IN AUDIO: Me and Tennessee

A few days ago I mentioned that an article I’d written had been published in the new Fair to Flair Quarterly, which you should definitely buy. (Click here) The theme for this issue was Live Events, and my piece was written on an indie show I saw in Tennessee a few years ago. I found it emotional to write. The people, places and the event it details were and still are very important to me, both personally and as part of my ‘wrestling fandom’.

The version you’ll read in the Quarterly, however, is quite heavily abridged. While it had to be cut for the journal, it’s important to me that the full, unabridged version is available too. I wanted to do something a little different, so I’ve recorded a reading of my original piece. You can listen by clicking on the media player below. For those who can’t get the file to play, who don’t have time to listen or who just don’t like the sound of my voice, I may upload a downloadable text version to this post within the next few days.

Enjoy!


 

 

 

Get your wallets out again!

These are exciting times in which we are living. My latest article, Me and Tennessee, has been published in the second issue of the Fair to Flair Quarterly. Click here to pre-order your copy and read an impressive variety of articles. Various digital and print purchase options are available. Buying a copy supports intelligent wrestling writing by writers from all around the world. That sounds like something you should definitely get on board with. Off you go then. Do it now!

Keep the Noise Down

I’ve thought long and hard about whether I want to write this post or not, but Andrew is a wise man and is right in saying that I need to get it out of my system so I can fully enjoy wrestling again. I’m struggling with wrestling at the moment, but it has nothing to do with wrestling itself. I’m finding Raw surprisingly enjoyable, Smackdown is rebuilding itself after the big shift in personnel, Tough Enough was fantastic, Superstars is the hidden gem that not enough people realise is excellent and that’s all before the plethora of indie DVDs we’re slowly making our way through. We recently finished watching CHIKARA’s 2011 King of Trios tournament, which was so outstanding I’d struggle to find the words to describe it. Luckily, Matt Jones did that for us after attending the shows himself. We’re moving on to Colt Cabana’s Wrestling Road Diaries next. I can hardly wait.

So what, you might ask, am I struggling with? Well, it’s the Internet. It’s colouring how I view wrestling, bringing me down, turning me off, urinating on my fire etc.  I spent several months hardly checking in with the Internet Wrestling Community. It made me angry, so I avoided it. But after a recent difficult personal event, wrestling was a welcome distraction and I revelled in sharing it with others. That all changed again when Christian lost the World Heavyweight Title just a few days after winning it for the first time at Extreme Rules. The IWC was outraged, I was not.

To me this just seemed like another twist in a constantly rolling series of stories. Christian dropped the belt to Randy Orton. So what? If Edge hadn’t retired, Christian may never have been a contender anyway. Who was to say that this wasn’t the beginning of something much bigger? This may have been the start of the Story of the Year. Fans behaved as if Vince McMahon and Co. had somehow betrayed them by promising a title run before snatching it away again. I didn’t see it that way. Nobody had been promised anything and, in reality, they were probably more concerned with establishing Randy Orton as the new Smackdown poster boy. I couldn’t cope with such ridiculous Internet venom and when people started tweeting death threats in Randy Orton’s direction I checked out of Twitter, vowing not to return until it had all blown over. Unsurprisingly, it took no more than a week for ‘the most awful thing that had ever happened in wrestling’ to be forgotten.

I started wondering if I was getting too old for wrestling. I don’t actually think you’re ever too old for wrestling; I’m just outgrowing the crowd of people who spew inconsiderate and unintelligent nonsense around the Internet. If nothing else, my time away from Twitter forced me to accept that not everybody watches wrestling for the same reasons and with the same agenda that I do. We all take something different away from it and I decided I’d just have to accept that there would always be fan reactions I didn’t understand. My angst settled again, until the WWE Over the Limit Pay-Per-View.

We decided not to watch the show live, opting to avoid spoilers and watch it on Monday. I watched during the afternoon and, while it wasn’t a particularly memorable PPV, I quite enjoyed it in parts. I certainly didn’t feel angry about anything that happened during the show. I returned to the Internet to see what others had thought and was met with a shower of insurmountable negativity. In some places, whole streams of comments made throughout the show were nothing but diarised bullets of anger shot out at anyone who cared to read them. For want of a more elegant way of putting it, it killed my buzz.

We all have our frustrated moments, but I don’t understand why people continue to watch and comment on wrestling when it is mustering such fury within them. Wrestling isn’t a sport where the outcome of each event is unknown. It’s a scripted television programme. If I’m watching a TV series that’s gone off the boil  (however much I used to enjoy it) I stop watching. Just as an example, I watched and adored the first series of Glee. Andrew will vouch for me when I say that anything where people suddenly burst into song and dance makes me extremely happy, but I didn’t enjoy the second series. To use some wrestling terminology, I thought it became a spot-fest and forgot what it was supposed to be about. I’m disappointed that Glee became something I didn’t want it to be, but I don’t feel that I have or should have any control over the creative process. In wrestling it seems that everyone feels they have a right to dictate how stories will play out. We all have opinions and suggestions, but many wrestling fans seem to express them with such life-and-death desperation it just makes me want to stop conversing altogether.

The only way to make an impact is to vote with your remote control. Stop buying the PPVs and stop watching the free stuff.  I know it’s not easy and I should have done it myself during the atrocious Raw Guest Host months. I loathed it. The shows were painful to watch but I kept writing about just how awful they were week after week. It wore me down and I resented spending my weekends writing about it. I’m sorry I subjected people to that. At the time we were on a blogging treadmill and it took several months before we were able to step off and only write about things we thought deserved our time. It was the best decision we ever made. If you’re hating wrestling, step away from it for a while. If you miss it, you’ll come back. If you’re hating WWE, find an alternative.

After some of those who watched Over the Limit live had stolen my enjoyment of the show, I quite seriously considered deleting my Twitter account. Instead, I checked out again and tweeted a statement I still stand by. ‘There is more to wrestling than the WWE and there is more to life than wrestling.’ There are far more important things worth getting worked up about. I started paying serious attention to independent wrestling less than two years ago and now I couldn’t do without it. It gives you a bigger picture of wrestling. When WWE isn’t hitting the spot, it’s a place to go where your faith in wrestling is instantly restored. When you have options, you worry less about the WWE. King of Trios was our ‘happy place’ during the usual post Wrestlemania slump. In fact, while watching CHIKARA recently, both Andrew and myself agreed that if we had to choose between the two, we’d easily select CHIKARA over WWE. A show that makes you smile for three hours straight once a month is far superior to a collection of shows broadcast three or four times a week where the expectation is that only small portion of the shows will be entertaining.

Once again I tried to ignore the rubbish, but when the Kharma story started seeping across the Internet like an unstoppable torrent, it tipped me over the edge. As a woman, I struggle with the way the WWE treats its female roster. It goes against many of my principles and I’m often embarrassed by the lack of equal billing (among other things) between Divas and Superstars. Still, I persevere because the WWE is loaded with wonderfully talented women who will surely one day be given an opportunity to be trusted with stories and main events currently set aside for the boys. [Incidentally, there’s an excellent article on Feminism and Pro Wrestling by Danielle Stull in the first issue of the Fair to Flair Quarterly. I highly recommend it.]

Kharma (Kia Stevens) was an impossibly exciting addition to the WWE roster. Nobody was more thrilled than I was when she started gate crashing the established Divas matches, paralysing them with fear as she drove each of the girls into the mat, one show at a time. I was brimming with ideas and excited at the possibilities to come. It shouldn’t have taken one contract signing to inject such vigour into the division, but at least it felt like there may be something of a watershed on the horizon.

Out of nowhere on the May 23rd edition of Raw, Kharma broke down in tears in the middle of the ring surrounded by the bewildered Divas. It began emerging online that Kharma would be out for several months. This seemed odd considering she hadn’t had a match yet. It would be terribly unfortunate for her to have picked up an injury after such little ring time. Before Kharma had even had an opportunity to explain her forthcoming absence, it leaked that her time away would be at least nine months. Oh. NINE MONTHS. Wink-wink-nudge-nudge-saynomore. It was disappointing that the announcement of such a personal event had been taken away from her, but if the news was true I was thoroughly pleased for her. What more exciting news is there than finding out you’re becoming a parent for the first time? It never really crossed my mind to consider how it would affect my hopes for the Divas division. Some things in life are more important. Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same way.

I was genuinely stunned at some of the comments I saw online. People were annoyed that Kharma would be disappearing so soon after her arrival. Some were more than ‘annoyed’, they were nasty. Interestingly, on going back to find a couple of them, I notice that some have been taken down. In writing this post I had several examples saved that I planned on using here, but upsetting people for the sake of it is not my style. I’m not much for confrontation. The people who spouted off online about how a woman’s pregnancy ‘let them down’ know who they are. I will, however, quote the comment that upset me the most.

Nine months = pregnancy.

And, if that is the case, one would wonder why she couldn’t use birth control or something before the biggest push of her life. Anti-climactic.

Yeah, mate. How dare a woman have a child when your leisure time is at stake. How very selfish of her. Another comment on the same article described Kharma’s then alleged pregnancy as “PREGO!!!!! Epic fail by Kharma.” A child is never an epic fail. By the way, those who asked if Kharma had broken down because it was her ‘time of the month’ and was she feeling emotional should be ashamed. I saw that question asked by women. Despite the fact that the Internet had already ‘broken the story’, no official statement had been released by the WWE. It was announced that Kharma would address the audience on the next episode of Raw, drumming up significant speculation online about how the announcement would play out. Much of the discussion was about how trashy the WWE would make her departure, considering the fact that maternity leave hasn’t been high on their list of priorities in the past.

Kia is a classy lady and the WWE allowed her to temporarily bow out of competition with real style. I was proud of her and I was pleased they resisted the urge to turn something very simple and touching into anything less than it deserved. Even the Bella Twins coming out to verbally bitch-slap her was done with a touch of coolness. The show must go on! If ever there was a moment for them to ramp up their heel credentials, that was it. When the WWE has handled a female issue with more tact and delicacy than the fans, something is very wrong and I’m not sure I want to be part of it any more.

I’ve reached a point where I’m embarrassed to call myself a wrestling fan and it has very little to do wrestling at all. That’s frustrating, and I’ve had to seriously consider whether the Internet enhances or detracts from my enjoyment of wrestling. At the moment it’s spoiling it. We’re definitely not closing the blog because we love it dearly. And I’m not deleting the Twitter account, but it’s time to reconsider the sources of information I seek out, take note of and allow to cross my path. Differences in opinion and debate are healthy and spark new ideas, but pandering to rumours, sourceless stories and the fans who force their negativity on others only fuels their fire. Being passionate about something isn’t measured in how loud you shout and, from here on in, I refuse to allow people shouting far too loudly to steal professional wrestling away from me.

 

 

Wallets at the ready!

If you don’t follow us on Twitter you might have missed the fact that I have been published in the first issue of the Fair to Flair Quarterly journal. If you’ve never visited Fair to Flair, you’re missing out. As soon as I finish writing this little nugget, I’m going to write a post about the Internet Wrestling Community and why its over-the-top and unintelligent reactions to wrestling events are giving me a dilemma to contend with. The guys running Fair to Flair are bucking the trend and changing the face of wrestling journalism, and I’m excited to be playing a small part in changing how wrestling is reported for the better.

My article is about how Stephanie McMahon and Triple H changed the way I watched and understood wrestling. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t discover wrestling until the late 90s. This is the full story of how I fell in love with it. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the article and I’d love for you to read it. So why not scuttle your way over to the site and pre-order your copy of the Quarterly now. It’s available for just $20 (Canadian) until 16th June and $25 afterwards. It’s my birthday this month, so you’d make an old lady very happy if you bought a copy. But don’t just buy it to please me. The journal is full of fantastic long- form articles on wrestling, the likes of which you just won’t find anywhere else, and you’ll be supporting writers who believe wrestling deserves better. Bury yourself in the details….

  • Rachel Davies of Wrestlegasm looks back at the Stephanie McMahon-Triple H story and how it forever changed her view of pro wrestling.
  • Seth Roy of Wrestlespective writes about Bret Hart’s role in making Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon into the biggest feud in wrestling history.
  • Fake Vince McMahon of This Is Sports Entertainment argues that he saved pro wrestling from itself when he turned it into sports entertainment.
  • Daniella Porcano of Styles Clash shares how Cody Rhodes has been delightfully blending art and entertainment, always a tricky balance in pro wrestling.
  • Robert Dorman of Hitting the Mark writes about the intense pressure wrestlers and athletes face to keep going even when they are hurt.
  • Leslie Lee III of Dirty Dirty Sheets presents an international photo essay, with images of wrestling from Tokyo to Montreal to San Antonio to Philadelphia.
  • Paul Karnatz of Turnbuckle Zine finds parallels in the artforms of pro wrestling and opera.
  • Jason Mann of Wrestlespective writes about the hidden significance of Dude Love, the most short-lived and maligned character portrayed by Mick Foley.
  • Razor of Kick-Out!! Wrestling shows how wrestling is a little bit of every major form of entertainment.
  • Jason and Razor also debate the value of world championships in 2011 and whether fans should bother to care about them.
  • Danielle Stull of Cewsh Reviews comments on the difficulties faced by feminists who want to enjoy pro wrestling and recounts how WWE has portrayed women over the years.
  • Joe Drilling of On The Stick demonstrates why the fierce Magnum T.A. v. Tully Blanchard I quit match at Starrcade 1985 is one of the greatest examples of live performance.
  • Thomas Holzerman of The Wrestling Blog writes about Sean Waltman’s return as the 1-2-3 Kid at Chikara King of Trios and being a sucker for a good redemption story.

Sunday Musings

I was going to write a humorous summary of Wade Barrett’s appearance on Daybreak today. Nothing makes me feel more smug than non-wrestling bods interviewing wrestlers, desperately walking the journalistic tightrope of curiosity vs ignorance. The idea of Adrian Chiles snarling and spitting “Wrestling is fake though, isn’t it?” at Wade Barrett would have been worthy of a whole post in itself. Christine Bleakely trying to look interested in any man who isn’t Chiles or pretty-faced boyfriend Frank Lampard would have been great, especially when faced with wonky nosed Barrett. At least they could have discussed their shared interest in over-tanning.

If you’re not lucky enough to be British and have no clue what I’m babbling on about, Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakely are a platonic TV couple who jumped ship from their daily evening show on the BBC (where they were great) to front a daily morning show for more cash on ITV (where they are terrible). Adrian Chiles just isn’t made for being seen in the morning and Christine Bleakely makes me not want to look in the mirror myself in the morning.

Evidence

Unfortunately, Wade Barrett was bumped from Friday’s show. They needed room to cover the atrocious earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. That’s fair. They’d be hauled over the coals for chatting away with a home-grown wrestling superstar while thousands of people were suffering at that very moment. Having said that, they did find time to run a segment where five, yes five, grown adults sat around and chuckled at the fact that the Ken doll has a new haircut. It went on for some time. This was before speaking with their Hollywood reporter live via satellite to ask for an update on that washed-up actor who has been dominating Twitter with his incoherent musings. (I’m deliberately not saying his name.) Nice to know you’ve got your priorities straight, Daybreak. So Wade recorded a British radio interview to be broadcast next week and jetted off to Germany for more promotional work before I’d even caught glimpse of him on local telly.

Now what am I going to talk about? I could tell you about the dream I had last night where CM Punk dumped me for Kaitlyn while we were on holiday in Cornwall, only to find myself crying on Stephen Merchant’s shoulder, but that’s not very interesting. The truth is, it’s actually been a very busy week for both of us. It’s definitely been one of those weeks where real life has taken priority over blogging. We even had to skip our sacred ‘watching Smackdown in pyjamas’ on Saturday morning. Sad times. We did manage to watch CHIKARA’s Anniversario Elf show on Thursday, which was unsurprisingly fantastic, and we squeezed WWE Superstars in on Friday afternoon. Unusually, I’ve only just got round to watching Raw and Smackdown. Smackdown on a Sunday is wrong. It is to be watched on Saturday mornings in pyjamas with the Sidekick or not at all.

I’m not going to recap either show and the post I might have written about Michael Cole’s interruption of the Raw Divas match on International Women’s Day has already been written rather wonderfully elsewhere. More on that in a few paragraphs time. But something quite profound struck me while my eyes jogged through today’s Raw/Smackdown marathon, and that is that this really is a watershed in WWE programming. At least, I hope it is.

The forthcoming Wrestlemania is the pulling-out-all-the-stops Wrestlemania. They’ve brought legends back, others are probably on their last trot around the paddock and a young and overly stacked roster are salivating at the prospect of being moved up. Obviously, Wrestlemania is the money spinner; the one chance WWE has to draw in PPV buys from people who don’t bother for the rest of the year. Unabashed carrot dangling is expected, but what they’re doing here can never be done again, at least not without people saying “Meh. You’ve done this already. Show me something else.” If you’re going to this Wrestlemania, soak it in.

The Rock’s reappearance sent tingles down my spine, but he definitely won’t be a regular feature once ‘Mania’s done. Austin will always be around in some form, but if he values the use of his lower body he’ll never wrestle again. Trish Stratus is ultimately back to plug her own yoga business. The Undertaker’s body is so broken I’m worried he won’t even make it to his Wrestlemania match with HHH. Triple H has made no secret of the fact that he loves his backstage role and would be fine if he disappeared again. Shawn Michaels is indirectly involved in the Taker/HHH match and will be in Atlanta to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Strange as it seems, I hope this last hoorah is a way for all those legends to say goodbye.  When I started watching wrestling, all these people were at the top of their game. They were wrestling to me. They were the reason I watched. This loaded Wrestlemania card should be where they say thank you, step aside and let the young roster flourish. Yes, The Rock pulls out the most incredible promos. He always will. He’s the best. But I don’t think he necessarily shows the other performers up. Wrestling is a totally different game now and I don’t think Jim Ross was fair in telling the younger guys to shut up and stop complaining about having to share the ring with their predecessors.

It’s got to be frustrating for them and I don’t buy into the idea that today’s wrestlers are less of a draw than Rock and Austin. The output and the audience have changed dramatically. If you still want the Attitude Era and profess about how much you hate the PG era, wrestling has left you behind. You can’t compare current individual performers with those from 15 years ago because they’re working in an entirely different environment. It’s not disrespectful to acknowledge that this is a whole new ballgame. Without balls. Well, some balls, but…..never mind. You get my drift.

I’m genuinely proud of the young performers and how their media savvy selves are embracing their roles inside and outside the ring. The way Dolph Ziggler sold his faux firing on Twitter, for example, was brilliant. The current mix of former collegiate athletes, second or third generation competitors and indie stars is actually a nice mix. They don’t always use them properly and I’d like to see more indie guys being brought up, but then, I’m a born again indie geek. I would say that.

Once, Wrestlemania’s over, I hope WWE have the courage and the confidence to leave the past as it stands and put some faith into their current roster. I’m quite comfortable with Rock, Austin, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, HHH and Trish Stratus limiting their appearances to biennial pops, leaving Edge, Christian, Mysterio, Jericho and possibly even Cena to be the elder statesman. If you feel you’d be left wanting without the people brought back for Wrestlemania 27, I’ve a feeling you might find the next 18 months or so rather painful.

Before I sign off for the day I just wanted to mention the excellent work going on over at Fair to Flair. I caught up on the latest posts this morning and it’s really inspiring work. It makes me want to be a better wrestling blogger. There are very few places where you can read intelligent, thought-provoking writing on professional wrestling without the aggravating, smarky, ‘wrestling fan’ rubbish, but you’ll definitely find it there. If any project deserves to prosper, it’s Fair to Flair. I mentioned earlier that the women’s post I might have written has already been written brilliantly elsewhere and that’s where you’ll find it. Click here to read and enjoy.

We’ll be back tomorrow with our latest Song for Whoever and hoping real life gives us a break this week. Happy Sunday and if you haven’t entered our second birthday giveaway yet, you’re missing out. Click here to win excellent prizes. They’re on us!