Monday, December 01, 2014

British Bootcamp 2 Ep. 7 Review


Hollywood Hulk Haggis
or
The Full of Scotland 

Welcome to this week's review of Total Non-Stop Grado... er, I mean British Bootcamp 2. 

In last week's episode, upon the cast's arrival at their first TNA live event, Grado took a nap while everyone else built the ring like they were told, Grado was hogtied, carried to the bathroom and left lying in a pool of urine, Grado was likened to a pudding made from sheep guts and Grado tried to pick a fight with a TNA star, not realizing that the entire universe was pointing at him and laughing. Also, the rest of the contestants did seemingly unimportant things such as try to earn the contract with talent, hard work and professionalism, which the show apparently didn't think was nearly as interesting. Sigh...   

Hit me with your best shot, episode 7.  

We begin with the six contestants being addressed in the ring by our esteemed judges and they learn that they will now be competing in an 8-person mixed tag match, after which the final three will be determined. Apparently the previously announced 6-person tag has been scrapped in order to add a Knockout for Kay Lee Ray to compete against. I'm not sure why changing the match was necessary when the producers could have just booked an 8-person tag in the first place, but whatever.

Angelina Love is in the match now, which should bode very well for Ray's chances of making the finals. With only two women in the match, Ray will be primarily judged against, and compared to, Angelina, who's been underperforming since she returned to the company earlier this year. If Ray's job in this match is to steal the spotlight from Angelina, I expect she'll have no trouble doing so. The 6x Knockouts champion better bring her A-game or she's going to get shown up a big way.

To balance the teams out, Al Snow is in the match as well. He points out to Grado that, though they'll be on the same team, Snow is there just for him, and promises to make this the longest night of Grado's life if he does anything stupid. Hilariously, Snow sounds like he's almost hoping Grado craps the bed in the match just so he'll have an excuse to put the fear of god in Hollywood Hulk Haggis. I have to admit, that would probably be entertaining as hell. 

The match that will decide everyone's fates is Al Snow, Grado, Mark Andrews and Kay Lee Ray vs Angelina Love, Rampage Brown, Dave Mastiff and a very excited Noam Dar, who warns his teammates in advance that he may be a bit distracted come bell time as being in close proximity to Angelina appeals to his naughty bits. This seems a bit lopsided with one team getting both heavyweights, but I expect the purpose is to make the other team look like underdogs.

We're then treated (cough) to a video recap of the history between Al Snow and Grado over the past 6 episodes because that's the most important thing going on here as far as the show is concerned it seems, and now I'm worrying that the match will focus on them so much that the other five contestants won't get spotlighted fairly. Let's not go down this road, shall we? Please?

From there, we see the finalists preparing for the match when they get a visit from the Hardy Boys. This must be a big thrill for Kay Lee Ray as she previously named Jeff Hardy as one of her biggest influences. So naturally, we focus on Grado fangasming over Matt and Jeff while Ray doesn't even get to offer a quick comment. Getting her reaction would have been nice, since we know what a fan she is, but anyone not named Grado seems to be a supporting player on the show at this point. One Hardy pep talk later, it's time to hit the ring.

I'm a little disappointed that we don't get individual entrances for everyone and instead see them come out in groups, especially after not everyone got their entrance shown on the UK finals episode. For the record, Dar, Grado and Ray were singled out the most during this, which may or may not be significant.

Once again we have Jeremy Borash and Rockstar Spud on commentary. Spud correctly points out that it's going to be difficult for any one person to
shine with so many people in the match and
stresses the importance of making yourself stand out from the pack. This is where uniqueness will become a big factor.

The match begins with a very impressive exchange between Dar and Andrews with them seeming pretty evenly matched in speed and agility. I'd say Dar came off better, but just barely; he also showed a bit more personality than we're used to seeing from him, so he gets points for that.

Snow and Rampage tag in, and Snow seems to outwrestle the big man before tagging in Grado. To his credit, Grado doesn't screw around in there. He and Snow perform some quick double team moves, showing that they're on the same page for the time being, before Grado tags in Ray. I start getting really excited and then we immediately cut to commercials. Of course...

When we come back, Ray and Love are trading some basic moves before Ray gets the crowd behind her and takes Love down with a nifty
springboard maneuver off the second rope. This earns her a pin attempt, but she's not as lucky with a missile dropkick that Love dodges. Love goes for a clothesline, which Ray somersaults under and tags Grado back in. Due to the commercials, we didn't see everything the ladies did here, but from what we did see, Ray was clearly proving herself to be more agile and athletic than the Knockout stalwart.

Grado does some strutting, which Angelina is unimpressed with, but Earl Hebner seems pretty receptive to in the first genuinely funny moment I've seen Grado involved in since this show started -- that might have just been because of how well Hebner sold it, though.

Mastiff tags in and he's even less amused with Grado's schtick than Angelina was. He roughs up Grado and throws him into the ropes. Grado ducks a clothesline... and then for some reason, he charges all the way across the ring and collides with Snow. I'm not sure what was supposed to happen there, but it looked pretty deliberate. Ruh roh...

After beating Grado down some without showing any of his more impressive moves, Mastiff tags Rampage back in. Before the beating can go much further, Grado manages a back body drop and tags out to Andrews. Andrews takes Rampage down with a hurracanrana, showing that he can work well with a larger opponent, though he comes close to missing with some type of backflip splash.

Dar attacks Andrews without tagging in and for some reason Hebner just allows this, though I couldn't tell you why. Snow runs in to put the breaks on, but gets attacked by Mastiff, and I think we're just forgoing tags altogether at this point. Mastiff shows some nice speed taking Snow down before Grado runs in and starts with his old school Hogan-inspired offense again, waving his limbs around like he's having a seizure.

For the second time, Grado tries to entice Angelina with his gyrating hips, earning himself a kick in the balls, which Hebner saw, so the match should be over at this point with the faces taking the DQ victory, but instead it continues as if the low blow never happened, so hell if I know what's going on.

This is all making me wonder what the rules of the match are exactly. Is this No DQ? If it is, it wasn't announced. JB and Spud don't even try to explain any of this, so I guess we're just not bothering to put too fine a point on anything that happens here.  
Grado rolls out of the ring, but Angelina takes too long showboating and walks into a beautiful springboard missile dropkick from Kay Lee Ray. Love rolls out to the floor, Ray rallies the crowd behind her and suicide dives onto the entire melee on the outside! Nice.

This leaves Andrews in the ring, who climbs the turnbuckle, looking for a dive to the outside, but notices Rampage behind him and tries for a diving hurracanrana on the big man instead. Rampage is
ready this time, however, catches Andrews and hits a powerbomb, then lifts him up and hits a sitout powerbomb for good measure in a pretty impressive spot, gaining the heels the victory.

Disregarding the confusion when actual tags were thrown out the window, this was a really fun match that managed to give every contestant a moment to shine. I was surprised that so little was done with Mastiff/Grado since they seemed to have been building that up for the last few episodes, but overall I was very happy with what we got and I imagine the company officials watching backstage were too. 

Noam Dar and Mark Andrews seemed pretty equal here. Dar may have come off slightly better wrestling-wise, but the difference was negligible and Andrews has already been shown to have vastly superior interview skills.

Of the big men, Rampage probably made the better case for himself, though, that may have been due to the booking and him scoring the pin at the end. Unfortunately for Mastiff, he was probably the contestant showcased the least and didn't really get to display much of the agility we saw from him during the UK finals.

Just as I expected, Kay Lee Ray completely outperformed Angelina Love in this match, and I'm not even a little surprised. Angelina's best days in the ring seem to be behind her at this point and Ray just came off far more impressive once she started breaking out her flashy high flying offense. From a physical standpoint, Angelina just doesn't have anything in her arsenal that compares.    

Okay... I'm actually going to be nice to Grado now. He did a good job here. Whoever put the match together knew better than to build the entire bout around Grado, smartly limiting his involvement to simple things and a few comedy spots, which he performed competently. Not-shockingly, since he wasn't being rammed down our throats for a change and we were only getting him in comparatively small doses, Grado actually seemed far more likable here than he did in the previous six episodes. That said, judging from the two matches I've now seen him in, he only seems to have about three moves in his entire repertoire: punch, bionic elbow, big boot. The rest of the time, he's just strutting and doing goofy stuff, which, I'll admit, the crowd did seem to like somewhat, but if that's really all he's got, it's going to get old quickly. His personality does stand out, but that's not enough to compensate for his apparent lack of physical capabilities. If he's got anything else in his moveset, this was the time to show it, but he didn't.  

Based on this match, I don't think any of these contestants would look out of place on the TNA roster, provided they were booked correctly, but this is the point where we have to say goodbye to three of them. So after the show, the final six are called back to the ring to meet with the judges. Ray and Andrews appear to be wearing different gear now; I'm not sure what that's about...

Unfortunately, we don't get post-match comments from any of them, which I find very disappointing. They just wrestled their first match in a TNA ring and I wanted to know how they feel about that. In season one, we heard from all four contestants post-match and their reactions were really compelling with them being on such a high and in such awe of the experience they'd just gone through. It made me like them more and, frankly, made me want to see them all win. That's a big thing that was missing here.
Al Snow says that everyone did fantastically and they could all be on the main roster right now, which says a lot about how deep the talent pool in the season two cast has been. He also mentions that getting eliminated here does not mean that they won't wind up on the roster in the future, which makes me happy as there's a ton of talent in this group and I'd personally like to see Ray, Andrews, Mastiff and Rampage all get signed. 

The contestants are addressed one by one as the eliminations begin. First is Noam Dar, who gets cut. This makes sense to me. There's no point in having two X-division style wrestlers in the finals and Andrews just brings a lot more to the table in the charisma department. Dar is gutted, but insists that he hasn't worked as hard as he has to stop now.

Next, Mastiff is eliminated, which is a little surprising to me, but I suppose he didn't get to show enough in the match to advance any further. Mastiff says he's going to keep going. His goal in this was showcase British wrestling and he believes he's done that. As have some of the others, he adds, taking one last shot at Grado on his way out. He receives some extra compliments from Gail after getting the bad news and I wouldn't be surprised if we see Mastiff getting signed at a later date.

The final four are called forward. Andrews and Grado look nervous as hell, whereas Ray hides the nerves a bit better and Rampage seems confident that he has the contract won already and the rest of the show is just a formality. Truthfully, I have no clue who the final elimination will be...

In a legit shocker, Grado is cut! I did not see that coming. Given the way they've built the whole show around Grado up until now, I figured they'd had a spot in the final three reserved for him since before this process started. I can't say I'm disappointed that it didn't turn out that way, though. Like I said, he was enjoyable in the 8-person tag, but that's because we were only seeing him in small doses. The first six episodes are a good example of what happens when this guy gets overexposed and I had no desire to see any more.

Not wanting to go out on a positive note apparently, Grado calls Al Snow a dick, making wrestling fans the world over facepalm in unison. Stay classy, Grado. I'd say that he just shot himself in the foot with this remark, ensuring that he'll never get another opportunity with TNA, but this couldn't have been more transparently worked if Grado had a script tucked into his waistband.

Snow points out that after receiving not one, but two opportunities on British Bootcamp, Grado proved that he didn't take this business seriously, and after everything that we've seen Grado do this season, scripted or no, it's pretty hard to argue with that. And then they go even further by having Grado challenge Snow to the match they were always going to have at the Hydro Arena when TNA goes there on the Maximum iMPACT tour next year, promising to have "the full of Scotland" behind him. Reality competition, what's that?  

The final 6 will all be competing on the UK tour, so they can finish off the angle with Grado and Al Snow, and I'm sure we'll see him on iMPACT when they go to the Hydro Arena in Glasgow, but it seems like that's where Grado's journey ends. And, no, I won't lose sleep over this elimination. The judges made the right call IMO. Grado's antics may be entertaining to some people, but we're in the final three now and it's time to get serious.

Unfortunately, once again we don't get to hear any comments from the remaining three about making it to the final round because so much time was spent on the Grado stuff. And now we've got the finals to look forward to with the contract being fought over by three people that we've barely gotten to know for the past seven weeks because so much focus was devoted to a guy who ultimately didn't go the distance. It seems that, even in defeat, Grado is still casting a shadow over this competition. Do I look forward to next week's finale being Grado-free? You bet your sweet arse I do.

It would seem that -- HIGHLIGHT FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS: all of the final six faced members of the TNA roster in matches at that live event some months back -- so as not to spoil the identities of the final three, who I'm very pleased with.

Grado was, well... Grado. Andrews had a lot more going on in the mic skills department than Dar. For heavyweights, it really was a toss up between Rampage and Mastiff, so I would have been fine with either. And of course, I've been rooting for Kay Lee Ray to win this competition since episode one. Hell, I've been rooting for her to win this competition since season one. And after outshining the 6x Knockouts champion in that tag match, she definitely belongs in the finals.

I'm happy to see some variety as we have a representative from each division here. We don't know how their matches next week will turn out, but I expect the main deciding factor will be the biggest hole in the roster that needs to be filled right now. For my money, that's the lack of depth in the Knockout division, but who really knows how this will go...

A very good episode this week highlighted by strong performances from everyone, a terrific 8-person tag match and a refreshing lack of filler. In fact, while I felt the previous American round installments were being padded to either give Grado more face time or maybe just to reach Challenge's eight episode commitment, this episode left me wanting more. I wanted this one to be an hour long so we could have gotten pre/post match comments from all the contestants, their thoughts on the experience so far, etc. Ironically, next week's finale is supposed to be an hour long, making this one of the wonkiest shows in terms of runtime that I've ever watched. I'm not complaining though.

See you next week for the big finale.

#KayLeeRay4TNA