Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Life Just Got Easier

So last week I got a notice from UCLA housing that the place I stay at will only allow 2 year leases and that I will have to move out in May. Not a happy prospect having to find housing in the midst of a really busy semester for me, but man did everything work out well. I went on to Craig's List, and the first ad that I found that looked good (4 blocks away, basically the same price, basically the same size apartment) I contacted. I set up a viewing the next day, and filled out an application. And today the manager called and said I have the place when my current lease expires. I have limited experience finding places independently to rent (I've usually just done it through school or through friends), but I hope every time it's as easy as this. What a relief!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bad Sign for WWE

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/27/06 from Washington, DC.

The Big News: Shawn Michaels was forced to kiss Vince McMahon’s ass.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Kane & Big Show b Val Venis & Viscera; Rob Van Dam b Trevor Murdoch; Trish Stratus b Candice Michelle; Shelton Benjamin b Chavo Guerrero, Jr.; Ric Flair b Carlito Caribbean Cool.

Show Analysis:

Edge started the show wanting to know Mick Foley’s answer. Foley came out and said it was Edge who lost to John Cena twice, and he should blame himself for choking. Edge threatened to choke Foley and wanted his answer. Foley said no. Foley said he was a three-time transitional champion, making him the greatest transitional champion of all time, and leaving him with nothing to prove. Edge called Foley overrated, and said he will be remembered for having his ear ripped off, being thrown off a cell, and showing up in Vince’s hospital room with a sock puppet.

Edge said Foley has never scored a defining win at WrestleMania, while Edge has never lost. Edge said if Foley wrestled him at Mania, Foley would lose. Foley agreed, because Edge is younger, in better shape, and cares more about it. Foley said he has wanted one defining moment at WrestleMania. Thus, he rejected a wrestling match but challenged Edge to a hardcore match. Foley grabbed a barbed wire bat and went to the ring, forcing Edge to leave through the crowd. This was well delivered by both men, even if the match hasn’t had enough time to build and Foley doesn’t look to be in shape for a quality match.

Kane and Big Show beat Val Venis and Viscera. The announcers sold Venis and Viscera as the number one contenders, which was not a wise move for the credibility of the titles. Big Show body slammed Viscera out of the blue. While an impressive spot, it was kind of stupid to use as a throwaway in the middle of a meaningless match. Professional wrestling is less about what you do and more about when and how you do it. Kane and Show hit a double choke slam on Viscera for the pin.
Next up was the backstage medley. Ric Flair was interviewed. He said he is 57, which is not something I would advertise. He said 15 years people thought he was done, but he keeps getting better. Flair said he has one title run left in him. Elsewhere, Shawn Michaels told Marty Jannetty he is sorry that it came to this, and he doesn’t have to kiss Vince’s ass. Marty said it’s not Shawn’s fault. He’s never kissed ass, but now he’s old and doesn’t have a job and is desperate. He told Shawn to stay out. This was bad writing. They should have found a way to tell that story without such blatant and unbelievable exposition. These aren’t the sorts of things that people explicitly say, even if they are true.

Finally, Carlito was interviewed by Maria, and he was acting much more like a face. I understand WWE’s desire to create another ethnic star, but I’m not sure if Carlito will appeal as much to the Mexican-American audience that dominates the Hispanic demographic as Eddie Guerrero or Rey Mysterio. Carlito said a second Money in the Bank ladder match is scheduled for WrestleMania, and there would be three qualifying matches on the show. That very well could be the best match on the show.

Rob Van Dam beat Trevor Murdoch to qualify. Murdoch looked particularly flabby and really bad this week. I do not expect him to last much longer on the WWE roster. RVD missed a crossbody off the top rope to the floor, and Murdoch took over with an extended head lock sequence. RVD came back with the spinning heel kick, monkey flip, rolling thunder and the five star frog splash for the win.

Trish Stratus beat Candice Michelle. Mickie James introduced Trish, and Torrie Wilson introduced Candice. This was a typical WWE women’s match: short and really bad, but limited enough to where it didn’t become an out-and-out disaster. Trish went for a sunset flip, but Candice dropped down and grabbed hands with Torrie for leverage. However, the referee saw that, stopped the count, and Trish rolled Candice up for the pin. Mickie worshipped Trish after the match and buried herself in Trish’s crotch. Trish shoved her off. It was a bad night for lackeys, as Candice smacked Torrie backstage.

John Cena came out for an interview with Coach. I can’t even tell Cena’s responses anymore when his music is playing. It sounds like the “confused roar” Joe Rogan described after Frank Mir broke Tim Sylvia’s arm. However, it was evident after the music that Cena was receiving loud boos, albeit with some decided cheers mixed in. Coach told Cena he doesn’t have a chance against HHH. Cena was about to respond when HHH came to the ring. Cena said he has been in WWE for four years, and even if he doesn’t have HHH’s resume or respect, he has the title.

HHH then went into full HHH burial mode. He mocked Cena as the guy whose only move is pumping up his Reeboks. He talked about transitional champions as guys who are in the right place in the right time and get lucky, but it’s just a matter of time before the title goes back around the waist of the person who deserves it. He said Cena is a transitional champion. He said Cena is tough in that he gets up from an ass kicking and finds a way to win like Rocky Balboa, but he isn’t a very good wrestler and he can’t beat HHH.

Cena said he has heard all that, because all of his opponents say that. Really? Somehow I don’t recall Kurt Angle saying John Cena is a bad wrestler, or Edge describing Cena’s near 11 month reign as a transition period. In any event, he wanted to know what makes HHH different. HHH said Cena already knows and is scared. Cena said he isn’t a great athlete, while HHH is a ten-time champion, HHH has beaten everyone, and everyone knows HHH is the best wrestler alive. Seriously. Anyway, in spite of all that, Cena isn’t scared. Vince McMahon then appeared on the screen and announced John Cena and HHH vs. Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton for Saturday Night’s Main Event. That is an interesting match, but it will be a hard one to lay out.

This segment was the typical HHH burial job where the face puts him over, he totally shoots on and buries the face with totally valid criticism, and then seals the deal by beating the face clean and killing him off. This was yet another reminder of how unbelievably unprofessional HHH is when it comes to doing business, and why he shouldn’t be anywhere near guys who have the potential to get over.

Shelton Benjamin beat Chavo Guerrero to qualify for the Money in the Bank match. Benjamin pushed Mama to the ring holding the Intercontinental Title in triumph. Just the idea of her at ringside for Money in the Bank irritates me. She kills any semblance of seriousness or significance of a match to have this fifth rate cartoon stereotype out there, particularly given she has to play a role in the finish of every single Benjamin match.

Chavo, on the other hand, shamelessly encouraged chants for Eddie. The crowd didn’t oblige, and was completely dead for both men. Benjamin missed a Stinger Splash, and Chavo responded with a spinning head scissors. He went for the three amigos, but Benjamin threw Chavo to the outside. That was Mama’s cue to bring about the end of the match. She distracted the referee while Randy Orton ran in and hit the RKO on Chavo. Benjamin covered for the pin.

They announced Gene Okerlund for the Hall of Fame with a bunch of great clips. The highlight was a hilarious clip of Okerlund cracking up after Wendi Richter said she wouldn’t lie on her back and let anyone cover her. They aired a bunch of clips of Gene Okerlund with Hulk Hogan, and announced Hogan will induct him. That ceremony may be the most interesting wrestling event of the year. I’m much, much more intrigued by that ceremony than by WrestleMania itself. Shawn Michaels went to Vince McMahon backstage, and asked him to leave Marty out of their problems. Vince told Shawn to stay out, and threatened to make Shawn a member of the club as well.

Ric Flair beat Carlito to qualify for the Money in the Bank match. What in the name of God is Flair doing in that match? Do they want to kill him? I mean seriously, do they even understand the idea behind a spot-oriented gimmick match? If they came up with the Ultimate X match, I swear they would be putting Flair in that as well. I hope they are prepared to accept the consequences of what happens when Flair seriously injures himself in a match he has no business being in. Carlito back dropped Flair on the floor, hit a suplex, and an enzuigiri. He missed a high knee drop, and Flair came back with chops. He came off the top but Carlito caught him with a drop kick. Carlito got an apple and went back to the ring, but Flair kicked him, apple went everywhere, and Flair grabbed the ropes for the pin.

The Spirit Squad introduced Vince McMahon. He described Shawn Michaels’ rise and Marty Jannetty’s fall after the breakup of the Rockers. Vince said Marty has hit rock bottom, and desperately needs the job because he is broke. Vince had Marty get on his knees, pulled down his pants, and wiggled his ass around for the most homoerotic club in wrestling. Marty did an awful job selling this, as he was about to crack up when he was supposed to be humiliated.

Marty couldn’t do it, so Vince gave him another option, and brought out Chris Masters. What is the over/under on how many drug tests he fails? Marty needed to break the Masterlock to get the job. Marty fought it, but Vince kicked him. Masters went to push him into Vince’s ass, but Shawn made the save. He was going to attack Vince, but Shane McMahon made the save and hit Shawn with a chair. Vince announced Shawn vs. Shane McMahon in a street fight for Saturday Night’s Main Event. Shane lifted Shawn up and they made Shawn kiss Vince’s ass. Vince then said he would kick Shawn’s ass at WrestleMania.

Final Thoughts:

The only thing this promotion can do competently anymore is soothe the egos of its owners and bury wrestlers who threaten the spots of their chosen few. It’s a nepotistic, narcissistic mess.

Good Sign for WWE

Interesting note in the newest Observer about WWE's A.M. Raw show doing a 1.0 rating. That was the week of the Thursday show, and Dave attributes the rating partially to people who missed the show because of the different date. What was encouraging to me was people who missed the show and consciously sought out the "replay" to catch what they missed. It's a sign business is doing well (even if creative isn't), because it shows that the people who missed the show actually cared and wanted to see the replay. I doubt that phenomenon would occur too much in recent years.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

WrestleMania Reaction

WrestleMania could be really problematic for WWE this year as far as crowd reactions. WWE has done a lot of crap in recent years, but it has rarely seen the audience reject the product. That could very well happen this year. To begin with, WrestleMania in recent years has been carried by some excellent matches. Fans have come to expect that. If they get a series of stinkers, as very well could happen this year, they may not react very well. Shawn-Vince could also lead to a huge backlash. Bret Hart has been announced well in advance for the HOF, so fans are going to expect him at Mania. I expect WWE to tease that even further, and if it doesn't happen, fans are likely to voice their displeasure very clearly. At SummerSlam they only teased Bret for a week, and Shawn-Hogan had interest in itself. Michaels-Vince doesn't have that type of interest, and fans are expecting Bret a lot more. If they've been sitting through bad matches, at the point they figure out Bret isn't there, it will be a huge backlash. Then there's the Smackdown title match, where people are clearly very turned off by the use of Eddie Guerrero. If they go over the top with that, fans again could voice their displeasure. And Cena-HHH is a situation where the fans will almost certainly reject Cena and very well might reject HHH as well. If that's the final match, it could be ugly. At WM20, the crowd strongly turned on Lesnar-Goldberg. WWE better hope they don't get an hour and a half of that this year, because it could finally be a signal of how screwed up WWE has become.

Raw Report

I forgot to post this on Monday. I had more fun with this one than any in a little while.

Date: 02/20/06 from Trenton, NJ.

The Big News: HHH will be in the title match at WrestleMania for the fifteenth straight year.

Title Changes/Turns: Shelton Benjamin and Mama Benjamin took the Intercontinental Title from Ric Flair. Could a feud with Buff Bagwell and Judy Bagwell be on the horizon?

Match Results: Candice Michelle won Battle Royal; Edge b Hacksaw Jim Duggan; Kane b Chris Masters; Shelton Benjamin b Ric Flair; Shawn Michaels b Johnny Jeter, Kenny Doane, Mikey Mondo & Nicky Nemeth; Carlito Caribbean Cool b Nick Burke; Hunter Hearst Helmsley b Big Show and Rob Van Dam.

Show Analysis:

Candice Michelle won a women’s battle royal to earn a title match next week. This was awful, but it could have been worse. I still don’t understand the logic in putting people that can’t wrestle in wrestling matches on national television, but that’s an old story. Candice eliminated Torrie, while Ashley and Maria teamed up to eliminate Victoria. Maria gave Candice the bronco buster, but Mickie disposed of Maria. As Mickie attempted to eliminate Ashley, Candice dumped them both.

Edge came to the ring, and impolitely told Candice to leave. He said he would be champion were it not for Mick Foley, and vowed to send a message to Foley in his treatment of Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Edge proceeded to pin Duggan. Duggan hit clotheslines early, but Edge knocked him to the outside and hit an ax handle off the apron. Duggan posted Edge on the floor, but Edge came back with a drop kick and belly to back suplex. Duggan responded with a clothesline, body slam, and got in the three point stance. Lita grabbed his leg and Edge hit the spear for the pin. I was surprised Edge didn’t go over more strongly.

Edge gave Duggan a low blow with the 2x4 after the match, and challenged Foley for WrestleMania. That got very little response, unsurprisingly given how out of the blue this feud is. Edge demanded a response next week. They ran a backstage Big Show interview where he talked about what a big deal the title is, and how much he wants to headline WrestleMania. He said he is focused on getting there. They aired a package of John Cena getting an incredible reaction in Bombay, India. They should air this footage repeatedly, because it made Cena look like an enormous star. It reminded me of the footage they used to air of Bret Hart overseas.

Kane beat Chris Masters. They brawled early. Masters got the advantage by ramming Kane into the post, but Kane came back and hit a clothesline off the top. Masters went for the Masterlock, which was reversed into a choke slam attempt, reversed into another Masterlock attempt, reversed into a Kane Masterlock attempt, which Masters escaped. After all that Kane hit the big boot for the clean pin. Masters jumped Kane after the match, and applied the Masterlock, so I guess this feud will continue through WrestleMania. What a delight.

“Rob Van Dam was a different type of attraction than I had ever seen in wrestling. Because usually in wrestling you need to put a guy in a heated situation where ‘I hate you and I’m going to get my revenge on you.’ That wasn’t the case with Rob Van Dam. People didn’t want to hear that about him.”
-Paul Heyman

Rob Van Dam did a serious promo about wanting to headline at WrestleMania. It didn’t really work. See the aforementioned quote from the guy who would know better than anyone else how to get over RVD. WWE has a real problem catering to people’s strengths. RVD is one of the few guys left on the roster that could get over as a fresh main event talent in a hurry. However, that is not going to happen with angry, somber promos and matches with Gene Snitsky.

Watch some ECW tapes. Let him do a cocky 45 second promo about how great he is backstage, and then give him an opponent he can work with in the ring. That’s the formula that got him over in ECW. Fans have never gotten that guy in WWE, which in a sense is a positive because if they ever do, they are going to react huge. The Spirit Squad spoke with Vince McMahon backstage. Vince made a four on one match with all of them except Mitch (Nick Mitchell) against Shawn Michaels. Mitch wanted in as well, but Vince said that four on one is fair but five on one is a bit much. That was funny.

Shelton Benjamin defeated Ric Flair to win the Intercontinental Title. He dedicated the match to Mama. Benjamin and Flair traded chops and punches early. Flair hit a back body drop and threw Benjamin over the top rope. Benjamin hit a Samoan drop on the floor, and a suplex back in the ring. He worked over Flair’s back for a while, until Flair was able to counter a springboard drop kick attempt. Flair applied the figure four, but Benjamin got to the ropes. Mama Benjamin started complaining about her heart, and as the referee went to help her Benjamin hit Flair with her oxygen tank twice. He hit the T-Bone for the win. Mama was fine and started dancing.

I hate this idiotic Russo gimmick so god damn much. If they just pushed Benjamin this whole time without the idiotic Mama character emasculating him and turning him into an F rate cartoon comedy figure, he might have actually gotten over. Why is it that the only guys given winning streaks in WWE have some fatal flaw or lame gimmick that prevents them from getting to a higher level? Mama Benjamin is an “are you kidding?” gimmick. When someone proposed it, someone with common sense should have said, “Are you kidding?” and that would have been the end of it. Apply everything I just said to the Spirit Squad, by the way.

Shawn Michaels defeated the Spirit Squad via disqualification. Kenny (Doane) hit a drop kick on Michaels early, and Johnny (Jeter) hit a spin kick. The other members of Spirit Squad interfered freely. Kenny jumped off the apron onto a trampoline on the floor into a clothesline, which was a really cool spot. Seriously, the introduction of trampolines into pro wrestling seems to me a really good idea. They are no less logical than tables, and they can help create some spectacular moves. Let the revolution begin! Trampampolines!

Anyway, back to the match. Michaels kept fighting back, and after Kenny missed a leg drop off the top rope, he fought off all of the Spirit Squad members. He hit a body slam and elbow off the top on Mikey (Mondo). He knocked Mitch off the apron and hit sweet chin music, but all the Spirit Squad members made the save. The referee called for a disqualification. This match made Spirit Squad seem even more like jobbers than their bush league already did.

As they were beating up Michaels, Marty Jannetty made the save. Coach asked, “Where did Marty Jannetty come from?” I’m not sure, but I believe his last match was a three way dance with Ricky Morton and Bruiser Bedlam in a parole on a pole match. Oh me oh my, I’m having too much fun tonight. The Rockers hugged. I like this route towards Vince vs. Shawn at WrestleMania.

Carlito beat Nick Burke. He spoke on the microphone during the match. I know that gimmick has been done before, but I can’t remember off-hand where other than that Jerry Lawler did it at one point. He said he humiliated Steve Austin and Roddy Piper at WrestleMania last year, and he had something better planned for this year. Apparently that has something to do with Money in the Bank. He hit the back cracker and a neck breaker for the pin. Carlito is really improving.

They announced Eddie Guerrero for the Hall of Fame. The ratio of footage of WWE wrestlers and personalities celebrating and mourning Guerrero to actual footage of Guerrero’s career was rather disturbing. Vince McMahon came out and said he would give Marty Jannetty a full time WWE contract next week, but first Marty would have to join the Vince McMahon kiss my ass club. HHH did a promo about going to WrestleMania again.

HHH beat Rob Van Dam and Big Show. This was a very good match, and it was laid out flawlessly. Everyone looked good and got over. Big Show dominated early. He hit a press slam on HHH, chops on RVD and HHH, and head butts on HHH. He gave RVD a side slam and a gorilla slam on the floor. He was just destroying everyone until RVD and HHH finally started double teaming him. They fired punches and kicks at him, while he kept fighting back and going for choke slams. He finally hit a double choke slam, and gave both of them clotheslines. He hit a power slam on HHH and another body slam.

HHH finally fought him off, and RVD hit a kick off the top to send Show to the outside. RVD hit a split legged moonsault on HHH for a near fall. He hit a spinning heel kick, rolling thunder, and the five star frog splash on HHH, but Show broke up the pin. RVD knocked him down and went for the five star frog splash on him, but HHH pushed RVD off the top to the floor.

He hit Show with a chair and hit the pedigree, but RVD made the save. RVD back dropped HHH to the floor and hit a five star frog splash on Show, but HHH stopped the referee’s count while Show recovered. The referee got free, but Show kicked out at two. HHH hit the pedigree on RVD for the pin. John Cena came out for a stare down with HHH to end the show.

Final Thoughts:

Conclusory statements often lead to false impressions.

Jack Evans and Roderick Strong vs. Super Dragon and Davey Richards

It doesn't get much better than that match signed for PWG on 3/4. I am SO there. I'll have to get a tape of my man Georges St. Pierre taking on B.J. Penn. (I want to make some comment about GSP demolishing him, but I don't want to curse it)

Foley Comments on Eddie Angle

I don't really get why Mick Foley continues to get praise for his blog comments on the Eddie Guerrero angle. Foley for a long time has recognized the screwed up things WWE does. But aside from talking about it in DVD releases or on the net to make himself look like a nice guy, he never does anything about it. I'm sick of Foley babyfacing himself with symbolic moves of little significance. Put your money where your mouth is for once, Mick, or just shut up. And this is coming from someone who has been a Foley fan for a long, long time.

Olympic Hockey

I so should have wrote about this last week, but I never got around to it. However, if you ask my friends (I'm not giving out phone numbers), they will verify the teams I thought would do well in this tournament were Sweden and Russia. Damn it those picks are looking good. And you have no reason to believe me. Oh well. I'll have plenty of chances to make picks in the future that will go horribly, horribly wrong.

Stevie Franchise to the Knicks

I do like Steve Francis, dating back to his days with the Terps. But seriously, is there anyone out there that likes this latest trade by Isiah Thomas? Everyone, and I mean everyone, is bashing the Knicks, and rightfully so. They bring in one selfish, overpaid ballhog after another. The team is one of the biggest messes in modern sports. I think they will play better, simply because they have so much raw talent, but this is not a good team nor will it ever be with the current core. It's kind of sad, because the Knicks are one of those franchises that should always be pretty good, like the Celtics and the Lakers. Instead, they're a complete laughing stock, and it's really kind of sad.

Movies in 2005

A couple of weeks ago I gathered a list of what I thought were the best films of 2005, and I have it saved as a draft here. I'm going to run it when I have a chance to catch almost all of the movies left on my list. I try not to be a genre snob, so it's filled with B-thrillers, chick flicks, over the top comedies and summer blockbusters to go with the sorts of dramas that do well for the Oscars. I don't think it's been a great year for cinema, but it's been pretty good. I think Crash is most deserving of the Best Picture of the Year.

WWE Marketing ECW Ultra-Violence

I find it kind of troubling that Ian Rotten vs. Axl Rotten in a "Taipei Death Match" is now being marketed and sold by WWE as part of its Blood Sport DVD. I always found those types of matches completely distasteful. It's just violence for the sake of violence: undercard wrestlers maiming and scarring themselves for life just for the enjoyment of a small segment of sickos. It's not like those were the culmination of some big feud. Those guys were only on the card because they were willing to do really violent matches. That was the part of ECW that I always disliked, but I just sort of accepted it as part of ECW culture. But WWE for a long time kind of considered themselves above that sort of thing, and I think that was probably for the best. There are certain things that aren't worth promoting, and I don't think WWE will ever promote matches where guys glue broken glass to their hands. In fact, I'm pretty much certain of it. So why is there a double standard when it comes to profiteering off it in DVD format? It's not like that stuff is a highlight for ECW either. Finally, it kind of undermines the whole "don't try this at home" message WWE sticks at the beginning of all its DVD releases. Because sorry, but that stuff isn't safe no matter who's doing it, and the promotion's sincerity in promoting safety is kind of undermined by the promotion of matches where brutality is the sole appeal (and even WWE's most violent matches like Hell in a Cell use the violence as a way to signify the end of a major feud; it isn't violence for the sake of violence).


I know I've been sporadic with updates. I'm going to be more active as I increasingly have more time on my hands. This is a heck of a busy semester, but it actually is going to get easier as it goes along.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Christian Cage TNA Champion

So far, so good. I really think Christian is the choice to be TNA champion going forward, and the fan reaction thus far has been really good. Jarrett just didn't work as champion, and Christian was ready to be accepted by the larger audience in a very prominent role. I would be looking at a way to use this to get a foothold in the Canadian market. Canada tends to be a more hardcore base than the US, and Christian is particularly over there. He can help them get greater recognition and build a couple bases outside of Orlando. The tricky thing will be how to deal with Sting's return if Christian is the champion. Christian as champion teaming with Sting is a good dynamic, but eventually you want Sting in an important headlining match. I don't think Sting v. Christian works. Christian as heel would risk the fans turning on Sting. Sting doesn't work as well as a heel. Face-face usually doesn't work for business. Maybe you have Christian hold the title most of the year defending against Brown, Abyss, Jarrett and the like. Then you have him drop the strap to Joe in the fall and Joe beats Sting in Sting's sendoff towards the end of the year.

Poor Darko

As he gets sent out of Detroit, I really have a lot of sympathy for the guy. Larry Brown never really gave him a chance. And it wasn't his fault he was in the most loaded top of the draft in recent history. Blame Joe Dumars for selecting him over Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. Dumars has done enough things right that he can be forgiven for one bad personnel blunder, and Darko can be let off the hook. I hope he does well in Orlando, because he's been put in a lot of bad situations. It's not like he's Kwame Brown, given every chance to succeed and blowing it with immaturity, laziness and petulance.

Am I Missing Something?

In every tournament in history, a double countout or double-DQ or time limit draw means both men are eliminated. Yet somehow a double countout in Big Show vs. HHH resulted in a three way match for the title shot. Huh? By all logic that should mean RVD gets a bye and wins the tournament. After all, the incentive under that logic is to agree with your opponent to go to a double-countout or DQ, and then you only have to beat one opponent in a three way rather than beating both of them in separate singles matches. Creativity is good. Logic is better.

Cartoon Unrest

I thought Andrew Sullivan in New Republic really captured a lot of my feelings on this ongoing unrest in certain segments of the Muslim world. As your prototypical bleeding heart liberal, I will openly admit that when a conflict arises with people from a different place, I am likely to have sympathy for them simply because I can't presume to understand their perspective on the world. But this continuing rioting over those silly cartoons strikes as so ridiculous, and a really poor reflection on what a bunch of angry idiots just looking for a reason to act like thugs a lot of people in that world are. This is not our fault. I repeat, this is not our fault. Freedom of expression is a good thing. We don't have to apologize for political satire done by people we have nothing to do with. That is their right in a free society. And anyone should be able to understand the notion of individual agency. So someone disrespects your religion? Who cares? If you truly believe, that just makes them an idiot, and means they are probably going to hell. Why do you have an obligation to kill them, or destroy things that are only tangentially related to them? And as Sullivan points out in the aforementioned article, the whole thing is so hypocritical given anti-American and anti-Semitic cartoons are common in the Muslim world. Some of those people clearly hold themselves to a different standard than they do others. The worst thing of it all is that the underlying message of the most offensive cartoons should be widely accepted as wrong. It's not fair to blame Islam for terrorism given there are more peaceful Muslims than Islamic terrorists by a very wide margin. But the people burning buildings over a freaking cartoon are making people like me, who want to believe that underlying message is wrong, question whether in fact it is.

Bret Hart in the HOF

I don't understand why Bret Hart would agree to do the WWE Hall of Fame this year. I'm totally cool with him doing at some point, and in fact I think it would be a really nice moment. The problem is this year's WrestleMania has nothing that will draw, Vince knows that, and it also has Vince McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels. Thus, Vince McMahon is clearly going to build Mania around the false tease of Bret Hart appearing in that match to settle the score with Vince and/or Shawn. Given that Bret wanted to do the HOF as a classy way to recognize what he did in his career, and not to do a tacky angle with Vince based around Montreal, if I were Bret I would have waited for another year.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I'm Dreaming of a White Valentine's Day

Home in DC after a snowstorm. It's 80 here. Man, I miss the east coast.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I'm Totally Stressed Out

Monday, February 06, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 02/06/06 from Atlanta, GA.

The Big News: Edge and John Cena will wrestle next week for the WWE Title with Mick Foley as the special referee, while HHH, Chris Masters, Rob Van Dam and Big Show remain alive in the tournament to determine the challenger for the title at WrestleMania.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Chris Masters b Kane; Ashley b Mickie James; Triple H b Ric Flair; Big Show b Shelton Benjamin; Rob Van Dam b Carlito Caribbean Cool; John Cena & Maria b Edge & Lita.

Show Analysis:

Maria introduced Edge and Lita. Edge told her to shut up, and said he has a title rematch with John Cena next week. He said there is speculation as to Lita’s motivations last week, but only Lita can answer, and she wouldn’t say. Edge vowed to win back the title, and told Maria not to announce him as former WWE champion any more. Maria said he should be happy to be former WWE champion. Lita got in Maria’s face and told her to label Edge future WWE champ, so she did.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan came out, and suggested he should be the referee for the title match. Edge didn’t like this idea. Duggan called Lita a ho, so Edge jumped Duggan and hit him with the 2x4. Lita slapped Maria and threw her by the hair. Edge was going to spear Maria, but Cena made the save in the spot set up to guarantee Cena be cheered. He still got significant boos from a large portion of the crowd for save a woman from being speared.

Chris Masters beat Kane in the first match in the tournament for the WrestleMania title shot. Kane missed an elbow drop, and was caught with an elbow. Masters dropped Kane on the top turnbuckle, and unsuccessfully went for the Masterlock. Kane answered with punches, a big boot, clotheslines, and a side slam. Kane went for the clothesline off the top, but Masters sidestepped and went for the Masterlock. Kane got out and went for the choke slam, but Masters escaped. Masters rolled up Kane and grabbed the ropes for the pin.

Backstage, Edge suggested Lita as the special referee for next week to Vince McMahon. McMahon wasn’t convinced Lita would be an impartial referee, so Edge encouraged Lita to come on to McMahon. McMahon was at first disgusted at this behavior, but then changed his mind and found it admirable. He made a match featuring Edge and Lita vs. John and Maria, with the winner determining the referee for next week.

Ashley beat Mickie James with Trish Stratus as the referee. Yes. They seriously booked this again. It’s too bad Giant Haystacks is dead, or they could book him in a rematch with Paul Wight. Mickie jumped Ashley, and they had a bad brawl. I’ve never seen people do nothing so unconvincingly. They did an awful slow motion spot where Mickie accidentally collided with Trish. Ashley rolled up Mickie and Trish counted the pin and stormed off. Backstage, Mickie apologized for hitting Trish. She said she loves Trish as a friend and idol. Trish introduced Mickie to her male date and left, while Mickie stood there fuming with anger. I really like this angle. I hope she murders him.

Shelton Benjamin and Mama were chatting backstage. Mama said Shelton isn’t a Mama’s boy. Shelton said he had to go get his phone, but Mama didn’t want him to leave. She noted when he has left in the past, she was approached by freaks like Viscera and Goldust. Benjamin said he took care of them, and anyone would be a fool to mess with Mama. When Shelton left, Eugene came in. He thought Mama was Martin Lawrence, and wanted to take off her wig. When Shelton came back, Mama smacked him.

HHH beat Ric Flair in another tournament match. Flair started off well with chops and punches. HHH went for the pedigree but was sent over the ropes. Flair sent HHH into the steps. HHH came back with a spine buster and knee drops. He hit a delayed vertical suplex, but Flair came back with chops. HHH hit a swinging neck breaker and went for the figure four, but Flair kicked him off. Flair hit chops, an ax handle off the top, and applied the figure four. HHH got to the ropes and hit the pedigree shortly thereafter for the pin.
Backstage, Maria went on and on about how concerned and upset she was about the mixed tag match. Cena proceeded to make out with her, which calmed her down. Oh my God! CM Punk is coming in to headline! Shawn Michaels was out for his tournament match, but Vince McMahon came out. He said he decided to let Shawn walk out on his contract as was suggested last week. Thus, next week Shawn Michaels will have a retirement party. Vince said this is not optional, but required, and Shawn won’t be at WrestleMania. Thus, he won’t be in the title tournament, and he was replaced by Shelton Benjamin.

Big Show beat Shelton Benjamin. Show hit chops early, but Shelton responded with a bulldog and neck breaker. Show hit clotheslines, a power slam, an avalanche, and a shoulder block. That sent Shelton into the referee. Show was going for the choke slam, but Mama grabbed his leg. Benjamin hit a crescent kick, and dove off the apron into a shot from Show. Show threw Benjamin into the ring, but Mama went after him. Show yelled at her, and she collapsed. Show hit the choke slam for a total squash win. Mama was carried out on a stretcher. Wow. WWE got me to root for a death twice in the same show.

Rob Van Dam beat Carlito. Carlito backstage said all he did was teach RVD some respect. He observed that it would be cool to headline WrestleMania and beat RVD in the process. Carlito and RVD brawled early, with RVD hitting a spinning leg drop off the apron. RVD hit rolling thunder twice, but Carlito got up his knees when RVD went for the split-legged moonsault. Carlito did what was essentially a triple jump somersault senton. I was in disbelief at that one.

Carlito followed up with the back cracker and brought a chair into the ring. The referee stopped him, and RVD hit the Van Daminator and five star frog splash for the win. RVD looked so much better this week, and Carlito looked good as well. This match made me happy. The semi-finals of the tournament next week will be RVD vs. Masters and Show vs. HHH. In a funny note, they showed a WWE.com poll, asking who people thought would win the tournament. RVD received over 45 percent of the vote, with HHH a distant second.

John Cena and Maria beat Edge and Lita. Edge got the best of Cena early, and threw him into the steps. Maria and Lita were tagged in, and Lita bullied Maria and choked her. Lita hit a side Russian leg sweep, but Lita missed a spear and Cena was tagged in. Cena hit the clotheslines, shoulder block, and five knuckle shuffle on Edge. Lita distracted him, but then accidentally gave Edge a huracanrana off the top. Edge accidentally speared Lita, and Maria tagged in and scored the pin. Cena announced the referee for next week will be Mick Foley.

Final Thoughts:The show is so much more entertaining when they have some semblance of mid-to-long term direction.

The Time is Now

When TNA Wrestling began, few gave it any chance to succeed. There were too many obstacles in its path, and the biggest question seemed to be how long until the promotion folded. Three and a half years later, just about every obstacle has been removed. TNA has proved its critics wrong just by surviving. Now, with the announcement of a prime time weekly time slot on a major cable network, TNA is on the cusp of true success. There are no more obstacles. There are no more excuses. It is time for TNA to give the public everything it has, and see if it just can’t make it.

The initial weekly PPV format was not going to work. The nature of pro wrestling is to build and pay off. The weekly format disrupted that basic dichotomy, and it required customers to invest money not for special events, but for all events. That problem is gone, with monthly PPV events the norm. TNA originally was built mostly around surprise appearances by former stars. Now the promotion is built around a regular roster of talented stars signed to long term deals.

The talent level of that roster has also improved. TNA at its inception was built around a host of name wrestlers who had little left to offer, and unknown younger wrestlers. Most of those unmotivated former talents are gone, and replaced with hungrier name talent. Scott Hall, Brian Christopher and the like appeared to view TNA as nothing more than a paycheck. Sting, Christian Cage, Team 3D and Rhino seem much more invested in the product, and their performances reflect that. Talent that wasn’t well known to national audiences now is, such as A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Abyss and America’s Most Wanted. Samoa Joe and Monty Brown seem future superstars in the making. The rest of the card has been loaded with real talent like Chris Sabin, Austin Aries, Alex Shelley and Petey Williams. TNA could still use additional talent, but it has a real core to work with.

Perhaps even more important is the turnaround in creative direction. This was the biggest problem for TNA from day one. It felt like clean finishes happened once every three months. The most ridiculous of gimmicks were introduced regularly. The promotion came across as incredibly desperate. Truth be told, the booking was still not very good as recently as a year ago. However, since the implementation of a booking committee in the middle of 2005, the promotion has real direction. The storylines are more compelling, the PPV lineups are better, and the characters are better defined. In short, it is a fresher product.

The best product in the world is not going to succeed if it does not have the proper promotional and financial alignment behind it. Luckily, TNA has just that. Panda has shown a real commitment to the promotion, even through the absorption of millions of dollars in losses. It isn’t about to quit on the promotion now. Advantageous business deals have been worked out. Excellent TNA DVDs are widely available, for casual fans to sample the product. Further merchandising and licensing agreements have been arranged. TNA has built a financial infrastructure.

This strength is not solely internal. Spike TV is solidly behind the promotion. It has promoted the product more strongly than many expected. It has given the promotion a time slot that shows even greater faith in the product. It has invested capital to acquire Sting, and presumably could assist in the acquisition of additional stars that will establish the promotion to casual wrestling fans.

Perhaps the strongest asset TNA has is a secret that has the potential to get out in a major way. TNA presents a drastically superior product to WWE. Wrestling fans have become so accustomed to the mediocrity of WWE wrestling, and the incompetence of WWE booking. TNA is not without its faults, but they are easy to list and correct. Jeff Jarrett needs to be out of the main event picture, they need to better define midcard wrestlers, and they need to slow down the pace of their shows. WWE’s problems couldn’t be contained to ten pages, let alone one such sentence. If TNA is available at a convenient time slot for wrestling fans, rapid growth is not out of the question.

TNA can stop worrying about “the big break.” The proper setup is in place. Now TNA simply has to produce the best product possible. Get people to tune into television, and get people to order the PPVs. Establish stars, and get wrestling fans excited about wrestling again. The battle with the rest of the world is over. Now TNA’s primary battle is against itself. Let’s see what they have got.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

UFC 59

I ordered UFC tickets today, to the tune of $650 on my credit card (ouch) (granted I'm getting $430 back, but still). $200 looked like the best value because you could get into the lower bowl. I would have done $50 otherwise. I will maintain my sweep of attending UFC at all the major places they run (CT, NJ, LV, LA). They better come up with a good undercard!!!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pass the Word Along

If you enjoy my blog, and you have an opportunity to recommend it to others, please do so. I'd love to get more comments and have more discussion on a variety of topics. Also, if you have any suggestions, drop me an e-mail. I'm totally new to this, so I'd be interested in anyone's input. Thanks!

McNabb-Owens Controversy Continues


I just want to make one quick point on these most recent comments by Donovan McNabb. I'm sympathetic to him in general in this whole controversy. But these last comments weren't really fair to T.O. I understand McNabb's point. If a black player brings up that his team would be better off with a white quarterback, it is a different sort of insult than just saying he is a bad quarterback, particularly given McNabb's history. McNabb was right to bring up the difference between saying "we would be better off with Steve McNair," and saying "we would be better off with Brett Favre." However, that was not what T.O. said. T.O. was *asked* if the Eagles would be better off with Favre, and it was presented as someone else's assessment. He just agreed. He didn't overtly put forth Favre's name, which makes McNabb's comments unfair.

The irony of it is that this is basically the exact same thing that exacerbated the conflict in the first place. McNabb was asked about how the Eagles would do without T.O., and he basically said T.O. is great, but they would be fine and they had made the playoffs before. When T.O. made a big scene of this, he was wrong. As McNabb pointed out, he was asked a question, and of course he's going to say that his team can do it without T.O. The context made it clear it wasn't a cheap shot. And given McNabb was acutely aware of the context of his statements there, he should be more cognizant of the context of T.O.'s remarks. Granted, T.O. hasn't exactly earned the benefit of the doubt, but on this particular issue, McNabb is wrong.

Vince the Groper?

Obviously I can't speculate as to what happened as it regards the accusation of Vince McMahon groping a woman at a tanning salon. However, one thing that strikes me about the whole incident is that perhaps Vince would be better off not acting like a total maniac on television. Vince's behavior on TV is such a bizarre mix of fake TV character and real crazed old man that it really reflects poorly on him to the public. That's generally fine given the mainstream doesn't watch WWE television. But if a lawyer were able to get tapes of Vince acting like a maniac on television admitted into court, I think it would make the accusations brought by this woman look a whole lot more realistic, regardless of whether they are true or not.