09 November 2014

The Great British Bootcamp

It has been almost two years since the first season of British Bootcamp premiered in the UK, and if you are able to remember back to that first episode it was a markedly low key affair when you compare it to British Bootcamp's second outing.  A brief chat about the contestants between Dixie Carter and Hulk Hogan, then a satellite link up to a nightclub in London where the contestants were introduced to a small UK crowd.  I think the rest of the episode consisted of Rockstar Spud being drunk.

Now fast forward two years, and with three fantastic audition shows already under their belt, the conclusion of tonight's episode of British Bootcamp season 2 will only just bring us to where season 1 began.  Tonight we will witness the UK finals in London's York Hall as the 16 finalists get to perform in front of a live, packed crowd and are whittled down to the final 6 that will be heading to the US.  Jeremy Borash has promised that there is not a single bad match on the card, and I certainly believe him considering any one of those matches could be headlining a UK wrestling event.

As much as I have enjoyed watching all of the audition shows, episode four is the one I have been waiting for as it will be the first time a lot of people will get to see what these wrestlers are truly capable of between the ropes and in front of the fans.  Tonight's episode looks great on paper, and I have no doubt that it will deliver, but with the standard of talent being so good across the board this year it will be sad to see ten people cut loose at this stage of the competition.

By all accounts, British Bootcamp 2 has been a resounding success, and all of the reviews I have read have (by and large) been overwhelmingly positive.  Reality TV is still popular in the UK, and they have really tapped into that this year with a more structured approach to the process.  Good auditions, bad auditions, sob stories, a panel of judges - its a fairly standard formula but one that works.  Did some of the audition venues look a bit rough around the edges and lack some polish?  Well sure, but the same can be said of the British independent wrestling scene as a whole, and besides these are the places that wrestlers began.  The important thing is that when compared to season 1, season 2 has more than doubled its viewing figures, and that's no mean thing giving Sky confidence in TNA as a product going forward in 2015.  Especially when you consider that a certain other wrestling promotion seems determined to simultaneously piss off both Sky and its UK fanbase in one fell swoop this week.

There are only really two criticisms I have picked up on when it comes to British Bootcamp 2; namely the scripted elements involving Grado, and Al Snow taking the role of grumpy judge and acting like a bit of an arse.  Personally I believe that the two things are linked, and if you take them in the context that they were intended then they add to the show as a whole.  Mainstream wrestling is story driven, and I see no harm in them weaving in this story arc with Grado vs Al for fans to follow throughout the Bootcamp process.  From the outset we learnt that Grado has dreamt about performing in Glasgow's SSE Hydro arena, and I suspect that may be the final payoff to this story as we already know that runners-up will be appearing on the UK tour.  He is out to prove he is serious about wrestling, that he isn't a joke, and Al Snow is the physical embodiment of all those people that told Grado he didn't have what it takes.

I must admit that I winced a little when I saw the scripted Grado segments in episode 1, but as the weeks have progressed I have started to enjoy it more and more as it became clear they would be taking a more serious approach to it rather than Grado acting like a prat whenever he was on our screens.  Even though I struggle to understand what he is saying a lot of the time, he is slowly beginning to win me over.

And even if you can't find any enjoyment from the Grado storyline, take solace in the fact that he is going to get slapped about quite brutally by Sha Samuels this evening.

As the brains and mastermind behind British Bootcamp, Jeremy Borash deserves every single plaudit and bit of praise coming his way for what has so far been an incredibly triumphant return of this concept.  The show has gotten progressively better each and every week, and it is a no brainer to assume that trend will continue with tonight's PPV quality show.

My only criticism about British Bootcamp 2?

One hour a week is never enough!

The UK Finals of British Bootcamp 2 is on tonight, Sunday 9th November, at 9pm on Challenge TV, and if you haven't seen it already why not check out some of the TNA roster introducing the final 16 for tonight's show.

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