❖ The Story of Edge

Edge’s new documentary begins in a way no other WWE-produced documentary ever has. The entire feature is framed around an interview with Edge by 102.1 The Edge in Toronto the morning before ‘Edge Appreciation Night’ last summer. Within a few minutes of the interview, the interviewer asks Edge about his retirement, and how life is now that he isn’t a full time wrestler. Edge, in a surprising turn, suggests that he doesn’t miss the wrestling life at all.

This isn’t the kind of thing you expect to hear from a newly-retired superstar, especially considering how few wrestlers ever really retire (injuries be damned, for the most part). But Edge’s attitude is one of real acceptance. His doctor said he couldn’t wrestle, so he’s not hung up about not being able to. It’s a theme that resonates throughout his career. If he can do something, he does. If he can’t, then he doesn’t. Edge isn’t a character that worries about the what-ifs: he’s an ultimate opportunist who makes his own luck. Adam Copeland isn’t a man who worries about the what-ifs: he buys a house in the middle of nowhere and climbs mountains every day.

Adam also explains that he has worked hard on separating himself from the Edge character. It’s clear that he’s seen how difficult many wrestlers find letting go, and he wants nothing to do with that tension. Calling himself Adam as often as possible is one way to go: becoming a bit of a recluse is another. It’s a decision that seems to come easy for him, much like many things appeared to come easily for him. The documentary explains that he received a WWE contract after only a few years toiling in the indies. He just goes up, up, and up from there.

The only thing that plagues Adam throughout his career are injuries, and these are thoroughly documented and explained. The Story of Edge is also the story of how a choreographed show still takes a serious toll on the body, especially the kinds of matches Edge redefined. We are shown ladder shots, then X-ray tests. We’re shown highlight reels, and then concerned family members. Every incredible, death-defying maneuver is contrasted with a consequence.

So we know about the great tag team antics with Christian. We know about the eventual Money in the Bank win and his ascension to the main event. We know about his great feuds with John Cena, the Undertaker, and others. We totally forgot about his work with Batista, but they’re ready to remind us. The typical stuff is there. I wonder, though, why they omitted so much? Why gloss over his intercontinental title work? Why omit the entire feud with Jericho (almost nothing from 2010 makes it in; even the Rumble victory is only shown as a clip).

I think it’s because they wanted us to know Adam, even if we have to forget a few things about Edge. The relationship with Lita in 2005 is given lots of time, as is his relationships with his close family and friends (all of them in attendance as talking heads, including ex-employees Rhyno and Batista). In fact, I wonder if more time was spent on this documentary to promote the idea of Adam, now that we’ve been somewhat robbed of Edge.

Everyone is awash with compliments, mostly on just how bloody nice Adam is. It comes across: he’s winning in every scene, and there’s a sparkle to his smile few people have. He’s truly worry-free, or at least he’s doing his best to look it. But, I wonder, what does WWE have to gain selling a documentary showing a happy, retired guy who has no desire to even try to wrestle ever again? If you ask me, it’s a WWE at peace with itself, finally ready to admit that its universe isn’t the be all end all.

But on the other hand, I wonder if it’s trying to promote something larger, something it feels it’s tapped into in society. Last year, when Punk won the WWE Championship and walked away from the company (it was a gloriously long week for wrestling fans), I wrote something called Left and Leaving. I wrote about this idea that people these days, more than anything, just want to go home and stay there:

When did simply going home and staying there become a thing we sought after? I don’t remember, but I certainly feel it. A lot of people feel it. Maybe the last generation wanted to punch out their boss. Maybe back then Stone Cold Steve Austin made them feel really good, because they could imagine what it would be like if they could act like he did. But today, these days, it’s about going home. That’s all any of us want, it seems. We want to sit on our couch and cuddle our girl and watch HBO. We want to lazily wander around at home and chat with our friends and Tumblr for hours. We want to be left the fuck alone and only dip into society when we goddamn feel like.

It’s still true for CM Punk, but it’s really true for Adam. Watch this documentary, and tell me you don’t want to follow in his footsteps and find a place where there’s nothing but you and mountains. Tell me you don’t want to shut off the world and hammer a giant tire with a sledgehammer all day. Tell me you don’t want what Adam has.

With The Story of Edge, WWE has found the new American Dream. It’s not success: it’s blissful resignation after success.

❖ Will any story conclude at TNA Lockdown 2012?

I’ve been writing this feature for WWE ppvs since Night of Champions last year, but I’ve never tried it on a TNA ppv. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but every single ppv since October of last year has felt like a chapter in a longer story. That’s great, I think anyway, but it doesn’t lend to this kind of article. I’m interested in finding story conclusions, and there haven’t been any since Bound for Glory. The only titles that have changed hands since then are the tertiary ones—the TV title, the knockouts tag titles, and the men’s tag titles—that TNA doesn’t really write major stories around. But even those titles have been part of stories going back to autumn of last year.

If you pay attention to TNA, though, you’ll notice that they’ve treated Lockdown as a climatic point in their calendar, often moreso than any other event. Slammiversary used to be the place to get a cool and shocking major title change, and Bound for Glory used to be the place to watch Sting in a major match, but Lockdown is still the show where the regular wrestlers on staff who hate each other finally battle it out. But will these climatic battles actually lead to satisfying conclusions? That’s what we’re here to speculate.

Matt Morgan vs Crimson

This is it for these two. The story is that they were a tag team that began to lose a lot, and each guy blamed the other. Crimson is also undefeated, but nobody cares. Whoever wins will go on to do something slightly different, but not really. Maybe they’ll fight Devon.

Robbie E vs Devon, TV Title

Devon won the TV title in a really feel-good moment a month ago, and this should be a fun defence with a satisfying end to this thing the two of them have had going, mostly on xplosion. If this were Wrestlemania, they’d get shoved to the dark match, but it isn’t, so it’ll probably go on third and get 12 minutes.

Velvet Sky vs Gail Kim, Knockouts Title

I’m sorry to say I don’t really know much about this story. It does reach back to Bound for Glory, where Velvet finally won the Knockouts title, only to quickly lose it a week or two later to a returning Gail Kim. In what’s been an impressive six-month reign, Velvet has never received a proper one-on-one rematch. What’s interesting about this is it’s almost exactly the same build as the main event, except without the backstory.

Besides the long wait for Velvet, though, Gail has been doing other things the whole time, which means this is likely match 1 of a few between them. Expect this to keep going.

Motor City Machine Guns vs Magnus & Samoa Joe, Tag Team Championships

This story is the only really fresh one on the card, beginning a few weeks ago when the MCMG’s returned and promptly demanded a title match. That’s the entire story, basically, so I can’t assume this is the only chapter. Expect one team to grow some bad-guy balls and cheat to win, continuing this feud for at least another month.

Jeff Hardy vs Kurt Angle

As much as I hate to think it, they’re likely maneuvering Hardy back into the title picture in the spring. I don’t have a clue what they’re doing with Angle, but I’d guess roughly the same thing (almost all the PPVs between Lockdown and Bound for Glory have historically been multi-man, so it’s easy to factor them in). This is the last one-on-one match between these two, and probably the last time they ‘feud’ for a while. But they’re likely going to keep wrestling, looking for different things.

Lethal Lockdown: Team Eric Bischoff (Daniels, Kazarian, Bully Ray, Gunner, & Eric Bischoff) vs Team Garett Bischoff (Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Ken Kennedy, Rob Van Dam, & Garrett Bischoff), loser loses the rights to the Bischoff name.

If there’s one thing that Garett needs to do in order to be a professional wrestler in the world of professional wrestling, it’s lose the Bischoff name. That telegraphs the ending, but it should be a fun, bloody brawl anyway. I’m not expecting it to be as satisfying as Immortal vs Fortune was last year, even if all the same people are basically involved. Considering that this story has been going since Bound for Glory, expect this to be the conclusion.

Bobby Roode vs James Storm for the cursed TNA World Heavyweight Title

I can’t help but praise TNA here. They began this story last spring, revolving the Bound for Glory series around elevating these two guys to main event status. A few great scenes in October involving two title changes (one shocking, one nefarious) set it all in motion. This story has all the trappings of a classic wrestling feud: a focused, chasing hero against a ducking, dastardly villain. The feud has been personal, obvious, and generally very satisfying.

The only things that keep it from being a truly excellent feud is at part TNA’s fault, and partly the audience. Almost 4 months of the six-month feud has been spent with the two of them fighting other people in tangential stories. They’ve always been connected, but it sometimes felt too obvious they were going for a slow burn. The second problem is that TNA has never given us any reason to trust that they could pull this off. Their history is plagued with great beginnings ruined by changing things around halfway through. That they stuck to their guns here is commendable.

But is it the end for these two? Yes, I’d say so. I don’t see them elevating their feud another minute after this match. Much like Hardy and Angle, it’s possible they wrestle again, but the stakes won’t be as high (a four-way between them seems both likely and very missable). TNA has done their best making this match seem climatic, and however it goes down, Lockdown is  going to be it. Six months and a cage match is plenty for the modern wrestling fan. That’s half the length of Cena vs Rock, mind you, but with full-time wrestlers. You can’t really ask for more than that.

❖ Hubris, Focus, and Wrestlemania XXVIII

It isn’t often the case that a wrestling show feels cohesive. Generally, PPVs are 5–9 matches, all containing separate stories. Wrestlemania XXVIII felt, to me, as one long, repeated message. It was highlit in every match, suggested in every scene, and showcased from every camera angle: Do not, under any circumstances, take your eyes off the ball.

This message was clear from the opening video, which was focused on the two main events in a way almost no Wrestlemania opening video has been in many years. It showcased two focused dreamers growing up, working hard, and achieving their goals. The Rock and John Cena are separate men in separate generations, but as WWE Superstars, they tell a parallel story. These men are at the top because of their focus and drive, because they didn’t let anything stop them. That’s a strong message.

We have to talk about Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. Many wonder why, if a fast match had to occur, why it was not Show vs Rhodes. I think I can explain. But first, let’s talk about why this Wrestlemania began with this match. The opening contest of the show can rile up a crowd, but is also, in special circumstances, there to set the tone. Daniel Bryan and Sheamus was the second kind. It was there to say, “every match tonight is going to be a variation of this simple equation.”

What’s the equation? Focus vs Hubris. Every match on this card extented and toyed with that idea. It began simply, and quickly. The dominant Sheamus never took his eyes of his opponent, while Danial Bryan—by demanding a kiss from his girlfriend—did. It cost him. End of story.

I know people are going to ask if I consider the Rumble curse broken. Yes, Sheamus cashed in his Rumble win and picked up a world championship. But he did it in a way that, if anything, damaged the reputation of the title. What is that thing he’s carrying around? It’s not a championship under the defintion that I understand.

As for why Big Show and Rhodes went on third and were given time, I can offer two suggestions: for the Big Show to have a “Wrestlemania moment,” it has to come after people wonder if he will not. They had to, for a few minutes, create tension that Rhodes may deny him. Rhodes needed to toy with Show, so that we could see that Rhodes’ intentions here were not just to win, but humiliate.

The losers here were not all villains, as heroes are sometimes known to fall to hubris. That’s what happened with Orton, as he took too much time with what he—and everyone else—felt was an easy foe. That Kane’s victory was clean shows who the more focused of the two was. Kane knew exactly why he was in that ring. Nobody knows what Orton was even doing here.

WWE undoubtably wants each audience member to feel different things throughout the evening. Jubiliation is an obvious one, this year. The set, tone, and atmosphere was reminiscient of a great party, almost more ‘Summerslam’ than Wrestlemania. Palm Trees, neon signs and banners, orange and green and white everywhere you look for a mile around and nearly straight up. No fewer than a dozen times WWE showcased the arena in full-view from above, as if to suggest the full force of their universe. “This is what a good time is,” it said. That is, until the sun set.

The Undertaker and HHH were in a no-win scenario. The Undertaker has been in arguably the best match on the card for the last five years, and they’ve learned from 23, 25, and 27 that not putting him in the main event can severely diminish the show as a whole. Here, just over a quarter into the show, is the only place it can really happen. It’s placement also telegraphed the ending somewhat, but they did their damndest to make us believe otherwise.

You could tell simply by the entrances who was more focused. HHH’s involved another ode to cartoon barbarianism, with green lights and skulls and yada yada. It was there, and then it got deflated or something and immediately forgotten. The Undertaker’s entrance was spartan, especially for him, though no less grand. His jacket, full of spikes an excellent goth texture, ensured that Chris Jericho would not win best entrance attire. Finally, Undertaker’s haircut—a short buzz with a single line of slightly thicker hair down the middle—added another layer. He stripped away everything that might distract or get in the way.

Not that HHH didn’t exude focus, but he was focused on the wrong thing. He was determined to end the Undertaker. That meant steel steps, steel chairs, and sledgehammers to every part of his opponents’ body. That meant accosting Shawn Michaels into ringing the bell. But because there’s so much difference between hurting a man and defeating him, HHH’s hubris shone through.

This is as good a time to mention it as any, but Michael Cole stayed well within the bounds of his job. He, too, was focused on his task instead of petty arguments and twitter (which, I believe, was mentioned perhaps only twice and early on). Adding Jim Ross to the match gave it an enhanced sense of gravitas, though some of it was maybe too thickly delivered (‘carcinogenic right hands’ may sound cool phoenetically, but paints a very odd picture).

So often, we forget that there’s a third performer in the ring. The referee’s job is to be invisible until needed. A special guest referee’s job is generally to fuck something up that a normal referee would get right (or be super strong, though that’s almost never the case anymore). Shawn Michaels has a history of fucking things up as a referee, but that wasn’t really the case tonight. Instead, Shawn treated his place in the ring as an opportunity to showcase his ability to look tortured. Shawn Michaels is not one of the greatest performers in history just because of his cockiness and charisma, but also his depths of sorrow. Michaels has a range in a way that nobody else does. We’ve seen him emotionally pained before, but this was thunderous. As he became increasingly powerless to stop his best friend and his greatest rival from killing one another, the weight of the world pushed him down. He could barely contain himself as he cowered in corners, waiting for the end.

Last year, I wrote about how wrestlers should take more bows. HHH, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker took a bow before exiting. They knew that simply standing there, holding one another up, would elicit applause. I wish more wrestlers understood that. After a stirring performance, wait. The crowd will applaud you. They want to show you that they love this, too.

The 12-man tag suffered the exhausted crowd, but someone had to go on next, and I’m just thankful it wasn’t the ladies again. Once again, focus one the day. All the Miz wanted was to get a match at Mania. He got it, and he delivered. All Ryder wanted was for Eve to like him. That’s not a great goal for winning wrestling matches. It should be noted that Eve didn’t really do anything here except want to get in on Ryder’s chant. Zack’s the one who turned his back on a determined villain.

The video before the Women’s match was strange. It began with a video package about how great it was to be a Diva, as if they were actively recruiting. “See the world!” “Experince life!” “Have fun!”

Once again, focus won the day. The first thing I noticed about Maria Menounos was how small she was. I don’t mean skinny, as she clearly had muscle structure; I mean petite. You often forget, watching wrestling, just how much larger these people are. Also, how tanned. Maria wanted to win the match, broken ribs be damned. Beth and Eve wanted to look mean and pick on the little celebrity.

One note about the ladies match: I don’t think Maria was having any fun. It’s very possible that she was in real agony the entire time, and even Eve and Beth going easy on her may have been too much.

The night was sparse on interviews. It was even sparser on video segments. Of the main events, only Punk and Jericho received a highlight video, and nobody from any of the main events appeared before their match to speak. Though one could say that there isn’t much need since everyone they’re selling to is already watching, I’m sure there were some who wished to hear something from The Rock, at least.

But we did get something from Punk. Not a speech, but a short meeting with the new GM of WWE proper. John warned Punk about having anything other than a wrestling match. Read between the lines: don’t take your eye off the ball, professional wrestler. Focus.

Jericho took advantage of the new lose-title-by-DQ ruling early by bullying Punk. Thankfully, the gimmick was abandoned five minutes in, and the two best technical wrestlers to ever hold the WWE Championship proceeded to wrestle in the acceptable five-snowflake fashion. Someone in the front row brought a sign that said “CM Punk & Chris Jericho: The Art of Professional Wrestling.” I’m of the opinon that everything here, from best to worst, is art. But if we can all get ‘art’ to mean ‘great’, I’ll take it.

The final set of moves that led to Jericho’s submission—and subsequent comforting head scratch—involved a pair of small packages, no doubt a callback to the first perfect Wrestlemania match: Steamboat vs Savage. We live in a good age. Jericho lost not because he failed, but because he succeeded in becoming as close to Randy Savage in 1987 as possible, and Savage’s character had to lose. Jericho and Punk danced, and won together.

Brodus Clay: This is what happens when you cheer for something you don’t fully understand.

If you listen to Jason and I talk about the main event of Wrestlemania last year (and you should), you’ll hear me suggest that The Rock and John Cena’s story has been disappointing because it isn’t really for wrestling fans, but instead people who like feuding celebrities. That may sound like the same thing, but it is absolutely not. You’ve heard of the term ‘casual wrestling fan’ or ‘casual video game player’ or what have you, but I think Rock vs Cena was for the ‘casual person’. It was broad, obvious, and simultaneously opaque. There were no layers to this story because this story was not built to have layers.

The wrestling fan sees Rock and Cena as a wasted year, but the casual person sees Rock and Cena posters and commercials all over the place and is given as early and often notice as humanly possible to think about buying this show. It was the greatest pitch WWE has ever made to people who couldn’t care less about wrestling.

That is, of course, why the Rock won. They are absolutely not concerned about John Cena’s drawing numbers as the loser of Wrestlemania XXVIII. In fact, it’s a side bonus for them. If he had won and he’d stuck around, who would he fight? Now, Cena’s been knocked back down. He can start over. He can do something different. He can be challenged.

Besides, I thought we all hated it when Cena won all the time? Pick a side, marks.

Rock vs Cena was why this show was so cohesive. Imagine Wrestlemania XXVIII was the first wrestling show you’ve seen in your life. You have no idea who these characters are, or why you should care. But you’ve been sold on this vague notion of Wrestlemania because Rock vs Cena posters were everywhere and it felt like a big deal. How do you make someone like that choke down 4 hours of fake fighting? Make it all mean something. Communicate a theme, and weave the narrative through. That’s why Bryan and Sheamus was a storytelling device that was echoed throughout the night. That’s why The Undertaker stepped on HHH’s sledgehammer, smiled, and decked him in the neck. That’s why John Cena, filled with false pride, tried to hit The People’s Elbow on the Rock and was punished. Wrestlemania XXVIII, as a whole, needed to be digestible.

It also had to be unbelievable, because this is a fantasy land. Have you ever seen a night filled with so many faces unable to believe their eyes? With Bryan, anger; with Orton, panic; with Michaels, harrow; and finally, Cena, with a mountain of defeat. WWE wanted us to feel these things, too. They wanted us to having trouble believing this show.

It’s the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania III, which was the last time the world was really watching. Wrestlemania XXVIII may have finally taken them back there.

❖ Blood-Tinted Glasses

I’m of two minds on Timohy Bella’s on article in The Atlantic about Wrestlemania XXVIII. On the one hand, our messy little art form is being written about in The Atlantic, and not just in a puff piece that major magazines tend to do. Bella focuses on one match—HHH vs Undertaker III, as it really should be called—and raises a specific question: will the two old generals break through the PG barrier and bleed like stuck pigs for our entertainment?

But on the other hand, blood is the wrong thing to focus on. Blood isn’t a thing WWE does anymore. They don’t bring it back on special occasions, and they don’t tease it for hardcore fans. They just don’t do it. All blood in WWE today is accidental. Matches are stopped, and doctors are called in. Any WWE fan knows this, regardless of how many WWF fans that may still exist.[1] Why spend 1,500+ words of special Atlantic real estate on an absolute moot subject?

And, of all people, why interview Dave Meltzer, Bryan Alvarez and Kurt Angle? Were they the only ones who answered the phone?

“I would think that with these two guys, they’re performers, and in the back of my head, they may want to do it,” says Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. “There’s a policy, but those guys can kind of do what they want.”

Except they don’t. They were both fined and publicly shamed last year for using a steel chair on their skulls. If Dave Meltzer had any sense, he’d suggest the truth: there are no two guys on the roster who toe the company line better.

“If I could be exact about this, [Hell in a Cell] really has turned the business around,” Angle says. “In pro wrestling, since it is so dangerous, safety is always first. But in this type of match, there is no safety. You go and do it, and God willing you don’t get hurt.”

That’s a fine quote, but there have been no reports of any performer being injured from being in a cell match since 2002. If anything, it’s safer than the Elimination chamber, because the ‘floor’ of the cell is no different than a normal match. Only the roof has proven precarious, and nobody goes up there anymore.

“PG, because of Linda’s campaign and more because of promises made to sponsors, is here to stay for the foreseeable future,” says Bryan Alvarez, publisher of Figure Four Weekly. “But…I believe everything cycles in wrestling, and at some point in the future, maybe not next year but I think within the next decade, as a new generation comes up and wants something new and edgy, the blood will return.”

Either Alvarez has the shortest memory in history, or he’s forgotten that blood has generally been frowned upon at Wrestlemania long before the PG era. Famously, Vince McMahon chided Ric Flair for bleeding at Wrestlemania VIII.[2] Austin’s crimson mask at Wrestlemania XIII is iconic, yes, but also novel: who else bled at Wrestlemania, even during the Attitude Era?[3]

But as much as I’ve had my fun chiding Alvarez and Meltzer and Angle (are there three guys who like to live in the past as much as they?), none of them are wrong so much as their opinions are off-base from reality. The fatal flaw of this article comes, unfortunately, from Bella:

Triple H leveled Undertaker with a sledgehammer to the head, busting him open, as blood covered his face. Undertaker somehow won the match moments later, because, well, he doesn’t lose at WrestleMania. (He’s 19–0 at the event.) It was a night I haven’t forgotten, an invaluable part of my childhood.

Here’s the thing. I remember a lot about Undertaker vs HHH I. It’s a hard-hitting, smash-mouth, intense fight that goes all over the arena and uses all kinds of weapons (and features undoubtably the coolest chokeslam camera shot in history), but I had to actually re-watch it in order to prove to myself that there was, in fact, any blood at all.

There is, and it’s right where Bella says—at the end. You don’t even really see it until the match is over, when the Undertaker flips his hair (dirty blonde, at this point) back to reveal a messy, red, dripping forehead. It’s nothing like the blood from Austin in the next match, or even Flair ten years previous. But it’s a lot more than is acceptable now, that’s for sure.

What is it about blood, anyway? It’s disgusting, medically unsound, and doesn’t technically add anything to a wrestling match. So why do people go crazy for it? In a word, I guess, catharsis. It makes the match seem more legitimate somehow, even though we know how they do it. And we have lots of proof that blood and hyperviolence is what people liked about pro wrestling for a long time, so maybe there’s something to it.

But in my estimation, we have professional wrestling because it’s better for everyone involved to fake it. Why do we have to add layers to make it seem more real, when that’s not really the goal?

  1. You know, the guys who will still call the current product WWF, even though it’s been WWE for ten years. They are not wrestling fans.

  2. Bret Hart: “Flair was so obvious as he cut himself repeatedly that when he came back with several long, bloody cat scratches on his forehead, an angry Vince fined them each $500 for blading.” HITMAN, 287 (Random House, 2007).

  3. It is nice to see other people think of X-Seven as the official end-date of the Attitude Era.

❖ Will any Story Conclude at Wrestlemania?

I’ve been writing this feature article since Night of Champions, which is actually crazy consistent for me.[1] But since I’ve begun, I can tell the premise goes over the heads of some. These aren’t match predictions, because I think those are a) boring, and b) often not at all indicative of quality. I believe a more valuable thing to predict is whether or not a story will conclude at a show, because a) nobody else does it, and b) it’s actually rare, so getting it right feels better than simply calling a winner. Plus, it gives you, the prospective PPV purchaser, an overall idea if you will be satisfied by plot developments, not just match rankings.[2]

Before we get started on the showcase of the immortals, how did I do with Elimination Chamber?

WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match: CM Punk vs Dolph Ziggler vs Kofi Kingston vs The Miz vs R-Truth vs Chris Jericho

My prediction: lots of beginnings, no endings.

Hmm. I was deliberately vague because I really wasn’t sure they’d go with a clean, honest win by Punk. And they didn’t, since Jericho was never really eliminated (something they haven’t brought up enough). The other guys are all involved in the Team Johnny vs Team Teddy thing, too.

World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber Match: Daniel Bryan vs Great Khali vs Big Show vs Randy Orton vs Wade Barrett vs Cody Rhodes

Bryan is a lock to win because he’s the only logical foil for Sheamus at WM. This is Big Show’s last championship match in this run, which he will lose. This will also be Khali’s last main event match for a while, which he will also lose (probably early, too). This will also be the last time Orton and Barrett are in the ring at the same time for a while, because they’ll both be doing different things for Wrestlemania.

I’d say I nailed that one.

Kane vs John Cena in an ambulance match

It doesn’t matter who wins, what happens, and how many more creative injuries Zack Ryder endures: this match will be conclusive.

I was right about one thing: it didn’t matter what happened.

Tamina Snuka vs Beth Phoenix, Divas Championship

But it’s the first match between the two in what would hopefully be a few, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense, unless Tamina is going to win by something like DQ, setting up a climatic contest at WM, which would mean this is the Divas division’s story for the next while. I’m totally fine with this, but I have to wonder if they can save Kharma for after the biggest show of the year. I’m not sure they can.

I made the mistake of running along with the accepted IWC logic that Kharma would be involved in WM. We were all way off.

The only one I got really wrong was the ladies match, so I’m giving myself a ¾. Not bad, but I think I can do better.

Now, Wrestlemania is a different story than most PPVs. While we can head into, say, Vengeance and not expect a ton of climatic, satisfying conclusions, Wrestlemania is known for them, right? Good guys win, bad guys lose, justice is served, and everyone goes home happy. Wrestlemania is the one show every year where they get it right, do the right thing by their performers, and leave everyone satisfied.[3] You’d think, of all the shows on the calendar, this is the one that healthily wraps it all up.

Unfortunately, that’s just not so. Almost every main event in WM history has either continued a feud or began one; only a select few are climatic conclusions.[4] Wrestlemania is, perhaps, the best example that wrestling companies only do an ending when they absolutely have to, and generally avoid it at all costs. But how is this one, the 28th in the line, stacking up? Let’s find out.

Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Divas Champion Beth Phoenix & Eve

Despite a few setbacks both physically and grammatically (WWE.com writes: “Despite suffering two broken ribs while rehearshing for ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, Menounos suffered two broken ribs.”), this match looks like a go. The description on WWE.com also makes the story seem much longer than it appears on television, as it’s been on-and-off for nearly two years between the four of them.

Being a celebrity-injected match means it’ll be short, gimmicky, and the celebrity will go away the next day and all three of them will go and do different things.

Randy Orton vs Kane

This is the least-fleshed-out of all the stories on the show, and it’s something I wouldn’t mind see bumped to the pre-show (and, because it’s airing on wwe.com, that’s a possibility). But either way, I’d predict that these two have at least one more major PPV match, something hardcore and lawless where Orton can go crazy and Kane can do Kane things.

Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny

As multi-man matches on WM go, this is perhaps the most fun prospect since Money in the Bank (sorely missed last year). It promises to be a medly of sharp bad guy wrestling against high-flying and silly wrestling. Everyone will have a good time.

It’s also the only match on the show with real reprucussions, as the winning team’s GM gets to take over the entire thing. Wouldn’t this be lovely if it led to a brand unification? My guess is this is conclusive, with the ramifications slowly leaking out throughout the month.

Big Show vs Cody Rhodes

Check out this sentence from the WWE.com description: “If he can make it past The World’s Largest Athlete, he will be champion for 234 days and could be considered a top contender to face either Sheamus or Daniel Bryan after their WrestleMania clash comes to a close.”

When was the last time a mid-level belt holder was considered a number one contender? I’d say this is good foreshadowing for the rest of spring, and the real hint of this match: both guys are going in very different directions post-WM. I doubt there’ll even be a rematch.

World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus

The pre-show dark match of last year gets a major title this year, with both characters having evolved in the past few months. Sheamus has become the de facto babyface of the WWE in the most classical style: shit-eating grin, dominant wins, and a total amnesia regarding his past villainy. Bridey has done preciesely the opposite, except he also sports a lovely grin. I feel Sheamus’ work was better as a villain (which I think they’ll return to sooner rather than later), and his part in this story has been minimal. Winning the Royal Rumble just doesn’t have the lustre it used to, and it isn’t just because the last 4 winners have choked. It’s because only one of them was even in the main event.

Winning the Royal Rumble used to mean that you were the guy. That’s fine that it isn’t now (WWE has more mechanisms at its disposal for that), but by de-valuing the win, they’ve left a void of why we should care.

This match also fits the bill of a first-of-many series that begin at Wrestlemania. I’d expect this to be a fine chapter one, with better matches (due to longer time) given at the next two PPVs.

WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho

Whether or not this story continues is entirely up to Chris Jericho’s contract, which nobody knows anything about.[5] He could stick around for another five years, or he could be gone after Sunday. He’s purposefully unpredictable, and that’s fine, but it makes this job pretty hard.

I’ll veer on the edge of continuation, though. There’s a lot more gas in this tank, and just like with the other championship match, both guys shine better in more intimate settings.

The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Hell in a Cell Match with special referee Shawn Michaels)

This match will be conclusive, and we will not see anything from the three of them for many months.

John Cena vs. The Rock

There will not be a rematch this year, and perhaps never, and the two of them will be megapowers buddies until the end of time after this show. But the less obvious question is, where do these two go separately after this? Much like Jericho, so much about the continuation of the Rock in WWE has to do with his own desire to stick around. I think it’s a safe assumption that he won’t be around for a while.

John Cena will be, though. But what will he do? I had some ideas yesterday, but I’m seriously concerned. What does he do that doesn’t appear like a huge step down from this? It’s perhaps WWE’s biggest narrative problem right now.

I hope you all enjoy the show. I will be watching it on the big screen at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto. If you want to join me for pre-show drinks, I’ll be at the bar.

  1. Okay, so I missed Survivor Series, but the only story that ended there was the “Awsome truth” tag team, created for the sole purpose of having villains for Rock and Cena.  ↩
  2. Nobody has ever been satisfied by match rankings in the history of this great fake sport.  ↩
  3. Except (in my own opinion) 1989, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2005, and 2006.  ↩
  4. And those are generally because one guy is leaving.  ↩
  5. People assume a lot about both of these guys’ contracts, don’t they?  ↩

❖ K Sawyer Paul interviews professional wrestler Mia Yim

This interview also appears at Fair to Flair as a contribution to Women’s Wrestling Month.

What made you interested in being a professional wrestler? Tell us a little about your background, how you got into the business, the kind of character you enjoy playing.

I first started watching WWE when I was 8 years old. I use to watch with my sister and father. I grew up a tomboy so I was always interested in Football, Wrestling, Hockey, etc. I wanted to play all those sports but they were considered “Boy” sports. I saw Chyna and Lita on WWE and found out that I can do that too. I was 18 when I enrolled myself into a training school. I been involved with sports all my life. I am a second degree black belt, and also a volleyball player for 8 years (Got a scholarship for it for college). I started training under John Kermon and Bobby Shields. They taught me the basics and gave me a great foundation. They been my mentors since day 1. I trained for about a year in a half before I had my first match. I soon started training at CZW, under DJ Hyde, Drew Gulak, and Blk Jeez and the ROH Academy with Daizee Haze and Delirious. I gained so much more knowledge and insight of the sport the more I got training, especially from two totally different types of companies.

My character is Joshi based. I have became a huge fan of Puroresu (Japanese Pro Wrestling) and looked up to Japanese wrestlers such as Aja Kong, Manami Toyota, Hayato Jr, and Koji Kanemoto. I started to develop my character bit by bit the more I watchs Puroresu. I then went overseas and trained at REINA and Zero1 and got more experience wrestling that style. I enjoy Japan and everything they have to offer. I would love to live there and pursue a wrestling career there.

Now that you’ve performed in wrestling for some time, what keeps you going? What keeps it challenging, and what kind is your dream wrestling role?

I always try to challenge myself whether it is with training or dieting. I always keep myself busy so I can look forward to the next weekend. I aim for certain goals, and once I achieve them, I make a new goal. This is my passion and I just past my second year wrestling, it is still fresh and extremely fun for me. i take this very seriously, and it pushes me everyday. Daizee Haze gave me lots of information about nutrition and diet so I try to apply that to, not just to my career, but to my general lifestyle. I have lots of goals I still like to accomplish such as making a name for myself in Japan (or just making a name for myself in the sport) and to wrestle some of my idols.

You mention the term sport in regards to wrestling. Do you feel that wrestlers still consider what they do a sport? To frame that properly, I mean to say, do you consider the “legitimacy” of wrestling to still be in play? Or is the structure, choreography, and fan reaction the sportive elements now?

I like to call it a sport because to me, it is considered a sport. I know that has some choreography to it, but athletics is still involved. You see cheerleaders do choreographed dances and participate in competitions. Just because there isnt a scoreboard doesnt mean it is not a sport.

So much stress in wrestling is placed on telling a story. What kind of stories do you enjoy telling? What kind of reaction are you hoping for?

I am not involved in alot of storylines currently as I am still new in the business. I have been involved in some, and it just just trying to get over who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. Depending on the role, if you are a bad guy and you get hate and boos from the crowd, that is what you are looking for. As a good guy, you are looking for support and/or sympathy from the crowd. I enjoy playing both, but to me, being the good guy is a lot more easier in my opinion.

What do you feel women’s wrestling brings to the table, as something different from men’s wrestling? Is there a distinction in styles, in what can and can’t be done?

I dont think we bring anything different, if anything, I feel that women try to bring the same stuff to the table as males. I am huge on equality in the sport.Of course a guy may be bigger and stronger, but just because one is a female dont mean they should automatically be opted out of a match with a guy. Women wrestlers (Not the eye candy), in my opinion, just try to have the same type of matches and on the same level as the men.

To extend that idea, how important do you feel novelty is in wrestling? I think this is an interesting distinction: In sport, it’s generally valuable to be able to properly execute a playbook. In performance art, it’s generally valuable to hit marks and evoke emotion through repetitious movements. But in wrestling, there appears to be an expectation to see something new out of performers on a regular basis.

Bringing something new is expected, but why do something new if you perfected a certain attitude/move that wow the crowd everytime? There are plenty of people who change up way too much, and it will just confuse everyone and wont be memorable. If you stick to one particular thing you are good at, you will be known for it.

I’ve got this theory that eventually, there won’t be a male or female division: we’ll just have wrestlers, and wrestling skill—not strength,
speed, etc—will be the thing that separates performers. I’ve noticed this happening on the indy scene with increasing consistency, and I
think it’s only a matter of time before a woman wins a major world title. What you make of this trend?

I HOPE this happens. I have wrestled plenty of indy companies such as CZW and Anarchy Championship Wrestling that looks at every wrestler as a wrestler, not a female or male. We all are treated the same, given the same opportunities. I only hope this continues to spread throughout the world. Who knows, maybe one day it will be a common thing.

Finally, I’d love to hear your thoughts on wrestling as a whole. Are you happy with where the industry is? If you were in charge of things, what would you change?

The industry can always be better, but then again I have only dealt with it for a little more than two years. I dont know how the indy circuit was ten years ago, so I cant really have a say. I love the industry in Japan because it is taken so seriously and it is filled with wrestlers who also have the same passion in putting on a good match. I have met people who do it to try to get on WWE or just for attention, but in Japan, everyone that I have met has the love for the sport, even if they dont go anywhere with it. I would of course change the outlook of female wrestling and make it more respected and level with the guys.

Thanks so much for being part of this.

No thank you for allowing me to do this, It was fun and I hope we can do more articles together ^.^

Mia Yim can be found on her personal website, Twitter, and Facebook. You can buy the first volume of her greatest matches here.

❖ Trust Miz

Screen Shot 2012 03 28 at 4 37 51 PM

Looks like The Miz and I are thinking along the same lines. Here’s a few tweets of mine from two weeks ago:

Screen Shot 2012 03 28 at 4 41 37 PM

The more I think about The Rock vs John Cena, the more I realize that Wrestlemania’s aren’t the end-point of a year (really, any year), but a beginning. It’s a pace-setter for what’s to come. Who was in the main event of WMXXVII? The Miz and John Cena, who competed against one another for the rest of the year. The Rock vs John Cena has been happening in the background, too, sure, but the likelihood of the same thing happening is basically nill. I don’t think they’re kidding about “once in a lifetime,” and I think they know the diminishing returns of putting Rock vs Cena on something like an Extreme Rules or a Survivor Series. Nobody will care. People only care about this match because it’s happening at Wrestlemania.

And if Rock leaves, because he will, who do we have? Well, we have the winner of last year’s WM main event. I always thought it was strange that The Miz’ sights have never left John Cena. He doesn’t begrudgingly respect him, like HHH and Orton and R-Truth. He hasn’t turned into a pseudo good guy. He hasn’t forgiven him. Miz still hates Cena’s guts. It’s a detail I love about the character.

Almost every year, the next few PPVs offer various shuffling of the WM card, often with added gimmicks or participants. But I can absolutely guarantee you we will not see Rock vs Cena in any variation again this year. So we have a post-WM problem. Who does Cena face? What main events the next PPV? What stories will WWE tell when it’s done this one? I can’t remember a year when the day after Wrestlemania was so utterly unknown as this one.

But maybe our answer lies in the recent past. But why do Miz and Cena again? Miz would have to do something to make John want to fight him. There’s no title here. That belt is thankfully miles away. But what if the Miz ruined Cena’s chances? What if he ruined his big moment? By himself, or with a bunch of other guys who hate Cena (it’s not a small list), could The Miz destroy this event in order to setup the rest of the year?

❖ Wrestlemania Preview Posters: a 28-year retrospective

I’ve got two pre-Wrestlemania articles planned this week, both having literally nothing to do with Wrestlemania XXVIII. The first is a rundown of all 28 Wrestlemania posters, detailing what I think of them, what they were trying to portray, and how they look in retrospect. In case you’re wondering, all the posters are from Wikipedia, and are generally the “pre-show” posters, made a few weeks before for promotional purposes. They may or may not be the ones used for DVDs or, in the case of 22, ones that anyone would want to see again.


The first Wrestlemania poster had a lot to get across: We are a wrestling show! You should buy this or we’re all going to lose our jobs! No titles are going to change hands! Instead, they went for Hulk Hogan (a popular wrestler but to a general audience just an unknown balding body builder in early 1985) motioning towards a threatening Mr T, as if to say “Hey, look we have this guys. Please buy this show. Also, red, white and blue ropes. America! Right?


This poster is awful. It’s like a graphics designer from 1918 got hired and decided that King Kong Bundy deserved equal real estate with Hulk Hogan, just because he was this month’s punching bag. The text is too small, the fonts are too random, and the fact that the event is in three distinct locations is placed down in the fine print.


If you’re going to do a one on one poster this isn’t the worst way to do it. I mean, it shares way too much in common with the poster for The Sting, but it’s not bad. It gets the message across. These guys fighting is such a big deal, we’re going to leave everything else off. It shows focus, at least.


Wrestlemania IV is a contended issue amongst wrestling historians: many love it for its novelty and progressive approach to building new stars; others hate it because many matches are unwatchably bad and 4 hours set a terrible president they should have never brought back with XVII. Also, the two men in the main event of the show are not the two men on the poster. The two men on the poster got disqualified.


The last Wrestlemania of the 80s is also the first one to sport awful text graphics, a foreboding hint of what’s to come. Instead of keeping wrestlers in boxes or circles, this poster just cuts them out and places them, making V the first (but not the last!) to look like a bad photoshop job.


Much like the Ultimate Warrior himself, there’s nothing about this poster that isn’t gloriously offensive to all the senses. The Wrestlemania logo is tilted! The VI is tilted the other way! There are five different colours with five different font choices. They are standing on a mountain during a world-ending thunderstorm! You literally can’t see their names, because the colour is essentially the same as the background. Surely, one to frame.


I’m not an American, and I was never a big Hulk Hogan fan. But I can’t really criticize this poster too much. At least it gets the message across in a thematic way, and I like to think that Wrestlemania is more of a cultural idea than any one particular wrestler or match. Bonus points for making “Stars and Stripes Forever” in the same graphic style as the credits for R-Type.


I don’t know if this is WWE’s fault or if it was just 1992 and everything looked like that. Fucking blast processing. This poster is likely the result of someone at the company finally buying a Mac and saying “Hey, look at all these effects! Let’s use all of them!” The WM logo is just sort of drooping, Sid and Hogan are waaaaaaay too tanned, and Flair could simply not give less of a shit.


Wrestlemania IX was the only real “theme” WM until 21, and it shows in the poster. It’s all about the fact that the show is at Ceasar’s, and only kind of about Bret Hart. But it’s a thousand times better than VIII for visual clarity and getting the idea of the event across. Too much order information for my liking, though.


X was the first poster to show no wrestlers at all, putting over the idea that Wrestlemania was bigger than any one person (incidentally, it’s the first one to not feature Hogan). The logo is a decent modification, but the regality of it was not evident in the event at all (X is also a throwback to the first WM, where there is basically no set piece.) It’s sort of like the 1988 Batman poster, except with a wave effect.


Cool. It’s another very 90s concept, going for more of an X-Files vibe, more than likely due to the increased importance of the Undertaker to WWE. It’s also the first WWE poster a 90s goth kid could put up. I’m literally shocked they beat the urge to put Lawrence Taylor and Bigelo all over this.


The only real distinction of the XII poster is that it’s the first (and not the last!) to give over real estate to a guy that isn’t on the show. Obviously these are made months in advance, but I’m not even sure Razor Ramon was doing anything meaningful in the fall or winter of 1995. Otherwise, it’s typical and drab. The 20th century fox-style logo looks contrived. The Undertaker’s stupid mask looks just as dumb today as it did in 96.


I’m all for changing the colour of the WM logo, and I’m all for conceptual posters, but 13 falls flat. First off, how dare they not use a roman numeral for the first time. How dare they suck in the “World Wrestling Federation” to look like it’s imploding when fire generally explodes things. And, come on—Heat? The only person who had heat at WM13 was Shawn Michaels’ smile.


The WMXIV poster kicks ass. All three guys look like absolute bad asses, mostly because the pictures are in black and white (why don’t they do that more?) and it makes them look like mug shots. They dropped the “X-Raided” thing and didn’t mention it once during the show, so I’ll forgive them for that. The rotating N64-style logo ages well, too. Another thing I like: no number. It’s just Wrestlemania, people. It’s just that time of year.


The only good thing about 1999 was “69 Love Songs” from the Magnetic Fields: everything else about that year could be erased from history and nobody would notice. This godawful airbrush-style poster can go straight to hell.


There may be other Wrestlemania 2000 posters out there that tout a four-way main event with a McMahon in every corner, but I like to remember this one: The Rock vs HHH headlining a 12-hour highlight reel of the first 15 Wrestlemanias. I like to generally forget the rest of this show, too. Because it is “2000″ they had to go with neon green and Matrix-y graphics, and they had to implant the WWF icon as the W in this weird, way-off-canonical logo.

WrestleManiaX Seven

WWE did a lot right with X-7 (though calling it X-7 was not one of them). This poster has strong colours and a return to classic typography, but something about it bugs me. I think it’s the fact that Austin and Rock are facing away from one another and looking at us, which gives me the idea that this match isn’t so much about them fighting as us watching them fight. The Astrodome is a nice tough, too. Much V, I like it when the location is prominently featured.


X8 is so much more confusing than 18. This poster was obviously done before they had Hogan nailed down, but the poster with Hogan and Rock is pretty tedious. This one speaks much more highly of a potentially much better event than X8 turned out to be. “The One and Only”, though? That’s the catchphrase of a sandwich, not a Wrestlemania. “The Showcase of the immortals” would have fit there and made this poster perfect.


Little did I know that “The One and Only” would have sounded great next to “Dare to Dream”, awkwardly imposed on an outer-glow-fueled photo of the Seattle space needle. The roman numerals make a thankful return, but it’s becoming very obvious just how difficult it is to shoehorn the attitude-era scratched logo anywhere near these increasingly corporate (read: dull as dishwater) designs.


For all this talk that Wrestlemania is like the Superbowl, XX is the only poster in the entire line to look even vaguely sports-like. It’s not a bad thing, I suppose, but those two X’s look like they’d fit snugly on a jersey. It’s a clever logo, though, turning into a diamond after a few seconds of staring. Notice the complete lack of PPV information anywhere, just a date and a place and a shining beacon of infinite possibility. Tough to beat.


This was the first PPV of the PG era, as far as I’m concerned, and it shows all over this poster. Look how safe this program looks. Bright colours, familiar typefaces, big city atmosphere. This show is going to be so much fun because aren’t celebrities just the best, you guys?


The Wrestlemania 22 poster would eventually pack in every single wrestler on the roster for some reason, but the preview poster just had John Cena lazily bulldogging Booker T. While it was the first poster in five (!) years to actually feature wrestlers and the only poster in history to show an actual wrestling environment, it’s also terribly misrepresentative of the show. The WM logo was squished (the “22″ is barely visible), I guess pushed together to make “Big Time” feel bigger. But “Big Time” is redundant, and Booker T wasn’t even on the show.

WrestleMania 23 event poster

Okay, not bad. Everyone looks good, the logo is representative of not only Detroit but also flashy enough to double as a “you’re fired” table for Trump. Wrestlemania is no stranger to treating celebrities (anyone, Literally any celebrity at all) as more valuable than the regular roster, so it’s not surprising Trump would get top billing. But are the top three guys even necessary? It really wasn’t about them at all.


Wrestlemania’s XXIV poster is perhaps my favourite of the whole bunch. The wrestlers are made to look larger than life (Big Show especially), but they’re arranged by matchup. The WM logo is only a slight modification from the classic, just enough to fit in the location and tone of the show. And the roman numerals make a brief and welcome return. I can’t say enough good things about it.


What a hat rack full of ass hats. Wrestling posters that cram in as many people as possible just look like indie garbage, regardless of the photoshop quality. Why does it say 25 three times? Why isn’t it Wrestlemania XXV? What the hell are JBL, MVP and Kane doing on a WM poster? This is not right.

WrestleMania XXVI

That logo is something else. So is Cena’s outer glow. I can’t complain about this too much, though it does come off as just another poster featuring WWE’s top guys and not anything special like a Wrestlemania. What are these guys doing? Anything? Looking at us? Why are they looking at us? Why is it so well-lit where they are? They don’t have the sun in Arizona?

WrestleMania XXVII

The roman numerals look squished-in, but they’re roman numerals so I can’t complain. The logo seems boxier than it needs to be, and has nothing to do with the theme of the event or where it is. In fact, there’s no Atlanta in this poster at all. What is here, though, are three interesting things: A desire to make The Rook seem like the most important thing, a desire to make The Miz look somewhat threatening, being the champion and the only new face, and a desire to get Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio on the cover at all cost. That they’re all living inside a bigger, tilted version of the WM logo is crazy and typographically smart, but I swear we had jumping Rey on every single poster in 2011. Yes, he jumps sometimes. It’s a feature he comes with. Finally, John looks as bored as he seemed in the main event, so props for that one.

WrestleMania XXVIII poster

We’ve seen a lot of different attempts at setting the proper WM mood: stark lighting, interesting takes on logos, and even the odd pop culture rip off. But this, this poster is basically perfect.

1) Feature the two main event combatants looking fierce and ready to fight (each other, not the audience)

2) Slightly emulate the gloriously weird WM6 poster by giving each wrestler a super power, evidenced by slightly-external glow. Preferably lightning-based.

3) Mess with the WM logo so it looks modern, but keep the basic concept and roman numerals to remain linked with heritage. Find a way to shoehorn the shape of the event’s building into it, somehow. Make the scratchy logo seem out of place.

4) Keep information spartan. People know how to order these things. When. Where.

5) Make sure tagline isn’t “Dare to Dream.”

6) Keep it to one, or four fonts and colours.

7) Print all the money.

❖ The new WWE.com: 2012 edition

On Sunday, March 10, WWE re-launched their website. A series of decisions have been made to severely alter the experience. This appears to be a major relaunch, as opposed to the TMZ-like refresh that occurred last summer (which was more a coat of paint). Here is a rundown of all the changes.

Brand new URL-system:

I link to WWE.com quite often, because it is a primary source of information. Unfortunately, almost every single thing I’ve linked to is now broken. I linked to this Shawn Michaels story only a few days ago, but the URL is already busted.

Here is the old URL for the Shawn Michaels article: http://bit.ly/xxS9sn

Here is the new URL: http://bit.ly/xLWzUC

Changing the URLs in this manner makes it basically impossible for me (and anyone who’s ever linked to anything) to fix this problem. It looks like WWE.com has changed their permalink structure from numerals to subject matter, which is a pretty “wordpress” thing to do, if you ask me.

Bigger pictures, multiple-page articles

WWE.com is using another trick of breaking up articles into multiple pages in order to garner more traffic. They’ve also increased the size of photos, but they’re still shackled to shitty slideshows. There still aren’t permalinks to any one photo, and now the slideshow arrows don’t fade out anymore.

A deep archive and search system

The most noticeable improvement to the site is its search and archive system. “Related article” lists abound on the side and bottom of everything, and the search box leads to real results now. Searching by superstar leads to not only photo and video sets but also a chronilogical list of articles that mention them. The Superstar pages look great, too, making each wrestler look like an action hero. Timeline is also nice, but it’s clear there’s still a lot of work to do.

A greater focus on live appearances and dates, interactivity

Something that wasn’t as apparent on the site before was where you could actually find WWE superstars, in not only live appearances but house shows, too. Now, scroll over the “superstars” button and the entire left-side of the screen is filled with appearance dates. Nice.

They’ve also allowed comments on WWE.com articles. It’s not every article. This is interesting, because they’ve disabled comments on Youtube. To comment, you sign in using Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Yahoo, and go nuts. It’s too early to tell how curated the comments will get, or if they’ll let the Universe go wild (my bet: this will be the first new feature to die).

WWE Greatest Matches

WWE Greatest Matches is basically gone. There appears to be no place to pay them money to see vast quantities of full video. Instead, a huge amount of video content is now essentially free, if it’s in a wholly different form. Videos are still in flash, but at least no entire sections of the site are flash anymore. Instead of being able to watch an entire episode from MSG in 85, there’s probably a video that gives you highlights of the main event. There are so many little summary videos of things now.

Video Playlists are how videos are organized now, and they’re curated by subject, event, and company. For instance, here’s a video playlist of matches between The Rock and Steve Austin. You’ll notice these videos are roughly two minutes long. These videos don’t show the beginning or ending of these matches. It’s very confusing, actually, until you realize they’re opening up a network pretty soon and they probably only want one place to get full-episode content.

I’m fine with that, of course. I’ve always thought that WWE should streamline. But it’s sure interesting that they’re touting a mountain of video content as a new WWE.com feature when most of the content is tiny slices of matches.

Seemingly random region-blocking

There are, actually, lots of full matches on WWE.com, but if you’re outside the US, good luck watching any of them. Region-locking is frustrating, but it’s even more frustrating when last week I could watch this stuff on Greatest Matches, but now that it’s free I can’t.

The region-blocking seems to go into effect as soon as you try to begin watching a full match. Clips and scenes seem to work everywhere. It’s a baffling decision. I understand reasons why they can’t just put up full episodes of Raw and Smackdown (due to TV licensing deals), but why are all PPV matches, both new and classic, blocked? Why are all WCW and ECW matches blocked? Those TV deals absolutely don’t exist anymore, and nobody but WWE has any say on how they air. If you live in the US, you can watch Flair vs Steamboat from Wrestlewar 89 in full, but nobody else can.

This is what WWE.com says about it:

The ultimate source for the most epic confrontations and unforgettable matches in WWE history – is now totally FREE! From now on, access to WWE’s most colossal confrontations requires absolutely no subscription cost.

That’s nice, for people who can actually see it.

I guess we’ll see

WWE.com has been completely redesigned every 2 years or so since it began in the mid-90s. This new relaunch presents a challenge for guys like me, who used the site as a primary source for news and material. Do I continue linking to them, knowing that at any time they might change things?

The region-blocking bugs me, not because I can’t see things, but because depending on the month, sometimes I can. The inconsistency is crazy.

I don’t like the link-breaking, but that’s not really WWE’s problem. It’s not their job to make my job easy.

But the site does look much nicer than it did before, and the new features are both welcome and novel. Hopefully they don’t throw it all away in a year.

❖ Women’s wrestling month

Welcome to Women’s Wrestling Month at Fair to Flair. We came up with this concept because we feel that women’s wrestling today needs to be supported. That’s why we’re dedicating the month of March to essays and discussions about women’s wrestling. These pieces will make it into our next quarterly issue, which will be made available next month.

The 300×200 image you see above you is something I whipped up for the sidebar of the site, to show our support. I feel it’s just the thing that can spread. If you feel the same way we do, please put it on your site, with a link to us for the month (and after that, if you like. I made it generic so it can stay up anywhere).

You’re going to see nearly a dozen pieces from us this month. Every Fair to Flair writer has something up their sleeves, and we’ve received some great submissions. We are still taking submissions, too. If you feel you can contribute some writing, art, or a discussion, please get it to us before the end of the month if you want to be included in the quarterly.

Happy women’s wrestling month. Let’s make it better.