Monday, February 26, 2018

WWE Elimination Chamber 2018 Review: Still Trying to Make "Fetch" Happen

The WrestleMania 34 card is taking shape, and there are two major bits of news coming out of Elimination Chamber.  Both of these items played out as expected, and people seem to be complaining about them as though they're surprised.  I'm excited for one, indifferent toward the other.

The first big news is that Ronda Rousey will indeed be competing at WrestleMania, and all signs point to a mixed tag match against Triple H and Stephanie, likely with Kurt Angle as Ronda's tag partner.  I'm fine with all of this - it's a payoff that was teased three years ago, and Angle makes perfect sense to team with Ronda.  Both have a legitimate combat sports background, both were highly touted as major acquisitions for WWE, and with Angle blowing the whistle on the Helmsleys' subterfuge during the contract signing, it seems appropriate for him to volunteer.  This won't be a five-star classic, but it'll be a high profile way to introduce Ronda as a full-fledged WWE wrestler, it keeps Hunter out of one of the long matches of the night, and it's a big box office attraction-type match.  Yes, the Boss vs. Wrestler feud has been done to death, but the fact that it's the female version of that angle gives it a different flavor, and after this blows over Ronda can be incorporated fully into the women's division.  This'll be fine.

The other news is that Roman Reigns is once again headlining WrestleMania.  Sigh.  There's nothing surprising about this, and Brock vs. Roman will likely be a better overall match than Brock vs. Braun would've been.  But with the way Braun was booked in this Chamber match it really should be him in the main event, having an all-out car collision of a match with Brock.  Now I'm not sure how they resolve the unfinished business with Strowman, unless Brock re-signs, nor do I have any idea what Strowman's 'Mania plans are.  It is strange that both big 'Mania matches set up last night are payoffs from three years ago.  At least the long-term storytelling is in place there.

The show itself was solid stuff.  The non-Chamber matches were nothing spectacular, but none of them were really bad either.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

WWE Elimination Chamber 2018 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!

Shockingly WWE pulled off a pretty damn good Royal Rumble last month, delivering two very strong Rumble bouts (the men's match ranks very high on my all-time Rumble list) and a solid undercard to boot.  Let's hope they can keep the creative momentum going.  With Vince focused on relaunching the XFL (I still can't believe it) it really seems like Triple H and Steph have taken a bigger role in putting together these shows.  The Rumble PPV seemed to be missing Vince's fingerprints, as did this week's RAW which included a 107-minute gauntlet match (Vince Russo's head must've exploded - he coulda fit 15 Something-on-a-Pole matches into that window).  This Chamber show has a lot of potential despite the overcrowding of the men's Chamber and the silly booking leading to it.  I have fairly high expectations for both of these matches.

So let's get down to bidness...

***I'm at 80/109 (73%), Landon's at 69/97 (71%), Dave's got 52/75 (69%), and Dan's trailing badly with 66/109 (60%)***

"Woken" Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt

This match was already given away on free TV a few weeks back, so the first-time aspect is gone.  I haven't seen much at all of Matt Hardy's resurrected TNA persona, but from what I've read WWE has completely fucked it up.  Yet another reason why scripted promos don't work.  Just let the guy do his thing for Chrissake.  Nothing much at stake in this match, both guys are kinda treading water.  Hey, whatever happened to the Sister Abigail character?  Wyatt was supposed to debut it last fall but he got sick and was pulled off the show, and they just forgot about it after that.

Justin: It literally does not matter who wins this.  I'm guessing both guys get thrown into the Andre Battle Royal at 'Mania, so who cares?  Bray won the match in January so I'll pick Matt here.  50-50 booking....
Dan: Woken.  They done fucked this feud up already though.
Landon: IT'S 50-50, MOTHERFUCKERS.  Matt wins.
Dave: No idea.  Sister Abigail.  (Matt, whatever)

RAW Tag Team Championship: The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide

Not sure what Titus and Crews did to earn a title shot, but whatever.  I'm glad Cesaro and Sheamus are on the card at least.  With Jason Jordan on the shelf and that feud now finished, I have no idea what the plan is for The Bar going forward - probably a multi-team match at 'Mania again.  Regardless, C&S just won back the belts so they ain't losing 'em here.

Justin: The Bar retains
Dan: The Bar
Landon: The Bar
Dave: The Bar

Asuka vs. Nia Jax

The stipulation here is that if Nia wins she gets added to Asuka's WrestleMania match for the RAW Women's Title.  Only problem is Asuka hasn't confirmed which title she's going for.  So what if Nia wins and then Asuka's like "Nah, I'm gonna fight Charlotte instead?"  This should all be moot, since ending Asuka's streak here would be the stupidest thing ever.  But I wouldn't put it past them either.  I'm guessing Asuka wins here, decides to challenge Charlotte, and Nia gets the shot at Alexa Bliss anyway by winning some kinda #1 contenders match on RAW.

Justin: Asuka
Dan: Come on.
Landon: Asuka
Dave: Asuka

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wrestling Interview: Sydal Still Soaring

by Ryan K. Boman of

If you’re looking for Matt Sydal these days, all you have to do is look up.

UP… as in far above the ring, where the high-flying veteran has spent a good portion of his 18-year professional career. And WAY UP, as the man currently standing atop Impact Wrestling’s X-Division, after capturing the championship from Taiji Ishimori on January 12, at a recent set of Impact! tapings.

He spoke with this week, and discussed his current run in Impact Wrestling, as well as a decorated career that took flight when he was just a teenager.

Still just 34 years old, it seems almost impossible to believe that Sydal made his debut with Gateway Championship Wrestling in St. Louis all the way back in 2000. In doing so, he also became the first person under the age of 18 to receive a wrestler’s license from The State of Missouri.

“I was trained at the GCW training center in Florissant, Missouri,” Sydal recalled, “I started out going to the shows as a fan. I was still in high school, but when I found out there was local wrestling, it absolutely blew my mind.”

“That’s what sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t watching it on TV. It was seeing it live and up close that made me want to be a wrestler.”

Upon making his debut, Sydal quickly became known as one of themost dynamic daredevils on the independent circuit. He had a tremendous run in Ring of Honor in the early 2000’s, working with such stars as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and current Impact World Champion Austin Aries.

During this time, he would make appearances for  then-TNA Wrestling, including a pay-per-view match at Victory Road. His eye-popping talent eventually led him to a contract with WWE, where he performed under the name, Evan Bourne. His collaboration with Kofi Kingston, Air Boom, was a tremendous success and resulted in a WWE World tag team title reign.

“We had a ton of fun,” Sydal said, of his time teaming with Kingston. “I don’t want to say it was a precursor to The New Day, but I think that Air Boom had some of the same elements that New Day has now.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Movie Review: Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird features one of the most authentic portrayals of a high schooler I've ever seen.  Saoirse Ronan's star-making turn as the title character envelops her completely, and she finds the exact balance of teen angst (both the romantic and career sort), social frontrunning (Lady Bird at one point seems to forsake her best friend for the popular girl in school), and deliberate quirkiness (who names themselves "Lady Bird?") without overplaying any of it.  This character is socially clumsy and unclear how much of the real world works, but like all teenagers thinks she has it all figured out.  Ronan isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, even becoming deeply unlikable at some moments.  In the end though, she's just a raging teenager trying to create opportunities in life by escaping the stagnancy of suburban Sacramento.

The other primary performance, just as integral to the film, is Laurie Metcalf (of Roseanne fame) as Lady Bird's judgmental, passive-aggressive mother Marion, who professes her deep motherly love one moment and denigrates her daughter's apparent lack of realistic ambition and intelligence the next.  Their tumultuous relationship is so genuine I felt like I was watching real-life family squabbling.  Metcalf has a few understated, show stealing moments that fully justify her first-time Oscar nomination (I love that this wonderfully talented actress is finally getting some real recognition - for more evidence of her abilities, watch the Roseanne episode "Crime and Punishment").

A senior in high school, Lady Bird fancies herself a future math major, but sadly isn't very good at math.  She tries her hand at drama club but fails to impress the director of the school play.  She goes through two love interests during the year, neither of which proves to be very compatible with her, for very different reasons.  Her newly unemployed father (a victim of the 2002 recession) agrees to secretly help her apply for financial aid so she can apply at some east coast colleges, while her mother resents her for even considering moving away.  The film plays out as a series of episodes throughout one school year, with the realism of a documentary.

One thing I was struck by was the film's refusal to pay off side characters in the expected fashion.  The school's popular girl Jenna is a bit of a bad influence on Lady Bird but also seems to genuinely like her, until their friendship is damaged by Lady Bird's dishonesty.  In a lesser film this would've led to Jenna publicly shaming Lady Bird at school, but here their bond just quietly fades.  Lady Bird's brother and his live-in girlfriend are another example - at the outset it seems like the two of them will be set up as antagonistic characters, but as it turns out both Miguel and Shelly are deceptively caring people.  There's a touching moment where the even-tempered Shelly takes Lady Bird aside to point out how good Marion has been to her.  I actually would've liked to spend more time with Lady Bird's siblings, but then the film's not really about them.  This story is about Lady Bird and how her life and perspective are shaped by her relationships with others. 

Lady Bird reminded me of 2007's Juno in some ways, but it felt more grounded in reality than that film; I always thought the dialogue in Juno seemed calculatingly literary in a way that didn't quite ring true.  Here everything feels totally real, to the point that I'd love to revisit this character in four or five years and see how everything turned out for her.  Greta Gerwig's directorial debut is quite something.

I give the film ***1/2 out of ****.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WWE: Home of Copycats and Overcrowding

There are two rather infuriating trends taking hold in WWE these days.  The first is that Smackdown seems to be stealing all their ideas from what happens on RAW, while the second is the overthinking and overcrowding of PPV main events.

I'm not sure when the Smackdown writing team decided to just start copying whatever Team RAW does, but I first noticed it when they booked a trio of heel NXT call-ups to debut on Smackdown exactly ONE NIGHT after the same thing happened on RAW (minus Paige of course, who wasn't a call-up but a returning star).  Absolution, led by a black-haired gothy chick and featuring an eye-catching blonde and a tough-looking brunette, shows up on RAW and attacks a buncha women mid-match.  The very next night, The Riott Squad, led by a black-haired gothy chick and featuring an eye-catching blonde and a tough-looking brunette, shows up on Smackdown and attacks a buncha women mid-match.  Has WWE combined the writing teams or have they just not been talking to each other during the week to ensure there's no duplication of efforts?

No, you're not seeing double.  WWE did the same angle two nights in a row.

This copycat trend continued at the Royal Rumble, when both the WWE and Universal Title matches involved three men.  Yes, one of them was a handicap match as opposed to a Triple Threat, but come on, did we really need Kane added to the Lesnar-Strowman match?  The fight everyone wanted to see was Brock vs. Braun.  Adding Kane to the title picture diluted a potentially huge rematch (not to mention Kane hasn't been relevant since the Dubya administration), and it doesn't appear we'll be getting another one-on-one Lensar-Strowman encounter, unless WWE swerves us all at Elimination Chamber and has Braun go over instead of Roman.

And speaking of the Chamber, this week on RAW they held a Second Chance 4-way, errr, 5-way to determine the final participant in the men's Chamber match.  It was originally slated to be Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Matt Hardy vs. Apollo Crews, but midway through the show they added Seth Rollins to the match (since his program with Jason Jordan just evaporated due to Jordan's neck issues).  And thanks to a double-pin on Wyatt (which a referee with any experience wouldn't realistically count since two guys were pinning him), the match had co-winners in Balor and Rollins.  And rather than schedule a run-off match next week for the coveted Chamber spot, they just said "Fuck it, both guys are in!"  Huh??  So this Elimination Chamber is gonna have seven guys instead of six.  Does that mean three dudes start the match?  The Miz (who lost a match to determine the #1 entrant) and both Finn and Seth, since they back-doored their way into the Chamber?  This is just fuckin' goofy.  Why are these GMs taking such an "anything goes" approach?  How weak does it make the authority figure look when their solution to every booking conundrum is to simply throw their hands up?  How cheap does it make the title in question look when they keep adding contenders to every match?  Turns out you don't have to beat people to earn a title shot, you just have to not lose.  This is 50-50 booking gone berserk.

"Guess what Seth, we get to SHARE the 6th Chamber spot!"

Whatever, at least the Chamber match is pretty stacked (except for Elias, what the actual fuck is he doing here??).  The latest instance of Smackdown copycat booking however truly vexing.  The stage was set for AJ Styles to defend at Fastlane against either Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens, pending a #1 Contender's match between the two.  When that match went to a no-contest, what did they do?  You guessed it, they had the GM throw his hands up and say "Fuck it, BOTH guys get a title shot."  What is this, fuckin' Oprah?  "YOU get a title shot, and YOU get a title shot!"  So Owens and Zayn are both in, fine.  AJ vs. KO vs. Zayn would be a great triple threat match.  But wait.  A couple days later it's announced that Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin will have a match the following week to determine the fourth guy in the Fastlane main event.  Wait, what??  Ziggler and Corbin have no beef with AJ or Owens or Zayn, and have done literally nothing to earn a WWE Title shot.  Adding either of them to the match is nonsensical.  Know what's even more nonsensical?  Rebooking Smackdown so that it won't be Ziggler vs. Corbin at all; instead it'll be Corbin vs. Owens and Ziggler vs. Zayn, where if Ziggler and/or Corbin wins, he/they BOTH get added to the Fastlane main event.  Gee, I wonder what's gonna happen.....  What a shock, both guys won their respective matches and now it's a 5-way at Fastlane.  What is wrong with this company?  Shoehorning more guys into every PPV main event doesn't make them better.  Know what makes main event matches better?  A clear conflict between two participants, that the audience can get invested in.  Cluttering up the main event picture with guys who shouldn't be there creates unneeded parity and undermines the very idea of a main event, not to mention it leaves basically no one for the undercard matches. 

Quick name me a great 5-way match, ever.  I'll wait......

And isn't it a crazy coincidence that every #1 Contender's match lately has ended in some kind of indecisive scenario that necessitates BOTH guys getting what they want?  They may as well just hand out participation trophies at the beginning of every episode.  Let's just throw out the belts altogether, now every WWE Superstar is special!

The Royal Rumble gave me a real sense of optimism for this year's WrestleMania season, for the first time in years, but this wishy-washy booking is not instilling me with a lot of confidence, nor is the idea of Smackdown repeating everything RAW does.  Knock it off, jerks....

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018 T-shirts Available Now!

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The Great PPVs: WrestleKingdom 9

Welcome to the third installment of our Great PPVs series, here at and!  I hope you've enjoyed this weekly trip down nostalgia lane so far, as we reminisce about wrestling PPV events that transcended the genre and elevated the art form.

Today I'll be talking about a much more recent PPV, one that took place only three years ago but made a huge difference for me as a wrestling fan and likely had a similar effect on many of you.  I'm talking about NJPW's WrestleKingdom 9, which emanated from the legendary Tokyo Dome on January 4th, 2015.

WK9 was the first NJPW event to be shown on North American PPV systems and also served as the ribbon cutting show for the brand new (New Japan's answer to the WWE Netowrk).  Prior to this event you could order NJPW shows on iPPV, but the North American audience for this product was scarce at the time.  What drew me to this show was not only the incredible buzz the New Japan product was getting, but the fact that Jim Ross would be returning to the broadcast booth for the first time in years.  That JR was lending his unparalleled announcing talents to a non-WWE show was of considerable significance and it gave the whole thing a must-see feel.  Unfortunately the only way you could get the English commentary was by ordering the show on traditional PPV, so for my first viewing I'd have to settle for the Japanese version on NJPW World (I've since become pretty fond of the over-the-top Japanese announcing despite the language barrier, but it took some getting used to).

But no matter, the anticipation going into this show was quite intense for New Japan fans, largely due to the hugeness of its main event - an IWGP Title rematch between the company's Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi (essentially the John Cena of New Japan but with more of a Shawn Michaels in-ring style) and the heir apparent to lead the company into the next decade, Kazuchika Okada.  As I would learn, these two had built a stellar rivalry over the previous three years and delivered numerous Flair-Steamboat-esque classics.  The expectation was that this show would be the passing of the torch to the new face of the company.

My first viewing of WrestleKingdom 9 was a little strange since I knew very few faces on their roster.  Obviously AJ Styles was more than familiar to me, but aside from Kota Ibushi, Alex Shelley and The Young Bucks (all of whom I'd seen wrestle for Ring of Honor a few times) I didn't really know anyone else.  So initially all I had to go on was the match quality.  My appreciation for this show wouldn't fully emerge until I'd perused the NJPW library for a few months and then given it a second viewing.  And once I knew who the players were and what their matches meant, it was a whole new ball game.

The show kicked off with a wild four-way Jr. Tag Title match, as defending champs reDRagon faced the Bucks, Time Splitters (Kushida & Alex Shelley) and Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov).  This would prove to be an excellent example of a hot opener, as all four teams worked at full speed to rev up the crowd.  After thirteen minutes of furious action, reDRagon retained their titles.  Time Splitters and Forever Hooligans would split shortly after this show, as Romero formed Roppongi Vice with Baretta, while Kushida became a permanent fixture of the Jr. singles division.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

THE POWER OF THE PIN 2.5.18: Little Big Man

by Ryan K. Boman of


The first time I heard those three letters, I assumed it was another plateful of WWE fast food marketing, with extra fries, in an already-saturated market. Like many of the company's other 'side dishes', it wouldn't be the first recipe for disaster that Vince McMahon used to feed starving network executives.

In the beginning, it was just that: fat and puffy, a competition-about-wrestling-within-a-show, with all three of those parts being interchangeable.

Generally considered a gimmick-filled flop, fans couldn't take the original incarnation of the product seriously, despite it showcasing some great talent like EC3, Wade Barrett and Titus O'Neill. The WWE wouldn't stop meddling with the product, as if it kept pushing its latest brand extension to just follow along.

In its precocious, adolescent stage, NXT was nothing more than an annoying little brother to the parent company. The audience often treated it as a mere distraction from more important, grown-up things.

But like the sloppy, undersized kid who used to tag along, NXT eventually found its growth spurt. It even went through a puberty of sorts, when it was given full-fledged responsibilities in June 2012, replacing Florida Championship Wrestling as the flagship television show of WWE's developmental wing.

Things started to click from there, and the brand went from being an afterthought to an asset. And, what once appeared to be a creative sewage hole turned out to be WWE's fountain of youth.

A steady stream of top level indy performers have been a trademark of the brand, keeping things interesting for even the smartest of fans. The NXT loyals often speculate about who is coming to developmental in the future, and how they will fit in. The constant 'newness' and re-mix of talent makes the atmosphere there feel eternally young.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Super Bowl LII Prop Bets: Patriots vs Eagles

by Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal) & Mike Parker (@UncleMiggsy

Here we are at the end of another football season. Lo and behold the Patriots are in the Super Bowl again. And what better way to celebrate them in the big game again then by betting on a bunch of stupid, trivial bullshit? (All odds & bets courtesy of Bovada) 

Dan's Choice: Tails hasn't failed me in years...but is it time for me to meet Heads again at the turn of the tide? Hmmmm...Here's the all time coin toss stats...

Tails has come up 4 times in a row...I'm sticking with TAILS, which is not only an excellent side of coin, but a hell of a Sonic the Hedgehog sidekick. 

His real name is Miles. MILES!!

Miggs' Choice: I’m going with HEADS. Any math nerd will tell you that the coin flip is 50/50 no matter what but I don’t buy that. Looks at all these winners named for the ol’ noggin.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dan's Top 9: Patriots Super Bowl Appearances

by Dan Moore

The fact that I even get to write this list is RIDICULOUS. Nine Goddamn Super Bowl appearances with the tenth on the way. Absurd. It must kill all the other fan bases that this list can exist. I LOVE IT. It's gonna go from worst to first so here we go. 

9. SUPER BOWL XLII: Patriots vs. Giants

UGGGGH This one SUCKS to even think about. This is the one that really sticks in the craw with us spoiled Pats fans. It still hurts to think about it to this day. The unstoppable force. GONE.  The best offense ever. GONE. The Perfect Season. GONE. All because of this fucking helmet catch. 

8. SUPER BOWL XXXI: Patriots vs. Packers

This was the first real memory I have of one of my sports teams being in the big one. I was 17 during this game and I remember being at my aunt's house with all my friends and family watching this, hoping to see a championship. Alas, notorious genital photographer Bret Favre killed that dream, along with Desmond Howard's stupid kick return. Goddammit. 

Plus, they were very mean to my friend Drew. 

7. SUPER BOWL XLVI: Patriots vs. Giants

Deja fucking vu. The rematch was AWFUL too. I was convinced the Pats would get them on the second try. As it turns out, the Giants ended up being the white whale to the Patriots Ahab. 

A big, dumb white whale. 

6. SUPER BOWL XX: Patriots vs. Bears

This loss barely registers. I was seven when this game was played. I don't remember much at all except a big fat guy with a football improbably hitting paydirt, and that was my Uncle Benny when he hit one of his squares. (As much as these losses stink, it really is a joy being able to write about the NINE TIMES the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl. Yeah, Super Bowl losses suck, but being a Patriots fan is the best. We know another opportunity to win one is right around the corner. That's not arrogance. It's LIFE). 

5. SUPER BOWL XXIX: Patriots vs. Eagles

Now we're getting to the good stuff. The victory that solidified the Pats as a dynasty is also their least memorable in terms of winning. Seriously, the biggest moment everyone remembers from this game is Donovan yakking all over himself. 

"I'm so sick of losing, I could puke!"

4. SUPER BOWL XXXVIII: Patriots vs. Panthers

The Super Bowl where people started to notice "wait a minute...these Patriots might not be a fluke." I got so excited for this one cause they could be one of those dominant teams people talked about like the Cowboys or the Niners. Little did I know they'd eclipse both those teams. 

3. SUPER BOWL XLIX: Patriots vs. Seahawks

I wanted this game. NEEDED this game. After all the bullshit about air in footballs and how Brady sucked unless his balls were squishy (heh), I needed this team to take home the trophy. And it did not look good...until...

The deafening roar of the crowd was only eclipsed by the yelling and screaming of me and my idiot friends. The pure joy in that one moment was monumental. One of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history...and the Patriots did it when it was needed most. 

2. SUPER BOWL LI: Patriots vs. Falcons

The greatest comeback in Super Bowl history was a roller coaster of emotions for us poor Patriots fans. Tom Brady, unjustifiably suspended. Injuries all year. Just once, can't we catch a break? No, we had to go down 28-3 and claw our way back to the most improbable victory in football...ever. Was it worth all the stress of the first 3 quarters to come back and win the FIFTH Lombardi Trophy in the only ovetime game in Super Bowl history?

1. SUPER BOWL XXXVI: Patriots vs. Rams

But this one...this one here is my favorite one. Huddled once again at my aunt's house...drinking...swearing...screaming...hoping for once the sad sack Patriots, the team I've been following during the dark days of 1-15 and Hugh Millen could finally turn it around against the Rams. Who at the time were the best, unstoppable force in football (sounds oddly familiar). When Vinatieri lined up for that potential game winning kick, everyone in the house joined hands. And the kick was good. The cheer from the crowd in that living room was so loud it caused my sister's toddler son to bawl his eyes out and most likely cause irreparable damage to his hearing. But we didn't care. It was the best. We were finally winners. And it started the greatest dynasty in sports history. 


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