Hello, friends! Sorry for the delay in the recap. You see, sometimes when a Canadian and a British show like each other very much, something something metaphor for why piracy is sometimes okay. I’ve also gone through a medical emergency and like eight flight delays this past weekend, so, y’know…~life stuff.
In this episode we’re heading into the actual wrestling/elimination round, which sadly means we move closer and closer to the London finale, and further and further away from the glory of The Bakewell Boys.
Catch up on Episodes 1, 2, and 3 if you’ve missed ’em. Also, be sure to like and share tweet and comment. Even if some of us have a whole ocean between us, discovering new and great indie wrestling is easier than ever, and makes my heart happier than almost anything.
Click through for this week’s British Boot Camp 2 recap.
Noam Dar vs. El Ligero
This week we skip the reminder of how things work, and move straight into the first match. If you’ll recall, El Ligero is basically the European non-union equivalent of El Generico, with the Olés, but also with horns. Noam Dar is the compact fellow from Ayr who who is real great at wrestles but also has an underlying immature bro-factor that makes me a bit hesitant to really truly get into him? But also there’s this picture of him and Freight Train, and Freight Train is terminally delightful? Either way, sometimes his butt says Champagne Supernoam, and he’s got a finish called the Champagne Super Kneebar, and thinking about how long I’ve listened to Oasis makes me feel really, really old.
Also, wrestling happened! It’s super weird writing about matches most people reading probably haven’t seen, so I would encourage you to seek out Boot Camp by totally legal means if you can. The show is real fun, plus there’s no Tazz! No Tazz is a serious selling point here. Instead we’ve got Rockstar Spud [heart emojis go here] and Jeremy Borash [owl emojis go here] at the helm for the six matches on this episode. The show is roughly 45 minutes long, so the matches go quickly.
My biggest complaint about the X-Division pretty much all of the time is Manik being total shitlord. After that, it’s the pacing of the matches. There are times when this Ligero-Dar match start to feel like that, but at the same time I’m going to cut some slack because this is literally their only chance to get their shit in. It’s about three minutes of what you’d expect from a lucha-style wrestler vs. a more grounded technical fellow. There are some great moments, like when Ligero goes full PWG and does a DVD on the apron, or Dar biting Ligero’s arm because, as Spud notes, he’ll do absolutely anything for a TNA contract.
Ligero picked up the win, which is surprising to me. I feel like there’s a very specific niche that Ligero fills, and there’s barely enough room for Tigre Uno on Impact as it is. I anticipated seeing Noam Dar move through to the final episode, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite the loss, he’ll be in contention for the contract. I’ve seen a few of his matches before, and there’s…a thing I can’t quite put my finger on that keeps stopping me from going all in on the kid. He’s very good, don’t get me wrong, but I think I like his potential more than how he moves in the ring.
Or I’m just old and resent the untarnished youth of others. Either or.
Joel Redman and Martin Stone vs. Richard Parliament and RJ Singh
Redman? More like SADman, amirite? …actually, I am, and that’s a real bummer. This match up is a bit mystifying to me, keeping in mind that my only introduction to three of these four men has been on Boot Camp. You may know Redman as Adrian Neville’s former NXT tag team partner Oliver Grey, or the sad circle from the Zoloft commercials. He and Martin Stone worked in WWE developmental. Big ups to all of my Snapchat bros who are somehow still friends with me after receiving at least twenty snaps of cartoon penis Martin Stone during these past two episodes, because holy heck does that dude’s head make it way too easy. I’m sure he’s a lovely fellow and I’m gonna need you all to never show him this ever, thanks. RJ Singh is the teacher I’m pumped to see more from, and Richard Parliament is…a special little snowflake.
As I said, I’m mystified. The whole thing is confusing, really. You’ve got Team Future Endeavoured on the one side, and then two people with seemingly no relation going up against them. Richard Parliament is all personality, but as I said in the last recap, it’s all…off. Nothing quite makes sense with him, and he also doesn’t seem to be spectacular at wrestling? I mean, this is supposed to showcase the best of the best that the UK has to offer, and I as little UK wrestling I get to see, I feel that he may not be it. It’s shifty as anything. From what I’m told Parliament comes from a local promotion who prefers exclusivity with their wrestlers, and man is that looking like a terrible idea right now.
The other issue I have with this square peg being hammered into a round hole is that it does nothing to enhance Singh. Singh was desperate for that second chance to really show his personality and make something spark. How is that supposed to happen if he’s wrestling two sad sacks alongside someone who runs like he has no bones in his wrists? He gets off a pretty moonsault at one point, but man, they really did this dude a disservice. These two jacked-as-eff ex-WWE developmental dudes, a comedy wrestler who’s neither comedic nor wrestler even, really, and then…what? The leftovers? Come on. The match itself isn’t even fun to watch. I might also simply be mad that it even exists to be quite honest.
To enhance the joy of the spectacle in front of us, we’re told on commentary that Redman’s car broke down on the way to the show. The World’s Saddest Man had to take his gear and run until he got to a train station in order to get to the show. Welp, we know it’s not because he ran out of gas, yeesh *nervously tugs at collar*
Nikki Storm vs. Kay Lee Ray vs. The Owens Twins
Yes I am here for this
The match starts off with Kay Lee Ray and the Owens locking hands for a three-way test of strength, but before Nikki can join in the Owens raise their arms up so she an’t reach. Frustrated, Nikki tries to jump and grab their hands a few times before storming out of the ring to pout on the apron. I am smitten. this is already the best match so far and it’s been like thirty seconds.
Real talks, this is the best match so far. There’s a clear and concise story told from beginning to end. After Nikki storms off, she shows up infrequently, but when she does she maximizes time she has, which usually means taking advantage of the results of what others have done. The Owns Twins function as a unit with a joint superplex from the top rope on Kay Lee Ray, and really work together throughout the match as a team. That is, until one goes for the pin. It’s still a four-way match, and there can only be a singular winner. They play it up, arguing with each other over the pinfall, but then immediately, without even thinking, snap back into a tag mentality when that pinfall is threatened by another. And oh, Kay Lee Ray. Ray is a treasure. She outworks all three girls, throwing herself out of the ring, going top rope left and right, really putting it to all of them. Nikki Storm sneaks in to steal a pin, and I am super sad that I have to go back to boy wrestling and can’t just have more of Storm and Ray.
Dear TNA can I just have more Storm and Ray? You can do it. You can totally do it.
See, the thing is that when I’m watching these matches, it’s hard to ignore the part of my brain that is trying to calculate exactly how they could fit into the already existing universe that Impact has established. Someone like Steakley Bakewell fits nicely into this ridiculous little world of independent wrestling I’ve cultivated for myself, but he wouldn’t exactly be someone you’d see slingshot into the main event title picture. I mean, we can’t even get EC3 there and that dude was basically born for that purpose. These little flippy fellows theoretically could be put into the X-Division, but some of them still need a lot of work, and the X-Division is already struggling as it is. Inserting someone there would mean that they’d have to be TV ready right away, and their workload would be well more than someone else, given your multi-mans and your title challenges. Plus, if you put the focus on anyone new in the X-Division, it seems to me that they would also need to be at that stereotypical “main event level,” able to cross over at any time, and none of these dudes feel ready for that.
With the women, however, it’s almost a benefit that literally no one working there cares. I mean, the Knockouts need to be rebuilt from the ground up. That’s a fact. The fundamentals are there with Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell, and Havok just upped their game like crazy. Shucking off the dead weight and replacing it with people like Kay Lee Ray or Storm, bringing back Veda Scott, or just culling as much of the Shimmer roster as physically possible would be a huge boon. TNA’s future is still up in the air as of writing this, so why not take this opportunity to hit the restart button, stack your roster with hungry, talented young women, and redefine what you’ve already set the bar for in the past?
Mark Andrews vs. Kris Travis
I would be lying if I said my favourite part of this whole thing isn’t how much Mandrews looks like something you’d encounter in the dark while playing through a Resident Evil game. Lying with my whole body.
This match is everything you’d expect out of two independent flippy dudes looking to get their shit it. We’ve got your leg lariats and your flips and dives and standing shooting star presses. Mark Andrews tries to sell on offense…kind of? I appreciate the effort because few things pop me as hard as legitimate selling on offense, but it’s moreso the CM Punk version where clutching at your ribs is supposed to mean you’re fighting back from something, even if that thing totally didn’t involve your ribs whatsoever. Travis sees this, but doesn’t follow through on the injury Mandrews is broadcasting. He still does his flippidy doos and a power bomb, but logically if I saw a dude clutching at his ribs, I’d probably want to work the ribs, y’know?
A lot of the problem I have with matches that are supposed to fit into the X-Division mold is that they’re basically match versions of Patrick Wilson – they’re good enough and there’s talent in there somewhere, but your eyes just slide right off of them. If I saw this match live, it would probably be a lot more fun than when presented on television, but I’ve also seen a million matches like this and there was nothing engaging that will make me remember it afterwards. I’ll remember that Mandrews enters the ring like a boy band member about to sing his hit single TIME TO FLY (Straight To Your Heart), but if someone said hey, Danielle, remember when Kris Travis did [whatever], am I gonna be super hype to talk about it? Naw, man. I’d already have texted like four people to complain about the rib thing and then never mention it again ever.
The second problem really has nothing to do with either of these two wrestlers, but the unfortunate corner TNA has backed themselves into regarding the X-Division itself. Any X-Division champion has to be believable in a main event context. Because of the stipulations added, and who has recently been inserted into the X-Division, any one of them has to be able to feasibly challenge for the World Title. Sanada could have, I think, however I might just be the only one who believed that because Austin Aries was thrust into the championship instead. Samoa Joe is the current champion, and while he’s at a stage in career where he doesn’t wrestle like he could hold any belts whatsoever, from the audience’s perspective he could absolutely have a title run with the belt of his choice. If he drops it, it’ll be to Low Ki. If TNA isn’t going to do anything to build up the non-veteran components of their show, then adding one or two tiny British baby bird wrestlers isn’t going to benefit anyone.
Anyways, Mandrews wins with an enthusiastic shooting star press, and I still just want to talk about Steakley Bakewell instead.
Dave Mastiff vs. Rampage Brown
BIG-MAN DROP-KICKS *clap clap clapclapclap* Ohhhhhh man, I am into this. I wanted this to be about a million times longer than it was, but whatever, I will take what I can get. The Dave Mastiff campaign to be my new favourite hoss. I mean, Keith Lee still exists, but man, Dave Mastiff is greattttttt. This match is just big men dropkicking and german suplexing the hell out of each other, and it’s the kind of match that makes me turn off that hypercritical part of my brain and clap and giggle and take the most delight I possibly could in watching each of them try to take the other off of their feet. Rampage Cuts a much better promo than he did last time, and while his alpha male tough guy schtick makes me roll my eyes so hard they hurt, it’s a nice progression from the truly terrible one he cut in his audition.
Also, this is a thing that happened. Yes, yes more Dave Mastiff please and thank you.
Sha Samuels vs. Grado
If you’ll recall, Grado was put into this stage after narrowly beating Sha Samuels, the shoot butcher whose rage is so uncontrollable that wrestling is the only thing keeping him from murdering his family. If you’ll recall, Sha Samuels is also maybe not my favourite. Also, he looks like a jacked extra from Newsies decided to dress up as a Sexy Happy Meal for Halloween.
Grado gets his signature entrance theme, Like A Prayer, and bless Challenge for their ability to used licensed music. The thought of a Serg Salinas version of a Madonna song makes my skin crawl a little. Grado comes out on fire, though not actually on fire, much to the chagrin of Al Snow I’m sure. Speaking of, Angry Daddy Al leaves Grado hanging on a high-five, in case you’re wondering who the real heel of this season is:
The audience is wholeheartedly behind Grado, clapping and singing along with his entrance. Samuels, in his best Slutty Durmstrang attire, attacks Grado from behind while he’s still enjoying the adulation of the London crowd.
I feel like knowing that TNA already has a dude named Samuel Shaw means that someone with the same name but backwards probably isn’t gonna make it past a proven fan favourite. But wrestling is real, so we’ve gotta see how this one plays out.
Sha Samuels tosses him around, into the barricades and the notoriously heavy ring steps. He takes Grado all the way up to the judges table, which is on an elevated stage opposite hard camera. Al Snow encourages this beating, yet nobody stops to wonder why neither men are being counted out. I guess maybe there are some stipulations we skipped past? Grado turns the tides with a big back drop off of the stage, gets Samuels back to the ring, hits him with some forearms and a big boot and this one is OVAH.
WRESTLING IS REAL GODDAMNIT.
The Final Decision
It’s time to find out who goes to America! We know there are six spots to be filled. Probably because most of the budget was spent on royalties for entrance music, but whatever, it is what it is. The judges call the wrestlers into the ring according to their matches, so El Ligero and Noam Dar are up first. Gail says she loved their match, and Noam was full of charisma and athleticism throughout. Samoa Joe priases Ligero’s high-flying skills and athleticism while they show maybe the least athletic finisher of the whole show. So…that’s maybe not a great edit. Snow says the decision is real tough, then tells them individually that neither will be moving through. I’m a little shocked at Noam not going through, even if I really do believe he’s sosososo close but just not quite there yet. If we couldn’t keep Joseph Park, a fake-Mexican fellow with giant horns isn’t going to go through so yes, I am still making everything about Joseph Park, the light of my life and the love of my heart and no I will never get over it ever.
Gail Kim says that Richard Parliament was her favourite after the auditions because of his character and personality. I…huh. To be fair, Gail Kim has had a long career of getting hit in the head, and working alongside people with literally no other personal attributes than YELLS A LOT and IS FEMALE. That has to be the only explanation because I have no compunction when it comes to saying that that guy is the drizzling shits. I’ll take ‘ol sad nips Redman over him any day, and that guy bums me out the most. None of them go through, which, based on their match isn’t terribly surprising. Martin Stone gets to stay the bitter dude in his exit interview, and Redman greets the news with all of the disappointment one would show when getting to the store and finding they’re out of 2-ply toilet paper. The good news is now he can finally debut his new entrance music on the British indies:
Gail Kim gets emotional as soon as all of the ladies enter the ring. She tells Nikki Storm that she’s so well rounded, from her wrestling to her promo skills. The Owens Twins made a great connection with the judges, and blew them away. Kim loves Kay Lee Ray’s athleticism and execution. She says all of them has what it takes. Al Snow eliminates one of the twins first before making Kay Lee Ray the first contestant to go through. Yeeeeaaah, get it, girl!
Then Al Snow eliminates Nikki Storm, so, you know, I can go right back to making dismissive wanking motions at the decisions TNA makes. But it’s fine. It’s fine! I promise. She walks off with a dismissive hair flip because she’s great and I adore her and I hope to god people start booking her more Stateside because I want to see her beat the tar out of everyone, goddamnit. Like come on, Nikki Storm vs. John Silver? Indie Wrestling, can I have that somewhere please? I’m so nice to you, Indie Wrestling. You should do that for me. The other twin doesn’t make it, but hey, I’m still really stoked about Kay Lee Ray.
Gail Kim was wondering why they put Travis through prior to their match, but she says that the match with Mandrews made her understand. All three of them love Mandrews. I’m disappointed that they didn’t go on to form their own British wrestling boy band. Kris Travis is the pretty boy. Mandrews is the cute but sensitive one. RJ Singh is the shy one. Noam Dar is the bad boy. Together they are JUST4KICKS, and they will dropkick your heart, girl. They’ll only submit…to the power of love.
That’s not a real thing, but I’m going to choose to believe that it’s because both of them are continuing on, and not because I make up ridiculous headcanons for the future careers of British wrestlers.
Kris Travis was unable to continue in the competition due to health reasons, so he was replaced with the rebel of JUST4KICKS, Noam Dar.
The judges have high praise for both the match and the two contestants. It’s nice to be able to agree with the judges once in a while, y’know? Dave Mastiff goes through, making me clap my hands, and wiggle around in my chair like an excited puppydog because I am totally the coolest person you know. Rampage Brown goes through as well, but I used up all of my glee on Dave Mastiff, so…no wiggling.
It’s Grado! Wrestling IS real!
And now, here’s Carrie Dunn again. She was live at the tapings and, again, literally wrote the book on the British wrestling scene. (also she’s lovely and incredibly gracious to keep contributing and you should buy her book)
The View from York Hall
When the revamped version of TNA British Boot Camp was being filmed, fans were invited to apply for tickets to the “finals” – the filmed matches where the judges would deliberate on who’d make it to America. As your roving reporter, I headed off to East London’s renowned York Hall to see who had made it through…
– York Hall, for those of you not familiar with British sporting history, is a legendary boxing venue, and has recently been used for a couple of wrestling shows. It offers a stage (where the judges were seated), plenty of room for a ring and rows of seats on each side, and a balcony. It’s a perfect and atmospheric place for any ring sport.
– The evening got off to an interesting start when I noticed that there was a man in the queue with hair like Seth Rollins. Unfortunately, he did not have a face like Seth Rollins.
– I got to sit in the front row, which made me feel important. [Danielle’s note: This is my favourite part tbh]
– For the grand total of zero pounds, we were given a series of really good (if very short) matches, plus the opportunity to dance to Madonna – who could object to that?
– Jeremy Borash – as always, the compere and famed Anglophile – requested that we not share spoilers on social media. (Seeing as this was filmed in August and obviously it’s only now airing in October, I felt this was entirely reasonable if not particularly likely, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that people have tended to be rather circumspect about the evening’s events.)
– Each match was followed by feedback from the judges – similar to The X Factor. However, it became evident that the feedback wasn’t just on the match, but also on their narrative that had been constructed in the previous episodes – it was clear that there’d been some kind of beef built up between Grado and Al Snow.
Richard Parliament was quickly exposed as very inexperienced in the ring, but did well to get through his promo in front of a rather bewildered crowd who clearly weren’t familiar with him.
– The ex-WWE boys were, of course, as good as they usually are, but can’t imagine TNA want their big British talent search to end up with a couple of Titan Towers cast-offs.
– The biggest pop was for RJ Singh, but Dave Mastiff was also very over.
– Once I’d seen who was in the line-up I assumed they’d opt to take two cruiserweights through, one big man, and a woman.
-My thoughts based simply on the show I saw: I’d take Nikki of the girls, because twins are so passe and although Kay Lee is amazing I wasn’t sure she’d be right for TNA; added to that, of course, Storm is fantastic in the ring and a great talker. Of the cruisers I’d pick Mark Andrews and Noam Dar, whom I’ve expected to head to the US sooner rather than later for some time; I’m not sure El Ligero would make sense to a global audience, and there was something that just didn’t connect about Kris Travis. Though Dave Mastiff would be my choice for the heavyweights, Sha Samuels would be a possibility. But then what do you do with Grado (a question asked by many), bearing in mind he’s obviously integral to their storyline?
– I was rather surprised that they didn’t announce the decision on the night – so the actual choices will be as much a surprise to attendees as they are to TV viewers…
Stay tuned for the next recap, coming real real soon!