State of the Grapple

So, I’m acutely aware that I’ve neglected this place for the last few months. It’s not that I stopped watching wrestling – it’s just that I didn’t feel that inspired to write about it, at least not in the way I’d been writing about it previously. I’m writing this post in part to clear the cobwebs away, in part to document my current feelings about the scene, and in part to see if the exercise shakes something out.


I have basically stopped watching WWE, mostly because I am incredibly tired of its shit. I am tired of the Saudi blood money and the contortions that WWE executives and stars put them through to try and present the idea that a Lacey Evans vs. Natalya match will bring sweeping social change to Saudi Arabia. Maybe in the context of cultures more free to develop organically, whose regimes don’t stifle social change outside of the specific channels they want to cultivate, that’d be the case, but let’s face it: the Saudi monarchy and its power structure is the major barrier to social change in the Kingdom, and providing the “circuses” part of the age-old bread and circuses formula to the monarchy is serving the interests of the monarchy, not the interests of the people.

Speaking of stagnating monarchies, I am also tired of the creative malaise over WWE. Maybe it truly isn’t Vince’s fault – maybe he was just unlucky, hired a bunch of bad writers, and everyone’s having to make the best of what they produce – but I think we all know that’s probably not the case. It’s a real shame, because I like great swathes of the talent on the WWE, NXT, and NXT UK rosters (I have more or less entirely lost track of what’s going on on 205 Live), but they’re all beholden to this system which seems unable to make new stars except by accident, and then when one of those happy accidents happen they almost always overplay their hand and the magic is lost. The Man Becky Lynch gave us an iconic wrestling image when Nia Jax busted her open, but now after Creative have done their job on her push it’s really hard not to get tired of her. The same’s true of the other Four Horsewomen, all of whom have been ridden into the dirt.

(Some people think that WWE deliberately doesn’t make new stars these days – that they never put all their weight behind someone because they are paranoid about people hitting the point that Hogan and Rock reached where their star power is bigger than the company’s. The problem is that if we’re in a world where only the promotion is allowed to be the star, and the promotion is an unlikable heel who accepts Saudi blood money… why should we follow it?)

The best success story at the moment in WWE is probably Bray Wyatt/The Fiend. This is partially because Bray’s clever character work allows him to make a distinction between him and the WWE-mandated nickname that Creative insists on attaching to everyone in a really obviously artificial way – you know, the Man, the Queen, the Boss, the Big Dog, the Architect, and so on ad nauseum – and partly because Bray’s a promo king and they’ve given him his head there. Unfortunately, the actual matches haven’t been so good, almost always for reasons which aren’t Bray’s fault.

The iconic example of his is last year’s Hell In a Cell, whose finish managed to bury an entire match format. Sure, WWE, tell me over and over again that it was a ref stoppage, not a disqualification. It was communicated in the ring like a disqualification, not a stoppage, and also you just made the refs in charge of King of the Ring 1997 look like utter fuckwits for not stopping the match then and those in charge of Hell In a Cell 2019 look like stubborn shitheads when they don’t restart the match when a) Bray is clearly capable of continuing to fight and b) the entire arena is demanding it.

Of course, they were saving the Fiend’s victory for Crown Jewel, which is another way in which the Saudi blood money is fucking everything up. When major PPVs – including, to an extent, Wrestlemania itself – end up janky and lopsided because events which would have made far more sense there are being saved for the Saudis, everything is bent out of shape. Part of the reason the women’s division in WWE is as good as it is comes down to the women not needing to take the Saudis into account in their booking.

Most of all, I am sick of getting invested only to be disappointed. Everything good in WWE eventually gets overplayed until we’re all sick of it. Everyone who was great in NXT ends up utterly wasted on the main roster, and I’m increasingly inclined to split the blame 50-50 there – I blame Vince for not seeing the value and audience investment that NXT talent develop before they hit the main roster, and I blame Triple H for failing to provide a developmental regime which allows its graduates to thrive on the main roster.

I am tired of watching Vince spoil all of my favourites. I’m done with WWE until Vince is gone.


Honestly, this is filling the “wrestling in front of arena-size audiences” niche for me just fine. It’s not necessarily that AEW are offering something vastly more serious in tone than what WWE is aiming for – it’s more that they do it in a way which seems less like a direct insult to the audience. They’re clearly still feeling their way, but it’s equally clear they’re correcting course in response to feedback here and there without doing so in a short-sighted, knee-jerk way, taking criticism as a prompt to have a rethink rather than having a panic.

It probably helps here that they are doing 1 live show per week and a PPV every quarter or so, rather than doing 2 main roster shows, plus developmental shows, plus a monthly PPV, plus house shows. It means that the talent can give us more in the ring because they know that (unless they have an indie or NJPW booking later on) they’ll have the better part of a week to rest up. It also means that the creative team can actually sit down and think and workshop stuff and not rush into things, rather than being in a constant crunch to get the next show sorted. (It probably also helps that they don’t have Vince randomly rewriting all the booking on a whim.)

Do I like everything equally? No, I have my favourites and the bits which land less well. But there’s parts which I didn’t initially like which I’ve begun to warm to, and even where that hasn’t happened the show is varied enough in tone that I’m happy to sit through the bits I don’t like to get to the bits I do, because the hit/miss ratio is good enough that it’s worth it.


All of these promotions are in their own way doing something interesting, clearly realising that at the tier they’re at they need to specialise a little to stand out. NWA’s got your incredibly 1980s presentation combined with an emphasis on old school booking practices that was enough to win the approval of Jim Cornette, but also enough of an eye on diversity to have an actual women’s division (not something Jim Crockett Promotions ever really bothered with) and to bin Jim Cornette when he makes an unacceptably dated joke. (But not, however, enough of an eye on the ball to think “wait, that’s unacceptable” and not broadcast the joke in the first place.

MLW seem to regularly run shows in venues smaller than those AEW or WWE use but comfortably larger than the haunts of Impact or NWA. They seem to have a good eye for talent, and with the strong lucha and hardcore components to their shows they feel a bit like a version of ECW which has grown up, stopped mindlessly chasing controversy, and gained a little patience.

Impact seems to have somehow bounced back and become more worth talking about than ROH, which has hit the doldrums of late. (Marty Scurll has his work cut out rehabilitating the promotion.) I think making Tessa their World Champion probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but they’ve booked themselves into a bit of a spot now. (Does this mean the women’s world championship is officially a secondary belt? Are we going to see any more women crossing the line into the world title scene?) They’re probably the best at comedy at the moment – intentional comedy, surprisingly, with the Joey Ryan Wrestler’s Court skit from a while back being pretty amusing.

Other Promotions

I still occasionally watch NJPW – usually to catch the G1 and Wrestle Kingdom – but I don’t have time to watch it regularly. GCW is a treat and I will most likely watch a bunch of GCW shows over Wrestlemania week rather than watching Wrestlemania itself this year. EVE is still my preferred local promotion, but I’ve just got back from a show put on by a really local promotion to me (as in it takes less than 10 minute for me to get to the venue from my house) called New Force Wrestling. NFW seem to be quietly building themselves into a grassroots indie promotion with some credibility – they have decent shirt designs, the shows seem to be well-organised, they are associated with a wrestling school of the same name and their homegrown talent seem competent, and they can muster guests such as Simon Williams of What Culture fame. Could do without Bagheera, the white guy working the Papa Shango-esque gimmick, but otherwise a promising show.

Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 5, Show 4 Results and Final Thoughts

Here it is – the final card of the weekend.

  1. Charlie Morgan (c) vs. Kay Lee Ray (EVE Championship Match)
  2. Block A Winner vs. Block B Winner vs. Block C Winner (SHE-1 Tournament Finals)

There will also be tiebreaker matches if any of the blocks ended show 3 with tie.

The results, plus my final thoughts on the series as a whole, are below the cut.

Continue reading “Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 5, Show 4 Results and Final Thoughts”

Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 4, Show 3 Results

The card as advertised:

  1. Madison Eagles vs. Millie McKenzie (SHE-1 Block A Match)
  2. Jamie Hayter vs. Viper (SHE-1 Block A Match)
  3. Charli Evans vs. Rhia O’Reilly (SHE-1 Block B Match)
  4. Kasey vs. Kris Wolf (SHE-1 Block B Match)
  5. Jetta vs. Jinny (SHE-1 Block C Match)
  6. Command Bolshoi vs. Toni Storm (SHE-1 Block C Match)

Full breakdown of how it went is under the cut.

Continue reading “Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 4, Show 3 Results”

Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 3, Show 2 Results

Here’s the advertised card for this one:

  1. Jamie Hayter vs. Millie McKenzie (SHE-1 Block A Match)
  2. Madison Eagles vs. Viper (SHE-1 Block A Match)
  3. Kasey vs. Rhia O’Reilly (SHE-1 Block B Match)
  4. Charli Evans vs. Kris Wolf (SHE-1 Block B Match)
  5. Jetta vs. Toni Storm (SHE-1 Block C Match)
  6. Command Bolshoi vs. Jinny (SHE-1 Block C Match)

Results and thoughts are below the “read more” cut.

Continue reading “Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 3, Show 2 Results”

Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 2, Show 1 Results

The advertised card for this one is as follows:

  1. Jamie Hayter vs. Madison Eagles (SHE-1 Block A Match)
  2. Millie McKenzie vs. Viper (SHE-1 Block A Match)
  3. Charli Evans vs. Kasey (SHE-1 Block B Match)
  4. Kris Wolf vs. Rhia O’Reilly (SHE-1 Block B Match)
  5. Command Bolshoi vs. Jetta (SHE-1 Block C Match)
  6. Jinny vs. Toni Storm (SHE-1 Block C Match)

Under the cut I’ll let you know how it went, but before I get to the spoilers I’ll talk a bit about the venue. It’s small – really small, as in the ring takes up more space than the audience on the floor and the commentary desk and gorilla position are upstairs on the balcony.

That makes it not great if you’re claustrophobic, and it’s mostly standing room only (though arrangements can be made if you absolutely have to sit down or bring in a wheelchair). The plus side is that it’s very intimate; wherever you are, you are close to the action, sometimes very close, and the crowd are generally good at rearranging themselves so everyone can see. Where I was stood, under the balcony, I could even hear a little of the commentary.

Because you’re so close, the wrestlers know how easy it is for you to hear them, so dialogue plays more of a role in matches than it really could in a larger venue. (At one point Jamie Hayter even berated the commentary team for something they’d said.)

It’s a very different experience either to watching wrestling in a larger venue, and an aspect which the video material doesn’t really bring out. That’s a positive in some ways – if someone has a body odour issue in your vicinity you will become aware of it – but nonetheless I’d recommend shows at the Resistance Gallery to folk if the constraints of the venue aren’t a deal-breaker for you.

Continue reading “Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 2, Show 1 Results”

Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 1, The Day Before the Show

Is there a better way to debut a pro wrestling blog than going to a live show? If there is, I can’t think of one.

Pro Wrestling:EVE is a local-ish promotion to me (the Resistance Gallery, where they have most of their shows, is about an hour’s tube ride away), and I’d attended  a panel featuring some of the people involved at Nine Worlds 2018. If WWE and Stephanie McMahon like to claim a lot of the credit for giving women’s wrestling the legitimacy it has today, it’s promotions like EVE who are actually working at the coalface doing the hard work. Sure, WWE putting on shows like Evolution a) isn’t nothing and b) simply wouldn’t have been viable without WWE putting a lot of groundwork in to develop their women’s division over a number of years and create new, credible stars.

Continue reading “Going to a Show!: She-1 Series 2018, Pro Wresting:EVE – Part 1, The Day Before the Show”