By Haydn Gleed
-Ladies and Gentleman, my throne of smugness is smashed into pieces. After an amazing start to the season my beloved Cardiff City earned a decent point against Fulham before being dismantled by Preston on Tuesday, therefore my throne of smugness has now become a pit of despair. It doesn’t matter, we will come back this weekend bigger and better and will continue to dominate the dastardly English in our next match. Yeah, that sounds so much more confident in written form than it does in my heart….
-Anyway, you are here for the wrestling thoughts of the week, not be the barman for my depressed football emotions. Usually when I write these thoughts of the week, I start off talking about WWE and then we filter down to the UK news at the end, this week is going to be a little different.
Last Sunday, Progress Wrestling had their biggest event to date at the Alexander Palace in London for Chapter 55. By all accounts the show was a huge success and all the storylines that had been heading towards this show were ended in great fashion. I’m not going to get into spoilers because I have not seen the show yet, therefore I am currently muting everything UK wrestling related on Twitter and Facebook so I can enjoy the show spoiler free when it’s available on demand. With that being said, one piece of news that came out of the show was the announcement that next September, Progress Wrestling will be holding their biggest show of the year at Wembley Arena.
This is huge news for not only Progress Wrestling but also the UK Independent scene. By booking this size of an arena (estimated around about 12,500 capacity), it shows the confidence that is coursing through the veins of British wrestling right now. I don’t personally expect them to fill the arena, but they can certainly get a record attendance and, as TNA have shown (who regularly used to run this arena), you can cut a third off the size of the arena and make the room look packed. This does add further to the speculation that there may be some news pending of a link with WWE possibly by providing content for WWE Network. Progress owners Jim, John and Glen are no fools and have built the company step by step with a little bit of luck, but mostly hard work. I don’t believe they would take this massive leap without the knowledge that they could get a lot of exposure in order to sell a lot of tickets for this place. We will have to see about that in the coming months, but I’m certainly looking forward to going to my favorite venue in the UK next year and seeing if they can top the experience I had watching NXT: London there from several years ago.
-In other British Wrestling news, there was some controversy this week when the upstart sports channel Freesports seemingly decided to end advanced negotiations with Preston based PCW about a time slot on their free to air channel. The network instead got in bed with 5 Star Promotions. To give you a bit of background on 5-Star, they have been a promotion that has seemingly deployed the tactic of not putting in the hard graft and building a company from the ground up, but instead threw money at it in the hopes that it would get them to the level of Progress, ICW, PCW, Rev Pro, etc.
Back in January, they had a one night special in Dundee’s Ice Arena, a 2,300 building which they appeared to half fill at best, which was broadcasted on Spike TV UK. It featured ex-WWE stars such as Carlito and John Morrison, as well as some British journeyman wrestlers. It was not a good show in that it felt that it was a poor version of TNA’s poor version of imitating WWE. But it’s a British promotion so I wanted to keep my eye out to see how they got on. They announced a 128 man tournament (that is not a typo) earlier this year and an arena tour of buildings that hold 5,000 up to 21,000. Allegedly, the ticket sales were slow so it was no surprise that the tour was cancelled. In a move that made the wrestling community furious, reports came from the wrestlers that the promoters used the Manchester Bombings as an excuse for why the tour would not go forward. The talent also were informed that they would not be paid for the dates they were booked. This is also the company that put a story in a national newspaper that they were offering CM Punk a $1 million contract to compete in the tournament. The Twitter page of their owner was said to be hacked when a tweet announcing the signing of CM Punk was sent out and not taken down for a few hours.
I’ve spoken with a lot of people in the UK wrestling world this week and each one has had very few positives to say about this promotion. There has been an outpouring of sympathy for PCW not only from fans on social media, but also from some of the bigger names in the UK scene such as Jack Gallagher, Will Ospreay, Jimmy Havoc, John and Jim from Progress wrestling, amongst many others. Ospreay went as far as to tell any wrestlers who are thinking of working for 5 Star to get money in advance and that the owners have no social skills, so you can sense the anger that exists with the big names of British wrestling. How they plan to fill 128 slots for a tournament is literally beyond me, and I firmly believe that this project will be a huge failure. As I’ve mentioned many, many times already in this blog, the promotions that put UK wrestling to where it is now have worked hard and scratched and clawed their way to the point they are at now. They have built a fanbase that will stick with them through thick and thin, and it has worked and continues to work. 5 Star Wrestling are doing the exact opposite so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months.
-As for WWE this week, and it’s not even close for me to say what the highlight of their 400 hours of wrestling content was – the confrontation between Kevin Owens and Vince McMahon. This is how wrestling should be with a cocky badass heel throwing caution to the wind and taking every advantage he can to get under the skin of the fans. Almost everything that Kevin Owens was involved in on this show was great and really established him as more of a star and a badass than they have done in the years he’s been on the WWE main roster. I can listen to the arguments that he shouldn’t have shown remorse at his actions, but part of me thinks that perhaps that look was more in response to the “lovely Stephanie” throwing him a disapproving look as opposed to feeling he had pushed things too far. Nevertheless, it didn’t overly hurt a strong segment and strong build to Hell in a Cell. If Vince wasn’t sold on KO before this night, I’m sure in his eyes the man is now a star………..if his eyes are currently looking straight after that headbutt.
-Over on Raw is Shoot, WWE presented two segments that were worked shoots and as predicted the shine of that particular storytelling tool has started to lose it’s sparkle. John Cena and Roman Reigns were again going at it, and I felt both men seemed more comfortable and believed what they were saying. However, if you actually stopped and thought about it, nothing they were saying was either correct or helpful in building up the other. There was also a segment that I can only describe as asinine between The Miz and Enzo Amore. I don’t know if they were going for a double turn by making The Miz look sympathetic and Enzo as a prick (I know they weren’t before you write to me), but that’s the message sent. Enzo hurling abuse at a guy who just announced that he’s going to be a father is just a prickish thing to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s The Miz or whoever you were saying those “shoot” comments to, when you question who the real father of the baby is just after the announcement you look like a d-bag. WWE has handled the Enzo character so badly that I wouldn’t be surprised if next week Enzo shows a video of himself half naked in a hotel room waiting for Maryse, evoking memories of the Lana nonsense. Seriously WWE, the reason that the worked shoot is used so sparingly is because when you see it happen it should be shocking and therefore it gets a reaction. If you continue to make half your show feel “more real” by acknowledging situations off television then you make the rest of your show look fake.
-The latest GFW conference call with three of GFW creative team members Scott D’Amore, Sonjay Dutt, and John Gaburick took place earlier this week. These conference calls are a great tool for a company to engage in a public forum with the wrestling media, and we’ve seen Triple H doing this to great effect over the last year. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve found the GFW conference call’s to be at best difficult to listen too. This week however with Larry, Curly and Moe was probably the worst as they sounded confrontational from the start, like they would rather be anywhere else, and at times sounded condescending towards the person asking the question. I don’t know them on a personal level to know if this is an example of their true personalities, but it didn’t make for great listening. The big news coming out of the conference call is that the company plans to use Alberto El Patron on their Bound for Glory PPV later this year. I understand the appeal of using Alberto and he is a draw, but he also brings along a lot of baggage with him. I understand that he was not the one charged for the incident involving Paige, but there’s no denying that everywhere this man goes there is trouble. GFW had to suspend this man while in possession of the GFW Title, a huge embarrassment for the rebranded company, and I’m not sure if this is the right move from a PR perspective for GFW.
-That’s it for this week folks. I’m going to go and sulk in my pit of despair at yet another embarrassing defeat to the team up north (we did relegate them a couple of years ago, which makes me happy). The Fifa 18 computer game demo has been released for the PS4 so I’m going to kick some virtual players up the arse to make myself feel better. I will be back sometime in the middle of next week with back to back reviews of Chapter 54 and the big Chapter 55 show from Progress Wrestling, so take care until then.
As always, you can find me on twitter @haydngleed or email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to discuss anything in this blog or if you want to jump on the bandwagon with those who have been having a go at me for hating Chris Coleman in last week’s blog.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...