By Haydn Gleed, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
-WWE has been traveling through the UK and Europe over the last week with Raw and Smackdown emanating from the O2 Arena in London. Although Raw was a marathon show to watch with possibly one or two matches too many, I found it to be better in terms of keeping the crowd engaged in the action and not allowing the fans to take over. It was still your typical overseas show where it didn’t feel like a hot must watch show, but I felt somewhat content at the end of it given the usual nature of the match heavy shows we are treated too normally.
-I’m not sold on the Ronda Rousey against Nia Jax match at this point. Firstly, the match has a babyface against babyface dynamic and I’m not sure exactly what issues they can feed this match to give it a personal edge. Secondly, I’m not convinced we will actually see it. Think about it logically for a moment. Ronda has only been in one match and that was essentially a showcase as opposed to an athletic contest (albeit one that exceeded most people’s expectations). With the amount invested in Rousey for the next few years, if she has a stinker of a match in her first proper singles match it will be hard to recover from that. With that being said, I’m expecting some form of a two minute match where the most asked of the two wrestlers is a feeling out process before presumably Natalya and/or Alexa Bliss run-in to stop the match before it even starts. I think most of us have presumed that Natalya and Ronda being aligned has been done to eventually give Rousey a teacher in the ring for her first major feud and that would certainly be smart. I guess we will have to wait and see on this one.
-Over on Smackdown, am I the only one that finds it weird that Shane McMahon made the AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match in order to provide a stipulation so that they can have another match where there will be a clear victor, yet they had Nakamura win in a somewhat clean finish? It doesn’t make much sense to me. I’m still enjoying the feud but perhaps not as much as I was hoping. I’m at the stage now where I’m hoping their next match will be the last for the time being, which is a shame considering how excited I was going into WrestleMania. As for the stipulation? Perhaps a cup on a pole match which the winner gets to wear?
-The Daniel Bryan segment was fantastic. Going into the show I was expecting the humble Bryan promo where he made everyone feel good about him being back and that was it. This was based on the fact that it was the O2 in London that held his final match before his comeback, but I’m glad I was wrong. He showed passion, he showed fight, and we got the underdog Bryan that brought him to the dance in the first place. I loved the beatdown of Cass because it was done in such a logical and non-heel fashion. Bryan is that small dog that is all cute and loyal, but when he is in danger can turn into a killer. With Daniel targeting the knee of Cass, it wasn’t done in a heelish manner but instead was a logical approach by someone who is outmatched in terms of size and power to use a weak point of his opponent to get the advantage. I simply loved it.
-With WWE being in the UK they pulled out some of the bigger names on the UK Independent Scene to flesh out 205 Live and it was good to see. I’m with fellow Dot Net staffer John Moore, who wrote in his review that Tyler Bate has been running with a losing storyline on NXT and all of a sudden, he’s winning a match so it felt out of place. Still, I enjoyed watching the network show simply because I got to see some highly talented people get a shot on a bigger stage. Along with showcasing some talent on 205 Live, WWE also announced the first eight competitors in the UK tournament coming up in early June. Thus, it’s a good opportunity to talk through the names and share some thoughts on them.
Zack Gibson: This man is uncompromising, irritating, vicious, arrogant, and I love him for it. The scouser proudly proclaims that he’s Liverpool’s number one while the crowd usually boos the hell out of him. Imagine Tommaso Ciampa being booed so loudly that it stops him from talking and that’s what you have in Gibson. It’s such a fun gimmick where he will continue to rile up the crowd while giving the same schtick upsets them. Sometimes he walks through the crowd getting in their faces, which presumably he won’t be able to do on a WWE show. He’s also vicious in the ring with a combination of standard wrestling holds and fun power moves. At the moment, Gibson is a dark horse for me to get to at least the final if not win the whole thing. With the event being held in the UK and presumably an intelligent UK indie scene crowd, this should be a lot of fun to watch if you’ve never seen him before.
Joe Coffey: If you enjoyed Wolfgang in last year’s tournament then you will love Coffey. Uncompromising in the ring and with a very strong style approach, he will get the attention of the more casual viewer. I was very surprised when he wasn’t in the tournament last year but at the time (along with a number of others announced), he was part of the TNA/Impact/GFW sponsored relaunch of World Of Sport. so I’m guessing that’s why he wasn’t used. Coffey usually rocks an Iron Man mask in his entrance, which I assume won’t be around for the WWE show for legal reasons. He also possess an amazing simple heavy guitar entrance that is a lot of fun for fans to sing along with. I’ll obviously reserve my predictions until the brackets are announced, but a Zack Gibson vs. Joe Coffey match would be a sight to behold.
Jack Gallagher: He doesn’t really need a build up from me as presumably if you are reading this you have seen his work in WWE already. It will be interesting to see if he plays the heel role he’s had in WWE or the more lovable rogue that most of the crowd at the Royal Albert Hall will be used to seeing. My biggest issue with Jack has been the fact that a lot of his offense is fun to watch the very first time, but after the twentieth time of seeing it the bit gets a bit old, which is something my former staffer Darren Guttridge and I said a number of years ago. Despite that, he is definitely someone who will be fun to watch in this tournament.
Dave Mastiff: A veteran on the UK independent circuit who was a big part of making it what it has become today. This opportunity has probably come at the right time for him because despite being only 33, he has put a lot of wear and tear on his large frame since his debut in 2002, and I’m happy that he gets to perform in front of a large audience. He certainly deserves it with the body of work he’s put in. His cannonball into the corner is something to behold for a man of his size. He has an incredibly infectious and charismatic personality when he’s a babyface. He is also an effective big man heel when he has to be. He was Goliath to Grado’s David back on the World Of Sport revamp last year and showed that he still has a believable mean steak in him. Judging by the balance of heels and babyfaces of the eight announced, I’m guessing he will fall on the heel side for this show. Long time TNA fans will know him from season two of TNA British Boot Camp, which Mark Andrews won. The same show featured Noam Dar, Nikki Storm, Grado, and El Ligero, who is also in the UK tournament.
Joseph Conners: Conners was brought into the tournament last year and I’m quite surprised he’s been brought back. Despite the exposure on last year’s show, he hasn’t really pushed on and in fact had a program with Pete Dunne in Progress that was disappointing to say the least. I attach none of the blame to Pete Dunne. Out of the eight men announced, he’s the one guy that I feel is rather bland and I’m guessing he’s more of a decent hand in the ring type guy to make up the numbers.
Kenny Williams: The guy that most people will come away remembering with his quick and flashy offense. He is probably the biggest hidden gem in British wrestling at the moment and reminds me of a Scottish version of Mark Andrews. He’s certainly not the finished article but definitely someone to keep an eye out for the future. He had a great match against Ricochet on an ICW card, which is available for free on YouTube if you want a preview of him. He has developed a lot in the last twelve months since that match. He displays a lot of Back To The Future references with his gimmick, which is always an added bonus as far as I’m concerned.
El Ligero: The man who has wrestled all around the UK under a lucha mask with horns and has been billed from Mexico everywhere he’s gone………and the WWE broke kayfabe by proclaiming him from Leeds on their announcement video, but there we go. A high flyer who despite his veteran status having made his debut in 2001 is still only 33 and can certainly excite the crowds in the ring but can also convey a number of emotions despite the limitations of the mask. He had a run in Progress with the heel group The Origin before breaking away with Dave Mastiff to create The Origin “Banter Edition” that brought laughter and smiles from everyone who watched them. I doubt WWE will acknowledge their background if he faces Mastiff at some point in the competition, but from my point of view this will be great to see. He is definitely someone you’ll remember the next day after the show.
Amir Jordan: The wildcard in this tournament. He has only been on the scene for about two years where he has been mostly wrestling at the second level organizations around the UK. He has started to make appearances in the bigger promotions over the last six months and has always looked competent in the ring and is definitely an exciting talent. Jordan was trained by Lance Storm so you know he has the fundamental’s down, but this may be too soon for him to go further than the first round.
It’s definitely an exciting eight-man lineup announced so far and it has certainly created a huge spike in my interest level for this show. For that matter, it has certainly excited former staffer Darren Gutteridge, who told me to shut the front door (or words to that effect) when I texted him the list of the talent announced thus far. WWE will be announcing another eight men on Friday and I will be back to share my thoughts on them as well. Given the talent used on 205 Live, it wouldn’t surprise me if Flash Morgan Webster and James Drake are announced. If so, I will certainly have a lot to say about both men.
If you want to know more about the talent in the UK tournament you can certainly reach out to me on twitter @haydngleed and via email firstname.lastname@example.org