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?

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That Was The Week That Was: 20th-26th May 2013

TWTWTW_AJ_LEE_SHIRT

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. 

AJ Lee’s T-Shirt

One of the first of many rants I wrote on this site was about WWE’s women’s merchandise. By that I mean both merchandise made for women and that devised to promote female performers. Has it changed since then? Yes. As much as I want it to? Not even close. But we’re moving in the right direction.

Four years ago WWE had little-to-no shirts cut for women and, just generally, most of their stock was dull. WWE Shop was a sorry sight, but over time it’s improved. The design turnover has been quick, the clothing pages aren’t a sea of black anymore and there are now shirts designed to fit a female figure. Women have curved waists, tits and don’t want to dress like men. Who knew?

It still irritates me that the choice is limited. I hate that someone in an office decides which shirts women will buy. They regularly get it wrong. Why on earth was the Antonio Cesaro shirt not made available to women when you can buy a slim cut Prime Time Players shirt? Madness.

I also take issue with the policy that women’s shirts aren’t stocked at UK live events. When Andrew and I went to Raw, we both intended on buying the yellow CM Punk shirt as a momento. Andrew bought his but I couldn’t find any for women. I decided I’d buy online the next day. That never happened because even when applying a discount code, the extortionate shipping charge made it a $43 shirt. I don’t love it that much.

WWE_Checkout

This needs to change. And a few more v-necks wouldn’t go amiss while they’re at it. I prefer when my chest doesn’t look like it’s growing straight out of my neck.

There may have been some progress on the buying side, but the promotion of female wrestlers when it comes to merchandise has been dreadful. The problem was the same old cycle of no character, no interest, no merch. I have no idea where the Divas’ division is heading at the moment. It’s in a weird place. I’m both tentatively excited at the prospect of a higher mainstream profile and terrified that it means the death of any matches at all. I’m putting all my faith in Sara Del Rey’s influence and a sympathetically edited reality show.

AJ Lee, though, has done something a little special. I may not always have approved of the stories WWE placed her in, but what’s crucial is that she’s had top-billing placement that made people care. The audience wants to see what happens next. She’s not the piss break. It’s been an awfully long time since the crowd cared this much about a woman. Even the cringe-making narratives that played out between Mickie James and LayCool didn’t produce t-shirts, and LayCool were coming out in custom branded shirts and hoodies every week. 

I cant say that I love the design of AJ’s shirt. It’s not my style, I doubt I’d ever wear it and I feel a little old for it. But if I can stomach the shipping cost I’m sorely tempted to buy it just to drive home the point that if you make the Divas relevant they will shift stock. And the dollar’s what WWE is all about, right?

Good for you, kid. Never has a t-shirt launch seemed quite so significant. Dare I whisper ‘tipping point’?

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Current WWE Shop splash

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