth on who'd win. Everyone seems to think it’s a lock for Ibushi to win, but Devitt and the Bullet Club holding a majority of titles would be a major deal for them. But the title hasn't been defended in ages, so a title change probably should happen.

Oh my goodness, Devitt's entrance. He gets brought out in a coffin. Holy shit, he's body painted like...well, like this -

That's thinking outside the box. The entire Bullet Club are at ringside except Fale. A running ropes exchange leads to an Ibushi roundhouse kick. Interference almost immediately as Gallows pulls Ibushi out. After some slow offense from Devitt, he chops Ibushi to the outside where Anderson powerbombs him on the ring apron! Devitt misses a top rope stomp, Ibushi goes for a dive, the Bucks are in the ring but Ibushi hits them with a double backflip kick. Then he takes out the rest of the Club with a springboard twisting Asai moonsault! Standing shooting star press into a second rope moonsault gets two. Someone throws a chair against Ibushi's head, getting Devitt two on a rollup. Schoolboy rollup into a German suplex by Ibushi! Wow! Gallows holds Ibushi's leg so Devitt can push him to the floor. The interference is getting stupid now. Just as I think that, the Club is sent away from ringside by officials. Hard dropkick against the barrier by Devitt, so impactful that Ibushi sprung back and hit the ring post! Ibushi catches Devitt up top - SUPER HURRICANRANA!!! That was amazing! Only two! Reverse bloody Sunday, only two! Top rope double stomp, only two! Crowd are going crazy for this match. Snap German suplex - never seen that move hit so quickly. Last Ride-style sitdown powerbomb. Phoenix Splash! Ibushi wins! 16 minutes and a new Jr Heavyweight Champion. Slightly odd ending in that I expected it to be a bit more competitive, but Ibushi dominated the last 90 seconds. The interference got too much, so I was glad to see the Club get sent away. Overall though, great match as expected between these two.

Afterwards, a masked suited man presents Ibushi with black flowers and leaves. Apparently he is known as El Desperado. No idea who it was and nor does anyone else apparently. I've read who people think it is, but I won't speculate, let's wait and see.

Match 9 – IWGP Heavyweight Title – Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Tetsuya Naito

So Naito got a big push after his injury lay off by winning the G1 for this title shot. However after a negative crowd reaction to him in a promo exchange with Okada, officials decided to put the placing of this and the IC Title match to a vote. This lost, of course. Let’s see if Naito can convince us we made the wrong choice.

Prediction - Okada

Okada makes it rain money all over the Tokyo Dome, what a sight. A good even exchange until Okada hits a springboard dropkick to knock Naito outside. Okada locks a strange stretch move on the entrance ramp, then runs a good length of said ramp to dropkick Naito. Innovative submission hold where Okada ties up Naito's arms in his legs and holds his head in a cravat. After little offense for 10 minutes, Naito finally hits an apron-to-corner dropkick. He pounds away at Okada in the corner to audible boos from the crowd. Naito counters a tombstone attempt with a tornado DDT on the outside. Puma Blanca is locked in but Okada makes the ropes. Naito shows his vicious side with headbutts in the corner, but he caught napping and Okada takes to the turnbuckles and dropkicks him outside, where Naito surgically repaired knee gets caught in the ropes on the way down. Diving elbow followed by the Rainmaker signal. Naito counters a DVD attempt into a spike DDT. Puma Blanca locked in again to no reaction from the crowd. Enziguri and German suplex get a loooong two count. DDT into the Red Ink by Okada. After Naito makes it to the ropes, he counters another tombstone attempt and hits his flying forearm. Nice top rope hurricanrana. Dragon suplex for two! Gloria! Only two. Stardust Press and Naito crashes and burns! That was close! Okada hits the reverse neckbreaker, then Heavy Rain, both for two. Rainmaker countered into a victory roll! Close two count. Urenage slam on the neck! Naito hits an unprotected headbutt. Ugh those are stupidly dangerous, stop doing them! Forearm countered with Rainmaker, but that's countered with a palm strike, then Naito runs into a beautiful dropkick, rainmaker countered again, Gloria-rollup, closest you can get to a three count without getting the three! Dropkick to the back if the head! Tombstone! Naito counters Rainmaker again, goes for Puma Blanca but that's countered to another Tombstone! Rainmaker!!!! 31 minutes and Okada retains. What a match! Okada performed incredibly and Naito did a great a job too, despite the crowd seemingly not much into him. Some innovative counters to the Rainmaker but couldn't quite get the job done. Not sure where this loss leaves Naito but hopefully he won't be completely forgotten.

Match 10 – IWGP Intercontinental Title – Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

They haven't fought each other since G1 2011, and they've twice headlined January 4th Tokyo Dome previously. Both times, Nakamura won. Just in terms of where they can both go from here, I'll go with a prediction of Tanahashi.

Stan Hansen in introduced to present the winner with the title. Not sure why they couldn't have found someone to do the same with the previous title match. Marty Friedman of Megadeath provides live guitar for Tanahashi's entrance.

Early advantage to Tanahashi, who immediately targets Nakamura's left leg. Good psychology always employed by Tanahashi, as he always targets the parts of the body that his opponent uses for his finisher, e.g. matches against Kojima and Okada where he targeted their Lariat-throwing arms. In this case, the Boma-Ye kicking leg. However Nak uses said leg to counter a cross body attempt. Seems Nak is targeting the mid-section. After some trademark Tana offense, Nak hits a spin kick but sells his leg, showing it may not be as healthy as he made out. Wicked face-first suplex. Tan misses a charge and leaves himself open for a series of knees to the ribs. Enziguri knocks Tana to the floor. Nak misses a knee on the apron and wipes out on the floor. Tana with a crossbody to the floor! Dragon Screw in the ropes. Tana tries a cloverleaf but Nak gets him in a triangle choke. MMA background came in handy there. Tana counters into the Cloverleaf. Straight jacket German gets Tana a loooong two count. Tana goes for High Fly Flow, gets knocked off, he skins the cat back in but Nak hits a backcracker! Great sequence. Nak wins a strike exchange and ruthlessly stomps Tan in the ropes. Boma-Ye from behind, but Nak's too tired to cover. DVD-neckbreaker, followed by flipping back suplex. DVD countered with kind of a Slingblade. Sunset powerbomb is countered by Nak into a Codebreaker. dragon suplex gets two for Tana. High Fly Flow!!!! Only two! Wow I thought that was it. Nak hits a second rope Boma-Ye, then a regular one! Only two again! Nak goes for the Boma-Ye again several times but it's countered every time, until another dragon screw while on the canvas by Tana. Cloverleaf again. Tana turns it into a Styles Clash! High Fly Flow crossbody while Nak was on his knees! Looked rough as hell. High Fly Flow frog splash! New champion!!!! 24 minutes of excellence.

A worthy main event. As Tanahashi can't challenge for the heavyweight title while Okada still holds it, this will give him a new direction. Plus this must surely make Tana some kind of record holder? Surely he's New Japan's most successful title holder. Nakamura doesn't lose much by dropping the title. He made it a main event worthy title and hopefully he will be put into the main title picture.
Overall a very well delivered card. Every match had everyone working hard and the entrances made this feel like a very special event. Having said that, I could've done without the Gracie's match and I don't look forward to more from them in the future. The final three matches are all worth checking out, as well as the opening four-way tag and Goto/Shibata.

New Japan have set the bar for wrestling events very high with this one. Rest of the world, the floor is yours.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Se7en: A Week in Wrestropect By Oliver JK Smith

In the un exampled, ever changing world of professional wrestling, only one thing is certain... A lot can happen in seven days. Join me as I gaze back: reflecting, reminiscing and re lapsing through the best and worst the last week has had to offer.

Weird > Beard

The biggest story coming out Monday night saw Daniel Bryan succumbing to Bray Wyatt and his demented family. It's hard to believe that two months have passed since the goat faced wonder was challenging for the then WWE championship. In this time Bryan has been kept busy whilst remaining relevant, proving that carrying the gold is not the be all and end all some internet fans would have us believe.

Do Bryan's actions equal heel turn? No. For the Wyatt's have never been heels themselves. Last week WWE owner Vince McMahon proclaimed there was no longer a need for heels or faces within the WWE universe, only shades of grey. The Wyatt's have been cheered ever since their arrival on the scene, this cannot be expected to change following the addition of WWE's most revered competitor. I expect a galvanized Bryan to unleash on 'The Authority' over the coming months, perhaps resulting in the ultimate pay off match against HHH at this years Wrestlemania.

The Beast Is Back!...Again

With more exits than the M25, Brock Lesnar made his fateful return during this weeks edition of Monday night Raw. In similar fashion to The Rock eighteen months ago, Brock's part time pillbox has been cast into the WWE World heavyweight title picture once again. Perhaps I should have a problem with in frequent stars taking ownership at the top, but I don't. Brock is best for business, pairing him with Mark Henry quite literally beefs up future programming and has me salivating down the road to wrestle mania. Maybe it's the New Year's optimism taking hold of me but with Batista's return immanent, the booking possibilities have me believing that not even Vince McMahon could ruin 2014.

Angle's being 'Kurt'eous

I am not a TNA fan, I am however a wrestling fan; Which Is why it pains me to see Kurt Angle's career getting swallowed into the Dixie Carter vortex of crap. I'm not blaming Dixie, she doesn't know any better, Kurt on the other hand should know where he must hang his boots when the time comes. In an interview with Boston based WEEI radio this week, the Olympic gold medalist let slip that his current TNA contract expires in 8 months time. When pressed on where his future may lie, Angle was unable to rule out a return to the WWE.

Just as McMahon picked up the rehab bill following Angle's recent off screen issues, WWE have the means to exorcise Kurt's on screen demons.

And finally...

We learnt this week that the upcoming WWE network WILL include footage of Chris Benoit, albeit with a disclaimer. What ever you think of Chris as a human being, the right decision has been made here. WWE are giving fans a choice; It is acceptable to enjoy Benoit's in-ring talents, whilst those who who oppose can simply choose not to watch.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, here's to the next seven days and indeed the next fifty two weeks!

Happy New Year

Oliver JK Smith

Thursday, 2 January 2014

BWA: Controversy Creates? Part 3 - Harvey Dale (@TheHarveyDale) Has His Say By Craig Jarrett

Having given my own opinion of the BWA/Gareth Angel vs Harvey Dale war of words and then gotten Gareth's own side of things in a follow up, I thought it was only fair to get Harvey Dales side of the incident. So here is the final part in this BWA discussion as I posed the questions to Mr. Dale for him to answer in as much information as he wants.

Harvey added the following statement before we began "Thank you for taking the time to compile a list of questions, your time and interest in this matter is greatly appreciated as it is still a subject that I feel very strongly about".

Have you had a chance to read Gareth's latest response to what happened last summer?

Yes I have, having read your original article a few weeks ago, I had wondered if Gareth would decide to issue a statement or anything so it came as no surprise to read what was said.

Could you go over again what was said in the original conversation between the two of you?

Yes certainly. I became aware of Bradford Wrestling Alliance whilst it was advertising its original debut show. I had a look at the 'roster' announced and was obviously very concerned from the off set that this was going to be 'just another' of the constant stream of drivel using the same bunch of partially or untrained workers, the vast majority of whom have attended a training school for no more that a month before being thrust onto 'shows' in front of a live audience. You wouldn't train at NGW, Futureshock or House Of Pain for example and then be on a show a month later as there is no way you could possibly be prepared or ready for that kind of environment. That being said, who a 'promotion' wishes to use on their roster is their own business and it is not for me to dictate who should/should not be used. My first contact with Gareth came following that debut show, I arrived home late that night having been on a show somewhere myself to see a lot of uproar on Facebook about a chap called Matt Ward (not to be confused with the British Wrestler "Flex Buffington" who is of the highest caliber and should be getting more bookings than he currently does), who had been entered into a 'Rumble' match on their debut show. As it turned out, Matt had been attending 'Grapple Wrestling' in Leeds but had only been to a small handful of training sessions and was by anyone's way of thinking, not ready to be pushed into such an environment. I remember a comment from, someone whom I believe to be his sister asking 'who I was to be speaking out against a young boy fulfilling his dream of being on a wrestling show' and I just snapped. The sheer indignation of some of the idiots that follow around these shows and their lack of understanding of the fact that what happens on those shows is DANGEROUS is highly surprising at times. As it turned out, Matt Ward had been severely injured when exiting the ring from the Rumble match and if memory serves me correctly spent a number of days in hospital following that incident. On that day Matt was lucky, lucky that the incident wasn't more serious and lucky that he was able to walk away from it a few days later which I think we were all very thankful for. This prompted a message to me from Gareth Thompson, who having read my thoughts on the subject wanted to 'put my mind at ease'. Gareth introduced himself and told me how he had it on good authority that Matthew had been training for several months and that his trainer had indeed contacted Gareth and BWA to 'put him forward' for a spot on the show. Whether this was true or not, I do not know. I then asked Gareth what his insurance costs had been for the show and he responded with 'what do you mean?', so I again asked what he had paid for the insurance to run the show. He replied with, "oh we don't need insurance as the venue has it....." At this point I gave Gareth the benefit of the doubt, believing him just to be a bit on the naive side and offered to help him sort everything out should he want some help. He came back to me a month or so later thanking me for pointing him in the right direction and saying he was now on top of everything and doing things properly, was fully insured and would be looking at taking out a lot of the 'untrained yarders' and replacing them with properly trained and competent workers, all of whom would be being paid to perform on what was being advertised as a 'professional show'. I left it at that and said no more about Gareth until I was alerted to an absolutely ridiculous Youtube video of one of their shows, which I took 2 hours out of my day to actually sit through and all I can say is WOW! This was possibly the most nonsensical piece of booking I had ever come across, I'm not going to say too much about the show until the main event part of it, which at 330pm on a Sunday afternoon, in front of families with small children, Gareth decided to book himself in a 'Hardcore Match' for the 'title'. The entire match was a farce from start to finish and highlighted the sheer ineptitude of Gareth as a booker, as a worker and as a human being. I had my say on the match and needless to say, a PM from Gareth again popped up asking me for help! I asked Gareth about his insurance again and he admitted to me that he did not have any and asked if I could put him in touch with the company that we had used for HOP:E. One day later (I can only assume having heard the actual cost of being insured), Gareth had changed his tune and was claiming he had been fully insured the whole time and had just 'misplaced' his certificate. We exchanged a number of messages with me picking holes in his lies and him backtracking and attempting to cover them up before he eventually blocked me, not, as he claimed, me blocking him, I have no reason to block Gareth, in fact I find his lies very entertaining to read most of the time.

Do you still stand by the things you said to and about Gareth?

To be honest, I cannot remember everything that was said, I will clear up my feelings on Gareth though. For starters, I think Gareth is a fool unto himself. I was contacted by several former or 'current' at the time, BWA wrestlers, all telling me they were not paid or that the things they were asked to do made no sense. It is a shame that being tarred with the association of being with Gareth Angel does seem to hold back some decent guys from every getting a chance to get out there. Matt Slater is a classic example as is JG Nash, both guys have the charisma and ability to move to a better level, but a lot of promoters will take one look at a show like this and just feel they are not worth giving a chance to. I believe Gareth is a rotten human being, a pathological liar and someone who would happily endanger the safety of both his workers and his audience in order to line his own pocket.

Having watched the BWA shows on Youtube, what were your thoughts on what you saw?

I think I touched on this briefly in my answer to a previous question. For me, the booking makes no sense whatsoever, having a hardcore match with no build up or story established behind it, 'just for the sake of it' is ridiculous. On the same show, Gareth had booked Chris Taylor to wrestle Matt Marsay, in a 'submission match' - I spoke to both guys after that show and both told me that they do not ever use submission holds and have never been involved in a submission match before, again it would bring me to ask, WHY? What is the point of booking 2 guys in a match that neither of them have ever worked before, neither are comfortable with and doesn't benefit the the show in any way? It just doesn't make sense. In all honesty, I felt the shows that I watched (which in total I think I have sat through 3) and they way they are run, are nothing more than a platform for Mr Angel to perform in a main event spot and get himself onto local radio claiming to be a 'Professional Wrestler'- Gareth is NOT a professional wrestler, guys like Ligero, Kris Travis, Nathan Cruz, Stixx etc, they are PROFESSIONAL wrestlers, people who travel the country day in and day out, being paid to perform in front of audiences. Putting on a pair of leather trousers and putting some stickers on a WWE Belt to book yourself as a 'Heavyweight Champion' does not a 'Professional Wrestler' make.

Have you attempted to contact Gareth since what was said before?

No I haven't, as I explained in one of my earlier answers, Gareth blocked me from being able to contact him on Facebook and in all honesty I felt there was no point in me wasting any more breath on him. A man who can lie and twist the truth in the manner in which Gareth does is never going to change. Gareth has no desire to do things properly, if he was serious about bettering himself or actually becoming a 'Professional' then he would attend a training school and actually make himself competent inside the ring.

Looking back on what you said and making the conversation public on Facebook, do you regret doing so?

Maybe social media is not the best platform to express opinions on as reading something can often be taken out of context but I don't think I regret any of it necessarily no. What people seem to so often ignore is that their actions directly effect the entire scene in the UK as a whole. If a family sees a poster for 'British Wrestling' and goes along to watch- let's use Bradford as an example as NGW have now run a couple of shows there as well, they go to an NGW show, they are treated to the cream of the crop in British Wrestling, El Ligero, Mark Haskins, Robbie X, Stixx, Nathan Cruz, Rampage Brown etc, they are given a show, that from start to finish is booked to make sense to the audience, there are no random 'Hardcore Matches', no one appearing on the shows who hasn't worked damn hard at a training academy (usually their own which I am so pleased to say now includes Matt Slater) to make sure that they are ready to perform in front of an audience, it is just a well structured and enjoyable experience for that family. That family then comes away with a lasting first impression of British Wrestling and 99 times out of 100 it will have been a good one. Now say that they see a poster and it is one of Gareth's, they go along to a working mens club on a Sunday afternoon and see the kinds of things I have mentioned already, they then come away with a completely different first impression and can anyone honestly then say that they would not tar the wonderful product offered by NGW and the product offered by BWA with the same brush purely because to the casual audience they are both advertised as 'British Wrestling'. In that instance we may well lose that family forever and never get them to another show. I would also make no apologies or have any regrets about calling out Gareth for the lack of insurance. Take Matt Ward's injury as an example, had his injury been more severe and he ended up, heaven forbid, in a wheel chair for the rest of his life, what would have been on the national news that week? I'll tell you what, it would have said how British Wrestling was full of untrained and unsafe practices that caused a young lad to lose the ability to walk. Where would Matt be today if that was the case? Gareth's lack of insurance would have left him with no where to turn. In the same instance, all insurance companies who would actually insure a wrestling product in this country would be sat rubbing their hands together and bumping up their prices, making it nearly impossible for any other promotion to be able to afford to have insurance. The entire product suffers.

Do you think British wrestling is full of bullying and backstabbing?

Backstabbing yes. British Wrestling will always be full of people trying to undercut each other or slag each other off in order to steal their spot on a show. It is one of the things that holds back the guys at the top from being able to charge what they deserve to be paid as there will always be someone willing to fill your spot for a lot less money, of course, the product then suffers but a lot of 'promoters' would rather use it as a tool to make money than to actually invest in the quality of the product. Bullying, it may go on, in the locker rooms and promotions that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, I have certainly never seen it.

Do you think Gareth should still be involved in wrestling?

Is Gareth still 'involved' in wrestling? Nothing that Gareth has ever done, in my mind, is 'wrestling' so I can't really comment on that side of things. If Gareth put the effort into attending a training school, and it isn't as though there are a shortage of them around, reached a suitable level and went the right way about getting bookings then I would have no problem at all with Gareth being involved. As long as what he is doing is safe, insured and not dragging the reputation of British Wrestling through the mud, then why not, everyone is entitled to follow their passion. I would just question what Gareth's passion actually is.

Do you think the two of you will ever make amends?

I'm not too sure on this one, whether Gareth feels my comments were personal or not, my sole intention was only ever to protect the thing that I love from being dragged through the mud. Whenever I talk to any of the American lads that come over, one of the first things I ask them is "What do you guys think of British Wrestling?"- more often than not they will tell me that its reputation is terrible and will then go on to highlight such things as shoddy production values, shoddy shows and shoddy booking that is plastered all over the World Wide Web. What people like Gareth need to understand is that by putting this rubbish up for all to see, he is getting the UK Scene judged all over the world and we all know that the product we have in the UK at the moment as a whole is better than it has been in a very long time.

If a promotion that was run similar to BWA came up what you act the same way towards that promotion and its promoter?

My involvement with Gareth came about because of the lies he was telling me after initially asking for help. If someone else acted in the same way then yes, my reaction would be the same. There are already a number of similar 'promotions' operating in the UK every day of the week, I am not on a crusade to rant about them all but will always give my opinion when asked. Our scene will never truly reach its potential until everyone abides by the book and does things properly, THAT is all I would ever ask of anyone. If you are a wrestler, TRAIN with somebody qualified and capable of training you. If you are a promoter or someone looking to run a show, GET INSURANCE and make damn sure that when you are booking a show, what you are doing makes sense, remember that you are representing the scene as a whole and anything you do reflects on everybody else.

Harvey then finished with this statement "I would like to take this opportunity to thank anyone who has taken the time to show and interest in this story and to Wrestling's Last Hope and Craig Jarrett for their time. Should you have any questions please feel free to get me on my twitter @TheHarveyDale or find me on Facebook".

I would like to thank Stu for giving me the chance to do this and I would like to thank Harvey and Gareth for their time, I hope nobody has been offended by what has been said by either person, I just felt this needed bringing to light.