Sunday, 1 January 2006

The Two Sheds Review Archives - 2005

11th January

Those of you reading this in Britain will know of Alex Shane's recent FWA title victory over Doug Williams and British Uprising III. However, although I'm sure Alex will make a fine FWA British Champion, from a story line perspective, did he really earn his title shot?


Alex had just come off a long feud with Steve Corino. During that time he also suffered losses to the rookie, Aviv Maayan, before losing the big payoff match with Corino. Alex said in a telephone interview on Blake Norton's Bagpipe Report show on The Wrestling Channel that he didn't know if he was going to get a shot at Doug's title because of his loss to Corino. Yet come November 13th, Alex was crowned the new FWA British Champion.

Late last year Booker T lost a thrilling best-of-five series with John Cena, and lost the WWE US title in the process. After his loss to Cena, Booker was thrust into a story line where he challenged John Bradshaw Layfield for the WWE title. At the time I wondered why Booker was challenging for the title when he had just lost to Cena. If he couldn't defeat Smackdown's secondary champion, why did he deserve a crack at Smackdown's main man?

Go back a few months further, and look at how Bradshaw himself became the WWE Champion. Prior to defeating Eddie Guerrero at The Great American Bash, JBL hadn't done anything of note in the singles ranks since winning the Hard-core title on Raw shortly after the brand extension. Until Ron Simmons left the company, he had languished in the tag-team ranks as one half of the APA. In short, he hadn't really earned his title shot.

I could probably come up with a few more recent examples, but I think you get my point here. When you think of the boxing and mixed martial arts worlds, you never hear stories of boxers getting title shots after they've lost other high profile bouts, unless they're former champions with rematch clauses in their contracts. To me it kind of makes a mockery of story lines when title shots are give in this manner. It's hard, as a wrestling fan, to suspend your disbelief in situations like this .

When he was in control of WCW, Vince Russo stated that titles were little more than props. Russo couldn't have been further from the truth as far as I'm concerned. When a wrestler is awarded a title, it means that at that moment in time, and for however long they hold that title, they are the best they are at what they do. But how can a wrestler be considered the best when they lost that important bout before that big title match?

This is why I think Japanese promotions like NOAH, Ring of Honor in America, and WAW in Britain have got things right. In these companies title shots are earned, not handed out like candy at a street parade. It makes the titles more respectable when you see undercard wrestlers claw their way to the top so they can get a title shot. Just look at the Ring of Honor title. Samoa Joe held the belt for nearly two years, and defended it with pride against all the top contenders until he lost the belt to Austin Aries last month. In Japan, the GHC crown has grown in stature around the waist of Kenta Kobashi.

Sadly, the same can't be said of other major titles. A lot of fans are really down on wrestling, and the WWE in particular at the moment. Maybe if the creatives made the championships special again, instead of treating them like a prize in a children's party game, then the fans might start to view things differently again.

Now let's take a look at what's been happening on TV this week.

Raw made it's Monday night (or rather early Tuesday morning) debut here in Britain this week, but the novelty wore off very quickly. You Americans are probably used to it, but the constant commercial breaks spoiled my overall enjoyment of the show, even though the run-up to the New Year's Revolution show was good to see.

Smackdown continued to move towards the Royal Rumble, and the emphasis on the WWE title match, and the casket match between the Undertaker and Heidenreich. Seeing the Undertaker stuffing Paul Heyman into the casket made you wonder if the WWE were burying Heyman's career on and off screen as well.

The WWE ended the week with a trip to Puerto Rico for the New Year's Revolution pay-per-view. For me this was a good show to start the 2005 PPV schedule, with injuries to Eugene and Lita the only blight on the show. However, was it really any surprise that Triple H came out of the Elimination Chamber as a ten time World Heavyweight Champion?

On to The Wrestling Channel, and the good news is that an agreement has been reached with TNA, which means that new programming, including Impact and the monthly pay-per-views should be available here in Britain soon.

Sticking with TNA, TWC Bloodbath gave us a chance to see the hair v hair, Raven v Shane Douglas bout, which proved that James Mitchell would make a useless barber. It was quite apt seeing this match this week, seeing as one of their WCW matches from 1992 was shown in the last ever WWE Classics slot on Sky last week.

Speaking of classics, the first series of UK Roundup has apparently come to an end, to be replaced by FWA Classics, looking back at some of the great bouts from the past couple of years. However, given the arguments about British wrestling production standards, don't expect to see any bouts from the first two years worth of shows. Although some of the matches are good, especially Doug Williams v Nova from When Thunder Strikes in April 2001, the video production values of those early shows means that they probably won't see the light of day on TWC.

There was some disappointment with the shows I keep a regular eye on, as both World of Sport and TWC Spotlight were again repeat showings, as was the Supercard show. I really can't wait for the new shows coming up in February. TWC is taking a lot of stick at the moment, and I don't really want to add to the criticism here.

 18th January

A year ago, Randy Orton was being hailed as the next big thing in the wrestling business. As the former next big thing, Brock Lesnar, was on his way out of the wrestling business, Orton was the shining light of Evolution, the top young star on the Raw brand, and at the beginning of a program with Mick Foley that would catapult him to the next level.

One year on, and Orton is a former Intercontinental and World Heavyweight Champion, and the number one contender to Triple H's crown. But for me, he's no longer the legend killer.

Like a lot of people a year ago, I was impressed with everything that Orton did. He carried himself well in the ring, had great matches with everyone he faced, and was one of the best talkers in the WWE. He was spitting in the face of tradition, taking himself to the next level. Indeed, he really was a killer of legends.

When Orton defeated Chris Benoit for the World title at Summerslam last August, everyone knew he was heading towards a main event showdown with his mentor and Evolution leader, Triple H. But just a day after defeating Benoit, Orton's Evolution buddies turned him face, and three weeks later, he was an ex-World Champion.

It had been rumoured for ages that an Orton/Triple H feud would headline Wrestlemania 21 in Los Angeles. We all thought that the rivalry between the two would last quite a long time, that Triple H's jealousy of his young team-mate would be a brooding one, that the affair would last up to six months, with Orton dumping Triple H out of Evolution, replacing him as leader, then facing his former mentor at the big one. But the creatives apparently had other ideas.

Orton played the role of the legend killer to perfection. He was the heel we loved to hate. There was no doubt that he would end up with the World title around his waist. We just thought that his title reign would be measured in months rather than weeks.

Since he joined the baby-face ranks last year, Orton just seems to have lost his edge a little. He's still a great wrestler, capable of putting on good matches with everyone he faces, but now he seems to have entered the generic baby-face mode. He is no longer the legend killer. He is still capable of talking a good fight, but there's something about the man that just seems a little bland these days.

I don't think I'm the only one that thinks that perhaps the wrong member of Evolution was turned face the day after Summerslam. It would have been a lot better if Orton had remained a heel, and had set his sights on killing the legend of Triple H.

You only have to look at how Edge's career has gone in the past few months. He's gone from generic baby-face to the heel obsessed with winning the World title, getting crazier by the week as he continues to fail.

In their rush to find the new Stone Cold or Rock, the WWE creatives may have bombed by turning Randy Orton so quickly after Summerslam. The WWE seriously needs another breakout star, but at the moment, it looks like Orton isn't the man.

And now on to this week's television.

The Wrestling Channel really disappointed me this week. It seemed that whenever I tuned in to watch a particular television show, it was an exact repeat of what was shown the week before, and a week ago, that was a repeat of a show that was shown a couple of months ago. Am I confusing you here? Well, you wouldn't be the only one then, would you? I wouldn't be surprised if the channel has lost quite a few viewers in the past month or so.

The only new show of the week seemed to be the FWA Classics show. Show two wasn't as good as show one, but it was still entertaining in it's own right. It was good to see Flash Barker back on TWC as well.

The WWE continues to move forward to the Royal Rumble, which in itself the beginning of the road to Wrestlemania 21. I've already mentioned Raw's Triple H v Orton feud, but once again we were teased by a possible face turn for Batista. It also looks like we'll be getting Edge v Shawn Michaels at the big one as well.

Smackdown also teased us with a possible face turn, this time for Kurt Angle, but it seems that Angle and fellow heel JBL are just playing mind games with the Big Show. I'm left to wonder though just how many times the Big Show will be pushed as a title contender. We also saw new tag-team champions as the character-less Bashams defeated RVD and Rey Mysterio for the titles.

All in all, apart for a couple of things, the WWE creatives are turning it up a notch leading to the big one.

25th January

The other day, during a quiet moment, I found myself just wondering what was the biggest mistake a professional wrestling booker has ever made. There's been some good examples over the past few years, such as Kensuke Sasaki's recent IWGP title victory, or the Katie Vick saga, or the Al Wilson/Dawn Marie romance. But I quickly dismissed all of these and went back to April 25th, 2000, and a night in the history of World Championship Wrestling that will always send a shudder through the spines of wrestling fans.

Does anyone remember the film Ready To Rumble? Sadly, this wasn't a biography of legendary boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer. This was a film, sponsored by the once mighty WCW and starring David Arquette as a nerdish wrestling fan intent on helping his hero regain the World title.

Now that you've heard the name of David Arquette you'll know what I'm about to write about. But please, read on.

In an attempt to promote the film, Arquette began to appear on various WCW programmes. Vince Russo, the man in charge of booking WCW at the time, in his infinite wisdom decided to use Arquette more, despite the reservations of the rest of the booking team, and of Arquette himself.

On April 25th, 2000, on an edition of WCW Thunder, Arquette teamed with World Champion Diamond Dallas Page, against Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett. However, this wasn't a normal tag match. The stipulation was that whoever got the winning pinfall would be crowned WCW World Champion.

So you can imagine how wrestling fans around the world felt when Arquette pinned Bischoff and was crowned champion. Although this news got tons of publicity in the mainstream press, those familiar with the wrestling business saw this as another example of just how bad WCW was getting, and what made matters worse was that Arquette began defending the title on television. Anyone remember his classic bout on Nitro against Tank Abbott? I remember hearing stories at the time that Russo wanted to put the World title on Abbott. That surely would have been better than putting the belt on a D-list actor.

Thankfully, Arquette's reign of terror only lasted a few weeks, as he turned on his buddy Page during a cage match at the Slamboree pay-per-view, helping Jarrett win the title. He was hardly seen in WCW afterwards.

The decision to make David Arquette WCW World Heavyweight Champion has to be the worst booking decision in the history of professional wrestling. Vince Russo is credited with many things, and you have to wonder what he and his fellow writers were thinking, or smoking, when they came up with this idea.

And the film that inspired this decision? When it was shown on Sky Movies, I switched off after half an hour, it was that bad.

Now on to this week's television.

The Wrestling Channel's new agreement with TNA saw the debut of new Xplosion and Impact shows, as well as the first showing of the recent Turning Point pay-per-view. While some of the action was good, the arrival of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash on the scene was certainly similar to their arrival in WCW in 1996. As for Turning Point itself, I'll be reviewing the show in more detail at a later date.

FWA Classics gave us a couple of gems, in the form of the Zebra Kid v Jonny Storm and Christopher Daniels v Jody Fleisch. Sadly though, not much else of note as far as TWC is concerned. How many more times will we see the IWW show in the Spotlight segment? It's getting really boring now.

WWE continues to move towards the Royal Rumble, although the situation on Smackdown leaves me wondering if the creatives are smoking the same thing that Russo was five years ago. The three way feud between JBL, Big Show and Kurt Angle is becoming a mess.

The Raw team is still teasing us with a possible Batista turn. The big guy is certainly getting good reactions from the fans at the moment, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw him take on The Game at the big one in Los Angeles.

And Raw once again showed that Canadian fans have very long memories. Witness the reaction Shawn Michaels received. Imagine what would have happened to a certain Mr. Hebner.

Finally, news reached me of ITV's Celebrity Wrestling programme, to be co-hosted by Roddy Piper, and featuring Joe E. Legend and D'Lo Brown. Sadly, because the so-called celebrities are only people who became famous on other reality shows, or became famous for sleeping with other celebrities, we won't be seeing Ainsley Harriott or Jeremy "F***ing"  getting the crap kicked out of them for saying that all wrestling is fake.

I'll be back next week, hopefully with a look at what happened at the Rumble.
 

February 18th

While going through some old wrestling videos this week, I chanced upon a copy of the 1996 Survivor Series, and given the news that came out of the WWE concerning a now former WWE superstar, it got me thinking.

On that November night back in '96, a new young superstar made his debut, and was branded the future of the company. The young Rocky Maivia seemed to have it all, and was pushed to the moon, defeating a certain Hunter Hearst Helmsley to win the Intercontinental title soon after his debut. The only problem was that the fans weren't buying what Rocky was selling. At a time when an anti-hero such as Steve Austin was flipping the bird to everyone in sight, and a certain faction was tearing the house down in WCW, Rocky Maivia's character made the fans reach for the proverbial sick bags. The instructions he was getting from the booking team - "you just can't smile enough", would have gotten him over ten years previously, but not in the mid-nineties.

Maivia dropped the I-C title to Owen Hart, and was taken off the road and television screens. He emerged a few weeks later as a member of the black militant group, the Nation of Domination. Except that this wasn't Rocky Maivia. Rocky Maivia was dead, and the Rock emerged in his place. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Rock has done everything there is to do in the WWE. He's won just about every title he can. He helped the company overcome WCW in the infamous Monday night wars, and he used his star status in the WWE to catapult himself onto other stages as well. He was one of the few stars from the Attitude era to get over on the mainstream celebrity circuit.

And I think it's safe to say that he's the most successful wrestler-turned-actor in the history of professional wrestling. He has certainly become far more successful in the acting business than those who have gone before him. Hulk Hogan's movie career saw flop after flop after flop. Roddy Piper's only acting success of note came in John Carpenter's 1987 classic They Live, and although Jesse Ventura earned great praise for his roles in films such as Predator and The Running Man, they weren't starring roles.

I have to admit that it came as something of a surprise when the news broke that the Rock and the WWE failed to come to any sort of agreement as far as his new contract are concerned. A lot of people have been asking the question - who needs who the most in this relationship?

When his acting career began, the Rock certainly needed the WWE, but not today. He is now being considered for acting roles because of his previous acting roles, and not because he is a WWE star. But at the moment, the WWE certainly needs someone like the Rock at the moment. His mainstream success would certainly bring fans back to the arenas, and increase pay-per-view buy rates as well. The only problem is that the WWE would want the Rock on more-or-less a full-time schedule, and that's something the Rock can't commit to anymore.

The Rock announced in several recent interviews that he is done with wrestling, that he'd like to concentrate on his acting career. Good luck to the guy I say, but the millions.....and millions of the Rock's fans will still cry out for his return, and I have no doubt that he will return for one final swan song, someday.

Which leads me nicely to another former WWE Champion who is trying to make his return.

It's almost a year since Brock Lesnar stunned Vince McMahon by giving his notice one week before Wrestlemania 20. We all know the story by now, that Lesnar was fed up with life on the road, and that he was a man with a dream, a dream to compete in the NFL.

I have to give kudos to Lesnar. The guy gave up a million dollar contract to pursue his dream. However, I'll take back those kudos because of the way he went about things. To say that he burned a few bridges after he left would be an understatement. I couldn't understand why, in the days after his departure, he seemed to spend so much time criticizing the WWE.

Lesnar certainly wasn't planning for the long-term here. It seems that almost everyone except Lesnar himself knew that despite his best efforts, he didn't have a cat in hell's chance of getting a full-time spot in the NFL. The kudos return to the guy, a little, for giving it his best shot though.

But again I'll take those kudos back with what he did afterwards. Lesnar must know just how many people he annoyed when he walked out on the WWE, so how could he expect to be welcomed back with open arms by Vince McMahon? When McMahon was a regular character on television, he had a saying which seems perfect in these circumstances - don't cross the boss.

Lesnar certainly crossed the boss, and everyone else in the locker room, and just about every fan who supported him when he quit last year, and now he wants back on his terms. In a telephone conversation with McMahon, Lesnar stated that he wanted to work a program similar to the one Ric Flair currently works, working just ten dates a month, but on the $1.7 million a year he was on before. The conversation didn't last that long. Let's take a look at this here. The reason that Flair works so few dates a months is because the guy is 55 years old. Lesnar is nearly thirty years younger than Flair, wants to work the same number of dates, and wants the same money he was on before.

It's not surprising that the conversation between McMahon and Lesnar didn't last that long. I have to wonder just who Lesnar thinks he is? The WWE invested a great deal of time and money on him. They pushed him to the moon and back. He won the WWE title within six months of his debut, and then he walked out on them.

And now Lesnar is suing the WWE because of the no-compete clause in his contract that doesn't run out until 2010. While I do have a little sympathy for Lesnar as far as this is concerned, the guy did sign the contract, and probably had quite a few advisors look at the contract as well. However, he probably wasn't thinking about this when he handed in his notice a week before Wrestlemania.

But looking at the big picture, the WWE needs someone like Lesnar at the moment. A feud between Lesnar and Bradshaw over the WWE title would certainly be something to watch. But Lesnar probably would be welcomed back with open arms by his fellow wrestlers. The Big Show made this quite evident in an interview this week.

I'll be watching this situation with a great deal of interest in the coming weeks, although given the way legal systems work sometimes, Lesnar probably won't be able to get out of his no-compete clause until 2010 anyway!
 

26th March

It's been a while since I've written one of these regular columns, so with Wrestlemania 21 fast approaching, now seemed the right time to express some opinions on a few things.

A couple of weeks ago on Raw, we aging wrestling fans were taken back a few years, with a Rockers reunion between Marty Janetty and Shawn Michaels, and the appearance of Jake "The Snake" Roberts on Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel, as he became another of Randy Orton's victims on his Legend Killer tour.

It was the Snake Man's appearance that seemed to get everyone talking the most, and it also made me realize that a lot of people who follow the wrestling business can be rather two-faced at times.

In 2001, with his wrestling career more or less going down the toilet, Jake Roberts moved to Britain, and began making regular appearances on the British wrestling circuit, most notably for Brian Dixon's All-Star Wrestling, and, of course, for the World Association of Wrestling. This is how I came to meet Jake.

Every wrestling fan in the western world had seen Beyond The Mat by the time Jake moved to Britain, and we all knew of his reputation, of his battles with his personal demons, and it seems that a great deal of people had made up their minds about Jake after watching this infamous documentary.

I'm not denying that Jake Roberts doesn't have personal problems, but for the most part, whenever I saw Jake at a WAW show, he certainly wasn't in "no fit state to perform", as the old saying goes. If you caught Jake on a good day, you could have a damn good conversation with the guy, especially about the wrestling business. Those in the business who know me well also know that I'm a sucker for old wrestling stories, and Jake has literally thousands of these stories. In short, when he was on his game, I found Jake to be very good company.

And he also had some good matches when he worked for WAW. Those in attendance at the Guildhall in Thetford in February 2002 will never forget his classic with the Zebra Kid. Other WAW standout matches include his bouts with Bash, Ricky Knight and Johnny Phere.

I also remember the time when he attended the WAW Training Academy. Gathering the students around him, Jake had them in the palm of his hand as he spoke about his love of the wrestling business, and how hard it can be on people at times.

But at the same time, I'm not going to deny that Jake didn't have his bad moments while he lived here in Britain. Jake did put in some woeful performances in the ring, and he courted controversy outside of it as well. His last appearance for WAW saw him make a complete ass of himself. Out of the ring altercations with the likes of Alex Shane and Phil Powers made headlines, and his problems with the RSPCA, which led to his conviction for animal cruelty, saw Jake leave Britain late last year after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

During his time in Britain, the opinion of Jake and his performances on the British wrestling circuit gradually got lower and lower the longer he stayed in the country. Those who frequented Internet forums vented their spleens on an almost daily basis, making disparaging remarks about everything from his performances in the ring to his private life to his ongoing battles with his personal demons. Jake "The Snake" Roberts definitely wasn't flavour of the month.

I have to admit that as I sat in front of my television early on a Tuesday morning, fatigue starting to take over me, I couldn't believe my eyes when Chris Jericho introduced Jake Roberts as his special guest to a world-wide television audience.

Coupled with the Rockers reunion on the same show, Jake's appearance on Raw, and the opinions expressed by the Internet community, were in stark contrast to almost everything that had been said about him during his time in Britain. Everyone seemed to mark out like mad as Jake traded verbal jabs with Randy Orton. It was as if everyone had forgotten everything they'd said about the man in the past four years.

To me, it just showed how fickle wrestling fans can be at times. One minute they criticize and insult everything a wrestler does, yet when he appears on the biggest wrestling show in the world, they mark out like mad. A definite case of two-faced double standards here.

I've got nothing personal as Jake Roberts. I've watched his career for sixteen years now. I've seen some of his best matches on television and in person, and I've seen some of his howlers. Jake's gone on record as saying that he'd like to get a full-time job with the WWE again, and while I doubt that this would happen, I'd like to go on record as wishing the man the best of luck. Jake Roberts has one of the greatest minds in the history of professional wrestling. If he can finally win his battles with his personal demons, then he could certainly become a great asset to the world of professional wrestling.

I kind of feel sorry for Shelton Benjamin at the moment. It's been a year since he moved from Smackdown to Raw as a part of the draft lottery, and despite being the current Intercontinental Champion, he doesn't seem to be doing much at the moment.

At the beginning of his Raw tenure, Benjamin enjoyed great success in a program with Triple H, beating The Game two weeks in a row. Some great matches with Randy Orton followed, before the fans voted him into an Intercontinental title shot against Chris Jericho at Taboo Tuesday last October. But since he won the belt from Jericho, he doesn't seem to have done much. He's enjoyed pay-per-view title defenses against Christian and Maven, but that's about all.

If you go by who holds what title at the moment, then Shelton Benjamin is the second best wrestler on Raw right now, behind World Champion Triple H. But to those of us following his career, it doesn't seem that way.

The Intercontinental title is one of the most prestigious and important in the history of the WWE. I don't need to make a list of the great wrestlers who have held this title since it's inception in 1979. But will Shelton Benjamin go down in history as one of the greatest I-C champions of all time. I have my doubts.

The second most important championship on Raw isn't even being defended at Wrestlemania 21, the biggest event on the WWE calendar. Sure, Benjamin is on the show as part of the six way ladder match, but surely he should be defending his title.

The problem may be that if other stars are pushed in the direction of Benjamin and his title, the fans may see it as a comedown for the challengers, the "been there done that" scenario would come into play. Maven could have been a credible challenger to the title, but the way his match with Benjamin at New Year's Revolution was handled has made the first Tough Enough winner little more than a joke wrestler, and it may take Maven a while to recover from this, if he ever does.

Benjamin's recent series with Gene Snitsky shows that he can put on a good match with anyone on the roster, even a lumbering monster like Snitsky. Yet challengers for his title are few and far between at the moment. Benjamin has been the Intercontinental Champion for six months now, one of the longest title reigns in recent WWE history. But does his title reign really mean anything? I'll let you answer that question.

At least Benjamin is on the Wrestlemania 21 card. Sadly, the same can't be said for Matt Hardy. After his recent knee surgery, word is that Hardy is good to go, and was meant to be a part of the six-way ladder match, but recent events in his personal life have kept him off the card.

The world and his wife have opinions on the relationship Lita developed with Edge, but it's sad that personal politics, rather than backstage politics, or his recent injury, are keeping Hardy off the biggest show of the year. Hardy is certainly no stranger to ladder matches, and he would have been worthy of a spot in this match, but now Hardy is off the show, replaced by Kane, and looking at a possible transfer back to Smackdown.

While Lita and Edge continue to grace our television screens as part of high profile angles leading up to the big show, Hardy has been denied his chance to return to the spotlight. It's a shame that the sensai of Mattitude won't be gracing our screens on April 3rd.

Rumour has it that Randy Orton is sexually harrassing the latest crop of non-entity Divas that the WWE signed up after the awful Diva Search contest, and that's the reason the likes of Amy Webber quit recently. Have the powers-that-be finally realised that these nobodies are not wanted by the WWE faithful? Is Orton acting on the instructions of a higher power? Or is he just being a prick? Well, he hasn't been punished yet, but then again, he does have friends in high places.

Finally, the WWE have done a great job with their Wrestlemania film parody trailers. The recent Taxi Driver spoof had to be the best of the bunch. The other Big Dave again showed that he's grown a great deal as far as his promo work is concerned.

That's your lot for now.
 

25th April

This past week on Raw we had another example of just how powerful the Internet can be with regards to the professional wrestling industry. Or rather, just how powerful the New York Internet wrestling community is.

We all remember the reception they gave Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 20, just days after the news broke that he was quitting the WWE to pursue a career in the NFL. The WWE had no plans to announce Lesnar's departure on air, but were forced to quickly backtrack when the Madison Square Garden crowd turned on Lesnar.

It was the same last Monday. The situation between Matt Hardy, Amy "Lita" Dumas and Adam "Edge" Copeland has been played out very publicly across the Internet, so at times it feels like anyone with access to a computer has become a part of the situation. So was it really any surprise that the MSG faithful turned on Lita last Monday?

While Edge seemed to relish his new found heel heat, it was widely reported that Lita was extremely upset at the crowd's reaction to her. But what else could she expect?

What hasn't helped her case is that fact that Matt Hardy was released from his contract not long after the story of the love triangle broke. While it's obvious that he would never have risen to main event level, he was certainly one of the most talented and most over performers in the WWE.

I can't help but feel a great amount of sympathy for Matt Hardy here. He was about to return from injury, and was set to have been in the Money In The Bank match at Wrestlemania 21. Now, having been betrayed by the woman he loved and one of his best friends, Hardy finds himself fit again but unable to work because of the no-compete clause in his contract. Once that clause has expired, look for the sensei of Mattitude to start making regular appearances in TNA, Ring of Honor and Japan.

At least the WWE hasn't capitalized on this situation by turning it into an angle - yet. But I'm left to wonder how long before Edge and Kane start feuding with each other, and Lita turns on her on-screen husband. This is one angle I really don't want to see.

In other developments, ITV began their Celebrity Wrestling series this weekend. I managed to sit through five minutes of a repeat showing, and that was enough for me. When this show was first announced I had visions of Z-list celebs being put through their paces in a scenario similar to the Tough Enough series. No chance of this though. What I sore bore more resemblance to Gladiators than to anything remotely connected to the professional wrestling business. Those in the know and in favour of this show keep telling me how much it will benefit the wrestling scene in here in Britain. I'm left wondering how this can be the case.

A lot of fans are forecasting the death of the Frontier Wrestling Alliance after they drew around 300 fans to their recent Crunch show at the Broxbourne Civic Centre. This one has certainly raised a smile from yours truly with regards to the defeatist attitude of some so-called fans. There's some up-and-coming wrestling promotions around the world who would consider a gate of 300 a tremendous success. So let me tell you this - the FWA is alive and well, and isn't going tits up anytime soon, so get your head out of your backsides and stop being so bloody pessimistic all the time.

I get the feeling that it's the same type of fan who are already saying that Batista's World title reign on Raw is already a failure. The guy has only been champion about three bloody weeks! This is just another example of how fickle and impatient wrestling fans are today. Batista needs time to grow into the role, and we shouldn't be writing him off after just three weeks.

That's your lot for now.
 

R.I.P Chris Candido

It's difficult to know how to begin this column. When I woke up this morning and logged onto the Internet, I was probably as shocked as the rest of you when I found out that Chris Candido was dead.

Like most of you, the first two words that came into my head were "f***ing hell". The guy was only 33 years old, the same age as me. I thought at first that this could be a cruel joke played by some sick f**k, like the story that someone put out a couple of years back that Leon "Vader" White had died. But a check on Google's news service made me soon realize that this was no joke.

So just why did Chris die? This may be sound a bit harsh, but given his past problems with drugs, when I first heard the news I thought that he had overdosed or something. But apparently this all goes back to TNA's Lockdown pay-per-view last Sunday. While competing in a tag-team match, Candido was on the receiving end of a Sonny Siaki drop-kick. Siaki landed awkwardly on Candido's leg, and the scene afterwards brought back memories of the infamous moment in WCW when Sid Vicious broke his leg.

Those of us who follow many different sports have seen this kind of injury before, particularly in football. Liverpool's Djibril Cisse suffered a similar injury earlier this season, but recently made his first-team comeback a few weeks ago. When I first heard of Candido's injury, like everyone else I thought that he'd make a full recovery.

Everyone knew of his past drug problems, and many injuries which included a broken neck, many in the wrestling business were pleased that he had finally put his problems behind him, and now had another shot at the big time with TNA. Things certainly looked good for him.

Then came the accident in the ring last Sunday, followed by an operation to repair the damage. He appeared at ringside at the next TNA tapings, acting as manager for The Naturals as they won the tag titles. He wasn't letting a busted leg get in the way of his career, and we were all looking forward to seeing him at the two upcoming ECW reunions, even though competing on those shows was now out of the question. But the fact that he had had some of best matches in ECW meant that he just had to be at those shows.

But who among us would have known that the events last Sunday would lead to his death? The simple answer is that none of us did.

I'm not going to lie to you and pretend that I was a big fan of Candido's work. I enjoyed his matches, but I never really went out of my way to watch them. But this doesn't mean that I don't feel sympathy for his family and friends right now. They've lost a part of themselves, a part of their very being when he died last night.

Chris Candido was just 33 years old. It certainly makes you think about certain things, doesn't it?

R.I.P. Chris. Thanks for the great matches.
 

The Demise Of Celebrity Wrestling

When I first heard that ITV were planning a show called Celebrity Wrestling, I was very intrigued by the idea. I first heard of this from Ricky Knight, after the show's producers contacted WAW asking Ricky and Saraya if they were interested in taking part in the show.

As you can imagine, Ricky & Saraya were very interested in the show, and when they told me of the show, and what they knew of the format - two wrestlers training two teams of celebrities as they competed against each other - I had visions of a British version of the WWE's Tough Enough series, with Ricky & Saraya training their respective teams in the skills of professional wrestling, with the winner of the contest competing in a proper professional wrestling match against a proper professional wrestler, perhaps even working on the circuit for a while. But then Ricky & Saraya were given more details about the format of the show, and decided to give it a wide berth.

Eventually, WWE Hall of Famer Roddy Piper, D'Lo Brown and Joe Legend were announced for the show, as were the celebrities. Even after this announcement, I still had visions of Tough Enough. But then I began to hear reports from people who attended the television tapings, of how the studio audiences had to sit in their seats for up to six hours, watching games that seemed to have little to do with professional wrestling.

Then, ITV began a massive promotional campaign. The celebrities were given new ring personas, and their new likeness' were plastered all over television screens, magazines, newspapers and billboards all over Britain. Then, just three weeks ago, the first show aired. Replacing the ITV darlings Ant & Dec, and going up against the BBC's returning Dr. Who. Presented by Kate Thornton, last seen on shows such as Pop Idol, the show gained a respectable 3.8 million viewers.

But as far as many of the viewers were concerned, this wasn't what they were promised. The show's title, Celebrity Wrestling, is misleading for a start. The celebrities on the show aren't really what I would call celebrities. Twenty years ago, for me, a celebrity was a famous pop star, an actor, a comedian, a sports star, or a television presenter. These days, celebrities are people who win reality shows like Big Brother, or people who have extramarital affairs with other celebrities, or fat kids from New Jersey who mime to Romanian boy band songs on a web cam. Using this criteria, I could be considered a celebrity because I once shouted abuse at a British sitcom star as I drove past him. The celebrities on this show feature a former Big Brother winner, a man who had an affair with the wife of the future King of England, and actors and former sportsmen who can't get any form of publicity anywhere else.

And then there's the wrestling part of the title. Well, there isn't any. Instead of the so-called celebrities competing against each other in actual wrestling matches, or even shoot fights, they compete against each other in games that would be better suited to a show like Gladiators or It's A Knock Out.

Three weeks into it's run, and Celebrity Wrestling's viewing figures are down 1.2. Million, to 2.6 million. It's rival show on BBC1, Dr. Who, drew 7.5 million last weekend, the sort of numbers that ITV darlings Ant & Dec drew in the same time slot.

I get the feeling that those fans who brought into the idea of Celebrity Wrestling when it was first announced now feel that they've been cheated. The sort of audience they were hoping to draw feel insulted by the show's very concept, and they are now turning over in droves, preferring to watch a Time Lord on his travels than a bunch of Z-list celebrities play silly beggars.

The show has been panned by television critics, it has been panned by wrestlers, and it's been panned by wrestling fans. Now just three weeks into it's run, Celebrity Wrestling has been beaten into submission. This Saturday's show will be the last, with the fate of the four unaired shows still to be decided upon.

Looking at the long term picture, instead of helping the British wrestling industry, it may already have done untold damage. TV executives, having seen how badly a celebrity wrestling show has done in the ratings, may be reluctant to give a real professional wrestling another chance on British terrestrial television. After all, if a bunch of celebrities wrestling couldn't pull in the viewers, what chance do the real ones have?
 

When Art Imitates Life
Watching the final segments of Raw this past Tuesday, I wondered if Matt Hardy was watching the show. I felt nothing for sympathy for Matt as Lita turned on Kane and sided with Edge as he won the Gold Rush tournament. I wondered how Matt was feeling as the show closed, with Lita kissing Edge on the stage as a groggy Kane looked on from the ring.

This isn't the first time WWE have used real life events to increase ratings. Those of us who have been watching the WWE for years remember Sgt. Slaughter's pledge of allegiance to "the brave Iraqi nation" as allied troops were dying in the Middle-East.

The WWE was seriously condemned back then, and for me, the Lita/Edge story line is just as tasteless. Deep down, we all knew that the WWE creatives would try and weave this into a story line somehow. I even called this a few weeks ago.

But think of Matt Hardy in this situation. The woman he loves and wanted to marry began an affair with one of his best friends. Because of this, Hardy was pulled from the biggest show of the year, and a few weeks later he lost his job. Now, the events that cost him so much are now being played out on television screens around the world.

Now there are rumours that Vince McMahon has realized he made a mistake in releasing Matt, and is considering bringing him back. If I was Matt, I'd tell McMahon to take his job and stick it where the sun don't shine. McMahon has robbed Matt of his career, and with this new story line he's robbed Matt of his dignity.

The best thing Matt Hardy can do now is forge a tremendous career away from WWE, and really stick it to them by showing what a great performer he is. He truly deserves whatever success he can get now.

As for Edge & Lita, I think I'll join the fans on this one.

13th July

Ever felt like you’ve been conned?

Remember a guy called Brian Heffron? Remember a while back, how at the end of ECW’s One Night Stand, JBL came into the ring and literally battered the hell out of Heffron? Remember those photos that appeared on the Internet? Remember the countless interviews we read about how pissed off everyone was at JBL for what he did? Remember how Tracey Smothers challenged JBL to a shoot fight? Remember how Heffron said he was considering legal action against JBL and the WWE?

Remember what happened next?

Remember a guy called Matt Hardy? Remember a few months back when news broke that his girlfriend, Amy Dumas, had been having an affair with one his best friends, Adam Copeland? Remember how Matt was released from the WWE because he went public about the whole situation on his website? Remember how sorry we felt for the guy, and how much we all hated and despised Adam & Amy? Remember all those interviews in magazines and on websites about how much Matt hated WWE for what they did to him?

Remember what happened next?

There appears to be a new rule of thumb in the professional wrestling world. If it doesn’t appear on wwe.com, then it’s real. If an appears on wwe.com, then it’s a work. Which is why you didn’t see any mention of Tracey Smothers on the WWE’s website.

The line between reality and fiction just got bit hazier.

It makes you wonder sometimes just how the WWE brain trust works at times. When the draft lottery was complete, we heard a great deal about the various trades that were made. Now look how some of those traded from Raw to Smackdown have been treated.

Kenzo Suzuki was at one time being touted as the next big Japanese thing in the WWE. Rumour has it that he was being brought in challenge Chris Benoit for the World title at Summerslam last year, which is why Benoit was suddenly being billed as living in Atlanta, under the name of Hirohito. This would have been a throwback to the good old days, where Japanese wrestlers were the hated enemies, and would “Pearl Harbour” they opponents.

Suzuki ended up on Smackdown, and enjoyed moderate success, including a reign as WWE tag-team champion. An injury put him on the sidelines, before he was traded to Raw.

Last year Mark Jindrak was traded to Smackdown, where he became Narcissist#2, a copy of Lex Luger’s first WWE gimmick as the Reflection of Perfection. The gimmick didn’t last long because his manager, Teddy Long, became Smackdown GM. Jindrak later joined Team Angle V2, before feuding with Luther Reigns. He was then traded to Raw.

Just days after their trades were announced, both Suzuki and Jindrak were handed their cards, and you have to wonder what would might have been.

If Suzuki had been billed as Hirohito, then the PC brigade would have been up in arms. References to Japan’s part in World War II would have caused an out roar, because, after all, we in the global village are meant to be one big, happy family now.

Jindrak was touted as one of the brightest young stars when he broke through in WCW in 2000, as the partner of Sean O’Haire. The Jindrak/O’Haire team showed a great deal of promise, but the WCW creatives broke the team up too early, and when WWE took over his contract in 2001, WWE showed no interest in re-forming the Natural Born Thrillaz team. And there was definitely no chance of it happening when O’Haire was released last year.

Jindrak and Suzuki probably won’t be missed by the WWE faithful. Unlike some other wrestlers who were released from their contracts.
 
The release of the Dudleys shows just how seriously the WWE creative team take the tag-team division at the moment. Apart from MNM and the Heart-throbs, there’s literally no full-time team on the roster at the moment, and the fact that the current World champions, Rosey & The Hurricane, didn’t defend the belts on pay-per-view says a lot.

The creative team sent the Dudleys home for months because they apparently didn’t have anything for them to do. This line is getting tired and boring now. Just look at the reception they got during the run-in to One Night Stand. The release of the Dudleys could signal the end of tag-team wrestling in the WWE, and I for one will be mourning the loss.

One thing I find really amusing about the whole release thing is that when a release is announced, those wrestlers let go are expected to do an interview for wwe.com. What a bloody cheek! “Okay, we’re firing your ass, but before you go, can you give us an exclusive interview?” If I was in the shoes of a released wrestler, I’d tell them where to stick their interview.

But the problem seems to be that now, with all of these releases, we may finally be seeing the long-term results of WWE’s monopoly of the national and international wrestling scene. The WWE is the only promotion that can offer guaranteed spots in the wrestling business. Despite what they say, this is something TNA can’t. TNA may be touted as the number two promotion in America right now, but there’s no way they can compete with the promotional and financial power of Vince McMahon. Although they have had constant backers for over a year now, the constant changes in the creative department can’t be good for business. What TNA need is a team with long-term plans and goals. Maybe Scott D’Amore and his men will last a lot longer than Dusty Rhodes and Vince Russo did. It’s this kind of continuity, as well as a national television contract, that TNA needs right now.

Going back to the WWE/Matt Hardy situation, several promotions here in Britain have advertised Hardy as being on their super shows, most notably the Universal Uproar show at the Coventry Skydome in November. A great number of people over here think that even if Hardy is signed to a long-term contract, that he’ll honour his commitments to those shows. But what people seem to forget that to a multi-million dollar company like WWE, paying these promotions off because of Hardy’s new commitments wouldn’t mean much to them. The only people that would really lose out is the British fans.

5th Anniversary Special

This edition is a very special edition of The Two Sheds Review. Having written a few successful columns for a few wrestling fanzines here in Britain, it was on July 28th, 2000, that The Two Sheds Review made it’s debut on the internet, in The Wrasslin’ Analysis newsletter, read by under two hundred people. Since then, The Two Sheds Review has appeared on over fifty websites and newsletters, and in that time, I’ve received feedback from countries as far a field as the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Pakistan!

So to commemorate the fifth birthday of the Two Sheds Review, I thought I’d take a look back at my life as a wrestling fan and journalist, and bring you, the reader, the ten most pivotal moments during that time, moments that have affected me a great deal, and some which may have affected you as well.

THE BEGINNING
It’s hard to actually determine when the beginning is, because I’ve been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. But I can tell you exactly what wrestling programming I was watching when I became a fan.

British wrestling was big when I first became a fan. Every Saturday afternoon at four in the afternoon, millions would tune in to the World of Sport show on ITV, to get their weekly fix of grappling action. If we wanted great technical action, we looked to the likes of Johnny Saint, Steve Grey, or Mal Sanders. If we wanted larger than life villains, we looked to the likes of Kendo Nagasaki, Giant Haystacks of Kendo Nagasaki, and if we wanted superheroes we could look up to, we had Big Daddy. We also had our fair share of visiting overseas stars as well, with the likes of several Hart brothers, a pre-Kamala Jim Harris, and the Mighty John Quinn coming to these shores. And let’s not forget the man regarded by many as one of the best professional wrestlers in history, the Dynamite Kid.

The fact that the old World of Sport shows are now one of the highest rated programmes on The Wrestling Channel here in Britain says a lot about the quality of the wrestling from that era. British wrestling was regarded as the best in the world back then.

THE RE-BIRTH
If truth be known, I had really lost interest when Greg Dyke kicked the ITV shows to the kerb in 1988, and when, a year later, my family were only the second family in my hometown of Cromer to get satellite television, I really wasn’t interested in seeing what the various channels had to offer as far as wrestling was concerned.

I had seen the WWF during it’s brief run on ITV, and frankly, I didn’t like what I saw. Compared to what we Brits were doing, it seemed so over-the-top, it was almost like a pantomime. But my views on the WWF would soon change.

Sky were about two months behind the Americans when they first showed Wrestlemania X in June 1989. Taking place at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, the whole event just seemed, well, special. Headlined by the “Macho Man” Randy Savage defending his WWF title against Hulk Hogan, the whole event just seemed to leap out at me, and after seeing wrestlers like Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the Ultimate Warrior, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, I was hooked, and there was absolutely no looking back.

“WE’RE TAKING OVER!”
I had never really been a big fan of World Championship Wrestling. Sure, I watched their show whenever it was on television, but the fact that WCW didn’t have a stable television contract here in Britain, and seemed to jump for channel to channel with great regularity meant that I didn’t really pay much attention to the company.

That was until May, 1996. While watching an edition of Nitro on the British version of TNT, I couldn’t believe my eyes when Scott Hall arrived on the scene. With the swagger of Razor Ramon, Hall grabbed the microphone and announced that WCW was being taken over. A short time later, Hall brought a buddy along with him, in the form of Kevin Nash.

The implication was that Vince McMahon had sent Hall and Nash to start a WWF invasion of WCW. Of course, legal matters meant that this part of the angle was soon dropped, as Hall and Nash announced at The Great American Bash that they weren’t employed by the WWF. Nash then power bombed Eric Bischoff through the stage.

A few weeks later, at Bash At The Beach, WCW representatives Sting, Lex Luger & Randy Savage were due to take on Hall, Nash and a mystery third partner in the main event. Luger was injured early on, leaving Sting & Savage to fight WCW’s cause. Towards the end of the bout, the crowd went wild when Hulk Hogan walked down the aisle, thinking that the Hulkster was there to save WCW from these invading forces.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Hogan attacked Savage, joined forces with Hall & Nash, and the New World Order was born. The greatest angle in professional wrestling history was unfolding before our eyes. It would turn World Championship Wrestling into the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, but it would also ultimately lead to it’s downfall.

THE REAL DEATH OF KAYFABE
Deep down, we all knew that wrestling wasn’t “real”, that the guys in the ring had planned things out beforehand, that the outcome of the matches were already decided. The wrestling companies just weren’t prepared to admit it, until Vince McMahon appeared on worldwide television and basically told us what we already knew.

That moment may have signalled the death of kayfabe, and smartened up a lot of people, but we became a whole lot smarter, and a lot more cynical, after the events of November 9th, 1997.

WWF Champion Bret “Hitman” Hart was on his way out of the company when he was scheduled to defend his title against long-time rival, both in front of and behind the camera, Shawn Michaels at the Survivor Series in Montreal. Hart didn’t want to drop the title to Michaels in his homeland, but agreed to lost to Michaels by disqualification, and give up the title the following night on Raw. But Vince McMahon had other ideas.

As Shawn Michaels locked in the sharp-shooter towards the end of the match, McMahon, who had been at ringside throughout the entire match, ordered the time-keeper to ring the bell. Hart had been defeated, and Michaels was the new WWF Champion.

Watching the tape then, I couldn’t believe what I had seen. Something just didn’t seem right, especially when Michaels was ushered away from the ring, unable to celebrate his title victory.

Of course, we all know the story now. McMahon, with a little help for his loyal employees, had screwed Hart out of the title. Backstage, Hart clobbered McMahon when the boss tried to explain why he did what he did. Shortly afterwards, Hart signed with World Championship Wrestling. Just over two years later his career was over, courtesy of a stiff kick from Bill Goldberg.

Wrestling lost a little of it’s magic that night in Montreal.

THE LOSS OF INNOCENCE
On May 23rd, 1999, the greatest tragedy in the history of professional wrestling occurred.

I was a fan of Owen Hart. I had been ever since I saw him wrestle Marty Jones in a scorcher of a match in Britain in 1987. We all expected him to leave the WWF after what happened to his brother Bret, but he couldn’t get out of his contract, so he stayed with the company.

At the “Over The Edge” pay-per-view, Owen, having resurrected his Blue Blazer gimmick, was scheduled to face The Godfather for the Intercontinental title. With the WWF in the height of the so-called “Attitude” era, Owen’s Blue Blazer character now preached family values, much in the same way Hulk Hogan had a decade earlier.

Owen’s entrance that evening would have seen him descend from the rafters of the arena like a super-hero, but something went tragically wrong. But the mechanism went wrong, and Owen plunged over sixty feet, smashing his head on one of the turnbuckles as he fell into the ring.

Television fans knew something was wrong, was very wrong, by the way that Jim Ross was announcing things. It was a short time later that JR announced to a shocked worldwide television audience that Owen Hart had died.

The effect this tragic series of events had on the professional wrestling world cannot be understated. Owen Hart was one of the nice guys. He wasn’t one for playing political games, and hardly anyone had a harsh word to say against him.

A part of the wrestling business died that day.

DESERTING THE SINKING SHIP
Towards the end of 2000, WCW was in tatters. The New World Order had run it’s course, the company was losing millions while top stars stayed at home, and some of those that did appear on television and pay-per-view weren’t happy with the way things were going.

On January 16th, Chris Benoit defeated Sid Vicious for the vacant WCW World Heavyweight title. But it meant nothing to him. A day later, Benoit, along with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn left WCW.

On January 31st, the four of them appeared in the front row during the opening moments of WWF Raw, interfering in the opening tag-team match. The WWF had pulled off a hell of a coup. Had WCW inserted a no-compete clause in when they released them from their contract, they wouldn’t have been able to work for the WWF. But WCW’s failure to do this meant that Vince McMahon had got his hands on four of the best wrestlers in the world. The Radicalz were born.

While Malenko won the Light-Heavyweight title before retiring, and Saturn more or less slipped off the wrestling map, both Benoit and Guerrero went on to achieve a great deal of success, and continue to do so to this day. But the company they left behind was faltering. Things were going wrong all over the place, and the departure of four of their top stars may have been the first nail in the proverbial coffin.

THE MONOPOLY BEGINS
Early 2001 wasn’t a good time to be a wrestling fan. Ever since I first became interested in the American wrestling scene, there was always a “big two”, and a times, a “big three”. As the twenty-first century began, those three were Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation.

But by March of that year, Vince McMahon would have a monopoly on the American wrestling market.

With their debts mounting, and failing to secure a new national television contract after being dropped by TNN, ECW closed down. Paul Heyman’s rebel promotion was credited with giving the wrestling business the proverbial kick in the pants that it needed. The number of stars they had created read like a who’s who, and they were applauded for their innovative style and storylines. But in the end, Heyman’s mercurial booking talents didn’t make up for his lack of business acumen.

Two months later, the once mighty World Championship Wrestling officially closed. The company had lost an estimated $60 million dollars in it’s final year of trading. After this fiasco, AOL/Time Warner wanted out of wrestling altogether. The cancellation of WCW’s television contract meant that an Eric Bischoff-led consortium couldn’t close their deal, and like a hovering vulture, Vince McMahon pounced, purchasing the rights to the company name, it’s entire video library, and the contracts of twenty undercard wrestlers for chump change. Vince had achieved his goal, he had defeated his competition, but sadly, he ended up defeating himself by botching what could have been the greatest wrestling angle of all time.

FINALLY, I HAD AN ALTERNATIVE!
In March 2004, a television company based in Ireland changed the face of wrestling broadcasting here in Britain. For the first time since WCW and ECW went under, the now-WWE had some broadcast competition.

Headed by Sean Herbert, The Wrestling Channel launched on the Sky Digital platform, finally offering those of us who wanted a viable alternative to our weekly wrestling dose from Titan Towers, bringing to us wrestling from the American indy circuit, Japan, Mexico, and from right here in Britain.

Finally, and without the aid of tape traders, British fans got to see just how great companies like TNA and Ring of Honor were, and how great wrestlers like Christopher Daniels, A.J. Styles, C.M. Punk, Colt Cabana, Low-Ki, American Dragon, Samoa Joe, and many more really were, having read a great deal about them on the internet and in magazines.

But sadly, TWC didn’t seem able to keep up the momentum. A second channel was re-launched, which folded a few months afterwards. The renegotiation of deals meant that some apparently popular promotions, such as CMLL, CZW, and New Japan were dropped, while others like GAEA & MLW closed down, and the FWA had problems of their own to sort out. But despite all of this, The Wrestling Channel continues to provide a viable alternative to the mighty World Wrestling Entertainment here in Britain. Given time, TWC should overcome it’s previous problems and continue to provide us with top notch entertainment.

Five years on, ten pivotal moments, and The Two Sheds Review is still going strongly, now appearing in various forms on twenty-plus websites and newsletters. To everyone who has supported me down the years, and who have taken the time out to send feedback on my work, a big thank-you to you all. Please continue to show your support by visiting my website at www.twoshedsreview.com, and by sending in more feedback.

Here’s to the next five years.
 

9th September

The first Random Ramblings in a while, so here goes;

It’s nice to see another Brit finally make it onto the main WWE roster. Paul Burchill blew everyone away with his performances here in Britain. It’s hard to believe at times that he’s only three years into his professional career, and it’s been only six months since he first set foot in America on a developmental deal.

And it’s kind of weird for me seeing someone wrestling for the largest promotion in the world that I’ve actually met. I had the opportunity to meet with Paul a year ago, at the World Association of Wrestling’s tenth anniversary show. Paul is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He only played a small part in the show, but made a point of shaking everyone’s hand before he left at the end. A damn nice bloke, and I’ll be watching his career with a great deal of interest.

I miss Muhammad Hassan. I really do. There’s those who write for certain publications here in Britain who would have you believe that he was the drizzling s***s. Me, I enjoyed his work. He may not have been the best wrestler in the world, but there was no doubt that his character was getting over, and you have to wonder, if he stayed on Raw, would we still be seeing him every week? Well, let me put this another way - why do you think The Sopranos is shown on HBO in America, and not NBC?

I’m glad to see that the killer instinct in Kurt Angle has returned. We’ve seen the Olympic hero portray a wide variety of characters since he first burst onto the scene. He’s been everything from a nerd to a pervert, but the legit tough guy character is when he’s at his best. Angle is one of the few reasons I watch Raw at the moment.

Remember the Hardy/Edge street fight on Raw a couple of weeks back? Am I the only one who thinks that this fight would have been better at Summerslam? Their Summerslam match lacked the intensity of their rematch, and I get the feeling that their upcoming cage match won’t be their last encounter.

Is it me, or is the WWE legal department starting to go a little crazy now? Justin Credible can no longer call himself Justin Credible. Billy Kidman and the Dudley Boys are history as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t these guys go by these names long before they ever stepped foot in a WWE ring?

WWE have also informed some of their wrestlers that when they’re in a large group of people, they must remain in character. A bit late to reintroduce kayfabe, isn’t it Vince? But tell me one thing, if Nick Dinsmore is to remain in character 24/7, and Animal and Heidenreich are to wear face-paint all the time, does this mean that JBL has to act like a total prick all the time as well? Oh, wait…..

Dusty Rhodes signed a contract to join the WWE creative team this week. This means we can now look forward to the following happening on WWE shows soon;

1) The return of Dustin Rhodes, as he returns to Raw and burns his Goldust costume in a trash can.

2) Dusty taking over as GM of Smackdown, and Stacey Kiebler and Christy Hemme vying for the attentions of this stud-muffin. Dusty then tells them that they must each find a tag-team and battle for his affections this way - cue the return of the Harris twins as the DOA, and the elevation of a useless jobber tag-team that nobody else has heard of.

3) An entire pay-per-view filled with steel cage matches.

Mind you, we might finally get to see a War Games match in the WWE soon. That would be a good thing.

Is it me, or is Trevor Murdoch nothing more than a Stan Hansen tribute act?

Don’t you feel sorry for Kane at the moment? We’ve been told for years that when we watch professional wrestling we must try to suspend our disbelief. Then Matt Hardy appears on Raw and basically tells us that Kane is nothing more than a fictional character. Next they’ll be telling us that the outcome of the matches is decided beforehand. Oh, wait…..

Want to see the future of women’s professional wrestling - go here - http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/21/international/americas/21bolivia.html?ei=5088&en=eb63779245f7e03b&ex=1279598400&adxnnl=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1126184999-
t9AiKLNqxzgsq3F2hKl71g.

I’d like to give a big shout out to Nora Greenwald, the artist formerly known as Molly Holly. In the past few months or so I’ve started to receive DVDs from professional wrestling promotions and production companies for me to review. I recently got a copy of Nora’s shoot interview DVD from the production company, and I was more than a little surprised that Nora herself sent me a short letter, thanking me for my support. It’s a shame that not all professional wrestlers can act in such a classy way.

Finally, why is it that the internet is so down on Hardcore Holly? Sure, he has a reputation for being a bit of a bully backstage, but the next time you see him on Smackdown or Velocity, just look at the reaction he gets. The guy is over, there’s no doubt about that, and he’s definitely one of the most talented guys on the Smackdown side of things. He will never be World Heavyweight Champion, but he’s certainly entertaining, and definitely value for money.

That’s your lot for this edition. Remember, if you read something on www.wwe.com, then it’s a work. If you read it elsewhere, it’s a shoot. If you read it in Powerslam magazine, then it’s probably being critical.
 

1PW A Cruel Twist Of Fate Preview

This coming Saturday, October 1st, 1 Pro Wrestling will be holding their first ever show, “A Cruel Twist Of Fate”, at the Doncaster Dome in South Yorkshire. It’s the first of many “super shows” that are being held over the coming months, with stars being gathered from both Britain and America.

The name of the show actually comes from a wrestler who, because of the machinations of one Vincent K. McMahon, had to pull out of the show. Matt Hardy was originally scheduled to be a part of the main event, but instead of flying over here to entertain us Brits, he decided to take out some of his pent-up aggression on a certain two-timing Canadian.

Some writers will probably be critical that the card is stacked with American talent, that the promoters, 1 Up Games, are trying to pander to the internet smart marks too much, but when you look at the card in a little more detail, you’ll see that although some of the internet’s darlings will be on the show, there’s also something for the more casual fan, the type of person who doesn’t spend almost every waking moment over analysing every move in a Pro Wrestling NOAH match.

Let’s start with Hardy’s replacement. Originally, the thought of TNA monster Abyss going up against Hardy looked like a good David v Goliath match on paper. But Hardy’s withdrawal opened the door for one of the pioneers of TNA’s X Division - A.J. Styles. Styles and Abyss have fought against each other numerous times in TNA. The discrepancy in size wasn’t apparent as these two tore the house down several times, so to say that Styles is an adequate replacement for Hardy would be something of an understatement.

A word of advice if you’re going to this show, and you’re going to be sitting in the first six rows - wear water-proof clothing, or take an umbrella, because The Sandman will be in attendance. Yep, not only will you probably get drenched in beer during his usual ten minute ring entrance, you’ll also get the chance to sing along to Metallica’s greatest ever song as he goes up against Raven in a Raven’s Rules (basically, a no rules bout) match. This will be the Sandman’s first appearance in a British wrestling ring in four years, since his last appearance at the ill-fated Wrestlexpress show.

Let’s not forget the other man in the bout here. Raven is a firm favourite with the British fans. Perhaps one of the greatest psychological wrestlers of the past twenty years, Raven’s ECW feud with the Sandman is the stuff of legend, and although time, and in the Sandman’s case, beer, may have slowed both me down somewhat, this still looks like it could be a great match. A shame that Raven is no longer NWA World Champion though.

But speaking of World Champions, Steve Corino will be defending his AWA World Heavyweight title on the show. The AWA World title is one of the oldest in professional wrestling, and although it’s lost some of it’s lustre in the past few years, Corino is probably the first champion since Larry Zybyszko that fans will recognise on name value alone. What’s intriguing about this match is that he’ll actually be defending the title against a current WWE star - Al Snow. In the past few years Al is better known for his work as the head trainer on the Tough Enough series, but go back a few years, and forget his stints as Leif Cassidy and Avatar, and you’ll see that Snow was a hell of a wrestler, and perhaps one of the most under-rated wrestlers in the WWE in the late 90’s. With the pedigree that these two have, Corino v Snow could possibly be the sleeping giant of the card, the match that unexpectedly steals the show.

One for the smart marks next. Late last year Austin Aries caused something of an upset when he defeated long-reigning champion Samoa Joe for the Ring of Honor title. Aries held the title for nearly six months before losing it to C.M. Punk. Aries also recently made his TNA debut, taking on X-Division Champion Christopher Daniels. But on his British debut, Aries will have his work cut out for him as he takes on a man regarded as this country’s best technical wrestler, “The Anarchist” Doug Williams. I’ve been a keen follower of Williams’ work in the past few years. This is another bout that promises a great deal.

In another bout that harks back to the glory days of ECW, the Blue Meanie, recently seen on Smackdown trying to get a measure of revenge against John Bradshaw Layfield, will be taking on another guy who also wanted a piece of JBL, Tracey Smothers. This is the kind of match I was alluding to earlier. Meanie and Smothers are hardly internet darlings, but they do appeal to the casual fans, because of their work in ECW and WWE.

The main tag-team bout of the show also looks like it will be very interesting. Representing the USA will be two wrestlers who have made quite a name for themselves in TNA’s X-Division. Chris Sabin is probably one of the best young high-flyers on the American indy circuit at the moment, and a former X-Division champion, who only lost the belt because he was injured. Sabin will be partnered by a man I have a great deal of admiration and respect for - Jerry Lynn. Lynn was a pioneer of the X-Division long before there was an X-Division. A fifteen year veteran, Lynn has held titles wherever he has competed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad Jerry Lynn match, he’s that good.

Representing Great Britain will be two of Britain’s premier cruiserweights. “The Phoenix” Jody Fleisch returned to action earlier this year after a self-imposed exile, and although he has competed only sporadically since his return, his matches before his absence are the stuff of legend, particularly those with his tag-team partner. “The Wonderkid” Jonny Storm is Britain’s premier lightweight wrestler at the moment. Storm is another of those men I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad match from. This tag-match promises much, and will definitely deliver.

With an under card featuring American stars Low-Ki, D’Lo Brown, and Brits such as James Tighe, Spud and Iceman, A Cruel Twist of Fate looks stacked from top to bottom. Sadly, I won’t be at the show, but if it looks as good on DVD as it does on paper, then I’ll be the first in line to get my copy!

R.I.P. Eddie Guerrero

There are times in life when you begin to wonder just why certain things happen to certain people, especially when bad things happen to good people. You ask yourself why these kind of things happen.

At 7.30 this evening, I heard the news that Eddie Guerrero had passed away. To say I am in shock right now would bean understatement. At the time I heard the news, I was watching Batman Begins on DVD, a birthday present from my brother Mark, and when my brother Paul told me, I didn’t believe it at first. I told him to log onto the WWE website. It was true. Eddie was gone.

Over the past couple of hours I’ve read tons of stories from fans and those in the business about their encounters with Eddie. Well, I don’t have such a story, mine is more of a close but no cigar kind of thing.

In January 2002, I was at the WAW offices in Norwich, just a few weeks after I’d began work for the company as their new webmaster and chief reporter. This was around the time that Jake Roberts’ association with WAW began, and we were throwing around ideas about how to get some publicity for Jake. It was the idea for Jake’s appearance on They Think It’s All Over that came from that meeting.

But before the WAW promotional machine went into overdrive, Ricky gave me some news that had me marking out like the true wrestling fan that I am. Ricky was in the early stages of planning a follow-up to his massive Fightmare show  the previous April. Several venues were being mentioned, venues such as the Doncaster Dome, and even Norwich City  Football Club’s ground Carrow Road was being mentioned.

But the one main name that was being mentioned for this potential show was none other than Eddie Guerrero. Eddie was a free agent, probably one of the hottest free agents in the wrestling business at that time. He had been let go by WWE because of his substance abuse problems, and wrestling promoters were literally falling over each other to get Eddie to appear on his shows. Indeed, Eddie appeared on some of the early Ring of Honor shows, and it’s safe to say that with Eddie on their show, their reputation as a fledgling promotion was enhanced a hundred-fold.

The original plan was that Eddie would headline the show, going up against the Zebra Kid in a bout for the WAW Cruiserweight title. Being a keen fan of both wrestlers, I was literally salivating at the prospect of these two in the ring with each other, and I know that the Zebra Kid was looking forward to this as well. Roy was a big fan of Eddie, and would add some of Eddie’s moves to his already impressive repertoire.

But sadly, the show never got off the ground, and Eddie Guerrero never wrestled in a WAW ring. But he did compete in a British wrestling ring. Just one month later, Eddie competed on Tommy Boyd’s Revival show. In the weeks leading up to the show, Tommy had asked fans on his Talk Sport wrestling radio show which American wrestlers they would like to see on the show. The response was overwhelming as fans emailed and phoned telling Tommy to get Eddie Guerrero for their show. Tommy did as the fans wanted, and Eddie entered the King of England tournament at Revival, taking on Scott Parker in the first round, before losing a great match to Doug Williams. Many say that it was after seeing this match that Vince McMahon realised he had to get Eddie back in the WWE. So two months later, on the first Raw after the brand split, Eddie returned to WWE, attacking Rob Van Dam and setting up a tremendous feud. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I’m still in a state of shock as I write this. Eddie Guerrero was just 38 years old. He was born just a few weeks before my brother Michael. We all know about his past problems, and how he defeated his personal demons. Eddie told his nephew Chavo just yesterday that he had now been clean and sober for four years. It was an achievement that he was immensely proud of his achievement.

Rumour had it that at tonight’s combined Smackdown and Raw taping, Eddie was set to win the World Heavyweight title from the injured Batista. Fans around the world would have loved that. But now the storylines for both shows have been scrapped, and what we’ll get now is two two hour tribute shows to one of the greatest wrestlers in modern history. Vince McMahon has told his wrestlers that working on this show is strictly voluntary. I get the feeling that nobody will go home before the show starts tonight, least of all Chavo.

Watching Raw tomorrow night is going to be very difficult tomorrow night for fans around the world. Eddie Guerrero was one of the good guys, a loving wife and husband. He was one of the guys that other wrestlers never seemed to have a problem with. He shouldn’t have been taken from us so soon, and the wrestling world, and the world at large, will be a poorer place without his presence, and it’s at times like this I think of the lyrics to Queen’s last single, No One But You. It was written as a tribute to Freddie Mercury, but the words are more than apt here;

“One by one,
Only the good die young,
They’re only flying too close to the sun,
And life goes on -
Without you…”

Rest in peace Latino Heat. Thanks for the memories.
 

The Best And Worst Of WWE 2005

With the end of the year fast approaching, and we in Britain only getting best of shows for the remainder of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the five best and five worst things about WWE this past year. Starting with the worst, and beginning with 5, and working our way up to 1;

5: Another Diva Search
When the WWE announced that they would be holding another Diva Search contest this year, fans around the world let out another collective groan. For weeks on end we were submitted to awful segments on Raw in which various bimbos underwent tasks such as Sgt. Slaughters boot camp assault course thingy. After what seemed like an eternity, those who actually cared voted in favour of Ashley Massaro, a woman who shows an incredible lack of charisma. Say what you want about Christy Hemme, but that little sparkplug showed tons of energy and personality, and put in the right situation, she was really starting to shine.

4: More Roster Cuts
The powers-that-be in the WWE certainly seem to know more about wrestling than we mere mortals. Once again, in a “cost cutting” exercise, a staggering array of talent that any promoter in the world would be proud of were released into the wild. Names like Charlie Haas, Rhino, Christian, Gail Kim, Molly Holly, the Dudley Boys, Yoshihiro Tajiri and more were released from their contracts, which left many fans and writers scratching their heads wondering why these talented grapplers were released, while wrestlers such as Tyson Tomko, Gene Snitsky and Viscera were still plying their trade week in and week out. However, it seems that for the most part WWE’s loss is going to be TNA’s gain.

3: Jim Ross Gets Fired
There have been many great play-by-play men in the wrestling business. Men like Lance Russell, Gordon Solie and Mike Tenay are regarded as professors of the business, and the name of Jim Ross is right up there with them. But this year, Ross’ reign as the WWE’s premier commentator came to an end. This past October, Ross was fired live on television by the McMahons, with the matriarch of the family, WWE CEO Linda McMahon, again showing what a great actress she is by delivering a low blow. Of course, many say this happened because Ross had to undergo colon surgery. But once again the creative team stepped over the line and made fun of Ross’ surgery. Portraying the role of Dr. Heiney, Vince McMahon appeared in a sketch pulling various objects out of the backside of a dummy with Ross’ face on it, while sound bites from the great man himself played. For many, this overlong segment went way too long.
2: Tim White Commits Suicide
In an all-out attempt to promote the Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Randy Orton at Armageddon, the WWE tried to portray just how brutal a match it could be by showing some of the greatest moments this gimmick match has seen, including the bumps that Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Rikishi took off the top of the cage. During the pay-per-view itself, they also tried to show the effect it had on the referees as well. Former WWE referee Tim White, who was injured during a Triple H v Chris Jericho Cell match in 2002, was interviewed by Josh Matthews in his Friendly Tap bar. Downing shots and beers, White told Matthews how the match ruined his life, how his family and friends had left him, and of his health problems. After threatening Matthews with a shotgun, White then walked out of the view of the camera, and a gunshot was heard, with the implication that White had killed himself. A skit in extremely poor taste, numerous fans thought this was for real, as the local police were called to White’s bar, and they pried the door off it’s hinges and went in search of White’s body. White later had to make a formal statement to the police.

1: Eddie Guerrero
There is no doubt in my mind that the Eddie’s passing is not just the worst thing to happen to the WWE this year, but to the wrestling industry as a whole. Having conquered his personal demons, Eddie went on to win the WWE title, and looked set to enjoy another reign as champion after Batista went down with a back injury. But sadly, the battle with the demons had an after-effect, and just one month ago, Eddie collapsed and died in his hotel room prior to a television taping. Eddie was one of those guys in the wrestling business who you hardly ever heard a bad word about, and you could see that during the Raw and Smackdown tribute shows in the days after his death. Guys who were normally portrayed as monsters in the ring were reduced to tears on camera when they paid their respects to a great man.

And now, the best;

5: The Draft Lottery
After last year’s Draft Lottery was a one-night affair, the creative team decided to turn things up a notch by drawing out the drama over the space of several weeks. Last year, ham-and-eggers switched brands, but this year was different. From the first night’s draft of John Cena to Raw, to the final night’s draft of Batista to Smackdown, the Draft Lottery proved to be even more successful than the year before, with major players such as Rob Van Dam, Carlito and others changing their work schedule, and shaking things up a great deal on both rosters, creating new feuds and matches that both brands needed.

4: Triple H
I think it’s safe to say that a lot of you out there aren’t Triple H fans. It seems that wherever you go, be it on the internet or in various magazines and fanzines, you’ll find experts on the mat game criticising Triple H, saying that he hogs the limelight, that he only keeps his much cherished position on the roster because he’s a McMahon by marriage. But if this year has shown anything, it’s shown that while Triple H still considers himself a star, he’s also a star making. Batista’s jump to Smackdown and showdown with JBL showed this, and despite Ric Flair’s advancing years, Triple H made the Nature Boy look like a million dollars. With programs with both the Big Show and John Cena on the horizon, Triple H looks as strong as ever in the ring, and is apparently on afraid to put people over.

3: Shawn Michaels v Kurt Angle
When the seeds for this series were sown at the Royal Rumble this past January, grappling fans around the world were salivating at the prospect of these two going at it in the ring, although a great number of people were cautious about how good this match could be, given the past health problems of Michaels and the apparent current health problems of Angle. But beginning at Wrestlemania, and continuing throughout the year, the Michaels/Angle rivalry made for classic viewing, and while their first encounter is difficult to surpass, you know that each time these two step in the ring with each other you’re going to get something special.

2: Joey Styles
While we lamented the loss of Jim Ross and the promotion of Jonathan Coachman to the lead announce position, ECW’s One Night Stand pay-per-view showed that Ross’ best replacement was virtually right under the WWE’s nose. The performance of Joey Styles that night was like a breath of fresh air compared to Ross’ recent performances, and any performance by Michael Cole. A few months later Styles was calling the shots at Taboo Tuesday, and becoming the lead announcer on Raw a few weeks later, having inked a five year deal, making Ross’ departure less and less painful.

1: ECW Nostalgia
To say that Paul Heyman’s brainchild had an effect on the wrestling business would be a drastic understatement. Following the release of The Rise and Fall of ECW, one of the biggest selling wrestling DVDs of all-time, the WWE went one step further and put on a one-time only pay-per-view, One Night Stand, bringing together some of the biggest stars who ever competed for ECW at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Well, when I say the biggest stars who ever competed for ECW, I meant those who weren’t under contract to TNA. With Heyman at the helm, we were taken back a few years as the likes of the Sandman, the Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Lance Storm and more showed us just what ECW was about, and not even the storyline involving Raw and Smackdown stars voicing their dislike for all things ECW could dampen the proceedings.

Well, that’s your lot for this column. I’m sure a great number of you will disagree with my views here, and some of you are probably wondering why the hell the Muhammad Hassan terrorist angle from Smackdown wasn’t included in my Worst list. Let’s just say it was bubbling under.

To end, may I just wish a Merry Christmas to all of my readers.