Our No Way Out predictions have nothing to do with the Kevin Costner film

Sidekick Andrew - Well, here’s one that the internet will no doubt be *very* excited about. Two “comic relief” wrestlers in a comedy gimmick match – this has five star classic written all over it. Of course, sarcasm aside, this could be at least fun – assuming you can sit back and not take wrestling too seriously. It’s not been put on to impress with hold and counter hold, insane lucha flips or hardcore bumps – it’s put on for the “entertainment” part of sports entertainment and will hopefully fulfill that role adequately.

That said, the obvious choice for this is Santino to win and embarrass Rodriguez again. It’s not often that heels will win a match with this kind of stipulation.

Boss Lady Rae:  “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun aaaaand SNAP! The job’s a game!” Words of wisdom from that great philosopher Mary Poppins there. One of the things we noticed while we took a little break is just how seriously we had started to take wrestling. That’s not to say we don’t stand by all our more serious points from the past, or that we won’t be making serious points again in the near future. But we definitely forgot some of the fun.

This “match” is pure fun and I’m kind of looking forward to it. The crowd love Santino’s foolin’ and Ricardo’s antics over the past few weeks have rivalled his opponent’s for laffs. It seems obvious that Santino will win, and I believe he’ll win the war. But because I think they’ll string this out a little longer, I’ll say that Ricardo’s got this battle won. If only to reward his wicked Sheamus impression.

Sidekick Andrew - Given more than five minutes, this could be a pretty enjoyable match. Both wrestlers are more than capable of impressing, and we’re fans of both here in the Bunker. In fact *ahem* you could say I’m torn between the two…

 Gratuitous links? We got ‘em!

Anyway, now that unpleasantness is over with, my prediction. Pretty sure Layla is going to keep the title tonight. She’s not had it long and there’s still mileage in pushing her as champion. If Kharma is on her way back (as indicated on twitter this week) then Beth doesn’t need the title just yet as there’s (hopefully) a feud on it’s way for her.

Boss Lady Rae: I won’t lie, the girl crush I developed on Layla before injury sent her packing for a year is back with a vengeance.  Chances of me betting against her at the moment are pretty slim, so I won’t. Layla will win. I’m definitely not torn between them. *ahem* Having said that, I agree with my colleague. Given more than a couple of minutes this could be a great match. We can but hope.

Sidekick Andrew - I still can’t bring myself to get excited about a Christian match. I know people love him, but he just bores me so much. On the other hand, Cody is always great to watch so there’s a chance the match should be watchable at least. Honestly, I can’t think of much else to say about this one. So I hope you’ll accept this photo of Cody eating chicken with a lady as recompense.


 Christian’s probably going to win this by the way…

Boss Lady Rae: Cody Rhodes has been kind of a revelation lately. I spent years passing him off as dull mid-card fodder. Then the Wrestlemania run-up kicked in and I started warming to him. I lost a lot of the enjoyment I got out of Christian’s stories after the hullaballoo following his lost title last year. Hopefully Cody can inject some interest into this one and swipe the belt back. 

Sidekick Andrew -
Punk vs Bryan?
Well, we all know how good that can be.

Punk vs Bryan vs Kane?
Hmm… suddenly I’m not so sure about this match.

Punk vs Bryan vs Kane (with added crazy AJ)?
Yep, that’ll do!

Is it strange that in a match containing two of the best wrestlers in the world, and one of the best “monsters” in the world, the deciding factor in this one for me is AJ? Rae and myself have spent the last week gushing over how well AJ is playing her character at the moment, questionable “I Dig Crazy Chicks” shirts aside. It really does seem like the role she was born to play, with small details like the way she reacted to the crowd’s chants on Monday showing that she’s the skill to improvise rather than just being well written.

I’m a big fan of Punk and Bryan, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Kane. Adding AJ into the mix is just the stupidly cute cherry on the top. As for a winner? Oh, let’s say Punk wins and retains the belt (and hopefully changes it for something more tasteful soon.)

Boss Lady Rae: I’ve observed some chatter about how sexist AJ’s current character apparently is. Trust me. I’m usually the first to jump on this shit. And yeah, it would be lovely if there were more big female characters unconnected to men. (I have an updated Eve piece in the works. Shhh.) But AJ’s done such a brilliant job of playing the lunatic ex-girlfriend, it’s lovely to see a well developed female character, regardless of the situation.

The 4-way banter between Punk, Bryan, Kane and AJ on this week’s Raw was brilliant and long may it continue. I’m not sure why Kane has become involved with this story beyond adding an extra string to its creative bow, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t winning any titles tonight. Keep the title on Punk’s waist and keep this thing going. I flippin’ love it.

Sidekick Andrew - It shouldn’t be any surprise which of these two wrestlers is my favourite. Sheamus is (kind of) local, talented, surprisingly huge and with a charisma and look that stand him apart from the rest of the roster. But he’s no Dolph Ziggler…

Straight as I am, no man can make me swoon like Dolph comes out to the ring. I Am Perfection? Yes you are sir, yes you are. We’ve been singing his praises for what seems like years now at Wrestlegasm, and he hasn’t lost any of his appeal, even if he did lose some momentum along the way. Back in the title picture due to Del Rio’s unfortunate concussion, I’m going to predict that Ziggler will be the (perhaps unlikely) winner tonight. There is precedent for last minutes replacements to win titles on PPV with Johnny Nitro taking the title in a match with Punk after Benoit did, well… you know. Plus Ziggler deserves a second title run, and one that lasts slightly longer than 11 minutes and 23 seconds.

Boss Lady Rae: This is by far the most tantalising match on the card, and this is a show where Punk and Bryan are going at it again. Sheamus is absolutely on fire at the moment, which is nice to see considering he spent the best part of a year in the doldrums. We’re also delirious that Dolph Ziggler, our top bloke of 2011, is getting a title shot. He’s more than paid his dues in the mid-card and he’s long overdue another jump to the top. I suppose he has Alberto Del Rio and Randy Orton to thank for this one, but it’s not how opportunities arise, it’s what you do with them when you get them. I think Sheamus is keeping the title for now, but the idea these two might get a long title run out of someone else’s misfortune is absolutely delicious.  YUM!

Sidekick Andrew - This is unfortunately another match that I’m struggling to get excited about. I’m not a Cena hater like a lot of people, but he needs someone great to go against, and Big Show just isn’t that great.

Oh grow up…

The added stipulations would seem to suggest that Cena is winning this. Certainly Laurinitis getting fired makes more sense that Cena getting fired. Except for the fact that Cena getting fired is about as permanent as Superman dying or me deciding to stop eating bacon sandwiches for breakfast. Add in the fact that Cena is going through a divorce at the moment and this could end up being a chance for him to take some much deserved time off.

What I’m positive we will see is one of Cenas patented feats of strength. I wouldn’t be surprised if Laurinitis or Otunga gets involved at some point, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if Cena manages to get Big Show and Otunga/Laurinitis up for a double Attitude Adjustment. I’m going to go with Big Show winning this one, although I’m conscious that betting against Cena is always a bad idea.

Boss Lady Rae: It’s no secret that John Cena’s been having a tough time lately. A little light relief was in order and, honestly, there’s nothing to be taken less seriously than a run with Big Show. If you like Big Show as a face, hang on a few months and he’ll turn into a happy chappy. Like him as a heel? Hold out a little while and he’ll be the black-bearded bad guy again. It’s all veh silly.

The stipulation that would leave Laurinaitis out of a job is the basis of this whole story and, with Vince back on the scene this week and HHH showing up tomorrow, it would seem pretty likely that John Cena’s got this one in the kitbag. Dude, you never bet against Cena.

Elimination Chamber Predictions: now with 33.333% extra terrible wrestlers!

Due to a number of factors (illness, real life work, school holidays and at least one unexpected trek through the Amazon in search of the fabled golden skull of Mezzakin the Unwise) these predictions will be a more compact and bijou affair than usual. Compact and bijou – can you tell I’ve been dealing with estate agents recently? Anyway, with that preemptive disclaimer out of the way and my cocktail cabinet fully stocked, let’s do the whole “predicting predetermined pretend pugilism” thing!

Well.. I *say* cocktail cabinet...

Beth Phoenix vs Tamina Snuka

A Diva’s PPV match featuring two women who can wrestle! Not only that, but Tamina has now progressed to the upper echelon of the WWE Women’s Division – a distinction shown by the fact she now has a surname. This could be a really enjoyable match, assuming they are given the time to tell a proper story, and they keep the interference (and hilarious fart jokes) to a minimum. It’s no secret that we love Beth here in the Bunker, but we’re both agreed that it’s time for a change in the run up to Wrestlemania, and that Tamina will take the belt tonight.

Rae’s Prediction: Tamina Snuka
Andrew’s Prediction: Tamina Snuka

John Cena vs Kane

This is apparently an Ambulance Match, so promises to be pretty brutal at least. Kane has experience in this type of match, in fact I’ve still fond memories of his Ambulance Match with Shane McMahon from Survivor Series 2003.

As for who’s going to win, Cena is always the obvious choice for winning a PPV match, and I have to agree that he’s probably going to win here. Unless they want Kane to interfere in the Rock-Cena match at Wrestlemania they have to bring this feud to an end soon.

Rae’s Prediction: John Cena
Andrew’s Prediction: John Cena

Raw Elimination Chamber

Definitely the better of the two Chamber matches on paper, the only wrestler in this match that I’m not a fan of is R-Truth. The idea of Jericho wrestling in the match and overtaking HHH as having the highest number of entries is pretty cool, and Kofi is bound to replicate RVD and Morrison’s spidermonkey antics from previous years. Add to that great wrestlers like Punk and Ziggler and this has the chance to be the best match on the card. As for winners, Rae has decided that Jericho will win, which is very possible. I personally think that Punk will retain here though, just because I think they’ll have him as champion at Wrestlemania. Having said that, if Rae is right that does open up the chance for Punk to get his rematch at ‘Mania, so I’ll be happy either way.

Rae’s Prediction: Chris Jericho
Andrew’s Prediction: CM Punk

Smackdown Elimination Chamber

Well, talk about extremes (and no, I don’t mean XTREME! because the match takes part inside “Satan’s Prison”) You have three really talented wrestlers in this match, people I’d be happy to watch wrestle any day of the week, in Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett. You have Big Show who has a role to fit and plays it well – the giant who punches people in the face will always be worth a look. And then… well… yeah, you’ve got the other two. Santino isn’t the worse wrestler in the world, and he’s ridiculously over with the crowd, so I’ve no real objection to him being in there for a while. Khali on the other hand, is a frankly bizarre choice for the match, and I can only hope that he’ll be the last to enter, only for everyone to hit their finishers and eliminate him within an minute.

As for the winner, Rae says Barrett will win (which would be amazing) but I think Bryan will retain. He needs a decisive title victory/defence and this is the ideal time. Let him go into Mania as champion to wrestle Sheamus and make everyone happy. Please?

Rae’s Prediction: Wade Barrett
Andrew’s Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Report from the Fort: Best Wrestler (Female)

As Rae mentioned in her previous post we have split the “Best Wrestler” award into male and female categories. Not because we feel that female wrestlers are in any way inferior to male wrestlers, but due to the way they are portrayed. For the most part, they are very different entities. It would be lovely to think that this won’t be the case by the time next year’s awards come around, but I’m not that hopeful. In my “Best Match” award I explained how the idea of “gender free” wrestling is becoming more prevalent on the independent scene, but in the world that WWE occupy, it’s not going to change much soon I’m afraid.

With that said, on with the show and our final look back at 2011…

If you’ve read any of the previous awards this year, or for that matter, anything else we write on the blog or Twitter, then this winner should come as no surprise. We are unabashedly in awe of Sara Del Rey. In a year in which we were cautiously optimistic in the WWE Women’s division, only to be let down with Beth’s (hopefully forced) “we’re just giiiiiiiiirls…” whining and Natalya’s inexplicable losing streak, Del Rey has gone from strength to strength.

A wrestler rather than a model (although Rae would like to point out that her thighs are the stuff of legend and her own training aspiration) Sara managed to have a banner year in CHIKARA, beating the likes of Claudio Castagnoli, winning the annual Cibernetico match and wrestling her idol Aja Kong. Add to this her continued appearances for the likes of SHIMMER, her ROH run as part of the Kings of Wrestling, and appearances for a number of other promotions and 2011 certainly stacked up as the year that everyone finally agreed she is one of the best wrestlers in the world.

One thing that Rae and I both find admirable is that Sara has always been very vocal about the end goal of her career. In an age in which many fans, wrestlers and promoters are incredibly dismissive of the WWE’s output (particularly the Diva’s division), Del Rey has continuously stated that she would like to be signed to a WWE contract. As a fan of the intimacy independent wrestling affords, it’s easy to be selfish and hope this doesn’t happen. You can imagine the cries of dismay as her FCW name is revealed to be Stephanie Queen and she jobs to Kelly Kelly after a few weeks. But let’s be honest, financially the WWE is as good as it gets. Not only that, but the worldwide exposure is second to none. Sara knows what she wants, and it’s admirable that she hasn’t succombed to the easy elitist route of “Indie > WWE.”

With the likes of Kings of Wrestling teammates Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero already in FCW, as well as fans and friends such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Beth Phoenix, Awesome Kong and Natalya, it will hopefully only be a matter of time before the call up comes. When it does, I’ll look forward to seeing her on my TV every week.

Report From The Fort: Best Major Shows

I know, I know… bloody Andrew going on about bloody CHIKARA again. But there’s a reason for this, and it’s pretty simple. Are you ready? Here it is…

…CHIKARA are just that good.

There, pretty simple isn’t it when you see it typed out like that. CHIKARA are, by far, my “desert island” wrestling promotion. The one company I would choose above all others if I was inexplicably stranded on a desert island and somehow only given access to one company’s back catalogue. The wrestling is of a standard that has caused both Rae and myself to forget to breathe on more than occasion. The storylines are complex and spanning a matter of months, if not years in some cases. The characters are well rounded, funny and captivating. Most importantly of all, CHIKARA (more than any other large-ish promotion) has a real family feel to it. Not just “family friendly” but “family.”

Outside of the blog, I do some design work for a couple of small UK indie promotions. Promotions that are getting decent buzz both here and abroad, but still pretty small compared to CHIKARA. Despite “working” for these companies, and being on speaking terms with the promoters and some of the wrestlers, I still feel a closer bond to CHIKARA than to any other promotion.

They were the promotion that got me through the post-Benoit period when, as a father of two young children, I felt that the WWE wasn’t something I was sure I could watch. They helped me convert Rae to the joys of indie wrestling, and provided some very happy memories of her joy at discovering the likes of Claudio and his tiny trunks. They were the company that, as a blog, made us promise to visit Philadelphia for King of Trios one year (rather than rely on the kindness of guest writers.) In short, the only thing that could have made CHIKARA better for me would be for them to be within travelling distance.

And then, towards the end of last year, they announced that their season finale would be available to watch live on iPPV. Finally, a chance to watch a CHIKARA show live, and not just any CHIKARA show. This was the season finale, the show to wrap up all the stories from 2011, and to finally crown the inaugural CHIKARA Grand Champion.

I’m not very good at writing about emotions on here, Rae is much better at that than I am (being a girl and everything) but it really did mean a lot to me to be part of that family for those few hours. With great match after great match, and one of the most important main events in CHIKARA history, even without the emotional impact this would be a show I would recommend to anybody. You can buy the DVD obviously, but even better (and keeping in theme with the whole “bringing CHIKARA to you worldwide” ethos of this show) it’s available for only $9.99 as a digital download.

Do yourself a favour and at least check out the trailer below. If the wrestling appeals to you, buy the show. Once the storylines, promos and, yes… emotions, all kick in you’ll be hooked and my work here will be done.

I know, I know… bloody Rae going on about bloody Money in the Bank again. But there’s a reason for this, and it’s pretty simple. Are you ready? Here it is…

…it was fucking amazing! 

We’ve spoken at great length about the WWE Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, and we’re conscious of avoiding repetition. But the steady build towards that main event during this show was palpable. A frond of electricity crept through every single match in anticipation of the finale.

It touched the then professional nice-guy Daniel Bryan’s blue briefcase win in the Smackdown match with even more fairy dust than it would have without that looming last match. The indie kid did good. What was in store for their main eventing indie kid? I was one of the first to criticise removing the MITB match from the Wrestlemania card and plonking it into another gimmicky PPV. But somehow, it seems to have worked.

Randy Orton and Christian were at full throttle, Orton continuing on his transition from villain to hero. Lest we forget Randy’s loopy announce table tongue work. At this time too, Mark Henry’s star was ascending, Alberto Del Rio had properly arrived and this all taking place with the bristling undercurrent of ‘is CM Punk really leaving for good?’ Magical.

Report From The Fort: Best Match (Andrew’s picks)

We were struggling to narrow down our award to just one match. One of the many things we enjoy about wrestling is that it’s so varied, and there are many contenders for best match, all for different reasons. As such we have picked two matches each, both of which meant a lot to us for different reasons. Rae will be posting hers shortly, but in the meantime…

Winner: Sara Del Rey vs KANA (CHIKARA’s Klunk In Love: Oct 8, 2011)

We’ve declared our undying affection for Sara Del Rey on the blog before, and those affections are indeed unwaning. Not only one of the best female wrestlers in the world, she is arguably one of the best wrestlers in the world full stop. Other than the all female promotion SHIMMER, possibly no company has done more to reward Del Rey’s skill than CHIKARA. In a company featuring wrestling ice creams, temporally displaced Egyptian snake gods and evil (yet devilishly attractive) insect overlords, something as petty as human gender is unlikely to be an issue to success.

When I first took it upon myself to introduce Rae to CHIKARA, one of the matches I showed her was a 2007 bout between Icarus, Gran Akuma & Brodie Lee and Cheech, Cloudy & Sara Del Rey. I don’t think it would be an overestimation to say that Del Rey played a pivotal role in her indoctrination, inspiring not only a love for indie wrestling, but also a typically insightful post on intergender wrestling

KANA on the otherhand, is maybe less known to a wider audience, although 2011 was undoubtedly her “breakthrough” year in the west, with a successful tour of the US taking in CHIKARA and SHIMMER. Having trained and shared a room together early on on their careers, the idea of the two wrestling each other was thought of by many as a dream match.

Then...

...and now

That they were having a match at all was great news. That CHIKARA had the courage and the belief (not only in the wrestlers but also the fans) to make this match the main event of one of their shows gives an indication of just how highly they are thought of. And that faith was more than rewarded with what was easily my match of the year. Not just for the quality of the match (which was amazing) but also in what it stands for. In a year in which the female division in the WWE has often dropped down to levels that can only be described as “risible,” it’s important to remember that there is excellent female wrestling out there.

From SHIMMER’s continued successes to CHIKARA’s Joshimania weekend, from Anarchy Championship Wrestling’s gender-neutral shows to the growing popularity of Quebec’s NCW Femme Fatales, from the UK’s Pro Wrestling EVE to their Japanese partners in Ice Ribbon, there is more female wrestling of a quality that puts many male wrestlers to shame than ever before. Yes this stuff is harder to access than WWE or TNA, and yes you might have to brace yourself for accusations of slightly ulterior motives (believe me, I know) but you will be rewarded with some of the best wrestling that’s out there at the moment… from wrestlers who are possessed of dedication, talent, determination and, coincidentally, ovaries.

Skip to about 4 minutes in the following video for a clip from the match

Winner: Mike Quackenbush vs Eddie Kingston (CHIKARA’s High Noon: Nov 13, 2011)

I’ll be writing more about how much I enjoyed CHIKARA’s first ever iPPV later, but this match is one of the reason’s why the show worked so well. I know I’m coming across as an unabashed fanboy, but one of the thing’s CHIKARA do so well is create emotion through stories and this match, the culmination of their 12 Large Summit tournament, was no excecption.

The tournament was held throughout the 2011 season to finally crown the inaugural CHIKARA Grand Champion, and was dedicated to the memory of CHIKARA alumni Larry Sweeney who took his own life early in the year after a long history of mental illness. In one corner was Mike Quackenbush: founder and head trainer at CHIKARA, and one of the most talented technical wrestlers currently in the US. In the opposite corner was Eddie Kingston: one of my favourite wrestlers and a close personal friend of Larry Sweeney. Kingston is by no means a technical wizard, but he is an amazing brawler, and his promos are second to none – including this gem he released in the run up to the show…

That promo would probably be enough to earn this award by itself to be honest, but the match more than lived up to it. With nearfall after nearfall, a teased Quackenbush heel turn, and the entire roster surrounding the ring by the time the final bell was rung, it was an amazing match, and an honour to get to watch live. I realise this might sound like hyperbole, but it’s true – I genuinely felt like part of something special watching live from my bedroom over in the UK that night, and it’s thanks to moments like this that I love wrestling. Thank you CHIKARA

30 Men? In a row? The Wrestlegasm Royal Rumble Predictions 2012

Sidekick Andrew: The joy of having only four matches (announced) on a card is that they are all pretty big deals. With the other two non-Rumble matches containing the blow-offs to big feuds however, this is looking like the weakest on the card. There’s no denying Bryan is a great wrestler, but sticking him in the ring with the likes of Big Show and Mark Henry isn’t necessarily going to give him chance to shine.

And we don't want any more small girls getting hurt do we?

That said, I think Bryan will retain the title tonight somehow. His gradual turn towards the dark side bodes well for his character, and having him as the smug “original best in the world” heel champion would be an interesting way to go.

...you can't all be the best in the world

Boss Lady Rae: Firstly, I apologise for the briskness of my predictions in comparison to Andrew’s. I’ve had a heavy writing weekend and my brain is slightly fried. I’m also unable to watch the Rumble live, which has broken my heart slightly. Alright, here we go….

Big Show made me cry during Smackdown this week. When he stood in the ring, weeping at the idea that a tiny girl had accidentally suffered at his meaty hands, I shed a little tear with him. Admittedly I was feeling blue at not being able to go to the Manchester TNA show like my esteemed colleague, but I felt quite endeared towards the big fella’s compassion. I think I just said I wanted to be at a TNA show. Who am I?

I have this fantasy that Wrestlemania will include a triple threat match between CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho. For that to happen either Punk or Bryan need to drop their respective belts. I’d much rather that be Bryan, so I’ll say that Big Show will take the title tonight. Oh. Wait. Mark Henry’s in this thing too. Ummmm….meh, he’s done.

Sidekick Andrew: Never let it be said that I’m not still a massive Kane fan. He takes the ridiculous gimmicks and backstory retcons that WWE give him, shrugs and says “meh, whatever” and just runs with it. As a fan, I feel it’s only fair that I do the same. Whether it’s running around after Edge and Paul Bearer, inexplicably wearing a welder’s mask, or becoming an awkward teenager around ex-girlfriends…

After coming back and attacking Zack Ryder, Kane encouraged Cena to “embrace hate.” Cena manage to portray this magnificently in the best case of WWE emoting since Maria was dumped by Dolph Ziggler)

Logic dictates that Cena wins this match. He’s still the Superman poster boy for WWE, and using this match as a chance to channel some of his more vicious side (like his Last Man Standing match with Umaga for example) could be interesting. Also worth bearing in mind is that there’s nothing to stop Cena & Kane, or indeed any of tonight’s wrestlers, from appearing in the Rumble match as well. Cena could get his win here and avenge Ryder, but all it takes is for them to both clash again in the Rumble match and this feud could continue. After all, Cena needs something to do in the lead up to Wrestlemania other than respond to the Rock’s pre-recorded videos each week.

Boss Lady Rae: Do you know how much I love wrestling? In the midst of a brief and now slain ‘maybe I should give up on wrestling forever’ demon yesterday, Raw happened to be on while I was in my dad’s company. Even during the segment where Eve and John Cena’s acting skills following Zack Ryder’s ‘injury’ came straight out of a cheapo Horror Channel movie, I still defended them. As John knocked Josh’s mic from his hand and hilariously bubbled with fury into the camera lens (see above), I launched into a huge oratory about how wrestling is basically theatre and not a normal sport. Sometimes wrestling is like a bad boyfriend I can’t quit.

Anyway. The match. This whole feud is surely just a time-killing exercise for Cena until we launch into two months of him shouting into a mic for the Rock’s benefit. My guess is that Cena will win but only after Zack Ryder makes a miraculous recovery and runs (limps? wheels?) in to help. That could deliver the biggest pop of the night outside of any yet to be revealed Rumble surprises.

Sidekick Andrew: Much like Homer Simpson when faced with the choice to comdemn Springfield to obesity and diabetes, or listen to Marge and dump the smuggled sugar, I really don’t know what to do when it comes to predicting this match.

Obviously Punk’s been amazing over the last couple of years, and his interactions with Laurinitis helped the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and the Interim General Manager of Raw (ugg) take our Villian of the Year award. On the other hand, Dolph is Dolph and there’s a reason we’ve been singing his praises for a long time here in the Bunker.

”]If Punk is the future of the WWE, then Ziggler is the ideal counterpart. A more corporate heel to balance Punk’s rebellious face, Ziggler aligning himself with an authority figure, while Punk is constantly having the odds stacked against him by the people at the top. I wrote an article a while ago comparing Punk-Cena to the classic Rock-Austin feud, but now I’m wondering if Ziggler isn’t the new Corporate Champion instead.

As such I can see Ziggler winning this, with help from Laurinitis. HHH needs something keep him busy, and chances are he’ll turn up tonight at some point. If Laurinitis knows his days are numbered, there’s no reason for him not to screw Punk over, especially after his attack on Raw last Monday.

Boss Lady Rae: Excellent theorising indeed, young Andrew. I definitely think Triple H will be there tonight, but I think he’ll show up to stop Laurinaitis screwing Punk over. That would release Punk from this brilliant back-and-forth he’s been having with the boss, and give HHH a chance to seek his revenge.  And why would Punk need releasing? For my previously mentioned fantasy match, of course. I want to see Bryan and Jericho challenging Punk for both the title and the ‘Best in the World’ crown at ‘Mania. I think Punk will retain until then.  Never let it be said I don’t follow my heart.

Of course, we really cannot lose in this match. As Andrew says and as our remaining Report from the Fort awards will attest, we’re both massively smitten with both Punk and Ziggler. Setting the Rumble match aside, which is unique in its greatness, this might not only be match of the night, but one of the best of the year. A bold statement in January, I know.

Sidekick Andrew: We were in two minds whether to predict this match here in the Bunker. We deliberated long into the night over endless packets of Monster Munch and lashings of ginger beer, trying to decide if we just wanted to enjoy what is usually one of our favourite wrestling spectacles simply for what it is. In the end however we agreed to predict it anyway (by which of course I mean Boss Lady Rae held me down and threatened to remove any roast beef flavoured maize based snack priveledges unless I capitulated.)

The trouble with this of course, is that the Rumble is a bit of a bugger to predict. There’s no definite and obvious winner this year, so deciding on just one is a matter of preference in the end.

The Miz could win, bringing him back into the main event picture and explaining why he was given the Number One entrant slot on Monday.

Undertaker could come back, starting his Road to Wrestlemania (which has to start soon) with a late entry and victory.

Christian could make his return, although between you and me I’m not overly excited by that prospect to be honest.

Orton could win, now that he has returned, as could the increasingly verbose Jericho. However, I think this PPV will set up feuds for them, rather than title shots.

I’m going to go for Wade Barrett to continue his barrage and win the Rumble tonight. OK, I’m going with local bias as usual, but he needs something to get him out of the rather boring upper midcard nonsense he’s been involved with recently. You never know, he might even team up with his old mentor Jericho during the match.

Boss Lady Rae: I don’t really want to to predict what might happen during the match. The Royal Rumble remains one of the few WWE repeated matches that still has the genuine ability to shock and surprise. I will say though, I’d love to see some of the ladies make an appearance this year. What better way for Beth Phoenix to return to TV than showing up in the Rumble for the second time?

Predicting the Rumble is a curious business, because picking a winner means you’re predicting the next few months of storytelling. I’d love for Chris Jericho to win, but it all seems a little too obvious now, and he doesn’t need to win to end up in my fantasy match. There are also quite a few people coming to the end of genuine injuries who may return. Running with my Big Show prediction and assuming Punk retains, I too am going to have to pick Wade Barrett. I know, I know.  It seems like we’re just going with local bias again and it’s definitely a powerful force. But he’s been getting such a steady push on Smackdown recently. It’s all got to mean something, right? RIGHT?

Report from the Fort: Innovation Award

We made a conscious decision at the end of 2010 to leave our awards until the beginning of the following year, the logic being that you never know what will happen in December that might sway your voting. It’s a choice that I’m pretty happy we stuck with, even if it does sometimes lead to a slightly awkward moment when the person you decide to give an award for innovation to is suddenly sacrificed at the altar of Cena & Kane for no reason…

Yep, this award goes to Zack Ryder for his sterling work throughout 2011. During 2010 he managed the dual distinctions of both having the second-shortest WWE Championship match in history and becoming the first NXT mentor to lose to a rookie (Percy bloody Watson of all people!) in a singles match. After that he pretty much languished on Superstars, teaming with Primo in a team memorable only for Scott Stanford’s description of them as DZP (down with Zack and Primo.) In my first ever Wrestlegasm post I bemoaned the fact that I just didn’t “get” Zack Ryder, and during 2010 he did nothing to convince me otherwise. Then, in February 2011 something amazing happened…

From nowhere, Ryder suddenly had a personality, and it was a pretty likeable one at that. As the series continued he introduced more regular guest stars, increasing the profile of Dolph Ziggler and Scott Stanford as well as introducing his father (the true star of the show) and real life friends to a huge audience. As the show started to gain popularity, Ryder began to appear on TV more and more, turning face partly in response to the “We want Ryder!” chants at Capitol Punishment and partly because… well, it just worked better that way. Before long he had been appointed as the assistant to Teddy Long, and ended the year by winning the United States title from Ziggler in December. Quite a turn around within only 12 months, and one that was primarily achieved off his own back.

While many wrestlers in his position would have sat around complaining that they’re not being used, or that “creative has nothing for me”, Ryder took social media by storm – creating his own character, forcing the WWE to take note of his almost half million followers and being the only wrestler listed as one of Sports Illustrated’s 100 most influential social media users in sports.

Oh, and on one episode he wore a Scott Stanford t-shirt that I designed as well…

Honourable Mention: goes to the Wrestling Retribution Project (formerly Wrestling Revolution) started by Jeff Katz. A former VP of Production at 20th Century Fox who became frustrated with current televised wrestling, Katz decided to start his own company. Rather than inherit a company from his father or get his father’s multi-million dollar energy business to constantly write blank cheques supporting his terrible cash-hemorrhaging promotion as a tax write-off, Katz used Kickstarter to obtain pledges from ordinary fans to start his company. After reaching his $100,000 target, Katz went on to sign the likes of Chris Hero, Luke Gallows, MVP, Kenny Omega, Chris Masters, Sami Callihan & Colt Cabana – repackaged them with new names and gimmicks and filmed the first bunch of episodes in which…

“[each season] will tell a complete set of stories, introducing characters that will evolve and grow with each passing season. Take the season long build of shows like THE WIRE or DEXTER and apply it to the basic wrestling model and you have an idea of where we’re going.

Every character has a mission, a journey and a reason for stepping into the ring. Some will rise, some will fall — and you will be there to see it all. With the benefit of a defined start and finish the viewer is guaranteed a complete wrestling storytelling experience.

Each season will culminate in our season finale or supershow, where storylines conclude and start anew, new legends will be forged and lasting memories will be made. Fresh new characters, meaningful themes and wrestling-driven storylines with a beginning, middle and end.”

It’s a show that certainly has the talent to be worth watching, and with an interesting (and, yes, innovative) concept that could help it stand out

Report from the Fort: Best Newcomer

As Rae mentioned in her Best Newcomer award, we’re eschewing the lure of the country show with its home-made preserves and tombola stalls. Rather, we’ve kicked off our shoes, slipped into our favourite pyjamas and took up residence in the pillow fort section of the Wrestlegasm Bunker to discuss this years winners. I’ll miss the excellent scones we got to sample last year, but crumbs and pillow forts don’t really mix anyway…

We struggled trying to find a recipient for Best Newcomer this year, and while I’m quite ashamed to say that Archibald Peck completely slipped my mind until just now, we ended up looking to FCW for our winner and the graphic’s been made up now and everything. Sorry about that Archie.

The trouble is, this year just hasn’t been one for newcomers. For all of Punk’s rhetoric about the winds of change moving through the landscape of the WWE, the “debuts” of 2011 tended to be returns such as Kevin Nash, Booker T, The Rock and HHH. Over in FCW however, along with Wrestlegasm favourite Claudio Castagnoli, the erstwhile Jon Moxley debuted as Dean Ambrose and quickly became a bit of an internet sensation after feuding with Seth “Tyler Black” Rollins, CM Punk and, most notably, William Regal.

After a debut interview in which he epitomised the word “grubby” and put a huge smile on Regal’s face, he went on to have a trilogy of matches with Seth Rollins, culminating in a great 30 minute effort showcasing two of the indie talents that have made it into developmental.

Following on from his Rollins feud, and a chance to challenge CM Punk at another FCW show, Ambrose moved onto Regal and the two of them brought the best out of each other, both in promos and in the following match in which Regal finally gets to be himself in the ring again.

In a promotion where the majority of the talent are still trying to find a personality beyond “tanned muscley bloke” Ambrose stands out as the greasy-haired kid from the dodgy estate that you always felt would get you in serious trouble one day. He’s got a great future ahead of him, and we’re very happy to present him this award – probably his first of many.

Honourable Mention: goes to Mason Ryan. Can you guess who might have decided on this one? Much like the interstellar radiation still detectable from the big bang, I’m sure that in the furthest recesses of the Bunker you can still hear the faint echoes of the immense squeal let out by Boss Lady Rae when she saw this photo on a Tuesday morning last January.

While it would be extremely generous to say that Ryan has set the WWE alight with his in ring prowess and fly-away hair, never underestimate the power of local bias. My love for Regal is no secret, and the same goes for Rae and her homeboy from the ‘Diff. As for me, I’m always happy to see more UK wrestlers getting a break in the US, and I’m still hopeful for Barri (as we in the know call him) to improve and become better in the ring as time goes by.

PS I’m well aware that, much like last year, neither of these guys are actually “newcomers” having had careers over the last few years, but for the sake of the awards, we’re taking major company debuts as counting