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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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’?

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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.   

A Song for Whoever: Beth Phoenix and Triple H Edition

Boss Lady Rae: Has there ever been a character shift more disappointing than Beth Phoenix’s fall from grace last week? Who would have thought that two little words would upset so many people, including myself? As select members of the WWE roster gathered around the ring to collectively express their dissent at HHH’s leadership, Beth demanded that the ladies of the company have more protection because “We’re girls!” Like a dagger through my heart.

A few weeks ago, Beth and Natalya proclaimed that they – The Divas of Doom – were here to save us from the Barbie doll Divas and kickstart a new era for the women’s Division. Such wonderful feist! On last week’s Raw, Beth washed it all away with a namby-pamby declaration of inferiority. I heard about it before I saw it. I resolved to make my own judgement after I’d seen it. I looked for some kind of humour, sarcasm, irony or tiny inkling that this was all just a rouse. I hoped some twist would make me feel silly for not seeing what they were up to from the beginning. I’m still hoping for that.

It didn’t just stop at those two loaded words though. The Superstars and Divas have clearly been instructed to ramp up the walk-out storyline on Twitter, and so my confused disillusion continued:

At home doing the dishes? Really, Beth?

Even during its most bleak days, I always held hope for the Divas division because there were women like Beth and Natalya desperate to build a stronger stream of women’s wrestling in the WWE. Whether she believes her statements personally or not is irrelevant. (I’m guessing she doesn’t.) If what they’re presenting on screen are weak, helpless little girls, that’s all anyone will give them credit for being. Beth’s breaking my heart and giving me the blues. There were so many angles they could have taken with this ‘poor working conditions’ storyline, and yet again they took the easiest, least creative, low road, taking Beth Phoenix down with them. So much for empowering young women to stand up for themselves. Drop the helpless maiden act. It’s pathetic.

The only thing that can save this for me now, is another character shift as abrupt as this one. We’ll pretend it was part of the plan all along and make like this was all just a strange dream sequence. Go on, make me feel silly.

Sidekick Andrew:There are many reasons to doubt this current walk-out storyline, not least of which is the Beth Phoenix comments mentioned above. There is only so far the WWE can go with “industrial action”, a fact displayed on Friday when the wrestlers were seemingly happy to appear on Smackdown, despite having “no confidence” in HHH, the COO of the entire WWE, not just Raw.

Obviously I don’t know exactly what will happen tonight on Raw, but it seems pretty obvious that they’re moving towards a split between the strikers and the scabs (think of the bits of Billy Elliott that didn’t involve dancing) but who knows. All I know for sure is that I really enjoyed the ending of Raw last week, everyone walking out leaving HHH alone in the ring was a pretty stark visual. OK, he no-sold the entire thing after the cameras had stopped running on Zack Ryder’s video with a massive goofy smile and pedigree determined to make internet fans hate him even more, but the overall effect of the walk out was quite impressive. And, also, strangely reminiscent of a naked 4th grader…

So HHH, this one’s for you. I’m sure you’ll turn me against you again soon, but for now I’m enjoying having you back. Sorry everyoe seems to hate you at the moment, but then they hated Margaret Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike and look how popular she is now! Oh…

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

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

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

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

Striker was all….

And they were all…

And Striker was all….

And I was all….

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

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

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

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

Tousled is good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Song for Whoever: Mr. McMahon Edition

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

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

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

Wallets at the ready!

If you don’t follow us on Twitter you might have missed the fact that I have been published in the first issue of the Fair to Flair Quarterly journal. If you’ve never visited Fair to Flair, you’re missing out. As soon as I finish writing this little nugget, I’m going to write a post about the Internet Wrestling Community and why its over-the-top and unintelligent reactions to wrestling events are giving me a dilemma to contend with. The guys running Fair to Flair are bucking the trend and changing the face of wrestling journalism, and I’m excited to be playing a small part in changing how wrestling is reported for the better.

My article is about how Stephanie McMahon and Triple H changed the way I watched and understood wrestling. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t discover wrestling until the late 90s. This is the full story of how I fell in love with it. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the article and I’d love for you to read it. So why not scuttle your way over to the site and pre-order your copy of the Quarterly now. It’s available for just $20 (Canadian) until 16th June and $25 afterwards. It’s my birthday this month, so you’d make an old lady very happy if you bought a copy. But don’t just buy it to please me. The journal is full of fantastic long- form articles on wrestling, the likes of which you just won’t find anywhere else, and you’ll be supporting writers who believe wrestling deserves better. Bury yourself in the details….

  • Rachel Davies of Wrestlegasm looks back at the Stephanie McMahon-Triple H story and how it forever changed her view of pro wrestling.
  • Seth Roy of Wrestlespective writes about Bret Hart’s role in making Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon into the biggest feud in wrestling history.
  • Fake Vince McMahon of This Is Sports Entertainment argues that he saved pro wrestling from itself when he turned it into sports entertainment.
  • Daniella Porcano of Styles Clash shares how Cody Rhodes has been delightfully blending art and entertainment, always a tricky balance in pro wrestling.
  • Robert Dorman of Hitting the Mark writes about the intense pressure wrestlers and athletes face to keep going even when they are hurt.
  • Leslie Lee III of Dirty Dirty Sheets presents an international photo essay, with images of wrestling from Tokyo to Montreal to San Antonio to Philadelphia.
  • Paul Karnatz of Turnbuckle Zine finds parallels in the artforms of pro wrestling and opera.
  • Jason Mann of Wrestlespective writes about the hidden significance of Dude Love, the most short-lived and maligned character portrayed by Mick Foley.
  • Razor of Kick-Out!! Wrestling shows how wrestling is a little bit of every major form of entertainment.
  • Jason and Razor also debate the value of world championships in 2011 and whether fans should bother to care about them.
  • Danielle Stull of Cewsh Reviews comments on the difficulties faced by feminists who want to enjoy pro wrestling and recounts how WWE has portrayed women over the years.
  • Joe Drilling of On The Stick demonstrates why the fierce Magnum T.A. v. Tully Blanchard I quit match at Starrcade 1985 is one of the greatest examples of live performance.
  • Thomas Holzerman of The Wrestling Blog writes about Sean Waltman’s return as the 1-2-3 Kid at Chikara King of Trios and being a sucker for a good redemption story.

Wrestlegasm Birthday Giveaway Posts: 2. Shawn Michaels

As Andrew mentioned earlier in the week when he wrote the first of these posts, we’re giving our second birthday giveaway winners the opportunity to select a wrestler for us to write a quick post about. Runner-up Kim gave us a choice of three or four people, but she mentioned Shawn Michaels first, so we’re going with HBK. Enjoy, Kim……..

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Ask me who my top three wrestlers are and I can tell you for definite that Shawn Michaels won’t be in the list. I’m not sure he’d even be in my top five. Maybe he’d fall around a nine or a ten. And yet, I have an awful lot to thank Shawn Michaels for.

When anyone asks me how I got into wrestling, my response is always the same “I came for Shawn Michaels, I stayed for The Rock.” My younger brother had been watching wrestling for a while before I came across it. Initially, I shunned it, but my brother was on-board to the point where he was wandering around the house shouting “SWEET CHIN MUSIC!” before proceeding to kick the sole of his foot to within an inch of my nose. Sometimes he misjudged the kick and stopped an inch after my nose. It hurt as must as you’re imagining.

Despite asking time and time again, he wouldn’t tell me what these seemingly random three words meant. I eventually sat down and watched wrestling with him and his friends. Shawn busted out some SWEET CHIN MUSIC! and the mystery was solved. Observe one of my favourites:

Of course, then I encountered The Rock and felt a stirring in my teenage heart that implored me to return and watch again. But if it wasn’t for Shawn and that stupidly named superkick, I never would have started watching wrestling. This blog wouldn’t exist. Think how sad you’d be! But that’s it. That’s all I have to thank Shawn Michaels for. 13 years of tormented wrestling viewing and this blog. Not much then.

Alright, so the first storylines I found myself immersed in were down to DX. It seemed dangerous and exciting and a little bit wrong, but DX coupled with my crush on a man with an overactive eyebrow and a penchant for unbuttoned shirts kept me watching wrestling just long enough for it to become my televisual crack. Another thing I need to thank HBK for…..or not, depending on the amount of time I’ve wasted on wrestling over the years.

Shawn Michaels went away for a while after that. He damaged his back so severely that he had to retire (for the first time). I went away for a while a few years later too. After HHH copulated with a corpse I fired off an angry email to Connecticut and decided I couldn’t justify watching this depravity any longer. It didn’t last long. I came back. Thanks to those early DX storylines I found it hard to stay way. Shawn returned too and this time he stuck around. He didn’t do much after that. Just a few DX revival runs. And he only put the messy Montreal Screwjob to bed, finally shaking hands with Bret Hart and bringing about the return of a man we never dreamed we’d see on WWE programming again. No big deal or anything.

Oh and he just happened to play his part in arguably the greatest match of all time at Wrestlemania 25. You know, nothing major.

When Shawn Michaels held Ric Flair’s hand and guided him into what was supposed to be his retirement, it was extremely touching. When Shawn himself hung up his leather chaps for the second time, it more than touched me, it made me cry like a baby – much to my surprise. I didn’t just drench my cheeks in tears when Shawn gave his farewell speech. I sobbed again when HHH came out to spoon and bump noses with him.

Much the same happened when Shawn was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this month, although my personal reaction was slightly more muted being that the speech was cut so short for television.

I never think of myself as a Shawn Michaels fan and yet when I saw him wrestle at a WWE House Show in Cardiff some 18 months ago, it was one of my greatest wrestling thrills. Nobody shouted SUCK IIIIIIT prouder than I did. (Apologies for shaky camera work. It was one of the most exciting nights of my life. You’ll also notice I stopped the camera the second Cena’s music hit. I stopped it to scream.)

There are very few wrestlers who are unconditionally loved regardless of whether their past was as chequered as Michaels’ or not. In his Hall of Fame speech, Shawn himself admitted that in his younger days he wasn’t Mr. Popular, and yet, he absolutely is. He started the game badly and ended a hero. So thank you, Shawn Michaels. Thanks for being the guy who got me into all this nonsense, thanks for finishing it better than you started and thanks for being the bloke I’m never really a fan of, but somehow always am.

Wrestlemania 27 Predictions: Sidekick Andrew

Regardless of the rather baffling (and much less important than certain internet critics might have you believe) decision to drop the word “wrestling” from any description of the WWE, tonight is WRESTLEMANIA – undoubtedly the biggest event in the pro-wrestling calendar. An evening (or stupidly early morning for some of us) of celebrity endorsement, epic showdowns between legends and fast paced action between some of the exciting new stars of this ancient artform.

Ahh wrestling… wikipedia describes “Professional Wrestling” as “a mode of spectacle, combining athletics and theatrical performance.” With a history dating back over 15,000 years, wrestling can be found in the ancient cave drawings of France. All of which leaves me with a slight dilemma: how best to convey the excitement and thrills of Wrestlemania? The grappling acumen harking back to Babylonian and Egyptian reliefs? The roar of the approximately 75,000 fans in attendance? The blood, sweat and tears shed by these men and women for the briefest moment of reward, a reward which (if were honest) isn’t that important? Quite frankly, I can only think of one possible way to correctly pay the respect due to this most masculine of endeavours – PIE CHARTS!

As Boss Lady Ray explained yesterday, we’re not the best at predicting the results of these things – so we pulled in some people who should, in theory, know even less that us. Our families…

First up, Cole vs Lawler. Now, my family were relatively split on this one with Lawler just edging it despite Alice deciding that “the one on the left [...] looks stronger” (although there’s always a chance she might have mixed up her left and right.) Very happy with their choices here. Let’s face it, nobody want’s Cole to win tonight, and logic dicates that he probably won’t. However, I should point out that I’m not basing this on Rebecca’s slightly strange reasoning that Lawler should win “cos he looks cheesy!” or her fiance Kris’ logic that “his comments are amazing” being that Lawler is just ahead of Booker T in the “Wrestlegasm Commentators we’d like to see relegated to regional news somewhere in Alaska”

Next up, Edge vs Del Rio, and almost a clean sweep for Del Rio, with only one person voting for Edge. Del Rio’s reasons ranged from the quite logical fact that “he has a very muscley body” and is “bigger built” to the slightly more worrying “the one with the nice panties..Del Rio?” Not sure anyone has described Alberto Del Rio, a man descended from Mexican aristocracy, as having “nice panties” before mother, but you might want to check out Ray’s old Crotch Watch posts.

Also nice to see that we’re a family that doesn’t forgive and forget easily, with Kris’ insistence that Del Rio should win “because of what Edge did to Christian” – admittedly Edge & Christian are BFFs again, but we’ll always know what you did that summer…

You might have noticed by now that these matches are probably not in the order they’ll be broadcast, but that’s how we do it on the Fylde coast baby! As such, here’s Miz vs Cena. Cena was the overwhelming favourite here, with only my mother voting for the current champion on the grounds that he is “named after (my sister) Alice” (For those of you grasping with the logic here, I’m assuming Miz being short for miserable is a slight on the cheery disposition of my teenage sister, but I couldn’t possibly say.

As for Cena… well, the fact that he looked “like a wrestler” and “angry,” as well as being “simply [...] amazing” were all perfectly valid reasons that I struggled to argue against.

Celebrity random team time, and the only unanimous decision of both sets of predictions. It would appear that everyone I’m related to is a massive fan of the Jersey Shore for some reason. Admittedly Kris did vote for Team Morrison because Rebecca would “kill him” if he went with the other team, but Alice and Rebecca both seem to be fans. Alice in particular seemed quite taken with Morrison, and the fact that “he has Snooki as one of his bitches which just proves he is awesome”

Obviously I can’t be seen to support this kind of language, but after the Trish/Snooki/LayCool segment on Raw this week, it would appear that “bitch” is relatively acceptable.

Strangely, I expected the girls in my family to vote for Cody because he’s easy on the eye. Turns out nobody mentioned his looks, they instead were frightened of Mysterio. That’s right, the children’s favourite Mysterio, the merchandising machine, the shortest wrestler on the roster – my family were scared of him because he wears a mask.

Having said that, Mysterio did win this one. Kris rightly pointed out his speed, whereas Alice said that “he looks more serious” – presumably a reference to his Joker get-up from Wrestlemania 25…

See? I can do outdated jokes as well

Unfortunately for my predictions, Orton won this one with only Alice focusing on Punk’s “muscly legs” and the advantage that they might give him. As for Orton, the reasons once again ranged from the suprisingly knowledgable (“his old man was a brilliant wrestler”) to the purely aesthetic (“he has a nice tan” and “he looks evil”.)

On a personal note, while I’ve tried not to give my own predictions this year, I really *really* hope Punk wins this one. My fondness for his muscly legs notwithstanding, Punk is miles ahead of Orton in popularity here in the Bunker and the idea of Orton crowing about his victory in… incredibly… slow… phrasing… with… unnecessarily… long… pauses… between… each… word… yawn

Last but not least, Undertaker vs HHH – a match that I wasn’t looking forward to until this week’s Raw and Undertaker’s John Marston impression. [BOSS LADY RAY'S EDIT: SWOOOON. For John Marston. Not 'Taker. Eww. Forget I mentioned it.]

"ma'am"

So, this battle of the giants pitting the Undertaker’s unrivalled Wrestlemania streak of victories against HHH’s legacy as one the most successful wrestler’s in WWE history – how would the results come in for this one?

“Undertaker: my reason is it’s the Undertaker and HHH has a big nose… and that big nose muppet retired Mankind. Bastard, I hate you HHH”

“Undertaker because he has no eyes!”

“HHH as the other one won’t be able to see what he’s doing.”

Now obviously Undertaker has got the regulation number of eyes (that’s two in case you’re from some of the more remote areas of the United States and unsure) but I thought that it was interesting that his supposed lack of ocular equipment could be seen as both a detriment and an advantage. Still, I never claimed to be from a family blessed with an abundance of logic or common sense – hence the reason I like wrestling enough to write about it on here every week I suppose. Also, HHH is even less forgiven than Edge was earlier – so it’s probably best not to cross us…

Assuming you can count, you might have noticed that there are a couple of matches missing. That’s because, despite my usual love of procrastination I decided to ask my family to predict last week – something which would have worked well had the WWE not decided to add a couple of matches afterwards. So… how to predict these last two matches? I could use my knowledge of the storylines so far and wrestling logic to make an educated guess as to who the winners might be, orrrrrr….

In case you don’t know, www.googlefight.com is a site which allows you to compare the search results for two terms and come up with a “winner.” So let’s see what Google has to say…

There we go, that was pretty decisive wasn’t it? Now, roll on bloody midnight.

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!