Sunday, September 30, 2007

X-Axis comments thread - 30 September 2007

This week: X-Men #203 finishes "Blinded by the Light" and X-Men: First Class #4 goes on a road trip. It's a very quiet week, to be honest - I think the only new series on the shelves was an Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters miniseries from DC, and honestly, that doesn't interest me at all. (Was it worth reading?)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

So it's come to this.

It's Friday 21 September, and Susi and I are in the balcony of the Edinburgh Playhouse. I can't help but wonder what the hell I'm doing here.

I am not in the target audience for this show. I can tell. The theatre is full, and the audience is about 97% female. And not only are they women, but they are women in packs. Clearly, the husbands and boyfriends of Edinburgh have, en masse, made it clear that no, they will not come and see this show.

I am either a very good boyfriend or a complete sucker.

Because we are here to watch Never Forget - the all-new stage musical based on the songs of early 90s boyband Take That.

Who the hell thought this was a good idea? There have been a spate of these things in recent years. It seemed questionable when they did it with Abba and Queen. There was one based on Pet Shop Boys songs on the Fringe this year, which I could just about imagine working, since they were heavily influenced by musicals in the first place. I haven't seen any of them. But it doesn't exactly sound like a winning formula, cobbling together a musical out of pre-existing, unrelated songs. And that's when you're dealing with A-list songwriters.

But Take That? Really?

Actually, I'm being too negative. After all, within their genre, Take That were about as good as it got. Formed as a vehicle for songwriter Gary Barlow, they ended up accidentally launching the career of Robbie Williams instead. But Barlow was a good pop songwriter, and he still is. Reading through their discography on Wikipedia, there's some good stuff in there. "Relight My Fire" certainly holds up well for a boy band single that came out 14 years ago.

"Back for Good" is a legitimately good track that still gets played on merit rather than for pure nostalgia. "A Million Love Songs" was a half-decent ballad beneath its cheesy arrangement. Their version of "Could It Be Magic" was, well, about as good as a Barry Manilow cover is going to get, and the video includes a girl I knew at school. (She's the one in the red dress, and we starred opposite one another in a school production of the Mikado, of which all videos have hopefully been destroyed.)

"Never Forget", transparently intended as an epilogue to their career, became a fabulous pop epic by the time Jim Steinman had finished adding children's choirs to it. And while their final single was a banal cover version of the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love", a bizarrely sinister video twisted it into a cryptic commentary about the fans, which could only ever have been approved by a band who'd mentally thrown in the towel. Robbie Williams, who had already quit by this point, described it as his favourite Take That video, and I'm sure he meant it. On many levels.

None of these records could exactly be described as credible, let alone fashionable. And yes, they released a lot of junk too. But there will always be a market for boy bands of some sort, and at least when Take That were around, they generally did it well. Put them next to Boyzone or Westlife, who were just bland, plastic balladeers, and the quality gap is huge.

Nonetheless, when you're making a musical based on Take That, it's not like making a musical based on Abba. Abba are a band that adults listen to; Take That are a band that the audience, almost entirely women in their late twenties, remember loving when they were thirteen. And while they still genuinely love the songs, they also know that there's something very silly about this whole idea. That's why they're here. The ridiculousness is exactly what sounds like fun.

As it happens, the writers feel the same way. What they've produced is a bit like a sanitised episode of Shameless with added nineties pop music. It's a feelgood show with enough self-awareness not to take itself seriously, but not so much as to drown in irony. It's... you know, it's actually pretty entertaining.

The plot involves Ash, an aspiring Mancunian singer who hopes to make it big when, implausibly but inevitably, he joins a Take That tribute band. But will he stand by his motley crew of dubious impersonators, or will he turn his back on family and friends to pursue the chance of solo stardom?

We all know exactly where it's going from the word go, and that's precisely the way the audience likes it. Nobody came here for dramatic weight; what they want is some Take That songs (which they get), some decent comedy (which they also get), and a familiar plot to hang them on. It doesn't take the crowd long to decide that this is a pantomime and that they are going to cheer and boo every character with the sort of enthusiasm not usually seen this side of Wrestlemania.

Roughly half of the second act is really just a Take That tribute concert. This works just fine, because the show's done enough to make us want to see the band succeed, and it's earned the right to just run through a few songs in full. Besides, "Relight My Fire" is a good production number when you do it right.

Never Forget is a show with absolutely no pretensions to be anything more than it is. Instead of trying to be clever, it's put all its effort into trying to be funny and into trying to make the songs work on stage. That's not to say that the show has no subtlety; it's smart enough to know that a moment of personal dilemma soundtracked by a minor-key version of the band's excruciating gay-club-targetted pre-fame single "Do What U Like" is just funny, that the joke doesn't need to be explained, and that it simply has to be played straight. But fundamentally, it just wants to entertain, it knows exactly how seriously it's going to be taken, and it pitches itself accordingly.

I don't think I've ever seen a theatre audience who were more into a show. It needs to be seen with an enthusiastic crowd; it's been designed as the focal point of a night out, not as a story. It's not something you'd want to see several times. But as a piece of pop theatre, it actually works, as much on the strength of the audience participation as anything else. Purists hate this sort of show, but anything that gets this much reaction is a persuasive illustration of the theatre as a living medium. It knows what its audience wants, and it delivers on it. You can't really expect anything more from a Take That musical, can you?

Oh, and a footnote. Strictly speaking, "How Deep Is Your Love" wasn't really their last single, because they re-formed last year and released a whole new album which actually sold well. None of that stuff is in the show, and it wouldn't fit anyway. Although "Shine" is quite good, isn't it...?

First Among Sequels

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Click, a minicomic by Sara Ryan and Dylan Meconis. By now it's probably far too late to use that as a segue into Jasper Fforde's First Among Sequels, which Meconis illustrated, but that's not going to stop me trying.

First Among Sequels, whatever the title might suggest, is the fifth book in Fforde's Thursday Next series. But there's at least some logic to the title. The first four - The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten - form a complete story. FAS is the start of another quadrilogy, hence the name.

The Thursday Next books are downright weird (and explaining precisely how they're connected in continuity with the even weirder Nursery Crime series is virtually impossible without giving a lecture on Ffordian cosmology). A lot of people say that you can get away with just about anything in stories, so long as you pick one big idea and run with the consequences of that. The audience will suspend their disbelief for one thing, but there's only so far you can push them. For most writers, this seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb.

Fforde has no truck with such nonsense. It's hard to know where to begin in sketching Thursday Next's world, which diverges from our own somewhere around the end of the Crimean War, and which has degenerated somewhere along the line into a world of borderline absurdist chaos, something to which its inhabitants seem entirely oblivious. It's not that Fforde's characters have failed to notice that their timeline is in perpetual flux or that there's a herd of migrating mammoths destroying small country towns; they just treat it as absolutely normal.

Literature is an inexplicably big deal in this world, and Thursday, our heroine, starts off as a member of the specialist Literary Detective police force, based in the thrilling modern metropolis of Swindon. The first few books largely involve her learning how to enter the world of fiction - in which every book, and a central governing authority, exist as worlds in their own right - and picking up a dual role with the local police force, Jurisfiction.

First Among Sequels picks up years after the first series, with the Literary Detectives semi-disbanded. Thursday is now aged 52 with three kids, and the Bookworld is getting increasingly worried about the drop in readership. Complicating an already convoluted world still further, Thursday now has two doppelgangers running around the Bookworld, thanks to an ill-advised decision to licence her life story. Thursday1-4, the star of the first four novels, is a gun-toting sex-crazed adolescent moron. Thursday 5, the result of the real Thursday's horrified complaints, is an ultra-liberal loser.

Meanwhile, the evil Goliath Corporation has somehow returned from its defeat in book four (when Thursday thwarted its attempt to become a religion), and the time-travelling Chronoguard are getting very worried about Thursday's teenage son Friday, who has inexplicably failed to sign up as a trainee the way he was meant to. He's already running the Chronoguard as an adult, so if he fails to join in the first place, there will be serious problems.

The precise mechanics of the Bookworld don't make entirely consistent sense, but somehow that's part of the charm. Fforde is even more explicit about the fact that his time travel plots are utterly nonsensical. Playing breezily off the fact that we all expect fictional time travel to involve inexplicably paradox, Fforde deliberately pushes his time travel stories to the edge of incomprehensibility. "Yes," the books sometimes seem to be saying, "of course this doesn't make any sense. What's your point?"

Fforde gets away with it thanks to a mixture of well-defined characters and
strong plotting instincts. No matter how bizarre events may get, the plot is always well enough defined to make sure you have something to hang onto. He really is proof that a good storyteller can get away with murder.

That said, he won't be to everyone's taste. There are elements of Fforde's style that would undoubtedly irritate the life out of a lot of people reading this. Imagine Douglas Adams (with a much stronger sense of structure), plus a dash of Grant Morrison at his most metafictional, but all mixed in with a hefty dose of an old-school Radio 4 panel game. Which is to say that the Thursday Next books are very middle class indeed (not necessarily a problem), but also feature loads of excruciating puns and display a shaky grasp of characters under the age of 25. It may be done in a very knowing way, but Friday is still a rampaging stereotype.

For me, though, these points are all outweighed by Fforde's ability to build coherent stories out of seemingly random nonsense, and, just when you think he's drifting into safe and cosy territory, to blindside you with inspired ideas and bravura messing about with the form. All logic says this stuff shouldn't work, but it does, because beneath the aura of benign silliness, Fforde really knows what he's doing.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

X-Axis comments thread - 23 September 2007

It's been a busy week, and the couple of reviews I had planned for the weekend... well, haven't been written yet. So check back over the next few days for some thoughts about Jasper Fforde's latest novel First Among Sequels and... something that I still can't quite believe I agreed to go and see.

Meanwhile, this week: New X-Men #42 takes a break from the senseless carnage to give us an issue of people bemoaning the senseless carnage; Marvel Comics Presents is back (and I'm still not quite sure why); and Umbrella Academy, the book by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, turns out to be an entirely unexpected little ray of sunshine.

Oh, and I'm perfectly serious about the Hellcat story, by the way. I honestly can't fathom what it's trying to do, so if it makes any sense to you, do enlighten me.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

X-Axis comments thread - 16 September 2007

This week, the first issue of the X-Men: Emperor Vulcan miniseries (which doesn't have many X-Men, but does at least feature Emperor Vulcan); Sara Ryan's minicomic Click; and Mike Carey teams up with his teenage daughter to write Confessions of a Blabbermouth for Minx.

S-a-a-a-yyy... I've definitely got English selected as my language. Why does Blogger insist on giving me menus in German...?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Unforgiven 2007

You might not have noticed, if you've been watching the TV shows, but the WWE has another PPV on this weekend.

Unforgiven has turned out to be something of an afterthought, for two reasons. Firstly, everything has been thrown out of whack by the Signature Pharmacy case.

Signature was an online pharmacy which supplied various wrestlers with drugs that blatantly violated the company drug policy (not to mention, the law). Signature is currently being prosecuted, and the cops showed up at WWE headquarters with evidence clearly listing the wrestlers involved. Since the WWE is just about to attend congressional hearings on the subject of its drug policy, they had little alternative but to follow it to the letter, leading to a raft of 30-day suspensions. The company hasn't released the names of the wrestlers involved, but since the evidence itself was leaked to the press, and a bunch of guys were written off the show at the very next taping, it's pretty easy to figure out who they are.

Secondly, the WWE has devoted most of the last month to the "Who is Mr McMahon's long-lost illegitimate son?" storyline, which has precisely nothing to do with this pay-per-view. To be fair, it's leading to other matches down the line. By all accounts, the original plan was for Mr Kennedy to be revealed as the son on last week's Raw, which was taped in his home town of Green Bay, Wisconsin. This would have led to him becoming a main event wrestler, and fighting for control of the company against Triple H (Vince's son-in-law).

Unfortunately, Mr Kennedy has suddenly vanished from television for some strange reason. This is all desperately embarrassing, because Kennedy has spent the last couple of months doing the media rounds telling everyone who'll listen that there is no drug problem in wrestling, and that he personally has never, ever broken the WWE drug policy. More to the point, he's made some rather personal attacks on those journalists who had the temerity to suggest otherwise. He doesn't come out of this looking very good. Although as he's a villain, that won't necessarily cause him any problems.

With Kennedy out of the way, the WWE rather surprisingly ploughed ahead and revealed that Vince's son was Hornswoggle, the Irish midget from Smackdown. This means one of two things. Option one, they're going to do a few weeks of filler until Hornswoggle is exposed as a fake, and then we go back to the original story as planned. Option two, they've given up on the whole thing and they're turning it into a comedy angle. I'd be stunned if they weren't going for option one, but a lot of people do seem to think that this is genuinely the end of the plot, and winning them round to take it seriously again is going to be tricky.

But none of this has anything to do with Sunday's show. Instead, behold filler.

1. WWE Championship: John Cena v Randy Orton. A rematch from last month, when Cena retained his title to general surprise. They had a good match last month, but the storyline hasn't quite worked in the intervening weeks. The big idea is that Cena is out for revenge because Orton kicked his dad in the head. John Cena Sr works occasionally for an indie promotion up in Massachusetts, which is why he was so enthusiastic about getting involved in that storyline. But the follow-up was a bit half-hearted, and I don't think it's really worked.

So it's Cena and Orton in a straight match again. It should be good, and at this stage, I suspect Orton isn't winning the belt. If they were going to make him champion, he would probably have won last month. My guess would be that Cena retains on Sunday and goes on to lose to Vince's "real" son in due course.

What's more, Cena won the title at last year's Unforgiven, on 17 September 2006. So if he retains on Sunday, he gets to celebrate a year as champion on Monday night's episode of Raw. Having come this far, I can't see why you'd pass that up.

2. World Heavyweight Championship: The Great Khali v. Batista v. Rey Mysterio. Appallingly, the Great Khali is still Smackdown's champion, despite the minor handicap of being arguably the worst full-time professional wrestler on the planet. But he's big, you see. The story here is that Khali has already destroyed both of his challengers as individuals, but hey, maybe on Sunday they'll be able to take him down together. This is an awful idea. Khali is meant to be the bad guy. If the good guys are going to beat him, they ought to do it fair and square. It's no good for the babyfaces to beat him by double-teaming him, and if they actually lose, they look like total morons. What's more, I can't imagine what little Rey Mysterio is possibly going to do in a match against Khali.

This will be dreadful. I strongly suspect Khali is retaining, so that the returning Undertaker can win the belt next month.

3. ECW Championship: CM Punk v. Elijah Burke. Shameless filler. The previous ECW Champion was John Morrison, but he's on the "mysteriously vanished" list. More to the point, the WWE had already announced that his next defence would be against CM Punk, for the umpteenth time. So, with no other options really on the table, they just did that match on free television, and CM Punk won the title - more by accident than by plotting design.

Punk will now defend against Elijah Burke, because... well, just because, really. It's been weeks since Burke did anything significant on ECW television, but at least he's not caught up in another storyline. Punk and Burke had a long-running feud several months ago and we've seen them fight many times before. It'll be okay, it'll be buried near the bottom of the card, and CM Punk will win cleanly with his finisher.

4. World Tag Team Championships: Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch v. Paul London & Brian Kendrick. These are the Raw tag team titles, for those of you keeping track. Cade & Murdoch, the evil rednecks, were originally going to defend their titles against Cryme Tyme, who won a title shot on Raw. But Cryme Tyme have been fired after a bizarre altercation in an untelevised show. The details are a little vague, but by most accounts, they lost a match in an unscripted count-out, decided that it was some sort of joke to make them look bad (which might be true), and took their revenge by hitting their finishing move on the referee without his consent. This did not go down well, and the lovable criminals are now available for indie bookings.

So London and Kendrick are getting the title shot instead. They were tag champions on Smackdown for months, and they're actually very good. This should be a fine match. The teams actually traded the tag titles back and forth on last week's South African tour, which is a classic way of making the fans at obscure shows think they're seeing something "important." Those title changes were acknowledged on Raw this week, and I'd be very surprised to see the tag belts change hands for the third time in a fortnight. You never know, but my money is on Cade and Murdoch retaining to set up a rematch.

5. WWE Tag Team Championship: Matt Hardy & MVP v. Deuce & Domino. The Smackdown tag titles, and this is actually a neat little storyline. MVP is the heel United States Champion, and Matt Hardy has been chasing that title for months. Unfortunately for both of them, MVP made the mistake of betting that he could win the tag titles partnered by the next person to enter the room, and so they're now saddled with each other as an odd-couple tag team. They already won the titles from Deuce & Domino, the fifties throwbacks, on Smackdown; this is the rematch.

It's an odd dynamic, because Matt Hardy is the only babyface in the match, and he's teamed with a bad guy. But they've played this relatively well. The idea is that Hardy and MVP can't stand one another, and can't work as a team, but both of them take the tag titles seriously enough that they're at least trying to make a go of it. I can't see any point putting the titles back on Deuce and Domino, who really aren't that great, so I'm assuming that the mismatched champions retain in a fairly entertaining story-driven match.

6. WWE Women's Championship: Candice Michelle v Beth Phoenix. Beth Phoenix is one of the few women on the Raw roster who hasn't had a shot with the women's championship yet. She's okay, but the character hasn't really got over yet. If you're going to have Candice lose her title to a heel, it might as well be Jillian Hall, who people actually care about enough to boo. Then again, Candice is probably better as an underdog chasing the title than she is pretending to be a credible champion, so a win for Phoenix wouldn't be a terrible idea. And with six titles defended, one of them really needs to change hands. It'll be short, and I suspect Phoenix is winning.

7. The Undertaker v Mark Henry. The Undertaker returns from a lengthy absence due to injury, and naturally goes after the guy who beat him up in his last appearance. Well, the second-last guy who beat him up in his last appearance. The last guy would be Edge, but he's at home recovering from surgery. As with Mysterio and Triple H last month, they've promoted this match without Undertaker appearing on television. Instead, Mark Henry has been squashing local wrestlers and then getting angry about druids.

Henry is billed as the World's Strongest Man, and actually has a fairly legitimate claim to that title. He's never been a particularly good wrestler, but he's a huge, scary-looking guy, which can be enough in small doses. And he's supposed to be coming up for the end of his contract. It's a virtual foregone conclusion that Undertaker will win his return match; if it's kept fairly short, I suspect they can make the match passable.

8. Triple H v Carlito. More filler. Triple H made his triumphant return last month by annihilating King Booker. I have no idea what the original plan was for this month, but I find it hard to believe that it involved Triple H fighting a mid-card villain without much storyline, halfway down the card. In an attempt to put the outcome in some sort of doubt, the oddball stipulation for this match is that Carlito can't be disqualified, but Triple H has to follow the rules. But we all know what this means in practice: Carlito will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the guy, and then he'll heroically pin him cleanly with his finisher. And then the commentators will tell us all how wonderful Triple H is again, because he's Vince's son-in-law, and he has a hand in writing the show. (Last month, the commentary team were scripted to give him a standing ovation.)

Worth buying? Well, it's on Sky Sports 1, so that's not my problem. But no, it's not really worth buying. Cena/Orton and the Raw tag match should be good. The Smackdown tag match could be good if they can work around the limitations of Deuce and Domino. Everything else is filler, really. Only the Khali match looks utterly wretched, but it doesn't have the feel of a must-watch show.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

X-Axis comments thread - 9 September

This week, Marc Guggenheim & Howard Chaykin on Wolverine; the creator of Rambo takes on Captain America; and Peter Milligan launches Infinity Inc.

And just because I like it, here's the anti-piracy ad that aired at the start of this week's The IT Crowd.

NBC are doing a re-make of this show. Something tells me they're going to screw it up. Yes, they've kept one of the original cast, but... well, just look at the rest of them. I swear, if the actual show had done a sketch about a bad American remake, it would look like that. And the tag line...

"If Only Life Was As Easy As Turning It Off And On."

I have the strangest feeling that they don't get it. Here's an entire episode on YouTube (albeit in the wrong picture ratio, which really annoys me). Can you see anything remotely similar to this airing on NBC?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nothing is too obscure for YouTube.

I thought I'd seen all the KLF's videos - well, except the one for "Downtown", which doesn't count. (They filmed themselves driving to the offices of the TV show that requested a video, and then handed in the tape at the door.)

But YouTube, god bless it, has KLF videos so obscure I'd never previously realised that they existed. Frankly, it turns out there's a good reason.

Now, by the time their career peaked, the KLF had mastered the video. Here's America: What Time Is Love?, which is just fantastically excessive. Especially for an indie act in the nineties.

Or, rather more bizarrely, here's "It's Grim Up North" - an epically weird record devoted to reciting the names of northern English towns in a Scottish accent, before collapsing into a screwed-up version of "Jerusalem", which must have somehow clambered into the UK singles chart on the strength of the KLF's name. Even today, it's remarkable that this was a legitimate hit.

But it was not ever thus. Before the KLF made their big breakthrough with the "stadium house" singles, they had some earlier stabs at mainstream success. Records which they honestly thought could do well. One of them is "Doctorin' The Tardis", which is actually pretty good as novelty records go, and duly made number one. The others... well, let's look at them, shuffle awkwardly, and move on with our lives.

Here's "Kylie Said To Jason." Not entirely disastrous, but... it's not quite there yet, is it? Not quite a novelty record, not quite comprehensible, it's lost in limbo somewhere. Even the KLF admit that it's a track from the abandoned original "White Room" soundtrack which they banged out in the hope that it might make some sorely-needed cash. It failed to reach the Top 100.

And here's "Uptight" by Disco 2000, a KLF side-project. It's a cover version of the Stevie Wonder song.

Some people will tell you that this is a sparky, lost pop gem. They are wrong. The Wikipedia listing claims that DJ International magazine listed this as one of the twenty worst cover versions in the history of dance music, which is going a little far, but it's still seriously awful. And the video... dear god, the video.

I'd always wondered why nobody ever played it. Now I know.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

X-Axis comments thread - 2 September

- This week: frankly, not a heck of a lot. It's the fifth week of the month, and there's nothing much out. But there's World War Hulk: X-Men #3 and Mice Templar #1, so there you go.

- Saw the first episode of Channel 4's Dumped, their eco-themed reality show in which a bunch of people who signed up for a vaguely-defined ecological survival thingie, and who clearly expected to be sent to the jungle somewhere, are asked to scavenge off a dump for three weeks. In theory, this is supposed to be a populist way of illustrating the wasted recycling potential in landfill waste.

It's not an awful concept, and I'll give them credit for adopting a non-competitive format. The prize fund is simply divided up among whoever's still there at the end of the three weeks. I suppose in theory that could give them an incentive to bully people to leave, but they don't seem to be approaching it that way. It's also been edited more like a documentary than a game show.

But it's preachy, which is the one thing it desperately needed to avoid. It ought to be "Look how much potential there is in here," but instead it's all a bit "Look at this and be ashamed of your satanic wastefulness, scum." I think they've missed the tone, and I think viewers will switch off because they'll decide - correctly - that they're being lectured at. The joiner who walked in the first show, and who clearly lives a ludicrously wasteful lifestyle, still came across as more likeable than the eco-expert who effectively acts as the face of the show, and that's not good.

- Meanwhile, the WWE is in all sorts of chaos this week after being forced to suspend a whole load of wrestlers for ordering drugs off the internet. They haven't publicised the names for this list, although it should be fairly easy to figure out who they are by watching TV over the next few weeks. Most people are assuming that it's the people named in the Sports Illustrated article as customers of Signature Pharmacy but apparently it's not as clear as that - some of them were only customers before the WWE's drug policy came into effect, and reportedly, one of them has already served a fine or suspension for this offence. Also, if we're taking the SI article as a starting point, two of the people on that list are at home rehabbing from surgery.

They're taping Raw, Smackdown and ECW over the weekend before departing on an international tour. At time of writing, Smackdown and ECW have already been taped, and it appears that the suspended guys are (where necessary) being brought in for one last match to write them off the shows. They've already taped one title change and Umaga - who is rumoured to be on the suspension list - will be defending his Intercontinental Title against Jeff Hardy later tonight. A bit of a giveaway. On the other hand, contrary to rumour, it's pretty clear from the weekend shows that Randy Orton and Batista are not among the suspensions.

ECW and Smackdown aren't too badly hit by this, but it sounds as though the Raw roster has been gutted - their weekend house show was decidedly light on big names. It also featured Cryme Tyme inexplicably getting counted out during a tag team match, which made somewhat more sense the next day when the WWE announced that they had been fired. Raw should be very interesting over the next few weeks, because there are a lot of slots that will just have to be filled by drawing on the mid-card guys.

It goes without saying that the industry is largely responsible for getting itself into this mess. On the other hand, it's not like anyone ever really believed that wrestling was steroid-free in the first place - it's more that they've finally been called on something that was an open secret for years. History suggests that they'll probably take a hard line on the subject until everything blows over, and then quietly go back to their old ways. That's what happened the last two times that they introduced drug testing. But you never know.