Friday 29 April 2016

Finn Bálor And The Difficulty With Moving A Weird Talent Up To A PG Roster By @JoeyLDG

Finn Bálor's trajectory in NXT is further, irrefutable proof that developmental is kicking the main roster's ass in every conceivable way. Built from mysterious newcomer into unstoppable champion, Bálor's title reign was the definition of hard-fought, his final victory over Samoa Joe at Takeover: Dallas an insanely tough, lengthy, nail-biting battle that left both men physically exhausted.
WWE would do well to learn from his extraordinary title reign. In Bálor's hands, the NXT belt had gravitas, it actually meant something. Now, with the Irish legend set to take on the main roster, he can probably kiss all of that goodbye. In comparison, we're currently dealing with a world heavyweight champ who can barely land a punch, let alone sell that he's bothered about, well, anything. 

That Joe stole the belt from Bálor at a house show, of all places, did nothing to dull his shine either. The Irishman emerged from the fray as a hugely impressive, strong, near-impossible to beat fighter who put it all on the line and still seemed unstoppable even though he was, technically, defeated.

Now, all eyes will be watching to see whether Bálor makes his long-awaited debut at this Sunday's Payback event, and what this will mean for the main roster. The stage has been set, with ex-Bullet Club leader AJ Styles taking centre-stage with current champion Roman Reigns, while his buddies Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows wait in the wings, hoping to cause some friction. 
 While Bálor's ascension to the main roster is, naturally, something to be celebrated it brings with it a certain amount of anxiety. In NXT, he was free to be as weird and as rough as necessary. What of his lengthy, theatrical entrance? His face-paint? Never mind the fact that, not too long ago, Bálor revealed in an interview that he wasn't too pushed with moving up, out of fear that doing so would dull his edginess somewhat. 
Given we're in the midst of the so-called PG era (groan), he's probably right to be worried. NXT has proven itself time and time again to be a brave, eccentric and utterly unpredictable showcase for up-and-coming, often weirdo talent that doesn't quite fit in elsewhere.

Consider The Ascension, who were almost immediately lost in the fray upon moving up to the main roster. Or even Tyler Breeze, whose fantastic gimmick has been reduced to nothing. New recruits Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady have fared better, but how long until their entrance is shortened to a walk and a quick pose?
In spite of being, by all accounts, a bit of an oddity, logically speaking Bálor shouldn't be too hard of a sell on the WWE main roster. He's a good-looking man, in fantastic shape, and he can talk (which is more than can be said for the likes of Ryback, or even current golden boy Reigns). But where exactly will he fit in amongst the current crop? He's not wild-eyed enough to be a Dean Ambrose, nor is his ring work fluid or clean enough to be a Kevin Owens. 
The easiest transition for Bálor will see him reform The Bullet Club alongside Anderson and Gallows, eventually breaking out on his own once he's over with the fans. But even this is a potentially troublesome route for the Irish powerhouse.

The tag team division has been struggling for a while, and The Bullet Club aren't the best showcase for a potential main event wrestler's talents. They're also a stable, not a tag team, so slotting them into matches on the likes of RAW and Smackdown won't be an easy feat. Especially not alongside The New Day, Amore and Cassady, etc.

Bálor has already proven his considerable worth throughout his tenure on NXT (and, of course, NJPW), and by right he should advance straight to the world heavyweight championship picture. The fact he doesn't have anyone in particular to spar with, 
à la Owens and Zayn, could also impair him.

There's only really one entry point and it ties him into a stable (which will be instantly reduced to yet another tag team) that can only go so far. And, as exciting as The Bullet Club in WWE will be, it's difficult to see them fitting in, or causing quite as much trouble, as they did in Japan. Ownership rights are still up in the air too - can WWE even call them The Bullet Club?
The best option for Bálor will see him feuding with Styles, as the two come head to head for the first time ever - a major selling point for the company as a whole, and them as athletes. This will give WWE the edge it desperately needs, as well as tying in fans of both wrestlers. And, hopefully, it will finally edge Reigns out of the title picture in the long run, too. 
It's difficult to gauge how likely Bálor's ascension to the main roster even is at this stage, especially since sources claim that he and Joe are set to headline the next Takeover event on June 8th, in another rematch for the NXT title. This announcement could be a swerve to throw us off the scent, to make his debut on Sunday more of a surprise, but only time will tell. 

As it stands, Bálor moving up could be the best and worst thing to happen to the WWE main roster right now.


En Route To Wrestle: Road Trip To WWE RAW (18/4/16) By Vanessa Clayton

Editor's note: Vanessa usually writes for me over at about her experiences while she embarks on her journey into pro wrestling at the Dropkixx wrestling school but as this was WWE based I thought it was more suited to this site.

Welcome To Monday Night RAW 18/04/2016

So once again WWE comes to the UK and was I lucky to get tickets to go to RAW where I drag the boyfriend who has no interest whatsoever. No fault to him but hey I did not want to go alone and well when boyfriend duties call…

A good set of seats, level 1, row d, so the ring was slightly to the left and the entrances on my right. Now I won’t bore you on here about what happened as it is clear most have caught up on what happened but I’ll just bullet point you a few brief thoughts of mine

• Usos vs Vaudevillians was dead. I feel vaudevillians gimmick won’t work on main roster and Usos aren’t what they used to be.
• Biggest pops went to New Day, Enzo and Cass and AJ Styles
• Really everyone hates Reigns. They brought Fandango out and as they were playing a video promo for Reigns everyone booed like hell then thought it would be better to do the Fandango instead.
• Miz & Maryse would make a brilliant heel power couple. Better than Steph and HHH in my opinion.
• Tyler Breeze will soon be buried. Hes used too much for losing matches and placed on Superstars
• Fandango is really liked over here
• Apollo Crews will go far no doubt.
• I saw Owens vs Ambrose back in Nov 2015 so was weird to see them as the main event again but the match didn’t fail yet again they work so well together in a match
• Somebody give Cesaro and Ambrose some belts yeah!!!
• Womens match was a bit hit and miss. Not enough wrestle time too much going out of ring. But everyone went mad for Bret Hart at Payback. Really Natalya needs the belt then drop to Sasha at Summerslam. Natalya is very underrated.
• Promos on Epico and Primo almost trying to sell me a holiday to Puerto Rico. Maybe a nationality gimmick that will be coming up?

For now I am using the WWE network to watch more classic matches so I can pick up on things more, what do I want to use, how moves should be executed and so on. For Monday RAW it was more watching how promos are executed and how the wrestlers interact with the audience. To me New Day and Enzo & Cass are the best mic workers. New Day are just purely hilarious in any promo. They are all a bunch of firecrackers even when insulting such as taking the mic out of country music. They just do it with the happiness and love. Enzo and Cass have that stereotypical Jersey Shore gimmick and their insults to me come as a new age “Your Momma” jokes. They throw insult followed up with a how you doin! They come across as quick witted that what they say stuns the opponents.

Now relaying back to the Usos and Vaudevillians. Vaudevillians to me have zero crowd interaction. I have not heard them work the mic yet or throw a promo. Just seems like they turn up, wrestle and leave. The Usos used to be the best tag team in the past few years until Jey Uso was placed on injury, they did nothing with Jimmy Uso so everyone just forgot about them so when they turned up everyone was like oh you’re back? In the time they were not used New Day just took over the scene like nothing else.

Now Konnor and Adam Rose have been suspended will they put Viktor with Social Outcasts or just bury Viktor even more? Now I would not want to come out with some X Factor sob story to get people behind me but I would feel to work a crowd I would need them to believe in me. To have reason why I am here and why I will strive for it and become successful. It’s already decided I will be face. But I want my face gimmick to be unique and so far, its proving hard work. So for now the plan is to just have ideas, work them at practice, if it works then carry on, if not then back to drawing board. Though I see cool moves I need the basis of a match to focus on which is chain. Moves like hurricanrana can be done in 3 seconds, I need to bring my match out for at least 10 minutes. Now unfortunately I have the joys of exams for my degree coming up so I would need to pull back for a bit as my education is important to me. So for then just to carry on then when exams over just smash out the training.

For now though please keep up with Dropkixx Wrestling. We now have ring training sessions too! And our upcoming shows:

7th May Laindon – Presidents Community Hall
29th May Southend – Balmoral Community Centre
4th June Brentwood – Brentwood Theatre
31st July Gravesend – Elite Venue

Come check us out down in Essex.
Follow us @DropkixxShows on Twitter and @DropkixxWrestling on Insta.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Straight Outta Dudleyville: The Legacy of the Dudley Boyz Review ByShaun Nichols

This is the latest WWE release and is a 3 disc set which includes a documentary and matches covering both their ECW and WWE runs.

To be honest there isn't a great deal to the documentary and it covers everything from their childhood to their WWE return on Raw after the 2015 SummerSlam event in a mere 73 minutes. There is the occasional interesting bit of trivia such as Bubba's ECW debut wasn't as a member of the Dudley clan but as a bodyguard to Bill Alfonso who they named Mongo Vile whose job was to take a chokeslam from 911.

They also discussed why they felt they were successful in the WWE but fellow ECW stars The Public Enemy were a disaster, their time in TNA does actually get a brief mention. Their main motivation to go there was because they wanted to work in Japan and TNA enabled them to do it. Bubba also admits to enjoying his time there, D-Von not so much.

The main reason to buy this set is the matches though. They can be split into 3 categories, which were their ECW run, the matches against The Hardy Boys and Edge & Christian and finally everything else.

The ECW matches don't stand the test of time, among the matches include a wild brawl against The Pitbulls which featured numerous unprotected chair shots to the head and absolutely no wrestling. Their match against one another from November to Remember 96 which was blown away by the greatness of Joel Gertner in the post match angle.

Their tag title loss to The Eliminators at Barely Legal is nothing more than a 5 minute squash designed to showcase the athletic moves from Saturn and Kronus. Their final night in ECW is an angle to get over Raven's return though it does show that Bubba could cut a promo without swearing every other word. Their matches at Heatwave 1998 and The One Night Only show from 2005 are both terrible.

Far more positive though are classic matches from 2000 and 2001 against The Hardy Boys and Edge & Christian. Both TLC matches feature from SummerSlam 2000 and Wrestlemania X-7 and are obvious highlights. All three teams have great chemistry and were rightly seen as a key ingredient in why many WWE fans have such fond memories of that era.

Their classic matches against Matt and Jeff from the Royal Rumble 2000, which was the double table match and the unification tag match in the cage at the Survivor Series 2001 also appear and they also stand the test of time. I've got to say it was pretty enjoyable going back and re-watching those matches.

Other matches in the set was a really fun tag match from 2001 against Kurt Angle and The Rock which was action all the way and survived the fact that it doesn't have a finish as it was a backdrop to the WWE vs. Alliance storyline that was running at the time. The match against Rob Van Dam and Rey Mysterio is a fine example of why The Dudleys were a really good heel tag team.

Their single matches show that Bubba had and still does have more of an upside. D-Von's victory over Triple H is a classic example of how someone can lose and still make sure that the winner gets no benefit from the win. That match also includes the debut of Dave Batista on the main roster. Bubba's outings against Triple H and Brock Lesnar at least have the intention of treating him as a genuine singles star.

The set is very much reliant on the great three way feud from the early 2000's and from that point this release is a success, the Angle/Rock match is also well worth seeking out but the ECW matches are generally disappointing and don't really add anything to their legacy or any quality to this boxset. Should you buy this? Well it completely depends on you felt about their first WWE run.

You can buy this set on DVD or Blu Ray in the UK from 11/04/16 from right HERE

Tuesday 5 April 2016

The Curse Of The Cena Duelling Chant By Shaun Nichols

I've always been a fan of the duelling chants, as fans show their encouragement and support in hoping that their preferred wrestler will prevail. To me it is a more genuine reaction than the 'This is Awesome' chant which was actually created as an ironic reaction to a mediocre TNA match and was then picked up by ROH fans to acknowledge good matches and then became widely accepted.

Even worse is the 'This is Wrestling' chant, having been a fan for over 30 years. I have managed to successfully identify the fact I am watching a wrestling match and have yet to feel the need to hear that chant to clarify the point. I don't mean to come across as rude but a lot of wrestling chants are pointless and misplaced, don't even get me started on the 'You've Fucked Up' retort which hardly is going to help things.

The duelling chant is the epitomy of being a fan, it shows your support to the wrestler or wrestlers as you will them on to hopefully a successful outcome. Usually the duelling chant features fans taking it in turns to support each wrestler, though in the case of John Cena that is not generally the case.

This blog isn't a criticism of John Cena the wrestler or how he relates to the fans. If anything it is more a damning indictment of the WWE and their failure to book their talent to the best opportunity. Cena is by far the most over wrestler in the company, his merchandise sales, his ability to draw fans to the live shows he appears on and how he positively affects TV ratings show that his position his overall justified.

The fact though that he has been the WWE's main man for the best decade means that you will always get some frustration from fans that yearn for change. Cena may not be the greatest wrestler but a lot of criticism levelled at him can't really be backed up. But no matter who you are, very few people want to see the same thing all of the time.

The 'Let's Go Cena'and 'Cena Sux'  battle as been the feature of virtually every episode of Raw and PPV events for years. A combination of those fans who support John Cena and those who are fed up with having the same wrestler forced down their throats for the last 10 years. It's a natural reaction to express your anger in the company's direction, but it also tells us something else.

Part of it, is that when something takes hold it becomes the thing to do. Do fans chant 'Cena Sux' because it's the cool thing to do? It is clear that Cena is generally popular among the female audience and children. There is a large part of the company's fanbase that does not and will not relate to the happy and go lucky John Cena character.

The big issue with the Cena duelling chant is that it makes it clear that in most cases his opponent does not matter, there have been very few matches over the years when fans haven't fallen into this trap. It tends to be when fans are actually emotionally connected to his opponent, examples include his matches against The Rock at Wrestlemania, MITB against CM Punk, One Night Only against Rob Van Dam and finally the Daniel Bryan match at SummerSlam. In short they have been few and far between.

I have always subscribed to the idea that if you a fan of something or someone then you want them to be successful, football fans chant in support of their team rather than shouting for the opposition to play badly. Wrestling in general is no different, you hear the duelling chants regularly in a number of different promotions including the WWE but rarely in a John Cena match.

I don't know if it will ever get back to a point where Cena is wrestling and the fans who don't want him to win are actually showing support for his adversary rather than telling him that he sucks. I hope that we do reach that point because it will show that the WWE are on the way to creating stars that both currently and in the future can take the company forward.

But what I do know is that for the WWE it is a very bad sign that in many main events only one man seems to have been able to capture the ability to make wrestling fans respond and react to him rather that be in a supportive or a critical way. We can only hope that will change and sooner the better.

Saturday 2 April 2016

NXT Takeover: Dallas Review: Another Spotlight-Stealing Display From Developmental By Joey Keogh

This time last year, developmental was kicking the main roster’s ass, overshadowing them on the biggest weekend of the year. Now that the show is actually in Dallas, for the Wrestlemania festivities themselves, can they make it two years in a row, in an even more significant way, with all eyes on them? 
NXT Takeover: Dallas is about half the length of Wrestlemania 32 (a five-hour whopper of a show that will surely feel about as long as it is), or roughly the same amount of time usually spent faffing about on RAW. With less time and fewer stars, can NXT steal the spotlight yet again, or will it crumble under the pressure?
The first thing to note about this event is how different it feels to its main roster equivalent. Take, for example, a Fastlane. The hype leading up to same is nowhere near as well-built, or well-considered as that going into Takeover: Dallas. Hell, even the vignettes that open the show, meant to further sell us on what we’ve already committed to watching, are fantastic. There’s a real sense that what happens tonight is about to change everything, as opposed to just kill time before moving on to the next event. 

We kick things off with a rousing tag team championship bout, pitching current title-holders The Revival against newcomers American Alpha. Some disrespectful slapping from both sides establishes the tone early on – this is defiantly old-school, very technical style combat, as the two teams’ names suggest. The tag side of things is very fluidly handled, well thought out and weighted with consequence. 

The fight is hard fought, on both sides, each near fall completely devastating. In the end, though, it’s American Alpha who steal the win, and the titles. They’re understandably ecstatic, as are a suitably hot crowd who cannot get enough NXT by the sounds of it. Funnily enough, this stormer of an opener actually sets the tone for the rest of the show. The matches tonight are mostly fast-paced, energetic, and suitably rough bouts (aside from an incredibly tense main event showdown).  

Continuing in that vein are Baron Corbin and Austin Aries, the former taking it to the new recruit in order to make his in-ring debut particularly memorable. The fans are not happy when Corbin is in control, pulling for indy hotshot Aries throughout and getting particularly rowdy when he turns it around on The Lone Wolf. Corbin is in an interesting performer in his own right; he looks a bit like Roman Reigns’ dirty, ex-con cousin, but he wrestles much better than his appearance would suggest. 

Naturally, though, he severely underestimates Aries as an opponent, his attempt at the End Of Days turned on him as he is rolled up and covered, Aries thereby turning his first match into his first victory on NXT. Someone with whom the letters ‘NXT’ have become synonymous is returning favourite Sami Zayn, whose time on the main roster was cut sadly short thanks to an injury, but who has now come back to his old stomping ground to give Japanese superstar Shinsuke Nakamura a proper welcome. 

Takeover: Dallas is an incredibly strong show across the board, but the Zayn/Nakamura match is arguably the strongest of the night. It’s difficult to pinpoint just one element that makes it so fantastic, but it’s one of those matches that, watching it, you just know is going to live on in your memory forever. Starting with a thrilling vignette, seemingly scored by Hans Zimmer himself, the atmosphere is heavy with intrigue from the beginning. 

Duelling chants echo around the arena, the fans split between getting behind their favourite, Zayn, and marking out over one of, if not, the most famous wrestler in Japan. As it turns out, it’s easy to root for both of these guys to emerge victorious here. It’s hard to imagine anyone more enthusiastic or warm as a performer than Sami Zayn, but Nakamura has almost an overflow of personality. He starts the match by just standing there, staring at his opponent and making weird faces. 

When the two finally do lock up, it’s as though a bomb has just gone off. The pace is fast, energetic, loaded with ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moments – basically, the ideal temperature for these two particular men. This is arguably the roughest Zayn has ever been in the ring, as he rises to the challenge of matching Nakamura’s strength tactics, the two exchanging devastating forearm strikes until the Japanese man is left bloodied and noticeably perturbed. 

Neither can seem to quite best the other, Nakamura’s usually devastating knees doing little to slow Zayn down, while the Canadian struggles to hit virtually any of his signature moves. A “Fight forever” chant erupts about two-thirds of the way through that, given the quality and the amount of skill on show here, feels entirely justified. Zayn goes for the DDT through the turnbuckle, only for Nakamura to kick him in the head and, suddenly, it seems the fight may be lost. 

As it dawns on the NXT fan favourite that this is no ordinary opponent, Nakamura hits the Boma Ye and wins it, the fans erupting almost instantaneously into chants of “Olè!” and “Thank you, Sami!”. It’s a disappointing ending for Zayn, but he may be gearing up for a major Wrestlemania moment tomorrow night, this match having been a warm-up for him, a way to ingratiate Nakamura in with the NXT fans as their #1 takes a step back and onto the main roster. 

Speaking of which, if there’s one thing Vince can’t seem (or doesn’t want to) get right it’s the women’s division. Not such a problem for Triple H, who has created a female roster in developmental worth tuning in for (and none of ‘em feature on Total Divas). Tonight’s title match sees current champ, and another major fan favourite, Bayley take on another Japanese newcomer in the form of the seemingly unstoppable Asuka.
Six months in to her NXT tenure, Asuka is undefeated and, according to some interesting vignettes prior to the match, everyone is kind of terrified of her. But Bayley has worked hard for the championship and she won’t give it up easily, as evidenced by this hugely entertaining, and very colourful (both literally and figuratively – it’s like watching two angry rainbows fighting at times) bout. 

Asuka certainly lives up to her reputation, but right off the bat Bayley is ready for her. The women’s champ may be cute and sweet but she’s certainly not a pushover, laying into the newcomer at every opportunity. A particularly shocking, standout moment, sees her locking in Asuka’s own submission hold on her, to which Asuka responds with a bone-crunching armbar. Somehow, Bayley manages to fight back valiantly. 

She even withstands a devastating Suplex into a second armbar just moments later, but the champ can’t quite power out of the Asuka-Lock and she passes out in the Japanese woman’s arms, making the newcomer the new champion, and the second Japanese victor of the night. What should be an upsetting moment is given such strength and levity by the crowd reaction, their enthusiasm for the women’s match, and the commitment of those involved.  

NXT isn’t done with Dallas yet, though, as we’ve still got the Main Event to go. The build-up for this match, which sees Finn Bálor defend his championship title against Samoa Joe for a second time, following Takeover: London, has been nothing short of incredible. The atmosphere is thick with anticipation as Bálor emerges, waving a chainsaw around and gurning for the cameras (much to Joe’s annoyance). 

He chucks the champ over the barricade right off the bat, his face bloodied from the outset, which stalls the match as medical staff rush to mop him up (again, much to the big guy’s annoyance). The commentators consistently compare Joe to Godzilla and, even though he probably has a few pounds on that kaiju monstrosity, it’s a fitting comparison given how he seeks to completely dismantle Balor. This is the slowest match of the night, but it’s because it’s the culmination of a lengthy feud, one in which the correct time and attention has been taken to really sell it to us as fans. 

This doesn’t feel like just any night, just any match, it feels like the night, the match. Joe is intent on snatching the title, pummelling the living daylights out of Bálor, but the Irishman is unstoppable in his own way, powering out of a gruelling cross-face to land a double footstomp. Joe responds in kind with a musclebuster, and he very nearly wins with it too but Bálor isn’t willing to give in and he, to Joe’s shock and disbelief, manages to come out swinging once again. 

Although his tough exterior barely wavers, as the fight drags on and Bálor refuses to cop to him, Joe begins to look slightly nervous – particularly when the Irishman growls at him from the other side of the ring. A stunning Coup De Grace is followed up with a Coquina Clutch but Bálor powers out yet again, subsequently managing to roll Joe up to finally get the pin and win. It’s a stunning, shocking, game-changing ending to the night that closes Takeover: Dallas off in a remarkable way. Wrestlemania 32 - beat that for a finish.

All joking aside, there really is something tangibly different about NXT. The whole atmosphere is different, from the super-hot, endlessly engaged fans to the urgent commentary, to, of course, the quality of the storytelling, the matches and the booking. Where RAW, or even certain PPVs, can feel bloated and saggy, not a moment of NXT air-time is wasted. Everything feels relevant. It’s remarkably tight as a show in general, there’s not an ounce of flab. 

And NXT Takeover: Dallas continued that fine tradition. There were no piss break matches, not a dud in the bunch, not even a hint of a yawn. Every single second was strong. In all seriousness, Wrestlemania really does have a hell of a lot to live up to on Sunday night. ­