Tuesday 28 November 2017

Jinder Mahal: Someone To Look Up To And Admire By Pete Stevens

Mahal in his previous incarnation with the WWE
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the pro wrestling business. I’ve been a part of it (10 years) and a fan for a combined 30 years. I’ve taken just lately to writing about my thoughts and feelings on certain subjects and this is another one. 

I recently read online that during a press tour of India to promote WWE’s upcoming show, Kane was quoted as saying that Jinder Mahal is a superstar that should be admired for his change in attitude. Kane makes reference to Mahal’s 2014 release and spoke about the way Mahal conducted himself while being away including becoming a better wrestler and the drastic changes to his physical appearance. I understand that this interview took place in India to promote the forthcoming show which Mahal is due to headline in a match against the COO of the company Triple H however, it got me thinking. 

In the bigger picture, should we all not respect Jinder Mahal for his most recent accomplishments a little bit more than we do? 

I understand that some purists and wrestling die hards were outraged when the company went left field and chose to put the WWE Championship on Jinder and the rise of the ‘Modern Day Maharaja’ began. I admit, I thought it was going to be a transitional champion kind of situation and the company would keep with the safe cards like AJ Styles (champion now) or Randy Orton. A near enough 6 month reign would be the result of it all which even if you appreciated it or not brought fresh new light into the tired and tested main event scene. 

Mahal with his 3MB cohorts heath Slater & Drew McIntyre
In 2014 Jinder Mahal was released from his contract. At the time of his release he was a member of 3MB. Prior to 3MB he had bounced around the mid card with a couple of mediocre winning streaks. He was the runner up to Seth Rollins in the final of the NXT Championship Tournament and was also the on screen brother in law to The Great Khali. Jinder was re-hired by the company along with Curt Hawkins, Rhyno, Shelton Benjamin and a few others to bulk out the rosters during the brand split. Not long into Mahal’s return he begun to make some big changes to his physic and attitude in the ring whilst finding himself in a team with Rusev. Mahal would look like an absolute beast leading intro Wrestlemania where he again came second in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal however, the ground work was already being laid down for him to rise to the top of the Smackdown brand and lead it as it’s champion.

Mahal in more recent times when he was WWE champion
Taking a step back from his accomplishments during all of this I’d like to go back to concentrating on the point Kane was making. Jinder Mahal is a character. Love him or hate him he isn’t real. Yuvraj Singh Dhesi was giving a second chance with a company that doesn’t really give second chances very often (okay goldust being the exception) and he chose to reinvent himself to give himself a fighting chance to survive.

As I said earlier wither you like him or not as a performer it’s immaterial.  Personally I feel he should be admired and ultimately looked up to as someone who took the measures to better himself within his workplace to stand out from the pack instead of just filling the hole in the roster which ultimately he was brought back to do. Take a quick second to look at the rest of the returning stars. Rhyno was Tag Team Champion and got a push on smackdown but has done nothing since the brand switch moved him to Raw. Curt Hawkins gimmick is that he’s lost every match since the start of his career and Shelton Benjamin has been shoved into a 2.0 tag team. You may argue that Mahal has done nothing but alter his appearance and that his level of wrestling skill hasn’t changed at all. Against the skill of the veterans I mentioned above I would strongly argue that if his push was solely based around in ring skill then chances are he would be jobbing to the stars as well and in some way maybe he knows that. Look into his past again for a second. WWE tried multiple times with Jinder to make something of him and nothing happened. When he was Average Mahal you never saw him knocking down doors to get to any championship glory. 

In an industry STILL (WWE at least) dominated by big men with impressive physical appearances Mahal has perfectly played the one card he did have for success and he played it extremely well. 

Changing his physical appearance is the best thing Jinder Mahal has ever done for his career and it says a lot about his personal character and his willingness to want to succeed. He was given a second chance at a dream career where he hadn’t made the best of it the first time round and has hit a home run this time round. 

Surely that’s something to look up to for anyone in any industry. 

I’d call this a dream come true. 


Monday 20 November 2017

WWE Network: We Wish You The Best In Your Future Endevours By Joel Yentis

I have decided, I am cancelling my WWE Network subscription. I don’t use it. New content doesn’t appeal to me. The nail in the coffin will depend on this weekend’s quality – no pressure then WWE.

You see, my problem is time and environment. Once the kids are in bed, I have a few hours to spend with the wife which, lies the second problem; trying to negotiate a night watchingwrestling. WWE isn’t easy to watch at the best of times, let alone when the current product just doesn’t make any sense. When I introduced the wife to wrestling back in 2009, her first comment was “do they do risk assessments?” when watching a money in the bank ladder match. A fair point, I suppose. Then a large amount of reasonable  questions followed, “why do they always do moves facing the camera?” or “why are they always distracted when someone else’s music plays?”. Dearest wife, I have no answer. I don’t think many people have answers, including the decision makers.

So my valuable, marital time is at a premium, WWE is not an option. Fortunately, I have two other subscription services which, are cheaper than the “New York” territories offering and more importantly, a more common sense approach to content. Another subscription service we have is Netflix and, we really enjoyed watching GLOW together as well as non-wrestling related shows such as American Vandal, Toast of London to name but a few. A few hours of free time every night and, with all these options available, we tend to go for Netflix (also cheaper than the WWE Network) then, if I feel lucky I will offer up a New Japan English Commentary show or, if I am really feeling lucky, a Rev Pro Cockpit show.

With time at a premium, this week I have found having plenty of free time. Once I get the kids to bed, I am on my own. The wife is out doing a play (because we are middle class… Amateur Theatre Dahling). I can sit in and watch whatever I want (and play Football Manager at the same time – MULTITASKING!). What have I chosen to watch this week? Well, to watch Rev I have to plug in my Chromecast, connect my Macbooks Chrome, log in and then Cast. New Japan is the same process – but this has improved greatly (I now no longer need Google Translate – Huzzah!). For the WWE Network, I just hit the apps button on my remote and go to the WWE App, Michael Cole told me how to install it and everything (I have a Smart TV – told you I was middle class). Ease of use doesn’t seem to affect me. I can log onto the site nice and easy and browse the network. I even get emails from John Cena, Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair to tell me amazing new events are coming to the Network. Thanks guys. This week, I have been mostly watching Rev Pro Global Wars Shows 1 and 2, New Japan Power Struggle (again) and PWG BOLA 2017 Night 1. Really enjoyable ways to spend an evening or two.

Why don’t I use the Network then? Well, I have lived throughmost of their 90s to date archives. Putting in the hours when I wasn’t married, with kids and a mortgage. No, I lived these events when I had a social life – which I didn’t have because I was in my room watching wrestling.

Nostalgia seems to be a big reason to have the network, but I don’t need nostalgia in my current free time. I have vintage video games for my nostalgia fix, plus a lot of the content from the Attitude Era for example doesn’t age particularly well. There are plenty of more qualified folk to point this out, but the way women were portrayed at the time has no place in my house. The Attitude Era and all ECW shows are a no go option for me these days. I want new, up and coming, different, challenging viewing options and, in its current form the WWE just doesn’t offer me that. Even with NXT – it is formulaic; focused on being a TV product rather than a sport on TV. Can you imagine Ronaldo getting screamed at for not turning to the hard cam to do his celebration? Or how about Roger Federer serving for the match and accidently lookingstraight into the camera? If it is “Sports Entertainment” why isn’t there emphasis on the sport? We don’t scream at the Sky Sports commentators for talking about what is trending online during a match or the editors cutting away every time someone completes a tackle. It’s time for me to just give up on the network. I thought it was everything I ever dreamed of, but in reality, Over the Top services such as Rev Pro, Progress, NJPW World etc IS what I dreamed of. Current product of the highest of qualities with an archive should I wish to go back. 

My £9.99 a month saved will go back into wrestling, through live attendance, merchandise, subscriptions etc. It will not go to corporate America any longer. Yuk, I am turning into one of “those guys”.

Sunday 12 November 2017

WWE Presents NXT: From Secret To Sensation DVD Review By Keagan Barnes

NXT is WWE’s third brand, well known for it’s tendency to create stars in such a short time. This DVD was dedicated to that with a list of NXTs top 25 of all time. In the last review I did, I covered the ‘30 Years of Survivor Series’ DVD and in that I was very critical. However, the things I criticised were improved and I can’t see a fault in this DVD. 

 Disc 1:
We start off with Tom Phillips giving a brief introduction to NXT. He name drops a few alumn who’ve gone on to do great things and then the list gets underway.. The list entries have a video package but with sections in between, quizzing other WWE/NXT stars about the performer. This was really well put together and this is what the survivor series dvd, in my opinion, was lacking. 
The top 25 were all deserving of their place on the list. There was a few surprise entry numbers. That was bound to happen though. The list of illustrious superstars included greats like: Triple H, William Regal and John Cena. It was also very cool to see the NXT Superstars and alumn talk about their peers in such a positive way. Also, it was great to reminisce and look back at some great gimmicks and matches. 
Cesaro made the list, which wasn’t a shock considering what he did for the brand in its early days. A lot of people picked up on that. His feuds with Sami Zayn and William Regal should definitely be in the conversation for best rivalry in NXT’s early days. Like I just mentioned, it was great to see peers praise Cesaro and his contribution to NXT. 
One which surprised me was Paige. She defitnitely deserved to be put on but due to the situation she’s in with WWE at the minute, I wasn’t sure that she would be. A big name who didn’t make the list such as: Roman Reigns or Dean Ambrose could’ve made the list instead. It was easily done. In my opinion, Paige definitely deserved a place on the list over those two.
The superstar input wasn’t scripted and you could definitely tell. It added a sense of sincerity which can’t be faked. It was wrestlers giving their genuine thoughts on their colleagues. This was made more apparent on Alexa Bliss’ entry more than anyone’s. Many stars said that they didn’t believe she was going to do much in the WWE. Reminiscing about her old cheerleader gimmick, it was crazy to see how far she’s come. The change from over-the-top cheerleader to intense bad girl was drastic and will arguably go down as the best image change in NXT history.
Tyler Breeze made the list! I love Tyler Breeze, he’s my favourite NXT wrestler of all time.. His schtick was so original and he had the charisma to perfect it. He put on solid matches and the NXT higher ups thought that much of him, they used Liger’s one off WWE appearance in a match against him at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. The fact that he’s gone to SmackDown Live and is now doing something completely different to his NXT gimmick while perfecting it to the same degree, proves that he’s a fantastic performer. 
NXT Tag Teams got their own segment prior to the Top 10 countdown but none of them were ranked. It was a collection of video clips for each team. The Vaudevillians were included and it was cool to see Simon Gotch again I guess. The Ascension was really cool to see at their most dominant. A lot less like the Road Warriors cosplayers they later became. Enzo and Cass at their best, The Revival in their earlier days and DIY were all welcome additions to the list. It was a great compilation of teams and the tributes were fitting to the guys that made NXT weekly TV so entertaining.
The new generation of NXT was represented by none other than Ember Moon. Although receiving a low placement on the list, it was still cool to see her on it. It felt like just yesterday she debuted and wowed everyone with her appearance and unique in ring offence. It just adds to the point I started off this review with, NXT are really great for creating stars in a short time. 
Finn Balor. His position is high obviously and I think it’s also pretty predictable. However, it’s predictable with good reason. Finn Balor elevated NXT and is the longest reigning champion in the brands short history, putting on barnburners every time his championship was on the line. Every time Balor was in a feud with someone it felt like a big deal. 
This disc finished on a positive note, looking to the future of NXT and all the stars on the rise. Superstars name dropped here included: Aleister Black, Billie Kay & Peyton Royce and Ruby Riot.
Disc 2: 
This disc had a collection of classic NXT matches including an untelevised contest between Xavier Woods and Big E Langston from 2011. 
My 5 Match Recommendations:
  1.  Non-Televised Match - Big E Langston vs. Xavier Woods - NXT (Pilot Episode) 
  2. NXT Championship Match - Seth Rollins vs Corey Graves - NXT January 2, 2013.
  3. Fatal 4-Way Match for the NXT Championship - Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd - NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way. 
  4. Adrian Neville vs. Tyler Breeze - NXT January 15, 2014. 
  5. Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn - NXT June 12, 2013.
Disc 3: 
Like the disc before it, this had a collection of NXT classics. From this disc I recommend the following 5. 
My 5 Match Recommendations: 
  1. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - NXT TakeOver: Dallas 2016
  2. NXT Women’s Championship Match - Asuka vs. Ember Moon - NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II
  3. NXT Championship Match - Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe - NXT (Lowell, MA) April 21, 2016
  4. Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss - NXT July 6, 2016
  5. NXT Women’s Championship Match - Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch - NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable 2015.
Final Thoughts:
All in all, I believe this DVD is an all round fantastic set. Great list, great matches and I for one, thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Definitely recommend.
Rating: 8.5/10
Buy or Not to Buy: BUY HERE