Arnold Furious: June 18, 2017. We’re in St Louis, Missouri. Hosts are Tom Phillips, his airline erection, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina vs. Carmella vs. Natalya Some solid advice from one of the fans; “Climb Faster”. Carmella has a distinct advantage as she’s got James Ellsworth at ringside. She is the only one with help. The match is billed as a ‘historic first ever’ women’s MITB match. Which would mean a lot more if the belt they’re looking for a shot at was so unestablished. It didn’t exist at the start of last year. Part of what makes the Money in the Bank concept so important is that it virtually guarantees you a world title. Which is tough to attain in the business. The structuring is always going to be tough because none of these women have been in anything like this before. The result is a lot of awkwardness, nasty looking bumps and overselling. Oh and glacially slow climbing. The do pander to the fans with traditional ladder spots, which somehow feel fresh because it’s women that are taking them. There are some gutsy bumps in there. Nobody phones the bumps in. Tamina and Carmella don’t take good bumps but they don’t phone them in. The match has definite car crash appeal. Charlotte and Becky are the stand-outs. Both in terms of the bumps they take and the spots they execute. The finish is so bad it’s untrue. James Ellsworth climbs the ladder and drops the briefcase down to Carmella. What? How must Carmella feel about that? It screams ‘we don’t trust you to climb up a ladder’. Worse still is this historic first ever women’s MITB match was won by a man. You couldn’t make this up. Do WWE not realise that goes against everything the Women’s Revolution was about? Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Lana is interviewed regarding her title shot. Which makes the last match a laughing stock (which is already was) as Lana has virtually no wrestling experience and already has a title shot.
Arnold Furious: June 4 2017. We’re in Baltimore, Maryland. Hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T. This is a solid announce team.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Dean Ambrose (c) vs. The Miz The stipulation here is that if Dean is disqualified he loses the title. That’s not particularly ‘extreme’ is it? The Miz had a great run with the IC title on SmackDown. Ambrose’s run has been significantly less memorable. Despite this he is the longest current reigning champion in WWE. That’s more of a reflection of WWE booking than Ambrose’s title run. Miz’s tactic is to provoke Ambrose into getting disqualified. It gets in the man’s head because he has to think about what he’s doing. Ambrose’s strengths, as a character, is that he doesn’t think he just ‘does’ stuff. The stipulation neuters him. It’s fine work from Miz, routinely outsmarting Dean. Miz runs a lot of heat during the match, which would be fine if the crowd were biting on it more. However Baltimore wants more action and the reactions are only there when they speed things up. After that they switch to a leg match, with Miz focusing on Dean’s left pin. Miz continues to cheekily steal Daniel Bryan’s spots, even though they’re now on separate brands (corner dropkicks, Busaiku Knee, Yes kicks). Maryse slaps Miz in an attempt to force a DQ but the ref instead ejects Maryse. It’s a clever spot and if the referee followed logic it is an actual DQ. Ambrose gets thrown into the ref moments later teasing another DQ but it’s merely a chance for Miz to blindside Dean with the Skull Crushing Finale and that finishes. They did a lot of clever stuff here. Miz’s various attempts to get Dean disqualified were entertaining but also he had an underlying run of stuff designed to weaken Ambrose for a finish other than the unsatisfying DQ. It was a very long match but ultimately it arrived at a satisfying conclusion. Final Rating: ***1/2
Tangent: Miz now has seven IC titles, the second largest number in WWE history, behind Chris Jericho, moving clear of Rob Van Dam and Jeff Jarrett. If he holds the title for two months he’ll move into the top ten of all time for combined days.
Video Control takes us backstage where Bayley is interviewed and Baltimore gives her heat. In Baltimore’s defence it’s a poor promo. Bayley loves wrestling but her delivery on promos is still shaky. You’d think they’d have worked past that in NXT but since Dusty Rhodes died the weaknesses in promos have not been addressed in developmental. They need a promos guy in there ASAP. Personally I’d go with Jake Roberts.
Arnold Furious: January 14 2017. We’re in Blackpool at the Empress. She is a beauty. Hosts are Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness. Nigel knows very little about the British scene but he is one of the biggest available names, due to jumping ship from ROH where he made said name. Cole is the voice of experience and to train for this show he’s been watching tapes. No really, he’s actually been at the tape libraries to prepare.
Triple H welcomes us to the show. My word, he’s got bits of white in his beard. He looks like an aging Superman. He encourages us to build our own Empire. Starting now! Nigel calls Pete Dunne the tournament favourite before throwing out red herring Danny Burch. Cole pitches Trent Seven and Joseph Connors.
All tonight’s matches are first round bouts in the title tournament.
Trent Seven vs. HC Dyer Dyer the flier also has tasty hands. He’s working heel against mega-babyface Trent. Seven is over everywhere that’s important in UK wrestling so it’s almost inevitable he gets the most love. Trent hurts his hand doing his chop spot, allowing him to sell for most of his own offence from then on. Dyer is fairly bland, by international standards, but he has a nice punch. Seven spends most of the match selling for him before finishing HC off with a harsh lariat for the win. Final Rating: **1/4
Jordan Devlin vs. Danny Burch Danny, aka Martin Stone, was in NXT for two years. He’s dropped a tonne of weight, getting down to the cruiserweight area. Devlin was famously trained by Finn Balor who’s at ringside to witness Devlin’s Network debut. These are ridiculous times. Burch has been over in the USA for a couple of years so he’s not that familiar to modern UK fans. He’s had a lot of experience at this level so he takes this in his stride. Devlin is heel, which is a sensible choice based on his OTT work of late. He works a very dull style, continually going to the chinlocks. Burch ends up looking really strong by comparison, which is intentional. Danny gets the back of his head busted badly open from an Enzuigiri and the referee calls it for Devlin. This match was really poor before the rough stoppage. Devlin cements his heel spot by superkicking Burch post match like an asshole. Our Martin deserved better. Final Rating: *1/2
Saxon Huxley vs. Sam Gradwell Huxley, the “Muscle Cat” is from Hartlepool, home of world renowned monkey hanging scumbags. Gradwell looks like a partly finished CAW. Huxley looks like Jesus so the crowd chant “let’s go Jesus” and “Jesus sucks”. Huxley has good basics but horrible lower body definition. The match plods along while the crowd sing songs about Jesus Christ, our lord and saviour. Gradwell gets virtually ignored so he gets all fired up and starts imitating Tommy Billington. Diving headbutt finishes for Home Town Sam, The Blackpool Hero. Fans weren’t aware that was a narrative here. Final Rating: **
Pete Dunne vs. Roy Johnson Roy is really green and it’s a pity they don’t let him spit some rhymes pre-match as that’s how he gets over. Dunne is a firm favourite. Roy gets to show a little power but he’s basically here to get Pete over. Dunne’s focus is destroying the hand/wrist area. It doesn’t really go anywhere and Dunne can’t do biting on the Network, which is unfortunate. Inexperienced Roy tries hard and certainly gets into position for Pete’s spots but he’s basically just here to count lights. Drop Dead finishes, although it’s now called “The Bitter End” because there’s no death on the Network. Final Rating: **1/2
Tangent: quick shout out to how solid Michael Cole has been on this show. He’s done his home work and sounds both knowledgeable and comfortable. When he’s not being produced to shit on RAW he’s actually a good announcer. They need to stop barking in his ear every Monday.
Tyson T-Bone vs. Wolfgang Tyson is a ‘gypsy’ fighter with loads of tattoos. Wolfgang is ICW champion and based on that alone should be a favourite to progress. Which would set up an interesting ICW main event vs. Trent. He’s the only Scottish wrestler in the tournament. T-Bone headbutts Wolfgang at the bell to sync the crowd up on the heel/face alignments. Wolfgang looks surprisingly good, considering his usual standard being mediocre, and delivers with all his big spots. In particular his spots off the ropes. The moonsault is nailed and so is the swanton. That finishes and Wolfgang progresses. Cole pays him the backhanded complement of saying it’s the best he’s seen of the ICW champion. The bizarre thing is he’s completely right. Final Rating: ***
James Drake vs. Joseph Conners Drake is a rock solid technician and Conners is really good too so we could be in for a treat. Conners has that WWE body, albeit on a cruiserweight frame. Cole seems to be a big Conners mark. I think he scouted him. Drake works heel but Conners doesn’t have a lot of sympathy so it’s tough to get the heat going. Conners nearly lost his ear in a night club attack, which is the theme of the match. Drake goes after that ear and the combination of his intensity and technical work makes him look like the actual star. Conners manages to take over right at the end with a nice elbow into a backbreaker before the Righteous Kill (renamed “Don’t Look Down” because there’s no murder in WWE) puts Drake away. I’m still not sure if he was supposed to be wrestling face. Final Rating: **3/4
Mark Andrews vs. Dan Moloney Dan’s pre-taped promo is fucking great. They give Andrews the live promo because of his TNA experience. He’s also the only Welsh guy. It bodes well for his progression to the later stages. Dan is a really good for his age but Andrews is the horse to bet on. Dan cuts Andrews off nicely to limit the flipz. Mark still hits a lot of flipz because that’s what he does. I like that Dan is good enough to tease a few false finishes but Andrews gets a counter into the Stundog Millionaire and the SSP puts Andrews into the quarters. Final Rating: ***
Tucker vs. Tyler Bate Tyler is incredibly good for his age and has developed some boxing strikes. The fact he’s on last suggests WWE are keen on Tucker, being from Northern Ireland. Tyler does his fantastic boxing jab in the early going. The crowd are very into Tyler but Tucker does good work across the ring from him. Tyler’s technical work is phenomenal for his age. He’s so smooth. The addition of punches has given his offence credibility too. His selling is also on point here, some of the best work on the entire show. Tucker’s range of wrestling skill is equally impressive and they have the stand-out match on the show by some distance. Tyler’s power and the way he throws Tucker around is a joy to behold. Tucker hits a superkick in this that’s so on point the crowd lose their shit for it and Tyler falls clean out of the ring. Tyler Driver ’97 finishes and Tyler advances in a thrilling night one main event and Bate looked like a goddamn star. WWE swooped in here and decided to pluck one of our youngsters and turn him into their guy. Absolutely the right decision and Tyler grabbed that brass ring. Good showing from Tucker too. Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: Nigel has a special presentation and William Regal joins us for it. Bate vs. Devlin, Seven vs. Wolfgang, Dunne vs. Gradwell and Andrews vs. Connors will be the quarter finals tomorrow. The big news is Dunne smashing poor Sam in the face with a forearm and getting chastised by Regal for it. The facial expressions and timing on everything was mint.
Summary: A reasonably poor show, from an in-ring perspective, but it was suitably surreal and the choice to showcase Tyler Bate and Tucker was an exceptionally good one. Those lads really took the chance with both hands and stole the show. The crowd was also a big part of making the show special, as they always are. Tomorrow should be an improvement over this with more important matches and bigger stars colliding. This was a nice little introduction to anyone completely unfamiliar with BritWres who wants to dip their toes in our fiery hot water. Verdict: 58
Arnold Furious: January 29 2017. We’re in San Antonio, Texas at the enormous Alamodome for the first Rumble there since the hugely papered one in 1997. Hosts are the many, many announcers WWE have.
WWE RAW Women’s Championship Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley Lots of huggers in attendance. Charlotte remains unbeaten on PPV. She’s 15-0. As with Sasha they’ve been slow in getting Bayley into a big match and she’s suffered because of that. Also because her promos aren’t very good. The in-ring is good enough to compensate for that. There’s a feeling that, despite the ***** classic Bayley and Sasha had, Charlotte is the most rounded of the three. She’s certainly the best promo. She’s also adapted well to the main roster way of doing things. Which means talking on RAW, occasionally working short matches and being able to shrug off shit angles. Part of the problem all the women have had on the main roster is having to go bigger (Hell in a Cell etc) because they already worked each other in great wrestling matches on NXT and, because of the Network, everyone saw them. It’s a new and interesting problem for WWE; the success of their own feeder promotion burning out development stars before they hit the main roster!
To be fair to these two, they do tremendous work in getting the crowd invested in this match and this moment. This is especially evident in the Figure Four stuff but also when Bayley starts lifting Randy Savage spots to counter Charlotte’s Daddy issues. Charlotte’s selling has improved of late, to the point where I’m convinced she’s in trouble. That’s a big step for any performer and I’m thrilled she’s found that extra step. Charlotte nails Natural Selection on the apron to get the win. Why are people still shocked when Charlotte wins on PPV? That’s what she does! This was a touch botchy but they told a good story and Charlotte was excellent. Final Rating: ***1/2
Arnold Furious: We’re in Chicago, Illinois. Hosts are Ragin’ Tom Philips, JBL and Byron Saxton. As if Philips has just dropped into Mauro’s spot, trying to do the same calls but looking more photogenic.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura It’s astonishing to me how WWE have managed to cool off someone as naturally entertaining as Nakamura. Although I’m willing to admit that Nakamura sometimes doesn’t help his own cause by sleepwalking through perceived unimportant matches. This isn’t just any old match though, it’s his main roster debut and cast your mind back to his NXT debut when he and Sami Zayn tore the house down.
Not only that Ziggler needs to remind people why he was once rated at the world title level. Nakamura’s personality oozes forth and the crowd seem, at least temporarily, enchanted. The match takes a while to warm up, which is possibly the guys seeing if they can get responses without doing anything. It’s usually worthwhile to do a temp check on the crowd by starting slowly.
When it does get a bit frisky they go into big spots with kick-outs. Nakamura looks solid but he doesn’t share the chemistry with Dolph that he had with Sami Zayn. Nakamura’s theatrics occasionally look strange, even for him and especially when he’s selling. He’s far more entertaining on offence where his strangeness and odd angles of approach make more sense. Ziggler eats Kinshasa and Shinsuke picks up a debut win. This wasn’t a patch on Nakamura-Zayn, partially due to the crowd being less hyped up and partially because the match wasn’t as good. Final Rating: ***1/2
Video Control gives us a flashback to Smackdown Live where Breezango continued their investigations into fashion faux-pas. The Fashion Files is the best ‘WWE style’ series of skits WWE have done in some time. It helps that Fandango plays an excellent moron and both of them are tremendous at their jobs.
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Dan Hey: 2004 has been a funny old year in the WWE. On the one hand, with The Rock and Steve Austin gone from the screens, along with the departure of WWE’s latest superstar Brock Lesnar, WWE had to push some new faces to the top of the mountain. Most wrestling fans rejoiced when Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero received two such pushes in the earlier part of the year. JBL and the young Randy Orton then followed suit, with big pushes also looming on the horizon for John Cena and Batista. However, once the Benoit and Guerrero’s day in the sun drew to a close, WWE fell back into a familiar and stale pattern, with the likes of Triple H once again ruling the roost on RAW, and JBL’s long WWE Championship run becoming somewhat tiresome. Meanwhile, the likes of Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Chris Jericho (despite having been previously pushed as a top guy) seemed eternally hampered by WWE’s glass ceiling. This is a SmackDown! production, so Michael Cole and Tazz host. We’re in Atlanta, GA – formerly WCW territory!
Arnold Furious: We’re in Cleveland, Ohio at the Gund Arena. Seeing as the building holds 20,000 it reflects how cold the fan base was on WWE in 2004, and attending live events in particular, when the attendance for a “Big Four” pay-per-view is only 7,500. A video package tries to put over Survivor Series and the rich history it has. More often than not the event has featured newcomers, controversial outcomes, and big money matches. The 2004 incarnation doesn’t have any of that.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Spike Dudley (c) vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Kidman vs. Chavo Guerrero Chavo has turned back babyface after spending most of 2004 as a heel, thanks to Kidman accidentally injuring him a few months back. The injury allowed Spike to take over the division. The Dudley Boyz have been written off TV, kayfabe injured by The Big Show, which leaves Spike running solo. This is a fatal four way, tornado style, with no tagging and no eliminations. It’s deliberately positioned as a hot opener and, selling issues of a multiple person match aside, that’s exactly what it delivers. Rey is in the mood to steal the show and Kidman is game to help him. Chavo has the hottest angle, angry at Kidman, and yet can’t channel that anger into an emotional assault. Their encounters are tepid and disinteresting apart from one spot where Kidman heads up top, looking for the SSP on Rey, and Chavo just shoves him off to the floor. Some of the pre-planned spots are cool, including the Tower of Doom. I like that there are no tags as it allows them to hit a bunch of stuff within the rules. Chavo gets laid out and Spike steals a pin to retain. The match was lots of fun, exactly the kind of hot opener you want on a big show. Final Rating: ***½
Video Control takes us backstage where Paul Heyman hypes up Heidenreich. The poor freak takes it too far, aimlessly repeating Heyman’s words (“jacket”) and in comes Gene Snitsky for some homoerotic snarling. “I LIKE YOUR POETRY”. “I LIKE WHAT YOU DO TO BABIES”. Creepy.