RAW: Damage Limitation

Alright. Let’s stop dancing around the inevitable. Punk is gone. He hasn’t been officially future endeavoured and there is a part of me holding on to the fact that this might be the most ballsy, elaborate work in history. But as he’s been pulled from pre-paid AXXESS meet & greets and assessing the bizarre atmosphere on RAW this week, we can assume that at the very least he’s having an extended holiday.

There was a definite air of damage limitation on this week’s RAW. Fan-made signs enquiring as to Punk’s whereabouts were confiscated by security. In the same way that Rey Mysterio was booed at the Royal Rumble simply for not being Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton’s words made no impact on the crowd, who were otherwise engaged in repeatedly chanting for CM Punk. Being a bit of a tough-nut, their disinterest in his moaning about his lack of…(umm, what was it again?) made no impression on him either.

Needing to pacify an already volatile crowd Steph and HHH appeared on the ramp to instruct Randy to stop whining. To curry favour with the audience even further, they warned him that they had the power to strip him of his ‘face of the company’ moniker. If he didn’t cool his boots they might be forced to make someone else their favourite. Daniel Bryan, maybe. HHH even joined the Yes Movement. Turncoat!

RAW_1080_Photo_014

Daniel Bryan, who in the space of a week has gone from their whipping boy to potential poster boy. You can’t help but feel that even what would have been Bryan’s eventual triumph over ‘the man’ has been ditched in favour of keeping people from turning off.

The Shield won a three-man tag against Big E. Langston, Kofi and Rey Mysterio, but the crucial part of the story came when Dean Ambrose (unf) and Roman Reigns squabbled over who should have taken the pin. Poor Seth Rollins. As if his comedic tumbling the previous week hadn’t been upsetting enough. Now mummy and daddy are fighting again. I wonder which of them plays mum and which takes on the role of dad. Let’s think about that for a moment. Anyway, the bickering soon ended and their broken pieces were glued back together when the Wyatts appeared on screen hoping to capitalise on their moment of collective weakness. They didn’t.

RAW_1080_Photo_048

It also seems there’s dissent at Camp Real Americans. After losing a place in the Elimination Chamber to Christian on SmackDown, Jack Swagger was given a rematch, only to lose a second time. You can always tell when Swagger’s in a panic. His bottom lip bursts open, like that kid in school who always got stress-related nosebleeds on class trips.  Zeb Colter made his disgruntlement known in no uncertain terms and even Antonio Cesaro dropped and shook his head in shame. Time to disband these guys and start hyping Cesaro, lest he go the same way as Hero. At least, let’s not allow that to happen before I can successfully attend any British shows he might be booked on. Selfish? Me? Absolutely. It already sticks in my craw that I don’t get to clap eyes on Chris Hero’s colour-of-a-cornfield mane when he’s in the UK at the end of this month.

In further attempts to placate the ready-to-riot crowd, the New Age Outlaws were forced to put the tag titles on the line against Goldust and Cody Rhodes. Oh and they were forced to do it *MOVIE TRAILER VOICE* inside a steel caaaaage. New Age Outlaws retained in a match that went on for far too long, never really got going and made little-to-no use of the cage. Hey, Hunter? Where’s Punk?

Thankfully this was followed by Batista’s arrival. Now, hold on. I know this doesn’t sound all that exciting. But the small detail I deliberately omitted in the name of building tension is that our Dave’s back in the double denim. Yes!

RAW_1080_Photo_173

RAW_1080_Photo_174

And not just top and bottom denim, but a matching burnout tee. Cor! But beyond my predictable giddiness at Dave-denim, the real star of this segment was Alberto Del Rio. Dressed in less impressive single denim, the promo he ripped on Dave was so convincingly impassioned you might believe there was some truth behind it. I mean, why would the guy who’s been consistently great but never truly trusted to carry the company along with the big boys feel cheesed off that Dave’s waltzed back in to steal a Wrestlemania headline slot? It was the first time in many months I’ve really sat up and taken notice of Del Rio. Their scrap was fierce and Del Rio was so pumped he returned to the ring to retrieve his rather fetching black blazer, before catching glimpse of Dave’s face and thinking better of it.

RAW_1080_Photo_188

Speaking of those flying uncomfortably under the radar, Dolph Ziggler was teamed up with R-Truth and Xavier Woods to go up against the Wyatts. The match had all the bumps and jumps you’d expect, with Bray Wyatt pinning Dolph for the win. To match their video interruption earlier in the evening, The Shield made their own video based gift, with Dean Ambrose (unf) mocking the Wyatts’ scare tactics and his fellow warriors warning of retribution. This was met with the usual psychotic laughter in the ring. Standard but still pleasing fare.

This took us to a long main event between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan, the winner of which would become the McMahon-Helmsley’s favourite boy. It was a long and involved match where both gave a lot, but it was flat. It was missing something. Despite some interference from Kane, Bryan still won the match, but it didn’t have the shine it should have. It’s not enough just to give us what we want. We need the backstory to make it mean something. That’s where promoters get wrestling fans all wrong. It’s about the journey. I wonder if that’s the line they’d be following if Punk was still around. And the fact that Orton and Kane continued to pummel Bryan after the bell means it’ll all probably flip-flop back the other way quicker than a Westminster sex scandal come next week. It just didn’t make sense. Unless Kane interfered to make sure Bryan didn’t win, what was the point?

Can you say ‘state of flux’?

RAW_1080_Photo_279

N.B. This week, in an attempt to skip what I thought were just the ads, I watched RAW via the Sky Sports On Demand service. Unfortunately, I only realised after writing this that they’d cut out several mid-card matches, linking segments etc. I’ll have seen all the missing pieces before next week, but just a warning to those in the UK. It gives a skewed view of the show and I’m going to be complaining to Sky about it.   

RAW: Something’s Amiss

I feel there’s something else I should be musing over today. But I can’t quite put my finger on what it might be. Hmm. Maybe it’ll come to me as we go along.

The Royal Rumble officially kicks off the Road to Wrestlemania. We should be frothing at the mere thought that the biggest party of the year is on its way. And yet…

Grinning like the cats who got the cream, Stephanie and HHH over-egged their excitement at great mate Dave Batista winning the Rumble to such an extent you have to wonder if they realised soon after that they were lactose intolerant and vomited up what turned out to be a flop after all.

RAW_1079_Photo_006

The patronising tone they cloaked their jubilation in served only to rile the crowd further and… do you ever get the feeling you’ve been sneakily trolled? Baited into reacting by someone who knows how to push your buttons? Do you wonder if this is exactly what they wanted? To leave Daniel Bryan out so that we’d riot for the international press?

In sharp contrast to the acute hatred spat at the McMahon-Helmsleys, Daniel Bryan’s arrival mustered something akin to the second coming of Christ.

RAW_1079_Photo_008

It’s rare that I lash out at these two, but their incessant giggling and claim that Bryan’s match of the night against Bray Wyatt “was a good little effort” had me wanting to sock them both in the chops. Stephanie’s now modelled so much in her father’s image I’m convinced that any second she’s going to peel off her face to reveal she was Vince all along. There are no lengths my imagination won’t run to in the name of believing Steph’s a good lass.

Bryan’s impassioned demands that he be compensated for his lack of Rumble action with an automatic Elimination Chamber slot were met with a nose in the face and the arrival of The Shield, with Seth Rollins’ serendipitous tumble over the barrier cutting through the hostility in the crowd for a few seconds. The boy is the epitome of “If you stumble, make it part of the dance.” What a pro!

The Shield proceeded to maul Bryan but, as you might expect, a few mates came in his hour of need. Sheamus (yes, he’s back) and John Cena ran to the rescue before chasing the nasty bad guys away. There’s still something comforting about the fact that after all these years Michael Cole has never understood the difference between ‘cavalry’ and ‘Calvary’.

There was something else I needed to talk about. What was it? Maybe I was supposed to talk about how much I want to have Dean Ambrose bend my…mind. No, that’s not it. I already talk about that enough. It can’t have been the match between The Real Americans and Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara. That was as expected. Could it be Wade Barrett? Barrett, who now appears to spend his time being thrust toward the rafters on a mechanical penis while telling us that everything’s shit. I had a dream like that once except the cherrypicker penis belonged to….never mind. He’s like Eva Peron, but from Preston, and peddling terrible wisecracks. “Don’t cry for me, WWE Universe.” I do, Wade. I really do.

What was it, guys? Obviously not Fandango vs R-Truth. I definitely wouldn’t have been rushing to talk about Brock Lesnar interrupting Randy Orton and Brad Maddox’s discussion with a docker just off the night shift.

RAW_1079_Photo_086

I cannot recall a wrestler I’ve wanted to boot in their big, slimy, maroon face more than Lesnar. Loathing is too mild a word. I’d like to take some clippers to his stupid haircut that’s too small for his puffed up head and…yeah, it’s not him.

It couldn’t have been The Battle of Cleveland match between Miz and Dolph. Unless we’re talking hockey my knowledge of American sports is currently on hiatus. Maybe it was how depressing, if amusing, it was that the crowd were chanting for each individual member of the windbag commentary team during  Kofi and Del Rio’s match. We really should talk about the New Age Outlaw shaped pin that burst the tag-team bubble. Champions? Really? *cough* Nepotism *cough*. And a Selina Gomez quote? Okay, Dad. Why don’t you just get Snapchat and tell us how you can send your rude bits to your main squeeze like all the kids do. Ach, who am I to judge?  I’m the old lady who just typed ‘main squeeze’ and who’s already lost the Snapchat novelty.

There’s something bigger though. Something shocking. Something that might make me cry. The Divas getting better with their ring work but needing some stories is less red hot news and more a gospel chanted since the dawn of time. It does make me want to cry though. Jake Roberts being inducted into the Hall of Fame would not leave me dying to discuss it.

We’re back where we started now, with Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and John Cena trying to beat up on The Shield. Whichever team won would get the first three spots in the Elimination Chamber. It was a pretty good match, as it goes. Even better when The Wyatts turned up to interfere with The Shield’s game plan, costing them the match and setting up more scrapping between them going forward. If Randy Orton has to defend in the EC, that leaves just two spots left to fight over. Could this be what instigates the Shield break-up they’ve been teasing? All good fun, but not the ‘big thing’ of the week. Hmm.

Wait! Hold the phone. Why wasn’t Punk on Raw this week?!

RAW: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

Something has gone awry on Planet WWE. In a twist of bizarre proportions, Daniel Bryan has joined the unsavoury and unwashed Wyatt family. Except nobody really believes it. It’s about as unsettling as when a puppy softly growls at you in an attempt to convince you of its wolfy lineage.

He doesn’t even look like a Wyatt; largely because he clearly owns some salon quality shampoo and conditioner (sulphate-free, of course). But also because you know that tucked under those pristinely pressed sleeveless overalls is a Whole Foods carrier bag containing organic quinoa, a new jar of Stevia and a bumper sized tub of chia seeds. DB does not look like a man who resides in a swamp-drenched shack. And all I can think as his and Bray’s tag match against The Usos plays out is that, with it gathering so elegantly at the waist, not since Jennifer Beals has a boiler suit looked quite so glamorous.
Daniel_Bryan_Boiler_Suit
The bellowing Usos won the match as the result of DQ when the two additional Wyatts gatecrashed the party. It seemed this development had to be used to teach Daniel Bryan a lesson in losing, so was followed by an awkward body-dip, the likes of which is generally only seen during the first week of Strictly Come Dancing training. You get the feeling Daniel Bryan’s not in any way prepared for the Wyatt brand of prison romance.
Daniel_Bryan_Bray_Wyatt
The match between Damian Sandow and John Cena is standard second fight fodder and seems only to exist to remind us that Sandow cashed in his MITB contract on Cena and lost. The most remarkable thing about this match is that Cena has clashed his fluorescent green laces with the garish red and yellow boxer short elastic he seems intent on showing us throughout. Because asserting your status through your ability to afford expensive underwear is absolutely what a man of the 21st century would do! But then, I’m picking on a guy who’s worn cut-off jeans as wrestling gear for the entirety of his career. I have no doubt that he gives zero fucks that I feel the need to help him clash his neons more gracefully or tuck his knicker band back in. Check Alex Jones schooling John on how to do clashing neons on Wednesday’s One Show.
RAW_1077_Photo_060 Alex-Jones

WWE Network is the talk of the town and, to be fair, it looks promising. Being able to watch a year’s worth of PPVs for the suspiciously measly $9.99 is a bargain. And that’s before the thousands of hours of archive footage one can sift through to satiate one’s boredom. You also get to watch a reality show where veterans of the ring seemingly sit around arguing with each other over the semantics of matches nobody remembers. It has the potential to be as fist-gnawingly horrendous as Celebrity Big Brother and yet some seem to be vomiting with excitement to see it. Get back to me when you’re ready to roll out worldwide.

Big Show’s TKO on Zeb Colter following a blink-and-it’s-gone match was all you might expect it to be. Far better to hotfoot it to CM Punk and the New Age Outlaws against The Shield. It’s Rumble season, which means WWE like to drag out the old-timers gathering dust in the basement in preparation. I was left mulling over the stark American juxtaposition of a sports arena being named after a doughnut bakery. I then found myself wishing for a box of American doughnuts while I patiently waited for Gunn and Dogg to spew out their croaky patter and introduce their partner.

Ah CM Punk. I cannot quit you and I have no desire to. We’ve come a long way together, kid, and the first riff of Cult of Personality is akin to hearing the sudden jerk of that special ringtone you save for your boyfriend. I am never not fanning myself.  Enough swoonage, let’s move on to their opponents – The Shield. Oh. The improbable yet perfect trifecta of impressive brawn, dastardly brains and adorability. They’re renegades! Kind of. They still storm the ring through the crowd! While kissing babies on the head. Rollins continues to Jack-Bauer-roll over the barrier to announce his arrival! And then winks at the camera. The real story behind this match was that Punk’s degenerative sidekicks left him to be mauled by The Shield, which malfunctioned my cheer-o-meter beyond repair. Someone tell me how to feel.

Punk_Shield

AJ and Tamina’s match against the Funkadactyls was as depressing a reminder as it comes that the women’s division is becoming a single cherry tomato in a massive salad bowl. While the announcement that Ultimate Warrior be an inductee to the Hall of Fame is the best case yet for video games spoiling surprises.’Surprises’ makes the fanfare sound quite pleasant, but I think I’d rather save my trumpet blowing for less abominable human beings. Like that woman who threw a cat in the bin.

Ripple monster Randy Orton, now weighed down by two championship belts and therefore traversing the ramp slower than ever, had a match against sprightly Kofi Kingston. While the match had its charms, it was really just a vehicle to hype Orton’s title match against Cena at the Rumble. Frothing and dribbling phlegm like a teen at Harry Styles’ locked dressing room door, Randy Orton lost control in the eye of defeat.

Where would his spinning rage take him? To the ground? Yes. To the announce table? Naturally. To John Cena’s dad who just happened to be in the front row? Yep! A Cena/Orton feud just isn’t legendary until John’s dad gets his squishy face smashed in. It’s alluring in the same way that I cannot look away from Mary Poppins any time it’s scheduled on TV. I know what’s going to happen, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed the lone, blood-curdling scream that called out as Orton launched himself over the barrier and Cena Sr. I’ll expect that girl to be the new recruit on Total Divas next season.

Randy_Orton
The tag match barely made a dent and Alberto Del Rio vs Rey Mysterio was mainly used to tease Batista’s return next week. Oh yeah. There’s definitely a Rumble coming. Lest we forget my most favourite Batista screencap. That double denim, man.
Batista_Double_Denim

On the orders of Brad Maddox and a now besuited Kane, the main event was a repeat of the first event. This time Daniel Bryan – still looking like a fraudulent banker accidentally sent to a maximum security prison – and his new best mate were locked inside a steel cage with the Usos. The real brothers won the match by scaling the chains and making a quick exit. This left Wyatt furious and determined to dance Bryan into submission once more. His sweaty mouth whispered sweet nothings into Bryan’s ear before yet again dipping him into an imaginary baptism pool. Ah. But this wasn’t just a case of deja vu. Our trusted hero found his sword. So that wasn’t just a bag of quinoa in his pocket after all! He overthrew Wyatt.

Bryan shed his starched overalls, unleashed his suppressed fury on his hirsute mentor and left the crowd in absolute raptures. In a borderline terrifying display of support boasting the precision of a North Korean military pageant, the audience punched the air and Yes! Yes! Yes!’d along with Bryan’s every move, at various speeds, entirely dictated by him. You could say it’s a good job he’s such a nice guy. In the hands of those with a less dignified ego, this kind of universal adoration could go straight to their heads. But the thing is, only a genuinely nice guy could garner this type of widespread approval. Because those deserving always get rewarded in the end. Daniel Bryan is proof positive that the nice guy doesn’t always finish first, but he definitely finishes best.
Daniel_Bryan_crowd
RaeSignature

10 Ways to Spice Up Your (WWE) Relationship

We can’t help but notice that some wrestling fans and bloggers (and we’re both looking in a full length mirror here) have been a little ‘meh’ about the WWE lately. It’s not that Andrew and I have stopped watching. We’re still tuning in and enjoying what we see. It’s just that we haven’t been feeling like we’ve got much to say for a while. Rather than bombard you with rubbish, we kept quiet. Also, we found ourselves analysing wrestling so much that it was sucking the life out of it. A definite shift takes place when you go from fan to critic, and sometimes you need find your inner fan again. It’s a bit like a food critic who needs to go to a greasy spoon and eat a wonderfully disgusting fried breakfast to remember why they love food.

If you consider your WWE love like a relationship, just lately it’s hit an awkward stage. You’re having enough fun that you don’t want to call it quits and run for the hills. You’re not in that ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ place, but you’re not in such a giddy state that you’re frothing at the mere anticipation of watching either. Being the amateur psychologist that I am, I’ve come up with 10 tried and tested ways to spice up your relationship with the WWE and get it back on heart-pounding track. Come on, kids. Let’s put some lead back in that pencil! Here’s what our lab experiments concluded…..

Convert Someone 

The best way to jolt your memory into remembering why you love something so much is to try and explain to someone else why you love it. Grab a friend who knows nothing about wrestling, sit them down in front of Raw, talk them through it and LOL the night away at how many times they say “Dude, you know this isn’t real, right?” and “So jorts are a thing in wrestling?” and “Jesus, Randy Orton walks SLOWLY!” You’ll soon realise you kind of like knowing as much as you do about the non-sport of wrestling. It might also help if they’re a willing test subject. If you need to secure them to a chair with some gaffer tape or pay them in cold hard cash, choose a different friend.

Don’t Be Lonely 

If nobody around you loves wrestling, it can be a lonely pastime. If there’s nobody to make even the crappiest shows more fun, it can be easy to let them slip off your Sky+ hard drive unwatched. Think of it like when you’re getting sick of pounding out the miles on a treadmill at the gym and you wonder if you’d be happier getting home an hour earlier, growing fatter by the day. A good friend to share the experience with will give even the most arduous of work-outs a purpose. So if you find yourself fast forwarding through more matches than you’re watching, watch with someone else (even if you just do it over Skype) and share the love.

Put On Rose-Tinted Glasses

You know those phases in a relationship where every tiny thing your other half does annoys you? We’ve all been there. They leave toast crumbs in butter. They walk away from you in shops and you have to spend 20 minutes looking for them before you can leave. They call you ‘sweet-cheeks’ because they know you hate it. It makes you want to just AAAAAARRRRGGGHH! If this has been going on for a long time and you can’t rise above it, it might be time to say adios. But in most cases they’re just the annoyances that come along with any relationship. So too with wrestling. Ignore the silly stuff you don’t like. There will always be things that bug you. That’s life! Stop watching expecting to be disappointed and focus on the good stuff.

If I were a sentimental and crafty sort of person, I might suggest buying a big pasta jar from IKEA, taking some pretty notelet cards and writing something you love about wrestling on each card. A memorable moment, match or promo you’re fond of, for example. I might then suggest you go to the jar of wrestling love and pull out a card to read when you’re having one of those “I hate wrestling so much” weeks. I would say that if I were a sentimental and crafty person. Which I am not. Not at all. I am lying.

Don’t Panic! 

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to make every week as exciting as this year’s Money in the Bank? It would be impossible. The reason that show was so achingly exciting was that it built-up over time. To have peaks, there must be troughs. If you can ride out the quiet times without panicking that EVERYTHING HAS TO BE EXCITING ALL THE TIME, you’re made for life. Proving my theory that there is an episode of Friends for every event in life – remember when Phoebe started dating Gary and it was all heat and passion and new love? And remember when Monica got upset that her relationship with Chandler was too comfortable and EVERYTHING HAD TO BE SEXY ALL THE TIME? That worked out well in the end, didn’t it? Chill.

Have a Duvet Day 

Gather up some of the favourite matches or shows on DVD, book the day off work, put some cosy clothes on and spend the day watching and enjoying your favourite stuff under a blanket with a cup of tea. (Beverage choice negotiable.) Try to make them recent matches. You don’t want to spend the day watching stuff from the distant past and end up repeatedly saying “This was when wrestling was actually good.” That will defeat the purpose. Also, this works even better if you can do it with other people. Oh and if you can go back to work the next day and not feel the need to tell your colleagues a lie about what you really did on your day off, you get extra points. Nobody will believe you climbed that mountain or spent the day rescuing orphaned seals anyway.

Get Out of That Rut

If watching WWE has become a mundane part of your week, switch things up a bit. If you’re watching Smackdown on Friday night when you’re completely shagged from a heavy working week, you might not be absorbing the fun; especially if you’re thinking “It’s Friday night. Why aren’t I out on the town living the life of a hedonistic playboy/girl?” Alternatively, you might be missing parts of Raw because your kids keep waking up and requesting a cuddle during crucial moments. If you’ve lost part of the story and are wondering what happened to make Dolph Ziggler punch John Laurinaitis in the chops, you’re less likely to stick with the rest of the episode.  Watch on Saturday morning when you’ve had 10 hours of sleep and a bacon breakfast, or put a lock on the kids’ bedroom door so they can’t demand you show them any affection during wrestling-times.

Lust 

Turn up at a WWE show unexpected. Lie to the security guard about being a member of staff and make your way to CM Punk’s locker room in a nonchalant manner. Offer him a full-body massage and when he agrees…..alright, that’s just me. But hey, if you need to get through the quiet times lusting after your favourite superstar/diva, that’s okay. Whatever gets you through, kiddo. They’re not prancing around oiled up and half naked for their own amusement. Quite frankly, it would be rude not make use of their inherent buffness.

See Other People

When it’s just the two of you (WWE and yourself) and you’re focused on each other to the detriment of everything else, there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go when you really want to get away during the quiet times. I know we bang on about this all the time, but when your wrestling life is filled with more than one thing, it gives WWE a bit of context. Don’t be afraid to try something new. It makes your relationship healthier and we promise we won’t call you a slut.

Turn the Internet Off

We love to think we’re free-thinking and make our own decisions on which WWE stuff we like and don’t like. Lord knows I hold the minority view on most of the company’s activities. But it’s all too easy to find yourself carried along with a mob mentality. Before you know it, you’re in a “Do I love this or hate this? What does everyone else think? I can’t make my own decisions. Tell me what to feel, Internet?” situation. Turn Twitter off and watch the shows without the irritating crackle of snarky interference in the background. We no longer watch any WWE PPVs with Twitter open. It is a joy!

And if all else fails…..

Add Muppets. They are the seasoning that makes everything a little bit tastier.

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: Announce Team Edition

Boss Lady Ray: I was going to use this post to rant about the tedious Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Brian Lawler and Jim Ross segment on last week’s Raw. I planned on giving you a detailed précis of how very long it was. I was even going to time it to tell you exactly how many minutes were wasted on Michael Cole’s abominable dancing; if he was actually dancing at all. There’s a chance he was having an epileptic fit and nobody noticed. This might have lead nicely on to an analysis of how much actual wrestling there was on Raw last week. I might even have mentioned the WWE executive who suggested that the WWE isn’t a wrestling company and what that meant for the company’s output.

Then I felt a blush of embarrassment rising up my face like a greenhouse thermometer on a scorching day. This is the almost completed Road to Wrestlemania. It’s silly season. Who really cares that the announce team are having a match? Let the baby have its bottle. Give the dog a bone. Let the nut see the cracker (thanks, Paddy McGuinness). Jerry Lawler has been a servant of the business for decades, let him have a Wrestlemania match. Much as I hate to admit it, Michael Cole does a sterling job of being the guy everyone wants to punch in the gob. Any time you can involve Jim Ross in a storyline it at least give the die-hard smarks something to crow about and I had conveniently forgotten that Lawler and Cole’s Wrestlemania match is to be refereed by one Stone Cold Steve Austin. Stone Cold, the legend. Stone Cold, who hosts the next big WWE project – Tough Enough. Tough Enough, which starts in the same week as Wrestlemania and needs a little plugging.

I’m forever telling wrestling fans to lighten up, to not take it too seriously, to remember it’s just entertainment and not life and death, to keep in mind that everything WWE does is ultimately about plumping up the bank balance and that it isn’t going to please all the people all the time. Sometimes I forget to take my own advice. Being an objective fan of wrestling isn’t all that simple but, at the risk of making each and every one of you vomit over your laptops, with all the very serious things going on in the world at the moment, just repeat after me: “meh, it’s just wrestling.”

This song is dedicated to myself and all the other moaners, groaners, whingers, grumblers and complainers.* (It’s audio instead of video this week. YouTube was being unkind to me.)

*Disclaimer: I reserve the right to moan, groan, whinge, grumble and complain in the future. I’m only human.

Sidekick Andrew: Yeah, I’m not doing one this week… got a problem with that?

 

 

 

 

Have you entered our birthday giveaway yet? If not you definitely should. We’ve got some great prizes to give away. Click here to enter. Best of luck!

Unreal – In The Truest Possible Sense

Snooki from Jersey Shore was on Raw. Woah! And she’s going to be in a match at Wrestlemania. Double-woah! I realise there are people who think I should be using ‘woe’, and I won’t pretend it’ll be anything close to match of the year, but every Wrestlemania needs an attention-seeking celebrity guest to bring in the masses, right? Think Floyd Mayweather, Cyndi Lauper, Mike Tyson, Donald Trump…..the list goes on. I don’t really watch Jersey Shore. I would love to give you some high-brow, intelligent reason for why, but the genuine reason is that it’s the kind of inane trash I get addicted to and hate myself for wasting my life watching afterwards. So I have watched Jersey Shore, but I try not to.

The thing that surprised me about Snooki’s appearance on Raw wasn’t that she was actually very good, but that people were surprised that she pulled it off at all. The only misstep is that she hasn’t been teamed up with LayCool. That girl’s a heel if ever I saw one. Still, the whole point of the Wrestlemania celeb is that the crowd are on their side. We’ve mentioned before that wrestling and reality TV are bedfellows. Wrestling is as hyperreal as Jersey Shore. They’re both full of over-tanned, over-acting egos who blow-up at the tiniest sense of friction, pretending all along that it’s not pre-planned or scripted. The only real difference is that wrestling doesn’t hide the fact that that’s exactly what it is. Jersey Shore, The Hills, The City – all manufactured. But MTV would prefer if you didn’t know that, or at least, didn’t think about it.

Snooki stepping up to to Michelle McCool, then launching herself at Layla before arranging a future fight against LayCool and Dolph, flanked by Trish Stratus and John Morrison –  it’s all in a day’s work for this kid. It’s the kind of thing she does every day!

You see? Spot the wrestling! If there’s one thing I do know though, it’s that Melina had a little word in Snooki’s ear before she started ‘working’ with Morrison. No smushy-smushy-time, ya get me?

While we’re at it, Chris Jericho will be amazing on Dancing with the Stars for the same reason. It’s that whole ‘telling a story with your body’ thing. And before everyone starts with their ‘Hmm, wrestling and ballroom dancing are alike, aren’t they?’ posts, we beat you to it by about two years...here. Also here. What is wrestling if not an elaborate sequence of choreography where the tiniest deviation requires quick thinking to gracefully pull things back and make the slip a part of the performance? That’s before we even get to the spangly, skin-tight outfits and yet more over-tanning.

When I found out Chris Jericho was going to be on Dancing with the Stars I wasn’t that excited. This is largely due to the fact that Dancing with the Stars is the televisual poor relation of Strictly Come Dancing, the British and original version of the show. To be fair, they’ve stayed pretty faithful to the original. The set, the theme music, some of the judges and even a couple of the pro dancers are the same. But it just doesn’t feel right.

That all changed when the Sidekick showed me Jericho’s training video. I was warned beforehand to “Practice my ‘I’ve got a crush on Jericho’ face.” It’s something along these lines:

Not actually me. Although I have got a cardigan that colour.

Really though, hasn’t everyone got a permanent crush on Chris Jericho? There are very few wrestlers who everyone loves unconditionally, but Jericho’s definitely in that exclusive group. Who else would you put inside that fence? So, after deciding I wouldn’t cover his dancing antics on this blog, it took about 30 seconds of Jericho’s training video to change my mind. I’m a sucker. I’d say he’s about to rumba his way into my heart, but he’s already there anyway. I’ll do my very best to keep up. It’ll be tricky getting access to the shows from over here but I’ll pull some strings. I’m getting giddy already! Let’s watch again……

 

 

 

……and if you just can’t get enough of Chris Jericho, you can enter our second birthday giveaway to win a copy of his new book, among other wonderful prizes. Click here to enter your details. Only one more week to go!

Sunday Musings

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

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

Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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