Night Of Champions: Review/Recap

Night Of Champions BannerSo, I’ve been back in the WWE and wrestling game for officially a year now after my decade or so of an absence. Technically it was marked by SummerSlam, but Night Of Champions last year was the first PPV I specifically set out to watch and saw the build towards. What’s that old joke about wrestling, you never stop being a fan, you just go through periods where you are completely smothered by it and others where you can’t stand it, it’s like a life-long disease. So, it’s a year later and I still watch so much it from WWE each week, TNA, ROH, NJPW, Lucha Underground and not to mention my whole Attitude Era watching and various other stuff. I don’t know what I did with all my time before I got back into wrestling, oh yeah, just watch other random TV. Anyways, I ramble and go on wayyy too long in these wrestling articles, so basically I’m gonna write about each current pay-per-view each month as a way to get my thoughts out about the current product and such. Let’s see how this goes.

Kevin Owens Defeats Ryback to win the Intercontinental Championship:

I am just the biggest Kevin Owens mark and love everything about him. He’s Canadian, has a unique look, prides himself on his family, is a badass, has a brutal moveset which also features a ton of agile moves for his build, is fantastic on the mic, and so on and on. He’s probably my favourite thing in wrestling right now. And Ryback… let’s just say I feel the complete opposite. Ryback just seems like a child, he has this ridiculous physique that is so far gone that it’s comical, he is horrendous on the mic and it’s hard to take anything seriously with him. It was destined that Owens would take the belt off Ryback once they got into this feud, but I’m surprised they did it this quickly, although it was the right move. Ryback’s reign has been dreadful and was barely treading water and doing the title a major disservice. Owens is gold and him having the belt will definitely help its credibility and provide a better angle for their feud. I’m curious to see how it’ll play out since Owens promos murder Ryback and it makes him look not even in his league, but I’m looking forward to it, mainly as a way to see more Kevin Owens.

Dolph Ziggler Defeats Rusev:

WWE’s version of what they think is a juicy soap opera tail. Where nobody knows who the “good” guy is in this and pretty much everybody in this is awful. From Rusev’s treatment of the women by his side, to Ziggler playing two women even though he’s supposed to be the good one, to Summer and Lana’s cattiness and TOTALLY STEREOTYPICAL WOMEN STUFF WHERE THEY’RE ONLY GOOD FOR ONE THING. It just needs to end and has no drawing power and people just don’t care. Lana, one of the few good parts, generally, is off TV with a legit injury, so I don’t even know what’s happening here anymore. It seems like there might be some kind of swerve with the Ziggler turn or whatever, but it’s so far past caring at this point.

The Dudley Boyz Defeats The New Day:

The New Day are at peak overness and The Dudleyz are a perfect foil to combat their goofiness. The match wasn’t that great, but we all know it’s leading to a tables match, whenever that may be, such as Hell In A Cell, or however long they stretch it for. The Dudleyz will obviously get their tenth reign sometime during their return, but I don’t know if it’s the right move to do now since The New Day are so hot and capable of getting such a reaction no matter who they’re with. And The Dudleyz are an easy team to help put over others, given their history and in-ring skill so them working to strengthen the tag divison in other ways would be great. The Dudleyz feuding with the Wyatts would be so much fun.

Charlotte Defeats Nikki Bella to win the Divas Championship:

Nikki gets her record and then drops the belt less than a week later so now everybody’s happy? I thought they would give Nikki the win here, just so it totally didn’t seem like she got the record then the belt taken off her as quickly as possible, but eh. Can’t say I really enjoyed the match, even though I love Charlotte and am actually a pretty big fan of Nikkie Bella’s in-ring work. They had Nikki work Charlotte’s leg, continually going after it and largely dominating the match by targeting her leg and making it the focal point of her offense. It was a fine storytelling move, but one completely obliterated of credibility when Charlotte without having put much offense in gets the figure four (a leg submission) on Nikki then bridges into her figure eight modifier, putting pressure on Charlotte’s legs which are the main source of the move and she pulls it off effortlessly with no pain and Nikki taps out to lose. A body part that had been worked the whole match just magically healed and was of nothing to Charlotte and she showed no signs of struggle. This just bugged me so much when they put such an emphasis on Nikki working that leg, and it was just thrown out the window and thus the storytelling became pointless. I’m optimistic to see what happens with the title picture in the wake of the ugh Divas Revolution ugh and with Paige’s heel turn. There’s a ton of talent there to give good matches with Charlotte, Nikkie, Paige, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and even Naomi in spots. So, in theory the future should be bright, but let’s see if the booking agrees.

The Wyatt Family Defeats Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho:

This is another feud I’m sick of, even though I individually enjoy Ambrose, Reigns and the Wyatt Family, but it just seems like it’s been going on forever, especially when it just seems like yesterday that Ambrose had his singles feud with Wyatt. Chris Jericho was the mystery partner, and eh, I like Jericho but I wasn’t to moved with him being the partner, especially because it doesn’t really push that particular story. Sure, he cost them the match, but he isn’t booked seemingly to continue this and really just seems like to set up a possible feud with Ambrose somewhere down the line when Jericho wants to come back to TV. I didn’t really like the ending especially when they’re not going to continue that storyline with Jericho immediately, so why even book it like that. I honestly don’t know how much longer they can stretch this thing, because everything just gets repeated. It’s the same Wyatt promo every week, the same Reigns or Ambrose match that gets interrupted by the Wyatts each week. Like are they going to try to push to Survivor Series for an elimination match, because I can’t handle that. I’d love to see Reigns, Ambrose and Wyatt moved on as they’re all great talents just getting bogged down now. I also wish Reigns and Ambrose split and maybe they even did go with that rumored Ambrose turn. I just want all Shield members separate from each other, so they’re eventual feud and then reconciliation will be that much more special.

John Cena Defeats Seth Rollins to win the United States Championship:

John’s gotta get back his win and title, of course. It was fun while it lasted with Rollins being the dual champ, but by whatever way they weren’t going to have both titles on Rollins for that long. Cena’s good as the U.S. Champ, he has great matches with everybody and can pull good matches out of lesser people and at least provides a vessel where other superstars can show off their stuff on the John Cena level of attention, not that they’ll ever win, but yeah. This was another great match between the two, not as good as SummerSlam, but surprisingly high energy given Rollins had another match right after this.

Seth Rollins Defeats Sting to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

Unfortunately this match is now overshadowed by the injuries sustained to Sting when he took those turnbuckle powerbombs, but it was a really great match between the two and Sting gave it his all and did not hold anything back, which I guess unfortunately lead to his injuries. I wasn’t sure if it was scripted or not when the doctor was attending to Sting, but I was surprised to see the bumps he was taking especially the turnbuckle powerbombs that he took twice. I don’t think it’ll be the last we’ll see of Sting, but it’s really unfortunate for a seemingly great guy and one who even in injury put Rollins over exceedingly. And then, oh yeah, Demon Kane comes back to start the long-gestating and inevitable Rollins/Kane feud that we’ve all been clamoring for. That’s what’ll turn around the plummeting ratings! Now Demon Kane is fun and it’s nice to see him again, but I don’t have that much hope that the story will be that justifiable, plus a Rollins/Kane match just doesn’t inspire much from me. I hope it’s done with Hell In A Cell and Rollins gets to move on, someone mentioned it and I agree, a Rollins/Sheamus match has the potential to be a lot of fun. It kinda seems like Rollins days as champ are numbered, given the slumping ratings, the need to switch things up and a general malaise on him it seems nowadays. I always just assumed it would be Reigns to take the belt off him, now that he’s gained a lot more luster versue earlier in the years with the chorus of boos that greeted him, and he’s definitely a lot better on the mic now and is underratedly a good in the ring. Now that I think about it, they haven’t really done the Rollins/Reigns feud one-on-one especially due to the WrestleMania aftermath, so that very much could be a direction they go to soon, which would be a lot of fun. I think WWE is just counting the days to have Reigns, a strong babyface champ, go have a long run as Heavyweight champ and be the face of the company.

Overall it wasn’t that great of a show and has no matches that I’m fiending to rewatch, outside of possibly the Rollins matches because everything he puts on nowadays is usually gold. And of course the biggest news to come out of the event was just the randomly booked, oh, hey, by the way Undertaker/Brock Lesnar are blowing off their feud at Hell In A Cell inside the steel structure. No big deal. I was dreading them setting up their blow off match for WrestleMania 32 and it wasn’t something I was looking forward to seeing them waste on the event when there is so many better options for both of them to do at the biggest event of the year. And putting it at Hell In A Cell obviously is a response to the slumping ratings to book possibly the biggest match you can nowadays, Taker/Lesnar in a cell, and thus frees them up to start new feuds. I just hope they put Lesnar over cleanly like he deserves and should, there’s no reason for Taker at this stage to come out of this on top, especially since the Brock as that illustrious Mania victory over him. Undertaker does not need this feud victory to remain strong, neither does Lesnar since he’ll always be a beast, but Lesnar is still probably wrestling for a couple more years and is a legitimate option for the title picture and longer feud, while Taker is a special attraction once or twice a year and though seemingly on the brink of retirment, he seems content with working sporadically for the foreseeable future, which is good for WWE as long as his health stays up.

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‘Black Mass’: Review

Black Mass Banner

I really want to like Scott Cooper and I totally feel that I should, but time and time again he just never lives up to the bar I expect him to hit. I really enjoyed Crazy Heart, mainly for the performance from Jeff Bridges where he won his deserving Oscar, but outside of that the direction wasn’t anything to write home about and the story itself was pretty conventional and paled in comparison to The Wrestler from the previous year which had very similar subject matter albeit with a wrestler instead of a country singer. I was beyond excited for Out Of The Furnace, a backwoods gangstery film starring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck and Forest Whitaker? Holy shit, take all my money. I saw it in theatres, like I did Crazy Heart, and I was supremely disappointed. It was outwardly bad, but it just never exceeds to the level that all this talent usually demands, and just turns exceedingly anticlimactic. I think you can see where this is heading, again blindly enamored with Scott Cooper for some reason and the talent and subject matter of Black Mass, I was very much looking forward to it, only to see it fail to please like it should’ve with all these positives like his past films, and just wallow in “eh, it was fine.”

Johnny Depp is obviously the big story here, with the whole “he’s back to being in good/serious movies and not Tim Burton schlock” and I mean yeah, it’s true, I guess, but his over-the-top make-upped portrayal of Whitey Bulger isn’t really all that different from the wacko characters he’s been busting out for the last decade, the thing is this time it’s just an actual “historical” figure grounded in a semblance of reality. This is still Johnny Depp slathered in make-up and a wig and him putting on a show of this character, don’t get me wrong, he’s really good, although an Oscar win lock I’m very wary, but this is still the Johnny Depp you simultaneously love and hate.

Joel Edgerton’s character might’ve been my biggest problem, and I’m still not sure whether it was the performance or the acting. I do enjoy the concept of a relatively straight-laced FBI agent suffering his downfall when he gets so close to a gangster that he enjoys the fruits of that relationship a bit to much for his job and relationship. It’s a quintessential gangster flick story and mode, and it works, but I’m not sure it fully works. Working off that, the film, seems like an amalgamation of a lot of what made other good gangster films work, but didn’t here. The flashback/flashforward of Bulger associates telling their story to frame the story doesn’t do much and loses a lot of the tension and mystery as to what happens to these characters. They also literally do their own version of the Goodfellas “Funny How?” scene which I was astonished they would copy something cemented so much in film history so straightly and like they were the first movie to ever do it. Suffice to say it doesn’t work at all. We get it, character building.

Ultimately, it’s a decent film, but given all the players and subject matter this should’ve been something great, and had all the pieces to, it just was never assembled correctly. It’s probably Scott Cooper’s most accomplished directing and he certainly does a great job of establishing tone and giving the film a “lived in” vibe that feels like you’re there. And thus I’m looking forward to the next Scott Cooper film, because I believe there’s a classic just waiting inside of him. I crave for the pieces to align.

WWF Attitude Era: 2001

WWF Attitude Era: 2001

WWF Attitude Era: 2001

*deep breaths* Okay, I got a lot to say about this year, oh, god, I took a lot of notes for this. *more deep breaths* Let’s do this…

I wrote about it last year with 2000, where it was the first year I lost my momentum a bit watching episode-to-episode and wasn’t really engaged or enamored with anything, and boy, that continued well into 2001. The end of 2000 was pretty aimless and thus continued right into 2001 and all the way up until Wrestlemania when things started to get a semblance of a direction. With the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, it was all about his push going into Wrestlemania and doing so as basically playing a psuedo-heel character, obviously foreshadowing his turn at Mania.Kurt Angle still had the WWF championship, which I’m really surprised they kept on him for as long as they did, but once Austin won the Rumble it was all but certain, even with hindsight, that they were just setting up The Rock to take the belt off of Angle for The Rock/Austin rematch. I couldn’t believe at the time that the Austin/Triple H Three Stages of Hell match didn’t main event No Way Out, I thought for sure it would, but I guess they felt the Rocky/Angle ending was more suitable with how it turned out.

The build up to Mania was pretty lacking, in my opinion. The only feud with longstanding history is Austin/Rock, but they haven’t done much with it, or anything special. Since both are technically faces even though they’ve never really liked each other. Austin has been pretty heely since the start of the year, but it doesn’t really work and he’s over as always. The Rock/Austin hype video was so painfully 2001 with the Limp Bizkit My Way song playing over it, a trend that would only continue throughout the year with the company using songs from Drowning Pool, Marilyn Manson, Creed, Puddle Of Mudd and others. Oh, god, the nostalgia is so strong and I miss this music so much in a way that I’m not entirely sure if fully ironic or not.

Now everything from January to Mania was pretty boring until the WCW buy by Vince the week leading into Mania which made things really interesting and totally kicked their rivalry into gear. I like McMahon’s presence again as the company owner with all seeing power, especially IRL now that he literally bought his competition. I’ve said before that I’ve been looking forward to the Invasion more than anything starting this Attitude Era watch through even though I heard it was bad (oh, we’ll get to that…) and this just ratcheted up my interest about how fun things were (hopefully) going to get.

Taker/HHH came out of nowhere and I guess at this point it makes sense that they’d fight, but knowing what I know in 2015 it’s kinda boring. I kinda didn’t realize that, duh of course Biker Taker would have some wins during the streak, I kinda just assumed it was all epic deadman stuff. I wasn’t really prepared for the weirdness of Biker Taker at Mania. They don’t really have much for HHH in the main event since Austin/Rock and the McMahon stuff doesn’t really concern him.

It’s a shame Angle basically fell off the face of the earth after dropping the belt to The Rock so he could face SCSA. Angle has no story and they literally through him in a storyline through against Benoit since they both don’t have a match. Now, that match was incredible with two of the best WRESTLERS going at it, but there’s no story or draw beyond that.

Wrestlemania X-Seven was the first four-hour mania, something that would change how they would do things regarding the event that goes all the way to the present. Now, everywhere I went I kept seeing how this was not only one of, if not the best Wrestlemania, but one of the best WWF pay-per-views of all time, so my hype and anticipation were very high. They really tried to cram this Mania with as much stuff as possible, especially with their whole “the next Wrestlemania is the best Wrestlemania” mantra they’ve had going for the last few years now.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get the hype for the PPV. Don’t get me wrong, it was good and not bad in any stretch of the imagination, I just don’t see what a lot of people saw that makes them think it’s so otherworldly special. TLC II was a lot of fun and exactly what I expected, the Shane/Vince match was fine enough, even with bringing in Mick Foley to randomly guest ref just to try and wring more buys, except for that classic Shane spot where he kicks the garbage can into Vince’s face from off the ropes across the ring, it just gets better every time. The Rock/Austin match was good, nothing amazing, I wasn’t really a fan of the heel turn, but eh, at the time it was something different to see (that would actually just get worse and worse, ie. Austin as a heel).

Now I’m going to take a brief intermission to discuss what years exactly constitute the “Attitude” era. Looking it up online you’ll see similar timelines, but all vary from when it starts and ends, and me coming in from the outset I had no clue when to start. I saw King Of The Ring 1996, I saw Survivor Series 1997, I saw Wrestlemania 1998 and on the flip-side I saw just as many ideas as to when it ended, something I was less concerned with at the time. So I settled on January 1997, because I have OCD and couldn’t stand starting in a random month in the year, I had to start at the beginning of the calendar year, even though wrestling is year round and doesn’t adhere to start and stop schedule. Anyways, as I wrote previously, much of 1997 I don’t think was the Attittude Era, and I think I’d agree that it technically started at Survivor Series, specifically that RAW after the screwjob, but it doesn’t really become the “Attitude” era as we know it until 1998. And now having watched to the end of 2001, I would retroactively agree that the end of Wrestlemania X-Seven with the Austin heel turn and allegiance with his sworn enemy for the past three years that catapulted the era into the phenomen it would become and what truly defined it was indeed the end. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, and I know this is going to sound weird, but everything after that just FELT different and not of the “Attitude” era. Most notably I would not consider the Invasion part of the Attitude era, and thus it took up the majority of the latter part of 2001. As well as the remodeling of the SmackDown set with the fist, didn’t scream “Attitude Era” to me, it screamed of a new phase they were leading into. You probably don’t care about this, and this post is long as hell and I haven’t even begun, but this was a major source of contention for me, and I’m actually surprised at how much of a definitive answer I came up with myself. I expected it to be a lot more ambiguous.

So, post Mania The Rock got beat down by McMahon/Austin and now HHH so he could go do The Mummy Returns promo stuff and kick off his whole “superstardom eventually taking over Hollywood” thing. Things got really boring and directionless right after Mania again with HHH/Austin teaming up and Taker/Kane partnering up with both teams feuding. I kind of thought with the WCW buy right before Mania that the Invasion storyline would start right after, but nope it was another boring couple of months. I was really bored by the Taker/Kane thing, as I like them separately, but at this point they are both far less demonic and scary now and thus lose their bite. Benoit vs. Angle never gets old, though.

And then que HHH’s infamous quad injury that puts him out for over a year, which put the dire main event situation into even more barren straits. Thus they kicked up Benoit and Jericho into the upper card/main event which was a lot of fun and a breath of fresh air/they basically have nobody else to feud Austin with since HHH and The Rock are gone and Austin just came out of a feud with Undertaker and Kane.

Benoit and Jericho win the tag belts off Austin/HHH because of course they weren’t going to hold them for THAT long. Then Benoit/Jericho had a TLC match with the Hardyz, Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz on SmackDown of all things and it was amazing and surreal that they put something that great on their B-show. Those were the days. So, things leading into King Of The Ring seemed promising, with the triple threat main event of Austin/Benoit/Jericho and with the King Of The Ring stuff always being fun, plus someone just so happens to be stalking Undertaker and his wife Sara… Here we go.

I was racking my brain trying to think of who it could be who was stalking Undertaker and his wife, taking weird voyeuerisitc videos of them at their house, which was actually pretty creepy, all credit due. I was pretty sure it was someone from WCW, but I had no clue and never even recalled this feud from before, and I guess now I know, with good measure. And, then, this masked dude copies the Undertaker, rolls down to the ring on a bike like Taker, gets in the ring and IT’S ME, IT’S D-D-P. And, damn, I had no clue it was going to be him, and I’m a huge DDP fan and didn’t even know about this feud (but, really, with the information I know now, it was hardly that. I was so excited for them to face off at King Of The Ring in singles competition, but nope, they just had a staredown and Taker pummeled him. More on this continuing disappointment later.

Another of the big landmarks of this year that I had been looking forward to was the infamous Shane McMahon/Kurt Angle street fight, and boy, this thing lived up to the hype and more. Shane is just so game to go all out and nobody is above him as a challenge to have a great match out of, and Angle could pull a great match out of anyone, but with Shane he didn’t have to at all, he was more than up to the test. Just a brutal, taxing affair that you could see both men work wondrously how tired they became throughout the match and how it slowed down and really told a fantastic story.

So, after Mania things were boring again and admittedly my watching slowed down, but leading into King Of The Ring I knew the Invasion was just about to kick off, I mean, duh, the PPV after KOTR was entitled Invasion. Pretty good hint. Anyways, let’s get into it… what I’ve been waiting to see and talk about the WCW/ECW invasion of WWF, what could go wrong…

There was like zero WCW talk, or Shane in the two months after Mania, but right after Judgment Day it starts to get peppered in with Shane showing up and random WCW people interrupting a match or two, like Lance Storm in Calgary. Nothing really full takeover, though, until after KOTR when it really kicked off. I really didn’t know if it was going to be a storyline that affected the entire card, it was, which was nice that it at least tried to give everybody something to do, or at least developed a through line that they could use for stories. I was gonna give the storyline as much of the benefit of the doubt as possible, I was in on Shane vs. Vince and WCW vs. WWF, and even with the eventual addition of ECW it seemed like just the asset WCW needed to be on par with the WWF.

See, that’s the thing that made the Invasion in dire straits from the first place. The big stars like Sting, Hogan, Flair, Steiner and such didn’t invade, it was people like Chuck Palumbo, Sean O’Haire, Mike Awesome, Chris Kanyon and Shawn Stasiak among others. The rest of the invasion roster was filled with people already on the WWF roster who had previously worked for those companies to try and give them some power and credence like The Dudley Boyz, Rhyno and Tazz. Now I love Booker T and DDP, the biggest stars of the WCW side of the invasion, but in no universe at that time did they hold a candle to Stone Cold, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Undertaker or Kane. They were seriously mismatched and it was just so unbelievably that this other side even had a fighting chance.

Now leading up to the PPV Austin had been a bore, literally. He was suppsoed to be a heel, but people would keep cheering him in the wake of Mania, because they loved Austin no matter what. He would continue to get more heat, but it just never equated to what the WWF in theory thought he should get and what in a normal situation someone like him would get. But, then he became this docile semi-idiot who would hug Vince and seemed like a neutered boring version of his past self.

The Invasion PPV was a mess, as should have been expected, with forgettable match with forgettable superstars after forgettable match with forgettable superstars. The main event was an all-stars type match with the best from each side going after each other, nope, you wouldn’t get just Taker vs. DDP. So, of course, with the minimalist set-up about whether Austin was a team player he, of course went the other way and turned on his team, stunning Angle and letting Booker T get the win.

And then if that wasn’t enough, the “Invasion” angle was around for FOUR more ppvs to the end of November, and it just fizzled more and more out as it when on through the September and October months. I was semi-shocked to see The Rock was actually returning, mainly to hype up SummerSlam, and it was great to have him back, but his feud with Booker T and Shane was a dud, and Booker was 0 for 2 with WWF feuds so far. I really thought they might spare The Rock from this and keep him out after, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they brought him back earlier to spark some life into the whole thing.

The Taker/DDP feud had so much potential to me, but they didn’t even go one-on-one, which was baffling to me. There was so much they actually could’ve done with it, but all they did was book them in tag matches and then just have Taker/Kane run over the other WCW teams. And thus DDP was even more aimless, so then towards the end of a year they gave him some motivational speaker gimmick which suits his weird deranged sensibilities and manner of speaking so well, but it doesn’t look like he’s even long to stay. What a waste.

The one positive about all this was the emergence of Kurt Angle as a babyface and his feud with Austin for the WWF championship, which was just fantastic and engaging work from both sides. It can’t be said enough how hilarious Angle is in his clueless American hero jock gimmick who tries to buddy buddy up with Austin. The dude deserved an Emmy for the little hat and milk truck episodes alone.

At Unforgiven Austin finally got toppled for his title and at first I was kinda surprised they had Angle do it at a seemingly nothing PPV, but then it was in Angle’s hometown and the first PPV after 9/11 so of course they’re gonna give it to the all-American hero. I was really hyped about this and Angle was on top of the company now more than ever with the title, but then they gave Austin back the title on RAW after William Regal turned, like, uhhhh, okay. That was all fun and good for nothing then. Back to the status quo.

One of the other few positives that spurned out of the Invasion was the presence of RVD who slowly became more and more popular, even though he was an Alliance member until he was basically like a face in the heel Alliance faction. Plus, he basically always puts on great, fun matches that at the very least are fun to watch since his moveset is a nice break from everybody else. His matches with Jericho, who also utilizes several different styles were top notch.

I was looking forward to No Mercy in October with the RVD/Angle/Austin match, but it was kind of a letdown. I loved the Jericho main event push as he just kept getting hotter and I was pretty shocked that he took the WCW title off of The Rock, but I guess Vince was buying high on him (especially evidenced by later). And then of course Jericho decides to slowly turn heel. It seems like it’s the year of not remaining face or heel for that long and once you get over on one side, for some reason they decide to turn all the momentum against them and I can’t say they won any favours doing this. I just don’t get it. Speaking of…

And then Angle turns on the WWF to align with the Alliance leading into the Survivor Series match that will decide whether the WWF or WCW takes control of the company, hmmm, I wonder who’ll win. It seems they basically turned Angle just to try and get the teams to look more even or something? I dunno, it doesn’t matter he turned again when he cost Austin the victory and was portrayed as a double agent type deal, but also was implied that that wasn’t his motive the entire time, who cares, it really doesn’t matter.

Now with hindsight while the Invasion was in its infancy stages I originally thought it was so dumb having Austin be heel all this time and lead the Alliance against the WWF, but now that I think about it it kinda makes sense. The Alliance needed a huge top credible star to literally be their leader and give them some credibility. Because they got all the B-star WCW players they had nobody, so having Austin at least gives them the strongest wrestler at the time and somebody who could and did carry them. Booker T and DDP are the closest, but they can’t do that. Booker T was trying but they got off that train pretty quick. And DDP just fizzled out.

And to wrap this whole thing up Vengeance provides one of the biggest swerves of the year, even thought I already knew its result, the unifying of the WWF and WCW is won by none other than Chris Jericho. While it seems like a weird choice in hindsight, I’m curious to how much of a surprise or expected it was at the time for people watching. And all it does now is capping his heelness as the top guy with both belts who topped THE two stars of the Attitude Era. It’s a curious choice, but I’m interested to see where they take things and if Jericho can actually carry the main event since he’s THE guy now. We’ll see. And that’s it for the year.

I promise I’m done now. Almost 4,000 words of this and I’m so sorry. But, it’s a lot fun and easier to write about things when they’re bad or just plain baffling than things that are just straightforward great or enjoyable. I knew at the very least the Invasion angle would be entertaining to watch, and it definitely was, just not in the way that was probably expected. 2002, do your worst.

Random notes I couldn’t fit elsewhere/let’s just make this thing even longer:

  • Chris Benoit got injured right before the Invasion stuff, and damn, they just suffered so many injuries this year to top stars that were involved with the main event picture. Who knows if and what the Invasion would of looked like with Benoit in it since he was ex-ECW and WCW.
  • William Regal and Tajiri are all sorts of adorable together, I forgot how much I loved Tajiri in the ring and his antics off screen.
  • One thing that majorly sucked this year was the disintegration of the tag team division especially from Judgment Day and beyond. The only real teams left were The Dudley Boyz and The Hardyz (who had their own little rift). Edge & Christian broke up, which was actually pretty fun stuff, with Edge getting to do some more serious singles stuff and Christian getting to play this ridiculous, self-obsessed goofball that was just a shade different to what he usually did. But, doing so there was nothing to the division, especially when Undertaker and Kane would dominate. All the WCW teams were terrible and had no staying power. It was a shame, especially since the division had so many great, established teams the past few years, but hopefully it’ll shape up after the effects of the Invasion have been shaken off.
  • Man, I really thought Big Show was a big player around this time, but I guess not. He was literally hardly nowhere to be seen the whole year and far away from any main event or even worthy storyline. They attempted to team him up with Billy Gunn, and that lasted for, like, two weeks and then he disappeared again. I’m not the biggest fan of him, but you’d think they would have something for him, not even Invasion stuff being ex-WCW, a storyline they tried with him, but never revisited. Even though it was kinda boring him pledging his allegiance to WWF even though he used to be WCW.
  • It literally took me until November to realize that not only was there no women’s title anymore and women weren’t competing for it, but also the laster holder of it was Chyna who I also just realized I hadn’t since, oh, like, right after Wrestlemania. I guess that just goes to show how well they booked the women that I completely forgot they weren’t even competing for a title and Chyna just vanished with the belt up for grabs at the end of the year.
  • Going off that, I don’t know if it’s just my lack of attention, but I can’t count how many times it’ll just dawn on me that so-and-so superstar hasn’t been on TV for months and I’ll look it up and they got injured or just take off. I’m so bad at realizing these things, but I guess it also goes to show that these people weren’t really that memorable or doing anything that engaging in the first place.

‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 3 Review

'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' Season 3

Season 3! It was good, as well! Now usually shows follow a similar pattern, the first season comes out and they see what works and what doesn’t, make changes that usually make season 2 the best of the series, and then into season 3 and 4 and on is when it really sinks in that, hey, we gotta keep making this, likely around 20 or so episodes simultaneously make the show engaging and create momentum from episode to episode while not making things boring and complement, and that’s the hardest part and one that I’m interested to see where Buffy takes thing.

Season 3 was goo in that it built off a lot of what made season 2 successful, not overly complicated things, have an overarching big bad that can be spun to the background for one-off episodes, while still slowly pushing the plot forward, but what this season does is slowly put more pieces into place and introduce new elements that hopefully will pay off later down the line as the show moves forward.

The introduction of Eliza Dusku as Faith was interesting to me because I’m really fascinated about this world and how Buffy acts around people who have a similar burden/gift as her and how they deal with it compared to how she does. This idea further deepens when Faith kills someone (ie. not a vampire or monster, an actual human) and doesn’t really feel so bad about it and stuff gets real with Buffy when, hey, actual people can die from these types of proceedings, not just monsters. Faith consequently turns to the dark side and becomes an adversary of Buffy, becuase of course she does, but Dushku’s good at playing this as it’s really her bread and butter type of role. The presence of this darkness in another slayer is paramount to see if the show ever explores this side with Buffy, as it’s always the shows best material when it deals with Buffy rationalizing her role as a slayer and what it truly means and can it be divorced from her as a person.

The big bad this year of the mayor was a step down from Spike this year, as he was mainly just an old bore scheming in, like, the one room that the show apparently had in its budget for him to, uh, just sit around and scheme in and spout off bad guy demon stuff.

Now let’s get to the stuff that really matters, the Xander/Willow/Cordelia love triangle-ish things. I gotta say, Xander was probably my least favourite character of the past two seasons (except Angel, I guess, uh) as he was the prototypical “funny” guy, but always just came across as a self-righteous dick. Anyways, him and Willow finally kiss and wouldn’t you know it Cordelia and Oz (Seth Green) catch them and their go those two relationships up in smoke. Until, like, two episodes later when Oz in his typical Seth Greenness just takes her back because he’s all “looking past things” and such. So, Xander pines after Cordelia, all the while still not sure what to do about these feelings about Willow, which she still obviously has for him. This is the part where I say that Cordelia is my favourite character and, damn, I don’t even know how it happened. I’m a sucker for the classic “rich bitch character who at heart is really sweet and nice behind all her vitriol to others fed by her upbringing and stance in life all these years, until something drastic happens with her father’s job and they suddenly don’t have money and are left with nothing, but still tries against all to make up appearances that everything is normal until someone finds out and see the true person.” I love that character. Seriously.

Since who cares about the demons and major plotlines in the show, Giles and Buffy’s mom got it on, which I’m ashamed to say I did not see coming, but obviously should of, because, duh. Also, let’s give it up to Buffy’s mom who just kinda fully accepts that, yup, my daughter in between dating boys and trigonometry homework goes out and kills demons and saves the world on a nightly basis. I know I’ve talked about this every write up so far, but I just love how all these monsters and demons and vampire and teens killing them is just an accepted thing to everybody. There’s a great referential moment in the season finale where the students give Buffy props for making that year in Sunnydale the one with the least deaths at the high school. Implying that yes, of course, like any normal year a bunch of high schoolers died at the hands of some demons from the netherworld, but, hey, it was a lot less this year!

I don’t really want to talk about the trials and tribulations of the Buffy/Angel relationship because it’s been the same cycle for the past couple years, break-up/get-together/break-up/realize they’re destined to be with each other for life/break-up/repeat. At the behest of Buffy’s mom and Angel’s deep emotional introspection (ugh) he realizes that even though he loves Buffy sooooooooo much, he’s probably pretty bad for her in the long run and just keeps invited trouble so he leaves to go do a spin-off.

Yeah, so next season is when Angel gets his own show, which, man, he’s boring as hell to me, I don’t really get why they gave him his own show, but 1999 was a crazy time. I briefly mulled around watching Angel along with Buffy for next season going back-and-forth from each episode like it would’ve aired in real-time because I’m insane, but decided against it due to the fact that I really don’t care to do that, I’m not the fondest of Angel, and I kinda just want to breeze through this series as it is and don’t really care so much of the interconnectedness of the shows and universes that I’m okay to miss references, I think, even though I’m an insane completist perfectionist. But, I’ll watch it sometime in the future, we’ll see. I remember hearing differing opinions that season 4 was the worst for some people and the best for others, so that should be fun. Also, damn, I for sure thought Giles would be dead by now.

‘Straight Outta Compton’: Review

Straight Outta Compton

So, here we are 25 years after their hey-day and anti-establishment/authority defining group N.W.A. gets their own Hollywood Summer blockbuster-esque bio-pic grossing $60 million in their first weekend, the best in history for this type of film. Quite the evolution.

Admittedly N.W.A. was some of, if not the first rap music I not only listened to, but went back to and listened again and again. Their final album was released six months before I was born, and although I could never relate to their specific issues growing up that channeled into their music, something always resonated in me with them, particularly their themes about not caring about what other people think and doing whatever you wanted. I always gravitated to Eazy-E, I think mainly due to his voice, delivery and the charisma he oozed that just made you want to listen to song after song to hear his voice brood about his life.

I was a little apprehensive going into the film about how biased it would and what picture it would paint over the tumltuous (at the very least) history of the group and everything that spun out of it that would lay the foundation of rap for the rest of the 90s and early 2000s. Obviously, current day Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were producers of the film and championed pretty much every part of it and would tailor it to their liking. Most notably how they would treat Eazy, and how far they would go with things. Ultimately, they went just as far as really would be expected that didn’t stray too far away away from reality and didn’t completely gloss over more truly what went on. I don’t know if things were as truly amicable and “wrapped in a bow” as they were in the film, but it skirts the line enough that the fiction doesn’t completely overshadow the truth. I would’ve been interested to see in some alternate world an unbiased source taking a crack at things with all the same resources, but as it stands it is a worthy and reputable film for the namesake.

Most impressively that made the film work, and would’ve quite so easily made it fail immediately and they not succeeded were the performances by O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy E. It’s gotta be hard to begin with to play a real-life figure, but tacking on top of that the added mannerisms, characteristics and performance qualities of these rappers who have been lauded in the public for years must’ve been exceptionally difficult. But, to their credit, each actor nails their role, with Jackson, Jr. stealing the show playing his father, which must’ve been really weird and daunting at the same time. I will say one thing that was kind of too much for me and sort of weird was when they had the actors performing songs whether it was in the studio or on stage, it was the actualy recording of whatever song that the real-life rappers had rapped, so it would be the master track of Ice Cube rapping coming out of Jackson, Jr.’s mouth which provided an unnerving disconnect that didn’t work.

The success of the film feels very warranted, it not only caters to older fans who grew up with the group and through these events, playing up them recording these classic tracks to the appearances of landmark figures like Snoop Dogg and Tupac, but it also moves along at a surprisingly fast clip (for the first 3/4 or so, anyways) and doesn’t really wallow in much before it’s pushing things forward. I think the film was a touch too long and thus drags a bit in the final act, but bio-pics usually land on the longer side and something of the heft and convergence of events at the end really isn’t an ending as it’s really just a beginning in the even more now illustrious careers of Ice Cube and Dr Dre.

7/10