Monday, October 29, 2018

WWE Evolution: Best Main Roster PPV of 2018?

The "first ever" all-women's PPV is in the history books, and WWE managed one of their best main roster PPVs of the year.  Of the seven matches, all of them were at least entertaining, and a few stood out, particularly one match that has to rank high on the list of main roster matches of 2018.  This had the feel of an NXT special and the matches were all pretty different from each other.  WWE needs to make this an annual thing but also should model more of their main roster shows on this one.

Things kicked off with Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James & Alicia Fox (subbing for the injured Alexa Bliss).  Given the substitution it was obvious who'd be winning this, but these four worked hard to keep everyone invested, and the crowd ate up everything they did.  Lita and Trish both looked good considering how long it had been since they worked a match.  Mickie was excellent as always, and Alicia sold well, though she missed a pin breakup at one point which looked awkward.  The match went eleven minutes and ended with Trish hitting Stratusfaction followed by Lita's moonsault on both opponents for the win.  Solid, fun opener.  **1/2

Up next was the battle royal, which shockingly turned out to be really well-structured and one of WWE's best battle royals in years.  There was a good mix of current and older talent, everyone got at least a moment or two to shine, the legends were mostly eliminated in the first half, and the crowd was electric throughout.  The match started off with the IIconics talkin' trash to the rest of the field only for everyone to gang up and toss them at the bell.  From there it was a pretty logically worked battle royal, with big spots sprinkled in to keep it from getting monotonous.  It boiled down to Nia Jax, Tamina, Asuka and Ember Moon.  Ember ejected Asuka, marking the first time she'd ever gotten the better of her old NXT rival, then Nia threw out Tamina.  While Ember and Nia struggled near the ropes, Zelina Vega emerged from under the ring and tried to eliminate them both, but to no avail.  Nia pressed Zelina over her head and threw her to the outside on top of Tamina, then proceeded to make short work of Ember to win the match.  The crowd clearly wanted Ember to win this, but they still popped when Nia got the duke.  Very good battle royal.  ***

The Mae Young Classic finals was a really well-worked, stiff match that unfortunately wasn't given enough time to make it a classic.  Toni Storm (who WWE better push to the moon because she has IT) and Io Shirai hit each other with plenty of high octane offense.  Shirai hit a moonsault off the top to the floor, Storm hit a German suplex on the apron, Shirai kicked out of Storm's Tiger bomb, went for another moonsault but met nothing but knees, and fell to a second Tiger bomb.  Storm then celebrated with Triple H, Stephanie and Sara Del Ray.  This was very good and showcased both women well, but needed another five minutes to reach **** territory.  Still I'm looking forward to seeing more of these two in NXT.  Both are excellent.  ***1/2

Friday, October 26, 2018

WWE Evolution Preview & Predictions

Editor's Note: Before I get into this Sunday's PPV, a few words about Roman Reigns.  As everyone knows, Roman is on indefinite hiatus due to a relapse of the leukemia he's been battling for eleven years, and I just want to express how hopeful I am that he's able to conquer this disease as quickly and painlessly as possible.  #KickLeukemiasAss

Now onto business...

It's the show WWE threw together to make us all forget they're scheduled to perform before an oppressive regime a week later, WWE Evolution!

Look, I'm very happy they decided to do an all-women's PPV.  I really am.  And I hate to look at this cynically, but the timing of this show is simply too convenient to ignore that their primary motivator for it was almost certainly damage control.  The Saudi government won't allow female wrestlers to perform in their country, or even go along for the trip, so WWE said "Hey look over here everyone, we're actually progressive!"

Strangely, as of now the tickets for Crown Jewel haven't even been put on sale yet due to the controversy surrounding the Khashoggi murder, and as far as I'm concerned that show needs to be moved to a different location.  It's just a really terrible look for this company to proceed as planned.

Anyway, WWE's first-ever all-women's show is this Sunday, and looks pretty solid.  There are some very promising undercard matches, including bouts for the NXT Women's Title and the UK Women's Title, plus the Mae Young Classic finals and some star cameos from yesteryear.  Plus the main event, while not terribly exciting on paper, has produced some strong promo work from Ronda Rousey, the one area she was really lacking.  In many ways this show could be a lot more fun than most of WWE's offerings lately.  Hopefully it's a success so WWE doesn't just skip it next year when they aren't trying to compensate for a PR disaster.  So let's get to it....

***Big shakeup last month with Super Show-Down, as Dan and I are now tied for the lead with 66% (55/83), Dave's in third with 63% (52/83), and Landon's in last with 61% (51/83).***

Sasha Banks, Bayley & Natalya vs. The Riott Squad

Remember when they teased a Sasha-Bayley feud for months only to not deliver one?  Fuckin' idiots.  Anyway this match has plenty of good talent and should be reasonably entertaining.  It is however one of many examples of WWE taking female stars and making them look like "just one of the girls."  Sasha and Bayley are two prime victims of the awful parity booking WWE's been stuck on for years.

Justin: Ruby beat Sasha on Monday so I'll go with Team Sasha here.
Landon: Team Natalya
Dave: Sure, Sasha.

Women's Battle Royal

I'm so fucking pissed about how badly they've ruined Asuka since WrestleMania.  She was the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble winner and went into 'Mania looking like a major star, someone they were possibly grooming to face Ronda next year.  And then Vince got a hold of her and booked her into oblivion, jobbing her out to Carmella (who has since become a jobber herself).  God I hate that man.  So yeah, she's stuck in this battle royal along with everyone else they had no ideas for.  Oh by the way, the field looks like this:

Tamina, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Ember Moon, Alicia Fox, Nia Jax, Dana Brooke, Asuka, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Carmella, Lana, Naomi, Torrie Wilson, Michelle McCool, Alundra Blayze, Ivory, Kelly Kelly, Maria Kanellis, Molly Holly and Zelina Vega

Right away you can probably narrow this down to four potential winners: Ember Moon, Nia Jax, Asuka, and an outside pick like Torrie Wilson.  My heart says Asuka but Vince sucks, so it'll probably be someone else.

Justin: Nia is probably the favorite
Dan: Asuka
Landon: Her cousin has Leukemia now. Nia wins it for fuck's sake. Not doing that would be like turning Dean the night his friend announces he has to walk away.
Dave: God I have no idea.  Nia.

Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James

The buildup to this has been atrocious.  Trish used to be a decent promo before the days of tightly scripted garbage, but she can't make this stuff work (Who can??).  Alexa is a question mark since she suffered a concussion at a house show last weekend, but as of now they still have her slated for this match.  This'll be your classic current stars vs. old stars match.  I just hope Lita doesn't try another moonsault - she's gonna kill herself one of these days.

Justin: Alexa & Mickie
Dan: The old-timers get my shorts moving again and take the win.
Landon: Lita & Trish
Dave: Gotta give it to the regulars.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Mass Music Review #2: Dinosaur, Jr.

Our newest contributor Christopher Gillespie is back with another look at an influential Massachusetts band - this week it's Dinosaur Jr.!

Traditionally considered to be the best of Dinosaur Jr.’s albums, 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me was much more successful than the band’s first album, 1985’s Dinosaur, and is also considered much more influential than their initial outing. You’re Living All Over Me, much like Signals, Calls, and Marches proved to be an album with great importance in the alternative and indie rock scene in both America and Europe. My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields mentioned the album as an influence for their EP You Made Me Realize which was released during the beginnings of the shoegaze genre, and the album is said to have influenced ever-popular American grunge band Nirvana.

The band from left to right: Murph, Lou Barlow, and J Mascis

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Strange and Infuriating Case of vs. Facebook

UPDATE: Facebook is at it again, blocking my URL entirely as something that violates their Community Standards, even though it's already been found NOT to.  This social network is fucking broken.

It's no secret these days that Facebook is a hot, steaming mess.  Public opinion of the social media juggernaut is not exactly glowing, amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg's subsequent appearance in front of Congress.  Their so-called Community Standards were a mystery wrapped in an enigma until today when they finally decided to release them after fourteen-or-so years.

But even with this new transparency, Facebook is still wreaking havoc: inexplicably blocked URLs, arbitrarily restricted user accounts, annoying ad placements cluttering up everyone's feeds, etc.  It's safe to say The Social Network's priorities seem to be way out of whack.

The following is my own personal experience with Facebook, as relates to this website.

I started in early 2014 as simply a way to organize and share the goofy wrestling and movie-related thoughts swirling in my brain most of the time.  I'd write and publish an article and share in my own FB feed, just for shits and giggles, figuring my friends and family might get a kick out of it.  Through Blogger I was able to keep track of how much traffic each post got, and as I went along I noticed my hits were slowly but surely increasing.  I began to look for ways to expedite the site's growth and discovered Facebook groups and pages (along with Twitter and Google+), sharing relevant posts in certain groups; wrestling posts in wrestling groups, movie posts in movie groups, etc.  Pretty harmless, right?

Fast-forward three-and-a-half years, and was getting exponentially more traffic than it had originally.  We'd gone from a paltry 5700 hits in 2014 to over 250,000 in 2017, aided by some of my colleagues and their additional content (for example Dan Moore's highly successful Dive Bars of America series) that brought a more diverse audience to the table.  Things were going along swimmingly and we were frequently getting over a thousand hits a day (small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but the ball was rolling along nicely).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Why Shawn Michaels Returning to the Ring in 2018 is Absurd....

Image result for shawn michaels 2018

Shawn Michaels is my favorite wrestler of all time.  This has been the case for nearly twenty years, even before he made his miraculous 2002-2010 comeback.  For my money no other wrestler has stolen as many shows or pushed the performance envelope like Shawn Michaels has (though Okada and Omega may eclipse him when all is said and done).  And as a huge, longtime Shawn Michaels fan, it pains me to say that his returning to in-ring action, in 2018, at the age of 53, is ri-goddamn-diculous.

Michaels has been away from the ring for eight-and-a-half years now.  He looks and carries himself like an old man.  His fellow retiree The Undertaker looks equally run down.  Aside from a giant paycheck, why on this planet would Shawn and Taker cheapen their respective retirements and their legendary series of matches with an old timers' tour?  One would assume this DX vs. Brothers of Destruction match signed for Saudi Arabia is a one-time deal, but there are rumors that it's building to a Shawn vs. Taker singles match down the road.  Again, their pair of WrestleMania matches nearly a decade ago are heralded as all-time masterpieces.  Why the fuck would we want to see them even attempt to equal those two matches nine years later, at a combined age of 106?

The Vince McMahon of 1998 would laugh mercilessly at the desperately out-of-touch old man he's become. 

In 1996 the WWF included, as part of the WrestleMania 12 pre-show, a segment called the Geriatric Match, pitting parodies of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage against each other.  It was literally a stereotypical "old person fight," with the "Huckster" needing a walker to stay upright, and both men eventually passing out from exhaustion after doing basically nothing.  To view these segments you'd think the real Hogan and Savage were in their 60s at this point.  Nope.  42 and 43 respectively.  Combined age, 85.  1990s Vince McMahon ruthlessly made fun of the age of two former employees, both of whom were in their early 40s.  Yet 2018 Vince McMahon has no problem headlining a PPV with a 27-minute match between a 53-year-old and a 49-year-old.  90s Vince may have been a passive-aggressive asshole (and let's be honest, his 2018 counterpart is too), but at least that guy understood that for the most part wrestling is far more exciting when it's built around young stars in their 20s and 30s.  I'm not saying Vince should be lampooning anyone past the age of 40, but two dudes who peaked during the Dubya Administration have no business main eventing a PPV in 2018.  In no decently run wrestling company should the two top champions be lower on the card than a bunch of 50-year-olds.

I think what bothers me the most is that Shawn refused a WrestleMania program with AJ Styles because he didn't want to crap all over his retirement.  But a throwaway tag team match where the four men involved total 206 years of age is fine?  AJ could've used the rub from working with a performer as accomplished as Michaels; a match like that would've fully legitimized AJ as a WWE headliner (fortunately AJ has since managed to do that on his own).  What does this tag team match accomplish, aside from all four guys getting to shower in corrupt Saudi money?

And for fuck's sake, the De-Generation X gimmick absolutely does not work when both members are old enough to have grandchildren.  Stop it. 

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

WWE Super Show-Down Preview & Predictions

Why is the word "showdown" hyphenated?  Oh, are they doing a thing because it's in Australia?  Like it's a "super-show" down under?  Shouldn't the hyphen be between "super" and "show" then?  Christ, WWE, get your shit together.

Anyway, it's yet another PPV event in a way overloaded calendar, except this will likely be a glorified house show, much like the Saudi show was in April (and like the next Saudi show will be).  A bunch of matches, some interesting, some not.  What's disturbing is how much time they've spent hyping this Triple H-Undertaker match.  Two guys with a combined age of 102 are supposed to even touch what they did six-and-a-half years ago?  Get real.  And it's all leading to the in-ring return of Shawn Michaels in a month, in a meaningless old timers tag team match.  Chrissake...

Anyway, let's get to these picks; there are ten of these goddamn matches and I only care about five of them.

***The standings haven't moved since last month.  Dan leads with 66%, Dave and I are tied with 63%, and Landon's in the caboose with 57.5%.  With ten matches there's room for a shakeup.***

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy

I couldn't point out either of these guys in a lineup and I don't think I've even seen a Buddy Murphy match in my life.  WWE needs to figure out a reason for anyone to care about this division.

Justin: Buddy's from Australia so I'll pick him for the hometown win.
Dan: Sure
Landon: Murphy
Dave: Really, Buddy Murphy?  Jesus.  Sure, Buddy.

Asuka & Naomi vs. The Iiconics

Remember when Asuka was a star?  Good times.  Now she's literally one of the girls.  This company couldn't get someone over if they spent four years building them up and headlined four consecutive WrestleManias with them.  I'm not sure I'll ever forgive how badly they fucked over Asuka.

Justin: Who gives a shit?  Iiconics get a cheap win I guess.
Dan: Iiconics
Landon: Iiconics
Dave: No clue.  Asuka/Naomi.

John Cena & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Elias

Remember when Kevin Owens was a star?  Good times.  Oh wait, I already did that bit.  Owens went from being RAW's top heel for a while to being Elias's sidekick.  Fuck this company.  And fuck this match.

Justin: Cena & Lashley
Dan: Yup
Landon: Cena and Lashley
Dave: Cena & Lashley

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling 2018 Preview & Predictions

Phew, another NJPW show is upon us.  I need a rest.

Anyway, this Monday is New Japan's biggest show of the season traditionally, King of Pro-Wrestling.  Oddly the company decided to hold off on announcing ANY matches for this thing until Fighting Spirit Unleashed was over, thus only giving themselves eight days to hype/sell out this show in a 10,000-seat venue.  Not the route I would've taken, but what do I know?

KOPW is less stacked than I could wish; the four big matches all look great, but the undercard is your standard multi-man tag fare.

So let's get after it...

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask

I don't know what happened to this division.  The Bucks leave and it goes straight to hell.  Why Sho & Yoh aren't having a dominant title run right now or at least persistently chasing the champs is beyond me.  So it's the Jr. Suzuki-Gun guys against the two old dudes.  I mean, it'll be entertaining but kind of a fluff match.

Justin: SZGN retains
Landon: Where did this match come from? I haven't been paying too much attention recently, was there build to this? As much as I'd like to see Tiger Mask in a defender's position again, Despy and Kanemaru retain.

Great Bash Heel vs. Juice Robinson & Toa Henare

Not much going on here.  Juice just dropped the US Title so he could use a win.

Justin: Juice & Toa
Landon: I still have no clue why Juice lost the title. The amazing win against Jay White was the most momentum Juice had in his career, but the G1 did more damage than help I think, and losing the belt was a cold stop in my eyes. I guess Juice and Henare win here?