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Apr 6

Wrestlemania XXX

Posted on Sunday, April 6, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

We have a podcast this weekend – that’s just one post down.  And as Al reminds you there, don’t forget to get tickets for our live recording on May 31!

Onwards…  The WWE’s biggest show of the year is coming from New Orleans this year.  If you only buy one wrestling PPV a year, it’s probably this one – although this year things are complicated by its inclusion in the Netflix-style “WWE Network” service, where the cost of a six month subscription compares quite favourably with the cost of buying just this one show.  So if you’re buying this as a PPV in 2014, either you don’t have good enough broadband to access the Network, or you haven’t heard of the Network, or you live abroad.

Or you don’t trust the Network, because it’s not been without its teething issues, and plainly this is going to be its biggest test to date.  Given that they had some buffering problems on NXT arRival (yes, that’s how it was capitalised), you have to wonder.  With the Network clearly positioned as the replacement for PPV in the company’s business model, it’s entirely possible that the big story everyone will be talking about on Monday won’t be the wrestling at all, but the tech issues.

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Feb 22

Elimination Chamber 2014

Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

Elimination Chamber is an unusual show, more for what’s going on in the wider business than for the actual card.  On Monday, the WWE launches its online streaming service, WWE Network, which will offer all the future “pay-per-views” as part of the subscription – a subscription which massively undercuts the cost of actually buying them as PPVs.  Subscribers will also get access to a substantial video-on-demand library, plus some original programming (though the only notable inclusion is the developmental show NXT, which is genuinely quite good these days).  This is all for viewers in the US, by the way; the international launch isn’t for a while yet.

In effect, the WWE is abandoning the PPV platform, and these shows will become monthly specials designed to draw new viewers to the Network.  In practice, anyone who’s remotely interested in the Network is likely to sign up in advance of Wrestlemania next month, and in the short term the company’s main revenue source is likely to be rights fees from TV contracts (which, incidentally, are all coming for renegotiation right now) – so there’s going to be an interesting tension between grabbing the ratings and steering people to the Network.

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Feb 3

Holds to Astonish

Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 by Al in Podcast, Wrestling

As mentioned in our last podcast post, Paul and I have put together a special one-off wrestling-themed episode of the show, which we’ve renamed Holds to Astonish for the occasion. On this episode, we’re speaking to two of the highly entertaining peeps from CHIKARA Pro (which we’ve previously written about here) – commentator Leonard F Chikarason (co-host of excellent comics podcast The Weekly Longbox) and wrestler Kobald (who is a goblin. We’re not kidding. It’s that kind of promotion). Forewarned is forearmed, though – we try to set out as much of the essential information on Chikara as possible in our intro, and we’ve made the interviews (which follow on from the important storyline events of National Pro Wrestling Day, which you can watch the whole of for free here) as user-friendly as possible, but there may be points which are necessarily glossed over a little. For that we can only apologise, and encourage you to check out Chikara shows for more details. Also, Kobald is a goblin, so his voice is… distinctive.

There’s practically no comics chat in this episode (though we do natter to Kobald for a bit about Spider-Man) so if you’re not a wrestling person, or if you’re not interested in hearing about the only wrestling promotion that can even get me interested, then never fear – your regular episode of the show will be along this weekend.

For everyone else, the show is here, or here on Mixcloud, or available via the embedded player below. We’re also on Stitcher.com and their free iOS and Android apps, and you can find our feed, as always, on iTunes. Let us know what you think, in the comments below, on Twitter, via email or on our Facebook fan page.

There’s also super snazzy House to Astonish merch, as always, on our Redbubble store.

Jan 25

Royal Rumble 2014

Posted on Saturday, January 25, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been too busy to pay much close attention to the build up for this show.  But it’s worth saying something about since, with the launch of the so-called “WWE Network” (actually an online streaming service on the Netflix model), we’re nearing the end of the current PPV model in pro wrestling.

The WWE Network has been in the pipeline for ages – they actually announced it a couple of years back only for it to drift off the radar.  Despite this, it still seems to have come as a surprise announcement to many people not following the industry.  Essentially, the big idea is to have a streaming service where, for around the price of a single PPV on the current model, you can subscribe for six months and get all the PPVs in that period, plus a ton of archive material, and, well, some blatant filler like a reality show that’s been languishing at the back of a drawer for two years.

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Dec 14

WWE TLC

Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 by Paul in Wrestling

One of the strangest cards the WWE has given us in quite some time.  TLC is usually a pretty minor show.  It’s a hangover from the days when hardcore matches – and specifically Tables, Ladders and [steel] Chairs – were regular features in the WWE, something they’ve wisely moved away from in recent years.  It now sits on the schedule as an odd little quirk, with matches somewhat toned down from earlier years.  It’s the December show, and usually marks time before the “Road to Wrestlemania” gets under way with the Royal Rumble in January.

Which made it something of a surprise when, out of nowhere, and with only three weeks of promotion, they announced…

1.  WWE Title & World Heavyweight Title – Tables Ladders & Chairs Match: John Cena © v Randy Orton ©.  Yes, completely out of nowhere, it’s the long overdue unification match between the Raw and Smackdown titles.

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Nov 23

Survivor Series 2013

Posted on Saturday, November 23, 2013 by Paul in Wrestling

Survivor Series is meant to be one of the more important B-shows on the WWE’s PPV calendar, if only because it’s been around a good long while, but the line-up this year is, to put it politely, largely uninspiring.  There are a couple of promising matches on the undercard, but not much to persuade people to shell out.

1.  WWE Title – Randy Orton © v The Big Show.  Common sense might have suggested that after several months of being screwed out of the title, Daniel Bryan had to win the thing at some point, if only to provide some sense of closure.  Common sense, however, is in short supply among WWE writers, and so we’re simply moving on to another challenger.

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Oct 27

Hell in a Cell 2013

Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2013 by Paul in Wrestling

Not much in this week’s X-books to talk about, though I’ll try to do something about the second Wolverine Max TPB in the next couple of days.  In the meantime – wrestling!

The Hell in a Cell PPV is a hangover from the period when the WWE wanted to give all of their B-shows a theme.  It is arguably one of the worst ideas they ever had.  The Hell in a Cell match – basically a cage match in a bigger cage – had been very well promoted for years in a way that made it synonymous with Really Big Matches.  But having an annual show which was required to feature the match, and then failing to plan months in advance to ensure that was actually any reason to do so, has largely gutted the gimmick’s drawing power and turned it into simply a glorified cage match.  Of course, in terms of the rules, that’s all it ever was, but that’s not the point.  Presentation is everything.

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Oct 5

WWE Battleground

Posted on Saturday, October 5, 2013 by Paul in Wrestling

For those of you who come here for wrestling posts, I’ll draw your attention to the Chikara post just below, which, to be honest, is probably more interesting than Battleground.  The general consensus is that the WWE hasn’t done a brilliant job of promoting this one, or even giving people a particularly good reason to watch it.  But hey, it’s not a PPV in the UK, so I might as well record it…

1.  WWE Title: Daniel Bryan v Randy Orton.  The WWE Title is currently vacant.  The storyline here is that the evil owners of the company don’t want Daniel Bryan as their champion, because he doesn’t look like their idea of a champion.  In theory this is meant to get us behind him as a plucky underdog who doesn’t give up in the face of overwhelming odds.  That’s fine as far as it goes.

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Oct 3

Wrestling Without Wrestling (or, What the Heck is Chikara Playing At?)

Posted on Thursday, October 3, 2013 by Paul in Wrestling

Paul: We don’t normally look at indie wrestling here, but the current goings on in Chikara are worth a look – both because Chikara has always been the point where comics and wrestling meet, and because the company appears to be currently engaged in one of the strangest storylines ever attempted in wrestling.  Genius?  Insanity?  Commercial folly?  Implosion?  ARG?  Workaround?  Nobody seems entirely sure what they’re up to, or how anyone’s going to make money from it at the end of the day.

Naturally, this makes it fascinating.

Al: Paul’s right that Chikara’s current turn of events is fascinating, but we should note that it’s actually interesting enough that someone who’s a complete outsider to wrestling (i.e. me) is utterly gripped (or possibly armbarred) by what’s currently going on in the promotion. We’re going to have a look at the basics of Chikara here, and go into a bit of detail about not only what’s happening at the moment, but also what makes it sufficiently fun in general that even I’m hooked.

Paul: Since this is not primarily a wrestling blog, let’s set the scene and explain what Chikara actually is (or was).  Chikara storylines are, shall we say, a bit complicated, so let’s boil this down to the essentials.

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Sep 15

Night of Champions 2013

Posted on Sunday, September 15, 2013 by Paul in Wrestling

Ah, Night of Champions.  The annual show where the entire gimmick is meant to be that every title is defended – and so, of course, one of them won’t be.  Admittedly, that’s because the storyline in question pretty much requires a non-title match, but it shows the limitations of the company committing itself in advance to themed shows.  (I use the word “committing” loosely, obviously.  This is the WWE we’re talking about.)

1.  WWE Title: Randy Orton (c) v. Daniel Bryan.  Last month, you’ll recall, dimwitted Raw GM Brad Maddox allowed John Cena to pick the challenger for his WWE Title.  Being a solid heroic type, Cena played fair and chose Daniel Bryan, setting up the storyline that the McMahon family, who own the company, were divided about whether the misfit underdog Bryan was a remotely acceptable world champion .  As widely expected, Bryan did indeed beat Cena to win the title clean, with Triple H refereeing the match fairly – only for Triple H to attack him immediately after the match and basically hand the title to Randy Orton, who cheerfully cashed in the Money in the Bank title shot he won earlier in the year.

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