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Before I talk about TLC and the way it’s shaping up, I’d like to announce that it is a very sad day, indeed.  Yes, folks, one of the greatest in-ring competitors of all time is retiring from in-ring action.  So let us all bid a fond farewell to Armando Estrada, who will be wrestling his very last match soon.  On a more serious note, Estrada was one of a dying breed: a true manager who actually worked with his managee (in his case, Umaga, who I still believe was one of WWE’s biggest (no pun intended) losses over the past year) and was able to get a crowd hot with just a few words.  There aren’t many people who can do that anymore.  Well, there’s Vickie Guerrero, but that’s mostly because people hate the sound of her voice.  And I’m guessing that with the way Smackdown went, we won’t be seeing her as a manager anymore.  And I’m also betting we won’t be seeing Eric Essssssssssscobar anymore, either.  Good.  WWE finally had some common sense knocked into their tiny brains and took a guy with no entertainment value whatsoever off TV.  That’s the hope, anyway.

I think I’ve been away for too long, because there are a ton of little things that need to be discussed.  And no, I’m not making a joke about the whole DX/Hornswoggle fiasco, which apparently was supposed to have an entire segment on Raw tonight, but that never happened.  Thanks to the IWC for breaking the story a couple of days ago about WWE renting out a Baltimore courthouse and planning to have an entire courtroom filled with midgets.  I’m actually thanking them, because this probably would have been a terrible idea.  Moreso because it would probably cause a huge backlash within the midget and dwarf community.  And I’m not going to refer to them by their “politically correct” term, because it sounds even more demeaning (to me, anyway) than midgets and dwarfs.  Just call them what they are.  Don’t pussyfoot around it.  Anyway, they had Verne Troyer on as the guest host of Raw, so they got their one tiny guy on the show.  And to be honest, Verne looked pretty bad.  He does not appear to be in the best of health.  He was sitting for nearly all of the segments he was involved in, and his head looked huge in relation to the rest of his body.  And seeing him next to Big Show and Mark Henry at different points in the broadcast only accentuated his height.  Nevertheless, he was involved in a hilarious segment where Mark Henry accidentally crushed Jillian Hall while dancing.  Maybe that’ll get her off TV for a while.

Which brings me to Luke Gallows.  You all remember Festus, right?  One half of a hilarious gimmick tag team that, unfortunately, was their downfall?  Jesse became a white rapper for about a month, and subsequently disappeared from television altogether, and Festus, after lingering on Raw for a couple of weeks, disappeared from TV entirely, only to emerge last Friday alongside CM Punk as the repackaged Luke Gallows.  He’s got a goatee and a skull cap and camo shorts, so he MUST be a heel.  Seriously, did Creative just toss darts at the “heel cliche” dart board and come up with that outfit?  Well, at least he’s back on TV.  I really enjoyed his matches with Jesse.  I saw actual potential for Gallows back then, and hopefully, as Punk’s new enforcer, he’ll get more time on TV, helping Punk climb back to the top of Smackdown.  The character is cliche as hell, but I’m hoping that the man behind the persona will rise above it and show that he’s got the talent to run with the big boys.

Still on Smackdown, it’s been reported that Jim Ross has yet to sign a new contract with WWE, and his current one is about to expire.  Ross is still recovering from a Bell’s Palsy attack, which has put him on the sidelines for the past couple of months, and likely will keep him out for a while longer.  I don’t want to sound selfish, but if he were to end up leaving WWE for good, it would be a major blow to the WWE announce teams.  JR has been the voice of WWE for so long, it is difficult to imagine never hearing him call a show again.  I am in full support of Matt Striker, and I believe he is the wave of the future for announcers, but nobody will ever be able to replace JR.  I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.  Every single WWE fan misses you and your voice.  Come back soon.  And if you do decide to retire, I will accept that and say thank you for entertaining millions of people for more than two decades.

I suppose I should go ahead and talk about TLC.  Last week, I railed WWE Creative for their absurd and idiotic decision to make Sheamus the #1 Contender for the WWE Championship.  And I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who has such strong opinions on the pasty man.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to the Pro Wrestling Rewind, which has been broadcasting through Wrestleview.com for many years now.  I used to listen to it every week, but life became too busy to listen to it on a regular basis, so I ended up not listening to it for quite a while.  Then, when I heard that Mike Siciliano had taken over as the new cohost of the show, I had to tune in.  And let me tell you, Mike and Andy Knowles have formed a fantastic team.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m pimping their show out, but it’s definitely more entertaining than it’s ever been.  And (to get back to my original point), I was so glad to hear that The Power himself, Andy Knowles, has the exact same opinion of one Mr. Sheamus as I do.  And what made this past week’s episode all the better was finding out that I’m not the only person with such strong negative opinions of one Jack Swagger, as The King of All Italy has proven that he is the best columnist on Wrestleview by tearing Swagger a new asshole.  I have a new-found respect for both Knowles and Siciliano.  Yes, I respect them more simply because they share my opinions, but what else do you have when you know these people solely through the Internet?  Anyway, these two guys have reinvigorated the Rewind, and if you don’t listen to it, do yourself a favor and go listen to it!

I sure went on a tangent there, huh?  Back to TLC.  We’ve got Cena vs. Shame-us in a Tables match, and I have this sick little thought in the back of my mind that Creative is going to have Cena lose.  I said it last week, and I’ll say it again (though slightly modified): if Cena loses the WWE Title to a guy who hasn’t even been on TV a year, I’m boycotting Raw until someone takes the belt off the porcelain Irishman.  I hope (and I’m echoing Andy Knowles’ sentiments here) that this match is here simply to have somebody smack Sheamus around a bit and make him realize that he isn’t the greatest thing since Sliced Bread #2.  He’s just a big, clumsy oaf who can’t put two moves together.  Like nearly every other rookie who’s come out of FCW this year.  I will say one positive thing about Sheamus though: his entrance music is awesome.

You know, I just realized that this is the first Raw in a while where Swagger was not present during the entire broadcast.  What a relief.

Anyway, we’ve also got Batista vs. Taker in a Steel Chair match.  What exactly this means is beyond me.  Does it mean that JUST chairs are legal?  Or does it mean that everything is legal, but there will be an abundance of chairs laying around the ring for easy access?  Or is it a Steel Chair on a Pole match?  Creative, take this under advisement: when you announce a match with vague implications, it’s best to explain what the hell it means instead of leaving the fans in the dark until the match takes place.  Okay?  Good, I’m glad we had this little talk.  Anyway, it’s Batista vs. Taker yet again.  I was not a fan of their matches back in 2007, and I doubt that they’ll be putting on a good show at TLC.  Taker is hurting badly.  If you can’t see that, you need to get your eyes checked.  He’s been put in multi-man matches over the last few months so the other guys can carry the match and have Taker swoop in at the end and win.  He isn’t going to last past Wrestlemania 26.  I don’t approve of putting the World Heavyweight Championship back on Batista, since his heel turn has proved to be less entertaining than originally hoped.  Mostly, he just stands around and doesn’t speak.  Which usually is a good thing.  But it isn’t good television.  What I’m hoping for is for Jericho to swoop in either sometime between PPV shows or at the Royal Rumble and win the title from Taker, only to have Edge return (as a face) and set up an Edge/Jericho match at Wrestlemania 26.  That would be sweet.

And speaking of Jericho, he and Show are in a TLC match against DX in two weeks.  On paper, it sounds kinda “meh,” but it’ll probably be a good match.  I would bet it’s going to end the show, and we’re going to have new Tag Team Champions.  Creative has been teasing the end of JeriShow for months now, and the end seems so very near for the best tag team of 2009.  Jericho needs to lose the tag straps so he can pursue Taker and win the title soon, so he can establish his championship reign before Edge comes back and takes what’s rightfully his.

Can you believe that, after TLC, we’re getting SEVEN weeks without a WWE PPV event?  They’re finally giving the fans a break.  We don’t have to shell out our money again until the end of January.  Not that I actually purchase their PPVs anyway.  I would be asking for my money back more often than not.  Still, it’s good that they’re taking a break to (hopefully) allow storylines to build and get the fans riled up for the first big show of 2010.  I would imagine that with seven weeks to prepare, there are going to be some damn good matches in store for us at the Rumble.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got to say for now.  Be sure to stay tuned, because next month, I’ll be giving out my First Annual Golden Rantie Awards, as well as my 2010 Predictions, wherein I will attempt to prophesize what happens in WWE over the next calendar year.  Or, at least what I HOPE will happen next year.  I might also try to put up MY Dream Tournament and have you vote on who you think should win.  Until then, stay awesome.  I’ll see you later.

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