ICW Fear and Loathing IX

Arnold Furious: November 20, 2016. This is a massive show for ICW. They’ve been building towards it for a literal year. They announced it right after last year’s Fear & Loathing that they’d be running the Hydro, an enormous venue that recently hosted WWE’s flagship programming. To make the whole thing profitable ICW needed to sell a lot of tickets and they’ve done that. Over 6000. Hosts are Billy Kirkwood and William Grange.

 

Promo Time: Finn Balor
I actually missed this completely as the stream died and the following two matches were aired on Facebook by the promotion. Having massive streaming problems isn’t good news but thankfully once the feed settled down it was perfect.

 

Joe Hendry vs. Davey Blaze
Hendry is out of ICW for a year if he loses but he gets to rough up the Wee Man if he wins. Blaze is perhaps not the best of wrestlers to kick the show off but Hendry feels like a star and his entrance, a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, feels like a big deal. Blaze controls much of the contest, which allows Hendry to get all fired up. Hendry picks up the win and this was certainly a match, although it didn’t feel like a big deal at all. The crowd were into it at least. I can’t help thinking something else should have kicked off the biggest show of the year for ICW (and everyone else for that matter). Hendry is over but there wasn’t a lot going on here. It might even have made more sense for Joe to lose and build something up. No, that’s a stupid idea.
Final Rating: *3/4

 

ICW Women’s Championship
Carmel Jacob (c) vs. Viper vs. Kay Lee Ray
KLR is great but I hate her music. It’s such a non-event. The women’s division really kicked off last year at Fear & Loathing when they crowned a women’s champion. Carmel quickly won the belt off Viper although the star of the women’s division is Kay Lee Ray and it’s perverse that she’s still on the Indies when Nikki Storm/Glencross is on NXT. Viper is a lot bigger so the two smaller girls naturally aim to eliminate the big lass. It doesn’t work because they target the knee and Viper has no idea how to sell. Kay Lee Ray, rather typically, steals the show. Her timing is better, her spots are more exciting and the things she does make sense. Carmel also gets her knee worked over but she actually sells it. KLR is so far above the other two. Whether it’s on offence, taking spots or timing, it’s not even close. KLR is potentially world class. Viper and Carmel are ok. KLR takes out both opponents and beats Jacob with three Gorybombs. Definitely the right result. If Kay Lee Ray is hanging around in Brit Wres she’s the only possible champion. Carmel spends a few minutes putting over KLR after the match, which is unfortunate because of the next match.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Casket Match
Stevie Boy vs. BT Gunn
BT steals Trent Seven’s not chopping the ring post spot, which is harsh seeing as Trent is in the title match. Quibbles aside they do some decent strong style stuff before we degenerate into silly casket spots. Like BT being knocked out and getting thrown into the casket but his leg is hanging out. Only it falls inside and the ‘unconscious’ BT has to put it back into position. Then they both end up inside the casket and we get the ‘getting dragged back in’ visual. “Shaggin” chant the crowd, showing how utterly ludicrous casket matches are when the Undertaker isn’t in them. It’s a pity this is a casket match because the actual work outside of the stupid coffin spots is pretty good. Especially BT hitting a spiffy vertical drop brainbuster. If this was a straight up match it’d probably be ***1/2 or more. Instead it’s just dumb. Kay Lee Ray comes out here, after her life-affirming title win just moments ago, to help the heel. I don’t get ICW. That’s just completely counter-productive. BT gets powerbombed on the lid and stuffed into the coffin for the loss. Like I said throughout; the work was fine but casket matches are just interminably stupid.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

ICW Tag Team Championship
Polo Promotions (Mark Coffey & Jackie Polo) (c) vs. Team 3D
Crowd are really into the Dudleyz because this is the kind of promotion that’s loaded with ECW/Attitude Era fans. Bubba asks for a no DQ fight, perhaps forgetting you can’t get disqualified in ICW. Much like you couldn’t get disqualified in ECW. D-Von turns heel, for me anyway, by wasting a beer over Coffey’s head. Meanwhile Kirkwood rants about imports and how they’ve got to work hard here, which is fair. There are 6000 fans in here. If that doesn’t get you fired up, nothing will. This is a fairly typical Dudley Boyz match only with a hotter crowd. That is until Polo blows his interference in the 3D and a random chair shot finishes. That massive botch, in the middle of the 3D, leads right into Polo hitting a scoop slam on a chair for the disastrously sloppy finish that everyone hates.
Final Rating: *

 

Post Match: The Wee Man and Davey Blaze interrupt to call the Dudleyz a “blight on the carpentry business”. Davey then lies around ‘selling’ until he’s put through a table. D-Von will, in all probability, retire soon and it’s overdue. However you can’t blame him for the botched finish here.

 

Video Control takes us backstage where Lionheart, and his crap name, rant about his multiple opponents in the Zero G title match. Elsewhere Trent Seven cuts a great promo about how important this date is to various people but he’ll remember it as the day he came and took home the ICW title. Bring it back to the Midlands, Trent! Wolfgang cuts one in response and we get a load of other pre-taped stuff to fill the intermission. So wait, that Dudleyz match was supposed to be the hot match before the intermission? Oh.

 

Stairway to Heaven Ladder Match
Zero G Championship
Lionheart (c) vs. Zack Gibson vs. Aaron Echo vs. Liam Thompson vs. Andy Wild vs. Iestyn Rees vs. Kenny Williams
This is slightly complicated as this isn’t a ladder match until four guys have been eliminated. I’ve never seen Echo before. Andy Wild is a lot fatter than the last time I saw him. Everyone else works fairly frequently across the UK scene. Mick Foley interjects from the USA to sing Led Zeppelin and add in a seventh man; “The Bollocks” Kenny Williams. With seven men involved this is absolute chaos. Gibson is the first man out, to my unqualified shock, courtesy of a Jacob’s Backcracker from Liam Thompson. Wild Night Out immediately dumps Liam moments later. Rees dumps Echo. Williams puts Rees out with a flying DDT. Lionheart puts Wild out with a Rock Bottom. So the final two are Williams and Lionheart in a ladder match. The quick-fire eliminations render the point of having seven men out here in the first place pointless. Now at least we’re done with the bullshit and into the actual match.

They bring out a ladder and break it with the first spot, a Rock Bottom on it from Lionheart. They head up a second ladder and poor Kenny gets murdered with another Rock Bottom, this one off the ladder from quite the height. Unfortunately this is running low on time so they skip the selling. Kenny gets back on level terms with a springboard Diamond Cutter off the ladder and he plucks the title down to win the title despite not being in the match beforehand. The match was upsettingly rushed but capped with two huge spots.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Lewis Girvan vs. Ricochet
Girvan is a top prospect. One of the better young wrestlers in the UK. He doesn’t look like a wrestler but he’s talented. Ricochet immediately flips onto him repeatedly and from various angles. Including one into the front row. Ricochet makes Girvan look terrific too by hurling himself into bumps. Girvan works hard but he barely has to. Such is the entertainment value of Ricochet. Girvan does his bit on the trading and can just about keep up with Ricochet’s insanity. After a few early jitters Girvan looks especially good. It’s as if the wrestling lets him relax, which is a good sign. Girvan does a fine job of blocking the Benadryller. It shows he’s done his home work, although Kirkwood hasn’t, assuming Ricochet is going for GTS. The ICW crowd is very insular isn’t it? Girvan’s multiple counters into the Celtic Crush, his crossface submission, are good although it feels a bit forced that Girvan gets the win after everything Ricochet hurls at him. It’s a really professional job by Ricochet. He made Girvan look further along than he is and took the clean loss in the process. Match of the night.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Steel Cage Match
ICW World Heavyweight Championship
Wolfgang (c) vs. Trent Seven
I’m disappointed Trent doesn’t have time to shake hands with every one of the 6000 fans in attendance. Shame ICW can’t afford the music rights to get Seven Nation Army playing. Wolfgang rides down here on a motorcycle continuing the trend of shitty wrestlers riding to the ring on a motorcycle. Seven has had an amazing 2016 but carrying Wolfgang to a good cage match may be beyond him. Wolfgang botches his first offensive move when we get underway, failing to grasp the mechanics of a German suplex. Wolfgang has to step up his game and does so, throwing himself into a few big spots. The story surrounds brass knuckles, which Wolfgang brings in but Trent uses. Then we get the screwy storytelling with Trent climbing out of the cage. Why would anyone climb out of a cage when you can have the door opened? Naturally Wolfgang cuts him off and suplexes off the top of the cage…for one! That doesn’t get the ridiculous reaction it deserved. They both head up top and Trent punches Wolfgang so hard he falls off through a table. Well, that’s certainly underwhelming. This explains why the title match is buried third from top despite being in a cage. I was very disheartened by this booking. Maybe it’s the outsider in me, looking in.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Disclaimer: the following match is blatantly not designed for me, whatsoever.

 

Winner Gets 100% Control of ICW
The Black Label (Drew Galloway, Jack Jester, Bram & Kid Fite) vs. (Grado, Chris Renfrew, Sha Samuels & DCT)
Black Label are Red Lightning’s boys. They’re the heels. The other side are the babyfaces, or rather ICW wrestlers brought together by a common enemy, and are all wearing yellow in support of Mark Dallas. Sha gets puts out very quickly. Kid Fite follows quickly. This is one of the most WWE Attitude Era matches you’ll see in modern wrestling. It’s all dated styles and awful looking punches. Grado looks absolutely dreadful in this match. Remember a year ago where it was all about Grado? That match with Drew was tremendous but it’s evident here that Grado doesn’t have that same atmosphere about him 12 months later. Bram puts DCT out. Grado gets rid of Bram, who stinks up every match he’s involved in. Grado gets dumped and Renfrew is left as the sole hope of Team ICW. Wee Boot helps Renfrew deck Jester with the Stunner. That leaves it as Renfrew vs. Galloway and whoever wins gets control of the company. Red Lightning drags the referee out so Mark Dallas can jump in there for a catfight. Galloway boots him in the face, in an attempt to save the match by himself. Renfrew lets his hand drop three times and the match should be over but it’s another f*ck up. So Dallas has to get in there and Finn Balor runs down. Jester then turns face and Renfrew takes advantage of Balor hitting Drew and the Stunner finishes. What a load of convoluted bullshit. The booking here reeks of mimicking ECW. The attempt at layered stuff is actually quite nice but the execution is so clumsy and nobody hit their marks in this. It just felt awkward and fell flat. However the fans in the arena exploded for all the big stuff, especially at the finish. Maybe I’m just a bit too jaded for this sort of thing but it did nothing for me. Galloway was great, everything else was bad.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Post Match: Mark Dallas fires Red Lightning. It’s the end of a very long storyline. It’s emotionally satisfying for that reason, and the crowd are totally into it, but the match was really bad.

 

Kurt Angle vs. Joe Coffey
This has to deliver after a lacklustre card. If they want Kurt to wrestle a long match they’re in trouble. Although a glance at the clock reveals we only have 20 minutes until the curfew. Angle would have been a terrific draw for ICW…if Kurt hadn’t been booked in the UK for Rev Pro and WCPW already this year. Plus he goes on after a disappointing card and immediately gets covered in Joe’s blue body paint. The match doesn’t work like Angle’s other UK dates as it’s slow and methodical. Kurt brings the same bad punches that littered the last match. Joe knows he needs to stand out here and look better than the average wrestler on this card. So he’s flying off the top and running up the ropes. However he struggles again when it comes to a power spot and can’t hold a bridge on a German suplex. Angle runs through all his usual stuff and Coffey can hang with him on most of it. Angle then taps out to a Boston crab in one of the most bizarre occurrences you’ll see all year.
Final Rating: ***

 

Summary: The biggest UK show in 30 years. A crowd of over 6000 fans. You’d think these things alone would guarantee something memorable. What ICW delivered was a mediocre show with sub par wrestling and the focus firmly on three former WWE wrestlers and the worst Scotland has to offer. The good will of one year ago, where Galloway vs. Grado lit up Glasgow and made ICW the envy of Brit Wres, is all but gone. This is not a show that other UK promoters will be pleased with the existence of. ICW cater to a certain type of fan and if that kind of fan is in the majority then that’s bad news for British wrestling. All the great British promotions run better shows than this on their bad days. It boggles the mind to think this is a WrestleMania-esque showing from Britain’s biggest promotion. It’s not so much the storylines that bothered me but the simple failures up and down the card to make things relevant (KLR getting put over huge as the companies best women’s wrestler, then she runs in as a heel in the next match etc) and the poor standard of in-ring.
Verdict: 45

Raw Rating Bounces Back

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After two weeks of consecutive record low ratings, Raw bounced back on Monday with its highest viewership number since April.

Credit goes to the interest coming off the pay-per-view Extreme Rules, in which Samoa Joe won a five-way match to become the new number one contender for the Universal Championship. The first hour number of 3.11 million suggests that there was a lot of interest in how WWE would follow up from the night before.

That WWE retained the number for the second hour shows that fans were invested in what they were seeing. With Samoa Joe’s segment with Paul Heyman coming in the second hour, it seems that the fresh Joe-Lesnar match-up being hyped was what kept the audience.

After dropping almost 20% from last year’s numbers over the past two weeks, Raw this week was down only 7.8% from this time in 2016, the 7th lowest drop of the year. WWE will be hoping they can sustain the momentum over the next four weeks in the build-up to the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view.

Quick Cuts: Monday Night Raw (05/29/17)

This week’s episode of Raw was a mixed bag, with two strong television matches counterbalanced by one of the worst segments of the year.

After the obligatory show-opening talking segment to set up a throwaway, feud-combining multi-man (in this case Miz-Ambrose and Hardys-Sheamus & Cesaro), we were given the first chapter in an unfolding mystery. Announcer Corey Graves sh*t-stirred with GM Kurt Angle by showing him a text message which called the Olympic Hero, “A disgrace and embarrassment to the WWE and besmirched (WWE love that word) his reputation as a gold medalist.” The full contents of the message were not revealed, however, though evidently there was more to it as Angle said that if true it could ruin him. It’s been a while since WWE did a good old episodic whodunit, and having an intriguing thread running through a few weeks of television should lead to at least a degree of spirited online speculation as to where the angle is going next. Chances are it could result in a return to the ring for Angle, though one expects WWE might prefer to save that for WrestleMania, unless those low recent ratings really are starting to concern them.

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Elias Samson took us back in time to 1995 with both his pre-match concert (stirring up memories of Man Mountain Rock, albeit without the amazing logo guitar that MMR used to have) and his quick destruction of jobber Zac Evans. One can only assume that Samson is being built for an eventual WrestleMania showdown with SmackDown Live’s own musical maestro Aiden English… Perhaps not.

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One of two excellent matches on the show took place next as Samoa Joe defeated Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor in an excellent three-way match, designed to build up to the Universal Title number one contenders match at Extreme Rules. If you apply WWE’s formulaic booking logic then Joe’s win removes any chance of him winning on Sunday’s pay-per-view. The match was very good, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would have been stronger had Wyatt pulled up his rocking chair at ringside and observed rather than competed. As decent as he is in the ring, he simply cannot hold a candle to Joe and Balor.

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On Sunday, WWE will presents a mixed tag match featuring the odd pairing of Sasha Banks and Rich Swann (who appear to have been thrown together because they both enjoy a spot of dancing) against Noam Dar and his main squeeze Alicia Fooooooox. The prospect of this bout is sure to cause headaches for WWE’s ring crew when they try to work out what colour ropes to put around the ring. With the cruiserweights competing convention dictates they be purple, but the women’s involvement throws a spanner in those works. Maybe they will go half and half. To set up the match Swann defeated Dar, practically ensuring that Dar and Fox will emerge victorious at the weekend.

In a brief segment, The Revival denied all knowledge of having attacked the glass-jawed Enzo Amore last week, even after being presented with footage showing them hastily departing the scene of the crime. For the second time in the night Corey Graves stuck his nose in, implying that Enzo’s partner Big Cass had done the deed, an opinion he quickly backed down from when Cass came out to confront him. Later in the night, Enzo was attacked again. The plot thickens! This, and the Angle mystery, both signify a small change in ethos from WWE’s usually-prosaic writers. For years every “angle” on Raw has been drab and uninspired, usually seeing two parties fighting for the sake of it, with no semblance of storyline progression to further the issue. This is a much-needed step in the right direction; long may it continue. My front-runners for who committed the attack are the Hardy Boyz, Corey Graves himself, and The Fashion Police (teaching Enzo a lesson for his terrible fashion sense). This being WWE, it will be who we all thought it was in the first place: The Revival.

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After a worthless Titus O’Neil squash win over the unbearable Kalisto, we were given a segment which smacked of desperation from WWE: Alexa Bliss presenting This Is Your Life – Bayley. As everyone knows, WWE champions a This Is Your Life segment with The Rock and Mick Foley in 1999 as its highest rated segment on Raw ever (it wasn’t, the highest was a WWF Title match between The Undertaker and Steve Austin), and with ratings down this seemed like a futile attempt to recapture that elusive lighting in a bottle. Unfortunately, the skit failed on every level. Bliss is usually one of the star performers on the show but the material she was given to work with here was WWE’s badly-scripted verbiage at its unflattering worst. Bliss struggled through the lame attempts at comedy as she mocked Bayley for among other things still playing with dolls and for winning a trophy for “sportsmanship”, all of which felt forced and fell incredibly flat. The introduction of characters purportedly from Bayley’s past dragged things down further. The acting from the presumably trained professionals was some of the worst ever seen on WWE TV, which is saying something. After what seemed like half an hour of being insulted by Bliss, Bayley finally came out to defend herself… then got her ass kicked again by the Raw Women’s Champion. What a mess WWE has made of the Bayley character, who at one point looked set to be this generation’s female role-model for the masses. Bayley will almost certainly retrieve the weaponry first in their Kendo Stick On A Pole showdown at Extreme Rules in order to exact her revenge, though I see absolutely no reason why WWE would take the title off Bliss at this stage.

In the second callback to 1995 of the evening, Goldust continued with his retro Hollywood act, making vague threats from his director’s chair towards former tag partner R-Truth. In response, Truth interrupted the vignette with one of his own, playing Goldust at his own game by quoting Pulp Fiction. This was the most tolerable Truth has been in months, perhaps years. Rather than goofy, he came across like something approaching a bad ass. Goldust going back to the glory days of his character is a definite positive too. Maybe this feud won’t be so bad after all.

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In the main event, former Shield partners Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins went at it full tilt in a pay-per-view quality match. The pair have great chemistry and assembled a spirited battle that fans were fully invested in. The result – Reigns over clean with a spear – like the three-way earlier, perhaps telegraphs the result of the Extreme Rules main event. Reigns is not going to face Lesnar at Great Balls Of Fire – WWE are saving that showdown for WrestleMania – so they gave him a win here to keep him ticking over. If we once again apply WWE logic then Rollins came out of Raw weaker than the other likely winner, Finn Balor, in the sense that he was pinned whereas Balor was simply out of the ring when Joe won the three-way. In other words, put your money on Rollins in the five-way on Sunday.

Overall this was a much better episode of Raw than in recent weeks, with strong matches and intriguing storyline progression throughout. It’s just a shame it was dragged down by that horrific segment.

WrestleMania XIX

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James Dixon: Coming two years after WWE engulfed the industry and signed up all of its top talent, 2003 sees the company with one of the strongest rosters it has ever had at its disposal. It’s an eclectic mix, with veterans and legends from the past sharing the spotlight with modern day super-workers, built smaller but able to move around much quicker and with more intensity. Unfortunately it was also around this time that some of the booking became really baffling, and at times detrimental to the product. Y’know, like Triple H fucking a corpse on live TV. For that you can thank the fruit of Vince’s loins, one Stephanie McMahon. The period is somewhat undefined too, caught in the fallout of the Attitude Era’s demise, but not yet in the Ruthless Aggression era that saw the debuts of future main eventers like John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.

The staging for WrestleMania XIX is somewhat unique. Coming from Safeco Field in Seattle, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, the aisle is forced to curve (a galling sight for anyone used to Reality Era WWE, where every set is a Raw facsimile with a ramp to the ring and little to distinguish it) and the seating is all over the place, rather than in set, defined, cubic tiers. It looks good, certainly unique and vast, but is ruined by the open-air setting. Like all outdoor shows, the majority of the sound is lost to the heavens and thus the matches tend to come across as far less heated than the visible animated and excited crowd reaction suggest. It’s a shame, but is an issue that blights most stadium wrestling events.

Armageddon 2000

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James Dixon: This entire show is built around one single match, but what a mouth-watering prospect it is: Hell in a Cell featuring an incredible SIX guys. All of the big hitters in the company are involved, and Rikishi, as the WWF looks to up the ante for violence even further than ever before. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler host, and we open with commissioner Mick Foley’s promise earlier today on Heat that he would resign from his position if anyone was seriously injured in tonight’s main event.

 

Survivor Series 2000

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Arnold Furious: For all my praise of 2000, and the booking, it does suffer from a sour aftertaste where the storylines went somewhat off the rails toward year’s end. This is mainly because of a change in creative where the outgoing Chris Kreski, blaming stress and overwork, was replaced by in-house ideas person Stephanie McMahon. While I’m writing this I can actually hear your collective groan while reading it in the future. That’s how powerful it is, people. Steph’s ideas mostly circulated around love triangles and world famous wrestlers being infatuated with her and her family. The booking on this show is so irritating it may be a rough ride for both me, the viewer, and you, the reader, as we both have to tolerate a series of half-baked ideas and booking disasters. Oh, and Triple H is the centre of the wrestling universe. But you knew that already.

 

We’re in Tampa, Florida. The opening PPV plug, normally a collection of snippets, promos and shills, is a Triple H promo and that’s it. That about sums up Steph’s creative focus. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

Rebellion 2000

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Arnold Furious: With these UK-exclusive PPVs the WWF essentially filmed a glorified house show and then charged Sky Box Office customers cash for it, while UK viewers were getting the major US shows for free. They did this over and over again. The only good thing about these shows is that they provide an interesting snapshot of a certain time. This one happens to fall in between Survivor Series 2000, where Steve Austin got a measure of revenge on Triple H for the hit and run attack the year prior, and Armageddon 2000, where all the WWF’s top tier guys fought in a Hell in a Cell for the WWF Title, with the title becoming more important than Austin’s need for revenge. According to the back cover of Rebellion 2000 it “set the stage for Armageddon 2000”. The only way that can be is if Undertaker vs. Chris Benoit on this show was considered a “decider” as to who would join the six-man main event at the show. The other four competitors, plus HHH, were the same guys in the main event here.

 

We’re in Sheffield, England. Hosts are Jim Ross and Tazz. Video Control takes us backstage to see Mick Foley and Debra arrive via black cab. The crowd is incredibly hot and greet us with a sea of signs.

Insurrextion 2000

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Arnold Furious: Normally when writing these books I deliberately do everything in order. It’s not because I have OCD or anything but I like to reference myself and earlier events. It helps me to mentally catalogue the history of wrestling. When I do stuff out of order, I frequently find myself referencing future events, which I don’t like doing. So when I deliberately skipped over Insurrextion 2000 when I was doing my 2000 quota for this book it wasn’t an easy decision to make. I feel that UK PPVs are hard to watch when lined up against the American equivalent from a month, or even a week, beforehand. The quality of wrestling never matches up and it’ll always feel like a lightweight version of a proper American PPV. So I skipped Insurrextion and decided to watch it as a standalone show, with no real frame of reference for how good things are compared to the shows around this one. I’m hoping it’ll be a more rewarding experience, seeing as 2000 had lots of great wrestling and great shows. Instead of feeling like a subpar 2000 show, it should just feel like a good show. If that makes sense.

 

The card for this show is one of the most loaded cards you’ll see on a UK-only PPV too. You’ve got Angle-Benoit, Guerrero-Jericho, Hardys-E&C and the main event is Rock vs. HHH (& Shane). We’re in London, England. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

No Mercy 2000

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Lee Maughan: From the Pepsi Arena in Albany, New York (the same building incidentally that hosted the 1992 Royal Rumble, and 2006’s New Year’s Revolution.) Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

 

The Dudley Boyz Tag Team Elimination Table Invitational
This is tornado rules with two teams in the ring at a time, and a new team enters when one team is eliminated by having a member of that team put through a table. Imagine sort of a Royal Rumble/Survivor Series hybrid. Too Cool are team #1, a pair of hip hop white guys, dancing down the aisle to some techno pop tune, table underarm like some sanitised Saturday morning cartoon incarnation of Public Enemy. They’re followed at #2 by a duo making their collective debut on a WWF pay-per-view (although they were actually teammates at last November’s Survivor Series), the thrown together Lo Down of D’Lo Brown and Chaz. The plain tracksuit bottoms they sport are incredibly lifeless, giving the team a distinctly jobberish look, and the lack of a singlet for D’Lo really exemplifies why he wore one for almost the entirety of his career. Not a good look for him at all. Unfortunately, this first “mini-match” of sorts has absolutely nothing going for it, then Chaz gets shoved off the top on a superplex attempt as D’Lo simultaneously misses a frog splash, both crashing through tables, and that’s it for them. Thanks for coming, guys.

Team #3 are Tazz and Raven, disappointingly enough. I say disappointingly because if you’ll recall, Raven only debuted in the WWF last month at Unforgiven, and already he’s been placed in a thrown-together team with Tazz, a guy who’s hardly been on a roll himself having just come off an announcer’s feud with Jerry Lawler, the team being presented as also rans in a throwaway gimmick match opener. Furthermore, Raven is already being systematically stripped of his identity, appearing here in a plain black t-shirt rather than a cool band shirt, and his jean shorts aren’t as ripped and tatty as they usually are. Before long, he’d be coming to the ring not to the suitably disaffected punk and grunge tunes that accompanied his ECW and WCW runs, but a Jim Johnston generic rock chugger complete with actual raven calls, and he was soon sporting a clean white shirt and black leather shorts like some kind of Bizarro World Raven. What a criminal misuse of talent that would prove to be, though according to Raven himself in a shoot interview years later, he had been told by a writer that Vince’s first words at one booking meeting upon hearing the news of his signing were “Who the fuck hired Raven!?” Jim Ross was the responsible party, by the way. The only reason I can find for Raven to have even been paired up with Tazz at this point is that they both had a connection to ECW, although they actually crossed paths very rarely in the land of Extreme. Still, as we’re in New York tonight and as either of these guys alone have more personality than D’Lo and Chaz combined, this portion of the match garners a much bigger reaction than the last, and is infinitely more interesting. The crowd also get more into it as Too Cool start breaking out their signature stuff, in particular Scotty 2 Hotty doing the Worm under a table, and a surprisingly vibrant “You fucked up!” chants kicks up when Grandmaster Sexay tries a sunset powerbomb to the floor, only to smash a ringside table to pieces with his feet. That Scotty eats a double superplex through a table moments later suggests they could have just gone home early or called an audible and explained that both members of the team needed to go through tables to be eliminated (especially in light of the fact that both members of Lo Down had suffered the same fate), but JR blathers around in an attempt to conjure up an explanation before settling somewhere along the lines of “it was an accident, so it doesn’t count”. So take note, footballers; Next time you score an own goal, just protest that it was only an accident and the boffins at FIFA will no doubt have your transgression stricken from the record!

The crowd absolutely explode with the arrival of team #4, the Dudley Boyz themselves in case you couldn’t guess, and that gets the “ECW!” chants going. Tazz quickly takes a Bubba Bomb and Raven is the lucky recipient of tonight’s Wazzup Drop, before Tazz makes a minor comeback with a T-Bone Tazzplex. “Minor” is certainly the key word there as the Dudleys immediately take back over, and D-Von puts Tazz through a table with a Dudleyville Jam. Our final team are of course Right to Censor, here represented by Bull Buchanan and the Goodfather. Bull wipes out the referee with a lariat, which given its accidental nature shouldn’t count, according to JR law, which should immediately tip you off to the finish. And indeed, Bubba Ray powerbombs Bull through the table, but Goodfather smashes Bubba in the head with a steel chair and lays him amidst the wreckage, dragging Bull out just in time for the referee to revive and call it for RTC. A second referee quickly arrives, explains the situation, and a quickie restart sees Goodfather go through a table courtesy of a 3D for the real finish. Taken as a series of individual matches as some may view them, these were all fairly sub-SmackDown! standard TV throwaways, but when viewed as a single narrative, which is the way the whole thing was actually booked, it’s not bad. No one segment particularly outstays its welcome, the shortness of some of the individual bouts is a help rather than a hindrance owing to the structure of the piece, and the whole thing builds in an increasingly exciting manner. Too Cool save their best spots for their second match, then the guys more associated with hardcore get involved, then comes the team the match was designed for, before it all ends with the big showdown against the annoying heel group, complete with a silly Dusty finish to keep RTC somewhat strong, whilst still giving the crowd what they want. I can’t really complain about any of that.
Final Rating: **½

 

– Out in the parking lot, Rikishi waits on the arrival of Steve Austin whilst slowly stroking his giant tool. It’s a sledgehammer. If you’ve ever heard the term “sledgehammer of plot”, this is the most literal interpretation of it. If you’ll recall when Austin returned at Unforgiven last month, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley presented him with his baseball cap from the night he was run over, and now Rikishi is walking around carrying the signature weapon of Triple H. Hmm, I wonder who could really have been behind that hit and run assault?

– Elsewhere, Trish, Test and Albert plan to let the tits fall where they may, which is the same strategy I employed the last time I got dragged along to the Little Black Book lap dancing club for a mate’s stag party.

Unforgiven 2000

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Lee Maughan: From the First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

 

Right to Censor vs. The Dudley Boyz & The APA
Very basic eight-man here as everyone bar Steven Richards takes a brief turn on offence before the heels get the heat on D-Von, which is about as thrilling as it sounds when you consider that the RTC squad is basically just made up of guys who never really caught on either as workers or personalities in their previous gimmicks (the Godfather for example was extremely  over but pretty much sucked in the ring, while Val Venis’ big push over the summer as a serious wrestler saw him go absolutely nowhere, even with Trish Stratus by his side and the Intercontinental Title around his waist). In all fairness, you’d hardly waste useable talent on such a limited gimmick that exists entirely to grind Vince McMahon’s axe, when lukewarm bodies will do.

Inevitably, it all breaks down into a big eight-man brawl until Richards pops in from behind and levels Bubba with the Stevenkick, giving Val the pin. Annoyingly, the Dudleys and the Acolytes then get all their heat back by killing Richards, polishing him off with a superbomb through a table, thus negating the story of the match entirely, that being everyone wanting to get their hands on him and him being too cowardly to get in the ring. What a pointless way to blow your load so quickly on Richards getting his comeuppance, which is what you’d expect the ultimate payoff to the whole RTC thing to have been.
Final Rating: