Monday, September 19, 2022

AEW Grand Slam 2022 Preview & Predictions

Holy jeez is AEW Grand Slam 2022 a loaded card.  The Dynamite portion is original Clash of the Champions-caliber, while the Rampage lineup has a whopping eight shorter matches.  Hopefully AEW continues their string of big ratings to continue proving they can get along just fine without CM Punk and also to show Discovery that they're underpaid.

This Punk-Elite situation has certainly motivated AEW to create some must-see television, what with the tournament for the vacant AEW Championship and the featuring of more stars that were perhaps underutilized.  The next few months leading into Full Gear should be intriguing to say the least.

Let's look at the lineups....


AEW All-Atlantic Championship: Pac vs. Orange Cassidy

These two had a fantastic match in 2020 and I expect the same here.  Pac is the no-bullshit tough guy while Cassidy is the aloof slacker who likes to poke the bear.  I don't anticipate a title change here, but Cassidy will give Pac a good fight.

Pick: Pac retains

Ring of Honor Championship: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Chris Jericho

This should be spectacular, and it's yet another match WWE never capitalized on.  Considering they're giving a huge star like Jericho a crack at the ROH Title, hopefully that means an ROH TV deal is imminent.  It would make sense then to put the title on the biggest possible star to give that brand a boost.  Claudio just won the title two months ago but if the idea is to get an unprecedented number of eyes on Ring of Honor, it makes sense for Jericho to capture it.  Regardless I'm very much looking forward to this one.

Pick: Jericho wins his first ROH Title

Monday, September 12, 2022

Movie Review: Pinocchio (2022): No Strings, No Magic Either

Disney's slew of unnecessary remakes of classic animated films continues with Robert Zemeckis's "live-action" Pinocchio, now streaming on Disney+.  Starring Tom Hanks in a lethargic, half-hearted turn as Geppetto and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the voice of Jiminy Cricket (channeling his best Cliff Edwards from the original), this version omits numerous magical moments and songs from the old film, adds new tunes and characters we didn't need, and somehow strips the story of all its former urgency.

Consider a moment in the scene where we're introduced to the incorrigible, scheming fox Honest John and his dimwitted partner Gideon.  As they stroll past Pinocchio, lost in their own "conversation" (John speaks, Gideon does not), John half-notices the living puppet skipping past and remarks "A little wooden boy..." before doing a double-take as the amazement of what he's just seen sinks in.  In the original film, the double-take is sudden and big and hilarious.  But here, even the comedically prodigious Keegan-Michael Key as Honest John can't muster the energy to make this bit work - the timing of the moment has no tightness, and Key's reaction is so underplayed it scarcely conveys how mindblown he's supposed to be.  And for me that's almost a Rosetta Stone for how ineffective this film is.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

WWE Clash at the Castle Review: That Ending Stunk

AEW wasn't the only wrestling company to hold a major show over Labor Day weekend, as WWE traveled to Cardiff, Wales for Clash at the Castle.  How very 1980s Vince of them, horning in on the other company's established big weekend.  Tony Khan's gonna need to schedule a Battle of the Belts on TBS opposite 'Mania.

Anyway, Clash was the first main roster PPV one could say was fully produced under the Triple H regime, as SummerSlam was pretty much already set by the time Hunter took over the creative reins.  SummerSlam still felt like a typical Vince PPV, but Clash felt to me like the ship beginning to steer in the right direction.  Two changes I noticed were the WAAAAAY more sparsely used snap-zooms for big bumps, and the near-absence of rapid-fire cuts during striking exchanges.  Thank Christ, I can finally watch a WWE show again without having a seizure.  True to WWE form though, there were some frankly baffling booking decisions that kept this show from truly reaching greatness.  

Things kicked off with a fairly energetic six-woman tag, as Bayley's new stable Damage Control faced RAW Women's Champ Bianca Belair, Asuka and Alexa Bliss.  Wait, Asuka, Bianca Belair and Alexa?  Their team name should be ABBA, am I wrong?  This proved to be a pretty strong opener, though it perhaps went a bit longer than was ideal.  At nineteen minutes I felt like the crowd wasn't as hot as they could've been.  There was plenty of back-and-forth action though, and everyone got a good amount of time.  The finish came when Bayley tied Bianca to the turnbuckles with her own braid, allowing each of the heels to hit their finishes.  Iyo Sky finished Bianca with a moonsault and Bayley covered her for the win, thus positioning Bayley as the new top contender.  Not too shabby at all.  ***1/2

AEW All Out 2022 Review: How Do You Solve a Problem Like CM Punk?

AEW and its fans rode an emotional roller coaster this past weekend.  Between the fairly stellar All Out PPV and its frankly upsetting aftermath, there was a ton of news to unpack, both good and bad, for the company and the fans.

I guess we should start by addressing the irrationally angry elephant in the room.  And look, I'm saying this as a longtime fan of CM Punk - he's lucky to still have a job after all this, if indeed he does still have a job.  For a man who prides himself on being a locker room leader to retaliate against an opponent vaguely "going into business for himself," by explicitly going into business for himself, is frankly embarrassing.  Regardless what happened between Punk and Colt Cabana - and the dissolvement of their friendship was obviously very bitter - Hangman Page's promo back in May barely referenced that situation (specifically the rumor that Punk used his clout to get Colt fired from AEW), and 95% of the audience watching probably had no idea that's what he was referencing.  What Punk should've done, again as a supposed locker room leader, was address the situation with Page (and Tony Khan if necessary) in private.  Instead Punk waited till after Page did a clean job for him (in and of itself a form of making amends) and only after he'd spent three months on the shelf, decided to fire back with a promo very clearly designed to make Page look bad.  A shovel-to-the-face obvious burial is not just desserts for a thickly veiled dig.  

But Punk wasn't done.  At the post-All Out media scrum he went out of his way to bring up the subject again, immediately steering the conversation toward a Colt Cabana tirade and throwing both Page and the Young Bucks violently under the bus for allegedly starting the aforementioned rumor.  For several minutes he verbally trashed his coworkers and their EVP status, thus making the company look stupid for giving Matt and Nick executive roles.  Meanwhile Tony Khan sat next to him mostly silent, rather than making a genuine effort to change topics.  Key among Punk's comments was "If anyone has a problem with me, come talk to me."  Well, that's precisely what Matt, Nick and Kenny Omega attempted to do immediately after Punk's scrum appearance, and then all hell broke loose.  

It's not yet clear who started the physicality, but it's been confirmed that Punk punched Matt, and Punk's friend Ace Steel threw a chair at Nick's face and bit Kenny.  Word is there could be legal action taken, and it seems unfathomable that the two sides will ever be able to work together after this.

Friday, September 2, 2022

WWE Clash at the Castle Preview & Predictions

Well, it's a loaded wrestling weekend, and not only does AEW have their annual All Out PPV on Sunday, but WWE has a big UK stadium show on Saturday, the first PPV lineup formed under the Triple H regime....

Triple H may be in charge now and may have assembled most of this card, but true to WWE form he's only announced six matches for a stadium show, meaning we'll almost certainly get 2-3 unannounced additions.  And man, are there a lot of people missing from this show, even some folks Hunter's finally been pushing on free TV.  Hey WWE, why are you the way that you are?

Let's look at the 2/3 of a show we have.....

Edge & Rey Mysterio vs. Finn Balor & Damian Priest

This should be a fine tag team contest.  Lotta good talent here.  Of course this feud feels super goofy since Edge was prematurely kicked out of his own group and Judgement Day doesn't feel like they have a real leader.  Weak sauce.  Anytime Rey and Finn are in there together should be fun times.  I think Dominik probably at long last turns on Rey, because unless you're the Usos, you turn on your family in WWE.

Pick: Judgment Day

Bianca Belair, Asuka & Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley, Iyo Sky & Dakota Kai

This one should also be a lot of fun, with a ton of talent on display.  It's probably a good thing though that Clash is the day before All Out since, good though this match looks, it won't touch the Trios final on Sunday.  Alexa seems out of place in this trio and generally looks like she doesn't want to be there.  I have to think Team Bayley wins here to further establish them as contenders for Bianca and Raquel/Aliyah, respectively.

Pick: Bayley, Iyo, Dakota

Thursday, September 1, 2022

AEW All Out 2022 Preview & Predictions

Oh man, AEW may be going through some growing pains, but you'd never know it by looking at this weekend's All Out lineup.  Two weeks ago I was thinking this show may not live up to the last year of AEW PPVs.  Right now I'm thinking it could equal or even surpass what is in my estimation their best, last year's Full Gear show.  

All Out 2022 is an absolutely LOADED show, with nearly all hands on deck, a massive main event with a real emotional story at play (more on that in a bit), a real focus on elevating some of the homegrown stars, a focus on the new Trios division (three trios matches on this show, all of which should be pretty great), and what's sure to be a batshit crazy ladder match.  If you can't find something to get excited about on this PPV, I dunno what to tell you.

Let's get into it....

Pre-Show: Eddie Kingston vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Jesus, even the pre-show has two potential show stealers, starting with this slugfest.  Originally the plan was Kingston vs. Sammy Guevara, until a miscommunication over a Sammy promo led to a backstage scuffle between the two and Eddie was suspended (they've made amends and all seems to be well now).  So as a substitute we're getting something arguably even better, a match that would be right at home in the G1.  I'm guessing Eddie wins here since he's the AEW guy.

Pick: Eddie

Pre-Show: All-Atlantic Championship: Pac vs. Kip Sabian

Well this was a slow burn.  After months and months of Kip sitting front row with a box on his head at every AEW taping, he finally revealed his intention by going after Pac.  Sabian has been somewhat repackaged and will hopefully prove to be yet another promising homegrown talent.  Pac is incredible.  This should be a fun little match.  I don't see Pac losing the title yet.

Pick: Pac retains