Wednesday, June 28, 2023

WWE Money in the Bank 2023 Preview & Predictions

This Saturday is the first-ever UK edition of WWE Money in the Bank, and there's a pretty strong card lined up.  I still have major gripes about WWE's long-term decision-making though.  Let's get right into it.

WWE Women's Tag Team Championship: Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler vs. Raquel Rodriguez & Liv Morgan

Not much heat for this one I feel like; Raquel and Liv were the champs till Liv got hurt, Ronda and Shayna won the vacant titles and now this match is just about the undefeated former champs challenging the new champs.  That's all fine.  It's hard to believe Ronda's been back for longer than she was here the first time; her second run has felt very uneventful to me and she's just one of the women now.  This match should be ok but probably won't get much time.

Pick: Ronda & Shayna retain

Intercontinental Championship: Gunther vs. Matt Riddle

This should be a helluva match as Gunther's matches always are.  Riddle is a good babyface who can deliver in the clutch.  Not much else to say other than Gunther isn't losing the title anytime soon (Nor should he).  This could steal the show though.

Pick: Gunther retains

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023 Review: Omega-Ospreay II

The second annual AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door PPV is in the books, and from where I sit the sequel eclipsed the original, no small feat considering last year's event was one of the best shows of 2022.

This year's FD featured bigger top matches and greater star power, bouyed by the fact that AEW wasn't hampered by a rash of injuries this time around.  Of the two marquee bouts, one turned out to be an all-time classic, the other a very slight disappointment due to a tired crowd and a late-match fractured arm.  But we also got a very fun four-way sprint and an excellent team warfare match that furthered numerous story threads.

The show opened (after four pre-show matches which from where I sit is too many - five hours of matches is a lot for a live crowd to take in) with the AEW Championship as MJF defended against NJPW legend Hiroshi Tanahashi.  This felt a lot like an old-school house show main event, with very basic wrestling and plenty of character work from the heel champ.  Tanahashi is in very rough shape these days, his knees not even allowing him to do rudimentary things like running across the ring.  But he and MJF worked around his limitations, delivering an enjoyable 15-minute match that ended with MJF using the diamond ring to steal a win (after Tanahashi scored a visual pinfall on him with the ref down).  Solid opener that gave Max a win over one of the all-time greats.  ***1/2

Next up was CM Punk's first singles match since All Out 2022, as the controversial star faced NJPW veteran Satoshi Kojima.  Performing in front of a hostile crowd, Punk played the heel in this match, mocking some of Kojima's mannerisms and also those of Kojima's old partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan.  Kojima got in his signature offense, including rapid-fire chops outside the ring, and showed that at 52 years old he's still got his mojo.  Punk survived Kojima's big moves and hit the GTS after thirteen minutes or so, to advance in the Owen Hart tournament (I'd bet real money that Phil's winning the bracket this year).  Good stuff.  ***3/4

Thursday, June 22, 2023

AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023 Preview & Predictions

Holy lord what a lineup we have in store for us this Sunday at AEW Forbiddon Door II!

Seriously, last year's show was excellent, but this card is next-level and then some.  They could just give us the top two matches and have the show run 90 minutes and it would be an all-timer.  But on top of what should easily be two of the best matches of 2023 there are a host of other bangers on tap.  Let's just dive in.

Buy-In Owen Hart Cup: Athena vs. Billie Starkz

This one is a no-brainer, Athena is obviously advancing to round two of the women's Owen Hart Cup, almost certainly facing Willow Nightingale (which should be a killer match).

Pick: Athena

Owen Hart Cup: CM Punk vs. Satoshi Kojima

Ok this is a bit of an underwhelming matchup for Punk but he did just get back and he's obviously easing his way back into heavy lifting as it were.  Should be a fun little comeback singles match and I'd be willing to bet real money Punk wins this tournament and parlays that into an AEW Title rubber match with MJF (one that's long overdue, mind you).  

Pick: Punk

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Cinema Showdown: Hulk 2003 vs. Hulk 2008


The Incredible Hulk is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters.  He is pure, unbridled rage.  Fury incarnate.  The perfect embodiment of what happens to us all when our emotions become too potent to control.  The meek, intellectual, physically limited Bruce Banner morphs into the mindless, gigantic destroyer known as the Hulk.  Few fictional characters are as universally relatable or recognizable, and this story is a natural for cinematic interpretation.

The late 70s saw a TV version of the character, as Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno costarred in The Incredible Hulk series.  The show was very popular but due to technological and budgetary limits it failed to fully capture the spirit of the comic.  Instead of being a giant with unlimited strength and near-invincibility, the Hulk was merely a large, very muscular man with green skin who never spoke and liked to throw people around.  The series was followed by three rather poorly-received TV movie sequels, and it seemed that a theatrical feature film based on the character would never happen.

Ferrigno oddly looks simian in that wig.  Hulkey Kong!

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Music Review: Avenged Sevenfold - Life Is But a Dream...

Avenged Sevenfold's long-awaited eighth album is a fearlessly wacky roller coaster of musical and artistic influences centered around themes of life, death, and the meaning of it all.  Bewilderingly fast-paced and full of abrupt time and tempo changes, Life Is But a Dream... is dizzying, thought-provoking, often beautiful, and at times confounding.  It's hard to know exactly what to make of it.

The album starts right off with a curveball, as strains of delicate chamber music ease the listener in (similar to how we ease into life, according to singer M. Shadows) before heavy guitars come roaring.  The song is called "Game Over" and it's a brutally frank, truncated account of a man going through various stages of life before deciding to exit this seemingly meaningless existence - "And here I swing from my family tree/Say goodnight."  Like several songs on this album it's very well-written but feels short and perhaps under-explored.  This sets the trend of each track being part of a larger whole rather than a proper standalone piece of music.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

NJPW Dominion 2023 Preview & Predictions

This Sunday NJPW returns to Osaka-Jo Hall for what is traditionally their #2 PPV of the year, Dominion!

Well this lineup looks more like the Dominion shows of old, loaded up with title matches and plenty of big names and fresh faces over a nine-bout card.  The main event pairing is an odd one indeed but hopefully it delivers.  But I'm really stoked for some of the undercard matches and also I wonder what ramifications this show will have on Forbidden Door in a few weeks.  Let's get into it!

#1 Contender Match: Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay

The first match with FD implications, these two will face off for a shot at Kenny Omega's US Title.  Archer and Ospreay are no strangers, having faced each other numerous times over the years, always with great big man-little man chemistry.  I'd say Ospreay is almost certainly getting this win to set up a rematch with Kenny (and holy shit what a rematch that'll be).  This should be a pretty great contest in its own right.

Pick: Ospreay

Just 5 Guys vs. LIJ 

Naito and friends will take on the Burger Squad (wait, how can they be called 5 Guys when this is a 4-on-4 match??) in the one filler bout on this show.  Should be a fun little match but probably won't go very long.

Pick: I'll go with LIJ to win