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…

A Song for Whoever: Rock Edition

We thought it might be time we resurrected A Song For Whoever, where we write a blurb on a wrestling biz happening from that week and dedicate a song to the person the story’s about. It was one of our favourite regular features, so we thought it deserved another airing. Enjoy!

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During Wrestlemania 28, I had a bit of a moment. It wasn’t the tender embrace exchanged between the three veterans marking the End of an Era. It wasn’t even Edge’s speech on being ushered into the Hall of Fame; mainly because I haven’t had the courage to let his carefully chosen and heartfelt words ruin my mascara yet. It was The Rock’s entrance.

It’s no secret that I often struggle to justify being a fan of professional wrestling. I regularly use these pages to work through my tortured thought process. But the fact remains, I never walk away. The well worn line I trot out every time someone asks me how I got into wrestling is ‘I came for Shawn Michaels, but I stayed for The Rock.’ I came to find out why my younger brother was shouting ‘Sweet Chin Music’ at me, and I stayed because I developed a swift and monumental crush on The Rock.

As a teenage girl, it was that gorgeous creature peacocking about in silk shirts, suggestively raising his eyebrow at me (just me), and who always knew exactly what to say that kept me from reaching for the remote. Basic, yes. But biology often is. It was a while before I really understood what wrestling was about. It was ages before I had a grip on long and complicated stories and the infinite joy of a well crafted, old fashioned grappling match.  The Rock was like that person who holds your hand while you tentatively wade into a freezing cold swimming pool. “Come on in! The water’s lovely!” It wasn’t. Not at first. I just stared at him long enough for the water to feel warm enough to dunk my head under.

Announcing the Rock/Cena match a year in advance was probably a mistake. If there’s one thing you should never do, it’s give wrestling fans time to ponder a story. They should know by now that we’ll club the life out of anything that isn’t a moving target. But I enjoyed those last few weeks leading up to Wrestlemania more than I cared to admit publicly. I didn’t get angry about the banality of kung pao chicken. I got that Rock was setting Cena up to look like the hero before eventually coming out on top. I wasn’t prepared to write the match off as a shambles before it happened, just because it was the most mainstream thing taking place on the planet that day. I was looking forward to it. There. I said it.

What I wasn’t expecting was to feel emotional. Yes, it was 3:21am and I had consumed enough MSG laced cheese puffs that I may have been in a slightly vulnerable state. But once the wonderfully awful and awfully wonderful musical introductions had passed, I was floored by a practical freight train of sentimentality. It suddenly struck me that without that one man sending Miami into a frenzy on my telly, I wouldn’t be sat here over a decade later, still staying up all night for wrestling, still not put off by the ridicule of people who just don’t get it.

I realised that, without him, I’d be bereft of the countless happy and stupidly exciting hours of fun wrestling has given me. There are immeasurably important people I’d never have met. There are parts of the world I’d never have seen. I may even be on an entirely different career path. It might all sound rather dramatic, and at 4am it felt even more profound, but it’s no less true. When Rock went on to win, a double air punch and a YEAAAAAAAAAAH didn’t quite seem to mark what felt like coming full circle.

It didn’t even end there. Finally watching his victory speech on Raw this morning, I might as well have skipped back in time. Alone, in my pyjamas, with a big mug of tea, when Rock invited the audience to jump into his sentence with “…and millions” three times with gradually ascending volume, I absolutely played along out loud. I can pretend to be cool and grown-up and aloof, but had he hugged me instead of the blonde girl with the sign asking for a hug, I’d have had the same dumbstruck expression. And then I’d have burst into tears.

So thanks, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Thanks for making my adolescent loins burn. Thank you for holding my attention while delivering all those promos so brilliantly some 14 years ago. I still smell what you’re cooking, you big superstar you.

A Song for Whoever: Matt Striker & HHH/Cena Edition

Boss Lady Ray: I often wander around our humble Wrestle Bunker professing about how lucky I am to have (fake) Matt Striker as my mentor. “Aren’t I lucky?” I would say. “Matt Striker and I are just sooooo alike. I see him in my dreams and somehow they come true. It’s like we’re, you know, connected or something.” Then I hold two fingers to my eyes to show Andrew how Matt and I are ‘connected’. At this juncture he usually smiles and nods politely before tutting and rolling his eyes the second my back is turned. He thinks I can’t see him doing this. He has no idea this is why I make him wash all the dishes.

But we really are connected. Oh yes. I’m not just some loony fangirl pretending. Oh no. If you follow our Tumblr, and quite frankly why wouldn’t you be, you might have spotted the post where I explained my recent run of Matt Striker dreams. They were largely interesting to me and me alone, but during the last one he was in a lot of pain. Doubled over in pain, even. This made no sense. Why would Matt Striker be doubled over in pain in my dream? He’s a host and a ‘backstage broadcast colleague’ these days. All was revealed on last week’s NXT.

Titus O’Neil was chatting to Striker about something or other and doing his strange sea lion bark. Derrick Bateman and Darren Young turned up. There was all kinds of “I’m better than you.” “No, I’m better than you.” “Shutup, I’m better…..” You get the idea. By the way, how many weeks has this series been running? Is the end even in sight? Anyway, the bad guys seemed to be ganging up on Titus, so Striker stepped in to reset the balance. Titus O’Neil suggested they have a tag match and Striker encouraged the crowd to get behind this idea with their cheers, always the gameshow host. Bateman and Young were furious with this idea. They agreed, but only if they could choose their opponent’s partner. They chose…….MATT STRIKER! AAAAH!

Striker was all….

And they were all…

And Striker was all….

And I was all….

So other stuff happened. No idea what. I was just waiting for the main event. The bad dudes came out, AJ, Hornswoggle and Titus came out, (get on with it, NXT) “Aaaaaand his partner from Bayvieeeew, New York, weighing in at 230 pouuunds, MATT STRI-KERRRRR!” EEEEEEEEEP!

Look at him there. Long shorts, beaten up boots and with a look of complete fear on his face. Bless. He needed a hug. They could have left this whole thing to Titus. Striker really hasn’t wrestled a match in four years. He looks like he’s in great shape but he’s nowhere near as muscular as he used to be. In William Regal’s words, he’s definitely a little “ring rusty”. But Striker did surprisingly well. No really, he jumped back in and executed the moves with such ease I’d want him back in the ring every week if I didn’t miss his commentary so much and worry about him getting hurt. I realise I’m not exactly impartial. He could flap his hands like a birdie and run around in circles and I’d still think he had a good go. But I was suitably impressed.

Towards the end of the match he started huffing and puffing. He couldn’t quite keep up with the youngsters and at one point he was DOUBLED OVER IN PAIN! Ah-ha! Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I say that my dream would come true? In your face, doubters. I foresaw this event, I just hope that when he went out to the back afterwards, there wasn’t too much vomiting, as per the dream. Oh, and of course he won:

Striker seemed to be holding his shoulder down and grimacing pretty convincingly at the end. He may have been selling it really well, but it looked genuine to me. Nevertheless, he looked happy(ish), if a little tousled, by the time they sent him back out to call his Superstars matches.

Tousled is good

In honour of my mentor’s short-lived return to the ring, I am dedicating this tune to him because “we tease him a lot, ‘cause we got him on the spot, but welcome back, welcome back, welcome back, wel-come baaaack.”

Sidekick Andrew: This might be the most controversial thing I’ve ever written on this site. More than the time I wrote an article incessantly insulting Matt Hardy until people complained. More than the time that I had a go at Tommy Dreamer’s ingratitude resulting in a number of Direct Messages from him on Twitter. Even more than that time I wrote an NXT recap from the perspective of an imaginary asylum inmate and “THE MAN” decided it wasn’t acceptable. Well, I say “THE MAN”, it was of course the ever fragrant and wise “BOSS LADY RAY”

Anyway, this CM Punk storyline. Great isn’t it? Nobody could deny that Punk has single-handedly made Raw watchable again. Even I, long and staunch opposition to the dreary dreadful dirge that is Raw, now watch every week to see where this show is going. Punk’s mixture of powerful political polemic and quasi-shoot revelations are thrilling internet “smarks” and regular fans alike. Who would have thought that the little blonde guy with a couple of tattoos hurling invective and insults at rednecks down an invisible microphone would become the sole saviour of a multi-million dollar industry giant?

Except of course, Punk isn’t “single-handedly” the “sole saviour” at all. Punk is amazing, I’m never going to deny that. He was a great promo in his indie days (the afore-mentioned invisible microphone in IWA: Mid-South, the WWE contract signing on the ROH belt) and he’s a great promo in WWE. Look at the Jeff Hardy storyline or the SES evangelical sermons he was throwing out week after week for examples. But any storyline involving rebellion needs something or someone to rebel against. Punk has been great in this storyline, but he’s not the only one.

Yep, sorry internet but HHH is right, I do mean them. I know, I know… HHH and John Cena are evil incarnate… everything that is wrong with the WWE and the professional wrestling industry as a whole… one an opportunistic 13 time world champion through backstage politics and nepotism, the other an industry yes-man, constantly being put over despite only knowing five wrestling moves. Everyone hates HHH & Cena…

BOSS LADY RAY: This wasn't me. I swear.

Well OK, maybe this random lady from Facebook likes them a bit but everyone else hates them right? The trouble with that is that we as internet wrestling fans aren’t supposed to like Cena, and we’re not supposed to like HHH. Cena is the company yes-man, this is true. But he’s also the role model for thousands of kids across the world thanks to his Never Give Up attitude, whether we like it or not. The very fact that he is the company’s chosen one (sorry Drew, you should have known Vince would never respect a man who got beaten up by a girl) made him the perfect foil for Punk’s anti-establishment rhetoric. Cena played his role to perfection, being the good guy caught in an awkward position. He (as in his character) never asked to be the company’s go-to champion, the man to right all wrongs; but goddammit he loves this business and goddammit he loves that bloody ugly belt.

Punk needed someone like Cena to work against, in the same way that Punk’s idol Stone Cold Steve Austin needed The Rock or Bret Hart to work against. Punk and Austin have so much in common that the obvious glaring difference doesn’t seem to be important. Both were amazing speakers… both excelled in anti-establishment roles… both got their big breaks thanks to Paul Heyman and ECW… both are not afraid to mix truth and storyline in a promo… There’s a reason that this excellent video from the WWE All Stars video game works so well.

And once Punk had managed to get rid of Cena, who did he move on to? After a brief dalliance with McMahon (Austin’s old nemesis of course) he moved onto the his replacement. From the Rock’s modern day replacement to Vince’s, Punk is now going up against HHH. And I know that “Punk came back too soon” and “HHH is just going to bury Punk” but frankly I don’t believe that. Punk coming back was a surprise, and we’ve said before on this site how much we love it when wrestling surprises us. As for HHH burying Punk, the fact that Punk got to say the things he did last Monday leaves with more hope than fear that this storyline will continue for a while yet.

So, this weeks Song for Whoever is dedicated to two men. Two men I never, ever, thought I would dedicate a song to. Two men that I think should get some credit for helping to sell the most exciting storyline since the Nexus invasion over a year ago. Every great rebel needs an establishment to rail against, a windmill to charge, and in this case Cena and HHH are doing a great job of being that establishment… Cena, HHH & Punk: an unlikely triumvirate but one that goes together like… well… like ham, cheese & pickle. Like pie, chips & gravy. Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong…

A Song for Whoever: Mr. McMahon Edition

BOSS LADY RAY: Sometimes when we write these posts I have plenty to say about a particular happening, but it takes ages to find a song that fits as well as I want it to. Other times, a perfect song jumps to the front of my internal jukebox within just a few seconds of thought and I don’t need to give it too much introduction.

When Triple H relieved Mr. McMahon of his duties on last week’s Raw, it was surprisingly touching. Well, apart from the whole “I love you, Pop.” thing. That was freakin’ hilarious. But do you know what tugs on my heartstrings more than grown men crying? OLD men crying. It’s killer. Somehow, this once immortal powerhouse of a man, a captain of industry no less, looked terribly small and insignificant standing in the ring having just lost his empire.

So for HHH (not Paul) and Mr. McMahon (not Vince) here’s a crushingly apt song to sum up that awkward moment when your son-in-law fires you. “The show is over. Say goodbye.” Ouch! Here comes the Triple H Era…..

A Song for Whoever: Mark Henry & Cody Rhodes Edition

Sidekick Andrew: This week’s Song For Whoever can actually be about the WWE for once, as I’ve followed Boss Lady Ray’s demands and actually watched some TV this week. Admittedly it was Capitol Punishment, Superstars and Smackdown rather than Raw; I’m not going to change my habits that much…

Although this was admittedly genius

One thing that’s really come across to me in my first week back watching WWE is how much more believable Mark Henry is as a heel. While there’s always a place for a “good guy giant” type of character, Big Show is currently filling that role. Admittedly Khali has turned heel as well, but let’s face it… who cares?

On second thoughts... SWOON

From manhandling Big Show through the Spanish announce table at Capitol Punishment, to taking out Kane on Raw Henry’s been on a roll this week. Culminating with taking out Big Show again on Smackdown and winning the main event tag match later on the show, the “World’s Soggiest Man” seems to be really doing well since his weight loss and something remarkable has happened. I’ve somehow gone from dreading his appearances on screen to actually starting to think I’d like to see him have a title run.

This one’s for you Mr Henry. You’re certainly a big man, you’ve been showing you can be a bad man recently and, errrm… well… I suppose 2 out of 3 ain’t bad?

BOSS LADY RAY: Ahhhh children. So young. So precious. When they’re small all they want is to be just like you. They copy everything you do and try to emulate you because you’re mum/dad and just so cool. It’s a glorious time for all.

Look at us hoisting out children in the air! We are very happy!

As they grow, that changes. You eventually become the most uncool person in their lives. It is inevitable that at some point they’ll slam their bedroom door in your face and tell you they hate you. They don’t mean it.

If my mother wore that bloody awful scarf I'd refuse to look at her too.

The tension is multiplied if said child chooses to follow a parent into their profession. They will forever feel stressed at trying to live up to the parent’s professional expectations and climb out of their shadow. Luckily for me I faint at the sight of my own blood, so medicine was never on my agenda. I threw out the idea of being a paramedic after we drove past a man under the wheels of a van on the motorway one summer when I was in high school, and I  discounted physiotherapy when I found out it was a six-year course that began with cutting up dead people. Sorry, Dad.

The life of a second or third generation wrestler is a minefield of expectation. Those with a family legacy to live up to must surely feel pressured into being better than their relatives. An ingrained inferiority complex wouldn’t be surprising at all. This was beautifully illustrated by Daniel Bryan on this week’s Smackdown. Neither myself nor Andrew really enjoy Cody Rhodes’ current gimmick. We love the music and his titantron, but we’re just not digging the whole paper bag deal.We were discussing just this when Daniel Bryan showed up on Smackdown to put an end to Cody’s silliness with some pop psychology.  Bryan suggested that the Codester wasn’t afraid of his own ‘ugliness’ at all. He was just using it as a crutch to avoid the fact that he didn’t feel he lived up to Daddy Dusty’s legend. Give that man an honourary PhD from a mid-quality university!

I’d like to apologise for choosing this song for Cody. I am a self-confessed lover of Country music, but this is one of the most atrocious songs ever written, recorded and sold. Props go out to anyone who makes it to the end of the video without dry-heaving.

A Song for Whoever: R-Truth & Kota Ibushi Edition

BOSS LADY RAY: It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so it’s time to dedicate a song to a wrestler who’ll never read it again. I realise I’ve dedicated a tune to R-Truth before and, contrary to what the Sidekick will tell you, I don’t “lurrrrrve him”. But I do think it’s worth noting just how far he’s come since February.

Just four months ago Truth was botching his lines to the point where he was asking the wrong city what was up, he was misjudging his ring entrances while making John Morrison look a fool in the process, and just generally being a mid-card liability nobody seemed that bothered about losing. We were sure he was being set up to be future endeavoured in the big post-Wrestlemania chop that never really happened.

Somehow, R-Truth managed not just to dodge the bullet, but to find himself in a title match against John Cena at the next pay-per-view. Alright so he’s probably taking the place of John Morrison, who was hinting at a push before he went in for major surgery, but wrestling is full of serendipity. He’s taken a pretty eccentric route to the top of the card with the odd-ball character he’s developed, but hey, he plays crazy well. I don’t always understand his promos, he’s definitely not the best wrestler, but R-Truth is significantly more interesting than he was a few months ago.

Sometimes it’s okay to be a little bit crazy, and with that in mind there’s really only one song I can salute him with. (I expect you all to be doing a fierce backwards nod when that wicked dirty bassline kicks in at 1:02 precisely. Innit tho, bruv?)

SIDEKICK ANDREW: She totally does lurrrrrve him by the way.

I have a confession to make. Some of you will already be aware of this, but I have never watched an episode of the new Dr. Who. I know, shocking isn’t it? I’m a pretty big sci-fi geek, I live in a country where Dr. Who is bombarded at me on multiple channels, I’m a fan of the writers and actors involved… and yet I haven’t watched any of it since Russell T. Davies brought the franchise back.

Now I know what you’re thinking… “Andrew,” you’re thinking, “why the hell are you talking about Dr. Who on a wrestling blog?” And you know what, you’d be right to ask. Dr Who has nothing to do with wrestling…

ahem...

OK… OK… Timelord themed SHIMMER tag teams aside, Dr. Who and wrestling share no common ground. (Fiiiine, on further investigation Leon “Brian Glover” Aris was in Dr. Who as well, but that’s it.) Anyway, the reason I mention Dr Who is all down to spare time. Essentially, I don’t really have that much, hence my rather sporadic posts on here. I know that if I was to start watching Dr. Who, and I enjoyed it, I would get obsessed. I’d want to watch all the episodes, read all the back story and know all the trivia and details.

Which brings me to wrestling, specifically Japanese wrestling. It’s an area I’m rather ashamed to admit I don’t watch as much of as I would like. While I’ll occasionally catch a Dragon Gate or Pro-Wrestling NOAH match and really enjoy it, I almost have to force myself to hold back from delving into that world for fear it would swallow me whole. Which is a shame as there are some amazing wrestlers and some amazing shows being put on every month. This month, for example, was the New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of the Super Juniors” tournament (Super Juniors in this case being essentially a synonym for Cruiserweight.) Eighteen wrestlers competed over 2 weeks in a total of 135 matches, eventually resulting in Kota Ibushi getting the victory over Ryusuke Taguchi and being awarded a frankly ludicrous trophy.

Kota Ibushi is someone (like many wrestlers) I was only introduced to by CHIKARA’s King of Trios competition. (As always folks, if you’re not watching CHIKARA, you’re doing it all wrong.) Since that first taste I’ve caught quite a few of his matches online, perhaps most notably against a blow-up doll called Yoshishiko (in case you’re wondering, the answer is always “because it’s Japan.”)

Obviously, as the Super Juniors tournament has only just been contested, I can’t give you the final to watch. But NJPW have released last years final between Ibushi and Irish wrestler Prince Devitt and it’s definitely worth 20 minutes of your time.

So, this week’s Song for Whoever, after a not inconsiderable preamble, is dedicated to Kota Ibushi’s victory in the Best of the Super Juniors 2011. It’s a song that I will always associate with him thanks to a certain highlight video I must have watched 20 times or more (this despite owning the complete match on 2 separate DVDs.) If you know the video I mean, you’ll know the association. But even if you don’t, even if the matches I’ve linked to in this post are your first introduction to Kota Ibushi, I think you’ll still find it appropriate.

A Song For Whoever: Tough Enough edition

Boss Lady Ray: It was Andrew’s turn to do the Tough Enough write-up this past week, but unfortunately the Sidekick was feeling rather under the weather for most of the week. I’m not a cold-hearted boss, so I let him skip it. Just to be sure we’ve said goodbye to last week’s two eliminated contestants properly, this week’s Songs for Whoever are dedicated to Eric and Ivelisse.

Oh Eric. So much potential. Handsome, a striking look, tall, broad and a spark of something in his eye that suggested he could be amazing.  Yet Eric underperformed on almost every task because his fitness level was appalling. He practically walked the supposed run in the mountains, he collapsed during the obstacle course while trying to dart his way through the tyre run and the greatest humiliation of all came on last week’s episode. During the rope climb assault course thingy, not only did Christina walk all over Eric as he lie stretched out over several rope steps, be he eventually became so physically weak that Stone Cold Steve Austin had to send a rescue team in to lower him to the ground. It was both the funniest and the saddest thing I’d seen all series.

It was at this juncture in the series that the trainers decided that Eric’s time was up. The training sessions were getting harder and he was doing what he could, but Eric was starting from such low point on the fitness scale there was no way he was going to catch up. I don’t feel sorry for him. To rock up at such an incredible opportunity without having done a scrap of physical training is unforgivable. But seeing someone with potential waste their big chance is frustrating. I won’t kick a guy when he’s down. Come on, Eric. Get your chin up  (preferably over a chin-ups bar in the gym) and start all over again. I shall pass you over to Nat King Cole for the rest……

Sidekick Andrew: I’ll be honest, I never knew much about most of the competitors on Tough Enough before the show started (other than Matt Cross and, to a lesser extent, Christina.) Most of the wrestlers have had indie careers that have managed to completely bypass my attention – Ivelisse however is someone I head heard of but never actually seen wrestle.

Ivelisse had a moderately succesful career as Juliet the Huntress, in particular wrestling for the Puerto Rico promotion World Wrestling Council (run by Carlos Colon, father of Carlito & Primo.) As you can see from the video above, it’s hard to deny that of the women in Tough Enough she definitely has the most ability, and that she’s prepared to help the internet solve that pesky memetic conundrum regarding pirates and ninjas. Having said that, I’ve seen that red bandana/tube top look done before somewhere, and I’ll (predictably) always prefer Beth…

Unfortunately for Ivelisse, a simple in-ring mistake by Christina left her injured and, ultimately, unable to continue. In her exit video interview (viewable here) she was pretty blatant in blaming Christina for her elimination, wishing the coaches would see through Christina’s “bullshit” and do the right thing by getting rid of her. Having seen the way Christina has reacted to the injury, it’s hard not to take Ivelisse’s side in this and wonder how Christina has held on so long…

ah yes...

So this one’s for you Ivellise. Hopefully, if nothing else, your time on Tough Enough will have raised your profile enough to get you some more bookings in the future. Oh, and as I shamefully didn’t manage to shoehorn a Simpsons reference into this post, I’ll just point out that you don’t win friends with salad.

A Song for Whoever: Last Tango on Telly

…..and so it ended. After six weeks of making me swoon like a chick at a Michael Bublé concert, Chris Jericho crashed out of Dancing with the Stars. Oh the sadness, and yet, the show goes on without him. My only outlet for extreme girliness on this blog was dashed away with one really lacklustre tango. I didn’t get to see the jive I knew would be awesome. I didn’t even get to use my next Chris Jericho crush-face. It looked like this:

Unfortunately I watched his tango like this:

And when I woke the next morning and realised he’d been sent home, I did this:

My ever-changing ethnicity is a blast, by the way. You should try it!

There comes a moment in every series of Strictly Come Dancing (and it appears Dancing with the Stars too) where the pack splits. There are three or four good dancers who suddenly become great. Within one episode the rest just look rubbish. Chelsea, Romeo and Hines were all amazing. The judges even brought out the ’10′ paddles! Much as it pains me to say it, Chris Jericho was the weakest performer last week.

Kendra Wilkinson was lucky in that she was given the samba and, EVEN THOUGH HER BOUNCE ACTION WAS AWFUL, she managed to shake her tits and arse with such ferocity, the judges forgot to watch to see if she was executing the tricky samba bounce action correctly. It was….eye-popping. I imagine millions of men forced to watch the show with their wives had to reach for a cushion after she had performed. Jericho was unlucky in that he was given a dance he struggled to both understand and execute the week after he’d been top of the leaderboard.  Pressure to be the best two weeks in a row is a killer. I’ll let you decide for yourselves, but to the judges (and to myself as the fourth and most important judge) it wasn’t sharp or focused enough at all.

So what have I learnt from these six weeks? I’ve learnt that despite ABC making a surprisingly good job of copying the UK show, I still prefer the British version. The incessant gimmicks killed it for me. The show is about people who’ve never danced before trying to learn how to ballroom dance in 12 weeks. THAT is the gimmick. There’s no need for Guilty Pleasures Week, American Week, Grieve for your Deceased Relatives Week, Dance with your Pet Week blah-blah-blah. It’s patronising if you do it every week. Having said that, if any wrestlers *cough*Edge*cough* decide to be a contestant next series, I’d be more than happy to drool over it a second time.

Thanks for indulging me with these posts. Thanks for letting me swoon, talk about pretty dresses and comment on dancing like the armchair expert I am without a single “THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WRESTLING!!!!1!!1″ comment. So, wrestling fans, as you’ve been so kind you can have Chris Jericho back now and I’ll go back to writing about sweaty wrestlers. But before I check my girly self at the door, one more indulgence. This one’s for the jive I never got to see, and also because it’s a bloody miracle we’ve run this feature for so long without me choosing a single Bublé track. I guarantee there will be more. Enjoy!