.

Lucian

(Wrestling Expert, Movie Reviewer)

WWE Elimination Chamber

This PPV was the last before the WWE Network launches and it was a serious hard sell for that new service. WWE Pay Per View revenues are about to plunge and it’s vital to put on a good face for the company right now. Notice I said good face for the company not of the company. So what does WWE do? It once again shows it can’t give the fans (or you can call them the WWE Universe if you want to induce vomiting) what they want.

Much of the PPV was fine stuff. The battle between the two most dominant factions of today, the Wyatts and the Shield, was stellar. Despite both being heel teams the crowd was deeply into the match and cheering for both sides. In fact, a “This is Awesome” chant broke out even before either side had so much as touched each other. The match itself lived up to the hype and was, easily, the highlight of the night.

The Diva’s championship match between AJ and Cameron was decent filler with AJ taking a sick looking accidental kick from her bodyguard Tamina Snuka that almost cost her her championship. Fortunately for her, Tamina was also there to attack Cameron and draw a DJ, letting AJ slip away with the title and extend her record-breaking reign.

The Intercontinental Championship match was better than I expected it to be as Big E Langston and Jack Swagger put on a fine opener with Langston retaining.

WWE New Age Outlaws

Beyond that, the booking was mostly a train wreck. The New Age Outlaws were carried to a marginally decent match by their opponents The Usos; but they have no business being in a WWE ring let alone tag team champions. Billy Gunn is 50 years old. Does he have to have a heart attack in the ring like Jerry Lawler before he’ll think about hanging up his boots. A gymnasium somewhere in Newark is missing its headliners because Road Dogg and Billy Gunn are taking a spot on the WWE roster that deserves to go to a younger, more athletic, team.

I have not seen a match as crapped on by the crowd as the Batista/Alberto Del Rio was in a very long time. Despite del Rio coming to the ring faking an injury, claiming to be unfit to wrestler then attacking Batista with a crutch the crowd still started out cheering him. They moved on to cheering for: Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, RVD, Chris Jericho and I think a few others I missed. They even invented a new term “Bootista” that is up there with “Boo-urns” in terms of cleverness. Batisita was meant to be the company’s major face going into Wrestlemania and the fans are so far from backing him they might as well be on another planet.

Which brings us to the main event. Six men put on what was actually a good match. Cesaro got a chance to shine. Christian and Sheamus appear to be set to collide at Mania and this feud was continued with a great Frogsplash off the top of a pod. Sheamus got to Brogue Kick a Plexiglas plate into Orton. The Wyatts reappeared to attack Cena to set up another likely Mania match and Kane again interfered against Bryan. But, in the end, when Bryan was eliminated and Orton retained, the crowd completely deflated. They weren’t angry. They didn’t hate Orton. They simply could not believe that, once again, the WWE had completely ignored the views they had made crystal clear. The fans want Daniel Bryan as champion going into Mania. And continuing to ignore them is going to start driving fans away in droves no matter how cheap WWE Network may be.

WWE Randy Orton

Also, Hulk Hogan is back and will host Wrestlemania. Sure, whatever.

Did you watch the 2014 Elimination Chamber? Will you be signing up for the WWE Network?

Wrestling

Last month we introduced a new wrestling debate column where we let two wrestling fans, dubbed FACE and HEEL, duke it out over a subject (SEE: How Was the 2014 Royal Rumble?). This week they are arguing if it is a good or bad idea for Sting to join the WWE.

FACE: How could anyone argue that Sting wouldn’t be a great addition to WWE? We’re talking about one of the most storied veterans who has never wrestled in the company. Sting would get to cap off his career at the only true major wrestling company left in the world. It’s good for him, it’s good for WWE. It’s good for fans.

HEEL: Here’s a simple fact: Sting is 54 years old. He’s older than The Undertaker. He’s older than Billy Gunn who WWE has foolishly made tag champ again. As CM Punk said, he has nothing left in the tank. What is WWE going to do with him? A match between him and The Undertaker at Wrestlemania would be horrible. A match between him and anybody else would mean that other wrestler has to carry his broken down body. It’s not worth what WWE would pay him.

FACE: There are a lot of things Sting could help WWE with. Under a legends contract he would be a huge draw.

HEEL: Would he? It has been a long time since WCW. Since 2003 Sting has been languishing in TNA, the fed that fans forgot. His cache is past.

FACE: I think you are wrong. There are a lot of old time fans, parents of kids who watch WWE today, who still remember Sting. He’s still a great talker. He could be a manager. He could be a General Manager.

HEEL: Just what WWE needs, more people who can talk and not wrestle.

FACE: Imagine if Sting had even one match left in him. He could put over some young guy. Imagine the credibility that a guy like, say, Cesaro would get from being the man who ended Sting’s career. And you know Sting is a decent enough guy to do it.

HEEL: I say let TNA keep paying his salary. It will only speed them towards bankruptcy that much faster.

FACE: I can’t imagine TNA is paying him that much. So let him earn some real money towards his retirement. Sting’s biggest objection to WWE has always been the questionable content. These days WWE is PG and TNA is TV-14. It’s actually a better fit.

HEEL: It’s the old line: “it’s better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.” In TNA, Sting is unquestionably a star. In WWE he’d be one face lost in a crowd of wrestlers past their prime.

FACE: Bret Hart won the United States championship at 52 despite having had a stroke.

HEEL: And vacated it the next week. It was a joke of a win.

FACE: Bottom line, I think WWE can find a place for Sting and it would be the feather in the cap of his career.

HEEL: Bottom line, Sting should stay where he can be of some help, not just fade into the background of WWE.

How about you? Do you think Sting should end his career in the WWE?

Posted on March 7th, 2014 by | Leave a Comment
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wwe nxtThe NXT program started as a crappy reality TV style show where the results were probably rigged. It was pretty bad. That didn’t stop me from watching it, because it showcased some of the up and coming talent that would form the future of the show. The first winner of NXT season one was Wade Barrett, who is still on the main roster, although I’ve got bad news for him, his new gimmick sucks.

The real story of season one was Daniel Bryan, aka Brian Danielson. Danielson was one of the biggest stars of the indie, Japan and Ring of Honor when WWE signed him. He was horribly misused at first but now he is the most over member of the WWE roster.

Over a year ago, NXT changed its format. Gone was the voting, the eliminations and the stupid ass challenges. Instead, NXT became a straightforward, hour-long wrestling show. Matches and promos were the same as regular shows and the show had its own home, Full Sail University. And, slowly and quietly, NXT developed into one of the best wrestling shows on TV today.

NXT now offers a chance for developmental talent to practice the skills they will need to be a star on WWE. NXT also has a singles, women and even tag team championships. These championships are a bit of a double edged sword. If one wins one then either one must quickly lose it in order to move up to the main roster, or one gets stuck in NXT as champion. Current NXT champion Bo Dallas may have held the title for close to a year; but he’s only had a sniff of the main shows.

Incidentally, Bo Dallas is actually Bo Rotundo, son of Mike Rotundo, aka Irwin R Shyster. Bo’s brother was once known as Husky Harris. But after a successful stint in NXT he has been incredible successfully repacked as Bray Wyatt, leader of the Wyatt family.

NXT Stars

Repackaging stars is a big deal in NXT. It’s how Johnny Curtis became Fandango. It’s how Skip Sheffield became Rybak. There are some people with real potential in NXT at the moment. Alexander Rusev has already been in this year’s Royal Rumble and promos are running for him on RAW and Samckdown.

The tag team champions, the Ascension, have promise. New WWE Diva Emma has been showing up in the WWE crowd. Aiden English, whose gimmick is a Broadway actor and singer, is vastly entertaining. Tyler Breeze, a Milan model who constantly takes selfies with his smartphone and doesn’t like being hit in the face, shows a lot of promise. The problem with the NXT crowds, who are smart wrestling fans, is they tend to cheer the talented wrestlers rather than supporting the faces and booing the heels.

When the WWE network goes live NXT will be there. Four episodes of NXT every month is worth about half the price of a network subscription all by itself. In the meantime, find the show on the internet. If you have only one hour to spare for wrestling each week there are worse choices than NXT.

Posted on February 16th, 2014 by | Leave a Comment
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WWE Royal Rumble

Today’s topic: the 2014 Royal Rumble, sucked or shone? Lets see what FACE and HEEL thought of the show…

FACE: What an amazing Rumble. Let’s start at the beginning. We had an incredible match between Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt. We saw Brock Lesnar destroy the Big Show. The New Age Outlaws turned back the clock and won the tag team titles 15 years after last holding them. That’s a record. Randy Orton and John Cena tore the house down until a distraction by the Wyatt Family cost Cena the match. That’s all before the Rumble itself. There we saw Roman Reigns break the record for eliminations in a match. We saw surprises galore and we saw a great win by Batista.

HEEL: Are you kidding me? What show did you watch? I’ll concede the Daniel Bryan/Bray Wyatt match was excellent. But Lesnar and Show? It wasn’t a match it was just a beating (watch and judge for yourself). And having the announcers describe it as “borderline criminal?” Beating a man with a chair when it’s not part of a sanctioned match is criminal! That’s not the sort of thing you should talk about. Cena and Orton put on an okay match but the crowd was crapping all over it. Orton didn’t get a decisive win over Cena so he still looks like a weak champion. Don’t get me started on the Old Age Outlaws holding a title. And, as for the Rumble, most of it was a bad joke. Kevin Nash entering? JBL entering as a joke competitor? All the while taking up spots that could have gone to guys like Xavier Woods? Disgraceful. Roman Reigns was impressive, so impressive the fans cheered him over your supposed face winner, Batista. The fans wanted to see Daniel Bryan in that match. The fans wanted Daniel Bryan to win that match. I sincerely hope Bryan wins the Elimination Chamber and faces Batista, or both Batista and Orton, at Wrestlemania or you’re going to find there are a lot less people interested in that show that you’d normally expect.

FACE: It’s okay to have some humor in the Royal Rumble. It breaks things up, it breaks things up. It entertains a portion of the fanbase.

HEEL: A midget in a bull costume does not belong it the Royal Rumble. A retired color commentator does not belong in the Royal Rumble. Especially when the announcer says “the JBL character has never entered the Royal Rumble.” You don’t refer to wrestlers as characters. You say something along the lines of “JBL has never entered the Royal Rumble since adopting that moniker.”

FACE: It’s easy for armchair quarterbacks and fantasy bookers to criticize, but the creative team has a lot of factors to deal with. They have to plan for the future. CM Punk was being built up to face Kane, then HHH. Cody Rhodes and Goldust have lost the tag titles. It makes sense for them to feud with each other. Having Goldust eliminate his brother, even if it’s by accident, builds towards that feud. Roman Reigns is going to be a face when the Shield breaks up. That’s something else WWE built towards.

HEEL: No matter how you try to spin it WWE did not give the fans what they wanted and the reaction showed it. Creative needs to get their heads out of their collective rears and start focusing on the right people.

That’s it for this column of World of Wrestling. The one thing Good Cop and Bad Cop agree on is that we welcome your comments, requests and opinions!

Royal Rumble

I think it is pretty obvious that WWE has screwed the pooch with this year’s Royal Rumble. What’s the main attraction of the Royal Rumble? Anyone can see that it is the Royal Rumble match!

Yet here we sit, a week from the event and I’m not sure they’ve announced even half the people in it. Who have they announced? Dave Batista, a man I’ve never been impressed with, who has finally decided to come back because, apparently, it’s not so easy to become a movie star. And beyond him? Alberto Del Rio, a man who has fallen so low down the card he jobbed to Sin Cara about a month ago. Then you throw in Kofi Kingston, a man who nobody thinks has a shot, yet they muddy the waters by giving him a win over the champion. Who does that help? Is Kingston going to become number one contender? Not with “Captain Ego”, Brock Lesnar in line first even after Superman Cena.  Right now there is not one credible person in the Rumble other than Batista, and if you go into the match knowing who is going to win then what’s the point? Other entries include CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, and Roman Reigns.

What else does the Rumble have? Well, we’ve got John Cena versus Randy Orton in a rematch of one of the most historic matches in fifty years, the unification of the WWE and the World Heavyweight championships. And there is Big Show versus Brock Lesnar. With the launch of the WWE Network just about a month away, WWE needs to be bring their A+ game more than ever. They unified the titles a month early. They’ve paid barely any attention to the Royal Rumble match and they’ve let Brock Lesnar just crown himself the next #1 contender. The Royal Rumble is going to decide one half of the main event at Wrestlemania. There’s only one champion left for the winner to challenge. Turning it into a throwaway match is just like throwing away money.

I was watching NXT about a month ago, if my research is right it was the 200th episode. The NXT Tag Team champions, a title I hold in slightly higher prestige than the TNA Knockouts Tag Titles, known as The Ascension, had issues an open challenge to any tag team in the world. They were answered by The American… Pitbulls? Here are some highlights.

The Wolves

Now any Ring of Honor fan, or fan of indie or Japanese wrestling knows The American Wolves. Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards have been as famous as you can get without working for TNA or WWE for years now. Which means, of course, once they come to WWE they must be “repackaged.” I’ve never understood why WWE has come to believe every wrestler they hire needs a new name, a new gimmick and near whitewash of their history. I can understand WWE not wanting to acknowledge TNA. TNA at least passes for a vague shadowy ghost of a spectra of a wisp of a challenge to them. But Ring of Honor?

WWE uses RoH as much as a development territory as they do NXT. Where do you think CM Punk came from? Why was CM Punk the last guy they let keep his name? Punk got over in WWE by being the same guy he got over as in the indies and RoH. Bryan Danielson and Daniel Bryan are all but the same and Bryan became Superstar of the Year as voted by the fans. Even worse the pair became Derek Billington (Richards) and John Cahill (Edwards). WWE changed their names and, of course, came up with what my Irish friend Conor could only describe as “shite names.” However that is not the worst news of this story. WWE let the Wolves go. Rather than signing one of the best teams of the modern day, they let them go to TNA. It’s maddening for me to learn this. What’s even more upsetting is I may have to start watching TNA again just to see them.

1000 episodes. Every week since January 11, 1993. It’s an achievement worthy of celebrating. How will WWE handle it?

They began with an amazing promo heavy on celebrities, recently retired wrestlers and Eddie Guerrero. Eddie certainly deserves it. Vince had to start the show to get his own standing ovation, but he soon brings out DX. Lots of DX as X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws eventually join the fun. They are interrupted by a rookie superstar who goes by the moniker of Damian Sandow. He’s a guy who thinks of the others as common trash while he brings intelligence, enlightenment and saves us from ourselves. So of course, he gets beaten down by the legends doing their old antics.

And therein lies the problem with most of the show, nostalgia winning out over current events. Jim Ross doing guest commentary is all well and good and I’m sure it was many an RoH fan’s dream to see CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and The Rock in the ring all together. The problem is The Rock was made to look like the best of them. The Rock is usually off shooting movies. These other guys bust their asses for you over 200 nights a year. Why make them seem lesser?

We get plenty of 1993 trivia (the year RAW went on the air), Charlie Sheen doing commentary when he clearly knows nothing about the product, and all kinds of social media tweets, trends and touts. Twitter is clearly a sponsor, part of a relentless wave of product placement throughout the show.  And WWE has the audacity to introduce their 100,000,000th social media follower. But that’s across all platforms and we all know how much duplication there is across social media platforms. And how would you single out one person joining at one exact point across all platforms. I think they just took a guess and the lucky guy got to come to the show.

Big events? Stephanie McMahon convinced Paul Heyman to let Triple H (two more aging “Superstars”) fight Brock Lesnar at Summerslam. The Miz defeated Christian for the Intercontinental title. AJ left Daniel Bryan at the altar to instead become the  new RAW General Manager. The Rock gets a title shot at Wrestlemania for the big shiny belt. The Undertaker returned to save his brother Kane from a beatdown by six random heel jobbers. Yep, two old guys beat 6 new guys. I can understand throwing Heath Slater under the bus by having him lose to Lita since that’s about all he’s good for. It was nice to see the double Tombstone one more time though.

All this left 15 minutes for the main event, and even then it was slow paced. John Cena cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to face CM Punk for the WWE Championship. CM Punk again showed he’s an amazing technical wrestler while John Cena showed how he can keep a crowd involved in a match no matter which side is winning. There was a good old fashioned ref bump and Cena should have pinned Punk. Then Big Show interfered to attack Cena and land the knockout punch. A reluctant CM Punk pinned Cena only to have him kick out. Then Big Show attacked again, but this time in plain view of the ref. Thus the main event of RAW 1000 ended in a DQ.

And really, that’s why I’m giving up. Three hour RAWs every week is too much. Add Smackdown, NXT, Superstars, TNA (who are rumored to be getting another two hour show) and RoH (who would love to expand to two hours) and it’s all too much. Wrestling quality today is not high. They are letting their past stars dominate and only a select few new ones can work hard enough to earn a spot at the top. After ten years, I say goodbye to professional wrestling* and move on to new horizons.

Results of all matches:

  • Rey Mysterio Jr., Sin Cara and World Heavyweight Champion Seamus defeated Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio in a Six-man Tag Match.
  • Brodus Clay squashed Jack Swagger
  • The Miz defeated Christian to win the Intercontinental Championship
  • Lita defeated Heath Slater with the help of the APA in a No Disqualification, No Count-out Match
  • John Cena defeated CM Punk by disqualification after Big Show interfered in the Money in the Bank match. CM Punk retains the title.

Guest stars included:
X-Pac, New Age Outlaws, APA, Lita, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Mae Young with her grown up hand son, Dude Love, Trish Stratus, Slick, Bret Hart, Howard Finkle, Vader, Road Warrior Animal, Psycho Sid, Rikishi, Sgt. Slaughter, DDP, Doink, Roddy Piper, Bob Backlund, Fozzie Bear and Gene Okerlund.

*Except for finishing running my Know Your Role campaign and writing two sourcebooks for Wild World Wrestling. Heck, I might as well make some money out of this.

MONEYBALL
This
is an odd sports movie, in that you see very little sports. This is the story of sports, baseball in particular, from the back office point of view. The movie follows Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) in MLB’s 2002 season when he met a young economics grad (Jonah Hill) with a radical approach to building a team. The film charts the ups and downs of the team, but more importantly, it shows us how they changed baseball forever. Pitt and Hill give strong, understated performances in an overall satisfying picture. Don’t expect to see a lot of sports action though; baseball is, after all, the thinking man’s game.

****

You can check out our full crop of Mini-Movie Reviews by heading over to this link. Don’t forget to post below to let us know your thoughts on Moneyball!

Posted on October 31st, 2011 by | Leave a Comment
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