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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wrestlemania Time

Only because I feel that it would be disrespectful to let Wrestlemania pass by without writing something, here I am with my thoughts on this years event.
I’m not going to do predictions, I really don’t like reading them. Instead I’m just going to put down general thoughts and the excitement I have for the matches that have especially grabbed my attention. Oh and I’m not going to say anything about the ‘Divas’ match other than it has absolutely no draw for anyone. I don’t even know who Maria Menounos is, I know I probably spelt her name wrong but that just proves my point.. Good with that out of the way…
The World Heavyweight Championship match should be great. Daniel Bryan is my current favourite (see more in the forthcoming ROH study). His title run has been fantastic in my mind. While many have said he wasn’t ready to pick up the belt, I’d argue that he has provided some of the best entertainment in recent months and while the match against Sheamus hasn’t really been built on story, in a sense its stronger for it. The match is just what it is, two rising stars fighting for the title. It also has the extra attraction that this match was cut (rather confusingly) from last years card. With such a backlash from fans I think WWE made the smart move holding it this year, it reminds me of Leeds/Reading festival one year – The White Stripes were scheduled to play and then Jack White broke his hand. As a solution they were announced as headline act for the next years event, this could also be likened to the Cena/Rock match. Obviously outside of all this the idea that D.Bryan has become a twerp is the main story – Sheamus just happens to be the top face that can take him down, its just a good old fashioned wrestling angle with a fresh face. I’m really looking forward to this match and am thrilled that it’s happening.
Punk and Jericho has had some real ups and downs throughout the feud. I’ve enjoyed the highs and I think Punk is coming off really well. I’d almost be happy if the match just consisted of Punk repeatedly elbowing Jericho in the face for his recent playground bullying. But by that I mean the result of this feud is exactly what it should be – making the audience desperate to see Punk get his revenge. I’d also add Jericho’s trolling since his return has been frustratingly fun and keeping him off TV for the last two weeks has only made him seem more manipulative.
I’m excited to see where the battle for the brands goes, should be good midcard mayhem and I’m really pleased with the fact Cody Rhodes has a singles match for the IC Title.
I really don’t need to say anything about ‘The End of an Era’ match. However I would like to offer an alternative take on the title. To me the era in question is actually the era since ‘Ruthless Aggression’. Although its true that the Triple H and ‘Taker were involved with the ‘Attitude Era’ and the stipulation for their match this year reinforces that, ‘The Streak’ has only been a major selling point for the event for the last five or six years. Before this the streak was increasingly involved with Wrestlemania but never to its recent extent. In my mind ‘End of an Era’ signifies the end of the current era in WWE and the beginning of a new one.
Rock/Cena – I have posted on this before. It should be epic and has been built really well in the last couple of months. I hope it delivers.
That’s about all the excitement I can muster for now, so until next time, make mine Mania!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Once in a Lifetime

 There’s something interesting happening in the ‘WWE Universe’. Just under a year ago the match of John Cena vs The Rock was finally announced. The announcement after Wrestlemania XXVII (which The Rock would make an appearance as guest host) came after a great feud between the pair in the lead up to that event. In fact the feud between Rock and Cena would be so strong it would detract from Cena’s main event WWE title match against The Miz, which in turn was built fairly badly. To further The Rock’s part in the feud he would eventually abuse his power to interfere in what was a really strange match anyway, restarting it after a double count out and immediately screwing Cena. Frustratingly we would have to wait a year to see the resulting match between the pair, however in the last month I have become re-interested in what has resulted in an off beat and unique story.

Over the course of the last year we have seen the feud, which has been built in a series of sparse instalments, based on ‘twitter wars’, trending topics and satellite feeds without seeing very much of the two stars interact with each other in the physical realm. All the while Cena has been pushed in a slightly more knowing way having to overcome a series of obstacles the likes of which he has never before faced; a wrestling ‘terrorist’ (in the form of CM Punk) absconding with the WWE title only to later haunt and taunt when Cena finally thought he’d won the ‘war’ and the title again (all the while also managing to save his own job), a second fleet of terror in the form of The Miz and evil R Truth who seemed to have formed themselves in a more extreme but less effective version of Punk – all the while having to team with The Rock himself, and of course most recently Kane presenting Cena with the idea that the audience had began to turn on him forcing Cena to ‘Rise Above Hate’. This has been building all the way to Wrestlemania season, where we would finally get the main feud for the much hyped match.
 What we have been presented with in the last few weeks as a result however, actually feels embedded with a decent history between the pair. But more interestingly than any beef these two men have with each other, is the beef that the audience have and are beginning to declare about both men. And I think we are in position where the WWE as well as Rock and Cena have been caught slightly off guard. We have seen various promos establishing a war of words between the two over a number of weeks, however increasingly we are hearing boo’s for The Rock… and less for Cena. What has gone from a disgruntled crowd with building fury against Cena has begun to turn since the Kane feud. Cena has dropped some of the nice guy act, (notice he has ended every promo recently by dropping and in some cases throwing down his mic ‘Pipebomb’ style),  he has began adapting to the crowds criticisms and he has also adopted a lot of ‘reality era’ traits. And by ‘reality era’ I suppose I’m referring to dressed down insults that reference something outside of the gimmick, something that indicates John Cena the person, rather than ‘John Cena’ the character, dislikes something about Dwayne Johnson, rather than disliking something about ‘The Rock’. This is another element that I first recall CM Punk doing to Randy Orton insisting on calling him ‘Randall’. It seems obvious to me that the reason Cena has this over The Rock is because he has a greater understanding of the current, which makes sense. The Rock is relying on tried and tested formulas to win cheers from the crowd – there are a lot of cheap pops in The Rock’s repertoire. Yes, he is creating trending topics instantly (another first that is great to witness), such as now popular ‘Fruity Pebbles’ and more recently ‘Kung Pow Bitch’, however in terms of ingenuity this is really the same stuff he would come up with in the 90’s, which is interesting as so many Internet fans have been asking for the 90’s back, but ultimately it doesn’t mean anything and is, quite frankly, slightly dumb by comparison, if not catchy.

Last Monday for me the turn became evident. The crowd interacting with everything The Rock had to say and also seemed really into Cena too (having his home town crowd surely helped), however during part of The Rock’s confrontation with Cena, the crowd did something I didn’t expect, they began to chant ‘Tooth Fairy’. The Rock was mid rant, throwing his cartoon insults at Cena when the audience themselves threw the softest sounding insult they could, directed at Dwayne Johnson. Dwayne Johnson the actor, not The Rock. However in a story line where The Rock has insisted that the two are the same, it does beg the question how much do the audience still truly believe in The Rock? In one chant, all of The Rock’s one liner ammunition was slightly compromised. 

Whatever the match is like at Wrestlemania we have seen a first, a unique story that has relied on social media and audience participation in a way never before seen in this form of entertainment. I’d like to finish on a note that when Hogan faced The Rock at Wrestlemania X8, the audience shocked people and turned Hogan who came in as a major nWo heel to a babyface, and the crowd was really split. I think this is another unique moment for the WWE audience as it is really unclear who takes which position in the Cena/Rock feud. The match is sold as Face vs Face, however to many Cena is a heel, to some (and increasingly so) The Rock is a heel – there are combinations of which wrestler falls into which slot depending on the audience memberis and it will be interesting to see what the crowd think on the night. As a fan I am finding myself in a unique position, in that I am actually routing for John Cena to win. And that truly is a first.