Survivor Series: Review/Recap

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Roman Reigns defeats Alberto Del Rio to advance to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament finals:

This was probably the most obvious outcome of the night, because no matter what would happen in the main event, it was all going to concern Roman somehow. It’s a smart opener, too, as they could get a good pop out of the crowd with Roman coming out to kick off the PPV, although he got pretty soundly booed, so maybe not the best with this crowd. This actually ended up to be my favourite match of the night and I think definitely Albert’s best since he came back to the company a month ago. The finish was never in doubt, but both were good enough together to really sell the near-falls.

Dean Ambrose defeats Kevin Owens to advance to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament finals:

Another good match, not as good as the first, and actually a bit disappointing given the talent between the two guys, but it was never anything outwardly bad, just could have been better. It was pretty certain that Dean was going to advance, to push the whole Roman vs. Dean thing, but I don’t think a Kevin Owens win would’ve been too far out of the picture (especially with how things eventually ended). It seems like Owens and Ambrose were going to feud for the Intercontinental title into this PPV anyways, until the Rollins injury mucked everything up and I’d imagine they’ll continue this going forward. Hopefully the matches get better, I have no doubt that they won’t, and from the in ring work to the matches this could be a top mid-card feud that has the potential to be the best thing going for the company right now.

Ryback, The Usos and the Lucha Dragons defeats The New Day, Sheamus and King Barrett:

This was the “oh, damn, this is Survivor Series and I guess that means we need a 5v5 elimination match, so, uh, what scraps do we have around the locker room to fill this out.” Seeing as we had no clue who the participants were going into the match I thought they might have some mini-storyline reason of choosing these people, but nope it was just random leftover heels and faces to fill out the card, who are just a bit above working the pre-show. The match was actually pretty fine, at least until the New Day left with an “injured” Big E to leave Sheamus stranded alone, which I thought was setting them up coming back or complaining when they eventually lost that technically they hadn’t been eliminated, but nope, Sheamus just eventually got beat by the faces.

Charlotte defeated Paige to retain the WWE Divas championship:

Man, I barely remember this match, and I guess it makes sense because their feud is nothing to really retain either. Besides the lame attempt at giving this feud some depth and teeth with that random Reid Flair death comment on the previous RAW, there isn’t much that really makes you invested in any of this. I don’t think Paige is a particularly good heel in the first place and I’m not the biggest fan of hers either, and as well Charlotte is clearly lacking on the mic. You’d think since they’re such great wrestlers within the ropes they’d be able to at least put on something good, but unfortunately it was unforgettable with Charlotte eventually winning after an awkward submission spot. I’d hope this thing would be done here, but I imagine they’d want to keep pushing with Paige at the title.

Tyler Breeze defeats Dolph Ziggler:

I was looking forward to this a lot, actually, but it kinda just felt like a dud all the way around. The crowd seemed long sucked from the building and they only got just over five minutes to make this thing work. It was a fine enough match, but I was just expecting more given the calibre of performers in the ring. I’m glad Tyler got the win, even though I’m sure they’ll harp on his pseudo-cheating with tripping Ziggler for the win. I don’t see this thing ending anytime soon, so hopefully like Owens/Ambrose they can only improve on things.

The Brothers of Destruction (Undertaker and Kane) defeats The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper):

I wasn’t expecting much from this, but I’m surprised it was even worse than I was expecting. I was 99% sure that Undertaker would get the win since this PPV was centred around his 25 years in the company, but a part of me thought they might flip the script and have the Wyatts triumph when everything was seemingly against them. But, nope, this was just a glorified squash match for Undertaker and Kane going through their greatest hits for a short ten minutes with the easy win by an eventual tombstone to Undertaker. Taker and co. were taking it super easy, and hopefully this was just an easy stepping stone to honour his 25 years and he’ll prepping for a more worthy match at WrestleMania, since we know he still has some good matches left in him given his last two against Brock. And who knows where the Wyatts go from here, given that they’re basically glorified jobbers by now, with WWE trying to give them the illusion that they are all high and mighty powerhouses, yet they lose every feud they’re in, losing all their credibility.

Roman Reings defeats Dean Ambrose to win the WWE World Heavyweight championship, but…

I was really looking forward to this, given the whole storyline business of Reigns and Ambrose being best buddies and everything coming down to them taking each other on one-on-one to see who’s the best, and beyond that it’s a fresh match for once! I guess the theme of the night was short matches and I was astonished how short this thing was. I couldn’t believe how early they were going for their finishing moves, telegraphing the end, I thought it might just be an entertaining close call for the middle of the match, but nope eventually Reigns got the spear on Ambrose in just under ten minutes for the win. Don’t get me wrong, the match was good for what it was, but it felt so condensed and rushed, and for what reason I have no clue, since by the time ended the show was still a good 20 minutes short of the 3 hour window.

I was certain that the big angle here would be the Dean Ambrose heel turn on his best buddy that I thought was going to happen way back at SummerSlam, giving the main event a big feud with a backstory and cementing the big heel with Rollins out of the picture. Instead, they decided to go the whole other route, and actually stick with it, so outcomes Triple H to congratulate Reigns who responds with a spear to Triple H all to turn around from a brogue kick from Sheamus and him cashing in his Money in the Bank contract. Sheamus kicked out of the first brogue, and I thought, “oh, okay, now they’re just going strengthen Reigns by having him best Sheamus’ attempt at the title,” until another brogue kick smashed in Reigns’ face and Sheamus got the three for the title.

I’m really not up in arms about this finish as most are, mainly stemming from how much people hate Sheamus. I used to, too, I mean I still don’t necessarily like him, but he’s an actual heel in this day-and-age who actually gets legit heel heat, has a stiff moveset and can be used correctly. Now, I don’t really think this is the best move to put at the top of your card, but I mean it is the deadest period of the year where people tune out, and I’d be surprised if they had Sheamus with the title going into Mania.

With Rollins out it seemed the no. 1 thing WWE wanted/needed was to establish a no. 1 heel and that’s what they did (or at least tried to do) with Sheamus. They needed a top heel (in their eyes, anyways) to go against Reigns, and in doing so gave him the belt to help generate that. Obviously, they’re trying to build sympathy for Roman with the fans and try to build him up and actually get people to cheer and like him before they put the belt on him, because apparently Vince sees him as the face/top of the company for the foreseeable future and he wants to set everything up right. If Reigns isn’t standing tall with the belt at the end of WrestleMania 32 then either something drastic happened, but I would be stunned if that wasn’t the case. I’m interested to see how they work this thing and if they can actually get Reigns over, or at least moreso, this time, because if they screw things up or fail to pull the trigger it might be too little too late with Roman. He’s still pretty terrible on the mic, but his ring work is very solid and I can definitely see him succeeding and winning over the fans to be a draw on top for all fans, but the booking will ultimately decide this in the coming months. I’m fascinated to see how this plays out.

Ultimately, I didn’t hate the PPV like most did, largely stemming from the Sheamus ending, but mostly I just felt underwhelmed. I was actually looking forward to a bunch of these matches, none of them were terrible, but the only one I really liked was the Reigns/Del Rio one, one that I wasn’t even looking forward to. Reigns/Ambrose was good, but seemed so much like a tease at an actual full length match in the future, possibly when one is heel, and I can’t wait for that.

It’s going to be an interesting an interesting time in the WWE due to how uninteresting things are right now. They’re heading into December, their biggest dead time, with no Rollins or Cena (along with the load of other injured stars) with a new champion that everybody hates and a no. 1 contender that most are just so-so on at best. I’m being like The New Day and trying to stay positive!

‘Spotlight’: Review

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Spotlight is an Oscar bait movie, let’s make no mistake about that. It’s a straight-up drama concerning a controversial topic of priests abusing children all framed within a semi-historical context of 2001 with a focus on the journalistic pursuit of several journalists trying to uncover the truth behind this story. All of this is fonder for awards, ever piece of it, but what the film expertly balances and largely avoids is the falling into simple traps of storytelling and cliche story beats that telegraph it to its assumed end.

Yes, the contents of this film scream Oscar bait, but the directing, acting and story could not have been telling a more different story. I think the greatest strength of the film is the focus on the A story of the investigation of priests molesting children. The film never devolves into b-stories such as the tease of Mark Ruffalo’s character being separated from his wife and what he’s to do about that, no, but rather the film just lets those idea simmer as basis for its characters in service as what it does for the main story. Which quite simply involves the Boston Globe’s special investigation team delving into a pattern of molestation from local priests over the past decade.

This is a sensitive topic, obviously, and one that doesn’t necessarily seem to bring high-strung action or tension, but the film expertly keeps a level curiosity and keeps you on the edge of your seat as they delve deeper and deeper into this investigation. There is no out-of-this-world twists or major revelations that flip everything on it’s head, but rather everything is very hauntingly real-world in the sense that you could imagine this very thing happening in your very yard, in that these machinations could happen anywhere.

Not a surprise, but the acting is fantastic across the board, including Michael Keaton putting in some excellent work in the midst of a career resurgence and people like Rachel McAdams reminding you how much of a great actor they really are. The standout is Mark Ruffalo, no question, someone who I’ve been a fan of for years and just totally inhabits his role as this neurotic perfectionist who will do whatever to get the right story told. Ruffalo’s performance straddles the line of a person with semi-eccentricities that make him fodder for easy Oscar bait, but he handles it with such realness and fidelity that it never seems like a stretch or a grab for any type of congratulations. The performances in general were really what kept the film firing on the clip it did for the entire runtime, including Liev Scheiber who was first introduced in the film as a sure-fire antagonist, but succumbed to the realness of the film and was largely a supportive entity in the pursuit of the film, rather than a negative force in front of the main actors, a refreshing course in what these types of film usually deliver when a force from outside the realm of the story intercedes.

Spotlight has been billed as the frontrunner for the best picture Oscar over four months out, and while I think it’s a fantastic film, I just dont’ know if at this point I can agree that it’ll take that with ease. Make no mistake, though, this is a wondrous film which tackles a subject that is so wildly ignored, attacks it without abandon and uses its characters to deliver a story that seems like it could be told in your local newspaper, and not just on the Hollywood screen.

WWE Ruthless Aggression Era: 2002

WWE Ruthless Aggression

Another year down and what a trip it was. It was truly a random and weird year that had so many new and unique elements from the past year, good and bad, and definitely was a worthwhile direction after the disastrous year that 2001 was. From countless new superstar debuts that would could continue to define the company to this day, to the brand split, returns, high-concept matches and Triple H having sex with a corpse. It was quite the year to say the least. Let’s get into it…

The year starts off with the return of Triple H, someone who I thought was still months away from returning, and of course this is all leading to his MIRACULOUS recovery and OVERCOMING THE ODDS to take the belt off Jericho, oh yeah, he’s still somehow the champion. I always keep coming back to how things would’ve been different possibly in with the invasion if people like Triple H, Benoit and Guerrero were healthy and how if any things would be different. Anyways, Triple H is back, and as demonstrated by the constant video packages of him getting stronger and fighting to get back, he was going to be shot to the moon when he got back. As a face, nonetheless, which is often weird to see him play.

It’s nice that they actually made the Royal Rumble match a storyline. This is like the first time since I’ve started watching in 1997 that they’ve actually had super stars really talking about entering and winning it. In the past the lead up to it has been non-existent. It helps to easily give guys storylines. And it’s big important guys, too, like HHH, Taker, Angle, Show, Kane. Really provides some heft to it and makes the Rumble match that much more interesting.

Vince McMahon and Ric Flair have a little feud going on how they’re basically co-owners of the company now, with Flair getting Raw and McMahon Smackdown. It does help to elevate Smackdown as a more equal brand, especially since this is before the eventual brand split, and provides Vince something to do, which would be his last major on-air thing for the year.

Goldust and Val Venis are back, one of many of the random superstars that just disappear and you go “oh, yeah, they were gone.” Bringing back some Attitude Era nostalgia. Billy and Chuck are also a thing now, with Billy Gunn trying his best to stay relevant however he can, and this one works surprisingly well for a bit, and they actually get over for a small while.

Anyways, on to the Rumble that Triple H wins, of course, because he’s just gotta win the title at Mania. Jericho beats Rock to retain the title through about 3346 different ways of cheating. Jericho is just a transitional champ, basically. Feels so unimportant, especially with Rock, Austin, Angle, HHH, Taker, they all seems so much better and main event than Jericho who still kinda feels like he doesn’t belong and too early. It seemed like a big deal when Jericho won to became the first undisputed champ, and he got a rub, but especially being a heel it didn’t really give him the push to the next level of top-tier talents like I’m sure they wanted to. Especially when he was just destined to lose to one of them very soon, ie. Triple H.

Triple H is face, of course for now, he turns on Stephanie after she was lied about having a baby. Sets up a no. 1 contender’s match at No Way Out that Angle wins to get the chance at the tile, but, nah… of course Triple H just wins his opportunity back at the next Raw. Because it’s Triple H, and of course he’s going over.

The Rock and Undertaker have a pretty fine match, which is really just a stop gap for them until their WrestleMania feuds get kicked off. Also, oh yeah, Stone Cold Steve Austin is still a thing, remember that guy? The most popular and over star in the company’s history or something? I can’t remember. Anyways, Austin is pretty much lost at sea in any storyline, due basically to his unhappiness with the company at the time and not really wanting to work. It’s crazy how his in-ring tenure just begins to disappear like this and how he hardly becomes a thought, just a few short years after he was carrying the company on his back.

So, finally a few months into 2002, Vince gets some of the top WCW stars that he so desperately needed during the invasion angle to make them seem relevant in Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as NWO. It’s unfortunate it turned out as it did, but there’s few things I’ve been looking forward to more than the Rock/Hogan Mania match. Even though this iteration of NWO looks so boring and not harmful when it’s just three old dudes trying to remain relevant and badass.

Undertaker and Flair spar on their way to their Mania feud in so many different ways. This was actually one of my favourite builds of the year as both men seemingly held nothing back and everything descended into very personal attacks, like with Taker targeting David, Ric’s son. Flair cut some amazing promos, too, which really played off how emotional he gets and they felt painfully real.

The WrestleMania X8 card itself seemed pretty lackluster with a ton of filler matches. Matches like RVD vs. Regal, DDP vs. Christian, Angle vs. Kane, Edge Vs. Booker T (well, besides this one, because Edge and Booker were fighting over a Japanese shampoo commercial, yep.) and so on had very little build and were obviously just there to fill out the card and give some people something to do.

Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall seemed like it might have some potential, but it actuality it was short, boring and didn’t really seem to accomplish much with neither man seeming that into things. Triple H vs. Jericho was fine, but so uneventful and really containing nothing memorable of it in and of itself, besides the unofficial begin of Triple H being THE top guy without the likes of better guys like Rock and Stone Cold blocking his way. The build up with comedy bits between Stephanie and Jericho did nothing to lend credence to the feud and neither did the HHH/Stephanie split.

Of course, the biggest match, which somehow didn’t main event, although in nowadays booking totally would, the Rock/Hogan match didn’t disappoint. The crowd was nuclear and you could just feel the electricity radiating out of that ring. It’s almost surreal to think about these two top stars of their own begone generations facing off in one of the biggest contests of all time and thankfully Hogan didn’t go over.

Post-Mania dealings are all about the brand split and subsequent draft, which might be one of my favourite WWE things of all time, as well as the brand split which desperately needed to make something of Smackdown and which eventually exceeds amazingly well.

The draft was hilarious because it varies so much, as WWE often does, in strictness of rules and regulations when it comes to superstars being drafted and later traded or whatever. Like, Flair was somehow allowed to draft NWO, a group of three, with one pic. In the coming months they’d make a big deal of orchestrating a trade between the two brands, but then superstars would just defect to the other brand, with no repercussions, so it’s like it didn’t really matter where you got drafted, there was no actual checks and balance system, just whatever they felt like at the time. Like, later Batista and Randy Orton would go to Raw and the commentators were like “oh, yeah, they’re on Raw now, for no particular reason.” I mean, I know this is fake, scripted wrestling and the WWE rarely has concise continuity, but it’s just hilarious how little any of it really matters.

Also, a little someone who would become the dominant force of the year and would have an impact that few probably thought it would be as big throughout the years, Brock Lesnar debuted, and in the most Brock Lesnar way. He would literally just show up during random matches and just own everybody with F5’s and then leave. When he actually settled down and became a part of the actual roster he feuded with the Hardyz to start off with, which I guess was kind of a nice way to introduce him with a team he could go over and destroy.

So, Backlash happens which is pretty uneventful minus a great no. 1 contender’s match between Undertaker and Stone Cold that Taker cheats to win and the whole main event picture. So, it’s Hulk Hogan vs. Triple H for his newly won title and I really just assumed that Triple H would continue to keep getting the major rubs as the guy on top, go over the old Hogan and continue his ways. But, nope, Hogan won the title off Triple H who didn’t even survive a pay-per-view with it. It makes sense, though, Vince probably wanted that big shock and have Hogan carry around the Undisputed belt for a bit with the whole nostalgia factor until he gave it up shortly after to an actual worthy competitor, as he eventually did.

This also feels like when Undertaker finally got a true hold of who and what his American Bad Ass character really is. Where he just became this ruthless, asshole heel who was someone you didn’t want to mess with, and really encapsulated the bad ass biker look.

Randy Orton debuts and it’s so funny to see him all shaggy haired and wet behind the ears as a rookie compared with how we know him now. He’d pop up in random tag matches and have a mini-feud with Hardcore Holly. Later in the year he was put on Raw where he was subsequently injured, but they kept him relevant with this curious bit where he would pop up as this breaking news video where he heeled it up as a smug, smartass thanking the people for wishing him well during his recovery (which no one was doing) and they obviously had big plans for him if they wanted his face on TV every week or so, even though he was injured.

Batista debuts, too, in more bizarre terms than Randy (later Evolution mates), becoming a disciple of newly gimmicked D-Von’s preacher role as basically his muscle and a new dude for him to tag with. It didn’t last long, Batista would eventually end up on Raw where he would be groomed by Ric Flair, sowing the seeds for Evolution.

They had some really good momentum going into Judgment Day with the Underaker/Hogan feud that would eventually take the belt off Hogan at the PPV, which included Hogan doing literally the worst sell job to the chokeslam ever. The continued Triple H/Jericho feud was becoming a bore to me, but putting the match in Hell in a Cell at least provided some spark, although the match itself was pretty unmemorable, hmmm, sensing a theme in their matches. Most importantly, though, we had the Edge vs. Kurt Angle hair vs. hair match, in the culmination of an awesome feud that was based around comedy that both men do so well. I had never actually known how Angle went from hair to bald, and for some reason never assumed storyline reasons.

It’s funny because I’ll often forget about the brand split and be like “wow, Angle wasn’t even on this episode of Raw… wait, oh right, there’s an entirely different show.” It’s so crazy to think of the depth of talent they have to fully stock two relatively equal shows, in their own ways, of course. They each would have their own strengths, with Raw having some of the more traditional big names, but Smackdown would become the show to watch WRESTLING with the likes of Benoit, Angle, Guerrero, Mysterio and so forth. It’s just kinda crazy to think they were literally running two shows, that would only become more separate and were both very WWE, but created and re-ienforced their own identity.

Continuing with the randomness of the year, Shawn Michaels returns after, like four and a half years to seemingly little fanfare and joins with the NWO with him just doing random poses and stuff. It was a very weird position to bring him back as, but likely things would later get better with him, and he’d actually be wrestling, again.

Chris Benoit returns after his long injury, and of course they bring him back in his hometown of Edmonton and of course Vince being Vince they turn him heel in his hometown, which is sorta fun. Eddie Guerrero returns, too, and everything for the eventual rise of Smackdown in the latter part of the year is starting to fall in place, even though they were still on Raw.

Booker T is so funny, like, he can get to Kurt Angle levels of comedy, he’s so good. His partnership and schtick with Goldust is so perfect and they’re the perfect combination of randomness to put together.

Brock Lesnar continues to own and absolutely demolished the King Of The Ring tournament to take the crown. They do a smart thing this time around, which makes a lot of sense, giving the King Of The Ring winner a championship match.

The Rock, apparently, gets down promoting The Scorpion King or whatever Hollywood thing he was doing and comes back, obviously in prep to face Lesnar at SummerSlam. The past two years really The Rock is basically just a part-time player, doing his Hollywood stuff and only popping up at a few of the big events to have a big match, then he literally disappears again without WWF mentioning a word, and then repeat.

The Raw right after Vengeance Vince literally calls this time period “Ruthless Aggression,” so I don’t think there’s much of a doubt this is very much the first year of that era and nowhere near the Atittude Era. And then just like clockwork, who appears? John Cena, of course. On the following Smackdown Cena debuts with his infamous match against Angle. I’ll never get tired of seeing early Cena with his nerdy looking hair and plain appearance. The company was obviously super high on him at the time, as he featured in a ton of matches on following Smackdowns, including main-eventing some of them, and even had a mini-feud against Chris Jericho that would lead into Vengeance that he’d win.

The Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy ladder match was just as epic as it was hyped to be. And in the loss totally made a star out of Hardy as a single competitor and one who could believably compete on his own. What a coming out party. I love the storyline that preceded Hardy taking on Taker. Where he was basically just bored living this easy, comfortable life of flying city to city wrestling and repeating. So, he needs a spark in his life something that matters, so he challenges the big dog, and eventually gets beaten down, but gains the respect of Undertaker and Flair and sets the roots of his singles career.

The Hardyz along with Edge & Christian actually managed to split them up from their tag teams and work them pretty successfully as single stars. Jeff was great, and would only get better, as that high-flying, risk-taking star, Matt had the V1 gimmick, which I’m not sure what the general consensus was, but I loved it for some reason, especially how technologically dependent and wringed in dry humour it was. Edge only gets better as a singles star and is a focal point of the Smackdown rise, while Christian enjoys some fun as part of The Un-Americans with Lance Storm and eventually Test, who just get constant rise out of all the Americans. I can’t believe I never heard of this tag-team/stable before, because it was a perfect gimmick for all of them, with guaranteed heat that they were all so good at getting, even when it wasn’t this easy. On the other hand, the Dudleyz split was pretty unsuccessful, Bubba was, uh, just his crazy self still, but hanging around with a girl occasionally, and D’Von’s preacher gimmick fizzled out fast. It’s no surprise they put them back together at Survivor Series, as it’s obviously how they work best.

Eric Bischoff comes in as general manager of Raw and I couldn’t be happier to see him. When I first started watching wrestling, a few years after this, he was GM and I absolutely love his smarmy asshole-ness and he fits perfectly as the authority figure. I’m too young to have experienced WCW, so I literally knew of Bischoff as Raw general manager before I knew anything about him and WCW, so I’m in a weird place. I can’t imagine how weird it must’ve been for people back in 2002 to see Bischoff randomly appear like this on WWE programming and become a focal authority point for it.

Stephanie McMahon is a great choice for Smackdown GM as well, she provides a nice foil to Bischoff, someone who’s like a thorn who constantly gets stuck in his side when she steals superstars to her show. She shifts back-and-forth between face and heel mannerisms, but it’s refreshing to see her out of the constant Triple H storylines, for the time being.

So, yeah, The Rock takes the title at Vengeance because it makes sense putting the belt on him being a grade A talent, his popularity as a movie star, heading into the number 2 show of the year, and the prospect of putting him against a Brock Lesnar character who seems unbeatable.

The only thing that could be bigger than that, though, is the wrestling return of Shawn Michaels. I’ve been waiting for his SummerSlam match with Triple H ever since he left all those years ago (months in my real life time, but still). Man, it’s almost surreal having HBK back, I know I’ve watched all these years in just a few months, but it really does seem like forever. It’s crazy to think that he literally went out right before/as the Attitude Era was commencing and is now coming back after it ends. Like he missed a whole era of wrestling. I can’t even imagine how things would be different with throughout the whole thing.

Triple H as a face, or psuedo-face wasn’t meant to last, of course, so he eventually turns on HBK during Michaels’ recruitment of HHH into NWO, which makes so little sense, especially since they were former DX members, but anyways. I mean, honestly, it doesn’t take much to build this feud with them, with all the shared history, but they do a good job, especially with HHH getting to turn back into his sadistic side.

This SummerSlam PPV gets hyped up a lot as being one of the best the company has put on, it’s really good, but I don’t think it’s anything fully amazing or anything, though. Rey Mysterio joins the Smackdown fold, finally, and puts on a classic with Kurt Angle to kick off SummerSlam. It’s literally not in Angle’s DNA to put on bad matches. Ric Flair faced off against Chris Jericho, another of Flair’s random feuds of the year as a wrestler, and one of Jericho’s, too. Chris Jericho had kind of a down year here, especially coming off his monumental one of last year, and never really got to be in the main event picture, but was just stuck in small, random feuds and the tag-team scene. Undertaker also feuded with Test for some reason, just to give him something to do, I guess, which he easily won.

The Shawn Michaels/Triple H street fight was a lot of fun and lived up to the years of hype surrounding the return of HBK. They went long, and even though I was sure Michaels was going over, it still told a pretty good story and had many spots where it seemed like Triple H would believably go over.

The Brock coronation begins when he defeats The Rock in a relatively one-sided affair and one that was a lot more shorter and succinct than I expected and just like that Brock Lesnar is the Undisputed champion of the company and The Rock disappears without a word.

Oh, my god, l I never really fully understood the “Triple H didn’t want to work Tuesdays things” and so they legit just brought back the Heavyweight title and just gave it to HHH because he didn’t want to work Smackdown and fight for the supposed one Undisputed title. I mean, I guess it makes sense to have two separate titles with the brand split, but it’s listed as the UNDISPUTED title and it hardly had any time to breath, and they just gave it to HHH. Amazing. Like, Bischoff just gave Triple H a world championship, no tournament or anything, and now all of a sudden each brand has a world title, which I like, but it’s hilarious how randomly and low-key they do it.

Unforgiven was a pretty boring placeholder PPV with Triple H easily defending his title against RVD, of all people. At the very least, it was used as a way for Ric Flair to turn and align with Triple H, which at the time is kinda fun, giving Triple H someone to bounce things off, and also gives Flair some direction, which he desperately needed these past few months ever since being ousted as GM. The Lesnar/Undertaker feud is a lot of good work, though, especially when Brock and Heyman use Sara against Taker, makes them even more slimy.

Finally, the HHH/Kane/Katie Vick storyline. This was actually a ton of fun and random and so not what they’ve done recently and was a such an Attitude outlier of a storyline. It was actually so nice to have someone feud with Kane and he actually got to be a part of the meaty story and had a backstory and not just some silent, grunt who beats people up for no reason, except for being a DEMON FROM HELL. HHH prodding him was the best and so slimy and dickish of him. At least it wasn’t your same old title match, where it’s the ol “I’m better than you, no I’m better than YOU.” Their title match at No Mercy was pretty boring and didn’t match the build-up, and obviously HHH won. I don’t fully understand why they used it to get rid of the Intercontinental title, making it title for title was cool, but just completely getting rid of the mid-card title seemed weird.

Smackdown needed their own tag belts, so they had a tournament that concluded at No Mercy with Benoit and Angle winning the title. It was pretty clear they were winning ever since the storyline started with them being begrudgen partners, but they’re fantastic wrestling and in a storyline together, so it works all the way around. Especially, with the calibre of tag teams like Los Guerreros and Edge and Rey Mysterio, my god. The Smackdown 6, what a time to be alive.

If that wasn’t enough, No Mercy was capped with a brutal, epic Hell In A Cell match between Brock Lesnar and Undertaker that completely lives up to its hype. This was another of several matches this year that I couldn’t wait to get to, and it delivered and more. Such an even bigger rub for Lesnar to take out Undertaker in the match that made him famous.

Hey, you remember the Big Show who literally has done nothing of note and has been in no storyline at all in, like, two years? Yeah, well, he literally complains about this basically to Bischoff, Bischoff does nothing, so Show defects to Smackdown and gets a title match with Lesnar at Survivor Series. Huh? It’s hilarious how they do this because Big Show has literally not been a factor in anything in sooo long and they just plug him into this feud with Lesnar from 0-100. I guess they probably wanted someone who looked imposing towards the insane mass of Lesnar and Show definitely fits the bill. So, of course, after all of building Lesnar up from destroying everyone in his path, winning King Of The Ring, taking the title off The Rock at SummerSlam, defeating Undertaker in Hell in a Cell, after all of that, at Survivor Series Lesnar owns Big Show, but Paul Heyman turns on Lesnar and Big Show gets the win and the title thanks to a little steel chair action. It’s kinda dumb, I would’ve liked to have seen Lesnar keep being built up as a monster, but springing him on his own and having him be a sort of babyface to take revenge on Heyman and Big Show works decently enough.

The Raw part of Survivor Series was, oh, just the introduction of a little match called the Elimination Chamber. I completely forgot it debuted this year and was so excited when I found out. It’s crazy to see Bischoff hype it now with us looking back, but it must have seemed crazy and out of this world at the time. The match itself more than lived up to the hype and must have been a relief since it very much have devolved into a cluster with the newness of it and all the people. Rob Van Dam was the star of the show, creating amazing moves and just generally being a rag doll, even though he was the first one out. I couldn’t remember if HBK or HHH won or not, but Michaels going over works, gives him his moment with the title and allows the feud to be stretched on, as it would to the next PPV.

Leading into Vengeance, Angle won the no. 1 contendership for the title against Big Show, as Brock couldn’t get his rematch and was eventually later suspended. This led to a weird thing where instead of just a Lesnar retaliation of Big Show, Angle was injected into this feud, with Lesnar helping Angle win the title of Big Show at the PPV. But, Angle would eventually become an adversary of Lesnar’s when he teamed with Heyman, so now Heyman had Big Show and Heyman. It’s a little convoluted, but I guess they just want to stack the deck as much as possible against Lesnar, so his overcoming of those two and regaining of the title will be that much greater.

The Triple H/HBK feud concludes, I believe, for now in another great match and just another top-tier effort following their other big matches at SummerSlam and Survivor Series. I knew they faced off in this epic Three Stages of Hell match, but I had no clue it was so soon, and didn’t think they’d put it on maybe their weakest PPV generally, the one in December. Anyways, it was an enjoyable match, even if the first street fight stage went on wayyy too long and subsequently the last stage with the ladder match was vastly under-used and was a letdown. It’s actually kind of crazy, too, the amount of bumps HBK took in this match, the SummerSlam match, and the Elimination Chamber match, especially due to the hardcore nature of all of them, given his situation with his back. Like, he went all out and didn’t seem concerned at all about an injury that put him out for over four years, it almost makes me cringe seeing him put all that pressure on his back, but I guess things worked out relatively well in the end.

So, that’s basically it, at least with storylines that are largely contained to this year. All in all I had a ton of fun with this year and it was so needed and the perfect antidote to the staleness and sub-par 2001. There was just sooo much jam packed into this year from returns, debuts, epic stipulation matches, the breadth of the draft and brand split, fun storylines (I didn’t even talk about the whole Dawn Marie, Torrie Wilson, Al Wilson storyline, although, I wouldn’t really classify it as fun), and really just the start of a whole new fresh direction that was divorced from the Attitude Era and bred out of the ashes of the invasion angle of the last year.

Through all this I’m really looking forward to 2003, especially because it’s one of my biggest blind spots of WWE. I’m aware of broad things that happen from the Rumble to WrestleMania 19. But, don’t really know or recall much that happens from then into 2004, so I’m really looking forward to it and hoping it remains fresh to me. I first really got into wrestling right after WrestleMania 20 and subsequently know everything about the next couple years after that, so I’m going to relish in this next year being somewhat in the dark and hope that the fun of 2002 only continues.

‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 7 Review

'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' Season 7 Cover

So, that’s how it ends, I guess? The TV version of things, anyways. A pretty lackluster conclusion that just plodded along and equaled the minimal stakes of the previous season. There never seemed to be any consistent movement with the story, especially when they had a small kernel of an idea, with the potential vampire slayers, and stretching it out for the entire season.

To start off the season Buffy gets a job as a counselor at the newly built Sunnydale High, which is really just a reason to have a reason for her to back into the thick of things and gives us some of the school backdrop again, like from the first few seasons. Xander is also hilariously tied into this all as his construction company is doing work on the school. Willow of course is still reeling from that whole “trying to destroy the world” thing and the death of Tara. So, more Willow wallowing, basically.

I always wanted more backstory into the whole idea of being a slayer, what it takes and where they come from, which they never really delved much into, surprisingly. They brought the idea forth as the central framework of this season, but never really materializes beyond anything more than a device to further separate and differentiate Buffy and Faith and cause dissension between the groups with Buffy’s preferred method of attack.

Honestly, for a final season, and a show of this magnitude and genre, nothing really out of the ordinary happens, and is pretty by-the-numbers in terms of revelations and expectations. Willow finds a new lover, not much happens with Xander, besides the token death of Anya that he seems to not take THAT hard given the circumstances. Buffy becomes on the outs with her group after Faith ousts her, but of course Buffy wins herself back into their winning graces by the end. Giles is still kicking around on the outskirts, doling out his sage old mentor wisdom, and dang, I thought for sure he was going to die during this thing. Spike is back and not much happens with him until the end of the season, as they still are just obsessed with using Spike solely through his relationship with Buffy. At least Buffy doesn’t take him back after that whole weird rape thing from last season. So, of course Spike sacrifices himself to help defeat their enemy.

So, overall a pretty disappointing end to the series, that unfortunately was waning this way as it went along. Coming into the show I couldn’t help but be influenced by the praise and stature the show has received and achieved, and while ultimately I see where it’s coming from, it never fully hits that mark for me. I enjoyed how the show was able to very deftly switch up its format from the first few seasons of more procedural based into longer form stories across a season, even if these weren’t always executed perfectly. The first few seasons also teased dealing with Buffy’s psyche and how she would have to deal with the psychological effects of killing and how it effects the people around her. They never really did anything with this, beyond the occasional hardship of her normal teenage things, but I definitely thought they could’ve milked that a lot more.

Buffy would almost immediately become my least favourite character and would remain in that position for the entire series. I understand having her deal with romantic relationships, and that’s all well and good and expected, but it remained an overbearing thread in each season, often with her being the most hyperbolic when dealing with these guys in her life. She also always would give off this air of being better than everybody else with her way always being the best, usually in her dealings with Dawn. Beyond all this, though, what of course the show does best, and I imagine why the show is so beloved is the characters it created, their growing relationships between each other and the eventual sense of lived in they give off, like you’ve known them your whole life and know how they’d react to each situation, they felt like people you would know. Besides all that demon-killing stuff.

The success of the show is no doubt influenced by its timing. Starting in 1997 and ending in 2003 it no doubt was one of the major influences in the new era of television in the 90s, mixing strong teen characters and their subsequent drama with a supernatural element that gave the show a lot of freedom to explore wide depths of drama, horror, comedy. It allowed no restrictions really in the type of material it tackled and would do so full force whether it was the very real death of a family member, gay relationships, rape or even concept episodes featuring songs. The show was able to push boundaries because of its framework and thus I think why the last few seasons were a lot more freer in story and plot than the more focused and defined early seasons. It’s a show that largely deserves its praise, even if its just as well known as what it shaped after it.

‘Spectre’: Review

'Spectre' Banner

Since talking about Spectre means you have to reference it and compare it wit Skyfall, I guess we’ll do some of that to start it off. I, seemingly, am one of the few people who didn’t like Skyfall at all, outside of the vastly underused Javier Bardem as the villain (which coincidentally, or not, is a problem in Spectre, too). Skyfall to me was way over-serious and overdramatic that was so far gone that it made Bond seem like a parody and made me laugh out loud at scenes such as that damn komodo dragon scene and the lack of tension or stakes in the climax. Spectre, on the other hand, is very much the opposite of this, almost a response, where Bond’s humour is played up a lot more and a lot of the story and characters just out-of-this-world insane that don’t actually make a lot of real world sense, but end up being a lot of fun in how ridiculous they are.

Spectre also brings back to prominence the idea of a strong Bond girl, who although, still falls too much into “damsel in distress” territory there is at least an attempt to establish a worthy and intelligent women to Bond’s equal and is not entirely just a stepping stones for Bond’s needs. I realize they always want these women to be of romantic interest to Bond, but I wish for once they’d downplay that situation. Of course, she falls for him, and even tries to get out of Bond’s warpath by saying she can’t be apart of all these dangerous shenanigans, so she leaves, only to immediately reverse her decision on how awesome and dangerous Bond is AFTER she gets saved from a building rigged with explosives by him. It doesn’t make much sense.

Surprisingly, the action scenes were pretty disappointing and run of the mill to me. The opening set piece at the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City was a lot of fun and a cool set piece, but there wasn’t much that sticks in my memory as particularly impressive or lasting. I thought Dave Bautista would have a bigger role, as I kinda thought he was one of the main villains due to his marketing presence on the film, but nope he was literally just the big, dumb main henchman who doesn’t talk. Not that I have a problem with that at all, it’s literally the perfect role for him, I just thought a little more would come out of it, besides how generic it was.

Christoph Waltz was obviously a perfect choice to play a Bond villain, a role he was basically born to play. He was very underutilized and only really featured in the back half of the film, but it kind of gave his performance and scenes and more special and unique quality, like Bond had finally done enough to reveal and see the final boss.

I had a lot of fun with Spectre, it wasn’t amazing nor did it push the Bond films in a new direction, it was an amalgamation of some of the earlier Bond films, embracing the ludicrousness and reveling in the type of villain who creates an entire building to house an asteroid. I’m pretty sure the film is aware of all this stuff as it goes along, it’s not like everything is played so straight that it demands to be serious, it just stresses more on the entertainment than the always underlying sadness that has seemed to plague Bond for the Daniel Craig run. I do wonder after this how much tread is left on the Daniel Craig Bond tire. Whatever his contract or he says he seems tired of it, and he definitely shows some cracking at the edges during the film. I would love to see some new blood injected into the franchise and perhaps a different direction taken, not that the films have been bad, just maybe some fresh eyes would help shake things up in a less monotonous direction.