Another season of TNA British Boot Camp is upon us! We didn’t recap them over here at With Spandex (mostly because it didn’t exist yet), but basically all you need to know is that Rockstar Spud won and he is, at the very least, a national treasure. Will this season give us a winner that will go on to be as positively adored as Spud is, or will we end up with a total dud? Will I ever not be bothered by Gail Kim’s diction? How many Troop Beverly Hills references can I jam into a season’s worth of recaps? Will I just give up and start recapping The Parent Trap instead? Why didn’t the Blossom Twins from Season 1 get a weekly segment where they Twin Magic-ed Serg and Dixie?
I already have so many questions. Hopefully we’ll answer at least one of them.
Click through for the inaugural British Boot Camp 2 recap!
How It Works
British Boot Camp 2 airs on the British gameshow channel Challenge, and definitely not in America. All of the promotion and WikiPedia copy is spelled as it should be, and no U is gratuitous in the least. Gail Kim, Al Snow, and Samoa Joe make up the panel of judges/mentors for this season. Thanks to the helpful graphic above and the dulcet tones of Jeremy Borash, it’s explained that each that we’ll be starting this week with the first round auditions. Each wrestler gets a few minutes to distill their entire shoot personality, kayfabe gimmick into a few moments before they’re allowed to show off their wrestling skills. Think of this as the John Laurinaitis flipping through Hawaiian Tropic shoots portion of the show, but with a 73% chance of Al Snow not openly masturbating. This week we see six contestants work their way through the first two rounds, with three going on to the finals in London.
First Up: Kay Lee Ray
My knowledge of the British isn’t as great as it should be, mostly being limited to occasional YouTube wormholes of Grado matches and living in a constant state of both fear and adoration of Saraya Knight. I’m pretty happy we started out with someone I’m familiar with, and admittedly one of my total biases entering the competition. This past weekend the native Glaswegian wrestled With Spandex eternal fave KANA and Candice LeRae at the Shimmer Volume 69-70 tapings, and I will tell you straight up if that doesn’t excite you, we need to have a lengthy conversation about the women’s wrestling scene.
Ray already seems built to be a fan favourite, evidenced by the fact that she’s super cute, loves Impact Wrestling Superstar Jeff Hardy, and comes with an extended backstory segment about learning sign language to work with a special needs boy. Special needs mentors rank high in the carefully crafted for maximum fan connection pre-audition interviews, like “me and my single mom used to live in our car,” and “I was raised by my grandmother/aunt and she was the only one who believed in me,” and “drugs.”
The judges say they love her passion and dedication. Gail Kim comments that a lot of women who audition for Boot Camp send intergender matches, and makes it very clear that won’t be happening in TNA. It’s an odd little tidbit to sneak in, and I can’t tell if it’s a derisive jab or not. But Ray keeps her composure, says flattering things about the current state of the Knockouts division, and skates on through because holy hell that girl is already a delight. Early Prediction: will go to the finals, become a fan favourite, get dicked around because literally no one cares about having a fully-functioning badass Knockouts division again other than me and whomever it was that snuck a contract to Jessicka Havok.
Oh, And Did We Mention Rockstar Spud?
Spud is the Boot Camp audition’s Cat Deely: chatting up contestants, being super blonde and well-dressed, and otherwise providing breaks of humour and a staggering amount of charm. We’re so blessed already don’t mess it up don’t mess it up oh god oh god don’t mess this up TNA
“The One” Simon Lancaster
Lancaster descends the stairs shouting and “kicking things off with a bang. Snap judgement: he reminds me of Stone Cold E.T. and now I can’t unsee it. He tells Gail Kim that he’s the “Yakuza-kicking, forearm swinging, crazy sonofagun, and greatest of all time.” He’s a little uncomfortable to watch, and seems like the type who has yet to find real confidence in themselves and in the ring and just shouts a lot to overcompensate causing more than a wee bit of second-hand embarrassment for viewer. Despite Al Snow’s claims that he seems a little stuff and unnatural (“a little” being an incredible understatement), they’re going to put him through to the next round. Early Prediction: He won’t make it to the finals because he’s hella awkward, and you’re going to watch the hell out of a bunch of Stone Cold E.T. videos.
Joe doesn’t get a pre-audition interview or package, just the mentors asking him to cut a promo and tell them who Joe Vega really is. He talks about how he’s come into the competition with a lot of negative comments about him, but he really wants it. He believes in himself, and he’s here to give 100%. Gail and Joe watch the entire promo like this, and I have never identified with them more:
Joe responds that he wouldn’t pay a dime to see him, and he doesn’t believe that he’d walk in the ring and kick anybody’s ass. That while he says he’s operating at 100%, Joe thinks he’s running at about 50-30%. Oh my god, has Joe been reading my Worsts about him? Yikes. Al Snow gives him 30 seconds to impress them physically. Joe runs the ropes, does some basic drills, and almost immediately flames out and hurts himself. Oof, shades of WCW Christopher Daniels. Oh my god, are these auditions just going to make me want to fly to the UK, wrap these wrestlers in a warm blanket and give them all warm cups of chamomile tea? I don’t know if my overly-empathetic heart can take any more sad and nervous indie wrestlers, she said, planning to attend two upcoming local indie wrestling shows.
Priscilla, “Queen of the Ring”
Priscilla came out as bisexual when he was 17, and was told to keep it to himself because it would be a detriment to him in the industry. He went the opposite direction, celebrating and being outspoken in his sexuality. Al Snow wants to know how that’s going to sell tickets. Priscilla says that it will open up a whole new audience for those who felt estranged from wrestling by lacking representation, and that gays and drag queens stepping into the ring has always been a joke. Crazy talk! Al Snow makes it pretty clear that he’s a definite no on Priscilla, and doesn’t think that kind of gimmick will draw. You know, not like a 20 year old blow job joke will. Gail Kim thinks that he could indeed bring a new audience, and wants to see Priscilla work before they make the decision to move him to the next round. I just want Priscilla to ditch the KIDEO wig and invest in a blendable foundation that matches his skin tone. Early Prediction: Priscilla has showed more natural charisma and confidence than any of the previous three contestants, but won’t make it to the finals because…you know. Fingers crossed he’ll be treated respectfully and fairly along the way. Literally all of my fingers.
Dar gets the predictive video package, including his trainer putting him over as the future of wrestling and an adorable but extremely hard to screencap dog. He’s got boy-band level good looks (keeping in mind British boy bands play a little more fast and loose with their “handsome” qualifications), and footage of him wrestling Fergal Devitt. He was also born in Isreal and speaks fluent Hebrew, which is great for the international market. Al Snow asks him to cut a promo on Samoa Joe in Hebrew and make them feel his emotion. His accent is super thick to begin with, and I don’t speak Hebrew, but I’m pretty sure all he’s saying is “hello, I love you, let me be your new favourite wrestler and maybe let you play with my hair a bit?” He impresses the judges and makes it through to the next round. Early Prediction: He seems like the total package for a rookie, but also seems like he could definitely be TNA’s weaker version of Sami Zayn. My TV sensibilities think he needs to tone up more and get a little more aggressive with his personality, and my heart sensibilities say we need more footage of him playing with his dog.
The Dud Round
No reality competition would be complete without the recap of duds. This is my least favourite part of any type of reality show that doesn’t have Natalya in it, because they always come across as so mean-spirited. This group includes a guy who says he needs to get loose with all of the charisma and ease of a parody Al Gore, a fellow in a suit jacket with no shirt doing a “gremlin dance”, and, at Al Snow’s instruction, a fellow trying to ask a female steadicam operator out on a date with some extremely unsuccessful results.
I’m much more used to writing about Impact-related things in a Best and Worst format, and I instinctually typed “Best: Grado” before remembering that this is totally now how the recap is set up. Regardless, hey! It’s Grado! You may know him from such things as that Vice documentary, or his goosebump-inducing ring entrances. Noam Dar is TV handsome, but Grado just kind of makes you want to love him? I kinda just wanted to forego the rest of the contestants keep screencapping him because he injects so much fun into anything. It also says a lot that I want to just stay in his pre-audition interview, because I’ve watched TNA for so long and their adversity to fun is too great to forget.
He starts off his audition by asking Joe to sign his DVDs for his mom, and taking a “yerselfie” with him. Outside of his post-match address to the Korakuen Hall crowd at Bound For Glory, this is the happiest and most genuine Samoa Joe has ever seemed on TNA by far. Al Snow is hesitant because of the “lumpy” physique, but Kim and Joe and anyone watching with a pulse is into it. Early Prediction: F-ck it, it’s Grado, just give him a job anyways.
Man, really? This show has me all sorts of pumped already, and then you’re adding Nikki Storm? Yes please. Nikki is the arrogantly confident one, because any show with more than one female has to have a bitch-type. She comes out swinging at Gail Kim, then cutting a shouty promo about how she’s wrestled all over the world and carved a name for herself, and nobody deserves this more than she does. She tells them to pick up a pen and paper, making Samoa Joe delightfully pick up his pen with a gesture that says “but I already have one!” because I’m pretty sure this show is just trying to make me love Samoa Joe? .
Joe decides that he’s not impressed with her physicality (despite being the most physically stacked wrestler they’ve seen so far), which then leads to her hoisting up Al Snow and parading around the ring with him because oh my god be still my heart
She impresses (because of course she does), and heads on to the next round. Early Prediction: I will spend a lot of time wishing that Impact would just hire half of the SHIMMER roster and turn itself into everything I love about NXT.
No No, Mr. Tank Is My Father. Call Me Ultimate Male.
Mr. Tank claims that he’s “The Ultimate Male,” and can do anything they ask him to, except have a visible dick in the woods, I guess. Look, I love outdated notions of masculinity as much as the next person, but lol no I don’t, bring back Nikki Storm.
The panel asks this Tank fellow to do 20 squat thrusts, then cut an impassioned promo as if he were about to wrestle Kurt Angle. He makes it to ten, insists that all women want to sleep with him, then breathlessly insults Kurt Angle a bunch. Gail Kim points out that he tore down his opponent, but didn’t build him back up so now if he beats him, it’s meaningless. I am seriously mystified at the legitimately good advice coming out of this panel that is somehow in no way applied to their actual jobs of doing these things on TV, but whatever. Al Snow lets him down gently, saying that he has the physical qualifications, but lacks the personality that they’re looking for. He probably should have had that same conversation with Wes Brisco and saved us a whole heap of trouble, but thank god he had it with this dude because is there really anything more boring than wrestlers who think that manly man is an exciting gimmick in 2014?
Viper doesn’t get a video package, but has been through some tough times. She’s lost family, friends, a business, her house, but has always found solace in wrestling. She’s so pretty and so sweet, but the judges don’t think her obvious personality traits match her name. She then cuts maybe on the of the best promos of the day – though just a titch hackneyed and still not as confident as Storm – saying that she’s been called damaged like it’s an insult, but those who have been beaten and broken are survivours, and will always fight back, and look, in the interest of full disclosure I might kind of have a wee crush on her at this point?
I’m really enjoying the show so far, and I think most of it is that there’s genuinely positive female representation thus far. With all due respect to the Noams and the Grados of the episode, the most exciting prospects have been the ladies. I’m excited to see how they do, and I want them to just start showing up on Thursday night, throwing hands and alveolar trills at everyone. Positive representation is absolutely the easiest thing to do that makes the biggest TNA IMPACT, and it is so desperately needed in…well, wrestling in general, if we’re having real talks here.
Viper makes it through to the next round on the strength of her promo and personality. Early Prediction: She won’t make it through to the finals because she still needs to strengthen up a bit (and also you probably can’t have too many ladies), but I will remember her for a heck of a lot longer that Mr. Tank.
Round Two – FIGHT! (DODO DODO DODO DODO DODODO)
Now it’s time to run some drills and have a kicky little montage, but lo, what’s this? They’re one person short (not a Spud joke). And aw damn, it’s Grado. He finally turns up after said montage of lock ups and running the ropes so that Al Snow can get in his face about respect and treating the business properly and swear a bunch and lord, this is probably the weakest part of the show. Complaining that a show about scripted fighting is too scripted is probably in bad form, but dang.
Grado tells poor, concerned Spud that he was at the Buffet King and lost track of time. Spud points out that while he may have thrown up in his season, he was never late. Spud explains that he can’t do anything to get him back in because it wouldn’t be fair to anyone else, and look. Here’s the deal. If Ethan Carter III and Spud can’t remain BFF Forever, I will happily take a weekly episodic food travel show about Grado and Spud’s odd couple adventures across America. Spatting about the radio stations, Spud getting mad because Grado got barbecue sauce on his suit jacket, Grado trying to win a pie-eating contest. One a little bit uptight, one’s a little bit laddish, they’re both mystified by fried butter. Who gives an actual f-ck about Bobby Roode and Bobby Lashley griping at each other over a belt when the show idea is right there just reach out and take it ugh
It’s time for deliberations. They all agree that the one fellow whose name I have to keep scrolling back up to to remember is not memorable in the least, but are impressed with Noam Dar. They feel he’s rushing a bit, but give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to nerves. They love Kay Lee Ray, but Al Snow is worried about her look. Because cute girl who can wrestle is sadly not a thing that translates in the television house that McMahon built. They were impressed by Priscilla, but feel that they need to see more. They unanimously love Nikki Storm (because again, she’s the best of the day), and there’s something about her wrestling Samoa Joe that makes my heart happy inside? Again, Al Snow is wondering how she’s going to look made up, because Al Snow might actually have taken one too many bumps to the head. I understand that television is a business of looks, and I can get where they’re coming from, but to be perfectly honest they’ll have a harder time translating Noam Dar to an audience than this shoot beautiful wrestling powerhouse, y’know?
As I predicted, the mentors feel that Viper could use a little more conditioning and it’s obvious that she’s not going through, but surprisingly it’s Samoa Joe who pipes up to be the most positive about her. He says that there’s a lot of impressive stuff going on, but she’s still a work in progress. I am so into Samoa Joe right now what is even happening. See, kids? Personality (and being nice to girls on TV) really is important!
Nikki Storm, Noam Dar, and Kay Lee Ray advance to the finals in London, while Priscilla, Viper, and Simon Lancaster will not be moving on.
All in all I feel exceptionally positive about the show, and I’m really excited to see where they go from here. Sometimes it’s really hard to put indie wrestlers on a main stage, and it’s even harder to not get incredibly defensive of them because independent wrestling is my very favourite thing in the world and I want to cradle the wrestlers I love like Linda Belcher and her tiny porcelain babies, y’know? But me being a giant weirdo about wrestling aside, the change in the target British audience seems to be such a positive and refreshing one, and I’m almost sad that I have to wait so long for the next episode.
Wait, I think Samoa Joe calls someone a pussy in the previews.
Dang, so close.