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 (Rae’s Picks)

Andrew posted his favourite matches of 2011 yesterday. Here are my two awards winners….

Winner: CM Punk vs John Cena (WWE’s Money in the Bank: July 17th 2011)

What exactly do you want from the perfect wrestling match? Hitting the right balance for one viewer is tricky enough. Trying to cultivate a match that speaks to the masses is quite another. What CM Punk and John Cena managed to do at the 2011 Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View was truly remarkable.

If the Rock’s reappearance at last year’s Wrestlemania was designed to engage the casual fan who largely turned its back on the WWE once corporate branding turned the sex and violence soft, Punk and Cena’s match came about to mobilise current fans becoming complacent with the product. And, oh, did it succeed!

I wrote about the match the day after it took place in such a state of emotional, sleepless exhaustion that I had no idea whether what I’d written was brilliant or complete dross. Trusting my colleague’s wisdom, I took Andrew’s advice that I should post it immediately. Thankfully, to lovely feedback. By Tuesday there were whole sentences I had no recollection of writing whatsoever. There are events where a level head are mandatory when putting fingertips to keys, but the impact this match had was so strong, only stream of consciousness ramblings would do.

I rewatched Punk and Cena’s match a little over a week ago. I wondered if I would feel the same way about it now, knowing how the tale was punctuated. I wondered if the months of following stories would have washed away all those flailing emotions. I pondered this right up until a couple of minutes before the match started. Then I stopped. My heart started beating faster and I felt a rush of slight breathlessness as that incredible Chicago crowd noise assaulted me through my speakers.

When wrestling first drew me into its fold, the most intriguing thing of all was that grey space between reality and fiction; where you’re not fully convinced that what you’re watching is real, but it feels liberally speckled with truth at the same time. This match wasn’t the most technically precise display of wrestling that ever was, and I do love repeated nearfalls and cartoon-like “Why don’t you just DIE?” grimaces. Technically accurate does not a great story make. It didn’t need to be perfect because it had intense passion. In Punk’s possibly real contract ending and in John’s threatened firing, the story had potentially cataclysmic, game changing consequences that stretched way beyond just the two of them. When that’s your base, everything else takes care of itself.

Winner: The Throwbacks + Matt Classic vs Team Osaka Pro (CHIKARA King of Trios 2011 – Night One: 15th April 2011)

The morning after I watched this year’s Royal Rumble, I was in the back of a taxi chatting with the driver about the previous night’s TV, as you do. On finding out that I had spent three hours of my evening watching professional wrestling, he was stunned. “You? YOU!? Really? What a dark horse!” He also went on to joke that wrestling was not my hobby, but my downfall, and looked blankly as I responded to his question about my favourite wrestler with ‘CM Punk’. Apparently, in loving wrestling, I am a walking contradiction. Maybe I should have been offended. But hey, how often do you get to appear enigmatic in the company of strangers?

Explaining a love of wrestling to non-fans isn’t easy. I often wonder how I might convert them if I just had one match to do it with. One match, where they have a lightbulb moment and come over to my side of the fence. You might expect me to select that much discussed CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank match.  But I happened to watch a large chunk of it with non-fan company last week and either had to explain the storyline in great detail, which I didn’t actually mind, or had to suffer the ridicule of just loving it to begin with. I minded that rather a lot.

I’m paraphrasing slightly from the second Kayfabe Comedy podcast here, but if we accept that wrestling is ultimately very silly, and that CHIKARA do silly better than anyone, a CHIKARA match is the perfect introductory match. At King of Trios 2011, The Throwbacks and Matt Classic vs Team Osaka Pro had the ultimate newbie match. Before the action even gets under way, enough grin inducing, beautifully timed, slapstick comedy has taken place as to make everything that happens during the actual match feel like gravy. There’s competitive running of the ropes, makeshift basketball and Matt Classic’s in-match yoga moves. By far the most engaging character is Sugar Dunkerton, currently absent from CHIKARA for very personal reasons. Here, he shines.

There are some brilliant spots from both teams and there’s no complex story to explain, apart from maybe Dasher Hatfield’s stitch-face. No crowd sells silliness like a CHIKARA crowd and if this match doesn’t make you proud to pay wrestling forward, you might be needing a break. As well as being a great introduction to wrestling for novice fans, it’s also an effective antidote for when seasoned pros like ourselves get a little jaded. I recommend keeping a copy in your medicine cabinet.

More Than a Feeling: CM Punk at Money in the Bank

I haven’t had much sleep. I took myself off to bed at 9:10pm last night with the hope of sleeping until Money in the Bank started at 1am. This didn’t happen and was largely down to the fact that I was too excited about the show to drift off.  By my calculations, I had about 90 minutes of uninterrupted sleep beforehand and didn’t fare too well afterwards either. The ending was so thrilling that when I returned to bed at 4:20am with the sun starting to rise and a stupid smile on my face, I found it impossible to sleep. It seems there is no natural antidote to adrenaline. Lord knows when I finally dropped off, but I know I was awake again not long after 8am. And now, in the early evening, I look and feel like death warmed up in the microwave, incurring the physical consequences of spending the night on North American time. I don’t regret a thing. What I experienced watching Money in the Bank was worth its weight in insomnia related nausea and under-eye luggage. It must be love!

I spent the first hour I was ‘awake’ trying to think about how I might express just how incredible last night was; writing whole paragraphs in my head and forgetting them the second I dotted them with a full-stop. I then turned to music and asked again….how do you explain something that’s bigger than a feeling and so much more important than a few wrestling matches? This was proceeded by 30 minutes of me playing Boston’s More than a Feeling on a loop, while treating the neighbours to my own unique, croaky brand of power ballad vibrato. “I closed mah eyes an’ ah slipped er-way-y-y-y-y-y-y.”

The show as a whole was the best of the year – better than the Rumble and definitely better than style-over-substance Wrestlemania. Every single match was booked to make the fans happy, which is almost unheard of. Both Money in the Bank matches were outstanding and, being the born-again indie kid that I am, seeing Daniel Bryan win the Smackdown briefcase was a massive surprise and a win I reacted to with…..

But if we’re all honest, we were only truly interested in one match – CM Punk vs John Cena. I had mixed feelings about this match. I never want anyone to become ill or burnt out just for the sake of my entertainment. I don’t expect wrestlers to be circus animals, jumping every time someone cracks a whip because they have no other choice than to keep going. But I have to admit that the idea of Punk leaving left my heart a little heavy.  Over the past few years I’ve fallen in love with Punk in the most wonderfully organic way. He was ‘just there’ for a long time, then I liked him, then I loved him…unconditionally. And despite what our blog archives will tell you, it really has nothing to do with the fact that he filled those tiny lavender trunks so impressively. The fact that I fancied the pants off him was a lovely bonus. He was just special. When Killswitch Engage’s crunching guitar rang out around countless arenas, I stopped what I was doing and paid attention – partly to swoon and sigh with my chin in my hands like a 1950s teeny-bopper, and partly because I knew that whatever was about to happen would indubitably be good.

Myself and Andrew had dipped in and out of Twitter throughout the show. In the early hours of the morning, feeling like you’re at a PPV party can be the stimulus you need to stay awake, but it can also be a distraction. There’s nothing more annoying than missing a brilliant, bone-crushing move because you were refreshing your Twitter feed at the time. As the promo video for the main event began, we decided to turn Twitter off and concentrate on what had the potential to be one of the most historic hours of wrestling in years. And so began a little experiment we’ll call ‘How many times can Ray’s stomach flip over in an hour.’

It began with the entrance. With that first rabid eruption of appreciation from the hometown crowd, synching perfectly with the initial scream in the entrance music, it  felt like my tummy was being stirred with a giant spoon, spinning back the other way and sending a shiver up my spine when Punk reached to the ground, looked at his imaginary watch and declared it was most definitely clobbering time. I can’t remember the last time a single wrestler caused that kind of crowd reaction, and as he marched down the ramp to the ring I started getting a little emotional. I promised myself I’d stay dry-eyed until the end, but as Punk plonked himself cross-legged in the middle of the ring, my bottom lip started to tremble and I declared out loud that “I love wrestling so much!” There have been so many moments where I’ve exclaimed the exact opposite (even as recently as a few weeks ago) but here I was brushing real tears away from the corners of my eyes, pressing my lips together tightly and more in love than I ever knew I could be – with Punk and with wrestling. It became even more intense when he jumped back to his feet, flew over to give him mum a kiss and whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy.

The ‘BOO’ John Cena entered the arena to was so hostile I almost felt sorry for him, although it felt pretty awesome too. John’s not accustomed to being the bad guy, but for one night we entered an alternate universe where he felt the full brunt of an unappreciative crowd. John’s no stranger to hostility though. If he could survive a roasting from an old-school ECW crowd, he could cope with this. By this point I could feel my heart beating hard and fast in my chest. I didn’t even need to put my hand on it, I could just feel it pulsating far faster than it ever should be at gone 3am. I had no idea where all this was coming from, but had to concede that I loved wrestling even more than I had admitted to and was more than happy to roll with this glorious feeling.

The match was strange. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen. We had decided not to make any predictions for it because we wanted to just absorb whatever they had in store. The downside to this was that I had no clue what a good or bad outcome would feel like. All I knew was that every time John pinned Punk, I gasped loudly and held my hands to my face. Every time that pin was reversed I lifted my shoulders to my ears, sunk my nails into the leather of the couch and held my breath counting “1, 2..awww.” And it got worse. I watched the time ticking away, knowing that the further into this thing we got, the more chance there was of that three-count actually ending with the bell ringing.

The defining moment for me was late in the match when Punk dove through the middle of the ropes to land on a dizzy John and reached up to high-5 his mum. He had his two best friends and other family members whooping and hollering across the barrier and a crowd whose noise levels refused to quit. After that I was lost to the match, carried along entirely by the pacy back and forth between the two like a rip-tide I couldn’t and didn’t want to fight. STFs, failed attempts at making John Go to Sleep, duelling crowd chants, wobbly top rope leaps, raised shoulders and quivering hands trying desperately not to spank the mat and submit – I loved it all and responded to each with a new swear word of increasing obscenity. It seems I swear a lot when I’m that excited.

When Mr. McMahon and John Laurinaitis turned up, my mood changed. For all I praise the McMahons and the brand of wrestling they pump out every week, if they ruined this for me I would not be a happy bunny! I believe the expression I used was “DON’T FUCK THIS UP! PLEAAAAASE!” When Vince called for the bell, my “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” could have woken people three streets away, but they didn’t mess it up at all. John indicated that he wanted everything to be legit, the GTS did its job for the first time all match and the three-count finally hit the three with both John’s shoulders down.

I reached up and punched the air above my head repeatedly, pyjama sleeves flopping around in the downdraft. I think I just figured out what I wanted to happen. Even when Vince marched Alberto Del Rio out to cash in his MITB contract, I knew he wasn’t going to get it. They had given Punk the moment he deserved and there was no going back. I revelled in the euphoria of it all as Punk blew a vacant-faced Mr. McMahon a kiss and disappeared into the Chicago crowd, reaching their hands out to touch him as if some form of messiah was passing among them.

Then that little green logo appeared in the bottom left corner of my screen and it hit me that he was gone.

Remember that scene in Titanic where Rose is floating around in the freezing Atlantic and she has to blow a whistle and scream for the lifeboat to collect her? And remember how she barely had enough breath to make a sound? I felt like that. I don’t want him to go. I wanted to drag him back and force him to stay. I wanted to promise that everything would be OK if he just stuck around. At 4:00am I was exhausted and emotional enough that this all made perfect sense. It all seems a little ludicrous now. WHISTLE-WHISTLE-WHISTLE. COME BAHHHHCK! COME BAAAAAAHHHHHCK! WHISTLE-WHISTLE-WHISTLE. COME BAHHHHHHCK!

For the next 30 minutes I rested my head into the back of the chair with what can only be described as a gorgeous post-coital floatiness. I don’t really mind what you loved about it, as long as you did love it. Whether you loved it because Punk was sticking it to the man, or that John Cena proved his immeasurable worth, or that Vince allowed himself to be ridiculed in the name of narrative, or because of the cacophony of sound coming from the audience, that you saw an incredible wrestling match, or just (like me) that you felt moved seeing your favourite performer reach their full potential for the very first time – it all works. All I care about is that you felt that same tingle under your skin that I did. And if you didn’t, we need to talk. Sometimes you have to give yourself over to the story, even if you know the ending will make you sad.

I suppose now that Punk’s having a holiday I need a new person to direct my affections to towards, eh? Hey, Colt Cabana. How you doin’?

2011: The Year Punk Broke – Money in the Bank Predictions

Yes, Punk, we’ll get to you soon, you wonderful man…

Sidekick Andrew: But first, let’s get this out of the way. As you may have noticed, we’re big fans of women’s wrestling here in the Bunker. However, even we’re struggling to build up any enthusiasm for this match. Kelly Kelly was essentially given the title thanks to her appearance in the FHM “Top 100 Bland Looking Ladies That Teenage Boys Fantasise About” List, and Brie has very little going for her as a wrestler. As a brief appearance on the arm of some C-List celebrity that nobody outside the US has ever heard of? Fine. In a title match at a PPV? Shocking idea…

In fact, despite actually making the effort to keep up with the WWE over the last couple of weeks, I had no idea what this feud was about (other than the title of course.) Thankfully, Boss Lady Ray is much more knowledgable than I and was happy to fill me in. Apparently “they’re building this storyline around bullying again. Kelly’s too skinny.” Now, ignoring the fact that this is another bullying story line based around two heels making fun of Kelly Kelly, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the Bellas calling anyone too skinny, I mean… they’re hardly what you could describe as Rubenesque.

I’m going to pick Kelly Kelly to get the win and retain the belt. While she’s never going to be on the level of Beth Phoenix or Sara Del Rey she does at least seem to have improved recently. Plus I never want to see a Bella with a belt again.

Boss Lady Ray: Really, WWE? REALLY? Pathetic. I think Andrew’s said it all and nobody needs another rant on the portrayal of women from me today, so I’ll just go with Kelly to avoid giving this lame storyline any kind of approval.

Sidekick Andrew: This will either be a really fun brawl or an embarrassing mess, although given the way Henry has turned himself around recently I’m going to hope for the former. The Mark Henry heel turn has been really fun to watch, and combined with his weight loss and new-found enthusiasm I’m suddenly in a very strange place where I quite fancy seeing him have a title run.

As such, I think Henry will win this one, leading to him feuding for the title soon with whoever has it by then. He’s the most imposing “monster” on the roster at the moment, especially with Kane’s recent emo phase crying to Teddy Long, and I do enjoy a monster heel champion.

Boss Lady Ray: I agree, I think Henry’s got this one. I’m rather proud of how Mark Henry has turned himself around and got himself back on everyone’s front page. Good for him. The match, I imagine, will just be the two of them knocking lumps out of each other for twenty minutes, but hey, everyone loves a massive brawl from time-to-time. I just hope Mark Henry isn’t allowed to design his own merchandise if he becomes WWE champ again.

Just...wow.

Sidekick Andrew: Meh… I still find Orton boring and I’ve never been the biggest Christian fan (I know, I know… internet blasphemy) so I’m not necessarily that interested in this match. At the very least this should be a pretty good match, I’m just not that bothered who wins.

I’m thinking this will be the beginning of the end of this feud, and Orton will win to retain the belt. The extra stipulations that Christian added to the match (If Orton gets disqualified or the referee makes a “bad call”, Christian automatically wins the title) rather ironically help to cement this decision. Give a face more odds to overcome and chances are he’ll find a way to do it.

I should mention that at this point in our discussions I noticed a strange, almost dream-like quietness settle over Boss Lady Ray. While I am admittedly quite boring company, I did find this slightly strange until I realised that Smackdown was showing an old Punk vs Mysterio match at the time and Punk just happened to be wearing the Boss Lady’s favourite lavender trunks.

How could I compete?

Boss Lady Ray: Aww. I think you’ll find I was watching the TV and talking at the same time. I’m a woman! I can multi-task! And actually, I was merely observing how different Punk looks these days with short hair and a moustache. *shifty-eyes*

The Orton/Christian feud had the potential to be huge, but the Punk story has picked up such astonishing momentum it’s overshadowed every other story in the company. It’s also amazing how little people still care about what happens to Christian now that this ‘other story’ has taken over. You are fickle beasts indeed, wrestling fans. I’m going to say that Orton will retain and they’ll both move on to other people by Summerslam. There’s nowhere else to go with this one.

Sidekick Andrew: Much as I love them, Money in the Bank matches are always going to be a bit tricky to predict. Other than Evan Bourne and perhaps Jack Swagger, anyone of the competitors could take this one. I was tempted to choose Kofi Kingston as he’s probably due a push again soon, but I think he’ll fill the Shelton Benjamin role of “doing mental stuff every time but never actually winning” instead.

The Miz could win, but I can’t picture him carting that briefcase around all year again. Riley could win, but the same applies as he carried the case with Miz. Mysterio is always an option, and (much as it pains me to admit it) R-Truth is a possibility. But my pick goes to Del Rio. They seemed to tease him feuding with Cena on Raw this week, and he’s due a new push after the Rumble one fizzled out.

Boss Lady Ray: No MITB match is an island. You really can’t just look at the match in isolation because you have to consider where the writers might want to take the winner afterwards. A guaranteed title shot is a big thumbs up to whoever gets it and, let’s be honest, predicting who they might be challenging for the title is almost impossible this year.

After much consideration, I’m going to go with Alex Riley. Andrew’s right, he did carry the briefcase with Miz for a long time. But I think it might be fun for the worm to have turned, possibly with Miz trying to steal it away afterwards. I always think MITB matches should be used to elevate a young, rising star and Riley really deserves to move up.

Sidekick Andrew: Like the Raw match, I’m really looking forward to this one. And much like the Raw match a lot of that is down to the fact that there’s never a guaranteed winner.

true dat...

I think I’m looking forward to this one even more than the Raw match. The combination of Justin Gabriel and Sin Cara alongside Cody Rhodes and Daniel Bryan should make for some great spots. Add in Kane, Sheamus and Wade Barrett and you have the makings of a really fun match. Although, like all ladder matches, that fun will probably involve a lot of cringing on my part. There’s just something about people landing on the edges of the ladders that gets me every time.

I would love Wade Barrett to win this and get another run at the title, but I’m going to go with the obvious choice and pick Sheamus to win.

Boss Lady Ray: If I’m honest, I think this one will probably be Sheamus. He’s been getting a nice little run on Smackdown and he’ll work well with Orton. But it also seems just a little too obvious.  For that reason I’m going to go with Wade Barrett. He hasn’t got much to do now that the Corre have died a death and he really does deserve to get back up to the top. I wouldn’t object if it was a triple-threat between Orton, Sheamus and Barrett at Summerslam and, you know, if I can save Andrew from getting killed by predicting Wade, I’d do it. Who’s going to do all my Photoshopping if he dies?

Boss Lady Ray: Well, what can we say about this match? I can’t remember the last time I saw WWE fans quite this emotional about a story, probably because we’re not entirely sure how much is story and how much is genuine. They are the very best kind of wrestling stories. We’ve discussed what might be happening to Punk endlessly in the Bunker and have come up with so many theories I can’t even remember half of them.

The thing is, none of them seem right, so we’ve decided not to predict the end of the show. Wrestling fans, including ourselves, are a curious breed. We’re constantly trying to figure out what might happen in advance, sometimes to its detriment when it actually happens. The satisfaction of ‘I told you so’ wears off quickly. We don’t want Punk to leave, but we don’t want him to be miserable either, so we’re just going to let this one play out however them on high have decided and try to enjoy it (in amongst a few tears from myself, I expect.)

All week we’ve been playing this song and getting a little weepy in anticipation for tonight. Listen to the lyrics carefully and you’ll understand why. (N.B. Andrew would like me to point out that he hasn’t been getting weepy because he’s a manly-man with a new subscription to Sky Sports and everything. *bicep-curl*)  This one’s for you, Punk. If you really are leaving, I’ll miss you….bloody loads!*WEEP*

 

 

 

 

HAVE YOU VOTED FOR RAY’S CAKE YET? CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS. YOUR BOSS LADY NEEDS YOU!

A Song for Whoever: Brie Bella/Kelly Kelly & John Cena edition

Sidekick Andrew:

In the immortal words of Stan Lee, ’nuff said…

Boss Lady Ray: My love for John Cena (the man) is unflinching. Whatever you think of his written character or his limited technical wrestling skills, you have to admit that John’s a jolly good egg. He generally keeps his nose clean, has an admirable work ethic, is a fantastic ambassador for the WWE and carries out so much charity work, Make-a-Wish gave him an award.

My love for John Cena (the character) fluctuates. Sometimes I think he’s a genius, sometimes I wish they’d just shine the bloody spotlight on someone else for a change. I know lots of people loved last week’s Raw, but I found it a little dull. Just like I’m not sure I’d like a live Smackdown, taped episodes of Raw never feel quite right. (Even though technically I always watch them recorded because of the time difference.) Raw was saved for me by John Cena’s mighty fine performance. His opening gambit where he defended CM Punk’s right to free speech had me doing little swoons, but that final exchange with Mr. McMahon had me all tingly. I’m falling in love you with again, John Cena, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Couldn’t you insult a minority sector of society again or something?  No? Alright, you’ll just have to have this tune instead then…….

money in the bank: a night to remember

Hello there, loyal Wrestlegasmers! Your favourite member of the Wrestlegasm team, (fake) Matt Striker, here for the second time in just a few weeks. I was travelling to sunny Little Rock after our incredible night at the Money in the Bank Pay Per View, when this frisson of excitement flashed up on my phone:

Ok, so you can’t get jet lag flying from Kansas City to Little Rock, but still, I’m pretty exhausted. I take my role here seriously, so instead of heading to my hotel room to slip into my sweats and catch a nap, I’m here, tip-tapping away to recap the PPV in the hotel business centre. Dedication, my friends. Ded-i-ca-tion!

I guess we’ll start at the very beginning. I’m told it’s a very good place to start. We began with the Smackdown brand Money in the Bank match and, boy, was it eventful. It was a scintillating mix of might and agility, youth and experience. The first victims of this brood of hungry assailants were Big Show and Kane, the smaller guys focussing their attacks on the two largest competitors. But they clearly underestimated their power and Kane’s thirst for justice on behalf of his brother spurred him on.

The dastardly Dolph Ziggler and everyone’s favourite captain, Christian, were early ladder climbers. It looked as if this much-anticipated match might be over before everyone had chance to settle into their seats and pour a cold drink. But Christian managed to throw Dolph from the top of an impossibly tall ladder and, like I said during the show, when you’re at the top it’s a loooooong waaaaay doooooown!

There was soon all kind of carnage around the ring, and there was almost carnage around the announce table too when Kane lost his temper and decided to start trashing both our announce table and the Spanish announce table. Not that I was scared. I’m never scared of big men. I used to take care of Big Daddy V, you know. Thankfully for our announce table, Kane was distracted, but our Spanish compadres weren’t so lucky. Kofi Kingston capitalised on the wide open table space and launched himself onto the splayed Drew McIntyre. Look at how excited I was…..

You can’t manufacture passion and the Springloaded Superstar that is Kofi Kingston has passion in abundance. The man who I dubbed the most vicious competitor in the match, Drew McIntyre, was out for the count. While the sinister Scotsman recovered in front of us, Big Show was back on his size 22’s in another part of the arena. You may remember on Smackdown that Show introduced us to his reinforced 350lb ladder. (Ray underestimated its weight. Always fact-check, Ray!) At the PPV, Big Show was forced to call upon it again and, after a little trouble dragging it over the ropes, he planted the enormous structure in the middle of the ring. Unfortunately, the big man found himself at the bottoms of a ladder pile-up and, ironically, it was Show’s personal climbing apparatus that led the winner to the all important briefcase, perilously swinging above the ring. So who, I hear you pleading, walked off with a title shot?

I know, right? A shocker. The fiery one finally clawed something back for the Brothers of Destruction. If only the Undertaker were conscious enough to witness it.

Let’s not dwell on sad things. Let’s move on to the Raw Divas match and….oooh, maybe not such happy times after all. You know me. I’m happy to support our smart, sexy, powerful Divas at every opportunity. But the Alicia Fox vs Eve Torres match kind of stunk up the joint. Sorry, ladies. I feel bad saying it and I was a tad frustrated with the crowd for not giving you more support, but it was lacking a little je ne nais quoi. To entertain myself during this match I sent jibes down the announce table to Jerry Lawler. A little mean, maybe, but he and Cole take every chance to interrupt me, so I feel it’s justified. I told Lawler that I hear the Divas knock his door down all the time…..from the inside! Bahahahaha! I’m hilarious. I wish I could show you the text I got from Ray when Lawler exclaimed that he likes his Divas “With a high IQ and a low neckline!” but it’s far too ‘adult’.

Unfortunately, the powerful superhero-esque Eve fell foul of a wicked axe kick from Alicia. The title stayed in foxy hands.

You’ll be pleased to know that this was the lowest point of the night. From here, things spiced up tremendously with the tag-team titles match. The Harts, who have been feeling the arrogant wrath of the Usos+Tamina recently, were primed and ready for victory. And they did just that. Both The Hart Dynasty and the Samoans of new were an example to behold and such an exciting prospect for the future of our company. Natalya looked stunning as always but Tamina looked particularly beautiful. Although the most beautiful thing I saw during the match was Natalya lifting Tamina and slamming her into the ground to keep her from helping her team-mates to a win.

In homage to the sadly absent legend that is Bret Hart, DH Smith lock the Sharpshooter on and won the match for our pals in pink. I particularly enjoyed how DH tapped into that Hart mean streak and twisted the knee and foot as he pulled the move into the perfect position. My only gripe was that the match was a little short, but with so much action to pack into our three hours, something had to have the snip.

Following this we were back on Smackdown territory with the Rey Mysterio vs Jack Swagger World Heavyweight title match. I was a little worried for Rey. If you want to know how bad his injury feels, just recall the last time you tripped and twisted your ankle, then enhance it by a hundred. This makes the fact that Rey Mysterio could even walk out to the ring, let alone compete, an incredible and admirable feat. I think the collegiate and academic all-American, Jack Swagger, was expecting an easy ride. That’s not what he got.

These two worked beautifully together and they both took some fearless bumps along the way. It was exciting to see Rey come back time and time again, drawing on that pool of resiliency which reminded me so much of the never forgotten Eddie Guerrero. Rey wanted to win at any cost and the adrenaline pumped as the crowd noise forced him to push the limits of all that is sensible. The wheelbarrow suplex he pulled off was especially memorable.

As the match went on, Swagger pulled out some powerful moves and it looked as if the big-guy had it in the bag. When he whacked the devastating ankle-lock on, it looked like a matter of seconds before Swagger would retain his title. Left lying in the ring, Rey loosened his boot, seemingly to relieve the excruciating pain in his ankle. But no, that wiley fox was removing his boot to make the run-up to the 619 easier. A few seconds later, Rey Mysterio had the belt in his grasp.

While Rey celebrated, Kane came out to chase Swagger away. But that wasn’t the end of Kane’s night. The excitement hit an all-time high when he returned to the jubilant Mysterio, applied a tombstone piledriver and cashed in his hour-old MitB contract.  So dedicated! So opportunistic! I LOVE IT! Mwahahahaha.

Staying with Smackdown, we were on to the better Divas match of the night – Kelly Kelly vs Layla for the Women’s Title. Thankfully, my usually rude commentating colleagues shut their faces and actually let me speak throughout. The match was a little chaotic, especially with Michelle McCool and Tiffany ripping into each other at ringside. That’s not to say it wasn’t wonderfully entertaining and it was nice to see Michelle back. I hear it’s a lovely time of year for a honeymoon. Ahem.

This was Kelly’s first title match, and while she made a special effort to defeat Layla, my little English muffin was triumphant.

Seriously, how awesome is my English accent these days? Sometimes, I like to prank-call Ray and Andrew in the Bunker in my English accent. They never suspect a thing.

Before moving on, if ever you wanted evidence that I’m second class citizen when it comes from the commentary team, check this out:

King gets a slurpee cup, Cole gets a Summerslam cup and me? Generic R’ Us. Apparently I don’t deserve any better. Just sayin’.

Hang on in there, folks. This was one of our longest shows in some time, but we’re getting there. Time for our second Money in the Bank match of the night and it was just as breathtaking as the first. Any match involving a Viper, a stupendously strong man and one of the most exciting high-flyers to hit the WWE ring since Rey Mysterio’s arrival can be nothing but spectacular. And that’s before we even mention the Miz, Morrison, DiBiase, Edge and the irrepressible Chris Jericho.

As the match kicked off, Ted DiBiase looked strong, letting his former Legacy brother, Randy Orton, know that he meant business. I even tried to suggest that Ted may have slipped a sneaky little envelope under some of his fellow competitors’ hotel room doors that morning. It was met with silence from my co-commentators.

It’s usually the quick, agile competitors who do well in ladder matches. Their speed allows them to race to that all-important briefcase quicker. But that doesn’t mean the heftier competitors don’t stand a chance. Just look at the amazing display of strength from Mark Henry here.

Wowwwwww! Soon after this long fall to the ground, several of the guys were a little dazed and confused. In fact, the only person still on their feet was Ted’s stunning lady-friend, Maryse. After tending to her man and taking a quick scan around the arena, the French lovely took off her shoes and reluctantly crept her way up the ladder set up in the middle of the ring. My colleagues felt she may be on a mission to grab the briefcase for her beau. Personally, I think this young lady is mercenary enough to take the prize for herself. What a cat among the pigeons that would have been had she managed to make it up the ladder in time. It was not to be, though. John Morrison made it to the ladder just in time to remove Madame Ouellet.

John Morrison was one of the stand-out stars during this match, at one point climbing a ladder leaning against the ropes and using only his body-weight to swing it towards another mass of metal piled up in the middle of the ring. Fantastic! The chaos continued as Morrison became trapped inside a ladder as if he was being held by an Iron Maiden. And that has nothing to do with rock music, kids. Look it up!

Between the intense excitement of Evan Bourne furiously failing to unhook the briefcase and Randy Orton RKOing Jericho off a ladder, it was hard to know where to look.

That was, until this…….

That’s right, folks. One of the sleeper contenders in the contest won the title shot and made quite the victory speech. To cut a long oratory short, this was Miz’s moment, and we were to feel privileged to share it with him. Bravo, young man. There’s one thing I’m certain of, you’ll never hear the end of this on Raw.

Now to our main event which, I have to say, started a little slowly. Also, relations between myself and Lawler reached an all-time low during this match. I thought John Cena looked extremely focussed for his title match against Sheamus. Lawler insisted that he was nervous and refused to let the matter go. Even while commenting on a particular move I heard cries of “Wait! Wait! Wait!” just so that King could point out that Cena was having his face pressed into the steel. And the sarcasm. Oh, the sarcasm. I dared to suggest that the way Sheamus’ performance gradually improved throughout the match seemed as thought he was evolving, particularly after he applied the Celtic Hammer to John Cena. What did I get in response? “Ohhhh, he’s evolviiiiing!” Insert your own snippy, sniggering tone. If you watch the match back you’ll hear me raise my voice on several occasions to defend myself. But I should probably get back to recapping the match. I certainly didn’t want this to be my own personal soap-box to air my frustrations in public.

The match improved as it went along and Sheamus applied a great body-scissors move….. the rear naked choke, I believe. And I’m not surprised Sheamus plumped for some hardcore sleepers. I wondered if he might go that way when I saw him chit-chatting to Dolph Ziggler earlier in the day. But it takes more than a borrowed MMA move to keep John Cena down. John summoned up all his super-powers and began climbing the steel cage with Sheamus still clasping his huge body around Cena’s frame. Simply unbelievable.

Both men had the opportunity to leave the cage on several occasions but they clearly wanted the respect and adulation of gaining the pinfall and winning the match outright. From here things got a little crazy.  The Nexus arrived unannounced and with bolt cutters in hand. Officials were left unconscious, crowd members had to duck when keys were thrown their way and John Cena seemingly won the match when he forced Sheamus to tap out. All he had to do was leave the cage and reclaim his title belt. The Nexus had other ideas. Justin Gabriel scaled the cage like Peter Parker’s alter-ego himself and despite being thrown from the cage, Justin’s efforts delayed Cena’s exit long enough for Sheamus to leave from the other side of the ring, keeping the WWE championship firmly around his waist.

The hostile takeover left the scuppered Cena fuming, so wearing his wounds of war, he took all his frustrations out on some of the remaining gate-crashers.

What a show, eh? The Pay Per View everyone doubted delivered in abundance. I now have to prepare for the NXT and Smackdown tapings. See you later tonight, guys. There’s a fun show ahead.