In September 2018, when I attended the first Never Mind The Wristlocks show as part of PROGRESS Wrestling’s Wembley Warm Up event I thought it was a fun and slightly chaotic take on the well trodden panel show structure.
For its second show, and I guess you could say first proper stand alone outing, at Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green, Kieron Liley and his team took everything I’d enjoyed about that previous show and upped it, in some cases very much to the extreme.
The venue itself was certainly a more underground and, for wont of a better word, scuzzy, one than the Phoenix on Cavendish Square, but in many ways that fitted in perfectly with the slightly ramshackle nature of the show, that, ostensibly, takes the format of Never Mind The Buzzcocks but with the focus on pro-wrestling rather than pop music.
To add to the effect the show was staged in a wrestling ring (the venue is regularly home to small-scale pro-wrestling events), although this did lead to a few moments where chairs and tables set up on the less than solid surface got a little precarious.
With the teams led by ‘defending champion’ TK Cooper (with Eddie Dennis and Mad Man Manson) and new challenger Chuck Mambo (with David Star and Wrestling Memes) with former wrestler and now award-winning stand up Danny Garnell keeping score, a varied group by anyone’s reckoning, the show looked set to up the chaotic and hilarious nature of the first, and it did from the off – I’ll be honest mostly down to the perennial wildcard, whether in the ring or out, that is Mad Man Manson.
With rounds that ranged from challenges like making a championship belt to wrestling versions of the ‘intros’ and ‘next lines’ rounds (particularly challenging for Manson who didn’t seem to have the first clue who any WWE or related wrestlers were, possibly including Dennis, who knows but Manson) it could easily have become two hours of very in-jokey stuff, impenetrable to anyone but the most dedicated fan of ‘the graps’.
While it certainly had its share of that, and some in-jokes that only the people on stage got, it also seemed to have a broader appeal, particularly given that the person sat next to me admitted to having very limited knowledge of wrestling but seemed to enjoy the whole thing regardless (quite how she’d ended up at the show, even with a friend who is a fan, was a bit of a mystery).
It’s hard to argue that, for a few reasons, the second half of the show did go off the rails a little more than I think anyone expected but equally the level of laughs suggested that it still all went down a storm in the room and, while the ending was a bit rushed to not go over time, the second outing of Never Mind The Wristlocks was something of a demented success (though ensuring the microphones are properly setup before the show might help next time).