Arn here. If you regularly read my reviews, you will probably have noticed I have not been around much lately. There’s a reason for that and the reason is Covid-19. The last three months have been tiresome, mentally exhausting and I just didn’t feel inclined to cover professional wrestling as it isn’t important in the big scheme of things. I’ve not seen a wrestling show since WrestleMania and I’ve not really had the inclination to do so. I’ve been at work a lot. I work in food retail (I would rather not discuss the details beyond that) and it’s been a chore. I have a lot of white hairs that have suddenly sprouted up out of nowhere. I’m aware there are people who’ve had it worse and I wouldn’t switch places with anyone in the NHS right now so I’m not complaining but it’s left me drained anyway. Partially through work and partially because I’ve finally grown so weary of politics that I’ve retreated away from the world and into my own space. I do this occasionally and I’m not convinced it’s healthy but unplugging yourself sometimes is the best way to deal with the world. There are only so many Covid updates I can take from the lying bastard Tories trying to reason why they delayed an inevitable lockdown to “follow the scientific advice” of Dominic Cummings. Causing approximately 25,000 deaths for no reason and damaging the economy long term by doing neither one thing nor the other and leaving our recovery in tatters. But I digress.
This whole lockdown period has also been painful. The loss of my good friend Larry Csonka still hurts. I think about him quite often. He was an inspirational writer but primarily he was a friend. I miss shooting the shit about pro wrestling and exchanging snowflake driven DM’s like a couple of nerds. When I had finally finished processing what Larry meant to me, I considered retiring from reviewing. It eats up a lot of time and energy and I don’t feel like I have either. Yes, this is the same man who watched nearly 40 shows over WrestleMania weekend in 2019. For a couple of weeks I spent a good while thinking about how to announce a retirement or what I would do instead. Would I still watch wrestling if I wasn’t writing about it? Would I still go to shows? I decided that I wanted to see the people who I have forged friendships with over the years and it’s you (yes, you gentle reader) that are responsible for my continued desire to be involved in our community. I don’t have the time or space to list all the people I’m thinking about right now but I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through professional wrestling and I don’t want to lose them. If you’d told young Arn, from back in the day, that through wrestling he’d have close personal friends in Germany, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, Luton and Portugal because of pro wrestling I don’t know if he’d have believed it. But it’s true and I’m glad it is. You’re the reason why I want to stay involved.
So how? If I’m not writing traditional reviews then what I am doing? The answer is basically this. I’m going to write about stuff and how I feel and things I’ve seen and it’ll work as a diary of sorts, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know what this is yet but it’s what I’m going to be doing going forwards. I’ve not committed to a format, a timescale or anything. I want that freeform. I’m going to write about things that interest me and that will involve wrestling at times I’m sure. What do you want me to write about? Let me know. Things I’m likely to be covering in forthcoming posts; Football Manager, HUSTLE from 2004, wrestling news, general news, shit I’ve seen and enjoyed and whatever else crosses my mind when I sit down to write. I’m going to kick off by talking about….
Hey, I’m a straight white man. I should not be tackling this subject at all but I’ve heard a lot of stories recently and I’ve found the whole thing incredibly upsetting. People having to suffer and even die just because of the colour of their skin. The town I grew up in, which I’m not going to share here because I don’t want weirdos tracking me down, is very, very white. When I went to school there were no people of colour. Zero. Fuck all. This was a very shielded, insular white community I lived in and the casual racism (this was the 80s) was unbelievable. Looking back on it…it’s just horrifying. I always felt uncomfortable with certain terms and I’ve heard them all many, many times. By the time I went to high school the diversity had reached; two Indian people and one black man. There was one black family in the entire town. A few years into high school a kid moved there from Colombia. Can you fucking imagine it? He was really good at football and got kicked into the air in virtually every PE session for “showing off”. The racism in my home town was so casual I’m not convinced I was even aware of it. Even my own relatives said derogatory things about POC. I like to think I’m slightly more aware nowadays and I’ve been labeled a lefty by pretty much everyone outside of my social circle. A lot has changed since the 80s but that ingrained, bone-headed racism isn’t going anywhere if people keep repeating it and believing it. So when people tell you there is still a massive racism problem in the UK they are absolutely right and it can only be solved through education and the removal of racial misinformation.
I don’t have much in the way of personal experience in this matter. Basically I only know of two examples. My wife is Asian but when she first moved to the UK so had a very deep tan. The first time we went shopping in Morrison’s the security guard followed her around. I watched him and started getting quite irritated. Why single her out? He literally followed her all around the store and stood at the end of the alcohol aisle while we were down it because of the colour of her skin. Forgive me for being so ignorant but this was the first time I really felt the ingrained racism in society and having had my eyes opened I suddenly started seeing it everywhere. Another time I was walking through Birmingham with a friend of mine, who happens to be the son of Pakistani immigrants, and wouldn’t you know we were subject to a “random” bag check. Keeping in mind I’d lived in and around Birmingham for 40 years at that point and never been subject to any random check of any kind. This is deeply routed and systemic and until we change the way we think about people it’ll keep happening. People are people. I’m not going to do the “all lives matter” horseshit because we all know that “black lives matter” because black lives are being taken from people just because they’re black. Us white folks are fine and always have been. Anyone complaining of “PC gone mad” and “it’s a crime to white now” are off their fucking rocker and are ignoring the facts. The dominance of white people of Western society forever.
And if you’re getting mad about a statue of a slave trader being chucked into the sea then you should probably get in there with it. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
This is somewhat more in my wheelhouse. When I said I retreated into my own little world when the Covid outbreak started what I really mean is I retreated into the game of FM19 I’ve had running for a while. I originally had it running just as a simulation. I just wanted to see what would happen if I let it run. Would Liverpool become a dynasty? Would Man City win a European Cup under Guardiola? Would Tottenham or Arsenal find their way to the top of the pile? I ended up simming my way through four seasons. Klopp’s Liverpool won back to back titles before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Utd found their way into first place. Fickle Liverpool fired Klopp and his replacement, Diego Simeone, captured another title for Liverpool.
This is the point where I changed my involvement from passive to aiming to dismantle Liverpool and obliterate them from the top of the British football pyramid. For scientific reasons, of course. So in came the new boss Brian Hates-Liverpool. He sold off the bulk of Liverpool’s prize assets, on the cheap, signed a bunch of terrible players for huge fees and signed everyone up to multiple year contracts with massive pay rises. At one point they had a reserve right back on £3M a week. A WEEK! Liverpool ended up spending somewhere in the region of £28M a week on wages, went into administration a lot and basically dropped into the toilet of football.
Here they are! You’ll notice league position; 24th in League Two. Their last five fixtures are Stevenage, Boston, Cambridge, Cheltenham and Ebbsfleet. So yeah, I broke Liverpool and I salted the earth. Nothing will grow there again. Fans of every other team can thank me later. Today I’m going to tell you what happened to the legendary Brian Hates-Liverpool. They sat in the background for a while before taking Argentina’s U23’s to the Olympics where they were FM’d by Brazil and knocked out on penalties. Brian’s next managerial job was Elche but I told the game I wanted to join at the end of the season and forgot I’d removed the division they’d just got relegated into. So when Elche returned they hired a new boss and Brian was relieved of duties after spending a confusing one day in charge.
Then came the triumphant return! Returning to Liverpool in March 2028 with the club in non-league football. Promptly stabilizing the club, winning promotion back into the football league and picking up the FA Trophy along the way. You’re welcome Liverpool fans! Brian was then fired for failing to get Liverpool promoted from L2 with a 12-point deduction for going into administration and moved to Montpellier. After a fairly uneventful year at Montpellier (French League Cup win aside) Brian moved to Ajax and that’s where we’re at now. Also he’s Argentina manager. He’s done alright after the Liverpool dismissal.
I also have a second manager called Jimmy Football. He joined us quite lately, 2028, taking Krylja Sovetov Samara to a Russian Cup win before joining Anderlecht to much rejoicing and a league and cup double. My long term aim is to try and win every trophy there is going in the game. I have a spreadsheet.
As part of my diary (or whatever this is) I’ll be keeping you updated on this journey and you can see where I’ve been wasting all of my time. The way I see it, the more I’m hidden away in this little world the more of the real world I can gleefully ignore.
I have a Letterboxd where you can read my reviews. I have seen 100 films this year so far. 6 of them were shot by Brian Trenchard-Smith. I found out about Trenchard-Smith through the Ozploitation documentary; “Not Quite Hollywood”. He’s made some interesting and weird films that Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of. I’d personally recommend “The Man From Hong Kong” (1975). It’s an Australian kung-fu film that was written for Bruce Lee. George Lazenby, the former Bond, is the bad guy. Grant Page, stuntman extraordinaire, is in it. Trenchard-Smith made a few films with Page as the lead that I’ve seen. “Deathcheaters” (1976) sees two bored stuntmen taking up a job to infiltrate the Philippines. Also 1978’s “Stunt Rock”. Partially a documentary about Grant Page moving to the USA to be a stunt man, part concert film about Californian rockers Sorcery and there’s a plot in there somewhere.
Trenchard-Smith also shot “Frog Dreaming” (1986), which is a weird kids movie about an underwater evil. Set in Australia and starring a daring Henry Thomas post-ET. It’s a fine example of a director of adult movies trying to make a film for kids. It’s more than a little scary given the target audience of families. Trenchard-Smith also shot a few sequels to Leprechaun and part 3 is actually quite good. It’s set in Vegas and involves a fantastic ‘sawing a magician in half’ reveal shot that makes me chuckle every time I think of it.
My all-time favourite Trenchard-Smith movie is “Dead End Drive-In” (1986). Tarantino apparently loved it too. A couple of kids get trapped in a drive in movie, designed as a prison for punks and degenerates. It’s good shit. All this is on Amazon Prime if you have the time or inclination to watch it all. You can read my reviews on Letterboxd.
I’m an Xbox boy. It’s mainly because I’m old and the PlayStation controllers hurt my fingers. I had a PlayStation and a PS2 but switched over to the Xbox 360 and have maintained my love of Xbox by getting an Xbox One too. It really is a matter of comfort. I’ve never really felt the urge to pipe up and talk about how aesthetically pleasing the console is or isn’t. It’s just a black box that sits under my TV. I have a TV stand so it’s basically the new video recorder. So, this week they released images of the new consoles and fuck me is the Xbox one grim.
Seriously Microsoft, what the actual fuck is that? The grating on the top, I assume, is to let the whole thing cool down but why not stick vents in there somewhere? It’s a box. It’s a literal box. I like minimalism just find but my house is…cluttered and this thing just doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t fit in. It’ll have to be free-standing, unless I can lie it down. I don’t think I’d buy it, based on the design. It’s that bad. Is this real? It doesn’t seem real. Meanwhile the PS5 has come up with this sexy beast.
It has its own mood lighting. Just based on the looks of these two, it’s pretty clear which one I’d rather play. However, I’m looking at that new PS5 controller and I’m thinking it’s going to give me arthritis. The Xbox has retained the staggered controller that sits nicely in your hand. Basically I’m not buying either until I see some graphics that make me want to play anything on either of them. Until then it’s fucking around on GTA5, if I ever leave Football Manager world.
Look, I’ve not seen anything since WrestleMania apart from old HUSTLE shows (which have some tremendous stuff on them, check it out). That doesn’t mean I have no takes. Instead of shows I’m going to throw out some spicy takes on the week’s news here. Maybe I’ll watch something next week.
EVOLVE are gone.
When the pandemic kicked in it was apparent not all promotions would survive. The ones I had pegged as being fine, however, were the ones with WWE affiliation but it’s become abundantly clear that Vince McMahon only cares about Vince McMahon. Fuck everyone else. Profits. The bottom line. He’s a republican. He’s a notorious piece of shit. It’s all about the money. I don’t think people will soon forget them ‘trimming the fat’ by releasing people during a pandemic when they couldn’t get jobs or their value would be destroyed by being on the shelf for ages after the release and there being no crowds so there could be no ‘hot debut’. People who asked for releases over the years finally get them so they can go into a dead atmosphere and get no momentum.
The end of EVOLVE has been coming though. As a company it peaked a long time ago and has been irrelevant for two years. The company was also beset by poor business management. Gabe Sapolsky didn’t seem to know how to run a business in 2020 (or 2019, or 2018, or 2017). The constant streaming issues that EVOLVE faced over the years gave them a bad name, especially at Mania weekend. It felt like GCW and IWTV just breezed clean past them with a better product and better production. It was not hard. I’ve always found EVOLVE to be a badly produced show and more worryingly is the total lack of desire to improve that. Also there have been talent issues over the years where people haven’t been paid or have been paid far less than their worth.
As a promotion I can’t say I was a big fan. They seemed to have a constant rolling booking problem. Showcasing some of the best wrestlers in the world but unable to create any buzz. It was fairly noticeable that they were drawing bigger crowds of WWE marks with the NXT loanees on the shows. That’s not them promoting and getting better, that’s them riding those Stamford coattails to the bank, baby. I haven’t watched much EVOLVE so I won’t miss it but it’s another place gone where guys could work. It does make me worry for the Joe Gacy’s, Anthony Greene’s, Curt Stallion’s and AR Fox’s of the world. Not everyone is going to fall on their feet here. Anthony Greene will though. He fucking rules.
I’ve literally seen nothing since Mania so the first catch up is WWE. What’s happening in the big house?
- Apollo Crews push. This makes incredible sense. Crews has an unbelievable moveset. He’s one of the guys who, when he went to WWE, I thought was a ‘can’t miss’ talent. He had the look, the talent, and a killer smile. Unfortunately he’s not a great promo and he didn’t connect with the crowd. Hey, there’s no crowd! Push Apollo Crews! I agree 100% with this. Hopefully when crowds come back they’ll relate to him better this time around.
- Nia Jax injuring people. Not all of the things Nia gets blamed for are Nia’s fault but she has, on occasion, been sloppy and dangerous and deserves the criticism. If she can’t take the criticism that’s a bigger issue. You need to take these things on board and get better. There have been a lot of green wrestlers who got better. It’s the ones who don’t get better that you worry about. Tamina has never improved and I’m amazed she’s still under WWE contract but hey, take that dirty Trump-fundraiser cash if they’re stupid enough to give it to you.
- Drew McIntyre getting a run on top. I like that WWE are trying something different. Credit for that. This goes hand and hand with pushing someone like Otis (the Dusty Rhodes of his generation).
- Becky Lynch is pregnant. Fair play. I wouldn’t want to carry Seth Rollins’ baby around but whatever makes you happy.
- Asuka is the new RAW Women’s champion. Absolute no-brainer as a choice. She’s a terrific professional wrestler. She’s been one of the shining lights of the women’s division since signing for the company. It felt like everything she did in NXT was an upgrade and everyone around her looked so inferior. That unbeaten run was because she was simply the best.
- Tim Thatcher is in NXT. I mean, shit, we knew he signed but it’s depressing seeing Tim on TV. I’m happy for him because he’s a sweetheart but all the Japanese companies that failed to book him and forced him into this choice should be ashamed in my opinion.
- Io Shirai won the NXT Women’s Championship. Again, this is a great decision. Putting the title on a tremendous professional wrestler. I’m not one of the ‘Rhea Ripley should win everything’ brigade. I thought she and Charlotte stole the show at WrestleMania. Rhea is clearly destined for bigger things and moving her on from NXT without her losing to an up and comer makes sense. Io can take the division forward.
- Paul Heyman has lost his creative control, again. WWE desperately need a new voice in creative. Putting Bruce Pritchard in charge of everything is like being in a car crash and putting the now dead driver back behind the wheel. Old man Vince in the back yelling at him to go faster when the wheels have come off.
Good Matches I’ve apparently missed:
- Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins (May 10)
- Matt Riddle vs. Tim Thatcher (May 27)
- Charlotte Flair vs. Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley (June 7)
That’s about it. Wrestling hasn’t been setting the world on fire has it? The behind-closed-doors approach clearly not great for business. Also not great for business; firing wrestlers during a pandemic.
I last saw an AEW show in February. That was Revolution from Chicago with the Mox-Jericho main event. I hated the main event and left the company on relatively bad terms. Let’s see what they’ve been up to.
- TNT belt. A secondary title. It went to Cody and made me think that Cody’s ‘never challenge for the title again’ stip might stick for a while.
- Matt Hardy. He’s turned up and has been verbal about how much he thinks WWE suck for their treatment of talent. Looks like Matt had a less than stellar final run in the E. Honestly, is anyone surprised at this point? I’m not saying everyone hates working there but it does feel like an alarmingly high percentage.
- Brodie Lee. He’s in AEW now. Has already challenged for the title, which seems a bit sudden. As with everyone WWE have released the situation he’s been released into is far from ideal. Will the fans take to him? Who knows.
- Lance Archer getting the monster push. Lance is in his peak earning years. He needs to make that big money now. He needs to be booked as an absolute freak. When I think about how many years he was wasting away in Killer Elite Squad I get genuinely angry. I thought he sucked because of that KES run in NOAH, which is just about the most depressing thing I’ve seen in NOAH and that’s covering a lot of ground.
- Hikaru Shida wins the AEW Women’s Championship. I legitimately adore Hikaru Shida. When AEW signed her up I figured they’d end up building the promotion’s women’s division around her because she was the best option they had, by far. And finally we’re here. Better late than never.
Good Matches I’ve apparently missed:
- The Stadium Stampede Match (May 23)
- Jungle Boy vs. MJF (May 23)
- Jon Moxley vs. Brodie Lee (May 23)
- Jericho & Guevara vs. Omega & M Hardy (May 6)
There has been no New Japan because they’re sensible and have opted to not endanger people by running shows during a pandemic. Hiroshi Tanahashi suggested they should be the last thing to return because it’s not as important as people’s lives. Damn straight my friend. Once again revealing why he’s The Ace. But there’s a lot of New Japan content forthcoming, providing shit doesn’t once again hit the fan, and we’ve got Together Project (June 15), New Japan Cup (June 16-July 11) and Dominion (July 12). New Japan Cup is particularly interesting as we’ve got a recobbled line-up and here it is!
Togi Makabe vs. Yota Tsuji
Tomohiro Ishii vs. El Desperado
Toru Yano vs. Jado
Tomoaki Honma vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Kazuchika Okada vs. Gedo
Yuji Nagata vs. Minoru Suzuki
Yuya Uemera vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Gabriel Kidd vs. Taiji Ishimori
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Taichi
Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. SANADA
SHO vs. Shingo Takagi
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. YOSHI-HASHI
YOH vs. BUSHI
Satoshi Kojima vs. EVIL
Hirooki Goto vs. Yujiro Takahashi
I would love to see Ishii vs. Okada in the top half. I can also see Makabe in there. Suzuki vs. Nagata should be a fine old scrap. I’ll watch that even if I skip everything else. Bottom half has that Kota vs. Sabre match in round fucking one. Hello! I can see Sabre vs. Shingo or more likely Sabre vs. SANADA so they can roll out the old ‘SANADA is better than Zack on the mat trope. I assume Goto from the bottom bracket but EVIL would make sense too so they can do EVIL vs. SANADA. Overall winner is likely to be SANADA, as I can’t see anyone else going over Okada. You’ll notice I’ve been very dismissive of Tanahashi but that’s because Taichi feels like a deliberate upset with cheating to set up a rematch and even if he gets through I can’t see him besting Sabre. Also weird I’ve completely ruled out Ibushi just because of the Zack Tournament Factor. My head says SANADA overall. My heart goes with a miracle Ishii victory. Which would make sense as he and Naito have good chemistry and it’s probably early for Naito vs. SANADA.
That’s it for this week. Feedback is welcome. What do you want to see from me going forward? I intend to incorporate my more traditional reviews into this as a weekly column, or perhaps more frequently if I watch loads. Is that ok with everyone?