A Month Off for RTV …

After I posted my latest ‘Smack of the Week’ I noted on twitter (@RTVWOW) that it would be my final post for, roughly, a month.

The reason for this – to keep it simple – is that i’m moving down to London for a month to teach at a boarding school, and I don’t think i’ll have good enough internet time to post regularly. Hell, I aint even sure i’ll be able to watch wrestling during that time! That’s right, during the hottest angle of the year, and of the century to date, I may not be able to watch wrestling.

Hopefully it wont come to that, but I certainly can’t promise to post while i’m away. I should be able to tweet (though not as regularly), and if something big happens, i’ll try to write something. Also, I would be remiss to not preview and predict Summerslam.

I will RETURN at some point in September – at the latest, to predict Night of Champions, so look out for that.

In the mean time, I really hope you’ll all keep the faith and come back to me when I return, reading and commenting more than ever! Keep following me on twitter because though I wont be able to live-tweet events, i’ll still be able to post status updates and the occasional reaction to what happens in the World of Wrestling.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy everything in the World of Wrestling! I’ll be back soon!


Smack of the Week (29/07/2011): Restrictions Removed

I liked that the show started out with Triple H coming out first to again mark his territory, and his appearing on Smackdown made the show at least seem in the same league to RAW for once. HHH didn’t actually say much though, other than announcing that the title situation on RAW would be addressed on RAW. Instead, he served as the epicentre of proceedings, with Christian, R-Truth and John Morrison interacting around him, being directed by his legitimate authentic character. Christian came out to try and curry favour with the boss, only for this to backfire as Trips booked Orton’s rematch for Summerslam against Christian and made it, to Christian’s chagrin, a no holds barred match. R-Truth came out threatening to take ‘action’ on RAW if HHH didn’t address the conspiracy against his, though ultimately, this seemed like a pretty contrived way to book Truth on the show.

To punish Christian for interrupting him, The Game put him in a match with John Morrison. This was a pretty good match between the two, especially seen as it was apropos of nothing. The story of this match was mostly based around Morrison’s recent neck injury and surgery. Morrison got a bit more offense in on Christian than I would like considering he was against the World Champion. I would have liked it to have been a bit more even. It made Christian seem a bit weaker than is necessary. Nonetheless, it was good that Morrison looked good, and the story and finish of the match was really well thought out. Morrison missed Starship Pain and was hot-shotted on the ropes, allowing Christian to hit the Killswitch and pick up the win.

I liked Zack Ryder as Teddy Long’s assistant. It was a good way to get him on TV. I do, however, hope that it was a one-night thing. As a character, he works better for RAW, and, while having a strong on-screen character, also needs to wrestle at the same time to get over. Without the latter, he will struggle to get over as a serious competitor.

Wasn’t too keen on Barrett banging on about paychecks. I know he’s a heel, but I don’t like it when any wrestler talks about it in those terms; if they’re not bothered about respect, it should be championships they desire, and possibly the lifestyle of ‘sports entertainment’, but if they just want the money, it seems to miss the point of even being there. This especially irritated when he was talking about the WrestleMania main event – something which should mean something to all wrestlers. I realise this is meant to bring him heat, but it didn’t just turn me off the character, but also what he might do, which is a bad kind of heat. Daniel Bryan’s music is great  for babyface interruptions because, in the midst of an arrogant, bleating, self-important speech from a heel, Bryan literally appears like a deus ex machina. I liked Bryan’s promo saying that, whatever Barrett says, he is Mr. Money in the Bank, and he will make him tap. This looks like the start of a feud, and it’s one that would be fantastically organic given their shared history for over a year. Their feud could be one of the best of the year given that they (especially Bryan) are talented wrestlers and both (especially Barrett) are talented talkers.

AJ was again really good in the ring. It’s just a shame that this series of matches are treading water. Something dramatic needs to happen to make these matches, which often involve nice wrestling, feel like they mean something more.

I really liked the Justin Gabriel video. I like the idea that him going back home could precipitate a face-turn. For the first time he came across as relateable and likeable, and for the first time, I cared about him and his future. I still think he has a long way to go, but a good job. Time permitting, this sort of personal interview promo should be done more often.

Next up was the most perfect insta-face turn i’ve ever seen. Mark Henry appeared demanding competition, and no-one from the back wanted any of him. This was cool as it really got over how fearful Henry has become. Eventually, a pathetic-looking local wrestler came out to get eviscerated. This obviously didn’t satisfy Henry, who was still outspokenly demanding ‘competition’. Just as he was about to perform his leg-breaking-with-chair spot, Teddy Long ran out to stop Henry and save the unfortunate ‘opponent’. As Long was going to frustrate Henry even more by saying no-one would compete with him and he couldn’t force anybody, Sheamus’s music hit to a big pop. There was something about the way Sheamus carried himself that instantly made me like and respect him – the change was really that remarkable. Not only that, but he bested Henry in terms of intimidation, recycling Henry’s own line about bigger not being better, and fending him off with a chair. Both these guys looked great here, and a new and engaging feud has instantly been set up. Until now I didn’t think Sheamus would make a good babyface, but in the space of about five minutes, Sheamus became one of my favourite babyfaces. They could have some good matches, and this should make for a great story.I look forward to seeing where this goes.

I don’t like the New Nexus’s new post-Punk (so to speak) look/attitude – they come across as camp stage-criminals. Either go all the way with their new gimmick, or stick to the darker Nexus gimmick. They had a decent match with the Usos, who are the sole shining force in the tag division currently (the state of the division is shown by the fact that we had a completely unhyped title match this week), which culminated in a well thought-out finish where Otunga threw a downed Uso in tt the ring to confuse the referee to the point where he thought the twins may have pulled off ‘twin magic’. Otunga took advantage of this by throwing the other from the turnbuckle and allowing McGillicutty to hit his winging neckbreaker for the win. I liked the champs going over, but not against the Usos. I’d have each team go over seperately against the more pithy teams until the only competition they have is each other, leading to a match at Summerslam. Nonetheless, I love how they are getting pushed for a title shot as they are a great, old-fashioned tag team, and could mark the start of the resurgence of the tag team.

Big Zeke went down again, which can’t really be good, but at least it was to a handicap team of Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Decent enough, but there is always a struggle to create a believable story in a handicap match. Not much to proceed the story here, but it made the heels and especially Rhodes look good, especially when he managed to hit a Cross Rhodes on Big Zeke.

I quite liked the fact that Jinder Mahal and Great Khali hired out a box to look over the events of the night, and understand that foreign-language promos draw heat, but it just didn’t work. When Mahal debuted, I was hoping for big things, but it’s getting to the point now that if they don’t do something drastic, the whole angle will be ruined completely.

Truth and Orton had a decent main event, but they were somewhat lacking in chemistry. It shows how far Truth has come that he can share a ring with Orton though, and he did look believable as a contemporary. I was pleased to see that, unlike last week, Christian had a part in this main event. As Truth used his water bottle spot, the furious Viper wanted took out his anger on Truth, and in doing so, showed Christian the danger he was in by using Truth as a proxy victim as he hit him with a chair and got DQd before RKOing him on the announce table, not once but twice like he did at Money in the Bank. Christian sold this well, seeming as he did in a genuine state of anxiety. I liked this as it helped build the tension between the two, but it was much the same as all their other recent interactions. Not much different here, so it probably simply wasn’t that important. What i’d have liked better would be for HHH to appear at the end of the show as well and say to Christian that he can’t allow his championships to continue in turmoil, and so he wants a decisive, clean victor at Summerslam, and so, while that Randy may have lost by DQ tonight, Christian wont be able to survive that way at Summerslam because the match will be No Holds Barred match. Nothing new has even been announced, but it just would have been done so in a more dramatic and memorable way, standing out more from previous weeks.

RAW Recall (25/07/2011): The Real Champ Is Here

Punk, holding his title higher than Cena's, and getting the popular support of the fans

Everyone knows how this episode of RAW closed (hey, it’s pictured above!), and looking back, the whole episode was geared towards that moment; it wasn’t a show only made up of unrelated segments building individual stories, but a whole piece in itself. This story carries so much ‘baggage’ and has to straddle such a thin line between a sandbox style setting (Punk appearing away from WWETV) and keeping him at the forefront of fans’ consciousness by having him on WWETV, and for that reason, it must be a nightmare to book. Last night’s RAW, to be sure, progressed the story in an excellent way.

I loved the cold open. It made the opening match seem very important in a way that was lacking last week. I don’t know what it is, but WWE have re-jigged the set in some way that really added to the space, and gave the opening match a big-match PPV atmosphere. I also liked the WWE superstars backstage huddled round a tv screen – it’s a great way of getting over the ‘crisis’ in WWE. I’m a big fan of the Miz, but of late i’ve really had little interest in Rey Mysterio; this is something, however, that has changed a little since last week where Mysterio really got the crowd behind him with some great victories. Something about him since Money in the Bank has really pulled his character away from the staleness he has been trapped in for months. His match with Miz was fantastic – great back and forth, great drama. Both men were doing their best, through their reactions, to sell the gravitas of the match was very successful and there were lots of intelligently placed near-falls in a brilliantly-paced match. It was dominated for the majority of the match by Miz, but it wasn’t the boring underdog-comeback story that Rey has sometimes gotten in to a rut telling, it was Rey helping Miz look good, and may I say that the springboard sitout powerbomb is a move Miz should incorporate more – it’s unique and impressive. Shortly after Rey survived this, Miz charged him for his turnbuckle clothesline with Rey in the tree of woe, missing as Mysterio sat up. This aggravated Miz’s knee injury from MITB and allowed Rey to hit a rana on Miz before a 619 and a splash for the victory. This was a nice finish, and after the match was the first example of one characteristic I liked about the show: a subtle but constant palpable feeling that something was awry, that the pretense that everything in the WWE was fine and ‘business as usual’ was just that – a thin pretense. Following the match, Miz attacked Rey with a forearm, which was enough to bring Del Rio to ringside with his MITB briefcase, but Rey wasn’t hurt enough to be cashed-in on and fought him off. Del Rio cashing in had again been widely speculated upon, and I think this failed attempt was used in a similar way to at MITB, as a red herring to first make the fans react wearily before allowing them to be even more pleased that the predictable had been rejected. Even following the match, when Rey was received like a hero, almost out of relief that WWE had a champion again, there was an intentionally palpable sense of  doubt in the scene, especially when John Cena showed up and broke the celebration for just a few seconds before congratulating Mysterio too.

Next up was Dolph Zigger, with a more intimidating but generic version of his ‘I am Perfection’ theme, against Evan Bourne. Short but entertaining match where Bourne missed a Shooting Star Press and ended up receiving a Zig Zag, which would have been enough for Ziggler, and a Sleeper just for good measure to see Ziggler go over strong. He followed that up by getting a mic and shouting defiantly ‘follow that!’ That was a great little touch as, without hurting Bourne, it put over the champion well and made Ziggler seem like a very hot prospect.

At the top of the hour we had Triple H’s state of the WWE address, which really turned in to him marking his territory and cleaning house. When I saw that the championship match would open RAW, twitter followers (@RTVWOW) will have seen that I saw that as near proff that Del Rio would cash in to close the show, but when a second title match was announced to close the show, that added an extra layer of complication to the situation, as well as a sense of inevitability when it was announced that the man to be getting the shot, receiving his statutory re-match, would be John Cena. Hunter thrived as the boss and was completely believable in that role, never seeming like just a wrestler in a suit. It was billed that HHH would announce the surprise return of a man who had been on everyone’s minds for weeks. This obviously made people think of CM Punk, but it was a classic bait-and-switch as he called out probably the only other man who could satisfy the fans: Jim Ross! For keeps! A move which, unsurprisingly, made the following matches exponentially better and more meaningful. This led to a back and forth between Cole and Trips which was entertaining but lasted too long; at a time when fans are being promised changes, there shouldn’t be 5-10 minutes of Michael Cole, entertaining as he is, on the mic, and when Triple H told him to go and get ready for a match, that was the most downcast i’ve been about WWE in a very long time. I was more happy to see R-Truth come out to talk to Trips. They had a really funny back and forth about Truth and imaginary friends. This too probably lasted a bit too long, but at least it led to another surprise return, of John Morrison, who fought with Truth and hit a Starship Pain to revive their feud, though not in a particularly spectacular way I have to say.

Cole came out to HHH’s music, dressed in HHH’s attire, which surprised me. Why would HHH want Cole in his attire, eventhough the entrance (especially the water spit) was funny? Surely that would usually be an insult? Anyway, Cole took on Internet Champion Zack Ryder and was squashed (though I was impressed by Cole’s ability to take a Rough Ryder). On a night where there is strong competition for TV time, this is good for Ryder. It will be hard to book for him though, and that’s what he needs: a nicely booked storyline.

Next up was a rematch between Kofi Kingston and Alberto Del Rio, and they had another really nice match, with Kofi being dragged up by association to Del Rio and being booked to be roughly on par with the Mexican aristocrat. I have always loved Kofi’s cross body, but he did a springboard cross body which only made it more spectacular. Unfortunately, even after this, Kofi couldn’t put Del Rio away and Del Rio eventually locked in the cross arm-breaker making Kingston tap. Now, I understand that Del Rio has to look strong, but coming off a victory against him last week, Kingston’s momentum was shot, especially seen as he had to submit. I’d have kept Del Rio appearing as a MITB threat but maybe thrown him an interview too instead of taking so much time to Cole and Truth. Meanwhile i’d have given Kofi an equally competitive match with Drew McIntyre or Jack Swagger and had him go over to continue his momentum.

All through the night there had been deliberately fleeting references to CM Punk, making a point of worrying about mentioning his name in a way that really added to the myth currently surrounding Punk. These were all well and good, but Miz’s backstage interview did the best job with this. Understandably frustrated and free of an obligation to a paper championship, broke through a seemingly unwritten veneer of artificial confidence around the company, losing his rag with how it is John Cena’s fault that the company was in crisis, all because ‘he who shall not be named’ walked out with the title. This was a great way of revealing that the empty celebrations surrounding Rey as a new champion was just all part of  the nervousness about the future of the company that has now been sent in to flux.

The main event was our second WWE Championship match, and it was another stellar affair, doing well to seem important as two matches for the same title in one night usually detracts from that effect. Again, both guys got over the importance of the match and made it a very dramatic back-and-forth match. What was notable though was that Cena seemed to be working with more heel-like tendencies; there was just something about the way he exectuted some of his moves, especially the clotheslines which seemed heelish. One really cool progression came when Rey secured Cena in an STF, which was a fantastic display of schadenfreude regarding Cena, and which left Cena unable to hit an AA to Rey shortly after when he managed to pick Rey up from the hold on the mat. Cena fell in to 619 position and ate one, but managed to block the splash with his knees. Excellent, sensical stuff. Another progression around finishers saw Cena eventually hit an AA for the win and the championship.

Now, at this point, i’m sure many fans were worrying about ‘business as usual’ at WWE, but despite the fact that he wrestled a pretty grueling match, it was at the forefront of my mind that despite losing the title to a better man, he was basically just having it handed back to him, which really is unsatisfying. This reassured me that it wasn’t ‘business as usual’ but I was, quite frankly, relieved when we heard the first riffs of ‘Cult of Personality’ because I knew what it meant straight away, that Cena winning the belt was another swerve (in the sense that it wasn’t simply him becoming ‘the man’ again). I expected that either the music would run on its own (though admittedly, probably not enough people were aware that ‘Cult of Personality’ was Punk’s music in ROH for it to have the desired impact), or Punk would emerge from the crowd. Incidentally, the change to ‘Cult of Personality’ has been a little controversial, just because ‘This Fire Burns’ fit him so well and serves better, objectively, as a wrestling theme. I think that Cult of Personality is the only song that could have replaced This Fire Burns, and fits his charismatic voice of the people character brilliantly; he is vindicated now he’s won the title, and has changed from a song all about frustration and determination to succeed, to one that symbolises someone with more of a mandate to act as a representative of ‘the people’. I still think emerging from the crowd may have been preferable, but to be honest, just seeing Punk in the flesh was great. The crowd, again, popped big time for him, and he made his way down to the ring again, the real WWE Championship around his waist. Cena’s response of raising the paper championship came across as a toothless attempt to assert legitimacy as champion and was greeted mostly with boos. Punk smiled and raised the true belt higher than Cena’s to another huge pop. This was great metaphor, and only got better as we cut to Cena, holding his belt lower and looking like he knew exactly that Punk was the legit champion, before Cena backs down and leaves the ring as the show fades to black. This was not an equal champion vs champion scenario, it was Punk showing that the whole tournament and the phoney prestige that had been attributed to it with ceremonies like the champagne bath. Just excellent storytelling at the end, and not even reliant on Punk talking.

Now a lot of people have said that Punk has returned to quickly, and I think that, in an ideal world, Punk’s return could have waited. However, here is the dilemma WWE must have been in: we keep Punk away, eventhough he’s currently the biggest draw, and sell his absence with the title, or bring him back to interact on TV and start building for Summerslam, but risk short-changing the storyline a bit – after all, Punk only missed one RAW. Ultimately, I think they made the right decision, because I don’t think the excitement of Punk being AWOL necessarily has to end. After RAW went off the air, Punk got on the mic and simply said ‘I’m baaaaack’, but I would be careful about reading too much into this. For one thing, Cena is listed as the only WWE Champion on WWE.com while CM Punk hasn’t been restored to the site’s roster page. This, among other things (I have lots of theoretical evidence i’d be happy to discuss if you want a discussion about it – just ask), could mean that he’s not really ‘back’ in the conventional sense as a superstar. But even if he is, there is nothing to stop him doing some of the viral/guerilla stunts that people want from him. As an agitator, it would suit his character to do his own thing like, for instance, going to other promotions and cutting promos about how he speaks for the average fan, from the grassroots before reiterating that he is the true champion, and will show that every week on RAW. This sort of thing could be the compromise needed to retain the special nature of this angle.

We needed to hear from Punk in some way, and WWE achieved this in spectacular fashion, adding layers to the storyline as they went. For weeks now, WWE have been shattering the cynical predictions of certain negative fans, so it is best not to enter in to what they do with a cynical pre-disposition, because it risks ruining it. Despite what you might think, almost literally anything could happen in the coming weeks, and if it’s something Punk has agreed to, the chances are it’s gonna be great, so just sit back and drink it in!

RAW Precall (25/07/2011)

Last week’s RAW was a complex and loaded episode. It’s raison d’etre was to get over, again, that WWE is entering a new era, and did so by showing us the coup de grace of Mr. McMahon for Triple H. It also had to address, in some sort of clear way, the future of the now more prestigious WWE Championship, which they did with the tournament to crown a new paper champion. Finally, they had to make sure CM Punk remained, in some way, in the minds of the audience. WWE achieved these objectives with varied success. To me, Triple H and McMahon were very successful, creating an earnest moment which followed the ‘worked shoot’ philosophy of Punk. Announcing the tournament made complete sense – what else would WWE do to try and paper over the loss of the title? One problem, however, was that the tournament filled the show with wrestling and didn’t allow enough time to contemplate just what had happened the night before. I think this would have worked better if they had started the tournament, advertising the finals for Summerslam, while using the saved time for backstage encounters with the wrestlers discussing/worrying about the situation etc in a hushed/worried way; have the announcers and even the tournament competitors question whether the winner would be a legitimate champion. The bit that I think was the key reason for a lot of criticism for last week’s RAW was a subtle but problematic decision on WWE’s part not to mention Punk’s name. This, again, made sense, but it meant that Punk seemed like an afterthought and was less of a presence on TV. Punk wasn’t there two weeks before, but it was hugely successful, and it was simply because he was discussed extensively and seemed like an important figure – almost mythological.

So that’s the first change WWE needs to make; I know McMahon said Punk’s name would never be mentioned again, but HHH is in charge now, so they really need to take advantage of that to make the Punk situation the forefront of the show. I’m going to try keep out of intricate fantasy booking, but I would have HHH open the show and mark his territory, address his confrontation with CM Punk at Comic Con and show the footage before stating that he wont be able to get away with what he’s done. He calls out World Heavyweight Champion Christian and says that, until further notice, he will appear on both shows. He then says the show will end with him addressing John Cena’s status before the new WWE Championship. This would take a while, but after that, get on with the show. Have the wrestlers talking backstage mentioning Punk’s name and giving him that aura I was talking about, maybe even have some visibly supporting Punk, with HHH always in the background, disapproving

(Jeez, that staying away from fantasy booking isn’t really working out … I CAN’T HELP IT!)

We get to main event time and it’s HHH calling out Cena. He says he values Cena, and how good he is for business too much to allow him to be fired, for real this time, and that to apologise, he’s granting him his re-match by giving him a bye to the WWE Championship finals, which happen next! This draws McMahon as a bad guy, but one with some principles at least before business, while HHH, in full corporate mode becomes instantly dislikeable, kissing Cena’s ass and raising the ire of the fans. Cena would have to be reluctant to do this, but willing simply because he’s doing his job and wants the title, setting up a more complex face character for him, with a more complex relationship with ‘management’. Miz out first and Rey (who Punk also confronted) last. Soon in to the match, we need to feel the presence of Punk again. Punk himself can’t appear, at least in a conventional way, but the thought of him has to interrupt the match, causing it to be delayed until Summerslam. At that point a furious HHH enters the ring, losing the professional cool he had before, finally saying that he saved Cena’s job, and he can take it away, so if he loves the WWE, and if the Championship means anything to him, he’ll go and get after Punk and bring back the title. This means Cena can enter in to this viral/guerilla story as a face, just with a different valid point.

My slightly awkward fantasy aside, there are things they need to do/address, and as long as they achieve most of them , it will work really well:

Make CM Punk the central presence from the start.
Don’t dwell on on Vince apart from maybe at the very start.
Establish HHH as a heel authority.
Address the RAW GM, reveal and either keep as an auxiliary authority figure or fire – this is about HHH marking territory
Delay WWE Championship match.

Perhaps it’s wrong to speculate, and it’s almost certainly wrong to dictate to WWE who have thus far provided great TV with this angle, so I wont talk too much more. It is important that, as fans, we give this a chance to develop organically and not expect unrealistic instant results. As long as these themes are addressed, I have faith in a great RAW.

250th Post!

Hey guys!

Just to say that that last post about Smackdown marked my 250th post! I’m pretty proud of that milestone, but i’m even prouder that people are actually reading (and hopefully enjoying) what I write!

I hope to continue to provide for you while improving the site and reaching more and more people, so please, spread the word! Also, any suggestions for the site are welcomed.

In the mean time, stay tuned, and follow me on twitter for even more! (@RTVWOW)

See you at 500!

Smack of the Week (22/07/2011): Kane Beaten and Broken

I hadn’t really thought about this until approaching the write-up, but this was an odd Smackdown, and odd in a way that I didn’t actually like that much. All will be (hopefully) explained …

The show opened with Randy Orton in a position which could be described as a stock heel position – sat down in the middle of the ring, refusing to leave until he was acknowledged by Christian. Of course, when Orton does it, considering the way he lost the World Title, it is more understandable, but it’s still not very heroic. Christian was great, with classic heel hypocrisy, criticising Orton for whining. It was announced that, as is statutory, Orton will get his rematch, at Summerslam. It is fitting that this, until now the best feud of the year’ will end at Summerslam and I think we can expect a great match to round it off. Implicit in that last statement is basically an early prediction regarding the result).

Christian followed up with a match against behemoth Ezekiel Jackson which was better than you might expect from a Jackson match. Jackson showed a bit more vulnerability (as you would hope when he is taking on the World Champion) while still looking strong. The central story was simple but successful – Cristian not being able to negotioate the massive arms of Jackson to lock in the Killswitch. Eventually, however, Christian managed to throw Jackson in to the ringpost, which was enough to debilitate the IC champ enough to get him in to a Killswitch for the win. Usually, I might complain about the IC champ going down, but there’s nothing shamesul in going down to the World Champion, and I like that Christian was helped to look strong by going over clean. This was the last we saw of Christian though, something i’ll discuss when I discuss the close of the show.

I really liked Daniel Bryan getting an in-ring interview following his Money in the Bank win. Everything D. Bryan said was on point, and I think it’s clear that when he says he wants to live out his dream of wrestling the main event of WrestleMania, he means that with more vigour than most. I think it fits Bryan’s face persona very well to ‘set a date’ for his cashing in. If it’s straight-up, then we have the prospect of seeing Bryan grow in to a main-event character, which will surely include of necessity some great stories and matches. But there are other possibilities; that he loses the briefcase to someone (which I don’t like) or he cashes in early, taking advantage of a downed opponent to break his word and turn heel, which could be more interesting.

Heath Slater was brought out to face Bryan, and actually put on a nice match with AmDrag, with some nice progressions. If anything, Slater looked a bit too strong (the idea being to make Bryan look), but Bryan looked good too, and finished the match with a great application of a dragon sleeper which started looking like a tornado DDT, only for Bryan to swing and bring Slater to the middle of the ring for the submission. Unique and ingenious.

Sheamus vs Wade Barrett was a weird bit of booking. They’re both big guys but nimble and in possession of nice technical abilities. They worked together well, but this was really more of an angle – the violent double count-out surely just the beginning of a feud – a weird feud given that both are heels. Perhaps they’ll eventually start working together or perhaps one will turn heel, though I don’t yet know which one – there are up-sides to both.

Kane insisting that he wants to rediscover the demon within doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but i’m hoping for a big payoff, possibly with a return of the mask? In the main event the ‘Big Red Machine’ took on Randy Orton in a street fight. This was a pretty run-of-the-mill match in the first half, but it really picked up in the second half, with the use of chairs and stairs and the like, including Orton accidentally falling through the announce table in quite a scary moment. Kane seemed to grow in power, even – almost unbelievably – kicking out of an RKO (the one moment when he seemed at all monstrous) and then as he got more command and Chokeslammed Orton, I actually thought he might gain a win. About to Tombstone Orton on a chair, Orton escaped and hit an RKO for the win. Kane looked good here, but certainly not close to monstrous, while it makes sense that Orton, still in the title picture, remained strong-seeming. What I didn’t like was the two shaking hands at the end; Kane is trying to be a monster and Orton, who crushed Kane’s ankle with the steel stairs, is notorious for his ‘anger issues’ – it just doesn’t make sense that the red mist would clear after the match and they’d have gained that respect for each other.

With Orton gone and Kane struggling to stay up, Mark Henry just appeared. Kane, who seemed to relish the prospect of the violence (and pain?) smiled and squared up to Henry, but after what Orton had done to him, he stood no chance and eventually was on the wrong end of a World’s Strongest Slam, some splashes, and the same sickening ankle-breaking spot to Kane that he hit on Big Show. He followed it up with one of his brutally evil lines he’s so good at: “Why don’t you try and walk on it?” Though it was shocking, other than Kane and Big Show being tag partners, I don’t really see why Kane was attacked too, so hopefully we’ll get more explanation going forward. Mark Henry attacking someone else isn’t a cliff-hanger as there’s nothing really to follow up on.

Meanwhile, though Christian opened the show and looked good doing so, it’s weird that we didn’t see him for the rest of the show. He’s the champion, yet we still see Orton as one of the closing guys and seeming more important. It’s much maligned how Eddie Guerrero won the title and wasn’t at the forefront of the show, and this is what happened this week. It was also a shame that Cody Rhodes, one of the hottest rising stars on the show, couldn’t get booked. A decent show, but with some questionable booking, and one that built very little in terms of stories or for Summerslam.

‘It’s Clobberin’ Time!’: How the Summer of Punk Has Enraptured Wrestling Fans of All Climbs

Before the Monday Night RAW of the 20th June, the big thing in WWE was the rise of R-Truth. People were excited because Truth was a fresh character and a fresh face at the top of the card, but one vanquished the night before by the status quo aka John Cena. I love the WWE for the most part, but it would be stupid to deny that aspects of the product at that time were stale. CM Punk, however, ended the show by claiming that he was going to win the WWE Championship and leave the company with it. Interesting, especially in the hands of Punk, and certainly more interesting than any other storyline in some time, but it wasn’t yet a possibly era-defining angle. What came at the end of the next RAW, when CM Punk seemed to hijack the show and venture forth with a brutal and familiar honesty about himself and the WWE that we, the fans, related to more than anything else we had seen in some time, and that night, CM Punk became a figurehead, ‘the Voice of the Voiceless.

Since then, Punk has only cemented his position as a shaman for the people, and with John Cena, was the heroic protagonist of one of the best wrestling matches of our generation.

There are seemingly countless reasons why the so called ‘Summer of Punk’ has grabbed the attention of seasoned and casual fans alike, as well as the mainstream media. The idea of this post is to try and collate a cross-section of opinion, not to try to explain why it is so successful, but to try and share our enjoyment of it in a positive way, and show how this angle has captured the hearts of so many people for so many reasons. That said, I have collated the testimonials of several friends and contemporaries about how the angle has interested and fascinated them.

Many thanks to twitter follower Jessica Hill (@JessiJ116) for her two cents. For years, the internet has provided fans with the ‘smart knowledge’ to be wise, for the most part, to what is a work, and what is not, and few wrestlers have been consistently sincere and convincing enough to transcend those binaries. With that in mind, Jessica’s comment sheds light on why some people have found the Punk storyline a refreshing departure:

“I think just the fact that people have to ask “Was that a work or was that real?” That blurred line is what makes this special.”

For creator of cultural blog The Oyster’s Earrings http://theoystersearrings.wordpress.com/ and presenter of the ROYGBIV podcast http://www.mixcloud.com/hello_roygbiv/ Luke Healey, part of the success of the Summer of Punk is in the natural and raw connection Punk has rediscovered with the fans, and the fact that, for the first time in a long time, we saw a man become a star before our eyes, allowing us to witness a truly iconic moment:

“This year’s Wrestlemania was the first I had ever watched start to finish, and aside from everything else, one of the things that stood out to me was the powerful presentation of the wrestlers’ entrances to the ring, from Alberto Del Rio’s awesome pomposity to Triple H’s ‘King of Kings’ get-up to the ambivalent roar which greeted Cena. In each case, it was a combination of performance prowess, impressive stage-setting, crowd reaction and VT packages (in some cases). Punk’s entrance into the Allstate Arena at last week’s Money in the Bank PPV, in my mind, blew all of these away. What’s more, and besides the favour-garnering Chicago-themed t-shirt that Punk had chosen to unveil for the occasion, there was very little need for any dressing up of the situation – this was a pure connection between performer and (an albeit partisan) audience. Punk’s entrance truly vindicated the label ‘Sports Entertainment’ – here was a spectacle as vivid and as frenzied as any world cup victory, the sort of spectacle that makes your organs feel light. As Punk continued to circle the ring, to lap up the freshly-minted adulation and the more long-term respect of his fans, it became clear that we were witnessing something truly special, something on a par with, say, Triple H’s return to the ring in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 Invasion angle. Regardless of what came before, this may well have been Punk’s legend-making moment. And, regardless of how the company treat Punk from here on in, they can never erase that moment.”

Daniel Swain, who will be a guest presenter on the RBR Weekly Wrestling Talk podcast (http://bit.ly/pCc8Mt) this Saturday , loves this angle because it is the true culmination of a long journey which saw Punk fly in the face of the image of a typical WWE ‘superstar’, and on the back of sheer and awe-inspiring talent reach the position he deserves, as the biggest star currently in professional wrestling:

“I was first exposed to Ring of Honor in 2005, and one of the first things that stood out to me was CM Punk. Ring of Honor always had big characters who were also good wrestlers, but Punk was the biggest character, and the best wrestler. Everything about him was outrageous, his radical, anarchistic appearance, his forceful, preachy promos and his on-screen antics. From calling a pole-dancer a whore in a Falls Count Anywhere match, to dressing up as Christopher Daniels to fool a crowd. I was in. I was a 15 year old who delighted in underage drinking and even I loved CM Punk. What did CM even stand for? I didn’t even care. After he left ROH following the amazing Summer of Punk, I began to lose interest, I’d stopped watching WWE since Jericho left, TNA was shit and I’d lost another of my favourites.

I started watching again in 2009, I turned on Smackdown and there he was. CM Punk – World Heavyweight Champion. My old favourite from ROH was feuding with Jeff Hardy, it was odd but man was it awesome, he was calling out Hardy on taking Drugs as if it was Homicide. However, then Undertaker returned, buried CM Punk, and my old favourite became a main event whipping boy for John Cena, Big Show and Randy Orton. It was pretty sad.

Then he got his break, and brought us a storyline where CM Punk got to do what the biggest star in company couldn’t do in 1997, leave the WWE with it’s most prestigious title, the WWE Championship. He got to say what no-one had ever been allowed to say before, and in a way that only he could. And then, had an absolutely classic match at Money in the Bank with John Cena. I’m a mark for CM Punk, and that’s why I loved this angle. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Jack Davison is a one-time wrestling skeptic turned casual (and evermore interested) fan. For him, CM Punk represents what makes pro wrestling sublime, and the antidote to what can make it seem a cynical and puerile circus at times:

“It has taken a long time for me to ‘get’ wrestling. As a child I didn’t watch any due to my parents (they simply felt wrestling was a bad influence, probably because of the violence) and through that a resentment grew in me towards wrestling. I never thought I would enjoy it or any of the features that make it what it is, especially when I grew up with many friends who disliked the way it ‘faked’ being a ‘real’ sport. I place emphasis on  the words, or what is meant by the words, ‘get‘, ‘fake‘, and ‘real‘, because they are essentially the three aspects that people misunderstand or fail to acknowledge when it comes to professional wrestling.

Now I have a great appreciation for what the pros do, and the intense atmosphere it can create; not only for the fans but wrestlers themselves. CM Punk has only gone on to reiterate that in the most recent weeks.

Even now I still struggle to fully grasp what the professionals try to create outside of the ring, such as the storylines, acting and relationships. While that may seem strange to those who adore wrestling, for someone who would still consider themselves an outsider  to the universe it can often be tedious or simply off-puttingly poor. But not with Punk. For the first time ever in my short time period with the world of WWE I have been gripped by the intense verbal aspect (or ’out of the ring aspect’) of Wrestling. For the first time ever I wanted to truly stay up to watch a wrestling match in order to see what would become of Cena and Punk in “Money in the Bank” setting, and it was totally worth my while. The emotion, storyline, and abilities of Punk have shone through and, for myself, have set the bar very high for anybody wanting to make their name in WWE. There are wrestlers I admire, love, dislike, and hate, but Punk has gone on to show the standard I almost now expect throughout all aspects of wrestling entertainment, not just inside the ring. Bring on “The Summer of Punk”. I am waiting to be entertained.”

I think what I would add that, for the first time, possibly ever, I and the rest of the fans feel genuinely connected with a superstar. Punk is consistently (and rather ironically) compared to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and it’s difficult to think of a superstar since Austin’s time who has caused the crowd to erupt with such vigour, even when he isn’t there, but Punk doesn’t use catchphrases that the crowd can repeat back, they just agree with what he says, and shout as loudly as they can for him. Punk has always beat to his own drum, a characteristic which has possibly held him down the ladder somewhat until now; he has for years disregarded what creative tell him to say, and spoke from the heart (of his character). That is one of the main reasons he has been so successful in this role as ‘the voice of the voiceless’ – people believe what he is saying, and connect with it, because they know he is sincere. It’s a special quality, one that only the best ‘sports entertainers’ have, and one which has invited the fans to follow Punk in his quest to reinvigorate the business and be the best that he can be.

It is still early days in this angle, and indeed, some might think it remarkable that a wrestling angle can excite people so much and so vigorously, but that is the power of pro-wrestling at its best, and CM Punk is pro-wrestling at its best. There’s still so much yet to see, but we can hope that this is the beginning of a new ‘real’ or ‘sincere’ era (someone really needs to name it!) in pro wrestling, and we can rest assured that it is the creation of a new and electrifying ‘top guy’ in pro-wrestling. It’s clobberin’ time.

Feel free, of course, to share what you like about the Punk story in the comments, and otherwise, feel more than free to follow me on twitter (@RTVWOW)