November 10, 2014

British Bootcamp 2 Ep. 4 Review

The UK Finals
Enough Already, Grado!

Welcome to British Bootcamp 2 Week 4, where the 16 contestants get whittled down to the final 6 and any viewer who doesn't like having their intelligence insulted fervently hopes that Grado gets lost at the buffet table again and just doesn't bother showing up.

Previously in London, the judges decided to be generous and put all the remaining hopefuls through to the next round. Among them included Tyrus: the talented version, a bloke with promo skills as rock solid as his last name suggests, two guys who have no chance but were entertaining enough to make some of us wish they did and a set of very easy on the eyes identical twins, who are kind of like the Blossoms if they grew up in a tattoo parlor.

Also, Grado still won't leave. Ugh.

With a lucrative contract as the ultimate prize and this being the episode where the contestants have to put up or shut up and deliver the performance of a lifetime in order to advance to the finals in America, one can only assume that the judges will be fair, discerning, make some tough calls so only the very best make it and certainly won't waste any of the valuable spots on some chucklehead who probably only got onto the show in the first place because the producers were trying to rib somebody, right? Right?

*crickets chirping*

Sigh... Let's just do this...

Before we begin, I have to say one thing. I know there were time constraints with this only being a one hour show, but I hate that not all the contestants got their entrances shown. The matches already felt rushed, but to not show a lot of the entrances made me feel bad for these guys and girls. It just seemed like they were getting shortchanged.  

Short, no real story-telling going on, but a very good X-division style spotfest for the time it had. I don't necessarily think we saw anything here that couldn't be done by some of the X guys already on the roster however, and that may be a problem. 

Again, aspiring X-division competitors really need to bring something unique to the table in order to stand out; we've seen what happens to those who don't. There was some great effort by both men, but I don't know that I saw anything particularly unique here. 

Pretty good stuff in this one. Parliament's facial expressions were hilarious, Redman looked like a beast, but still displayed little personality, Singh was arguably the most crisp in the ring and Stone had a sick finisher, but seemed like the least polished of the four. 

Originally, I was excited for Martin Stone, but I'm a bit less enthused now and might lean more toward Redman if I were looking for a physical specimen. Singh could probably wrestle on iMPACT right now if they wanted him to, but the thing that makes him stand out the most is his indian heritage, and with TNA recently bringing in Mahabali Shera, they may not be looking for that. Ironically, Parliament was the most memorable to me thanks to his character and facials. I really thought this was as far as Parliament would go in the competition, but to be honest, I'm kind of rooting for him now.  

[SIDE NOTE: Borash and Spud make a really good announce team. They're way better than Tenay and Taz (as is pretty much every different announce team combination the company has tried out, TBH). They both sound like they really did their homework and, best of all, they sound really enthusiastic about the show they're calling. When the day comes that Spud hangs up his boots, TNA should consider putting these guys in the announce booth full time.] 

Don't think it escaped my notice that Kay Lee Ray was the first contestant of the night to get their entrance shown. TNA earned some points with me for that one. ;) 

Very strong work and a breath of fresh air from the ladies here with the first genuine attempt at story-telling we saw on this show. I wish we saw more Knockout matches like this in TNA and I'd personally take any one of these four over some of the played-out women sucking up screentime on iMPACT right now (i.e. the Beautiful People, Madison Rayne). 

Nikki Storm is straight up hilarious. Every match I've seen her in, she does something that makes me laugh and this was no exception. That woman's got personality to spare, and frankly, she could teach some of the current Knockouts a thing or two about that. She played her 'angry short person' character perfectly here, letting the others do their thing and then getting her shots in when they were distracted. Very entertaining stuff. If she doesn't make the final six, it's a crime. 

Kasey & Leah I think could stand to be a bit more crisp with their tandem moves, which you'd expect because they're twins, but they showed an aptitude for telling a story in the ring here, with their partnership imploding as they realized that only one of them could win the match. They might need to polish one or two things, but I think they'd be great candidates for developmental contracts if TNA still had a developmental system. 

Regardless of who wins this competition, TNA need to sign Kay Lee Ray. This girl really stands out and has "top Knockout babyface" written all over her. Just market her as the female Jeff Hardy and watch the money roll in. I may be biased as I have a real fondness for female high flyers, but with good reason because you just don't see girls who can do stuff like that every day. On top of all her other flashy moves, I can count the number of women I've seen execute springboard maneuvers on one hand, so hell yeah, I'm going to single out KLR for that. She's awesome.   

A very good match that was better than what we'd get from a lot of the Knockouts TNA already employ. Ray and Storm deserve to be in the final six, and the twins might have an outside chance of squeaking by as well. 

Wow. Andrews was super impressive here. He undersold the powerbomb on the ring apron, but no one seemed to care about that with all the other stuff he was doing and my jaw fell open at the suplex-into-a-power-bomb-attempt-into-a-hurrcanrana spot. Holy crap. Like with the opener, there wasn't much that was incredibly unique here. However, from a workrate standpoint, Andrews probably has some of the current X guys beat and he connected with the crowd effortlessly. I'd say he deserves to go to the American round. 

Kris Travis also quitted himself very well here. I liked him a lot more after this match than I did after the Manchester episode. There could be an issue of him being about the size of an X-division guy, but not really wrestling like one, but he did prove that he was capable of working well with someone who does wrestle that style and putting together something really good. 

I'd say both men made solid cases for themselves here. Andrews looked like a really exciting prospect. Unfortunately Travis' current health problems could hurt his chances, which is a shame because he may have done enough here to advance if he doesn't get shown up in the next two matches.  

Kudos to Brown for trying to show that his poor mic skills in his audition were due to nerves. While his promo here was an improvement, I don't think it was anything special, nor do I think speaking eloquently is something that comes naturally to him, but give him a decent mouthpiece and that might not matter.  

As for the match... damn, this was an eye-epener. I couldn't believe Mastiff did some of the stuff he did here. For his size, that guy is crazy agile and maybe even more agile than Brown if you can believe that. I say drop Tyrus like a bad habit and put Mastiff in his spot right freaking now.

Not that Brown got shown up here because he also performed very well. There were one or two moments where I thought he rushed a little bit, like not bothering to sell his frustration after a failed pin attempt, but that's a minor nitpick. What he lacks on the mic, he makes up for in the ring. I'd hate to have to choose between these two because they both deserve to advance based on this performance. If you put a gun to my head, I think I'd go with Mastiff, but that's just me. 

Are you kidding me? Grado is the main event? GRADO is the main event?! I... I just... I don't... I can't even... 

No. You know what? Screw this. I call bullshit. 

Seriously, what is it with this schmuck? Is this a British thing? Do I just not understand him because I'm American? I really need someone to explain to me what it is about Grado that TNA think is so bloody fascinating because I've been over this and over this. And I just. Don't. Get. It. 

The obviously worked Grado segments on this show have been growing more and more infuriating to me. After he showed up late for the audition in Glasgow, that should have been the end it. I mean, what does he really have that warranted a closer look? Not his physique, that's for sure. I am by no means a professional athlete and I'm in better shape than this joker. Are you really going to be so enthralled by his flabby man boobs when TNA ask you to pay $40.00 to see them on PPV? Come on now... 

Is it because people think he's funny? I've got news for you guys: Grado is no comedian, he's just a clown. You're laughing at him, not with him, and he did nothing in this match to prove otherwise. 

Is it his conditioning (and I use that word loosely)? What conditioning? He was sucking wind thirty seconds into the match, for God's sake!  

Speaking of the match, it was the worst one of the show by a mile. Frankly, this would have felt like a waste of time even if the other matches hadn't been as good as they were. Grado gets beaten down for a couple minutes, stages an unbelievable (meaning that it lacks believability) comeback, hits two moves and wins just like that. This was like watching some half-assed backyard wrestler trying to imitate a Hogan match from the 1980s. Badly.

Aside from one nice bump by Samuels, there was nothing to see here. Just a bunch of forgettable brawling as JB and Spud attempted to sell this Grado/Al Snow angle like it was the most enrapturing feud since Austin/McMahon while I tried to resist the urge to choke myself with my own tongue just so I didn't have to listen to it anymore. The crowd was inexplicably into Grado because he's some kind of sentimental favorite to them, but if TNA think that will translate to the American audience, I really have to wonder if their heads are screwed on straight. 

No more of Grado, TNA. Please. Don't make me beg. 

So with the matches now done, it's time for some deliberation. If I'm choosing the final six, in no particular order, my picks are: Nikki Storm, Kay Lee Ray, Mark Andrews, Kris Travis, Dave Mastiff and Rampage Brown.  

[SIDE NOTE: After the episode was taped, Kris Travis was unfortunately diagnosed with stomach cancer and would not be able to continue in the competition. He would be replaced in the final six by Noam Dar. Rough break for Travis. Talk about bad timing.]

And for the final six, the judges choose: Kay Lee Ray, Mark Andrews, Kris Travis Noam Dar, Dave Mastiff, Rampage Brown and...... Grado. 

Yeah, that's not a typo. Despite her looking like a far superior performer on every conceivable level, the white chocolate cheesecake of professional wrestling, Nikki Storm, does not make it through, with the final spot instead going to a guy who looks worse with his singlet straps down than Mark Madden after a big pasta dinner.

There are no two ways about this. Nikki Storm was robbed. When another spot opened up due to Travis having to bow out and she STILL didn't get in, I was flabbergasted. How on earth do you not put her through? Storm is one of the most well-rounded female performers in the industry! Noam Dar is an impressive in-ring worker, but Nikki Storm brings so much more to the table in the personality and mic skills department. This just plain stinks IMO. 

To add insult to injury, Grado making it to the American round is accompanied by uplifting music and a video recap of his time on the show thus far, (funny how none of the other finalists got this) and not one second of it feels organic or earned in the slightest. The whole thing just comes off so forced and phony and horribly contrived. I don't know how TNA are going to rationalize this one and I'm not sure I care to see them try. 

Okay... how about this. In the Glasgow episode, Grado said that his #1 goal was to wrestle in the Hydro Arena. He can do that without winning the contract because the five runners up get to compete on the Maximum iMPACT tour next year. So TNA can use Grado on the tour like they seem dead set on doing, and finish off this manufactured nonsense with him and Al Snow WITHOUT bringing him back to America when they're done. There are three or four finalists here that I would love to see earn spots on the roster, who could potentially do big business for TNA, and the company really should be focusing on them. The UK fans seem to like Grado for some reason, and as far as I'm concerned, they can keep him. 

Minus the Grado horse crap, this was a really fun show. I wish it had been longer, though, so the matches could have had more time -- most of them really deserved it -- and all the entrances could have been shown. It felt like they were blasting through the matches too fast and the contestants deserved more time to properly showcase themselves. TNA should have asked Challenge for a 2 hour special, and considering the ratings, Challenge would've looked like geniuses for giving it to them.

IMO, the judges made good decisions with five of the final six, so that's not too shabby (though Nikki Storm's baffling exclusion is going to sting for a while). However, that will all be negated if Grado ends up winning this thing, and the fact that that's even a possibility now makes me queasy. 

I believe there's four episodes left, so I'm not sure what's going to happen in the American round, but I'm pretty excited for it. 

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