Greetings grapple fans, my name is Will Cooling, and I am your recapper for the next 10 (fingers crossed) weeks of pro wrestling on British television’s second biggest network, ITV.
Before we begin, rather than repeat myself throughout this recap, the camerawork for World of Sport is abysmal. They literally couldn't properly frame a person standing in the ring talking, instead they kept shooting at an angle that meant the ring apron cut diagonally across the screen. I honestly thought there was a problem with my television for the first 10 minutes. The camerawork was even worse during matches, with the heavy use of close-ups, shaky-cam, and roving camera often giving me vertigo.
On the other hand, the commentary was perfectly competent. It has come to pass that replacing Jim Ross with Alex Shane is an upgrade, because Shane conveys real energy and passion throughout his calls. Likewise, I’ve always liked the setup where the authority figure is the third man (I remember Vince McMahon doing some excellent calls in that role in 1999, and Jim Cornette donning the headsets in TNA was always a highlight).
Stu Bennett (the former Wade Barrett) not only adds something to the broadcast, but his interplay with Shane helps explain his heel authority figure character.
Finally, three ground rules. I will divide the recap up into the segments, because I think the ad breaks say something about the rhythm of the program. I’ve tried to time matches, but if anyone shouts at me for getting the times slightly wrong, I’ll just stop timing them! And I’ve included links to Cagematch’s database for each wrestler in case you want to learn more about them and the local promotions they work for.
Our commentary team is Alex Shane, SoCal Val, and (during matches) Stu Bennett, and the matches were recorded in Norwich, England.
We began with Bennett being introduced as the promotion’s senior executive. Bennett reprised his line that was carried in the show’s opening promo, about this being the time to take British pro wrestling away from the jokers and clowns. He was interrupted by Grado, the man who won the WOS Championship back on New Year’s Eve 2016. Bennett did a good job of subtly demonstrating his distaste for the champion, especially during a handshake.
Grado did a funny promo talking about how, while he doesn’t go to the gym, he does walk his dog. Given that the show is being produced like a game show, it’s hard to know when the reactions are genuine, but the audience seemed to have genuinely found that funny. Bennett told Grado to enjoy that reaction because he’ll be defending his title tonight against the winner of a five-man elimination match.
The competitors for the match were introduced by Bennett with no individual entrances. Indeed, there was no attempt to introduce the competitors -- save for quick lines from the commentary. This was a shame -- because Justin Sysum (former American football player) and Adam Maxted (former contestant on popular reality show "Love Island") have interesting stories. Maxted showed good star presence, grabbing the camera to do a pose while flexing his pecs.
Justin Sysum defeated Adam Maxted, Crater, Rampage, and Sha Samuels in a number one contender's elimination match
They started brawling down the entrance ramp, with tag team partners Rampage and Samuels beating down Sysum after they got into the ring. Crater ran wild on the other competitors. Maxted then annoyed the masked monster by posing in front of him. Maxted failed to bodyslam Crater, who then used the ring ropes to choke him. On the second attempt, Crater just failed to break the hold at five, and so the referee disqualified him at 1 minute and 55 seconds.
A soft disqualification, which was made worse by the fact that no attempt had been made to explain the rules of pro wrestling beforehand. Crater then destroyed everyone else in the ring before finally departing.
Rampage and Samuels returned to beating down Sysum. Shane criticized Bennett for booking a tag team in a contender's match, and Bennett responded that “all’s fair in love and war.” Sysum made a Sting-esque comeback, but it proved a temporary hope spot before the onslaught resumed.
Samuels accidentally hit Rampage, and in the confusion, Sysum got the pinfall at 4 minutes 59 seconds. Rampage attacked Sysum from behind, but he was ultimately thrown into the ring post and collapsed to the floor. Maxted returned to the fray. He ended up outside the ring, and Sysum followed him with a tope. Sysum just beat the referee’s count to be declared the winner at 6 minutes and 44 seconds.
However, there was a problem where the referee had forgotten to account for Rampage, who had been lying down outside for over a minute. Rampage even beat the count without the referee noticing. Bennett declared Sysum the winner but, after criticizing the referee, added Rampage to the WOS World Championship match.
We returned from the ad break with Stu Bennett talking about “sports entertainment” and the importance of not trying this at home. These were run throughout the show, but this was the most egregious.
Davey Boy Smith Jr. defeated Will Ospreay
This time the competitors got individual entrances, but again no video packages were shown to explain who the wrestlers are and why they’re important. This was particularly noteworthy with Smith because a member of the mainstream audience would have no idea as to why his father was important or why Junior walks around with the Canadian flag.
Meanwhile, Ospreay’s achievements were summarized as him being the most “viral” pro wrestler in the world, presumably on the basis that members of the mainstream audience know and care about wrestling .gifs being shared on Twitter.
One thing that this match demonstrated was that Ospreay is a bigger man than you may assume, as up against someone who is booked as a powerhouse in NJPW's heavyweight division, he never looked overly slight. After a fast start where Ospreay dropkicked his opponent outside the ring and then faked a suicide dive, Smith would control much of the match with power moves, including his father’s trademark spot of a delayed suplex. However, Ospreay was always in the match with his high-impact, high-flying offense.
Whatever you say about WOS Wrestling, they booked Ospreay as a more competitive heavyweight here than New Japan did against Taguchi! Ospreay built momentum after a dragon suplex, but Smith interrupted his momentum by getting his legs up to counter an attempted 640 splash. Ospreay would valiantly withstand Smith’s offense, something that would see this mainstream-focused product receive a “This Is Awesome” chant from the crowd.
After failing to secure the victory with a sit-down powerbomb, Smith would put Ospreay up on the top rope for a superplex. Ospreay would counter with a Cheeky Nandos kick. Ospreay would then go for a springboard hurricanrana, only for Smith to counter with a top rope powerslam. That secured the victory at 7 minutes and 50 seconds.
After the match, we were joined by a backstage interviewer standing in front a removals crate upon which the new WOS Wrestling Tag Team titles were resting. I have to say, that after watching this show live, I went to a town hall in Shropshire to watch a local wrestling show, and I honestly think the toy WWE US title that I saw a child carry looked better than a prize being fought for on national television.
This was followed by an interview with Iestyn Rees & Kip Sabian, in which the latter did all the talking. This was the most character work any wrestler other than Grado or Bennett were facilitated to do all show.
Before the commercial break, we had the entrances for the forthcoming tag team match. It’s worth noting that unlike Sabian, Joe Hendry got no time to explain his character to the audience. Presumably because they wouldn’t care about representing your country in the Commonwealth Games.
Iestyn Rees & Kip Sabian defeated Joe Hendry & Martin Kirby in a WOS Tag Team title tournament match
Hendry got the better of the early exchanges against Sabian before tagging in Kirby. The momentum changed during some fast-paced exchanges, with Sabian showing his superior ringmanship. Kirby gained the space to tag Hendry back in. Hendry went for a top rope move, but Rees grabbed the leg, allowing his partner to gain the advantage.
Rees was tagged in. They worked over Hendry while rotating the tag. Hendry escaped a powerslam but was pushed into Kirby, who bounced off the ring apron. On commentary, Bennett talked about the possibility of dissension in the ranks. Sabian resumed beating down on Hendry before making the tag to Rees. Rees and Sabian really do work well as a team, due to their combination of power and speed.
Hendry crawled over to make the tag, but Kirby jumped off the apron. Hendry was confused but went on to make his own comeback, including suplexing both opponents (why was he looking for a tag?). Hendry was somehow fighting against two men, but he ultimately fell to an elevated neckbreaker at 8 minutes 5 seconds.
We started with the entrances for the main event. Suddenly, the team of Rampage and Samuels have added a third ally in CJ Banks. Who he is and where he came from was not explained. Because the mainstream audience already knows who he is, presumably.
Rampage (w/ CJ Banks & Sha Samuels) defeats Grado (c) and Justin Sysum to win the WOS World Championship
Rampage immediately started tearing into both babyfaces but was then thrown outside. Sysum was thrown outside, where Rampage and his allies picked him apart. Grado did a senton off the ring apron and brought Rampage back into the ring, but the bigger man gained the advantage.
Sysum came back in but quickly got hit by a senton by Grado. Rampage went for a piledriver, which luckily for him he couldn't complete, as that move is banned in WOS Wrestling (something the audience knew already, I’m sure). Sysum hit a 450 splash on Grado, but Rampage threw him out of the ring. Rampage hit Grado with an implant DDT to secure the victory and win the title at 5 minutes 32 seconds.
The show ended with Rampage celebrating, and the promise of a ladder match, another match in the tag title tournament, and the first match on the road to determine the first-ever WOS Women’s Champion.
This wasn’t a good show. It really wasn’t.
The runtime for this episode when the advertisements are accounted for was around 47 minutes. To cram four matches, plus two talking segments, into that time meant that everything was rushed.
We all criticize WWE for the overemphasis on video packages, but this was a show crying out for them. At the very least show a clip of when Grado won the title, but ideally you would spend time to explain who the key characters are. I am not a regular ITV viewer, but shows like X Factor do a really good job of putting together short video packages that introduce you to the competitors. It baffles me that wasn’t done for the pro wrestlers.
Likewise, no attempt was made to explain what pro wrestling is. The few times I’ve watched Ninja Warrior, they really go out of their way to explain the rules of the contest. Other than garbled comments from the commentators, at no point was any attempt made to explain what the rules of pro wrestling are, something that is particularly dumbfounding when you consider the variety of rule sets used and that the actual wrestling on World of Sport used a completely different rule set.
Indeed, the influence of WWE is felt throughout the show. I mean, we literally have a heel authority figure droning on about why the clearly popular babyface is not marketable, and therefore he must conspire to get the title off them. Because of reasons. I don’t know, I doubt that the mainstream audience really cares about the politics of selling television abroad.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed the pilot more than this show. Other than getting Will Ospreay involved, the people behind it seem to have learned nothing. Indeed, with the camera work, they have regressed.
It’s all very disappointing, and if it doesn’t change, we should get ready to embrace our WWE overlords.
Will Cooling is a regular contributor to Fighting Spirit Magazine, the UK’s biggest and best pro wrestling magazine, which is available worldwide at https://pocketmags.com/fighting-spirit-magazine. He is also the co-host of the It Could Be Wrestling podcast, which you can find on iTunes or real computers. You can follow him on Twitter at @willcooling or harangue him at firstname.lastname@example.org.