Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rick Reilly

I've never liked Rick Reilly, the Sports Illustrated writer. I find his writing smug, condescending and not particularly insightful. He frequently does these stale "sentimental" stories, which reflect such insincerity they remind me of the "Bart's People" parody from an episode of the Simpsons. And he trashes people with the same blind one-sidedness as he praises others. Anyway, he now has a feature for SI Online, called "Riffs of Reilly" where he makes a bunch of lame one or two line jokes mocking a bunch of easy targets. Let's just say it's not his strong suit. Check out his current "Riffs" on that site. It's 2 minutes of the least funny stuff you're ever going to find. Just awful jokes, an embarassing "rap" and overflowing with unjustified smug arrogance. I hope he keeps doing this, because sooner or later I think people are going to catch on to him.

Fantasy Baseball

So, I did my Yahoo fantasy baseball drafts (regular 12 team leagues) today. I like to do a number so if something goes horribly wrong with one or two of my teams I still have something to pay attention to. This is what I ended up with. Some common picks that I thought were good value, and some differentiation based on spot in the draft.

Team 1: C Ramon Hernandez, 1B David Ortiz, 2B Mark Ellis, 3B Melvin Mora, SS Derek Jeter, OF Jason Bay, OF Matt Holliday, OF Brian Giles, UTIL Jonny Gomes, OF Jermaine Dye, 1B Chris Shelton, SP Randy Johnson, SP Felix Hernandez, SP Danny Haren, SP Joe Blanton, SP Greg Maddux, SP Brad Penny, RP Joe Nathan, RP Chad Cordero, RP Tom Gordon, RP Mike Gonzalez

Team 2: C Ramon Hernandez, 1B Brad Wilkerson, 2B Chase Utley, 3B Morgan Ensberg, SS Derek Jeter, OF Johnny Damon, OF Matt Holliday, OF Jonny Gomes, UTIL Chris Shelton, 1B Dan Johnson, OF Preston Wilson, SP Johan Santana, SP Andy Pettitte, SP Jon Garland, SP Joe Blanton, SP Greg Maddux, SP Brad Penny, RP Chad Cordero, RP Eric Gagne, RP Tom Gordon

Team 3: C Ramon Hernandez, 1B Paul Konerko, 2B Marcus Giles, 3B Miguel Cabrera, SS Jimmy Rollins, OF Jason Bay, OF Chad Tracy, OF Brian Giles, UTIL Brad Wilkerson, 1B Prince Fielder, 2B/3B Placido Polanco, OF Preston Wilson, SP Roy Halladay, SP Brandon Webb, SP Jason Schmidt, SP Jeff Weaver, SP Brad Radke, SP Brad Penny, RP Joe Nathan, RP Tom Gordon, RP Jose Valverde

Team 4: C Ramon Hernandez, 1B Derrek Lee, 2B Chone Figgins, 3B Aramis Ramirez, SS Derek Jeter, OF Coco Crisp, OF Chad Tracy, OF Jonny Gomes, UTIL Jermaine Dye, 3B Garrett Atkins, 2B/SS Mark Ellis, 1B Chris Shelton, SP Ben Sheets, SP Andy Pettitte, SP Mark Buehrle, SP Jason Schmidt, SP John Smoltz, SP Joe Blanton, SP Greg Maddux, RP Tom Gordon, RP Jose Valverde

The final league is the “winners” league, so one would expect the competition to be stiffer for the best players, but I actually like that the team the best of the bunch.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Best Movies of 2005

I know it's March, but I didn't have the opportunity to see all the major, well-reviewed films until now, so I wanted to hold off until I got most of them. Here is my list of the top 20 best films of 2005. Note that I haven't yet seen Syriana, Transamerica and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but other than that, I would imagine I've seen most every other film you would nominate. I try not to be too much of a genre snob, so it's made up of films of many different types and not naturally dismissive of blockbusters or "art films." I recommend all of these, and would be interested in your thoughts on the list, and what you think were the best of the year. Here they are, in list of date released in the United States:

Downfall. This was a great foreign picture that chronicled the last days of Hitler's life. It had an almost documentary like quality to it, and it really made you feel like you were there. The film doesn't attempt to either condemn (no need to) or praise (why would you) Hitler, and takes an almost agnostic view of the man. The result is a really captivating film.

Sin City. One of my personal favorites, this is stylish, violent and fun filmmaking. This is a better "Tarantino" film that Kill Bill I or II. Bruce Willis gives one of his better performances in ages, and the movie is great fun. The cinematography is fantastic.

Crash. I'm very glad this won the Best Picture Oscar, because I thought it was the best film of the year. It tackles a lot of complex problems, and doesn't provide any easy answers. It's both emotionally resonant (the scene with the store owner and the locksmith's daughter) and thought provoking (Ludacris' journey through the film). Great characters and a great screenplay.

Star Wars Episode III. This finally delivered on the promise of George Lucas' decision to shoot a second Star Wars trilogy. It's really a shame Lucas didn't take some of the events of this and spread them into the first two films, because they would have been much better movies. A lot of people were so down on the first two that they didn't give this one a try, but that's their loss.

Cinderella Man. This felt a lot like Seabiscuit. It's another very well acted film with an old time feel about a sport that doesn't have a lot of interest these days. Crowe delivers his typical strong performance, and unfortunately it's just a film that didn't have enough of a potential audience to make waves.

Batman Begins. Like Star Wars Episode III, this marked a return to form of a series that had lost its way. I don't think Batman and Robin and Batman Forever were as awful as some suggest, but they certainly weren't good movies, and they really took a lot of the luster off the Batman franchise. This film takes it back to the basics, and the darker style is a welcome change.

Land of the Dead. This was probably the last movie to make the list. It's a fun, creepy return of George Romero's zombies, even if it doesn't really bring anything new to the table. It has an eerie end-of-the-world setting that takes you in. While I preferred the Dawn of the Dead remake's fast zombies, the zombies here definitely present enough menace.

March of the Penguins. This was a personal favorite of mine. There have been a ton of great documentaries the past few years, and this may be the best of the bunch. It's really interesting, at times touching, and a glimpse into a real world that most of us didn't know exist, or certainly didn't spend much time thinking about.

War of the Worlds. This is perhaps the most flawed film on the list, because of the weak ending required by the source material and a generally anti-climactic direction. That said, this had some of the most viscerally resonant visuals of the entire year. The destruction of the world feels more terrifying than previous films of this ilk, perhaps because of 9/11. Rarely am I genuinely horrified by what is going on in a fictional story, but this is one of those times.

Wedding Crashers. The funniest film of the year is a raucous blast with tons of laughs from beginning to end. It is perhaps a bit too long, but not by much, and I think this is truly Vince Vaughn's return to Swingers form.

Constant Gardener. This would have made by Best Picture nominee list. It has great performances from the principal actors, and a compelling story that keeps you engrossed. Add in some beautiful cinematography, particularly towards the end, and you have a fine film. I wish it got more attention. Perhaps people were turned off by its somewhat preachy message.

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I love these animators. The shorts with Wallace and Gromit were very funny, and Chicken Run was another big success. Wallace and Gromit returned with this feature length, and it's a definite success. It's a totally different sense of humor than Wedding Crashers, but also very funny.

The Squid and the Whale. For some reason, the story of a marriage falling apart makes for good dramatic films, and this is another good one with Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels. The characters get you into the film from the beginning, and it is at times funny and sad. The children taking sides is perhaps too obvious, but that's my only major complaint.

In Her Shoes. Yes, it's a "chick flick." But it's a very good "chick flick." The relationship between the sisters is well established, and you care about them even when they are doing awful or stupid things. It's not a film with great ambition, but it does what it seeks to very well.

Good Night and Good Luck. This isn't a film that lends itself to multiple viewings, but it is an engrossing, tightly crafted short film with great acting and interesting themes. David Strathairn's performance as Edwin R. Murrow was to me deserving of the Best Actor Oscar over Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Walk the Line. This was to me the most pleasant surprise of the year. I didn't go in with great expectations, but I left really loving this film. The great leading performances are what makes the film, and the story is best as a character and relationship study.

Brokeback Mountain. As I've said here, this wasn't the best picture of the year for me, but it was certainly very good. I thought both the male leads gave great performances, and the backgrounds were really beautiful. It's not the best love story you're ever going to see, but it did work.

King Kong. This was the most bizarre film of the year, with a boring first third, wacko comedy second third, and touching final third. This was the most ambitious film of the year by far, and just delivering on some of its promise merits praise given how high it aimed. I wouldn't recommend an even longer extended edition, however.

Munich. This is actually a pretty simple film. It unquestionably has a lot to think about behind it, but the narrative is pretty straight forward and simple. It's a somber meditation on violence that doesn't have the political agenda that a lot of people on both sides would like to have.

Match Point. This was a weird one for me. I saw it and didn't really like it all that much. I was totally interested in the story, but I didn't feel like it connected with me when it was over. However, this film more than any other this year lingered with me. The images in the film have stuck with me and I find myself thinking about them periodically. I also vividly remember most of the settings of the film, which isn't true of other films I have seen recently. Woody Allen does deserve the credit he got for this.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Final Raw Before Mania

Date: 03/27/06 from Omaha, NE.

The Big News: WrestleMania is Sunday, and if you can’t get enough of Triple H and Vince McMahon, this is the show for you.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Kane b Carlito Caribbean Cool-DQ; Shawn Michaels b Triple H-DQ; Nicky Doane, Johnny Jeter & Mikey Mondo b Val Venis, Viscera & Eugene Dinsmore; Trish Stratus & Torrie Wilson b Victoria & Candice Michelle; John Cena b Vince McMahon-DQ.

Show Analysis:

Mick Foley came out to start the show, and said he was sorry about what he did to Lita last week. He brought gifts for her and Edge. He carefully removed flowers from a gift box and said they were Lita’s gift, and had a box on the ramp for Edge. Edge said that Foley wouldn’t pad his legacy at Edge’s expense, and Foley, only there for the paycheck, will get nothing else. Foley said he wanted a WrestleMania memory of doing all sorts of ungodly things to Edge, and brought attention to his severed ear. Foley said the box had something that would give Edge a fighting chance.

It was a baseball bat, and Edge took the bat and went after Foley in the ring. Of course, Foley had a barbed wire bat in his box, and chased Edge into the crowd. They ran a package on hardcore Mick Foley, and went from video of him with a barbed wire bat in 1998 to him with a barbed wire bat now. That didn’t make for a good comparison as far as selling a hardcore match. This setup was really obvious, but the segment still worked. This feud may not be working as well as Foley’s feud with Orton, but I think Edge has done a better job with it than Orton did. If this were a promotion about business rather than ego, Edge would be the top heel on Raw.

Kane beat Carlito via DQ. Kane’s physique suggests he may be taking the drug testing policy seriously. Apparently Carlito said last week was a fluke, so we got the most anticipated rematch since Ashley vs. Mickie James. Carlito hit a DDT, drop kick, and punches, but Kane kept coming back. Carlito applied a sleeper, and went to the eyes when Kane got out. Kane hit a big boot, punches, clotheslines and a side slam. Carlito went for the springboard and got caught for the choke slam just like last week, but Carlito pulled the referee in the way for a DQ this week.

Kane chased Carlito to the back, where Chris Masters, Trevor Murdoch and Lance Cade jumped him. They blocked him in a room with a forklift. Big Show pushed the forklift out of the way, but Kane had already left the room through a second door. I don’t understand why you take one of the few guys on the undercard with upside in Carlito and make him look like a total joke physically and mentally. They announced the Hall of Fame will be televised at 11PM, which would seem to mean they are airing it on delay rather than live. That’s potentially a very interesting little twist.

Big Show was going to do the Masterlock Challenge. Kane chased Carlito into the crowd prior to the challenge. Chris Masters kept trying to apply the Masterlock, but Show’s upside was too thick to apply, so Masters attacked him instead. Show fought him off and hit the choke slam. Well, it would certainly appear Masters and Carlito are winning the tag titles at WrestleMania. They announced Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child singing the National Anthem at WrestleMania. That’s like getting Paul Roma as your special guest for a Horsemen tribute.

They aired a video package on John Cena, talking about growing up and rising to the top. They portrayed Cena as an against all odds triumph story. This was fantastic stuff. Kudos to the WWE video producers, as this was another home run. They announced Tony Atlas will be inducted into the Hall of Fame by Special Delivery Jones. They later announced Refrigerator Perry being inducted into the celebrity wing of the Hall.

Shawn Michaels beat HHH via DQ. They brawled early. HHH went for the pedigree, but was back dropped to the floor as Vince McMahon made his way to ringside. HHH came back with a spine buster, knee drop and punches. Michaels sent HHH into the steps a couple times and hit the flying forearm, inverted atomic drop and clothesline. McMahon tripped Michaels and HHH went for the pedigree, but Michaels got out and flipped HHH into McMahon. Michaels gave HHH a body slam and elbow off the top. He was going for sweet chin music, but McMahon tripped him again and HHH hit the pedigree.

Rather than go for the pin, HHH called for McMahon to hold Michaels and HHH grabbed the sledgehammer. John Cena made the save. HHH dropped the sledgehammer and Cena and HHH fought, with Cena fighting him off. Backstage, McMahon said that Michaels could be in Cena’s corner for the main event, and HHH would be in his. I don’t know why Cena and HHH had physical contact a week before Mania after delaying it for so long. The match was total paint by the numbers HHH vs. Michaels.

Ric Flair came out, and said his first WrestleMania was VIII, where he lost the title and some people thought it would be his last run. Of course, that didn’t turn out to be true, and he vowed to win his seventeenth title. I really don’t want to see that. Aside from the fact he’s so old it makes a mockery of the title, it just means one more HHH title run we will have to endure. He vowed to win Money in the Bank.

Shelton Benjamin came out dressed well, wearing shades, and looking like a star. They need to keep that look, and most importantly, dump Mama permanently. Benjamin said he has more athletic ability than Flair, Flair’s not winning Money in the Bank, and WrestleMania will be his night. They fought, with Benjamin having the advantage. Benjamin was climbing the ladder when Rob Van Dam ran down and pulled him off. RVD gave him rolling thunder on the ladder and said he would win Money in the Bank. Flair poked RVD in the eye and hit him with the ladder.

The Spirit Squad beat Eugene, Viscera and Val Venis. Viscera chopped Mikey and hit the black hole slam. Johnny came in and raked his face. The Squad worked over Eugene with a Kenny high elbow, Johnny moonwalk and clothesline, Mikey assisted standing moonsault and Kenny body slam and elbow drop. Eugene made the hot tag to Val Venis, who came in with clotheslines for all. He went for the money shot, but Mikey jumped off the trampoline to push him off the top rope and Johnny scored the pin.

They beat down their opponents more after the match, and Kenny hit a leg drop off the top on Val’s shoulder and arm. They sold that Val Venis was injured, which may mean this was the last we will see of Sean Morley on WWE television. They aired a HHH video package. He said he went to Brazil to train with the best for WrestleMania. Brazilian Top Team? Chute Boxe? No, actually, some bodybuilder. This package was typical HHH. He talked about how he is the greatest, totally buried and dismissed his opponent, and they aired interviews with other wrestlers, including faces, talking about how great he is.

Mickie James backstage had a bunch of candles and pictures of Trish Stratus. Mickie said her new obsession is Trish’s destruction. Torrie and Trish beat Candice and Victoria. Victoria hit a spinning side slam on Torrie and Candice gave her the downward spiral. Torrie came back and made the tag to Trish. She hit the Stratusphere, chops, a whirly bird, and a chick kick to Victoria. Candice broke up the pin and Victoria went for the widow’s peak, but Trish got out and hit Stratusfaction for the pin.

John Cena beat Vince McMahon via DQ. The best thing about Raw this week was comparing this segment to the HHH video package, and trying to figure out between Vince and Hunter, who is the most self-obsessed and who is the most delusional. This take home segment for WrestleMania was pretty much built around Vince McMahon’s ego. He came out looking jacked up to the point I was half expecting him to have a heart attack, and making a complete and utter mockery of the WWE’s interest in drug testing.

He ordered Michaels and HHH handcuffed to the ring posts. Joey Styles put this over as fair, which makes him dumber than the average 6 year old that could see it was a set up. Vince and Cena basically did a series of tests of strength, with Cena narrowly getting the edge. I swear they were doing an impression of the start of Warrior-Hogan at WrestleMania VI. This took wrestling back 15 years. Just dreadful.

Vince gave Cena a low blow for the DQ, and of course took out a key and uncuffed HHH. HHH got his sledgehammer and hit Cena with it. Cena bladed. HHH hit Shawn with the sledgehammer and Vince hit Shawn with a chair. HHH and McMahon posed together to end the show. This was a nice little metaphor for what WWE has become, with Cena and Michaels symbolizing the fans of the product.

Final Thoughts:
This was pretty much what one would expect from the final Raw before WrestleMania. If you weren’t dying to see WrestleMania before this show (and who was?), this show wouldn’t have done anything to change your mind.

NFL Contracts

I wish the press wouldn't throw around NFL contracts around so much, as if they mean something. Headlines read "Seahawks sign Burleson to 7 yr, $49M contract" or "Cowboys sign Glenn to $20M extension," when those guys will be lucky to see half of that. All of the contracts are padded at the end to make agents look good, when the player is never going to see that money. So why even throw those figures around? They're totally deceptive and don't mean a thing. It's not like it's the NHL, MLB or NBA where the money you see in that story is what the player is going to get, and the team is going to be on the hook for.

Favorite Video Games

This week is my spring break, so I spent the weekend relaxing and playing some video games. Specifically I spent a lot of time playing Half Life 2 and Civilization 4, which got me reminiscing about some of my favorite games of all time:

-Super Mario Bros. 3. This was my favorite game on the NES system. I didn’t like the original Super Mario Bros. all that much, because it got hard fast, and a lot of the bonuses that were available in Super Mario 3 were not there in the original. Super Mario Bros. 3 had all sorts of cool bonuses, like the different suits, the ghost ships, the giant/small worlds and the P-wing. I had so much fun playing this.

-Marathon. Marathon was designed by Bungie, which later did the Halo games. I think a lot of people aren’t as familiar with it because it was designed for the Mac, and I only knew it because the computers at my school were Macs, and they let us play this after school for a number of years in middle school, as Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity were created. This was the first 1st person shooter I played for a significant time, and I have fond memories of 8 of us in the computer room playing and talking trash after school.

-Warcraft 2. This is my all time favorite real time strategy game. I liked the theme and layout much better than Starcraft, even if I’m in the minority on that. The game play was really straight forward, but tons of fun. I preferred the humans and the heal feature over the orcs and blood lust.

-Civilization. The original had more to do than any game I had played up to that time. And it could take up insane amounts of time. I also loved Civilization 2, which took everything that made the first one great and made improvements that made it smoother and better looking. After that point, it’s just been variations on the formula.

-Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Again, the exploration ability was fantastic. The storyline really made you care about the characters, and the whole game felt so epic. Just riding around on the horse was fun, and I think this game spoiled me on Zelda forever, because I just don’t see how they can improve upon this game. The next Zelda game on the GameCube was pretty much the same game only with a different type of animation and the sea feature.

-Baldur’s Gate. This is and Baldur’s Gate comprised the best role-playing games I’ve ever played. Similar to Zelda, it feels like there wasn’t much they could do after Baldur’s Gate. Huge world. Tons of different ways to advance through classes. A billion optional missions to pursue.

-Half Life. Playing Half Life 2 reminded me of how much I loved the original. It was the first video game I played that felt like a movie. There were interesting characters and a storyline that really kept you intrigued. Half Life 2 has great level design, but it doesn’t have the intrigue of the first, and the feel that you were working through a real world rather than cool, well designed video game levels.

-Grand Theft Auto 3. You may notice a trend here. I love a game with a huge, unique world to explore. The time period and Godfather theme I thought worked better than the next two games, even though those were also awesome. Again, the ability to do a bunch of different things on every block of this huge landscape allowed you to get lost, even if there wasn’t as much driving the story forward as some of the others.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How about those Bruins?

I don't know about you, but the most satisfying games to me are the ones where the team I'm rooting for doesn't deserve to win, but still pulls it out.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Rampage in UFC

There is apparently a video on Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's website that teases he will be joining UFC in 2006. God I hope so. This guy has incredible potential as a drawing card in the United States, and he has been a personal favorite of mine for a very long time. If they announce he's coming in at UFC 59 in Anaheim, I may abandon all self-respect and jump up and down like a child marking out for Steve Austin. Come to think of it, it may be EXACTLY like that. I went to a house show in January of 1996, when Steve Austin wrestled his first area match for the WWF against Henry Godwinn in like the third match of the night. When they announced him I jumped up and down and cheered with more enthusiasm than for pretty much anyone else on the card save for maybe Shawn Michaels. And I stared around me and looked at all these people who didn't react at all, and thought, "what's wrong with these people?" It may very well be the same reaction for Rampage's first appearance in UFC.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Soriano and the Outfield

This whole Alfonso Soriano/Nationals drama is really unique and odd. I can't think of too many situations like this, and both parties come out of it looking so bad. The Nationals were stupid to trade for a guy who they knew didn't want to play the outfield with the intention of playing him in the outfield. He's a free agent at the end of the season. This is not the formula for a happy player that you can keep in the offseason. And Soriano may come across looking even worse. Just flat out refusing to play a different position for one year? If you think playing the outfield would hurt your value on the free agent market, wait until you see what sitting out a year and refusing to play will do.

Of course it's ultimately MLB's fault. They're the ones that have delayed the sale process of the Nationals forever, principally so they could milk every last penny out of poor residents of the District of Columbia. Bud Selig and his MLB cronies seem so out of touch to me. Just a bunch of greedy, conniving liars and thieves, with no integrity or morals. Give me Bettman, Tagliabue or Stern any day of the week. It's amazing how much goodwill for DC baseball has already been squandered. And the Barry Bonds "investigation" is even worse. As if they didn't know exactly what was going on the whole time.

Raw Report

Date: 03/20/06 from Memphis, TN.

The Big News: Raw was actually a pretty good build for WrestleMania this week, and would have been even better without so much emphasis on a boring, passe Vince McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels feud.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Kane b Carlito Caribbean Cool; Shelton Benjamin b Rob Van Dam and Ric Flair; Victoria b Torrie Wilson; Big Show b Chris Masters-DQ; Triple H & Shane McMahon b Shawn Michaels & John Cena-DQ; Triple H & Shane McMahon NC Shawn Michaels.

Show Analysis:

The show started with a celebration by Vince and Shane McMahon, featuring the Spirit Squad, a band, confetti, balloons and fireworks. Shane and Vince proceeded to run down every angle they have done in the Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels feud, and they predicted Vince would win at WrestleMania. Vince said that Shawn screwed Shawn. Trivia: when Vince McMahon first delivered that line, Anwar Sadat was president of Egypt and Georges St. Pierre was not yet born.

Vince added that his match with Michaels at WrestleMania would be no holds barred, and Shawn Michaels would wrestle HHH on Raw. John Cena came out and said he wanted HHH, so Vince made it a tag match with Cena and Michaels vs. HHH and Shane. Shane didn’t seem happy, although backstage Vince assured HHH and Shane that he would be at ringside to make sure things went properly. This segment dragged badly.

Kane beat Carlito in a passable match. Carlito hit a DDT, but Kane sat up. Kane choked Carlito, but Carlito retaliated with a back cracker. Kane responded with punches and clotheslines. He came off the top, but Carlito caught him with a drop kick. Carlito went for a moonsault off the top, but landed on his feet. Kane caught Carlito with the big boot and went for a choke slam, but Carlito raked his face. Shortly thereafter Carlito used a springboard, but was caught with the choke slam for the pin. Carlito and Chris Masters yelled at each other backstage for unexplained reasons. They announced the Blackjacks in the WWE Hall of Fame, and in running down the Hall of Fame inductions, misspelled Ted DiBiase’s name, which is pretty shameful.

Shelton Benjamin beat Rob Van Dam and Ric Flair in a triple threat match. Mama still hasn’t returned, thank God. Benjamin tried to get RVD and Flair to fight each other, but they went after him. Flair threw chops and RVD kicks. Flair gave Benjamin a knee drop and RVD gave him a leg drop. RVD clotheslined Benjamin to the outside, and gave Flair a drop kick, leg drop and rolling thunder. He hit a somersault plancha on Benjamin and Flair, and in the process Flair and RVD started to bleed. Benjamin hit a butterfly suplex on RVD, and went to the eyes of Flair. Benjamin rammed RVD into the post, and gave Flair a Samoan drop.

RVD came back in with a kick and clotheslines to Benjamin. He hit a Northern lights suplex for a two. RVD kicked Flair in the head repeatedly, and Flair was selling like crazy. RVD gave him rolling thunder, a body slam, and the split legged moonsault, but Flair kicked out. Benjamin brought the title in the ring, but RVD kicked it into him. Flair rolled up RVD for a near fall. RVD came off the top with a kick to Flair, but missed his attempt at the five star frog splash. Flair applied the figure four to RVD, but Benjamin came in and covered Flair while he had it applied for the pin. This was a good match by Raw standards, and it had a very clever finish.

Mick Foley came out and said that Edge was right when he said Foley is like a Muppet, he’s coasting on his reputation, and he has never gotten it done at WrestleMania. But Foley said he couldn’t sleep after being given a concerto, because he realized Edge was right. At that point something changed, and the blood from the thumb tacks tasted different, because he was thirsty for more. He said Edge was speaking the truth, but he has awoken something in Foley and created a monster. He has brought back Cactus Jack. It should be noted he cut this entire promo with the Cactus Jack speech cadence. Edge spoke the truth, but the truth hurts.

Lita came out and said she wanted to speak to the old friendly Foley. She said Edge wants to call off the hardcore match, and just have a regular match at WrestleMania. Foley said this was a set up, and encouraged Lita to slap him a few times. She did, and went for a low blow as Edge ran in through the crowd, but Foley cut her off and applied the mandible claw to her, sans sock. I’m not sure if people bought what Foley said, particularly given he hasn’t gotten into shape yet. But this was a strong intense promo, and was the best build yet for the Edge-Foley match.
Victoria beat Torrie in a quick match. Candice was carried to the ring on a bed like Randy Savage or Haku, and distracted Torrie by throwing pillows at her. Victoria hit the widow’s peak for the pin. Big Show then beat Chris Masters via disqualification. Show hit Masters with chops, but Masters came back with punches and clotheslines. Show responded with a kick and clotheslines, an avalanche into the corner, and a shoulder block. Show threw Masters into the barricade, but missed what I guess you would call an ole kick attempt. Masters then hit him with a chair repeatedly for the DQ. He started to apply the Masterlock, and rammed Show into the ring post.

Mickie James had a big gift box in the ring. She said Trish and her could have been beautiful together, but now she will beat Trish at WrestleMania for the women’s title. Afterwards, she will make all the little girls who idolize her happy, unlike Trish. She unveiled the gift. Sadly, it wasn’t Abdullah the Butcher. Rather, it was Ashley tied up. Trish attacked Mickie and went to untie Ashley, but Mickie jumped Trish from behind. Mickie was bleeding from the nose and hit a high impact DDT. The bleeding Mickie made out with an unconscious Trish, leaving blood on Trish’s lips. She blew a kiss at Trish. The blood totally made this segment, and was a great visual.

The main event began with Shawn Michaels going after Vince McMahon, leaving John Cena and HHH in the ring. Shane McMahon came off the top rope from behind, but Shawn caught him with a punch. Vince ordered Cena disqualified for a closed fist punch, and had him escorted off. This continued the trend of teasing but not delivering HHH vs. John Cena, which I like. Vince announced a handicap match with HHH and Shane vs. Michaels.

Shawn Michaels’ match with HHH and Shane was a no contest. Shane nailed Shawn with punches and kicks, and HHH also added some punches and a spine buster. Shane hit an elbow, and rammed Michaels into the post. Michaels and Shane traded blows, and Shawn hit the flying forearm. He hit inverted atomic drops on HHH and Shane, as well as clotheslines. He gave Shane a body slam and hit the elbow off the top. Shane came back with a low blow, and HHH was setting up for the pedigree when Cena ran in. Shawn got out of the pedigree, and Cena and Michaels fought off security. The McMahons retreated to the entrance, and Vince announced himself vs. John Cena for next week.

Final Thoughts:

After Saturday Night’s Main Event and this edition of Raw, I am finally getting interested in WrestleMania. The problem is they are building around Vince McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels, which is pretty much the same feud Vince McMahon has been involved in over and over again for seven years. It’s unbelievably boring, and it didn’t draw three years ago for a much more marketable Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon match.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Article for the website

Credibility is King

By Todd Martin

Saturday Night’s Main Event was headlined by an exciting brawl between Shawn Michaels and Shane McMahon. It was a good show overall, and the main event was a strong point. It featured an impressive suplex off a ladder in the ring through two tables on the floor and a great call by Jim Ross. However, something about the match seemed off to me. I’m not talking about the finish. While it is passe to book finishes based around Montreal, and sleazy to try to sell PPVs by false advertising Bret Hart, it is smart for business. Rather, the match bothered me for a different reason.

Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels bothered me for the same reason Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon did, or, for that matter, any number of matches that have been booked in recent years featuring Vince McMahon, Vince Russo and other non-wrestlers. Over the past 10 years, it has become acceptable for individuals who are not accepted as wrestlers by the audience to wrestle even matches with those that are. This is part of a larger trend where wrestling promoters and bookers do not put enough emphasis on the credibility of the in-ring product. That is highly problematic.

It also reminded me of a story from J.J. Dillon’s excellent 2005 autobiography. It is a shame that the wrestling book market has become so glutted, because there are some excellent books out there, and they aren’t given enough attention. There have been too many books published simply for a quick buck and to tell a few stories. Some are written essentially as memoirs. However, the best are the ones that are written to communicate a point, and to teach about the business. Those books are the most valuable to a business that has lost touch with its history and foundation, yet fans are much more like to have read Hulk Hogan or Rock’s books than those written by Ole Anderson, Lou Thesz, Jim Wilson or J.J. Dillon.

In the mid-1970s, Dillon was brought into Paul Boesch’s territory in Texas as a manager. Although he had rarely wrestled before the fans in the territory, he was booked in a match with a regular, the late Gino Hernandez. Dillon learned in that match and its aftermath a lesson that WWE could unmistakably learn from a full thirty years later:

“On April 9, 1976, I was booked on a card to wrestle Gino (Hernandez) in a two-out-of-three fall match. I had only worked a few times that year, so I wanted to have a tremendous match with Gino and call upon the skills I had used when I worked with Dick Murdoch and Leo Burke.

We had what I thought was a great match, but when I got to the back, Paul (Boesch) was fuming. In hindsight, I understand the point he made, but I didn’t understand it at the moment.

That was one of the few times in my career when I let my ego get the best of me. I went to the ring that night to show the other boys, and the fans, that I was a quality worker. I felt like a lot of the guys had forgotten that I was a pretty fair worker in my day. It wasn’t something that I dwelled on, but deep down, it really bothered me. I wanted to show everyone that I was a good worker, and it was the wrong thing to do-for the match, for the town, and for my career as a manager.

What I lost track of was the fact that the wrestling fans in Houston didn’t see me as a wrestler. They saw me as a loudmouth, not-so-hot, chickensh- manager. The things that I did in the ring with Gino – high spots, bumps, and timing – were not consistent with the character that I had developed, or what I was portrayed to be.

If I had been the great worker that I thought I was at the time, I would have gone out and worked like a manager. I would have used the skills that I was blessed with in that type of a match. Instead, I went out and let my ego get the best of me. I tried to have a great match and steal the show. It was stupid on my part. As I look back on it now, I can see that it made no sense. Paul Boesch was 100% correct.”

Professional wrestling changes rapidly, and when one closes their mind to what the business is, they quickly lose track of the business they once understood perfectly. Conversely, however, there are universal tenets of professional wrestling that will always be true. WWE has frequently forgotten this, and not paid nearly enough attention to it. Yet, WWE’s product would be so much better if they thought about what Sam Muchnick, Eddie Graham, Bill Watts or Vince McMahon, Sr. would have to say about their programming. They don’t have to look all that far. Jim Cornette, Jim Ross and Paul Heyman are just a phone call away. J.J. Dillon’s realization three decades ago is just as applicable today as it was then. Yet executives like Dillon with wrestling knowledge have been brushed aside for low-grade Hollywood writers.

This point isn’t unique to Dillon, either. Bobby Heenan is probably the greatest wrestling manager of all time. He could also wrestle, but when put into matches, he didn’t show off all the moves he could do. Rather, he took tons of bumps and sold how overmatched he was. He did this whether he was wrestling headliners like Dick the Bruiser and the Crusher, or mid-carders like the Red Rooster. He could have very entertaining matches without putting himself forward as a physical equal of his opponent.

One could justify or attempt to minimize this problem by saying that it only hurts the individual program. However, I believe it has larger repercussions for the entire card. The national audience saw the slightly pudgy son of the boss, who hasn’t wrestled in two years, wrestle an even match with a wrestler who headlined WrestleMania two years ago. The lesser evil is fans simply concluding that Shawn Michaels isn’t that good. The greater and more likely danger is a further erosion of the credibility of matches, and thus the significance of finishes.

The development of cognitive psychology over the past thirty years has taught us that mental processes are highly complex, and frequently driven by implicit assumptions and reasoning rather than by explicit decision-making. Most wrestling fans have known the business is a work for decades. Wrestling promoters years ago were afraid of the business being exposed, because they felt fans would stop watching. That fear proved to be completely unfounded.

John Stossel didn’t kill the business. Neither did Satoru Sayama. However, that doesn’t mean that credibility doesn’t matter. Fans simply have to suspend belief and become absorbed in the show every week. When they see Ashley Massaro pretending to have a wrestling match, they may not turn off the television and leave the room. However, their brain is drawing conclusions about what they are seeing.

The lesson for the audience is clear. This stuff doesn’t matter. It’s all a joke. Match results don’t matter, because the promotion will haphazardly put over whoever it feels like putting over, with no semblance of a meritocracy. When that happens in one match, it detracts from all the other matches, and over time, it decreases interest. There isn’t a single person that goes to a PWG show thinking it’s a shoot. But when Super Dragon and Davey Richards are having a match, the crowd believes. That’s the appeal of Samoa Joe, and that’s what old time wrestlers are talking about when they say that audience members told them everything else on the card was fake but their stuff was real.

When a movie-goer watches special effects and says they look fake, it doesn’t mean they are too stupid to realize that better looking special effects are also not real. It simply means that they want to be able to believe. The CGI werewolf that looks like an obvious animation takes away from the dramatic arc, because you can’t even pretend the protagonist is in danger. That protagonist can sell like crazy for the CGI werewolf, but it won’t matter because the audience doesn’t buy the werewolf’s offense. It sounds silly to apply this to wrestling, but it’s exactly the same. When the top faces are selling like crazy for heels that have no credibility with the audience, it makes the peril of the face seem less real.

When wrestling fans have it rubbed in their faces that the product is a work, the likely reaction isn’t that they will instantaneously give up on the product. So, what is their reaction? They withdraw. They put less of an emotional investment in the results of matches. Over time, they care less and less until they give up. Killing off your credibility breeds apathy, not anger. The millions of viewers that watched WWE five years ago and didn’t watch on Saturday were not skipping the show out of spite. The dangers of apathy may not be as immediate, but as five years of steady business decline can attest to, they are very real.


Hardcore Portman

Maybe everyone has already seen this, but if you haven't, here's a link to Natalie Portman rapping.

Is this a rhetorical question?

Easy answer: no.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cuba on a Roll

I think it's hilarious that Cuba has defeated Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and now is going to the finals of the WBC. One would figure Bud Selig is humiliated by the whole thing, with the major league players getting beaten by non-major leaguers, and from an unfriendly country to boot. And the fans in the US were even behind Cuba! The whole thing is just delicious. Good for them.

UCLA in Sweet Sixteen

That game against Alabama was probably closer than it should have been. The offense looked really bad, as they basically just passed it around the perimeter. Hopefully that won't be a harbinger of things to come. Of course, if they did a better job shooting free throws it probably would have been a moot point anyway.

Jim Ross

Jim Ross was on tonight. Saturday Night's Main Event left me really wanting to see him return full time. He even called the Van Terminator, which had to be something of a shot at Joey Styles' unwillingness to do so on Raw. Overall, Saturday Night's Main Event was a strong show. Nice of them to tease Bret Hart at the end.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jackass of the Year (thus far) goes to....

Annie Proulx, for her bitter, pathetic, whining, off-based and delusional rant about Brokeback Mountain not getting Best Picture that you can read here. It was one of those times where you read something by someone that reflects so unbelievably poorly on them that you lose all respect for them on any level. She starts off by asserting that the Independent Spirit awards are the only place to go for "smart judging based on merit." She decries the academy voters as "conservative heffalump" voters, which is ridiculous given that it's a very liberal group by and large, and the winner of the award was a very strong critique of racism among the citizens of the very city that the voters mostly live in. She says all the academy voters live in gated communities and are out of touch with reality. That's an opinion a lot of people have, and I can see the merit of that, except Brokeback Mountain was hardly the "movie of the people." It got advance buzz months and months in advance and was groomed for best picture by the closed off people from the very beginning, while it was Crash that became a surprise box office smash and rode its much more legitimate underdog status and greater popularity to an award. Who is out of touch here? Particularly given the whole stereotype of the closed-off out-of-touch voter is just how delusional and self-important they are, which fits Proulx to a t. She continues that they are "out of touch with their own segregated city," another odd claim given they gave an award to the film that was basically making that statement. She further belittles the film as "Trash," resorting to blatant name-calling. She continues by saying next year we can look at controversial themes such as "the punishment of adulterers"..."runaway slaves" and "the debate over free silver." This is perhaps the most insidious of her claims. Essentially she's saying that racism is yesterday's news, not a reality any more, and that homophobia is the only current issue of discrimination. As if. It's the ultimate prioritizing of discrimination, an endeavor that is completely counterproductive to people who truly care about progress. She continues by mocking everyone drinking their champagne and dresses. If you hate that culture so much, Annie, why did you even show up? There have been plenty of people that have avoided the Academy Awards for those reasons. You were happy to show, and then mocked everyone on the way out because you didn't get your way. She criticizes the "insufferable self-importance," further demonstrating an incredible hypocrisy and nerve. That's exactly your problem! She calls the LA crowd "dim," continuing the theme of just blatant name-calling. And then transitions that into a bitter recap of the night from what comes across as a girl in fourth grade angry that she lost the election for vice president of her class and lashing out at everyone for it.

The irony of the whole thing, is that Brokeback's taking on of homophobia gave it an advantage, not a disadvantage. If that movie was a heterosexual romance, I don't think it would have gotten a nomination. The story just wasn't crafted well enough, or sufficiently emotionally poignant. It was a good film, but definitely not the best of the year. Crash was a better crafted film, putting aside politics and "messages." And ultimately that's what should be rewarded when giving out awards for films. They should be films first and statements second. The voters got it right not because they can't go out on a limb when it comes to homosexuality, but because they voted for the better film. And any possible sentiment against the decision will likely quickly evaporate with members of the loser presenting themselves in a way they ought to be ashamed of.

Hooray for me!

I found out today I was awarded Distinguished Delegate for moot court (along with a nice plaque), which means I was one of the top 10 performers overall in the fall and spring competitions. The real upside of the deal is that it means I get to participate in external competitions next year (national, etc.), which I really wanted to do. I did a lot of traveling around to debate tournaments at college, and I miss that. Should be fun.

Crazy NFL Offseason

It's been really interesting to watch just how fast the NFL offseason has gone. It's like the teams pick which free agent or two they are interested in, throw a ton of money at them, and the player quickly accepts. Here are some thoughts on the offseason.

My favorite signing is the Lions' acquisition of Jon Kitna. This guy is a really good QB. He was one of the best QBs in the NFL just a couple years ago and is relatively young. He was artificially devalued simply by the fact that he wasn't starting the last couple years. I'm not sure I'd rather have him than Drew Brees, and they are being paid wildly different amounts. He also is a great fit for Detroit. He won't cause problems if Joey Harrington isn't able to step up, but he has the potential to run with the ball if he is given it. Very smart move.

I also love the Dolphins' acquisition of Daunte Culpepper. I have no idea why he wasn't able to garner more interest on the market. There are only so many top level QBs in the game, and I tend to think Culpepper is one of them. Unquestionably he benefited from having Randy Moss. But has he gone down in value so much the past year? He would have fetched a king's ransom at this time last year. You don't just give away talent like this. It also accentuates how much value teams place in draft picks, which makes the Redskins' throwing around of the picks like party confetti to look all the dumber.

I would have been surprised if the Eagles worked out a trade for T.O. I tend to be in the "he's not worth the trouble" camp, so I hope he does sign with the Cowboys. It was just a few years ago they dumped off Antonio Bryant in spite of his talent for the underwhelming Quincy Morgan. Obviously Owens is a greater talent, but he'll cause problems no matter what Parcells and Jerry Jones think.

The Cardinals have had a great offseason, with Edgerrin James and the underrated Kendrick Clancy. On paper they have all the talent they need to compete, and I like Dennis Green as a coach, but ultimately, they still are the Cardinals, so I expect something to go wrong. The easy favorite for the source of that is of course Kurt Warner.

I'm not sure any center is worth what the Browns gave LeCharles Bentley. It seems to me one of the most ineffectual positions on the football field. Yeah you can direct the line, but you're not in about as weak of a position as anyone to set up plays on your own, so you can't make a difference. And I've never card much for Joe Jurevicius, so I'm not a fan of the Browns offseason.

The Redskins, of course, made their usual bold moves. I'm excited about the season because of Saunders, Williams and Gibbs, but I don't think they improved all that much given the amount of money they spent. I'm torn on what to think about Sean Taylor's legal predicament. I tend to not like to see anyone have their life ruined, even if they have done something very wrong. And he is an explosive player. But he seems like a real lowlife, and I half hope he does end up in jail.

I'm not sold on the Broncos throwing a lot of money at Gerard Warren and Courtney Brown. These guys have been underachievers their entire careers, and them having better seasons in their contract year raises a serious red flag. That phenomenon isn't as pronounced as in MLB, but particularly for a DT, you need to have motivation. They could very well go right back to being busts now that they have fat contracts.

It was interesting to see the Rams throw as much money as they did at Isaac Bruce. Obviously they think he has more left in the gas tank than I do. They are in a better position to know, but we will see if they are right.

I like the Drew Brees signing from the Saints' perspective but not Brees'. He played himself. He could have ended up in a great position in Miami and instead he's stuck in an awful one in New Orleans. That team isn't going to be very good, and I think it's going to take a hit on his reputation. I think the Chargers would have been better off keeping him over Rivers, but given the problems he will have with the Saints, I doubt anyone will be making that argument.

I love the Panthers' signing of Maake Kemoeatu. I think this could have a similar effect that the Rod Coleman signing had on the Falcons defense. If Kris Jenkins is healthy, the Panthers' D could be amazing. I think they're a legit Super Bowl contender, and would be one even more so if they decided against re-signing DeShaun Foster and instead picked up a FA or drafted someone with a better probability of staying healthy.

My Final Four

UConn, Duke, UCLA, BC. We'll see how those turn out. What's interesting about this tournament in my opinion is the depth. There are few teams that stand out above all others, and a lot of the 2 and 3 seeds are hard to distinguish from the 4s and 5s. I tend to think there will be less upsets early, and more upsets later. But as far as predictions go, college basketball is not my forte, and that is an incredible understatement.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I got an e-mail this morning from someone that made a lot of points that I hear when I am taken to task for my criticism of Raw. Since I addressed many of the common points, I figured I would share my response here. Everything below is my response, and I included in quotes the original e-mail I am responding to in its entirety.

I appreciate the thought put into your e-mail, but I think you get it wrong on a ton of counts. As one sort of larger level thing before I address your individual points, it's bad logic to just lump a group of people into one mindset, like everyone on the internet criticizing WWE has the same opinion. There are common opinions I agree with and common opinions I don't agree with. Of course feel free to criticize me for opinions I state. But it's wrong to criticize me for surmised opinions I have never stated.

"Dude, you need to settle down, ITS WRESTLING. I thought Shawn throwing piss on Vince and Shane and the whole drug test in the ring was funny."

Yes, it's wrestling. Wrestling can be good or can be bad. If throwing pee on someone is your type of humor, fine. I think it's lame, and particularly lame for a headlining program, not to mention the other problems I mentioned. "It's wrestling" is an unbelievably weak argument though, because it can be used to justify absolutely anything.

"Here's my question to you, why are they so"incompetent?" Hasn't WWE's business been on a slight upswing over the past 5 months?"

I go over it every week. Long and short of it is that they push all the wrong guys, they book the programs all wrong, they bury guys who have potential, they have no long term planning and they don't run with guys who have the potential. WWE's business has been on the upswing, but that is 100 percent due to international business. The domestic business continues to collapse to all time lows. All the indicators are in decline, it's just that they have found new revenue streams. That isn't a signal of a good product. There was also a slight business increase when Edge was made champion that tailed off after they took the belt off him because HHH needs to get his title back.

"As someone who watched wrestling all the time from around1990-2002, and watched far less from 2003-2004, I can say I've enjoyed WWE's product over the past year to the point where I look forward to watching it again on Monday's. I find Smackdown boring and rarely watch, but Raw is usually interesting/funny enough to keep me tuning in each week."

To each their own. I actually do enjoy Raw a lot recently, but for all the wrong reasons. But let me tell you, I get a shocking lack of e-mail defending the product when I defend it. I think fans enjoying the show for the most part are in the distinct minority. Doesn't make them wrong, by the way.

"push Shelton Benjamin more"


"push Rob Van Dam"


"treat Flair like god"

No. He's too old.

"have more Cruiserweight matches"

Maybe. "Cruiserweight" has a stigma, so I don't think I would advertise "cruiserweight" matches. As far as pushing smaller wrestlers, it depends if they have talent. I would push people based on talent (charisma, wrestling ability, marketability, freshness). If those guys happen to be smaller, fine.

"less "comedy,""

Comedy is fine. It just has to be good comedy.

"longer matches"

Maybe, maybe not. They need to have people that can wrestle. The length of matches isn't the problem so much as the wrestling they have is mostly bad.

"never change the titles"

I think WWE does a good job with that, actually. They have just about the right amount of title changes.

"and never have a gimmick match unless you spend 6 monthsbuilding towards it"

Now that's silly. You don't need to be *that* cautious about those things, but certainly don't announce cage matches 30 minutes in advance as a middle of the show gimmick!

"Those ideas sound good on the surfaceand I agree with a few of them (Shelton, RVD, Cruiserweights), but you haveto remember that WWE is producing a TV show each week that has to keepviewers interested and not flip the channel."

How am I possibly forgetting this? The point is specifically that they should be doing stuff that will keep viewers interested. Like book long term storylines that make people tune in week after week to see where they are going. Keep undercard guys strong so fans will be waiting to see them rise up the card. Book people on top that they care about rather than the McMahons and their family and friends. Of course building an audience is the goal. And WWE is failing miserably given business has been in a steady decline for 5 years.

"They have to switch titles, have gimmick matches, do ridiculous stunts like throwing urine on each otherto keep their fans interested."

As far as switching titles and gimmick matches, it's always a balance. Of course you do those to gain interest. But you do it too much and it is meaningless. It's just finding the proper balancing point. I think WWE for the most part does a good job on both ends. The cage match Monday to me was bad, but not necessarily part of a longer trend. As far as ridiculous stunts, I couldn't disagree more. Sam Mushnick didn't need to use urine to sell angles. Paco Alonso doesn't. Inoki and Baba didn't. Vince Sr. didn't. Barnett didn't. That type of crap is stupid in any context and is completely unnecessary.

"In your world I'm sure Shelton Benjamin wouldwrestle a 20 minute match every week"

That would get monotonous.

"and his "mama" would be not be aroundbecause that will "prevent him from ever being a top draw."

Ding ding ding.

"But in your world Raw would be doing a 2.5 every week."

I thought WWE was fantastic in 1999-2001, and business was a lot better! Bring back that stuff, and bring back the 6's! I'm not anti-WWE. I'm anti-crap. Get rid of the crap and the ratings will go back to those levels. It was the departure from basic logic in booking that led to the decline. I'm not asking for some bizarre alternative universe. We have a model that I think is pretty damn good and WWE was using during its point of greatest success. Use that.

"It's always funny how all you Internet know-it alls"

Yes, because EVERYONE on the internet has the SAME opinion.

"always love to say how a wrestler like Shelton who has a comedy gimmick will never be able to "be a top draw"in the future because of it. Interesting, because many of the WWE's top draws (Rock, Austin, Jericho, Vince, Angle etc, even Taker around 1999) over the past 8 years have played ridiculous over-the top characters with a comedic edge to them at one time or another. "

Give me a break. None of those guys have had such a one-note undercard comedy gimmick, which is the reason they got over. Can you imagine Austin's matches being built around his mother? Or a recurring character of Rock's mother, who chastises him and the heels call him a mama's boy? Can you imagine Rock getting over with THAT gimmick? Can you imagine ANYONE getting over with that gimmick? And Angle's ridiculous comedy was what kept him from getting over to the next level. What you say is right. A *comedic edge* can be great. Absolutely. There's a difference between a comedic edge and being a one-note joke. Shelton doesn't have a comedic edge. He's just saddled with a one-note lame gimmick.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Raw Report - See if you can catch all the obscure jokes

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/13/06 from Beaumont, TX.

The Big News: If you’re into toilet humor, you’re in the right place.

Title Changes/Turns: Mickie James is set to turn heel Saturday Night.

Match Results: Trish Stratus b Victoria; Edge b Goldust; Cage Match: Kenny Doane, Johnny Jeter, Mikey Mondo & Nicky Nemeth b Shawn Michaels; Shelton Benjamin b Rob Van Dam; John Cena, Big Show & Kane b Triple H, Chris Masters & Carlito Caribbean Cool-DQ.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and a doctor. Vince bragged about last week. He said after the match Shawn Michaels was disoriented and slurring his words, so Shawn must have been on drugs. He said Shawn would have to submit to a public urination test. They had curtains set up for Shawn, and it didn’t appear there was any room for Howard Finkel to hide in there. Vince said there could be no other explanation for Shawn’s behavior, and Shane called Shawn a liar, hypocrite and junkie. This was so incredibly illogical given Shawn was drugged on national television last week. They can’t even play the Russo game where the cameras are invisible, because the announcers acknowledged it as well.

Shawn came out anyway, and went into the booth for observed urination by the doctor. You knew something was up when rather than filling a small vial, Shawn supposedly urinated into a gigantic measuring cup which he filled up like he was Andre the Giant. He still ain’t got shit on Tim Sylvia. Vince sarcastically implored kids not to use drugs while Shawn did this. After Shawn filled up the cup like a good horse, the doctor proceeded to stick an apparatus in the “urine” and stare at it, as if it would turn blue or red like a pregnancy test. This was one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments in wrestling in a while.

After Vince and Shane continued to berate Shawn, Shawn said it is better to be pissed off than pissed on, and proceeded to hurl the “urine” at the McMahons. Jerry Lawler suggested after the break (no doubt at the behest of McMahon, who has an unexplainable fascination with toilet humor) that this was one of the “greatest moments in the history of Raw.” Yeah, and Bush is one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States. A furious Vince backstage made Shawn Michaels vs. the Spirit Squad in a Texas Tornado steel cage match. Now that is straight out of the Vince Russo playbook. Kill off stipulations by booking them in completely forgettable and irrelevant matches. Maybe Carlito can wrestle Rob Van Dam in a Hell in a Cell barbed wire match next week.

Let’s see. This segment saw Vince McMahon make light of very serious problems that have led to the premature deaths of many of his performers. It saw him further make drug testing seem like a joke just two weeks after they announced a drug testing policy. As if that weren’t enough, the segment made absolutely no logical sense and went on forever. And the payoff was urine dousing being used to get heat for a wrestling match. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a candidate for worst Raw opening in history.

Trish Stratus beat Victoria in a really good brief match. It is so nice to see WWE women’s matches with women that can actually wrestle, and Trish in particular seemed motivated to do something with the opportunity. She hit the Charlie Thesz press, but Victoria threw her off and they traded strikes. Victoria used the firewoman carry into a spinning side slam. Victoria twice applied the hangwoman by Trish’s hair. Trish came back with the spinning head scissors and the women hit simultaneous clotheslines.

They traded punches, and Trish went for the top rope reverse huracanrana. Victoria stopped that, but was caught with the whirly bird and the spine buster for a near fall. Trish went for the Stratusfaction but Candice distracted her. Victoria set up for the Widow’s Peak, but Torrie ran in with the XX-Factor (no typo there). Trish hit the chick kick for the pin. Victoria wanted to say something after the match but the mic wouldn’t work and they immediately cut to a commercial. Conspiracy! She was going to pull a Koji Kitao! Scandal!

Err, maybe not. After the break it was revealed that Victoria simply wanted to promise vengeance. Cowboy Troy then came out. I thought for a second it was D’Lo Brown doing a Trevor Murdoch impression. I swear to God. I was wondering what led to them making amends with him, and who would team with Taiyo Kea. Anyway, this guy came down to commentate, and they put him over like he was William Shatner. They aired a faux preview package, labeling Mick Foley overrated and showing him getting beat up at WrestleMania.

Edge beat Goldust. Goldust didn’t get an introduction, which is weird given his entrance is pretty much all he has going for him in 2006. This match was an excuse for the black Bill Watts to advertise something. I kind of tuned him out, but I think he was talking about who Jerry Jones is going to sign this offseason. It’s like they’re back on the Nashville Network again. Goldust hit an inverted atomic drop, a clothesline and punches. He set up shattered dreams but was distracted like an idiot by Lita and Edge hit the spear for the pin. They aired another trailer after the match, this time extolling the virtues of Edge. Edge said Foley would be his guest on a Saturday Night’s Main Event Cutting Edge.

Trish and Maria backstage did a vignette designed simply to plug a workout machine. This was as subtle as those Ultimate Fighter Xyience ads. “Yes, let us all drink Xyience. Xyience for all. We love Xyience.” Afterwards, Trish stumbled upon Torrie Wilson laid out with a Candice Michelle Playboy cover on top of her. They announced Ted DiBiase will induct Sherri Martel at WrestleMania. Nice call, John. The new inductee is Verne Gagne, which is quite the interesting inductee. And he apparently will be there. This induction ceremony just gets better. It is very interesting that they would want to “save” Dusty Rhodes for next year, but Verne Gagne is acceptable as a kind of afterthought this year. Greg will induct him. Thank God Verne hasn’t been brought onto the booking team, or Greg would probably be wrestling on Raw.

John Cena and Jesus did a contract signing. Jesus loves those contract signings. Jesus played the calm, cocky heel while Cena was angry with something to prove. Those roles would be fine, except for the fact Cena is already the champion, and he’s going to lose. Jesus sarcastically put over Cena getting up Big Show for the FU. He said his strength won’t help one bit at WrestleMania. He said the contract signing, Cena’s stare and the match are all just formalities before Jesus gets his belt back. Geez, next week he’ll flat out say John Cena can’t wrestle. Oh wait.

The crowd chanted for Cena, and Jesus laughed and mockingly said that wouldn’t help either. After Cena signed, Jesus said he didn’t need to turn over the table and attack Cena with a sledge hammer, because he doesn’t need any advantages to beat Cena. Cena threatened to shove the hammer up Jesus’ ass when Kane and Big Show came to the ring. Jesus went under the table and did have a sledgehammer. As Kane and Show were coming to the ring, Masters and Carlito jumped them from behind and they did a pull apart. Vince made a six man tag for later in the show.

Jesus continues to bury Cena underground. The sad thing is that as much damage as this feud is doing to Cena, it also hurts the significance of Jesus’ title win when he figuratively castrates the guy he will beat before the match. One fun thing to see will be how long Jesus has a new belt after his win. Edge had to wear Cena’s belt for a number of weeks, but I am betting Jesus will have a new belt the very next night on Raw after WrestleMania.

The Spirit Squad beat Shawn Michaels in the cage match. Michaels tried to fight off the Squad as they climbed into the ring, which was a cool visual. They ended up beating him down, throwing him into the cage, and they did a couple spots where they set up a pyramid for a running elbow into the corner. It was cool, but not as cool as the trampoline. Bring back the trampoline! Anyway, they missed the second of those, and Michaels destroyed them all. Kenny missed the leg drop off the top rope and Michaels just beat one after the other with inverted atomic drops, punches, DDTs and slams. He hit the elbow off the top.

Michaels was going to leave, but Mitch tried to stop him. He used the cage door to knock Mitch out of the way, but Shane slammed the cage door on Michaels’ head and put one of the Squad on top of Michaels for the pin. The cage door slam finish is so overdone that it is for me a parody comedy spot. Just in case you had any doubt, this match made it clear for you slow folks: Spirit Squad are jobbers. Shane pranced around, threw Michaels into the cage, and bloodied Michaels. He hit the Van Terminator into a trash can. I was wondering if Styles would call it that. Not only did he not do so, but he said he had never seen that move live before. I would love to hear ECW Joey Styles cut a promo on WWE Joey Styles.

Trish backstage was interviewed and said Torrie suffered a concussion and can’t wrestle at Saturday Night’s Main Event against Candice Michelle and Victoria. Mickie James asked to be her partner and said it would be the last time and then they will go their separate ways. Mickie flashed an evil smile afterwards that the announcers no sold. So it looks like Mickie knocked out Torrie, framed Candice and Victoria, will turn on Trish Saturday, and wrestle her at Mania. I really like that angle, and I hope they don’t drop it or do it differently just because the direction is obvious. Obvious is frequently good in wrestling.

They hyped JBL-Steve Austin for Saturday Night’s Main Event, and Coach delivered his best line ever. He said JBL would take Austin to “school. Beer drinking school, that is.” I would comment on the dean of said school, but I’ve taken enough unwarranted cheap shots this report. Elsewhere, Vince said Jim Ross would commentate at Saturday Night’s Main Event. They didn’t really explain why, but I guess the story is Vince wants him to call Michaels’ humiliation. Shane threatened to leave Ross bloody just like Michaels.

Shelton Benjamin beat Rob Van Dam. This featured a rare moment of me marking out. It came when Benjamin announced Mama wouldn’t be there. He said she was undergoing heart surgery. I cheered. Ric Flair was doing commentary, and Benjamin said he holds Flair responsible. Benjamin and RVD did some chain wrestling Benjamin tripped RVD, and used a scoop slam. RVD hit a kick to the head, a slam, an arm drag and a drop kick. Benjamin came back with a kick and suplex off the tope rope.

Benjamin worked over RVD for a while, before missing a drop kick. RVD came back with clotheslines and kicks. He hit a splash and went for a monkey flip, but Benjamin landed on his feet. RVD hit a windmill kick and a side kick off the top rope to send Benjamin to the floor. He hit a pescado. Benjamin grabbed the title and was going to hit RVD with it, but Flair pulled it away. RVD came from behind but hit Flair, and Benjamin rolled up RVD and grabbed the ropes for the pin. Flair and RVD argued after the match. This match was a disappointment, unfortunately.

Big Show, Kane and John Cena beat Chris Masters, Carlito and Jesus via DQ in a 6 man tag. Show hit chops and a head butt on Carlito to start the match. Kane came in with a big boot and side slam. Carlito went to the eyes and tagged Jesus, but when Cena tagged himself in, Jesus tagged back in Carlito. Cena cleaned house on Cena and Masters, but was distracted and Masters jumped him from behind. Carlito hit a suplex and tagged Masters. Masters hit a suplex and tagged back Carlito, who hit an elbow drop, as well as stomps and punches.

Cena made an abrupt tag to Show, who came in with clotheslines. He hit a power slam on Carlito, and Kane hit a clothesline off the top on Masters and sent him to the outside. Show hit a press slam on Jesus and Show and Kane went for the double choke slam, but Masters and Carlito came in with chairs for a DQ. Cena and Jesus were left in the ring. Cena wanted to fight, and Jesus was getting into the ring when Orton ran in and hit an RKO on Cena to end the show. I like the delayed confrontation angle. It makes the eventual confrontation feel more important.

Final Thoughts:

This show was a real blast. Granted, much of the fun was laughing at the promotion, but oh man were there laughs to be had at their expense this week. It even had some good stuff mixed in with the bewildering incompetence. Bravo!

Brief Interview with Me

Sunday, March 12, 2006

UCLA Gets #2 Seed

The Bruins got a nice slot for the tournament, with a 2 seed and an unintimidating bracket. I'm not sure they deserved to be that high, but they are certainly healthy and clicking at the right time. Sweet Sixteen looks like a good bet, and with their tough D, they might go farther than that. I really like this team, with the core of Farmar, Afflalo, and Mbah a Moute reunited with the now healthy Bozeman and the emerging Ryan Hollins. I'm excited about their chances.

Redskins and Draft Picks

Another year, another set of wasted draft picks. The Redskins have their strengths and weaknesses as an organization under Dan Snyder. I think on balance they are poorly run given the amount of money they have to spend, and how well they could do if they used it more wisely. The one thing that drives me nuts is the way they blow draft picks. It's like they don't even care about the things, when they are the easiest way to get cheap players in their prime on your team. Almost all of their starters are former 1st or 2nd round picks, it's just that they choose to sign them when they become free agents and cost more. If they didn't constantly blow them they would be able to get them when they don't cost so much, and they would have some depth. The Redskins have an amazing lack of depth for 2006. They have pretty much one player that could play at each position. And they continue to throw picks away that could rectify the situation in the future. The most recent example was the trade for Brandon Lloyd. Yesterday a ton of NFL teams signed players. Lots of team got quality players at needed positions. Lloyd wasn't any better than most of them, and yet the Redskins are the only team that had to give away picks to get him. A 3rd rounder and a 4th rounder. It's not like Lloyd is that good of a player, and he's a head case to boot. I don't mind acquiring him, but I wish they exercised a little prudence with their higher picks. They threw away a third last year and a first this year to draft Jason Campbell (a 2nd round talent at best who they didn't need), threw away a 2nd last year in the Champ-Portis deal which should have been straight up, and the trend continues. Compounding the problem is with so few high picks, they almost always draft for need rather than talent, and thus rarely get value. Sigh. It's frustrating, because being more careful with their drafting would give them so much more flexibility in free agency and make them a much better team.

PWG Top Wrestlers

I stumbled upon a thread on this at the PWG message board and figured I would post my response here for those interested. To create some sort of criterion for who to consider, I decided to consider only guys who have participated in at least 5 of the last 10 SoCal PWG shows. The most notable wrestlers that eliminates are Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, Claudio Castagnoli, Roderick Strong, Colt Cabana, Alex Shelley, Jimmy Yang, A.J. Styles, Los Luchas, Rocky Romero, Petey Williams and Jack Evans. Danielson is one of my favorite wrestlers, and Castagnoli, Shelley and Evans have done particularly well in PWG, so those are the guys I would likely rank if they were performing here more often. Of the remaining 22, here would be my list:

1. Super Dragon. He’s been the top pick of everyone when you take out the guys who work in PWG less frequently. I might rank him above those guys even if they were in, however. He tears down the house pretty much every match. The people who have closed their minds on this guy are really missing out.

2. Davey Richards. As others have said, it’s just a matter of time before he becomes well known across the country. He’s better than most of the ROH and TNA rosters in my opinion. Just a really solid wrestler in every way. I’ve been digging his stuff since the first time I saw him on the first or second match of the show. I couldn’t understand when first viewing the PWG product why he wasn’t higher on the card, but now he is. I was looking forward to a feud between him and Super Dragon, but now I’m kind of in favor of keeping them together all year and seeing just how important they can make the tag titles feel.

3. Chris Sabin. I am distinctly in the pro-Sabin camp. He works really hard in PWG, and I’m glad to see he’s been made pretty much a regular. His matches with B-Boy and Shelley recently have been highlights of the cards. I think he gets more crap than he deserves just because people think he looks like a pretty boy. Honestly, I think otherwise he would get a lot more love. He doesn’t have to work as hard as he does, but he does it anyway. I don’t think he’s spotty either. He’s a good technical wrestler and a good flyer.

4. Kevin Steen. Steen hasn’t been as good to me since he lost the title (or maybe Guerrilla Warfare is the better point of reference), but thankfully he’s back to being a prick and he almost always has good matches. I would like to see him put in some sort of major feud, because the Super Dragon feud really gave him focus and intensity.

5. Chris Hero. Hero could be used more prominently by PWG. They have frequently brought him in for midcard matches, when I think we would really see the best out of him in matches that are more of a focus. Perhaps we will see more of that in the future following the recent tag title match main event.

6. B-Boy. I’ve really enjoyed B-Boy’s work since he became a regular again in PWG. His offense is a lot of fun to watch, and he’s well suited for PWG. I would love to see B-Boy and Homicide challenge Dragon and Richards for the tag titles.

7. El Generico. I really like Generico, but I’m not sure I think as highly of him as others here. He’s a great comedy figure and is really good as an underdog babyface. That’s his niche, but the quality of his opponents makes a big difference in how good his matches are.

8. Scott Lost. Lost is very solid. He rarely does anything spectacular, but his matches are usually pretty good. A negative on him is that it frequently feels he is mimicking other wrestlers. Everyone borrows, but Lost feels like a collection of spots and attributes of other wrestlers. Still, I think he is one feud or gimmick away from really taking off.

9. Scorpio Sky. Sky is becoming more complete over time. He’s got really good natural heel charisma and I think he might take off in that role. The blow-off to his feud with Lost went really well, and I think the decision to make him a single was a good one.

10. Christopher Daniels. He just barely makes the list. At first I was going to leave him off because he doesn’t go all the way in PWG (although I, like others here, don’t fault him for that, and completely understand), but even at 60-75 percent Daniels is still really good. He’s just so crisp and fun to watch in the ring. The tag title match on the next show (if it actually happens) will be a real test for him. Dragon and Richards don’t have matches that are just “there” so Daniels will need to step it up.

Honorable Mention: Frankie Kazarian, Human Tornado. Kazarian can be very good when he wants to be, and I think the biggest issue with him is motivation. He seemed very motivated at the last show, and he has all the ability you could want. Tornado is fun. He’s my favorite “character” on PWG shows, and I miss his pairing with El Generico.

Others: Nemesis, Disco Machine, Excalibur, Chris Bosh, Top Gun Talwar, T.J. Perkins, Quicksilver, Ronin, Alex Koslov, Joey Ryan.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

UFC 60

Well, I'm not going. Too expensive. The lower bowl is $600-$1000, club is $400, and upper deck is $200/$100. I couldn't even find any $50 tickets. It's just not worth paying those prices for the value provided. It will be interesting to see if they can sell out Staples, given I surely can't be the only person averse to those prices, and I'm about as into UFC as you can possibly get.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It Just Gets Worse for Cena

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

So Barry Bonds is on Steroids

Big surprise. I love it how this is such a huge story, as if it wasn't completely obvious to anyone with half a clue years ago. There seem to be two primary reactions: 1) We should withhold judgment until there is some kind of further evidence. This stems from the unbelievably irritating public misconception that because you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, that principle should somehow apply a reasonable doubt standard to the court of public opinion. Of course we can judge situations without a criminal prosecution. That's called human reasoning. The people who still want to give Barry the benefit of the doubt are even dumber than the people who did before. 2) This is an abomination and Bonds should be banned from the game, banned from the HOF, and banned from everything forever. This perspective is even more annoying to me. To begin with, I don't think it's that big of a deal, because everyone in this generation is doing all they can for performance, and the line between good, clean living and evil drug cheating isn't some bright line that everyone can see and everyone knows when they are crossing. More aggravating is that people still haven't figured out that this isn't an issue of exceptional athletes who cheated. This whole generation is just riddled with performance enhancing drugs. Baseball turned a blind eye to it, so why should the players bear all the blame? It just became accepted. Unless you want to throw out three quarters of the major candidates for the HOF in this generation, it makes no sense to single out Bonds just like it made no sense to single out McGwire before. It's just a reality of this generation. So whatever. I don't have some brilliant approach to the problem. I just think the overblown reactions are tiresome. It is what it is.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Raw Report

WWE Raw Report

By: Todd Martin

Date: 03/06/06 from Birmingham, AL.

The Big News: Georges St. Pierre beat B.J. Penn. Whoops. Wrong show.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Ric Flair b Shelton Benjamin-DQ; Triple H b Kane; Shane McMahon b Shawn Michaels; Vince McMahon b Shawn Michaels; Kenny Doane b Eugene Dinsmore; Lita b Maria; John Cena b Big Show.

Show Analysis:

Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and security came out to start the show. Vince said the Oscars were all about kissing ass, but that paled in comparison to Shawn Michaels kissing his ass. He then gave an acceptance speech of sorts, thanking the people that made that possible. Included in the thanks was Chris Masters, and Vince named Masters and Carlito the challengers for Big Show and Kane’s tag titles at WrestleMania. He thanked Marty Jannetty and said that he would never be in a WWE ring ever again.

They showed Vince on the cover of Muscle and Fitness. I wonder if he talks about the drug testing policy in that. He said Shawn has no chance in hell. Shawn’s music played, and like idiots, every single security person and Shane walked up towards the ramp rather than just continuing to surround Vince. Of course, Shawn came from behind and attacked Vince before security grabbed him. Vince said Shawn would face Shane later on Raw. Shane acted like he was concerned, but that was a swerve, because everything in WWE is a swerve.

Ric Flair beat Shelton Benjamin via disqualification. Benjamin hit a suplex, but Flair came back with chops and punches. Benjamin thumbed the referee in the eye going after Flair, and Flair applied the figure four. Benjamin tapped out and the referee signaled for the bell. The announcers teased a title change, but it was a swerve, since everything in WWE is a swerve. The crowd didn’t react anyway, which made this about the most ineffectual Dusty finish ever. Flair attacked Benjamin with the oxygen tank after the match. Raw next week will apparently have Cowboy Troy. What, was TNA trying to bring him in? Teddy Long announced Money in the Bank will include three Smackdown wrestlers.

HHH beat Kane in one of two “WrestleMania Rewind” matches, which was a clever gimmick. HHH hit a high knee, but Kane sat up. Kane hit a back body drop, suplex, clotheslines and a side slam. He was going for the choke slam when Masters arrived. Kane knocked Masters off the apron, but HHH sent Kane out of the ring from behind. Masters and Carlito rammed Kane into the post and HHH hit the pedigree for the pin. They looked like they were moving in slow motion.

Backstage, Torrie was upset Candice slapped her and never apologized. Victoria said Candice was under a lot of pressure and Torrie did screw up. She quickly apologized and said they would be back to normal after the Playboy unveiling. This of course was a swerve since everything in WWE is a swerve. Elsewhere, Stephanie McMahon, looking extremely pregnant (and perhaps wearing some extra padding for effect), came to Shawn Michaels. She said children change lives and wanted to apologize for Shane and Vince. Of course, this was a swerve, because everything in WWE is a swerve. She acted like she wasn’t feeling well, and when Shawn went to get her a drink she slipped a drug in his water.

They unveiled Candice’s Playboy cover, and she pranced around. It will be interesting to see if this sells. Personally, I don’t have even the most basic curiosity. She’s just another attractive woman. But maybe I’m in the minority on that. She dissed Stacy Keibler, which was interesting. She said she is the hottest WWE diva to have posed for Playboy and asked Torrie to agree. Torrie ducked the question, but Candice kept pushing. Torrie called her a bitch, so Victoria jumped Torrie from behind and they attacked her to complete crowd apathy.

Shane McMahon beat Shawn Michaels. Michaels came out brawling, but then he started selling the drug. It was a weird sell job. Shane repeatedly punched and kicked him and finally covered him for the pin. They then announced another match, and Vince pinned Michaels as well. Spirit Squad came out to celebrate the victories.

Kenny Doane beat Eugene. This was kind of a disappointing singles debut for Doane. They played keep away with the blow horn early until Doane jumped him. Doane hit a body slam and elbow drop, and then basically applied rest holds for five minutes. Eugene made his comeback with an airplane spin , clothesline and rock bottom. He was setting up for the people’s elbow, but the Spirit Squad distracted the referee and Johnny Jeter hit Eugene with a kick. Doane hit a leg drop off the top rope for the pin.

Lita beat Maria with a DDT. This was a typical WWE women’s match where they do nothing, and thus the match is bad but not truly awful. Let’s just say it wasn’t Super Dragon and Davey Richards vs. Roderick Strong and Jack Evans. Check out my blog for more details on the best match I’ve seen this year. Edge set up for the spear on Maria after the match, but Mick Foley made the save. Lita jumped on his back to stop him, and Edge hit the spear. He hit Foley with a chair again and hit a one man concerto. He accepted the hardcore match at WrestleMania.

They announced that Stone Cold Steve Austin will induct Bret Hart into the WWE Hall of Fame, and Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio and Chavo Guerrero will induct Eddie Guerrero. Of course, Hulk Hogan inducts Mean Gene Okerlund. I’m about 10 times more interested in that ceremony than the actual event. The next inductee for the Hall of Fame is Sherri Martel, which is a bizarre choice. I assume Shawn Michaels will induct her. It won’t be Randy Savage, that much is for sure. Mickie was excited about this, but Trish was annoyed with Mickie and said she wanted time apart.

John Cena beat Big Show to close the show. The crowd didn’t cheer Show at all, but they booed whenever Cena went on offense. Show basically dominated the entire match. Show hit a head butt, stood on Cena, hurled him across the ring, stepped on him, hit a side slam, and applied a bear hug. Cena made a brief comeback sending Show to the outside and posting him, but Show regained control with a body slam. He started climbing the ropes when Carlito and Masters came out. Kane fought them off, but Cena hit a suplex off the ropes for a near fall. Show set up for a choke slam, but Cena reversed into a DDT. Cena hit some shoulder blocks, but Show again set him up for a choke slam. Cena got out and hit the FU for the win. HHH had made his way to the ring with a sledge hammer, but he simply stared down Cena from outside the ring to close the show.

Final Thoughts:

This show was very well structured. The WrestleMania Rewind was a clever gimmick and the overarching McMahon/Michaels story was well constructed. The problem is that even if the show was put together well from a structural standpoint, they were advancing angles and stories people don’t care about. This was evidenced by about as dead of a crowd as you’re ever going to see, particularly going into the biggest show of the year. I know of three people that want to see Vince McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels and HHH vs. John Cena, but that’s about it.

Farewell LaVar

Another sad story (although clearly not on the same level) is the departure of LaVar Arrington from the Washington Redskins. It's hard to believe it didn't end up working out completely for LaVar in Washington, because I always took it as a given that it would. This guy is one of my all-time favorite athletes. He plays with such passion, and he always has been great in the community as well. You felt confident with him on defense, because he could get anywhere on the field and completely disrupt the offense on any given play. It was really awkward to see him feud with the coaches, because Redskins fans respected the likes of Marvin Lewis, Gregg Williams, and most certainly Joe Gibbs, but they absolutely loved LaVar. Nobody wanted to see him upset or angry. They wanted to see him succeed. I'm glad that LaVar seems good with the situation. He's not angry at the fans or the city (or even all that mad with the organization, really). He's just ready to move on, and it's probably for the best. I wish him all the best. I hope he fully recovers from recent injuries and that he plays at a Pro Bowl level for another 7 years. He deserves it. Thanks for everything, LaVar.

R.I.P. Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett to me always symbolized what was right with sports. He played with such joy, and conducted himself with such class. The turn that the past five years of his life took was so tragic. The allegations against him, and an incredibly unflattering story in Sports Illustrated seemingly took the joy out of him. He lost some of his vision. He gained way too much weight. And then he died way too young. The death is actually less tragic than some of the other circumstances in my mind, because death comes for us all. I just wish he could have lived the last years of his life in happiness, rather than in a sad unraveling. Luckily, I think he'll be remembered with fondness, not sadness. That's certainly true for me.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Well, with one notable exception...

One postscript to my previous comments. “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” winning best song was such a miserable joke. It’s one thing to give it to Eminem for “Lose Yourself,” which was a great song. Or hell, if you wanted to honor Wyclef for “Million Voices” from Hotel Rwanda, that would be great as well. But this year’s “winner” was a crappy song by a crappy group with a crappy message and a crappy hook. It’s like the voters just went, “well, we don’t like it, but it’s not our thing anyway, so someone must like it.” Umm, no. I understand you don’t want to be dismissive of different tastes, but there is good and bad in any genre. It makes me cringe when the mainstream wants to be tolerant or whatever, and just ends up making hip-hop culture worse by promoting the likes of G-Unit over say, dead prez.

The Academy Gets It Right

I’ve got to give the Oscars major credit this year. They really nailed it on most of the major awards. Crash unquestionably deserved Best Picture, and it was a pleasant surprise to see it win. Racial tensions may not be as sexy of a political topic as homosexuality, conflict in the middle east or a culture of McCarthyism in 2006, but the film was simply better than the others. It moved me much more than the other films, and was a thought provoking film that did not provide any easy answers. I really thought Brokeback Mountain was going to win, and I’m very glad it didn’t given it was a good film but not one that fully came together. These awards, after all, should be about art. I haven’t seen Capote yet, but Philip Seymour Hoffman is not the sort of performer that traditionally gets an Oscar, and it’s nice to see him get the recognition. The Best Actress went the opposite direction, as Reese Witherspoon is exactly the sort of performer that gets an Oscar. The pretty and popular actress doing the prestige film works all the time, even for an individual performance that doesn’t fully deserve the Oscar (Halle Berry) or is an outright joke as “best” of the year (Julia Roberts). However, in this case Reese Witherspoon more than deserves the award. I did not go into Walk the Line with high expectations, because I’m not much of a fan of Johnny Cash and the musical biopic was just honored last year. But it is a fine film, and Witherspoon really helps to hold it together. So bravo Academy, for making the right choices.

PWG Results

This was a hot show in front of a very strong audience, towards the higher end of attendance that PWG does.

1. Alex Koslov made Top Gun Talwar submit in a mediocre opener.

2. Disco Machine and Nemesis beat Human Tornado and Scorpio Sky. Sky has a new gimmick that a woman from the audience oils up his abs before the match. Sky brought a chair into the ring, and as he and Tornado argued about that, Disco Machine came off the top with a drop kick that sent Tornado into the chair. That gave Disco the chance to score the pin, and Sky didn’t try to make the save. Tornado challenged Sky for a match at the next show.

3. B-Boy beat Frankie Kazarian. This was one hell of a good match. Kazarian hit the flux capacitor, but B-Boy kicked out and then reversed Kazarian into a rollup for the win.

4. Cape Fear (El Generico and Quicksilver) beat Arrogance (Scott Lost and Chris Bosh) via disqualification. Joey Ryan ran in and meekly attacked Generico for the DQ. Ryan, Super Dragon and Chris Bosh fought after the match. Dino Winwood made a rematch between the two teams for the next show. Frankie Kazarian then came out and said he should be the number one contender. Dino refused, so Kazarian wouldn’t leave the ring. Dino suspended Kazarian, and Kazarian responded by kicking him low. This was a weird angle.

5. Chris Sabin beat Alex Shelley with the cradle shock in a very good technical wrestling with no shortcuts. That’s usually what PWG does after intermission, and this was one of the better matches of that mold. The fans applauded both after the match.

6. Joey Ryan retained the PWG title pinning Kevin Steen with his feet on the ropes. Steen is thankfully back to playing an asshole even as face, which is unquestionably the best role for him.

7. Super Dragon and Davey Richards beat Jack Evans and Roderick Strong. This is worth going out of your way to see. It was a fantastic match with great heat. Evans was coming off the top with a 450 or 630 on Richards, but he was caught in mid-air. Dragon and Richards then executed their combination power bomb/ back cracker on Evans for the pin. Richards challenged anyone in the world to take the titles after the match. They have something special with this Dragon/Richards team. The tag titles may actually be bigger than the heavyweight title right now.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

UFC Picks

David Loiseau vs. Rich Franklin: Initially I really favored Franklin. But Loiseau comes into this fight looking tremendously motivated. It should be an exciting standup war. I still have some questions about just how good Franklin is (he's unquestionably very good, but people assume he will dominate for the foreseeable future, and I'm not sure that's the case). Loiseau's a good test. I'm still picking Franklin, but I'm shaky on it.

Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn: I've always liked St. Pierre a lot. I've never really liked Penn. And I expect St. Pierre to win. Those three factors added together mean I'm more nervous about the fight than anything else. Penn is damn good. If St. Pierre wins, I won't be surprised. If he loses, I'll be disappointed. I'm taking St. Pierre.

Joe Doerksen vs. Nate Marquardt: This is a really even battle of solid fighters. I'm going on a hunch and taking Doerksen to win an upset decision, or *maybe* a submission.

Yves Edwards vs. Mark Hominick: Edwards is one of my favorite fighters and he outclasses Hominik.

Mike Swick vs. Steve Vigneault: Swick's overrated right now because of a couple of fast wins, and he's coming off an injury. But Vigneault isn't the guy to give him much in the way of troubles, and I expect Swick to win convincingly.

Worst Sequels

This week's issue of Entertainment Weekly did a feature on the worst sequels ever made. Most of them were both obvious and deserving. The one I had to take issue with, though, is Godfather Part III. I know that the film gets a lot of criticism, and there are problems with it. Sofia Coppola's performance and the middle section of the film top the list. That said, it is overall a very good film. It has memorable scenes (the helicopter attack), memorable lines ("just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in"), and a fantastic, tragic ending (Pacino's performance in that is amazing). I know it's not as good as the first or second films, but I don't think it in any way diminishes their legacy, and I think it stands as a fine film that doesn't deserve the ridicule associated with being lumped in with Speed 2, Caddyshack II and Staying Alive.