Monday 30 December 2013

My End of Year Awards By Shaun Nichols

After skipping last year's awards season, I'm back to cast my eye of the past 12 months and acknowledge those who I think deserve it.

Wrestler of the Year: Kazuchika Okada

He's had a simply wonderful 2013, although he failed to win the main event of the Tokyo Dome show. He then rebounded to win the New Japan Cup to earn another crack at the IWGP title at Attack Invasion where he was able to defeat Tanahashi and start his second reign.

Since then he's been on an unbelievable tear having great matches on virtually all the big NJPW shows. The series with Tanahashi was an obvious highlight, but he's also had great main events with Makabe, Kojima and Anderson. His upcoming title defence against Naito will also be fantastic and the prospect of a feud against Nakamura in 2014 (they are both a part of the CHAOS group) is highly anticipated.

Other notable contenders were Hiroshi Tanahashi, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Dragon Gate's Masato Yoshino.

Match of the Year: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW King of Pro Wrestling 14/10/2013)

It was highly likely that one of their matches was going to win, but in my opinion it was their last match with the added stipulation of Tanahashi not being able to challenge again if he lost being a worthy winner. They built on what they had done in their earlier matches and ensured that the story continued to evolve. A great match in its own right but a superb finale to their series overall.

Notable contenders were Okada vs. Tanahashi (Attack Invasion), Lesnar vs. Punk (Summerslam), Dragon Kid vs. Masato Yoshino (DG Dead or Alive)

Tag Team of the Year: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns

Shockingly it was the WWE that seemed to regain a little bit of focus in the tag team division. The stars of this upturn was The Shield and once Dean Ambrose broke off into singles action it was left to Rollins & Reigns to continue the good work.

They were very good the entire year and were key in moving the belts from the comedy team of Team Hell No to the current position of having the belts mean something. This is also going to be the only year they could win, as Reigns is obviously being pushed for bigger things.

Notable contenders were The Young Bucks, Rhodes Brothers and Forever Hooligans.

Card of the Year: NJPW Tokyo Dome 2013

Ok I'm back to giving awards to New Japan but let's be honest it is well deserved. NJPW had a lot of really great shows such as Attack Invasion, Dominion and King of Pro Wrestling but none of them had quite the consistency or the number of great matches that the Dome show had. Tanahashi vs. Okada, Nakamura vs. Sakuraba, Devitt vs. Ibushi vs. Low-Ki and Nagata vs. Suzuki were all **** or better.

Notable contenders apart from the NJPW shows already mentioned were WWE Summerslam (a two match card that really delivered), DG Dead or Alive and PWG All Star Weekend 9 Night 2 which was an awesome event that was let down slightly by the main event only being good rather than great.

Feud of the Year: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada

Yet again an obvious pick, well it was if you follow New Japan. They had four fantastic singles matches which were all above ****1/2 and had fantastic heat from the crowds watching. Right up there with the best in-ring feuds that we've ever seen.

There aren't really any notable contenders for this award.

Babyface of the Year: Daniel Bryan

See I'm not completed blinded by how great NJPW were in 2013. This is one of the most obvious picks in any category and if somehow you aren't convinced then let me remind you of the Slammy Awards show on RAW.

Not only did he scoop several awards for himself but the crowd hijacked the main event angle to illustrate just who they thought should be main eventing the WWE product. As Triple H was trying to promote 'the most important match in WWE history' between Orton vs. Cena, the fans were having none of it, they chanted non-stop for over two minutes Daniel Bryan's name. It was a very cool thing to see.
Again there isn't really anyone else who could have won it.

Heel of the Year: Bully Ray

Although things haven't been great for TNA especially in the last couple of months, there was shining beacon especially in the first six months. That was the antics and the promo ability of Bully Ray, whether it was explaining the nonsense of Aces & Eights or trying to get fans to rally behind Chris Sabin as a challenger. Bully was pretty great.

Notable contenders were Randy Orton, Adam Cole and making a late but very entertaining bid was Dragon Gate's YAMATO.

Worst TV Show of the Year: Wrestle Talk

As most people know this airs on Challenge after Impact on Sunday nights and is on for a mere 30 minutes. I've tried a number of times to sit through it and maybe actually enjoy it. I've failed every time out. It might be that I'm too much of a wrestling fan and so it's not catered for me but that logic doesn't make any sense, the questions and conversations that Joel Ross and friends have seem so lame and generic and appear to only exist for their own personal amusement. It really is a terrible show.

Promotion of the Year: NJPW

I don't think I need to explain this at all.

Worst Booking Idea of the Year: The Booking of Daniel Bryan

There were two ideas that really bothered me this year and I'm going to give the second creative idea a different award. However with Daniel Bryan the WWE seemed to be intent of getting this badly wrong.

Fans don't really like a babyface being gifted a title shot like Bryan was at Summerslam, it's far better if the guy you want your fans to support actually earns it so they can get behind his quest to be successful.

However since Summerslam through to Hell In A Cell, it seemed that the best way to make him a genuine difference maker was by telling you how he wasn't. No top babyface as ever been beaten up as many times to close out TV shows and in the end all the excuses were that it wouldn't matter because he would win in the end. Not quite, to see where it all went wrong compare the booking of Daniel Bryan to the frankly great booking of Stone Cold in 1998. It's quite frightening to see the differences.

Why Bother? of the Year: The Booking of AJ Styles

In some ways this was even more stupid than the WWE's handling of Daniel Bryan. Styles supposedly had a contract that finished sometime round August/September time but following a year long storyline TNA wanted him to win the Bound for Glory series and then win the world title.

After you book that, apparently Styles agrees only to a contract to the end of the year and will not commit to anything longer or the two sides can't agree to terms. He still wins but fans only remember being treated as a child by owner Dixie Carter rather than getting a major and memorable moment by beating Bully Ray.

He then leaves, copying the CM Punk angle of 2011 but returns a few weeks later to drop a unification match to interim champion Magnus and now he's supposedly left for good. I don't care if Styles returns to TNA or not, I'm not invested in this story of if he has gone permanently or if he'll make a victorious return in a few weeks. I look at the storyline and all I can think is what a waste of time.

Breakout Star of the Year: The Shield

It was only just over a year that they made their WWE debuts saving CM Punk in his feud with Ryback, but since then they have played major roles in a number of PPV events and countless TV shows. They have benefitted from great booking where they have been kept strong and have been involved in feuds with all the major stars.

It's a shame that it looks they are on borrowed time as a unit but they had a fantastic 2013 and all three members should continue to succeed in the WWE.

Notable contenders were Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW), The Millenials (Dragon Gate)

So that's my thoughts for 2013 if you've got any opinions on anything I've said in these awards then you know how to comment.

Saturday 28 December 2013

And That’s My Opinion - Random wrestling thoughts on 2013 By Dave Green (@dagreeno)

At this time of year, the end of year polls start to take effect, as journalists and fans put forward their thoughts on the best shows, matches and performers in the wrestling world. So while everyone else trots out their awards for best PPV (Everyone seems to be going with Summerslam) and match of the year (Punk vs Lesnar seems to be getting the majority), I'll be putting forward my opinion on other areas of output from the pro's and indies.

Worst PPV: WWE Battleground.

Despite having probably the best tag match WWE put out this year, this was hands down the worst of the year. And that was in spite of some good effort from those on the card. Alberto Del Rio and RVD had a thoroughly engaging hardcore match. Antonio Cesaro giving Khali the giant swing was something to behold. And the aforementioned tag between the Rhodes brothers and the Shield with the Rhodes' career on the line was exactly how tag team wrestling should be performed and exhibited. But the PPV suffered from the WWE's continuing trend of throwing on last minute "bonus" matches with no build and the main event going to a no contest. People paid money for this! According to reports on the previous PPV Night of Champions, people got refunds after the result of Daniel Bryan winning the WWE title was overturned the next night on Raw. Giving paying customers non-finishes in the main events is intolerable and I hope WWE learn from this mistake sooner rather than later.

Thank God That's Over: Aces and Eights.

This storyline began in mid-2012 and was already wearing out its welcome when the year began. One by one, the identities of the club members were being revealed to either groans or indifference. When Bully Ray was finally revealed as the leader, the lasting impression was one of disappointment. Essentially the group was the Dudley Boys and lower midcarders. As if that wasn't bad enough, when contracts were being dissolved the club's numbers depleted. Devon was released, as was D-Lo Brown. Doc's contract expired and Ken Anderson's new contract wasn't sorted out until after his showdown with Bully for the title, meaning he was kicked the kerb. Before you knew it, Aces & Eights grand army came down to Bully Ray, Mike Knox and Garrett Bischoff. Wow, what an imposing group! By the time Anderson sent the group packing, their relevance became null and void. Good riddance.

Most blatant move steal:

They say there are no original moves left in wrestling, but there is also a code whereby you do not steal an active wrestler's finisher. Well tell that to Aces & 8's. During the aforementioned showdown between Bully Ray and Ken Anderson in a title match, Knox, Bischoff and Wes Brisco teamed up to deliver a triple powerbomb to Anderson. Hmmm, now where've I seen that before? #believeintheshield

Best TV Show: NXT

Yep the developmental roster of WWE is responsible for churning out the best weekly output of the year. In the year where 3 hour long Raws became the norm, NXT had to fill one hour a week and, in doing so, made each segment relevant to the show. No, not everything worked, but the majority did. It gave a home to those on the main roster that don't have a chance to hone their craft, such as Tyson Kidd, Antonio Cesaro and Natalya. The cult-like following of the Full Sail University crowd gives a feeling that the crowd really care about the wrestlers and what they're watching and has helped the development of many characters. Their love for the comedic talents of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy have meant they been featured more than they were originally likely to have been. Their abject disdain for Bo Dallas actually helped create his immensely cheesy and annoying new character traits. It's also the first stop our indy heroes make on their way to the main roster, and the knowledgeable fans know it. Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero), Adrian Neville (PAC) and Sami Zayn (El Generico) have all made big impacts (despite Hero being released) and it looks like Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards will be making an impact soon as well. The women are actually treated like an equal part of the show, with ladies such as Paige, Emma and Bayley being just as big fan favourites as any of the men. But apart from all that, the main reason it has been so entertaining is because it has focused on what happens in the ring, something the rest of WWE and TNA seem to forget. Look at some of the amazing matches that have taken place over the year - William Regal vs Kassius Ohno; Neville vs Cesaro; Paige vs Emma in the Women's title final. And of course, THAT 2/3 fall match between Zayn and Cesaro. Matches of that length with so much focus on the build up just don't happen on the main WWE shows. It almost like a parallel universe. Please don't change, NXT, this is just how you should be.

British promotion of the year: PROGRESS

Now I admit right away that I am not an expert in the world of indy wrestling, and certainly of the UK circuit. My knowledge of wrestling is from what I have seen from the big companies on the TV and what I've seen of the smaller ones either online or from when the Wrestling Channel was still around. A friend of mine with whom I had been in a play contacted me in Autumn 2012 asking if I wanted to join him for a wrestling show in London. That show was Chapter 3. I've been a fan of Progress ever since. Though I haven't seen all the shows, I've been kept up to date through their excellent use of social media. Alongside the excellent wrestling action itself are the storylines, a lot of which were interwoven. The main angle from Progress this year was the heel turn of Jimmy Havoc. What started out as a typical losing streak took a turn with an open contract, a sudden union with the London Riots and an assault on Progress management's Jim Smallman. Sick of being treated like a mascot, Havoc turned his back on Progress. It's always said that a true villain needs to believe in the reasons why they feel the way they do. Havoc's explanation for his actions was so well delivered that you understood his reasoning, even though his actions were not the right thing to do. On top of that was the Natural Progression series, a tournament which built to an awesome final between Mark Andrews and Paul Robinson. Andrews won and then immediately challenged for, and won, the Progress Championship. But then along came Havoc with his open contract and he ended the year with the title. Where Progress goes in 2014 is anyone's guess, but the fact that they can take their rabid fan base on an emotional roller coaster time and time again just shows how quickly they are becoming master storytellers and the ones to watch in the UK scene.

Live pop of the year:

The only other company I saw live this year was Revolution Pro. With a few days to go, I had a look at their site and saw there were still tickets available for their Uprising event. I couldn't believe it wasn't sold out. The names on the card included Michael Elgin, Davey Richards, Colt Cabana, Prince Devitt, Ricochet, Hiroshi Tanahashi in his UK debut. Oh, and some guy called Bret Hart. Say what you want about the UK scene seemingly being dependent on imports, but this was one hell of a card. While the crowd was immensely into every match, particularly the first half ending Devitt/Ricochet clash, the biggest pop came after that bout from a video screen announcement about a future guest appearance. After an interference-filled video of past guests, a ten second pause was filled with a huge WHOOOOOO! The crowd went nuts as Ric Flair was announced for the March 15th show. I can't imagine what the pop will be when he's actually there.

International promotion of the year: New Japan Pro Wrestling.

As you'll see from some of my previous columns, I have developed a great love for NJPW. One of the reasons I went to Rev Pro this year was simply to see Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW's ace, in action. The sheer quality of their iPPV's this year was for the most part incredible. From Prince Devitt turning heel and forming the Bullet Club, to Tanahashi's clashes with Kazuchika Okada, to the incredible G1 Climax, NJPW provided hard hitting action and drama like no other on an international scale.

Non-wrestling segment of the year: NXT - Summer Rae vs Emma dance off.

Now while WWE's attempts at comedy are usually cringe worthy, in the right hands it can be very entertaining. This contest between two of NXT's most consistently entertaining characters is a major guilty pleasure of mine. Summer Rae plays the high school prima donna bitch character so well, she makes an excellent foil to the loveable klutz that is Emma. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands, with Rae being booed for all her very good proper dance moves, whilst cheers aplenty happened for Emma busting out the robot and shopping trolley. Then of course was Emma's token move, which has everyone in the crowd thrusting their arms out back and forth in unison. Of course, the segment ends with the heel getting in a cheap shot after losing, but what it lacked in unpredictability, it made up for in utter joy and entertainment. Or should that be Emma-tainment?

Champion of the year: Adam Cole.

2013 was a year where WWE saw the longest reigning champion of the modern era job to The Rock and their two big championships unified (with THREE WEEKS OF BUILD?!?!?). It was a year TNA saw the first ever British world champion crowned while the actual champion defended it around the world. On the independent circuit, no champion was more strongly positioned than Adam Cole. He started the year as PWG Champion and remains that way a year later. Not only that, but he was also booked as ROH world champion. Ring of Honor started the year with Kevin Steen on top with the SCUM faction behind him, before dropping the belt to Jay Briscoe. An injury meant the belt had to be vacated and Cole took advantage, turning heel along the way. Superb performances all year long wherever I've seen him only confirms to me he's been the best champion this year.

Match format of the year: multi-man tags.

Throughout all wrestling this year, tag team wrestling has had resurgence. In WWE, the success of The Shield and the Wyatt Family has resulted in some excellent multi-man match ups. Part of the success of Daniel Bryan in the latter half of the year can be attributed to his performances in many of these match types, as his hot tag sequence got over incredibly well. The various tags in PWG, ROH and Dragon Gate were often show stealers and WWE finally started giving these matches the time needed to develop, culminating in an epic 12-man tag on a recent Raw. Keep it up please!

Free moments:

So much of the best mainstream wrestling moments happened on TV rather than PPV. The aforementioned 12-man tag; Zayn vs Cesaro; Punk vs Cena in the match that should have been Wrestlemania's main event; Dolph Ziggler cashing in to a massive reaction. This is just more reason to not order PPV's If you're not going to get little to no great moments like the above and instead get no-contests and Big Show pushes, what's the point of parting with your money?

Oddly funny moment:

CM Punk is in the ring at Wrestlemania. The Undertaker's gong goes off. Punk audibly screams "YEEEEAAAAHHH!" I found this terribly funny for some reason, as Punk reacted like he was a fan in the arena.

Heel I've loved to hate: Mark Haskins

I hadn't been that familiar with Haskins before this year. I knew of him from his few and far between appearances in TNA and heard he was making his mark (no pun intended) on the Indy scene. My god were they ever right. From seeing him at Progress and Rev Pro, I've been very impressed. He's the ultimate heel - talks a big game and backs it up. I was actually happy when he turned up unannounced at progress Chapter 10 as that was bonus enough. Adam Cole turning up to face him was the cherry on top of the cake. Oddly enough though, I've seen a much softer side of him. As the crowd was leaving the Rev Pro show in October, I saw Haskins with his baby in his arms. It was odd to see this hated heel be such a doting father. I gave him a nod of respect, but was well aware I’d still be booing him when I next saw him.

YouTube show of the year: OSW Review.

Just brilliant. Seek out their YouTube and Vimeo channels. Three Irish guys reviewing the Hulkamania era and, more recently, the Arquette era of WCW, with great clips - some relevant, some random, all entertaining.

Podcast of the year:

Obviously The Indy Corner is in the upper echelon of podcasts, goes without saying! (Is that enough crawling, Stu?) But I can't pinpoint my absolute favourite of the wrestling podcasts so I'll just name a few. The Attitude Era podcast is a great listen. Closely modelled on the aforementioned OSW review, the three that present the show are immensely funny with great observations on the Russo-booked calamities of late 90's WWF. Live Audio Wrestling from Canada have several podcasts, including many interviews with top names. The podcast of their live radio show is worth a listen, particularly a recent one where they go to a caller who has literally fallen asleep on them. And finally, the XFM Breakfast Show podcast featuring Jon Holmes. Nothing to do with wrestling, it's just a bloody funny listen that I want to recommend to you.

Well that’s about it for my ramblings. Thanks for bearing with me. Hope you’ve had a great festive season and have a smashing new year. And just remember, all the above is not fact, it’s just my opinion.

Thursday 19 December 2013

PG Doesn't Suck & The Icon Sting By Craig Jarrett

Ever since 2008 when WWE announced its change in content to become more of a PG and family oriented show there has been an uproar of negativity directed towards the company from the "fans" that once loved WWE's blood, sex and vulgarity of it's Attitude era. Many people have said that WWE becoming a PG rated product is directly to blame for the promotion becoming stale and that is also to blame for the decline in professional wrestling being labeled "cool" and "hip". In my opinion the decline of professional wrestling being as over as what it was during the big boom period of the mid to late 1990's is because all mainstream wrestling has these is WWE, yes I know TNA exists but they are hardly competition for WWE they actually provide less competition for WWE than ECW did.

People are bored of seeing the same thing week after week and lets be honest up until recently it didn't look like WWE were even trying to entertain people, they had just been churning out the same old crap time after time. Of late however WWE are pushing more and more younger talents that they have signed from the US independent circuit and put through their NXT brand program and now suddenly the internet wrestling community loves WWE again, but hang on it's still PG isn't it!? So then clearly this must mean that the issues with WWE aren't that the product became PG but are instead that the WWE writing and creative staff had become stale and had ran out of ideas. The reason why the big boom of professional wrestling ended was because WWE became the sole promotion with no competition from WCW anymore, buying WCW and putting them out of business was the worse thing to happen to professional wrestling in its history in my opinion. If WCW hadn't of gone under and instead Eric Bischoff and his team of backers had purchased the company from Time Warner back in 2001 then I really do believe that the whole mainstream professional wrestling scene today would be a completely different story. In closing I would say that PG wrestling doesn't suck and never did suck, look back on old WWE and WCW footage to see that some of the most amazing moments happened during PG era's, the problem was no competition leading to lazy writing.

Next I would like to discuss one of my all time favorite wrestlers and the reason why I became a wrestling fan more than 20 years ago, the WCW franchise player, the icon Sting. When I was a little kid I first became drawn into the whacky world of professional wrestling when I saw a colourful and energetic performer that would have entire crowds in the palms of his hands and he blew me away, I instantly became a wrestling fan and for that I thank Sting. There is no doubt in my mind that this guy is a legend of professional wrestling, he is one of the biggest names to ever step foot in a TNA ring and he is also one of the main names that spring to mind when you think about WCW but is his time in the squared circle drawing to a close? Should he hang up his boots? Should he part ways with TNA and go to have his WWE moment before retiring? Does he deserve to be in the WWE hall of fame? He is the only big name in professional wrestling left that has never been to WWE, he stayed loyal to WCW all the way to the very end and has been apart of TNA on and off for the past 10 years now. He has been world champion countless times and in 1996 to 1997 he was involved in what is perhaps the best angle I have ever seen between himself and the nWo which actually saw a wrestling promotion take their time with a feud, they kept Sting and Hogan apart for over a year before putting them in a match together, this is something I wish was done more often today instead of rushing things. In recent years he has been a key part in giving TNA some star power recognition to draw more attention to the company which sadly through no fault of his own (and no fault of the other big names TNA have had) hasn't exactly paid off well but despite that he has held multiple TNA world titles and is currently the only inductee in to the TNA hall of fame, but is it now time for this legend to step away from the ring for good?

In my opinion Sting is a performer that deserves that one big match in the WWE spotlight because as big as he is in some circles he is not a household name like he should be, a few year ago the internet wrestling community was a buzz at the possibility of Sting vs Undertaker at Wrestlemania, sadly this was not the case as Sting went on to resign with TNA and win their world title belt. I personally hope that one day he will make that decision to part ways with TNA to get his big one time payoff match with WWE and then hopefully WWE will then induct this man into the hall of fame. Yes I know Sting isn't a WWE legend but he is a WCW legend and seen as how WWE own WCW that is enough for him to be inducted into the hall of fame. Despite his lack of form in recent years and the reports that he may only be in TNA for a paycheck rather than the love of wrestling I would like to thank Sting because if I had not of seen him way back in my youth I may not be here today writing this.

To end up I would like to wish everybody a great Christmas whether you are religious or not and I would like to say a special thank you to Stuart Rodgers for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and feeling.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

NJPW Tokyo Dome 2014 Preview By Shaun Nichols

Over the last eighteen months NJPW has been on a tremendous role, with a number of outstanding shows. Last years Tokyo Dome, Attack Invasion, Dominion and the King of Pro Wrestling PPV events would all be considered as worthy contenders for Card of the Year. They now look to keep that role going into the new year.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP I-C Title

Surprising to some, this battle for New Japan's secondary title gets to main event the show. However they are both incredibly charismatic performers and it's a match that the fans haven't seen for over two years in a major meaningful contest. Nakamura has done an excellent job in making the relatively new title into something of importance. Tanahashi due to the stipulation of the KOPW main event can't challenge for the world title until Okada loses it.

A strong case can be made for either man to win, Nakamura is the major star who hasn't had the opportunity to challenge for the world title so if he wins then that would be the next step. Tanahashi needs to be keep prominent until Okada drops the title, having him have a run as I-C champion maintains his presence at the top of the card. It also doesn't hurt the belt having someone like Tanahashi be the champion.

Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Title

Okada must be incredibly frustrated not to get to main event slot, but that decision is down to the fans reacting to Naito rather than Okada. They teased a title vs. title match, as Naito is currently the NEVER Openweight champion after beating Masato Tanaka in September. Okada did a promo saying the title was beneath him and he didn't want it, these two had a fantastic match in February 2012 in Okada's first title reign and I'd expect another really great match.

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Jr. Title

Devitt's heel turn and becoming the leader of the Bullet Club as from a storyline perspective being a major highlight in New Japan this year. He's also spent the majority of the year battling the heavyweights and challenging both Okada & Tanahashi. What that as meant is that his title run as Jr. champion as been pretty forgettable.

Ibushi has signed a contract with NJPW, so he's now a part of both NJPW and the DDT promotion which is a first for NJPW. He's a big favourite with the fans and he has great chemistry with Devitt so this is going to be another superb match
Prediction: Kota Ibushi

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hiroki Goto

These two have had some of the stiffest and hard hitting battles you could ever have seen, with the highlight being at Dominion. NJPW could be accused have going to the well too often and we've seen the double knock out spot along the way.

Goto has been out of action since the G1 Climax tournament with a broken jaw and this will be his return to action. In the world of parity booking that you see in the WWE then Goto would start with a win. Shibata is one of those wrestlers that fans really want to see and seems to be on the verge of great things and then he's booked to lose. Here's hoping that the Shibata's latest roll doesn't come to an end.

Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata

Togi Makabe vs. Bad Luck Fale

This is a match that can only end in a TKO, knockout or submission. Fale is Devitt's enforcer and by NJPW's standards he's a huge guy. He's picking up his wins using Hernandez's Border Toss where the guy ends up leaving on a stretcher.

Makabe is a pretty good brawler but can do more although that won't be the case here considering he's facing Fale who is very limited. Technically this won't be great but they have built this up for a quite a while so it should have some heat. Look for antics of the Bullet Club to be the difference.

Prediction: Bad Luck Fale

Minoru Suzuki & Shelton Benjamin vs. Toru Yano & ?

Will this rather tedious feud between Suzuki and Yano ever end? The thing is that Suzuki should really be in more important matches, he's already beaten up Yano more than once. Yano and his regular partner Takeshi Iizuka are fine in the first couple of matches of a show but that's really it. Yano hasn't announced his partner yet, Suzuki says he knows it's Bob Sapp and he doesn't care. To be honest I don't care about this match either.

Prediction: Minoru Suzuki & Shelton Benjamin

Yuji Nagata & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Rolles & Daniel Gracie

This is billed as NJPW vs. Gracie Jiu Jitsu, with the idea of using memories of Sakuraba's golden period in 1999/2000 in Pride where he faced and defeated a number of Gracie family members. Who knows if anyone will care about the Gracie clan in 2013, this will be a completely unique match compared to anything else. Expect ratings from a DUD to ***+ depending on your perspective.
Prediction: Yuji Nagata & Kazushi Sakuraba

Rob Conway vs. Satoshi Kojima for the NWA Heavyweight Title

Conway has been defending the NWA title on NJPW shows for the majority of 2012, including wins over Kojima, Nakanishi and Liger. Conway his a decent worker but he's yet to really click with the Japanese audience. He's booked as the arrogant foreigner who needs outside interference to get the job done.

Kojima is trying to get revenge after losing at Attack Invasion to Conway and if regular tag partner Tenzan needs to take a break then this gives him something to do.

Prediction: Satoshi Kojima

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows for the IWGP Tag Titles

It's pretty unusual for the tag title match not to feature any Japanese wrestlers, all though this could be the start of a feud between Suzuki-Gun (KES are members) and the Bullet Club.

Anderson & Gallows won the tag league to earn this shot, Anderson has been a major star in NJPW for a couple of years now but as a habit of losing the really big matches. So a win here would be a nice reward for him.

Prediction: Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows

Young Bucks vs. Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Kozlov) vs. The Time Splitters (Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA) vs. Taka Michinoku & Taichi for the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles

This should be all kinds of fun and incredibly fast paced action with lots of dives, it will also be the biggest match of the Young Bucks career and they are the defending champions. This really could be a match that any team could win, it's also Alex Shelley's comeback and as the Time Splitters are the only obvious babyface team I'll go with them.

Prediction: The Time Splitters

There is also a pretty good chance of another match being added as there are still a number of fairly big names that don't have a match yet. Among those still waiting is Tomohiro Ishii (he had a great 2012), Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, Takeshi Iizuka (the guy who always attacks the announcer), Tomoaki Honma, Captain New Japan, Yujihiro Takahashi and YOSHI-HASHI to name a few.

The top four matches all look outstanding and the two tag matches to open the show should both be really entertaining. After the tag matches though there isn't really anything special that stands out until the Shibata/Goto match. It doesn't quite look as good as the 2013 Tokyo Dome show which was an amazing show, but it should still be an awesome show and one that wrestling fans should be hyped to see.

Monday 16 December 2013

2014: The Big Year? By Craig Jarrett

I think its safe to say that 2013 has been a really great year for British wrestling and its fans with our scene attracting bigger attendances, more people wanting to attend wrestling schools and learn the craft along with the attraction the UK scene has gotten overseas with a bucket load of imports having successful tours of our promotions and wanting to return for more. We have seen former WWE and TNA wrestlers, US indy talents and a Japanese legend make their mark on the British scene in a year that I think has brought a large number of fans back into the scene. We have also seen a rise in promotions up and down Britain, some good and some bad of course but even so this has given more counties and regions a chance to get out and support their own local promotions and see some wrestling action up close.

The question I know so many British wrestling fans have been asking and have been seeking the answer to is when will British wrestling finally get itself back onto our TV screens. Now I know ICW and UKW have had their own shows on a Sky TV channel a while back but that was a channel that was only available to Sky customers and that nobody really watches and now we also have the British wrestling round up on Challenge but this is really just not good enough as far as I am concerned. We have a market for wrestling in the UK there is no doubt about that, WWE is big here, TNA is bigger here than it is in the US and every British independent promotion I go to or have seen on DVD's and Youtube always manage to get a great attendance. We need jus one channel out there that gets decent viewing figures to wake up and realize that British wrestling is on the rise and will continue to rise fast, I personally would rather see WrestleTalk TV dropped to be replaced by an hour long up to date wrestling show featuring the most recent matches that aren't just a UK guy versus a TNA guy, recent promos, recent DVD/Blu-Ray trailers and also fun stuff from the Science Fiction Studios guys.

I think 2014 is going to be the year that finally makes British wrestling or maybe that is just wishful thinking, I know my comments may be biased due to the fact I am such a huge British wrestling fanatic but I cannot for the life of me see why in one year from now we won't have our scene back on TV where it belongs. The whole country deserves to see what we have to offer, the whole country deserves to be apart of something special like the re-birth of British wrestling, like I have already mentioned in one of my earlier articles when I am older I want to talk to my kids about when I watched British wrestling to see the likes of Kristopher Travis, El Ligero, Martin Kirby, Grado, Noam Dar, Robbie X etc just like my parents and elders talked to me about the likes of Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy, Kendo Nagasaki, Les Kellett and so on.

Now what in 2014 could be the overriding factor that propels wrestling back onto our TV screens? One wrestler? One event? One promotion? Who knows, I really don't know what it will be that will make TV bosses finally wake up and smell the money that could be made from putting the UK scene back where it belongs but I for one am going to help in any way I can to get this to happen before December 2014. I think 2014 is shaping up to be one hell of an amazing year that will top 2013 which is saying a lot, I think the big promotions will continue to get better and better, I think the smaller promotions will continue to grow and grow, I think we will see a lot more talent breakthrough to put themselves up in the ranks of the guys I mentioned earlier and overall I think 2014 will be the year that we all look back on as being THE year that changed it all for British wrestling.

Sunday 15 December 2013

And That’s My Opinion - NJPW World Tag League 2013 Review By Dave Green (@dagreeno)

A few weeks back I gave you a preview to this year’s World Tag League from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Well the finals have been and gone, so here is a review of the final night and what this all means for Wrestle Kingdom taking place at the Tokyo Dome in January.

After a good few weeks of tournament matches, the block standings were finalised with The Killer Elite Squad and GBH as the top two of Block A respectively, while The Bullet Club combo of Anderson & Gallows topped Block B followed by the veterans Ten-Koji. This eliminated the chance of my original prediction of Minoru Suzuki and Shelton Benjamin taking the whole shebang, but never mind. Maybe my backup prediction of Ten-Koji getting their last chance at the belts would come to fruition? Let’s jump in and find out.

Match #1 “The Wrestler” Katsuyori Shibata vs Yohei Komatsu

Shibata has had a tremendous year and it was a damn shame he didn’t win the G1 Climax. He starts the match by no-selling all the strikes that Komatsu can dish out and proceeds to stretch and kick the youngster. Komatsu finally knocks Shibata down with a dropkick and running forearm, but Shibata blocks a slam attempt and hits a vicious open hand to the jaw and punt to the chest. A really tight Boston Crab gets the submission for Shibata. Total 3 minute squash, and Shibata walks straight back to the locker room. Shibata’s demeanour is interesting. He’s a legit tough guy and no-sells as such, daring his opponent to hit harder than he can. His seriousness in the ring really draws you into his matches, although this squash wasn’t a good example of that. This was simply done to keep him dominant on the road to the Tokyo Dome.

Match #2 – Taichi and Taka Michinoku (Suzuki-Gun) vs BUSHI & KUSHIDA

Junior tag team action now in a sort-of preview for January. KUSHIDA is the partner of Alex Shelley in the Time Splitters. They will reunite at Tokyo Dome as part of a 4-way tag for the Jr Tag Belts held by The Young Bucks, alongside the Forever Hooligans and Taka/Taichi. CMLL’s BUSHI fills in for Shelley while he recovers from injuries (seriously, if you haven’t done so already, find Shelley’s Twitter feed where he lists the injuries he’s picked up since joining NJPW and be prepared to gain a level of respect hitherto unknown!).

The faces start off with some great lucha dives, but Taka takes over with some standard rule breaking. The charisma of the heels is infectious, with such blatant cheating it actually entertains the fans, including after hitting a low blow and counting their own fast pinfall. Taichi does his standard ripping off his long tights, and I notice the knee brace he’s used every time I’ve seen him is gone! BUSHI gets a hot tag and hits a great double missile dropkick. KUSHIDA hits his Tajiri-style springboard back elbow. BUSHI misses a dive and the heels hit a double Air Raid Crash for the win in about 6-7 minutes. Decent enough match for its place on the card, really to warm up the crowd and get some momentum for Taka & Taichi.

Match #3 – NWA Tag Champions Rob Conway & Jax Dane vs Muscle Orchestra (Manabu Nakanishi & Strong Man) (non-title)

Oh dear. I always liked Conway back in his WWE days. Do I ever feel sorry for him here. Back in my preview, I said that if Nakanishi & Strongman got any points in the league, I would be shocked. They got 4 points. The NWA tandem surprised me by getting 6 points and coming close to the semi-finals. In an alternative world, this could’ve been the league finals.......anyway, let’s not think about that.
So, the was there. Kind of wish it wasn’t. Conway rakes Nakanishi’s eyes, Dane hits a dodgy looking spear and Conway wins with the Ego Trip in a 7 minute match that was 7 minutes too long.

Match #4 – World Tag League Semi-Final: Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (Bullet Club) vs GBH (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma)

Now this is more like it! Back in my preview, I said that this Bullet Club tandem was a possible semi-final team, so at least I got that one right! I also said that if it were up to me, GBH would be semi-finalists. 2 for 2! Really pleased they got this far, as Makabe has the badass vibe that the crowd clearly love, and Honma just makes everyone around him look good. Predictably Honma plays face-in-peril, making every move Bullet Club throw at him look like he’s being killed. Makaebe gets the hot tag and runs through Anderson with high power slams and lariats, until hits a spinebuster. Honma tags back in for a good back & forth with Gallows, hitting his trademark headbutts. Bad Luck Fale attacks Makabe in the aisle, leaving Honma 2-on-1 until he took the Magic Killer for the 3 count at 9 minutes. Fale choked Makabe with his chain after the match. This feud has been brewing for a while, so I gather it will result in a Wrestle Kingdom match. Good match.

Match # 5 World Tag League Semi-Final: IWGP Tag Champions Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr) vs Ten-Koji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima)

Two teams that know each other very well, having traded the titles between each other over the last year or so. In my preview, I saw this being Ten-Koji’s final chance at the big time. With their injuries and age catching up to them (especially Tenzan), it can’t be long before one or both of them hang up the boots (at least I hope they do before reaching a Nakanishi stage of embarrassment). So this could very well a Cinderella story. My prediction for KES was that they would get to the semi’s only to lose to the team that takes the whole thing. We seem to be going down that road.

Archer establishes his dominance over Kojima early with a stalling vertical suplex, reminiscent of his partner’s dad. Tenzan hits his trademark Mongolian chops early on as well (the crowd’s SSSSHHHH with each strikes shows he’s still very over). Kojima comes in off a hot tag with his rapid fire chops on Archer, following with the corner forearm followed by his unusual top rope elbow (another crowd chant spot). Archer cuts him off with a tremendous full nelson bomb. Smith with a Tiger Suplex for a close 2 count. Smith always looks shocked when he doesn’t win with that move – yet I’ve never seen him win with it, so why be so shocked all the time? KES with stereo powerslams. Tenzan goes for another series of Mongolian chops, but gets caught in perfect position for the Killer Bomb (Full Nelson / Tiger Driver combo) but it’s broken up by Kojima. Crowd really popped for that. Archer gets caught with the double Koji Cutter (aka the 3D) and Kojima hits his awesome Lariat on Smith, followed by a Tenzan moonsault for the 3 in 13 minutes! Great match as always from these four. Despite my reservation as to how much longer than can go, Ten-Koji are still a very over team and work so well with KES. The Cinderella story carries on to the finals.

Following this was the return of Hirooki Goto, announcing that he would return at Wrestle Kingdom to face Katsuyori Shibata. These men had some incredible matchups last summer, most of which led to double knock outs and draws. They were to fight during the G1, but Goto suffered a broken jaw courtesy of Tanahashi. Should be an epic rubber match.

Match #6 – Captain New Japan & Kota Ibushi vs Prince Devitt & Bad Luck Fale (Bullet Club)

This match came about as a result of the previous night’s action. Devitt & Fale needed to beat Captain New Japan and Tanahashi to get into the semi-finals. CNJ and Tanahashi had not won any block matches at all, with CNJ taking every fall. However the upset of the year happened as CNJ pinned Devitt to take the vital points needed to stop Bullet Club advancing. Also Ibushi challenges Devitt at Wrestle Kingdom, so this serves as a preview.

Ibushi gets the better of Devitt early on, and after Ibushi hot tags in, Devitt doesn’t enter the ring until Fale gains an advantage. Devitt dominates until Ibushi hits his backflip kick, which nearly misses, followed by a great Dragon Suplex. CNJ whips Fale into the barricade as Ibushi sets up Devitt for the top rope Phoenix Splash, which misses and both men clothesline each other. Tags on both sides sees Fale dominate until CNJ hits a Rock Bottom! However he misses a top rope headbutt, Devitt smashes him with a top rope double stomp. Ibushi hits his amazing running corner springboard Asai moonsault. Fale hits his Splash Mountain Powerbomb which knocks out CNJ and the ref calls for the bell in about 10 minutes. Good match with some nice exchanges between Devitt and Ibushi without giving too much away for their WK match. CNJ does a stretcher job to put over Fale’s new finisher. Well anything’s better than the elevated Samoan Spike he was doing before. Surprisingly there was no sign of Makabe after the earlier events.

Match #7 – Yoshi-Hashi & Takashi Iizuka vs Yuji Nagata & Kazushi Sakuraba

Nagata & Sakuraba feuded during the year which saw a nasty elbow dislocation to Sakuraba. However they now join forces to answer the challenge of the Gracie’s at Wrestle Kingdom. Here’s a warm up match against two individuals from the Chaos stable that I have extreme opinions of. I am not a fan Yoshi-Hashi by any means. He does not appeal to me on any level. Iizuka is not a particularly good wrestler, but he is a great brawler and an insane character. His constant abuse of one of the ringside commentators is incredibly entertaining. Tonight’s torture – spray painting his face and upper torso black. This match could be a train wreck. Sakuraba is a MMA fighter primarily and is not known for his love of wrestling psychology. Nagata is a legend, though, and can pull a good match out of most. Iizuka and Nagata brawl outside, during which Iizuka pushes Nagata away and leaps at the announcer again! Funny moment. Not even a minute after that, Nagata is thrown into a row of the audience. As the spotlight tries to find them, out of the darkness comes a father carrying his baby away from the danger zone! Only in Japan. Back in the ring, the match is not as interesting. Nagata hits nice belly-to-belly suplex and spinning heel kick and tags Sakuraba, who hits both Chaos members with roundhouse kicks, before strangling Yoshi-Hashi with his robe belt – no-one told him he was the face, apparently! Iizuka holds Sakuraba for a Yoshi clothesline...and it connects! That almost never works in wrestling! Yoshi hits a sloppy powerslam or reverse DDT or...something, it was that bad. Double roundhouse kicks for the heels, the camera misses whatever was happening to Yoshi and the faces lock in their respective arm submissions for a double tapout in 9 minutes. Sloppy match. The outside brawling between Nagata and Iizuka was fun, the rest was pedestrian. I have my fears for the match against the Gracie’s.
After the match, Nagata holds Iizuka for the announcer to get some revenge. While he’s talking, Iizuka lashes out at him like a dog in a muzzle, making the announcer jump back into the first row. Best part of the whole match

Match #8 – Minoru Suzuki & Shelton X Benjamin (Suzuki-Gun) vs Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (Chaos)

Ooh this should be a doozy! Yano is a comic heel that’s pretty much loved by the crowd, Ishii is a cult favourite, Benjamin is Benjamin and Suzuki is badass to say the least. Yano and Suzuki pick up their feud with Yano bringing out handcuffs right away (Yano scored a win over Suzuki once by handcuffing him outside) but Suzuki gets them and Taichi at ringside confiscates them. A pier six brawl erupts with Ishii taking some hard bumps into the ringside barrier. The heels isolate Yano, who sells better than I’ve seen from him lately. He’s a former amateur wrestler, so he knows how to work when he wants to. Ishii comes in and seems to be having trouble taking Benjamin down with his lariat. Great forearm exchange between Ishii and Benjamin before Ishii finally hits a lariat. I wouldn’t mind seeing these two go one-on-one. Yano attempts his RVD pose several times. But keeps getting cut off. Nice double team sequence ends with a Benjamin spinebuster into a Suzuki cross armbreaker. Suzuki locks in his sleeper into the Gotch-Piledriver but Yano counters with a water spit into Suzuki’s eyes and a cradle, which is broken up by Benjamin. Oh boy – Yano hits a low blow and pours the entire contents of his water bottle on Suzuki. Suzuki slowly gets to his feet like Carrie after the pig’s blood, and proceeds to punch the crap out of Yano’s face. He cuffs himself to Yano so he can’t get away. Benjamin has the ankle lock on Ishii on the outside. Suzuki decks the ref and keeps beating on Yano for a dq loss at 14 minutes. A pile of Suzuki’s stable mates and youngboys try to pry Suzuki from Yano, who somehow manages to cuff Suzuki to one of the youngboys and scurries from the ring. Yano challenges Suzuki for the Dome show, which surprises me that they’d go there again after so many matches between the two. I personally really enjoyed this match but it wasn’t a must-see by any means.

Match #9 – 10 Man Tag – Naito, Tanahashi, Liger, Tiger Mask & La Sombra vs Okada, Nakamura, Tanaka, Takahashi & Gedo (Chaos)

Holy crap, that’s a lot of names in one match. The double main event of the Dome show is the main focus here, but there are a lot of recent feuds in this match as well. Liger starts off strong against Tanaka and Gedo, amazing to me that he’s 50. It doesn’t take long for a brawl to erupt, with Nakamura and Tanahashi in particular pairing off. Tiger Mask hits a great Tiger Driver on Gedo before hot tagging Tanahashi. Preview of Tokyo Dome takes centre stage as Tanahashi and Nakamura exchange offense, teasing finishers before the other man counters. Tags made and here comes the other preview, as Naito squares off with Okada. They hit some great moves as Okada goes for the Rainmaker, but it’s countered with a forward roll kick. La Sombra is in and he hits an amazing split-legged moonsault. The match breaks down and it goes into the old hit a move, get hit with a move sequence. Naito counters the Rainmaker again with a uranage right on Okada’s neck! Dangerous. La Sombra hits Gedo with the Brilliante Driver for the win in 13 minutes. Excellent match that was all action. The double main event players engage in a dual staredown post-match.

Match #10 – Main Event – World Tag League Finals – Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (Bullet Club) vs Ten-Koji (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan)

Here we go then, the finals. All the Bullet Club is out for the match, so there MIGHT be some interference. A quick exchange sees Anderson distract Kojima so Gallows can attack from behind. Tenzan comes in but the Mongolian chops have no effect on Gallows. Tenzan reverses an Anderson suplex leading to Ten-Koji double teams. Devitt and Fale trip Kojima and attack him on the outside. See, told you there’d be interference! And from the Bullet Club no less, who’d’ve thought?! Anderson is such a good heel, constantly cutting off Kojima from tagging Tenzan and vocally taunting him the whole time. Yes it’s simple and old-school, but that’s why it works. Kojima hits a DDT on Gallows and tags Tenzan, who runs into Gallows with a shoulder block, but gets knocked down himself! Sloppy facejam by Tenzan, who runs into a bicycle kick. Anderson tries the Mongolian chops on Tenzan! Kojima hits multiple chops on Anderson in the corner, to the point where Anderson tries escaping over the top rope, but can’t. Anderson hits a running powerbomb. Gun Stun is countered into a brainbuster. Gallows is sent over the top rope. Ten-Koji hit the Koji-Cutter, Kojima hits the Lariat! 1.....2.....Devitt pulls the referee out of the ring! All the Bullet Club hit the ring to attack Kojima. Ah THERE’S Makabe out to get revenge. Double clothesline to Devitt and Gallows, Makabe brawls to the back with Fale. Tenzan hits a diving headbutt for a looong two count. Anaconda Vice is broken up. Tenzan moonsault misses. TKO by Anderson, only 2! Lariat, senton, big splash combo by Bullet Club only gets 2. Koji Cutter on Gallows, Gun Stun on Kojima, Tenzan fighting two men on his own results in a bicycle kick followed by a dropkick/samoan drop combo. 2-count again! There’s the Magic Killer and it’s over in 20 minutes. Bullet Club win World Tag League 2013.

Well they saved the best till last. It was actually kept relatively interference free, in comparison to other Bullet Club matches. Of course there was a screw job in there, as Ten-Koji had the match won. Makabe’s run-in sets up his and Fale’s encounter at Wrestle Kingdom. Seems my back up prediction of Ten-Koji getting their last shot by winning this didn’t pan out, but I’m not too bothered by that. I’m interested by the fact that Karl Anderson wins World Tag League for the 2nd year in a row and goes on to challenge KES once again at Wrestle Kingdom, with a different partner of course. Two monster heel tag teams at NJPW’s biggest show will be an interesting dynamic, with KES probably being faces by default. At least it’s a fresh match.

Overall, this was not a must-see show. New Japan has put on overall better shows throughout the year. While it succeeded in providing tasters for the forthcoming matchups at Wrestle Kingdom and didn’t give enough of those matches away here, it failed by providing too many listless and mediocre matches. I enjoyed both Ten-Koji matches, particularly the main event which was match of the night. The Bullet Club’s antics are benefitting from the less-is-more approach, the 10-man tag was great and I always enjoy Yano’s antics. But I was left feeling a little flat by the end of it.

At least that’s my opinion.

I’ll hopefully have a preview of Wrestle Kingdom up in a few weeks, so I shall see you there. Thanks for reading.

Fight Club: PRO Infinity 2013 Review By Derrie Catton

How many times can one man rain praise on a promotion? Well it will already be a lot by the time review rolls out, and that alone should speak volumes about Fight Club: PRO. But it also sets a bar consisting of a high level of expectation and a promise of greatness, and all things should be judged by how well they meet their promises. You enter FCP expecting strong wrestling, moments of awe and an engrossing atmosphere. As such, these are the ideals to hold it up to.

Fight Club: PRO remains in the basement of a nightclub with a bar providing any alcohol you require. Surrounding a ring is a metal fence which has been pounded into submission by many an excited fan. Fun and rowdy sums up the crowd's personality. Chant what you like and gain a few laughs at the mention of Tyler Bate's moustache or gain a few retorts from Mark Haskin's sharp tongue. All give a great sense of involvement which make being an audience member rewarding. Isn't fun the best way to get your wrestling fix?

And this is wrestling of course, FCP are never one to dance around that. Arguably it was Trent Seven, Chris Brookes, Daniel Mahoney and Wild Boar with the match of the night. After leaving the opener with the hard task of warming up the crowd, the four came out with non-stop action which simply couldn't be matched. Thrills came in quick succession along with moments that generated audible gasps and deserved applause. Each competitor was on high form, with Trent Seven reminding fans why he is a top flight roster member and Chris Brookes putting in one of his best performances to date. Mahoney and Boar complimented the match too, as they begin to stand out as competitors at FCP. Honourable mention has to go to MK McKinnan and Dave Mastiff for providing the excitement a ladder match should deliver. The pair created the most awe inspiring moments of the night, managing to find the right chemistry to put together a strong match.

FCP continues to excel in the field of wrestling, and push forward into the new year with plenty of promise. A challenger seeks a fair fight. A title holder continues to bulldoze the competition. A tournament winner awaits a title match. And a returning Dan Ryder seeks to raise hell. These stories look set to unfold in outstanding fashion, so get to the facebook and the twitter to follow Fight Club: PRO as they reveal their future plans. All in all, it makes 2014 look like a solid year to pay five pounds for a great wrestling event.
Well done for 2013 FCP, and here's to many more.

Sunday 8 December 2013

BWA: Controversey Creates? By Craig Jarrett

As some of you may be aware that follow Harvey Dale and Gareth Thompson on Facebook and/or Twitter, in the Summer of 2013 there was a very heated war of words regarding allegations made against Gareth Thompson's wrestling promotion, Bradford Wrestling Alliance. These allegations included shows being put on with no insurance, performers not being paid and certain performers on shows not having been trained. The war of words that followed between Gareth Thompson and House Of Pain Evolution promoter Harvey Dale ultimately led to Mr. Thompson pulling the plug on his BWA promotion.

The show that sparked the most controversy took place on June the 2nd in Wibsey WMC, the event which was a packed venue of wrestling fans of all ages featured a hardcore match main event in which drawing pins (thumbtacks in wrestling lingo) and blood were on display. Despite the great response from the crowd at the time, later on there were complaints from some parents regarding the level of violence on show for what was a family event. As someone who was in attendance that day I would like to go through the event match by match and break down by opinions on the show, the performers and how the show that brought an end to the company did overall.

The show began with the Anarchy Inc. team of Sean Only and PJ Rockerfella coming out to celebrate their birthday, despite this being my first time viewing the pair I though they showed great confidence of the microphone and as a team. Their celebrations were cut short when Priscilla Queen Of The Ring came out to give the guys a special present, then after a two on one beatdown of Priscilla, Lewy Ripper Paradise came down to make the save. This then led to BWA promoter and champion Gareth Angel coming out to book the match, it would be Anarchy Inc vs the team of Priscilla and Lewy Paradise to kick off the show. The opening match was a great way to warm up the crowd because you had the aggressive style of the Anarchy Inc team put in the mix with the likes of a quick flyer like Lewy Paradise and the always always always entertaining Priscilla, after a great back and forth it was the newly formed team of Priscilla and Paradise who picked up the win, I though this match did a great job of warming up the crowd and I though the right performers were sent out to do just that.

The next match on the card was a return match from the previous show which had Chris Taylor squaring off against Matt Marsay, this was a change in style from that first contest as we saw more of a ground grapple based match but despite that the crowd were 100% into it. The match had showcased a different style of wrestling from what was on show in the first match in which Taylor picked up the victory to level the score at one victory a piece. After the match Marsay got on the mic to ask Taylor for a third and final match for the next show, Taylor accepted, shuck Marsays hand and then Taylor did the classic heel move of sucker punching Marsay with the microphone. Overall I though this match did a great job of keeping up the level of excitement created from the opening contest.

Moving along the next match featured a performer who is making a great name for himself in 2013 making appearances for the likes of NGW and most recently Tidal, this man was Liam Lazarus. Lazarus did a great job of getting on the mic and gaining heat from crowd to get them riled up before his opponent the much bigger Bubba The Butcher Morris came out. This match was a great comedy affair which featured many chops to the chest for Lazarus as well as him being made fun of by the crowd and playing up to the crowd brilliantly. Liam Lazarus really is such a bright talent who I see great things for in the future. Bubba was the one who picked up the victory in this match which led to Lazarus being chased out of the building by the kids in attendance, that was a very funny moment.

Up next on the card after the intermission was the geek of British wrestling and in my opinion as I have said before one of the best comedy wrestlers on the UK scene, JG Nash going up against the grappler Paul Harris. This match was billed as a number one contendership match to the BWA title for a shot at the belt on the next show, JG Nash's Pocket Money In The Bank briefcase was then strangely also put on the line after some mic antics by both men pre match. This was yet again continuing with the theme of the show a very entertaining match perhaps even the match of the show mainly due to the work of one JG Nash who always has the ability to get crowds in the palm of his hands with his comedy work in the ring and on the mic. This wasn't the great "wrestling" contest that was seen earlier on in the show but it had the it factor that a professional wrestling match requires and that is be able to suck in a crowd and keep them entertained, this match did this. Harris was the one who picked up the win in this match which sent the crowd in to silence for the first time in the show and strangely like I said this meant that Harris was not only the number one contender but also had a case to cash in anytime he wanted.

And now I bring you to the main event, the match which was the start of the controversy surrounding BWA and that is the hardcore for the BWA title featuring the champion Gareth Angel (Gareth Thompson) taking on Sebb Strife. Now of course the issue of the promoter of the company making himself the champion is always a controversial thing to do if you are working on the independent scene, if it was me I would never book myself as a champion or main eventer purely to avoid that type of backlash that you are bound to get from fans, workers and other promoters. An added stipulation to this match was that fans could bring the weapons but of course with it being a family show it would be the style of fans bring the weapons match you would see in CZW. I know this match did cause some controversy but as somebody who was in attendance at the time I can honestly say that the crowd of kids and parents were 100% into the match which ended with a win for Angel. This lead to a surprise appearance from Matt Slater who Angel beat to become the champion, we then saw a three on one beatdown of Angel at the hands of Slater, Strife and his tag team partner Paul Harris. The show ended with Slater, Strife and Harris raising each others hands and the newly won pocket money in the bank case which personally I thought would of set up some interesting things to come.

Overall I would give the show a definite passing grade and yes I do know that the show is up on Youtube and no it probably isn't all that good to what but then again nor is wrestling show with no commentary or promos etc. Watching a wrestling event live is completely different story, you are right there to experience it all face to face but when I buy a wrestling DVD/Blu-Ray if it doesn't feature any commentary or promos in between matches then I find it so very hard to watch this can even be said for the early PCW shows. I think the people who actually attended the show would have a completely different view to the people who have only seen it online, it really is far from the same thing.

On a final note, should someone be running a wrestling promotion and not sorting out insurance? Of course not and I think Gareth will admit he was in the wrong there, the thing is he was probably more excited about having a wrestling promotion and bringing regular wrestling to Bradford that he didn't do his research fully into what was needed to run a show. I don't think he intended any harm or to bring British wrestling into a bad light (it doesn't need much help to do that anyway), he was just a fan with a dream who didn't do his homework before hand that is all. I think if Harvey Dale was instead willing to offer out a hand of support being a successful promoter himself instead of trying to bury Gareth the perhaps BWA would still be here and the would be doing business the proper way.

Please follow the wrestlers mentioned on Twitter under these handles
@PJRockerfella @Priscillaqotr @TooDamn_Awesome @MattMarsay @Liam_LZRS @oneballbubba @ItsJGNash @jacklin_paul @SebbStrife @GarethAngel and @truemattslater

Saturday 7 December 2013

The Indy Corner Interviews Jim Cornette

I interviewed legendary wrestling personality Jim Cornette. Of course he has been in the business for years but as this is The Indy Corner my chat with Jim was all about his time in ROH.

There was a number of things discussed including Colt Cabana, Kevin Steen and the man in the news at the moment Davey Richards. All this and more in this hour long interview.

Follow the show on twitter @TheIndyCorner and while you're there give Jim a follow @TheJimCornette and check out his site and if you're in the UK grab the chance to see Jim LIVE as he comes to the UK for the very first time in February 2014 - Tickets available right here:

Like our facebook page /TheIndyCorner

Tuesday 3 December 2013

The Strange Career of Davey Richards By Adam Timmins

So Davey Richards has announced that he’s parted ways with ROH; not as a result of his potential trip up north, but rather it seems, due to some kind of falling out with ROH management. More than any other wrestler on the indies in the past few years, Richards has divided opinion; he’s usually the first name people bring up as representing everything that’s wrong with indie wrestling – no psychology, over-long matches etc etc. On the other hand, many will argue he’s the best to have come down the pipe in the last few years. Like the result of the race around the world between FDR and Superman, the truth lies somewhere in between….

I felt really sorry for Richards in the first few years of his ROH career, as his increasingly stellar performances were overshadowed by some terrible booking. He had a couple of cracking singles bouts with Samoa Joe and El Generico, but was lumbered with the hapless No Limit Soldiers Remorse Corps for the majority of the year. As the company nose-dived in 2008, Richards became ROH’s most consistent performer – but again was hampered by first Gabe and then Pearce’s hapless booking, most notably having to job to Brent Albright. Then came the American Wolves.

Now, hindsight is always 20/20, and given that the Wolves became one of the best tag teams in the business, most would call their formation a booking masterstroke. In fact, it was a huge step backwards for Richards at the time. Edwards was struggling to get over at the time, while Richards was a top-singles guy waiting to happen. Therefore the formation of the Wolves was a massive stroke of luck for Edwards: not so much Richards. Still, he made the best of it, feuding with Kevin Steen and El Generico for most of 2009, and he also had some very good singles outings with Tyler Black, Claudio, Aries and KENTA, as well as a super-stiff Anything Goes match with Kevin Steen.

The Wolves dropped the tag belts at the end of 2009 to the Briscoes, and Richards by now was set for an ROH title run. The problem was however, that they were still getting around to putting the belt on Tyler Black – by the time Black got the belt at the 8th Anniversary show, arguably his moment had passed. In the meantime, Richards had stated in a number of interviews that he was quitting wrestling at the end of 2010 in order to spend more time with his family and to train to be a fire-fighter. However, a couple of things then happened that would change the course of Richards’s career. Firstly, Richards split with his wife over the summer of 2010, meaning that retirement was off the table. That summer also saw Tyler Black announce he’d signed up to have a two-year spell in WWE developmental. The onus now was to get the belt off Black: his final appearance was slated to be Glory By Honor 9, and there was only one viable candidate to take the belt off him. Richards had already wrestled a couple of classics with Black over the summer of 2010, and it would have been the perfect blow-off to the feud, as well as Black’s ROH career.

There was just one problem however: Richards wasn’t booked at GBH9, as he was already booked to wrestle for New Japan when the show was scheduled to take place. I don’t think it’s a exaggeration to say that this had an adverse affect on ROH and Richards in the long-run. ROH had to resort to putting the belt on Roderick Strong: a talented wrestler, but in no way a guy capable of holding the top belt. Strong vs. Richards was then made for Final Battle: a classic example of booking yourself into a corner. To have taken the belt off Strong so soon would have been to cut him off at the knees; but for Richards to job clean to Strong wouldn’t do much for the latter either. In the end Strong beat Richards via stoppage in a match that was hurt by going longer than it needed to and having too many near-falls; something that was to become an increasing feature of Richards matches.

Richards announced that if he didn’t win the ROH title in his next attempt, he would leave the company. A fairly stupid booking move, given that Richards had just reneged on one retirement pledge – which obviously was a good thing for the fans – but to threaten it a second time made him look a bit like the boy that cried wolf (no pun intended). It also made it a foregone conclusion that Richards would win the belt in his next title shot. To further complicate matters, ROH decided to book a surprise title change, putting the belt on Eddie Edwards at MM4. So it would now be Wolf vs. Wolf at some point: and the match took place at Best in the World 2011. Richards went over in a match that I enjoyed, but a lot of people didn’t. Incidentally, what Edwards three month title reign achieved or was supposed to achieve has never been explained.

So Richards finally had the top prize in ROH; but what should have been a big moment in the end turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. Sadly, things would get worse from there. Following the purchase of the company by SBS, ROH spent most of the summer on hiatus – a fairly underwhelming way for the champion to start his reign. Furthermore, Richards missed Death Before Dishonour again due to Japan commitments, something that did him no favours at all. Moreover, the rest of 2011 was spent building towards a rematch with Edwards at Final Battle. The problem was that Richards had beaten Edwards clean at BITW, so there wasn’t really much of a jumping off point for a rematch. And indeed, the build was pretty much awful – Cornette was booking by this point, which probably tells you all you need to know. If memory serves Dan Severn was involved in the build-up to the match, despite the fact neither Edwards nor Richards particularly wanted him there in real-life. The bout itself was awful: a forty minute effort that seemed to go on forever and it largely consisted of two wrestlers pretending to be MMA fighters. Once again, Edwards lost clean – 2011 was definitely not his year.

2012 turned out to be a pivotal year for Richards: he hit his lowest ebb, but also made strides towards redemption. By now ROH as a company was dying under the booking of Cornette, and Richards was inevitably associated with it. Kevin Steen was supposed to be a heel; but his taunts towards Richards of being Jim Cornette’s “Ju-Jitsu jackoff” were resonating with a large section of the ROH audience. In the ring Richards was still producing the goods: he had a cracking match with Elgin in Florida, before dropping the belt to Steen in Canada in a super-heated matchup. But 2012 saw Richards rapidly develop a reputation for being unprofessional: he pulled out of a New Japan tour at the last minute following a car accident, as a result of which New Japan stopped booking Richards. Then there was the infamous “Team Bandits” incident: Richards and his cronies/partners Kyle O’Reilly and Tony Kozina ripped off a promoter to the tune of $350 and later bragged about it on the internet, labelling themselves “Team Bandits”. Internet backlash later saw Richards return the money, but the damage was done. Richards once again made noises about retiring.

But a tour of Europe in the summer of 2012 seemed to reinvigorate Richards. He returned to ROH in the autumn of 2012 and made a mea culpa in the middle of the ring, saying he was ashamed of the person he’d been outside of the ring recently. He seemed a lot more relaxed; realising that not every match had to go 20-30 minutes. At Final Battle 2012 the American Wolves reformed, and Richards spent the majority of 2013 tagging with Edwards again, as well as wrestling in singles bouts here and there.

Truth be told though, Richards had pretty much done everything there was for him to do in ROH, and it was time to move on. But sadly, he’s not going to get the farewell match he deserves. No-one’s quite sure what happened behind the scenes: but given the corporate direction ROH has taken in the last few years I’m more inclined to believe Richards statement that they dicked him about. But in a way it kind of sums up the way Richards ROH career went. In my mind he’s up there alongside Joe, Dragon and Punk as a true ROH legend. But many would disagree – and given the man’s undoubted talent, it’s sad that the matter should be up for debate.

Monday 2 December 2013

Davey Finally Says Goodbye to ROH By Shaun Nichols

I was originally going to write a blog about how I felt that it would make more sense for Davey Richards to wrestle Eddie Edwards at Final Battle for one last time, rather than have them team together against Roderick Strong and Jay Lethal.

However just when I've got the whole thing laid out and about to write it up, I then find out that Davey has decided he's done with the company. Most fans know that the American Wolves have spent time at NXT as enhancement talent, which earned them the new nickname from some fans of the American Interns. Part of spending time down there isn't just about staring at the ceiling but finally convincing the WWE and Triple H especially that they are worth signing.

The good news for them is that the WWE are specifically looking for tag teams, the bad news is that although their wrestling talent cannot be denied. They are both small by the WWE standard and they are not blessed with great charisma. You also cannot tell me that size no long matters in the company, Daniel Bryan is an exception, a clearer and more valid example would be the decision to release Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) who I would say has far more upside to him than either Davey or Eddie.

Anyway back to ROH, it seemed to be pretty evident that the American Wolves would finish up with the company at Final Battle. They would do the job, hopefully have a great match and endorse the remaining talent and leave to great applause. Sounds pretty simple? Not with Davey around.

The Wolves spent most of the year involved in a battle with the redDragon tag team (former protégé Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) who got the best of it and as I write this are celebrating their second run as ROH Tag champions. They weren't really involved in the biggest feud in ROH that being the feud against SCUM and the anarchic talents of Steen & Corino.

Davey on Facebook posted the following message "With a heavy heart, I can announce I announce that myself and ROH have parted ways for good and I will not be at Final Battle. Please continue to support them and the incredible talent they have, Thanks for the memories. It was an amazing ride."

It sounds that the split was amicable and it was down to the timing of events that he wasn't able to complete his ROH run at Final Battle as most expected.

There is also the fact that he cancelled a tour with NOAH this month so that gives an indication that all he's doing his clearing his diary and ready for the challenge of the WWE in 2014. That though does not take into account comments about ROH he made to the UK's Total Wrestling.

He was very critical of ROH's booking of both the World Title and Tag Team Titles over the last several months and said that he felt they had lost a lot of their importance and prestige. He also lambasted the company for the failure to get internet PPV's right, saying "If they can't get their crap together, that's their problem. I just worry about showing up, doing my job in the ring, and they can do whatever they want with that stuff. It's their deal."

So when he made his return to ROH they were not exactly thrilled with his less than glowing praise to the company that is employing him. Davey on the defensive went with the tried and trusted method of claiming his comments had been taken out of context. Sadly it appears that ROH aren't buying it and Davey has failed to follow the golden rule when talking about your employer. You should praise them in public and criticise in private, watch any Premier League manager on MOTD to see how it's done.

So it appears that the relationship between ROH and Davey Richards as come to end after more than seven years together, where they gave him the opportunity to showcase his talents and in return he gave them dozens of great matches and sterling performances.

To me it's a shame that Davey and ROH couldn't keep things together until Final Battle, it would have been a nice finale to the fans to see him end his time doing what he does best which is wrestling. Instead it all ended with a message on social network site amid accusations and recriminations. He is still listed on the ROH roster page, but his scheduled match for Final Battle as been removed from the show listings. So we will have to wait and see if this is really the end of this particular journey.