Greetings grapple fans. We are now a month into the first (based on the viewing figures, probably only) season of WOS Wrestling on ITV1. I am currently in Edinburgh enjoying, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in the United Kingdom and its world-renowned Fringe Festival, so I hope to not make this one an epic diatribe like some previous weeks’ reviews.
Last week: Crater crushed Kidd, Rampage retained with rogue methods, and Grado gained ground by shaming Sha Samuels.
From the ITV Studios, it’s…
World of Sport Wrestling – Episode Four
Alex Shane asked WOS Authority figure Stu Bennett if there were any consequences to Rampage’s despicable means of victory over Sysum (a count-out win thanks to CJ Banks interference). Bennett says the only consequence was that Rampage again claimed the winners’ purse. If there is an after-life, then Gorilla Monsoon is smiling.
WOS Women’s Championship: Kay Lee Ray © vs. Bea Priestley
Shane speaks of Priestley’s inspiring story of moving from New Zealand to the UK to make it as a wrestler, but the crowd boo her as a villain. Those fans were a greater judge of character because Priestly attacks before the bell. As Priestley continues her onslaught, Bennett points out the shallowness of the women’s talent pool means that Priestley and Ray have battled many times before. I know that’s true, but I’m not sure it’s something you want to be bringing to people’s attention.
Ray finally gains ground by hitting an enziguri on Priestley as she climbs to the top, but Priestley regains control, ties up Ray in the tree of woe and hits a top rope stomp for a two-count. It goes to the outside and they slug it out. Priestley continues to dominate by throwing Ray into the barricade. She sends Ray back into the ring, but Ray immediately suicide dives back out. Ray hits the Gory Bomb and goes for a pin, but Viper’s music starts. The other entrant in the original title match catches a Ray suicide dive, throws her into the barricade and then attacks Priestley as well. Another wrestler’s theme music and someone called Aisha, I think, makes her way down the ramp. A brawl breaks out with all women and Bennett insists that security break it up and announces a battle royal for next week to decide the WOS Women’s Champion.
Winner: No One (No Contest)
Well they continue to book the women entirely ass backwards and not let them speak a single word for themselves. The editing in the original three-way on the second episode was the worst that I’ve ever seen. For the first half of this match there really wasn’t anything too egregious, but many of those annoying quick cuts returned when Viper made her entrance. They copied that most obnoxious WWE trait of entrance music stopping everyone in their tracks (Ray had hit her finisher and had plenty of time to see if her pin would have won her the match) and their lack of effort in character development and introduction, coupled with a continued inability to include a simple name graphic means that not only do I not have any idea what makes this new entrant to the women’s division so important, I also have no idea what her bloody name is! Aisha is genuinely close to a stab in the dark because I think the name was said once by either Alex Shane with a thick southern accent, or Bennett with a thick northern one.
The match was fine until all the nonsense. Two rich tea biscuits prematurely breaking mid-dip and falling into your brew out of five.
Earlier in the day: Grado points out to Bennett that his win over Samuels means he’s earned more respect. Bennett retorts that Grado returned to his ‘blubbering buffoon’ persona within three minutes. Grado asks for one more chance. Bennett scoffs but admits that he is one tag team down in the WOS Tag Team Championship tournament and offers Grado that final entry on the condition that he somehow finds a partner.
Will Ospreay vs. Martin Kirby
Ospreay was in the first episode and lost to Davey Boy Smith Jr. Kirby turned his back on his tag partner Joe Hendry in the championship tournament and won their “Revenge Vs. Redemption” match (mis-spelt ‘Redemtion’ in the match graphics that have probably been in place for many weeks) with a rope-assisted rollup.
Kirby attacks early but Ospreay quickly overwhelms him with an armdrag, huracanrana and dropkick, before faking out Kirby with a handspring allowing him to do his Superman pose. Kirby hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two and tries to ground Ospreay with a reverse chinlock. Ospreay is having none of it with a handspring enziguri. Kirby dodges a corner dropkick but Ospreay hits a high angle 619 and Pip-Pip Cheerio for two. Kirby hits an enziguri of his own and drops Ospreay face first onto the ring apron to take him to the outside. Kirby hits his own suicide dive and brings Ospreay back in the ring for a Michinoku Driver. They continue to trade big moves, including a running Spanish Fly from Ospreay before exchanging strikes. A snap Dragon suplex sends Kirby into the corner, but Kirby recovers and hits a neckbreaker, with Bennett championing his bouncebackability. That really has become a word in this country, and I approve of its use.
Kirby attempts a Zoidberg elbow but Ospreay pops up with a huracanrana that sends Kirby outside and follows up with a Space Tiger Drop. A top rope Shooting Star Press only gets a two but is followed with a Storm Breaker for the three.
Winner: Will Ospreay
Not sure how any of this booking works. Ospreay beats a guy currently doing a classic face-heel feud in an Indy-riffic big moves spectacle. Kirby did nothing heelish in this match and was presented as Ospreay’s near-match with his own array of spectacular moves. As a display of athleticism, it was impressive. They crammed a whole lot into those few minutes, but I feel like a borderline squash as an Ospreay exhibition against someone without a storyline would have been more productive for all concerned. No real complaints about the match, I imagine a lot of Ospreay (and a fair bit of Kirby’s) offense will have impressed wrestling newcomers, but it just doesn’t feel like what they need to do right now to help either man. Three disproportionally amused audiences at a Radio 4 comedy recording out of five.
Bennett is in the ring with Grado to hear who he managed to get as a partner against the team of Robbie X… and Crater! Robbie was involved in the ‘Get a Match with Crater’ in the Bank Ladder match. I think he is Crater’s partner on the basis that they both have masks. Which is… racist? Crater shoves Robbie during their entrance, unimpressed with his energy. Grado’s partner is…
WOS Tag Team Championship Tournament Round #1: Crater & Robbie X vs. Grado & British Bulldog Jr.
Bennett is not happy, but the fans are. Grado and Robbie shake hands and prepare to wrestle, only for Crater to tag himself in. Grado prepares to charge his opponent, stops in his tracks, retreats and tag Bulldog. Bulldog can’t budge Crater. Grado tags in and takes a crack, only to be knocked down by the immovable object. Grado rolls back to his corner and tags Bulldog, who hits some forearms and a rocks Crater with a shoulderblock, but Crater soon knocks him down.
Crater’s tag to Robbie is essentially a light chop to his chest. Bulldog quickly gains control on Robbie, but Robbie impresses with his quickness whilst evading Bulldog in the corner. He poses on the top rope for too long and gets press slammed off by Bulldog. Bulldog takes control and tags in “the most popular British wrestler since Big Daddy” Grado. A top rope axhandle and Grado tags Bulldog straight back in as they target Robbie’s arm. Robbie tries to use his agility, but Bulldog continues to control and a delayed vertical suplex gets two. Bulldog bodyslams Grado onto Robbie.
Robbie finally gets some momentum with a whip and a dropkick. He tries to keep control of Grado to tag in Crater but can’t reach his partner (who isn’t exactly stretching for the tag). Grado sandbags to prevent a Robbie German suplex and hits the fists and Dusty elbow. Crater hits Grado in the back of the head as he runs the ropes. Robbie disapproves but Crater tags himself in. Grado fights back but again Crater knocks him down with a shoulderblock. Robbie tags back in and a standing moonsault gets two. Grado reverses a vertical suplex and tags Bulldog. Crater is uninterested in tagging Robbie, who then receives a series of clotheslines and a boot from Bulldog. A big backdrop and Bulldog knocks Crater off the apron with a boot. Robbie charges Bulldog, but Bulldog backdrops him out of the ring and onto Crater. Crater catches Robbie but then drops him to the floor and walks away. Robbie makes one last desperate rollup on Grado, but a cutter is enough to get the three-count.
Winners: Grado & British Bulldog Jr.
Crater looks to punish Robbie X afterwards, but Grado and Bulldog stand up for their opponent and Crater walks away. An oddly structured match that told a decent story with Grado continuing to do some entertaining character work whilst Crater proves to not only be a monster but a bit of a dick. Grado & Bulldog will face Adam Maxtead & Nathan Cruz next week. Where Crater goes from here is not yet clear. He almost had a heel version of the old Big Daddy-plucky little youngster tag team dynamic with Robbie X. If I were a gambling man, I’d put money on a Rees/Sabian-Grado/Bulldog final. Two officious bus drivers who inexplicably refuse to pick you up when there’s clearly plenty of room to fit a lot more passengers out of five (maybe not an entirely universal one that, but very true for me last night!).
Roving reporter Rachel Stringer informs WOS Champion Rampage that there’s a Triangle match to decide his next challenger. Samuels takes her microphone away and steps in front of the camera to taunt Sysum. Samuels shows good personality and the close-up taunting was an interesting presentation.
WOS Championship #1 Contender/Three Way: Justin Sysum vs. Joe Hendry vs. Adam Maxtead (w/Nathan Cruz)
Hendry and Sysum have both challenged Rampage over the past two weeks. Rampage pinned Hendry on the second episode and defeated Sysum by count-out last week. Both were thanks to interference from Samuels and Banks. Maxtead was in the first episode’s five-way to decide Grado’s first WOS title opponent and is currently in the semi-finals of the WOS Tag Team Championship tournament with partner and tonight’s accomplice (and maybe more according to Shane) Cruz.
After everyone makes their entrances, including Hendry singing his own entrance and having the fans engage in the flailing of their upper body limbs like they just don’t care, Cruz grabs the mic and suggests that his experience means that he should be in the match in place of Maxtead, which would also spare his partner’s handsome face from possible damage. Maxtead shockingly agrees at losing his title opportunity, but Sysum and Hendry attack Cruz early with a high double backdrop and Sysum clotheslines him out.
Hendry dominates Sysum on the mat and continues to do so on their feet with a snap mare and shoulderblock. Cruz returns, sends Hendry out, but eventually falls to a dropkick from Sysum after a series of rope runs. A second rope crossbody gets two for Sysum. Maxtead grabs Sysum’s feet and Cruz takes advantage with a stun gun and slingshot back suplex for two. Cruz sets Sysum up for a superplex, but Hendry returns to get involved. In the end Sysum performs a second rope sunset flip on Hendry, who consequently German suplexes Cruz out of the ring.
Hendry hits both opponents with clotheslines. A neckbreaker to Sysum is followed by an anklelock on Cruz. Cruz is about to tap out but Sysum stops the symbolic slapping of the mat by grabbing his hand. A Stinger Splash to both Hendry and Cruz, but Hendry dodges a second. Sysum hits back with a fisherman suplex for two. Sysum attempts a discus clothesline but is caught by Cruz and hit with a fireman’s carry into a Michinoku Driver for two. Hendry hits Cruz with a fallaway slam for two but Maxtead places his partner’s foot onto the rope from the outside to prevent the possible three.
Cruz backdrops a charging Hendry out of the ring. He does the same to Sysum, resulting in him landing on Hendry. Sysum sprints back from the ramp and dives into the ring with a spear to Cruz. Sysum climbs to the top, but Maxtead taunts him to prevent Sysum from hitting the 450. Sysum ducks a Maxtead punch which hits Cruz instead. Maxtead jumps off the apron after a contrite apology, but Cruz turns around into what Shane calls a discus clothesline but to me looks more like a Trouble in Paradise ending with a forearm rather than a kick. That’s enough to get the three-count.
Winner: Justin Sysum
Another match involving people that are good at what they do in the ring but would be better served at this point being allowed to establish their characters rather than just competing for a title that two of the entrants had already lost their previous opportunity for, and which the other original entrant felt unimportant enough to back out of the match on the suggestion of his partner. Sysum is obviously being presented as the top face, and with his look you can understand why, but he needs to be more than just be presented as a 90s Sting-esque ripped babyface with decent agility. He has to actually interact with the crowd and the viewer at home, which is something that Grado is actually doing in the mid-card. Two and a half comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe that make sure to not actually be funny throughout and include a sad or angry part so that the artsy-fartsy judges embarrassed at essentially handing out a ‘Funniest Clown’ prize can consider it for their Best Show award out of five.
NEXT WEEK: Both WOS Tag Team tournament semi-finals. Crater fights two at once in a handicap match. A battle royal for the WOS Women’s Championship involving the entire women’s roster (all four of them).
The presentation issues are now for the most part gone unless it’s a sequence that is either too chaotic or they had to edit around something like someone bleeding accidentally like they did in last week’s tag tourney match. It’s still not great, but it feels like the sort of editing you’d expect on an ITV1 prime-time variety show.
But those superficial issues really masked what’s been at the heart of this show’s problems from the start. They are presenting a wrestling show that’s almost entirely wrestling, and that’s not what you need on a prime-time entertainment show. It would be like the Great British Bake Off actually just showing people bake for the entirety of its running time, when what they really do is help us get to know and sympathise with the contestants (whilst maybe editing it to create a villain or two) and use the baking competition as a backdrop. Like I said, we literally haven’t heard any of the women speak once so far, nor have we heard from top face Justin Sysum. They have now had SEVENTEEN matches over four episodes, and one can only assume that at least four matches per episode is going to continue to be the formula going forward. The booking of these matches hasn’t been brilliant, and certainly has yet to have an original idea, either.
It just looks like an imitation of an American wrestling show, something that is already available to us to watch and of a higher quality. WOS Wrestling needed to be something different to what’s already been available. Instead it’s been something lesser, and it’s entirely the doing of those in charge wasting a talented (if admittedly chosen from a depleted reserve) roster.
Making this show a success was an incredibly difficult needle to threat. They tried to thread it whilst wearing a metaphorical coal miner gloves and something that obscured their vision.
Sorry for the negativity. I think that jerk driving that bus may still be affecting me.
To lighten things up, here’s a classic British wrestling match from comedy wrestling great, and huge inspiration for fellow Fringe Festival attendee Colt Cabana, Les Kellett as he faces Leon Arras (better known as successful character actor, from films such as Kes and Alien 3, Brian Glover)
Listen to my wrestling podcast or my bad British movies podcast. Buy my book Confessions of a ‘Smart’ Wrestling Fan in either dollars or pound sterling. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or just send me an email.
Have a good time, until the next time.