A Song for Whoever: Claudio Castagnoli/Antonio Cesaro & WWE/TNA/World Peace etc Edition

RAE: Whatever their wrestling background, when performers get called up to the WWE, a certain amount of ‘bedding in’ takes place. And it’s not exclusively reserved for the kids cherry-picked out of the thousands waving their arms in the air screaming ‘choose me!’. Even big fish in smaller ponds are expected to transition into the WWE style. And why not? There’s no point in having a global brand if you’re going to say ‘hey, just do whatever you like.’ Easy, tigers. I’m not saying everyone has to look and wrestle the same way; just that there have to be recognisable notes that pull all the individuality together.

When Bryan Danielson morphed into a the initial Daniel Bryan character, he spent a short spell in developmental before playing out a season on NXT. Danielson had such a genuine, indie geek-boy persona that WWE played it up rather than trying to turn him into an out of place bronzed adonis. It was a smart move. Although, I’m pretty sure he’s been dabbling with the Garnier Summer Body Creme lately and he definitely seems less of a quirky novelty than when he first arrived. He’s put his roots down.

Aww, bless.

In Bryan’s case, the tactic worked. Alberto Del Rio also managed the transition from Mexican hero to smooth talking WWE main eventer pretty easily. But for every success there are countless guys and girls who haven’t gelled with the WWE house style. Sin Cara was the exciting signing who’s stalled time and time again. I worry for my beloved Mason Ryan/Barri Griffiths who, despite bypassing NXT and jumping straight to the big leagues, seems to have dropped back into developmental. Maybe he needs a little more time.

There is, however, someone who seems to have gone from FCW to Smackdown with such ease it appears he was made for it: Claudio Castagnoli or, as he’s now known, Antonio Cesaro. Impossible to mention either name without rapidly fluttering my hand against my chest and exclaiming that my beating heart should be still.  Girly crushes aside, it’s bizarre how quickly Claudio seems to have become part of the furniture. Even during his first fleeting Smackdown appearance as Aksana’s rugby playing old pal, he seemed a natural WWE fit. Ah yes. Switzerland. That noble rugby playing nation. Hah! Still, you can’t deny he looks beefy enough to have chased the egg.

Poor ole Teddy

Claudio/Antonio’s match participation has been minimal so far, but those of us who followed his career before the magic phone call know his in-ring skills more than match his physical stature. And we know he pulls off a mean promo. That’s what makes his steady ascent so finger-tremblingly exciting. It’s like feeling the low rumble of an earthquake waiting for the right time to let rip.

The only question mark over Claudio’s move to the big time was whether his unmistakable presence would transfer to the much bigger WWE arenas. Maybe it’s difficult to separate giddy fan from logical thinker, but he certainly fills my screen every time he appears on it. So if it’s all the same with you, I’ll keep holding on to the walls. This one’s for you, ‘former rugby play’…

ANDREW: I’ve no doubt that it’s been prompted by the Avengers film, but I’m going through a comic phase at the moment. I don’t know if it works the same way for everyone but each of my more geeky interests seems to come and go in waves. Whether it’s wrestling, video games, comics… I’ll go for months showing hardly any interest then binge for weeks on end; endlessly devouring DVDs of obscure indie promotions, forcing myself to collect that one last memory fragment in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations or (as was the case this month) ploughing through Marvel’s expansive Civil War and Fear Itself storylines.

People much more knowledgable, intelligent and talented than me have written before about the glaringly obvious parallels between wrestling and comic books. Both looked on as lesser forms of entertainment. Both focussing for the main on interweaving, overly wordy storylines punctuated by periods of graphic violence. The masks… the starkly drawn good guys and bad guys… the improbable physiques… oh, and the ridiculously sexist costumes of course.

Another common factor is the distribution of power in both fields. Both the wrestling and comic book industries are essentially ruled (in the west at least) by two major companies, WWE/TNA and Marvel/DC respectively. Below them there are a number of smaller companies carving out their own share of the market. In wrestling you have the larger independents such as ROH, CHIKARA and PWG, while in comics you have companies such as Image and Wildstorm selling an edgier product to a smaller audience.

While these smaller companies are generally happy to share talent the big two in each field are usually more exclusive. Indie wrestlers are, for the most part, free to work in whichever promotion they like, and while they may change it slightly they are able to take their character with them. The same happens with smaller comic companies, where crossover events and guest stars from another companies line aren’t seen as a rarity. However, when it comes to Marvel (owner of the Avengers, Spider-Man and the X-Men to name a few) and DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman etc) this is a much less exected occurence, as indeed it is with the WWE and TNA…

Never say never…

…especially in wrestling

Yes, the big wrestling story this week was Christian’s appearance at TNA Slammiversary. Apparently a reciprocal deal for Ric Flair’s involvement in the 2012 Hall of Fame ceremony, the idea of a current WWE title holder being allowed to appear at a TNA PPV is quite amazing. As a fan it’s great to think that this is even possible, and the temptation is to wonder whether this could mean anything going forward? Will there be a new working relationship between the two companies? Will we see more TNA stars on WWE shows and vice versa? Will we finally see Sting recognised in the WWE Hall of Fame?

I know Dixie, they’re just “roomers” aren’t they?

Yep, that’s TNA’s official YouTube channel showing that they don’t listen to nasty roomers like that. In the long run this means nothing, but it happened, and we were there to see it. Well, when I say “we” I don’t mean Rae and myself. We’re not going to sit around watching TNA when there’s some paint drying in the south wing of the WrestleBunker. What do you think we are? Masochists?

Anyway, in the spirit of harmony and coexistence here’s to you TNA and WWE. It’s always nice (if disappointingly rare) to be surprised by wrestling, but the fact that the two of you could do something like this show’s a side of you that isn’t as petty and childish as we have come to expect. And that was a surprise…

No Alternative? The CHIKARA interview

No Alternative? is an annoyingly titled series of interviews that will hopefully introduce you to some of the independent wrestling promotions that we have come to love here at the blog. Rather than forcing yourself to sit through a dreary episode of Raw or a frankly embarrassing episode of IMPACT Wrestling (or whatever it’s called now) we want to show you that there is an alternative out there.

The first interview in the series is, fittingly, with our favourite wrestling promotion. Both Boss Lady Ray and myself have said that CHIKARA would be our “Desert Island Wrestling” were we to be dumped on a desert island together and forced to choose only one company to be able to watch the rest of our lives. Erstwhile “CHIKARA Director of Fun” Leonard F Chikarason was kind enough to take time out and answer a few questions for us.

Thanks for agreeing to this interview. For some of our readers that might not be familiar with you could you give us a brief introduction to CHIKARA ?
I could go right from the website, www.chikarapro.com, but instead, can sum CHIKARA up as “wrestling for everyone.” WWE purposes themselves as wrestling for the whole family and TNA claims “Wrestling Matters.” If both of these statements were true and awesome, that would be CHIKARA.

What would you say sets CHIKARA apart as an alternative from the mainstream promotions such as WWE and TNA?
As I mentioned before, CHIKARA bring you wrestling for everyone without insulting any group. From what I hear, the live non-TV/PPV WWE and TNA shows are fun, but the wrestling you may see there is just nowhere near as entertaining as CHIKARA provides at each and every show.

Do you think WWE and TNA present a reasonable view of professional wrestling to the mass market? Do you feel they do anything right or are you not a fan at all?
Unfortunately, WWE is what the majority of the mainstream world sees as “Wrestling” even though THEY don’t see themselves that way. I’ve been a fan of wrestling since 1984 and probably will never stop watching WWE out of habit. Not really sure what to think of TNA.

One side of the 2 main promotions which gets heavy criticism (and that we on the site have been more and more interested in) is the womens’ divisions. Where does CHIKARA stand on womens wrestlers? Are you fans of the more hard-hitting female wrestlers and intergender matches or would you prefer a more Diva/Knockout style division?
I think you answered your own question. Nothing makes me go for my channel changer quicker than a Divas match on WWE. The cornerstones of CHIKARA’s women’s division are Daizee Haze & Sara Del Rey, the later of which is the only women in the 12 Large Summit to determine the first ever CHIKARA singles champion.

Are there any WWE/TNA wrestlers you would like to bring into CHIKARA ? Conversely, are there any of your roster that you feel would fit in well in one of the mainstream companies? And would you want them to?
I’m torn on seeing anyone from CHIKARA leave. Many wrestlers in CHIKARA I’ve become friends with over the last six years and would miss them, but would be great full to see them get a shot in the “big leagues.” People like Brodie Lee, Hallowicked or Claudio Castagnoli would be the first three off the top of my head that would be huge no matter where they wrestled.
As for someone from WWE or TNA coming to CHIKARA, I can list your Evan Bourne’s and Sin Cara’s but in all seriousness, I would LOVE to see John Cena in CHIKARA.

Where can people find out more about CHIKARA online
CHIKARA has one of the strongest internet presences in all of wrestling. Your main hub would be, of course, www.chikarapro.com, where you can find any and all information about upcoming events merchandise and more. Our roster section now also links to most of the CHIKARA wrestlers on Twitter. Our own Twitter is @ChikaraPro and you can find our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/chikaraoffice, which is updated with new content every single weekday. Also, you can friend us, poke us or whatever you do on Facebook to us at www.facebook.com/pages/CHIKARA/53425196299.

What do you have coming up?
The weekend of July 30th and 31st is CHIKARAsaurus Rex – King of Sequel in Reading, PA and Philadelphia, PA respectively. In addition to all the CHIKARA regulars and several 12 Large Summit tournament matches, we have visitors from England in Johnny Saint and Johnny Kid, Japan in Ice Ribbon standouts Makoto & Tsukasa Fujimoto and Japanese and Mexico super star, Mima Shimoda. Also, many of our friends such as El Generico and Colt Cabana are making their return as well.
As for DVDs, Smart Mark Video turns our shows around in record time, usually within 2 weeks of the show. They even went as far as having all three nights of King of Trios 2011 available the very next day! Check em out at www.smartmarkvideo.com!

Do you have a match/trailer online that would give people an idea of what to expect at an CHIKARA show?
As mentioned above, we have TONS of introductory videos on our YouTube page. (Sidekick Andrew edit: this is true, in fact we listed a few of the matches available for free here but I’ll link this one because it’s really worth a watch)

Any last words for the readers?
Thank you giving me to the time to let your readers know what CHIKARA can show wrestling fans. We ask you support not only CHIKARA but all wrestling where ever and whenever you can!

Tea for Two Very European Europeans

This weekend Chris Hero and Wrestlegasm’s 2010 man of the year Claudio Castagnoli had matches at shows in the UK. Wolverhampton is only a few hours north of my humble abode in South Wales, but long car journeys are not my friend at the moment. There is something I can do though. A few days ago Claudio tweeted this:

If there’s one thing I know, it’s tea and cake. If you cut me in half you’d probably find my insides are made of nothing but tea and cake. (Don’t do that.) So, from a very European lady to a very European gentleman…….

I’m not sure what Claudio means by ‘English tea’. There are really two routes I could take him down. (Minds out the gutter, children, we’re talking about very refined things here.) I could explain how to have ‘High Tea’, but that’s not generally something you’d do at home. You would probably go to a swanky hotel, maybe the Savoy or the Langham, dress up a little bit and be served very fancy tea, sandwiches and desserts in a palatial setting. I’m talking the kind of cakes that look more like a work of art than something you might eat.

Oh The Langham. How I love thee.

This is not something I’m able to do for Claudio myself. My pastry skills are limited at best and I tend to be more of a vintagey, casual kind of girl anyway. I can, however, teach him how to have an old-fashioned Cream Tea. You can either call it a Cornish Cream Tea or a Devonshire Cream Tea. Both counties claim to have invented it. Being a man of the people, I think Claudio might enjoy this more informal option.

What Claudio will need:

Pretty Crockery

He’ll need some super pretty cups, saucers and plates and they need to be dainty. We know Claudio loves his coffee but he’ll need something a little more delicate than his usual Starbucks thermal mug. Pinkies in the air, people! This is one from my growing collection of vintage teacups:

He’s welcome to pop round and borrow them any time!

Teapot

I don’t own many teapots. I’m resisting buying too many in an attempt to avoid starting a new collection of things I don’t have room for, but Claudio will be needing a teapot. The nice thing about a Cream Tea is that your crockery doesn’t have to match. I’d suggest something like this (mainly because I really want it!)

Tea (obvs!)

Your choice of tea is crucial and also a minefield. Choose a tea you don’t like and the whole experience is spoilt. I’m an Earl Grey connoisseur myself, but being a beginner and a coffee drinker, I’d suggest Claudio goes for a more accessible Breakfast or Afternoon Tea. I’m not going to be a Tea-Nazi about it, if you prefer tea bags to loose tea, go for it. But if Claudio wants an authentic experience he’ll be needing some loose-leaf tea and a strainer.

Scones, Cream & Jam

I’m fully aware that if you want a physique like this…..

……..butter baked scones aren’t going to be on your menu that often. I could almost guarantee that if I read Claudio’s tea leaves they’d predict a future full of extra work in the gym. But this is a treat, so I hope he’d indulge. The scone needs to be split and spread with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Clotted cream is cream that’s been steamed for a length of time so that the fats rise to the top. This makes it taste incredible and makes it easy to spread. There is an age-old debate in Britain concerning whether the jam or the clotted cream should go on first. I say jam then cream as seen below.

All that’s left is to sit at the table with a lovely tablecloth and doilies, drink your tea (ideally with a dash of milk) and devour your scone. If Claudio needs any more guidance he can drop me a line or, better yet, give me a shout when he’s next in the country. I’ll even bake the scones myself. Well, you know, ‘the way to a man’s heart’ and all that.

In which we (briefly) discuss the generous nature of CHIKARA

As you’ve no doubt noticed, it’s Wrestlemania Week! The Grandest Stage of Them All! The Showcase of The Immortals! The Grandaddy of Them All! We’re as excited as the next couple of wrestling fans, hoarding our goodies for late-night snacking and buying out annual “Wrestlemania pyjamas.” But amongst the glitz and glamour of Art Exhibitions, Press Conferences, Pro-Celebrity Golf Tournaments and lavish Hall of Fame Ceremonies, it’s easy to forget about the little guys…

We feel your pain bro

However, amazing as Zack Ryder and his Beyond The Mat references are, that’s not what today’s post is about. Nope, today I want to show you some great wrestling matches from Wrestlegasm favourites CHIKARA. Ordinarily this would be, at the very least, legally questionable; but being the incredibly generous souls that they are, CHIKARA have amended their weekly podcast format to include a full match each week, for FREE! However, I accept that a lot of you won’t be subscribed to their YouTube channel so you might not realise just what you’re missing out on. Therefore, in our ongoing quest to introduce more and more people to CHIKARA, I’m going to post a few selections here and let you make up your own minds.

If you like any of these matches (and I sincerely hope you do) then I hope you’ll consider buying a couple of DVDs next time you have some spare cash. I promise you won’t regret it. You can either get them directly through CHIKARA or via Smart Mark Video (Smart Mark have regular sales where you can usually save the cost of postage to the UK which is always a bonus)

To start with, my favourite CHIKARA match ever, and possibly one of my favourite wrestling matches ever. I’ve shilled this match like crazy over the last couple of years, but this is the first time the full match has been available for free. Kota Ibushi vs El Generico vs Jigsaw vs Nick Jackson from the King of Trios tournament 2009 (available here) Do me a favour though, for the last few minutes, remember to breathe.

Next up, a singles match between two former Young Lions Cup champions, Chuck Taylor vs Fire Ant from Vanity & Violence in 2008 (available here) CHIKARA specialise in multi-person matches, but they throw out some fun singles matches, and a big fan of Chuck Taylor (and Ray loves the Ants) so I can recommend this one.

Back to Trios action, with The BDK vs Perros del Mal from King of Trios 2010 (available here) The BDK are the main heel faction in CHIKARA at the moment (think The Nexus or NWO for reference points) and Perros del Mal are a team of luchadors from Mexico. Quite frankly, if you don’t find the idea of a 6’7″ Norse God of War squaring up against a 3’7″ butterfly thing then CHIKARA might not be for you…

Actually, the same could be said about two Mexican anthropomorphic ice creams wrestling a team of time-displaced sportsmen (an olde-time baseball player and a funky Seventies basketball star) but that’s what the next match entails: Los Ice Creams vs The Throwbacks from Cibernetico Increible (available here)

Last, but I promise you, definitely not least, CHIKARA is one of the few (non-female only) promotions to treat women wrestlers well. In fact, it was an inter-gender match from CHIKARA that inspired this great post by Boss Lady Ray. Anyway, from the Double Header with the Dragon Gate promotion, Amazing Kong and Raisha Saeed vs Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze from Chikarasaurus Rex: King of Show (available here)

wrestlegasm best in show awards: part three

Welcome back to the final instalment of the Best in Show Awards for 2011. Try to ignore the smell of the vegetable stalls that are now, let’s be honest, slightly past their best and avoid stepping in that unfortunate patch left behind after the sheepdog display… Settle down with a jam tart and we’ll go through the last awards. These are the big ones: the awards that, were they even slightly aware of their existence, every wrestler would want to win. So, with no further ado, I would like to welcome to the stage a lady I am proud to call not only my boss here in the Bunker but also my best friend and a glorious human being – Miss Ray Davies! (is that OK Boss? I read off the card you provided…)

This was a very difficult one to decide upon. Apart from the fact that we both have memories like sieves (seriously, sometimes it’s a miracle we even remember where we live) there were also a lot of excellent matches to choose from this year. We got there in the end though and we settled on Chris Jericho vs. Evan Bourne at Fatal-4-Way.

Cast your minds back. Chris Jericho had been drafted to Raw earlier in the year. Much like Egde he was a lost soul trying to crawl through all big hitters to get some TV time. Jericho was drifting and started losing. He started losing a lot. He didn’t know how to process this situation. Evan Bourne, on the other hand, was John Cena’s new best mate and riding the crest of a happy wave. After delivering his introspective soliloquy to the crowd, Jericho was joined by smiley-Evan. They went on to have what we believe is the bestest match of the 2010. It felt even more special because it hadn’t been on the card. Everything is a little sweeter when you’re not expecting it and haven’t spent a week or so analysing every possible twist and turn.

If ever there were two wrestlers who fit together perfectly in the ring, it’s Chris Jericho and Evan Bourne. This match was real ‘passing the torch’, ‘legend vs. young pretender’ stuff.  When they’re old and creaky I expect to see them swinging back and forth in their padded armchairs mumbling about that awesome match they had at Fatal 4-Way back in 2010. I’m not sure how I’d actually see this without getting myself a job in the their nursing home, but you know what I’m getting at.

Pinfall-after-pinfall, signature after finisher, sharpshooter after shooting star press, the match was brilliant from start to finish. Having watched it a couple of times since we decided it should be our match of the year, we’re wholeheartedly  convinced it was the right decision. Evan won the match and left to rapturous cheers from the crowd. Jericho was broken and on a downward spiral of self-doubt.  Read that as ‘heading towards his rock-star world tour’. Unfortunately for Cutey McSmile-Pants (Evan Bourne if that wasn’t clear enough) he got injured and had to spend the next few months hoping that wasn’t his last big push. Rewatching that match has made me realise how much I miss them both; especially Jericho. Any chance he could come back as a face, WWE? Pleeeeeeeease?

Here’s the highlights in case you’ve forgotten how it went down, after which I’ll pass you back to my denim-clad colleague to give the award for Best Major Show:

There was a strange combination of shows last year. The big WWE PPVs were generally quite disappointing other than the odd highlight such as the Royal Rumble match and the Undertaker/HBK rematch, whereas the lesser PPVs held some very pleasant surprises such as the Jericho/Bourne match mentioned above and the great Divas TLC Tag Match at TLC. But there wasn’t a WWE PPV we felt could honestly fit here, and although the one ROH show I watched in 2011 (Final Battle) was great it wasn’t quite as good as the 2011 King of Trios show by Wrestlegasm favourites CHIKARA.

This was a show so impressive that it made Boss Lady Ray write in her diary about how “AMAZING” it was (capitals all hers) to the point where I had to remind her to breathe towards the end of each match when we watched in The Bunker. Now, I’m obviously I’m supposed to be writing about the show in some kind of humourous yet moderately informative manner, but sometimes pictures (especially moving ones) speak louder than words. But before the pretty videos…

King of Trios is CHIKARA’s biggest show of the year, pitting 16 teams of three wrestlers against each other in a three-day tournament. This year was a big one storyline wise due to the involvement of an invading faction known as the Bruderschaft des Kreuzes going up against the CHIKARA faithful. The show included ROH Tag Team champion Claudio Castagnoli, TNA wrestlers Generation Me and Christopher Daniels and ex-WWE stars Tommy Dreamer, Colin Delaney and Scotty Goldman (as Matt Classic) as well as representatives from a number of US, Mexican and Japanese promotions.

Actually, you know what, scrap all that. I’m not happy with it and quite frankly it’s nowhere near doing the show justice. Here’s a highlight video for each night of the show which should give you an idea of just how exciting the wrestling is in CHIKARA.


Click here to buy the DVD


Click here to buy the DVD


Click here to buy the DVD

Don’t worry, you’re eyes weren’t deceiving you. I appreciate you might feel like you’ve had a tad too much Buttercup Syrup and you’re having one of your “episodes” after seeing some of the competitors in those videos. Ice Creams, Ants, 7′ Vikings and our new favourite; Cuije, the 3’7″ Pink Ladybird Monster Thingy!

Now, you don’t believe that the King of Trios deserved to win this award, then you’re a lost cause and you possibly smell funny. Speaking of smelling funny, time to hand you back to Ray for the next award.

We know what you’re thinking…. this whole awards show is masquerading as a virtual love-in with CM Punk and Beth Phoenix. And why would we give this award to Ms. Phoenix when she was injured for such a long time during 2010? True, we both have crushes on Beth – different kinds of crushes, I might add. And yes, Beth spent a lot of time away from the ring this year. But round here we believe it’s not how much you do, but what you choose to do with the time you have. The Bellas have been on almost every episode of Raw for the past year, but that doesn’t make them the best wrestlers, or the most interesting Divas or anything to be honest.

Beth was the only woman to appear in last year’s Royal Rumble. Her appearance may have been short but she actually wrestled CM Punk before he eliminated her and she eliminated Khali herself. It was such an amazing moment and I was so proud of her.

Beth played her part in the horrendous Mickie/Piggy James storyline. It wasn’t a pleasant thing, but it was still one of the most memorable storylines of 2010.  Beth endured LayCool’s jibes following that Piggy strangeness, ending in that now infamous Extreme Makeover match. *shudder* Injury put her out of action for a few months, but on her return Beth won the very first ever Divas tables match with Natalya. A real tables match with no gimmicks or silliness. This was by far the best Divas match of the year and felt very special.

We don’t just love Beth for being our favourite lady in the ring, we also like that she’s a lovely girl and throughout her injured months she managed to emanate so much positive energy. She must have had a few down days, but she never tweeted anything but good vibes and happy thoughts. In short, we think she’s fantastic.

Very British Nods of Appreciation go to Layla and Sara Del Rey. We’ve covered why we love Layla in the other awards posts, but we haven’t mentioned Sara yet. As I mentioned in our Christmas audio message, this was the year I finally gave myself over to indie wrestling and Sara Del Rey become my absolute hero. I never get bored of watching her wrestle. Maybe I’ve had too much strawberry wine from the local produce tent, but watching Sara Del Rey do what she does best truly inspires me. When I emailed her about a t-shirt I was buying and I thanked her for RTing my Intergender Match post on Twitter, she thanked me for writing it and said she wanted more people to read it. It was so chuffed. I always feel a little more fearless when I’m wearing my Sara Del Rey t-shirt. *hiccup* I think Andrew better take this last award. I’m feeling queasy and need to sit down. No more strawberry wine.

Unlike giving Beth Phoenix the Best Female Wrestler award, we’ve somehow managed to award this one to someone other than CM Punk. If you’ve only seen WWE shows you might not recognise Claudio Castagnoli, but trust us he’s the best wrestler you might not know.

Claudio has been recognised as one the best wrestlers in the world for some time now, but 2010 was definitely his most successful year to date. Within a 12 month period he became the ROH Tag Team Champion, the CHIKARA Campeones des Parejas (tag team) champion and King of Trios winner, the PWG World Champion and the JCW Tag Team champion – not bad for a nice guy from Switzerland.

As well teaming with indie-favourites Chris Hero and Sara Del Rey as the Kings of Wrestling in ROH and in Japan, Claudio also leads the aforementioned Bruderschaft des Kreuzes faction in CHIKARA. The fact that Claudio has managed to have very strong years in a number of promotions should show how well thought of he is by the business as a whole, and the fact that Boss Lady Ray drew lipstick hearts around his picture should be testament to her feelings on his appearance at least.

Again, like Beth, we don’t just like Claudio for being an amazing wrestler. He genuinely comes across as a nice guy outside the ring, whether it’s talking incessantly about the wonders of Starbucks on his blog, having Q & A sessions on Twitter or making videos of his travels at Claudio’s Cafe…

So here’s to Claudio, one of those wrestlers you’ll happily watch a show just to see his match, and one of the nicest (and fine, I’ll admit it, better looking) guys around. A man so stylish, so suave, so “Very European” that CHIKARA broke their 4 year streak of awesome comic book inspired covers just so they could use this picture. Claudio, if you’re reading this, “Mis Luftchüssiboot isch volle Aal!”

Our Very British Nods of Appreciation are slightly more predictable, with the first going to CM Punk. We know, we know… Punk again, but he had a great year while he was around. Obviously he had some time out due to injury, but his sterling work on commentary made up for that. From an amazing run in the Rumble back in January, through great work on the first series of NXT and the eventual dissolution of the SES and creation of the New Nexus; it’s been a great year for Punk. As for the second Nod, that goes to Dolph Ziggler, a man who has consistently had great matches throughout the year and surely a future world champion. I should point however that the fact that Boss Lady Ray finds all three wrestlers in this category to be “easy on the eye” is a complete coincidence. It’s just that the really ugly wrestlers *coughMattHardycough* also happen to be terrible :D

That’s all from me folks, but before the sun sets on the inaugural Wrestlegasm Best In Show awards, I’d like to hand back to the lady that started it all. Boss Lady Ray, the floor is yours (don’t forget that the council said we have to have this wrapped up soon so the caretaker can sweep the Village Hall for the Whist Drive in the morning)…

RAY: Ummm, yeah. What he said. Someone else is going to have to judge the scone baking contest. I need to lie down. Take me back to the Bunker, Andrew. Thanks for coming, folks. *hiccup*