Sunday, April 30, 2006

God is a COWARD

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Huge Numbers for UFC 59

From this week's Observer , preliminary estimates for UFC 59 are coming in at 400,000 buys. That is ahead the pace of Liddell/Couture III. And the way the PPV industry works, those numbers always end up increasing over time from initial estimates. Remember that just a few years ago 80,000 was a very good number, and average shows would do around 40,000 buys. Obviously, things have exploded, and UFC PPV events have quickly become an enormous cash cow. Liddell-Couture did very well obviously, and Franklin-Loiseau/Penn-GSP also did very good preliminary numbers (I heard estimates over 200,000-250,000 for that). The revenue for UFC 59 is in the neighborhood of $18 million and could top $20 million. If this trend continues, the speculation of when UFC will surpass boxing's popularity may prove to be moot. It may be on the verge of doing so already.

I've said for a long time now that MMA does a better job providing what I used to love about pro wrestling. It seems like a lot of people are picking up on this, and MMA has finally blown up. It's about time.

Stupid Stupid Redskins

The Redskins are the only team in the NFL that seems to have no idea of the value of draft picks. They haphazardly waste draft picks every single year on pointless endeavors, frequently simply sacrificing the quality of picks for expediency, when if they just refrained from doing so one year they wouldn't end up with inferior picks year after year. And it wouldn't be a draft without the Redskins throwing away future picks, trading two 2nd round draft picks and a 6th to get one 2nd round draft pick in return. Great job, Danny Boy. Just like they traded away a 1st, a 3rd and a 4th last year to get a low 1st round pick which they used on a projected 2nd rounder. That was another brilliant one. Or the year before when they traded a 2nd for a third. Or the year before that when they lost their 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th round picks to sign restricted free agents, none of whom is still with the team. It would be one thing if it were like New England or Green Bay, trading to get someone that had fallen down from the first round. But nobody had McIntosh projected for the first round, and he might very well have lasted a lot closer to the Redskins pick. And of course, the Patriots also paid a much cheaper price (a 2nd and a 3rd rather than 2 2nds and a 6th). The way you build a successful franchise in the NFL (Steelers, Patriots, Eagles etc.) is to draft smart and get a core that are signed to reasonable contracts. The Redskins don't get this, and their chronic impatience leads to perpetually inferior draft hauls, which causes them to overrely on free agency, which leads to constant dead money and thin rosters, and of course then there will be the inevitable point when they can't push back the money they've already paid back any farther and they have to take a death year or two just to get fiscal responsibility in place. It's a good thing the Redskins have so much money to spend, because their absolutely incompetent front office would have this team in dead last perennially if it weren't for what essentially amount to accounting games, and of course, outspending everyone in the league on coaches, who are of vital importance. If I were a rival GM, the first team I'd look to deal with every time would be the Redskins, because they make the absolute dumbest moves in the league year in and year out. And this is yet another one. I just knew the Redskins couldn't make it through the draft without doing something stupid, and of course, they didn't let me down.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 04/23/06 from London, England.

The Big News: None.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Charlie Haas, Rob Van Dam & Carlito Caribbean Cool b Shelton Benjamin, Matt Striker & Chris Masters; Shawn Michaels b Shane McMahon-DQ; Umaga b Steve Lewington; Mikey Mondo, Kenny Doane, Nicky Nemeth & Johnny Jeter b Edge, John Cena & Triple H.

Show Analysis:

Edge came out to start the show and said he will be champion at Backlash. That brought out HHH, who made note of Edge’s title run and said he can go, just not very long. He called him the premature superstar. There were chants of Triple H. HHH was good in this more sarcastic face role, which makes me more optimistic about the new DX. HHH said Edge isn’t in his league until he wins the title ten times.

Edge said he doesn’t need to go a long time, but only three seconds. He wanted to know why HHH is even in the match, given he lost at Mania and has never beaten Edge. Edge suggested HHH has used Vince McMahon to get his opportunity. HHH said the title means everything to him and he will do anything to win it. John Cena came out and brawled with HHH, while Edge left.

Charlie Haas, Rob Van Dam and Carlito beat Shelton Benjamin, Matt Striker and Chris Masters in a fun little match. RVD and Haas cleaned the ring early, and RVD hit a somersault plancha to the floor. The heels gained control, sending RVD into the steps. They worked him over until he made the hot tag to Haas. Haas came in with clotheslines and a brawl broke out where the legal participants were forgotten.

Carlito hit a back cracker on Benjamin, but Masters applied the Masterlock to Carlito. Haas broke that up and hit a German suplex on Masters. Benjamin hit the T-Bone on Carlito, but RVD hit a kick off the top on Benjamin and followed with rolling thunder and the five star frog splash for the pin.

Vince was interviewed. He dismissed last week’s events as a series of coincidences, not acts of God. He announced he fired the pyrotechnics guy. He said God wasn’t in London, so Shawn and Shane would go one on one. Shane swore to God Shawn wouldn’t leave the ring on his own power. Big Show confronted Kane backstage as a friend, and wanted to know Kane’s problem. May 19 came up, and Kane told Show not to say that again or else. Show said May 19, so Kane attacked him and tried to gouge out Show’s eye. Well, he did say not to say that, big guy.

Victoria, Maria, Torrie and Candice had a bikini contest. It was nothing you haven’t seen before. Coach announced Candice at the winner, and said for her prize she would get to make out with Coach. Viscera intervened, and gave Coach the Samoan drop and the simulated sodomy. Candice seemed to like this. Viscera then made out with Candice. I guess maybe this means she is a face, but associating someone with Viscera is not the way I would turn them.

Shawn Michaels beat Shane McMahon via DQ, I suppose. Shane controlled the match early with knees and back breakers. He missed a moonsault, and Shawn came back with punches, an inverted atomic drop, clotheslines, a body slam, and an elbow off the top. He went for sweet chin music, but Vince stopped him. Shawn was going to come off the top rope and drive Vince through the announce table, but Shane gave Shawn a low blow. He then hit an elbow off the top, putting Shawn through the announce table. Vince said God won’t be at Michaels’ side at Backlash, and added that both Shawn and God have no chance in hell. He added a hallelujah and a few amens. Backstage, John Cena and Edge had a brief conversation where Cena said Edge is going down.

Umaga beat Steve Lewington in a basic squash. Styles did a good job selling the destruction. Umaga won with the thumb to the throat and the pin. Ric Flair did a run-in after the match and these two will meet at Backlash. Backstage, Lita tried to appease HHH, and promote unity for the main event. HHH made a sarcastic remark about Lita knowing all about taking on five men at the same time.

Mickie James came out, and is back to being Mickie. She said she got a little carried away with the Trish stuff. She knows she is Mickie, and better than Trish. Trish came out still acting like Mickie. They tried to do a gimmick where Trish would say what Mickie was trying to say, but it failed miserably. They brawled, and Trish hit the chick kick. I wish they hadn’t dropped Mickie playing Trish so abruptly. It was working.

Spirit Squad had a match with HHH, John Cena and Edge. It just sort of ended for no reason. It is really a shame the Spirit Squad have this gimmick, because the five man gang warfare gimmick works really well and these guys might be getting over if they weren’t saddled with a gimmick guaranteed to fail. Aren’t bookers supposed to package guys to ensure success rather than failure?

This was a pretty bland match. The main eventer would gain the advantage, but the Spirit Squad would use their numbers advantage to take control back. Eventually Cena and HHH fought off the Squad. Cena hit the FU on Mikey and HHH hit the pedigree on Kenny. Edge left the ring. HHH and Cena had a stare down and started to fight with each other. And with that, the show ended.

Final Thoughts:

This show was bland and inoffensive. It was kind of a waste of time, really, but there wasn’t anything wrong with it either. I hope God turns heel on Sunday.

Return of ECW

So it looks like WWE is bringing back the ECW name. This is certainly an interesting story, and I would probably do a longer write-up on it for the Observer site were not I so busy these days (and sick to boot). My short take on it is that it will be a guaranteed short term success and guaranteed long term failure. Short term it will unquestionably garner much more interest than the current Heat or Velocity programs, and also bring interest to some younger guys WWE wants to showcase and give them experience. Fans will be into it because they like the ECW name and I think for a time WWE will contemplate making the ECW name even more prominent. It will start off shows with a lot of excitement that will get the crowd into it immediately, and there will be more interest in the wrestlers involved off the bat. It also potentially might give them an excuse to get Jim Ross back into the Raw booth without totally humiliating Joey Styles (only partially by sending him to cover ECW).

However, that will eventually give way to the reality that ECW, the rebel promotion which could not have existed except in opposition to WWF and WCW, is now manipulated by one of those companies and presented as an unquestionable B gimmick on WWE shows. That's not something that will sit well with fans that liked ECW, and eventually fans are going to turn on the whole thing. Short term younger fans that didn't watch ECW will think the whole thing is really cool, but they will eventually catch on how much this concept is the antithesis of what ECW stood for. Not to mention that for authenticity you need to feature old ECW wrestlers, but to build the brand going forward you need to debut new guys that people associate with ECW. Doing the latter is a difficult if not impossible task.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


What a disappointing first game. The Wizards just didn't look very good, and the announcers were right to criticize their defense. I think they definitely can still win the series, but they need to get better play from here on. One kind of troubling development with the Wizards is that their core just doesn't look to be as good as I once thought. A lot of people just haven't developed as planned, and there isn't really anyone outside the big three who I think is a particularly valuable part. They badly need to get an inside physical presence for next year, but that is easier said than done.

Interesting Statistical Analysis

Phil DiLiegro has some interesting columns using statistical analysis to evaluate a number of issues that you can check out here. I think the most interesting stuff is the look at how the house show results leading into WrestleMania III ended up reflecting (or not reflecting) the booking at Mania. Also there is a look at how time has correlated with match quality at Mania historically. Some good reads.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Raw Report

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/17/06 from St. Louis, MO.

The Big News: God made his WWE debut. He has apparently been studying tapes of lame Undertaker angles.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Kane b Rob Conway; Charlie Haas b Shelton Benjamin; Shawn Michaels b Umaga-DQ; Kenny Doane, Johnny Jeter, Mikey Mondo, Nicky Nemeth & Mitch b Rob Van Dam; Edge & John Cena b Triple H.

Show Analysis:

Vince McMahon came out to start the show. He said the question is if he will go to hell. He noted that he may have offended Shane in a small way last week, and so he very well might have offended other people in a large way. Wrong. You have to go pretty far to elicit moral outrage now that everyone sees you as among the sleaziest human beings in the world, Vince. He said he won’t be going to hell, because he was already in hell earlier in the day: East St. Louis.

Vince announced he is founding his own religion, McMahonism, where he is the lord, master and god of all sports entertainment, and you will worship him. I guess that makes Ted Turner Satan. Bret Hart is Judas, Joey Styles is Jerry Falwell, and of course Triple H is Jesus, not to be mistaken with the guy fighting Butterbean at Rumble on the Rock.

Vince showed a bunch of pictures meant for comedy. He was on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was carrying down his copy of Muscle and Fitness like the Ten Commandments. He was at the Last Supper. He was with Buddha, and then the Pope. These initially got some laughs, and then a boring chant broke out. Vince opened the doors to his church and invited people to convert to McMahonism. He vowed to make Shawn Michaels worship at his feet at Backlash, and again dared God to strike him down.

Vince guaranteed victory at Backlash, and then Shawn Michaels came in with sweet chin music. Michaels did another pronounced crotch chop that the announcers mentioned. I don’t like the idea of a DX reunion at all. The whole strength of that unit was that it was cool, and Shawn and Hunter running around acting like teenagers and reprising a nearly ten year old gimmick is decidedly uncool.

Backstage, HHH suggested Vince lay off the God stuff, so an angry Vince made Edge & John Cena vs. Triple H. HHH acted like a total face here, which was the clearest signal yet he is turning face. I think that turn is a good idea, as HHH is tired as a heel and a feud with him against Edge would work well. An angry Rob Conway in the ring promised to change his losing ways, but then Kane came out.

Kane destroyed Rob Conway with the choke slam. Kane actually got a bigger face reaction than he has in a while, which was odd. Kane started yelling at Lillian Garcia after the match, thinking she said something about May 19. He grabbed her by the throat for the choke slam, but Big Show came out looking like the world’s biggest slob to calm him down. Kane grabbed Show by the throat, but this time Show gave him the choke slam. Kane sat up and grinned. Jonathan Coachman did the ring announcing from this point on.

Chavo Guerrero, Jr. did an interview with Jim Ross. He said he may have acted hastily in retiring, but he made a promise and let everyone down, so he concluded it was the right decision. Ross said that’s a drastic decision and asked if Eddie would approve. Chavo said they supported each other’s decisions. All he ever trained to do was wrestle, but maybe he isn’t good enough and it wasn’t meant to be. He suggested he could try to become a real estate broker.

Ross said it was only one loss, and Eddie might not approve of Chavo quitting the family business. Chavo said he feels he made the decision, and his wrestling career has come to an end. Chavo was really good in this segment, and much better than I would have expected. It reminded me more of the Mick Foley sit down interviews that made him a star than the many J.R. sit down interviews they have done since. I feel much more optimistic about this program now.

Charlie Haas beat Shelton Benjamin. The stipulation was that if Benjamin beat an opponent of RVD’s choosing, he would get a shot at Money in the Bank at Backlash, but if Benjamin lost, he would have to put his Intercontinental Title on the line at that event. Haas came out to little to no reaction, and I’m not sure if the fans really got the story. Benjamin sold the shock well. Haas came in with arm drags, a drop kick, and a clothesline off the top. He hit chops, and went for a sunset flip that was countered into a back breaker.

Benjamin hit a clothesline, threw Haas into the steps, and used a body slam on the floor. Joey Styles labeled this a “great sports entertainment contest.” It’s a wrestling match, Joey. Get a backbone. Coach and Lawler continued by talking about having no idea where Haas has been, and of course Styles played dumb on that as well. Then again, perhaps it’s a bit much to expect them to acknowledge Haas losing in the finals of the Super Eight to Davey Richards.

Haas retaliated with a back drop, clotheslines and knees. He missed a drop kick, and Benjamin hit a belly-to-back suplex. He hit rolling thunder, laughing at RVD. Benjamin hit a stinger splash and spin kick. He teased the frog splash, but instead missed a senton off the top and Haas won with a jackknife cradle. This was a fun match. It’s nice to see them bring in a newcomer that can actually wrestle. Benjamin continues to take off as a heel since they dumped Mama. It’s a lot easier to project star charisma when you’re an arrogant super-athlete rather than a whimpering mama’s boy. Who would have figured?

Armando Alejandro Estrada said he converted to McMahonism and wanted to make a donation to the church of Umaga vs. Shawn Michaels. Vince made the match. Shelton Benjamin came to Vince as well, and said he saw the light of McMahonism. He said only Vince could save one of his disciples from not having a chance at Money in the Bank. Vince said he could do something about it. All the heel begging for Vince’s help really hurts their effectiveness, and it is the same tired cycle over the last so many years where the non-wrestling authority figures are promoted over the wrestlers and the buy rates subsequently suffer.

Shawn Michaels beat Umaga via disqualification. Vince McMahon came to ringside for the match. Umaga used a clothesline and gave Michaels a stiff kick to the floor. He hit chops, head butts and a knee drop. Michaels came back with punches and a pair of flying forearms to knock Umaga off his feet. He hit the elbow off the top and was going for sweet chin music when both Armando and Vince grabbed his legs. Umaga came from behind, threw him into the corner, tied him to the tree of woe, and head butted and punched Michaels until the referee disqualified him. He jammed Michaels in the throat with his thumb.

Vince told Umaga and Armando to leave, and said he would finish Shawn himself. He tied Shawn to the ropes and went to bring a chair into the ring, but fireworks shot out of the ring posts when he tried to enter. Vince panicked and left back to the entrance. He started to come back when the Kane fireworks went off and set a fire on the stage. We are supposed to believe this was interference from God. This is so utterly preposterous and unbelievably insulting to the intelligence of the audience.

Matt Striker had a classroom set up, and he was horrified with the state of schools in America. He doesn’t come across as bright enough to be doing a pompous teacher gimmick. He said people are more concerned with being cool than being smart, and gave the audience an F. Carlito came out, getting more of a face reaction this week.

Carlito said that Striker took his apple, and Carlito was one of the kids in school that thought it was more important to be cool. He said he used to get lectured and sent to detention, until he spit an apple in the teacher’s face and became the coolest guy on the island. He was ready to spit apple in Striker’s face, but Striker threatened to give him a beating. Carlito did it anyway and beat up Striker until Masters came in and applied the Masterlock.

Spirit Squad beat Rob Van Dam in a very quick five-on-one match to earn Benjamin a shot at Money in the Bank at Backlash. RVD fought them off for a little while until the numbers proved to be too much. They hit the High Spirits and Kenny Doane hit the leg drop off the top for the win. WWE pins people way too often. There are ways to advance storylines without having each side get pinned week after week. It doesn’t do major damage when RVD loses handicap matches, but it certainly doesn’t do him any favors as far as getting the crowd to believe in him.

Next up was the greatest segment ever. Trish, pretending to be Mickie, had a present under a box for Mickie, pretending to be Trish. Unfortunately it wasn’t Abdullah the Butcher again, and rather Trish’s former boyfriend Jack tied up. He said both of them are crazy. Trish said if Mickie is Trish, she would care about Jack, and if she is actually Mickie, she will realize she doesn’t care about him and isn’t Trish. This was hilarious, surrealist, Looney Tunes comedy logic.

Mickie did the only thing she could in response. She screamed at Trish to get her hands off “her” boyfriend, and ran into the ring to attack. Trish gave Mickie a spine buster and left. Mickie apologized to Jack and comforted him, but then concluded he cheated on her and kicked him in the head. This was seriously the funniest thing on Raw in ages.

HHH and Edge spoke backstage. Edge said that he would pin HHH later in the evening. HHH said John Cena wouldn’t let that happen, and would stab Edge in the back. HHH said he hates Cena a whole lot more than he hates Edge. He added that Edge has great reasons to hate Cena as well, given Cena took his title and Edge hasn’t done anything about it.

John Cena and Edge beat HHH. John Cena once again got the Cena reaction. HHH jumped him from behind and stomped him and punched him. Cena came back with a suplex, but HHH retaliated with punches, a crotch chop, and a knee drop. Cena got the momentum back with a shoulder block and clotheslines. He went for the five knuckle shuffle, but HHH gave him a spine buster.

Edge tagged in and knocked Cena to the floor. HHH punched Edge, gave him a spine buster, and a clothesline. Edge hit a spinning heel kick but Cena came in and attacked him with clotheslines and a belly to belly suplex. HHH went for the pedigree on Cena, but Cena got out and went for the FU. HHH sent Cena into the referee. He brought a sledgehammer into the ring and hit Cena in the head with it, but Edge speared HHH and pinned him. I’m not usually a fan of parity booking with main eventers, but I think this build is working.

Final Thoughts:

This was one of my favorite episodes of Raw in ages. Granted, that isn’t the highest of praise, but I got a kick out of a lot of things on this show. I particularly enjoyed the Haas-Benjamin segment, the Mickie-Trish segment and the Chavo interview. They are doing a good job building Backlash. The only negative is the Vince McMahon stuff, which is so tired. Everything on the show ran through him. If you are going to make someone such a focus, they should at least draw money and be involved with important matches. Instead the focus on Vince just undermines the significance of all the wrestlers and their programs which run underneath the pointless and ridiculous Vince vs. God feud. They also would have an easier time making Edge vs. Cena vs. HHH feel important if it wasn’t overshadowed by Vince’s weekly shenanigans.

More on UFC 59

On the undercard, Thiago Alves-Derrick Noble was a good action standup fight. It actually looked a lot like Sylvia-Arlovski, only it went a little longer. Noble was doing better standing overall from the clinch and with the muay thai, and clearly thought he had Alves in trouble. He was throwing punches rapidly looking to finish the fight, but from my perspective it looked like Alves wasn't in as much trouble as Noble thought he was. He was covering up and blocking the onslaught, and then caught Noble with a straight right that floored him and finished with punches before the ref stopped it.

Terry Martin once again looked good, but his biggest question mark is clearly his conditioning. Just like last time in UFC, he controlled round 1 only to lose decisively in round 2. His boxing was shockingly good, as his hands looked really fast and he was beating Jason Lambert on his feet. He scored a takedown but from there looked to get tired, and he didn't really do anything from the top while Lambert worked for submissions from the bottom. In the second round Martin just looked exhausted, and Lambert ended up on top of him with his hooks sunk in, and he fired punches to the back of the head rather than applying the RNC for the TKO.

David Terrell-Scott Smith was the controversy of the night. The ref called for a break, and then quickly ordered action again before they were separated, and that gave Terrell the chance to take him down and sink in the rear naked choke. Smith was complaining about the situation before he was even on the ground, but the crowd didn't seem to understand what had happened, and cheered on the big screen when they showed him tapping, clearly thinking he was complaining that he didn't tap out, which was pretty dumb.

As for what everyone else saw, I was really impressed with Karo Parisyan. He is so much fun to watch. Monson-Cruz was a bore, and I once again wasn't really impressed with Cruz. Evan Tanner looked good against an overmatched opponent, but there isn't really much for him to do from here. He looked really good on the ground. Griffin-Ortiz was of course amazing. The crowd was so unbelievably hot for it. I really think the crowd made the fight, although Griffin's spirit also was a big reason it got over so well. I really don't think the crowd turned on Tito. I think different people were cheering for Tito and Forrest throughout, and the Tito people stayed with him. The overall reaction to Tito after the fight may have been boos, but there were tons of people cheering around me. I think it's just when you mix boos with cheers the boos tend to be easier to hear and it creates a booing like roar. A lot of fun. I'm done evaluating Nick Diaz fights. I think he's a really fun fighter to watch. Other people tend to think he's a bore. I thought he won most of the fights he lost decisions in. Other people obviously strongly disagreed. So whatever. If the Diaz-Sherk fight had come at a different point in the show, it wouldn't be getting anywhere near the heat it did from some circles. And as far as Arlovski-Sylvia goes, wow. Props to Sylvia. He shocked the world. Arlovski really shouldn't have shaved that chest hair.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Funniest Story EVER

I was at UFC 59 tonight. I'll probably be back with more on that tomorrow, because it was a hell of a good time and an entertaining show. But one moment stands out above all others. But before I tell it, I am forcing you to agree to a contract. If you read further, you must agree not to tell this story to Kimo if you ever meet him. So if you aren't willing to agree to that, stop reading now.

Good. So anyway, after the show I see Kimo in the lobby. I go to get his autograph. I take the cap off the sharpie, and hand the pen to Kimo to sign my program. He doesn't realize the cap is off the sharpie, and proceeds to try to take the non-existent cap off *with his teeth*. And he's really struggling with this thing. Black marks are starting to develop on his lips and teeth, and he is really grabbing at the thing. When I saw what was happening, I immediately went to stop him. And it didn't strike me as even remotely comical. I didn't see any humor in it, and just wanted to stop it because I felt bad. But as I walked away, I started laughing. And I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Seriously, I wish I had video of this, because this was the most hilarious thing I've ever seen. Next time, I'll just let the fighters take off the cap themselves.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Idiots and their idiotic views

I watched Around the Horn today, and one of the talking heads went on and on about how it would be wrong or even illegal to prosecute Barry Bonds for perjury when other baseball players also lied under oath about steroids, because this constitutes "discrimination." This may be the dumbest thing I've heard all month. Prosecutors have to decide between prosecutions every single day. They choose to pursue one case and not another every single day, based on individual fact patterns. And that's exactly what they would do with Bonds. There is more evidence that he took steroids prior to his testimony than any other player who lied. There's nothing wrong with going after Bonds and not them. Hell, even if Bonds arguably had a weaker case against him, prosecutorial discretion is wide and as long as you're not prosecuting on the basis of race, gender, etc. there's nothing illegal or even unethical about picking one case over others.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Biggest Question Mark in the NFL Draft?

It's most certainly not Vince Young's style or Matt Leinart's head or Reggie Bush's size. It's quite obviously Jay Cutler, who I predict will go down as one of the worst draft choices in NFL history if he goes at the top.

Horrible Injury

This is hilarious. Who, exactly, do they think they are fooling?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

UFC Picks

I'm looking forward to UFC 59 this weekend, which will be my fifth MMA event in four different states. It's an interesting card, and should be an electric atmosphere. Tito's response should be very interesting in particular, and his fight with Forrest is going to have incredible heat. I hope that they announce the signing of Rampage, and that the crowd reacts for him. I kind of doubt they will at first, but maybe the hardcores will give enough of a superstar reaction that the rest of the crowd will catch on. Here are my thoughts on the evening:

Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin: This is the real main event of the evening. Maybe I'm underestimating Griffin, but I don't give him much of a shot. I just see Ortiz as being a lot stronger, and being able to take it to the ground and control. It might end up like the fight with Patrick Cote. Griffin has a better ground game, but I'm not sure it's all that much greater. I can't see Forrest knocking out Tito, and Tito won't wind in 3 rounds, so there's not a lot of options for Forrest.

Andrei Arlovsky vs. Tim Sylvia: Arlovsky via a dominating, brutal knockout. What about the first fight wasn't clear? Arlovsky's better standing and better on the ground. Sylvia is bigger. That is the only possible advantage he has. I read an interview where Sylvia said he is lighter and should be able to match Arlovsky's speed. Ha! I hope we get caveman AA and not GQ AA.

Nick Diaz vs. Sean Sherk: I want to see Diaz do well, because he's an entertaining fighter that brings it every time. But I've been jerked around him enough. Sherk is just stronger and will be able to overpower Diaz and dictate the game. Diaz unquestionably will put up a fight with strikes and submissions, but I see Sherk getting the decision.

Jeff Monson vs. Pe De Pano: I'm still not at all sold on Cruz, who seems to me awkward in an MMA setting and undeveloped. He beat a low level fighter and a guy who hadn't fought in ages and looked in awful fighting shape (maybe Mir hired Hunter's WrestleMania trainer). I think Monson's just better than him, and I think he will beat him rather handily.

Dave Terrell vs. Scott Smith: I'll pick an upset here. I think Terrell thinks he is better standing than he is because of the Lindland fight. His submissions game seemed totally off against Evan Tanner. I'm not sure his wrestling is good enough to dictate the fight consistently, so I think Smith will catch him and score the win.

Karo Parisyan vs. Nick Thompson: It's always a pleasure to watch Parisyan and his kind of unorthodox but highly effective style. Thompson's also a very good fighter, but Parisyan is very good at finding ways to beat good guys. I think he scores a decision or late sub win here.

Jason Lambert vs. Terry Martin: I kind of want to take Martin here, because he was controlling the fight with James Irvin before he got caught and that's his only MMA loss. He also beat common opponent Chael Sonnen, who scored a decision win over Lambert. But I just think Lambert has more skill than Martin and he'll get the win.

Thiago Alves vs. Derrick Noble: An interesting fight given Noble beat Alves a few years ago and Alves is still heavily favored. Alves has looked really good in his wins, and he's the sort of young fighter who you could imagine going on a real streak of wins. But Noble is no bum in there either. I give Alves the slight edge, but I'm tentative on that one.

Evan Tanner vs. Justin Levens: This is do or die for Tanner, who doesn't really have a spot going forward in UFC. UFC was unquestionably hoping for a Jeremy Horn win in the original scheduled fight to set up Horn as a challenger for Rich Franklin. Tanner has tremendous experience, and he rarely ever loses to non-top fighters, so I think he'll take this one as well.

Richards on the Rise

People who read what I write about PWG know I think Davey Richards is great. Well it looks like he has finally gotten his big breakthrough on the East Coast. Over the weekend, he won the prestigious Super Eight tournament, beating Scott Lost, Milano Collection AT and Charlie Haas. That was quite the surprise, but richly deserved. And apparently Jim Kettner isn't the only one to catch on to Davey Richards, as Richards has now signed a full time contract with ROH. I'm really happy for Richards. He's a fantastic wrestler and I'm sure people on the East Coast will soon appreciate him as much as those of us on the West Coast.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 04/10/06 from Milwaukee, WI.

The Big News: Vince McMahon took on the federal government in 1994 and won. Now he has set his sights higher, literally and figuratively. Vince and Shane went to church to call out God. I’m not even a religious person, and I’m half-expecting something horrible to happen to Vince at some point in the coming weeks.

Title Changes/Turns: Kane turned heel, apparently to help sell his horror movie. Talk about your lost causes.

Match Results: Rob Van Dam b Rob Conway; Johnny Jeter & Nicky Nemeth-DQ; Umaga b Colt Cabana; Mickie James b Maria; John Cena & Triple H b John Cena.

Show Analysis:

Edge came out to start the show, happy that he is back in the title picture with the 3 way at Backlash. He wanted more appreciation as the most watched WWE champion, and said he will become two-time champion. John Cena came out, and got the typical amazing mixed reaction that can only be dubbed the Cena pop. He pointed out Edge only had the title for two weeks, and viewers just wanted to see Cena win back the title. He challenged Edge.

Edge said he doesn’t care about the fans, even though Cena does. He further noted that in spite of that, all the fans over the age of seven can’t stand Cena. Cena admitted to unrest, and said that is because people remember what he was and want to see a different side of him be more ruthless and tell off the fans. Well, that’s exactly what I have been saying for six months. Unfortunately he did this in a really cute manner that undermined the whole thing.

Cena said he doesn’t want to end up like Edge or HHH. That brought out HHH to a predominantly face reaction. HHH said no one will ever confuse himself and Cena. HHH said the fans respect him, and Cena of course added he respects him as well. Cena challenged HHH. Edge interrupted, said he destroyed Mick Foley, was the star of WrestleMania XXII, and will be champion. HHH said he beat Foley six years ago like it wasn’t a big deal.

He announced Vince McMahon’s main event for the evening is HHH and John Cena vs. Edge. Edge was annoyed. Cena slapped HHH in the face and left. This was an interesting open to the show, and I really enjoy the Cena dynamic, but they still don’t get why he is being booed. It should be apparent from the boos for Rey Mysterio that it’s not just about the wrestling, and Cena is as soft now as he ever has been. The character is totally uncool.

Rob Van Dam beat Rob Conway quickly with the frog splash. They announced RVD as Mr. Money in the Bank, which to me is a bad idea. They did that gimmick with Edge all of last year, while Mr. Monday Night already applies to RVD and sounds better to boot. Shelton Benjamin did commentary with nice clothes and no Mama, which makes me happy. It’s amazing how much more of a star he comes across as without that albatross around his neck.

Benjamin challenged RVD to a match at Backlash. RVD declined, unless Benjamin would put up the Intercontinental Title. RVD had to have hated that script. ECW Rob Van Dam would never have done that. He would have given a cocky smirk, and laughed at the idea that Benjamin could beat him. That’s my new habit when I watch RVD since his return. I imagine what the over RVD would be saying if he didn’t have hack script writers putting words in his mouth.

Mickie was interviewed backstage. She said that of all the WrestleManias, this was her best so far, and she can’t wait to go back to Toronto to celebrate. Maria pointed out that she is not from Toronto. Mickie flipped out and challenged Maria to a title match. Maria was excited by this. I love Mickie James even better acting like Trish. It’s just a really fun angle, and is probably the best booked program on Raw.

Spirit Squad beat Big Show and Kane via disqualification. Kane was hearing voices backstage, and so was the audience apparently. They want him to turn heel to help sell his new movie. Does that make us crazy for hearing the voices as well? Big Show tried to calm him down. Show and Kane just destroyed Johnny and Nicky early, with chokes, slams, kicks, chops and the like. Johnny applied a head lock to Kane, but Kane got out with a belly to back suplex.

Show stood on Johnny, and press slammed Nicky onto the rest of the Squad. Squad gained the advantage with outside interference, and punched and kicked Kane for a while. Kane finally made a comeback, threw some chairs into the ring and was disqualified. He choke slammed Johnny, Nicky and the referee. Show tried to calm him down, and I could have sworn he said “you’re out of your fucking mind” on the air without the censors catching it. Kane responded by giving him a choke slam. This match was ungodly boring and went on forever.

Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon did a vignette in a church. Basically the gimmick was Vince doing all sorts of sacrilegious things, and Shane looking on in disbelief. Vince said he had never been in this sort of place before, and was looking for Shawn Michaels’ tag partner. Vince drank from the holy water and spat it out like HHH. He called out God, and said they have a lot in common.

They are both creators, but God rests on the seventh day so Vince has a stronger work ethic. God has his disciple Shawn, and Vince has his disciple Shane. Like God, Vince McMahon has his Commandments, and he read them off. Shawn broke all Vince’s Commandments, and God can’t protect him. Shane said a prayer basically praising Vince. Vince vowed to unleash the apocalypse on Shawn, and asked God to strike him down right there. Shane moved to the side, which was pretty funny. Vince said Shawn’s partner has forsaken him, and we heard thunder as Vince celebrated.

Armando Alejandro Estrada introduced Umaga, who defeated Colt Cabana in a quick squash. Umaga looks like your typical Wild Samoan, Samoan Savage or Headshrinker. He hit a head butt off the second rope and applied the Tongan death grip for the win. I’m still waiting for that to be applied in an MMA setting.

Carlito said that he went on a diet and lost 275 pounds of deadweight. Carlito said that his dissension with Chris Masters isn’t just about Masters screwing up Mania or staring in the mirror all the time. Rather, Masters simply isn’t cool. Chris Masters came out and they argued about blame. The fans don’t seem to know who the face is yet. Masters implied he lost at Mania on purpose to get even with Carlito.

Carlito said that’s stupid and mocked him for it. Carlito called for a Masterlock challenge. When Masters was getting ready to apply the Masterlock Carlito hit him with a chair. This was funny, and I would love to see a gimmick where Masters gets outsmarted every single week because he’s an idiot. That’s what I call good comedy. Masters and Carlito will meet at Backlash. The also announced Jim Ross will interview Chavo Guerrero, Jr. next week on Raw.

Masters implied he lost at Mania to get even with Carlito. Carlito said that’s stupid and mocked him for it. Carlito called for a Masterlock challenge. When Masters was getting ready to apply the Masterlock Carlito hit him with a chair. This was funny. I would actually love to see a gimmick where Masters gets outsmarted every single week because he’s an idiot. That’s good comedy.

Mickie James beat Maria. This was, shock of all shocks, a bad match. Mickie used kicks, a body slam, and a back breaker. Maria actually went for the Oklahoma roll. Mickie came back with kicks and an awful chick kick for the pin. Trish then came out as Mickie James, and did a hell of a job with it. She kissed Mickie, and Mickie left in shock. I loved this angle.

John Cena and HHH beat Edge. This was a bizarre matchup on paper, but it ended up working out fine. Cena hit a belly to belly suplex on Edge, and a vertical suplex. HHH came in with a high knee. To my shock, Lita successfully distracted HHH. Edge rammed HHH into the announce table and steps, and hit an implant DDT. HHH came back with the spine buster. He tagged Cena, who hit the five knuckle shuffle. He had Edge up for the FU, but HHH pulled Edge off and hit the pedigree. Cena responded by giving HHH the FU and applied the STFU on Edge for the submission. I like the dynamic of this three-way program.

Final Thoughts:

This was an odd week for Raw. It had its strengths, but overall wasn’t a particularly good show. What I found interesting is that the problems with the show seem to be different right now. The problems in right years have primarily centered on ridiculous, illogical booking. This show didn’t really have that. Everything was directed towards building matches. They have the lineup for Backlash set and are already moving towards it quickly. The undercard seems more developed and the main event is more compelling.

The problem with this show wasn’t that it lacked booking logic. Rather, it felt like a time machine. You have big men feuding just because they are big. You have cartoon figures debuting in the middle of the card. You have no attention being paid to the quality of the wrestling. I guess overall I actually like this problem better. WWE delivered what it sought to deliver pretty well. They just need to connect better with what wrestling fans in 2006 are interested in seeing.

Dumb Polls Bring Dumb Results

ESPN makes fun of the results of its poll on how NFL teams will do game by game. They should be making fun of themselves, because they're the ones that designed the idiotic setup when the results were obvious going in. I was actually thinking of writing about it here when I saw the concept. I hadn't even seen the results at the time. If you ask fans how they think their team will do next year, you'll get optimism, but the results won't be ridiculous. That's because they will be considering the season as a whole. But nobody wants to give up on individual games before the season has started. Most games in the NFL don't have wide spreads. So you ask people about game-by-game picks six months in advance and you wonder why people pick their own team most of the time? What idiocy.

Friday, April 07, 2006

UFC 59

Just a final note on UFC for the evening. I think UFC has really dropped the ball when it comes to promotion of UFC 59. Specifically, they have focused on Arlovsky-Sylvia rather than Ortiz-Griffin, and have taken away a lot of buys in the process. The UFC commercial for the event says, “The UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovsky is looking to continue his dominance in the heavyweight division as he takes on one of the top strikers in the sport today, Tim Sylvia.” Two thirds of the commercial shows Arlovsky and Sylvia highlights, and they air a promo of Sylvia saying he wants another shot. Then the final third says, “Also, Tito Ortiz takes on the hard-hitting Ultimate Fighter season one champion, Forrest Griffin.” They cut to Forrest Griffin pulling a John Cena, saying he’s not all that good, but he makes his fights exciting.

This is all backwards. Nobody cares about Sylvia-Arlovsky. Arlovsky will run right through him just like he did the first time. There’s no reason not to expect another destruction. I understand they want to get Arlovsky over as champion. But the way you do not get someone over by putting them in the main event. You put them in the main event because you have gotten them over. Ortiz-Griffin is the fight with so much more drawing potential. The story is that this is Griffin’s big chance. He is the biggest star to come out of the Ultimate Fighter, and here is his chance to prove himself and the show. If he beats Ortiz, he can set himself up for a title shot with Liddell. This is the most important fight of his career. And on the other side you’ve got Tito Ortiz, who also wants his way back up to the top, and has to go through Griffin in his own hometown in order to get to Shamrock and Liddell. The stakes can be presented as really high. But instead they have treated it as an afterthought matchup of two personalities, rather than a fight of vital importance. The show will still do very well at the gate and on PPV I suspect. But there is so much potential there, and they have blown it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Red Invasion

Looks like Alexander Semin is returning to the Capitals next year. What wonderful news for us Caps fans.

Ultimate Fighter 3 Rules

I watched Ultimate Fight Night tonight it was such a letdown. I mean, it wasn't like Victory in Vegas where you've got bad fights and a hostile crowd, but it's no fun to watch a 2 hour show and get no finishes. More importantly for UFC, every fighter they were trying to showcase came out of the show worse off than they came in. Leben was coming off some quick and decisive wins, and had to settle for a decision against a lower caliber of opponent. Stevenson rightfully lost a decision. Bonnar and Evans received judge decisions that they probably shouldn't have gotten (Bonnar/Jardine was really close, while Evans I thought lost rather clearly 29-28). So things weren't looking good for UFC on the evening.

Hopefully viewers didn't turn out at that point, because things turned around in a hurry with Ultimate Fighter Season 3. This show immediately reached a level of dramatic tension higher than at any point last season. The relationship between Tito and Shamrock added a dimension that just wasn't there for the first two seasons. The reactions of the fighters to each of the coaches was also much more pronounced. It seems as if they are planting the seeds of a mutiny within the Shamrock camp. Michael Bisping immediately comes across as a star, and he's also the standout of his weight class athletically.

The tweaks of the format of the show are for the better, with the tournament setup getting fans to think about matchups much more than in the past where fights just kind of came to be. The strategy is also more complex. Ken Shamrock's strategy of picking off the weak fighters isn't necessarily the best idea. The more mismatched your first fights are, the less likely you are to win later fights. The analogy that immediately pops to mind is political gerrymandering. The natural reaction is to get really easy districts for the members of your party to win handily (just like matching up your best fighter with their worse), but the smartest strategy is to draw up the districts so you win each district 51-49 percent. Likewise, it's best to pick strong fighters from the opposition and match them up with someone on your team that presents a bad style matchup.

I'm really looking forward to more of this season of Ultimate Fighter.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Orton & Cena

Randy Orton's suspension for unprofessional conduct has a similar feel to it in pro wrestling. Wrestling has always been filled with guys who became stars at a young age and let it get to their head. And this suspension made me think of John Cena. Both Cena and Orton have been thrust into the spotlight at young ages (granted Orton is younger), and protected from day one. And in spite of all the hate that some people throw Cena's way, and in spite of his hectic schedule, he seems to be a guy that still has his head screwed on straight. Contrast that with Orton, who we've been hearing bad stories about behind the scenes for years. It seems to me unfair on some level that Cena is the one who has to deal with all this hate, given both of these guys were given pushes before they were ready, neither is particularly good in the ring, and Cena seems like a lot more professional individual.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Well, that ruined my week....

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What's Important for Mania Today

It was interesting to read that WWE is going back and forth on finishes for Mania. Of course long term booking would be better, but what I find interesting about that is that the finishes to this show really aren't all that important compared to a lot of years. The finishes aren't going to make or break just about anyone on the card. The top three priorities of the company to me should be these:

1) Make sure it's a good show. Give time to the matches that will be good. Don't give as much time to the matches that won't. WrestleMania needs to feel special and fun, and even if the build isn't the greatest, if people go out happy all isn't lost. Think WrestleMania 13. Worst buy rate of all time, but a strong Austin-Bret match and Chicago street fight left people satisfied and built future business. This needs to be a good show to get the best possible reaction from the crowd.

2) John Cena needs to be protected. As was obvious from his reaction at the Hall of Fame, he has enormous heat from a segment of the fan base. They need to find a way to get him into a better position badly. A double turn might work. A hard fought loss where he gives it his all, and then turns on the fans afterwards because they didn't respect him after all that might work as well. But him getting beaten decisively and then continuing with his character as is could be a real problem. They need to do everything they can to ensure Cena doesn't get buried.

3) Get over Edge to the next level. He's the guy that's the closest thing to a breakout star on the roster. His feud with Mick Foley has picked up, and this match is key. I think the show should be structured to give him a chance to steal it.

WrestleMania has a really weak lineup this year

Yes. We get this. Everyone knows this. Maybe we can put a moratorium on pointless columns blandly making this observation?


I watched the HOF in the background of the NCAA games (much to the aggravation of my friends), and for whatever reason it really underwhelmed me. I think it might have been that the induction of a bunch of undeserving people at the beginning made the whole honor seem rather hollow. But even when Bret came out, the moment just wasn't as meaningful to me as I thought it would be. It didn't seem that odd, nor did it seem as important as I thought it would. It just sort of was. I guess maybe that's a good thing, because we really have moved beyond Montreal. One thing that bugs me about the HOF, at least the past few years, is the idiot fans that have to make themselves a part of the show. Yelling things out, interrupting the speeches, making stupid comments. I guess that's what pro wrestling has become, where the fans feel the necessity to interject themselves. But I wish those jackasses would sit back, listen, and let these people enjoy the moment. It's the only respectful thing. I thought it was telling that Vickie Guerrero thanked the fans, but didn't thank a single person affiliated with WWE in her speech. And rightfully so. I would feel pretty slimy about the whole thing if I were a member of his family in attendance.

One Win Away

Really fun to see UCLA school LSU tonight. The mistake a lot of pundits made was underestimating UCLA's offense. They have played really good defense for a while now, but because of their awful performance against Memphis on offense, I think a lot of people weren't giving them the credit they deserve. They don't score as much as some teams, but that's largely because they slow the pace of the game down. They are pretty efficient in scoring per possession, and the Memphis offensive performance was an anomoly. They combined their usual offense with their excellent recent defense against LSU, and it was a pretty good butt whooping. It's amazing how quickly people came around on them, because now they seem to be the favorite against Florida. I tend to think they'll win that game, and I think it might be pretty decisive again, but I'm not cursing anything with predictions. The one interesting thing is that going into this season, the thought was how good UCLA would be next year with all their young players developing. Yet this season ended up being the real success story and it will be tough to duplicate next year. Moreover, Ryan Hollins has developed into such an important player for them this year that it will be really tough to replace him next year, and I don't think anyone would have predicted that towards the beginning of the season. Hell, they wouldn't have predicted that in mid-January. This run has been so much fun for me, because every team I root for has given me more disappointment than joy (Wizards, Capitals, Redskins (I wasn't really a fan until I moved back to DC from Singapore in '91, so I missed most of the original Gibbs run), Orioles and now Nationals). I enjoyed Maryland's run with Dixon, Blake, Baxter and company, but it wasn't as nice as this one. Good times.