Monday, October 26, 2009

Of Old-Fashioned Comebacks And Then Some

Lovely weekend of English football. A win for Megson over a decidedly un-top-four(six?)-looking Everton, another goldust-like point for Wolves, West Ham from two goals down to draw at home, Fulham, more appealingly so, by the same margin, at Eastlands. Result of the weekend: a smash-and-grab operation by Stoke at White Hart Lane. That bloke Whelan will become a legend at this rate, if he's not careful.

And from that pulsating game that undid Spurs comes my quote of the weekend: "Delap...with his feet, this time..."

How I love being home. :)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shibboleth, Part Two

First they were "stunning", now they are "awesome." Anything and everything is now "awesome." Stuff that is decidedly not awesome is now "awesome." Because it just is. Because when they dig deep into the endless reservoir of their collective vocabulary, "awesome" is what they pull out. A one-word demolition derby that now terrorises The Establishment.

I'd like to believe that we had a role in putting "stunning" out of commission, at least in circles that we inhabit. But never in our wildest dreams did we expect this. And I realise that I possibly don't have enough time to wage what will have to be a single-handed war. It frightens me.

Brilliant. Terrific. Outstanding. Great. Quality. Righteous.

Something, anything. Anything but "awesome."

To quote from the creator of one of the most overplayed songs (boy, wait till I write about that phenomenon!) in law school history, "Mikey. Mikey. Mikey. Turn that effin' light off. There you go. See? It's not that effin' hard."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Keep The Dream Alive

Precisely as I'd predicted, it's becoming difficult not to cry. And I've come to realise that, for the foreseeable future at least, "Keep The Dream Alive" will carry an altogether new meaning in my life.

And The Undertaker beat CM Punk for the World Heavyweight Championship at Hell In A Cell last night. Now if Big Brother puts Little-Trans-Tasmanian-Upstart-Of-A-Brother in his (its? their?) place tonight, I will actually cry.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Space And Time

Having barely been in a half-awake state for most of the day, my media player's shuffle conspired to strike a sharp stab of insecurity into my heart by playing "Love Remains The Same" by Gavin Rossdale a few minutes ago. After a fairly eventful but ultimately fruitless three days at home last weekend, that song has now been and, I suspect, shall forever be linked in my mind with the "elite" John Marshall conference room.

Given my current run of luck, there's a very good chance that, this time tomorrow, I'll be humming Oasis' "Keep The Dream Alive." In fact, I'd be surprised if I'm not. Really. It'd be difficult not to cry.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Top Ten Pay-Per-View Singles Matches of Shawn Michaels' Career

Shawn Michaels def. Sycho Sid (c)
for the WWF Championship
The Alamodome; San Antonio, Texas
The Royal Rumble; January 19, 1997.

You'd be right to be surprised at seeing this match make the top ten. I'll admit it wasn't a classic title match and a little on the short side as well. But what makes it stand out in my mind is that Shawn had to build it from the ground up. Normally, you'd think that if you're going to drop the strap to Shawn Michaels in San Antonio, you'd have your flying shoes on and attempt to make him look as good as possible in front of his hometown crowd. I don't think that that basic respect ever entered Sycho Sid's conscious thought process. As a result, you have a Dusty finish with Shawn having to use tweener tactics to gain the crucial advantage in the home stretch. That he carried Sid on his shoulders throughout the match is kind of obvious. The kind of sustained reaction he got on winning the title in front of his parents, family and friends most certainly was not. To put it in a "sporting" context, it was like Pat Cash at Wimbledon 1987. Only the crowd at the Alamodome was much larger and much louder. And for that one night, they were OWNED by Shawn Michaels.

Shawn Michaels def. Ric Flair
in a Career Threatening Match
The Citrus Bowl; Orlando, Florida
Wrestlemania XXIV; March 30, 2008.

The funny part about this match is that Shawn actually never wanted to be the guy to retire Flair--he thought Hunter or Orton should do it--and fair enough. There isn't really a "passing of the torch" when twilight defeats well-past-midnight. Nevertheless, the run-in was good, the camera angles were spot on (a tough thing to do at an open-air event), the crowd was hot and the execution itself showed some really believable animosity between the two. Shawn was as up for it as I've seen him in many years, he sold Flair's figure-four (which, by then, must've felt like a mildly uncomfortable yoga position) to perfection, slapped Flair so hard in the face that he drew blood, gave Flair space to launch his short but frequent comebacks and, most importantly, got the hell out of dodge once he'd pinned him. It was easily's Flair's best match in many a year and a large part of that is due to the man who landed three thunderous kicks to his chin inside fifteen minutes. If only Vince had put this match on last. Because of that one simple booking mistake, not only is no one going to remember an excellent Undertaker/Edge match for the World Heavyweight Championship the same night, but everyone's going to look back and think that Flair's retirement match was terrific, but not perfect. And that's a shame.

Kurt Angle def. Shawn Michaels
The Staples Center; Los Angeles, California
Wrestlemania XXI; April 3, 2005.

You could not mess this one up if you tried. You expected a half an hour wrestling clinic when these two faced each other and that's exactly what you got. Classic momentum shifts, top-class catch-wrestling and more suplexes than I'd care to count. The reason this match isn't higher up is that it had a storyline that many people didn't like and the match itself required Shawn to use some unnecessary deflecting tactics, which was sort of pointless if he was going to tap out anyway (which he did). However, unlike other "I needed to know and I found out" matches (the terrible Michaels/Hogan fiasco comes to mind), at least this one had enough to keep the purists entertained.

Shawn Michaels def. Chris Jericho
Safeco Field; Seattle, Washington
Wrestlemania XIX; March 30, 2003.

The famous "mirror" match from Safeco Field comes in at #7. Ten on ten for storyline--follower meets idol, wannabe meets showstopper and all that. Jericho's mike skills sold the match before it happened and his wrestling skills kept the record crowd of over 54,000 wired throughout. Beautifully scripted, wonderfully executed--the one Wrestlemania match that I'd instantly call poetry in motion. It had all the classic Shawn moments (and a lot of them twice, because Jericho did them too) and all the Jericho moments and all the edge-of-the-seat transitions that make a wrestling fan's live worth living. The main events (The Rock v. Austin and Angle v. Lesnar) are best forgotten and eventually, when the dust settles, while Shawn will acknowledge that this was another of his classics, Jericho might just think that he was at his absolute best here.

Shawn Michaels def. Triple H
in an Unsanctioned Street Fight
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum; Uniondale, New York
Summerslam; August 25, 2002.

I was expecting a gorefest when this "best friends gone wrong" angle came to a head on my fifteenth birthday. They didn't disappoint--Triple H was at his absolute best here and Shawn was only a tiny step behind. That would be good enough to make this list but the fact this was Shawn's first match since dropping the belt to Austin at Wrestlemania XIV (the famous Tyson match) makes this performance absolutely mindboggling. How does a guy who's done nothing for five years suddenly come back, not miss a beat and go full tilt with Hunter at his prime for over twenty-seven minutes? I don't think anybody, Hunter included, has managed to answer this question. And despite being a brawl, it was a typical Shawn match, full of high-flying spots perfectly executed at a breakneck pace. That moonsault, that reverse bridge, that splash from the top rope outside the ring onto Hunter on a table. Breathtaking. It set the bar for the Hunter/Shawn feud, which, hand on heart, has been one of the best this decade. And though they legitimately delivered in numerous pay-per-views after this, I doubt they were ever this good again.

Shawn Michaels def. Mr. McMahon
in a No Holds Barred Match
The Allstate Arena; Rosemont, Illinois
Wrestlemania XXII; April 2, 2006.

At Wrestlemania XXII, Shawn Michaels, no stranger to "punishment posting" matches, was instructed to not ruin his reputation for having legendary Wrestlemania matches while wrestling a sixty-two year old man with all the athletic ability of, as Chris Jericho so colourfully put it, "a giant slug." Therefore, the fact that this match wasn't a stinker should, in itself, merit a place in this top ten. However, the reason it is this far up is because not only did the storyline build-up to it demand that Shawn act like a legitimately mean, distinctly Austin-esque SOB, but also that he do all the flying. Indeed, in addition to the gaping chasm in athletic ability of the two competitors, I hope nobody forgets that, at six-foot-one and a gassed-up two hundred and forty pounds, Vince was actually the bigger man in the match. He was also willing to try anything. And "anything", they did. Apart from the relentless kicking of Vince's posterior, this match was one of those truly memorable, pure entertainment-value matches, with some wicked interference by Shane (an excellent talent in his own right) thrown in. Shawn excelled in selling Vince as a serious threat for most of the match while making each offensive move of his own look as devastating as possible, all while looking to ensure that his boss could still hope to walk out of the arena unassisted. Top-class give-and-take, top-class innovation, top-class brawling and even J.R. was on top of his game. And the image of that D-X crotch chop by Shawn, standing atop that gigantic ladder, flashbulbs bathing him in light, waiting to descend upon a hapless McMahon entombed in that trash can lying prone on top that table, will live on forever.

The Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels
The Reliant Stadium; Houston, Texas
Wrestlemania XXV; April 5, 2009.

It's not often that two forty-plus wrestlers can go half an hour at Wrestlemania without making a mistake. But that's precisely what happened at the Reliant Stadium. Honestly, the only reason this match isn't higher up is because the storyline didn't catch on, Shawn's heelish approach seemed forced and all the artificial attempts to create heat came to naught because Shawn and the Undertaker are Texans, so nobody was really going to jeer either wrestler. Another match which many people thought should've ended the show (much like Shawn/Jericho. Or Shawn/Flair. Sigh. Does anyone else see a trend here?) and with good reason. A complete lesson in ring psychology and a beautifully put together match, in terms of preserving the integrity of both wrestlers' characters and their offensive arsenals. We had a teaser of what might happen when these two squared off during an excellent last few minutes of the 2007 Royal Rumble and, by golly, the full show did not disappoint. It convinces me that both men could go on another three years if they want. Because the thunking sound of that second superkick and the accompanying collective gasp of over 72,000 people will remain my defining memory of Wrestlemania XXV.

Shawn Michaels def. Bret Hart (c)
in an Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship
The Arrowhead Pond; Anaheim, California
Wrestlemania XII, March 31, 1996.

This had to find its way into the top few, didn't it? Perfection in terms of build-up, perfection in terms of approach, perfection in terms of both wrestlers' respect for each other, though the last of those proved to be short-lived. I don't think I've ever seen Shawn in a better "wrestling" match. And it makes you realise that he had the wrestling tools to legitimately take the title off Bret, because the only thing he concentrated on in the weeks leading up to the showdown was endurance. And, to my mind, any time a guy is that confident that he won't be exposed in terms of his technical wrestling ability when he's prepping to go one hour with Bret Hart, that says something. The pace wasn't electric, there was only one flying elbow and "business" didn't exactly "pick up" constantly. While that is something that lowers quality of this match in my estimation a tiny bit, any time a wrestler is able to do a good job of keeping in sniffing distance of Bret Hart at Bret Hart's methodical pace, you've got to hand it to them. The problems with this match were largely conceptual--the stalemate at the end of the hour was less than optimum (imagine the kind of fightback sequences there could've been had there been multiple pinfalls/submissions), the match ended too early into overtime and the post-match melee left a bad taste in the mouth. But let that not take away from the quality and intensity of what these guys did for one solid hour. Cemented forever in our minds by Vince's emotional "boyhood dream" speech, this one is still the standard that top guys in the business look to emulate.

Shawn Michaels def. The Undertaker
in a Hell In A Cell Match
The Kiel Center; St. Louis, Missouri
Badd Blood: In Your House; October 5, 1997.

Dave Meltzer didn't give this five stars for nothing. Talk about stepping into the unknown. Steel cage surrounds ring. Nowhere to run. Positively frightening six-foot-ten, three hundred and twenty pound "best big man in the business" seeks revenge for the time he was hit over the head as hard as humanly possible with a steel folding chair. If the Iron Man Match was a wrestling match, this was a brawl. Shawn had to have realised pretty quick that he had to start fighting otherwise he was going to get killed inside (and, later, outside) the Cell. It brought out a kamikaze, survival instinct, win-at-all-costs side of Shawn's wrestling game that I don't think we've fully appreciated even to this day. Piledrivers, chair shots, elbows off the top, big rights thrown harder than I've ever seen. Add to that the vintage Shawn high spots, which were taken to another level due to the necessary brutality of the cage. For all those who think Mankind was the first one to fall from the Cell in that infamous 1998 King of the Ring match, you're wrong. Shawn here took an eight foot bump through the Spanish announcers' table (poor guys) falling off the side of the cage that was just as sickening. That he got up and took more punishment speaks of a quality of resilience and conditioning I'd like to see from a John Cena sometime. And you didn't hear this from me, but extreme tolerances didn't just dominate the action inside the ring in this one. Behind the scenes, the Undertaker was livid with Shawn for his (perceived?) role in the Montreal Screwjob and had been waiting to get his hands on him inside precisely the sort of prison that the Cell was. Watch that match and there'll be little doubt in anyone's mind that Shawn's personal safety wasn't the Undertaker's top priority. It was rough, it was dangerous, there was legitimate animosity and professional wrestling rarely gets better than that. Throw in an excellent booking decision--the debut of Kane--and you have one of the most memorable wrestling moments of the 1990s.

Razor Ramon (c) def. Shawn Michaels
in a Ladder Match for the WWF Intercontinental Championship
Madison Square Garden; New York City, New York
Wrestlemania X; March 20, 1994.

Let's get a couple of things straight. This wasn't the "first ever" Ladder Match and the concept wasn't Shawn's idea. And I don't think either of those things matter. This was a match between two good friends, a match which wasn't wild in terms of pre-match hype and a match which, unlike most on this list, Shawn didn't win. But if you think back to these details now, even they don't matter. That should indicate why this match was so special. I don't think I have ever seen such a sudden and fundamental modification in a wrestler's style as I saw in Shawn's performance in this match. He pulled out all the Midnight Rockers' moves that he used to do with Marty Jannetty and made them carry twice the impact. Match of the Year, said the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Five-star match, said Dave Meltzer. Rich accolades indeed. Richer still when you consider that he carried Razor like a suitcase practically the entire time. I don't think Tully Blanchard was kidding when he, in his inimitable style, said, "this here is a situation where Shawn basically went out there and had a match with a ladder. There just happened to be another person in the ring with him." An absolute workshop, it was--pace, agility, timing, ring psychology, moves that are still being stolen today. I seriously doubt I've ever seen better.

I know you'll frown at me for putting this at #1. What about the Iron Man Match, you'll say, what about the Flair match, what about Hell In A Cell? Let me tell you something. The line between a good wrestling match and a great one is that the great match is able to significantly raise the stock of both participants, it "makes" both performers. And if you look back, Flair would've had a good retirement match anyway. The Undertaker, inside a Cell, would've dragged a good match out of anyone anyway. Even Shawn, without this match, would've gone on to become a successful wrestler. But the reason why this match is that special is because without Shawn in this match, Razor would've been nothing.

I'm not sure if there's a point to this story but I'm going to tell it again.

My photo
I've been wilfully caught up in the self-defeating quest to get to know myself for years. I've never expected anything beneficial to result from such a quest. I tend to evoke extremely polarised reactions from people I get to know in passing. Consequently, only those people who know me inside-out would honestly claim that I'm a person who's just "alright." It's not a coincidence that the description I've laid out above has no fewer than, title included, eleven references to me (make that twelve). I'm affectionately referred to as "Ego." I think that last statement might have given away a tad too much. Welcome Aboard.

IHTRTRS ke pichle episode mein aapne dekha...


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