Note: A shortened version of this report was included in this weeks Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
There of course WILL be spoilers contained throughout. If you wish to wait for it to hit TV before you know what happens, look away now.
I attended the ITV World Of Sport Wrestling tapings at Media City, Salford Quays, Greater Manchester on Tuesday Night. The show is scheduled for air on either New Years Eve or New Years Day.
The show was recorded inside the ITV Studio, so attendance was limited to what seemed like 350-400 people. There were many more hundreds of people outside waiting outside in the cold who didn’t get in. It was treated like any other kind of TV shoot, with lots more “first come first serve” tickets given out than capacity. I heard stories of people who had “Priority” tickets like mine that should have guaranteed entrance but they didn’t get in. They essentially treated it like any other TV taping with a live audience and didn’t understand that if you gave out these tickets to wrestling fans, the majority would come.
It was very much a polished professional TV production. If you’ve ever been to see a Game Show be recorded it was like that. They had a hype man between segments telling people what to do, who to cheer and who to boo and they took lots of b-roll of crowd reactions. They also gave out foam fingers and pre-written signs, my personal favourite being “GO FOR THE WIN”. Jim Ross & Alex Shane were there doing commentary and they had a Boxing Ring Announcer Phil Seymour, with Steve Lynskey and Chris Roberts as Referees. There were also backstage bits all night with Actor Max Beesley Snr as “Mr Beesley” an authority figure running into trouble with the big heel group which consisted of a Dave Mastiff, Johnny Moss and Sha Samuels. The segments were well produced, but very campy. Beesley Snr actually has previous as the announcer for “Screensport Wrestling” in the 80’s.
They also ran lots of video in between matches of old WOS guys putting over Big Daddy, Johnny Saint, Rollerball Rocco & Kendo Nagasaki among others. Some of those guys and their families were in attendance. It was a bit weird because the old guard were in the videos as talking heads, discussing the matches as real, but we were live in a studio with a host counting down wrestlers and manufacturing responses to segments.
Despite the WOS tie in, there was no Mount Evans style technical wrestling to be seen whatsoever. The wrestlers worked it in a Modern US Style, with an emphasis on character and crowd work – it came off like what you’d see at a Holiday Camp show or your typical “American Family Wrestling” indie. The show had the feel of something like American Gladiators – something a TV producer would imagine Wrestling to be. Also worth noting that while the production and style was obviously very child and casual fan friendly, the majority of the crowd seemed to be existing wrestling fans. Probably 70% Adults who were doing the usual chants (sans swearing) for the wrestlers you’d hear at PROGRESS, ICW and PCW. A funny note is the Host specifically had to point out that “as this was being taped for TV” fans wouldn’t be allowed to do the “ONE FALL!” shout that UK crowds do mimicking the Ring Announcer introductions. People still did for the first match, but for the subsequent times, the crowd policed itself shouting “Shhh” instead.
1. Dave Mastiff defeated Grado in the opener for the “World Of Sport Title”. Grado was the first wrestler out and was over huge all night as the babyface Big Daddy style star of the promotion. He had generic stock music, as did everyone else, so no Like A Prayer. The finish was interference from Mastiffs’ stable mates Sha Samuels and Johnny Moss pushing Grado off the top rope with Mastiff taking advantage. This setup the show long storyline where “Mr Beesley” wasn’t happy his World Champion was crowned this way. In a backstage segment that followed he announced there was going to be a “Battle Royale” later to determine a new number one contender for Mastiff.
2. Kenny Williams defeated Sam Bailey, CJ Banks and “Delicious Danny” (Danny Hope) in a Ladder Match, claiming a Briefcase that gave entry to the later Battle Royale. This is where it was apparent we weren’t getting any Mountevans matches. The Briefcase seemed extremely low and it was one of the safer worked Ladder matches you’ll see but but there were some fun spots in here. The match had couple of big dives from the faces, particularly a great one with Bailey doing a feet first leap over the top rope that you don’t often see. CJ Banks worked heel, his most natural and effective role while the other three were all faces and all got big reactions and looked good.
3. Joe & Mark Coffey defeated Rampage & Ashton Smith. Ashton and Rampage had matching gear (I don’t believe they’re a team anywhere else) but the size difference very much made them look like Father and Son. The crowd were on them for this throughout the match, which they played up. Definitely potential there for a great double act. Fun tag.
4. Viper defeated Alexis Rose. An OK match, Viper was the heel and came out with a live Snake. She won clean with a back Senton – can see her being the Klondyke Kate of the company if they do further shows.
5. El Ligero defeated Zack Gibson via C4L. This was probably best match of the night. Gibson is doing really great work everywhere right now as a heel doing the “Liverpool thug” gimmick he modelled after UK veteran Jiggy Walker. Here he was a more generic heel but still effective. Ligero was a great babyface for a production like this – he works absolutely everywhere and has been consistently at the top level in the UK for a decade now.
6. They’d been hyping the big “Battle Royale” all night, which was just an 8-Man over the top rope standard Battle Royal. The Winner got a title shot against Dave Mastiff in the Main Event and it started with 7-Men and had the winners of the previous Male matches plus Sha Samuels & Johnny Moss. They teased there would be an 8th surprise competitor. The surprise was Harry (DH) Smith billed as Davey Boy Smith Jnr aka the new British Bulldog.
DBS Jr didn’t come out until the last three, to save Grado from a 2 on 1 with the remaining heels Johnny Moss and Sha Samuels . Strangely, DBS Jr was then eliminated anyway by the heels. Grado then eliminated both Moss and Sha by himself and won. The heels attacked Grado after the match taking out his leg. Bulldog Jnr did then get to make another save. They teased that Grado may not be able to compete in the Main Event.
7. Grado defeated Dave Mastiff to become the 2nd WOS Champion. They had Paramedics trying to stop Grado coming out, but he made it out anyway and beat Mastiff with an RKO in a short match that he spent the majority of selling. The booking was somewhat odd but this was a good way to send everyone home happy and will make a nice finish if it’s just a one off TV Special. Grado celebrated around the ring to end the show.
Overall I’d say it was a surreal but fun evening. It’s strange to see wrestling recorded like this where it’s presented very much as a TV Show, with not much pretence of it being real, although they did ham up the Grado injury. It was very much light entertainment and perhaps the presentation was a little naïve, but I think it will make for a fun Special. Hopefully it finds the wider family audience they seem to be aiming for. At the very least – it was a good spotlight for some of the incredible talent currently wrestling in the UK.
Below are some photos of the set:
Benno (Follow me @83nn0 on Twitter)