Monday, 18 June 2012

WWE No Way Out 2012 In Review

For years No Way Out was almost one of the classic line-ups of the non Big 4 PPVs along with Backlash, Judgment Day, Unforgiven, No Mercy and Armageddon. It got dropped in 2010 but two years later it makes its return as this year's June PPV that the WWE team can't seem to settle on (Fatal 4 Way was awesome, I demand that be reinstated) and on watching the whole show, it fell in line with the rest of the solid PPVs WWE has been delivering since WrestleMania. True we got a lot of stuff added last minute but overall it was a solid card with very good matches.

1) Sheamus* vs Dolph Ziggler (World Heavyweight Championship):
I always make no secret of my opinion on having a show open with a world title match but considering this was literally put together one week before the PPV then it doesn't really warrant a high place on the card. I was looking forward to this match and I was pleased with how it turned out. Ziggler has restored my faith in him ever since his disappointing match against CM Punk at the Royal Rumble and he's more over than ever. I don't know whether WWE will do a face turn to accommodate this but I'm hoping not and they just get him to do properly despicable heel things because he hasn't really done anything in a while to give people reason to boo him. There was a really nice psychology to this match that maybe some people didn't pick up on - Ziggler went after Sheamus's neck. Now personally I know that back when he was wrestling in Ireland, Sheamus broke his neck during a match so with knowledge of that, it added a lot more to the match for me. The commentators could have drawn attention to the fact that Sheamus had broken his neck before and that would have helped get Ziggler over as opportunistic. The crowd was very pro-Ziggler as I expected which means WWE should really find heels that the fans don't actually like to feud with Sheamus (I realise Del Rio filled that role so I won't complain too much). With regards to management's stance on Ziggler, I have a feeling they had doubts in his potential as a world title contender after his lacklustre performance at the Royal Rumble so this was more a test for him than ever. And I think he fared much better against Sheamus than he did against Punk as in this match he and Sheamus were made to look like equals whereas against Punk you knew he had no chance of winning. I reserve what I said about Sheamus in my Raw Recap in that he makes a great face in peril and is able to make his opponent look strong in a way that Cena has never really got the hang of. And of course he sold that X-Factor off the top to perfection. I expected Jack Swagger to make an appearance in the match but here we just got Sheamus getting a clean win so I guess whatever story progression will happen on Raw with Ziggler somehow blaming Swagger for not being there. As I wrote in my predictions, if done right then a feud between Ziggler and Swagger has all the potential in the world. Really enjoyable and hard-hitting opening match. 7.5/10

Big Johnny was looking pretty snazzy in that suit of his and it's a real shame he didn't burst out in a rendition of "Candyman" or "Lollipop" to sway Vince's feelings. As an aside I feel Josh Matthews could have become a good wrestler if he'd stuck with it. But then again he likely wouldn't be the longest lasting Tough Enough contestant in WWE today.

2) Santino Marella vs Ricardo Rodriguez (Tuxedo Match):
I was seriously hoping this would be the second last match on the card to give people a break between main events but alas, hope, dashed. I can't really comment on this spectacle apart from now knowing how the women felt when the Bra and Panties matches and Evening Gown matches were going on. And let's be fair, those were always over a lot quicker than this was. No Justin Bieber shirt for Ricardo this time but we did see a tiny bit of wrestling from our US Champion who hasn't defended his title in how long again? I guess it's just small relief that this "match" wasn't for the title. 1/10

The first of many AJ-centered backstage segments was nice enough and I guess we can count Matt Stryker as one of the men she doesn't want. The list had been looking rather small before last night.

3) Christian* vs Cody Rhodes (Intercontinental Championship):
Match of the Night as far as I'm concerned. I wrote back in my review of Over The Limit that I felt their last match felt rushed and put together at the last minute (and that was before I learned about Rhodes and his drug test mix-up) as well as looking forward to a rematch where I felt they could do much better. And lo and behold, guess who was totally right. Much like the opening World Heavyweight Championship match there was a great display of psychology only instead of the neck it was the arm this time. Rhodes proves why he is one to watch in WWE for the rest of the year and he is my pick to win the Money In The Bank briefcase. Though I did get a chuckle out of Christian punching and kicking at his face the whole time in the early moments, remembering what Rhodes's last gimmick was. Rhodes's offence targeting the arm was very crisp and well storied, he even made me wince and say "ouch" when he just bent Christian's elbow and stamped on it. Yeesh that can't have been too pleasant. Anyway spot of the match of course has to go to Christian's near perfect tornado DDT off the ring steps. My head actually went around and followed their journey through the air and down to the floor. Amazing sight to see. I also cringed (in a good way) when Christian rammed himself shoulder-first into the ring post. The end of this match really made it move from "great" into "excellent" territory with all the near-falls and false finishes, though as soon as the Killswitch was blocked I had a feeling Christian would win with the spear. I was very worried going into this match that the hot potato with the Intercontinental title would keep going on but thankfully Christian has broken the curse and kept the title for longer than a month. I don't expect him to hold it as long as Rhodes did last year but a good respectable reign would be nice as well as a fresh challenger that we haven't see before. I can suggest no one so I leave it up to the whims of the bookers. Once again, MOTN for all the right reasons. 8.5/10

4) The Prime Time Players vs The Usos vs Primo & Epico vs Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel (#1 Contender's Match):
What's the best option if you have PPV time to fill and one of your tag champs has a foot injury? Why add a number 1 contender's match to the card of course. I can't remember the last time we've actually had a match to crown challengers for the tag titles, mostly because the division has been wafer-thin for as long as I can remember. But now you see there is life in the division yet with four teams battling for the opportunity and even better you know that there are actually more teams around who weren't in that match. I'll admit it was very hectic starting off, as to be expected with eight guys out there and I was afraid it would go the same way as Team Teddy vs Team Johnny at WrestleMania but eventually some form of order was established with Justin Gabriel being the one getting worked over by whoever. I was surprised at the length this match got because I expected a quick five-minute spotfest but it was a lot better than that and felt important. It's almost as though with the Divas and the Tag Teams that while Raw and Smackdown are a bust in terms of match time and storyline development, the PPVs themselves are slowly becoming a good outlet for them and that's much better than NXT as here they are getting chances to reach the wider audience. Before I talk about the match some more, can I say I was extremely impressed with The Usos. How over were they during the match? Some of the faces today should take note and remember to actually try and involving the crowd in their matches if they want to get over. I feel The Usos could be really over if WWE gave them a push, judging from how the crowd was responding to them. Honestly I was pulling for any of the teams to get a win, with Tyson and Gabriel being my number 1 pick. I was itching for Tyson to get tagged in and he once again shows why he is one of the most underrated superstars on the roster. I'm a little sad he didn't get a better reaction but I'm sure they took note after that amazing Frankensteiner spot. If I'm being a little more honest, the team that won was the team I least wanted to. Both Darren Young and Titus O'Neil are still pretty green although they did perform well on this rare PPV spot and with AW behind them that gives them some possible storyline opportunities. Also does this mean a face turn for Primo and Epico? I mean, they got betrayed and usually this signals a turn of some sort in WWE. Not really sure about that though neither of them are good heels really so keeping them heel or turning them face wouldn't make much of a difference to me. Well as long as Rosa keeps her dancing going on at least. 6.5/10

The second AJ backstage segment has her giving Daniel Bryan a peck on the cheek. I was afraid that would mean the match was up next but thankfully no.

Triple H gets a video package for his promo when a simple replay would have done the job just fine. However his promo wasn't as long as I was afraid, it served its purpose and set up his match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Call me crazy but I'm looking forward to it.

5) Layla* vs Beth Phoenix (Divas' Championship):
We had a war of words to start this match off, which I liked though I was expecting Kharma's music to interrupt them any second. It's almost as though they felt that, since the creative team had given them no story going into this match, that they would add their own. I felt it added a bit to the match though the comedy from Layla was a little jarring to watch. But then again that's what Layla is known and loved for so why not? She was able to make her comedy work in a fun babyface way thanks to Beth giving her something to play off. Unlike the Tuxedo match however, this one found a balance between comedy and actual wrestling as things got serious eventually. It was on-par with their last match and I noticed Layla was taking quite a few big bumps which left me a little worried for her wellbeing considering she's coming off an ACL injury. It seems like she's almost going the same route as Melina after her face turn in making her matches exciting with big moves and big bumps. Since Melina got crazily over then that's a direction I agree with her going in. That one spot with the move from the corner to counter the Glam Slam was a little sloppy but overall it was a nice match and another successful title defence for Layla. Though lord knows who she's actually going to feud with next since Kharma didn't return at the end of the match and I don't expect her to show up on Raw until the 1000th episode. Then again at this point I'd settle for Layla just being on TV for the next few weeks. 7/10

And the final AJ-centred backstage segment takes us to the dark depths of the arena where Kane feels right at home and AJ gives him a big passionate kiss. Knowing that a kiss on the lips from AJ is especially bad luck to people, this is called foreshadowing.

6) Hunico vs Sin Cara:
Wahey, yet another match between the two of them that not only is a rematch from Hell In A Cell but two weeks ago on Raw. I'm just wondering how WWE plan to push Sin Cara if he can't talk so that really negates his feuding possibilities. However he's definitely been spending his time away from the TV tapings sharpening his in-ring skills because he has been pretty solid with most of his matches since he's returned. And this PPV match was a bit different from those matches he's been having. This wasn't just the typical "job to Sin Cara's flashy moves" ordeal that the likes of Curt Hawkins and Chavo Guerrero had to deal with. Sin Cara really had to work for his victory this time. It was a hard-fought and largely Hunico-dominated affair and that made the match feel a bit less like filler to kill time. Hunico delivered a really sick powerbomb to Sin Cara as well as dodging a lot of his signature aerial techniques. And all of Sin Cara's offence that connected looked very solid and was in turn sold well by Hunico. La Mistica is one of my favourite finishers in WWE right now because when it's done right it looks great, as it did here. I expected Sin Cara to get a PPV match though as always some actual build-up would be nice. Let's just hope Hunico isn't still the only person on the roster that'd be able to sell Sin Cara's moves. 6/10

7) CM Punk* vs Kane vs Daniel Bryan (WWE Championship):
This was probably the hottest anticipated match of the night as Punk has had the title for quite some time and with Kane being added into the feud it gave us a new possibility of who could end up dominating the division for the rest of the Summer. And that's not to mention wondering what AJ would do and who she would help win. Triple threat matches are always hit or miss, as a quick look at any FCW triple threat will confirm. The key to making a triple threat work is to tell a story with alliances in the ring and letting each person get their spotlight, instead of one face getting dominated by two heels etc. Here there was that as Punk and Bryan formed an unexpected alliance early on to take Kane out of the running. I was wondering whether Kane would be able to hang with these two talents and I can't say he did very well. There was more of the stuff that annoyed me in his WrestleMania match with Randy Orton in that he resorted to a brawling style with his weak looking forearms that were also very slow and therefore worked against him in the match. Here's an idea - if your forearms look bad then don't use them. Thankfully whenever he did actual moves they were fine and didn't hurt the match. I was able to overlook Kane's sloppy offence in favour of the story being told and the excitement over who would win. I didn't like that first spot where they kept trying to do the superplex and got stopped. It went on too long and looked like something went wrong, though Daniel Bryan's double missile dropkick was a thing of beauty. I did however love that Doomsday Device spot which was a pleasant surprise when I was expecting a Tower of Doom. If there's anything else that can be said about this match it's that it was really stiff. Definitely stiffest match of the night. Punk and Bryan were really going to town with stiff kicks and I loved it. I can imagine the two of them would wake up with some nice bruises the next morning. Now as for AJ's involvement at the end, she really came out of nowhere. At first I thought I saw Punk very obviously check to see if she was on the apron before shoving Kane into her and I thought it looked bad but judging from how he didn't check on her after the match and that smirk she was giving him as Kane carried her away, the two of them planned this out. This is very intriguing to me as it seems the two of them in cahoots to pull the wool over Kane's eyes comes across as pretty heelish, even for Punk's character. Perhaps AJ will continue to pull stunts like this in Punk's future matches, causing him to get sick of it and she ends up costing him the title in revenge. A solid match and great storyline possibilities to come out of it, hopefully we'll get some exciting follow-up on Raw tonight. 8/10

8) Ryback vs Rob Grymes & Dan Delaney:
What does it say about WWE when two jobbers who aren't even on the roster get a PPV spot when so many others who are deserving don't. And really, how does Ryback feel to pretty much be making a career out of being the piss break match between main events. His offence was new this time but I'm more than bored of the Ryback squashes now and I'd like to see him move onto a proper feud. Ryback vs Tensai, WWE, make it happen. 2/10

9) John Cena vs Big Show (Steel Cage Match):
I went into this match with low expectations and they were met. Despite WWE doing their best efforts to get me to give a crap about this match, I wasn't feeling it. It's a match we've seen too many times before and it's a formula that doesn't work. Put Cena in a steel cage with a monster heel and you get what you'd expect - many minutes of Cena being completely dominated with a few casual hope spots in there where he sells everything like he's just been run over. And then his Second Wind magically comes out of nowhere as usual. Cena has put on great matches against Punk, Rey Mysterio and The Rock and even put on a passable one with Kane but this was just bland, boring and unimaginative. Big Show as well can move well for a giant his size but putting them together does not create a winning formula. There were small flashes of brilliance in there but I still wasn't feeling the match. That being said, the end moments were a little better with other members of the roster coming down to try and stop him. I was actually excited when I knew it was finally going to be over and thankfully Cena wins and Big Johnny is history. He's been an on-screen figure for nearly a year and done almost nothing worth treasuring in your memory so now it's time to kill him off and bring in someone new. I like the idea of a heel GM so make it Eve instead. Dud of a match but nice ending and does create excitement going into tonight's Raw. 5/10

Saturday, 16 June 2012

WWE Predictions For 2012 - Part 2

Well it's officially the halfway mark in the year since I made my predictions in January. And it's about time I took a careful look at what's going on right now so I can make my predictions for the next half of the year. Before we do that, let's take a look at my previous wishes and guesses to see if any came true.

Zack Ryder vs Kane at WrestleMania:
Nope these two didn't make it to WrestleMania. Ryder got dropped from the Kane storyline completely and shunted into the Team Teddy vs Team Johnny match-up while Kane got an out-of-nowhere feud with Randy Orton for Mania. Although they did get a match on the pre-show for Over The Limit so I wasn't completely off right? Fail
Alex Riley Heel Turn + Burial:
The heel turn didn't happen but the burial did. Squashed by Brodus Clay on Smackdown, choked out by Tensai on Raw, knocked out by Big Show backstage. Thank the lord for NXT or else he'd be completely screwed. Hopefully we'll see something from him in the coming weeks. Fail
AJ Own-Back on Daniel Bryan:
Everyone expected this to happen and so WWE went in the opposite direction. AJ cost Bryan the title by accident, got dumped by him and went crazy instead. This Sunday's No Way Out PPV will clarify whether or not AJ and Bryan are done for good because I smell a heel turn. Pending
The Miz Face Turn:
Miz has not turned face but he's been buried week in and week out so you never know maybe he'll return from filming The Marine 3 and make the turn. Anything would be better than a dance-off. Pending
John Cena Temporarily Heel:
He didn't turn heel but he actually played the heel in his feud with The Rock. I mean at the WrestleMania match he lost and he was the heel figure in terms of working over The Rock and controlling the match. I'll give myself this one because I knew whatever the fans thought he wouldn't be heel after WrestleMania. Pass
Undertaker/Triple H Retirement:
It remains to be seen about Taker's retirement until next WrestleMania but he is 20-0 and has not been seen on WWE TV since then. Triple H has made a few appearances but has not retired, in fact he's due to work a program with Brock Lesnar heading into SummerSlam. Fail
Divas of Doom Split:
Yeah this happened but not in the way we were expecting. Natalya made a weird face turn where she was still kinda heelish then she went back heel after about a month (clearly to fill the void left by the Bellas) and the split amounted to Natalya working one tag match against Beth on Superstars. Pass
Ted DiBiase Push:
Aside from his feud with Hunico, DiBiase sadly did not get a push because he sustained several injuries to his shoulder and ankle though he said he's due to return in a month. I guess that rules out the MITB briefcase. Pending
Kelly Kelly Heel Turn:
Boy was I wrong on this one. Instead it was Kelly's BFF Eve that turned heel...and it was glorious. Plus it seems like Kelly is headed out of the WWE so she remains one of the few Divas to never turn heel. Fail
Wow, none of my list actually got future endeavored which is a good thing. Tamina actually got a big push for the Divas' Championship but has gone back to competing on NXT. Jinder Mahal remains in jobber hell, Heath Slater annoys the hell out of us every week, Mark Henry is out with an injury and not expected to return for three months, Tyler Reks hit the jackpot and got a storyline and tag team so there's potential, Ezekiel Jackson is really just there and Evan Bourne suffered a foot injury that'll keep him out until October. However the departures and expected ones have been pretty shocking. The Bella Twins walked out after Extreme Rules and Kelly Kelly is said to be quickly on their tail. Even more shocking, Randy Orton might be fired too after failing a drug test. There have actually been very few releases this year which is surprising though they've managed to find a way to feature more people on NXT and with Raw going to 3 hours there's likely going to be more guys featured there.

And so, my predictions for the rest of the year...

1) Eve Torres Will Become Johnny Ace's Replacement:
I think it's safe to say that Johnny is on thin ice and not just in kayfabe. The fans don't care much about him, he fails at cutting promos and he's pretty much run his course as the GM. It's time for a fresh face in charge and who better than Eve? First of all, she's got legit heel heat. Second of all, she can cut better promos than Johnny, Vickie and Otunga. And third of all, when she has been put in charge of things she's been relatively fair. Unlike Johnny and Vickie who only make matches out of their own interests, Eve has made fair matches so that makes her a GM that would do what's best for the company instead of herself. You can overbook some storylines by having a heel authority figure so Eve would bring a welcome change to that. You could have Vince introduce Eve as Johnny's replacement on Sunday. If that doesn't happen then I predict he'll split the brands again and have Eve as Raw GM and Otunga as Smackdown's.

2) MITB Winners - Cody Rhodes & Kofi Kingston:
At the MITB PPV next month I expect Cody Rhodes to claim the Smackdown briefcase. Why? Well he's competed at the last two MITB events and seen a significant rise in notoriety since then. He's even had a feud with a main event star. He lost his IC title to Christian so now it's time for him to move onto bigger and better things. I don't see Sheamus losing the title to Dolph Ziggler on Sunday so it's likely going to be a heel that will claim the briefcase. Rhodes is one of the best heels in the company right now so why not give him a crack at this push? Officials seem to be high on him so stranger things happened right?
I don't see Kofi keeping the tag belts because rumours of R-Truth's foot injury leads me to believe they will drop them soon and Truth will be taken off TV for recovery. Meanwhile Kofi could finally get that main event push we know he deserves. It should be one heel and one face that wins the briefcase and I can't see another face that could feasibly win it. Kofi is popular and if he was given a storyline (like this would lead to) then he'd be able to shake off some of his bland babyface routine.

3) Dolph Ziggler vs Jack Swagger at SummerSlam:
I said above that I doubt Ziggler will leave No Way Out as World Heavyweight Champion. In fact I think this last minute WHC match will be used to further the feud between Ziggler and his former partner. Judging by Raw it looks like the two of them are splitting up and it also has potential to be a slow burner. While Ziggler is fairly over he should not turn face as that would ruin his whole character. Swagger on the other hand is beyond saving as a heel so why not turn him and see if he fares any better? Have Swagger try to help Ziggler win the title but fail and cost him the match. Over the next few weeks he could try to make amends but eventually Ziggler turns on him. They escalate their feud by going for each other in the MITB ladder match and eventually face off at SummerSlam. I think this is a match that could be pretty exciting if WWE threw a good build-up behind it.

4) Wade Barrett Will Return To Feud With Sheamus:
It was rumoured that Wade Barrett was poised for a huge title push before he was injured and that was back in February where he was expected to be out for 3-4 months. Now provided Sheamus has the lengthy title reign he deserves, the stage could be set for a great feud with Wade when he returns from injury. I mean, it's England vs Ireland which everyone knows will be an added spice to the proceedings. Wade is one of the best heels they have and I see him returning sometime in the next two months to spark a feud with Sheamus going into SummerSlam. Wade had MOTN at last year's show, can he do it again this year?

5) Kharma Feuds With Layla:
When Kharma made an appearance at the Royal Rumble, fans everywhere were buzzing about when she would return. Many expected WrestleMania and others thought on the Bellas' last night on Raw. Now the prediction is for the 1000th episode of Raw. My prediction is this Sunday at No Way Out. I see Kharma returning to destroy both Layla and Beth Phoenix, maybe causing a no contest in their match. She will have a feud with Layla much akin to her one with Gail Kim in TNA. Layla has that fast-paced lucha style that will work well against Kharma's dominance, using hit and run tactics to try and get the upset. I'd have Layla win by DQ or countout in the first title match to prolong the feud and then have the title change hands in the second match. Kharma can dominate the other Divas, feuding with the likes of Alicia Fox, Natalya and eventually Beth Phoenix.

6) Daniel Bryan Heel Reign as WWE Champion:
Daniel Bryan is insanely over as a heel right now, getting crowds to forget to chant "What!" and instead chanting "Yes!" every week. WWE would be stupid not to capitalise on this right now. This Sunday he gets his second opportunity at the WWE title and he doesn't even have to pin the Golden Guy CM Punk to win the belt. What direction the WWE title will go in depends heavily on Kane and AJ. Personally I sense AJ distracting Kane to allow Punk or Bryan to win. I think Kane is only there to take the pin because he's the odd one out in this storyline. I'd hope more for Punk to win here and for Bryan to take the title in a match at Money In The Bank. That's a very special PPV for Punk so it would make more sense for him to drop the title there. Unlike his World Heavyweight Championship reign, I see Bryan's reign lasting a long time, perhaps even until WrestleMania. WWE have realised now how over he is and so the potential for feuds is endless. Kofi Kingston, Christian, Jack Swagger, a face Miz, all those could and should happen.

7) Big Show's Heel Turn Will Amount To Nothing:
Unlike Mark Henry who finally showed something with his big push last year, Big Show is not likely to actually go anywhere in his new heel role. WWE clearly don't want him near the title considering he had it for less than 20 seconds at the end of last year and his Intercontinental title reign lasted a measly four weeks. Where exactly can he go from there even if he defeats John Cena? Do we want him to feud with Punk, Bryan, Sheamus or anyone who has a title? Of course not. WWE will realise about two months after this Sunday that they can't do anything with him that hasn't already been done. He's been the unstoppable giant how many times in his career now so what makes this time any different? I predict by the end of the year Big Show will be doing nothing of note at all.

8) Natalya Will Turn Face:
I know she was face for about two weeks earlier in the year but switched back to heel because they had hardly any left when the Bellas walked out but I sense Nattie seeing the light before the end of the year. After all Beth Phoenix got her run at the Divas' Championship and I'm not crazy to see her chasing after it again in a few months, but Natalya has been out of the title picture for ages. She hasn't had a Divas' title opportunity since the battle royal where Beth won last August. As much as she is being misused, she is being booked a little better than she was at the start of the year. Afterall she's not farting anymore, she's gotten a couple of wins and she's no longer the one who has to put everyone else over. I demand to see a face Natalya getting a big title push against Kharma. They've worked together before so that would be a good move on WWE's part. I'm not saying Natalya should win the title as Kharma herself does need a lengthy reign, but if Nattie won the belt again then we could finally get that match against Beth we've been itching for.

9) Maxine Will Get A Push:
WWE seems really high on elevating Divas outside of the women's division right now. Eve has been promoted to on-screen authority figure, AJ has been given the storyline of a lifetime with CM Punk and even Aksana is getting something with Antonio Cesaro. Maxine is someone who is very well liked by the creative team, judging from how much exposure she gets on NXT and it's well deserved. She would make an excellent heel manager to act as a mouthpiece for a wrestler who can't talk. They could keep her with Johnny Curtis or pair her with somebody else but by all rights she should be featured because she is one of the best characters in the division right now. Who knows, she might even get to form a stable of her own. Hell maybe she could be Johnny's replacement.

10) The Call-Ups Will Be...
*Dean Ambrose - he's already working loads of dark matches and just needs to shake off the whole bad attitude thing but we could forseably see him on Smackdown before the end of the year.
*Sofia Cortez - she's got 8 years of wrestling experience and the Divas' division is getting even shallower with three departures so far. Bring her into the fold if you're running out of women for Kharma to beat.
*Richie Steamboat - people at FCW are really high on him and I can see why. He's coming along in the ring very nicely and I would love to see him make it to the main show by the end of the year

Well that's all I've got in my crystal ball so I'll see you guys again in December to check if this round of predictions was better than the first lot.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

NXT Xtra - June 13th 2012

Well whadda ya know I've decided to take time off from my busy schedule (insert air quotes) to recap NXT. Now unfortunately since WWE unceremoniously scrapped all storylines on NXT and turned it into Superstars with yellow ropes there isn't as much to write about in a recap like this as there would have been a few months back. But there is good news and that is that the New NXT is starting to air next week so we'll finally be getting storylines featured on Wednesday nights again...just involving completely different people than we're used to. But hopefully those people get some proper exposure on the new 3-hour Raw. But anyhow here is what is probably going to be the final NXT Redemption.

Tyler Reks & Curt Hawkins def. Derrick Bateman & Percy Watson:
Hawkins pulls double duty this week though which match was better is no competition. Nice technical opening there with some variations in the typical chain wrestling you'd normally see. The faces were in control for really long, which I'm not sure how I felt about. I would have liked the first sequence of Bateman in then Watson in to have some back and forth stuff instead of just them in control. I expected Bateman to be the one isolated by the heels so I was surprised when he tagged out so quickly after being worked on by the heels. Watson livened things up with some real nice dropkicks and a creative way to get Reks and Hawkins out of the ring. I honestly thought things would be over back then but the match continued, which I'm grateful for. Again the faces were in control a lot and that's not a good thing. I'd have preferred to have Reks and Hawkins already working over Watson when they came back from the break. Nice turnbuckle spot to eventually take control and pretty standard heel stuff when it came to working over Watson. Surprisingly most of the stuff was clean and I was expecting some typical dirty tactics from them. Nice touch. Hawkins hit a really well done enziguri too. Now while the heat was well done, there didn't seem to be much psychology to it other than "keep Watson from tagging for so long", one moment they'd be working the back and another the neck. However the hope spots were well done and I really enjoyed Bateman's hot tag, busting out a flashy neckbreaker and another move I don't quite know the name of (you commentators are meant to help me cover for that sort of thing!). Good to see the heels win since the faces controlled a lot of this match and almost a clean finish too with only minimal cheating. Good strong win for Reks and Hawkins and good enough tag match. 7/10

Kaitlyn def. Natalya:
If Natalya had not defeated Alicia Fox a few weeks ago and Kaitlyn herself a few weeks before that then I'd be a little more annoyed about her losing this match. She is definitely the best wrestler in the women's division and should not be jobbing so often. I sincerely hope it's her that gets a push for Layla's title once she's finally done with Beth. Now then we had ourselves a really nice match here. I thought it was an improvement over their previous one and Nattie's bout with Tamina last week. It's funny to think that only a little over a year ago was when Kaitlyn started regularly wrestling on the roster and all we saw her in was two minute tag matches with the one-off Superstars thing. Now thanks almost entirely to NXT she's been able to work longer matches and develop herself. I'd say she can now be counted on to have good matches with just about anyone. She's worked well with Maxine and Tamina who are both as green as she is, and here she worked as well with Natalya. If you ask me, it looked like an even match-up. We had a fairly slow pace going on but it didn't sag. Natalya dominated as per usual though she also added a bit of comedy which I'm not sure is a good fit for her. That kind of thing only seemed to work on her when she was face and now she comes across as sort of a pantomime villain. I'd prefer for her to be more straight up evil than goofy. Kaitlyn looked solid with just about everything she did - dropkicks, crossbodies, various pins. There were a lot of near-falls that made this match entertaining. When I heard Kaitlyn won with a roll-up in the spoilers I was annoyed but in the match it wasn't too bad since it wasn't a school girl or small package. Solid Divas' bout and hopefully Natalya can find herself challenging Layla in the near future. 7/10

That Bo Dallas vignette didn't inspire much excitement in me. He's solid in the ring and pretty athletic but his voice is too robotic. Someone needs promo training which hopefully happens on the new NXT.
The Richie Steamboat vignette was a lot better. It was short and to the point and he sounded very natural. He's one to watch on the new NXT.

The Usos:
I find it really funny that when the Usos debuted they made it their raison d'etre to avoid the stereotypes associated with Samoan wrestlers and now...well...their entrance speaks for itself. Though the Wild Samoan is a much better character than "generic heels that don't want to be Wild Samoans" really. It's really weird to see Michael McGillicutty trying to do Johnny Curtis's weirdness because it is not natural. McGillicutty is going in quite the wrong direction in trying to give himself character if you ask me. The "verbal taunting" as Josh Matthews put it was more akin to the kids' taunts from Sleepaway Camp (read: the kid actors in that movie were baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad). At least he's got wrestling to fall back on because I think I preferred him when he didn't have a personality. The Usos on the other hand I can't say enough good things about. Their over-the-top stuff is believable and their chemistry as a team is better than anyone else on the roster. I was overjoyed when Johnny Curtis was tagged in so I wouldn't have to see the "Genesis of McGillicutty" unfolding before our very eyes. And when he was tagged back in he went after Jey Uso's right leg when it was the left one that was supposed to be injured. And you were on such a roll with the Tyson Kidd matches.  Some creative stuff from Curtis and McGillicutty for the heat at the very least and that slingshot axe handle to the leg was one of my favourite spots of the match. Good use of quick tags too. There was definitely some sense of desperation in there that there wasn't in the other tag match, the feeling that Jey Uso really had to tag out and shake off the heels. William Regal said it best on commentary and this was tag team wrestling as it should be. Good match breakdown at the end and solid ending. Definitely the better of the two tag matches due to having better psychology and a teams that had better chemistry with each other. I feel the Usos could be really over if they got a push for the Tag Team titles. 8/10

So an average night on NXT. Nothing was bad though the show was a shell of its former self. I just hope all these guys and girls get opportunities to do stuff on Raw and Smackdown that has meaning other than appearing in pointless backstage segments and squash matches. As for the new NXT I can't wait because they have a nice group of talented guys and girls down there that I can't wait to see get proper exposure. Bobby out.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Raw Recap - June 11th 2012

Hello all and welcome to my first ever Raw recap. I've been wanting to do something like this for a long time now but truth be told, Raw has sucked for the last who knows how many weeks and I found there to be a significant lack of anything worthwhile to talk about. However last night was a special 3 hour Raw and if that episode was any indication then the permanent switch to three hours can't happen soon enough. With NXT being merged with FCW that really leaves a lot of talent with nothing to do except the occasional match on Superstars. Last night, while we did see some pointlessly overlong segments we also saw plenty of time for other segments interspersed throughout the night. It shows that, while WWE will likely never stop giving main eventers too much time, with an extra hour at least it won't take away from other segments too much.

Vince/Johnny/Sheamus open the show:
I have to say it was good to see Vince McMahon back again. Triple H, the anonymous Raw GM and Johnny Ace have not been good substitutes for him. Is it me or is Johnny just not getting as much heat lately? It seems as though the fans have stopped loving to hate him and they're just indifferent to him now. Anyway this was the type of opening segment you'd expect to get when Vince was advertised last week to give Johnny a job evaluation. Sheamus appears on Raw once again but this time I don't have a problem with it since it does mean he isn't taking a spot away from the Raw guys. And did you hear the pop he got? While smarks may have been against him for the whole WrestleMania fiasco, he still has his fans and people in the crowd that want to see him. What I like about Sheamus's character is that he isn't just a straight-up anti-hero. That character is just done to death these days. Sheamus is a traditional face but with an edge to him. He has an attitude but he isn't just out for himself like Stone Cold, Randy Orton, Triple H or any other anti-hero you can think of. The delivery of his promo was fine though the actual lines could use some work. Someone tell the writers to stop forcing the wrestlers to use big fancy words since they won't sound right coming from most of them. As for the wheelchair thing, could Michael Cole overreact more? I thought something shocking was happening offscreen when he was having a fit but nope, kicking the wheelchair off the stage is apparently a shocking thing to do. Segment rating: 6/10

Sheamus def. Tensai:
Is Tensai officially a jobber to the stars now? Well not much can be said from two losses but it's a pretty big switch to go from squash matches to losing to the main eventers. I'll address that in a moment. This was a nice opener and for once Tensai didn't bore me. Some good back-and-forth action that the crowd seemed mildly interested in. And this match wasn't the typical "job to the champ" that we'd typically see Sheamus in. Much like his match with Ziggler last week, Sheamus really had to work for his victory. If you're a face champion then I think it's necessary for you to look somewhat vulnerable in matches. This was a lot different from say Cena's matches where he is dominated for nearly the whole thing before almost magically mounting a Second Wind to get the win. To me, Sheamus looked like he was fighting back the whole time while he was being dominated whereas Cena tends to go for the hard sell during the heat then to almost completely no-sell his beatdowns when he mounts his comebacks. In case you didn't guess, I preferred this match to Tensai's one with Cena last week. Now the after match segment was very good in my opinion. A heel doesn't have to win all the time to come across as a threat and an attack like that was much more effective than a squash match. Could we see a feud between Tensai and Sakamoto? Not likely if you ask me since there's such a huge size difference. We'll likely see one match, if that, before Tensai gets an actual feud. I'd like to see them start something with Ryback but I'll get to that in a moment. Combined rating: 7/10

The first of many backstage segments starts of with Vickie Guerrero kissing up to Vince and actually looking good while doing so. Also nice to see Teddy Long doesn't have to wear that apron. I expected them to remove Kane from the WWE title match and insert him into the No Way Out match but a Fatal 4 Way to crown the new challenger works well too. I'm wondering if this means that Teddy will be reinstated as General Manager if Johnny is fired (and he should be). While I like Teddy, I think they can get more out of him being abused by the higher-ups and then they could develop some kind of revenge storyline for him.

And just when I thought R-Truth had lost his edge. Backstage segments and mic time really are necessary to give faces character and Truth was almost as hilarious as he was when he was a heel. I've heard he has a foot injury so that's obviously why he was knocked out and Kofi was on in-ring duty last night. Sorry but I still don't buy Big Show's Knockout Punch and I'm not likely to.

Layla & Santino Marella def. Beth Phoenix & Ricardo Rodriguez:
And the two forgotten champions return to TV at last. Another good indication of how beneficial the 3 hours will be, Layla and Santino got time for separate entrances as well as a lengthy match. Despite the mixed tag theme the Divas worked pretty much the whole thing on their own. Layla showed she hasn't completely lost her comedic edge with what she was doing to Ricardo, though admittedly it is harder to work comedy into your matches if you're a face. She and Beth worked well together and the ending was well done with Beth taking advantage of the knee into the Glam Slam. A title match was announced for No Way Out so I guess there's their build up that will likely be that if they don't get something on Smackdown (and it's not likely that they will). This does raise questions for the title match since Layla has already pinned Beth clean so another match between them doesn't seem necessary if they just wanted to give Layla another title defence. Natalya would have been a better choice. However could we see the return of Kharma on Sunday, perhaps destroying them both to cause a DQ finish? Either way that's something to hope for. 6/10

I think this Santino/Ricardo comedy has run its course though it is a little sad for Del Rio that his ring announcer is a bigger star than he is.

I liked this next backstage segment. The idea of Otunga as GM could work but I think he works much better as the sucking up underling figure instead of actually being in charge himself. Going back to what I said earlier about backstage segments and mic time being necessary for faces, Kofi got to show some personality here and did pretty well. It wasn't a five star promo but certainly better than the man he was cutting it in front of.

Daniel Bryan/Kane/CM Punk/AJ in the ring:
Daniel Bryan's promos are just awesome. I can't believe how over the "Yes!" chants actually are and in a few years they'll probably have replaced those "What!" chants completely. Bryan's promo was good but I preferred Punk's. Just when I thought he might be getting a little stale, he delivers another juicy promo. It was good for him to maintain that he hasn't changed from when he cut his famous shoot last year. And he actually got the crowd chanting "goat face". We'll see at the PPV if those chants stick and whether or not he'll shave his beard to shake them off. Though it's a bit rich of Punk to call anyone goat face when his facial hair could probably trap a few flies on its own. Kane's promo was pretty good as well though not as good as the other two. AJ on the other hand fell flat a little for me. It was just her lines. I would have liked it better if she had said something more instead of just a one-liner for each guy. It was like there was a lot of build-up to what she was going to say and then my reaction was "that's it?" though it was rectified with the match set for later. That was something I wasn't expecting. Segment rating: 8/10

Dolph Ziggler def. Christian, Jack Swagger and The Great Khali (Fatal-4-Way Elimination):
Now this was a match I liked the set-up of. Once again we had time for entrances and a match that didn't get completely lost in a commercial break. Anyone could have guessed that Khali would be the first one out though I'm pretty sure all three pinning him at once isn't exactly a legal thing. All of them hitting their finishers on him to take him out would have worked much better. Still he was out pretty soon and then we got down to the real wrasslin. Before I talk about that, words cannot describe how god awful Swagger's hair is. When we get that inevitable Ziggler/Swagger match please make it a hair-vs-hair deal to do him a favour. Ziggler pinning Swagger was a surprise as for some reason I expected Swagger to make it to the end. The crowd was pretty divided when it came down to Ziggler and Christian, showing that while Ziggler's popularity might be growing, Christian is still a big fan favourite too. The interaction between the two of them was really great and I can't really recall that many singles matches between them, sans the Intercontinental title tournament on Smackdown way back in 2010. The finish I'm in mixed feelings about. I was expecting Cody Rhodes to do a run-in to cost Christian the match, thus setting them up for No Way Out but Rhodes was nowhere to be seen even after the match. On the other hand the finish itself was still well-done. Vickie was involved so as not to make the Intercontinental Champion look weak losing clean but she wasn't heavily involved which still made Ziggler look strong. Nice way to benefit from Del Rio's concussion and this title match with Sheamus is likely to be better than anything with Del Rio would have been though I'm still not forgetting Ziggler's disappointing match with Punk at the Royal Rumble. Hopefully if they give this a nice go-home segment on Smackdown then the title match can be exciting enough. However I only see this as a one-shot deal. I see a feud with Swagger on the cards after No Way Out, continuing through Money In The Bank and eventually climaxing in a match at SummerSlam. Del Rio will likely be slotted right back into the title picture when he returns from his injury so this is just to give Ziggler something to do until then. Hey, maybe he'll even win a MITB briefcase? 7.5/10

Natalya back on Raw? And not farting, praise the wrestling Gods. She was looking mighty fine as were a certain pair of Funkadactyls. They finally got to speak and they spoke well enough for two girls never given mic time. Anyway I loved the little dance but what I loved even more was Zack Ryder's fantastic WTF expression. I love great Raws.

Ryback def. Willard Fillmore & Rutherford Hayes:
Ryback is still stuck in squash match mode. This was a little more fun than his usual squashes, mainly because it was quick and to the point. I'm hoping that next week they start a feud between him and Tensai. Unlike say Big Show and Mark Henry who went into Money In The Bank last year for a hyped match, this could be a battle between two big guys I'd actually want to see. Those are two big guys that can really go. I was always impressed with Ryback from his work as Skip Sheffield and Tensai has been over to Japan so make it happen WWE. Ryback is a curious character in WWE since they're pushing him in a face role so Tensai is a suitable heel for him to feud with. Please WWE, make it happen. N/A

Hmm another tasteless joke at JR's expense. Done by a midget too no less. I was surprised it was this long before Cena made an appearance. Oh hello there William Regal, I guess air time is air time right?

The Big Show def. Kofi Kingston (Steel Cage Match):
Well this was the low point of the night. To be honest, this wasn't even needed. I don't see why Big Show had to go and make one of the Tag Team Champions look so weak. There's a fine line between booking someone to be dominant and just making everyone else look bad by comparison. This segment ran for about five minutes longer than it needed to. Kofi finally got some form of offence in towards the end and I'll admit I almost thought he'd escape the cage for a moment. I think that might have been a better ending since Kofi escaping a cage doesn't make Big Show look weak in any way. I reserve the last comment I made about Big Show and his Knockout Punch. Chokeslam, powerbomb, spear, any of those would be more believable. Overlong and pointless segment that made another champion look like a complete sucker. 2/10

Sin Cara def. Curt Hawkins:
It's such a shame that with NXT being done with that Curt Hawkins is reduced to stuff like this on Raw. Hopefully with the three hour format him and Reks can get their characters properly fleshed out in front of the mainstream audience. This was the standard job to Sin Cara that could really have been reserved for a local talent but still fairly enjoyable. Hawkins got pretty much no offence in but what else is new? He reversed Irish whips and threw a few punches and kicks but all of Sin Cara's moves were nice to see. He seems to have tightened himself up on his time off so I guess that's a good sign. I'm expecting Sin Cara to be added to a last minute match at No Way Out though who it'll be against is anyone's guess. Perhaps the elusive Damien Sandow? 6/10

A cool backstage segment between Vince McMahon and Daniel Bryan. Never thought I'd ever see those two interact.

Vader def. Heath Slater:
Not much to say about this except Vader should have brought some scissors and done Heath Slater a favour. Anyway Vader was before my time though I'd heard all about him. Match went on for a bit too long though Vader looked solid out there. Slater does make an excellent butt monkey. 3/10

CM Punk & AJ vs Daniel Bryan & Kane:
God this was great. I was expecting it to literally be changed to a handicap match at the last minute but thankfully they kept it. We didn't see much interaction between Punk and Kane/Bryan that we haven't already seen before but the wrestling wasn't what we were here to see. I didn't expect AJ to get tagged into the match at all and of course I knew she wouldn't get offence in against either of the guys. I was wondering how they'd get around the "no hitting women policy" with the PG restrictions but there's the answer. A part of me went "she wouldn't really, would she?" but lo and behold she did. How long was she locked on there for? I loved how Kane just did not react at all and simply walked away silently. And there was me imagining that Punk would be jealous of something like that. I'm guessing AJ distracts Kane on Sunday long enough for Punk or Bryan to pin him. But then again can we honestly really predict what AJ is going to do next? 5/10

Vince/Johnny/Big Show/Cena in the ring:
Thankfully we had an ending segment that didn't go on for too long. I don't exactly see how Big Show should have anything to do with Johnny being fired. Is he going to threaten to hurt Vince if he fires him? That idea doesn't really make sense and they really shouldn't have brought the contracts into this. Cena's promo was meh, he hammed it up a little too much for my liking especially when we know he's capable of better. Now we have an added stipulation that Johnny will only be fired if Big Show loses. Honestly the match could go either way at No Way Out but I'd like for Show to lose just so we can be rid of Johnny already. They should have Vince introduce Eve as his replacement. She is someone who has potential as GM and there's a very good article on Bleacher Report explaining why. Look it up. The punch to Vince looked really bad at first and I didn't think it had even connected but when it was replayed it looked much better. I'm not sure if that's their idea of a good go-home segment for the cage match but I'm sure we'll get something on Smackdown. Segment rating: 6.5/10

So all in all, I enjoyed most of Raw tonight. Plenty of guys and girls got time to wrestle, talk and do their thing. I think this 3-hour format will be a good long term thing indeed. Truth be told there was a lot of filler on the show but you can chalk that up to being a one-off special. With a regular 3-hour show then there will be a lot more recurring storylines to fill the space. After all, why start a storyline on this Raw when it obviously won't have time to be featured next week? No Way Out has potential to be a good PPV and hopefully all the guys and girls deliver.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

My Top 10 Slasher Movie Death Scenes

I'm going to take a break from wrestling for tonight and revisit the buzz that got me blogging last year - films. More specifically, slasher films. For those not in the know, the slasher genre is the one where you have some killer stalking some hot young twenty-somethings playing teenagers with plenty of gore, titties and sometimes genuine frights. Honestly very few of these films actually scare me because they are very easy to predict. Watch Scream if you want a complete list of the rules (and then see them ironically not played straight). What we really watch slasher films for is to see how creatively our victims can be knocked off. I don't really look for buckets of blood because to me that's just a cheap way out. What a good death scene needs is suspense, shock and obviously a bit of creativity. A nice chase beforehand works just as well. As the title suggests there will be spoilers for each film so read at your own risk.

10) Sleepaway Camp - Billy:
Sleepaway Camp is a 1983 straight-to-video slasher that was released as part of the big craze in the early 80s after the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th but is remarkably original in a few places, though with some terrible writing and appalling acting in some places (one could almost consider it a parody of slasher because of how bad some parts are). The deaths however are very unique and original and for me it was a toss up between this one and another scene where a character gets killed with a hot curling iron that makes her very sorry she's a girl. But most of what's in that scene is only implied so I went with this which is also pretty rare in that it features a male death. Most guys getting offed in horror films get taken out quickly, usually with shock deaths while the more suspenseful ones are reserved for the females. Right here however you have a character with virtually no development getting punished for throwing a water balloon at our poor sweet Angela. The killer decides to punish him by waiting for him to use the outhouse, trapping him inside with a broom and then tossing a bee hive through the window. As someone who is terrified of bees and wasps this scene was one of the most shocking things I'd ever watched. I loved it!

9) Scream 4 - Olivia:
I love the Scream series and I actually loved Scream 4. It was the only slasher film I got to see in the cinema and it was also the only one I could feel genuine suspense from because I knew it wouldn't follow the typical horror clichés. I said before that suspense is key to a great death scene and Wes Craven really delivered with one of the best deaths in the series. Here we have our two young teenage girls Jill and Kirby sitting in their room watching a movie on TV while on the phone to their friend next door Olivia. They get a call from someone using the killer's voice who knows exactly what movie they're watching (on DVD too!). Although it appeared to me as one of the most clichéd scenes in horror movie history when I was in the cinema, I found the fear and suspense building up inside me and I was itching to see what would happen next. I think the words that gave everyone chills were "I didn't say I was in your closet".

8) Halloween 2 - Karen:
While the first Halloween was a masterpiece and pioneer for all future slasher films, it didn't really offer up much in the way of elaborate deaths. Filmmakers didn't start getting creative until Friday the 13th but by the time the second Halloween was being made, John Carpenter and Debra Hill were riding that wave. Continuing with the whole "have promiscuous sex and be horribly murdered" theme that worked for pretty much every victim in the first film, this time they made it even more heavy handed. The Karen in question happens to be a nurse in the hospital the film takes place in and, not only shows up to work fifteen minutes late, but she abandons her station to spend some quality time in the jacuzzi with a paramedic. Oh and did we mention she's a nurse on a maternity ward? That's right, this woman leaves a group of newborn babies alone so she can take a dip. You know she's going to get punished big time. If Jaws scared you out of swimming at the beach then chances are this film will scare you out of going into a public jacuzzi late at night.

7) Friday the 13th - Jack:
Yay, another male death has made it onto my list. And people said slasher films were misogynistic. Anyway what's funny about Friday the 13th is that the more creative deaths happen offscreen such as the one guy (I won't name him for fear of "spoiling" the film for you) who is found nailed to the door with arrows. But what's even more amazing is that back in 1980 audiences had never really seen a film like this before so there was genuine suspense. In the cinemas you had audience members shouting out "don't open the curtain!" or "don't go in there!" when Marcy is in the outhouse. What's probably my favourite death in the film goes to a young Kevin Bacon before his Flashdance fame. When I was watching it, it was only my third slasher film so I assumed that since Kevin Bacon was a star then he would be okay. I assumed the body from the top bunk would fall down on him and thus alert the teens to the killer. However what I didn't expect was for Kevin frickin Bacon to be the third character killed off. And apparently they used real sheep's blood which Tom Savini had to blow through the tube himself because the machine wasn't working. That's a really gross dedication to your art.

6) Prom Night - Wendy:
Here we have a film that's mainly known for being one of Jamie Lee Curtis's series of slashers (nicely pointed out by Scream) though if you watch one of these expecting to see Ms Curtis bumped off you'll be disappointed since she always played the Final Girl who survived to the end. This is a film that builds its suspense up over a long time and the first death doesn't actually occur until about 45 minutes in. However it goes the full hog after that and offers up what is quite possibly the longest slasher movie chase scene. Now of course length doesn't always help suspense as a lot of the time you will just want the killer to go ahead and do it already. But here it worked out quite well and to me it was effective because Wendy in question was the typical high school Alpha Bitch that you hated. So when a scene makes you fear for that character's safety then you know the filmmakers have done their job.

5) The Cabin In The Woods - Jules:
Now when I first started watching The Cabin In The Woods, I wasn't sure exactly what kind of film I was actually looking at. I had been told it was a Cosmic Horror Story but to my amazement the first few minutes turned out to be a slasher with a twist. I can't really say much more about it without spoiling damn near the entire film. But let's just say I watched this first online with a really bad quality video so that only actually added to the terror. I mean, I hadn't even been expecting a death and it happened to a character I liked too. But poor Jules was shoe-horned into the role of The Whore and horror movie logic dictates that once she is corrupted she dies first. I will warn you, this death is particularly brutal.

4) Final Destination 4 - Samantha:
Now of course the big debate amongst hardcore horror fans is over whether or not Final Destination can be considered a slasher film (okay so the "big debate" is one topic with three pages on the IMDb boards). It's a curious question since the killer is death himself/herself. Now the deaths in this series range from the creative and suspenseful to the downright campy and ridiculous. FD4 is no exception but for me it has one of the best death's in the series, which also happens to be the only good one in the film. It was a hard three-way decision between this, the infamous tanning bed scene in 3 and the gymnastics one in 5. But I decided by looking at it this way - I am not a gymnast anymore and won't be in a situation like that and I knew way before seeing FD3 that Tanning Beds were death traps. But I do go to the hairdressers every month or so. It's an unavoidable situation. The scene is so carefully set up with all the red herrings and possibilities, it's almost like it's in the wrong film since all the other deaths are so...well...half assed. Keep your eyes on this one folks.

3) House Of Wax - Paige:
The 2005 remake of House of Wax is a film that gets a lot of unnecessary hate which stems mainly from having Paris Hilton starring in it. Paris even got a Razzie award nomination for Worst Actress for her role. What was her role? Why, Paige of course. Personally I didn't know who Paris was when I saw this film so I was able to watch it unbiased and I found nothing wrong with her performance. Nothing standout either but who gives standout performances in a teen slasher film? Oh, by the way, this was my first slasher film ever so I went into it knowing nothing about the rules or the formulas so Paige's chase scene kept me in suspense and made me into a slasher film fan. The filmmakers showed good awareness of building up suspense and knew how to do a proper chase scene. Not as long as some of the better ones but still very effective. And of course Paris's haters will just love watching her die on screen.

2) I Know What You Did Last Summer - Helen:
Noticing a lot of blondes making this list? Yeah that's not a coincidence. The trope is called "Slashers Prefer Blondes" where the blonde characters in films like this rarely make it to the end. For some reason the blonde is always contrasted with a raven haired Final Girl, and heaven help the poor blonde if her best friend is Jamie Lee Curtis. Anyway back on track, IKWYDLS was one of the first slashers released in the wake of Scream's success that put a post modern spin on the genre and revived it. We have some really effective suspense built up over the first act and now we drive right into what is possibly the best chase scene in slasher movie history. Here is a character you can root for and that you want to survive so therein lies some of the suspense. Of course the rest is all just the filmmakers thinking of everything to possibly scare you.

1) Suspiria - Pat:
Now here's another "slasher" that's seriously up for debate. While it's closer to the Italian giallo films and also quite close to a Tim Burton-esque dark fairytale, this 1970s gem definitely had a lot of influence over many future slasher films. If you thought Jules's death was brutal then prepare yourself. Here is one of the more effective "buckets of blood" type deaths. Dario Argento helps to work it in a way that the killing seems brutal unlike many Torture Porn films like Saw and Hostel where the death scenes undermine themselves by giving an almost "wasn't that cool" caption by the end. Style over substance really. But here there is style and substance blending together in a spectacular way. What makes this even more impactful is that this is the type of high octane brutal murder that you'd expect to see in the film's climax after a huge battle with the killer. But you see, this death happens about ten minutes into the film and lets you know exactly what kind of ride you're in for.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

WWE Tough Enough - One Year Later

Big thanks to contestant Matt Cross who informed all of us that it was one year ago today that the finale of Tough Enough aired and Andy Leavine was crowned the winner. What a difference a year can make, huh? It was one year ago today that many of us were left speculating and predicting what the future held for the 13 contestants that didn't make the cut. I'm sure many people were expecting the likes of Martin, Luke and Jeremiah to all receive contracts and maybe have debuted on TV by now. Since it's now a year on from that let's take a look and see how things panned out. Since I covered a lot of details in my post back in December I'm only going to stick to things that have happened since then and if it's not headline worthy, I'm not going to mention it.

I wrote back in my December entry about Tough Enough of the winner Andy Leavine
"Personally I also don't see him as a valuable asset to the company and I get the feeling he'll be added to the future endeavours list before the next season premieres"
Well the next season hasn't premiered yet, no news on whether there will be one, and Big Andy has indeed been wished the best in his future endeavours in a move that pretty much everyone saw coming. His suspension aside, I feel as though he had nothing to offer WWE. I mean, what could Andy offer that other big guys like Ryback can't? Plus he was too green to appear on WWE TV at the time he won the show. Well the news is that he has actually plans to continue with wrestling. He's heading to Puerto Rico in July to work more matches. He has said of his FCW experience that he felt he was barely used and that he was only wrestling once every 2-3 weeks, so it seems Andy himself wasn't surprised when he finally got the call. I guess it is good when a performer realises that WWE isn't the be-all end-all for professional wrestling and there are plenty of other options out there. And he technically is a name now. So he can use the exposure he got from being on the show to go out and get himself more matches which will help him gain experience and improve. If he has a passion for the business then he should do just fine. And with his wife and kids at home, it's probably for the best he doesn't have to put up with the rigorous WWE schedule. Watch the match below and decide if there's something salvagable in him.

My next topic of conversation will be at completely the other end of the spectrum as this involves the first contestant eliminated - Ariane Andrew. Now if you thought her getting signed before the first episode had even aired was a doozy, wait for this: she's the first contestant to make it to WWE TV in a regular role and she also got to her second WrestleMania too. In case you didn't notice, she is one half of Brodus Clay's dancers along with NXT contestant Naomi. True she's not wrestling but I'm assuming she still trains down in FCW and I've seen that she's learnt something from her time there. Naturally having to train on the road isn't an easy task but if Cameron (as we must now call her) really has the passion for the business then she should fare okay. Hell she's already managed to snag more air time every week than most of the regular Divas on the roster. Funnily enough the dancing thing she has with Naomi was actually done in FCW before except her and Naomi were heel valets to Byron Saxton with a lot more ham acting and ghetto talk. If you're interested in seeing her actually wrestling, here's a match from a few months ago below.

Now onto the second contestant currently employed by WWE - it's another girl and it's the one who was already in FCW before the show started. Christina Crawford has indeed relocated to FCW and been featured regularly enough on the show as Caylee Turner. She got a singles match back in January and has been working as a heel at live events but rather annoyingly she's been relegated to ring announcer for the last few months. She shows some promise as a wrestler but none at all as an announcer. You can even tell how bored she is when she announces all the matches and it's probably taking all her self-control to not scream out "let me wrestle dammit!" though she was involved in an interesting angle a few weeks ago when there was the typical heels beat down the babyfaces segment in the ring and she got up from her chair to get involved, seemingly turning face. She's still ring announcing but she's been wrestling live events so with Summer Rae becoming the ring announcer for the new NXT (which is a much better fit if you ask me) she'll likely be returning to the ring. Here's her singles match below:

Now we have the third contestant employed by WWE and this one has really hit the jackpot. Ivelisse Velez (now known as Sofia Cortez) sustained a leg injury while the show was going on and was forced to be eliminated for her own personal safety. However Stone Cold said that the only reason he was eliminating her from the show was because of her injury so many took that as a sign of things to come. And now look at the results. It's safe to say that Sofia Cortez has been one of the most heavily featured FCW Divas of the past few months, second only to current Divas' Champion Raquel Diaz. She's got to have many matches on TV as a brash and aggressive heel and has proven herself as one of the most talented workers on their roster right now. She even got teamed with Pro Wrestling EVE and SHIMMER star Brittani Knight (or Paige as we know her now) as the Anti-Diva Army. It looks like that alliance is coming to a close as the spoilers for the new NXT have the two facing off in a match with Sofia turning face. From what I've seen of her on the indies, she is a much better face and can do all kinds of cool athletic moves that give me strong vibes of TNA's Sarita. And wouldn't this upcoming match with Paige make Sofia/Ivelisse the first Tough Enough contestant to debut on WWE TV in a wrestling role. I'm going to offer you two matches below, one being a singles match from FCW and the second an example of her face work from CSW.

And that wraps it up for the contestants who got contracts for the big E but there's one contestant who's like a dog with a bone when it comes to that matter. AJ Kirsch or Tumbleweed as some may know him has caused a big stir online with some strange cryptic videos posted on his Youtube channel. The series of videos, titled This Is #Raw appear to be in-character promos being cut on the various Tough Enough trainers and contestants as well as a general fancy way of telling the WWE "why haven't you guys hired me yet?". Anyone who's only watched AJ on the show will agree that promos are his strong point so take a look and see if this guy has a place in WWE.

But believe me, promos aren't the only things this guy is golden at. I find him to be pretty entertaining in the ring and certainly much more effective than many of the current crop of interchangeable NXT rejects (*cough* David Otunga, Heath Slater, Darren Young). The match featured below will interest Tough Enough fans because AJ's opponent is none other than fellow contestant Eric Watts who has shown a nice improvement in his ring skills if you ask me.

But that's not all for some juicy stuff from the Tough Enough contestants. Because you see that very show above featured another match as its main event, one which many fans would be ecstatic to see. 2nd place man Luke Robinson took on the big favourite Martin Casaus in a match that ended in a draw. According to Mr Casaus himself there is indeed footage of it though it has yet to be published. Naturally they received rave reviews for it. Until the footage becomes available we'll have to make do with some video promos they both cut to hype it up. For those who wondered how Martin would have fared in the Promo Challenge, there's your chance to find out. While he ain't no AJ Kirsch, he ain't Johnny Ace neither.

Since I worship the ground Matt Cross walks on (I have yet to actually walk on the same ground so this more of a theoretical and ceremonial approach) I'm going to include a bit about him here. True he did receive a tryout match with WWE ages ago and nothing's been set in stone or even hinted at but then again Ivelisse tried out in June and didn't get signed until November so there's always hope. I seriously believe Matt would be an excellent addition to the roster and if they were to start a new Cruiserweight Division (wishful thinking I know) I would personally start the Matt Cross equivalent of the "Ryder or Riot" campaign. Though there was one tweet I found interesting that came from him. A fan rightly asked why he wasn't in ROH or TNA and he said "there's only one contract I wanna sign". The dream came true for Ivelisse Velez so maybe the universe will be feeling extra generous and make it happen for Matt too.

The last tidbit of information concerns a certain pageant queen that we all know and love. Former Miss USA Rima Fakih was actually on hand during WrestleMania weekend and could be seen at Axxess interacting with fans and such. This lead to many wondering whether or not Rima would become the fourth female from the show to join FCW's ranks. As you've probably guessed by now, she hasn't and she pretty much confirmed that she hasn't been signed. And two months later it sounds doubtful. Rima hasn't exactly had a clean run with the law either but this ain't a gossip column folks.

So in closing I guess it seems that Andy Leavine wasn't, AJ Kirsch and Matt Cross could be, Rima Fakih won't be, Martin Casaus and Luke Robinson should be while Ariane Andrew, Christina Crawford and Ivelisse Velez definitely are Cameron Lynn, Caylee Turner and Sofia Cortez as well as Tough Enough.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Bobby Between The Ropes #3 - Standing Out From The Pack

From some random online dictionary I Googled:
Unique – definition 1: existing as the only one or as the sole example; single;solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.
definition 2:
having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.
I haven’t been in wrestling for very long but I’ve been watching for as long as I can remember, and anyone who’s watched enough of it knows that being unique is by far one of the most important traits any wannabe big star strives to have. In critical reviews and analyses of shows/wrestlers the word “generic” is known as possibly one of the worst things you can be labelled as. And by extension “unique” is definitely something that is taken as a compliment. If you’re unique, people take notice for whatever reasons (and believe me, not everything unique is good *cough* Shockmaster) and making the right people take notice is the key to success in any business. So as a fledgling wrestler as part of what I affectionately call the Fight Factory Next Generation, reading all about being unique and stand out got me thinking. What do each of us bring to the table? How do each of us stand out from the crowd? Who is unique and who is generic? After careful consideration, I’ve decided that nobody is generic.

Yes I’m about to spout the typical pre-school circle time statement that everyone is unique. But, like the majority of things you learn in the first six years of your life, that statement is pretty important. We ourselves are all unique in our own ways and we know how and why. But that’s the tricky thing about being a wrestler – you have to convince the crowd that you are unique and get that across to them. For example, I’m a 20-year-old wrestler wannabe that also writes novels and screenplays that sometimes likes to skip dinner and order desert at the start of a meal. Do the crowd know that? Do they care about that? Well I’m sure there’s at least one of them that does but that’s beside the point. One thing our trainers are always stressing the importance of is to make yourself stand out. I distinctively remember on my first day the NLW’s Jamie Coleman gave everyone a talk on the importance of standing out where he said – and I’m paraphrasing here – “get yourself a gimmick that you think will work. I don’t care if you cover yourself in blue paint if you make it work”. A gimmick is one way to make yourself stand out. Charisma and exceptional mic work is another. And of course there’s always the good old fashioned athleticism. If anyone has all three of those down, as well as the vast number of other possibilities then they’re pretty much set.

But in wrestling, what is unique? Most men our age are expected to look respectable and have clean cut short hair. So therefore long hair is unique. But at the same time long hair can also be generic because there are a lot of long-haired generic guys out there. Tough Enough’s Jeremiah Riggs buried most of the FCW guys being long-haired and generic, afraid to try and stand out (he also cites this as the reason he clippered his head after his failed try-out there). Tattoos are unique as well but then again a lot of wrestlers have them so you could say that wrestlers without tattoos are also unique. Things go in and out of style in cycles just like any entertainment business so one day something will be stand-out but then eventually there will be so many stand-outs that the one person that doesn’t try to stand out is ironically the one that does. With gear, I remember someone saying that everyone goes for the red and black colour scheme and everyone goes for fire motifs. In terms of entrance music, isn’t it always hard rock or heavy metal unless there’s an exceptionally different gimmick? So that gets me thinking even more on what each of us Next Gen guys (and girls) bring to the table and how each of us are unique.

For some, uniqueness is right there in front of them and easy to have. The Anj and “Dangerous” Dave Forde are attractions in their own right without even having to do anything. Watching either of them walking down the entrance ramp will earn them a place in most people’s memory. They already look distinctive without even having to touch themselves up. Others have to put a little more work in – the Rough Stuff boys aren’t as distinctive looking (though Paul’s eyebrows and Bull’s uncanny resemblance to Randy Orton are notable) though they themselves are memorable thanks to their strong characters and impeccable ring work. The girls have it easy – they’re a minority in a male-dominated sport – but each girl I’ve seen manages to stand out from all the other pretty ladies whether it’s Katey and her hair flipping-splits combo or Lucy and her bubbly and energetic personality. And of course special mention has to go out to a certain little guy in white trunks that I wrestled in my debut. Fun fact: Phil was following him around for about half an hour on the day of the show trying to get him to change his name because he didn’t think “Shadow” would work. The rest of the guys backstage had a bit of a giggle and you can see our referee corpsing magnificently when he enters the ring but then again at the same time, he got “Shadow” chants at the next show when that gimmick got dropped. Other people backstage talked about how much they liked how he had tried to stand out. Hell, half the people I show my match to are fans of the whole Shadow thing now. At the end of the day, it got people talking and importantly, it got him a few fans.

When it comes to making myself stand out, I had my work cut out for me. I’m not freakishly tall or freakishly muscular so I didn’t have the benefit of the freak factor. I have mutant facial hair that grows itself back in the space of three days so there was my first head start. I noticed there were a lot of brown haired guys at the gym so I decided to bleach my hair, though the date of the show got pushed back a couple of months so the effect was kind of lost by the time I did debut. For the rest of my look, I actually didn’t cop on to the Zack Ryder comparisons until I was already in the ring and I heard people going “come on, Zack Ryder”. Funnily enough I’ve pretty much looked the same since the age of 15 and I’ve had the exact character you see in the ring saved on about three different Smackdown vs Raw games before I even knew who Zack Ryder was. I already had all the stuff available in my closet somewhere so I just threw my look together – I had a jacket that I liked the look of but I hardly ever wore it so I decided to use it as my ring jacket, the bandana has always been lucky so why not? The dog tags I wear normally so again no-brainer. Now with the character itself, there was actually a lot of re-tooling done after I started training. I actually had it in my head that I was going to be a heel. I liked The Miz, Cody Rhodes, heel AJ Styles and loads of others that I thought I could emulate perfectly. I decided I would start out as a heel. Then I actually tried it – believe me it’s tougher than it looks. I began to wonder whether or not it was really for me. Then I noticed something with the rest of the guys there. Everyone wanted to be heels. These days nobody really wants to be a face. It’s either a heel or an anti-hero and you’ll find classic babyfaces tend to be in short supply. I decided “screw it, I want to be a face” and low-and-behold, there was something salvageable in me. I hear a lot of people hate having to work as faces and do so grudgingly but personally I love it. Just like with being a heel, there’s an art to being a good face and I enjoy finding new ways to grow and improve.

When I decided to be a face it was time for me to sit down and watch tapes. To me, the best babyfaces are the ones that look like they’re having a lot of fun in the ring. I decided I’d make my matches fun by finding moves that I liked the look of that I’d be able to pull off (so no handspring springboard moonsault splash, though if Jordan is willing to teach me…). That Stratusphere was probably one of my favourite moves to watch when I was younger and I’d always been able to do a decent handstand and nobody else did it so there was another move in my arsenal. Truth be told it’s gotten me a lot of stick from the trainers but that gets counterbalanced by the memory of Kev McDermott shouting out “no way” when I first did it and Sammy shaking my hand as I was climbing out of the ring. A certain NLW Champion was visibly impressed with a video I showed him of myself doing it. When it comes to working the crowd, we’re advised against resorting to “come on, Bray” and clapping too much (it really hurts the hands, a little known industry casualty) so I got struck by a wild idea one night in a club. In the clubs where I come from, it’s customary for the DJ to shout out “oggy-oggy-oggy” and the crowd to shout back “Oi-Oi-Oi”. One night the DJ goofed and shouted out “Oi-Oi-Oi” and Bobby’s catch phrase was born. When it comes to entrance music, Be Yourself has been my favourite song forever so there was never any other choice – though I was briefly tempted by a catchy little track titled Android Porn.

This blog certainly turned into quite the ramble didn’t it? I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to talk that much on the importance of being unique. But at the same time, being unique is almost exactly the same as wrestling skills themselves – some have them right away while others will have to work harder to get there. But right now I can proudly say that each of our Fight Factory Next Generation guys are unique in their own way and each of them brings their own factor to the table and without each of them we wouldn’t be complete. Hopefully the generation after us can realise this and make themselves into attractions too. Thank you for reading my opinions again for no good reason ;)