It’s mania… WrestleMania!

How one man and a ton of junk food spent a Sunday evening…

WrestleMania recap

Well, hello. So that was WrestleMania 26… After all the hype, all the hoo-hah and all the buzz, was it worth it? For me, yup, it was. I really enjoyed it as a whole. Sure, there were a few down points and some dead spots, but as a whole card – I thought it came across as suitably “WrestleMania” big.

One thing badly missing? Jim Ross. Wasn’t quite the same hearing the big end of card matches without JR calling them, especially as Cole, King & Striker were just flat out awful. At one point, Cole was eminently watchable, mainly when he was paired with either JBL or Taz… but since he’s been bundled with Lawler on Raw, he’s been back to his worst. Matt Striker’s goal to fit in as many smart, smarmy comments and in-jokes and trying to pin new nicknames on people is immensely irritating.

The stage itself looked great – the video pyramid was impressive, and the outdoor ring looked great. With the usual WrestleMania length ramp, Poor DAVE had to walk to the ring or he’d have been gassed before the first bell!

I thought that the crowd, however, were awful. If I could get to a WrestleMania, I wouldn’t be going there to sit on my hands and just watch. There were times when they were just silent and it put a dent into the big match feeling of some of the bouts.

The tag match was first up, and while it got things off to a hot start – it was way too short! Just about 3 and a half minutes? Really? That would be an ongoing feeling of the show, a lot of the matches felt rushed – on a FOUR HOUR show, that was a bit weird. Back to the match, I loved how Miz and Show reacted to their win – nice to see some actual excitement from anyone. Oh, and I didn’t understand a single word of R-Truth’s rap, as per usual. Give it UP!

Kinda shocked to see Orton up next, but I guess when the show is that stacked, someone has to take one for the team. This match, while predictable in it’s outcome was snappy, had some neat spots, and for once, I thought Orton played his role beautifully. He acted like the crafty veteran outfoxing the young guns. The double DDT spot was fun, and his histrionics before punting Young Cody and RKOing Young Ted fitted perfectly this time. The crowd actually bought into this one, several pro-Randy chants going. Played right, this guy is the next Austin type rebel face in waiting. Watch them blow it…

Two WrestleMania staples next, pointless backstage comedy from Santino and Mae Young. Guess everyone has to get on the big card somehow…

Money In The Bank surprised on a few levels – Shelton didn’t have a big spot, and Jack Swagger won! The match was quick, fast paced and very few low points. Innovative spots in a few places – notably how the two ladders were placed horizontally and Kofi’s incredible ladder stilt spot – and some big (but safe) bumps from the usual suspects made this fly by. Not sure how Swagger is going to cash in, and even less sure how he’s going to benefit… but, a nice swerve if a little too out of left field, perhaps.

Trips in the mid card? Makes me think there’s a title push gonna happen soon as a “reward” for his placement. As for the match? Well, even though Trips took the win, Sheamus definitely came across as a legit threat. I though the match was a great example of how you can work a power brawling style without resorting to weapon shots, blood and external shenanigans. Sheamus’ kick looks really good, and a loss in that style does him no harm.

It’s a crime that Punk & Mysterio only got about 6 minutes! They looked really sharp together, and it was looking like it was going to be the epic that I expected, and then it was over! Hopefully, they will get a chance to have a longer match, either on SmackDown or on the next PPV – the two guys looked like they could put on a hell of a match. Gotta love Punk’s gimmick just now, he’s really rocking the Charles Manson cult image. Give them more time!

If it was a crime that Punk & Rey only got 6 minutes, it was even more of a crime that Bret & Vince got over 10. Bret was a great wrestler in his day, but this clearly isn’t his day anymore. His usefulness now HAS to be as a mouthpiece or ambassador, as he has no use in the ring. It was painful watching him stumble around that ring last night. There were brief glimpses of what he was – he still locks on the Sharpshooter better than anyone ever has or will – but I was actually pleading with him to just submit Vince the first time he teased the big finish. The repeated chair shots and weapon shots just came across poorly, and pretty much killed the crowd stone dead in their seats. 13 years in the making, and nobody cared…

Anyone else notice the shot of Bret stood in the ring and Bill Goldberg’s name and retired number in the background?

Loved the Edge/Jericho match, even though (broken record time) it felt really short. Jericho is just such an unlikeable character that they could put anyone in against him and it would work. Edge has the look of a man who is treading water as a face until he turns heel, but at least he looked fit and sharp. Cole’s insistence that EVERY move was directed at Edge’s Achilles tendon verged on moronic at times. Jericho took the win in what felt like a TV length match… Edge’s spear off the table spot looked AWESOME, and was almost THE WrestleMania moment of the night.

The Divas match was as awful as I feared it would be. Everyone got to hit a finisher, yay. Now go away. Thank you.

For all that Cena and DAVE are decried for their ring work, their match was really, really good. Horrible booking choice in having Cena win, but really good match between the two. DAVE as a heel is just about the best thing on Raw, and even in this match, he played it up. Cena’s Marine led entrance was just bizarre, although the shot of him running down the ramp at full speed will doubtless look great in a WrestleMania video recap package.

And you know what? Fair play to Cena, his rolling out of the ring to celebrate with a bunch of folks in “WE HATE CENA” shirts made me chuckle. The guy doesn’t take himself too seriously, an unusual thing in this business. DAVE either gets a rematch somehow, or I get the impression he’ll be butting heads with Randy Orton next.

As for the BIG match, the one the card was sold on – Taker / Michaels, part 2? I thought it delivered. It was by far the best match on the card; it gave us the BIG WrestleMania moment, in Michaels’ moonsault onto the announce table; it tugged at the heartstrings; it was dramatic, it was emotional, it was a brutal, old school type match, and for me, I thought it better than last year’s effort.

Both men knew each other well, and the match dictated that – at one point, Taker teased the big flying Dead Man Outta Control jump over the top rope, but HBK dived back into the ring, knowing it was coming – it was little spots like that, with continuity from the first match, that made this a great match for me. The ending, with Taker attempting to show some mercy on Shawn, and Shawn’s pride demanding that he go down fighting was amazing. The look on both men’s faces, especially ANGRY TAKER, put this over the edge as a classic. Finishing on a jumping tombstone was a nice spot too.

I got the impression through the match that Taker AND HBK were running on pretty much empty near the end. If HBK is to finally and properly retire, then this is as good a way to go out as any; Taker will doubtless take his usual post WrestleMania sabbatical off the back of this. This match was as perfect as it could have been. I absolutely loved it.

That match alone would have made ‘Mania a good show – add in the Batista/Cena match, a decent Jericho/Edge bout, a good HHH/Sheamus tussle as well as the MITB spotfest, and the potential genius of Punk/Rey to come? All adds up to a great WrestleMania for me.

Have fun, go mad.

The Preview of the Immortals

I gaze into the crystal ball and deliver the WrestleMania winners a day early!

Well, hello. As I write (type?) this, we are just over 24 hours from the Showcase Of The Immortals, The Grandest Stage Of Them All, and whatever other buzzwords and catchphrases Vince thinks we should be brainwashed with.

As a single entity, the card is as impressive as any I can remember; sure there’s the one obvious stand out match – but the upper card is stacked – from the annual Money In The Bank spotfest, to the two championship matches, not to mention the long awaited Bret vs. Vince showdown, there’s quality from top to bottom. Oh, and there’s Vickie Guerrero, too. Sill, we all need a toilet break, eh?

With no further ado, here’s my “thoughts” on the show:

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Absolutely HAS to close the show in my opinion. The video packages have built this up into THE match of  the show, and even if it’s only half as good as last year’s bout, we’re in for a treat. This match is for me, all about what kinds of story the two guys tell, rather than spot after spot after spot… and there’s no two people working right now with a better grip of storytelling than these Taker and HBK. Do I even need to say who I think will win?
Winner: UNDERTAKER

Bret Hart vs. Mr. McMahon
The grudge match 12 years in the making. Sure, Bret is a shadow of the old Hitman we knew and sometimes loved, but he is such a damn perfectionist, you just know he has to be 100% sure he can deliver in the ring – and out, in this case. Vince’s matches are nothing if not entertaining, and he knows the stakes at WrestleMania better than anyone. This is gonna be a drawn out brawl, with several well planned out spots, and hopefully one last moment in the spotlight for Bret to shine.
Winner: BRET HART

WWE Championship
Batista (c) vs. John Cena
Amazingly, the build to this has been great. Cena has been less annoying than usual, perhaps because in BIG DAVE he has a guy who absolutely revels in playing the bad guy. BIG DAVE has been having a ball since the big heel turn, and his character has just been the very definition of smug bad ass. Cena is another one who knows the stakes at WrestleMania, and if BIG DAVE can manage to last more than 15 minutes without needing gas and air, this too could be a good ‘un, as long as the fans buy into it. Tough pick to win, but I’d say there’s more options with a heel champ
Winner: BATISTA

World Heavyweight Championship
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Edge
Here be the sleeper match on the show. Nobody seems quite sure how fit Edge actually is. If he’s 100% or close to it, and he’s shrugged off the ring rust, this is gonna be – sorry JR – a slobber knocker. Jericho simply IS the best in the world at what he does, in the ring or on the mic and his very presence guarantees the fans are gonna be all over this one. Edge’s spear has been built up superbly, and Edge has shown just that right balance of intensity and insanity that he does well as a face. I can see Jericho juuust edging the win here.
Winner: CHRIS JERICHO

Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Christian vs. Kane vs. Ziggler vs. Benjamin vs. MVP vs. Swagger vs. Hardy vs. Bourne vs. McIntyre vs. Kingston
The annual “What will Shelton do this year?” match. Can you believe he’s been around for nearly 10 years now, without ever seemingly moving out of the mid card? Obvious candidates for the show stealing big spot are Shelton, Evan Bourne, Christian, Hardy, or Ziggler. You can pretty much write off Kane’s chances of winning; ditto for MVP, Ziggler, Shelton, Bourne and Swagger. Hardy doesn’t seem to be trusted, and Drew already has the IC belt, which leaves us with Kofi or Christian… Kofi seems to be carrying some heat for whatever *cough*RandyOrton*cough* reason, so for my money? Christian takes the win… possible cash in on the night against the SmackDown title winner?
Winner: CHRISTIAN

Unified Tag Team Championship
Big Show & The Miz vs. John Morrison & R-Truth
Much as I love Big Show and Miz as a team, just throwing two guys together at random shows how weak the WWE Tag Division is right now. I totally, and utterly, cannot STAND R-Truth – anything he says, does or raps just irritates me beyond belief. Not sure what’s happened to John Morrison… but surely he’s deserving of better than a Random Partner Of Doom? No way can ShowMiz lose this match… just does not make sense, unless… Daniel Bryan is there? Hmmm…
Winner: BIG SHOW & THE MIZ

Triple H vs. Sheamus
Trips has been strangely quiet during this WrestleMania build up, and Sheamus has just turned out to be a dead duck champion. This seems like a pretty dull affair, middle of the show territory… but I have a feeling this match is gonna surprise a few people. Don’t expect a 5 star technical classic, but a power match with some good brawling isn’t beyond them. If Sheamus loses, he’s pretty much done for the meantime as a top liner; Trips can’t really lose if he’s gonna go after the title.
Winner: TRIPLE H

Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase vs. Cody Rhodes
Too little too late. That’s what the dissent between Young Ted and Young Cody on Raw this week was. The trigger should have been pulled on the Legacy meltdown weeks ago; There’s really no point to this being a triple threat; much like there’s really no point to Young Cody if he’s not part of a tag team or a stable. Orton simply has to take the win here, unless there’s some nefarious deeds from an outside influence? Meh.
Winner: RANDY ORTON

CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio
I am so looking forward to this match. Jericho aside, Punk is the best talker in the WWE right now, and I love the Straight Edge Society faction. Mysterio might have lost a step, and be somewhat of a formula wrestler these days, but I reckon he and Punk are still gonna tear it up. This is one match where I really feel it’s totally 50/50 as to who takes the win… but I’m gonna say…
Winner: REY MYSTERIO

10-Diva Tag Team Match
Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Eve, Gail Kim & Beth Phoenix vs. Michelle McCool, Maryse, Layla, Alicia Fox & Vickie Guerrero

I really couldn’t give a damn. Vickie is obviously gonna be the focal point for this match, and that alone scares the bejeebus out of me. I will be in the toilet, or in the kitchen making a sandwich for this one!
Winner: TEAM JAMES (but I don’t care!)

So there we go, folks – enjoy ‘Mania!

Have fun, go mad!

The Inno View of… Destination X

One man sits through TNA’s Destination X show… and wishes HE fell down the DANGEROUS PIT~~~!!!

OK, so I caved and watched TNA’s latest PPV, Destination X… and I was just gonna skim through it and post a couple of little tidbits here and there… but it took on a life of it’s own… and got bigger, and bigger, and bigger… so here’s my crib sheet of notes I made while watching this… this… abomination upon the world. Just… well, read it. It says it all.

:: Daniels looked to me to be phoning it in, like he doesn’t give a damn anymore.

:: Likewise for Kendrick (Has he even won a match since his TNA debut?) and Red was just… well, Red.

:: Kazarian strikes me as being the kind of guy who enjoys things when he’s getting the push, so he’s on his game right now.

:: Some of the ladder spots where the guys reset ladders into certain positions after every move just looked like amateur hour… the whole match just reeked of spot after spot after spot. Could and should have been so much more given the participants.

:: I really prefer to watch TNA on mute – the fans are bad enough with their idiotic clapping chant for everything, but Tenay’s nasally whiny voice drives me insane, and what the hell happened to Taz? When did he start to suck? I’m sure he was awesome on SmackDown… surely it wasn’t Cole having an effect on him and reigning him in? He just rambles too much for me now…

:: Remember when Victoria was awesome in the WWE? Me too. I miss it. She’s lost so many steps it’s unreal… Daffney is a lot better than I remember her being.

:: Rob Terry reminds me of Mr Hyde in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And he still sucks. How that man has a championship of any sort id beyond me. He can barely walk without screwing it up. Get him off my TV, now!

:: MCMG get to speak, and they make the most of it. Sabin and Shelley for my money are the best tag team in TNA right now.

:: Generation Me look like they won a prize in a cereal box to take part in a match on a TNA show…

:: MCMG are just light years ahead of them. Double team moves should be a staple of tag team wrestling and nobody in the big two does it better than MCMG.

:: Having said that, the GM guys do have show potential… but you just know they’re gonna concentrate on doing faster, flashier, more spinny moves rather than actual working.

:: How high were Hall & Waltman?

:: I hate Mike Tenay calling Eric Young EY. It needs to stop. Now.

:: Pac looks the most mobile of NWO v374,582 – that’s like saying electrocution is the best form of death, mind.

:: Scott Hall does the worst crotch chop since Hornswoggle.

:: Change the fucking canvas rather than leave the Eric Young outline… sheesh… small time image or what?

:: Shannon Moore… just go to hell. Seriously. Hearing Taz trying to make him sound like a big deal made me chuckle.

:: Even the TNA inbreds are just DEAD for the Williams / Moore snoozlefest.

:: Shannon Moore is Scrappy Doo to Jeff Hardy’s Scooby…

:: Brick! BRICK! BRICK!!! I love my Brick!!!

:: Digging Doug’s speech about jumped up acrobats.

:: Bet Vince hates the fact that Matt Morgan slipped through his fingers. Dude can talk, and he’s improving in the ring. He looks the business, too.

:: Tag team champs that don’t get along? Been done tons of times, but Morgan’s obnoxiousness is off the scale. Playing that role REALLY well.

:: Bored of Mr Anderson already. Can only be a matter of time until he gets injured, anyway.

:: Having said that, the headlock sequence at the start of the Angle/Anderson match was really good to watch… and that back suplex out of the third headlock? Vicious!

:: Seriously, someone should slap those fans in the front row. Applauding the heel isn’t ironic, it’s fucking annoying!

:: The Angle Slam is such a weak looking finisher, it’s hardly surprising it gets kicked out of on a regular basis.

:: The last 5 minutes of that match seemed to be in slow motion… just brutal to watch. And not in the good way.

:: And the point of the Anderson post match promo was… to be shit? Success.

:: Abyss loves Hogan’s ring. Heh. Suppose Brutus Beefcake made a career out of it…

:: AJ just looks uncomfortable in this new heel role. Not that I don’t think he can be a heel, just that I don’t think he’s cut out to be a Naitch style heel… someone like Wolfe would fit a lot better for me.

:: OK, I admit… I love JB’s ring intros.

:: No Abyss! BAD Abyss! Don’t go for JB!!!

:: That little cut off bit of the ramp? Looks really dumb. Really.

:: Wowzer…. the suplex back into the ring from the ramp looked pretty good. Like that!

:: Crowd are just so dead…it’s a bloody PPV! Get into it! And I don’t mean blindly chanting “TNA! TNA! TNA!” everytime someone leaves their feet, or calling everything “Awesome” when it’s clearly not.

:: Ric Flair… shoulda stayed retired, sir. Much as it pains me, your act is annoying now. Saying “Woooo” repeatedly does not make an effective promo any more.

:: This match is just ass-backwards. THE MONSTER Abyss… is the good guy? And the small, fast guy is meant to be the big bad? Bull. Doesn’t work if both guys aren’t into it, and Abyss might be a good comedy face, but he ain’t a convincing face for the fans to buy into… and as I said, AJ doesn’t seem totally into the smug heel role.

:: Just realised, this is PPV, yeah? No RVD, no Pope, no Team 3D, no Sting (which is par for the course these days, to be fair) and no Hardy? Straaaaange booking, no?

:: Gotta admit at this point, I have seen the tail end of this match – in that superb YouTube vid “Oh No! Abyss created a dangerous pit!” – go find it if you haven’t checked it out already.

:: Wow, someone blew that spray-mace-into-the-ref’s-eyes spot. Ref was making burbling noises waiting for Flair to spray him for a lifetime!

:: Oh and here’s Hulky and Hebner to save the day.

:: Flair in a wheelchair pushed by Hogan… just seems like something that Vince would have done about the time of the Nacho Man skits.

:: Abyss is… Freaking Up? Abyssing up? Whatever, the synchronised “YOU~~~!!!!” was pretty funny 🙂

:: Aaaaaand now we enter shitsville… first sign? The hand from underneath the ring making the rip in the canvas bigger while AJ is lying in the DANGEROUS PIT OF DOOM~~~!!!

:: Ric Flair is wheels-a-fire coming down that ramp!

:: Abyss falls in the hole… sheesh. And Flair is out of the wheelchair and over acting like a demon… and now here’s Wolfe being used as a ping pong ball…

:: Jeez, this is just a fucking joke. THAT is how you end a PPV Main Event?

:: The TNA freak-a-zoids still think it’s awesome. Seriously guys, get a grip or get a life, either or. I’m begging ya.

:: If this was the plan all along, then I’m not surprised that TNA hardly promoted the show. Sheesh.

:: Just felt like an extended Impact rather than a big PPV show. Shocking.

Something for Everybody

WrestleMania has a great levelling effect on those that allow themselves to buy into it. It makes things seem bigger, better, brighter and bolder than they actually are – even Great Khali vs. Vance Archer would look watchable on a WrestleMania card.

Well, hello.

Once in a year, pretty much every WWE fan – I would say wrestling fan here, but there are doubtless some TNA die hards out there that would dispute that – works themselves up into a frenzy, and looks at everything through rose tinted glasses. WrestleMania has a great levelling effect on those that allow themselves to buy into it. It makes things seem bigger, better, brighter and bolder than they actually are – even Great Khali vs. Vance Archer would look watchable on a WrestleMania card. OK, maybe that example took things a little to far, but you get the picture.

The point is that because it’s WrestleMania, things can tend to be given a sheen they wouldn’t necessarily get on a lesser PPV. However, this year’s extravaganza looks to be a bit special, even by WrestleMania standards. With the possible exceptions of the Legacy triple threat match, a hastily thrown together tag match and the Trips/Sheamus affair, this is a stacked card; it’s full of solid matches that have proper issues behind them, matches that on paper look like they will take your breath away, and matches that can justify the “Grandest Stage Of Them All” billing that WrestleMania bestows upon them. While everyone rightfully focuses on the Michaels-Taker match that has the potential to be THE all time WrestleMania classic for the ages, there are other matches on this card that can steal the show too.

John Cena and Batista might not be favourites of mine, but this feud has been epic; If Edge can put on a show anywhere near what he’s capable of at 100% fit, he and Jericho can blow the doors off the arena with their title match; Punk and Mysterio are two of the best in the business, and putting them in the ring together should hopefully deliver greatness; the Money in the Bank spotfest usually gives us two or three moments that hit highlight reels for years afterwards; and Bret vs. Vince? It’s not going to be a five star classic – but Vince always delivers entertainment in the ring at ‘Mania and Bret is such a perfectionist that he won’t have agreed to this match unless he could hold his side up.

And let’s not forget – there’s no women’s match added to the card yet – that will no doubt happen at some point – and that means you also have the ideal time to go and top up your haul of snacks and juice. How thoughtfull of the WWE! WrestleMania… the card with something for everybody…

Have fun, go mad… and enjoy ‘Mania

Deja Vu…

Elimination Chamber has come and gone, and lordy lordy, strike me down with bolts of lightning, SuperCena got the strap and lost it within minutes. Shocker! Or would have been had it not been done before by Edge… and Batista being a hired gun for Vince McMahon? Also a nice angle… had it not been done before by countless others in the not-so-distant past.

Well, hello. It’s one of those weeks for this column, I’m afraid. As in, it’s the week that’s it’s due to be submitted. Folks, I’ll be honest with you, not a lot in wrestling over the past fortnight has inspired me to whip out the old metaphorical pen and paper… or in this modern age, hold down CTRL + SHIFT + `(which is the keyboard shortcut for my word processor, fact fans) and set the old noggin working.

Elimination Chamber has come and gone, and lordy lordy, strike me down with bolts of lightning, SuperCena got the strap and lost it within minutes. Shocker! Or would have been had it not been done before by Edge… and Batista being a hired gun for Vince McMahon? Also a nice angle… had it not been done before by countless others in the not-so-distant past.

Maybe it’s just me getting old, and maybe it’s just the fact that there are only so many storylines to go round, but this current crop of angles and storyline that the WWE – and their illustrious competition – are throwing up just feels recycled and stale.

Over in TNB – Total Nonstop Bischoff – Jeff Jarrett AND Mick Foley are being persecuted by Eric Bischoff… Kurt Angle is being inspired by the armed forces of the US… AJ Styles is a young champion being “shown the way” by Ric Flair… all sound familiar?

Rehashing older stuff isn’t always bad. The HBK/Taker angle is basically about two guys wanting to fight to see who’s better. Taker didn’t want to, so HBK was forced to resort to underhand tactics to force the issue. At its essence, it’s an old-fashioned “respect” feud – but the sheer personality of the two guys involved is carrying it.

Of course, there’s the matter of that simply incredible video package the WWE put together for the feud. Set to Placebo’s amazing cover of the old Kate Bush track “Running Up That Hill”, that video was as perfect a hype machine as you could hope for. It was passionate, it was emotional, and it used the lyrics perfectly.

That is an example of how you CAN go to past glories and revisit them, but still make them relevant, exactly the opposite of how the WWE have coped with the Bret Hart angle. For years, Bret vs. Vince or Bret vs. Shawn was THE big unresolved issue in wrestling and was just money waiting to be printed… if done correctly.

While it’s nice to see Shawn and Bret be professional with each other, admit it – you’d have bought into Bret’s return a little more if HBK had been the cocky little son-of-an-unnamed-goat that he was back in the day, and that there was still a little spark between him and Bret, even if it was just on-screen.

I totally understand that Bret can’t put in an in ring performance to blow off the Montreal cobwebs once and for all. I even understand transferring the perceived anger from Shawn to Vince to allow for an even playing field. I EVEN understand Vince taking Big Dave to fight his corner – he is a big, bad man after all… I just don’t get the involvement from SuperCena.

It should have been DH Smith, or Tyson Kidd – someone actually connected to Bret. Even if that meant “downscaling” Batista, to someone like say… Drew McIntyre – the Vince/Bret animosity if channelled correctly would have been enough that could have slotted in anyone against a Hart family member and peeps would still have bought into it.

Imagine the rub that McIntyre vs. DH Smith would have had with Vince and Bret in their respective corners. A rub that neither Batista nor Cena need – and they could still have been programmed into an inter-brand match somehow, without being tacked on to the Bret issue.

Maybe, just maybe… I expect too much. Maybe we all do. It’s easy to be an armchair booker, sat behind a keyboard, observing from a distance. I always at least try to enjoy the positive, make it mean more than the negative. Food for thought, peeps.

Have fun, go mad.

2010 in Wrestling

Well, hello.

Welcome to 2010! Yeah, bit late I know, but I’m like public transport – I take my time, but I get there in the end. Except in the case of extreme snow. And staff shortages. And, y’know utter incompetence. But besides that, It’s all good.

In any case… I find myself sat here with a cup of coffee in my thinkin’ mug debating to myself what the next 12 months of wrestling will hold. I figured I would dig out the old crystal ball – don’t ask – and take a peek into the murky depths…

JANUARY

With the pseudo-resumption of the Monday Night Wars, TNA deal a fresh blow to the WWE with their latest inter-promotional raid – by deciding NOT to make a move for Michael Cole.

Scott Hall, amazingly, remains in a job.

FEBRUARY

Bret Hart is reportedly unhappy… he bought some furniture from Ikea, and after assembling it, was said to have complained about the screwjob.

Funaki escapes the latest round of releases, furthering the theory that he has polaroids of Randy Savage and Stephanie McMahon.

MARCH

Hulk Hogan decides enough is enough and he needs to step in the ring to try and save TNA. His match is scheduled for May, so with his mobility, he needs to start his walk to the ring now.

Vince McMahon kills off ECW, as expected. It’s replaced with an hour of Hornswoggle performing stand-up comedy.

APRIL

Randy Orton throws a freaky-deaky while he’s boarding a plane in Chicago, as someone in New York looks in his direction. American Airlines flight 309 is delayed as a result of a Boeing 737 being RKO’d on the tarmac.

Ring of Honor do something or other… nobody really notices.

MAY

Jeff Jarrett is through with TNA and looking for a job with the WWE after he finishes his quest to sleep with the wife of every man on the roster.

Jack Swagger wins a match… no wait, that’s a bit far fetched even for me.

JUNE

Dwayne Johnson decides that he likes wrestling again, mainly as he has a movie coming out that he needs to promote. Not that I’m being cynical or anything. John Cena nearly cries as he sees a proper movie star on Raw.

Jerry Lawler physically explodes live on air during a Divas match.

JULY

CM Punk loses a match to Charlie Haas on PPV as punishment for wearing a baseball cap that is dark blue instead of light blue. Somewhere in energy drink land, Bradshaw nods approvingly.

Chris Masters’ left pec is released from the WWE. TNA express an interest.

AUGUST

The DX merchandise machine suffers a blow as the DX bedding range has to be recalled. Apparently, the Triple H bed sheets refused to lay down.

AJ Styles breaks the laws of physics during a match and vanishes into the fourth dimension.

SEPTEMBER

TNA’s recruitment drive reaches new heights as Big Dick Johnson debuts on PPV and pins Kurt Angle for the title in a three minute squash.

Ted DiBiase is still awaiting his face turn.

OCTOBER

The wrestling world is in shock as Kevin Nash is shown on screen actually giving a damn. Nash apologises to his fans and promises never to let it happen again in a statement released from his solid gold hot tub.

The Bella Twins have no point. That’s not really a prediction, but I just thought I’d throw it out there.

NOVEMBER

Michael Cole‘s career may be over as the Oxford English Dictionary announces plans to strike “vintage“ from the dictionary.

Homicide is still trying to escape the Steel Asylum.

DECEMBER

Hulk Hogan is gone from TNA. He delivered a rousing 2 minute goodbye speech, but nobody noticed as it was buried in between The Nasty Boys eating donuts and Scott Steiner babbling incoherently about his arms.

Chris Jericho is still banned from Raw… despite being on the show every week so far this year.

~~~~~~~

And that’s that, folks. Stay tuned and see all these things happen! Maybe. In the meantime, have fun, go mad.

Time is on my side… or maybe not.

Know what’s annoying about wrestling these days? Time. Everything is in a rush…

Know what’s annoying about wrestling these days? Time. Everything is in a rush… this guy is the next Rock, this guy is the next Austin, this guy is gonna be the new Hogan… it’s bull.

Back in the day when I watched wrestling most, there were 4 pay per view gigs a year in the WWF/E. Matches, feuds, personal issues – they were all built up over time. By the time the eventual PPV match came round, you’d actually invested some quality time into the problems between the two guys/teams, whatever. Gimmick matches were once in a blue moon, triple threat matches even more so.

There was no such thing as a match being made just days before PPV or even thrown onto the PPV as a result of a confrontation actually ON the PPV itself!

Take, for example, Kofi vs. Orton – as I write this, already they’re planning (or that’s the road it seems to be going down) a one v one match for these two. The problem between them started, what, two-three weeks ago?

Orton vs. Cena has been going on for months, and personally, I’m tired of it. Why? Because they have been fighting on every PPV once a month at least in ever escalating gimmicks, higher stakes, loser leaves town, last chance at the title, mother on a pole, you name it matches. It’s overkill.

Edge vs. Cena was the same – total overkill. What’s the next big money match on the horizon? Where’s the next Rock vs. Austin? When Edge comes back from injury, he’s gonna be thrown into a feud with someone he’s probably already fought hundreds of times before. Cena and Trips and HBK hit the nail on the head with their little throwaway promo on Raw – they’ve all beaten each other so many times, that personally, I don’t care anymore.

Yes, I know wrestling is pre-determined (never use the word fake, trust me) and that these guys are all good buddies “in the back” – but you know what? It’s about suspending belief for that period of time that they are on your screen, in that ring. For example, I know that the characters in House and Bones are acting – doesn’t stop me becoming engrossed in the stories they tell. I know that Guybrush Threepwood in the Monkey Island games is just a collection of pixels, but it doesn’t stop me getting involved in the next chapter of the game.

All these things… they tell stories. Wrestling is all about telling a story. It shouldn’t just be a case of “I’m a good guy, you’re a bad guy, let’s have a fight” and they fight on and off for 6 months and end up pretty evenly matched in wins and losses. What does that prove?

Look back at the last time you got excited about a title change. For me, it was Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. Why? Because they were the underdogs. They clawed and scratched and dug their way to the top based on the fact that got in the ring and told actual stories that drew the punters to them. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t particularly well supported “backstage” or that they sold lots of merchandise, or whatever.

The people that count, the fans – that’s you and me, brothers and sisters – invested in these guys. They bought into the story they were trying to tell. It didn’t matter how The Powers That Be tried to alter things so that peeps were buying into the magical cash cows that sold shirts. Those guys won the belts because of fan power.

It’s the exact same reason why Hogan, for example, is a multi time champion and still a huge deal, even at his age and with his level of performances. It simply doesn’t matter that he’s not the greatest wrestler to ever lace his boots up – I highly doubt even Hulk would argue with that. The fact is that Hulk is amongst the best at understanding the bigger picture.

Hulk gets it. He gets that to be successful, fans have to want to see you. Whether it’s to see you get your ass kicked from Albuquerque to Parts Unknown, or to see you finally get your revenge – if the fans don’t buy into the character, the story… then it’s gonna come off as half assed and forced… See Cena, John for an example of that.

Can anyone seriously say they give a damn about John Cena vs. Randy Orton part 15 when you know that it doesn’t matter what happens, they’ll be fighting again next month? Don’t just keep throwing these guys together because Cena is the “top face” and Orton is the “top heel” – give them a real, genuine reason to be at each other’s throats.

Kofi and Randy has the beginnings of a story like that, but this being the WWE and post-Russo crash TV era where everything has to be resolved within a month, they’re more likely to blow that than do the right thing with it… I sincerely hope they don’t. Kofi is a unique talent in the WWE – he does things in a different way to almost everyone else. If we could just stop Michael Cole saying “Controlled Frenzy” when he’s wrestling, that would be even better…

Show me the feud just now that’s on a level with Randy Savage taking issue with Hulk Hogan; show me the match that has the fans buying into it like Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart; show me the personal issue that’s festered for as long as Raven vs. Tommy Dreamer… Hell, even something like Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy should have been a lot more epic than it actually was… but it all felt rushed and hastily pieced together.

There are people in the business today that have the capabilities to make people buy into them, hell to DEMAND that you watch them, to invest in their “character” – but do the creative powers that be have the guts to let them do it? Or do they just want to throw them into a short feud so they can throw on a gimmick match to try and spike the buy rates on the next PPV, just 3-4 weeks after the last one?

And you know that these are the same people that will make excuses to their shareholders that the business just isn’t the same these days… and they’re right. It’s not. And it’s definitely not for the better.

Have Fun, Go Mad…

“I respect you, Bookerman!”

Brian Pillman was one of wrestling’s greatest ever rebels, but unlike so many, he could back up his rebellion with sheer unadulterated talent in a way that nobody before did, or has since.

I wanted to do a piece on a guy who I loved, but time and wrestling history have often overlooked, yet he was one of the true rebels in the business; Brian Pillman.

Pillman was always a rebel of sorts. As a college American Football player, he was a stand-out for his position, despite being shorter and lighter than almost all his peers. Relying on speed and technique to get by, he ended up on the second team All American line-up – amongst his counterparts, one William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Despite playing to such a high college standard, he went undrafted to the NFL.

He did briefly make it to the NFL, however, with his hometown Cincinnati Bengals, but his career petered out. He had a failed attempt to extend it with the Buffalo Bills and eventually ended up playing in the Canadian Football League for the Calgary Stampeders, a fateful destination, as he would meet Owen Hart and eventually end up training in the legendary Stu Hart dungeon.

Making his debut as a wrestler for the Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling promotion in 1986, he quickly built a reputation as a high flier. By 1989, he’d returned to America and began working with WCW, where he established a reputation for being a quality high-flier, incorporating Mexican-style lucha moves into his arsenal. Pillman’s matches with Jushin Liger and Barry Windham during this time were especially noteworthy.

In 1992, Pillman tagged up with a then “Stunning” Steve Austin to form the Hollywood Blondes and became arguably the best tag team in North America, even headlining a Clash of the Champions against The Four Horsemen, who Pillman would later become a member of in 1995.

Up until now, Pillman’s story has been pretty much standard; ex-NFL star takes up wrestling to make ends meet, becomes quite good, finds his spot in the mid-card. Right? Wrong. The mid 90s is where Pillman comes into his own. It’s where “Flyin’ Brian” dies and “The Loose Cannon” is born.

Superbrawl 6. Eleventh February, 1996. Brian Pillman vs. Kevin Sullivan in an “I Respect You” strap match; the loser would be the man who said “I respect you” to the other. Sullivan and Pillman start fighting, for maybe less than a minute… then Pillman grabs the mic and utters those four words “I respect you, bookerman” and walks away. Kevin Sullivan was not just his opponent that day, but was the booker for WCW at that point.

Remember, this is in the fledgling days of the internet and ‘smart marks’ were few and far between. Bookerman was such an inside term that practically nobody would have understood it back then. Pillman had come up with this idea for him to be a loose cannon – to portray this insane, over the top lunatic. What made it unique was that Pillman wanted to base his character in reality – to work not only the people watching, but the guys in the company too.

Wrestling lore has it that only Pillman, Sullivan and WCW boss Eric Bischoff were in on it. Pillman would bemuse his peers and fans alike with his bizarre behaviour, leading up to his firing in 1996. The plan was supposedly for Pillman to be “fired” go to ECW and build up some legit heat and return to WCW in a blaze of glory.

Well, the plan was slightly different in Pillman’s mind. He’d decided that his career was nearly over and he needed one last big pay day. What better way to get that than to make himself the biggest talking point in wrestling, and then become a free agent, able to basically name his price? By working Bischoff and WCW to the point that they actually legally fired him (Bischoff under the impression that he and Pillman were working the whole angle together) Pillman became a free agent.

He did go to ECW. Not for Brian Pillman a quiet, understated entrance, doing the all conquering hero act… no, he “invaded”, insulted and actually threatened to piss in the ring, even having a planted fan to beat up just so the notoriously smart ECW fan base would boo him out of the building. They did, and he duly worked a few dates and built a name for himself, much like former tag partner Steve Austin.

Pillman’s days in ECW were numbered as he was never going to stay out of the limelight that the Big Two at the time offered – everybody knew it – but before he could leave, he was involved in a major car accident that would eventually lead to his ankle being surgically fused, putting a halt to his high flying and forcing him to adapt his style. He would return to the ECW airwaves in a wheelchair, still antagonising the ECW faithful, then signed a guaranteed deal with the WWF – one of the first to get such a deal.

Pillman debuted and carried on his loose cannon ways, but would need more ankle surgery before his WWF in ring career could properly begin – Steve Austin would shoulder the on screen blame for the ankle injury – targeting Brian’s ankle with a steel chair in a move that was christened ’Pillmanising’, but even before Pillman was fit to return to the ring, he would participate in a memorable angle with Steve Austin, where Pillman would defend his home during a ‘live’ interview and threaten Austin with a gun, featuring one of my favourite ever wrestling moments:

“Steve is a dead man walking, because when Austin 3:16 meets Pillman 9mm, I’m gonna blow his sorry ass straight to Hell!”

Brian would become an adopted member of the Hart Foundation, some said even of the Hart family, and feud with Austin some more, then move onto Goldust and Marlena – again blurring the lines between fact and fiction by referencing the fact that Pillman and Marlena (Goldust’s real life wife, Terri) had dated in the past. Pillman’s feud with Goldust was due to come to a head and he was scheduled to face him at the In Your House 18: Badd Blood show. Brian never made it to that match as he was found dead in his hotel room the day before the show.

In my own humble opinion, Pillman was one of wrestling’s greatest talents, vastly underrated in the ring and out of it by fans. People including Steve Austin, Eric Bischoff, William Regal, Paul Heyman, Jim Ross and many, many more cited him as a genius.

Pillman’s promos and delivery were way ahead of his time. His Loose Cannon character was the first to intentionally break kayfabe on TV and ushered in a new, darker direction for wrestling. The Attitude Era was foreshadowed by Brian Pillman. Even in the ring, in his injury free days in WCW, he was a true innovator, blending the American style with fresh foreign moves and wowing the crowd.

Pillman was one of wrestling’s greatest ever rebels, but unlike so many, he could back up his rebellion with sheer unadulterated talent in a way that nobody before did, or has since. If you get a chance, check out the Brian Pillman: Loose Cannon DVD as a fitting tribute to a huge character, a great wrestler and a ground breaking innovator.

If you don’t get wrestling, turn away now!

So, Vince McMahon – the guy that owns the WWE and thus owns wrestling – has taken over as CEO of his own company. Slightly boring news, no? Not really. You see, he’s done this to replace the outgoing CEO… his wife, Linda McMahon. Where’s she going? She’s running for senate. Yep, a McMahon in power! Dontcha just love the way life imitates art?

So, Vince McMahon – the guy that owns the WWE and thus owns wrestling – has taken over as CEO of his own company. Slightly boring news, no? Not really. You see, he’s done this to replace the outgoing CEO… his wife, Linda McMahon. Where’s she going? She’s running for senate. Yep, a McMahon in power! Dontcha just love the way life imitates art?

So she put out this very slick video package – no surprise really, the WWE are top notch video producers and they know how to promote as well as anyone.

The video was very safe, very middle of the road, and had no mention of her former job, only stating that she was a CEO of a company that created over 500 jobs… but you see… I can exclusively reveal there is another video that had to be extensively re-shot after the cameras stopped rolling… but being the intrepid journalist that I am – HA! – I have found a transcript…

“Hi, I’m Linda McMahon. I’m a former CEO of a publicly traded company, whose name I won’t tell you in case you think I’m some kind of bemused redneck who gets confused by electricity.

When you’ve run a successful company for as long as my husband has – sorry… for as long as I have, then you learn a few things. But then again, you forget more than you learn due to repeated steel chair shots and concussions. You also forget more than you learn due to repeated steel chair shots and concussions, not to mention forgetting things due to repeated steel chair shots and concussions.

My husband’s – sorry, my previous company created over 500 jobs right here in Connecticut, most of them done by Chavo Guerrero.

I am a firm believer in equal opportunities, as long as you’re not Canadian. I promote family values, you only need to look at some of my TV work, where my husband flaunted his affairs in front of me and my children on live national TV, all in the name of good clean family entertainment!

Of course, any candidate is only as good as their policies, and as such, I propose the following key points

  • Creating more jobs for Connecticut residents by expanding the manufacture of steel chairs, wooden tables and bamboo canes.

  • Every family to be given access to Pay Per View television.

  • Strengthening Connecticut business in the Sports Entertainment sector by lobbying for closure and/or purchase of Florida based “wrestling” companies.

  • Declaring November 9th as National Screwjob Day, where the nation remembers great betrayals of our time.

I trust each and every one of you to make the right decision. And remember, if you work for my husband, and you don’t vote for me… YOU’RE FIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRED!

Vote smart. Vote McMahon… and that’s the bottom line, ’cause Mrs. McMahon said so!”

So, farewell WGS

It’s safe to say there’s a fair queue of peeps waiting to be able to stick the dagger into the wee Ginger nutcase’s back – and I call him a wee Ginger nutcase in a friendly, fun loving sense – but me? I’m not one of them.

Which would stand for Wee Gordon Strachan, to the non-knowing types out there.

It’s safe to say there’s a fair queue of peeps waiting to be able to stick the dagger into the wee Ginger nutcase’s back – and I call him a wee Ginger nutcase in a friendly, fun loving sense – but me? I’m not one of them.

He took over a team from “Saint” Martin O’Neill that was for all intents and purposes, dead on it’s feet and just didn’t know it yet. He had to replace the likes of Sutton, Hartson, Thompson, and most importantly, the single most important figure in recent Celtic times, the Almighty Henrik Larsson. He had to rebuild this team with less money than MON spent on one player at times.

Bar the £4.5mil for Scott Brown, there was never a huge amount of cash in the kitty to be blown on expensive imports. No, we got the cheaper end of the market. If one thing can be levied at WGS, it’s his transfer dealings. He’s had successes for sure – Boruc, Naka, McDonald – but they have been more than outweighed by the mediocre… the Flood’s, the Mark Brown’s, the Naylor’s and the one that sticks out – the Gravesen.

But on the whole, I can’t knock the wee man. Sure he didn’t play silky football – but you’re telling me Saint MON’s bunch of hoofers and chasers did? Punt the ball for Hartson/Sutton to knock down, and feed off the debris or shove it out wide for a speed machine to chase and cross for the giants to knock down – a similar system worked at Leicester and now at Villa, but does NOT provide fluid, fast, exciting, passing football for you and I to watch.

I liked Strachan’s emphasis on effort. I liked his desire to be the best, but most of all – I liked his morals. I liked what he stood for. During one of the darkest days of Celtic history, when news of the death of Tommy Burns broke, Strachan took centre stage. He stepped up and he spoke not as a manager, not as a PR coached robot, but as a man, and as a friend. Strachan’s actions, words and composed nature during that time showed true class… Celtic class, if you will.

I didn’t buy into the whole “he’s not a Cellic man” argument. Saint MON had no link to Celtic before he arrived, yet he was treated like a messiah. If he’s good enough, I don’t care where he came from. Let’s not forget, Kenny Dalglish once ripped Rangers posters off the wall of his bedroom before signing his Celtic contract – does that make him not a Cellic man?

No, I liked Strachan. I for one will miss him, and hope he goes on to do well for whatever club is lucky enough to secure his services.