Oh boy. This was not what you’d call a good week as far as TV wrestling is concerned, which is a shame as I had been quietly looking forward to Eve vs Natalya on Raw. To be honest, Eve & Natalya wasn’t bad – it started tremendously and then kinda went off a cliff towards the end, but it was a creditable performance, and with practically zero competition this week, it’s our TV match of the week.

So… a lumberjill match, you say? Why? As someone who has been watching wrestling for over a quarter of a century, I’ve seen pretty much every stipulation match out there, and it never ceases to amaze me in this day and age how many stipulation matches are completely misunderstood by the bookers in major wrestling companies. The premise of a lumberjack/jill match is simple. You have a feud that needs to be settled, and there is a concern that one of the parties may end up running away from their opponent, so the promotion puts other wrestlers around the ring, charged with the job of keeping the match in the ring, and returning either competitor to the squared circle should they leave. Nowadays…? It’s an excuse to get people on TV. In fact, to underline how stupid the lumberjill gimmick was, Eve and Natalya even shook hands to begin the bout. As mentioned, the early going here was quite excellent, and as an Eve fan, I’m so glad she’s getting a chance to work someone like Natalya, who will help her as a wrestler, rather than defending against Maryse (for example). As for the lumberjills? Well, Melina was totally out of place for Eve’s dive, and the whole psychology of Eve trying to save Natalya from a lumberjill beatdown is totally stupid. Back in the ring after the ridiculousness, the idea of Eve twisting on an Oklahoma Roll attempt and getting a pinfall out of it isn’t necessarily bad, but with Natalya’s shoulder not down totally, and the referee slavishly refusing to count until it was, any possible surprise the ending could’ve had was lost. This was a potentially really good match, ruined by crappy booking, but again, kudos for the opening part, when Eve & Natalya were exchanging and matching each other hold for hold.

Tag team action the rest of the way now, and if you clicked off this page right now, you really miss nothing. We’ll start with Smackdown, and hey… somebody’s found Beth Phoenix!!

Beth & Eve is somewhat of a dream team for me, but there was nothing here to really say in this “blink and you’ll miss it” two-and-a-half minute match. Maryse is a less than adequate Laycool substitute here, with Michelle out with a number of foot related injuries. Incidentally, the fact that Layla (who turtled into a ball several weeks ago rather than face Natalya) seems fine with facing off against the even more intimidating Glamazon irritates me, but then logical character continuity is something I’d like rather than something I’d expect. The finish, which saw the champion pinned AGAIN by Layla presumably sets up another Eve vs Layla match, and I fear that the champion is going to become the backdrop for the eventual Laycool breakup (although McCool’s injuries may delay any plans for that). Anyway, as I said, nothing to see here.

Next match is a bit of a cheat, as it should’ve gone in last week’s TV digest, but given that it aired on Feb 12th and didn’t get uploaded to YouTube until the 13th, it’s going to have to go in here… as we go down to Florida for Divas action in FCW with the FCW Divas Champion AJ teaming with the Queen of FCW Rosa Mendes to take on the NXT Finalists team of Naomi & Kaitlyn.

A longer match, and it was fine for developmental standards. Naomi’s leaping and athletic ability is still jaw-dropping, and her stuff with AJ here is obviously the best quality wrestling in the bout. You still clearly get the impression that if the wheels fall off the match, Kaitlyn & Rosa would be totally lost, whereas Naomi & AJ could probably grab a hold, settle down and get the match back on track – which is a sign of maturity. Kaitlyn is still obviously very new, but Rosa’s been around for several years (right back to her days as Roucka in OVW) and she’s still not convincing in the ring, which is worrying. Speaking of people who have been around for several years and are still failing to convince me… let’s see what Velvet Sky is up to in TNA this week.

There are times when I’ve thought working with Sarita was actually rubbing off on Velvet, as from time to time in this feud, she’s shown brief flashes of lucha competency. Not so much here, in a pretty incomprehensible match. It wasn’t full of botches, per say… just the fact that the match made no sense. Like Melina vs Tamina a couple of weeks ago, some women went out there and had some time to fill, so did some stuff without seemingly worrying about whether it made sense. There was no real heat, and no comeback. Just moves. Post match, we get a challenge for next week’s Impact for Sarita vs Velvet Sky in a match where Velvet’s TNA career is on the line if she fails to beat Sarita. I suppose in TNA World, it’s amazing that they’re even bothering to give the stip a one week build, but I’m frankly more amazed that they’re doing a retirement stipulation at all, given that their top feud (Angle vs Jarrett) features a similar retirement stip that they’ve already killed several times. My brain hurts.

This week’s alternate TV match of the week again comes from Japan, and features one of the Podcast’s favourite former guests Serena Deeb completing a two day tour of Japan with Yoshihiro Tajiri’s SMASH promotion. Both matches have made it to YouTube after being broadcast on Samurai TV, although both are sadly clipped. You can check out Serena’s Japan debut against Syuri here, but on a personal preference, I’ve decided to shine the spotlight on her match from Jan 29th against ICE Ribbon regular Makoto.

Next week promises the return of a former Knockout on Impact as Madison Rayne’s new “Open Challenge” gimmick kicks off, and the Velvet Sky vs Sarita feud comes to a head with Velvet’s TNA career hanging in the balance. WWE has nothing official announced, though one might expect a follow up on Layla pinning the Divas Champion on Smackdown.