Report From The Fort: Best Major Shows

I know, I know… bloody Andrew going on about bloody CHIKARA again. But there’s a reason for this, and it’s pretty simple. Are you ready? Here it is…

…CHIKARA are just that good.

There, pretty simple isn’t it when you see it typed out like that. CHIKARA are, by far, my “desert island” wrestling promotion. The one company I would choose above all others if I was inexplicably stranded on a desert island and somehow only given access to one company’s back catalogue. The wrestling is of a standard that has caused both Rae and myself to forget to breathe on more than occasion. The storylines are complex and spanning a matter of months, if not years in some cases. The characters are well rounded, funny and captivating. Most importantly of all, CHIKARA (more than any other large-ish promotion) has a real family feel to it. Not just “family friendly” but “family.”

Outside of the blog, I do some design work for a couple of small UK indie promotions. Promotions that are getting decent buzz both here and abroad, but still pretty small compared to CHIKARA. Despite “working” for these companies, and being on speaking terms with the promoters and some of the wrestlers, I still feel a closer bond to CHIKARA than to any other promotion.

They were the promotion that got me through the post-Benoit period when, as a father of two young children, I felt that the WWE wasn’t something I was sure I could watch. They helped me convert Rae to the joys of indie wrestling, and provided some very happy memories of her joy at discovering the likes of Claudio and his tiny trunks. They were the company that, as a blog, made us promise to visit Philadelphia for King of Trios one year (rather than rely on the kindness of guest writers.) In short, the only thing that could have made CHIKARA better for me would be for them to be within travelling distance.

And then, towards the end of last year, they announced that their season finale would be available to watch live on iPPV. Finally, a chance to watch a CHIKARA show live, and not just any CHIKARA show. This was the season finale, the show to wrap up all the stories from 2011, and to finally crown the inaugural CHIKARA Grand Champion.

I’m not very good at writing about emotions on here, Rae is much better at that than I am (being a girl and everything) but it really did mean a lot to me to be part of that family for those few hours. With great match after great match, and one of the most important main events in CHIKARA history, even without the emotional impact this would be a show I would recommend to anybody. You can buy the DVD obviously, but even better (and keeping in theme with the whole “bringing CHIKARA to you worldwide” ethos of this show) it’s available for only $9.99 as a digital download.

Do yourself a favour and at least check out the trailer below. If the wrestling appeals to you, buy the show. Once the storylines, promos and, yes… emotions, all kick in you’ll be hooked and my work here will be done.

I know, I know… bloody Rae going on about bloody Money in the Bank again. But there’s a reason for this, and it’s pretty simple. Are you ready? Here it is…

…it was fucking amazing! 

We’ve spoken at great length about the WWE Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, and we’re conscious of avoiding repetition. But the steady build towards that main event during this show was palpable. A frond of electricity crept through every single match in anticipation of the finale.

It touched the then professional nice-guy Daniel Bryan’s blue briefcase win in the Smackdown match with even more fairy dust than it would have without that looming last match. The indie kid did good. What was in store for their main eventing indie kid? I was one of the first to criticise removing the MITB match from the Wrestlemania card and plonking it into another gimmicky PPV. But somehow, it seems to have worked.

Randy Orton and Christian were at full throttle, Orton continuing on his transition from villain to hero. Lest we forget Randy’s loopy announce table tongue work. At this time too, Mark Henry’s star was ascending, Alberto Del Rio had properly arrived and this all taking place with the bristling undercurrent of ‘is CM Punk really leaving for good?’ Magical.

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Report from the Fort: Best Match (Rae’s Picks)

Andrew posted his favourite matches of 2011 yesterday. Here are my two awards winners….

Winner: CM Punk vs John Cena (WWE’s Money in the Bank: July 17th 2011)

What exactly do you want from the perfect wrestling match? Hitting the right balance for one viewer is tricky enough. Trying to cultivate a match that speaks to the masses is quite another. What CM Punk and John Cena managed to do at the 2011 Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View was truly remarkable.

If the Rock’s reappearance at last year’s Wrestlemania was designed to engage the casual fan who largely turned its back on the WWE once corporate branding turned the sex and violence soft, Punk and Cena’s match came about to mobilise current fans becoming complacent with the product. And, oh, did it succeed!

I wrote about the match the day after it took place in such a state of emotional, sleepless exhaustion that I had no idea whether what I’d written was brilliant or complete dross. Trusting my colleague’s wisdom, I took Andrew’s advice that I should post it immediately. Thankfully, to lovely feedback. By Tuesday there were whole sentences I had no recollection of writing whatsoever. There are events where a level head are mandatory when putting fingertips to keys, but the impact this match had was so strong, only stream of consciousness ramblings would do.

I rewatched Punk and Cena’s match a little over a week ago. I wondered if I would feel the same way about it now, knowing how the tale was punctuated. I wondered if the months of following stories would have washed away all those flailing emotions. I pondered this right up until a couple of minutes before the match started. Then I stopped. My heart started beating faster and I felt a rush of slight breathlessness as that incredible Chicago crowd noise assaulted me through my speakers.

When wrestling first drew me into its fold, the most intriguing thing of all was that grey space between reality and fiction; where you’re not fully convinced that what you’re watching is real, but it feels liberally speckled with truth at the same time. This match wasn’t the most technically precise display of wrestling that ever was, and I do love repeated nearfalls and cartoon-like “Why don’t you just DIE?” grimaces. Technically accurate does not a great story make. It didn’t need to be perfect because it had intense passion. In Punk’s possibly real contract ending and in John’s threatened firing, the story had potentially cataclysmic, game changing consequences that stretched way beyond just the two of them. When that’s your base, everything else takes care of itself.

Winner: The Throwbacks + Matt Classic vs Team Osaka Pro (CHIKARA King of Trios 2011 – Night One: 15th April 2011)

The morning after I watched this year’s Royal Rumble, I was in the back of a taxi chatting with the driver about the previous night’s TV, as you do. On finding out that I had spent three hours of my evening watching professional wrestling, he was stunned. “You? YOU!? Really? What a dark horse!” He also went on to joke that wrestling was not my hobby, but my downfall, and looked blankly as I responded to his question about my favourite wrestler with ‘CM Punk’. Apparently, in loving wrestling, I am a walking contradiction. Maybe I should have been offended. But hey, how often do you get to appear enigmatic in the company of strangers?

Explaining a love of wrestling to non-fans isn’t easy. I often wonder how I might convert them if I just had one match to do it with. One match, where they have a lightbulb moment and come over to my side of the fence. You might expect me to select that much discussed CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank match.  But I happened to watch a large chunk of it with non-fan company last week and either had to explain the storyline in great detail, which I didn’t actually mind, or had to suffer the ridicule of just loving it to begin with. I minded that rather a lot.

I’m paraphrasing slightly from the second Kayfabe Comedy podcast here, but if we accept that wrestling is ultimately very silly, and that CHIKARA do silly better than anyone, a CHIKARA match is the perfect introductory match. At King of Trios 2011, The Throwbacks and Matt Classic vs Team Osaka Pro had the ultimate newbie match. Before the action even gets under way, enough grin inducing, beautifully timed, slapstick comedy has taken place as to make everything that happens during the actual match feel like gravy. There’s competitive running of the ropes, makeshift basketball and Matt Classic’s in-match yoga moves. By far the most engaging character is Sugar Dunkerton, currently absent from CHIKARA for very personal reasons. Here, he shines.

There are some brilliant spots from both teams and there’s no complex story to explain, apart from maybe Dasher Hatfield’s stitch-face. No crowd sells silliness like a CHIKARA crowd and if this match doesn’t make you proud to pay wrestling forward, you might be needing a break. As well as being a great introduction to wrestling for novice fans, it’s also an effective antidote for when seasoned pros like ourselves get a little jaded. I recommend keeping a copy in your medicine cabinet.

30 Men? In a row? The Wrestlegasm Royal Rumble Predictions 2012

Sidekick Andrew: The joy of having only four matches (announced) on a card is that they are all pretty big deals. With the other two non-Rumble matches containing the blow-offs to big feuds however, this is looking like the weakest on the card. There’s no denying Bryan is a great wrestler, but sticking him in the ring with the likes of Big Show and Mark Henry isn’t necessarily going to give him chance to shine.

And we don't want any more small girls getting hurt do we?

That said, I think Bryan will retain the title tonight somehow. His gradual turn towards the dark side bodes well for his character, and having him as the smug “original best in the world” heel champion would be an interesting way to go.

...you can't all be the best in the world

Boss Lady Rae: Firstly, I apologise for the briskness of my predictions in comparison to Andrew’s. I’ve had a heavy writing weekend and my brain is slightly fried. I’m also unable to watch the Rumble live, which has broken my heart slightly. Alright, here we go….

Big Show made me cry during Smackdown this week. When he stood in the ring, weeping at the idea that a tiny girl had accidentally suffered at his meaty hands, I shed a little tear with him. Admittedly I was feeling blue at not being able to go to the Manchester TNA show like my esteemed colleague, but I felt quite endeared towards the big fella’s compassion. I think I just said I wanted to be at a TNA show. Who am I?

I have this fantasy that Wrestlemania will include a triple threat match between CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho. For that to happen either Punk or Bryan need to drop their respective belts. I’d much rather that be Bryan, so I’ll say that Big Show will take the title tonight. Oh. Wait. Mark Henry’s in this thing too. Ummmm….meh, he’s done.

Sidekick Andrew: Never let it be said that I’m not still a massive Kane fan. He takes the ridiculous gimmicks and backstory retcons that WWE give him, shrugs and says “meh, whatever” and just runs with it. As a fan, I feel it’s only fair that I do the same. Whether it’s running around after Edge and Paul Bearer, inexplicably wearing a welder’s mask, or becoming an awkward teenager around ex-girlfriends…

After coming back and attacking Zack Ryder, Kane encouraged Cena to “embrace hate.” Cena manage to portray this magnificently in the best case of WWE emoting since Maria was dumped by Dolph Ziggler)

Logic dictates that Cena wins this match. He’s still the Superman poster boy for WWE, and using this match as a chance to channel some of his more vicious side (like his Last Man Standing match with Umaga for example) could be interesting. Also worth bearing in mind is that there’s nothing to stop Cena & Kane, or indeed any of tonight’s wrestlers, from appearing in the Rumble match as well. Cena could get his win here and avenge Ryder, but all it takes is for them to both clash again in the Rumble match and this feud could continue. After all, Cena needs something to do in the lead up to Wrestlemania other than respond to the Rock’s pre-recorded videos each week.

Boss Lady Rae: Do you know how much I love wrestling? In the midst of a brief and now slain ‘maybe I should give up on wrestling forever’ demon yesterday, Raw happened to be on while I was in my dad’s company. Even during the segment where Eve and John Cena’s acting skills following Zack Ryder’s ‘injury’ came straight out of a cheapo Horror Channel movie, I still defended them. As John knocked Josh’s mic from his hand and hilariously bubbled with fury into the camera lens (see above), I launched into a huge oratory about how wrestling is basically theatre and not a normal sport. Sometimes wrestling is like a bad boyfriend I can’t quit.

Anyway. The match. This whole feud is surely just a time-killing exercise for Cena until we launch into two months of him shouting into a mic for the Rock’s benefit. My guess is that Cena will win but only after Zack Ryder makes a miraculous recovery and runs (limps? wheels?) in to help. That could deliver the biggest pop of the night outside of any yet to be revealed Rumble surprises.

Sidekick Andrew: Much like Homer Simpson when faced with the choice to comdemn Springfield to obesity and diabetes, or listen to Marge and dump the smuggled sugar, I really don’t know what to do when it comes to predicting this match.

Obviously Punk’s been amazing over the last couple of years, and his interactions with Laurinitis helped the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and the Interim General Manager of Raw (ugg) take our Villian of the Year award. On the other hand, Dolph is Dolph and there’s a reason we’ve been singing his praises for a long time here in the Bunker.

”]If Punk is the future of the WWE, then Ziggler is the ideal counterpart. A more corporate heel to balance Punk’s rebellious face, Ziggler aligning himself with an authority figure, while Punk is constantly having the odds stacked against him by the people at the top. I wrote an article a while ago comparing Punk-Cena to the classic Rock-Austin feud, but now I’m wondering if Ziggler isn’t the new Corporate Champion instead.

As such I can see Ziggler winning this, with help from Laurinitis. HHH needs something keep him busy, and chances are he’ll turn up tonight at some point. If Laurinitis knows his days are numbered, there’s no reason for him not to screw Punk over, especially after his attack on Raw last Monday.

Boss Lady Rae: Excellent theorising indeed, young Andrew. I definitely think Triple H will be there tonight, but I think he’ll show up to stop Laurinaitis screwing Punk over. That would release Punk from this brilliant back-and-forth he’s been having with the boss, and give HHH a chance to seek his revenge.  And why would Punk need releasing? For my previously mentioned fantasy match, of course. I want to see Bryan and Jericho challenging Punk for both the title and the ‘Best in the World’ crown at ‘Mania. I think Punk will retain until then.  Never let it be said I don’t follow my heart.

Of course, we really cannot lose in this match. As Andrew says and as our remaining Report from the Fort awards will attest, we’re both massively smitten with both Punk and Ziggler. Setting the Rumble match aside, which is unique in its greatness, this might not only be match of the night, but one of the best of the year. A bold statement in January, I know.

Sidekick Andrew: We were in two minds whether to predict this match here in the Bunker. We deliberated long into the night over endless packets of Monster Munch and lashings of ginger beer, trying to decide if we just wanted to enjoy what is usually one of our favourite wrestling spectacles simply for what it is. In the end however we agreed to predict it anyway (by which of course I mean Boss Lady Rae held me down and threatened to remove any roast beef flavoured maize based snack priveledges unless I capitulated.)

The trouble with this of course, is that the Rumble is a bit of a bugger to predict. There’s no definite and obvious winner this year, so deciding on just one is a matter of preference in the end.

The Miz could win, bringing him back into the main event picture and explaining why he was given the Number One entrant slot on Monday.

Undertaker could come back, starting his Road to Wrestlemania (which has to start soon) with a late entry and victory.

Christian could make his return, although between you and me I’m not overly excited by that prospect to be honest.

Orton could win, now that he has returned, as could the increasingly verbose Jericho. However, I think this PPV will set up feuds for them, rather than title shots.

I’m going to go for Wade Barrett to continue his barrage and win the Rumble tonight. OK, I’m going with local bias as usual, but he needs something to get him out of the rather boring upper midcard nonsense he’s been involved with recently. You never know, he might even team up with his old mentor Jericho during the match.

Boss Lady Rae: I don’t really want to to predict what might happen during the match. The Royal Rumble remains one of the few WWE repeated matches that still has the genuine ability to shock and surprise. I will say though, I’d love to see some of the ladies make an appearance this year. What better way for Beth Phoenix to return to TV than showing up in the Rumble for the second time?

Predicting the Rumble is a curious business, because picking a winner means you’re predicting the next few months of storytelling. I’d love for Chris Jericho to win, but it all seems a little too obvious now, and he doesn’t need to win to end up in my fantasy match. There are also quite a few people coming to the end of genuine injuries who may return. Running with my Big Show prediction and assuming Punk retains, I too am going to have to pick Wade Barrett. I know, I know.  It seems like we’re just going with local bias again and it’s definitely a powerful force. But he’s been getting such a steady push on Smackdown recently. It’s all got to mean something, right? RIGHT?

Report from the Fort: Best Villain

Our pillow fort here in the Wrestlegasm Bunker is starting to sag. If anyone’s in the area and has five spare minutes, please be a doll, come round and fluff up our pillows for us? We’ll pay you in cheese puffs. While we wait, I’ll crack on with our next award, for the people we love to hate.

There aren’t many pure villains around these days. We have plenty of bad guys and angry girls, but what we’re talking about is moustache-twiddling, Disney-esque villainy. It’s one thing to want to beat down everyone in your path to victory, damning the consequences as you go. To have a devilish plan that not only gets you to the top, but also takes you down the most dastardly route possible is quite another.

A rare breed of wretch was reborn this year in the form on John Laurinaitis. We hate him. No, I mean we really hate him. Johnny’s 2011 incarnation had all the Machiavellian qualities of Vince McMahon without any of the deranged likability. His behind-the-scenes campaign to bring Triple H down from his lofty managerial perch while playing dumb in public made me want to throw rotten vegetables at his face. It was his influence that forced our beloved Beth Phoenix to wander down that vomit inducing ‘We’re girls. We need protecting. Wah-wah-wah’ path when he ushered the roster towards a vote of no confidence in their leader.

Every time John appeared on screen, I gave out an enormous and genuine sigh that said ‘Urgh. This guy. WTF does he want this time?’ There’s also the fact that he’s allegedly an even bigger dickhead in real life, which only ramps up our loathing further. Here’s to you, John Laurinaitis. We look forward to your pending demise, beginning with CM Punk’s heart stopping character assassination at the end of this week’s Raw and the inevitable repercussions of punching Mick Foley in the kisser.

Honourable Mention: goes to Kharma. There aren’t many wrestlers who can fill not only their opponents but also the audience will palpable terror after just a second of crunching piano chords and a spine chilling cackle. Even watching her WWE debut again now I get a genuine, slightly fluttery feeling in my chest. The kind of internal tremor that reminds me why I love wrestling so much.

For purely selfish reasons, it’s a shame her plan to trim the Divas division and make it her own was so short. But we can hardly be angry with a woman for disappearing for the sake of motherhood, as debated earlier in the year. Whenever Kharma’s ready to return, we’ll be there, peeking from behind cushions, hoping she doesn’t catch our eye. EEK!

Report from the Fort: Best Commentary

After a week of deliberation we have finally decided on who should win our illustrious awards covering the last 12 months. They’re based on our own opinion and on the wrestling we were able to watch during 2011. There is no science or points system. It’s just stuff we liked more than other stuff.

Last year we invited you to join us at the Best in Show Awards. It was a jolly affair taking the form of a country show; complete with baking competitions, large vegetables and home brewed beer. This year we’re just a little too weary for all that. We’re still crawling out of our December hibernation nest. So this year we’ve built a pillow fort in the Bunker and we’re not moving until we’ve handed over every award. Basically, if you won something and actually want the trophy, you’ll have to pop by and pick it up. Just make sure you take your shoes off before you enter the fort.

We’ll be releasing these posts gradually throughout January. Starting with…

If you think about it, wrestling commentary is a curious thing. Unlike sports commentators, wrestling announcers already know the outcome of the matches they illustrate with words. Done badly, it can seem as pointless as the voiceovers on Total Wipeout. But done well, commentary can be as integral to the brilliance of a match as the action in the ring.

We’re all in on the game. We all know the theatre that is professional wrestling means that everything that takes place before us has been predetermined. What we want from the announce table are words and delivery that make the story infinitely more exciting. For that reason, we can only give this award to Bryce Remsburg.

He may consider himself a referee first, but Bryce’s CHIKARA commentary is so exciting, I defy anyone not to feel completely involved in the matches he announces. He already knows how the match will play out, and yet you wouldn’t know it. What comes across more than anything is that he’s a fan loving what he’s watching. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious and we think a lot of the mainstream announcers could learn something about engaging an audience from Bryce. We bloody love you, Mr. Remsburg.

Honourable Mention: goes to Matt Striker. You might be forgiven for wondering if he’s still employed. Especially if you live in a country where WWE Superstars no longer broadcasts on television. But he’s still there, plugging away, begging to be heard, winning our hearts.

We don’t know why Matt was so swiftly relegated to the locker room. It doesn’t seem that long ago he was at the Wrestlemania announce table rocking his tux. Matt was originally sidelined to make way for Booker T’s return after last year’s Rumble. Somehow, he never made it back to a big show. We’re pulling for you in 2012, buddy.

A fresh start – the Survivor Series predictions post

Sidekick Andrew: Have I mentioned recently my massive man-crush on Ziggler? Luckily for me it appears that someone high up in the WWE has the same, slightly disturbing, feelings as me. Not only is he booked on the last two PPVs, but he’s been in two matches on each. Double the Ziggler, double the pleasure. Morrison, on the other hand, doesn’t strike me as someone who is held in great esteem by management at the moment. Since Melina’s departure he has been floundering slightly, and doesn’t actually seem like he wants to be there anymore.

yeah... that's not going to help matters John

With Ziggler wrestling twice I can see this being a really short match. Like, really short. Morrison tries for a lock up, Ziggler hits the sleeper hold and Morrison goes down – hopefully learning that you don’t piss off the boss in the meantime. Ziggler retains, Morrison is future endeavoured and the spectre of “Mr Ziggles” is banished forever.

Boss Lady Rae: Oooh. Doesn’t he get feisty when he’s talking about Ziggler?! Personally, I think Andrew’s just jealous that the object of his platonic desire retweeted me this week.

*air-punch*

After John Morrison’s interference this week, I thought he might pull off a shocker here and take the title. But that doesn’t seem too likely considering he’s been saying silly things on Twitter. I’ll say that Morrison wins, but by DQ so Andrew’s Mr. Lovely can keep his belt. Nice compromise.

Sidekick Andrew: I hate to say this, I really do, but I think Eve is going to win tonight. There’s been plenty of speculation as to whether the Divas of Doom (or whatever the hell they’re known as) will be splitting up, leading to a pretty exciting feud between the two. This match being a lumberjill match means three things:

  • 1. All the women on the roster get a PPV payday
  • 2. Jerry Lawler gets to make some very unseemly noises
  • 3. There’s a good opportunity for Natalya to “accidentally” cost Beth the match in the chaos

While my crush on Beth is almost as strong as my aforementioned crush on Ziggler (but neither can touch my crush on Ultramantis Black), I’m not opposed to her losing tonight. A Beth and Natalya feud could lead to some amazing matches, and Eve proved herself pretty capable during their match at Vengeance. All in all, I’m quite looking forward to seeing where this goes. Not a feeling I have very often with regards to the WWE Womens Division.

Boss Lady Rae: I’ll save you my boohooing over how indifferent to Beth Phoenix I’m gradually becoming. It’s disturbing me beyond belief. I think Eve will be winning this one. The Beth/Natalya alliance hasn’t quite been the revolution it could have been and I actually think they’d be better feuding against each other. A PPV match between the two could be pretty special.

I’ve always thought Eve was wildly underrated. It would be brilliant if they could give her the title again and actually let her do something with it this time.

Of course, this is a lumberjills match. I’m probably setting myself up for a fall believing it will be anything but a mess of flying Louboutins and chicken fillets. Still, a gal can hope.

Sidekick Andrew: Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Del Rio. I think he’s a great wrestler, and an even better gimmick. The addition of Ricardo Rodriguez and his luxury car entrance are just the icing on the cake. However, it’s time for him to lose the title. It’s not his fault… the trouble is that he’s on Raw – a show where there are any number of stories going on that are given more precedence than the title itself. Between HHH, Kevin Nash, John Laurinaitis, The Rock and John Cena, the title picture is seemingly an afterthought. If any one can give the belt some relevance again it’s Punk, so my money is on him to win tonight.

Lest we forget, he even made Matt Hardy look interesting

Boss Lady Rae: When we discussed these predictions yesterday, I didn’t think I even needed to make a prediction. It fills me with joy that it still only takes one short guitar riff to make my tummy flip over when Punk appears at the top of the ramp. I am hardly impartial when it comes to Chicago’s finest. Look at our predictions graphic. Even my illustrated self is now wearing a CM Punk shirt. But I genuinely think it’s time for Del Rio to pass the title on. 

Andrew is unfortunately right. Raw has always been the home of big personalities and Del Rio has a lot to compete with, especially now the brands are mixing more regularly. Titles don’t have to be the centre of every story. On the contrary, some of the best runs have had no belts attached to them. But it seems a waste to keep the WWE Championship with Alberto Del Rio if they’re not going to make the most of it. Punk now needs something to do leading up Wrestlemania. I’m sure it will be a perfectly amicable exchange of property. (HAH!)

Sidekick Andrew: Probably the match I have the least amount of interest in, and therefore the match I will use the least amount of words to talk about. I think Big Show will take the title but quote frankly I’m not that bothered either way. Sorry about that, but in recompense here’s a picture of a goat in a suit…

Boss Lady Rae: I’m sure people will hate me for this, but I am so terribly bored of Mark Henry. And if this laziest of lazy t-shirt is anything to go by, so are them on high….

To create some interest here I think Big Show has to win. As recompense for my Henry related malaise, here’s me happy to be with a goat:

Sidekick Andrew: Nice of the WWE to remember the whole gimmick behind Survivor Series is these 5 on 5 man elimination tag matches. And it’s always good to see Barrett get a push of some sort. So with Barrett having Ziggler (swoon) on his team against Randy bloody Orton and his worthless team of worthless wrestlers you’d think this would be an easy choice. But, the masochist in me is expecting a face win in this match for some reason. Orton still seems to be on a roll, and Kingston needs something to do while Evan Bourne is otherwise engaged (sitting on his couch scoffing Monster Munch and watching Loose Women or something).

Boss Lady Rae: Tricky. One the one hand, I feel pangs of intense guilt and betrayal not shaking my pom-poms for any team involving Mason Ryan. On the other, Barrett and Ziggler on the same team is so much more interesting, and I’m generally more of a ‘nice guys finish first’ lady. Can’t I have Sheamus, Mason, Kofi, Wade and Dolph on one team? Actually, I’m not sure my heart could cope with all that bromancing. It’s more interesting if the bad guys win this one, so that’s who I’ll predict. I just hope my Celtic compatriots will forgive me.

Sidekick Andrew: Am I the only person who couldn’t really give a toss about The Rock? There’s no denying the guy can cut a good promo, but he’s never done anything for me as a wrestler… and still doesn’t I’m afraid.

I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. That doesn’t mean I think “Awesome Truth” are going to win of course. I do think it would be pretty amazing to end the show with Miz and R-Truth (R-Truth!) victorious over two of the biggest WWE stars ever, but I still think Cena and Rock are going to win. Obviously they’ll fall out after the match, probably with the Rock taking out Cena with a Rock Bottom.

Boss Lady Rae: Unlikely as it seems, I think Survivor Series is going to hold a surprise and I think it’s that Miz and R-Truth are going to beat John Cena and The Rock. What would be the point of them having Rock and Cena winning and being pals if the whole reason the Rock’s there is to plug their Wrestlemania rivalry? Eh? EH? I’ve got this one in the bag.

10 Ways to Spice Up Your (WWE) Relationship

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

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

Convert Someone 

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

Don’t Be Lonely 

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

Put On Rose-Tinted Glasses

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

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

Don’t Panic! 

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

Have a Duvet Day 

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

Get Out of That Rut

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

Lust 

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

See Other People

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

Turn the Internet Off

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

And if all else fails…..

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

A Song for Whoever: 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…