WWE Raw Review March 24th 2014

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  • After the brilliant opening promo last week, I wonder if they let the trainee writing team loose on it this week? The problem here is the lack of Bryan, although I completely agree with the idea of limiting his screen time before ‘Mania. But what is Dave even trying to say about Steph being “drooled on”? Is that a sexual practice of some kind? I’m a full grown adult (sadly) and have no idea what he’s talking about. No, don’t nudge nuge wink wink me Dave, I just don’t know what you mean.
  • WWE, every time you skip a wrestler intro a baby seal dies.
  • It looks to me like this fatal four way was maybe not rehearsed too much. It also should have been promoted as a bigger deal. The Brooklyn crowd are so predictably behind Dolph it’s quite funny. Christian’s win is of course the result nobody wanted. I suppose you could argue he needs it most.
  • There is so much to dislike in the following Sin Cara segment. Sandow’s intro is skipped and he’s squashed in an absurdly brief match. And the damn Sin Cara lighting. What even is that? It looks crap, guys seriously. Terrible segment, and bear in mind I *liked* it when the Scooby Do mascot turned up.
  • Triple H talks a lot of sense in his little interview. As heels of course should. Excellent stuff.
  • Crikey, Joe Manganiello is *tall*. I enjoyed watching the camera angles getting slowly adjusted to camouflage the extent to which he dwarfs Hogan. My calculations tonight put Hogan’s current real-world height at about 6’3″. Hogan seemed much better than usual on the mic, although he was visually wincing when his arms were being held up. There are people on the internet who were convinced he would be working a match at ‘Mania.
  • Big Show seemed to have a tough time getting around tonight, even for him. Sadly his outing with Titus was truly terrible. This was also an absurd match to book. Why have Big Show fight somebody you’re newly pushing as a singles star? Neither competitor is going to be able to perform well, the result is inevitable, and it pointlessly harms the younger wrestler’s credibility.
  • I liked Cena’s more serious, unsmiling entrance tonight. This was an excellent match and Cena deserves credit, just as he did with Cesaro a few weeks ago. I do love a top rope leg drop. This might be the only “let’s go harper” you will ever hear, and he owes that to Cena. Also, Sheep face Cena is gonna scare kids something good, and the crowd make the moment with their “This Is Awesome”. Great segment.
  • Naomi has really improved in the ring. WWE are going to have to let her talk if they want her to get over though. Also, I’m not sure the rules were made clear enough for this Wrestlemania multi-diva match.
  • The Real Americans are just an excellent team, and the Shield bring out the best in them. This would be a great match for Wrestlemania and tonight it sets the crowd on fire. Both of these teams now kind of super-over tweeners. Beautiful.
  • … which makes it even more of a shame that The Shield will be facing Kane and the New Age Outlaws at Wrestlemania. I have no doubt that the match will be good, given the experience and skill of the heel team. But the rushed build means it doesn’t exactly scream must-see-PPV-match.
  • With respect to The Undertaker tonight, it’s funny how just one segment can make you feel a whole gimmick is getting a bit tired. We’ve marbled at Taker’s American Gothic act for decades, but something about it just felt hollow on this show. I wonder if Creative will notice and try some kind of swerve next week?

 

Tonight’s Raw was inconsistent. The show swung from great to awful in a way which pretty much reflects the current WWE. However the crowd added wit and excitement at every turn. The undercard heading into ‘Mania seems rather cobbled together, but at its best it shows the huge potential and talent in WWE, particularly among the younger performers.

TNA Impact Review March 20th 2014

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  • Whether you enjoyed this Impact or not probably depends on how you feel about backstage brawls. I’m not a fan. During the EY / Abyss brawl I noticed the crowd trying to force some storyline progression by chanting “Joseph”. Another neat example of the crowd being a little more imaginative than the bookers. As I’ve said before, the Joseph Park angle now feels like a terrible waste of time.
  • Lashley seems fine in the ring. But if he’s a face and a monster, why didn’t he stop Willow attacking EC3?
  • Heel storm continues to be amazing. The attack on Gunner’s dad managed to look quite shocking, and Gunner senior sold like a pro. This feud continues to be the best thing going in TNA right now, narrowly beating Anderson / Shaw.
  • Lady Tapa appears to have bowed out of TNA with what was definitely her best match. I was fond of her despite her flaws, but I guess you only get so many chances to improve. That said, there’s some injustice here given that Velvet is still every bit as bad as the day she signed, and remains employed.
  • Furthermore, there was probably a better way of reuniting the beautiful people than a series of whiny, interminable promos.
  • Willow’s promos on the other hand are extremely cringeworthy, but infinitely more entertaining than vanilla Hardy.
  • Zema’s Selfie with the X title was a great moment, exactly in character for him and his team.
  • I’m glad to see Knux getting another shot. He revealed himself to be a great talker who was extremely easy to relate to. That’s unusual for a pro wrestler, and this was a good promo which began to deepen his character.
  • Bully explains himself again. Slightly better this time.
  • I hope Abyss is going to pick up those tacks he dropped. That’s quite dangerous.
  • The main event was a quick and sloppy title match. I’ve lost patience with the Joe / Magnus title feud. Time to drop it.
  • Where is Aries?

 

I’m afraid to say I thought this was a fairly boring Impact. It also did a pretty bad rating in the US. The lack of Shaw, Anderson and of course Aries really hurt it. However, the Roode / Bully feud has real potential. Let’s hope this was just an off-week, and the energy and interest will return to the next instalment of these Orlando tapings.

WWE Raw Review March 17th 2014

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  • The opening segment to this week’s Raw is the best promo sequence of any wrestling TV show since the elimination chamber go-home last year. WWE Creative deserve enormous credit for transforming the Batista disaster into a title angle with four interesting, truly three-dimensional characters. It’s like a truth and reconciliation segment. Acknowledging the fans (and reality) always seems to lead to pro wrestling at its best. Guaranteeing a triple threat at Wrestlemania makes the title match work whether Bryan or HHH win. The characterisation is just fantastic, as it tends to be when the writer’s backs are against the wall. Maybe make it an elimination match? That would be the icing on the cake.
  • Nice to see the Real Americans getting a win. This is a clever, unpredictable result which adds a little intrigue to the division.
  • WWE Slam City reminds me of the brilliant Kurt / Van Dam Olympics TNA skit a couple of years back.
  • I’m glad to see Cena making a kind of apology for pointlessly burying Wyatt last week. God, the writers are on fire this week. Seriously.
  • Orton is also *great* tonight. His facial expressions; his old-school heelage. His character suits him perfectly right now. The finish to his match with Bryan seems like a sneak preview of what I don’t think will be happening at Wrestlemania.
  • I enjoyed Heyman’s video package. It made me think of something the company might put out themselves, desperately trying to convince us that Taker might lose the tiresome streak.
  • Goldust didn’t look at all happy after his match. No idea why but I hope it doesn’t lead to repercussions backstage for him or Fandango, both of whom are great fun.
  • Kane did a great job of loooking scared of the Shield. To think he’s spent so much of his career under a mask. However if this was a Shield face turn, it fell a little flat.
  • Naomi somehow looks even hotter in her eye patch. Great to see her back.
  • Maybe the final beatdown of Bryan was predictable, but it was fun and necessary. I’m personally a great fan of action between wrestlers with contrasting physiques and styles, and HHH / Bryan has that in spades. Now that there’s an actual point to the match, I suspect it’s going to be the highlight of the card.

 

This was a great Raw featuring a not nearly so great crowd. With the Bryan Problem dealt with, the Wrestlemania card (aside from the terrible Battle Royal idea) is finally building momentum.

TNA Impact Review March 13th 2014

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  • Here we are back in Orlando. I’m not fond of the various “Impact Zones”, but this is actually a good crowd. I guess the energy level has been helped by TNA not filming here for quite a while. MVP in particular gets a great reaction.
  • Abyss’ new attire looks a bit tame; like a friendly superhero. I would really have preferred a little more of Joseph Park in this new Abyss. The year long journey into the world of “Park, Park and Park” doesn’t seem to have amounted to much, and that’s a missed opportunity.
  • Zema Ion is typically brilliant this week, and draws great heat as well as being very funny.
  • I like that Senada seems to have a theme taken directly from a Street Fighter II stage.
  • EC3 takes his crowd trolling to new heights tonight and his segment with Spud is gold. “Beautiful, supple young Ethan” indeed. The video package about Dixie is extremely funny, and reminds me of the legendary Aces & Eights funeral. Sometimes I wonder if TNA do these heel authority angles just for the great payoffs. If you think all this is cheesy and campy – you and I like different things about pro wrestling.
  • I think Shaw’s mannequin might be a step too far. Still, he and Anderson continue to be a match made in heaven. Anderson has really shone over the past couple of months.
  • The Beautiful People reunion is another thing the internet have been demanding from TNA for years and will now immediately decry as a terrible idea.
  • Willow: More shrieking please.

 

There’s fun and momentum to this week’s Impact, despite some very slapdash backstage segments. There was story development up and down the card. A surprisingly strong start to this new set of Orlando tapings.

WWE Raw Review March 10th 2014

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  • Hogan is an upsetting parody of himself and his spiel is horribly corporate and hollow sounding. Say what you want about TNA, but they used him more imaginatively than this. Before Bray turned up I was actually having a hard time watching this segment. You know, I genuinely thought the Cena / Bray match was already announced for Wrestlemania. Anyway, Cena then proceeds to systematically de-mystify a character which WWE have been building for a year. If you want to know if you’re the target audience for modern WWE, watch this segment.
  • With respect to the Andre Memorial Battle Royal: I have never, ever seen a fun or interesting Battle Royal.
  • 3 filler matches this week.
  • Swagger, Cesaro and Zeb are very funny together. They’re also over, despite being heels whom I’m not sure creative had any great plans for.
  • Undertaker must have such a headache from doing that eye-rolling thing every few minutes.
  • Cody Rhodes does a musclebuster. Samoa Joe sys hi.
  • I just realised the great thing about the Shield is that they’re heels who’re allowed to win clean. There’s not enough of that nowadays. TNA in particular need to realise that heels shouldn’t need to cheat to win *every* match.
  • “The Yes Movement” is an awful, horrible phrase, invented by a genuinely huge and uncaring corporation co-opting a real sentiment of dissent.
  • Gosh, is there a German word for getting what you wanted but feeling weirdly underwhelmed by it? Seriously though, credit to WWE for doing what needed to be done. Congratulations! You’ve just added tens of thousands of ‘Mania buys and Network subscriptions. I don’t think for a minute Bryan will win the title, but by at least offering the possibility they’ve dealt with the elephant in the room.
  • I would have preferred the “Yes Movement” segment if not everybody had been wearing the same T-shirt. It Looked a bit weird. Also there’s this nagging feeling that holding the show hostage until you get what you want is kind of a heel-ish thing to do. I’ve read better and more dramatic ways to have Bryan inserted into the main event on forums. It was a pretty massive announcement which should have drawn an insane pop, but the reception was kind of muted.

Bryan’s very own “Option C” does actually change the complexion of the ‘Mania card quite a lot. Suddenly you have the crowd massively invested in the Bryan / Trips match, which I would argue they weren’t before. Also if Bryan wins, you have a title match which could actually close the show, whereas before it was going to have to be bumped. Plus you have the fun possibility of Bryan losing to Trips and a very shocked, hostile crowd, which would be chaotic, car-crash-TV sort of fun. So actually, this one change really has made the Wrestlemania card a lot more intriguing.

TNA Lockdown Review March 9th 2014

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  • Welcome to TNA chaos! House show title changes; international title changes; Matches added to the card; Kurt deleted from the card. Now, I personally like this stuff. I like the idea of a wrestling organisaton as a big complicated travelling circus where anything can happen, on or off camera. The only thing I would change is the failure to capitalise on the Wrestle-1 collaboration. Muta is a big star, and his presence at the PPV should have been at least mentioned on previous Impacts; he’s definitely worth a few buys. The opening match involving him and Senada is excellent, but it would benefit from being incorporated into a wider story arc.
  • Sam Shaw’s new music is a complete rip off of “Nightcall” from Drive. It’s also brilliant, as is his entrance and the ensuing match. The Anderson / Shaw feud is a great pairing and needs to continue.
  • Gunner and Storm absolutely tear the house down. Heel Storm has a beautifully villainous new look and theme. I loved the super-delayed corner chair bump, the thrown chair and the chair superplex, the latter of which prompts duelling “TNA” and “Holy Shit” chants. This is a great fun, brutal match which fits the look and character of the participants perfectly.
  • What would women’s wrestling do without Gail Kim? From her backbreaker into submission combo to a nasty looking top-turnbuckle neckbreaker, she’s completely amazing here. Aside from a slightly underwhelming spear to finish, this is the best women’s match which has been on TNA or WWE TV so far this year.
  • I’ve got to get something off my chest about Samoa Joe: The guy is not going to win the TNA title right now. I’m not exactly Vince McMahon when it comes to fetishising wrestler’s physiques, but he’s working in a shirt, and that’s not acceptable for a champion.
  • I like that Borash clearly announces the rules for the title match. TNA need to get this basic stuff right more often. The wrestling portion of the match is slightly underwhelming, and to be perfectly honest the crowd are not really buying it. When the arm appears from the canvas, we enter a surreal parallel universe. “This is completely insane” says Taz. Agreed: Awesome and insane. However, the crowd are not happy, at all. I like these type of shenanigans, but I can appreciate the argument that this hokey stuff shouldn’t be polluting your title scene. It also raises questions as to whether Magnus and Joe are really the two guys you should have fighting over your world title right now. I think this was Magnus’ best singles match so far as champion. RIght now I’d say that on the mic he is delivering. In the ring, not so much.
  • We need to have a talk about the Lethal Lockdown format. It’s horrible. For a start, no explanation is given as to how the entry order is decided, so that’s a missed opportunity for some storyline right there. Also, there’s a section where you *can’t win*. Is it really any surprise that the crowd drop off a bit during a part of a match where nothing significant is even allowed to happen? Also, given that the heels always have the man advantage, inevitably the match devolves into a prelonged heel beatdown, which is, again, a known crowd killer. The middle section of this particular Lethal Lockdown is a slow motion montage of The Wolves & Bromans entering one by one, and is almost supernaturally boring. The obvious answer is to turn the whole thing into an elimination match of some kind. This would of course be quite similar to WWE’s Elimination Chamber. But so what? At least it would be entertaining.
  • That said, there are some great spots in this match. The cage dive is a nice debut for Willow, and I enjoy his shrieks. I Could do without the cartoonish “W” on his back. Then there’s a brainbuster onto a chair. You will *never* see that in WWE.

If you use terms like “overbooked” then you probably didn’t like this show. Personally, I enjoyed it very much. The crowd were only average, as seems to have become normal for Lockdown. I guess the all-steel-cage format becomes a little wearing. Nevertheless, this felt like a make or break show for TNA, and the stops were duly pulled. Whether you think every twist and turn was necessary, the end result was anything but dull. For me, tonight was a good example of how TNA can work as a more chaotic, slightly deranged alternative to WWE.

TNA Impact Review March 6th 2014

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  • I found out this week why TNA’s ring is so small. Apparently it’s actually the standard North American ring size. WWE use a larger one because they’re flash bastards.
  • Sam Shaw’s new persona has been excellent at doing the little things right, and he continues here with the conspicuous dunking of his tea bag. He and Anderson are gold together. I also appreciate Shaw’s character-consistent choke-based offence. Their first segment is great. I thought there was no need for the later sequence with the lipstick; the feud is already established with viewers.
  • One thing internet commentators never do is recognise when somebody they don’t like genuinely improves. Well, Lady Tapa’s work this week shows improved offence, although her selling is still suspect. Velvet Sky on the other hand continues to be beyond awful in every respect, and I don’t envy Alpha Female having to work with her. Also, this is basically the same Knockouts match from last week.
  • Storm’s heel persona has even worse dress sense than his face conterpart. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.
  • The Roode / Richards match is typically excellent. There’s great, if basic, psychology at work. In particular I liked Roode’s move sequence leading to the finish, and his context-sensitive choice of crossface as finisher.

I would say the slightly limited roster brought to the UK is wearing thin by this point. I also don’t like it when wrestling shows close with a talking segment. I know it sets up the story for next week, but it feels like an anticlimax. Magnus puts in a good promo, but Joe’s dominance was overplayed, suggesting a little too obviously that we won’t have a new champion at Lockdown.

Life isn’t fair, and despite the creative straightjacket which WWE have booked themselves into, the conflict with the fans is actually making the main event story exciting. TNA on the other hand continues to be booked strongly right down the card, but it’s time for most of these stories to move up a gear. For me this was an average go home show for an enjoyable tour.