I was a huge fan of the first season of British Bootcamp. In my opinion, it was one of the best shows, if not THE best, that TNA ever produced. Unlike so many of this company's other ventures and concepts, everything about the show clicked from the outset. The cast came off like stars, the company looked like a big deal (more so than it does in America a lot of the time, frankly) and it made me a fan of Rockstar Spud, whereas I'd originally been rooting for the Blossom Twins. So needless to say, I've been chomping at the bit for a second season ever since. Now that the wait is finally over, I thought I'd take a closer look at what we're getting this time around.
Obviously, the format of the show has changed, which I think is both a good thing and a bad thing. Clearly, TNA is aping the the American Idol/X-Factor format of the 3 judge panel and whatnot. Maybe they think this will make the show more familiar to non-wrestling fans. The problem is EVERY reality show competition does this nowadays, making the show feel a lot less unique to me. Also, I loved how the original season introduced the contestants, having Dixie Carter call them out in a club full of people -- they came off like celebrities AND wrestlers. Now they just come off like wrestlers, which is something this new format has against it.
On the other hand, something about the original season that always bothered me was that we never got to see how the contestants were selected. They just were because of reasons we were never privy to. Now we get to see them earning their way on to the show by going through auditions, which I like.
Though they could stand to speak a little louder during the deliberation process as it was hard to hear them at points, the judges seemed well suited for their roles. Although, just as I feared, a few of Al Snow's comments highlighted precisely why I did not want him judging female contestants. Some of his views on women wrestlers really make me scratch my head at times. Questioning Kay Lee Ray's sex appeal (I think. It was hard to hear him)? After the best audition of the entire episode, he wonders whether they could glam up Nikki Storm? Seriously? No offense, Mr. Snow, but if you don't think Kay Lee Ray and Nikki Storm are hot as hell, then I wonder about you, I really do. Thankfully, Samoa Joe and Gail Kim were there to provide voices of reason when it came to the girls.
[SIDE NOTE: I suddenly find myself wondering what the backstage reaction would be to Al Snow pondering how they could glam up Jessicka Havok.]
As for the contestants:
-Kay Lee Ray- Many of you probably aren't aware of this because I've been so subtle about it, (*cough*) but I've been a wee bit excited to see this lady get a shot on BBC2. And now that it's finally happening, to say that I was on pins and needles would be an understatement.
I've said this before and I'll say it again. Kay Lee Ray is my #1 favorite female performer in the world today. IMO, she has the potential to be the Lita of this era if she got the chance, and I'll fight you on that if you disagree with me. TNA need to snatch this woman up and sign her ASAP because it's only a matter of time before someone else does and she becomes a huge star.
That said, she seemed a little anxious during her audition. She didn't do badly at all; you could just sense some jitters there and her charisma didn't shine as brightly as is does in the ring, which I attribute to nerves. But she has a great story, a unique look and wrestling style, and a pretty spectacular body of work, (youtube 'Kay Lee Ray vs Carmel Jacob' and prepare to scrape your jaw off the floor) and she certainly did well enough to advance to the next round where I fully expect her talent will take over and speak for itself. She was given the most elaborate promo package of all the contestants, so hopefully that means company officials recognize her big time star potential. TNA's women's roster has been lacking a high-flyer for years, and there's no one better to fill that spot if you ask me. Future face of the Knockout division right here, folks!
-Simon Lancaster- Not much to go on with this guy. He certainly wasn't shy, but I thought he was very generic and his character seemed pretty phony to me.
-Priscilla- Two words: indie gimmick. Two more words: no physique. I don't see this guy working on a national stage and it would take more charisma than he showed in his audition to make that type of persona fly on television.
-Noam Dar- I know a little bit about this guy. He can definitely go in the ring, though I was a tad underwhelmed with his interview and speaking skills. Also, aside from being able to speak hebrew (and ironically, that's when he showed the most charisma), I didn't see anything really unique about him, which is kind of a deal-breaker.
TNA has plenty of great X-division wrestlers that barely get used. The few that stand out from the pack are the ones that bring something different to the table, something special that sets them apart from the others. Dar is a great wrestler, but so is Marty Scurll, and there's a reason why TNA signed Rockstar Spud instead of him. If Dar were to win the contract, I fear he would just fade into the crowd like many others have before him. However, he's good enough to make it to the next round at least, so we'll see how he develops from here.
-Grado- What the...
My guess is that someone let this person on the show thinking he might be this season's Rockstar Spud -- the unlikeliest contestant who does well despite a lot of things (himself most of all) working against him. I don't think it worked. I didn't see 'pro wrestler' with Grado. I saw a Joe Schmo clown off the street who wandered into the audition as a joke and advanced to the wrestling portion because the judges just went, "Fuck it. He'll make for good TV." Not shockingly, when it was time to get serious, he screwed the pooch immediately. I won't lose sleep over this elimination.
-Nikki Storm- If Kay Lee Ray is my #1 favorite female performer, Nikki Storm is a close second. Storm is a terrific wrestler, funny as hell, has charisma coming out her ears and is the best, I repeat, THE BEST female mic worker in the industry today. Period. Gail Kim already stated on social media that Storm was the best audition they saw in Glasgow, and frankly, she deserves serious consideration based on her promo to the judges alone. She blew away every other contestant we saw in the show-off-your-personality arena, not unlike Spud in season one. If she doesn't make it to the stateside round of the competition at the very least, then these judges are absolutely nuts. Nikki Storm is money.
-Viper- Her interview told me she wasn't ready. She seemed very tentative, didn't look confident and didn't really sell her character IMO. She didn't appear to be in the greatest shape either. If TNA were considering her as a potential monster heel for the Knockouts, I don't think there's anything she does that Havok doesn't do a lot better.
After the wrestling portion, our first 3 semi-finalists are Kay Lee Ray, Nikki Storm and Noam Dar. I definitely think the judges made the right call as they were the clear standouts of the Glasgow auditions. Based on what we saw and from what I know about them, I would say Dar is the best wrestler, Ray is the most unique, and Storm is the most charismatic and probably the most ready for television. And both Ray and Storm are beautiful ladies despite what Al Snow might think, damn it! *shakes angry fist*
FINAL VERDICT: Great premier episode. I do miss some of the qualities of the first season however. I think making the format more wrestling-centric seemed to lessen the star quality of the contestants in a weird way. In season one, Spud, Scurll and the Blossoms looked like big stars immediately -- portraying them like celebrities in addition to athletes was something the show did brilliantly, and that didn't quite come across in this episode. Of course, having a bigger cast might account for that, (Grado didn't help) and if that's what it takes for some of these people being included when they wouldn't be if there were only 4 spots, so be it.
I'm open to being swayed by someone else, but right now I am 150% supporting Kay Lee Ray winning this competition, though if Nikki Storm were to take the contract, I would be equally as thrilled. Nothing against Noam Dar, but for me he's the least exciting prospect of the three. Rockstar Spud proved that being a star takes more than just being a great wrestler. You need some kind of X-factor and I don't necessarily see it in Dar yet.
Bring on the Manchester auditions!