Hurts So Good

Andrew’s going to be extra busy with other things for a little while, so you get a bit more of me instead. I have an appalling memory, so I won’t be introducing you to matches you may have missed or forgotten about. I’ll pick a random video from time to time and write some commentary on it. Feel free to tweet me videos I might be interested in. 

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My mother always said I never did things the easy way. Call it stubbornness, but I always have to take the challenging option. There’s a reason I often feel that The Dixie Chicks’ The Long Way Around is my personal theme tune. And while we’re talking in clichés, I also firmly believe you don’t choose the people and past times you love.

Given all this, it’s no surprise that two of the things I love most in the world, pro wrestling and country music, regularly niggle at me. They often force me to question what I believe in. They both cause me to cringe as much as they make me swoon. Maybe I kind of like it that way. It’s a challenge.

I came across this TNA video while looking for CMA Fest material. You’d think that combining my two favourite things would leave me delirious, but it left me a little flat. There is nothing particularly wrong with the video. It features a lot of Mickie James, who is lovely. It showcases their charitable acts. Assuming it’s not overly generous editing, the crowds seem pleased to see them. TNA is based in Nashville, so it makes sense to tag on to the biggest festival of the year and prove they’re part of the community.

But just like when I wince at songs about having a beer with Jesus, or catch myself singing along to every word of Luke Bryan encouraging willing, panting country girls to shake their arses for woodland animals, so do I recoil a little at TNA.

The problem isn’t that I’m just not a fan of the product. There are choices within wrestling so that we all find something to hitch our wagons to. Nobody likes everything. The issue is that the despicable way they treat their roster always overshadows everything they do. I find it hard to congratulate them on their charity work when they don’t pay their own staff medical bills. It cheapens the fun stuff – rolling around town on a carnival float and joshing with D-List country music stars – when lying in the background is this unspoken dissatisfaction. The elephant never leaves the room.

The big difference between TNA and country music, though, is that country music is so ingrained in language and a particular lifestyle that to change it’s going to take time. And maybe if it changes it’s not country music anymore. Country culture, whether genuine or embellished by the music, is constantly in a state of flux and trying to strike a balance between being both current and traditional, carefree and politically correct. So much of what bothers me about the lyrics is objective.  I only experienced and grew to understand that Southern lifestyle for maybe 10 years.  To a point, I only look in on it from the outside. I love it or I leave it.

On this occasion and while talking about TNA, the issue is welfare. It’s about facts, not opinions. They can solve so many problems by starting to care about the people who make them money. Once they do that they’ll stop being the ridicule of so many, a thorn in my side, and maybe start looking like the company Dixie Carter sees in her mind’s eye.

Hurts so good, guys. Hurts so good.

RaeSignature

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Guest Post: Wrestlemania Memories

As it’s both our blog birthday week and Wrestlemania week, we’re trying to lavish as many posts upon you as possible. Luckily for us, our favourite guest blogger Adam offered to write us a Wrestlemania themed post. How could we refuse? We defy you not to read it and get loads more excited for Wrestlemania. Whether you were there in person or watching on TV, why not tell us your own Wrestlemania memories in the comments box? We’d love to hear from you. Enjoy! – Ray

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My love of pro wrestling really knows no bounds.  I’m at a point in my life that I don’t even hide it anymore.  Granted, I don’t yell “Suck it!” or wear old NWO berets (nor any wrestling merch other than a “Death Rey” shirt), but I don’t shy away from admitting that I usually watch Raw live, Smackdown on DVR, and will always buy the Rumble and Wrestlemania.  However, for my life long love of wrestling, I really haven’t seen too much live.  I remember going to a WCW house show with a friend in my hometown of Asbury Park, NJ, when I was 4 or 5, but it wasn’t my idea and I really didn’t know what was going on.  What I do remember though, is that we sat ringside, my friend loved Sting and looking up the time frame, I probably saw a Sting/Flair classic but I honestly can’t tell you. I remember I went to a WWF house show in 1995 at the Meadowlands and thought it was cool that a character that hadn’t debuted yet was working the house show (in this case it was Louis Spicoli’s “Rad Radford” character.  Owen and Yokozuna lost to Shawn and Diesel in the main event).  In college I went to the Smackdown after the 2004 Royal Rumble where Eddie Guerrero was named #1 contender for the WWE title and I went to Summerslam 2005 where Eddie Guerrero lost a ladder match for custody of Rey Mysterio’s son.  Oh, and this happened.  I went a taping of Raw at Madison Square Garden where Kofi jumped on Orton, Piper was awesome, but overall I hated it, as exhibited in this poorly written argument.  Finally, I just went to my first CHIKARA show, and well, that ruled.

Of course, I’m forgetting one live event.  The second live wrestling I ever attended and first I actually was aware of.  I attended Wrestlemania XI, live from the Hartford Civic Center.

Allow me to educate those who are not up on their Mania history.  Wrestlemania XI is on the short list of “Shitty Wrestlemanias.”  The main event involved former New York Giants Linebacker/NFL Hall of Fame/Crack addict/current registered sex offender Lawrence Taylor taking on Asbury Park, NJ native/current cadaver Bam Bam Bigelow. In addition to this bad idea, this Mania also should be held accountable for the crime of getting Steve “Mongo” McMichael interested in professional wrestling, as he was in LT’s  corner.

The setting is important as well.  The Hartford Civic Center, although the former home of one of my great loves, The Hartford Whalers, is a decrepit arena in a shopping mall.  It was also about a three hour drive from where I grew up.  Keep in mind that Wrestlemania X, in addition to being one of the better Manias, was only a 90 minute train ride from my house.  But who cares!?  I was 11 and this was Wrestlemania!  Surely my innocence and general wonder would make this a memorable trip!  Right?

Well, not exactly.  For starters, this trip was a weekend alone with my dad.  Now, I’m not going to get too deep into how I was raised, and rest assured I don’t have any specific issues with my father now, but it should be stated that even at that young age I was conditioned to know that one-on-one time with my dad was stressful.  We also don’t have any common interests and he has a habit of making us leave early whenever we go to sporting events/movies/school plays because he gets bored.  So here’s an entire weekend, in an awful city, dedicated strictly to professional wrestling.  The possibility for a problem was high.  And I remember a few.  Most occurred at the Fan Fest (screw AXXESS, it will always be WWF Fan Fest to me).  My dad admonished me for talking to a stranger randomly, even though it was in actuality Jim Cornette just walking the floor.  I also was frequently (all my adolescence actually) told to “fix my jacket” because I had an oversized New York Knicks Starter jacket that would hang off me because we were indoors and I was overheating.  And by “told” I mean “forcibly yanked at the collar and yelled at” because I looked like “(I) was in a gang.”  Keep in mind, 11 year old Adam looked like this.

But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself.  The earliest memory of Wrestlemania XI weekend was when we checked into our hotel and my dad made his first of many observations that adult actress Traci Lords (most famous for lying about her age to start her career early) was on our floor of the hotel.  My dad speculated that she may have been a celebrity guest of the event, but I’d counter that with it was far more likely that she was there to score some coke off Shawn Michaels.  I mean we weren’t at an ECW show, amIright?  After we checked in we went for lunch at some local spot and Captain Lou Albano walked in, which even my dad recognized from the Cyndi Lauper days.  After walking around for a bit we decided to retire for the night where it was stressed upon me to keep my voice down because we were in a hotel and people are sleeping.  Plus, we had to wake up at 7 am to for the Fan Fest!

Ok, here’s the thing about Fan Fest.  It gets packed and quickly.  It’s also huge.  So if you want autographs, you have to pick your target early and go in that line.  I learned that one the hard way on Day 1.  So basically I just walked around a bunch with my dad and took in all the sights.  From what I hear, AXXESS serves as a defacto WWE museum with some autograph sessions and games and such.  Fan fest did not have that.  It had an Undertaker set with the hearse, a ring you could jump around in (which I did, and that ruled), some kids games (one was a dunk tank that I was totally at when Todd Pentigal ran over during a taping of WWF Mania and dunked on Doink, so I was totes on TV!), and LOTS of merchandise booths.   I left with the following loot:

Shawn Michaels Tee Shirt– It was kind of sparkly and had his picture on it.  I wore it to the Fan Fest the next day and was one of the first people in line for his autograph.  He remarked “Nice shirt” to which I replied “Thank you.”  Later that summer some kid at camp called me gay for wearing a shirt with a man on it, and although I told him to shut up, I can’t recall wearing the shirt much after that.

WWF Pogs– I won these at a Pog Station.

Undertaker Pendent– It was a heavy, die cast metal pendent shaped like the Undertaker.  That became my bling for the remainder of 5th grade.

Lawrence Taylor Hat– My dad just bought this for me, despite how my feelings on the main event were conflicted.  Hey, gotta stick up for the hometown, right?  The hat did come in handy the next morning though, when bright and early we saw LT in our hotel lobby and he signed my program for me.  My dad was actual proud of how I let him finish a previous conversation and politely asked Mr. Taylor for a signature without any prompting. This encounter swung my favor to Mr. Taylor.  Seven years later I waited on Bam Bam Bigelow at the Applebees I was working at and told him the same anecdote.  He told me I made the right decision.

Various Autographs– I really don’t remember who I got except for Shawn and LT.

Something Tatanka related.

Foam Title Belt– This requires a bit of explanation.

Regardless of time period, I am fairly new to the internet.  My father was a computer programmer, but it also stressed him out enough that it made him sick.  As such, our home wasn’t wired for the internet until about 2001.  So there was no way I’d of been a smart, internet wrestling fan then.  I didn’t read the Apter mags or dirt sheets.  Christ, I didn’t even know WCW existed at the time.  I remember being in the hotel on Saturday night, my dad put on TBS because wrestling was on his channel surf, and I had NO IDEA who anyone was (yet oddly enough, I now remember it was a Four Horsemen promo I saw.  There must have been one of those green screen logo promos.)  Hell, I thought the Undertaker had some reality to him, even though I knew it was all scripted.  So yea, 11 year old Adam was not the discerning wrestling fan that I am today.  However, which foam title belt did I insist on buying?  Do I even have to say it?

Yes, I had a play Intercontinental title.  The “worker’s” belt.  Why root for Big Daddy Cool and The Undertaker when I can watch Jeff Jarrett and the 1-2-3 Kid?  And yet, I hate TNA now…

Oh, and I loved that foam belt.  It was probably my favorite thing ever for years after the fact.  But the smarkiness didn’t stop there.

For starters, I was a huge Owen Hart fan.  Always have been, going back to his days teaming with Koko B. Ware to form High Energy.  And I also found his heel turn in 1994 to be well reasoned, and needless to say, popped huge when he beat Bret at Wrestlemania X.  I also popped huge when he won the tag titles with a mystery partner (who I correctly guessed was Yokozuna.  I thought I was so smart, but looking back on it, they were practically slapping you in the face with the answer when they ran a bunch of Leslie Nielsen “Where’s Yoko?” spots.) So fine, that’s not unusual.  But I pretty much rooted for ALL heels.  We’ve already established I bought a Shawn Michaels shirt.  He was the heel in the world title match against Diesel.  Let’s look at the whole card and I’ll tell you my preferences.  Winners are listed first.

1) The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & the British Bulldog) vs Jakob and Eli Blue– Who cares?  I guess I liked Matilda, Davey Boy’s pet bulldog, so let’s give my pick to the faces.

2) Razor Ramon vs Jeff Jarrett (IC title)– I liked Double J’s country song “With My Baby Tonight”, and the woman next to me was a big Razor fan.  Since I have to be a combative little shit, my pick was J-E Double F, J- A- Double R- E- Double T.

3) Undertaker vs King Kong Bundy– My swag picked the Undertaker, but I did have an affinity for the Million Dollar Corporation (Dibiase is another favorite).

4) Owen/Yokozuna vs the Smoking Gunns (Tag Titles)– This match involved my favorite wrestler taking on Billy Gunn.  ‘Nuff said

5)    Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund (special guest referee Roddy Piper)(I Quit Match)– Not only did I root for Mr. Backlund in this, I brought a sign that said “BRET HART QUIT.”  Let me repeat that: I WAS 11 YEARS OLD AND ACTIVLY ROOTING FOR BRET HART TO QUIT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RING.  An adult actually gave me a snide comment before the show when he read the sign.  I remember being pissed that Backlund lost even though I never actually heard “I quit” out of the mic.  One of the few times I have questioned Roddy Piper’s judgment.

6) Diesel (with Pamela Anderson) vs Shawn Michaels (with Jenny McCarthy) (WWF Championship)– Well my pick is obvious, but to further elucidate what a little shit I was, I had some beef over the booking of this.  The prize for winning the 1995 Royal Rumble (in addition to the title match) was that Pamela Anderson would accompany you to the ring.  I don’t care how Cool Bid Daddy was, or how many Hearts the Kid Broke, Anderson was a prize fairly won by Mr. Michaels.  She should have accompanied him!  It’s in her contract!  Even if Jenny McCarthy is hotter!

7) Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow– I was bribed into rooting for the face.

Final count: 4-3 heels (with bribery involved, so who’s really the heel in the main event?  Plus, he’s a sex offender!)

My love of the law didn’t stop there either.  R&B group Salt-N-Pepa were brought in to sing “Whatta Man” to LT on his way to the ring.  The band Fishbone was advertised to perform the “America the Beautiful” before hand.  I know this is true because there is no way I’d imagine that, especially at 11.  For whatever reason, they were replaced by Salt-N-Pepa.  In retrospect, this is the superior choice.  But I remember thinking that was bullshit.

Needless to say, the combination of wrestling and my insufferableness made my dad get bored and he went for a walk around the arena.  He returned about 20 minutes later.  But not empty handed.  No, he returned with a WWF Ice Cream bar.  I don’t think I need to explain that this is the most delicious food ever created.  I was perturbed I couldn’t find one all weekend.  I guess my dad walked around until he found the one stand that had it, which may be one of the nicest gestures anyone has ever done for me.

The night didn’t stop after the last bell either.  Walking back to our hotel there was one final prize.  Loitering in front of our hotel were some punk teens.  In the street was a private limo.  One of the teens took a pebble from a potted plant and threw it at the limo.  The limo stops short, two GIANT bodyguards come out, beat the crap out of one of the kids (smooshing his face in the plant), and then go back in the limo.  This took place over 20 seconds.  Probably the best action of the night.  My dad still tells that story.

I don’t have too many good memories of growing up.  That’s not to say I have all bad memories, but the memories of pure, unbridled happiness are few.  Maybe I was always just a contrarian little turd (read: BRET HART QUIT) or maybe it was something else.  That’s not for here or now.   Wrestlemania XI is a good memory.  I guess that’s the moral here; that even the worst Wrestlemanias are a pretty great time.  It’s corny to say, but Wrestlemania is special.  And not because the marketing machine says it is, or its four hours now, or the Hall of Fame.  It’s special because we want it to be.  Everyone wants it to be special, so we work hard to make it memorable.  I want more Wrestlemania memories, even if I never watch another day of professional wrestling again in my life.

The author tweets about dinosaurs and hockey over @adamrjones24.  Please pity him.

A Song For Whoever: Undertaker & TNA Edition

BOSS LADY RAY: Poor old Undertaker. First he finds himself beaten into a coma, then he finds out the person responsible was his brother, then the rest of the family turn on him, then he gets injured and has to go away for a while. Again. There’s also the whole ‘being dead’ thing. That’s gotta be rough. That’ll put a dampener on anyone’s week. Sure, he married McCool during his break, and a lovely couple they make too, but in the grand scheme of things he’s not having a wonderful time.

Taker goes away to repair whichever sinew he’s snapped this time. There’s this whole special build-up where he walks around a desolate shed out in the desert somewhere.  Johnny Cash husks and mumbles his way through “There ain’t no graaaaave……”. It’s all very Red Dead Redemption. Admittedly, when I realised 2-21-11 was an Undertaker return I was pretty meh about it. As the Sidekick commented, if you need to take six months off between matches, you’ve got some big life decisions to make. Still, they appeared to be making a big deal of his not-so-secret return. By the way, it’s 21-2-11! Silly America.

So it’s 21-2 and Taker starts making his lengthy march to the ring. The Fresno crowd are soaking up every second of the entrance. They’re so into it they can practically taste the damp earth from the grave that couldn’t hold his body down. FIRE! BRIMSTONE! EYELINER! SLOW HAT REMOVAL! EYES ROLLED BACK INTO HEAD! TIME TO PLAY GAME! Wait. What?

Yeah. HHH is back. Most blatant upstaging ever! Regardless of how uncool it is, I am a bit of a Triple H fan. I marked out pretty hard, even though Raw was spoilt for me once again and I knew he was back before watching it. Undertaker must have been well cheesed off though. It was an epic display of thunder stealing if ever I saw one. With this in mind there’s really only one song I can dedicate to the Undertaker. Actually, if wrestling were a musical, this is the song Taker would sing to Trips. And Andrew will vouch for me when I say, it’s a flippin’ miracle we’ve been running this segment for a month and this is the first showtune and/or Streisand track I’ve picked. It really was just a matter of time. Sing along if you know the words……..

SIDEKICK ANDREW: Soooooo…. after a few weeks featuring mysterious monochrome movies featuring a rain lashed hut in the middle of nowhere, an ominous figure in a long leather coat making his way through the rain, and no more information than a simple date to close – the WWE brought back the Undertaker.

Meanwhile, over on TNA, they show a mysterious monochrome movie featuring a rain lashed hut in the middle of nowhere, an ominous figure in a long leather coat making his way through the rain, and no more information than a simple date to close – now confirmed, due to ridiculous advance filming dates, to advertise the return of Sting.


I’m well aware that there’s nothing original in pro-wrestling, and that the industry is often described as “cyclical” for a reason, but there comes a point where “homage” or “parody” becomes “desperate clinging to coat tails”. We don’t cover TNA on this site much at all for one simple reason: it’s too painful to watch. When you have a company that employs a high percentage of great wrestlers as they do, you have to try really hard to make something as unwatchable as Impact! (their exclamation mark, not mine.)

The really silly thing about this is that it doesn’t benefit anyone. It’s not even as though the WWE want TNA to fail. Everyone seems to realise now that competition is a healthy thing, an opinion confirmed by Chris Jericho in a recent interview on The LAW with Dan Lovranski and Jason Agnew when he was asked about the 3 3 11 video:

“It drives me nuts and I’ll tell you the reason why. I am the biggest fan of TNA as a concept. I want them to be huge, Vince wants them to be huge because the more competition there is, it’s better for the business, it’s better for the boys, it’s better is for the fans. I don’t understand their obsession with copying the WWE I think it’s lame, I think its bush league and I don’t get it, they have some of the best talent, some great idea men. Why do they do this? Why do their guys go out there and say ‘When I was in the WWE I was left behind and I was held back’. If I was working for TNA I would project that it’s the greatest wrestling company in the world because if you’re not projecting it, why is anyone going to believe it?”

I’ve just realised this isn’t going to be a very funny episode of Song For Whoever, at least my half. For that I apologise, but TNA could and should be a great, fun to watch promotion. Employing Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan (arguably the 3 men most responsible for WCW’s demise) was a ridiculous idea, and one which will probably help spell the end for them. Or at least it might, were they not bankrolled by daddy’s multi-million dollar company. Still, humour aside, there’s only song that seems fitting…

…and at least nobody can say we don’t give coverage to TNA now.

requiem for a dreamer

Some of you may remember, back in the dark and mysterious days before NXT, that I used to write recaps on here about ECW. Back then, as now, I wasn’t the most reliable recapper. A real life involving a full time job, 4 year old twins and a crippling Dandelion & Burdock addiction would often conspire to leave me without enough time to do the show justice. Also, with ECW being a shorter show than Raw or Smackdown, there was a higher wrestling to messing about ratio – and let’s face it, this blog is more concerned with the messing about part on the whole.

Towards the end of ECW’s run back in February, I did briefly address this in a blog about the announcement that ECW was being replaced with NXT. At the time, Taz was very dismissive and outspoken about the treatment that ECW had been given by Vince McMahon and the WWE. I was quite taken aback by Taz’s comments, especially since he was quite happy to admit that he defected from ECW to join WWE for the money, yet he was happy to criticise Vince McMahon for making money from the ECW initials.

Fast forward to this week, and Tommy Dreamer’s recent promo on TNA iMPACT! If you haven’t seen it (and quite frankly I hope most of you haven’t, as giving TNA viewing figures is only encouraging them) then you can view it via YouTube here:

Powerful and emotional stuff I’m sure you’ll agree. The incredibly masculine holding back of the tears… the supportive hands of Mick Foley… Dixie Carter offering full control of the PPV to Dreamer and the others… Except of course it isn’t. It’s bloody awful and Dreamer, Rhyno, Raven, Richards and Foley should be ashamed. For all the bluff posturing of the “ECW Originals” decrying Vince McMahon’s bastardisation of ECW – nothing he did once the weekly show started was anywhere near as disheartening and insulting as TNA’s constant toadying to wrestlers who may have been a big name “in the other company”.

It’s been a long list so far: ex-WWE guys who have been dragged out of retirement (or unemployment) by TNA and given top pushes or, even more disturbingly, positions of actual power. Jeff Hardy (twice! the second despite his highly publicised drugs arrest), Shannon Moore, Kevin Nash, Mick Foley, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Brian Kendrick, Elijah Burke, Kurt Angle, Ken Anderson and more.

And now, TNA have moved on to pastures new – picking up ex-ECW wrestlers to put on HardCORE Justice (their annoying capitalisation, not mine) “a one-night-only celebration of hardcore wrestling featuring a never before seen reunion of legendary wrestling superstars” that is being billed as “The Last Stand”. OK, so – assuming that none of us have ever seen, or even heard of, the excellent original ECW One Night Stand PPV that the WWE put on, TNA are organising a “never before seen” reunion of ECW guys in a PPV environment, while coincidentally using the words “ONE NIGHT only” and “last STAND” on the official website.

Although of course, ECW One Night Stand wasn’t even the first reunion show for ECW guys. Two days before that there was the first show in a short series known as Hardcore Homecoming, featuring ECW talent in a series of hardcore, no holds barred matches. Still there’s no way TNA could have heard of these relatively obscure shows, not unless they happened to include current TNA talents like Mick Foley, Raven, Rhino and Team 3D. Oh, and of course, they would also need to have been booked and promoted by somebody heavily entrenched in TNA management such as… oh I don’t know… Jeremy Borash say. And while we’re stretching the bounds of possibility, lets be really outlandish and say that Borash would have had to also hypothetically film, edit and produce a documentary about the shows called Hardcore Forever…

Anyway, making fun of TNA and their unfathomable booking decisions is as easy as shooting Hardys in a barrel. The issue I have at the moment is the Tommy Dreamer promo. This is a guy that was first employed by the WWE back during the Invasion angle, was given 14 Hardcore Championship reigns, then a number of office jobs within the company, and eventually was given an ECW Championship run by the WWE that left him in the record books as the only person ever to hold the ECW Title in both “Original” ECW and “WWE” ECW. All this despite, lets be honest, him not being the best wrestler in the world. During the old ECW days that may not have been so important, but once he made the transition to the WWE style his shortcomings really began to show, and it became more and more apparent as a fan that he has was taking up roster space and TV time that could have been better utilised by other wrestlers.

It’s worth noting before we go on, Tommy’s first ECW Championship reign under Paul Heyman lasted a whole 30 minutes; whereas the terrible company that “punished” him and his friends gave him a 7 week Championship run. Oh yeah, the “punished” thing? That comes from TNA’s hardcorejustice.com site, where a quote attributed to Tommy states:

Dixie has allowed us to have a chance to finally thank the fans that have supported us for all of these years […] In the past, we’ve been lied to and we’ve been punished for being who we were and building what we did. Now we have a chance to get everyone back together for one last night.”

Now I like Tommy Dreamer as a person, he seems like a nice guy for the most part. His twitter feed has been consistently entertaining, and his appearance for independent companies such as Wrestlegasm favourites CHIKARA are good publicity. But I can’t figure out how I’m offended by this. I know I am offended, just not in which way. You see, I can look at the promo in one of two ways:

1. It’s a shoot.

Tommy genuinely believes that he, and all the other ex-ECW wrestlers, were treated badly by Vince. A statement that seem deluded at best, and genuinely ungrateful and petty at worst. As I’ve mentioned, Tommy wasn’t the best wrestler in the world, yet WWE kept him on far longer than they perhaps should, giving him a title reign and constantly referring to him as the “Heart and Soul of ECW” – a title which I am sure he took great delight in hearing each week.

2. It’s a work

Tommy doesn’t believe any of this, he realises how lucky he was to be a part of such a huge entity as the WWE. He knows that the exposure and publicity he received mean he can pick and choose appearances and independent bookings for as long as he wants, and that the WWE actually made more of a success of the ECW brand that people give them credit for. However, despite knowing all this, he is prepared to stand in the ring of the main competitor and run down WWE, and Vince in particular.

Either way, Tommy doesn’t exactly come out of this situation smelling of roses. But, it’s only fair that we look into this a little deeper. Tommy’s main complaint seems to be the way that some of the other guys were used and tossed aside by the WWE for being the same people they were in ECW. I’ve no doubt that there is some truth in this; however, you have to look at the kind of people we are talking about here. Let’s take a couple of the main ECW wrestlers who made the leap to WWE.

Rob Van Dam – Became the first ECW Champion in the new promotion, beat John Cena in a PPV main event match, becoming the first wrestler in history to hold both the WWE Championship and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, and the only one ever to hold them at the same time. Managed to get himself suspended for a marijuana offence, but then came back to be given numerous title shots and a Wrestlemania payday. Even after leaving the company due to his wife’s illness, Van Dam came back to make a surprise appearance on both the Raw 15th Anniversary show and the 2009 Royal Rumble.

Sabu – Was released by TNA, and was given a World Heavyweight Title shot in his debut match for WWE shortly afterwards, against Rey Mysterio at One Night Stand. Two months later he won a Battle Royal and was given a PPV match against John Cena. Despite then being arrested for possession of drugs, Sabu was still given a title match against Big Show at Summerslam and a Wrestlemania payday.

Hardly being treated terribly, and the same goes for other ECW Originals such as Balls Mahoney and The Sandman – both of whom were given pushes and storylines far outweighing any actual wrestling ability.

On the flip side, WWE’s incarnation of ECW was arguably responsible for bringing up a new crop of Superstars and giving them space to learn to react to much larger crowds than they may have been used to previously; as well as reinvigorating the careers of established wrestlers such as William Regal and Christian.

People like CM Punk and Evan Bourne, both of whom had worked with great success on the independent scene, were given space and time to learn how to adapt their style to fit in with the WWE and it’s larger arenas – most notably with Punk fazing out the use of the Anaconda Vise as a finisher and focussing more on the Go To Sleep (a move which can be appreciated from a greater distance in the crowd.)

Less experienced wrestlers had the opportunity to use ECW as a training facility of sorts – people such as Seamus, Jack Swagger, Yoshi Tatsu and Zack Ryder all came into their own on ECW. After Joey Mercury had his face destroyed by the Hardy Curse, Johnny Nitro was floundering in singles competition until a transfer to ECW and “THE INCIDENT” gave him an unexpected title shot. Cue the transformation to John Morrison and a greater deal of success that anyone could have foreseen.

The trouble seems to be one of perception with ECW. People such as Tommy Dreamer, perhaps understandably, will only focus on the elements of ECW that they were involved in and that made them famous – the hardcore matches, the brawls throughout the ECW arena, the use of weapons… I would argue however, that the thing that made both forms of ECW great was instead the opportunity it gave wrestlers who didn’t necessarily fit the WWF/WCW mould. I’ve mentioned some of the people that the new ECW gave new life to, but the same happened with Heyman’s show.

Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Steve Austin, Lance Storm, Eddie Guerrero, Tajiri – all people that were overlooked or dismissed from the WWE or WCW and were given breaks on ECW. I said it last time and I stand by it now : both forms of ECW were great.

The original ECW wasn’t great because of any perceived anarchic outsider status (after all, they were bankrolled by Vince McMahon for some time)

It wasn’t great because of the weapons and bloodshed (after all, if there was such a demand for that style, CZW would be challenging TNA for viewers)

It was great because, in between the brawls, they showcased some amazing wrestling from some amazing wrestlers. This is what made the original ECW so enjoyable to watch – the variety, and it’s the true legacy of Paul Heyman’s work that was carried on through to the WWE version. Building a show around the hardcore elements of ECW was always a bad move, even when the wrestlers involved where in their heyday.

The original ECW themselves didn’t do this; their PPVs always offered a combination of brawling, weapon based matches and high-flying technical wrestling. WWE didn’t do this; go and look at the line-up for the first One Night Stand. As well as the incredible Masato Tanaka vs Mike Awesome match, and the main event fight between the Dudleys and Dreamer/Sandman – the PPV featured some great wrestling matches with Lance Storm vs Jericho and Mysterio vs Psychosis being the stand outs for me personally.

It remains to be seen just how much of the HardCORE Justice PPV is given over to the hardcore style matches – but it seems a pretty safe bet given TNAs over reliance on older names to push their shows that Dreamer will be in the main event, and that it will be weapon-based. It will also be interesting to see just who they manage to get involved. They’ve already exhausted the “top tier” of ECW wrestlers available to them, and have delved down to the levels of Simon Diamond.

I’m not going to deny Tommy Dreamer has contributed a great deal to the wrestling industry through his passion and commitment, and I would never deny anyone the right to pursue a pay day – but at some point the nostalgic rose-tinted view that some people have of certain elements of a company that once employed them, whether they had a right to be in a wrestling ring or not, had to stop. And the over reliance on washed-up, used-up and burnt out names to sell PPVs in 2010 is starting to verge on the pathetically hilarious.

I’ll leave you with another Dreamer quote from the TNA site. “TNA is the only place that this event could happen , […] There are no politics to worry about and no restrictions in place. The fans know that I have a lot of extremely close friends, so they can expect anything and everything to happen. I have some surprises for everyone. ”

Let’s hope he’s right, and we’re all pleasantly surprised…

GUEST POST WEEK: lucha lucy on tna

[Let’s face it, Wrestlegasm.com isn’t the place to come if you’re a TNA fan. Hard as we try, neither Andrew nor myself can face whole episode of iMPACT! especially since the old man took over. We realise this is doing you TNA fans a disservice, so we’ve invited Lucy to give you her opinion on how things have panned out in ‘the other franchise’. Make her feel welcome and enjoy reading. – Ray]

Despite what many people have to say about TNA, they’ve a lot going for them. Although they’ve so much going, they still leave fans scratching their heads sometimes.

TNA grabbed the bull by the horns and went head-to-head with RAW on Mondays, then they realized they were failing. They changed their plan to go head-to-head with RAW for only an hour. When that failed, they decided to move back to Thursdays. Then there was Bubba and some new ranking system, The Band and Dixie Carter tweeting all these cryptic messages about surprises in store for TNA.

My point? TNA HAS NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE DOING!

I hate to presume that I know more than this whole company, full of people who have been in the business for years, but they make me wonder sometimes.

With so much potential and ability, you’d think they’d have a great shot at, if not being able to compete on Mondays, at least getting wrestling fans to switch over to their show on Thursday, when there’s no other wrestling on. That hasn’t been the case though. Regardless of what ratings say, a lot of the fans, me included, are unhappy with things in TNA.

I find they’re notoriously hit-and-miss with show. It seems as though even when they’ve got something  great they just can’t follow it up.

Criticism is no good when it isn’t constructive, so these are a few things I see that can be reevaluated by TNA, in hopes of improving.

First off, get rid of those who’ve been wrestling for over 15 years, can barely walk and have no business still wrestling. I hate to see someone lose their job, but I think it’s fairly obvious that some wrestlers just shouldn’t be wrestling anymore.

Secondly, they need to stop with the random storylines that go absolutely nowhere. How long was Samoa Joe gone before they even made a mention of him? Unless I’ve missed it, they’ve yet to explain the story behind who/what/why Joe was Joe-napped. Didn’t they learn when someone was mysteriously attacking AJ Styles? We learned Tomko did it. They did nothing with it and now I don’t even know if Tomko still has a job with TNA. The trouble with a storyline they drop and don’t follow up on is that we don’t forget it. Just stop the random kidnappings and attacks. Please.

Wrestling fans are so very picky; we’re never quite satisfied with what we’re given.

We’re told we can’t have blood in one company, so TNA tries to deliver it whenever they can, but there’s no reason to have that amount of unnecessary blood on their shows. Maybe this is a personal pet-peeve of mine, but I don’t care to see Abyss and/or Ric Flair bleeding every week on iMPACT!.

These problems are all very manageable.

Men like Hogan and Nash, no matter how big a name they are, they don’t belong in the ring anymore. Hogan doesn’t really wrestle anymore, but he is on TV a lot. The show shouldn’t be written around him. As for Nash, he looks like he can barely make it to the ring. He’s one of the lucky ones who have something to fall back on, so perhaps it’s time to retire?

I’ve neglected to mention Ric Flair and that’s with good reason. Unlike Hogan, Flair’s been in the ring wrestling, but in the time that he’s been with TNA he’s already given back a lot. AJ is phenomenal, but the poor guy couldn’t cut a good promo to save his life before Flair and now, his promos are actually quite good. Flair has also done something that TNA’s failed to do in the last few years — get guys like Kazarian and Jay Lethal over with their newer fans.

The ridiculous storylines are just that. I think it’s pretty fair to say that fans are not looking for outlandish stories that end up going nowhere. When all else fails, stick with the classics – a face looking for redemption, a heel looking for vengeance. They work when they’re done right. As for the amount of blood that TNA uses, there’s really no excuse for it. It’s not necessary.

A big obstacle TNA is dealing with right now is the fact that not too long ago they prided themselves on their Knockouts, tag-team and X-Divisions. Finally, perhaps their biggest obstacle is keeping up with something that works for them.

Both the Knockouts and tag-team divisions were exceptional once upon a time. Instead of quality entertainment and matches with Angelina Love and Kong, we have Lacey Von Erich making-out with a midget. Instead of 3D showcasing tag-team wrestling with LAX and Beer Money, INC. we have teams thrown together because they share the same hair style.

The Knockouts have definitely lost out on the departures of Awesome Kong and Tara, but they’ve got other females like Love, Roxxi and Hamada, who should be given the chance to elevate the Knockouts to where they once were. They’ve no need to reduce their Knockouts to segments like that Von Erich’s. Let them wrestle and give them a chance to build stories and rivalries with each other.

As for the tag-teams, throwing guys together because they can isn’t how they’ll elevate the division or their company. Sometimes it can work for a while, but what’s happened to Generation Me and the Motor City Machine Guns? Both are great teams who are capable of delivering matches to remember. They’ve given the titles to a team of two men in their fifties! Why not give those other tag teams a shot? They’ve proven why they’re great, so give them a shot at reviving what’s becoming a lost form of wrestling.

In the early years of TNA, the X-Division was the crown jewel of the company. You can’t abandon what brought you to the dance in the first place. There are so many great wrestlers with huge potential, but are never utilized. The Guns, Amazing Red, Kendrick and Douglas Williams are used so little that fans either forget about them from one week to the next or even worse they just don’t care. There’s potential for exciting matches and stories in the X-Division; they’re more than capable of stealing the show when given the opportunity.

TNA’s biggest difficulty at the moment is that they can’t hold any momentum they’ve built. Matt Morgan’s program with Kurt Angle — hit. What did they do with the newfound momentum behind their rising star? They allowed him to fall off the radar a bit and brought him back into the tag-team scene with Hernandez. After the great program he had with Angle, they could’ve at least tried to follow up with another big feud to see how he’d do – miss. No matter how great one particular story or wrestler is, they’ve got to follow up on momentum or they’re end up back at square one every single time.

Although TNA clearly still has problems with their product, I do honestly think that they’ve taken steps in the right direction.

One thing that I’ve liked from the TNA writing staff is that they’re able to work a broad story and manipulate it to do the most good. If you know me, I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, but please indulge me on this issue once more.

In the past, TNA has been able to take one idea and branch it out to make it five more. They did it with Sting and the Main Event Mafia and they’re doing it now with Flair, Styles, Abyss and Hogan.

They took this idea of Flair vs. Hogan and worked it to include Styles, Hardy, Dinero, Abyss, RVD, Beer Money and Wolfe. They let go of Hardy, let him do his own thing with Anderson, let Abyss and Wolfe do their own thing, brought in Sting and Jarrett to finish something they started a long time ago and also included Jay Lethal and Kazarian, letting them get their own deal with Styles and Flair.

Instead of a ‘start and end’ feud every couple of weeks, they’ve let it run and turn in other directions.

They’ve got the right mindset; it gives others the spotlight when they otherwise wouldn’t have it and continually changes the scope of their shows so that nothing becomes too stale.

Although easier said than done, TNA needs to let their Knockouts wrestle and showcase what was once a great assist to the company; they need to allow tag teams with the skill and popularity to elevate their division to do so and finally TNA needs to understand they can’t rely on another company’s past to help get them to the top. They have to risk going with something new, gambling on wrestlers they haven’t gambled on before.

Once they’ve build up a fresh product, made new stars and capitalized on what the WWE lacks, maybe they can go ahead and give that whole Monday Night Wars thing another shot.

Lucy has her own blog here. Check it out.

playing with boys: in search of the elusive intergender match

A few weeks ago, Michelle McCool was billed as being in an intergender match on WWE Superstars. I was excited. This would have been real progress for the WWE. When I asked which male Superstar she’d be opposing, I was unfortunately informed that it was a match against Beth Phoenix. It was billed as an intergender match to fall in with the Glam-a-Man moniker that Team LayCool had attached to Beth Phoenix. I was disappointed. I love Beth Phoenix, but the dashed promise of the elusive boy vs girl match was a slight letdown.

I got to thinking about why the WWE are so afraid of pitting women against men. On the surface, it’s obvious. This is the PG era, where all WWE programming is produced to be child-friendly. The mere mention of violence against women, even a choreographed wrestling match, would be unacceptable. It would be wholly hypocritical of a company so geared towards entertaining younger viewers to be seen to condone men hitting women.

At Christmas I began playing the Smackdown vs Raw 2010 video game. It doesn’t have the facility to allow intergender matches. As in the shows themselves, mixed tag matches are the closest you can get.

When a male competitor is in the ring, you have to make sure your female competitor tags her male partner in. If you’re playing as a male Superstar and strike one of the Divas, even accidentally, you lose immediately by disqualification. Though, curiously, if you’re playing as a woman and hit a man, you aren’t disqualified. On the 19th April episode of Monday Night Raw, while Luke Gallows and CM Punk beat Triple H down to have his head shaved, Serena was encouraged to kick him. But in no way could Triple H have retaliated against Serena.

Even on TNA, which likes to suggest that it is anti-PG by having half its roster spill their own blood on a weekly basis, there is still a certain awkwardness towards men and women fighting each other. During TNA’s tour of the UK this February, guest writer Toni reported on how Hamada had practically begged Amazing Red for a match, which he seemed loathed to give her. Amazing Red eventually fought and beat her, but only after displaying an obvious conflict of conscience at being in a match with a woman.

IMG: Property Wrestlegasm.Com

I fully understand why the WWE would be nervous of pushing the matter in the current litigation climate. Wrestling struggles to maintain a respectable reputation at the best of times. It doesn’t need an over-zealous parent filing a lawsuit against the company because their son broke their daughter’s sternum copying a move he saw Chris Jericho put on Gail Kim, for example. Bad publicity indeed. But the real contradiction is not Violence Against Women vs PG Programming; it’s Reality vs Unreality.

Professional Wrestling is something of an alternate universe. Wait. That’s putting is mildly. Wrestling is a complete alternate universe where the rules of real life do not apply. This is a world where Rey Mysterio can take on the Big Show and win. A place where seemingly random people run up to CM Punk in the middle of a show and demand that their head be shaved to rid them of their toxic sins. A universe where people are carried out of arenas on spinal boards and carted off in ambulances, only to reappear an hour later with a sledgehammer in their hand to finish the job they started earlier in the show. It’s a world where you can physically and verbally abuse your boss and still have a job in the morning.

If we all have enough sense to understand kayfabe, why should the rules be different for intergender matches? Can’t John Cena’s ‘Don’t Try this at Home’ video cover all aspects of the content?

Ok, so my brother never listened to such advice when we were kids. I was regularly the victim of a Stone-Cold Stunner. But if it’s an adequate disclaimer for anything that happens during the show, why not let it be a disclaimer for intergender matches too? If reality played any part in wrestling, Rey Mysterio would win less matches, the police might like to speak with Mr. Punk to ensure that he’s not taking advantage of vulnerable members of society, Triple H would still be in traction permanently and The Hart Dynasty would have been fired the day after Wrestlemania 26.

Women and men fighting each other should be no more of a concern than placing a 5’6″ man in the ring against a 7’0″ man. It’s not like when Annika Sörenstam asked to play in a Bank of America Colonial golfing tournament on the Men’s PGA Tour, and there were genuine concerns as to whether she would be at a physical disadvantage playing against men. Wrestling is a scripted form of entertainment without the need for real world logic.

Just yesterday I was watching a 2007 CHIKARA match where Icarus, Gran Akuma and Brodie Lee took on Cheech, Cloudy and Sara Del Rey. Sara Del Rey did not seem out-of-place in any way. She was just another performer who played an incredible part in the match. She was not treated any differently because she was a woman. In fact, Brodie Lee won the match by lifting Sara up to his 6’7″ shoulders and slamming her into the canvas for the pin. Nobody thought of it as a guy beating up a girl. Nobody feared that Sara had been abused in any way when he rolled her over and shouted in her face. She just happened to be the competitor who lost the match.

This is the fundamental difference between mainstream, primetime wrestling and independent wrestling. Assumed social responsibility and feared lawsuits aside, women in the WWE and TNA aren’t valued in the same way that women are in independent wrestling. The Divas match at this year’s Extreme Rules Pay Per View was so incredibly insulting that I only continued to watch it because I knew I would have to recap the PPV for this blog. The prospect of a Women’s Title match on a Pay Per View should have been thrilling. Instead, I just peeked from behind a cushion while Beth Phoenix and Michelle McCool fought it out in an ‘Extreme Makeover’ match. This was basically a standard extreme rules match but in place of trash cans, chairs and tables, the ladies had to hit each other with ironing boards, mops, brooms and buckets. They also sprayed each other with hairspray and were allowed used of a large table of make-up akin to that laid out for a grooming challenge on America’s Next Top Model.

I’m amazed they didn’t send Beth Phoenix out dressed as Rosie the Riveter and Michelle McCool dressed as an aproned 1950s housewife. If Creative were concerned about placing the Divas in a match requiring an extreme stipulation, couldn’t they just have gone with a LumberJills match or, even better, a ladder match? They certainly could have ditched the idea of a dumbed-down extremes rules match. The only good thing to come out of this was that Beth Phoenix went away the new and very deserving Women’s Champion.

I’m all for irony. It can be fun. But for this match to have been ironic, it would have needed something opposing to be compared to, and there is very little in the WWE which doesn’t pander to outdated stereotypes. The Raw brand is particularly guilty of this – sending the ladies out to compete in ballgown matches etc. I’m not even saying that women shouldn’t have feminine gimmicks. Strong characterisation is key in all professional wrestling. But when one of the few women in the WWE who looks slightly different to the rest has her face plastered in lipstick because she doesn’t fit the standard physical mold, there isn’t much hope of any genuine intergender matches any time soon.

At least Beth Phoenix was allowed to enter the Royal Rumble this year. I’ve mentioned before that while her dalliance in the ring with CM Punk during the Rumble match was short, it was truly exciting and especially memorable.

It seems to me that intergender matches, when done well, are the sign of a confident and respectful franchise. Until WWE begin respecting and trusting the women on their roster to pull off quality wrestling matches and allow them to be more than just supplementary to the male stars, I can’t see women being pitted against men. I was informed last week that Creative are discussing ways of strengthening the division. Whether this is true or not is anyone’s guess; especially a week after they released both their poster-girl in Mickie James and one of their edgier female wrestlers in Katie Lea. It’s difficult not to be cynical, especially when people like Jim Ross have their reservations about a positive future for the women of the WWE, but I’ll hope for the best. Once you start expecting less than the best, there’s no impetus for those in charge to change anything.

raw(lite): #McMahonWin

Apparently, TNA iMPACT! now broadcasts on a Monday night in the US. They also broadcast at the same time as Raw. The internet went schizo over it on Monday, then felt deflated by it all on Tuesday. Would you like my opinion? Ok. Here goes….. MEH! Simple. We went through this during the trial-run in January, so did we really need to get worked up all over again, internet? If you want to read my extended thoughts on TNA vs WWE, you can read the piece I wrote in January by clicking here. If anything, TNA’s product has decreased in quality since I wrote it, so you should times my views by five.  Shall we move on? Yes? Good.

You know Wrestlemania is drawing close when brand separation goes out the window. This week’s Raw started with a visit from The Undertaker, who gave a blood-curdling speech about how he wanted to end Shawn Michaels’ career. This, as you might expect, triggered a visit from HBK. I could recap the awesomeness that was their verbal toing-and-froing, but I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Suffice to say it made everyone a little more excited about ‘Mania. But just to get the general vibe (sing along if you know the melody):

After that long dialogue we needed a match, and I was buoyed by the fact that the Raw Divas were given a proper match this week. Hoorah! No degrading costumes, no fluffy stuff, just a standard 6-woman tag with Maryse, Katie Lea and Alicia Fox vs Eve, Kelly Kelly and Gail Kim. The commentary was a bit iffy. Lawler and Cole seemed to be having their on little party in the corner while the girls busted out their moves. But the important thing is that Eve won the match for the nice girls by pinning Maryse. This surely means she’ll be challenging Maryse for the Divas title some time soon, right? This make me very happy.

The girls were happy too.

Unfortunately for The Bella Twins, they’re still stuck being corporate escorts to the guest host every week. This time around it was illusionist and all-round cool dude, Criss Angel. The Bellas wanted to be his magician’s assistants. He declined their offer but demonstrated how he likes to swallow a piece of cotton and pull it through his eye. I get squeamish around anything to do with eyes, so I looked away. Here’s a picture of him rendering Jillian silent instead. It was pleasing.

Miz & Big Show are defending the unified tag titles against R-Truth and John Morrison at Wrestlemania. On this week’s Raw we were treated to a preview. We can’t see a match we’re going to have to pay for in a few weeks’ time, so this ended rather abruptly when both Truth and Morrison stormed The Miz and left him lying in the crowd.

Backstage, Josh Matthews was lined up to interview John Cena, and you knew times were getting serious because John put his worried face on, lifted his hat and rubbed his forehead. Classic ‘Cena under-the-cosh’ behaviour.

I feel we’re just a few days away from him giving one of his empowering and finger-tingling speeches about fighting the good fight and never giving up. I.CAN’T.WAIT.

Back over in Criss Angel’s office, lovely Evan Bourne was being super-excited about his Money in the Bank qualifying match against William Regal, when his opponent turned up.

After a brief exchange of words, Evan disappeared and Criss Angel attempted to read Regal’s mind with Skip Sheffield at his side. I didn’t want to like it, but it made me laugh.

Rhodes and DiBiase had a handicap match against Randy Orton, which they won. Considering this was Raw, the match was surprisingly long. I whole-heartedly approve of this development. While the match itself was strong, my favourite part was when the young whippersnappers mocked Randy’s posing.

Nice try, fellas, but I don’t believe this can be improved upon:

Flashbacks! Memories! And all that good stuff.

After a brief locker room moment where Batista pledged not to interfere with John Cena’s match against Mr. McMahon later than night, it was time for a visit from The Game. If you recall, last week’s Raw ended with an unexpected attack on HHH courtesy of Sheamus. This week, Trips wanted to respond. As anticipated, his moment was cut short when Sheamus came out to challenge him further. So Hunter did what he does best; he took his leather jacket off, got up in Sheamus’ face and gave him a good talking to. It was quite scary. In a tantilising way.

Sheamus was offered a match against HHH at Wrestlemania, but he was asked to really consider whether he wanted to risk his career against The Game. Sheamus had no qualms about accepting the challenge and marked the decision by brawling with HHH all around the arena. He only retreated when Triple H put a Spinebuster on him in the middle of the ring.

THAT'S the Game I've missed. RAWR!

More of the backstage stuff with Criss Angel and Santino, then it was straight to the Evan Bourne vs William Regal MitB qualifier. It’s a good job Sidekick Andrew detests Raw and refuses to watch it, as he happens to be equally gay for both William Regal and Evan Bourne. He would have been especially conflicted during this match. The winner, however, was obviously going to be little Evan. Much I love Regal, I can’t quite imagine his current hefty frame leaping from a 20ft ladder when high-flying happens to be Evan’s forte.

Just one match left – the nonsense that was John Cena vs Vince McMahon. Even with John Cena’s limited moves, you just knew this fight wasn’t going to end fairly. John continued with the serious-face and Vince strutted down to the ring. It appears nobody told John this was a Gauntlet match. For anyone else, this would be hell. But for our favourite super-hero? He should be able to brush this off with ease, right? Let’s see:

Yes, the nicest strong-man in the world was forced to do some damage to Cena, despite being one of his bestest pals. Now THAT’s being conflicted! He twisted Cena a bit, then Vince tried to persuade him to whack John round the skull with the ring-bell. While this argument ensued, Batista broke him promise to keep out of sight and Batista-bombed Mark Henry all over the canvas. It was messy. With John in mortal danger again, he needed a new chum, so Kofi came out to lend a friend a hand. But Kofi, even fueled with fury over not being in the Money in the Bank match, was no match for an angry Dave.

Our hero has been duped by the evil Mr. McMahon again. Will he survive to fight another day? You’ll just have to tune in to the next exciting episode of Monday Night Raw, won’t you? Oh! And if you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know who’s guest hosting next week….. errrrm ……. just crawl back under that rock. This doesn’t concern you.

GUEST POST: tna in the uk

[A couple of weeks ago, TNA landed on British shores. They popped out a few matches in local arenas, did the odd meet & greet and proved that Vince McMahon isn’t the only boss who can  assemble a touring cast of wrestlers and send them on a Transtlantic jaunt. They did a show in Cardiff. I didn’t go. Although, probably not for the reasons you’re imagining. True, I’ve ripped TNA apart on several occasions. But that’s only because I care. Call it tough love. I didn’t want to go to a TNA show by myself, so I skipped it. And yes, I regret that decision now. Thankfully, wrestling fan and all-round lovely lady Toni went to one of the tour shows and has written a little report on the whole TNA experience. She actually likes TNA, so I’m sure she’s been much kinder than I would have been anyway. Then again, maybe I would have been converted. We’ll never know now, will we? Over to Toni. Enjoy!]

Being a TNA fan isn’t always easy. Sometimes it can be hard to fight through the bad to find the things you love about it, but still we persevere. That is how I came to find myself standing in a queue in the freezing cold in Coventry (which has surely got to be worse than waiting in the freezing cold anywhere else) waiting to be let in to what TNA call ‘Fan Interaction’. Basically, it’s a meet and greet with a handful of the wrestlers that you will be watching later that night. On the whole there is not an awful lot of interacting taking place, as the whole thing is quite rushed. The term ‘greet’ could also be used quite loosely in relation to some of the talent (Taylor Wilde, I’m looking at you), to whom saying hello appears to be too much of an effort. While the idea of fan interaction on the whole is a good one, the execution of the event could have been a little better. It was held in a bar room with really poor lighting, meaning that even with a flash most of the pictures we took came out really dark, which was a little disappointing. However, where Kurt Angle was sat made him look like he had a spotlight shining directly on him, which meant he looked awesome in everyone’s photos.

In our meet and greet was Taylor Wilde and Sarita, Amazing Red,  Earl Hebner, Chris Sabin, The Pope,The British Invasion and Kurt Angle. Sabin, The British Invasion and Kurt Angle were all really friendly, posed for photos and chatted while signing your t-shirt, program or random bits of paper. I was really, really pleased that Chris was doing the signing and virtually sprinted the first half of the line (well, as fast as you can sprint when there is a very slow-moving queue directly in front of you). Then something happened that struck fear in to my heart. He spoke to me. Now, anybody that knows me can tell you that I have a serious case of ‘foot in mouth disease’. If there is ever any opportunity to say something stupid, embarrassing, inappropriate or any combination of all three, then I will take it. I did manage to somehow tell him that my feet were cold  but personally I was just pleased to have escaped the whole thing without blurting out the words ‘I love you’ the second I laid eyes on him.

By the time I got to Kurt Angle I found that I had become speechless and completely lost the ability to say anything at all. I could only smile at him innanely. He didn’t seem to be at all phased by the slightly idiotic looking woman stood before him and it passed without incident. I chalked this up as a success. Then it was time to get kicked out in the freezing cold again to join another queue. Yay!

Thankfully, this queue didn’t take anywhere near as long and we were soon in the arena, ready to find our seats. But it quickly became apparent that locating your seat owed more to the process of elimination than anything else, as the event staff knew nothing, and by nothing I mean they didn’t even know which block was which. You know, the little things. The signage was about as informative as the stewards, so if we actually ended up in the right seats was anybody’s guess.

As part of what TNA calls the ‘Platinum Experience Ticket’ which my brother generously bought me, the seat I found myself with was in the second row. I would indeed be all nice and close to the sweaty wrestlers. The joy!

With about half an hour to go until bell time, Dixie Carter was on the arena floor signing autographs and having photos taken with fans and the World Heavyweight Championship belt. She looked genuinely interested in meeting the fans and had time for everyone. I did have my photo taken with Dixie and my brother, but I have vowed that it shall never see the light of day. It is possibly the worst photo I have seen of myself. Ever.

Now for the bit we have all been waiting for…. showtime! I should point out that although I truly enjoy wrestling, I’m not one of those people who is going to remember every single move that everyone performs. Far from it. I am more of a people watcher, so if you are expecting an account of each wrestlers technical prowess I’m not the girl for you and you should stop reading now before I make you angry. That being said…

First up is Chris Sabin (be still my beating heart) Vs  Suicide.

The crowd is pretty dead for this, to be honest. The occasional chant breaks the silence but it’s pretty quiet for the majority. You get all the tricks and stunts you would expect, with Sabin backflipping across the ring and both parties taking various leaps from the ropes. After a couple of near falls each, Suicide hits the Suicide Solution and pins Sabin for the win.

Then it’s the Knockouts Tag Team match, The Beautiful People Vs. Taylor Wilde and Sarita. This match was initially billed as Awesome Kong and Hamada Vs Taylor Wilde and Sarita but Kong didn’t make the trip to the UK after her earlier ‘altercation’ with the vile and loathsome Bubba The Love Sponge. After initially being gutted that Kong wasn’t coming, I perked up a bit when I realised that The Beautiful People were coming to take her place, and subsequently became overjoyed when I realised that Lacey Von Erich wasn’t coming with them. So all in all I was looking forward to this match a huge amount.

The Beautiful People made their typical entrance to the ring; teased kiss, arse wiggling over the rope, the whole kit and caboodle. This seemed to kickstart the crowd somewhat and both teams got good reactions. Although, I do have to say to the very overweight man sat in the row ahead of me, I am fairly sure Taylor Wilde doesn’t want to marry you, no matter how many times you bellow your proposal to her across the ring.

Following the usual back and forth between both sides and lots of near falls, Madison moved to slap referee Earl Hebner, who countered by going in for the kiss. Feeling pleased with himself, he strutted distractedly around the ring allowing Velvet to spray Taylor Wilde in the face with a can of hairspray. Wilde fell to the ground clutching her face and was pinned by Madison for the three count.

This is what happens when you leave a male in charge of the camera with Knockouts in the ring.

Next we move on to The Pope D’Angelo Dinero Vs. Desmond Wolfe.

Both Pope and Wolfe received a good reception from the crowd and Wolfe got a huge cheer every time he offered his trademark two-fingered salute. The crowd seemed very into this match, with a chant for both sides running for most of the duration. The match reached its end when Wolfe went for the Tower Of London, Pope countered with his finisher (which I am not going to even pretend to know the name of) and took the victory. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of The Pope, as you might have guessed, but I was loving Desmond and on the whole I really enjoyed the match.

Now for the 8-man gauntlet match featuring The British Invasion (w/Rob Terry), Eric Young, Team 3-D and Beer Money. I spent most of this match being marginally grossed out, but the humdinger of a rash, Eric Young, was sporting to the point where I didn’t actually notice much else that was going on. It’s not very often anyone will admit to missing most of the action in a match because they were looking at Eric Young’s body, but there you have it. All of the teams were very over with the crowd, although Rob Terry was subject to a “You can’t wrestle” chant at a couple of intervals and, being the mean girl that I am, I thought this was hilarious. Team 3-D picked up the win pinning Eric Young following a 3-D.

Sometimes being so close to sweaty wrestlers can have it's downsides.

Interval time, this is where I get to sit singing along to the Metallica songs playing out over the PA. I found this a very enjoyable way to pass the time but I feel the people sat around me may be inclined to disagree.

15 minutes of interval later and we’re back. Dixie comes to the ring to thank everyone for coming out and supporting TNA. I spend most of the time she is in the ring thinking how much she reminds me of Celine Dion.

Next up we have the X Division match and it’s Amazing Red Vs Hamada. Yep, you read that right… Hamada. The misogynistic crowd spoiled this in part for me with hugely offensive comments. I should point out that I am not easily offended, but if I thought I could have gotten away with it without getting kicked out the arena, I would have kicked the imbecile sat in front of me straight in the back of the head. Instead, I just cheered at an obscene volume for Hamada. If it was 1996 then I may have even shouted ‘Girl Power!’ but I will take heed of Daisy in Spaced and realise that this is something you should never ever say. People will laugh at you and not in a good way.

That aside, I LOVED this match; red not wanting to hit a woman and Hamada wanting to be fought against in the same way he would a man. Red’s inner conflict was utterly convincing and you could virtually taste the frustration rolling off Hamada. However, it seemed like I was the only one. The crowd pretty much died during this match, after they had run out of nasty and spiteful things to say. Anyway, Amazing Red fought through his principles, gave Hamada the contest she wanted and hit a standing Shooting Star Press to claim the victory. When he helped her up from the ground, it did make let out a little ‘awww’.

Tag team match next and it’s Daniels and Rhino Vs Hernandez and Kurt Angle. Angle stood in for Matt Morgan, who didn’t make the trip as expected due to his father being taken seriously ill in the States. All turned out well, as Angle was so unbelievably over with the crowd (and Matt’s dad is doing well), I think every single chant was for him, whether he was in the ring at the time or on the apron. Moment of the match for me was Kurt laughing and waving to the crowd in response to the “Angle, give us a wave. Angle, Angle, give us a wave” chants. Low point of the match was the disturbing realisation that Rhino wrestles in something akin to a velour Juicy Couture playsuit. Just thinking about it now makes me shudder.

You don't have to take my word for it, here's a photo.

Contrary to what I may have you believe, they did do some wrestling too, with all of the men looking solid in the ring. As if there was ever any doubt of the result, Hernandez and Angle won with the Angle Slam to Daniels.

At last we come to the main event, AJ Styles Vs. Samoa Joe with both men getting a good reaction from what ended up being a fairly Pro-Joe crowd. I should explain that I have a profound weakness for Mr. Styles. I know he’s a bit of a redneck and in real life I would want to punch him repeatedly in the face. But this is not real life, this is pro wrestling, and I love him. I only have to catch a glimpse of the chest hair and I am entranced. So it is fair to say I was pulling for AJ in this match.

Here is my reasoning.

Styles set about doing everything he could to rile the crowd, swearing and cursing with a fair few “Wooooo!”s thrown in for good measure. To the boy who shouted “I love you, AJ”, I just have to say, you are one brave soldier as one of Styles’ favourite words appears to be a slur on homosexuals.

After periods of domination from both sides, Joe began mocking AJ’s new mentor, Ric Flair, which made a certain little World Heavyweight Champion quite cross. So what else to do but beat your opponent in the head with the aforementioned belt you happen to be in possesion of, hey AJ? Although, as we all know, ideas like this are always doomed to fail. There are pesky little things like rules and match officials that want to spoil your dastardly plan.

After the failed attack with the championship belt, AJ throws Joe in to the ref who is knocked down and rendered ‘unconscious’. With no one to stop him he sets about attacking Joe with the belt and knocking him to the ground. Styles proceeded to drag the still out of it Slick Johnson across the ring, revive him and pin Joe for the 1-2-3. Quite understandably, this makes Joe a little angry, so he gets on the mic and informs Styles that “This isn’t over until you’re in the ground” and chases AJ in to the back.

The lights go on and the show is over.

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