Greetings grapple fans. We’re now into the third week of British wrestling’s return to terrestrial television. The mixed news of the opening episode’s polling of just under a million viewers was followed by a grimmer picture last week when around 600,000 saw the (slightly improved, but still flawed) second episode. There can be some extenuating factors in this loss of a third of viewers. It has been ridiculously hot in the UK for most of the past month or so, and TV ratings figures across the board were poor for that day. That’s only papering over the cracks, though. If WOS wants to become an early Saturday evening fixture on ITV things need to improve quickly in both quality and ratings.
Unfortunately, the concerns I think all of us have had (lack of character development, poor editing and camerawork) from the first episode carried over into the second. As I said in my review last week, the three-way WOS Women’s Championship decider that main evented last week was probably the worst filmed and edited wrestling match I’ve ever seen in my life.
But there were still rays of hope in there. The tag team tournament has produced two solid matches so far, and some performers like Joe Hendry, Adam Maxtead and Grado have shown potential to become memorable characters if given time and an opportunity. So, let’s clutch those straws of hope for all they’re worth and return to the ITV studios for…
World of Sport Wrestling – Episode Three
Our recap from last week and the week before reminds us that Katie Lee Ray became the first ever WOS Women’s Champion and Gabriel Kidd is due a Big Opportunity after winning a four-way ladder match. WOS authority figure Stu Bennett informs us that Justin Sysum (who was in the threey-way match in the first episode that saw Rampage claim the WOS Championship from Grado) has been demanding a one-on-one title match against Rampage and it has been granted.
We’re taken to footage from earlier in the day. Grado enters Bennett’s makeshift office in what may be the building’s steam pipe trunk distribution room and demands that he gets his own re-match for the title. Bennett says that his problem is that Grado is a laughing stock, which is the antithesis of what he wants WOS and its champion to be. Grado says “There is plenty more magic in this bumbag” whilst grabbing his bumbag (and that’s not a euphemism). Bennett says he will give Grado another chance if he takes himself seriously. Grado promises he will become serious and then does a silly walk out of the office.
Grado makes his entrance for his upcoming match in a loosely buttoned suit. He looks like a supporting player in a direct-to-TV sequel in the Revenge of the Nerds series, complete with flared trousers.
Grado vs. ‘The Butcher’ Sha Samuels
Samuels mocks Grado’s new look and says no one will ever take him seriously. Grado disagrees with that assessment. He’s been visiting the gym, walking both his and other people’s dogs. They agree to get the match started to settle who is truly the most serious. Grado removes his glasses but keeps the jacket on.
Samuels continues to laugh at his opponent and gets a slap in the face for his insolence. Grado follows with a Dusty elbow but Samuels catches him with a bodyslam. Grado fights out of a reverse chinlock but is knocked back down with an axhandle to the chest. Samuels throws Grado out of the ring, follows him out and twice sends him into the barriers. Grado gets up on the ring apron at nine, but Samuels knocks him back to the floor. He attempts a (banned) piledriver on the entrance ramp but Grado backdrops out. SoCal Val says that Dave Meltzer says Grado is his ‘guilty pleasure’. That’ll sure resonate with the ITV1 audience.
Grado rallies with support of the crowd and strips out of his suit to reveal his usual wrestling garb underneath. Right hands and a Dusty elbow have Samuels rocking as Grado acknowledges to the disgruntled Bennett on commentary. The straps are down and Grado gets a cannonball on Samuels in the corner. Samuels avoids the cutter and hits a big lariat. He prepares for a second rope attack but Grado catches Samuels with a cutter to get the three-count
That’s a lot closer to the sort of show WOS Wrestling should be putting on in the hopes of gaining a wider audience. Grado as a Daniel Bryan figure fighting against a favourite of the authority figure is a clichéd storyline to us wrestling fans (the only ones who will understand what SoCal Val meant with that Meltzer line), but this was a simply told match with understandable characters. The disrobing of the suit obviously calls to mind the early Corporate Stone Cold angle during the Austin-McMahon feud, but this had a cheeky British humour to it that should help it entertain an ITV1 audience. It was super basic wrestling (a chinlock was used within thirty seconds), but that’s all it needed to be. Not the best match so far, but the least obnoxiously filmed, easily understandable, prime-time friendly presentation I’ve seen, and that’s what this show needs to be. Two and a half Greggs sausage rolls out of five.
Joe Hendry vs. Martin Kirby
This is ‘Revenge or Redemption’ as we are reminded that Kirby walked away from his tag team partner Hendry in their WOS Tag Team Championship tournament match on the first episode. Joe Hendry’s entrance has the fans (and the ring announcer) waving their hands in the air as if there were no social stigma attached to public displays of rhythmic enjoyment.
Kirby yells at the crowd to keep the noise down before the match starts. Hendry takes early control with a wristlock and fireman’s takedown which has Kirby scurrying to the corner. Kirby receives a ‘Baldie’ chant from the crowd. Affronted, he challenges Commonwealth Games competitor Hendry to an amateur wrestling contest. Hendry rolls him right out of the ring with ease. Kirby returns but continues to have no luck, eventually knocked out of the ring again with a shoulder block. Kirby refuses to re-enter the ring, so Hendry chases him outside. Hendry avoids being suckered by Kirby being the first one to get back into the ring. However, Kirby does finally gain control with a leg lariat.
Kirby whips Hendry into the corner and hits a running shoulder tackle into the gut. Canadian backbreaker gets a two-count. Hendry gets whipped into he corner again but hits a clothesline in return. A series of rollup and cradles on Kirby get three two counts, but Kirby stops that with a spinebuster. Kirby gets too cocky and his attempt at a Zoidberg elbowdrop (doing a crab walk along the second rope) is dodged by Hendry and a neckbreaker gets two. Kirby gets a boot from a charge into the corner. A second rope crossbody is rolled through by Hendry and he hits a fallaway slam for a long two-count. Kirby begs off in the corner, before doing the classic Ric Flair flip out of the ring from an Irish whip, complete with him then being caught with a press slam off the top rope.
Kirby hits a Rocker Dropper for a two. A run of the ropes sees Hendry catch Kirby, but Kirby escapes another fallaway slam and hits an enziguri. Hendry catches Kirby in an anklelock but Kirby reaches the ropes. He lures in Hendry and rolls him up. Thanks to getting his feet on the rope for leverage he holds Hendry down for the three-count.
Winner: Martin Kirby
Again, they’re keeping it simple with another match rooted in face-heel dynamics and a finish that suggests this storyline may continue. Hendry, though, has now been pinned three times in the first three episodes. The regular exposure is a good sign, but the outcomes not so much. Two and a half debates over the merits of a defensive midfielder out of five.
WOS Tag Team Championship Tournament Round #1: BT Gunn & Stevie Boy vs. Brad Slayer & CJ Banks
Gunn & Stevie are the first team to wear matching trunks and even have face mirroring facepaint over one eye each. CJ Banks has been, alongside Sha Samuels, in the corner of Rampage for the past two episodes. However, he has entered this tag team tournament with a bloke we’ve never met before and who seems to have that classic issue of having lost a fair amount of weight but still carrying the excess skin around his stomach.
Gunn gets the control of the early goings and hits a second rope dropkick for a two-count. Stevie tags in but gets caught with a European uppercut. SoCal Val mentions that Stevie is currently dating Women’s champion Kay Lee Ray and is the reason she is a part of the wrestling business. Gunn tags in and they do some double teaming with Stevie whipping Gunn into a corner Stinger Splash on Banks. They do some quick tags, jumping in and out of the ring whilst keeping Banks in the corner. This is a heavily edited match, but for some reason it was decided that it was a good idea to keep an awkward five seconds in there where Gunn and Stevie tried to figure out how to get their synchronised tags and jumps in and out of the ring to work.
Gunn front suplexes his own partner onto Banks for a two-count. Banks uppercuts Stevie out of the ring and distracts the ref whilst Slayer (getting involved for the first time) rams him into he apron. He tags in at last, hits a bodyslam, and then tags back out. Banks hits a snap suplex for a two. Slayer tags in, snap mares Stevie over and holds him in a chinlock. Stevie fights out but misses an enziguri. Another awkward edit point and suddenly Banks is downed in his own corner and Stevie is evading Slayer to tag in Gunn. Gunn hits Slayer with a series of kicks. Stinger Splash for Banks and he sends Banks out of the ring with a jumping Downward Spiral. Slayer gets caught in the corner with a double enziguri from Gunn on the inside and Stevie on the outside. A doomsday elbow gets them the win.
Winners: BT Gunn & Stevie Boy
This had a lot more of the editing issues we saw in the first two episodes. Obvious important moments (like Banks being taken out to allow the face hog tag) were kept out whilst moments that should have been cut (Gunn & Stevie’s awkward miscommunication) were left in. Anyone with a basic knowledge of how a wrestling match works would have recognised this, so there are still obvious production issues to be resolved. Brad Slayer is probably the most not-ready-for-prime-time player I’ve seen so far. Several times in his limited in-ring exposure he had a deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes. Gunn & Stevie could have a good match with their semi-final opponents Ieysten Rees & Kip Sabian, but this was unfortunately the weakest match of the tournament so far. One and a half disgruntled Sports Direct employees soon to be unhooking Louis Vuitton handbags from a rack close to the ceiling for confused middle-class House of Fraser shoppers out of ten.
We’re reminded that Gabriel Kidd’s Ladder match victory last week won him a Big Opportunity which Bennett remains tight-lipped about to its actual meaning. The spunky Kidd is horrified at the arrival of his Big Opportunity – the 36-stone (roughly 500 pounds, so that’s obviously a lie by at least 100 pounds) Crater.
Big Opportunity in the Bank Shot: Gabriel Kidd vs. Crater
Shane and Val are appalled at Bennett’s actions. Crater easily overpowers Kidd from a collar-and-elbow and makes an (audio enhanced?) scream. Crater overwhelms his opponent with his size, until Kidd tries to use his speed to counter. Kidd is quickly knocked down with a clothesline. Crater sends the 20-year-old Kidd flying across the ring with a hiptoss whilst Bennett goes on a rant about how millennials have things too easy. Alex Shane says all he’s hearing is “white noise”. Alex Shane is quite the SJW.
Crater whips Kidd across the ring, with Kidd doing the Bret Hart front-first bump. Crater holds Kidd up for a bearhug. The referee drops the hand twice but Kidd gets a second wind. He fights out of the bearhug but Crater knocks him back down with a back elbow. Kidd tries to pick himself up with the ropes but that just leaves him open for a Crater avalanche. A chokeslam seems to finish Kidd off but Crater isn’t finished. A big splash finally puts the youngster out of his misery.
Kidd is so badly beaten that medics arrive and roll Kidd out on a stretcher which should really help towards the image they are establishing Crater, which is something between two of British wrestling’s most famous heels of all time: Giant Haystacks (monster) and Kendo Nagasaki (masked man of mystery). The match probably went a bit too long for the story being told, but Kidd did decent work as the never-say-die underdog and Crater will hopefully be a figure that can attract the old WOS fans from the 70s and 80s. Two philosophical Yorkshiremen remembering how much tougher it was for them in their day out of five.
WOS Championship: Rampage © vs. ‘The Wrestling Pride of the West Country’ Justin Sysum
Shane declares Sysum as ‘the best pure wrestler in British wrestling today’. Rampage’s usual accomplices Sha Samuels and CJ Banks are both walking wounded from their losses earlier in the show. Rampage roughs Sysum up with some clubbing blows at the start but Sysum returns fire with his quickness and a second rope crossbody gets a two. A series of criss-crosses ends with a Sysum dropkick. Rampage regains control with uppercuts and forearms as Val declares that this is a clash between the confidence of Sysum against the cockiness of Rampage.
Justin backflips over a charging Rampage and a side suplex sets up his 450-splash finisher. Samuels distracts the referee and Banks pushes Sysum off the top to stop that from happening. Rampage hits a uranage slam for two. Saito suplex also gets two whilst Shane suggests that the ref may be on the take because he hasn’t sent Samuels and Banks out of the arena. Bennett defends the refereeing of Steve Lynskey which Val finds interesting. Rampage has a bearhug and cuts off an attempted Sysum comeback with a smooth AA spinebuster for two. Rampage continues to beat up Sysum, who keeps getting up. A hard clothesline gets two. Rampage tries the (banned) piledriver, but Sysum stops it and slightshots Rampage into the corner.
Rampage boots him back but Sysum returns fire with a couple of clothesline and a flying variant. A Stinger Splash in the corner is followed by an Exploder suplex for two. Rampage kicks a bent down for a backdropo Sysum, but Sysum shrugs it off and clotheslines him over the top, sending them both outside. Sysum wins a brawl on the outside and rolls Rampage into the ring at eight. However, his own attempt to re-enter the ring is halted as Banks has crawled under the ring and holds onto Sysum’s ankle to prevent him from answering the ten count.
Winner (by count out): Rampage
They continue to keep it simple and that works for the most part. Rampage would not be my choice of heel champion (I’d rather go with a Flair-like champ in Maxtead or Nathan Cruz from last week, with Rampage acting as the Arn Anderson-like enforcer) but he is as solid as they come in the ring and he worked his role as the big nasty bruising veteran against the handsome and chiselled Sysum. The booking of the finish was fairly humdrum and dissatisfying, but I don’t know whether that will annoy an ITV1 viewer or anger them and hope that Rampage and his crew will meet their comeuppance sooner rather than later. Two and a half frying pans smashed into the face of Adrian Edmondson out of five.
NEXT WEEK: ‘The Aerial Assassin’ Will Ospreay returns to face Martin Kirby, Women’s champion Kay Lee Ray defends her title, Crater will make another appearance, and the chase for Rampage’s WOS Championship continues.
This was a genuine improvement, far moreso than that between the first and second episodes, and the first promising sign that made me think that this particular wrestling show could work in an ITV1 prime time setting. That’s not to say that things were perfect, but the tag match was the only one that had me figuratively pulling my hair out over the production work. The cutting could still have been less frequent, but it didn’t bother me in the other four matches. They even took advantage of one of their more unique angles (the bird’s eye view shot) to make a move (Grado’s cannonball onto Samuels in the corner) look as good as it possibly could.
The fact that they’re still cramming at least one match in each of the four segments is a problem (I think three matches should be the maximum for either more angles, or to allow at least one match to have more time to tell its story), as are the piped in crowd sounds, but the wrestlers’ entrances were being given time, unique characters were starting to shine, backstage angles and screwy finishes helped build up storylines that will carry over into future episodes, and heels and faces were finally starting to be established. Give more wrestlers more mic time and we could really be onto something here.
Let’s see more of that for the rest of this run and hope the episode-on-episode improvements continue.
Listen to my wrestling podcast which will soon include WOS recaps with the Stevie Boy to my BT Gunn, Simon Cross.
Listen to my bad British movies podcast Best of Worst of British where we review films such as Guy Ritchie’s 2005 dud Revolver.
I thought it might be a nice touch to end each episode with a video of an old match from the original World of Sport wrestling era. This week I’ve chosen the match that William Regal himself advised all aspiring wrestlers to watch if they wanted to see the best in technical wrestling: a catchweight contest fought over six five-minute rounds between Terry Rudge and Marty Jones
All that’s left to say is:
Have a good time, until the next time.