That Was The Week That Was: 27th May – 2nd June 2013

TWTWTW_CHIKARA

Seven days is a long time in wrestling. Each week Rachel will cast her eye over the landscape and handpick the stuff that stands out. Sometimes they’ll be the most obvious events, but often more subtle shifts in the business. They’ll always be written from her own unique point of view. Unlike the original That Was The Week That Was, she won’t be singing the news. 

The Death of CHIKARA?

Last week I was playing the Related Artists Game on Spotify. You pick a song, then your next tune must be by one of the listed related artists. I found myself faced with Noah and the Whale. I’m not a particularly big fan of theirs, but there is one song that will forever justify their existence – Tonight’s the Kind of Night. I was rushed with a flood of heart thumping nostalgia.

This song happened to find my ears during the week leading up to CM Punk’s immortal will-he-won’t-he story at Money in the Bank 2011. Through sheer coincidence, the lyrics were so close to summarising Punk’s journey, it gave me shivers. It really was the kind of night where absolutely everything could change. To date, I have never been more invested in how a wrestling tale was going to work out. I have certainly never had such an explosively emotional reaction to a show.

The thing about those few months of change was that the events were rooted in reality. That’s what made the difference. How much of it was written and how much was Punk just not giving a damn will only ever be known by a handful of people. If you watch his DVD, it was all legit. He was off. In actuality, it doesn’t matter. The fact that we didn’t know where the boundary was made it all the more compelling. It made it categorically wrestling.

Last night the CHIKARA: Never Compromise iPPV reminded me of Money in the Bank. For all that the matches were brilliant, there was a strange, electrically charged cloud hanging over it; the cloud that had the potential to rain on CHIKARA’s parade and put it out of action for good. Rumour’s had it for some time that real life, highly personal matters threatened the company with extinction. At least, under the branding as it stands. It was an unsettling discussion. If there’s one thing CHIKARA fans love it’s that it’s a complete break from the everyday. Unlike with Punk, though, I wasn’t torn between someone doing what was right for them and doing the thing that made me most happy.

The show was running later than we expected and it was getting late in the UK. We debated whether to stay up for the main event or not, but decided that the big announcement promised for the end of the show had to be worth losing a little sleep over. The announcement never came. Icarus and Eddie Kingston’s main event match was interrupted by a team of men in dark suits. They trashed the stage. They shut the show down. They turned off the feed. They threw all the fans out of the building and locked the doors. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel very CHIKARA. It felt kind of real.

There were reports that someone had thrown something through a door in anger and smashed it, before being dragged back into the Trocadero. According to Twitter this was the start of a riot. Those at the scene quickly closed that idea down. Even the legitimacy of the furious protestor has been called into question today, because of the way he was swiftly pulled back into the building. A real fan? A plant? Who knows? One thing I do know is that I don’t want to hear about Bryce Remsburg – happiest man on the planet – leaving in tears. It messes with my head.

The manner in which the show was halted was, of course, staged. But the reality behind it is yet to come to light. CHIKARA may very well have huffed out its last breath, ready to morph into something new. But one thing I’ve always placed in CHIKARA is trust. There is no cleverer promotion in operation. I’ve lost count of how many AH-HA! moments there’ve been, where various easter eggs dotted around the internet suddenly make sense. Was this a story they took too far and made too dark? Possibly. But they haven’t steered me wrong yet and you don’t build the best pound-for-pound wrestling promotion in the world only to let it disperse for the sake of paperwork.

Just like when Punk  (temporarily) kissed his tenure goodbye, I have never been more eager to know what happens next, while at the same time never more unsure about which parts of wrestling are fooling me. But isn’t that the point?

RaeSignature

Tough Enough: Silent Rage and Pretty Shoes

Andrew’s having an unfortunate bit of luck at the moment. The last time it was his turn to cover Tough Enough he was poorly for the whole week. Now it’s his turn again, his computer’s died and…..waitaminute. I see a theme forming here. It’s lucky I’m a good boss and not in any way suspicious of his current misfortune.

As it’s the Bank Holiday I haven’t got time to do a full recap, but just know that Christina made it back from hospital with just a little ankle sprain, they all did the commentary for an open-top bus tour around Hollywood and were so cringeworthy we had to chew on cushions while we watched it, oh and The Rock swung by to show the contestants how to cut a bitchin’ promo. Their own promos had to be delivered to Bill DeMott and in front of the trainers and The Rock. Some were good, others a massive flop. The elimination went a little something like this:

Tough Enough: The Serious Episode

I sat down to write about Tough Enough this week but struggled to take the mickey like we have in previous weeks. Although, the scene where the Divas took the contestants to dinner was worth a thousand laffs by itself. Our intense hatred of Luke induced such venom I could easily write a whole post on why he’s so awful, and maybe I will at some point. If he wins we’ll…have a good old grumble about it. You know we’re not going to riot. Also, we absolutely think Eve and Jer-Mah should be a couple. They can talk about MMA stuff and look longingly into each others’ eyes.

But things got ever so serious during this week’s episode and, maybe I’m going soft in my old age, but I just didn’t feel like taking the low road this time. Reality TV is a strange thing. Whichever show it is, it’s infinitely easier to poke fun at the contestants at the beginning of a series when you don’t know them from Adam. When you’re heading towards the end and you’re emotionally invested in their progress, it gets trickier to point the Nelson Muntz finger and say “Ha-ha, you suck.” The Apprentice is the exception to this rule. I rarely warm to any of those cold hearted monsters.

I’m not concerned with the fact that Tough Enough hasn’t done exceptionally well in the American ratings. I can’t stand the American obsession with TV ratings at the best of times.  But I am slightly disappointed it’s not been that well received by fans of wrestling. Why not? If nothing else this progamme gives an insight into what it’s like to train as a wrestler and has been a check-point in reminding myself how easy wrestlers make a very difficult job look. Admittedly, the set-up has been heavily manipulated and condensed for TV and the schedule they’re working to, but learning how to execute the moves, keeping going when you’re worn out and having the determination not to get into a negative mindset are all highlighted. Never more so than this week.

In this week’s episode the pressure of professional wrestling was beginning to show. When Christina had a private yoga session with Trish, she became upset discussing the pressure of having to display strength at all times and never taking a break to ‘just be’. She described that feeling as being like a physical strong-suit that she wasn’t allowed to take off. I completely understand that feeling. When you’re trying to achieve something or overcame an obstacle, particularly if it’s physical, there’s always a worry that having a vulnerable day or a rest day is seen as weakness and will put you behind the rest.

Andy became too violent during a training match, bloodying Luke’s nose and throwing him dangerously out of the ring. He said he’d lost focus because he was missing his family. He re-motivated himself by watching a video of his young daughter and speaking with his wife. Yet this is the lifestyle they’re all chasing. This is what they’ll be facing for the next 20+ years…if they’re lucky. Luckiness and serendipity came to the fore further during this episode.

Events took a more serious turn when Martin became injured while leaving the ring. It looked like nothing but a simple twist of the ankle, but a night in hospital revealed that he’d fractured it and had no option but to leave the competition. It was incredibly sad. I had hardly noticed Martin at the beginning of the series but he had become the number one person to beat, consistently winning skills challenges and impressing the trainers throughout. If I’d had to select one contestant to win the contract before this episode, I’d have picked Martin without even thinking about it. His departure was emotional and a shocking reminder that getting ahead isn’t just about being good. It’s also about having luck on your side. I have Rey Mysterio’s “Injuries can happen at any time.” from the ‘don’t try this at home’ video ringing in my ears. Steve Austin, clearly affected by Martin’s injury, let him pin his own belt up before he left. It was especially touching and a mark of just how far Martin had come during the training sessions.

It didn’t end there. After Martin had hobbled away from his dream on crutches and in tears, Christina injured her ankle and had to be rushed to hospital following an awkward collision with AJ. The show ended without an elimination and with Christina’s participation in the show hanging in the balance. It’s definitely true that the drama in Tough Enough is ramped up for television and the show can be a little cartoony in places, but it’s actually a microcosm of all the wrestling issues we discuss so fervently every day. It’s a shame more people aren’t watching it and using it as a springboard for debate. Sometimes I find all that goes into making a product work behind the scenes far more interesting than the final product itself.

Tough Enough: 2-4-6-8! Who shall we e-lim-in-ate?

What a rollercoaster ride these first three weeks of Tough Enough have been. We’ve selected our favourites, pointed our fingers at our most hated contestants and watched our number one boy unjustifiably sent home. We’ve had the theme tune stuck in our heads and, most excitingly, this blog had its first ever WWE endorsement. These are exciting times:

Before we get too smug though, I think we should run through all the silliness that took place in the third instalment of Tough Enough. This episode began with plinky-plonky music, majestic shots of cacti at dawn and a dreamy Californian sunrise. The peaceful atmosphere is so enjoyable, it’s clearly too good to be true. Cue distorted plinky-plonky music and…….

Yep. Thought so. Big Bill DeMott drags their dead bodies out of bed and down to the front of the palace to go for a run. Scary as Bill is, even his voice bellowing at me to get up and start running in the dry Californian heat at 6:08am couldn’t make me move. At that time of the day I’d be lucky to make it down to the kitchen to put the kettle on without missing a step on the stairs and falling arse over elbow. Then again, I’m not a contestant on a television programme that leads to a dream job at the WWE.

If this sprint through the hills is designed to separate the wheat from the chaff, the chaff are an absolute embarrassment. Those in peak physical fitness race away and make it to the finish line in impressive time. Those who decided to show up at the audition of a lifetime not having stepped foot in the gym at all since being called to action are subjected to Stone Cold’s heckling from the comfort of his golf buggy:

Most concerning is Michelle, who not only admits that her only exercise is chasing her daughter around at playtime, but who actually seems so unwell during the run I was start feeling sorry for her. Before my gym activity was curtailed, running was the thing that killed me the most. Watching Michelle, I knew exactly how that stitch in her side felt. Maybe Stone Cold would sympathise too:

No.

But possibly the most frustrating competitor of all is Eric. Eric: the man with the size and looks they all say could make him an instant star, and yet who moves so slowly along the course I wonder if my media player’s switched to half-speed playback. At this point Stone Cold switches from being a front row heckler at an open mic night to embodying David Attenborough commenting on wild animals, just inches away from their habitat.

Eric really doesn't seem that bothered, does he?

This week’s life lesson revolves around technique. The contestants buddy up and are instructed to work their way through a sequence of holds. Michelle seems to have forgotten how to operate her arms and stands in front of Christina air-punching the ground.

She then goes on to mess up the suplex Cock-Sure Luke applies and starts doing the upset tremble-voice in front of Trish. You know the one. Hey, you know what we haven’t had yet this week? A visit from a WWE Superstar who stands at ringside and intimidates the kids just with their sheer presence.

Back in the training room, Stone Cold is so impressed with Cock-Sure Luke he decides to ignore the medical advice never to wrestle again and wrestles him. Cock-Sure Luke does such a brilliant job he’s even more cock-sure than usual.

....with apologies to the god-like creature that was Paul Newman.

Following an emotional phonecall to home, Michelle becomes increasingly withdrawn from the group, not even noticing that Rima’s questioning of her focus is beautifully Machiavellian.  During training Michelle can’t stands it no more and decides to resign from the competition, handing back her title belt and citing her hellish homesickness as a sign that she should indeed be at home.

All joking aside, this is why WWE Divas retire to have babies. This is not the post to start discussing the roles of women in the WWE workplace, but if you’re interested I have written about it before here.  As much as we’ve taken the mickey out of Michelle and her inability to take a bump, it was an honourable thing to bow out knowing you don’t want to win any more. Nobody can fault her on that. Also, I really want a hug from Stone Cold.

No face contact? Bad hugging technique, SC.

Well that was all very philosophical and serious, wasn’t it? I think we need something to cheer ourselves up.

Much better. The crew were introduced to a troop of professional cheerleaders who would teach them a routine they’d have to perform for tourists in front of Universal Studios. Initially this seems like a ludicrous idea, but if you think about it, wrestling and cheerleading require a similar balance of athletic ability, gymnastic technique and embellished showboating. Some of the contestants revel in the opportunity to perform regardless of the medium, others revert to a high school mentality of ‘Urgh. Cheerleading’s for girls. I’m not doing that shit.’

I’m starting to get the feeling Mickael really wanted to be on Jersey Shore and accidentally submitted the wrong application form. Jer-mah, on the other hand, looks like the boy least likely to ever be a cheerleader, yet approaches it with such enthusiasm he immediately becomes our new favourite. The Wrestlegasm Kiss of Death means he has about a week before he’s eliminated. Sorry, Jer-mah. But at least it made his lifetime when Stacey Keibler turned up to help them with their cheerleading technique.

They uncomfortably flip and yell their way through the routine, with only Rima falling from a great height. Knowing this might have shown her in a bad light, she goes to Bill during the next training session to ask for some extra, one-on-one help. She’s a wily one that Rima.

The next challenge is called Chain of Command. Two people get in the ring and carry out a string of holds and moves until the judging panel tell them to stop. If they’ve done well they return to the queue of competitors and wait for another turn. If they’ve done badly, they’re out. The game moves along smoothly until Luke gets cut for coasting his way through the moves. I have one thing to say on that:

The next memorable moment comes when Ryan decides to add a little acting flair to his performance and ends up looking more like a pantomime dame than a WWE Superstar. Unless he was basing his character on Santino.  Hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons.

Surprisingly, the final two were Eric and Donny ‘Martin’ Osmond, with Eric running out of puff and handing the win to Martin. Bill decided to stop calling him Donny Osmond. He has arrived!

After spending some time in the ode to Texan style that is Stone Cold’s office, the judges decided to bring Rima, Ryan and Mickael back for a little chat about elimination. It went something like this:

Tough Enough: The Rebirth

Up until yesterday we had no plans to cover the all new Tough Enough here at Wrestlegasm.com. We certainly planned on commenting on it in a post here and there, but we weren’t planning on recapping it. Then we watched the first episode. We LOVED the first episode. We saw so much potential for ribbing in the first episode we just couldn’t leave it alone. We tried to talk ourselves out of it, but the second we saw how incredible Stone Cold’s office was, we gave in. I’m starting with week one and the Sidekick will take next week, then I’ll take week three and….you get it.

Where to start? Well, just in case the concept is lost on you and you didn’t catch any of the previous series, this is WWE’s reality show. It’s made to show us fans just how tough it is to be on the WWE roster. Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Guvna, drags inexperienced kids with a dream and indie grafters looking for a step up through the grueling training needed to be a WWE Superstar or Diva. Basically, if NXT were real it would look like Tough Enough. (About as real as reality TV gets, anyway. See here for my recent ponderings on reality TV.)  I could profile each contestant, but that would make this a stupidly long post. It’s best if we jump straight into the drama and get to know these fresh young faces as we go along.

So the first life lesson Stone Cold wants the kids to learn is that you can’t just jump to the top of the bill. You’ve got to understand what goes into making a live WWE show happen to appreciate the privilege of being in the ring etc. He decides to do this by having them dress up in overalls, assist in setting the show up, then help take everything down again once its over. The contestants take this on with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Ariane seems appalled that her precious little self is being made to….eww…gather electrical cable.

She also wore VERY stupid shoes

Former America’s Next Top Model gal, Michelle, gets on with it but exclaims loudly about still looking pretty with her hand in large bins of rubbish. I’m suspicious of Michelle. In fact, I’m suspicious of anyone who auditions for multiple reality shows. It screams ‘I want to be famous and I don’t care what for!’ From what I remember of her stint on America’s Next Top Model, she was often uncoordinated and she cried a lot. In fact, I distinctly remember all kinds of drama when Janice Dickinson…..wait for it……bleached her hair! *SCREEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAM* We’ll come back to her later.

Boo-Hoo. My hair is blonde.

No American reality show is complete without a sickeningly palatial home where the contestants can screech and claw at each other for dramatic effect while wearing pyjamas. Tough Enough is no different. Before they can run around the house yelling about how totally awesome it is, they have to meet Austin’s team of training folk; namely Booker T, Trish Stratus and scary Bill DeMott.

That's some beatiful wrought iron work. Lovely.

On arriving at their bedrooms, which appear to be an interior designer’s wet dream, they all find their own spinner belt and a note from the Guvna explaining that they have to be given back to him as they’re eliminated. One of the people most taken with this concept is Matt Capiccioni (or Matt Cross as we know him). I’ll point out now that we love Matt Cross. Expect both myself and the Sidekick to gush over him incessantly…..purely in a ‘written word’ manner, of course. Maybe. He’s the indie veteran we’re gripping tightly to in the Wrestle Bunker. We’ve watched Matt during many an indie DVD marathon and, in short, we’d happily have his babies. Both of us. We also think it’s cool that someone slightly older than the rest (with sexy grey hair-flecks) isn’t afraid to throw himself in with the crowd to get ahead.

In less swoonful matters, it all kicks off big style when bulky Mickael decides to start disparaging the ladies in the troop by suggesting that women have it easier in the wrestling world. His reasoning for this stems from the idea that all they’ve got to do is wiggle their arse to get a contract. I’m not going there. We’ve been there before on this blog on several occasions and you know our feelings, but in the house it had the effect of pulling the pin on a grenade. Taking particular offense was Rima Fakih, the current Miss USA, who showers Mickael in a tirade of expletives you just wouldn’t expect from such a highly polished beauty queen. Ah how I love the contrast that is a beautiful girl with inner feist. I hope she’s good.

She will cut you, bitch. No, seriously. I think she would.

That’s enough of this sniping, let’s get in the training room and see what they’ve got. On strolling through the door our contestants are met with a trio of toughness in the form of Booker, Stratus and DeMott. They’re immediately told to drop to the floor and do speedy sit-ups and press-ups. The super-fit bods excel, the ones who forgot to train before they rocked up at the mansion doors struggled. They had just moved on to speed squats when…. guess who bursts through the doors on his motorbike?

Stone Cold doesn’t park his bike outside. Oh no. Outside’s for losers. He rides it past the horses’ stables and right up to the ring with his theme music playing in the background. Living the dream, baby! I wonder if that’s how he enters every building. I love the idea that Stone Cold rides through the sliding doors at PetSmart to the sound of broken glass, pulls up at the cash desk and shouts “GIMME TWO BAGS O’ WHISKERS KIBBLE FOR MATURE CATS AND A PACK O’ WORMIN’ TABLETS BEFORE I KICK YOUR SORRY RUMP INTO THA MIDDLE O’ NEXT WEEK, ASSHOLE!” Rides off again, nobody bats an eyelid.

The first task of the day is to roll across the ring. It seems simple enough for people who want to be wrestlers, but it’s trickier than it looks. Martin from Utah is given the name ‘Donny Osmond’ for obvious reasons. He claims not to know who that is.

Yeah, right. You're a filthy liar.

He turns out to be pretty good at rolling, as are AJ and Luke. Ariane is terrible. Her brain computes rolling as ‘do a hand-stand, then drop’. The Guvna’s not happy. He was even less happy when Rima interpreted the task as ‘touch the mat with your hands and flop into a heap.’

Oh Rima. I hope this is a rouse to make everyone think you’re rubbish, only to come back later with killer moves. I so wanted her to be good. Two-time reality star Michelle, who claims to have 11 years experience (BAH!) can’t even attempt a roll. She’s told to run the ropes and lock up with DeMott instead. She claims to have “lost her basics”. *eyebrow raise*

The majority of the contestants go home, get boozed up and mess about in a jacuzzi. The sensible characters among them (and both myself and the Sidekick) shook their heads at their frat-style excess. The next morning Luke claims that he wants to be the Ric Flair of the competition, partying all night long. Dude, you’ve seen what’s happened to Flair, right? Think on, child. Think on.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUURRRRGGGGHHHHHH

A new day has dawned, we’re back in the training room and we know things are getting serious because Stone Cold WALKS through the door. Not motor biking, WALKING. EEK! The challenge is to ‘run the ropes’ for three solid minutes. It seems easy, but anyone who’s ever done a bleep test knows that sometimes the simplest endurance exercises are the ones which kill you the most. But the most important part of this segment of the show was that we caught our first proper glimpse of Austin’s executive office.

There's also a full-size glass skull just out of shot. Oh yes.

We like to think that’s his actual office and that it definitely wasn’t set up for the show. Don’t be a downer and spoil it for us by telling us the truth.

Big Eric struggled the most. The Guvna was frustrated. He appeared to have everything you’d want in a WWE Superstar, yet he seemed to be running the ropes in slower motion than John Morrison’s entrance. Jeremiah (pronounced Jer-Mah) lost his false teeth while running, Michelle made a poor job of impressing the boss and Ariane spent the entire time pulling her yoga trousers up, even though Trish repeatedly barked at her to stop.

Her trousers are divalicioussssss, apparently

Rima committed the worst crime of all by padding her bum out with what appeared to be some knee strapping. Oh Rima. Why are you doing this to me? And look how angry you made Stone Cold?

The Guvna invited the trainers back to his office to have a pow-wow over who the bottom three should be. So who were they?

It ended a little something like this:


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!

scripted reality: why wrestling and the hills are more alike than you think

I know what you’re thinking. Wrestling is a semi-sport where beefy people beat each other up, self-harm for audience entertainment and perspire inelegantly in PVC trunks. The Hills is a TV show about a group of flouncy, LA rich kids who insist that we share in every sordid detail of their privileged lives. They cannot possibly be connected.

thehillsandwwe

But, the WWE and The Hills are more alike than you might think.  On Tuesday, I was catching up on all the latest WWE gossip at PWTorch.com when I came across a story about former WWE Diva, Torrie Wilson, appearing on the American version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here alongside Spencer Pratt from The Hills. Being in the UK, I don’t have access to this show. Even if I did I doubt I’d watch it. I can bearly bring myself to watch the British version, mainly because they choose celebs so obscure I don’t know who they are. And that’s saying something because I’m quite obsessed with popular culture.

So, apparently Spencer had been upsetting all his fellow contestants in the jungle basecamp and had started a fierce squabble with Torrie Wilson. If I remember correctly it involved an unfounded allegation of steroid use. The PWTorch article also asked readers to identify which heel wrestler Spencer reminded them of.  I got to thinking, the similarities between WWE and The Hills really are striking. I can tell you need a little convincing, so let me elaborate.

Both the WWE and The Hills produce television which, on the surface, appears to be real. But when you apply some logic to them neither are entirely truthful or natural.  We know that when someone gets kicked in the head in wrestling, it isn’t a full force kick. Like when Randy Orton kicked Ric Flair in the skull on Raw this week. We KNOW the kick was just a scuff of the skin rather than a huge crack.  And that’s ok. We suspend our grasp of reality and get lost in the story for the duration of the show. We buy in to characters that are half real, half an exaggeration of their actual personalities. We go along with scripted storylines, we cheer and boo at heroes and villains, and we anticipate what might happen to those characters the following week.

The Hills is much the same. Yes, the people the show follows are real people. But the reality we see on the screen is a distorted, skewed and slightly manufactured version of reality. Whenever you see Lauren  meeting with Brody for lunch, they have mic-packs clipped to their jeans. They may have arranged to meet for lunch in advance, but before they could sit down to that meal, a production team has wired them up and has  set cameras up across the street to capture their conversation. It’s real, but far from natural.

The Hills also has its fair share of heroes and villains. Those of us who are fans of the show like nothing better than discussing how flaky Justin is and how Audrina is just so silly for returning to him over and over again. And when they play the “Coming up next on The Hills…..” clip at the end of every show, we almost can’t stand the seven day wait to find out what happens next in the lives of our favourite “characters”.

Also, both shows are aspirational. I have made no secret of the fact that I’d sell a kidney to look and move like Michelle McCool. I’m sure there are men who watch Randy Orton, John Cena and CM Punk and feel the same way.  Despite knowing the lives of professional wrestlers are short, painful and emotionally draining, many fans still secretly aspire to that lofty level of audience adoration.

When watching The Hills, that laid-back, wealthy, fashionable, cool lifestyle is certainly aspirational. Be honest, if you’re a woman who watches The Hills, you’ve probably secretly imagined yourself living Lauren Conrad’s life, despite knowing full well that what we see on screen is just a tiny, exciting snapshot of her actual life. After watching an espisode of The Hills I find myself thinking in their rhythm of speaking. You know what I mean. That “I know, riiiiight? Ok, so, I called Doug last night and you TOTALLY won’t believe what he said to me. Like, for real, OH MY GOD he was so mean to me.” I can’t lie, when I’ve been watching a really amazing episode of Raw (rare at the moment, I know, but still) I get a little spring in my step. I feel a bit feistier. Like I’ve got fire in my belly. It rubs off on me.

So you see, even though it seems unlikely, the ‘it’s real, but it’s not’ formula applies to two entirely unconnected TV entities and makes them bedfellows. Now, with the serious media analysis over (ha, I’m just SOOO academic), time for something a little more light-hearted to finish. PWTorch asked us to assign Spencer Pratt to a WWE heel, right? So let’s do a quick run-through of the cast to see what we can come up with. If you are familiar with The Hills, feel free to disagree with my choices and suggest alternatives. This would be a whole lot easier if the women of the WWE were given more time to develop public personas, but I covered that already in an earlier post. Let’s see what we have here……….

LAUREN

Strong, dependable, and fun. The kind of girl you want to be best friends with.

lc

She is …….

mj

Mickie James

——————————————–

HEIDI

Naive, headstrong, misses the joke sometimes and can’t do what she knows is for her own good.

hmontag

She is……

WWE Diva Maria Kanellis attends a press conference announcing th

Maria

——————————————–

STEPHANIE

Seems like she’s your friend but not always trustworthy. Watch your back.

sp

She is……

maryse

Maryse

——————————————–

AUDRINA

A beautiful girl who you’d love to be friends with, but she has questionable taste in men.

Audrina-Patridge

She is…….

mmcool

Michelle McCool

——————————————–

LO

Kind of a background friend. Not the first person you think of but always there in a crisis.

lo-

She is…….

afox

Alicia Fox

——————————————–

SPENCER

A complete and utter prick who most people would like to punch in the eye.

spencer_pratt

He is…….

Untitled-1

The Miz

——————————————–

BRODY

Charismatic, always around when needed but a little shady when it comes to the ladies.

bjenner

He is…..

Untitled-2Edge

——————————————–

DOUG

A little sleazy and full of his own inflated sense of self-importance.

dougreinhardt2

He is……

matt_hardy

Matt Hardy

——————————————–

JUSTIN

Manages to blow every opportunity he gets.

8686_photo

He is……

kennedy

Mr. Kennedy (Sorry, Ken. Cheap shot, I know.)