Review: TNA British Boot Camp Episodes 1 & 2
Long neglected, the British wrestling scene has been crying out for a little attention from it's mainstream American cousin. Finally, after a deluge of UK talent through their ranks over the past ten years, TNA Wrestling have sat up and taken notice. In their first joint production with Challenge TV, their UK home, TNA have gathered the cream of the crop from all over the country and chosen four lucky independent wrestlers for greatness. Those four being Hannah & Holly aka The Blossom Twins, Rockstar Spud and Party Marty Scurll.
The first episode kicks off in similar fashion to the trailer that's been kicking around the internet for the past couple of months. Dixie Carter and Hulk Hogan quickly set up the premise of the show, before cutting across to footage of the launch party, where all four contestants were announced and introduced to the raucous crowd. These fifteen minutes which constituted the first half were fairly by the numbers and entirely introductory by nature. This is so and so, smile, wave for the camera and oh, don't they have such an inspirational story. Marty and Spud were largely just two macho guys saying "I wanted to be a wrestler, so I am one". However, I did like the Blossoms far more personal touch of walking the cameras around the school where they work and talked about how they'd used the concept of professional wrestling to reach out to a troubled child.
The second half of the first episode was where the reality aspect really kicked in full force, as the contestants were whisked away from the launch party to have a little drink and get to know one another properly. I say "little" drink ironically, as all four seemed worse for wear by only eight in the evening. Particularly, Marty and Spud, who were slurring words, swearing incoherently and starting fights with each other over who had the most Twitter followers. I admit, I found the fight between the two to be hilarious. I don't value Twitter in the slightest, so to see two grown men resort to fisticuffs because of it, you couldn't stop me laughing. Spud came off worse from the segment, having retreated on his lonesome to do some moody solitary drinking. However, anyone with two brain cells to rub together could tell Marty had done his fair share to instigate the situation. And this is only the night of the launch party!
Ending the episode with the looming threat of training in the morning, we were finally introduced to the trainer of British Boot Camp, Rollerball Rocco. A legit UK Legend, he received no end of praise from Hulk Hogan, TNA Announcer Mike Tenay and even a swanky staged entrance to emphasise his importance. However, while Scurll and the Blossoms were giving him their full attention and respect, Rockstar Spud was away with the fairies. Still feeling hungover (or still drunk?) from the bender that ended mere hours before, the premiere episode ended with the sight of Spud puking his guts up behind a dumpster and a less than impressed Legend looking on.
I have to say, that is a hell of a ballsy note to end your premiere on! Your contestants all hate each other, one of them is so drunk he may not be able to compete and a veteran stands on looking disgusted with the state of the current generation. Spud, in particular, is going to be feeling the repercussions of that mistake for episodes to come. Not just from the judges at TNA, but from we the viewers. My Canned Heat co-writer assures me Spud is a nice guy and not nearly as bad as portrayed on-camera, but the disrespect he showed by turning up hungover is a fairly stinging place from which to start.
But never fear, Episode 2 was a mere commercial break away! Cracking on with the contestant's training, which was actually far more of a one-off evaluation, we were first treated to the Blossom Twins going one on one. They were utterly convincing as TNA Knockouts from the get-go, landing some extremely hard hitting moves on one another. There were occasional mistakes in the course of the montage, usually resulting from the pair running the ropes against each other, but I think that was more down to the fact they're used to working together as a team, rather than against each other. The biggest botch involved one of the girls attempting a dropkick, but their sibling pulled away, causing the original to land awkwardly (don't you dare ask me which was which!). However, Rocco, and the editing itself, made it clear we should appreciate the Blossoms working through a potential injury rather than giving in. A dangerous move that could cause further damage later down the line, but I'm not going to be the one to tell a wrestler to get out of the ring and rest up!
Now it was the boys' turn. Spud and Marty took to the ring like a dose of salt, both still clearly wound up from the night before. Whether it was because of Spud's hangover or Marty's talent, the latter of the two fiercely dominated, tying his opponent in knots. The video package was definitely not in Spud's favour, as Scurll placed him in submission maneuver after submission maneuver, looking extremely painful in the process. Believing Marty to be sabotaging his chances, Spud bolted from the ring, making a sharp exit to the outside. He threw a major hissy fit before Rocco could catch up and talk some sense into him. Just how much of this was real will always be in doubt due to kayfabe, but I can see both sides of the argument. One one hand, professional wrestling is a complimentary art-form and requires both men to work in unison to make each other look good, whereas Scurll was intentionally squashing Spud. On the other hand, why shouldn't Marty do everything to improve his own chances? This isn't the big show yet, this is a training ring in the arse end of nowhere, of course you can embarrass your opponent to make yourself look dominant. Rockstar Spud should've been doing the exact same thing! I did find this unwillingness to take the lead slightly troubling whilst watching Spud. Even in his later sparring with Rocco, he wasn't dictating the pace like a ring general should. Instead, he was selling bump after bump after bump. I can't remember a single offensive move landed in the entire segment. There's a word for that - Jobber.
After a thorough workout for the contestant's bodies, we come to one for their minds. Firstly, TNA wanted to know how each of them would deal with the press. The majority of the group carried themselves with the appropriate decorum, fielding numerous newspaper, radio and television interviews (look out for WrestleTalk's Patrick Lennon!). The one glaring exception was Party Marty, who lived up to his nickname in all the worst ways. When asked about his opinion of TNA President, Dixie Carter, Marty replied he "definitely would" *slaps forehead*. In a national forum, one of the stars of the show is quoted as wanting to shag the boss! Urgh. Stupidity doesn't quite cover it. I'm sure he meant it in the most flattering way possible, if the most flattering way possible is to violate the woman who signs your cheques. Try looking her in the eyes at the next Christmas party, I dare you. It's almost as bad as when he said on WrestleTalk he "definitely would" when talking about Mickie James, his best friend Magnus' girlfriend! For future reference, life is not a series of questions as to who you would sleep with!
Anyway, moving on, they've spent the day running their mouths in the press, so now it's time to run their mouths in the ring of a local wrestling promotion. Taking over the show for the evening, the always lovable Jeremy Borash introduced each talent one by one (or two in the case of the Blossoms) and asked them to cut a show-stopping promo that'll get the crowd riled up, either in support or baying for their blood. First come, first served, we have Rockstar Spud. Cutting a fairly convincing heel promo, he opens with a memorable line about "for a building i've never stepped foot in, you all seem to know who i am". A good blend of cockiness and confidence, oozing with smarm. Something tells me he's used it before. Next up came the Blossom Twins, who before they could even finish a sentence, had the microphone ripped from their hands by Spud, who wasn't quite finished as it turns out. The lines the Blossoms retaliated with were slightly laboured and forced, but when they started physically pushing Spud and backing him into a corner, the crowd went nuts and were clearly praying for a woman on man beating not seen since Awesome Kong. Finally, we come to "Party" Marty Scurll, who the audience obviously knew beforehand and ate up his schtick in spades. He didn't even have to say anything particularly clever, but his name was being chanted above everything else. The most inspired part of his promo being when he told Spud "I thought there was an age limit of 14 to get in here?", which kicked off a massive "You're not 14" chant.
Ultimately, a solid beginning for TNA's first experiment in reality television. Having two episodes air one after the other was a good move, as one on it's own could have felt anemic (a problem they may still face with further week's programming). Both the boys' images took severe hits with various moments making them look like pretentious prats, yet the innate maturity of the Blossom Twins kept everything grounded and added a certain degree of heart to proceedings. The girls have taken an early lead for me, but if the boys can get their personalities in check, we may have a competition yet.
Written by Mark Clements
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