Saturday, May 20, 2017

The state of British wrestling

You know, I really must write more on this blog. I'll try to keep up a daily ramble from now on - there's absolute tons of things happening in the memory world alone that I feel morally obliged to tell the world about.

But to start with, here's another subject in the "everybody who might plausibly be interested in what I say already knows all about it" category - TV wrestling, of the specifically British variety.

You may remember that at the new year, ITV put on a World of Sport wrestling special, of the family-friendly, Saturday-afternoon, mainstream type, immediately following which the WWE Network inaugurated a UK Championship title with a two-part special edition of the strictly-for-the-wrestling-fanatics type. Comparing the two was really quite fascinating. ITV, naturally, went for 'colourful and entertaining' to appeal to the mainstream audience of normal people, while the WWE emphasized 'technical skills' to excite the nerdy internet people who watch the WWE Network. [It's surprising how very, very nerdy wrestling fans on the internet are, incidentally - Star Trek forum contributors are ten times more macho and well-balanced]

Well, since then, both sides of the UK TV wrestling coin have been more or less in limbo. Tyler Bate has defended his newly-won title here and there - a couple of times on NXT, the WWE Network's 'development' show for wrestlers honing their craft before being introduced on the 'real' shows that appear on real TV; a couple more times at non-televised WWE events. Some more of the guys from the UK Championship special have shown up on NXT and the like once in a while, too. It's not been forgotten, but then it's not exactly been made a big deal of, either.

As for World of Sport, it's had problems. After announcing an alliance with Impact Wrestling, the distant-second-biggest US promotion, there was a special press conference on the internet, in which some of the wrestlers from the new year special stood on the stage and got rounds of applause, followed by a little bit of squabbling and chaos, which promised well for the future - a new 10-part series would be filmed in May, with a regular weekly show expected to follow.

There was a slight hint of not everything having been agreed - Dave Mastiff featured on the poster, but wasn't seen or mentioned in the YouTube video, with Sha Samuels being positioned as 'main baddie'. The awesome Grado, though, was still there as the main attraction, and he's really good. Give him a weekly series and he'll be Big Daddy levels of popularity, no problem. The others who showed up were Zack Gibson (placed with the goodies, though he was a bad guy on the new year special), Viper, Kenny Williams, El Ligero, Johnny Moss, Ashton Smith and Rampage Brown, plus new guy Magnus as the square-jawed-hero type I said at the time was strangely missing from the new year special. It looked like being a lot of fun!

And then it was abruptly cancelled, "as a result of contract negotiations". The internet seems to think that the problem is between ITV and Impact, rather than the wrestlers themselves, which makes you wonder why they need Impact in the first place - surely it's within ITV's budget to pay for a dozen or so wrestlers, a half-decent scriptwriter and a ring in a studio? Oh well.

But WWE, on the other hand, have just done another "UK Championship Special" on the network last night - smaller in scale than before, but as a build-up to a title match on tonight's big live "NXT Takeover" special. That's the most prominent the UK Championship title has been, maybe it'll lead to an ongoing series eventually...

It was pretty good, though some of the technical details didn't seem to be quite right - there was one cameraman just outside the ring who was really terrible, and for the first match the crowd was almost inaudible, so it didn't feel like a big event. Still, good fun all round - we started out with Wolfgang beating Joseph Conners in a doesn't-count-for-anything match; Wolfgang is still really, really good and deserves to be the main event, probably at some point when someone else is the reigning champion. Then, strangely, Dan Moloney joins up with three Americans from the WWE's cruiserweight division for a tag team match, Moloney and Rich Swann against TJP and The Brian Kendrick. He seemed out of place.

The main events were rather predictable, but well done - Pete Dunne beat Trent Seven in a match to determine who would be the challenger in the NXT Takeover title match, and the more I see Pete Dunne the more impressed I am with him. He's a great villain! Then there was a title match to finish it off, between Tyler Bate (rather unwisely having changed his cool and distinctive previous appearance to a beard and floppy fringe) and Mark Andrews (who already has a beard and floppy fringe). Not so much high-flying and agility from Mark Andrews this time round, it was a bit disappointing. There was never any doubt that Tyler would win, but that doesn't excuse putting on a match that looks like they know they're going through the motions...

Still, it's all entertaining, and now I'm cheering for Pete Dunne to win the title and go on to headline a new series. And fingers crossed, maybe we'll still get a World of Sport series too!

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