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:

Dancing with Jericho: Part Five

Depending on how you feel about my Dancing with the Stars posts, you’ll either be really pleased or really disappointed this one is much shorter than usual. This week was American Week and apart from our Chris Jericho making a lovely job of the Viennese waltz, the whole show was a giant puke-fest of gaudy Stars & Stripes inspired outfits, outrageously inappropriate music and displays of patriotism so overt it would have made me bilious even when I was at the height of my love affair with the USA. So rather than subject both myself and the faithful readers to a 1500-word sociological commentary on patriotism, or a huge rant on how much I hate the need for random gimmicks on this show, I’ll just say nice things about Mr. Jericho’s dancing.

There. I’ve cheered up already. As I explained previously, the Viennese waltz incorporates waltz steps with rotations around the dancefloor. Clearly those 18th Century Austrians liked a challenge. Just like Simon Cowell on X-Factor, the judge everyone wants to impress is Len Goodman. If you get a wink of approval from Len, you know you’re doing it right. Chris Jericho was feeling the pain of not getting more than a seven from Len and asked Cheryl to help him achieve it. He did this while speaking in a mock English accent. It was more Ozzy Osborne than Len Goodman, but I’ll keep him out of the Dick Van Dyke Club for Awful British Accents because I like him so much.

Not only was Chris feeling the pressure of dancing to  America the Beautiful, he was also incurring the wrath of the dreaded Viennese waltz motion sickness. His nausea is represented in this dainty move:

What’s most pleasing is that Chris is fed up of coasting through the competition in the middle of the board. He’s ready to start reaching for the big glitterball and win this bitch! Or in wrestling terms, he wants to get bumped up from being a mid-carder to main eventing for the big titles.  Let’s waltz Viennese style…..

Even though I’m saving the upgraded crush-face for another dance in protest against a truly terrible episode, Jericho was pretty special during this dance. Dreamy, even. To make the Viennese waltz look effortless takes a lot of skill and control. He definitely pulled it off. Bruno and Carrie Anne thought it was fantastic and Len gave a tentatively positive judgement, ending in “Yow’ll ge’t an ayt when yow dee-zerve an ayt.” And if you understood that, I applaud you. Score time!

Sit tight, darling. I’ve got a good feeling about these scores.

Yay! Very well deserved indeed. The American people clearly agreed. Our hero has sailed through to week six, while lovely Petra Nemcova went home. Next week is apparently Guilty Pleasures Week. How this will translate to the dancing, I have no idea. I suspect it will involve Kendra Wilkinson slutting about in a tiny samba skirt and getting upset the following week because people were looking at her legs. The great news is that Chris Jericho will be the first celeb this series to do a tango. Time for him to bring back his serious, Latin face, and for me to dust off the Chris Jericho crush-face I refused to pull out this week. More dancing, less faffing next week. PLEASE!

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!

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!


the welsh are coming! – mason ryan arrives

I said it would happen. Didn’t I say it would happen?  Almost a year to the day I wrote this post about Barri Griffiths, he appears on Raw. And if you’re not sure who that is, he’s now going by the name ‘Mason Ryan’. Still none the wiser? Fine. It’s this guy.

He made it. My Welsh-speaking Welshman from Wales made it to the big-time and I’m so unbelievably proud that I felt a little bit sick with excitement when I heard the news on Tuesday morning. I logged into my Twitter account and saw this:

I ran across the Wrestle-Bunker hallway and ordered Sidekick Andrew to tell what had happened. He showed me this:

I cried. No, not really. But I was absolutely thrilled. After a year of trawling the internet looking for FCW downloads so I could watch him wrestle in his new guise, he’s moved up to Raw. After a year of tweeting Steve Keirns to get FCW on YouTube, I can leave the poor guy alone. After a year of crossing my fingers, toes and other unmentionables hoping Barri would be in the next series of NXT only to be disappointed every time, he’s done it!

Sidekick Andrew continuously said “Don’t worry, I’ve a feeling he doesn’t need NXT. They’ll move him straight up. They made him FCW champion really early and he’s been on overseas tours already.” I wanted to believe it, but I worried that he’d be future endeavoured before he’d even had chance to grace my television screen. Actually, do cut FCW guys even get future endeavoured? That doesn’t matter any more. If you’ve been living under a rock this week, here’s how it went down……

CM Punk, now the leader of New Nexus, had a match against John Cena. John was back for the first time since Christmas and the crowd bellowed and hollered liked children just given a bag of Haribos after a fortnight without a sugar-hit. Nexus were banned from ringside for the match and Punk’s posse were worried. He, on the other hand, was not.  Let’s be honest, CM Punk can take Cena any day of the week.  Flexibility and speed beat slow and chunky every time.

Proof!

This goes on for a while and despite a brief comeback from Cena, he never really made a dent. Had I not known how this ended I would assumed that after Punk dominating the match, Super-Cena would dust off his hands and take the win. No. Both boys were splayed on the canvas  when a large gentleman in a vest, jeans and fetching tan slip-ons jumped up on the apron to point and shout at Cena.  Some random member of staff made a futile attempt at dragging him down by the leg, but this was never going to work. Barri was on a mission.

With Cena duly distracted, Punk was able to crawl up to his feet and kick him in the head. Nice. Delirious that his plan had come together, Punk held his arms out and invited  a celebratory kick to the gut. Barri obliged.

Barri was now FURIOUS and channelled his rage into slamming Cena into the mat. This is what all Welsh people look like when you spill their pint. Take note if you’re planning a weekend away.

The rest of the Nexus fellas ran in, unsure of who this person was and if his strange, foreign ways should be trusted. But Punk liked him. He liked him a lot. In fact, they way they eyed each other up I wondered if a man-snog might be in the offing.

Then Barri dropped to his knees, lowered his head and…..(behave yourselves)…..raised his arm so Punk could induct him into the New Nexus with an elastic armband.

Then it ended with Barri’s face as the final shot. That’s huge! That’s like getting the drums at the end of Eastenders.

Mae hen wlad fy Nghadau yn annwyl i miiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

So anyway, he may be some random stranger who genuflected in front of CM Punk at the end of Raw to you, but this was seriously significant news in my homeland. Well, kind of. They did a piece about him on BBC Wales Today, Wales’ nightly news programme. I didn’t think much of the report. It all seemed rather generic and strung-together at the last minute. I would suggest that the BBC hire me to run a weekly segment called Barri Watch. It could be sandwiched between the sport and the weather report. Lucy Owen could hand over to me:

This is Lucy Owen.

Then I could hand over to local legend Derek ‘the weather’ Brockway.

This is Derek 'the weather' Brockway

The report they put together was quite humorous actually. The sports dude referenced Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin as he lead into the report:

Then during the report they spoke with Barri’s super-proud mam and dad:

Ah yes. Now I see where he got that tropical tan and raven hair from.

Who were apparently watching:

Yep! Wrestlemania! Not Raw. Which their son was on. Silly BBC Wales Today.

But my favourite bit was after the report where the sports dude and Derek discussed their favourite wrestlers. Sports dude liked Big Daddy, Derek Weather liked Giant Haystacks. What they were trying to say was……

Oh how we all laughed.

I’m poking fun, but I actually love Wales Today and they were thoroughly proud of our Barri. Not nearly as proud as I am, but still, they glowed.

So what happens next? Tricky. My expectations have already gone through the roof. In my mind, and maybe his parents’ too judging by that news report, he’s already headlined Wrestlemania and won every belt possible. I’m guessing he’ll hang around in the Nexus for a while and, realistically, as long as he appears in the Rumble that’ll already make my wrestling year. Oh and he hasn’t spoken yet. Assuming they’ll let him at least take part in a few promos, there’s a good chance I’ll cry when I hear his accent. If they let him speak in Welsh, I’ll definitely sob.

Three final points:

  • Yes, he looks a lot like Batista. You’ll need to get over that.
  • In case I haven’t already laboured the point enough, he’s not American or Canadian. He’s not even English. You may refer to him as Welsh or British. Anything else is inaccurate.
  • I will try really hard to retrain my brain to knowing Barri Griffiths as Mason Ryan. I can’t promise I’ll succeed.

This post is dedicated to Sarah.

raw: breathe, hold it, release

Remember last week when I said the jury was still out on the whole guest hosts on Raw thing? Well if most of the reviews of last night’s show are anything to go by, the jury has had enough instant coffee and stale bagels, has returned to the courtroom and has sentenced the segment to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Some of the reviews I’ve read have been beyond angry, with talk of group boycotts and sighs so heavy they were audible from space. First of all… BREATHE. Breathe, hold it, then release and allow your shoulders to slip down from your chin. Secondly, let’s try to put things in perspective. WWE is implementing an idea that most people don’t seem to like, right? It’s happened before. Many times. It will pass. I lost faith in wrestling a few years ago too. But I came back. And I never quite resisted the niggling urge to check on who was winning the matches every week.  I’m as passionate as the next person about wrestling. The number of hours I dedicate to this blog just for the hell of it should bear testament to that. But getting so wound up it makes you lose your lunch is not the answer.

It has been acknowledged almost everywhere that last night’s show was bad. Really bad. In fact, while watching it on Sky+ tonight I felt compelled to tweet this……

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Ted DiBiase Snr’s hosting was good. How can bringing a legend back to work with his son and integrate himself in to a storyline ever be bad? Seth Green was kind of cool but the plugging of his Robot Chicken show took the shine off some of it for me. At least he seemed to enjoy it. He actually looked like a cute little boy living out his dreams. And that wasn’t a height joke, just a general observation. ZZ Top was gastly. They appeared to have no interest in the business and were CLEARLY there to promote their 3 millionth tour. Shaq, I will admit, was great. He had personality, delivered comedic lines like a pro, integrated in to the storylines but didn’t overshadow the wrestling. He just became part of it.

Last night’s show came off worst because it was a two hour advertisement for a movie. Aside from the fact that Dr. Ken and Jeremy Piven were annoying and irritated me enough that I had no choice but to skip the odd end of segment, their shameless plugging of Piven’s new movie release (no, I’m not saying the name) was vile. When I want to watch an infomercial or ‘paid programming’, I will. When I sit down to enjoy a wrestling show, that’s what it should be.

I’m no dummy. I know how big business works. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours etc. A little kickback never hurt anybody. In truth, it kind of makes the world go round. The problem last night was that Vince McMahon was scratching Piven’s back, but he wasn’t returning the favour. And this is why the guest host bit has gone off the rails. They’ve lost sight of the content of the show, which was struggling even before this, and have fallen under the spell of dollar signs and hopeful links with the Page Six set. Watching low-grade celebrities act out boyhood fantasies about flying off the top rope at a wrestling superstar in return for a couple of hours of half-arsed tv hosting is not attractive to regular viewers. Wouldn’t we all like to be in the position to buy ourselves in to Raw or Smackdown for a night? Do any of us have that kind of clout? Nope. It makes us feel bad.

Look at how much time was spent last night showing clips from ESPN and various other mainstream media outlets on Shaquille O’Neal’s involvement in last week’s Raw. It’s as if they’re trying to impress and recruit non wrestling fans, while ignoring the dedicated followers they’ve already got. It’s like when banks bombard prospective customers with magnificent mortgage rates while offering nothing to its existing customers.

It’s like one of those romantic comedies where the girl spends every minute trying to snare the hot, sexy new guy in the office, while the loyal, male, best friend waits in the wings for her to cry on his shoulder when it all goes wrong. You know how those movies end, right? The girl ultimately realises that the new guy is a shallow flash in the pan and the old friend is the guy she will always be able to depend on.  Once Vince loses his hard-on for Hollywood and appoints a new, permanent GM, all will be well again.

On the plus side, at  least Sergeant Slaughter will be guest hosting next week. So light some candles, put on that pan-pipes album you got from your Granny for Christmas and just relax. In a day or so I’ll do one of my usual Raw recaps, cutting out as much of the guff as possible. Believe it or not, there were some sneaky little moments worth going back over. Don’t believe me? Well, you’ll have to keep checking back to see what they were then.

raw(lite): he came, then he left

Due to time constraints and with The Bash looming within the next few hours, this week’s Raw reminder will be in a shorter form than usual.  You gotta do what you gotta do!

For those of us in the UK, commercial free television is nothing new. The most powerful broadcaster on this island, the BBC, is entirely free of advertising. Ok, so we’re legally obliged to buy a TV licence for the privilege, but I believe it makes for better television and radio. Still, Raw is shot in dollar land, where advertising is the bread and butter of all broadcasting.  So I understand the excitement. Seriously though, America, do you have to have SOOOO many ad breaks? It kills my buzz. Anyway, here are the …..

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS WEEK’S RAW

BEFORE THE BASH

Catchy, eh?

  • Trump’s Da Boss

Yes, that’s right, Donald Trump now owns the Raw brand and kicked his tenure off with a full ticket refund to everyone in the crowd who kept their ticket stubs. Those who threw them away on their way in to the arena probably needed some of this….

shockposition

  • John-Boy’s a Farmer

John Cena who, despite making a triumphant return to his charismatic, funny  ‘old self’ came out in his most ghastly merchandise line yet. Not in any way inspired by a certain world-famous farming equipment brand. No. Not all. And call me a cynic, but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it was launched in Pack-land. Home of the Green and Gold. I shall discuss this rant about this further in the next audio post.

jcrmower

  • The Miz is a Puss

John Cena flipped the coin over and called The Miz out for a change. After much cuteness and frivolity, John got serious, gave The Miz a match at The Bash and warned Miz that his days were numbered. Oooh. It was deliciously perfect. Welcome back, John. The Big Show was obviously killing his good times. Favourite line? “You’re not a reality show ‘has-been’. You’re a WWE never was!” BUUUURN! Miz got rattled, punched John when he wasn’t looking and ran. Puss.

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  • Lemony Kick-It

Vince was left with the back-up limo (Trump had Road Force One), which happened to be a total lemon and broke down a hundred yards from the arena. Don’t you just hate when you have to use the back-up limo? So much less comfy than the best one. Vince made the poor little driver carry him down the street on his back.  Yah, ’cause that’s so much less humiliating than WALKING to the arena. Vince’s weight caused the driver to drop him so Vince kicked him in the arse. Nice guy!

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  • SD Trumps Raw

For the second week running, despite claiming full brand separation, there was a Smackdown match on Raw. I can only assume it was a ratings thing. They must have figured that the audience for Trump Raw would be larger than usual with the news of The Donald’s involvement causing a buzz in the mainstream media. What better way to impress than to bring your (real) superior brand in give off a good impression to first time viewers.

Jeff Hardy , Khali and Rey Mysterio beat Jericho, Edge and Ziggler when Jeff pinned Ziggler. Punk, being a nice guy, came to celebrate with Jeff, but he pushed him away like a lover who had been caught cheating. Oh, yeah, Punk wore clothes.  I sulked.

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  • Prelude to Crap

Cody Rhodes beat Primo in a prelude to what will undoubtedly be a tag-team belts win for Rhodes and DiBiase.I didn’t mind them so much when they first started hanging off Randy’s coat-tails……now…meh! Some sort of illegal crap will go down and the Orton Groupies will grab the titles ar The Bash. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket. Prove me wrong. Please.

  • Song for Santina

Santina was fired. About two months overdue. Let’s celebrate with a song even more annoying than the actual character. Bet you don’t make it past the first 20 seconds.

  • Regrets, dear?

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Maybe it’s not all about da monaaay after all, Mr. M?

  • The King Ain’t Dead

That’s right, the King of Kings redeemed himself, remembered his job is not to be a corporate lackie and wrestled his oversized heart out. As did the delightful Randy. Best match they’ve had. Better than Wrestlemania even?

hhhroaref

  • The Penny Drops

You know how Vince McMahon is a smart businessman? Not so much. It turned out that Trump was giving money away and cancelling advertising contracts in the hope that Vince would buy Raw back for double the price. Oh Donald, you wiley fox. And I thought you were just a puffed up ball of orangey powder. The plan worked. The real Vince McMahon is indeed  great businessman, orchestrating this whole angle with hardly anyone knowing about it until the night of the show. But why so short? Ok, so I wasn’t exactly on board from the beginning, but there was a lot of mileage in that there storyline. I’m aware that I’m whining a lot today. I’m tired. I was up late and got up early. I’z grumpy when I’m tired. Donald bitch-slapped Vince, it all kicked off and they had to be separated by some burly looking security.

botbfr

  • Shut Your Trap

Rosa Mendes lost to Mickie James and Maryse got all pissy, telling Rosa to shut her yap while she tried to compose herself. Is it just me or are Maryse’s jubblies (thanks, Gok Wan) getting more plastic-y by the week? I don’t even care about boobs that aren’t my own and yet, I cannot look away. (?)

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  • Most Aspirational Stat Evah!

You know how much I live the WWE ‘Did you know…? stats. This week was the best ever. Check it out.

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Yep, because quantity is ALWAYS better than quality, right guys? Sweethearts, I love you enough to spend my life recapping your shows, but it’s not the size of your product that counts, it’s what you do with it. An hour of True Blood does not equate to an hour of Raw. We cool? Good. I love you. Mwah!

  • If you think I’m gonna recap another Cena/Big Show match….

you be trippin’. That is all.

  • Get offa my Randy

Just as Randy Orton was leaving the arena, Triple H whacked him, proper mobster style. At first it looked like he was gonna give Randy the lonely man in prison treatment against the back of his car, but he just dropped the boot door on him. Phew! REALLY! Writhing in agony, Triple H made it clear that their feud was SOOOO not over.

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FAVOURITE CROWD MEMBER OF THE NIGHT

chicken bucket

The KFC buckets. For managing to get in so many camera shots and for showing such dedication to the show. Bravo, bucket of grilled chicken, bravo indeed.