Just because we haven’t been blogging or podcasting the last month or two isn’t to say we haven’t been following along with wrestling. I have to admit we’ve had some trouble getting into the Wrestlemania buildup this year – we share the same complaints and concerns as everyone else that this ‘Mania has been suffering for WWE’s being able to sell it. But it is now the weekend of the year in wrestling terms, all eyes are on Santa Clara, California, and we are a mere hour or so away from the pre-show kickoff for the “Showcase of the Immortals”, Wrestlemania 31, one can’t help but get a little excited. And that means it’s time to get our act together and share our predictions for tonight’s big event. So without further ado …

KICKOFF MATCHES:

(Fatal Four-Way: Tag Team Titles) Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (c) vs. The Usos vs. New Day vs. Los Matadores

SARAH: I’m predicting the champs retain here. Kidd and Cesaro are on a nice little run, gaining some traction, and the only other team in serious contention here – the Usos – are hampered with an injury on Jey’s part, as I understand it. I don’t think this is a particularly *ahem* New Day, and I don’t think Los Matadores are quite there yet. Kidd and Cesaro retain.

ARI: I agree for the reasons Sarah said, plus Kidd and Cesaro just got new t-shirts, so …

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

SARAH: My prediction as odds-on favourite as the match stands right now is Damien Mizdow. I think his feud with the Miz here is going to come to a head, and he is going to refuse to eliminate himself when it comes down to him and his employer. I’m giving a dark horse nod to Curtis Axle here as Axlemania has been running wild, but I feel like the payoff for this was his face-off with Hulk Hogan himself Monday at Raw. And if Sheamus is a last-minute surprise entry in his expected return, all bets are off (his return – expected tonight or tomorrow on Raw – could factor into a couple of matches, as we’ll discuss).

ARI: I would like to pick something different to be more interesting, but honestly Miz vs. Mizdow is the only clear feud I see in there. Now as for which one of them wins, I could see it going either way. I know Wrestlemania is big blow-off time, but I feel like there might still be some legs left in this feud, just a feeling. Never mind … they’re not going to try to outthink themselves for a pre-show match, I think the crowd-pleaser of Mizdow over Miz will probably happen.

WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES:

(Ladder Match: Intercontinental Title) Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. R Truth vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust

SARAH: I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news … for Wade Barrett, that is. This is another match I could see Sheamus being added to to make a nice round 8 participants, but it won’t really change my prediction. I’m thinking they have to throw Daniel Bryan (and his fans) a bone here, and he’s my pick to leave with the Intercontinental title. Dolph Ziggler or Dean Ambrose wouldn’t be bad dark horse picks, but I’m definitely with the “Yes Movement” on this one.

ARI: Out of seven I think Sarah’s fairly accurately picked off the top three. And between those this isn’t so much a prediction as a hope. Please please please, Daniel Bryan. And yes, hopefully in some manner where it’s clearly over Ambrose or Ziggler to set up a great “next feud”.

Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

SARAH: I think I’m going with Rollins here. We’ve picked a lot of good guy winners, and Randy Orton got the satisfying beatdown on Rollins last week on Raw. I will suggest that if Orton wins, the chances of a surprise cash in of Rollins’ Money in the Bank title contract at the end of the night becomes more likely to keep him strong.

ARI: I agree. The outcome of this match really depends on whether we get that surprise cash-in. And while I would love to see a surprise cash-in at Mania, I don’t think the set up of the main event is really lent to that, especially with a heel holding the Money in the Bank. So as fun as that is to think about, I think anyone looking for the surprise MITB cash-in, including myself, will be disappointed. I’d be happy to be pleasantly surprised there. But given I don’t expect that, yes, Rollins. He’s hot, they’ve been pumping him a lot, and since I don’t think he’s cashing in tonight, a good strong win sets him up for when he does.

(U.S. Title) Rusev (c) vs. John Cena

SARAH: This one is a tough one to predict, so I’m prefacing this one with “I wouldn’t be surprised either way” – this is like, a 55%-45% split. But I’m thinking I’m going to reflect that split with saying, I think Cena will win the match but not the proverbial war, as either Sheamus (who Rusev put on the shelf) or Lana interferes in this match, resulting in shenanigans, and an ending where Cena wins but does not walk away with the title.

ARI: I hate to sound like your echo, but that’s pretty much my take. I don’t see … you know, scratch that. I’m calling Cena, win and title by a quick pinfall, like when he got the first win on Umaga, so Rusev can still claim it’s sort of flukey, but you can still have the triumphant, hyper-American, flag-waving win holding up the U.S. title at Wrestlemania. Plus, while Cena does lose sometimes at Mania, he doesn’t lose much.

Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee and Paige

SARAH: I’m calling the Bella Twins here, as I think this feud, in some way or another, continues, which means the heels have to go over. They are also the most prominent members of the Diva’s division, so winning on the WWE’s banner event would make sense. Again – this isn’t one I’d bet the farm on, but for the sake of making a pick, Brie and Nikki have a slight advantage here in that regard.

ARI: Again, like you said, this one is a close call … close enough I’m willing to be different here. I think AJ Lee and Paige have some fun frenemy chemistry here and they’re “giving Divas a chance”, and the Bellas are WWE darlings enough with the reality show and all that that I’m sure even losing they could demand a rematch and still have the feud continue. Saying this, I admittedly don’t recall the outcome of their most recent matches, so I can’t speak to any momentum that might be having.

Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker

SARAH: Taker all the way here. While the streak is no more, and I think he becomes more vulnerable as a result, and it probably SHOULD be Wyatt from the standpoint of building for the future, this Wrestlemania isn’t the one Undertaker is going to lose again at; if he intends to come back at all next year, or exit on a high note, he needs his win back. And a good, competitive match with the Undertaker resulting in a near-miss at Wrestlemania doesn’t hurt anyone. Bray Wyatt loses after giving Taker a run for his money.

ARI: No way does Taker lose two in a row.

Sting vs. Triple H

SARAH: If Sting doesn’t win this one, it is nothing but an ego trip on the part of Triple H. And as I actually give H more credit than that, I’m thinking we have the feel-good, first-time-on-WWE win for Sting. The incoming hero triumphs on the biggest stage possible, and that way, whether this is the end of a career, or the first step on to a last run in the WWE, it’s done right.

ARI: They don’t give the fans everything they want at Wrestlemania night, but they come pretty close, and there’s no need for this storyline to be complicated, especially when this might be a “One Match Only” between two very part-timers, I think we get the crowd pleasing Sting win after a good match, probably featuring bat vs. sledge hammer.

(WWE Title) Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

SARAH: There is really no good way to end this in some ways – although Lesnar re-signing with the WWE last week opens up more possibilities than the likelihood that he was leaving. What I DON’T think we see is a straight up “face” Roman Reigns winning the title in your prototypical “Wrestlemania moment” to end the show. There is a possibility of Seth Rollins cashing in, but as Ari said, I don’t know that the surprise factor there outdoes the “heel walks out of Wrestlemania with the belt” factor. I predict, at this point, that Lesnar retains, and offers a respectful handshake to Reigns after a very hard-hitting match. Whether Reigns accepts it or not … or what becomes of Paul Heyman if his guy becomes a face … well not even I’m predicting that one.

ARI: Clearly the hardest one on the card to predict, for the reasons you listed. But as I try to think of fancy ways for them to get out of this, a Seth Rollins cash-in, Sheamus run-in or run-in by someone, I just don’t see it. It feels like fan fiction, not actual likely booking. I think the ending is going to be simpler than we expect. And I think Wrestlemania ends with the sort of tweener Brock Lesnar holding up the belt. Okay, it’s not the prototypical glorious “face moment” like you said, but I could see them trying to recapture the absolute stunned silence of his win at Wrestlemania last year, combined with some of the cheers he has been getting. I can see where, if not rapturous applause, a reaction of sheer amazement after a bunch of F5s or suplexes could be a satisfying enough feeling to close the show on, especially since I’ve predicted a lot of face wins earlier down the card.

There you have it. Did we get it right? Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to offer your comments and predictions, and we hope you enjoy finding out along with us starting at 5pm (pre-show) and 7pm (Wrestlemania itself) later tonight, on the WWE Network, for $9.99 (or $11.99 in Canada).🙂

One of the greatest WWE superstars of all time, Shawn Michaels, recently published his second autobiography, entitled Wrestling for My Life: the Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar. In terms of a review, I can unequivocally say I enjoyed it, although I also understand where others might not, depending what one is looking for out of this book.

For one thing, I want to make clear that while I am deeply, deeply inspired by this redemption story – and have no doubt that, given the strength and outlook his faith has clearly given him, that Jesus Christ is Shawn Michaels’ personal saviour, in a very literal sense, having been the Higher Power he turned to while turning away from addiction to drugs and alcohol – my Christianity and Michaels’ diverges widely. I have to admit that my Christianity is one that focuses more on the amazing life and work of this incredible man named Jesus, and, to the extent that I do put great store into the redemption and salvation aspects of the Christian faith, it is with much more focus on healing and ‘salving’ (see what I did there?) wounds and divisions – between ourselves, between us and God, between us and Creation – than a story of a literal human sacrificial lamb. But while I suspect Michaels and I might have some rollicking theological debates, I can’t help but recognize that his faith has saved his life and made him a better person, which is the ultimate healing power of God, in my opinion, however one gets there. And his willingness – as someone within the viper’s pit that is the wrestling business – to live and let live, and not cast judgement (or if he does so, as we all do, he at least does so privately) – his recognition that while his path worked for him, it might not work the same way for all – is also something I respect.

With that out of the way, wrestling fans know the story – Shawn Michaels, brash, young wrestler who got to the top by sheer hard work, and a willingness to infuriate anyone he needed to. He adopted a drug and alcohol problem along the way, and made several enemies in the business – notably, Bret Hart – before an injury forced him to retire prematurely at the age of 33. Five years later, a sober, born-again Christian, husband and father, Shawn Michaels returns to write an amazing epilogue on a career long considered over, winning one more world championship and adding several more ‘matches of the year’ and ‘feuds of the year’ to his library before retiring for good in 2010, having trained a few of today’s hottest young wrestlers and passed on his more mature perspective to those in the locker room. This all is covered to a certain degree in “Wrestling for My Life”, and wrestling fans will not be disappointed with his perspective on the business. However, this book is not a ‘wrestling book’ so much as a book about faith and family, which appealed to me but might not entirely to the 19-30 year old male demographic looking for a sequel to his first autobiography, “Heartbreak and Triumph”, which was much more focused on his wrestling career.

If one can keep that in mind, however, and one doesn’t mind the religious perspective – which is both ever-present, yet less heavy-handed than one might expect – one can read and enjoy an incredibly inspiring redemption story, and probably, at the end of the day, one of the happiest success stories in the wrestling industry – a man who overcame his demons and retired young and healthy, on his own terms, to raise his children and enjoy his marriage – no premature death, no white-knuckle struggle to stay retired even in one’s sixties, and a healthy attitude towards the industry that made him a star – no bitterness (and in fact a lot of gratitude) but also a comfortable willingness to now set it aside. In a business where too many wrestlers are forced out, for a myriad of reasons, with tarnished memories, this “Show Stopper” has risen above – and that happy ending (and new beginning!) is just wonderful to see.

So anyone who’s been following wrestling these last few weeks knows that there’s been a war of viral videos – and, on Seth Rollins’ part, in-ring promos – between Mr. Money in the Bank himself and exiting Daily Show host Jon Stewart. This war of words came to a head last night as Rollins crashed Stewart’s ‘Moment of Zen’ closing spot. See the fun go down here.

As both a wrestling fan member of the WWE universe, and a fan of the Daily Show, I for one am finding this ridiculously entertaining, although I understand that Jon Stewart’s and Seth Rollins’ audiences might not always perfectly intersect, I love that this intelligent, entertaining man is a wrestling fan – proving what we have known all along, that we can in fact be smart, erudite types, not just knuckle-dragging neanderthals – and that he’s game playing along with this in his very high-profile final year on the Daily Show.

Enjoy the fun and games:

NXT Takeover: RIVAL

Posted: February 12, 2015 in nxt, Pay Per View, wwe
Tags: , , ,

So tonight for the first time I got around to checking out one of the NXT pay per views and I have to say I was impressed. The show was strong throughout, but i was particularly impressed with the final three matches – Balor vs. Adrian Neville for the #1 contendership to the NXT title, the Fatal Four Way Diva’s match between Charlotte, Bailey, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, and the NXT Title match between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens.

I won’t dissect each of the above, and I totally understand where some might disagree with me about Zayn-Owens due to the finish (a ref’s stoppage due to Zayn’s injuries sustained earlier in the match). However, what I like is that NXT in general provides the best of what WWE offers – decent production values, brand recognition, pumped up fans, and some of the best talent in the world aspiring for that spotlight – while providing a looser, less scripted, and as such more spontaneous and (in some ways) fun product. The attention they pay to the women’s division is exhibit A, and I wish that the main WWE roster would pay as much attention to their Divas, who are actually a talented group of ladies at this point if given half a chance.

I’m glad I took the time tonight to check out NXT and I think they will be on my radar going forward. Because as a working mom I only have limited time, my wrestling consumption tends to be limited to Raw and the occasional Smackdown, which causes me, I know, to miss some great action (at times) from Impact Wrestling and other indies. I’m usually okay with that – but tonight, for the first time in awhile, I feel like I’ve been missing out, and I’m so glad to recommend taking the chance on the NXT product for others, like me, who haven’t as yet. It alone is worth the price of the WWE network, and a reassurance that the future of the ‘sports entertainment’ product is in good hands.

Please click here and check out our podcast re-debut, back after a LOOOOOONG hiatus. We know you missed us!🙂

And welcome to 2015 from your friendly folks here at “In This Very Ring”. I know we were pretty absentee through 2014, but we’re back and ready to rumble – literally, in about ten days’ time – all over 2015.

Some quick notes, that we will be podcasting sometime this weekend with our 2014 Year-End awards – that’s probably the best way to review the highs and the (very) low lows of 2014 without taking hours and hours and hours (to infinity) just running through it; the following week our podcast will preview the Royal Rumble. And of course, I will do my best to blog in the meantime and in between time.

Ari and I look forward to the journey into 2015 – my silver anniversary as a wrestling fan, might I say (unless I’m using the WWE definition of ‘anniversary’; I’ll need to do the math on that one later), and we hope you will consider taking that challenge, walking that aisle, and joining us soon, and often … in this very ring!

This might be a dark week ahead for the business side of professional wrestling. There have been rumours floating around since last night that TNA Impact Wrestling’s TV deal with Spike TV will not be renewed come the fall. While both sides at present indicate that negotiations are ongoing, that is hardly a done deal. Given that this is also the week that WWE is expected to announce lower-than-hoped-for subscription numbers for its (fantastic, might I say) WWE Network service, it could be one of the more difficult weeks for the wrestling ‘biz’ in a very long time.

Those who follow us here at In This Very Ring know that we haven’t been the most avid of TNA fans – although we do hear the product has gotten stronger in recent months, and might be worth a watch – them losing their N. American TV deal is a big blow to their business, although they might be able to find a new TV home. I do wish the best for them as they go forward, whether on Spike or elsewhere, and as a fan, I do hope that both their future, and the future of the WWE network, are bright ones. It become easy to forget as we watch the one-ring circus that behind it is a business on which many livelihoods depend, and getting to see what we see on TV can be very fickle. Wishing the best for everyone involved in what could be some rocky weeks ahead.