A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it,
You're welcome, we can spare it...Reasons to be Cheerful, 1, 2, 3.
Ian Dury and the Blockheads
It’s easy at this time at year to become maudlin and pessimistic about wrestling. It’s always a downtime. Always. What’s really disappointing this year though is that, going into SummerSlam we all had such high hopes. The CM Punk/Lesnar match and subsequent Heyman feud. Cena versus Bryan. The rise of the Wyatt Family. The ascension of The Shield. It was all going so well. A couple of weeks after SummerSlam we had these moments plus the Rhodes Boys and Big Show getting some of the biggest pops of their careers. It was all there for the WWE to ride on through to the Royal Rumble and keep us interested.
They dropped the ball. Actually, they dropped all the balls.
The Punk/Heyman story, even though they both battled valiantly on the mic, became a bit of a plod towards the end. Bryan? Well, Triple H happened. Cena? Back to being Super-Cena again. The Wyatts? Who is the Devil? Oh, we’ll never know because it was a throwaway line that could have been something relevant. The Shield? Well, Reigns is growing in stature by the week but do they have a ‘story’ at the moment? The Rhodes Boys had a magnificent title win on Raw but the Authority’s destruction of their family? Forgotten about. Big Show? The story ended up with law suits and money problems and, Triple H again.
With Raw being three hours, as opposed to dropping in a few under-used wrestlers, we’re getting the opening segment repeated two more times each episode. We’re getting the Authority taking up more and more time on the mic and backstage. This isn’t a problem but the writing is terrible. WWE has always had a selective memory but why has Triple H moved on so easily from being humiliated by the Rhodes Boys? Have we forgotten the Scott Armstrong quick count and who was behind it? The Shield doesn’t seem to have any grudge whatsoever against HHH for being punished so badly a few weeks ago. It makes me really sad that the writers give up at this time of year and yet this year they had it all to play with. The five months from SummerSlam to Royal Rumble should have been one long build but now the writers have got bored and have gone back to the 2009 stalwarts of Cena and Orton.
However, as angry as many people are with how this has all gone, I am determined to remain cheerful. I still watch every week and love the development of The Real Americans. The face-off between the Wyatts and The Shield was an incredible moment and although they were thrown together, the pairing of Punk and Bryan has legs. So, I refuse to be downhearted. What’s gone is gone and I’m looking forward. Cancel and continue. To that end, I am going to give you five reasons why I am optimistic for the next six months. You might disagree, but these are mine.
My reasons to be cheerful...
1. The Royal Rumble
It is, without a doubt, my favourite ‘match’ of the year. After the usual lull of a dark, dank post-festive January, we end the month with (usually) 30 men (and sometimes women) going at it for over an hour. Even in the boring years when we know Orton or Cena will win, the match itself can be pretty good. I love the returns from Jericho as Number 2 to Kevin Nash (remember when we were all initially excited about that?). I love how stories that might run through to WrestleMania start. It happens less, the slow build of Angle taking out Michaels isn’t seen very often now but it might happen. The match itself is always fun and when you get down to the final four, and the realisation that one of these men is going to do it, the tension gets ramped right up. I can’t help but be excited and next year, hopefully, it won’t be Cena or Orton. It might even end up being someone new. Can you imagine the screams if the final four is Bryan, Punk, Reigns and Wyatt? I’ll leave that one with you.
2. Elimination Chamber
Yes, it’s another gimmick match but in a current period where Hell in a Cell is a match consigned to the dull period of WWE, we can always be hopeful of this one. To be honest, in all reality, this has become the match where the stories really get going in the lead up to the big one. Also, if you get a combination of big men and high flyers you’ll always have the possibility of Rey jumping off the top of one of the chambers and being speared by Reigns in mid-air. Not good for Rey, but it looks great for us. The Elimination Chamber has overtaken the Cell for me simply because it is placed at a period in the calendar when we all, writers included, care. Also, sometimes anything can happen. I always remember Edge being the first to be eliminated in the first chamber match only to take out Kofi, take his place and win the other championship in the final chamber match. Outstanding.
3. The Returns
I loves ‘em. I tells you I do. It is that moment when the music plays and your jaw drops. Hell, I’m such a sucker for them that when Brock made his first return, we all knew it was going to happen. Hell, the crowd were even chanting his name for five minutes before but, when he did appear on the ramp, we all went crazy. Obviously, The Undertaker. You know it’s WrestleMania season when he returns and either chooses his opponent or is the ‘chosen one’ by some upstart who wants to take on The Streak. We know with each passing year, it might be Taker’s last so it’s always a ‘vintage’ moment to savour when we see him in the ring. My bet? Taker comes out the night after Royal Rumble and before he can speak, Sheamus comes out and Brogue Kicks him to hell.
On top of the Undertaker we’ll have Lesnar back and, regardless of his contract, that is always a big deal when he returns. I know a lot of people expect him and Taker to go at it (makes sense with their part-time contracts I suppose) but I still feel Punk has some left-over business and, as their match this at SummerSlam was a ‘match of the year’ contender, I’d be happy to see it again.
Then, the elephant in the room, Hulk Hogan. I don’t care. I’ll say it. I’d be happy for him to come back as long as it wasn’t in a high profile match. Maybe as mentor to Bryan or something because I’ve always wondered why Bryan has started to ‘hulk up’ when he’s getting beaten down. A little clue perhaps? Anyway, it would be good to see him back for a while and I’m happy to say it. Hell, we might even see Batista too and that would be fun.
Anyway, I love the big returns. I might not always like the matches that come from them but seeing some of your favourites from previous years come back is always great. Also, see the Royal Rumble match for more of that.
4. WrestleMania XXX
It’s the big one. Of course that’s one of my reasons to be cheerful. As a wrestling fan it is our SuperBowl. Our FA Cup Final. Our Stanley Cup. Four hours and it always feels like a big deal. A lot of reasons 1 – 3 feed into this one. We have our Undertaker ‘streak’ match. We have the returning heroes in their ‘one last match’. We have the title matches. Sometimes we have a crazy gimmick match that either stinks (Snooki) or is a shining light (Ricky Steamboat against Jericho in the ‘Legends’ match). Every year, we scream as we think the streak will end. When a favoured hero or villain comes out. When a title is won. Yes, there are good Mania’s and average ones but it’s the one we have to watch. I’ll happily miss a Survivor Series or a Night of Champions but never a Mania. It’s a big event and most of the annual fireworks budget gets spent that night so I’m all in.
5. The post-WrestleMania Raw
The best crowd of the year? Increasingly so. WrestleMania often feels like it’s for everyone. Fans who don’t really watch anymore. Non-fans just interested in seeing The Rock wrestle. The Raw the following night though is for the fans. It’s a party, a celebration. To be honest, it’s the night where the fans are in charge. Also, although the re-set for the company doesn’t happen until after Extreme Rules, we sometimes see huge returns (Goldberg, Lesnar) or title changes (hello, Dolph, we remember too). I usually have a bit of boredom watching a Raw the night after a PPV, this is the one exception. It’s a party and the only people invited are real wrestling fans.
Right. There we are. My five reasons to be cheerful. They’re all pretty obvious I suppose but now we’re pretty much in December and everything slows down, we miss a couple of episodes of Raw because of parties or it’s a pre-recorded episode so we read the spoilers, so we need to consider the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, we might get another Jericho return, or some viral videos promising a return or a debut. We’ll get some new wrestlers from NXT. We might see a surprise Rumble win. Who knows, I for one am going to try and use the same sense of memory as the WWE writers and pretend the past few months didn’t happen. I’ve got reasons to be cheerful, and so should you.
Please follow me on twitter @HughFirth or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org All constructive criticism is appreciated.
Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.