Saturday 30 November 2013
It never fails to amaze me how many people blame Vince Russo for anything they didn't like during his time there but those same people never seem to give him credit where credit is due for all the great moments he helped create. If you look at WWF/E before and after Russo was on the creative staff you can clearly see a difference by what was been seen on TV and that he helped put everything into place for the year that was 2000, the best year to be a WWF fan.
One of the biggest stories on the wrestling internet (which I was not apart of back then) in late 1999 was the creative jump of Vince Russo (and Ed Ferrera, buts nobody remembers him) from Vince McMahons WWF to their Monday night ratings competitors in Ted Turners WCW. This was what WCW needed at the time as they were struggling to respond to WWF taking back the title of the number 1 wrestling promotion, from the very first show that Russo was apart of for WCW you can clearly see a change from what WCW had been doing in the stale year that was 1999.
In late 1999 the ratings in WCW began to rise once again and we began to see an edgier look to the product as a whole which culminated in the New World Order being brought back from the dead this time being led by then WCW champion Bret Hart who had not had the best of times in WCW since making the famous jump two years earlier. This new version of the infamous nWo would featuring Bret Hart as the leader instead of Hulk Hogan back in the original nWo who had of course been lingering in mid card ever since joining WCW, the band was also joined by Jeff Jarrett this time who had of course previously been apart of WCW years earlier but left for better things. If you go back and look at the difference in quality and entertainment factor in WCW from before Russo came in to after you will see that WCW became a much better product, this would all change in January of 2000 when Vince Russo was forced out of WCW by the old guys scared of their spots being taken. This dismissal of Russo from WCW also led to the walk out of Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn and Shane Douglas (who would return a few months later) which was such a huge blow for the promotion as The Radicalz (Malenko, Guerrero, Benoit & Saturn) went on to lots of succes over in rivals WWF.
In April of 2000 Vince Russo was brought back in as WCW had gone back to what is was before Russo was initially brought in, stale and boring. This time he was not alone as Eric Bischoff, the man behind WCWs most successful period was also brought in to work along side him. The product of WCW would once again be changed as WCW was to take a new direction in talent as the focus of the promotion would be on younger wrestlers, most of whom would come from WCWs own training facility the Power Plant. These wrestlers that would be brought in to be the future of the promotion were the likes of Shane Helms, Shannon Moore, Chuck Palumbo, Sean O'Haire, Mark Jindrak, Elix Skipper, Johnny The Bull and many more. During this new direction in the WCW product we saw the old wrestlers being moved aside to make way for the future and wrestlers who had been apart of WCW for years but had never been given a shot such Scott Steiner, Booker T, Ernest Miller and Chris Kanyon being given bigger pushes, we also saw ECW wrestlers such as Mike Awesome and Lance Storm being given a decent push.
Despite all the progress in pushing the future of the promotion there was problems from those veterans whose spots were being taken which lead to Bash At The Beach 2000, a creative control card being played by Hulk Hogan and Vince Russo refusing to bow down to his wishes. Russo went out on a live PPV with a live microphone to give the biggest pipebomb in wrestling history and tell the world what we all already knew about Hulk Hogan but nobody ever dared to admit, this incident then went on to allow Booker T to go and finally get the main event push so I guess every cloud would have a silver lining.
All in all I would that Vince Russo is a hugely talented creative writer and I do not think he gets anywhere near the amount of credit that he deserves for the key part he played in the greatest period to be a professional wrestling fan. I will not be commenting on his time in TNA as I really am not a fan of the product and I haven't watched enough of it to really judge.
If you would like to read a what if scenario regarding Vince Russo making former UFC star Tank Abbott the WCW world heavyweight champion then please go to www.callingspots.com to check out the latest issue of this great fanzine.
P.S. I liked the decision to put the world heavyweight title on David Arquette lol.
Thursday 28 November 2013
My favourite wresting company this year has been New Japan Pro Wrestling. I've always been a fan of Japanese wrestling back to when I could watch a highlights show that was broadcast on Eurosport back in the 90's (gives you an idea as to my age!) Since making the decision to broadcast worldwide on iPPV, NJPW has been easier to access and keep up to date with. From the excellent Wrestle Kingdom in January to the awesome G1 Climax tournament (possibly the best booked tournament in wrestling history) NJPW has consistently put out quality shows over this year, to the point where even their weakest shows outshine the best PPVs put out by the American companies. However one thing that does not seem to be clicking at the moment is their tag team division. The Junior tag league has been dominated mainly by Forever Hooligans and the Timesplitters, having faced each other for the belts in most of the ippv output. Thankfully the Young Bucks have recently been brought in to inject some new blood, having already become the new champs. The heavyweight tag division seems in worse shape though (the reasons for which I shall get to later)
With that in mind, I thought I would offer a preview of their next big event, the World Tag League, which started today (23rd November) The concept is essentially the same as the G1, but with tag teams. Two blocks filled with seven teams battle it out for the most points (2 for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss). In the event of a tie, the win-loss record over the tournament comes into play. The team with the most points in each block face the runners-up from the other block, with the winners of those matches facing each other in the finals.
Both the finals and semi's take place on ippv on 8th December. The winners receive a tag title shot at Wrestle Kingdom in January. Bear in mind that certain wrestlers have already been booked in matches for that very event. You may notice a trend as I preview the teams and their chances of winning.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Captain New Japan
For those unfamiliar with Tanahashi, basically he is New Japan's top guy. Puts on incredible matches with anyone he's against and the main reason NJPW is the top Japanese company. CNJ is essentially NJPW's version of Cpt America and a comedy jobber. If this team wins a match, Tanahashi gets the win. If they lose, CNJ does the job. They won't win as Tanahashi is already booked for WK against for the Intercontinental Title.
Prince Devitt & Bad Luck Fale (Bullet Club)
Devitt is Jr Hvt Champ and leader of the Bullet Club faction, with Fale as his bouncer. This faction is the most prone to cheating in the most obvious of circumstances, almost to the point of parody, which is a shame as the moment when Devitt turned heel and formed the club was one of the top moments of the year from NJPW. This team will pick up a few wins, maybe going to the semi finals, but ultimately Devitt is booked at WK against Kota Ibushi and Fale looks to be facing Togi Makabe at the same event, so they won't get the shot.
Manabu Nakanishi & Strong Man
This team should not be anywhere near this tournament. Strong Man is a roided up Scott Steiner wannabe and Nakanishi is the slowest guy on the roster due to injuries and age. If they even get any points, I'll be shocked
Masato Tanaka & Yujiro Takakashi (The Complete Players)
This pair have been a team off and on for a good few years and might be a favourite in this purely because neither are currently booked at WK. I've a gut feeling though that they'll be third or fourth in their block
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma (GBH)
A very popular and physical duo. If it was up to me, they'd be at least semi- finalists. But due to the buildup to the singles match between Makabe and Fale, Honma will be doing the jobs for most of the block
Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii (Chaos)
This team is Block A's Chaos representatives and my favourite team in the whole tournament. Nakamura is a crazy mix of rock star arrogance and deadly strikes, while Ishii is a cult favourite on the tail end of his break out year. Both heavy hitters and very popular, I see this team being definite semi finalists, maybe even finalists, but they won't as Nakamura has a date with Tanahashi
Davey Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer (Killer Elite Squad)
The difference that Japan has made to these two is incredible. Both were made to look like jokes in WWE and TNA, but now they are 2-time tag champions and one of the most formidable teams there. I gather that, as the champs already, should they win the whole thing they can invoke the right to not defend the belts at WK, but that wouldn't be much of a payoff. A possible outcome is that they get to the semi finals only to lose to the team that takes the whole shebang
Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima
These two have had a tumultuous year. Halfway through the year, they beat K.E.S. for the belts but soon after met misfortune. Tenzan suffered broken ribs during the G1 climax, while Kojima aggravated a shoulder injury while wrestling Okada for the Heavyweight Title at Destruction. During this time, the titles were not defended nor vacated. At the recent Power Struggle event, each man took a fall in a 3-team, 2-fall, double-title match. This tournament may be this team's final hurrah and I don't see it ending well for them. Of course, the opposite might happen where they win the whole thing and challenge K.E.S. at the Tokyo Dome for one last shot. But I doubt it
Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano
The sneakiest villains in the block, they are there simply to make up the numbers. Despite their tactics, they'll get no more than 2 points, which will give Iizuka plenty of time to think of new ways to torment that poor commentator
Jax Dane & Rob Conway
This team are there to strengthen the cross promotion between NJPW and the NWA yes, they still exist). Even though Conway & Dane are the NWA tag champs, they don't stand much of a chance here, especially if Conway ends up defending the NWA title at WK (Kojima perhaps?)
Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows
The second Bullet Club tandem, this is a possible semi final team. Anderson won this league with Hirooki Goto last year, so has the experience. Gallows, of course, was Luke Gallows in WWE and Doc in TNA. Putting the names together makes him sound like an evil 7th dwarf. However Anderson is quite a big deal in NJPW, so look for this team to go far
La Sombra & Tetsuya Naito
Well isn't this a pointless team?! I don't mean that to disrespect the wrestlers themselves. La Sombra is an immensely talented luchadore and has had great matches with Nakamura over the IC Title. Naito is a great athlete and in the midst of a huge push. After all, he won the G1 and is on his way to the Heavyweight Title match at WK. AND THERE'S THE PROBLEM! Why is Naito in the tournament if he's already in the main event of the biggest show of the year?! This tandem will get a few wins but have no chance of winning it.
Kazuchika Okada & Yoshi-Hashi (Chaos)
On the flip side of the above tandem, here's the other utterly pointless team in the tournament. For the reasons stated above (Okada being the defending champion) and for the fact that Yoshi-Hashi is awful. I haven't enjoyed anything I've watched him in. At least Nakanishi & Strongman are entertaining for the wrong reasons. Yoshi-Hashi is just appalling and he, like CNJ and Honma, is the fall guy for his more established partner.
Minoru Suzuki & Shelton X Benjamin (Suzuki-Gun)
This tandem might be the ones to take the whole thing. Suzuki has a ton of credibility and, even in his mid-forties, is one of the best performers in the company. Benjamin is pretty much as good as he's ever been (ie you have your opinions of him and they won't have changed!) and he's been a mainstay of the midcard since his arrival. And no, I don't know why he has an "X" in his name now. The potential storyline here is that they could win and go on to face their stablemates K.E.S. for the belts, causing a rift in the stable.
So there it is. This tournament is a wounded warrior in the march towards Wrestle Kingdom. With several of the top names here already booked in huge matches, the remaining teams just don't seem to give off that spark that makes a big tag title match. If it was my booking, I'd have Nakamura and Ishii winning the whole thing, but as it is, I see Suzuki and Benjamin taking it for stable-breaking encounter with Smith and Archer. Whatever happens, I just hope it can live up to the standards that New Japan has set throughout 2013.
Saturday 23 November 2013
Now before I being this rant or what ever you would like to call it I must stress that I am not affiliated with any performer mentioned, any promotion mentioned and that no offense is intended by my passionate and somewhat crazy ramblings.
Right, so the first thing I would like to talk about here is imported professional wrestlers in British wrestling. I have no issues with these wrestlers what so ever, they are very talented individuals and they are entertaining to watch. My problem is that the British professional wrestling scene is not like it is in North America, South America and Japan, the British professional wrestling scene is pretty small time in comparison so it bothers me to think that our very talented workers busting their butts over here aren't getting the chances they should be getting because an established star from elsewhere is getting that spot.
When people talk about the old days of British wrestling they talk about Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Mick McManus etc and it 20 to 30 years from now I want to be telling my Grandchildren about Kristopher Travis, Martin Kirby, Grado, El Ligero, Sam Bailey etc but if British wrestling becomes flooded with the overseas wrestlers then I will not be able to do that because the British wrestlers won't get the chance to be immortalized in that way as the past UK guys have been.
In my personal opinion I think that the UK has a much larger talent pool than the US independent scene does but the only difference is their scene is wider televised and advertised so more people get the chance to see what they can do. They have maybe a handful of super talented workers but overall I think the UK scene has a far superior group of talent that needs to be seen, that needs to be advertized and that needs to be the focus of the shows. I know a lot of people disagree with what I have said on this subject and that is fair enough but I think that is mainly because they want to see these guys come over here because the promotions they work for do not travel outside of their own countries. In closing on this subject I will say that I want to see British wrestling big again solely because of the talent we have over here which is more than capable of doing so rather than overseas wrestlers taking credit for helping it, If you look at the best promotion in the UK, ICW they have made themselves as big as they have purely down to home grown talent so it does work.
The next topic I would like to discuss is the argument regarding wrestling vs sports entertainment. In my personal opinion professional wrestling and sports entertainment are the same thing, I know that when I watch professional wrestling I want to be entertained. If I wanted to watch wrestling in the purest sense of the word then I would watch amateur and Olympic wrestling not professional wrestling. The fact is WWE is the biggest promotion in history because it gave people what they wanted to see, those fans who say they watch wrestling to only see wrestling are a part of the minority because if pure wrestling is what people wanted to see then amateur would be huge and those fans would be watching that instead of pro wrestling. All of the biggest incidents in the history of pro wrestling have had nothing to do with what went on in the ring, the nWo, Roddy Piper & Jimmy Snuka, Marty Janetty through the window, the Austin vs McMahon angle and the CM Punk shoot angle. The highest rated professional wrestling TV show ever was the episode of Raw that featured Mankind doing The Rock "This Is Your Life", so if pure wrestling is indeed what mass audience of pro wrestling fans want to see then the small US independent promotions would become huge. I know what made me become a pro wrestling fan at the age of 5 or 6 was not grappling, it was seeing Sting with his bright coloured face paints, flashy ring gear and energetic personality. When I watch pro wrestling I see it as watching a movie or going to the theatre, it is more me entertainment and I fucking love it, I watch it for the drama, the comedy, the action, the athleticism and the storylines that suck me into buying what I am watching.
A well written and well worked storyline is what I want to see when I watch wrestling, I really do not guys being thrown together just for the hell of it especially when they act like they hate each other during the match, that is bad ring psychology. My favorite TV show of all time is Buffy The Vampire Slayer which incase you haven't guessed by the title is about Vampires along with other such creatures which of course is just a show but because of how is it written and presented to me I buy into what is happening and care about the characters, this is how pro wrestling is supposed to work. We all know it is a work (not fake, I hate using that word as it is an insult), it is all done for the entertainment of the audience and we as the audience are supposed to care what happens between these people, we are supposed to be pissed off when the bad guy wins and cheats then cheer when the good guy gets their revenge. Look at some of the biggest names in wrestling history, they were not good 'rasslers when you really think about it, Ric Flair, The Rock, Sting and of course perhaps the biggest name ever Hulk Hogan, none of these guys had loads of moves but they had the personality and the ring psychology to make you give a shit about what you were watching before they even did one single move. In my opinion sadly ring psychology and selling your character to an audience is dying in pro wrestling these days especially on the independent scene and is being replaced with these spot fest style matches which may be fun to watch but they do not make me care and do not draw me into the product I am watching.
Finally to close I would like to give a big shout out to a relatively unknown performer on the UK scene by the name of JG Nash, here is a guy that has worked hard on his gimmick, is it original? No probably not but he lives it and it is an extension of who he is in real life. Is he an amazing in ring talent? No probably not. Can he entertain the masses? Fuck yes he can.
Honest how this guy doesn't get bookings outside of the West Yorkshire based promotions I do not know, maybe its because of the bad reputation that some of the promotions have I do not know but I have been in attendance for many shows that this man has been a part of and I can tell you he has always had the crowd in the palm of his hand. For what he lacks in 'rasslin ability he makes up for in microphone skills and his general comedy wrestler performance. Out of all the guys working on the West Yorkshire scene right now if I had my own promotion outside of the county I would snap this guy up in a heartbeat to book on shows. He would make a guest ring announcer which is something he has the experience in doing, he would be very entertaining in any comedy match as he has always been and in my personal opinion he would make a great colour commentator which is something that I would love to hear him do.
You can follow this underrated wrestler on Twitter under the handle of @itsJGNash
I don't expect anybody to agree with what I have to say but all I wanted was a platform to say it on so thank you Stuart Rodgers for giving me the chance. If you are interested you can also follow me on Twitter under the name @Craig_Jarrett and also if you wouldn't mind checking out and sharing the following Youtube playlists that feature nothing but British wrestling then that would be great:
"British Wrestling Rules" and "British Wrestling Still Rules"
Friday 22 November 2013
Anyway, after going off on one for a moment, there have been many guys that have been signed by WWE that I was a big fan of on the independent scene such as Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castignoli & Chris Hero and more recently El Generico & Samuray Del Sol (I have not forgotten about CM Punk I just wasn't the biggest fan of his during his Indy days) and when they got signed I was gutted in a selfish way because I knew we would be losing some great workers and miss out on some great matches but on the flip side, I am also chuffed for the boys because, it maybe a dream of each and every wrestler to make it to the WWE and if so for the Wolves and the other guys I've mentioned then that's great but the way I look at it is a wrestlers career is only short in the most so if they can go and get some big money where in a few years they can just walk away and still be fit and healthy then that is amazing and I am nothing but chuffed for the guys and like now, will remember fondly the matches they gave us on the indies. So in closing on Richards & Edwards, I know you'll probably see this but I just want to say, thanks for what you have done guys and I hope you have great future going forward.
Onto another independent contractor, I also hear Colt Cabana, who of course had a run in the WWE in the past under the 'Scotty Goldman' name was also in Florida for a try out on Thursday and I have not heard if it was as a wrestler, commentator or another type of personality and if you listen to me on The Indy Corner podcast you'll know I'm not a fan of Cabana in anyway, shape or form so if the WWE have signed him or plan to I'll be very glad indeed just so he doesn't stink up the indies.
Until next time.....
Thursday 21 November 2013
Gargano made trips to Europe in August 2012 and April 2013, and here's some of the matches that Johnny had on those two trips.
Follow Johnny on twitter @JohnnyGargano
1) vs. Noam Dar - PCW Spring Slam 2013 (26/04/2013)
I've seen Noam Dar wrestle live and also on DVD on a number of occasions and always been pretty impressed by him. He has good charisma and an ability to know how to get the reaction from the live fans. This usually comes from a cocky little heel that you want to get slapped.
Here though he's a babyface and we get to see him match Gargano with some really nice matwork and nice reversals and cradle attempts. Gargano has proven himself over the last couple of years to me than an annoying heel which was how he was presented to DGUSA fans originally.
He gave a strong wrestling performance here and Dar was certainly able to match him. Among the highlights was a suicide dive by Gargano, which was later followed by a dive from Dar. They also had a nice spot where both avoiding one another coming off the ropes which finished with a superkick by Gargano and then throwing the unfortunate Dar into the turnbuckles.
Dar though would get the big win following a stamp from the top, a great dropkick to the knee which led to securing the win with a kneebar. ***1/4
2) & Kevin Steen vs. The LDRS - wXw Hasta La Victoria Siemdre Tour Finals (27/04/2013)
This is quite the tag team match, it starts with Gargano and Zack Sabre Jr doing some great mat wrestling until both men make the tag. Marty Scurll decides to kiss the referee and the official decides to beat an hasty retreat.
After finally being encouraged to return to the ring by Steen, the match becomes a good standard tag team encounters with the LDRS getting the heat on Gargano. That being said the crowd are just waiting to see Kevin Steen as he's treated as by far and away the biggest star.
Among the highlights is Steen doing a double Samoan Drop, Gargano hitting a slingshot spear followed directly into a suicide dive onto Zack. But the regular tag team of The LDRS are not to be denied when Gargano gets caught with a dropkick into a falcon arrow for the loss. ***1/2
3) vs. El Ligero - Southside Wrestling Risky Business 2 (28/04/2013)
This was a good example of seeing Gargano's lucha talents as it matched well with Ligero's general style. The match was a very fast paced encounter with lots of great mat based wrestling, slick armdrags and dropkicks a plenty.
They even managed to even include a dive which was pretty remarkable considering how close the audience was to the ring. What did frustrate me was that on the DVD the match was edited down and in some cases it seemed to have been edited for a couple of seconds at a time. It was a pretty maddening experience.
However that did not distract from the fact that this was another entertaining affair where Gargano and in this case El Ligero where able to showcase their talents. Gargano again experienced the bitter taste of defeat as he took another pinfall loss. ***1/4
4) vs. Jonathan Gresham - Fight Club PRO International Tekkers (24/08/2012)
So let me get my complaint out of the way, I absolutely hated how this match was shot. I also can't say I liked the fact the fans are stuck beyond a metal wire fencing, which encouraged the fans to bang on it constantly as it was a major distraction.
That being said this match was excellent, and was the first time I'd actually seen Jonathan Gresham wrestle. Again there is a real consistent thread of the talent producing some strong and very skilled mat wrestling with the odd big move thrown in.
This is also where Gargano defends his DGUSA Open the Freedom title so it kind of gives you the result before it even starts. That doesn't stop the fans really getting into the match and willing both men to victory. There is a full review of the show on the WLH website by Derrie Catton if you look back to August 2012, so I'm not going over it all again.
What I would say is that it is a really well paced and exciting match which I would encourage you all to check out. Gargano wins when he hits his Hurts Donut finisher twice to get the three. ***3/4
5) vs. Zack Sabre Jr - Revolution Pro Summer Sizzler 2012 (26/08/2012)
I knew from the tag team match that they had in wXw that these guys had great chemistry and were worthy opponents for one another. They did not disappoint, Sabre Jr is one of the best mat wrestlers that I've seen in a long time and while he doesn't particularly look that impressive as a physical specimen his ability to wrestle cannot be questioned.
Watching these two match holds and reversals reminds me of watching Nigel McGuinness in ROH during the mid 2000's and I say that as a major compliment. Among the highlights was Gargano while in submission hold but still being able to dump Zack over the top rope to the floor and then following with a great running dive.
Towards the end there were so many great transitions and cradle attempts that could easily be compared to anything that Malenko and Guerrero did in ECW in the Summer of 1995. Again though Gargano failed to beat his British opponent as Zack used two Dragon Suplexes for a close two count but quickly followed with the running penalty kick for the pin. ****
All the matches I've mentioned where all entertaining and were held in front of very vocal and enthusiastic fans who all seemed to being having a great time. Gargano is a very good wrestler and excels when he wrestling on the mat but his various opponents were all able to carry their share of the different matches and this points to the UK scene does not have to solely rely on US or Japanese imports but can use them to improve and highlight an already good product.
Saturday 16 November 2013
Hello again. Before I start today’s column, I’d like to thank everyone who read my last column on entrance music. Particular thanks to Jay Hunter from the OSW Review crew who gave me some very constructive feedback, which I hope to act upon!
I wasn’t expecting to write a new column so soon after the last one, but a comment from Benjamin Tucker of the PWTorch website got me thinking. Upon reviewing this past week’s edition of Smackdown, he summed it up with the following statement: “For a show where half the roster is overseas, this could have been a lot worse. Like the U.K. episodes next week probably will be. (Editor's note: As this article has gone up late the shows of course have already aired)
My initial, overly patriotic reaction was to say “F- you, Tucker – what does that rhyme with?!” But when I remembered I was a mature adult and contemplated his statement, I realised he had a point. The majority of the shows that WWE has broadcast from these shores have been appalling. But surely there have been some silver linings in the dark clouds that most yanks think the UK is permanently surrounded by? So I’ve researched my way through the archives to find the top 5 moments from the UK editions of Raw and Smackdown......but my god, it was tough.
A quick history lesson...
The first time the WWE came to the UK for a televised event was the 10th October 1989, which featured a main event of Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage. After broadcasting the event on the relatively new broadcaster SKY, it would be another 18 months before they returned. Five UK and European Rampage specials were broadcast on Sky Movies between 1991 and 1993. All of these were quite inconsequential when it came to the main televised output. In other words, nothing with storyline developments took place.
Of course, smack dab in the middle of that run was Summerslam 1992. The first major PPV that was put on outside the USA and Canada, it was also the first UK show that had storyline implications and a title change.
After 1993, WWE seemed to forget all about us. Aside from the occasional tour, no televised output from the UK took place until 27th September 1997, with the now infamous One Night Only. It featured the controversial first defeat of Davey Boy Smith in a UK show by Shawn Michaels and was part of the Harts vs DX feud. For the first time since Wembley, a UK broadcast was part of a major storyline.
Sadly that’s where it ended for us for a long time. The next major UK show came on 4th April 1998 with Mayhem in Manchester. Although untelevised due to contract issues, the video release is quite possibly the worst thing WWE has ever released. All filmed seemingly on camcorders, it’s a thankful feeling you get when you realise that it’s just an hour of “highlights” and not the full show.
From 6th December 1998’s “Capital Carnage”, WWE embarked on bringing UK exclusive PPVs twice yearly, settling on the titles “Insurrextion” and “Rebellion”. The product was essentially glorified house shows, featuring the usual batch of bad to good matches, but nothing that would matter to worldwide televised output. Even if a title would change hands, it would only ever be the European or Hardcore title and be immediately changed back on the following Raw. These events took place until abruptly finishing in 2003. Having looked back at the schedule, it is understandable why they finished the way they did. The talent would travel from the States to the arena on the Friday, perform on the Saturday, return on the Sunday, then on to Raw and Smackdown tapings the following Monday and Tuesday. A long way to go for one show.
Finally, on 11th October 2004, Raw broadcast from the UK. A stacked card saw Evolution take on HBK, Edge & Benoit, while our own William Regal came oh so close to winning tag team gold. The main angle of the programme was the build to that year’s Taboo Tuesday ppv. While it was a very average edition of Raw, the fans made up for it on sheer enthusiasm. Even I felt it being a viewer at home, not least due to the fact that we UK viewers could watch it sooner than we’d previously had to (Raw used to be broadcast on Friday nights, but on this occasion we allowed to view it on the Tuesday! Exciting times) However, as the twice yearly tapings went on, “average” was generally the highest opinion that these editions of Raw and Smackdown were given. Full of highly inconsequential matches and promos, the UK editions are generally known for being the ones with a red bus on the entrance ramp. Nothing eventful really happens. No “This is Your Life”, no return of Brock Lesnar, not even Charlie Haas knocking Lilian Garcia off the ring apron – nothing eventful.
But there have been some highlights. My decision regarding a top 5 in this subject was considered using just two qualifications: 1 - Was it relevant to a storyline or angle? And 2 – Was it entertaining? (Note – the latter usually matters to me more!). So with that in mind, here are my top 5 moments from Raw and Smackdown UK editions.
5 – Batista vs Randy Orton – Raw & Smackdown riot, 25th November 2005
This week’s Raw and Smackdown tapings were coming off of one of the most emotional times in the history of the company, with the passing of Eddie Guerrero having taken place just a fortnight previous. The company rebounded to push the build up to that year’s Survivor Series, which featured a Raw vs Smackdown elimination match. On the previous Raw, the Smackdown team invaded and created chaos. On Smackdown, Raw retaliated. On an edition that had already presented the impactful debut of Chad and James – The Dicks (note – that was sarcasm), the main event saw a World Title match between the SD team captain and champ Batista and his rival-but-also-teammate Randy Orton. The implications were pretty huge. Of course the drama of two men who are going to be on the same team defending their brand going at it is big enough, but with the title on the line, plus his huge back and shoulder injury, Batista’s place in the team was also in question. Plus – IT’S A WORLD TITLE MATCH IN THE UK AND ON TELEVISION! This just did not happen often at all. The injury of Batista really implied that there was a very good chance of seeing a title change. Sadly what happened ended up being a mass Raw roster invasion, as everyone on both rosters ended up going at it, with the end result being Batista getting a double chokeslam through a table from Big Show and Kane. Yes, it was a disappointment not to get the title match that had been hyped, but the almost riot-like scene that developed was one that I thought was very memorable and really added to the hype behind what I thought was a very good Survivor Series.
4 – William Regal wins the Intercontinental title, 10th November 2008
Now the placement of this may surprise a lot of you, but I ask you to bear the following in mind. How many times have we seen a hometown hero get put on TV only to be humiliated? Booker T jobbing to Rosey & Jamal in Houston, Texas. Mickie James losing the Women’s title to Lita in Richmond, Virginia. Jim Ross has had so much happen to him in Oklahoma (Austin beating him up, kissing McMahon arse) that I’m almost glad he’s retired so it doesn’t happen anymore. But above most others, William Regal has been practically a jobber when coming to the UK tours. In his earlier run, it was fine, as he was a heel. If the crowds’ cheered him, he was such a good heel that the crowd would the opponent when they defeated him. But as a face, he’s been destroyed by Big Show and had a tag title win taken away. So when he won the Intercontinental Title from Santino Marella, it was a huge shock and a great moment for UK fans.
The timing was strange, as Santino was in the midst of his “Honk-a-meter” angle. He asked for a graphic to be put up of the length of time the Honky Tonk Man, the longest reigning IC champ of all time, had been champion and how long he had to equal and surpass the record. By the time this match came about, he got so confident that he then made the “Honk-a-Perfect-Mountie-meter” to make his reign goal even more absurd. 40 seconds later, Regal got the win. This was totally out of the blue for a number of reasons. Santino was right in the midst of a push, Regal was a fellow heel, and it was the UK and legit title changes rarely happened. Not this time. Regal gave a proud speech and made British feel good about the world. While there was no major storyline that went on from here, it was a rare feel good moment for a proud Brit.
3 – Santino’s Tea Party, 8th November 2010
I’m sure you will agree that WWE’s attempts at comedy over the years has been, how should I put it.......varied to say the least. For every “This is Your Life” and “Austin and Angle sing”, there have been at least 30 “Little People’s Courts”. So when Santino Marella is announced as having a tea party segment coming up, you could only expect the worst. However what transpired was one of my favourite Raw segments ever.
The storyline was that Santino had just upset Sheamus by beating him in a match that had interference from John Morrison. Santino wanted to make it up Sheamus and invited him to his tea party. Out come Santino and Vladimir Koslov in suits and bowler hats, as they claim to have studied English culture. Santino invites Sheamus to join them and goes on to accidently insult him at every turn, mentioning ginger and milky before realising he’s perfectly describing the appearance of his guest. The comedy is of course a little bit puerile, but Santino’s delivery was a lot more subtle than usual. An appreciative Manchester audience going along with everything being said certainly helped matters. Even Koslov got in on the comedy, with a dead pan delivery reminding Santino why Sheamus hates him. I believe this may have been the only time that a crowd chanted for Koslov. The expected result of Santino spilling tea over Sheamus was predictable, but the crowd knew it would happen and went along with it with a typically British building up chant of “WooooooooooAH!”
The resulting match can hardly be called as such, as Santino got himself dq’ed to avoid a beating. When that fails, Morrison joins the fray to build up on the bigger storyline of Morrison vs Sheamus. Yes it’s typical WWE comedy, where it’s not exactly difficult for the brain to digest, but it’s perfectly performed by all parties and is still fondly remembered to this day. Plus the sight of Sheamus trying desperately not to laugh at various points gets me every time.
2 – The Undertaker returns, 22nd March 2013 AND 26th March 2013
Yeah I’m using two separate episodes of Raw and Smackdown for one moment – sue me
WWE had announced several weeks previously that The Undertaker was going to be at the tapings in London. This enough was an honour. Undertaker making such a rare appearance was special in every way, especially being in the UK, almost as thanks to us fans. But then they announced he was going to be on the actual broadcast! He hadn’t made an appearance since the post-Mania Raw, where he was close to being attacked by The Shield until Team Hell No intervened. That was the setup for the Raw six-man tag match.
The storyline was simple – The Shield were undefeated, this was their biggest test to date. I’m not ashamed to admit I popped a bit for the Undertaker’s entrance. The fact is that this could be his last time performing on these shores and I was intensely jealous of the crowd that was there for the show. But I couldn’t get over the excitement of seeing such a rare appearance from this legend was happening in the UK.
And it didn’t end there. After the Shield won the six-man, the match was made for the following Smackdown – Dean Ambrose vs The Undertaker. So not only were we getting The Undertaker twice in one week, we also got the first appearance of one of The Shield in a singles match. Nice one UK! The angle built around The Shield’s dominance was carried on, even though Ambrose lost the match, as they took Undertaker apart to end the broadcast. We still haven’t seen him on TV since, so a potential storyline for his return could have been made there. Depends on many things that happen around Wrestlemania season, but the fact that the UK got the, so far, last appearance of the Undertaker is a truly great one and deserves to be the top moment of UK broadcasts from WWE.
If only it wasn’t for one other match...
1 – John Cena vs Shawn Michaels 2, 24th April 2007
Now before you start crying about Cena being at number 1 in this top 5, I’m going to state something very controversial. Cena isn’t that bad. Now, am I sick of seeing him at the top all the time? Absolutely! Do I find his attempts at comedy cringe worthy? Too right. Do I agree that he absolutely sucks in the ring? No. I think Cena is one of those wrestlers that equates his in-ring abilities with who he’s up against. Put him up against a middle-of-the-road wrestler, then that’s the result you’ll get. But put him up against Ziggler – great match; Jericho – great match; Punk – great match. And let’s face it; he had a match of the year candidate against Daniel Bryan at Summerslam. Yes Daniel Bryan can make anyone look good in the ring, but it takes two to have a great match. And on 24th April 2007, that’s exactly what he had with Shawn Michaels.
The angle surrounding this edition of Raw was that it is the final set up for Backlash 07 (incidentally, one of the more underrated PPVs and well worth a look). The WWE Title match is due to be Cena defending against HBK, Edge & Orton. Cena and HBK had just had a great main event match at Wrestlemania 23 and this was a non-title rematch. It was magic. It took up almost all of the last hour of that edition of Raw and caused the cancellation of an Edge vs Orton match that was scheduled for after this match. Well, that’s what they told us. In reality, Orton had been sent home from the tour for being a dickhead. It’s quite funny to think that anyone would put Edge v Orton (two heels) as the main event over this, but we’ll let that go for now.
I won’t go into the ins and outs as to why this is #1 in my top 5. Just watch the match. It’s still mentioned as one of the greatest matches in the history of Raw.
The story coming out of it is of course that HBK beat the champ in an epic encounter, but couldn’t quite do it at Backlash. With the score at 1-1, there would have been a rubber match if not for a knee injury sustained by HBK a few weeks later, so sadly the feud ended not long after this. But the fact that the match is so highly regarded, it makes it difficult not to put this at the top of my list.
At least that’s my opinion.
Friday 15 November 2013
(Above: After Mark Haskins tells both Ricochet & Zack Sabre Jr to stop hitting him they both level him together - Picture credit to Rob Brazier Jr.)
Before I start I must confess that I've never been to or watched a complete Progress show before despite seeing a few bits and pieces and hearing nothing but very positive things about them, so when I got asked to watch and review this I jumped at the chance especially with a mix of guys on the card that I really like and some I've not had chance to see much. So is everyone right or was I disappointed? We shall see ... This. Is. Progress!
The DVD starts with clips from the video promo war between Stixx and Nathan Cruz, giving background to the feud between Stixx and the Screw Indy wrestling group following Stixx defeating Mark Haskins at a previous show. The promo's are intense and really hype the battle for later in the show.
The show starts with promoter Jim Smallman in the ring. I first saw Smallman doing stand up supporting Mick Foley on his first UK comedy tour so I already know he's a genuine wrestling fan as well as a funny comic.
As part of his intro he lays out the show to come and hypes the next show and announces some changes to the card due to some injuries, most notably Jimmy Havoc who is still in attendance but unable to compete
Tommy End def. Dave Mastiff
End is in as a replacement for Jimmy Havoc and kicks off the match challenging Mastiffs power, Mastiff soon takes charge with his size until End slows him down with some big kicks. Mastiff comes back with a cross body and starts to wear down End, holding him up in a suplex while the crowd counted to 30, but only managed a 2 count. End gets himself back in it with a spring board moonsault then a double knee press into a huge kick, both only getting 2's. He then hits a double foot stomp off the top rope but Mastiff rolls outside before he can capitalise. Mastiff hits a massive lariat and a German suplex for 2, then hits another German into the turnbuckles to set up his cannonball but End stops him with a viscous kick followed by another top rope foot stomp 1-2-3
Good, hard hitting match to get the show going, a lot of respect from the crowd for both guys
"Mr Wrestling" Paul Robinson def. Eddie Dennis
This match is a semi-final in the Natural Progression series, the winner will face "White Lightening" Mark Andrews in the final at the next show.
Dennis is literally about twice the size of Robinson and exerts his dominance early on, Robinson however is ridiculously fast and uses this to his advantage. This is a great contrast in styles and allows both men to excel. I'm a big fan of Eddie Dennis and it was great watching him against a small opponent and seeing him show off his pure wrestling ability and style. Some nice spots in the match including a massive "Razors Edge" power bomb which only got a 2 count. At one point Robinson rolled himself up in a ball like a hedgehog to defend himself, Dennis was kicking him round the ring and he just rolled with it, eventually he just picked him up and threw him! Eventually Robinson was able to hit a shooting star press and pick up the 3 for what I have to say is an upset victory.
Zack Sabre Jnr def. Mark Haskins & Ricochet
Until now I'd not seen a complete Ricochet match, only highlights packages and he always looked entertaining as hell and a phenomenal athlete and great gymnast ... So my immediate thought was how will that fit in with the Progress Strong style, especially up against 2 men who are arguably amongst the best in the country. I was not disappointed! I watched this match twice and still found myself stopping and rewinding it to watch spots again! This is an advantage of watching on DVD, can only imagine watching it live you could blink and miss some magic. The multiple cameras manage to catch all the action and give you a genuine, up close ringside view.
At the start of the match as Smallman is banned from introducing any member of the Screw Indy Wrestling group Haskins tries to do his own intro but the boo's from the 350 person sell out crowd are deafening! Ricochet on the other hand is greeted with chants of "O'Shea O'Shea"
Ricochet and Sabre dispense with Haskins from the off send have an amazing, rapid exchange until Haskins trips Ricochet and takes control, working over Sabre before locking both him and Ricochet in a double submission. Ricochet breaks the hold before hitting a standing shooting star press on Sabre.
Ricochet then gets Haskins locked in an innovative submission hold before he escaped and starts to take control again temporarily. All guys get some offence in including some great moves involving all 3 men simultaneously culminating in a triangle punch off! Sabre and Ricochet end up taking turns hitting Haskins with uppercuts before hitting a sweep kick combo.
Sabre and Ricochet go at it, hard hitting and high speed. Ricochet attempts a hand spring off the ropes but Sabre stops him by booting him in the head mid move. The match continues to go back and forth between all 3 men, each utilising amazing innovative and painful looking moves. Haskins has the match won but Sabre breaks up his pin attempt with a running kick that very nearly takes his head off his shoulders before pinning him for the 3.
The entire crowd are on their feet applauding, Jim Smallman enters the ring to send the show to interval and he sums up the match perfectly and simply .... "F@&king hell!!"
The second half of the show opens with Smallman in the ring to draw the winner from the charity raffle. Jimmy Havoc is invited to the ring to pick the winner, discuss his injury and get a great ovation from the crowd.
Stixx def. Nathan Cruz
First match of the second half is a very personal grudge match, Stixx goes right after Cruz before the match is officially under way. Cruz gets on the mic and runs down Stixx criticising him for DEFENDing Indy Wrestling and not being a pro like him, before hitting him with a low blow before the bell rings.
Cruz is all over Stixx and the fight heads outside the ting and deep into the crowd, prompting chants of "We can't see shit!" The two eventually make it back to the ring to chants of "Welcome back" and Stixx goes head first into the ring post and gets bust open.
Cruz is firmly in control but can't keep Stixx down, Stixx manages to mount some offence, a huge spear, spine buster and a cross body in the corner and he begins to take charge. At one point Cruz gets knocked off the apron into the wall at the side of the ring. Stixx hits a black hole slam but only gets 2. The finish comes when Stixx locks Cruz in a brutal submission, he also holds his arm so he can't tap out forcing him to say I quit.
Project Ego & T-Bone def. Bhangra Knights & A Mystery partner
Danny Garnell was due to be the Bhangra Knights partner for this 6 -man but was out injured with a slipped disc, the replacement was kept a mystery until the start of the match, then out comes Grado to a huge ovation.
Similarly to the triple threat match I have watched this match twice but I've genuinely got no idea how to explain what happens, it was absolutely hilarious from the off. Kris Travis and Martin Kirby are one of the best tag teams around and also one of the most entertaining, the Bhangra Knights are not far behind then there is Grado who is, well he's Grado! Add into this making his Progress debut (and somebody I am a big fan of) T-Bone who played the straight man perfectly eventually telling his partners to "Stop f&@king about" and kicking them out of the ring ... Only for them to invade the lighting booth and mess around there for a few minutes! After a lot of comedy, interspersed with some wrestling, the Bhangra Knights locked in a double ethnic submission on Travis and Kirby, when they failed to break the hold after a 5 count they were disqualified much to the dismay of the crowd! However feeling the injustice they decided to 'play the race card' and the match restarted.
I think Progress commentator Jimmy Barnett summed it up best at one point where he said "I have no f&@king idea what I'm commentating on!!"
Eventually Project Ego picked up the win, this is a must see match simply for the humour and interaction between everyone involved and also with the crowd.
After the match the London a Riots who wrestled their last contracted matches for PROGRESS at the last show hit the ring and destroyed the Bhangra knights and Grado threatening Smallman who was in the ring. Jimmy Havoc hits the ring with a steel chair in hand to chase them off. Smallman gets on the mic but as he does Havoc takes him out with the steel chair, stunning the crowd!
Havoc takes the mic and berates Smallman for taking him for granted, not caring about his injury or his future, always wanting to book him in death matches shortening his career and life, instead he brings him out like a mascot to draw his raffle and help raise money for his mothers cancer.
The crowd are all over Havoc and the Riots, but Havoc continues, stating nobody cares about him so from now on he's going to do whatever he wants to do!
PROGRESS Champion Rampage Brown with Nathan Cruz def. Doug Williams
Neither of these men require an introduction but Cruz is out to give one to the Champion regardless
The action goes back and forth throughout, each man seizing temporary control only to gave it wrestled away from them again. Both guys seem to gave each other well scouted and counter/stay away from each other's moves.
The crowd are really behind Williams and it seems to drive him on and annoy Cruz at ringside in equal measure
The match was hard hitting throughout, until finally Rampage manages to nail Doug with a pile driver to pick up the 3 before celebrating in the ring with Cruz.
**Bonus match from the debut ENDVR show**
Joey Lakeside def Lord Jonathon Windsor
Nice little teaser added to the disc giving a full match from the debut ENDVR show which highlights talent from Progress training Pro-Jo
Match is pretty solid in a nice little arena surrounded by a balcony which literally puts the crowd on top of the action. Joey Lakeside comes out on top picking up the submission win with a single leg crab
Overall a great show and the DVD presentation is very good, the multiple camera angles give a very immersive view of the action, at some points the cameras look filtered but it may just be the lighting affecting it but this is only for moments here and there. The commentary us very good, Jimmy Barnett is fun and it's very much a fan point of view but he does it in a way that is entertaining and not cliche ridden. As is fairly obvious from the review my highlights are the triple threat and 6 man tag matches - although admittedly for very different reasons! The Jimmy Havoc segment was great and shows what can be done with an adult orientated show, a lot of emotion boiling over and some brutality.
Guys like Eddie Dennis, Dave Mastiff, Nathan Cruz, Stixx, Sabre and Haskins all prove every time I see them that British wrestling is flying extremely high and this country has some of the greatest talent available, as well as some of the most entertaining characters going
Progress definitely lives up to the hype and I look forward to watching a lot more down the line. Right now I'm off to watch that triple threat again .....
Leave comments and/or follow me on twitter @mattmatt316
Monday 11 November 2013
Randy "Macho Man" Savage debuted on WWE programming in mid-1985, soon rising to main event status in house shows against Hulk Hogan and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Looking over his early, pre-title winning days, you can see a calculating character on the rise; for example, a finish to a match with Steamboat was echoed some four or five months later in his Intercontinental title victory over Tito Santana in February 1986. It's the same coiled steal to the face while his opponent brings him in with a suplex. Savage's heel character blew up in 1986, particularly in the fall when he crushed Steamboat's larynx. I remember taping the match that was aired on WWE Superstars and watching it in slow-motion replay to see how his neck got pulverized.
As Savage's popularity grew, I noticed uncanny moments of character shifts, telling moments such as the night Honky Tonk Man beat Steamboat for the Intercontinental title. In a backstage segment, announcers were awestruck and let viewers know how strange it was that the first person to congratulate the new Elvis of wrestling was in fact Randy Savage. By the fall Savage was a full-fledged face, with Hogan now in his corner, it seemed like the Mega-Power rise would be the dominate storyline in professional wrestling for years to come. And their drawing power helped fuel the WWE into prime time and new pay-per-views (Royal Rumble, Summerslam) - yes technically the Rumble began in 1988 but in terms of an original four pay-per-view, 1989's classic was the first.
As Macho Madness peaked, Hulkamania went Hollywood for the second time (if you count Rocky III) and we all wondered if the eighties would end with a new champion replacing that which had defined the era. We of course, were wrong. Back from his cinematic break, Hogan returned to claim his spotlight, and Savage had to turn bad. It was during this time in Savage’s career that I see the similarity between CM Punk’s post-Rock WWE title loss and that of Savage. Savage became the Macho King, never held a title and was the semi-main event for nearly two
The Macho King gimmick was solid, but didn’t get any real heat until the well-written program with The Ultimate Warrior. Fusing two strange and esoteric talkers, characters and wrestling styles worked, the problem was, after the retirement match, Warrior stayed on for six months and was fired, while Savage stayed on for six months as colour commentator then was quickly re-instated to feud with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, end that feud and go after Ric Flair’s WWE title. This is when the character changed into some form of immortality, a segue into the zeitgeist Space Cowboy Savage that many fans remember better perhaps, than his sequined robe of pomp and circumstance.
Savage was always my favourite wrestler, however, my book is structured in a way that painfully examines our similar rises and falls, in a very obsessive, and at times depressing way. We can generalize and look back on Randy “Macho Man” Savage as one of the all time greats, and bemoan the fact that he is a pariah, and not in the WWE’s Hall of Fame. But what made Savage special isn’t a sound bite or a top ten list or some random resume of greatness; it’s his ability to conjure up specific memories for a large portion of the now older WWE audience.
We all had individual memories of Savage whether it be as a 6 year old watching Wrestlemania VIII or a 13 year old watching Wrestlemania IV. Our individual memories of Savage and his work ethic, his place in our hearts becomes externalized and empowered through Youtube comments, wrestling blog and news site comments and pushes him to new levels of myth. The fact that, aside from a 2010 promotional spot for a Video Game and an action figure, Savage remained a JD Salinger-type recluse in the world of wrestling speaks highly about how he regarded his legacy.
He never returned to cash-in one last time. He never came in to show us how far he had changed from his youthful brash past. He never had to. He never need be in the WWE Hall of Fame because he is the most talked about wrestler each year when the shortlist is announced. A year after marrying his high school sweetheart, Randy Savage died. To me that is one of the most tragic love stories I have ever read about.
I saw Randy Savage live five times, including matches against Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall. I don’t know why I spent so much time thinking about him and what his character meant to my childhood, but perhaps with the publication of my new book, someone will let me know. Maybe it was just as simple as him being at the right place at the right time of my life. All I know is, his confidence, passion for what he did and style inspired me as a young person, and I’ll never forget his positive contributions to my survival as a teenager.
Savage 1986-2011 http://savageanovel.tumblr.com is available now from Amazon
and Anvil Press www.anvilpress.com
Saturday 9 November 2013
Moving on, Hero is now once again an independent wrestler and I for one am looking forward to seeing him in various indy groups such as ROH & PWG and hopefully back over here to the UK wrestling for some of our tremendous promotions. I mentioned PWG and word is, Hero has already been booked for their next run of shows, All Star Weekend in December which is going to make an already great looking pair of shows even better. As I tweeted this morning 'what is the WWE's loss is the indies gain' and I fully expect Hero to put the disappointment of being released by the WWE behind him and show why he was signed in the first place by putting on some tremendous matches on the indies
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Wednesday 6 November 2013
#1 - Entrance music
Hello. I’m Dave. I’m a fan of wrestling. I want to stress that right away. I am a fan. I do not claim to be an expert in any of the elements that make a pro wrestling match. I have my opinions and preferences, yes, but I do not claim to be an expert.
I do not have a particular favourite style of wrestling. While I generally tend to appreciate the technical side of the sport mixed with high impact moves and high flying, I am usually just as happy watching a pure comedy match. I do tend to stay away from death matches. While I am not squeamish, I just don’t understand why people think it’s worthwhile to use light tubes, barbed wire and chairs to the head when we know what we know now.
I am also a music fan. I do not have a particular favourite style of music. While I generally tend to appreciate rock of the indie variety with a side portion of electronica and folk, I am just as happy boogieing with my hospital radio co-host to some cheesy disco. I do tend to stay away from modern day R&B and pop. While I am not squeamish, I only just recently saw a recent Miley Cyrus video (no, not the wrecking ball one, the other one) and I kind of worry about the future generations if she is a role model. Plus twerking makes me feel quite ill.
It has occurred to me over my many years on this planet how important music has become to pro wrestling. To a fresh pair of eyes watching a wrestling show for the first time, it helps establish the performer in many ways, ways in which I would to chat about to you right now.
A brief history lesson...
I believe I am right in saying that the first wrestler to use entrance music was Gorgeous George. During his heyday in the 40’s and 50’s, he entered the arena to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” (also the music used by Macho Man Randy Savage). In the late 70’s, the Fabulous Freebirds were the first to use rock music for their entrance, first using “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and then the Michael Hayes composed and performed “Badstreet USA”. Then of course the Rock & Wrestling Connection took place in 1984 that involved the WWF and MTV, which brought in Cyndi Lauper as a major cross promotion for the first Wrestlemania and really set the wheels in motion for the wrestling world as we now know it.
Initially the WWF and NWA only used entrance music sparingly for the bigger stars (i.e. Hogan and Flair). But over time, more and more of the wrestlers had their own themes. Jim Johnston and Jimmy Hart were the main names that set about the task of composing theme music for each WWF superstar and tag team, a herculean task, but one yielded memorable results. Every fan of the 80’s and 90’s WWF had their favourite entrance music: Demolition, Hart Foundation, Shawn Michaels, The Honky Tonk Man, Ultimate Warrior, Legion of Doom, just to name a few. Jim Johnston is still at it today – surely a Hall of Fame honour is on its way to him in the near future. With in-house musicians creating the music, it certainly helps on copyright and the distribution costs. It always breaks my heart when I watch a DVD of an old WWF ppv to find a treasured entrance theme has been replaced by something else just to avoid paying royalties – “Sorry Jimmy Hart, your theme for Dusty Rhodes may be one of the best of all time, but instead of paying you, we’re just going to use the theme from Wheel of Fortune instead.” (Note – this is no joke, that’s what they actually use!)
But what makes a great wrestler entrance theme? My first thought on that is pretty obvious – the opening moment of the song. Now when I say moment, I mean it can be the riff, bassline, drum or vocal. Let’s face it, when watching wrestling on TV, it’s only the first 30-45 seconds of the music you ever hear. The pop of the crowd upon hearing the first few words of Randy Orton’s theme or the operatic tones of Santino’s can be infectious. It’s Pavlovian conditioning, at the end of the day. What better way to simultaneously produce excitement among children and hatred among men than playing the first solitary note of “My Time is Now”? Randomly, I think the one WWF/E wrestler that has benefitted the most from memorable rifftastic theme music is none other than Billy Gunn. A man that has had many themes to suit his various gimmicks, he’s always had memorable theme music - The Smokin’ Gunns shooting sound effects into the wild west rock, the New Age Outlaws chantalongability, “I’m an Ass Man”, Billy & Chuck’s boy band influenced pop – even “The One” Billy Gunn gimmick had a great riff. Only “Rockabilly” escapes my memory, and I think the man himself would have it no other way!
Special mention must go to Mankind. As suggested by Mr Foley himself, Mankind entered to a creepy, sinister string section like something out of a Hitchcock film. But after he had destroyed his opponent, he had different music for his exit, a beautiful piano piece, as if calming Mankind down so he did not do any more damage. It was highly original and I am not aware of anyone who did this before or since.
Not being much of a viewer of WCW during its peak time, I do not know a lot of their theme music, though of course the nWo theme is widely regarded as one of the best due to its individual sounding nature. Goldberg also has music had fitted the grandiose nature of his entrance, so much so the WWE didn’t bother to adapt it too much when they brought him in 2003. TNA could really do with some better music for their acts. Aside from Jeff Jarrett’s, The Beautiful People’s and maybe Kurt Angle’s, there’s no entrance music on Impact that makes me immediately recognise who is coming out.
Another reasonably important part to an entrance theme is the lyrics, if there is any. The lyrics need to reflect the wrestler(s) they are singing about. This can veer from the good (Demolition – “Here comes the Ax and here comes the Smasher / We’re Demolition, Walking disaster”, lyrics even Low Ki himself recited on an edition of NXT) to the downright awful (Beer Money – He’s from the country/He’s from the city/Watch your money/And your alcohol!). If you get the words right, you have a song that many fans will recite from memory better than any song on the radio.
A wrestler performing their own entrance music has become more popular in recent years. Aside from the aforementioned Freebirds, the earliest performance of an entrance by the actual wrestler I can recall would be the Honky Tonk Man. But of course, he didn’t perform that live as he entered the ring (and I don’t count that abomination at Wrestlemania 6 – and neither should you!). The Mountie very proudly performed his own song, which was everyone’s guilty pleasure, and often sung it to the camera as he made his way to the ring. Actual live performance was few and far between. The earliest of that I can recall would be “The Real Double J” Jesse James, who performed “With My Baby Tonight” on his way down the aisle. Now that was a song that could easily have been in the charts (so we wrestling fans liked to tell ourselves to lend some credibility to the gimmick). Mr James wouldn’t stop there though, as he brought K-Kwik to the mass audience to “Get Rowdy” in late 2000 and then as part of the 3 Live Krew in early TNA. Oh, in case you don’t know, K-Kwik went on to become Ron “The Truth” Killings and then R-Truth, who’s still rapping his way to the ring to this day. Yeah, thanks Jesse. In Dragon Gate in Japan, Rich Swann has taken the live singing gimmick to the next level. He beatboxes his entire entrance. Not really sure what it tells me about him as a wrestler or character, but I certainly took notice when I first saw him. And standing out is what it’s all about, right? And no one stands out in their entrance more right now than Aiden English. NXT's resident artiste serenades his way to the ring to a different piano accompaniment every week, extolling his virtues to us through the medium of musical theatre, before rounding off with a huge "Double U Double U EEEEEEEEEEEE". Sounds ludicrous - and it is. But he pulls it off so well, to the point where the audience at Full Sail constantly ask for an encore and throw roses into the ring when he graces us with one. Not bad for a newcomer and particularly not bad considering he's always slightly off key.
Of course, if the company doesn’t have its own musicians, then wrestlers will need to find their own music. The use of music on the indie circuit has become even more integral to establishing a character. If your image isn’t on the TV, then this entrance may be the first time a crowd is seeing you and getting the entrance right always makes a good first impression. I first saw Tommy End at Progress Chapter 9. I’d never heard of him before I got into the building when they announced him as a substitute for Jimmy Havoc. His music was a quite intense metal riff which I had not heard before, but before I could even attempt to recognise it, out he came, stomping to the ring, no pausing for applause, just out the door, onto the stage, down the steps, into the ring, ready to fight. No pomp or ceremony, just straight forward to the point. The entire entrance with the music summed up his character to me right away – he’s in that ring to do business and wrestle. He’ll accept the plaudits from the crowd if and when he earns them after the match. At Revolution Pro “Uprising”, two different characters were established using almost the same music. Zack Sabre Jr entered to the LDRS techno theme as has been established over many years on the indie circuit. His recently turned heel LDRS team mate Marty Scurll entered later on to a slower, darker version of the same song. Both of them were introduced as “one half of the LDRS of the New School”, however if you weren’t aware of the change of attitude of one of the members, it was certainly established by the dark tone of the second of the two entrances. On the negative side though, the dark version of the same song only reminded me of the unfortunate Sin Cara vs Sin Cara storyline of a few years back.
I remember going to see Progress for the first time, first wrestler out was Noam Dar. His music – “Morning Glory” by Oasis. This gave me a good first impression mainly due to being an Oasis fan, so in my mind he had good taste and I cheered his entrance. Then I realised he was a heel. And I realised that Oasis was a great band to use due to the cocky swagger of Dar very much emulating one Liam Gallagher, a character the majority of the world loves to hate. My most recent viewing of Dar was at the previously mentioned Revolution Pro show at York Hall recently. There he came out to a different Oasis song, “Live Forever”. If I hadn’t seen him before, I would not have made the connection, but the change of song made me wonder if he had a change in tune with his character having just come back from a four month injury lay off. Then I saw he was the same cocky git, so maybe not.
Through all the differing rock music offerings that indie wrestlers use to establish themselves, it seems strange that the best entrance in indie wrestling at the moment comes from a tubby Scotsman that enters to the sounds of the Queen of Pop. Grado’s entrance at Progress Chapter 9 was an event. His reputation preceded itself as nearly everyone in the room knew who he was, but this was my first experience of him live. His entrance involving dancing to the ring to “Like a Prayer” by Madonna makes him stand out from the pack and gets everyone involved in the fun aspect of his character. It may not be for everyone, but no doubt it’s an impactful entrance. On ICW’s YouTube channel, there is a great match between Grado and Mikey Whiplash. At one point, the entire crowd sings “Like a Prayer” to spur on Grado. How many times have you heard a crowd sing a wrestlers entrance in that way?!
The use of popular music has certainly made its way back to the mainstream in recent years, and there’s money to be made from it now. During the Attitude Era, the likes of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit reared their ugly heads to provide music for The Undertaker. Motorhead finally gave Triple H a decent theme to enter to. Various rap and metal bands collaborated with WWE on full albums of differing quality. Vince McMahon has understandably been hesitant to use other artists’ songs for his wrestlers’ theme music, but it has provided memorable moments. The use of Alter Bridge’s “Metalingus” provided Edge with the music he still uses to this day. Tatu’s “All the Things She Said” gave the world an immediate impression of Victoria’s crazy character when she debuted. And, of course, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of “Cult of Personality?” That song not only establishes CM Punk’s character, but gave Living Colour themselves a new lease of life. So everyone’s a winner, right?
Now of course, over the years, WWE brought in many music stars as special guests for various Wresltemanias: Run DMC, Salt ‘n’ Pepa and Willie Nelson to name a few. These were only for live performances and they were all of varying quality. Though none quite as bad as the DX Band at Summerslam 1998. However, WWE took a long time to realise they could make some money from their own music. They seemed to think the album “Piledriver” and a few ill-conceived Simon Cowell influenced singles (Slam Jam, Wrestlemania) would suffice for their fans. Finally realising the popularity of their music, WWE finally put out anthology albums. Now themes are immediately available to download. Themes for the current crop of superstars can be given instant gratification if they are popular and well received enough for people to want to buy them. I guess the wrestlers themselves have to make sure that their theme isn’t so popular it eclipses them (Hi Fandango, I’m looking in your direction).
But what if your theme is established and you want change? If it’s a change in character, then it is probably necessary. Remember when Eddie Guerrero turned on Rey Mysterio? How foolish would he have looked if he’d come out the next week to the same “Lie, Cheat, Steal” music?! Again, getting it right is a matter of timing and character. When Daniel Bryan returned at Summerslam to face Nexus, he came out to a dirgey rock riff that had no personality whatsoever. He even stated that in an in-ring promo! The next week, he came out to Rise of the Valkyries, with a bemused Edge looking on. The ridiculousness of the vast sounding orchestral symphony soundtracking little Daniel Bryan to the ring was a funny image, but one that worked because you could see Bryan was loving it. It established a slightly geeky character, but one that was fun. Of course, in the ring was another matter. As we all know, he still uses the same tune but just a little bit rocked up.
Two famous instances when a change of theme took place involve two very well known themes with rather different results. In the weeks after Money in the Bank 2011, Raw ended an episode with John Cena beating Rey Mysterio and becoming WWE Champion, replacing the champion that had just left the company with the title belt. Then a guitar riff cut in, one that no-one recognised. Of course we all now know that riff as the intro of “Cult of Personality” and out came CM Punk. Now the argument of whether he came back too early and that entire storyline has been beaten to death and I’m not about to start that up again. But the new music (replacing a perfectly good theme itself) immediately established the new CM Punk.
The other instance occurred at Wrestlemania 21. JBL enters to a chorus of boos. His WWE title on the line against the challenger. John Cena. The newest face on the main event scene. A man whose popularity was sky rocketing. He'd made his way out of obscurity to the Wrestlemania main event in just over two and a half years. The crowd are waiting for the first sound of his theme music. The arena is ready to erupt. It hits...and the crowd goes mild. The crowd were wanting "Basic Thuganomics", they got a hitherto unknown tune called "My Time is Now". The change for John Cena's theme was necessary. He was slowly changing from his rough around the edges hip hop character to the squeaky clean babyface we know today. To make the change before the biggest match of his career on the biggest stage of them all was a bold move. Sadly it took the crowd slightly out of the moment and I don't think it achieved the desired effect. The fact that what followed was an intensely uninspired bout with a damp squib of an abrupt ending didn't help matters.
So all in all, a wrestler's theme music, be it an original composition or an established piece, needs to have the following - a memorable hook, an impactful opening and a style that suits the wrestler that it is for. Bearing all that in mind, here are my personal top 5 wrestlers entrance themes
5: Bray Wyatt - "Live in Fear" by Mark Crozier. Apparently discovered on a licensing for television website. Says the man himself: "As soon as I heard the bass line of this one, a spark happened. It was magic. He was able to capture a mood in a melody. The mood is very eerie. The song and Bray Wyatt come together so well because Bray is an enigma."
Couldn't put it better myself
4: Hulk Hogan - "Real American" by Rick Derringer
Come on, it has to be in there. So good, Hogan stole it from Windham & Rotunda, who were using it in the first place as the US Express. Strange to think of a younger me singing along "I am a real American", not very patriotic but demonstrates perfectly how a catchy riff and cheesy lyrics can make a memorable entrance.
3: The London Riots - "Diesel Power" by Prodigy
The best tag team on the UK scene in my opinion (other teams may have great wrestlers in them, but these two are a true team), they enter to a mashup of various news reports about the riots in the capital a few years back before the belting bassline pounds out. Perfectly encapsulates the brooding and scary mood the Riots bring to their matches.
2: The Brood - "Blood" by Jim Johnston
Absolutely the best entrance of the Attitude Era. You can keep your glass smashing, bell tolling, cooking smelling - the Brood's theme just had IT. Combined with the amazing sight of three men coming up through a ring of fire, the eerie voices whispering at you before an actually simple instrumental with strange grinding guitars were something no other theme had. Gangrel still uses it to this day. Not sure if WWE know that though.
1: Madison Rayne - " Killa Queen" by Dale Oliver
Yes that's right - my favourite entrance music in all of wrestling comes from a TNA Knockout. Everything that makes a great theme is here. Immediate impact with a pounding guitar riff right away. A catchy lyric on the chorus (only four words, I know, but still...). And perfectly encapsulated Madison's character, that of the arrogant female that was at the time on the roll of her life and defeating everyone that TNA put in front of her. On a disappointing One Night Only Knockouts ppv that TNA put out recently, Madison's theme hitting at the end of the night to present Gail Kim with her prize for winning put the biggest smile on my face.
So there you go - a retired TNA Knockout has the best entrance music in all of wrestling
At least that's my opinion
Hope you enjoyed my first column. Follow me @dagreeno and give me suggestions for future columns. The more random, the better.
Sunday 3 November 2013
I did think that maybe one of the other contributors to the site may have wanted to discuss Triple H's promo in the main event angle of the go home show for the Hell In A Cell PPV, but as no-one has done so I'd like to give my thoughts on it.
As you can tell from the title of this blog, I like many other wrestling fans thought it was one of the most ill-judged interviews ever put on TV with seemingly the only idea being that Triple H wanted to bury as many stars from both the present and the past as he could. Remember that this was the last Raw before the PPV so this was the last thing that many WWE fans would see and in many cases would determine if they would pay the $54.95 to order the HIAC show.
In the previous episodes of Raw they had worked to convince fans that after the disasters of Night of Champions and Battleground events that here they would deliver a new WWE champion. The key then you would think is to go and get the WWE Universe excited about the conclusion of the Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan feud. But like many times when The Game is on hand with a microphone it became obvious that he's only interested in putting himself over.
The interview had two main points, firstly he buried the accomplishments of Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam and Edge all of which are currently not working for the WWE. There was no reason at all to mention any of the them, Edge has retired and apart from making the occasional appearance will not be a part of the WWE. He is though a WWE Hall of Famer, won the WWE/World titles ten times and was for a long period of time the mainstay of Smackdown and the leading heel in the company in the 2000's.
He was a major star in the WWE for a very long period of time, won as major titles in the WWE as anyone else and was celebrated with two very good WWE DVD sets. He also left on his own terms when he realised he was risking major health issues if he didn't retire which may not have gone down well with Triple H.
The mention of Chris Jericho is probably stranger as it was only a few weeks earlier on Raw in a segment which saw Triple H and Edge argue back and forth. During that, Hunter had confessed that he although he usually assessed talent well he had been wrong about Jericho and that Y2J was a major star although at the same time he again buried Edge by saying he didn't draw a dime. Why do companies keep thinking the fans care about who drew money anyway?
Here though Jericho although popular with the fans, wasn't a big star and didn't do well for business. This led Jericho sending out a couple of tweets after Raw had gone off the air. The gist of the them was that he felt that Triple H despite his many pushes didn't do much either, and that he had other things that he could do in his life. Finishing by saying goodbye to the WWE and that wrestling wasn't as important as many people involved with it believes it is.
Now Chris Jericho does like to keep people guessing about what his future plans are so he could easily be trying to use Triple H's words as a distraction but actually it could be used as the basis of a future programme. With that being said the WWE aren't that keen to have Jericho in major programmes as he is only round for short periods and then goes off to work on other projects. So the idea of a Triple H vs. Chris Jericho feud in the early part of 2014 is probably unlikely.
Assuming that Jericho's responses are genuine and him being buried in that interview was something he wasn't aware of beforehand then it seems a particularly stupid move to annoy a supremely gifted performer who'll come back and do whatever you want him to do without any issues.
The final attack was on RVD, this is someone that I just think Triple H felt he could name to get an easy reaction. RVD is very popular with the fans but wasn't someone who had the same long term impact on the product as Edge and Jericho. Van Dam for his part didn't react at all and probably wasn't all that surprised, when he left the company the announcers played it up that RVD would return at some point and that was likely to be a matter of months rather than years.
The second part of his promo was yet another attempt to get fans to believe that Daniel Bryan wasn't worth paying to see. Quite the masterstroke as this would be the fourth PPV in a row that he would be in the main event.
Triple H stated that he was a real star and he would not waste his time wrestling someone like Daniel Bryan. He also said that he only wrestled other real stars and specifically mentioned The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and The Rock. You'll notice that both Randy Orton and John Cena by that definition are not real stars.
The Undertaker is under a contract but wrestles basically at Wrestlemania and maybe one more time in a year depending if he feels up to it.
Brock Lesnar is again under contract but is only available on a very limited number of dates and hasn't been seen since SummerSlam and doesn't seem likely to appear on WWE television before 2014.
The Rock isn't even under a WWE contract and although he loves wrestling and will probably wrestle again at some point, he is an actor and the studio bosses weren't exactly thrilled with the injuries he picked up wrestling so they wouldn't really want him to wrestle in the future.
So out of the four real stars that Triple H mentioned, the only one that appears on WWE programming on a regular basis is himself. Now that really is a surprise. The current stars that are carrying the company like Cena, Orton, Bryan and CM Punk are merely secondary stars and are inferior to what came before them.
What's pretty funny is that if you really think about it John Cena is easily a bigger star than Triple H was over the last 20 years, and he only trails behind The Rock and Steve Austin as to what he actually means to the company.
What's also clear is despite of everything that the trailers for Hell In A Cell PPV tell you, the major feud that dominates Raw is Triple H vs. Big Show a match that will occur at some point but we don't know when.