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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Falling in Love again

There are two great loves of my life. Football (the UK version) and wrestling. I don't ever see that changing. However, the levels of the love do fluctuate somewhat. And I don't think they have ever ebbed and flowed as much as they have in 2010.

If you are here solely for the wrestling please stick with me here, all will become clear.......

For those not "soccer" savvy, my team, Plymouth Argyle, after 6-8 really good years, got relegated to football's third tier in May after a dismal season. And we didn't start the current one very well either. When you get relegated it is in your mind that you might bounce straight back up, but one win in our first six games (and that was the first one) didn't point to this being likely.

You can all this to my other footballing love, The England national team, bombing in spectacular circumstances at the World Cup. A World Cup in which great football was at a premium.

It wasn't just Argyle struggling - I felt football was struggling.

Eleven days ago, things started to change. An absolutely scintillating game with Sheffield Wednesday which we won 3-2 was one of the best games I've seen in years. Perhaps not for quality as compared to Championship or Premier League football, obviously, but in terms of action it was phenomenal. Admittedly we lost against Brighton four days later, but we then got a creditable draw at Rochdale.

I think football in general is in a great place again. The first six weeks or so of the season have seen, in all four leagues, incredible scorelines, great games, great goals, major shocks, loads of talking points. You feel anyone could beat anyone. Seriously.

Last night, as I type this, I traveled 140 miles or so to Swindon. I saw my team score in the fifth minute of injury time to record another thrilling 3-2 victory. We scored twice in the first eight minutes. We slipped back to 2-2. There were two red cards, one for either team. I shouted myself hoarse. Went from elation to panic to despair and right back up again. I celebrated like a mad thing when we got the winner. I can't stop thinking about the game. I'm finding myself smiling like an idiot periodically. Could this be the start of something? Could we win on Saturday? Could we go up?

Of course, it's highly likely we'll get stuffed on Saturday against Hartlepool, and it'll all be for nought. But for now, I'll enjoy the high.

I don't get that from wrestling anymore. I've had these lows before and bounced back, so I'm sure I will again, but there is nothing that excites me right now.

I was so high at the start of the year. Hogan and Bischoff joining TNA, the live Monday head-to-head on Jan 4, Bret Hart returning.........what a start. I loved the unpredictability of the new Monday War (The Monday Night Skirmish?), I thought the build to Mania was terrific - Taker and Shawn.....just wow.

That match was the one which made me feel like I did during that game at Swindon. Now I don't expect every wrestling match to do that, nor every football game. But it is nice to be taken on a story, to have some hope, to feel some emotion. Wrestling now is so stale. So predictable. So bland.

Of course I am talking about the "big two" companies. (ROH is doing a reasonable job, but has it;s limitations) I've been down on TNA for some time, as you know. Their booking in 2010 has been largely abysmal. A staggering run of illogical decisions and pushes has turned me off of their product entirely. I watch it now because it's my job. No more.

For a long while I felt WWE was massive superior. Right now they are still in front in my mind - but only marginally. At least TNA take chances. It seems WWE would rather have a paint by numbers show with minimal athleticism and a couple of zany jokes which keeps Vince McMahon occupied. They rallied for a few weeks with the introduction of the Nexus angle, but that had it's flaws.

When the Nexus debuted it was a brilliant moment - but don't forget it was a three hour show which sucked until that point. There was a terrific show where Cena introduced his team to face Nexus, culminating in the Bret Hart announcement. But after they were booked to lose in the big showdown, Raw fizzled out again.

Now Plymouth Argyle are MY team. I don't expect to feel like a wrestler like that. I don't expect to follow MY guy to the title. I'm beyond that now. I'm a reporter. An analyst. It's my job. But this means that I always know when a match or a show hits the heights, because it makes me FEEL something. This happens so rarely now it's sad.

To be fair, Hardy and Angle did it, despite the criticism it received. So did Daniel Bryan beating Miz in a way. Some parts of Nexus made me react. But mostly I feel nothing. It washes over me. Doesn't mean anything. This might just be me, but the dwindling ratings for both TNA and WWE suggests it isn't just me. There are a lot of people fed up right now.

There isn't a major star in either company people want to get behind and see their rise to the top. There is a Jeff Hardy circa 2008 when he was the hottest thing in wrestling by a long way. The fans were dying to cheer for Jericho but didn't get their wish. No-one cares about the babyfaces in TNA because there are no major heels. Not one. At least in WWE they have had, in the last two years, Edge, Orton, Jericho, Sheamus, Miz and CM Punk feel convincing as heels you want to see beaten. TNA have a cartoon monster who is a derivation of Kane and a heel stable full of talented young fellas and led by a legend. People won't boo AJ. They won't boo Flair. They won't boo Fortune.

So no-one gets over. They have murdered the Kurt Angle retirement issue. That's a joke. RVD's injury is bizarre. Hardy looks half the man (or twice the man, I guess) that he was. Anderson's act is a lot of fun, but he's the fun second or third babyface figure, not a franchise guy you can build around. They've made Joe (who I think might be most talented wrestler in the world - at least the most fun to watch) look like a moron.

The most worrying thing is that apart from The Miz I can't think of a single wrestler who hasn't won a world title that I think either company could get behind and make something of. At risk of going all Joe McElderberry, it isn't just the winning of the belt, it's The Climb. That was why Hardy's push worked. It's why it was emotional when Benoit and Guerrero won gold. It's why they made a big thing out of HBK beating Bret and "the boyhood dream" coming true. It's people loved Mick Foley in the late 90s. Crikey, even Austin was the most popular wrestler in the world for about a year before he won the World Title at Wrestlemania.

I can't foresee a brand new concept executed well. I can't envisage a change in vision on either side. I can't pick out a wrestler to break out.

Mind you, three weeks ago I thought Argyle would be struggling to even stay in the league. Now I believe again. I think we can go up. Not only that, but I think I'll be entertained along the road.

I'm sure wrestling will recapture my heart at some point. But for some it will be too late.

I'm holding out hope for something major to be just around the corner. You'll know when it happens, because the pop will be heard for miles.

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