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Saturday, 23 April 2005

Celebrity Wrestling, ITV1

What to say if you liked it
A carnival of razzmatazz and indoor fireworks in which top American wrestlers guide a pair of teams brimming with British "celebrities" through the painful pitfalls of wrestling.
What to say if you didn’t like it
If Celebrity Wrestling was a newborn chick in the nest of the TV schedules, it would be kicked out by the rest of the brood on to the forest floor far below to provide a sour morsel for unfussy scavengers.

What was good about it?
• Of the competitors, we like Iwan Thomas AKA The Dragon, a phenomenally talented athlete who, in this show, is like a glamorous actress forced into a career of prostitution to pay the bills.
• Because World Wrestling Entertainment is only broadcast in the UK on satellite, many of their tried-and-tested gimmicks had a fresh appeal such as the alter-egos of the contestants. For instance, James Hewitt as Gentleman Jim and Marc Bannerman as El Diablo.
• Notorious WWE legend Rowdy Roddy Piper was an engaging, if somewhat manic, host and compensated well for Kate Thornton’s anodyne presentation.
• Unlike WWE, the bouts do not seem to be fixed which at least makes for some quite exciting contests. The best of which saw Oliver Skeete and James Hewitt duel on a revolving circle while armed with two clubs. At one point, Skeete fell over and Hewitt battered his prone opponent like he was a seal cub.
• Roddy Piper calling Kate Lawler “Kate Lawley”.
• The fact that the competitors are mostly referred to by their wrestler names, thus blunting their naked efforts to raise their own levels of fame.
• It’s much, much better than Ice Warriors.
• Jeff Brazier AKA Pocket Rocket getting topless.

What was bad about it?
• The inundation of machismo, even among the women, that floods every pore of the show from the fake anger to the overt, enervating belligerence of the contests.
• Oliver Skeete AKA Rebel Rider – a nonentity even in his own esoteric dimension of show jumping who once caused a stir for having dreadlocks.
• Victoria Silvstedt AKA Ice Maiden – an inert granite skeletal beach covered in singed sand and huge plastic inflatables to entertain the kids.
• Kate Lawler AKA The Brawler – the human manifestation of what sufferers of lung cancer cough into the sink each morning.
• Leilani Dowding AKA The Vixen – a woman so lacking in humanity even her verbal echoes have more right to a passport than she does.
• Michelle Heaton AKA Inferno – A giant fingernail barely holding onto the cliff-edge of fame.
• James Hewitt AKA Gentleman Jim – A human snuff movie.
• Mark Speight AKA The Quickdraw Kid – even among the lowlights of his fellow wrestlers, his fame is but a pinprick of black hole anonymity.
• Oliver Skeete’s dramatic entrance on a motorbike was dampened to the point of sogginess by his crash helmet.
• Unlike the WWE, the bouts are not fixed which means instead of a well-rehearsed balletic display of athleticism, the consequence is two people grappling inexpertly on the ground which you could see in a pub car park on a Saturday evening anyway.
• The fake rivalry, again transplanted from the WWE, where competitors rant at each other in monologues of stultifying aggression. If performed with an ounce of theatrics, these disputes might add to the atmosphere but Jenny Powell’s verbal assault on Victoria Silvstedt was so utterly phoney.
• The atrocious “improvised” interviews. Jeff Brazier: “This pocket rocket is going to go off in a few people’s faces.”
• The exaggerated profiles of those involved in the show. Is referee Ian Freeman really “a legendary pro-fighter”?
• The Olympic torches that surround the gladiatorial pit as if to aspire to award a semblance of athletic authenticity to the show.
• While some of the male wrestlers have some athletic ability (Iwan Thomas, Oliver Skeete), the women have largely been selected for their looks alone and much of the Silvstedt-Powell contest descended into unwatchable hair-pulling.
• “Masked Celebrity” Fatima Whitbread was rubbish.

Top 7 highlights of Celebrity Wrestling: week two
1 – Co-host and wrestling legend Roddy Piper continued to be frenzied, over-enthusiastic and deranged in his presenting. With the amount of noise coming from him all through the show, it’ll be a shock if he returns next week with a voice intact. He should be sponsored by Strepsils.
2 – With Mark Speight relegated to sitting down and watching due to a broken finger (loser), Oliver Skeete’s arm in a sling and Michelle Heaton injured in training (not to mention the unealthy ratings), the show is fast turning into Celebrity Casualty.
3 – Annabel Croft’s gloriously camp costume. She looked ready for a Hot Gossip revival and suitable for a walk-on part in Doctor Who.
4 – Annabel’s rather golly-gosh fighting talk in Coach’s Corner, a tad incongruous to D-Lo Brown’s brash, hard machismo.
6 – Iwan Thomas AKA The Dragon. As well as being rather sweet, he completely ruined the Masked Celebrity’s chances of victory in an exciting and satisfying contest.
7 – D-Lo Brown’s mystifying assertion that “Even the blind squirrel can find the acorn”. Surely that’s not true.
Bottom 6 lowlights of Celebrity Wrestling: week two
1 – It was dog eat dog in the women’s ring with Kate ‘Brawler’ Lawler fighting against Michelle ‘Inferno’ Heaton. The contest however was a big letdown and over much too quickly. Furthermore, the constant rolling on the floor with cleavage out for all to see was more reminiscent of a Saturday night in Romford than hardcore wrestling.
2 – The studio audience, gesturing and behaving like the hen/stag party from hell. Why would anyone actually use their spare time to create a banner for Leilani Dowding? ITV1 really has gathered together a group of people no-one wants to see in their living room - to make matters worse, Liz from Atomic Kitten was among them.
3 – Did we really deserve 75 minutes of this?
4 – Victoria Silvstedt AKA Ice Maiden and her constant gum chewing in the background.
5 – Kate Thornton. ‘Nuff said.
6 – John Fashanu as the Masked Celebrity. This is a man who will suffer any indignity just to get his face on the box again.

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