Sunday 14 December 2014

NXT Takeover [R]Evolution Review By Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG)

WWE Continues To Be Shown Up By Its Own Developmental Program

It’s the final WWE PPV of the year this weekend, but you wouldn’t know it given how badly it’s been promoted over the past few weeks. Thankfully, even though TLC is almost pre-determined to suck, we were also gifted a superb NXT PPV earlier in the week, to soften the blow from Sunday’s inevitable disappointment.

NXT Takeover [R]Evolution (pronounced “our evolution”, as opposed to “revolution”, because somebody though that was way cleverer than it actually is) was a fast, furious and consistently exciting PPV that belied its rubbish name to provide thrills, spills and even some tears. Kicking off with a pre-show, during which Corey Graves announced his retirement and quickly joined the announce team alongside the insufferable Alex Riley and a man who looks like baby Michael Cole, and knows about as much about wrestling, Rich Brennan, [R]Evolution wasted no time getting to the good stuff, opening with the debut of none other than Kevin Owens (nèe Steen).

 Visibly shaking as he descends the ramp, Owens emerges to a massive pop – arguably the biggest of the night – to take on the reviled CJ Parker in a quick, albeit still highly entertaining, squash match that establishes him as a contender right off the bat. For an opening match, this is absolutely loaded with cool spots, with Parker eagerly playing up to his reviled, do-gooder, tree-hugger image by brandishing a sign emblazoned with “My Fight Matters”. He gives as good as he gets, but this is Owens’ match and the crowd lap it up. He is particularly notable for his agility in the ring. A big, thick dude, one would expect Owens to have trouble even running the ropes but he bounces around the like he’s half the weight he is. The crowd are euphoric when he takes the win.

NXT is quickly becoming a thorn in the side of the WWE, with certain fans  hoping their favourites never move up the main roster lest the powers that be ruin them, and [R]Evolution is so much better than one of its’ big brother’s PPVs, it’s embarrassing. Even the vignettes are tighter, more dynamic, better-edited and refreshingly short. NXT wrestlers don’t have the time to play around because they’re there to take someone else’s spot, so everything, right down to the between-match promos, must be quick and to the point. It’s refreshing to not have to suffer through lengthy moments of filler just to get to the matches, although when they’re this good we could probably take it.

The Lucha Dragons defend their tag team championship belts against The Vaudevillains next, and considering both teams are majorly over right now, it’s a match so electric it’s a wonder none of them get a shock. The Vaudevillains do a great job of stranding Kalisto so he can’t tag, but even so he and his Lucha brother fly around the ring like monkeys, Riley describing them at one point as “human pinballs”, which is strangely apt considering it came from him. A wheelbarrow senton is particularly awe-inspiring, but this is a match in which every moment counts. The Luchas retain, but when the fight is this good, who cares?

Baron Corbin squashes Tye Dillinger in about a minute next, while looking less like his biker character and more like the singer in a really rubbish metal band. This is the one “meh” moment of the show, but that’s only really because everything else is so fantastic, so there’s not really too much cause for complaint. Bull Dempsey watches from ringside throughout, hinting the two may come to blows sooner rather than later. And, considering Corbin looks like Dempsey’s little brother, that’ll be pretty awesome.

Another tag team match follows, with The Ascension (who are due to move up to the main roster any day now) taking on Finn Bálor and Hideo Itami. There’s an absolutely massive pop for the Irishman as he enters, dressed like some sort of goth monster hybrid with his now-infamous face-paint finishing off the look perfectly. He takes his time getting to the ring, playing up to the theatricality of it all, and he and Itami unload on their opponents before the bell has even rung. They’re really pushing The Ascension tonight, because they’re moving up soon, with Corey Graves (who lost to them not too long ago) noting how they always seem to be on the same page no matter what. It’s difficult to know where they’re going to fit in on the main roster, especially considering the tag team division is almost non-existent right now, but it’ll be exciting to see them shake things up a little bit nevertheless.

Itami and Bálor aren’t quite as in sync as The Ascension just yet, but they’re getting there and they’re both clearly hungry for it, which adds a further layer to the proceedings. An ensigury in the corner by Bálor is absolutely nuts, but it’s nothing compared to the brainbuster Suplex, with which he quickly follows it up. Itami teases the GTS but doesn’t deliver, while a stunning double footstomp from the top rope wins it for them, leaving the way clear for The Ascension to move up to the main roster and steal the show elsewhere.

Sasha Banks takes on Charlotte Flair (daughter of Ric) next, for the NXT Divas championship, showing up clad in her ex-BFF’s shirt, but customised to remove the reference to her famous father. She throws it at Charlotte to kick things off, and within moments their match is better than 90% of those of the main roster. Last Monday, Charlotte actually showed up on Raw, only to lose to Natalya in a matter of moments – a real bummer considering, even based off this evidence, the girl has a fire inside her.

Banks mocks Charlotte with a Flair strut, a “woo” chant and even a Figure-4 lock but Charlotte fires back with an Electric Chair that has her opponent noticeably terrified. There are some really cool spots in this match but, for those of us who regularly watch, and roll our eyes at, the main roster Divas, it’s enough just to see a match with length, actual skill and no shrieking – the crowd even chant “This is wrestling” at one point, just to drive it home. Banks attempts to pin Charlotte three times in a row, but Flair’s kid wins with the Natural Selection, retaining the championship. But, again, when the play is this good, who cares?

 The Main Event arrives quite quickly, at least for those of us used to sitting through three hours of garbage before getting to it, and both Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville get huge reactions upon entering the arena. The match stipulation entails that Zayn must quit if he loses tonight, but given how pumped he is to take on his ex-friend, that seems highly unlikely. The crowd are totally behind him throughout, leaving him looking visibly thrilled, while high-flying Geordie Neville gives as good as he’s got. His agility is absolutely awe-inspiring, particularly in a match of this length. There are so many near falls, it’s insane, and each one feels as though it could end the match, as opposed to signalling the two lads are just going through the motions and hitting their marks (no pun intended).

A sit-down powerbomb and a reverse hurricanrana by Neville are two of the highlights, but really every move is special in a match of this calibre – something that is further exemplified by the amount of replays that follow it. There’s a lovely moment when Neville goes to hit Zayn with the belt, he grabs it, looks at it for a bit, considers using it and then decides not to, refusing to go heel even at the most crucial moment. He eventually wins, of course, with a kick in the corner, and the crowd go absolutely nuts as he weeps silently, staring at the belt in his hands once again.

Following the match, there’s a flood of NXT faces into the ring, but when Neville returns, the mood changes significantly. Zayn reaches out for a handshake, but Neville kicks his hand away, instead embracing him in a bear hug that would bring even the most cynical viewer to tears. Zayn’s good buddy, and fellow Canadian, Kevin Owens turns up next, and Zayn hugs him so hard he bursts his stitches, which he earned following his match earlier.  Owens begins to walk Zayn out of the arena, and everyone is in good spirits, when suddenly he turns on him, attacking him and chucking him into the side of the ring in what is easily one of the most shocking moments of the year.

It’s an explosive end to a spectacular PPV, one which only further drives home the fact that NXT is so much better than WWE right now. The NXT roster is packed with talent, wrestlers who are hungry for the opportunity to show off what they can do as opposed to running the ropes, reading their lines and picking up a cheque at the end of it. NXT Takeover [R]Evolution was everything that a great PPV should be; exciting, thrilling, shocking and even, at times, oddly poignant.

With TLC still to come, it remains to be seen whether the main roster can live up to the example of those still technically in training but, on this evidence alone, it seems that there’s only one PPV we’ll still be discussing in a year’s time, and it isn’t on Sunday.


Sunday 7 December 2014

So CM Punk Signs With The UFC

There's plenty of news stories going about CM Punk signing with the UFC but wrestling fans who are upset, don't forget, Brock Lesnar left the WWE when he wasn't too please with what was going on there, he went to UFC became a huge star, came back to the WWE, took The Undertaker's streak at Wrestle Mania and won the WWE title, which he of course still holds. So maybe, just maybe, Punk will one day come back to the WWE.

As for his potential career, I have to admit, when I first saw the news this morning I didn't think it meant he was going there as a fighter, I just thought it was a commentator or analyst I must admit but then I saw clips of his press conference where he said he will be fighting. Not sure how he will do, I am not much of an MMA fan, haven't watched it since Lesnar was there, I was a fan of Georges St. Pierre before that.

I don't think it's been announced when Punk will debut in the octogon who who against, but I'll give it a watch I guess out of curiosity if nothing else.

Current fans of MMA/UFC who would you like to see Punk go against who is in the weight class he is aiming for?

Friday 28 November 2014

The Dichotomy Of The (Total) Divas Division By @JoeyLDG

The Divas division is in crisis. The biggest news story of last week was Eva Marie getting her boobs done while on leave for an injury. This was in spite of the fact Paige featured on Chris Jericho’s podcast, talking at length about her career, her family’s wrestling legacy and everything in between. Paige was a lively, intelligent,and interesting guest. Eva Marie has bigger tits now.

Long the running joke of the WWE, the Divas division has entered its weirdest stage yet, with two conflicting ideas of what these female wrestlers can really offer, one epitomised by reality show Total Divas, and the other byits polar opposite in every sense, NXT. Unfortunately, the reality is that, quite often, these girls are hired because they look good and are camera-friendly, not due to any discernible wrestling talent. This, in turn, means it’s a struggle for someone like Becky Lynch, for example, to make an impact opposite her buxomed, kiss-blowing rivals.

The biggest shock of the year, Divas-wise, came not withthe announcement that the third season of theirludicrously popular show had gone into production, but when we were gifted an actual feud as AJ (arguably the best female wrestler on the current roster) faced up against Paige. A younger, British upstart from a legendary wrestling family, Paige killed it over on NXT before making a triumphant debut on Raw and instantly snatching the championship in the process. Just to put it into perspective, her buddy Emma was not so lucky – saddled with a gimmick that didn’t quite translate over,she has since been relegated back down to the minors.

Paige and AJ took each other on at every opportunity, swapping the belt back and forth and trading barbs formonths, as the Total Divas blended into the background,much to our collective amusement. And, although their bouts were nearly always annoyingly short, as Divas matches tend to be, their chemistry was undeniable, not to mention they can actually wrestle when given half a chance, which is more than can be said for their colleagues who decorate ringside more than anything else.

Depressingly, the whole thing came crashing down at Hell In A Cell, in a match not given nearly enough time to breathe, after which AJ inexplicably found herself feuding with Nikki Bella instead, while Paige was left to buddy up with Alicia Fox. Of course, the two couldn’t continue fighting forever but surely they could’ve dragged it out a little bit longer, even so Nikki – who has potential, in spite of her blow up doll looks – could growa little bit more into her character. After all, worse feuds have been given longer to fester and mutate before finally being put out of their misery.

Even worse, alast weekend’s Survivor Series, AJ lost the belt to Nikki in a matter of seconds, after her sister distracted her with a pre-match kiss. Paige, on the other hand, looked set to emerge victorious from her traditional elimination match only to lose it in the last moment to Naomi, who, like Nikki, is one of the stars of Total Divas. Adam Rose was given more airtime in comparison. Are we really at a stage now where a feud with a Bunny is deemed more worthy than one we’ve spent months drooling over, and that we actually care about? There’s no way that Rose’s debut, and subsequent work on Raw/Smackdown, had even half the impact of Paige’s and yet he’s deemed more worthy of a storyline than she is.

It’s no secret female wrestlers are given less attention, and indeed less credence, than their male counterparts.This has nearly always been the caseeven with legends such as Trish Stratus and Lita, who kicked butt in their heyday, but whose achievements are dwarfed by those of their male counterparts. We’ll always think of The Undertaker, or Stone Cold, as the “real” legends of their time. And, in a decade or so, the same will be true of AJ and Punk, Paige and Dean Ambrose, etc.

However, stumble over to NXT and it’s a different story entirely. In NXT, the women are just as valued, and as popular, as the men if not more soNXT is a one-hour show, compared to Raw’s mammoth three, and yet the Divas somehow get more time than their main show counterpartsGifted storylines, character arcs and often quite complex matches, they’re afforded the space to show off what they can do, to grow and mature as fighters before moving up to the main roster where, strangely enough, they’re then lost among a sea of Adam Roses.

Rumours abound that AJ is planning to leave the WWEafter TLC. She’s openly said she only cares about wrestling, not fame, and would therefore rather be caught dead than appear on Total Divas, so her future with the company remains in doubt either wayBut, in her head, it must seem hugely unfair that Nikki has earned the right to a match because of the show, when Paige has foughtfor the chance, and is now left behind with the others, none of whom can hold a candle to her in the ring.

Considering Paige herself just signed on for series threeof Total Divas, one could reasonably assume that the opportunities to progress as a Diva on the main roster are few and far betweenMost of us would never even haveconsidered Paige a candidate for the show, and there’s a widely-held assumption that her appearing on it is going to hinder rather than help her career, because it’llcompletely change how we see her.

Even though Stephanie Mc Mahon has publicly denounced the suggestion that Total Divas can’t also be champions, is the only option for these women, many of whom are gifted wrestlers, to either quit or agree to play a caricature of themselves on a reality show? Is that really what it’s come to? Take Summer Rae, who had a great debut at Hell In A Cell 2013. Nowadays, she’s more well-known for being Fandango’s escort than for her demonstrable talent in the ring. She screamed her way through Survivor Series, because that’s how she’s presented on the show, as a dumb, loud bitch.

Total Divas itself is a curious case of well-judged, albeit ultimately very depressing, marketing strategy. Natalya, for example, who is wrestling royalty in her own right,presents her marriage to fellow wrestler Tyson Kidd as constantly in danger of dissolving, and herself as a shrieking, demanding harpy who never seems to be happyThat lie is kept up on Raw, where they accompany each other to matches and fight in public.

However, the show, when it chooses to deal with theparticipants’ in-ring antics (which isn’t often), presents the Divas as the driving force behind the WWE, their matches full of power and amazing feats of strength. Watching Total Divas, one could be forgiven for thinking that women’s matches often last longer than a minute, or that they could even be Main EventsIt’s interesting to note that the goal of Total Divas seems to be to sell these women as two completely opposing ideals, namely hot, sexy ladies with tonnes of capital-D drama in theirpersonal lives, and talented, butt-kicking wrestlers who can hold their own in front of millions of screaming fans.

In fact, the Total Divas cameras, rather curiously, always seem to catch signs for the girls that even the most eagle-eyed viewers won’t have noticed during the original broadcast. If you’ve ever attended a WWE show, you’ll know that signs for the dudes far, far outnumber those for the ladies, but that’s because nobody really takes them seriously as wrestlers. Total Divas trying to right this wrong by lying to us is counter-productive. And, in reality, they can’t be both anyway.

There’s an interesting dichotomy at play in the WWE right now. NXT is so female-friendly, Renee Young is on commentary, holding her own and showing up even the great William Regal. But when the ladies graduate to the main roster, suddenly what they’ve built on NXT no longer seems to matter. Take Emma who, when her gimmick didn’t catch on quite as quick, was reduced to being Santino Marella’s valet. She was huge on NXT, and still is.

Add to this the fact that the Bella twins are, coincidentally or otherwise, right in the middle of the main Total Divas and Divas storylines right now, and it’s a wonder women don’t emerge kicking and screaming from Triple H’s training grounds. It may simply be a case of a difference in fans, or the format of the shows, but something is lost en route from NXT and if Paige’s signing up for Total Divas is any indication, it’sbecoming increasingly difficult for female wrestlers toprogress in the WWE.

Only time will tell if AJ sticks around for a bit longer – and here’s hoping she will because without her we’re really fucked – but, regardless, the way in which these women are being sold to us needs to change, and soon. There’s no reason why what works on NXT shouldn’t translate to the main stage, not if there’s genuine momentum behind someone and she has actual ability,too. There will always be a demand for eye candy, but it should not be the basis for an entire division. If these ladies have genuine talent, then they shouldn’t have to shill themselves on a reality show, either.

We can live without the Rose/Bunny feud, but if the AJ/Paige storyline is the last decent Divas one we get, then it won’t be long before Total Divas is the only place these often very talented women appear. The sad part is, we probably won’t even really notice the difference.


Notes From Punk By Adam Timmins

Undoubtedly everyone is going to have their say over the CM Punk appearance on Colt Cabana’s podcast; so I only intend to add a few words here. What struck me mostly about the interview is that it was primarily interesting not for providing much new information; but rather, for confirming some stuff we already knew/ suspected. For instance:


• Vince is massively out of touch with popular culture – witness his shocked reaction to hearing about women’s MMA. I’m sure I read somewhere years ago that the most recent Bond film he’d seen had Roger Moore in it.

• Vince is only interested in Cena – again, this chimes with what others have said in the past: I think it was Raven who said Vince only cares about the top three or four guys, and the rest are pretty left to the writers.

• The practise of treating wrestlers like horses – work them until they drop, then shoot them – is alive and well. No wonder Vince is so high on Cena – a guy who gets a five month prognosis for an injury and usually comes back in two.

• Not for the first time, HHH comes across as that kid in school who desperately wants to be liked, but just isn’t – he reminds me of Martin Prince in The Simpsons.

• Considering being part of the WWE is supposed to be the pinnacle of a wrestlers career, all too often it comes across as a miserable and dark place.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Sting And Lesnar In The WWE By Stuart Rodgers

Everyone is 'popping' over Sting turning up at Survivor Series but it was spoke about in the days before and I think the fact he's been with the company for a while now doesn't make it that much of a big deal, well not to me anyway. The paint covered up his age but that hair, wow.

The rumours now are saying at Wrestle Mania next year it'll be Sting vs Triple H, not sure how the general WWE fan feels about it but I think, if he is going to wrestle at Mania who would he really face other than someone like Triple H? People may think he should give the 'rub' to younger talent but I think a high profile match be that against Triple H or someone else is the way to go. Feel free to leave comments below or hit me up on twitter with your thoughts.

Something else WWE related, Brock Lesnar, the choice to let him take the streak from The Undertaker raised many eyebrows but I think the decision to give him the world title being as he works a very limited schedule raised even more.

I recall back in the day the 30 day rule of a champion not defending their title would see them be stripped of the relevant championship but like a lot of things of yesteryear in pro wrestling, it's something us older fans crave a return of.

You can follow me on twitter and comment on any of the above points @WLHSTU

Sunday 23 November 2014

How Far Is Too Far? By Craig Hermit

"The problem with being a hardcore wrestler is, by its very nature, we give of ourselfs and our bodys and our hearts and our souls and for each one of us who gives there's bloodthirsty lowlife fans out there are only willing to take" - Mick Foley during his anti ecw promos.

Injuries in wrestling, it's one of these things, we as fans hear about it through social media, we see it live or we see it on Botchomania.

Now as a fan, I respect everything wrestlers do in the ring, the workrate, the training, the cardo, there drive and there passion to succeed in an industry that can be as cut throat as a lionsden but what happens when something goes wrong within that ring.

Personally, a few weeks ago I was injured, broken bones, badly hurt but that isn't relevant, it had me thinking about wrestlers, what happens if they were in the situation I was, bedridden, out of action, unable to do anything and as a fan, my understanding of the injuries within the industry is knowledgeable but the depth of my understanding not as much.

I mean if anyone has bought a WWE dvd or tape we would have seen the two minute clip of injuries, then the message "don't try this" at the end before then dismissing the message, clicking play for reason you bought the DVD in the first place.

If I saw someone get injured in a wrestling match, I'd sympathise with the situation but I wouldn't think about it afterwards. Wrestlers, well they don't have that luxury.

Recently as I saw clips from youtube, the videos specialising on seeing countless wrestlers getting injured with soundtracks and "comical motifs", I started to think, about there lives, how are they going to continue doing what they do? How are there lives going to change? And how can fans chant, "you fucked up!" when you see the wrestler is in agony.

Am I overthinking this, I don't think so, if you have seen the movie 300, there is a scene where King Leonidas says to the Arcadians:

King Leonidas: You there, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Potter: I am a potter... sir.
King Leonidas: And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Sculptor: Sculptor, sir.
King Leonidas: You?
Free Greek-Blacksmith: Blacksmith.
King Leonidas: [turns back shouting] SPARTANS! What is YOUR profession?
Spartans: WAR! WAR! WAR!

I imagine this with wrestlers, they may work in a call centre, coffeeshop or some place during the day but deep down they are wrestlers. It is there passion, ingrained within them and when they get injured, the pain - extreme the uncertainty - shocking, infront of there fans - heartbreaking. Then to return, if they return, the courage they have is to be not just respected but admired.

In an age where the letter of wrestling is being pushed, prodded and bent to levels at times where fans want to see blood and hardcore wrestling extra care and work must be used to make sure everything is being done to minimise the risks being taken, yes, risk comes with being within the ring and yes, they are trained professionals but all it takes is one slip, one hard shot and one failed moonsault, then something deverstating happens.

As fans we love to encourage wrestlers to go one step further, case in point, WWE Hell in a Cell event, John Cena vs Randy Orton, ignoring the fact it was rematch 100 plus between the two men, they used every weapon they could find and gave as much hardcore action as they could within the Cell, afterwards fans were complaining about the fact that there was no danger, no one falling from the cage.

Next match, Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins, from the start top of the cage, wrestlers fall off the cage and the match is brutal throughout. Feedback, some fans complain about the ending ruining the whole match. In the case of Hell in A Cell matches does it take matches of the like Mick Foley vs Undertaker for some fans to be pleased with what they have seen? I hope not.

My point being is this, yes they are trained professionals, but at what point is the risks too far? Is broken bones too far? At what point is the injury and the sacrifice that a wrestler makes too far?

Does blood?, someone falling off the ladders? the cages? Even fire? Does it make it a more believable storyline in a match, I'll agree it makes its more exciting but there has to be limits.

Now fans reading this don't think that I'm going on a rant and wanting wrestling to go back to the way of World of Wrestling in the mainstream 80's because I don't, my point is this, the hardcore, the extreme and the death-defying matches should be used on the rare occasion and planned out to make sure the minimum can go wrong.

But in the world of wrestling everything a wrestler does within that ring could result in injury, so respect them and if they are perform a move that you don't think is that exciting, think about the last time you hurt yourself and think could you do what they do in that ring in front of everyone with the risks provided. I think not.

Then theres the people that distance themselves and say its fake, my advice to anyone who has a friend like that take them to a live show that thought will change very fast, the final words on this subject should be left to a legendary commentator,

"Where do you learn how to fall off a twenty foot ladder!" - Jim Ross.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Vince Russo, Did He Really Kill WCW? By Stuart Rodgers

So I am listening to The Swerve podcast hosted by Vince Russo, and on this current episode he has the co-author of 'The Death Of WCW' book and owner of the website RD Reynolds. Of course, over the years, Russo has been shall we say, the 'fall guy' for the death of WCW but did Vince Russo really kill WCW?

When I listen to podcasts be it The Swerve or any others I usually switch off in my head when they talk about TV ratings. Russo is very proud of the ratings swing that took place in WCW when he was there writing the show with Ed Ferrera back in the day and again, I guess it is something to be proud of but it's not something I am interested in. However, a point that is brought up during the interview is Reynolds says one of the reasons WCW went under was because they (WCW) were not selling enough tickets to house shows, they were not having good enough PPV buys and they were not selling enough merchandise. So Reynolds' opinion is, as Russo (with Ferrera) was writing the flagship TV show, Monday Nitro and in his opinion the TV show should be a vehicle of sorts to drive the house show attendance up, the PPV buy rates up and merchandise sales up, and the fact WCW went out of business, Reynolds would say this was Russo's part in killing the company. Russo, clearly says when he was in negotiations with WCW before coming in at no point, house shows, PPV buy rates and merchandise sales were never discussed with himself and Ferrera so, the fact they went out of business, Russo washes his hands of any responsibilty for the demise of the promotion.

Now, in my opinion, and that's what it is, I believe the role of a TV show which has an end product like a PPV should be to build up interest in said PPV so the fans watching the TV show will want to go and buy the PPV. Same with house shows, fans should look at the TV show and think the product is good and want to go out to a house show and buy merchandise while they are there. Again, this is my opinion, I'm sure Russo will have his own and you will have yours.

In closing, I have no idea who is responsible for the death of WCW, there were 5 people on the cover of the original book (Russo, Bischoff, Hogan, Hall & Nash) but Russo believes if anyone would be responsible it would be a TV executive by the name of Jamie Kellner. I am interested in your thoughts on this subject, hit me up on twitter @WLHSTU

Visit Vince Russo's site and subscribe to his podcast, The Swerve on iTunes. And as mentioned earlier, RD's website is and you can buy the revised version of the book The Death of WCW from Amazon and if you're in the UK, use this link -

Thursday 13 November 2014

Do You Remember The First Time? By Nick Hughes

Recollections from a lifelong wrestling fan.

In the weeks and months to come I will hopefully be (shoulder) tackling some of the big issues surrounding the business that is wrestling…but first I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and see what brought me to where I am now.

I think the first time I was aware of wrestling, would be sat on my dad’s knee on a Saturday afternoon watching World of Sport. As a child of 4 I was fascinated by the more larger than life heavyweights, and sad to say, my first real wrestling hero was Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree. My father, who had spent a good part of his childhood at the Liverpool stadium, always cheered on the heels, especially the more athletic smaller guys like “Crybaby” Jim Breaks, and his absolute favourite Mark “Rollerball” Rocco (who my dad would never fail to remind me, was the son of “Jumping” Jim Hussey, who was a favourite of my dad’s growing up). My grandfather was also a big fan, and he would regale me with tales of watching Ricky Star and Billy Two Rivers while we sat and laughed our heads off at the antics of Les Kellet or Catweazle (my granddads two favourites).

So yeah the bug hit me pretty early on, and for the next 8 years or so, I would not miss the wrestling on ITV. I supplemented this by watching the odd show that mades it’sway to our local theatre (Queens Hall in Widnes), were I finally got to see the likes of not only Daddy and Haystacks, but people like Johnny Saint, Alan Kilby and Alan Dennison. We had a caravan in Towyn, so most Wednesdays during the school holidays, we would make our way to either Rhyl Town Hall or The Colliseum, to take in shows put on by the local legend Orig “El Bandido” Williams. We saw a smattering of TV “stars”, like Tony StClair, but supplemented by local guys like The Mighty Chang.

Then one day back in 1986..everything changed I spotted a copy of a magazine called Pro Wrestling Illustrated in a newsagents in Abergele. It was the fabled “supercard show” edition, and featured not only Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy fighting in a cage as part of Wrestlemania 2, but also pictures of NWA champ Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, fromStarcade. The centerspread also featured a picture of Bruiser Brody taking on Terry Gordy in a barbed wire rope match, from WCCW Parade of Champions..this bloody image fascinated me and I decided I had to see that bout, and all of the other stuff featured within the magazine.

Bizarrely at almost the same time World of Sport run a show that featured 3 matches from the WWF. I must have worn the videotape out as I watched and re-watched the show. It started with The British Bulldogs going against the Hart Foundation in the Boston Gardens, and then there was a squash featuring Kamala taking out Salvatore Bellomo, and then finished with a Lumberjack match of Hulk Hogan v Randy Savage, from Madison Square Gardens. I was hooked!. There were a couple more 'WWF specials' before WoS closed it’s doors for the final time, but WWF continued being broadcast through the night on ITV Granada (before switching to WCW a short time later).

My dad had found a regular supplier (in the strangest of places) off not only PWI, but all of the “Apter mags”, and alsomags being published by George Napolatano. Speke market in Liverpool had a stall that sold magazines that were a month old (I am guessing back before the days of “sale on return”), and every week would pick up different wrestling magazines for the princely sum of 20p each..I was in wrestling heaven, and soon my bedroom was filled with pictures of The Road Warriors, Ric Flair and this time I had moved on from my Big Daddy love in and favoured the likes of The Four Horseman and most of what the NWA was doing over WWF. I would spend hours poring over the results section in PWI and scoring the matchups and then setting my own in a precursor to playing “fantasy league booker”.

Around this time Satellite TV was becoming the next thing, and although we did not have it, I used to give tapes to my friend who would record WWF from sky, and also numerous channels like Screensport, Lifestyle and Eurosportwhich featured the likes of  NWA, AWA, Stampede, WCCW and a number of other promotions. After endless months of badgering my dad finally broke and purchased Sky..truth be told, I think it was a cheaper option than supplying me with multiple video tapes each month to get friends to tape shows!

The next significant moment I can remember was the announcement that the WWF was coming to the UK for a show at the London Arena (situated in the delightfully named  “Isle of Dogs”). Again after a prolonged period of badgering of my father he agreed that we could go. So after a long old car ride we made our way into the arena for a show headlined by Hogan v Savage. My dad was pleased to see both Rollerball Rocco and Skull Murphy, who featured in a dark match. But for me, seeing the likes of Hogan, Savage further cemented my love for the sport.

My dad bought a newspaper on the way home called “The Sunday Sport”, and surprisingly it featured an advert to buy videos of various wrestling shows, and before too long I was the proud owner of the first Royal Rumble, and inaugural Survivor series. I run copies of the shows of to my mates, who were also bitten by the bug..this would become my first experience of “tape trading”, although I did not have anybody else to trade with!.

Fast forward a couple of years (literally using VHS!) and the UK got it’s own wrestling magazine in Superstars of was awesome to read letters from other fans, and what really peecked my interest was the section were people could post adds. It was here that I come across such names as Glen Radford (or “Mr Illiterate” as my mum dubbed him, due to his indecipherable writing) and Rob Butcher, and my thirst for wrestling was quenched in the form of badly photocopied A4 sheets listing page after page of wrestling shows, that could be bought for £8 for 3 hour tape or £10 for 4hour tape. I quickly filled my bedroom with tapes from companies like W-ING, FMW and a young upstart company called Eastern Championship Wrestling.

An advert for a shop located at a place called The Coliseum in Manchester made me take what would become a regular pilgrimage to Manchester. I become friendly with the owners Mike Hough and Keith “Ruffneck” Colwill, and before long I was supplying the store with tapes of lots of shows I had purchased from various tape traders, at the same time I started trading myself..this would be just as VHS was being usurped for the sleeker, clearer smaller new kid on the block DVD.

The internet was also in its infancy and people were starting to talk about and trade wrestling shows on line. One of the first people who I dealt with was Dave Pick, who turned me on to IWA-MS and CZW. Over the years Dave would take more money from me than is decent to say, but I had an awesome room filled with Tapes and DVD’s from promotions from the four corners of the wrestling world. The next ten years would be filled with so many awesome memories of both attending shows (ROH at the Olympia in Liverpool, multiple quality shows at 1PW), and with discovering amazing promotions like PWG, Chikara and so much moreover the information superhighway.

All of which brings me to the last couple of years. I started attending a local promotion called Infinite Promotions, and after the first couple of shows, I approached the owners about maybe getting involved with running a merchandise stall at there this point I had so many DVD’s, I had run out of room to store them, so by offloading some shows, it would both free up room, but also give me more money to buy.morewrestling shows! (it really is like a drug at point!). So that was the latest flagship moment/memory. I have worked closely with both UK based and International talent, have pictures with tons of workers, have had Davey Richards and Mike Elgin tell me I had “lots of cool shit”, and now also supply shows to a number of British workers. I now run merch for HXC based in Manchester, working with my old friend Mike Hough and love every minute of it. Recent I have started writing show reports that get posted on The Indy Corner, which for a technophobe like me is a big thing..even talking of doing a bit of podcasting in the near future!.

The Indy wrestling scene in the UK is at the healthiest I have ever seen it. As a north west based fan, I have managed to see the likes of CZW, ICW and shortly ROH come into my region, and the likes of Infinite Pro, HXC, Tidal and PCW all put on awesome cards using both home grown talent and imports. I am watching and enjoying more shows than at any other point in my life.


So there you have it, my journey from there to here and the significant points along the journey. Would love to hear your own tales of the significant moments in your wrestling fandom life…so please post your replies, and lets all take a moment to wallow in a bit of self-indulgent nostalgia!