Saturday 26 May 2012

Bobby Between The Ropes #3 - Standing Out From The Pack

From some random online dictionary I Googled:
Unique – definition 1: existing as the only one or as the sole example; single;solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.
definition 2:
having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.
I haven’t been in wrestling for very long but I’ve been watching for as long as I can remember, and anyone who’s watched enough of it knows that being unique is by far one of the most important traits any wannabe big star strives to have. In critical reviews and analyses of shows/wrestlers the word “generic” is known as possibly one of the worst things you can be labelled as. And by extension “unique” is definitely something that is taken as a compliment. If you’re unique, people take notice for whatever reasons (and believe me, not everything unique is good *cough* Shockmaster) and making the right people take notice is the key to success in any business. So as a fledgling wrestler as part of what I affectionately call the Fight Factory Next Generation, reading all about being unique and stand out got me thinking. What do each of us bring to the table? How do each of us stand out from the crowd? Who is unique and who is generic? After careful consideration, I’ve decided that nobody is generic.

Yes I’m about to spout the typical pre-school circle time statement that everyone is unique. But, like the majority of things you learn in the first six years of your life, that statement is pretty important. We ourselves are all unique in our own ways and we know how and why. But that’s the tricky thing about being a wrestler – you have to convince the crowd that you are unique and get that across to them. For example, I’m a 20-year-old wrestler wannabe that also writes novels and screenplays that sometimes likes to skip dinner and order desert at the start of a meal. Do the crowd know that? Do they care about that? Well I’m sure there’s at least one of them that does but that’s beside the point. One thing our trainers are always stressing the importance of is to make yourself stand out. I distinctively remember on my first day the NLW’s Jamie Coleman gave everyone a talk on the importance of standing out where he said – and I’m paraphrasing here – “get yourself a gimmick that you think will work. I don’t care if you cover yourself in blue paint if you make it work”. A gimmick is one way to make yourself stand out. Charisma and exceptional mic work is another. And of course there’s always the good old fashioned athleticism. If anyone has all three of those down, as well as the vast number of other possibilities then they’re pretty much set.

But in wrestling, what is unique? Most men our age are expected to look respectable and have clean cut short hair. So therefore long hair is unique. But at the same time long hair can also be generic because there are a lot of long-haired generic guys out there. Tough Enough’s Jeremiah Riggs buried most of the FCW guys being long-haired and generic, afraid to try and stand out (he also cites this as the reason he clippered his head after his failed try-out there). Tattoos are unique as well but then again a lot of wrestlers have them so you could say that wrestlers without tattoos are also unique. Things go in and out of style in cycles just like any entertainment business so one day something will be stand-out but then eventually there will be so many stand-outs that the one person that doesn’t try to stand out is ironically the one that does. With gear, I remember someone saying that everyone goes for the red and black colour scheme and everyone goes for fire motifs. In terms of entrance music, isn’t it always hard rock or heavy metal unless there’s an exceptionally different gimmick? So that gets me thinking even more on what each of us Next Gen guys (and girls) bring to the table and how each of us are unique.

For some, uniqueness is right there in front of them and easy to have. The Anj and “Dangerous” Dave Forde are attractions in their own right without even having to do anything. Watching either of them walking down the entrance ramp will earn them a place in most people’s memory. They already look distinctive without even having to touch themselves up. Others have to put a little more work in – the Rough Stuff boys aren’t as distinctive looking (though Paul’s eyebrows and Bull’s uncanny resemblance to Randy Orton are notable) though they themselves are memorable thanks to their strong characters and impeccable ring work. The girls have it easy – they’re a minority in a male-dominated sport – but each girl I’ve seen manages to stand out from all the other pretty ladies whether it’s Katey and her hair flipping-splits combo or Lucy and her bubbly and energetic personality. And of course special mention has to go out to a certain little guy in white trunks that I wrestled in my debut. Fun fact: Phil was following him around for about half an hour on the day of the show trying to get him to change his name because he didn’t think “Shadow” would work. The rest of the guys backstage had a bit of a giggle and you can see our referee corpsing magnificently when he enters the ring but then again at the same time, he got “Shadow” chants at the next show when that gimmick got dropped. Other people backstage talked about how much they liked how he had tried to stand out. Hell, half the people I show my match to are fans of the whole Shadow thing now. At the end of the day, it got people talking and importantly, it got him a few fans.

When it comes to making myself stand out, I had my work cut out for me. I’m not freakishly tall or freakishly muscular so I didn’t have the benefit of the freak factor. I have mutant facial hair that grows itself back in the space of three days so there was my first head start. I noticed there were a lot of brown haired guys at the gym so I decided to bleach my hair, though the date of the show got pushed back a couple of months so the effect was kind of lost by the time I did debut. For the rest of my look, I actually didn’t cop on to the Zack Ryder comparisons until I was already in the ring and I heard people going “come on, Zack Ryder”. Funnily enough I’ve pretty much looked the same since the age of 15 and I’ve had the exact character you see in the ring saved on about three different Smackdown vs Raw games before I even knew who Zack Ryder was. I already had all the stuff available in my closet somewhere so I just threw my look together – I had a jacket that I liked the look of but I hardly ever wore it so I decided to use it as my ring jacket, the bandana has always been lucky so why not? The dog tags I wear normally so again no-brainer. Now with the character itself, there was actually a lot of re-tooling done after I started training. I actually had it in my head that I was going to be a heel. I liked The Miz, Cody Rhodes, heel AJ Styles and loads of others that I thought I could emulate perfectly. I decided I would start out as a heel. Then I actually tried it – believe me it’s tougher than it looks. I began to wonder whether or not it was really for me. Then I noticed something with the rest of the guys there. Everyone wanted to be heels. These days nobody really wants to be a face. It’s either a heel or an anti-hero and you’ll find classic babyfaces tend to be in short supply. I decided “screw it, I want to be a face” and low-and-behold, there was something salvageable in me. I hear a lot of people hate having to work as faces and do so grudgingly but personally I love it. Just like with being a heel, there’s an art to being a good face and I enjoy finding new ways to grow and improve.

When I decided to be a face it was time for me to sit down and watch tapes. To me, the best babyfaces are the ones that look like they’re having a lot of fun in the ring. I decided I’d make my matches fun by finding moves that I liked the look of that I’d be able to pull off (so no handspring springboard moonsault splash, though if Jordan is willing to teach me…). That Stratusphere was probably one of my favourite moves to watch when I was younger and I’d always been able to do a decent handstand and nobody else did it so there was another move in my arsenal. Truth be told it’s gotten me a lot of stick from the trainers but that gets counterbalanced by the memory of Kev McDermott shouting out “no way” when I first did it and Sammy shaking my hand as I was climbing out of the ring. A certain NLW Champion was visibly impressed with a video I showed him of myself doing it. When it comes to working the crowd, we’re advised against resorting to “come on, Bray” and clapping too much (it really hurts the hands, a little known industry casualty) so I got struck by a wild idea one night in a club. In the clubs where I come from, it’s customary for the DJ to shout out “oggy-oggy-oggy” and the crowd to shout back “Oi-Oi-Oi”. One night the DJ goofed and shouted out “Oi-Oi-Oi” and Bobby’s catch phrase was born. When it comes to entrance music, Be Yourself has been my favourite song forever so there was never any other choice – though I was briefly tempted by a catchy little track titled Android Porn.

This blog certainly turned into quite the ramble didn’t it? I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to talk that much on the importance of being unique. But at the same time, being unique is almost exactly the same as wrestling skills themselves – some have them right away while others will have to work harder to get there. But right now I can proudly say that each of our Fight Factory Next Generation guys are unique in their own way and each of them brings their own factor to the table and without each of them we wouldn’t be complete. Hopefully the generation after us can realise this and make themselves into attractions too. Thank you for reading my opinions again for no good reason ;)

Friday 25 May 2012

Why It's Time For The Miz To Turn Face

Exactly how many years ago now was it that some 21-year-old large ham called Mike Mizanin showed severe signs of bipolar disorder on The Real World and created some alter ego for himself known as The Miz? I'm no good at maths so I'll just say a lot. I've been following The Miz for almost his entire WWE career and to this day he remains one of my - what I fondly call now - Hindsight Picks. I see someone in their rookie days and think "I want them to go far, I want them to make it big". It's always a hit and miss deal because not all of my Hindsight Picks have made it so far (still waiting on that call from FCW, AJ Kirsch?) but it's a great feeling to see someone you remember from their rookie days finally become that big star you wanted them to be. John Cena and Trish Stratus are probably two of my most successful Hindsight Picks, but we're getting off topic. I remember Miz from his antics on the 4th season of Tough Enough that involved coming last in an arm wrestling contest and dry-humping Mae Young while wearing a santa suit. Yeah...despite that he was my pick to win and even though Daniel Puder claimed the fan support, Mike Mizanin got the last laugh and has now claimed the honours of most successful Tough Enough contestant. 

Even though I do the same midnight vigils for Miz that I do for Sir Ian McKellen and Shawn Ashmore, I can admit his flaws because during his early WWE days as there were lots of them. Stammering his lines as host of the Diva Search, being visibly out of shape and not to mention clumsy and uncoordinated in the ring are among a few of them. And yet after my hiatus from wrestling was over, I returned to watching WWE in late 2009 and low-and-behold it was a different creature that went around calling itself The Miz. Much improved in-ring skills and amazing work on the mic stuck out to me as well as being able to elicit a reaction from the fans - which in PG-era WWE is no easy feat. It seems Miz's hard work finally paid off as he captured the United States Championship from Kofi Kingston and went on to hold it for an incredibly long time. I can't honestly say whether or not his full potential was tapped into as US Champion then because I only remember a feud with MVP and not much else. That's also because he found himself holding one half of the Tag Team titles along with Big Show in a move nobody saw coming. In just over a year, Miz had gone from laughing stock that got buried by a piss-poor program with John Cena to multiple title holder and bankable star. And nobody could have predicted what else the year 2010 would have in store for Miz as he would go on to claim the Money In The Bank briefcase in July and cash it in in November to win the WWE title. That's right, the kid who got laughed at on The Real World for saying he'd be WWE Champion one day went ahead and grabbed it for himself. Everyone saw those tears of joy as Miz realised he was finally at the top.

You might be wondering now what the point of listing all those achievements was. Or why I've veered off topic and ignored most of 2011. But bear with me now. Reading through all those accomplishments - 2-time US Champion, WWE Tag Team Champion, 2-time NXT Pro, Money In The Bank winner, WWE Champion, WrestleMania main event - offers us one question: where does The Miz go from there? It seems that's a question that even WWE couldn't answer as while 2010 may have been the best year for Miz, 2011 may have been his worst. Losing the title was expected and it was done in a way I wasn't annoyed about. Yet he would be completely buried in a rematch with John Cena at Over The Limit and would spend the second half of the year pretty much doing nothing, sans a random pairing with R-Truth in a conspiracy storyline that went nowhere and made no sense. 2012 is almost halfway over and Miz has still yet to do anything of any note. Watching him relegated to jobbing to Brodus Clay, complete with dance-off at Over The Limit (which really isn't his PPV by the way) has made me realise that he's run into a brick wall. He has officially become stale. Some might argue that he became stale a while back but I always felt there was something he could have done in the Awesome Truth storyline. But when you go from main eventing WrestleMania to doing the Thriller Dance before a match against someone called "The Funkasaurus" that might be the very definition of falling from grace. Miz is struggling as a heel and it's safe to say that if something doesn't happen soon, there will be no saving him. What should happen, you say? The good old fashioned face turn.

The Miz as a face is an idea that fans have tossed around for ages. I've even considered the possibility as early as late 2009 when Miz was getting great reactions from crowds - cheers, not boos. But back then it would have possibly damaged his career considering he was one of the best heels WWE had to offer. But now I feel that Miz has done everything that is possible in his heel role. He's been champion, he's been to WrestleMania, he's been at the top of the division, the list goes on. I've seen little attempts to get him to do something different like the bizarre promo he cut after John Morrison's final match and that half-assed feud with R-Truth but it seems like none of them have taken off because he has already done everything he can possibly do. I felt a similar way with Sheamus when he was drafted to Smackdown last year. He'd already been WWE Champion twice (and US Champion) and I wasn't crazy about seeing him as a top heel on the Blue Brand. He hadn't even been in WWE as long as The Miz, nor was he as accomplished but he was stale and struggling all the same. Of course I couldn't have predicted that Sheamus would get a face turn or that he would be such a natural at it. Now look where he is - World Heavyweight Champion and rumoured to be groomed for Cena's spot in the company. We can say that Sheamus wasn't exactly booked the best before his face turn (Evan Bourne squash anyone?) and that the turn saved his career so I feel it's just what Miz needs to get back on track. There are some issues that should be addressed if Miz is to make a successful turn.

First of all, the upper card face scene is pretty depleted in my opinion. You have Cena and Orton who are both seemingly involved in their own storylines right now keeping them away from the title (which is a good thing) and while Smackdown has some kind of hierarchy, who would you say is on the totem pole after CM Punk in terms of faces? Zack Ryder would have been the one a few months ago but we all know how that turned out. Santino is the US Champion but again he's not really able to be taken that seriously in terms of rankings. Miz as a face could easily slot in there and fill that number 2 babyface role. Then when Punk eventually loses the title and whatever heel establishes himself as the new champion, therein lies potential for Miz to climb back up the ladder. Even if he gets moved to Smackdown in the draft he can still fill that role over there too since Orton really exists on his own in terms of character. Second of all and this is probably the biggest issue people would have with a face Miz, his character. We've seen it before when a popular heel gets turned face and eventually ends up stripped of all their spark and edge to become unbelievably bland (*cough* John Cena) but I feel The Miz can make his character work in a face role without compromising himself. I mean, The Rock was able to make his character work as a face and so was Cena at the start, CM Punk too. I don't know how much creative control Miz has over his character so it's up to whoever has control to make it work. Third of all, there's crowd reaction. Miz is known for being universally hated and drawing massive amounts of X-Pac Heat so the question is could he get reactions as a face? My answer is yes. I remember the first few months of his reign as US Champion and the fans were cheering him a lot. I even wondered if he'd turned face already and I missed it. Then there's Money In The Bank last year. Did anyone hear the reactions he got from the crowd as he ran down to the ring one-legged after supposedly dislocating his knee. I mean, Rey Mysterio got booed for stopping him getting the briefcase. Those two instances have made me confident that the fans can and will accept Miz as a face. In fact, if the turn is done right then Miz could become one of the most successful stars in WWE. There's a fourth point too and that's to do with representing the company. It's no secret that Miz is extremely well-liked backstage for his company man attitude and it's almost always him that does the talk show appearances, press conferences etc to represent the big E. The likes of Orton and Punk don't want to do those things. It makes a lot of sense for someone doing all those things to represent the company to big a big babyface. And funnily enough, Sheamus is the other big go-to guy for that kind of stuff.

So that's pretty much something I felt I had to get off my chest. I'm not saying this is something that is going to happen or that it's what a lot of other people feel should happen, this is just what I think. Mike Mizanin is a great asset to the company and he's almost completely a homegrown talent and so, like my two most successful Hindsight Picks, I want him to have a full and accomplished career so that when he hangs up his boots I can say "yes, they did everything right with him". I'd love to see him main eventing more WrestleManias and hold more world championships. Whether or not he turns face, one thing is for certain - he won't get to do any of those things if he's having dance-offs with Brodus Clay.

Monday 21 May 2012

WWE Over The Limit 2012 In Review

And we've come to the PPV that, despite its name and car motif promising all sorts of high intensity action, has a habit of being the epitome of a B-level show not unlike the old In Your House PPVs from the Attitude Era. Last night's however was a pretty solid show that I enjoyed, despite not having the best build up. We were treated to solid matches all around though the event did get marred slightly by an unimpactful ending. Let's take a closer look shall we...

1) Battle Royal To Crown #1 Contender For IC or US Championship:
I actually think that opening a show with a battle royal is a good idea because if they're done right they can be exciting and unpredictable. This one was pretty unpredictable as you had both the United States and Intercontinental Champions at ringside with the wrestlers having a choice of which title to go after. This helped to eliminate any predictable outcomes for example if it had been for the IC title only then you'd know a face would be winning and vice versa for the US title. My picks to win were Alex Riley who is in desperate need of a push, or Tyson Kidd who remains the most underrated wrestler in WWE. My boy was on fire during the match and I'm pretty sure he was sending a message to the WWE writers on "this is what you could be giving the fans on TV every week" with his cool spots. I'm crushed both those two were eliminated but at the same time relieved that David Otunga didn't win. Not sure how I feel about Christian winning because on the one hand I want him to be a main eventer since he does deserve to be, but on the other hand he officially returned as a face which is something that desperately needed to happen. He was such a woeful heel last year and ended up getting buried completely so him turning face has thankfully salvaged his career for now. The battle royal was fun and it was a good way to kick off the PPV. 6/10

2) R-Truth & Kofi Kingston* vs Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger (Tag Team Championships):
Vickie looked hot last night. I think it's great that once she had the entire WWE fanbase mocking her for her looks but has now thrown that off completely and proven that a woman her age can still look great. Her voice on the other hand...I had the volume at 6 on my TV when she was speaking and I was still afraid of waking up the people upstairs. This was a bit basic starting off and the stuff we saw was good but I felt as though I was watching the same match I had seen over and over when Kofi was last Tag Team Champion. And honestly, he and Evan Bourne made a much better team. Still I liked Truth's part in the match, even if I'm still royally pissed they turned him face again and killed all his momentum. I noticed they seemed to play up a bit of tension between Ziggler and Swagger when Ziggler tagged himself into the match. I wonder if they'll build something off this? I'm leaning more towards bad idea since this group could feasibly become a regular part of the tag division and it doesn't look like Ziggler is going to get that main event push he deserves any time soon. As I seem to say every time I review a Kofi Kingston tag match, things really picked up towards the end and the final few moments made this match jump from "decent" to "very good". My favourite spot would probably be Ziggler's Fame Asser through the ropes (though that Kofi/Truth double team was a close second) and I honestly thought they'd win the titles right there. That Trouble In Paradise really came out of nowhere and was a good finish. I wish they'd let Swagger take some of these pins though as Ziggler has been pinned cleanly a few too many times for my liking. They could keep this feud going and build towards a second match at No Way Out if they so desired but I guess only Raw will tell. 6.5/10

3) Layla* vs Beth Phoenix (Divas' Championship):
Surprising to see the Divas so early on the card but in a good way since it means WWE actually cared enough not to put this down as the piss-break match. Beth has finally ditched the 50s waitress-inspired ring gear and gone back to pants, good choice there. If you ask me, this would be the match that decided whether Layla would be able to handle herself in the ring after her ACL injury. I'll be honest, the opening exchanges were very iffy and a bit slow moving. Layla moved a lot faster against Nikki Bella at Extreme Rules but the moves were all done well enough. She remained in control for a little too long and that had me worried it would turn out to be a squash match. However order was restored with Beth's knee-breaker in the corner. Layla should work on selling a bit more. The way she was selling her leg injury was almost a bit cartoonish, like the way she had been so goofy as part of LayCool. Aside from those criticisms, this has probably been the best match in the Divas' division since Eve and Beth tore the house down at Vengeance. The chemistry was there as the match went on and I think the near-falls at the end were really what made it. Beth countering the Face Lift into the Glam Slam and Layla countering that, only for that to be countered, was pleasant to see. The actual ending was a bit abrupt but a good enough effort from the girls. 7/10

4) Sheamus* vs Randy Orton vs Alberto Del Rio vs Chris Jericho (World Heavyweight Championship):
This was the match I was most concerned about watching because so much depended on the bookers making the right call. First of all, Orton is Orton and he does not need an out-of-nowhere title run again like he got last year. Second of all, Del Rio can not cut it as a World Champion without a proper feud to build him into it (and I don't call winning a MITB contract a proper feud). Third of all, Jericho just came out of a program for the WWE title so what does it say about the backstage politics if he wins this title with little to no build-up? Fourth of all, Sheamus is still a fledgling babyface champion and needs a long title reign. I was praying WWE wouldn't make the same mistakes they made when Randy Orton turned face in 2004. Thankfully not only did the right guy win but the match was a huge hit. Fatal 4 Ways are make-or-break in WWE and this one was brilliant. There was so much going on in the early moments that it's hard for me to remember a lot of specific stuff. That's definitely the mark of a match well-done anyway. I liked the way Jericho and Del Rio told a story with their alliances in the match and how Jericho was the one who would screw Del Rio first. That really fits into the way his character has been developed since he returned. Someone in their predictions mentioned something about Del Rio possibly turning face so you never know, they might build something off this since he didn't seem that especially dirty in this match. Not sure if he would be able to work as a face so I'd rather he stay heel. Randy Orton on the other hand most certainly seems to be turning heel. The return of that creepy demon face at the end of the match seems to signal that. I guess they might go for a Sheamus/Orton singles feud going into SummerSlam. I would advise against that as well because Orton is more popular than Sheamus and they should really pit their World Champion against a heel that the fans don't actually like. The closing moments of the match were complete chaos and I loved every second of it. I was literally on the edge of my seat when Sheamus was trapped in the Walls of Jericho and I was close to yelling at Del Rio for not running into the ring to break it up. And let's not forget that heart-stopping couple of seconds when Jericho grabbed the tights. Speaking of which, did anyone else notice that Del Rio was really going for the other guys' clothing during the match? I swear I must've counted about four times where he tried to pull down their trunks. And one more thing - hats off to my main man Ricardo for taking that sick DDT. Really fast-paced entertaining match. 9/10

5) The Miz vs Brodus Clay:
I am relieved that Brodus has finally graduated from squashes into proper wrestling matches. Poor Miz, it seems like Over The Limit just isn't his PPV. Though I will say anything would be a step-up from the pitiful treatment he got at last year's show. That in-ring dance was right up there with that bizarre promo he cut with the Subway sandwich. I didn't enjoy this match as much as I did Brodus's one with Dolph Ziggler at Extreme Rules but it was still quite a good show. He stayed in control a lot longer than I would have liked because Miz only really got minimal offence in on him. I was very happy that the camera kept cutting to shots of the delicious Cameron and Naomi plenty of times. The match was pretty basic though I really did love that Super T-Bone Suplex. Brodus is a better wrestler than he's given credit for and now that he's being allowed to have longer matches he can get an opportunity to show this. There is something I really want to talk about though - what has happened to The Miz? Last year at Over The Limit he was buried completely in his WWE title match with Cena and this year he's even worse off. He's had potential to build himself back up the ladder only for WWE to seemingly shoot him back down. I guess having a dance-off and trying to play it straight really spells disaster. I think he needs a face turn more than anyone else on the roster. He's been a heel his entire WWE career and it's safe to say he's gotten stale and there are a lot more people that are filling his spot as the top heel leaving no room for him. I believe that this turn needs to happen now more than any other time or else he'll just become a laughing stock. I'm confident that if it's done right then the fans will accept Miz as a face and he can still carry that spark that makes him such a fascinating character on TV. 5.5/10

6) Cody Rhodes* vs Christian (Intercontinental Championship):
I'm not sure how I feel about Christian winning the Intercontinental title since if he lost then it would kind of ruin the momentum of him coming back as a face whereas now he's won and that's been another bit of hot potato with the belt since Rhodes won it back a month after Big Show only to lose it again after a month. But I will say that this face turn has almost rejuvenated Christian completely. That one little promo he cut backstage on Rhodes was better than every single heel promo he cut over the Summer which is really strange if you think about it. This match did feel like one that was put together on the fly but it was between two talented workers so there was still some solid action. There were times when you could tell they were calling out spots to each other but that doesn't bother me too much. The match was still nice and fast paced and this is an encounter I don't remember seeing before. No doubt Cody Rhodes will be getting a rematch so I look forward to seeing what they can do with a proper plan ahead of them. My favourite spot of the match was his moonsault press which doesn't always look as good as it can but here it looked flawless. The Killswitch at the end was a bit awkward looking too. I guess it will be good to have a face champion who isn't Big Show as we do have plenty of heels that are in need of a push. I honestly can't name any right now so I'll just sit back and let WWE surprise me. 7/10

7) CM Punk* vs Daniel Bryan (WWE Championship):
I expected AJ to make some sort of appearance at the PPV but I'm glad she was left out of the actual match itself. AJ's expression was a lot different than on Raw. Here she looks like she's definitely planning something, perhaps she intends to cost Punk the title in a twisted attempt to get Daniel Bryan to love her? I think they should go ahead and turn her heel since they are running out of heels for Layla to feud with. I couldn't wait to hear the crowd reaction for this match and I wasn't disappointed. Both Bryan and Punk are insanely over and I remember seeing a Ring of Honour match between the two of them where Punk played the heel and Bryan the face so it was good to see the roles reversed, as well as WWE actually producing a match of this calibre with their biggest title on the line. I'm not going to waffle on about it because it really was the Match of the Year. I'm sorry to Bryan/Sheamus and indeed the Fatal 4 Way earlier in the evening but this was everything I could have hoped for. Punk's various submissions like that Indian Death Lock into the surfboard and the Figure 4 Leg Lock were amazing to see, as were Bryan's equally impressive manoeuvres like that dragon sleeper surfboard. I don't really know what I can say about this match except that it was absolutely perfect and one of the best matches either man has ever put on in their careers. The end of this match does raise some questions and potential for these guys to feud all the way into SummerSlam, which I'd be overjoyed about. Since we've already had the awesome wrestling match we can now bring AJ into the fold and give this feud the added spice WWE didn't care to give it in the weeks leading up to this PPV. Amazing and intense match. 10/10

8) John Cena vs John Laurinitis:
I am hugely annoyed that CM Punk and Daniel Bryan couldn't close the show when you consider that the two of them together are certainly more over than Cena and Laurinitis not to mention they were fighting for the biggest title in WWE. This is the type of thing that would work on closing an episode of Raw, not a PPV. Even if it was a huge waste of time (seriously the match dragged on for way too long and there was still ten minutes of air time left when it ended) I still laughed my head off at it. It seems like Over The Limit is becoming the "Humiliation Conga" PPV since you had Michael Cole getting it royally last year and now Johnny too. It was funny that when anyone else puts someone in a painful submission and holds the mic up to their face it's some devilish and despicable thing but when Cena does it, it's played for comedy. Not much else to say about it apart from the comedy should not be the thing that closes a PPV. Big Show turning heel was predictable and uninspired, almost a Russo-esque shocking swerve. Big Show has flip-flopped between heel and face so many times whenever he turns it has no impact anymore. I'm not psyched to see him and Cena feud again because doubtless they'll be main eventing all the PPVs when you have fresh and exciting matches like Punk/Bryan and possibly Orton/Sheamus more deserving of the main event slot. A disappointing end to a solid PPV. N/A

Sunday 20 May 2012

Week In Review For Women's Wrestling #47

Well it seems we've almost inexplicably found ourselves once again in that eventful week that has one TNA PPV on Sunday and then a WWE one the next Sunday, with a whole week's worth of build up to whatever matches are taking place. This week also happens to be the final edition of NXT as we know it as it's apparently all set to stop being taped along with Smackdown and instead has been taped three episodes in advance with FCW. Don't expect some Diva action until the third episode. Anyway let's get to business...

Sacrifice - Gail Kim* vs Brooke Tessmacher (Knockouts Championship):
So Brooke has ditched the average coats for a long personalised robe that goes with her ring gear. I like it and it suits her, even if it's been done loads of times before. I'm only just noticing Brooke's hair flip. I know she used to do that thing where she took her hair out of the bun but did she always hair flip? Anyway before I get to the in-ring action I want to say I'm happy Gail came down to the ring without Madison Rayne because that woman has a habit of commanding all the attention to herself whenever she's at ringside. Now for the match, I loved it. This was much better done than their non-title match on Impact and Gail's match with Velvet. Here Brooke is still very green so it actually makes sense to book her as an underdog whereas Velvet was a former champ and accomplished star so having her dominated so much didn't look right. Brooke however gave Gail a run for her money in the classic underdog way. Her hurricanrana was impressive - she jumped right into it a la Evan Bourne (come back soon bro). That was an interesting story to tell with Brooke constantly going for Eat Defeat and it was one I really liked. She'd beaten Gail with her own finisher before so she was trying to do it again, this time to win the title and add insult to injury. Gail's heat surprised me as well. In her matches with Mickie and Tara there was big move after big move to wear them down but here there was a lot of more basic stuff like clotheslines and more hit-and-run type tactics. I guess that makes sense considering Mickie and Tara are veterans so them being able to take all those moves during the heat is believable but with a rookie like Brooke it gives the impression that Gail thinks she'll be an easy win. However there was a bit of a drag during that part that wasn't there in those other matches, maybe giving Brooke a couple of extra hope spots could have broken that up a bit? When Brooke did regain control, I liked all of her offence. That X-factor from the corner is slowly becoming one of my favourite moves from her and I'm thinking maybe that needs a name too. The diving elbow drop was a nice touch as well because it's not a move you see women doing. I don't think I've ever seen a woman do that move before. The end was a bit out of nowhere and a bit of a copout and not really needed since the vast difference in experience means Gail shouldn't need to cheat to beat her. Though I will say that it was impressive she could get her feet all the way to the top rope. Really impressive and entertaining match. 7/10

Raw - Beth Phoenix vs Alicia Fox:
I've heard the news about the 3-hour Raw becoming a permanent thing and I can't wait. If the girls can get at least six minutes of time a week for their segments then I'll go to sleep happy on Monday nights. The match was what you'd expect it to be - short and one-sided. Alicia went for that nice headscissors she used on Natalya last week but sadly it got botched but it wasn't that noticeable. I'm just annoyed that they keep using her like this. She is too young and far too talented to be a jobber. Kelly would have made more sense since she was Layla's partner last week. I'm happy that Layla was scouting from the ramp this week because the commentary thing is really overdone these days. The after-match segment was a lot better and I like that Layla actually went and attacked Beth herself. It gave her a chance to show off more than just being the smiley-high fiving face most Divas graduate into. I know she hasn't played her LayCool character for over a year now but it's nice to see some of that feisty personality she's known for. Since she and Beth do have a bit of a history I'm expecting a lot of intensity in their match at Over The Limit. I've said it before but it has potential to be MOTY for the women if they get enough time and I'm sure they will since the majority of Diva PPV matches in the last few months have all gotten respectable time lengths. Overall rating: 5/10

AJ Development:
Hmm from one world champion to another? I had thought from last week's Smackdown that AJ would make a full heel turn but once again the WWE writers keep us guessing and that's a great thing. I can't see where this storyline is going and I also can't wait to see where it goes. Will AJ become CM Punk's girlfriend? If she does she can expect a big boost in popularity or even just crowd reaction in general by simply interacting with him. I mean, being paired with Zack Ryder did wonders for Eve (where the hell was she this week by the way!) so it's really great to see AJ getting to interact with these main event stars, not to mention being involved in a main event level storyline. Is this going to be all an act to try and scam CM Punk out of the title so Daniel Bryan will take her back? Not sure how I'd feel about that since you wouldn't want a title change overshadowed by something AJ did. For some reason I don't see her actually being involved in the match at Over The Limit, simply appearing in a backstage segment maybe. There's likely going to be a rematch between Punk and Bryan so that's probably where she'll appear.

NXT - Maxine vs Kaitlyn:
Wow, how many times have they worked together since Maxine got called up? Well it's likely this will be the last time we'll see these two square off in a lengthy singles match since NXT is getting a drastic re-tool and all the previous storylines apparently got dropped for this week's episode. But let's talk about the match. At first it seemed to be exactly what I was expecting from them - solid action and entertaining stuff but lacking a certain oomph. My favourite bout between them had always been the one from last October with AJ at ringside but I feel this one was very strong too. It was a very unique and rarely seen bit of psychology they went for. So rarely seen that a lot of people missed out on it judging from reviews of the match. Maxine spent the whole match working Kaitlyn's neck. Anyone else notice that all her moves were targeted towards Kaitlyn's neck area? I liked seeing that since it showed the girls thinking outside the box with their psychology and storytelling. I say this about Maxine a lot but she knows how to use her rest holds and how to break the monotony of something like a chinlock by addressing the crowd. She busted out a nice new submission hold that fans of Tara and Jazz will approve of - that definitely needs to be added to her arsenal and she finished off the sequence with a nice DDT that again worked into the neck psychology. What can I say about Kaitlyn? Every week she shows her improvement in the ring - her dropkicks, clotheslines and crossbody all looked so effective. It was also good to see the return of her great combination finisher. As for Maxine's new gear, I'm not a fan of it. It's too generic, I mean she had something good going for her with the leotard and the stockings but how many women out there go for the sports bra and long tights? It actually looked the same as Maria Menounous's gear from WrestleMania and some of Rosa Mendes's outfits. And not a bit fan of those bangs Kaitlyn gave herself either. 7/10

Impact - Gail Kim* vs Brooke Tessmacher vs Velvet Sky (Knockouts' Championship):
Wow, this gives me WWE Divas 2003 vibes with the title on the line on a PPV and then being defended the very next night on Raw. Gail's probably clocked some kind of record for most successful title defences with her belt. Anyway I expected this match and now it makes sense since Gail has used cheating to beat both Velvet and Brooke in their respective title matches though I expected this to be the next PPV match, which it could well be. You gotta love that Velvet was the crowd's pick to win, though I did hear a few fans gunning for Brooke as well. You really do have to love the violent marks in TNA crowds. This match was really fun and a lot better than the last couple of triple threat matches we've seen from the Knockouts. The opening moments were expected as well with Brooke and Velvet going after Gail. They told a good story, playing up their previous partnership with a bit of hesitation to wrestle each other. They went for some really good spots like that double submission. Brooke did seem to have trouble taking the Flying Dragon but not in a way that hurt the match. Loved that double roll-up attempt as well as Gail's double missile dropkick. The end was good, not exactly a clean win for Gail but not really a weak one either. I would like to see a rematch on PPV but triple threat rematches are really hard to do right and I'm not sure if they could do it well again. I'm wondering if they'll use the finish as a way to go back to Gail vs Velvet? Oh well, the next few weeks will tell us all. In other news it was good to see ODB finally back on television and even better to see her rough it up with the guys. Wouldn't it just be like TNA to have Madison turn out to have her crush on ODB? 8/10

Friday 11 May 2012

The Week In Review For Women's Wrestling #46

What up folks and we're at the end of another week of wrestling again. This was a pretty eventful week with the girls in WWE managing to score matches on all the TV shows, not to mention a PPV match announced for Over The Limit next week. Elsewhere the FCW girls finally got a fresh match and the TNA broads have their own PPV to build towards this Sunday. It's likely to be a good one.

Raw - Layla & Kelly Kelly vs Maxine & Natalya:
This was an interesting pairing to see given that Kelly and Layla feuded twice before, but that backstage segment at Extreme Rules had them put their differences aside so them teaming together isn't that unbelievable. Weird that Kelly got an entrance of her own and honestly it wasn't needed since one entrance means a longer match. Even though it was another annoyingly short match, this segment felt a lot more successful to me than ones in recent weeks. First of all, Layla got mic time. True it was just a replayed promo from but it's still giving her mic time and getting some sense of character on TV. Also there was build up for Over The Limit and I feel that having Beth on commentary was sufficient enough to promote the match. I'm expecting to see her properly return to the ring next week or maybe attack Layla post-match. The tag match this week was disappointing as usual but it just shows how shallow the Diva pool has become with the Bellas leaving. I mean a Smackdown girl and an NXT girl are the only active wrestling heels they have now. As I always say I really wish they'd give these girls at least something like 5-6 minutes for their segments. Then they could get a sense of character across and get time to tell a story. Maxine is one of the best characters in the ring and yet we couldn't see any of it in this match. Layla's moves looked nice but how can we really see her show off her stuff when she can only get in five moves in the one match? Anyway the Divas do tend to get decent time on PPV these days so here's hoping Beth and Layla can get a chance to tear the house down because you know they can do it. Disappointing match as always but some compensation. 2/10

Eve's Promo:
Now this is where the Raw Diva action tends to make up for the piss poor match lengths. Come to think of it, Eve's entrance here was probably longer than most of her matches on Raw this year. This was one of her better promos and it shows a good initiative by the WWE writers. Eve can't ride the heat she got for dumping Zack Ryder (who by all rights still deserves to chin the bitch on live TV in comeuppance) forever so they're having her insult another popular star. And I'm happy they went with insults that could actually offend as opposed to some ridiculous PG put downs we've had to listen to in recent years ("Batista you're a crybaby", "Miz you're a monkey flinging poo", "Vickie you're a power hungry witch"). And Eve, never take those glasses off again. Also, Cameron and Naomi also got to show the WWE Universe that they have voices by cheering for him in his match. Cameron even got frightened by The Miz (face turn, stat, he surely needs it).

NXT - Maxine vs Tamina Snuka:
Ah, Maxine makes up for the disappointing appearance on Raw. I loved her "niceness-through-clenched-teeth" promo and I'm sure everyone lol'd at "can I call you Tammy?" and I especially did at Tamina mouthing back "no you can NOT call me Tammy". Aside from that promo, I thought this match was a really strong showing from both ladies. I'd go so far as to call this the best match Tamina has had since she was called up. The opening was nice and fast paced and Tamina looked incredibly solid with everything she did. It's nice to see her improving after being stagnant on Smackdown for all of last year. Maxine impressed me with her acting in this match. It's one thing to play a heel but quite another to play a heel trying to pretend to be a face. This almost seems like an apology for her not getting to do anything on Raw. What I also love about Maxine is that she knows how to properly make use of her holds. That full nelson was a nice touch and it was good to see her continue to use that top rope guillotine. I enjoyed Tamina's comeback as well with how energetic she got. She's a big girl but she can fly when she wants to. Interesting way to set up Maxine's Dragon Scissors but I liked it. Nice to see Maxine get another win, especially since Tamina doesn't really need one right now. Another hilarious backstage segment too, though she got cleaned up after her match pretty fast. 7/10

Xplosion - Sarita vs Velvet Sky:
It's the return of Mui Caliente and her spastic robot salsa dancing, neither of which has been seen since Lockdown. This is also a rematch from their big feud back in 2010. Obviously a lot has changed since then, as a look at the first singles match they had will demonstrate. The chain wrestling at the start wasn't the best but really who honestly cares about opening holds in a match anyway? The rest of the action was really good though it seems to me that all Xplosion matches have the face in control until the commercial break and don't allow the heel to get offence in until it's over. Oh well, it's not a formula that'll keep me awake at night. Not sure I liked the idea of a springboard bulldog being used so early in a match. Sarita's offence was most just kicks and punches at the start but she kept me entertained by flirting with the ref. It's funny how she's embraced this Spicy Latina personality so much when she's not even Mexican. I marked out big time for that springboard splash which would be a fantastic regular move to see her do. I also liked that little front roll flip she did out of the corner. Velvet's comeback was standard but enjoyable nonetheless. In Yo Face is one of my favourite Knockout finishers going right now. A standard match but fun and good to see Sarita back on TV. Perhaps when Brooke or Velvet or whoever wins the title they can finally pull the trigger on Sarita. 7/10

Superstars - Natalya vs Alicia Fox:
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the 11th match these two girls have had since their first on ECW back in 2009. Before now, Alicia had won five times and Natalya had won five which would make this the rubber match. Now then we are much more used to seeing Natalya as the face and Alicia as the heel since the only matches the other way around have been less than two minutes. So here it was great to see both of them work a full match with the roles the other way. What I love about Alicia is that even though she's peppy and smiley during her entrance, when the bell rings you get this aggression out of her that she carried over from her heel days. Her stomps and forearms are aggressive and they look realistic too. Her new babyface offence is getting better the more chances she gets to actually work. I loved the back roll into the headscissors as well as that cool spot in the corner which I will call "Ballerina Backfire" (ok I know her sister was the ballerina but come on). Like Maxine, Natalya seemed excited to get more time to tell a story and I was hoping she'd do that variation of the abdominal stretch we saw her use on Kaitlyn, especially since Alicia has great flexibility. Alicia even took a nice looking bump by getting shook off the ropes. The end was nice too and thank the lords Natalya wins again. As much as I hate to see Alicia losing so much, Natalya needed a win more than she did and she's now 6-5 in the lead. Even though the match was about four minutes it still felt athletic and impactful, which shows that these are two Divas who know how to make the most out of whatever time they get. 8/10

Impact - Brooke Tessmacher vs Velvet Sky:
A bit of a dream match-up coming up here. I've said that I expect these two girls to feud eventually so I'm wondering if this is a testing ground for a future program between Velvet and Brooke? If so, I doubt we'll be too disappointed judging from what we saw here. Face vs face matches are always good to see as you do often see one wrestler take on a heel role while still trying to maintain their babyface status. I expected Velvet to play the heel in the match but I was surprised at how back and forth it was. Neither woman really took on a heel role, even with Velvet in control towards the end. If you replaced Brooke with an actual heel in the match, I think it would still make sense. Naturally Brooke wins to give her momentum headed into the PPV and we get a nice post-match attack from Gail. I'm not sure but I'm leaning more towards Gail retaining at the PPV. It's mostly because Brooke has had a little too much momentum on her side with two wins over Gail so it seems a little too easy for her to just walk out of Sacrifice with the title. I'd prefer to see Gail retaining and then defending in a triple threat match because that looks to be where this is heading. I noticed Velvet didn't help Brooke during Gail's post match attack but since the announcers and the cameras didn't draw attention to it, I wouldn't make anything of it. I should note that when it came to crowd reactions, while the Impact Zone was divided, Velvet was getting a lot more cheers. 7/10

FCW - Raquel Diaz vs Audrey Marie vs Paige:
Yet another triple threat match and the second with an ill-thought out logic of not being for the title. Why would the champion be in a non-title triple threat match in the first place? Anyway you've probably seen enough to know that the words "FCW Divas Triple Threat" strikes fear into the hearts of Diva fans everywhere but don't be shocked - this one didn't suck. It seems that Audrey and Raquel learned from what made their last Triple Threat fail because instead of having a monotonous sequence of the heels dominating the face, they threw in some creative spots and told a story between the two heels as well. That triple headlock was a nice little spot that added to the storytelling. Audrey didn't get dominated as much as she did in the last one which was a good thing and the match was surprisingly back and forth. She should probably work on her screaming because when she was at the ropes it was more akin to "slapstick comedy" than "legitimate pain". She took a nice throw into the ringpost though. I don't think Raquel using the Gory Bomb on Paige was a good idea because you had her get up a few seconds later selling it like it was just a big move as opposed to a champion's finisher. A move like a DDT or powerbomb would have been better. I liked the ending with Paige pinning Raquel in the midst of the Three Amigos. I'm assuming this means they're going for a Paige/Raquel programme now. I'm happy about this because Paige is a very accomplished wrestler so working with Raquel will help the young champ to improve. I wonder if they'll leave it as heel vs heel or else turn one of them face? I'm more inclined to turn Paige face since Raquel is really onto something with her heel character and Paige can shine as a face as a look at any of her Pro Wrestling EVE stuff will demonstrate. Turning Paige face could also set up for a feud with Sofia Cortez or even some good matches with Caylee Turner who really should return to the ring as a wrestler by now. 7/10

Smackdown - AJ vs Kaitlyn:
Now this is a storyline I'm really happy to see. I was against Kaitlyn turning heel back in November now I think the Chick Busters breakup is well-timed, especially since the one turning heel is already proven well in that role. That being said, this storyline is a bit unpredictable. AJ certainly didn't act heelish at the start, she was heelish during the match and after it but she still comes across somewhat sympathetic with what Daniel Bryan said. I see them going ahead with the heel turn and instead having AJ direct her anger at Kaitlyn because Daniel Bryan showed interest in her. Not sure if they'll keep him involved in this storyline because her walking away does seem to suggest it's ending but that's a bit anti-climactic to me. I also wish they hadn't given AJ the actual win. The match ending in DQ would have been a much better move. Here's hoping we get a rematch with more time. Segment rating: 6/10

Sunday 6 May 2012

The Fave Five #3 - Trish Stratus

And now we're moving onto a wrestler in my Fave Five who actually is one of my top five wrestlers of all time and certainly my favourite Diva of all time. Yeah I'll cheer for Mercedes Martinez, Jessie McKay, Daizee Haze etc any time I watch them but Trish will always be my favourite wrestling female. She was truly the whole package - stunning good looks, excellent charisma, great comic timing, athleticism, a desire to be the best and an overall presence that made people want root for her. I present the top five moments in the career of the Diva of the Decade herself.

5) Crossing The Boss
Trish's first big storyline came in 2001 when she was placed into a notorious affair with Vince McMahon on screen. This involved all manner of steamy backstage segments and the inevitable feud with Daddy's Little Princess Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley which led to a surprisingly intense match at No Way Out. Vince turned on Trish soon after and decided he would degrade her as much as possible. First the poor girl had rummage dumped all over herself, secondly she had to strip to her underwear in the middle of the ring and finally she was made to crawl around the ring and bark like a dog for Vince. Trish has gone on record to say that she went along with those segments because she knew there would be a big payoff in the long run. And what a payoff it was - I mean how many people can brag that they got to slap their boss in the face on national television? This capped off Trish's face turn in 2001 and helped her become one of the most popular women WWE has ever known. It's so controversial that there isn't actually a clip of it on Youtube so I had to make do with this little part.

4) Taking One For The Feud
These days chair shots to the head are banned in WWE for good reason. But back in the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era they were all over the place so they had almost lost their shock value. However, the likes of one woman delivering a chair shot to another had never been seen on WWE television before. That night the Trish/Victoria feud started in a big way, first with an attack backstage, secondly with an aggressive match and thirdly with Victoria whacking Trish over the head with a steel chair to disqualify herself. With all due respect to Trish/Lita, to me it will always be Trish/Victoria that was the best Diva feud of all time. Given what is now known about chair shots to the head, I guess we can count ourselves lucky that Trish is still happy and healthy ten years later.

3) The Ultimate Betrayal
By the time the year 2004 rolled around, Trish was already one of the biggest stars in the WWE. She was perhaps the biggest babyface they ever had, even with Lita in action on the roster as well. But Trish had already done the underdog babyface routine for two years now so what was there left for her to do? Well she was entered into a romance angle with Chris Jericho that included a lot of complicated drama that isn't really necessary to explain in this entry but the stage was all set at WrestleMania XX for a match between Chris Jericho and Christian, Jericho sort of defending Trish's honour. Towards the end of the match Trish ran down to the ring to seemingly defend Jericho but accidentally caused a distraction that lead to Christian getting the win. After the match Trish entered the ring to apologize to Jericho...but shock! horror! She slapped him in the face and turned heel before our very eyes. WrestleMania XX is considered a disappointment by many but this heel turn was praised as being one of the high points of the night. It seems WWE learned from this by the success of Eve Torres's heel turn as her WrestleMania moment had big shades of this.

2) Four The Record Books
WrestleMania XIX will always be my favourite Mania for many reasons. And one of them is this. The best WrestleMania women's match ever. I mentioned earlier about the epic Trish/Victoria feud that started in 2002 and continued all the way into WrestleMania XIX. But there was also another element in the psychotic Jazz who returned to action in early 2003 and interjected herself into this feud. I watched this match live and saw Trish take her lumps, genuinely afraid for her health and well being but I was on my feet when she blasted Victoria with that Chick Kick to win the title back. It was truly a great WrestleMania moment and that title win marked Trish's fourth run with the belt, matching the record previously set by The Fabulous Moolah.

1) Off Into The Sunset
Diva departures are always a hit and miss affair. Some Divas get to go out in good ways and unfortunately a good few of them get really disrespectful farewells. But thankfully it was not to be so for WWE's Golden Girl. In 2006 news broke that Trish would be retiring from WWE after the Unforgiven PPV in September. Not only was that a scandal in and of itself, Trish reignited her classic rivalry with Lita whom she had also faced in her first WWE match. A special match was made for Trish's retirement - she would face Lita for the title in her hometown of Toronto, Canada. The crowd was on their feet the whole night with "thank you Trish" chants erupting everywhere. These two had delivered a brilliant match in the main event of Raw but had never actually had a proper PPV match. This was rectified here as they battled through an aggressive and intense 11-minute match that had a storybook ending as Trish locked Lita in the Sharpshooter and submitted her to win her seventh Women's title. She received a standing ovation from the fans, the announcers and even a teary-eyed Lilian Garcia.

The Fave Five #2 - Billy Gunn

I think I'm onto something with this whole Fave Five idea and I can't be arsed waiting for the next WWE release in order to write it - plus I have a feeling that kind of mentality will eventually turn me into a psychopath - so I decided to base my next Fave Five list on one of my favourite past WWE Superstars. Monty Sopp aka Billy Gunn, or Kip James for those who followed him in TNA, was one of the best all around athletes WWE ever had. He was one of those guys that could raise you up for a military press and also leap high into the air for a dropkick among other things. He had multiple Tag Team success but sadly never really got the push he deserved in singles competition. Here's my Fave Five moments/matches from the career of Billy Gunn.

5) Holy Matrimony?
One of the most controversial angles in WWE occurred in 2002 (though that was eventually outdone by the even more infamous Katie Vick angle) when Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo morphed from a generic face tandem into a pair of ambiguously gay partners complete with bleached blonde hair, shiny red trunks and various other manly gay behaviours, also gaining a manager in the equally flamboyant Rico. The situation was cranked up to a new height when Chuck proposed to Billy in the middle of the ring...and Billy said yes! The two were all set to have their "Commitment Ceremony" on Smackdown. This whole angle received numerous publicity worldwide and everyone was talking about it. Billy Gunn himself even listed it as the number 1 part of his "Best of Billy Gunn" promotional video that hyped his 2004 return. The entire fanbase was buzzing over the supposed wedding ceremony that would take place. This being WWE it turned out even gay weddings weren't safe from the drama. The ring was set, the groom(s) were dressed for the occasion and there was even a minister. Though moments into the ceremony Chuck and Billy backed out of the deal and shocked the world by announcing that neither of them were actually gay and the whole thing was a publicity stunt cooked up by Rico. Of course this ended up being even more controversial than the fact of actually having supposedly gay Superstars because many Gay and Lesbian representatives had actually been told that Billy and Chuck *would* get married. It was one of the most bizarre and sensational storylines WWE ever came up with (though once again, Katie Vick outdid them) and because it broke all the way into mainstream, it might be what both Billy and Chuck are both remembered for.

4) The One & Only...
Here it is, the one and only prestigious singles title Billy ever held. When he returned from injury in late 2000 he was repackaged as "The One" Billy Gunn and was groomed for a big singles push. It first started by being the last member of his team to be eliminated at the 2000 Survivor Series PPV and it ended by him claiming the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Eddie Guerrero on Smackdown. Unfortunately for him the bookers had no idea what to do with the belt and he dropped it three weeks later to Chris Benoit (who himself dropped it a few weeks later). But Billy G's fans can still cherish that moment when he defeated Eddie Guerrero to win the strap and what a match it was. Billy kicked out of both a DDT onto the title belt and Eddie's Frog Splash finisher. Then after a long and hard fought match he earned his only major singles championship. Personally my favourite incarnation of him was "The One", mostly for the catchy entrance theme, but he could have been a great singles star if the bookers hadn't dropped the ball as they have done with so many others. Though I do take comfort in the fact that the match he dropped the belt in just happened to be the best of his career.

3) A Dangerous Ass Kicking
Before he eventually claimed the IC title in 2000, Billy Gunn got to have a proper shot at it once the year before when he entered into a feud with The World's Most Dangerous Man, Ken Shamrock (yes that one). He got his title match at the 1999 Royal Rumble and that match is only second to his bout against Chris Benoit at Armageddon 2000 as my favourite of his. Naturally being in the ring with Ken Shamrock is going to make anyone up their game and fear for their life so we saw an incredibly intense back-and-forth affair with Billy holding his own quite well against the much superior Shamrock. It's a really cool match to watch, which is why I added onto my list of Wrestling Matches To See Before You Die and of course two of my favourite spots include the facebuster off the apron and the kitchen sink countered into the school boy. Not much else to say about this one, except maybe it's strange that my two favourite Billy Gunn matches ended with him tapping out...

2) Birth of an Outlaw
Chances are if you meet Billy in public and go up to him, you should never mention the words "Rock-a-Billy" or else you may wake up to find yourself breathing through a tube. But one good thing came out of the atrocious Rock-a-Billy gimmick - the end of it meant the start of something truly amazing. After a few weeks of being the prodigy of the Honky Tonk Man, Billy was propositioned by Road Dogg Jesse James to join him and form a tag team. Needless to say Billy smashed his guitar over the HTM's head and never looked back. He and Road Dogg formed the New Age Outlaws, one of the most successful and groundbreaking Tag Teams of the Attitude Era. They were initially meant to be a heel team but Billy clonking his mentor with his own guitar got them cheers from the fans so they were one of many heels who got cheered and turned into faces with attitude in that Era. The Outlaws held five WWF Tag Team Championships between them and Billy would go on to hold another five more with different partners (three times with his kayfabe brother Bart and twice with Chuck). And here's the moment where the magic started.


1) King of the Castle
It seemed like 1999 was going to be Billy Gunn's year - a high profile feud with Ken Shamrock, a run with the Hardcore title, a match at WrestleMania and now the crowner - literally. The 1999 King of the Ring tournament had a whole crop of talented and deserving guys (and girl - Chyna competed in that tournament as well) all of whom would have made a great King. However it was Billy Gunn's night as he first defeated Ken Shamrock and Kane to advance to the tournament finals. There, now going by the crude alias of "Mr Ass" complete with ludicrous theme music and a habit of mooning his opponents, he faced his former DX ally X-Pac with the coveted King of the Ring crown at stake. After a surprisingly short match, Billy scaled the top rope and landed a diving version of his Fame Asser finisher to put X-Pac away and claim the crown for himself. Sadly this push didn't really go anywhere as he was defeated by The Rock at SummerSlam in a corny "Kiss My Ass" match and found himself stuck in the midcard ever since. We'll still have the memories though

Saturday 5 May 2012

Week In Review For Women's Wrestling #45

What a week it's been. WWE had their Extreme Rules PPV on Sunday and that show has always been something worth watching, the matches there often topping their WrestleMania predecessors. It's certainly been one of the more Diva-friendly PPVs in recent years, providing us with memorable moments galore. Not to mention the internet has been buzzing with a certain set of departures. Elsewhere TNA have a PPV of their own to build towards with a new and fresh match-up on the horizon. Should be a good one.

Extreme Rules - Nikki Bella* vs Layla (Divas' Championship):
I was expecting there to be some kind of trick with Beth supposedly being injured. I know there's people saying it's a work but it definitely seems to be somewhat legit with how she's been absent from TV since the PPV, even from backstage segments. Let's start with the backstage segment, I felt that this sets things up for Beth to return as a face to TV whenever they plant to do so. She's never really been pushed for the title that soon after one reign so it may be a while before she's seen again. I'm guessing she could even find herself on Smackdown after the draft to keep her away from it for a while. Perhaps they will have her feud with Natalya who's seemingly remaining heel, just without the title.
Now onto the match, I'm happy it was Layla instead of Kharma. I've said before that whenever Kharma returns, she'll have it easy. The fans will flock to her and it'll be memorable in its own right. Whatever she does, it'll be big. Layla on the other hand was someone who needed her return to be done right and I think in a way it was handled really well. True there was a quick "we want Kharma" chant but a lot of people also ignored that there was also a "welcome back" chant and a "let's go Layla" chant. Layla is very popular in her own right and this title win is a good thing. We all knew she'd be going after it eventually so why not cut out all the filler and start her off right where she left. She now has a few new Divas to feud with and I can't wait to see what they'll do with her. The match was pretty good as well, especially for one put together last minute. Layla looked so different in the ring from the last time we saw her and she now has a lovely fast paced almost luchador style of wrestling. And yet she makes it stand out from Kelly's waif-fu style and AJ's flippy/submission balance. I think if they plan to have Layla feud with Kharma then she has the right moveset to pull it off. After all, Layla is a former champion and dominated the division in 2010 so in kayfabe shouldn't she be able to hold her own against Kharma? As for the match itself, I loved it even if it was short. Nikki looked fine out there, she couldn't do much but she sold Layla's moves very well. Layla is a Diva who knows how to make a short match fun and exciting and that's what she did. My favourite move was probably her springboard crossbody as well as her pin that I will call the "Lay-Up" from now on. Only gripe is that we didn't see the Face Lift as well. 6.5/10

Raw - Layla* vs Nikki Bella vs Brie Bella (Divas' Championship):
Talk about Mood Whiplash. Thanks for the memories, Bellas. I guess people were expecting Kharma to show up on Raw and demolish them, which would have been a much better send-off, but nope we got this. I guess the only silver lining is that Layla got a successful title defence, so hopefully next week she can get a proper storyline or feud going on. Honestly though Eve's glasses were the highlight of the whole night. Anyone else see the resemblance between Eve and Brooke Tessmacher? Her promo was a bit bad but everyone has an off night. At least they're finding plenty of stuff for her to do. 1/10

NXT Watch:
No matches but some pretty good segments. Starting off, I had no idea JTG was even still employed but I guess I'm happy Alicia Fox is getting a storyline of her own at last. This is also the first time she's actually been paired with a black superstar in her career, unless you count her flirting with Booker T. Kaitlyn and Derrick Bateman were fun as always but Maxine and Johnny Curtis had me rolling around in stitches. I would love to meet whoever writes these NXT plots and campaign to have s/he promoted to writing for Raw and Smackdown. Hopefully more matches next week.

Impact - Velvet Sky & Brooke Tessmacher vs Gail Kim & Madison Rayne:
Predictable but a much better show than last week. It seems Velvet hasn't entirely been forgotten about which I am overjoyed about. Now with Brooke vs Gail set for Sacrifice it could mean that we graduate into a triple threat with Velvet involved. That would be a good direction to go in and it would be a lot more fresh than going back to Gail/Velvet. If Gail retains at Sacrifice then she should drop to Velvet in a triple threat match. It honestly wouldn't matter who got pinned but they could use it as an excuse to turn Brooke heel and make her feud with Velvet. Of course that would break up TNT but TNA do seem to flip flop on their tag teams these days anyway. And once Velvet has retained against Brooke they can also explore Brooke/Tara as a separate mini-feud to go along with whatever Velvet has to offer. The match was really fun and Velvet was looking great early on. It's funny how she and Gail have worked better in tag team competition than they have in singles matches. I'm actually in love with heel Gail right now and she continues to exude more personality than she's known for. She's always said she feels she's a natural heel and I'm inclined to agree with her now. Brooke was booked a lot better in this match than she was last week and the end was creative. I like the idea of robbing finishers because the likes of Stone Cold and The Rock used to do it all the time but you never really saw the women doing it. Good showing from the Knockouts this week. 7/10

FCW - Raquel Diaz* vs Audrey Marie (Divas' Championship):
Good lord, another title match between these two? Oh well, I've read spoilers for the next few episodes and they do offer up something new and fresh. That being said, I didn't like this match as much as I did the past two they had months ago. This one felt awkward and the exchanges were sloppy. In places it seemed like neither of them had any idea where they were in the ring and Raquel was stumbling around in a few places as well. The match did get a bit better as it went on but honestly the damage had been done from the iffy opening so I could really get into it. Raquel did keep me happy with her personality throughout the whole thing and she's slowly becoming as great a heel as both her parents. It was interesting to see her going for a Piledriver and Audrey's counter was nice but the end was bad. It looked awkward and improvised which is not a good thing. Hopefully more of Paige, Sofia Cortez and Caylee Turner in the weeks to come. 5/10

Smackdown - Layla vs Natalya:
I had hoped that Layla and Natalya would feud with each other but I guess there goes that idea. I had also hoped that WWE would see fit to give Layla more time to wrestle. I believe last week's match was longer than this one. However both Layla and Natalya are students of the art of telling a short story. Their chemistry was always amazing and now we get to see them wrestle with the face/heel roles reversed. The dynamic works just as well here and I'd love to see them properly feud again because I feel that given enough time and effort they could make an arena full of people stand up and applaud after a match. Layla's popularity was evident as she got a huge pop at the sound of her music and the crowd remained relatively interested while the match was going on. It's also nice that Layla wins her matches with more than just roll-ups. In other news AJ slapped Kaitlyn again but this time did not look remorseful for it. Is AJ turning heel? I wouldn't mind seeing that since we do have too many faces at the moment and AJ has been known to work well as a heel, judging from her FCW stuff. The idea of a Layla/AJ feud makes me excited too. The crowd cares about both women so it could be a nice two month programme. As an aside, perhaps we'll get a grudge match between AJ and Kaitlyn at Over The Limit. The PPV is in two weeks and this would be a much better match to have than a Divas' title match thrown together with only two weeks of build-up. Also we saw more of Aksana who seems to be turning heel as well, thus evening out the dynamic. I don't think Aksana is ready for a title push just yet but as always I'd like to see her take on a more regular wrestling role. I'm guessing they could take this pairing with Antonio over to NXT and feud with Kaitlyn and Derrick Bateman or else JTG and Alicia Fox. Or they could give Antonio a partner and make them feud with the Tag Team Champions. The possibilities are endless right now. 7/10