Monday, 5 April 2004

29th March-4th April 2004

Monday, 29th March, 2004;
Once again the Sky Electronic Programme Guide fouls up. At 6pm, the Shawn Michaels shoot interview which was advertised isn't shown. Instead, we get another showing of the Jake Roberts interview.

So it's off to get my regular dose of Star Trek before I get my weekly dose of Lucha Libre action, via the CMLL promotion. The show was as entertaining as always, and I'm finally getting a grasp on the Mexican rules. But while watching the show something dawned on me, that in a way, CMLL is quite similar to Ring of Honor, as far as the action goes, that is.

But then again, while much of the American wrestling scene is grounded in real-life situations these days, the Mexican scene helps you suspend your disbelief, with an array of colourful characters.

One of the main complaints about CMLL on the TWC fan forum has been about the crowd, and their use of loud horns. Personally, I think the Mexican crowds are great. It's one of the things that makes the Mexican action so great. Just ask Jeff Jarrett, who apparently had to be escorted from a recent Mexican show because of the crowd's hatred towards him.

Ah well, at least the crowd wasn't full of "marcas elegantes" shouting "¡usted cogiĆ³ para arriba!" (With thanks to the Babel Fish translator for helping me out here!)

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004;
Shoot Interview day on The Wrestling Channel. After everyone thought that it would be the Shawn Michaels interview that was shown, I was a little surprised when I switched over about 11 o'clock to find the Bret Hart interview instead.

I've given "The Hitman" a bit of stick down the years, even though he is among my all-time favourite wrestlers. It was mainly because whenever I read something about him either in the wrestling press or on the Internet, he always seemed to be complaining about what happened in Montreal in 1997.

Although what I saw of the interview covered this in great depth, I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for Bret. Considering what he and his family have been through in the past few years, you have to admire the courage of the man, and it's a shame that a few mistimed moves from Bill Goldberg ended his career.

And I also have to agree with Bret's view of the current wrestling scene. Comparing it to ballet at times seemed very fitting.

Later in the evening it was back to another dose of late-night British action, once again topped off by another excellent bout between Mark "Rollerball" Rocco and the Dynamite Kid. This bout was better than the one that was shown last week. It was action packed from the first bell, and it left you wanting a whole lot more.

We also had a tag-team match featuring Ross & Owen Hart against Fit Finlay and Rocky Moran, and a very youthful William Regal, here billed as Roy Regal, in a hard-hitting match against Marty Jones. Seeing Regal this young, and this good, made one wonder just how he became the bumbling buffoon we saw during his last run with the WWE before illness struck him down.

One thing about the old World of Sport shows has left me a little concerned though. It seems that all of the action is centred on British stars who have had some success in America, stars whom some of the younger fans in this country would be more than familiar with, stars like Dynamite, Finlay and Regal. I really do hope that they show matches featuring wrestlers who aren't as well known as they were way back then, stars like King Ben, Danny Collins, and Kid McCoy.

In between the Bret shoot interview and the British action, I managed to catch a little of the 3PW action. I wish I hadn't. If anything, it was far worse than last week. Still presented by the two Internet nerds, they only provided filler material this week. There was absolutely no commentary on any of the matches I saw, which detracted from the actual in-ring action.

A few years ago I remember reading an interview with Jim Ross. Good old JR said that the announcer's job was to not only tell the viewer what was going on in the ring, but to bring them into the action, to make them part of the match itself. This is one of the reasons I'm finding it difficult to connect to 3PW.

I also find it very interesting that before the channel began, we were told that programmes had to be up to a certain standard before they could ever get onto the channel. If this is the case, why is 3PW allowed on this channel? The camera work is okay, but everything else about this show is a let down. It is definitely not up to the standards set by other companies. I'm left wondering why the channel doesn't just dump 3PW and show Irish Whip Wrestling instead. From what I saw of the test transmissions on Friendly TV, the production quality was far higher.

It would be interesting to see the viewing figures for the channel in a few weeks, and to see if other people share a similar view with regards to this. I get the feeling that 3PW will become the show with the lowest viewing figures on the channel. It's the one thing on The Wrestling Channel that I feel really let down about right now.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004;
I've been laid low by a mystery stomach bug today, which also includes some trapped wind and a small case of heartburn, so as you can probably imagine, I don't feel much like writing, let alone watching wrestling.

But I did drag myself out of my sick bed to catch the final thirty minutes or so of the TNA show. I hadn't expected much of the main event pitting Dusty Rhodes against A.J. Styles for the NWA title, but the match surprised me. Dusty sold as if his life depended on it, and although he can't do most of what he used to in his prime, he was still capable of putting Styles over big time. Certain other wrestlers could learn a lot from the Dream.

America's Most Wanted continue to impress me. The tag-team situation in the wrestling world is a funny thing at the moment. While it flounders in the WWE, the Indy scene seems to have a few great teams coming through, with AMW being one of the most promising.

Thursday, April 1st, 2004;
Well, I'm feeling better than I did yesterday, but with the latest edition of the WAW Magazine to get out, I find that my time in front of the hold goggle box is somewhat limited.

I do manage to catch the old classics show on Sky Sports. I'm drawn to it because of one man - Cactus Jack. Mrs. Foley's baby boy is main eventing the show this week, going up against Van Hammer.

It's an interesting contrast of styles here, and an interesting look back. WCW pushed Van Hammer to the moon and back, and the fans just didn't take to him. Compare him to his opponent on the show, Cactus Jack, and consider that WCW could have pushed him, but basically did nothing with him. Now which one of these two men will be remembered in five or ten years as a true wrestling legend?

The Dangerous Alliance is also starting to hit it's stride here. Arn Anderson is no longer paired with Larry Zybyszko, and is now teaming with Bobby Eaton. This combination of two tag-team legends was an interesting one. With hardly any flashy, high-spot moves, Anderson & Eaton proved to be a winning combination. Both men were capable of teaming with anyone else and of making that team great. Putting them together was a masterstroke by WCW, but like many other things connected with that company, it didn't last as long as it should have. I think we can blame Bill Watts for this one.

It was also a little strange seeing Eric Bischoff interviewing Paul Heyman, considering what we saw on Raw not that long ago.

Friday, April 2nd, 2004;
Could I be that I was wrong about this one?

I watched the 3PW show, and I have to admit I actually quite liked it. The commentary had improved no-end, and it covered the entire show. And the match quality wasn't that bad either.

First entertaining bout of the show featured die-hards Kevin Sullivan and Abdullah The Butcher carving each other into pieces with various sharp implements. Neither of these old guys will win awards for the best technical wrestler in the world, but this was still damn entertaining, even though we had run-ins from Sabu and Sean whatever-his-name-is-week Waltman.

Then Sabu and Waltman gave us a hell of a one-on-one encounter. Like many people, when Waltman was in the WWE I got taken along with the whole "X-Pac sucks" thing, without realising just what a good worker he was. It seems that like many others before him, his work since he left the WWE improved a great deal. This match was well worth watching.

So overall, has 3PW improved? Perhaps, but the book is still out on this one.

After the 3PW show, I began to mourn the loss of the dual spin bowling attack in the world of cricket, as the test match between the Windies and England overran, meaning Raw was on nearly an hour later than advertised. I really miss the days when the majority of teams wouldn't pack their bowling attacks with fast bowlers. A team could pack in more overs-per-hour when there was a couple of specialist spinners on show.

Mind you, this is just another sign of how highly the Sky programme schedulers rate the WWE product. Will they ever learn? It seems that after fifteen years they haven't.

So as Raw begins an hour later than originally advertised, for the first time in ages I'm really, really looking forward to the show. Last week's draft was played to perfection, and I was looking forward to seeing how the show's new recruits handled their new surroundings.

This was probably the second best Raw in ages, highlighted by a great main event pitting Triple H against Raw newcomer Shelton Benjamin, possibly one of the best Raw matches this year. It had it all, a great story line, some great psychology, and some great in-ring action, with an ending that nobody was expecting. You know, there's a lot to be said for not reading the Raw and Smackdown spoilers each week. It makes for a far more enjoyable experience.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2004;
Family commitments meant I had to miss the afternoon showings of the old World of Sport shows, so the first taste of weekend wrestling action came with Smackdown. This was the first time in weeks I'd been able to catch a full Smackdown show, and much like it's Raw sister, this was also an enjoyable show. The whole draft lottery story line has been a boon for the entire WWE. It's rejuvenated quite a few wrestlers, especially one John Bradshaw Layfield.

Some have said that Bradshaw is the Million Dollar Man of the 21st century. For me, it's a gimmick in an era where gimmicks seem to be sadly lacking. Many of today's professional wrestlers seem to be cut from the same mould. It's hard to tell some of them apart at times. But the transition of Bradshaw from beer-drinking brawler to a form of, well, for want of a better term, cerebral assassin, is a turn for the better as far as I'm concerned. This Bradshaw fan is looking forward to see what happens next.

That night I caught the ten o'clock World of Sport showing. After some great outings in previous weeks, this was very much a mixed bag, and left me very disappointed.

Kendo Nagasaki is a legend of the British wrestling industry, but the two matches shown here were hardly a good example of the man and the myth in his prime. The first match, in which he teamed with his manager Gorgeous George against Steve Logan and Mick McManus was okay, but at the time it was obvious that most of the fans in attendance and the people watching at home were only watching this match to see the cowardly match get his ass kicked.

The second match was just awful. Held in Peter Stingfellow's night-club, it was from one of the first shows that was broadcast after World of Sport was cancelled. It pitted Nagasaki in a ladder match against "Iron Fist" Clive Myers. As a fan of martial arts films, I was also a fan of Myers, and in his day he was one of Britain's finest grapplers.

But this match was just plain awful. While the action was okay, the presentation was just plain pants. It was billed as a "Disco Challenge", and as Nagasaki and Myers pounded each other in and out of the ring, some bright spark had the idea to play music and have the night-club's disco lights put on a shop that only succeeded in detracting from the wrestling action. Poor old Kent Walton was left dumbstruck, and you have to wonder what the poor guy thought when he was told he couldn't do his job because Brian Dixon and Peter Stringfellow wanted music blaring out instead. This was a fine example of why, at a time when the WWF product was becoming more known to British wrestling fans, British wrestling went downhill to the point where it was pulled from British television.

The programme was only saved by the final bout pitting Jim Breaks against Jackie Turpin. Breaks is one of those larger-than-life characters I remember from the good old days, a classic British heel who always looked for the shortcut that would get him the upper hand, and who would moan like hell when things didn't go his way. Fought under a fifteen minute time limit, this was a great example of British wrestling at it's finest, a great way to end what was a disappointing show.

Sunday, April 4th; 2004;
Today has inadvertently become Japanese day as far as my wrestling viewing is concerned. This afternoon I manage to catch the repeat of the weekly New Japan show. For me, the highlight of the show was a match between Tiger Mask and American Dragon. The Dragon continues to impress me whenever I see him, and given the fact that he appears to be wrestling on almost every show on TWC, I'm seeing him a great deal.

I also had the chance to see someone I hadn't seen since his disastrous Brawl For All bout with Butterbean a few years back, Bart Gunn, now using his real name, Mike Barton. For me, the guy is just as talented as his former partner Billy Gunn, but most British fans will remember him for the aforementioned encounter with a professional boxer.

This show was great preparation for Supercard Sunday, which featured the main bouts from the New Japan shows "The Spiral" from 2002 and "Ultimate Crush II" from 2003. It gave me the opportunity to catch up with a few old friends, as it were.

The Spiral featured the much-hyped bout between Masa Chono and the artist formerly known as Chyna, Joanie Laurer. This was probably the best Joanie Laurer match I've seen in a while. TO be honest, it's the only Joanie Laurer match I've seen in a while. Probably the best thing about it was Laurer's entrance. I have to admit it was better than some of her latter WWF efforts, but it's not hard to see why the creatives didn't consider her main event material.

Ultimate Crush II featured the return to Japanese shores of Hulk Hogan, as he went up against Chono. In nearly twenty minutes of action, Hogan showed that he still had what it takes to put on a good match. Years may have slowed him down a little, but I have to admit it was good to see the old-timer again.

Of course, the press conference was the set-up for the proposed TNA feud with Jeff Jarrett, a feud that for various reasons never took place. Would Hogan have fitted in TNA? It would have been interesting to see him there.

The card also included a couple of MMA matches, including an appearance from UFC regular Josh Barnett. I'm becoming more and more of an MMA fan as time goes on, and these matches remind me that I've now got three recent UFC events to watch.

Some of you are probably saying that I've failed to mention Japan's current favourite American, The Beast, Bob Sapp. There's a reason for this.

I first saw Bob Sapp last year on a K-1 show broadcast by Eurosport, in which he was demolished in short order by the Pro Wrestler Hunter, Mirko Cro Cop. I wasn't impressed by him then, and after watching two of his professional wrestling matches tonight, I'm still not.

I really can't see why the fans are going wild for this guy. Sure, he's big, powerful, and strong, and has tons of charisma, but as far as basic wrestling skills are concerned he is definitely lacking. It seems that whatever move he performs, and there are very few moves he does perform, immediately afterwards he extends his arms and gloats, and after a while, this act gets a little boring.

Everywhere I go I keep hearing how Sapp would go down a storm in the WWE. If I was in charge of talent recruitment I wouldn't touch him with a barge pole at the moment. This is going to offend quite a few people, but frankly, he's just not that good. He's just another big man who uses his size to push smaller guys about. He is nothing special, and I really can't see what all the fuss is about.

Highlight of the week - once again, it goes to the classic British wrestling action featuring Rollerball Rocco against the Dynamite Kid. Lowlight of the week - the "Disco Challenge" between Kendo Nagasaki and Clive Myers. What was Brian Dixon thinking off?