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!
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.
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!
During my audio post I mentioned I was going to write a little something about The Sun newspaper and the personal dilemma it creates in my wrestling related life. As I said before, if you’re British I don’t need to explain The Sun to you. You just know what it’s all about. But as there are a number of people from outside the UK reading this blog, I’d better give you a run-down.
In the grand scheme of British journalistic life, The Sun is considered trash. But it’s the best at being trash. Know what I mean? It’s trash, it knows it’s trash, and it doesn’t care. It’s a tabloid that peddles deliberately inflammatory headlines, celebrity scandal, tittle-tattle, dubious gossip and female nudity on page three every weekday, just for the sake of publishing a picture of a topless young woman. I’m going to set that as a marker of a non-newspaper. If random and pointless nakedness is the third most important story in your paper every day, you can kind of gauge the kind of publication we’re dealing with here. I will admit though, it’s not anywhere near as questionable as The Daily Star. And the Daily Sport should be on the top shelf next to the jizz mags, not alongside real newspapers and under the children’s magazines.
I do wonder who buys The Sun. I suppose people who want a little light relief early in the morning and not real news. I’m not judging, if that’s what you want to read sitting on the train to work every day, who the hell am I to tell you to read something I might find more stimulating? It’s not my business. I read the Guardian. All us liberal kids, who know our popular media, swoon over upcoming technology releases and intellectualise sport read The Guardian. And yes, we do come under scrutiny for trying to pass ourselves off as cooler than we really are.
So what’s my problem? I’ve got my paper, the ‘light-reliefs’ and brickies have got theirs. You have your little corner of serenity and I parade around in mine waving a story about the fact that Banksy is exhibiting just an hour away from where I live. Here’s the dilemma. Professional wrestling does not exist in the mainstream press. The pre-determined nature of wrestling excludes it from the sports pages, suggesting that it is a fraudulent sport, and the tv critics ignore it as a form of televisual entertainment, assuming it should be on the sports pages. All, that is, except for The Sun.
For all its faults, The Sun gives wrestling serious coverage. It gets big-name interviews, Paul Heyman writes a column for them and they update the news as it happens. I can’t decide if the fact that The Sun’s comprehensive coverage of wrestling means that wrestling is perceived as trash by association, or if I should be pleased that any mainstream newspaper has adopted it as their own and given it a platform. Maybe it’s just that The Sun is the only newspaper to ‘get’ wrestling. Maybe they understand that it’s a strange but compelling mix of sport and entertainment that, if watched with the correct frame of mind, is some of the best entertainment on television. Well. When it’s good, that is. When it’s really bad I think even The Wedding Channel might be better. And I hate that bloody channel.
I would dearly love if some of the more serious newspapers could summon up the courage to cover wrestling events. Even if they do understand its appeal, I wonder if they’re too afraid of being ridiculed or vilified by their readers for dropping their standard to meet that of The Sun. But they could still cover big stories intelligently. And by that, I don’t mean just when a wrestler prematurely dies or there’s some scandalous steroid story. The Guardian would actually be a good place to start. They love popular culture. If they just understood it as a form of entertainment I think they might go for it. Wrestling is cleverer than non-fans might think. Honest. If you don’t agree, you’re not watching it right.
So there’s the dilemma. Do I visit the website of a newspaper I dislike and feel uncomfortable associating with to support their extensive wrestling coverage, celebrate their loyalty to the industry and encourage others to visit, or do I behave like an outright snob, boycott it and miss out on a unique opportunity to read about wrestling in a mainstream media setting? Tricky. I didn’t even want to go and buy The Sun today. Even though I knew it was for the sake of this post, I felt embarrassed. So I asked someone else to pick it up for me.
I wonder if this happens in any other countries. Are there any mainstream newspapers in other countries that treat wrestling with respect and don’t snigger behind fans’ backs? The British tabloid press is world-famous, for all the wrong reasons. I’m not aware of such a fervent, daily, tabloid culture in other countries, but maybe I just haven’t studied them enough. Feel free to enlighten me, guys, either in the comments box or via email.
I’ll probably just get over myself, keep reading The Sun wrestling news and hope that other newspapers will one day understand that the wrestling business deserves coverage, intelligent commentary and serious debate. Whether it is covered as sport or as light entertainment, I don’t really mind, as long its visibility creeps up. Maybe I can help them get the joke. Email me, Guardian. I’ll spell it out for you.