PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2015 – Night 2

Arnold Furious: 29th August 2015. The success of BOLA’s opening night put some severe pressure onto night two but the most intriguing thing about night two’s line up was the sheer unpredictability of it. Night one had quality wrestling but just about everyone who was expected to go over did. Sydal, Pentagon Jr., Busick, Ospreay etc. Night two features an array of matches where the outcome is far from being so clear cut. In particular the big Ricochet vs. Zack Sabre Jr. contest. Zack is one of the tournament favourites and Ricochet the defending champion. One of them must go!

Marty Scurll vs. Rich Swann
The Villain wastes no time in displaying his villainy as he jumps Swann to prevent him from dancing, hits a tope and a powerbomb. The crowd are into Marty, thanks to a solid performance on night one and his aggression is enjoyed. On the BritWres podcast we’ve said many times that Scurll is only as good as his opponent but Swann is great and even the worst workers in the tournament should be a good match for anybody. Although some of the lucha guys might have a disaster in them. Scurll’s tactic is refreshingly simple; he taking Swann’s arm to set up the Chickenwing. Even when I slightly disliked Scurll I still marked out for the Chickenwing. The fans get into him, doing the “WOO, WOO” that features in his music and there’s even a “Party Marty” chant. Swann has some pleasing flippity action and his lucha bits are smooth. His strikes are quite nice too but Marty just pokes him in the eyes. Living the gimmick. They do a bit of no-selling, which is fine because they’re both a bit lightweight, and it’s a solid contest. Swann decides to flip Marty off so he breaks his finger. That finger-breaking spot from Scurll is amazing. “You fish and chip eatin’ motherfucker” – Swann. The personalities at play in this are wonderful. Swann gets baited in and the CHICKENWING finishes. Solid stuff with the character work living up to the action.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Angelico vs. Jack Evans
These guys are tag partners in Mexico for AAA as Los Gueros del Cielo. Evans decides to establish an issue before they start by saying he “carries the team” and that Angelico can’t beat a Hart Dungeon trainee. It’s a smart ploy otherwise the choreographed moves they do would come across as too pre-planned. Jack spends more time cutting a promo during the match than wrestling it. “You will not embarrass me in my home promotion” – Jack. Excalibur points out he’s not wrestled here in “about six years”. His last match was actually in 2008 for PWG. Jack chugs a beer and goes all Drunken Master on Angelico, which pops the hell out of Reseda. If Jack could channel all the madness into a coherent match it would be goddamn beautiful. He’s clearly keen on doing something completely different and new. I appreciate that but the match is seventeen minutes and they’ve only got maybe ten minutes of good material. Everything else is Jack going mental and Angelico looking confused. Not that there isn’t great wrestling in the match but moments of insanity, in between moments of differing insanity. Evans at one point hits a 450 Splash to the floor and fucks his knee up but Angelico doesn’t work the knee. It’s just something that went wrong so they don’t use it and just go back to the pre-planned match. Angelico doesn’t seem to have any idea what to do with Evans. I wish the weirdness and Angelico’s awkwardness didn’t drag the match down as much as it does because Evans being a jerk is one of the best things since Brian Pillman. He’s out of control. Towards the end he can’t stand, references Reseda being the home of the Karate Kid and uses the FUCKING CRANE KICK to win. Fifty million stars! I need more Jack Evans in my life. His post match rant against PWG’s booking mentality is virtual career suicide, in PWG anyway, and is absolutely wonderful. This wasn’t the cleanest or most sensible match you’ll ever see but Jack Evans has to be seen to be believed when he’s all Loose Cannon like this.
Final Rating: ***1/2

Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher
Hero has been great since leaving the WWE, which makes me wonder how he washed out there in the first place. It absolutely bewildering. Why didn’t they just do Kings of Wrestling? They had both guys and weren’t doing anything with them. Thatcher is a ten year pro and that’s enough time to build a considerable in-ring repertoire. His body puts Hero to shame too. He’s lean and mean. The one aspect where Hero can out-do Thatcher is in the personality stakes. Thatcher is a fucking Terminator. Hero has a wider range of emotions and is better at winding the fans up. I can see Thatcher becoming one of those guys that has a die-hard hardcore fan base that just appreciate his grappling skill. Hero’s variety of tactics and styles are taken away from him one hold at a time by Thatcher. There’s a little bit of selling but the match is more about which guy can take the most abuse and they just pound each other in between the chaining. Thatcher no selling Hero repeatedly kicking him in the face before instigating a WAR on the floor is sensational.

This match is square up my alley. It’s all manliness, submissions and beatings. It feels like a genuine contest at times, an actual fight. In some ways it’s a throwback to the kayfabe days as it never appears to be cooperative in any way. I LOVE IT. Hefty strikes and deadweight suplexes ahoy! It’s a battle. Honestly, if I could change wrestling and make it more realistic this is what I’d have in mind. It reminds me of UWF (Japan not Bill Watts). The strikes! Thatcher breaks out the kind of counters that are usually done by Ishii. Who thinks of blocking a rolling elbow with a headbutt? Thatcher takes at least two piledrivers that look like they break his neck. This is all set up for the Hero’s Welcome, which finishes. I. FUCKING. LOVE. THIS. FUCKING. MATCH. It was brutal and beautiful. Possibly the best match of the entire tournament.
Final Rating: ****1/2

Pentagon Jr. & Drago vs. Fenix & Aero Star
This might bring me crashing back down to Earth as I’m not overly keen on lucha at the best of times. However Fenix owned it against Sydal and Pentagon Jr. will bring the personality. Aero Star certainly looks a lot more comfortable in this match than against Cage. Fenix just entering the ring looks incredible. The match has a lot of flippity business and makes me interested in checking out Lucha Underground. If any show can get me into lucha it’d be one more catered to an American audience. Pentagon Jr. makes a big deal out of taking his glove off so he can hit one chop but DAMN it’s awesome. That’s the personality. He’s not the cleanest of wrestlers. Especially compared to Fenix, who does some crazy stuff with Drago.

The problem with all this is there are moments where someone is standing around waiting to be hit with a dive or some other flippity spot. And on the back of Hero-Thatcher, that’s just not acceptable. The timing is off a couple of times and it’s irritating. Luckily they compensate with a lot of really fun spots and sometimes, when the timing is on, it clicks perfectly. Like in Dragon Gate, when it’s all perfect, it’s unbeatable entertainment. But they need to get on the same page and don’t all the time. Two spots for you; Pentagon Jr. hitting a package piledriver and Gorybomb at the SAME TIME. Then Aero Star outdoes him by hitting a Superfly Splash…off Fenix’s shoulders…while he’s standing on the top rope. Before they even attempt a pin Fenix turns around, springboards off the top rope and hits a ridiculous multiple rotation dive to the floor like it’s a goddamn afterthought. The whole match has silly spots in like multiple attempts to hit handsprings and someone dropkicking the unfortunate attacker in the face while they’re upside down. After all the craziness the finish is rather underwhelming with Drago deciding to break up his own submission to help Pentagon Jr. only to get caught and hit with a Thunderfire Driver. Match was a horrible mess at times and utterly breathtaking at others. Therefore it doesn’t quite live up to the Michinoku Pro match at the first ECW PPV Barely Legal or the Dragon Gate guys guesting for ROH at Supercard of Honor but it was definitely fun.
Final Rating: ****

Drew Gulak vs. Tommy End
I don’t know Gulak very well because he’s a CZW guy. I’ve seen him wrestle there but I dislike the promotion so much that I tend to avoid it where possible. This has an MMA vibe about it, as Gulak is a mat wrestler against End, the kickboxer. The classic grappler vs. striker contest. In the rich traditions of early MMA it’s pretty dull compared to the last two matches but, to be fair, those are big matches to live up to. My biggest issue with the bout is it doesn’t need to be long. All the fans want to see is them wail on each other. They could literally accomplish everything in five minutes of crazy strikes and dodges that they do in the twelve minutes allotted. Those five minutes are how they finish. Lots of cool strikes and Gulak does wonderful business by just grabbing and throwing End to protect himself. Tommy ends up blasting Gulak with a big right hand to get the win. This dragged and the first half did very little. It was just a warming up process before the actual match kicked in. Last couple of minutes were really good though and tipped my rating over three stars.
Final Rating: ***

Mike Bailey vs. Drew Galloway
Bailey is another discovery of PWG. He’s been doing the Indie rounds but caught on to a few big bouts in PWG earlier this year. Notably a title shot at Roderick Strong in June. He’s also caught on in EVOLVE so maybe 2016 will be his year. He’s a combination of ridiculous high flying and martial arts kicks. Galloway is about a foot taller but as an ex-WWE wrestler he’s not a fan favourite here. Galloway isn’t going to fade away though and he’s determined to show WWE they were wrong to release him. They tell a good size battle and Bailey refuses to let the calm Galloway dictate the pace, wailing on the bigger man in classic giant-killer fashion. The only problem the match really has is that Galloway should never be losing because he’s big, he’s agile and he knows how to dismantle an opponent. So the only thing Speedball has is his guts and intensity and that shouldn’t really be enough. Only in fairy tales. But then Galloway’s whole approach is to make the fans want Bailey to win more, at one point lifting spots from Sheamus.

In all honesty, I get far more into the idea of Galloway just destroying the poor kid as his massive power moves pop me more than Bailey’s flippy moves. Not that either guy is inferior at what they’re doing but Drew’s moves are so much fun. The problem with his WWE run was the amount of other big dudes he wrestled. He’s much more entertaining throwing Indie midgets around. They do a great spot in the corner where Bailey goes for the double stomp with Galloway tied up and Drew just leans back up and hurls Mike off the top rope. From there it’s all about Galloway refusing to stay down for any of Bailey’s big spots, constantly coming back at him regardless and just being the BEAST. The near falls in this are off the hook as the last couple of minutes feel like everything is a finish until Bailey flukes a cradle to advance. I can’t say I’m a massive Mike Bailey fan, like almost everyone in Reseda, but this match reminded me how much I like Drew Galloway and the story they told was near perfect David vs. Goliath stuff and the whole thing was believable.
Final Rating: ****

Ricochet vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
This sees defending champion Ricochet facing Zack, who’s been contesting with champion Roderick Strong and is seen as a favourite. Whoever wins this will certainly be considered a top contender for the tournament as a whole. The story of the match is that Sabre is too good for Ricochet on the mat and can even counter the flips to put him back there. The crowd love both guys so much they resort to a “both these guys” chant. Due to the sheer amount of different matches, these guys decide to base the contest on mat wrestling, which is an easy win as they’re both great on the mat. Ricochet works a bit of sportz entertainment with the People’s Moonsault, which Zack easily counters into a triangle choke. This leads to a change in attitude from Ricochet, who acts like a complete jerk to help solidify the crowd behind Sabre Jr. Before this they were on the fence and Ricochet wanted to make sure Sabre got over at his expense. It’s a generous performance. Once Zack has been given that green light he bosses the match, countering almost everything Ricochet attempts, even the big strikes. Ricochet is a confident guy so he doesn’t let it bother him and they start to trade on bigger spots, as the match grows but it’s Sabre who owns the match. He’s just too good when it comes to the technical counters. Ricochet has to create new offence just to get one over on Sabre and the match develops a ‘big match’ atmosphere. It is exhausting. The crowd feel as burned out as I am but the wrestlers give it their all. They look tired. The finish has an unfortunate turn as the ref is way slow getting down to count a flash pin, which makes Ricochet look stupid but apart from that the match worked throughout. Sabre ground away at Ricochet but Ricochet was a bit too inventive to get beaten by normal means. Eventually something weird and different would win the day and that’s how it ended.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Guerrilla Warfare
Mount Rushmore 2.0 (Super Dragon & The Young Bucks) vs. Biff Busick, Andrew Everett & Trevor Lee
2.0, dicks that they are, are hated by the collective babyfaces in the ring. The storyline saw Super Dragon return to form 2.0 a few months ago after missing some three years with injuries. He is the driving force behind the heel group of himself, Strong and the Bucks. This is his first PWG match, or match anywhere for that matter, since January 2012 where he teamed with Akira Tozawa and Kevin Steen in a losing effort at Kurt Russelreunion 3. He was one half of the tag champs at the time and those belts were vacated due to Super Dragon’s injuries. Most people thought he’d retired. Especially as his 2011/2012 run constituted a couple of matches and before that he’d not wrestled in three years. Super Dragon is one of the principle owners of PWG so he’s been busy behind the scenes. However he used to be quite active until a slew of injuries, due to his intense style, turned him into a backstage dweller for the past eight years.

Three promotions you, probably, didn’t know Super Dragon wrestled for:

  1. XPW. Back in 2001 after XPW branched out to the West Coast they were looking to expand the roster and hired a number of locals. Super Dragon worked three times against other SoCal locals such as Disco Machine. Despite going 3-0 he was never used again.
  2. WCW. Super Dragon once wrestled for WCW, under the name Super Dragon, in a 1998 try-out match. His tag team partner? WCW luchadore Blitzkrieg. He was not signed.
  3. All Japan. In early 2003 Super Dragon did a tour for AJPW. He lost most of his matches but here are some of the wacky opponents that post-split AJPW put him in with: John Tenta, Gran Hamada, Satoshi Kojima, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy “Wang” Yang and Elix Skipper, then going under the name “Extreme Blade”.

Anyway, Super Dragon’s years away have not dimmed his ability to be a complete asshole. Nobody, not even Chris Hero, can stare down a fan like Super Dragon. You just don’t know what he’s going to do. Half the chairs in the venue end up getting used as weapons so everyone ends up standing. The rules of a Guerrilla Warfare match are there’s no DQ’s so anything goes. It’s part WWE hardcore match from the Attitude Era, part Young Bucks amusing themselves and part crazy headdroppery. It’s a cocktail for carnage. But it doesn’t stop with the guys beating each other up as the ref gets superkicked so Rick Knox comes in to try and get revenge and just gets annihilated by a CURB STOMP!

Not content with killing everyone 2.0 go after the commentators, taking it to nWo levels of booking, but Trevor Lee hits a fucking tope OVER EXCALIBUR’S HEAD off the announce position! All the faces get huge spots. Busick’s ring-clearing destruction of 2.0 gets the entire crowd standing, although they’re already up because all the chairs got used in spots. Super Dragon keeps himself out of most of the match, just moving into position when someone is doing something flippity. For a guy who hasn’t wrestled in three years his timing is phenomenal. The match is so much fun that you can see people at ringside who cannot stand still. They’re literally bouncing around from the energy. The Bucks go after the thumbtack training shoes (shoes with thumbtacks stuck in the bottom) only to get cleared out by Rick Knox. He’s back in control of this contest! LARIAT FOR SUPER DRAGON!!!

The carnage of the conclusion is barely believable as everything builds to bigger and bigger spots. Not content with double stomping thumbtacks into Biff Busick’s face Super Dragon finishes him off with the Psycho Driver. This was fantastic. Just absolute madness and sheer unadulterated carnage. But…it’s not over yet. Super Dragon decides to stroll around the crowd looking for a fight because winning a match isn’t enough for him. This brings Excalibur into the ring to proclaim “this is not over by a fucking long shot” and the crowd demand he defend PWG for them but Excalibur deflects the responsibility onto the locker room. “I will not rest until I see them put in the fucking ground”. Before he can wrap up 2.0 come back out here and destroy Excalibur. PSYCHO DRIVER THROUGH A CHAIR! With his co-commentator down attention turns to Chris Hero and IT’S FUCKING ON! Hero tries to take on all three of them but eventually weight of numbers takes it for the heels. The way they’ve set this up will result in a killer pay off. But not tonight. PSYCHO DRIVER!
Final Rating: ****1/2

Summary: Good lord, this show had just about everything you could ever want to see from a wrestling show. It doesn’t matter if you like storyline, action, heat, comedy, flying, technical, striking, Strongstyle, Lucha. It doesn’t matter, this show had a match for you. Into old timey 1980s wrestling? Hero vs. Thatcher was all that and more. Into ridiculous high spots? The Lucha Underground guys had you covered. You’re into the Attitude Era? The main event had a crazy hardcore brawl and the kind of storytelling reminiscent of the nWo at its craziest. You likes kicks? Tommy End. You like a guy who’s lost his mind and does the first thing that comes into it? Jack Evans. You like limb work? Zack Sabre Jr. You like dancing? Rich Swann. You like to see an underdog or a dominant powerhouse heel? Bailey vs. Galloway. This show had everything and almost every single thing hit. There are few shows that have the consistency of this one. It’s a marvel and it is unmissable. There’s nothing that’ll trouble match of the year voting but for consistency there hasn’t been a card like it anywhere in 2015.
Verdict: 100

PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2015 – Night 1

Arnold Furious: August 28, 2015. The Battle of Los Angeles, or BOLA as I shall refer to it henceforth, is one of wrestling’s more enduring tournaments. This year it celebrates a decade of existence. The first tournament taking place in Los Angeles (duh) way back in 2005. The first show featured an array of top Indie talent battling over two nights. This included AJ Styles, American Dragon (Daniel Bryan), Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens), James Gibson (Jamie Noble) and Rocky Romero. The tournament was won by PWG mainstay Chris Bosh, after a tournament long angle concerning an AJ Styles injury. Bosh won the final match in less than six minutes before embarking on an “Austin 3:16” knock-off speech. The speech itself was a fantastic idea that the crowd loved BUT unfortunately Bosh failed to tell AJ his plan and Styles, a devout Christian, went into a Jesus-based rage and cut Bosh’s speech off in mid-flow. How can AJ Styles not have seen the Austin 3:16 promo? I guess he was a WCW fan, being from the south.

The following year the tournament got slightly more ambitious and PWG began a long tradition of bringing new talent in to North America. The 2006 event saw the inclusion of wrestlers from Dragon Gate including CIMA, Dragon Kid and Genki Horiguchi. Also involved were El Generico (Sami Zayn), Chris Sabin, Roderick Strong and Davey Richards. The latter beating CIMA to win. Unlike other big Indie tournaments, like the Ted Petty Invitational, PWG has leaned towards talent that can continue to be a success for them when selecting a winner instead of picking a flavour of the month to win.

2007 was the first time the final was a three-way elimination match. It was scheduled to be in 2006 but a Super Dragon injury prevented his inclusion. The 2007 edition again featured a rich array of talent including Alex Shelley, Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne), Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro), Necro Butcher, PAC (Adrian Neville) and Nigel McGuinness. CIMA returned, beating his Dragon Gate buddy Shingo along the way, to capture the victory.

2008 was a slightly more low key tournament, won appropriately by Low Ki. PWG like to have shocks in the BOLA and 2008 saw Kenny Omega, Roderick Strong, Austin Aries and former winner Davey Richards ousted in the first round. It showed the talent available that they could even consider doing that. Most Indie shows couldn’t. Other participants included McGuinness, Masato Yoshino, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) and Chris Hero. It was the latter who was beaten by Low Ki in the final. The tournament reverting to a one on one final.

In 2009 even more was at stake with the PWG title vacant and being awarded to the winner. The title had become vacant when Bryan Danielson beat Chris Hero for the belt, ending Hero’s epic 425 day reign as champion, only to be unable to defend the title as he’d signed for WWE. Writing this in 2015, the wrestling landscape has changed in regard to WWE’s attitude towards Indie groups. 2009 featured some risky tournament booking as PWG picked home talent Joey Ryan to make it to the semi’s and Brandon Gatson to get a big run, going over Alex Shelley in the second round. The final match delivered regardless with Kenny Omega defeating Roderick Strong to win BOLA and the PWG title.

2010 is one of the more disappointing BOLA’s. Brandon Gatson returned and again made it to the semi’s. Joey Ryan ended up winning his first BOLA by defeating Chris Hero. The main highlight of the tournament was the success of Akira Tozawa, who was beaten by Hero in the quarter-final in a heroic career-making performance. Tozawa’s BOLA turned from joke to superstar in his home country.

2011 is the only BOLA to take place in one day. The streamlined tournament saw El Generico capture BOLA after having a thrilling first round match with Claudio Castagnoli. A match that would be repeated on NXT Arrival in 2014. The final contest saw Generico best long-time friend and tag team partner Kevin Steen. Presumably the WWE were watching PWG in 2011 as most of their Sami Zayn NXT booking stems from this show. Other notable participants included Dave Finlay. Perhaps he was WWE’s mole as he went back to WWE as a producer/agent the following year.

2012 saw the Indies needing to rebuild as so many Indie talents had either signed for WWE or were busy in TNA. Nature abhors a vacuum and that’s true in wrestling as much as anything else. When there are no stars available new ones will be created. There were great showings in this tournament for Sami Callihan (Solomon Crowe), Adam Cole, Michael Elgin and Ricochet. Cole eventually besting Elgin in the final match. Both men would see their ROH careers take off after this.

2013 saw another highly rated BOLA featuring new, exciting talent like Johnny Gargano, ACH and Kyle O’Reilly. ACH vs. O’Reilly was a particularly special match. O’Reilly would go on to claim victory in the final against Michael Elgin. Poor Big Mike, always the bridesmaid.

2014 was the first three night BOLA and saw the breakout for UK wrestler Zack Sabre Jr. Sabre highlighted the first round with a win over Adam Cole, before an outstanding match with Kyle O’Reilly in the second round where his tournament ended. The tournament saw a number of top talents get a chance to shine with Ricochet, Gargano and Strong making the three-way final. Another star-making performance was that of Candice LeRae, who made it past Rich Swann before losing to Gargano. Finally Trevor Lee had a breakout tournament, making it to the semi finals before also losing to Gargano.

This brings us up to 2015 and a tournament that features a wonderful array of talent from all over the place. As a UK based fan it was particularly interesting to see Will Ospreay, Mark Andrews, Drew Galloway, Marty Scurll, Tommy End and Zack Sabre Jr. involved. Being a relative stranger to the modern US Indie scene it was an opportunity for me to scope out talent from there and also from Mexico, thanks to the inclusion of Aero Star, Fenix, Drago and Pentagon Jr.

Part of the joy of BOLA is the atmosphere created by a few hundred die-hard Indie wrestling fans being packed into the sweatbox that is the American Legion Post #308 in Reseda. It may not compare to MSG, the Arena Mexico, Sumo Hall or even York Hall in terms of venues but it’s a special one. A modern day Viking Hall in terms of atmosphere. Hosts are the always entertaining Excalibur and Chuck Taylor.

Brian Cage vs. Aero Star
Both guys are from AAA and also Lucha Underground. Cage is a big American powerhouse. Aero Star is in this match to get the crowd going with pleasing flippity lucha stuff. Speaking of the crowd, they are molten from the first bell getting into count-along spots like the stalling suplex, banging on the ring apron. Aero Star makes the first fuck up of the tournament and even repeats the spot. But that does not effect his confidence and he throws himself into spots with the kind of reckless abandon that makes me appreciate wrestlers so much more. Aero Star botches again, attempting a springboard super rana then they fuck up a Code Red. They’re trying, bless them, but it’s a disaster out there. Cage decides to save things with a STEINER SCREWDRIVER!!! Naturally Aero Star is dead. Match was really botchy but I can’t hate on it because the finish was insane.
Final Rating: *3/4

Biff Busick vs. Andrew Everett
Busick has since been hired by the WWE and has reported to NXT. Everett is a flier whereas Busick is more of an all-rounder. Busick’s strikes alone differentiate him to the guys in the first match whereas Everett is keen to flip around. Busick has the strike/suplex kind of offence that is beloved by Indie fans and any fans for that matter. Everett needs to do crazy stuff to just get a look in and does so; CRAZY OUTTA CONTROL SSP TO THE FLOOR! Of the two I much prefer Busick, due to his experience and style but Everett is a lot of fun. Biff shows flashes of Val Venis and Lance Storm but switches into his own stuff to make it all so much more brutal. Russian legsweep into an Octopus, Maple Leaf into an STF. Everett can’t match any of this. His body is somewhat out of shape and Busick is a machine. Almost all of Everett’s offence is desperation stuff. Until he flips out of a German suplex and hits a hands-free reverse rana. It’s sick! Obviously the selling is somewhat lacking as all these guys are desperate to get their shit in and show the crowd everything they have in the locker. It’s definitely a showcase. This is never more evident when Everett goes up for a Phoenix Splash and can’t quite land it. Everett’s stuff looks a bit too pre-planned, whereas Busick is snug and clean. Everett attempts a springboard SSP but gets planted with the mid-air European uppercut, one of several Cesaro-inspired spots in the Busick locker, and Biff advances. Clearly the right choice, in spite of Everett’s occasionally jaw-dropping offence.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Mark Andrews vs. Will Ospreay
Nice to see Ospreay’s chant has made it over to the States (“Ole, Ole, Ole” with Ospreay replacing Ole). He looks so damn happy about it too. Ospreay’s skill set is incredible, especially considering he’s only 22. Andrews is no joke either and they nail some lucha spots making the first four guys look positively amateurish by comparison. Ospreay shows another aspect of his game with a few innovative stretches that freak the crowd out. Ospreay makes Andrews look insanely good to the point where the crowd are cheering for him. The collaboration spots are on point. There’s a lot of flipping and insane near falls that get the entire crowd on their feet. For a ten minute match it’s quite incredible. I’ve omitted most of the PBP for this one because I was sat enjoying it. They attempted a lot of difficult spots in this and nailed all of them.
Final Rating: ****1/4

Inner City Machine Guns (Ricochet & Rich Swann) vs. Los Gueros del Cielo (Angelico & Jack Evans)
This would be the first non-tournament match, used to involved tournament participants on most nights. Angelico is a handsome South African wrestler, who’s 6’ 3”. He has a regular team with Evans in AAA. The team-name translates to the “Warriors of Heaven”. Catholic countries are so dramatic. The crowd sing “All Night Long” to try and get Evans to dance but ICMG’s dance instead. DANCE OFF! Rich Swann lifts a hilarious tribute to the YouTube clip of “you can’t do this on concrete” and head-spikes into the mat. That level of self-abuse is ripe for a match in DDT against YOSHIHIKO (DDT’s legendary sex doll wrestler). The dance off and the slower pace shows what this match exists for; it’s a buffer match to calm everyone down. ICMG’s work a very deliberate style, resorting to comedy and spots like the People’s Moonsault. The great thing about Angelico is that, despite his height, he wrestles a very clean lucha style. I don’t know if it would ever translate to a major American promotion and he seems to have found his niche. You don’t see many South African luchadores cracking the USA. Angelico started out in Spain and then made the logical transition to Mexico. When the match does pick up a bit it only exists as a series of spots. It’s quite disappointing, compared to the matches that surround it. But then BOLA is mostly about the tournament. If anything it’s Angelico, the man I was least looking forward to seeing, that steals the match. His knee strikes on Ricochet are ridiculous. Ricochet actually takes a hell of a beating, which might factor into his BOLA title defence, which commences tomorrow. As the match progresses everyone gets tired in the heat of the building (referenced throughout the night as being over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and the spots start to get a bit sloppy. Still Angelico has a moment of excellence with a suicide dive over the turnbuckle. He impresses me a great deal with his high spots. Evans finishes with the 630 Splash. This was a bit slow to get going, then a bit sloppy when it did get going. Not to the levels of Aero Star in the opener but noticeable. It ended up being decent filler but not anything more.
Final Rating: ***

Trent? vs. Trevor Lee
Trent? is also known as Trent Baretta, one half of Roppongi Vice in NJPW and it’s the same name (Barreta) that he used in the WWE. This is an odd rarity as Trent didn’t take the name into WWE with him but started using it when he was in developmental. I’m really not sure how he’s allowed to use it. Normally the WWE get very possessive about their creative. Trevor Lee, if you’ve never seen him, is a bit like Daniel Bryan only much younger and with a hick mentality. He has the same look and does kicks. The difference is that Lee is an angry young man. There’s a definite feeling that the heat in the building is starting to effect the crowd and it’s not popping spots like it was at the top of the show. Perhaps aware that once this bout is done, we’re into the marquee main event matches. From my point of view it doesn’t help that I find Baretta to be more effective as a comedy guy and he doesn’t do a lot of comedy in this. They have some big spots that work (like a massive German suplex on the apron from Lee) but a lot of the transitions and such don’t connect. Both men look completely exhausted after ten minutes and do a fine job of making the big spots mean something. There is actual, honest to God, selling. That helps to differentiate this from the spot-heavy matches that dominated the card up to this point. Lee eventually takes it with the Small Package Driver, beautifully executed. The match struggled to get going but delivered once it got there. The big spots really felt like they meant something.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Drago vs. Pentagon Jr.
Drago’s blue demon mask is pretty awesome. He brings the flying and Pentagon Jr. brings the dickish heel counters to those flying moves. The dropkick bang in the middle of a handspring is both evil and brilliant. I’m generally not keen on lucha but it often improves when the luchadores come into America and change their style just a little to eradicate some of the lucha silliness and make the matches just crazy. They have an especially good sequence where they tease dives a few times before Drago hits a tornillo. The match isn’t completely devoid of lucha stupidity but keeping it one on one helps. One of my biggest complaints about lucha is the multiple person idiocy. One of the most ridiculous spots in this is a Canadian Destroyer being used as a near fall. That is a goddamn finish every day of the week. Nobody should be kicking out of it. The familiarity stuff is nice where big moves are countered in mid-move. Pentagon Jr. is a bit sloppy in that respect but the ideas work. Package Piledriver murders Drago out of the tournament.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Fenix vs. Matt Sydal
Sydal has been getting hotter and hotter since coming back from injuries and his WWE run (2008-2013). This is the first clash of styles as it’s AAA vs. US and a lucha style vs. Sydal’s slightly lucha Dragon Gate flying. Although Sydal has more to his game than that and can work a fine mat game. Knowing that Fenix flies a lot Sydal takes his leg and wipes it out. It rapidly becomes a war with stiff kicks and vicious corner spots. Fenix does a fine job of selling the knee in between spots, allowing Sydal’s tactic to remain relevant. He still bounces around on it so it’s not super-effective but at least there’s a tip of the hat in there. Fenix surprises with his mat skill, tying Sydal in knots. It’s cleaner than anything Drago and Pentagon Jr. did. Fenix is winning the lucha show-off competition. Sydal plays all nice but dominant only for Fenix is be all FUCK YOUUUUU in response. This drives Sydal to counter-violence like a gorgeous spin kick to kill Fenix coming off the top. The strike counters are sublime throughout. Some of the counters from one move to another in mid-air remind me of the Sydal-Ospreay series in terms of ridiculousness. The Spanish Fly from Fenix is nuts as it’s from a standing position off the top but Sydal survives and takes it with the SSP. This was a seriously great match. When I talk about a general dislike of lucha it doesn’t extend to luchadores who are crisp and insane. Like Rey, like Psicosis, like Juvi, like Super Calo, like Flamita. Fenix is on that level. I already dig him a lot.
Final Rating: ****1/4

Eurotrash (Zack Sabre Jr., Marty Scurll & Tommy End) vs. Mount Rushmore 2.0 (Roderick Strong & The Young Bucks)
Zack and Strong have an existing feud thanks to a cracking match at Don’t Sweat the Technique. Strong is a complete dick to ring announcer Melissa Santos (who is an exceptionally attractive Hispanic lady who announces for Lucha Underground), which sets up the champs as the heels. Roddy is PWG champion and the Bucks the tag champs. Nice to see the “Tommy fucking End” chant made it over to the US as well. Scurll isn’t on Sabre Jr.’s level (they used to team as LDRS) as a mat wrestler but he’s pretty good and he’s good enough to take Nick Jackson to school. Bucks get so upset with it that they fall over each other in some of the evening’s best comedy. Meanwhile Sabre brings the most outstanding technical wrestling of the entire night.

The action hots up as they start doing crazy dives and End hits a goddamn moonsault to the floor. Even the tough striker is doing crazy dives. The insanity doesn’t stop there as Roddy goes for his apron backbreaker on Scurll and they MISS THE FUCKING APRON. Marty taking the bump straight to the floor. Marty has another great spot seeing as he’s wrestling the Bucks and his usual “superkick, just kidding” business works perfectly. From there they mock the Undertaker-Lesnar zombie situp laughing spot from SummerSlam, a spot that deserved to be mocked. There’s something hugely endearing about Nick Jackson being the Indytaker. It’s a fun atmosphere and a seriously entertaining match. Zack is especially wonderful, dismantling the Bucks’ limbs in vicious fashion.

Everyone in this is brilliant. It’s a colossally entertaining venture. Everything from End throwing knees to the Bucks superkicks to Sabre’s technical excellence to the multiple teaming spots to the insane counters to the comedy. Everything lands. And the match is nearly 30 minutes of constant action. It’s brilliant. The near finishes are nuts to the point where it’s totally overdone but it’s so much fun that I don’t care. Eventually the weight of numbers is just too much and Sabre gets pinned by Roddy, reigniting their feud. Of course now Zack has to win BOLA to stand any chance of getting another shot at Strong but stranger things have happened.
Final Rating: ****1/2

Summary: This is only Night One! There are two more nights of this madness to go. Naturally this is an easy thumbs up as there are three matches over **** and the rest of the card is really solid. If Aero Star hadn’t blown half his spots in the opener we might actually have had an entire card over ***. Could this be the best opening night of BOLA, ever? Gotta love wrestling.
Verdict: 100

PROGRESS Chapter 21 – You Know We Don’t Like To Use The Sit Down Gun

Arnold Furious: 6 September, 2015. I’m new to PROGRESS but I’ve been hearing about their rowdy crowds and adult storylines for some time. It’s an intriguing promotion that easily sells 700 tickets to their shows in London in a matter of minutes and has built a hardcore ECW-esque fanbase in three short years. They’ve gone from running every three months, to every two months, to putting on secondary ENDVR shows to running two-night tournaments to putting on shows at the Download festival. In the previously barren three months leading into this show ran seven shows. They’re still sensibly spaced out though and the promotion is growing steadily.

PROGRESS was the brainchild of three men; Glen Joseph, Jim Smallman and Jon Briley. Their gimmick was simple. They wanted punk rock wrestling. It caught on so fast and so hard that just three years down the road they’re selling out shows without naming any matches on them. They’re selling the brand. It’s been some time since anyone could do that, especially in the UK. I’m not sure it’s ever been done in the UK. Even when I was a die-hard 3CW fan, I pretty much checked out the line-up before deciding to go to a show.

Title reference: Danger 5. Favourite Danger 5 moment; when someone gets shot down a phone.

We’re in London, England at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Hosts are Glen Joseph and RJ Singh. Love the geezer stormtroopers!

 

Promo Time: GZRS
They’re here to answer the open challenge for the tag straps later. Immediate “please don’t die” chant. Sebastian does the Worm. Fun times. Jim Smallman takes over. He points out the show sold out in 18 minutes. “That’s pretty quick”. The one rule of PROGRESS; “don’t be a dick”. PROGRESS has the kind of cult following that is hard to describe. I don’t think there’s ever been a UK promotion quite like it.

 

The Origin vs. The London Riots
The Origin are El Ligero and Nathan Cruz. Ligero has been a UK Indy darling for years and years. Both men are former PROGRESS champions. The Riots are James Davis and Rob Lynch. They’ve become one of the foremost UK tag teams and have the tag titles from most of the more popular promotions. The Riots are the faces in a big way. The fans are less keen on the Origin chanting “you’re a wankstain” at Cruz. The atmosphere is tremendous and it’s an adults only show. It’s like an 18-30’s holiday! Ligero as a heel is bizarre. I’ve never seen him work heel before and he’s great at it. Imagine Rey Mysterio Jr. if he was a complete shithead.

The heels do a lot of stalling, drawing an astonishingly disgusting “wankstain city” chant. You can’t beat a hot crowd. The match isn’t much to write home about but a lively crowd can improve even a lacklustre contest. The whole “shitty little horns” series of chants was just magnificent. The wrestlers don’t have to do anything! When they head into the bigger spots nothing seems to click. Cruz takes an awkward bump off an Exploder where he flips and lands on his face. Credit to the Riots though, they’re not put off and the slingshot into a spear is great. Someone in the big leagues will steal that. They start to click on the counters and things really pick up down the stretch. Ligero takes a monster District Line Powerbomb into the seats. Zack Gibson swings by the ring to hand a foreign object to Nathan. It’s a fork and Cruz stabs both faces with it for the pin. Rob Lynch, of the Riots, took a nasty bump off a German suplex before the finale and hurt his neck pretty badly. Kudos to him for carrying on to the finish. He looked hurt when it happened.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Jack Gallagher vs. Pastor William Eaver
Eaver has a religious gimmick. It has limitless potential, as he looks a bit like Jesus, BUT he needs to study up on the words he can use during a match and especially his promos. Gallagher has an old-timey circus strongman gimmick, which has less mileage. I love the t-shirt from Eaver; it’s the CM Punk one but it’s been altered so it says “Blessed in the World”. Limitless, I tells ya. “He’s working on the Sabbath” chant the crowd, winning me over by themselves. Gallagher is a solid British style technician with good power. Eaver has a few tricks up his sleeve too, busting out lucha stuff. As much as I like Eaver’s gimmick, it’s Gallagher that excels. Plus he looks like David Thewlis on steroids. That’s a look I can get behind. Gallagher catches Eaver in the King Crab, which is the Maple Leaf only with both legs. Eaver has a long way to go but has incredible potential. Gallagher isn’t far off being really good. Watch out for him.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

Eddie Dennis vs. Zack Gibson
Gibson is a scouser who has a Liverpool football club gimmick so naturally I despise him. Who comes out to “You’ll Never Walk Alone”? What an absolute wanker. Eddie Dennis is a 6’ 6” Welsh monster babyface who happens to do judo on the side and he’s got a fun loving personality. Plus he comes out to “Party Hard” by Andrew WK. He’s got star written all over him. Gibson is slow and overly mechanical. He looks green. His movements are deliberate and he stands out as the worst wrestler on the show so far. Like most guys who struggle with basics, Gibson has a few showy spots otherwise he wouldn’t be on a PROGRESS show. He’s also not a bad technical wrestler and spends most of the match working the arm. Dennis is culpable for some spots, including the safest looking Bucklebomb, ever. It barely qualifies. Gibson brings a bit of pantomime with the fork before kicking Dennis in the balls for the win. This was rough.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Promo Time: Jimmy Havoc
Havoc just lost his title to Will Ospreay so he’s a little salty. PROGRESS don’t have a re-match clause so Havoc wants to face anybody in a number one contender’s match…right now. Smallman promptly books Havoc against bald-headed servant Paul Robinson. “All the best!”

 

#1 Contender’s Match
Jimmy Havoc vs. Paul Robinson
Both these guys are in Regression, which is Havoc’s stable. Robinson initially looks as if he’ll lie down but Smallman tells them if they rig the outcome, they’re both fired. They don’t build up to a big spot, they hit a table piledriver off the apron as the first major move. I’m not keen on throwing a spot that big into the first sequence but it gets us into the near falls from the go, so in a way it’s good. Havoc, who has a history with hardcore, busts out a lot of weaponry. Havoc blades off a frying pan shot and the match starts to get sick. From there Havoc takes a staple gun “straight to the bollocks”. All the abuse seems to come Jimmy’s way as his light tubes spot backfires. Robinson gets tubed in the head for a double gusher. I’m impressed with how Robinson collapses into the ropes, showing his head wound off to the fans. That’s a veteran move. You have to sell blood. SUPER RANA into thumbtacks! I take back what I said about the early table spot, they were building towards something completely over the top. Thumbtack senton! That was brutal. That must have sucked for both men to take. This match is absolute carnage. It’s reminiscent of CZW. Robinson makes an absolute hash out of the finish and has to re-do it. A Curb Stomp through light tubes. This was a little bit sloppy but suitably brutal. They built the storyline well and the conclusion, minor botch aside, worked. There’s a lovely little moment of redemption too as Jim Smallman offers a handshake and Havoc leaves to a round of applause for his hard work.
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Marty Scurll vs. Kris Travis
Trav is a huge babyface after missing time with cancer and beating it. He gets a HUGE standing ovation. This is his first PROGRESS match since May 2014. They play up the psychology of Scurll being a villain and yet Travis’ cancer issues being so extreme that not even Marty can bring himself to take a cheap shot into the effected area. Not that Trav has any compunctions about hitting suicide dives. The landing seems to kick-start the match as Scurll feels slightly less guilty about laying a beating on Travis and Kris himself looks more confident. Scurll seems more aggressive, on the whole, showing superior speed and a wider range of skills. Travis is more on hand to capitalise on Scurll’s overconfidence. The match definitely improves when they hit the exchanges, based on pre-arranged sequences. The striking and suplexes are tidy. However there’s a feeling, especially on the near falls, that there’s no actual attempt to win the match. Scurll at one point pushing Travis into his own kickout. Little things like that can just take the edge off a match for me. The finish has a similar set up where they awkwardly move away from the ropes before hitting a suplex counter spot. If Marty was just going to hit a suplex, why move away from the ropes in front of him? Unless he’s about to get countered? Anyway, despite holes in the work this was solid enough. Good effort and nice pre-planned bits and pieces. Sadly Travis would be forced into retirement shortly afterwards so this was it for him. Scurll, in a magnificent display of villainy, takes Travis out with the Chickenwing after the match.
Final Rating: ***

 

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
The Sumerian Death Squad (c) vs. Adam Cole & Roderick Strong
This was an open challenge and PROGRESS went and brought this team in to face SDS, which you can do as a surprise if a) you’re hotter than hell and sell out in a matter of seconds and b) you want to stay that way. Bringing in two top Indie talents, and ROH mainstays, in Cole & Strong showed how ambitious PROGRESS are when it comes to keeping the fanbase happy. The Yanks try to play heel, drawing a chant of “you’re gonna get your fucking heads kicked in”, before the crowd round on Roddy Strong’s shitty little boots again. The singing of “Shit Boots” to the tune of “Hey Jude” is nothing short of amazing. The match can’t quite live up to the crowd but the work is tight. End vs. Strong in strikes is a beautiful thing. Michael Dante gets a bit overlooked as a worker because he teams with someone as good as Tommy End but Dante is a solid technician for someone of his size. Some of the counter work with Cole shows that. He might not be in the best physical condition but he can move. Tommy End is the man who wants to take this to another level with flying kicks and double stomps off the ropes. Adam Cole acquits himself well in the situation, taking a beating and dishing out kicks of his own. The crowd appreciate the all-round effort and start to chant “all these guys” in support. A big question; how are Strong and Cole not a team somewhere? They clearly click well together and yet they missed, like ships in the night, with Mount Rushmore and they’re apart in ROH too. Cole eventually falls to the Anti-Hero in a hard-worked contest. Everything clicked nicely in this. Good match.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

PROGRESS Championship
Will Ospreay (c) vs. Mark Haskins
This is Ospreay’s first title defence since becoming the champion at Chapter 20, beating Jimmy Havoc and ending his ridiculous 609 day run. Haskins, on the same show, won the Thunderbastard to get a title shot. Seeing as I live just down the road from Haskins (he’s in Malvern, I’m in Bromsgrove), I feel a certain degree of fandom for him but it’s virtually impossible to root against Ospreay because he’s so goddamn entertaining. Haskins has a terrific range of skills, from aerial to striking to countering to mat technique. He’s perhaps a little too lightweight to overcome a top guy but he’s got enough about him to wear down Ospreay. Will is a big underdog performer so he fights from the bottom, getting dissected by Haskins. Ospreay’s improvement has been fairly meteoric. If you look at his career on paper he’s hardly wrestled anywhere at all but has such a range of skills, which he excels at, that he’s on top of the British tree at the tender age of 22. His only downfall, for me at least, is that he gets a bit too pleased with himself but even that is somewhat endearing. As if he’s not quite aware that he’s a superb wrestler, working a level above his contemporaries, until he nails a really difficult spot.

Haskins destruction of Ospreay’s arm is joyous. At one point Ospreay tries to flip around him and Haskins just kicks the arm out. Haskins knows the flipping playbook and has a counter for everything. As the match progresses it becomes apparent this will not be a routine defence for Will. It’s an intense fight and Haskins baits Ospreay in with almost every move. At one point provoking Will into slapping him only to turn it into a flying armbar. The match gives Ospreay not only a genuine challenge but makes him look better for overcoming Haskins, when he’s so routinely outwrestled. Haskins gets to show some guts down the stretch as Ospreay unleashes a series of hyper violent spots. MADE IN JAPAN! Haskins hits it to counter Ospreay coming off the top again but Will kicks out. “Nobody has ever kicked out of that” yells announcer RJ Singh. Ospreay fires back with a load more heavy rope assisted moves and takes it with the 630 Splash. This match was insanely good until they started into a few silly kick-out spots, designed to make the match feel more epic than it actually was. A pity as the lead in was sensational. Haskins told a great story.
Final Rating: ****1/4

 

Summary: This was my first PROGRESS show and it certainly landed. The main event alone is worth the price of checking PROGRESS out on demand. You can ‘demand PROGRESS’ at demandprogress.pivotshare.com. I’d advise that you do as British Wrestling is going through a renaissance at the moment with Rev Pro, ICW, Preston City and the British guys wrestling at BOLA all delivered. PROGRESS is the raw, visceral centrepiece of this British wrestling revolution. It’s not like anything else that’s out there. The Electric Ballroom is a small venue with a great atmosphere. It’s up there with the Hammerstein Ballroom, Viking Hall or Korakuen Hall for having that small venue atmosphere where the crowd are on top of the action. It’s not anywhere near the size of any of those places, which makes it all the more cosy.
Verdict: 74

PROGRESS Chapter 28 – Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

Arnold Furious: April 10, 2016. PROGRESS: Chapter 28 was presented in loving memory of  Kris Travis, a 32 year old pro wrestler who tragically passed away recently from stomach cancer. Tragedies happen so often in wrestling that it’s easy to start taking them lightly, but 32 is no age to die. Kris faced his problems head on and put a brave face on his fight, raising money for charity and being a genuinely wonderful human being. He will be missed. We’re in Manchester, England at the Ritz Hotel. Glen Joseph takes over MC duties as Jim Smallman is elsewhere. He’s not as entertaining as Jim and there are definite audio problems with the microphone as I find him quite hard to understand. This is not normally an issue with PROGRESS shows. Commentary comes from RJ Singh and Callum Leslie.

 

The Dunne Brothers (Pete Dunne & Damien Dunne) vs. Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven)
The Midlands duo of Bate & Seven are immediately over courtesy of an ingenious tag team name and the bags of talent they possess. The Brothers Dunne are both from the Midlands too. It’s a Midlands exhibition! They know each other and Moustache Mountain are allowed to do fun spots. They’re already very popular with the crowd. The Dunne brothers are less fun but as heels they take their licks and have tandem offence. It’s a rollicking good time and once again PROGRESS opt to have someone beat Tyler because he’s already over. This time it’s Pete Dunne with a Flatliner. At least Trent eats the pinfall. Entertaining match up though and pleasing to see upcoming prospects looking this strong. I see big things for these guys.
Final Rating: ***

 

Natural Progression Series III Semi Final
Damon Moser vs. Ashton Smith

Moser’s beard rivals Trent Seven’s beard. Screw the Atlas Division, where’s the Beards division? The championship belt could be really tiny and act as a snood. Ashton Smith is more experienced but is just now reaching the level where he can have this kind of exposure. Ashton is 27 and has been wrestling for almost a decade. Moser is a comparative noob. It’s almost unfair of PROGRESS to put this on after the opener, where four guys got over on cool moves and being new faces. That’s pretty much the expectation for this one too. The execution is a little shaky but without any serious botches. Seeing as the reward for the Natural Progression Series is a title match, I can’t see either of these guys doing that. Moser at one point attempts a Van Terminator and lands it in Ashton’s bollocks. Ashton hits a superkick in response, which doesn’t finish because Moser’s beard cushions the blow. Moser finishes with the Knee Trembler. This was a bit of a mess in truth. Both guys tried hard but the selling was all over the place and the execution wasn’t great.
Final Rating: **

 

Post Match: Pastor William Eaver shows up for a showdown and the difference in character in incredible. Eaver is the finished article now. Moser is not. Should still be a decent match up but I fully expect Eaver to win. Anything else is just wrong.

 

Jinny vs. Toni Storm
On a list of potential riot starting heels in the UK scene, you’d probably be surprised that Jinny is heading to the top of that list. It helps that she’s wrestling a happy-go-lucky babyface in Toni, who everyone loves. Jinny seems obsessed with getting heat and arguing with the fans. Either she’s good at being a heel or she really hates wrestling fans. Either is possible. The work isn’t terribly clean with a few awkward looking spots. As a match it’s not up to much but the crowd destroy Jinny with the abuse. The “Primark Princess” chant is pure gold. Getting that level of heat is almost essential for the women’s division. It puts it on a par with the men. Jinny uses foreign objects like bin bags and lipstick. It’s creative. Toni’s Hulkamania comeback where she tears the plastic bag off is amazing. It’s so much fun. Elizabeth distracts to allow the Facelift to finish. Jinny’s angle with Elizabeth is guaranteed to go somewhere interesting. No downtrodden assistant has ever remained downtrodden in wrestling. The pop when Elizabeth fights back here is formidable. Jinny’s rampage around ringside reminds me of Tiger Jeet Singh in Japan. Chairs flying everywhere and people scurrying to get out of her way. If she’s smart she plants someone at one of these shows and belts them to get people genuinely scared of what she might do.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Flash Morgan Webster vs. Mark Haskins
This is a total babyface match up, which in itself is a rarity in modern wrestling as, more often than not, one of the faces will be despised by the crowd. Despite being a face, Haskins works as the heel, controlling the pace of the match. The structure allows Webster to fight from underneath. Meaty chops in this one. Echoing around the Ritz. It adds a bit of substance to an already solid contest. Haskins is technically brilliant. The way he rolls into the Sharpshooter is incredible. The way he plans the move is great and then when it’s on he cranks it, like nobody cranks submissions. There used to be a lot more cranking of submissions, making them go from effective to absolutely devastating. Haskins leans way, way back on his Sharpshooter and it looks fantastic. Flash is fast enough to keep up on exchanges but is a step down in technical terms. The dives and on the high spots they exist on an equal footing. Haskins is so smooth and fluid. His transitions into submissions are flawless. They do some awesome mat counters near the finish, from one attempted finish to another until Haskins reverses a pin for the win. Great stuff from these guys. Haskins is at a point where every match he has is good. Like Ospreay only technically sound instead of jaw-droppingly crazy.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Progress Atlas Tournament (Block A)
Big Daddy Walter vs. T-Bone

This is the first match in the #BigLadsDivision. T-Bone is representing my county of Worcestershire. Him and Haskins could start a Malvern Mafia! I do love the big lads, Stronkstyle etc. I love the crowd reacting to slams and stuff like we’re in the 80s. As if lifting one of the other big lads is a titanic struggle with shocking results. The ring survives this match but one ringside chair gets annihilated by Walter. He is a furniture wrecker. Good job he wasn’t in the TLC match at Chapter 27. The Big Lads can’t quite emulate the Big Japan style but they have a go. T-Bone has a crack at no selling where he pops up off a German suplex only to get floored by a lariat immediately afterwards. If you like big guys clubbing each other with every big bump greeted by rapturous applause, you should dig this and the Atlas division in general. T-Bone gets terrific reactions for throwing Walter with a fallaway slam, which is sick considering Walter’s size, and a frogsplash finishes for T-Bone. Two big boys smashing each other about. Can’t complain and Worcestershire wins out.
Final Rating: ***

 

Marty Scurll’s Non-Title Open Challenge
Ideally Jimmy Havoc would answer this but seeing as he’s got a debilitating knee injury that won’t happen. Scurll runs a load of cheap heat, including calling the fans “virgins”. “It’s not raining” chant the fans at Marty’s umbrella wielding heeldom. Anyway, Scurll issues an open challenge and Tommy End strolls out nonchalant as you like. The crowd comes unglued.

 

Marty Scurll vs. Tommy End
We speculated, on the BritWres Roundtable podcast, that the Sumerian Death Squad was likely split up because they wanted to push Tommy in singles. Here’s the proof that we were right. End kicks the every loving shit out of Scurll and the chemistry is intensely pleasing. Scurll has some fun counters, going after the shoulder and looking to set up the Chickenwing. The whole superkick/just kidding thing is countered into multiple strikes of death and then Scurll grabs the arm again to stop it. It’s really great work and the idea of a title match is already enticing. It is brutally stiff too. A delight. The sheer number of counters that are brutal strikes, usually kicks or knees, is incredible. “Chicken Wing”…End catches Scurll with a KO roundhouse to the face and just ends him! End draping the belt across Scurll’s face and leaving the champion absolutely dead in the ring is a fantastic visual. I loved this and desperately want a title match.
Final Rating: ****

 

No Disqualification Match
Progress Tag Team Championship
The Origin (El Ligero & Nathan Cruz) (c) vs. FSU (Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis)
This has to deliver going on after that last match and headlining the show. Ligero’s shield bashing mockery of Mark Andrews is quite sensational. As it’s no DQ they brawl all over the bloody place and don’t do anything stupid like running heat. Origin, as heels, have become quite adept at these wild brawls. They go all over the building in this one, making sure all the fans get a close up look at the match. I’m not sure it would have worked for everyone in the building but everyone does get a moment to admire the grapplers. On video it comes across really well. I love that Origin producing a ladder draws heat due to the crowd hating ladders after the ladder failure at Chapter 27. Mark Andrews taking a swig of a fans beer, and toasting the crowd, is a lovely touch as it shows the connection between the audience and the wrestlers. It’s been a while since a promotion existed that felt like a great big family and that would have been ECW. It’s genuinely touching to see that here. These two teams revel in the thirty minutes they’re given, which is part of what makes PROGRESS special. They allow tag teams to shine and the main event spot has been earned by these four men. They certainly bust a gut to make sure it’s a tonne of fun. The violence handily escalates when they get into the ring and into the bigger spots. Like El Ligero taking a super rana into a pile of thumbtacks. Cruz does the smart thing and tries to clear the tacks away, which involves him kicking them recklessly into the crowd. Lawsuits? What lawsuits? It’ll never happen. The thumbtacks do make a lot of the spots near the end look extremely tentative. There’s just no safe place to land. The Origin manage to knock out both referees to prevent losing. The table makes an appearance at the end of the match, which pretty much makes this a TLC match. Which is, oddly enough, better than the actual TLC at Chapter 27. Eddie Dennis eats a brutally sloppy powerbomb off the apron through a table and two chairs and Andrews gets killed with the Conchairto. That doesn’t finish but a Tombstone on a chair does. This match was utter carnage. Most of it was clean as a whistle too. You couldn’t put something on after this. Cleaning up the ring would take too long. At least there were no light tubes.
Final Rating: ****1/4

Summary: A fine show from PROGRESS, a step up from the somewhat disappointing Chapter 27 show. That show was hampered by the failings of the furniture in the TLC match. This show was less ambitious on paper and yet delivered strongly. The last two matches and Haskins-Webster are well worth going out of your way for. Even the matches on this show that I didn’t rate all that highly they all had heat and there was nothing bad. Not even the Natural Progression match. Despite there being no Ospreay or Sabre Jr. on this show the BritWres train keeps a rolling.
Verdict: 85

Monday Night Raw (02/27/95)

James Dixon: After all the ballyhoo surrounding the 1000th episode of Raw, it may come as a surprise to modern fans that the 100th went without so much as a passing mention. Then again, this isn’t even considered the 100th episode by the WWF, as they played fast and loose with which of the pre-WrestleMania and pre-SummerSlam Raws they actually counted as part of the show’s cannon.

 

To be honest, the WWF didn’t celebrate milestones like that back in the 90s really anyway, (except for WrestleMania X) because it was too busy creating history rather than paying homage to it. Plus, 100 shows is nothing really. I mean, the likes of Velocity and Jakked reached that comfortably. No, we will not be doing guide books for those… Probably. What this does mean is that we are around a 1/10th of the way through. When put into that perspective, suddenly this task is more daunting! Vince and Jim Cornette remain on commentary, as this was taped alongside last week’s show.

 

Lex Luger vs. Tatanka
Suddenly this EPISODE is more daunting, because we open with this. Attentive readers of the series will be well aware that I was not a fan of the rivalry between these two and in Volume #3 I actually chose it in my awards as worst feud. When you consider that some absolute stinkers like Undertaker vs. Kama finished behind it, it should give the uninitiated an idea as to just how bad it was. The horrid nature of it all was summed up in a match I covered for Wham Bam Bodyslam from two months prior to this, which was one of the most turgid piles of mouseshit I have ever had to suffer through. So yes, with all of that in mind, you can imagine my sheer joy when I discover that this is how we are starting the “centenary” show. I hope you all appreciate the hell we are going through to bring you these books, so you don’t have to suffer them yourselves. Pre-match, Luger cuts a “passionate” promo recapping the feud. His delivery is so monotone and cheesy that it is actually funny. “You stooped to an all-time low depth” says Lex. That doesn’t even make sense you inflated goon. Tatanka gets in on the act in the ring, telling Luger he is going to teach him the “Native American way”. Does that mean he is going to teach him how to work a boring, slow, rest-hold filled match? Because he already knows how to do that! To make matters worse, Luger is accompanied to the ring by the fat and old fake Injun Chief Jay Strongbow. Based on the stories and hearsay I have heard about Strongbow as a road agent, I have little time for him. By all accounts he was an aloof, arrogant blowhard. Tatanka brings the thrills right away by bailing as soon as Luger gets any offence in, as the crowd chant “USA” to support… well, both guys I guess. They both have “American” gimmicks, just in different ways. Wrestling fans can be real dumb sometimes. Luger and Tatanka try and bring some passion and hatred to proceedings, bless them, but their movesets are so limited that it is hard to give a damn. It is just clubbing and stalling, followed by clubbing and resting, interspersed with shots of Strongbow’s beer gut and surly, unimpressed face. “Not too much has changed” says Vince as we return from commercial. No shit pal, nothing ever changes in the matches these two have. We have fallen firmly into the usual territory that all Tatanka-Luger matches end up in, with Tatanka slowly working Lex over, and Luger just taking it and offering little in return. The crowd, who were fairly hot at first, gets more subdued as the monotony kicks in. Ah, hello bearhug, I wondered when you would show up. One positive that has sprung to mind is that by this time next year both guys will be gone, and we will never have to cover Luger on Raw again. Roll on September when he leaves! Luger makes a comeback and puts on Strongbow’s sleeper hold, which is just a riveting choice. Tatanka confronts Strongbow over it, because he never taught him it when under his tutelage, or something. What, Tatanka couldn’t learn how to do a sleeper himself!? How completely useless is he? Oh. Tatanka throws off Strongbow’s headdress and gets chopped by the veteran in return. A brawl on the outside ensues and back in the ring Luger throws some clotheslines, leading Tatanka to try and bail. Luger manages to get to him before the count out, but a slam leads to yet another Tatanka escape. Luger catches him again and hits a lazy suplex (he doesn’t even bump it) as Vince starts getting impassioned. Luger’s subsequent offence is so shoddy that even Vince comments on the lack of technical skills on display. Tatanka bails AGAIN, this time giving Luger the count out win. Yet another shallow victory for everyone’s favourite choker. Not as awful as their Wham Bam Bodyslam match by any stretch, but still really long and boring with an unsatisfying finish.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Video Control shows us highlights from a battle royal on Superstars with the focus being the ongoing reboot of the Lawler-Hart feud. In this instance, Lawler was trying to be clever and avoid elimination by hopping around the ring, so Bret trod on his foot. Hang on, isn’t Bret working Backlund at WrestleMania? Why are the WWF building to Bret-Lawler and just completely ignoring Mr. Bob? Their booking in 1995 was the pits.

 

Owen Hart vs. Larry Santo
Santo looks like either a much taller but far less talented Dynamite Kid or a much skinner and more talented Nikolai Volkoff. Take your pick. Cornette claims he is the son of El Santo, bona fide Mexican legend, but he most certainly is not. Owen does his level best to piss Santo off by slapping him, then uses the hot-headed response to school him. After a pretty muted performance compared to his usual, Hart polishes Santo off with the Sharpshooter.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Vince talks gleefully about the publicity generated from the Lawrence Taylor angle, which was of course the whole point and purpose behind using him. Taylor joins us via satellite, like The Rock, and mocks Bigelow for “losing to a 13-year old” at Royal Rumble, referring to 1-2-3 Kid. Taylor is not a good promo guy, but then he wouldn’t be, because he is a footballer. Taylor says he is weighing up his options about how to best deal with the situation. Oh come on, even the markiest mark knows by now that he is going to wrestle him. Bam Bam joins the conversation via a different satellite, and cuts a promo that sounds like the nonsense a drunk would come out with after an evening with the Rockers. Eventually he gets his act together and puts over Kid and the New Generation, before reissuing his challenge. Taylor has heard enough, and walks off. Decent and effective build actually, even if the delivery from both was less than stellar.

 

Doink the Clown vs. Bob Cook
Dink is of course with Doink and he comes in and shakes his ass in front of Cook while he is locked in a hold, making me wish he was dead. Then he comes in and starts pissing around, standing on Cook and rolling on him. Why does the referee allow that little twerp to do that? Come on Tim White, get it together. The officiating has been a shambles these last few weeks. Christ, Cook looks a lot like Typhoon, which makes me hate this match even more. Doink spends the vast majority just standing or sitting in arm holds; he is IRS levels of bad. The Whoopie Cushion finishes things. This Raw is not going well.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Fast out-of-place rock music plays over the top of a highlight video going over the Michaels-Bulldog issues they have had since Royal Rumble. They will face each other next week, which is of course March, and means yet again Furious gets a good match. This is getting beyond a joke now.

 

Kama vs. Ken Raper
I’m sorry, his name is what!? Ken RAPER!? What exactly are the WWF playing at here? I am actually surprised they didn’t turn that into a gimmick. I guess they were confused as to whether he was the raper of Ken, or Ken the Raper. This is my first time with Kama, lucky me. Cornette discusses the potential of a Mantaur-Kama match, which makes me throw up in my mouth. Kama tells the camera that he wants more competition over and over, but he has taken 5 minutes just to beat Ken the Raper, which he does with an STF. Horrible.
Final Rating: ¼ *

 

Another satellite interview closes the show, this time with the British Bulldog. He says he wants to bite Shawn Michaels. There may have been more to it than that…

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Jim Cornette. Great behind the announce desk, and entertained me with his comments.

 

Least Entertaining: Kama. I’m glad he went on last, because I am about to fall asleep after watching him.

 

Quote of the Night: “You have won the prize” (Vince) “What did I win?” (Cornette) “Erm, weight watchers, or something” (Vince) “Hey, I’m not overweight, I’m under tall” (Cornette). An amusing exchange, but one that highlights what a bastard Vince can be, even when he is trying to be a babyface straight guy.

 

Match of the Night: I refuse to give one.

 

Summary: Back to form we go, as 1995 continues to be a bumpy ride. This was horrific in the ring, with nothing breaking a single star. The only good thing on the entire show was the Bigelow-LT confrontation, and that had numerous flaws. I swear, April had best be a lot better.
Verdict: 14

Monday Night Raw (02/20/95)

James Dixon: We are live in Macon, Georgia, as Raw returns from its dog show induced hiatus. Or high anus, if you are Randy Savage. Tonight it is champion versus champions as Diesel takes on Jeff Jarrett. In the pre recorded hype comments, Jarrett claims Roadie has an “extra shoulder” for the WWF title belt, and Diesel says the WWF will be unplugged tonight. What does that even mean? Are they going to run the show without any lights and music? How will anyone be able to see?

 

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Gary Sabough
This is the return of Bigelow after a “thirty day suspension” following his assault on Lawrence Taylor at the Royal Rumble. We spend the first few moments of the match in split screen, as we see comments from LT’s lawyers, basically pussying out of Bigelow’s challenge. Oh hey, Jim Cornette is sharing commentary duty with Vince tonight! Awesome! In a strange alternate reality twist, Vince shares some facts about Sabough’s past amateur career, while Cornette throws in a strange snippet of information about Sabough being able to eat a pound of spaghetti in 30 seconds without using his hands. Ok then! The match is ignored, naturally, as Vince and Jim focus on the LT situation. Cornette tries three times to get in some relevant storyline points, but Vince rudely talks over him, getting overly excited about the match when in reality nothing is really happening. After Bigelow gets the inevitable win, he cuts a promo on Taylor and calls him a punk and a wimp, and says he will take him on any time and any place. Cornette smells a lawsuit!
Final Rating: ½*

 

Adam Bomb vs. Rip Rogers
Bomb has reverted to his red and yellow garb following a stint in blue. Interestingly, Bomb claims that he was promised the WWF Intercontinental championship and a sustained push, but that it was quashed from above and he got annoyed, which is why he wound up leaving later in the year. I hear a lot of this kind of thing from wrestlers, which leads me to ascertain that they are either all liars, or that they were all promised various riches in order to keep them sweet, meaning all the road agents and bookers were liars. Either way, someone is fibbing. Rip Rogers was in WCW a few years prior to this, and even competed for them on the BattleBowl ‘93 pay-per-view, teaming with Roadwarrior Hawk to defeat Davey Boy Smith and Stevie ‘Kole’ Ray. He is now a trainer in OVW, so as far as enhancement guys go his résumé is pretty solid. He is also incredibly flamboyant, with pink boots and a glittery jacket. He looks like a Freebird. Of course, he doesn’t fare particularly well against Bomb, and after some Mike Sharpe-esque loud selling he falls victim to the flying clothesline. The crowd actually pops, which surprises me, because I don’t remember Bomb ever being over.
Final Rating: *

 

Video Control gives us highlights from Superstars of Bret Hart receiving an award, and he cuts his “memories outweigh your dreams” promo that he has done a few times.

 

Tangent: I like that the WWF has changed the Raw logo slightly, and that it is now blue. Sadly this doesn’t last long, but there is a definite different feel to things in 1995 than there was last year, and the same between 1994 and 1993. Unfortunately, modern Raw has become so over-produced and homogenized that you cannot differentiate between 2009 and 2013. Everything looks the same and has done for years. Even the arenas are the same, at least in the way they are set up. For example, WWE did a show recently in Boston Gardens which had me excited, because I love the uniqueness of that venue. However, they managed to destroy all of that and just make it look like any and every other show. Blame Kevin Dunn folks.

 

The King’s Court
Oh my god. Anyone who has read last year’s edition of this series will be well aware of my feelings towards this interminable and endless talk show segment. For those unfamiliar, let me reiterate: I HATE it. I cannot stand Jerry Lawler as an active performer in the WWF and I find his promos and matches to be beyond boring. It wouldn’t be so bad, but this talk show gets unreasonable amounts of airtime every single week. It is overexposed on John Cena levels. At least tonight’s show should be interesting, because Shawn Michaels is out to reveal his new bodyguard, so at there is a point to this whole shebang for once. Lawler manages to get a few words before Michaels comes out, and rips on Bret Hart for his award and makes wild accusations that he is a racist. This is all there to kick start the horrid feud the two had back in 1993, and the matches this time are even worse. Michaels comes out and rambles on for a while about being a marked man, before bringing out Sid. Jim Cornette loses his mind, before putting him over well. I love Sid; he just drips with charisma and intensity. He cuts one of his usual maniacal wild-eyed promos and says that he and Michaels will rule the world together.

 

The Blu Brothers vs. Leroy Howard & Mark Starr
This is the Raw debut for the Harris brothers, who are portraying “mountain men” in yet another of the WWF’s horrible 1995 gimmicks. The people running this company are so completely stuck in the land of simplistic stereotypes that it is embarrassing. So far this year we have seen Mantaur, Man Mountain Rock and now these, and over the course of the year it doesn’t get much better, believe me. The Blu Brothers are managed by Uncle Zebekiah, otherwise known in proper wrestling companies as Dutch Mantel. I am a fan, though not under this guise. However, I did enjoy his controversial yet entertaining portrayal of one Zeb Colter on WWE programming in 2013. The guy was a riot alongside Jack Swagger and he helped breathe life into a career that seemed dead and buried. Here he is just another generic southern yokel and this run achieved nothing of note. The Harris brothers are hard work to watch, be it in this gimmick or any other (they were also Skull & 8-Ball in the late 90s). Vince can’t be bothered with this either and cuts to The Toad in the studio, as we get split screen for the second time this evening. Todd tells us that Lawrence Taylor will be on Raw next week to respond to Bigelow, and he marks out like a goofball: “Isn’t this amazing!?” he squeaks. There is a match going on too. Well, it loosely resembles one. Vince gets excited at the prospect of cartoon gimmicks colliding if the Blu Brothers were to meet the Smoking Gunns. Wow, that sounds like a piss-break match if I ever heard one.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

WWF Championship
Diesel (c) vs. Jeff Jarrett
Diesel doesn’t get the opportunity to “do a Warrior” here, because only his title is on the line. I am hoping that Jarrett will bring a little more enthusiasm and motivation to this than he does in the majority of TV matches I have seen him in. Diesel is the aggressor in the early going, and overmatches Jarrett with his size and power, but gets caught out logically by Jarrett’s speed. Jarrett gets his brief momentum curtailed by an over-enthusiastic referee pulling him down from a ten punch, and wouldn’t you just know it, it is Earl Hebner. You know, Hebner is often praised as one of the best referees ever, but he frequently went outside of his remit and did things that he had no right to do, be it changing the rules of how titles can change hands of putting his hands on wrestlers. While Jarrett is remonstrating, Roadie gets on the apron, but is drilled into the post by Diesel and sells it like a trooper. Diesel throws Jarrett over the top to the outside onto Roadie, as he continues to dominate what has been a very energetic match. Roadie tries to hold on to Jarrett and prevent Diesel bringing him back in the ring, and Hebner goes beyond his job description again by kicking Roadie in the stomach to get him off! What the hell does he think he is playing at!? I am outraged by his insubordination. Jarrett finally gets a period of control after some Roadie shenanigans, and Diesel bumps around for him, probably more than you might expect. Jarrett gets a near fall after a top rope crossbody and this serves to rile Diesel, who catches a sidewalk slam and goes into his comeback. Snake eyes is followed by the big boot, and Hogan, sorry Diesel, completes his routine with the Jacknife for the win. Pretty good show from both guys, but fairly formulaic and nothing out of the ordinary. Perfectly acceptable for a TV match though. Shawn Michaels and Sid turn up ominously in the aisle, but Diesel is not especially concerned.
Final Rating: **½

 

Michaels and Sid hang around in the aisle after the commercial break, yet Diesel somehow manages (off camera) to leave the ring and walk past them without a confrontation. Cornette, who is frightened, is forced by an amused Vince to interview Michaels. He rambles on as we go off the air.

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Diesel. He showed plenty of energy and fire and clearly being WWF champion has him enthused about his job. This is the Kevin Nash I like to watch.

 

Least Entertaining: The Blu Brothers are a chore.

 

Quote of the Night: “What has Shawn Michaels done” – Vince McMahon. Not a particularly memorable quote, but the way Vince delivers the line after Michaels introduces Sid, does a great job in getting him over as an unpredictable monster. It is the wrestling equivalent of pressing the nuke button to solve your problems.

 

Match of the Night: Diesel vs. Jeff Jarrett. The marquee usually wins this by default anyway, and this week it was a fun watch and worthy of the accolade.

 

Summary: Well thank God this week didn’t continue on from the last show, which was an all-time stinker. A lack of Million Dollar Corporation slugs (other than Bigelow, who is not a slug) combined with the welcome return of Sid and a decent marquee match, made this a breezy, if unspectacular, watch. A marked improvement.
Verdict: 33

Monday Night Raw (02/06/95)

James Dixon: Hosted by Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels, who have quite obviously been superimposed over a shot of the crowd in an attempt to make the show seem live. What’s worse than that, is that I can hear Oscar attempting to rap in the background. Oh hell, what a way to start.

 

Men on a Mission & Lex Luger vs. Tatanka, IRS & King Kong Bundy
After recovering from the seizure the flashing lights in MOM’s entrance gave me, I open my eyes to the sight of THIS match. Ok, this has got to be some sick joke, because I saw Furious chuckling away at his desk while covering January, where he seemed to get decent to good matches and segments every other week. What do I get to start February? A collection of all my least favourite wrestlers in one match! Tatanka reminds me why I wanted to set him on fire in 1994, by doing the least intimidating “pissed off tough guy” stare I have ever seen. Seriously, he looks like a complete idiot. Mabel and Bundy start things out, continuing their horrible TV feud. The action is indescribable, and a Mabel enzuigiri blows my mind, but not in a good way. Mo comes in and tries to slam Bundy, because he is a tool, and Michaels mocks him for it. Rightfully so! IRS comes in, and I look away, continuing my boycott from 1994 of anything involving IRS. I am tempted to add Tatanka to that list, because he makes me feel violent when I watch him. He and Mabel run a bad sequence with some incredibly blatant telegraphing of moves, and then the corporate Injun bails when Luger finally tags in. Thank god for that; I cannot tolerate seeing anymore matches between those two. Of course, the alternatives are equally awful, but at least IRS coming in gives me the chance to sip my coffee. The one positive I can say for this is that at least the resting spots one would associate with all of them, have been limited due to the sheer number of participants. Six-man tag matches are hard to make boring, and while I detest five of these guys (my favourite of the lot is Mabel!), they are tagging in and out frequently enough to keep this on the cusp of acceptable. Well, not acceptable, tolerable. Mo takes the heat because he is by far the most expendable, as things slow to a crawl with Bundy back in. There is not a huge difference in size between Bundy and Mo, though Bundy is bigger, yet the difference in the way they carry themselves and impose themselves is huge. As I said in 1994, Mo moves, sells and works like a much smaller guy. I don’t mean that as a compliment as I would if I were describing Bam Bam Bigelow, but more that he manages to make himself appear smaller and thus less intimidating than he actually is. Bundy does the opposite, and while he is horrid to watch at least he works like the big fat bastard he is. You would never have seen Mo challenging Hulk Hogan for the title in the 80s, that’s for sure. Luger gets the hot tag as Vince lies that “this will be most interesting”. Luger slams Bundy and that brings in Tatanka, as a pier sixer breaks out. Tatanka hits a DDT on Luger in the melee, which Vince seems to think is out of order, despite Mabel being in there as well, and Bundy pins him for the win. That was no-where near as bad as I feared, but some of the action was almost laughable in places.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

Man Mountain Rock, he of backstage documentary (that has never been made) fame, gets an MTV Behind the Music style promo vignette and it is actually pretty good! The character wasn’t dreadful, I mean he was a rock star, but he pissed a lot of guys off with his video camera, and thus had no chance of getting pushed, especially with the Kliq ruling the roost.

 

Lawrence Taylor’s lawyer says he doesn’t want to be a pro wrestler but that he respects the industry. Swell.

 

Man Mountain Rock vs. Charlie Hunter
This is the debut of Rock, and Michaels actually does a good job putting him over on commentary before things start. Rock’s attire can be politely described as “gaudy”. He is wearing wild tie-dye trousers and shirt, with dreadlocked red hair. He screams “dirty hippy” more than rock star. His WWF logo shaped guitar was one of the coolest props of all time, though he doesn’t have it here yet. Michaels puts Rock over again, saying how well he moves for a big guy, but rightfully buries his gear. If memory serves, it does get better. Vince, clearly on a quest to get Rock’s name in as many witty puns as possible, describes him as a “mountain of a man” and after his inevitable victory, says he “rocked the house”. He is such a cad.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Video Control gives us footage from “yesterday’s” Action Zone! show, as Diesel beats Owen Hart with the Jacknife in a fun little *** match. Shawn Michaels gets involved as their WrestleMania build rumbles on, and Vince interviews Diesel in the studio. Diesel puts over the skills of both Owen and Bret, and then discusses his dodgy knee and the nine operations he has had on it. Way to give your opponents the inside scoop there pal! He dismisses the challenge of Jeff Jarrett in two weeks time and says there is no way he will lose.

 

Tangent: You know, sometimes we are a little hard on Kevin Nash, and even a little dismissive of his ability. For example, if he is involved in a good or great match, praise always goes to the other guy. I am just as guilty of doing this as my writing partners. I am going to attempt to change my way of thinking when it comes to Nash, because he was involved in many good to great matches in 1994-95, and it is foolish and plain ignorant to think he was carried in every one of them. He was limited, absolutely, but I can’t think of another guy his size even close to as talented. Nash was lazy by the time he went to WCW, no doubt about it, but he deserves a lot more credit than he gets for his WWF run as Big Daddy Cool.

 

Mantaur vs. Leroy Howard
Is it fat bastard night on Raw? Managing Mantaur has to be considered a career lowlight for Jim Cornette. Were they ribbing him? Actually the way Jim tells it, he didn’t even know he was going to be managing him. Having noticed this big strange guy walking around with a moose head on, he wondered what the hell was going on, and was told “you’re going out with him”. Apparently it was so last minute that he didn’t even question it and just went with the flow. Mantaur is one of the dumbest gimmicks of all time (for those who don’t know, he was basically supposed to be a Minotaur, half-human and half-animal) and it made no sense at all for his character to be paired with Cornette’s character. The two were not compatible. Mantaur suffers from what I am now labelling Mo-syndrome, which I touched upon earlier, in that he is a fat guy but fairly short. The problem is he wrestles like a fat guy who is fairly short and is not imposing at all. Howard looks far better than him and Mantaur takes an age to get the job done. He has absolutely no structure or pacing to him whatsoever, everything he does is just randomly thrown in and his offence is primarily stomps. What a colossal pile of shit.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Razor Ramon vs. Frankie Lancaster
Finally, a real wrestler! Razor is sporting a rather fetching all-yellow number this evening, and he looks good in it. He should have worn it more. Razor schools Lancaster in the early going, but being the generous in-ring worker that he is, he lets Lancaster get a few shots in. Of course, the jobber makes the mistake of taking liberties by chopping Razor, and the receipt is fittingly vicious. Razor runs through the rest of his usual TV squash repertoire, but the top rope back suplex is fairly pleasant tonight. The Razor’s Edge finishes it, and if you have seen one Razor squash, you have seen this.
Final Rating: *

 

Henry Godwinn vs. Billy Weaver
The fat pig farmer completes the set of awful talent I have had to endure tonight, and frankly, I am losing my cool. I think I have done fairly well tonight to keep calm and rational in the face of the parade of tripe I have been forced to endure. Scufflin’ hillbillies are my least favourite gimmick in wrestling, and it seems the only person who wants to see them is Vince. He sure loves his “big ol’ hog farmers”. The crowd is completely silent as Godwinn wins with the Slop Drop. It’s embarrassing.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Raw next week is cancelled because of the dog show. My wife overheard this and couldn’t fathom why they didn’t just move it to a different day, or indeed, why Raw would ever be cancelled for a dog show anyway. She has a point. It was a different time…

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Shawn Michaels. He is usually pretty bad behind the announce desk, but here he entertained me, certainly more than the wrestling did. He is no Randy Savage, but hey, you take what you can get. I would much prefer to have seen him actually WRESTLE mind. This show needed him in the ring.

 

Least Entertaining: Oh there is a veritable smorgasbord of options this week. I will go with Mantaur, because the gimmick is just so fucking dumb and his performance was abhorrent.

 

Quote of the Night: “Easy with the head-banging McMahon, you might throw that rug off” – Shawn Michaels. So that is where the rumours started! Maybe.

 

Match of the Night: Not to discredit Scott Hall, but his routine squash match and fetching shade of yellow, is not enough to warrant MOTN honours. Yet it wins by default because nothing else even broke *. The roster should all be ashamed of themselves.

 

Summary: It is the worst episode of Raw I have ever seen, with nothing redeeming about it whatsoever. Usually there is a semi-decent promo or a passable bout, something to drag things above the gaping jaws of wrestling hell. Not this show. No, what we get is terrible gimmicks, a marquee match full of the worst main roster talent they had and nothing else. What is there to recommend? I thought 1994 was bad, but if 1995 continues like this (for me at least) it will be even worse. Holy shit that was a bad show.
Verdict: 10