By Haydn Gleed
-So I’m now a Prince fan. You may remember from last week’s blog that I was going to the My Name Is Prince exhibition at the O2 Arena in London with my lovely girlfriend, but the truth was I wasn’t that big of an admirer of Prince going in. Granted, there were a few songs that I liked, but I bought the tickets for my better half’s birthday, as she loved the man so much she has a tattoo of him. As opposed to a retrospective of his life, each section is split into different stages of his musical life. You are given a free headset and you punch in the numbers that correspond with a piece of clothing or musical instrument and you are told exactly what it is, but there’s sections where there’s a lot of seats and a video screen that when you type in the number plays a number of tracks from that period of his musical life in sync with the video. I won’t go into more detail so that it won’t spoil the experience, but I would simply say if you are a fan of non-manufactured music of any genre, this is definitely somewhere you need to go and get an appreciation of a master songwriter. I was so impressed I went in not a particularly big fan of Prince and came out with $100 of merch………seriously!
-Anyways, moving into the world of wrestling. Some weeks I sit down to write my blog and I have to reach for some news to discuss, but I didn’t have that problem this time around. It’s been a wee bit crazy so let’s dive straight in. Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega has been announced for New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4. This isn’t just a great match for this show but it’s great for pro wrestling in general. New Japan is a great product but it could feel a little intimidating for English only speakers in that some may feel that they don’t understand the language and as a result they will struggle to understand what is happening. Fortunately, that’s not a problem these days thanks to the English broadcast feed on New Japan World. The other intimidation factor can be the amount to catch up on given the company’s deep history. It must be similar to how people must feel with big TV shows that they’ve heard a lot about such as “Game Of Thrones” and being six seasons behind. Those fans will know who Chris Jericho is and as a result will feel this will be a great time to jump on board. If the rest of the Wrestle Kingdom show is as good to great as previous years then it should draw those viewers back in for the future. The match quality of Omega vs. Jericho may not be at the level of last year’s Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada match, but the value of the new eyeballs on the product arguably makes this a more important match.
-Moday’s Raw was one of the best editions of the show taped outside of the United States in some time. It didn’t blow me away as being the best Raw I’ve ever seen, but having been in the audience for a lot of UK-based Raw events and having to sit through eight to ten random matches with little storyline progression, this was certainly a step up from the usual effort. There were some entertaining moments such as Pete Dunne making his Raw debut and some nice character work from The Miz and Braun Strowman, but the biggest compliment I can give the show is that it felt that it was a normal Raw and not a token “let’s go and see our British cousins and give 50% effort” type of show.
-Smackdown was better than Raw or at the very least a far more noteworthy show. Of course the biggest story is the WWE Championship changing hands on British soil for the first time in WWE history when AJ Styles defeated Jinder Mahal. Hopefully this sticks as I’ve already heard from people salivating at the prospect of seeing Styles vs. Brock Lesnar and I’m right there with them. I hope Styles as WWE Champion means we can stop fearing a stroll through Suplex City 156 times because the powers that be shouldn’t want their Smackdown champion to look weak even against the Beast, and that should lead to a memorable match. Time will tell.
-It was a memorable week all around for the British wrestling scene not only on the big stage but on a small indie show that happened in my own hometown of Cardiff, Wales. Triple H made an appearance at the Tramshed during an ICW event last Sunday in front of roughly 400 people that was being held before a Smackdown house show at the much bigger Motorpoint arena elsewhere in the City later that night. I actually had tickets for the ICW show, but I had to work. As I booked the tickets in my name and the new policy for all events being that the person who booked the tickets having to provide ID at the door, I had to walk the two blocks with my friends from my office to the Tramshed and explain the situation to the people working the door and then leave them behind. The gentleman on the door was very gracious and let my friends in and tried to convince me to forgo my grown up job and come to the show. In retrospect, I understand why he said, “you don’t want to miss this show!” My hope was that my friend who took my ticket would get his first taste of the British indie scene and enjoy it enough that I had another touring buddy to watch the best of the UK wrestling scene with. However, all he talked about afterwards was seeing Triple H. Go figure!
Nevertheless despite my own personal disappointment with missing the event, it’s a demonstration of not only the popularity of the UK scene that Paul Levesque would take an interest in a random UK indie house show but also that there is a working relationship between WWE and the bigger UK promotions. Back in January when I attended a Progress event, WWE let Finn Balor cut a promo in front of the crowd and the artist formally known as Tommy End (Aleister Black) wrestle a match against Jimmy Havoc, so it’s not a new concept of WWE helping out the UK groups. But with Triple H getting involved in these surprises and putting his name to the ICW product even for one night, it shows that maybe there will likely be more announcements in the future of a bigger working relationship such as Progress and ICW events being available on a new WWE Network tier. Granted, we’ve all been expecting that for a while, and I know myself and other members of the Prowrestling.net staff have been told by sources it’s only a matter of time, and it does seem to be inching closer.
-Pete Dunne against Johnny Gargano on the NXT Takeover:War Games has been announced…….but unfortunately it will not be part of the main show. Rather, it will be a dark match. I’m hoping that it is recorded for a future NXT television show as that will be a hell of a match.
-WWE managed to find a way to make me watch 205 Live this week with the inclusion of the UK talent. In the last two weeks I’ve become a slight American Football and Prince fan and watched 205 live. These may be signs of the apocalypse. However, I personally hope that the British talent’s involvement is not a regular thing. I’m still holding out hope for a weekly UK TV show totally separate from the wasteland that 205 Live has become. I can understand the logic of people wanting to see the UK talent come in and hopefully get more love from creative than 205 Live currently gets, but I personally don’t feel there’s any upside for the UK talent aside from minimal exposure on a show that people are not getting behind. I wrote nearly six months ago that WWE needed to start executing their UK Division plan and soon or the buzz created from the January tournament would all but have disappeared. I very much maintain that statement. With the inclusion of Dunne on Raw and the other talent on 205 Live, hopefully we will get a clearer picture of where these talented wrestlers will land in WWE soon.
-Impact Wrestling’s Bound for Glory was last Sunday………..anyways…… Actually no, I am going to comment on Bound For Glory. Once again, I decided to give the company another shot considering the creative regime change. And although I thought the show was ok, the fact that the creative team thought it was acceptable for their main event on a show that people have paid $40 for to be “classic TNA” with interference instead of a clean and decisive finish is just insane to me. If their argument is that it built up intrigue to their television product then I would therefore say refund the customers who paid to watch an infomercial. Not only that, but what upset me the most was the treatment of Gail Kim. She won the Knockouts Title, but there was no fanfare ater she won in her home country. It was yay she won and then… next! Not only that, but based on the commentary this was also her last match. This is the lady who almost singlehandedly revolutionized women’s wrestling in TNA and for a long time the Knockout division was the only part of the show that felt worth watching in addition to being a unique selling point for the company. Who knows where this company would be if it wasn’t for Gail Kim and the knockout division, and this was the sendoff they give her?
-On a more positive subject to end this blog, if you haven’t been watching the ROH television show in 2017 then you are missing out. I would certainly recommend this week’s show. The members have heard my audio review of the show, but I would recommend you check out the confrontation between ROH Champion Cody and Dalton Castle. It showed how to craft a great pro wrestling feud and get over each other’s characters at the same time. It left me as a viewer desperate to see their upcoming match and pay for the privilege when it finally happens at Final Battle. That’s what a weekly wrestling TV show should be used for, not the main event to your biggest show of the year, Impact Wrestling.
-Oh, and if you still haven’t seen Thor, then you are a fool!
As always, feel free to get in touch either through twitter @haydngleed or via email firstname.lastname@example.org