Monday, February 26, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 02/26/07 from Fresno, CA.

The Big News: Randy Orton and Edge thought that they could drive a wedge between John Cena and Shawn Michaels, but they ended up having the tables turned on them.
Conclusive Finishes: 3 of 4.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels and John Cena came out to start the show. It was announced that they would be defending their tag titles, but Edge and Randy Orton appeared on the screen and said that would happen later in the show. Orton said Michaels was robbed at the Oscars because he’s a tremendous actor in saying he has Cena’s back. Cena indicated he didn’t believe Edge and Orton, so they aired a video package of Michaels turning on Marty Jannetty, Diesel, X-Pac, Booker T and Hulk Hogan over the years. Cena turned to Michaels and gave him a dirty look. Michaels told Cena that Cena can trust him.

I loved this opening segment. It was great on many levels. To begin with, I love the angle where the heel is trying to get the faces to turn on each other, and you’re not sure if they will. They also tied in the past really well in making today’s storyline a part of a greater history. Finally, they are telling a long term story that has a number of steps along the way. I think long term booking is imperative for successful pro wrestling, because it makes you want to tune in to the TV show to see what will happen next and order the pay-per-view for the conclusion to the story. All in all, great stuff.

Jeff Hardy beat Shelton Benjamin to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank match. Benjamin went for a series of pinning attempts early, and then used a bunch of punches. Hardy hit a clothesline off the barricade and the whisper in the wind. Benjamin responded with an overhead belly to belly superplex. Benjamin followed with a back drop, but blew a springboard dropkick spot. Hardy immediately went for the pin and they did a close near fall, which was really smart because it almost made it seem like it was a planned spot. Benjamin missed the stinger splash and Hardy hit the swanton for the pin.

Melina was backstage complaining to Johnny Nitro about Ashley in Playboy, Mick Foley’s book, Mickie James’ falls count anywhere rematch for the women’s title next week and her match with Maria this week. Nitro told her to shut up to a crowd pop. He said he has his own problems after losing his Money in the Bank opportunity, and went out for his match. Nitro jumped Super Crazy before the match got under way. He gave him a beatdown on the outside, threw him into the steps, and walked to the back seething. Nitro was really good here and it was smart to get over the importance of the Money in the Bank by having the losers devastated at losing their chance.

Melina beat Maria in a short match. Maria missed a drop kick, and Melina took over by stepping on Maria’s head, choking her, flinging her by the hair and applying the camel clutch. Maria came back with kicks, a bulldog and a clothesline. She went for the bronco buster but Maria blocked it with a boot. Melina then rolled up Maria for the pin.

Vince McMahon came out and said everyone is talking about the battle of the billionaires. Vince said he would give Donald Trump a billionaire bitch slap and brought out Umaga. He said Trump has made a career of one-upping people, but it won’t happen this time. Trump appeared on the screen and said that he would. Trump said Umaga’s an animal, but animals can be tamed. He said you do so by finding something superior, and introduced Lashley as his representative. Lashley came to the ring and a brawl ensured with security trying to break up Lashley and Umaga. Jim Ross did a great job selling the somewhat underwhelming pick of Lashley.

Chris Masters was holding another Masterlock challenge, and Great Khali came out. Khali sat down in the chair for the Masterlock but Masters didn’t have it applied when Kane arrived. He gave Masters a choke slam and clotheslined Khali to the outside. He hit Masters with a chair. Great Khali vs. Kane has the potential to be unspeakably awful. Backstage, Vince McMahon got a call from the board of directors saying they wanted a guest referee for the battle of the billionaires.

They announced Jerry Lawler for the Hall of Fame, and plugged his Memphis career heavily. Carlito then defeated Kenny Dykstra. Carlito hit clotheslines, a body slam, and a springboard corkscrew senton. Kenny rammed Carlito into the apron twice and hit some shoulder blocks. Carlito came back with clotheslines, a knee lift and a springboard elbow. Kenny caught him with a sit down power bomb for a near fall. Finally, Carlito gave him the back cracker for the pin.

Ric Flair came out to applaud. Since they seem more open to slower builds right now, I would delay the Carlito/Flair feud. There just isn’t enough time to make it mean something for WrestleMania. The story needs more time to be told, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world to have a few things planned for after WrestleMania. Vince said backstage that he would appear on ECW to make Lashley’s life a living hell.

John Cena and Shawn Michaels beat Edge and Randy Orton. The heels worked over Cena first. He tagged Michaels who came in with a flying forearm, inverted atomic drop, body slam and elbow off the top on Orton. Michaels went for sweet chin music but almost hit Cena before a commercial break. After the break, the heels worked over Michaels. Eventually he tagged Cena, who gave Orton the Cena slam and five knuckle shuffle. Cena went for the FU but Edge stopped it and the referee was knocked out.

Edge went for the spear on Cena but ran into an FU attempt. Orton brought a title belt into the ring but Michaels hit Edge with it. He then gave the belt to Orton, and Edge thought Orton hit him with it. Orton and Edge argued, and Edge left. Michaels then gave Orton sweet chin music and Cena gave him the FU for the pin. This was a really clever twist and finish to the match. Cena and Michaels were celebrating after the match when the referee went to give Cena his title. The title was right between Cena and Michaels and they both stared at it as the show ended.

Final Thoughts:

WWE is in the best shape they have been in since SummerSlam 2002. A few times over the past few years WWE has had short bursts of quality programming, but each time the signs were there that it could quickly fall apart. Right now Raw and Smackdown in particular are so well put together that I’m starting to gain faith that they can follow through after WrestleMania. If you’re one of the people that doesn’t watch the show regularly but reads about it, now’s a good time to give it a try again.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pride Coverage

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I just saw the film today. Must say I was quite disappointed. I was really expecting to like it, since I absolutely loved Amores Perros and thought 21 Grams was great as well. I knew there had been some backlash to the film, but I figured that was to be expected given the style of the film. But I think ultimately it just isn't that good. I thought Babel was clearly the inferior film of Inarritu's trilogy, for very basic reasons. The characters for the most part didn't resonate with me, which limited my emotional investment in their suffering. The characters acted in stupid ways as well which limited my sympathy and just made the events seem pointless rather than tragic. Finally, the overall theme that tied the story together I didn't think was as strong as the other two. So overall it gets a mild thumbs down from me. Still well directed and acted, but ultimately lacking. Too bad.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 02/19/07 from Bakersfield, CA.

The Big News: Raw featured a pair of title changes and the announcement of Vince McMahon’s representative against Donald Trump. The build for WrestleMania is shaping up to be among the best of the decade.

Conclusive Finishes: 4 of 6.

Show Analysis:

Vince McMahon came out to start the show and there was a barber pole and chair in the ring. He was over the top even by his standards, and said that he is excited for the battle of the billionaires. He declared that he’ll beat up Donald Trump after his representative beats Trump’s. He added that he will shave Trump’s head, and leave him looking grotesque like Britney Spears. They showed a bunch of hairstyles Vince could give Trump for comedy, but Vince said he will shave Trump bald.

Vince said that Trump will have to announce his representative next week, and introduced Umaga as his representative. That’s definitely the best choice over the other main contender Great Khali. As far as the opponent, I’m not sold on Lashley. He is just so bland as a face. The ideal scenario would be for Trump to introduce someone new. Vince could dismiss him until he debuts with a decisive win over Trump on a major stage. It’s a natural slot to create a new star, but I don’t know if it will have the same effect on someone who has been around.

Umaga defeated Jeff Hardy to win the Intercontinental Title. Vince announced this match at the end of his monologue. Hardy hit a baseball slide but came off the barricade into an Umaga palm thrust to the throat. Umaga worked over Hardy for a while until he missed a head butt off the second rope. Hardy hit a whisper in the wind, but Umaga easily powered out of the pinning attempt. He then hit a Samoan drop, running butt drop and Samoan spike for the pin. This was a total squash designed to get over Umaga as strong as possible. It was effective in that goal. I’m not sure why they are putting the title on Umaga, but I guess we will see.

They aired one of the first commercials for Mick Foley’s new book, and the commercial itself was great. They sold it basically as Foley publicly criticizing the company, its politics, DX and the like. He concluded, “Winston Churchill had three autobiographies. Why can’t I? Who did Churchill ever beat?” That line was hilarious on multiple levels. I was already planning on picking up Foley’s book, but now I’m almost certainly going to read it very quickly after purchase.

Ric Flair and Carlito beat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. There were no teases of dissension here. Flair and Carlito were successful early until Cade caught Carlito with the side effect. The heels worked over Carlito until he tagged Flair. Flair came in with chops, punches, a chop block and a strut. He tagged Carlito who hit the back cracker for the pin. I still have no idea where they are going with this Flair/Carlito stuff, but I would suspect they will end up breaking up at some point over the next few weeks to set up a WrestleMania match.

John Cena and Shawn Michaels did an interview backstage. Cena said they were successful at No Way Out, because they know where they stand going into WrestleMania. Michaels said he wants to make sure nothing happens to Cena before Mania. They teased dissension, but instead did sarcastic hard sells of their DVDs. I don’t think that’s a funny spot, but Michaels ended up giving Big Dick Johnson sweet chin music, which I appreciated. Elsewhere, Randy Orton told Edge they have a tag title rematch next week, and it will be easy after Orton takes out Cena. Edge said he will win Money in the Bank and use it right after the title match at WrestleMania.

Edge defeated Rob Van Dam to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania. RVD worked over Edge early, and hit his twisting leg drop onto the barricade. Edge responded with a swinging neck breaker, but RVD came back with clotheslines and kicks. He went for rolling thunder but was countered with a power slam, which was a cool spot.

RVD crotched Edge on the top rope and hit a spinning kick off the top. He followed with a pescado, but was caught with a dropkick when diving off the top rope again. RVD leap frogged a spear attempt and hit a split legged moonsault for two. RVD was going up for the frog splash when Randy Orton jumped onto the apron to distract RVD. RVD knocked Orton off the apron but Edge hit the spear for the pin. This was a very good match, with RVD getting more offense than I would have expected going in.

Melina beat Mickie James to win the women’s title. Mickie hit a running dropkick and baseball slide to the outside. She missed a second and Melina threw her by her hair. Melina then gave Mickie the CURB STOMP~~~~!!!! The two women brawled. Mickie hit knees and the Charlie Thesz press. Mickie went for a huracanrana but was thrown off and Melina covered for the pin. Melina seemed genuinely excited and emotional about winning. Backstage, Mickie slapped Grisham for asking about the loss.

Great Khali beat the Highlanders in a handicap match. He gave Rory the chop and Robbie the tree slam. Backstage he told Coach he wants better competition. I want better competition for him as well. After WWE cuts him he would make a great freak show opponent in Pride or K1. Elsewhere, Melina trashed Ashley for posing in Playboy. If they’re wrestling at Mania they’d better keep it short.

They announced Mr. Perfect as the second inductee for the Hall of Fame this year. I’m glad about that, as Curt Hennig may have been my first favorite wrestler. They showed clips of the vignettes he did with various athletes back in the day. They then ran a great package on his career. USA ran a new commercial basically trying to present Raw fans as educated and middle class for advertisers. WWE should remember that goal every week, because it’s going to take a concerted and long-term effort to make that a reality.

John Cena beat Randy Orton via disqualification. Orton hit a DDT, used the Garvin stomp, and followed with a knee drop. Cena came back with the Cena slam and five knuckle shuffle. He went for the FU but Orton raked the eyes and hit a dropkick. Orton hit a crossbody off the top, but Cena rolled through for a near fall. Orton hit the back breaker and went for the RKO, but it was blocked. Cena went for the FU but Edge ran in with a spear for the DQ. Shawn Michaels made the save. He cleared the ring with a chair and teased hitting Cena with it but didn’t.

Final Thoughts:

This was another excellent show. Raw has tremendous momentum right now, and I’m looking forward to these shows on a weekly basis as much as I have in a long time.

Mike Awesome Dead

What a sad story. Yet another guy in wrestling who died way too young. Awesome was one of the last Americans to make his name in Japan first, before the market there collapsed to where unknown Americans couldn't get enough to make a living. He was a guy with limitations, but who could do a lot of things unique for a guy of his size. Paul Heyman booked him really well in ECW and he was a real player there. He could have meant something in WCW as well I think were it not for being saddled with two of the worst gimmicks in wrestling history back to back. I always thought he received more criticism and hatred than he deserved for leaving ECW. He did what he did to help support himself. He wasn't always getting paid. ECW went out of business a relatively short time after he left. I don't think he should have tried to leave with the title because of the damage that could have done to the company, but for the most part he was just a guy doing what he could for his career. And he was really painted as the villain for it. He got treated poorly in WWE as well, and it's too bad because in interviews I heard with him he seemed like a nice guy. Frequently on the internet people attack others with incredible hatred because the medium allows for easier dehumanization. I'm not saying that sort of stuff necessarily played a role in this story, but I wish people would keep it in mind when going after someone like a Joanie Laurer.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

20 percent my ass

More like 100. Give it a rest you phony attention whore.

And while I'm feeling bitter, isn't it amazing how ESPN got into bed with NASCAR financially and overnight NASCAR's relevance as a newsworthy sporting event went up 5,000 percent? I'd rather read about women's college basketball. No, actually that understates the point, because that isn't even close. I'd rather read about high school water polo. Yeah, that makes the point more strongly.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ric By God Flair

Here's the link to youtube.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 02/05/07 from Sioux City, IA.

The Big News: The top matches for WrestleMania are set: Batista vs. Undertaker and Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena. Also, Ric Flair cut an awesome promo on Carlito.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Conclusive Finishes: 7 of 7! I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on the six man tag.

Match Results: Chris Masters, Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas b Carlito Caribbean Cool & Cryme Tyme; Umaga b Balls Mahoney; Super Crazy b Johnny Nitro; Mickie James b Melina; Jeff Hardy b Ric Flair; Bobby Lashley b Kenny Dykstra; Shawn Michaels b Randy Orton and Edge.

Show Analysis:

Undertaker came out to start the show, followed by the three champions. Undertaker stared them all down, but then made a throat slashing motion at Batista. This brought out Shawn Michaels, followed by Randy Orton and Edge. Each wanted a shot at John Cena now that Undertaker had chosen Batista. Vince McMahon was next out, and suggested that nobody is challenging Lashley because he may be the toughest champion of all. Yeah, I’m sure that must be it.

Vince said that Lashley would have to defend his title against someone on Raw. He also made Cena vs. Orton vs. Edge for the WrestleMania title shot at Cena. Taker concluded the segment by choke slamming Batista. This open was basically what you would expect. It was a little too similar to the start of last week’s show, but effective enough.

Chris Masters and the World’s Greatest Tag Team defeated Carlito and Cryme Tyme. For some reason, when I try to write Chris Masters’ name, 7 times out of 10 I write “Christ” instead of “Chris.” I have no idea what this means. It’s not like I have that problem with Chris Benoit. Perhaps it’s a sign. In any event, the heels worked over JTG. Shelton Benjamin gave him a knee lift and Haas an overhead belly to belly.

JTG tagged Carlito, who came in with clotheslines, a springboard double elbow, and a knee lift. Masters went for the Masterlock but Carlito escaped. He rolled up Haas, but Benjamin came from the outside with a springboard blockbuster on Carlito. Haas rolled through and grabbed the tights for the pin. This was short but good.

Backstage, Kenny Dykstra asked for a title shot against Lashley and was granted it. Vince also had a letter from Donald Trump. It said he would up the ante, and the people in the crowd cheered, thinking money. Instead, it was revealed he would appear next week on Raw, which the crowd didn’t react to with enthusiasm. Trump said in the letter he had a business proposal for Vince, and Vince suggested he wanted Trump to join the kiss my ass club.

Elsewhere, Ric Flair briefly spoke about his title shot against Jeff Hardy. Meanwhile, Candice and Melina had one of those weird conversations between women where they pretend they’re really friendly but clearly have it out for each other. Johnny Nitro told Melina he would teach Super Crazy a lesson.

Jonathan Coachman said that because Vince McMahon has it out for ECW, he had a hand picked opponent to take care of Balls Mahoney. It was Umaga. Umaga beat Balls Mahoney in a brief squash. He choked Balls, gave Balls a head butt off the ropes, executed a Samoan drop on Balls, gave Balls the butt drop and finished Balls with the Samoan Spike. Wow. It’s like Umaga chose all his moves in anticipation of a match with Balls.

Super Crazy beat Johnny Nitro. Crazy was accompanied by Mickie James, while Nitro was accompanied by Melina. Nitro gave Crazy a back breaker and side Russian leg sweep. Mickie tripped Nitro, and Crazy hit some dropkicks and a tilt-a-whirl back breaker. Crazy hit a body slam and went for the moonsault. Nitro tried to cut him off but was stopped and Crazy hit the moonsault for the pin.

I don’t get this finish at all. This is precisely why WWE does such a bad job creating new stars these days. Nitro is one of the few guys on the WWE undercard who shows spark and potential for something big and WWE sees something in him. That is precisely the sort of guy you protect on the way up, yet here he is losing to Super Crazy, who at this point in time is just a body with no real upward potential. This is exactly the sort of feud that shouldn’t have parity booking. Johnny Nitro is a potential star. Super Crazy isn’t. Every time Johnny Nitro wrestles Super Crazy, Johnny Nitro should win.

Mickie James retained the women’s title by defeating Melina. This was longer than most women’s matches, but unfortunately it resulted in a sloppy, not particularly good match. Melina used knees, kicks, punches and clotheslines. Mickie came back with an elbow, forearms and clotheslines. Nitro tried to interfere, but Crazy stopped him. Mickie went for the sunset flip off the top. Melina grabbed the ropes but was caught and Mickie rolled through for the pin.

John Cena approached Shawn Michaels backstage. Michaels figured Cena was coming to say he wanted Michaels to win the main event. Cena said that wasn’t the case, because he’s beaten Edge repeatedly and would beat him again at Mania. He said he just came to say he hopes Michaels stays safe out there.

Jeff Hardy beat Ric Flair to retain the Intercontinental Title. Flair hit chops and Hardy punches. Hardy landed wrong on his leg and Flair went after it for a while. Eventually Hardy came back with an enzuigiri, leading to a delayed Flair flop. Hardy hit the whisper in the wind and twist of fate, but he missed the swanton. Flair stomped on his leg and went for the figure four, but he was rolled up for the pin. Flair hugged Hardy after the match. This was a fun little match. Batista backstage said he doesn’t have a problem with Taker choke slamming him, but payback’s a bitch.

Bobby Lashley beat Kenny Dykstra. Lashley kept punching Lashley early and Dykstra flew all around for him. Dykstra eventually hit a dropkick to the knee and followed with an extended headlock sequence. This eventually elicited some boring chants. Lashley came back with the delayed vertical suplex. He went for the spear but Dykstra kicked him in the head. Lashley then hit a gorilla press into a power slam for the pin.

Edge and Randy Orton backstage agreed that they wouldn’t work as a tag team, but that neither wanted Shawn Michaels to win. Then came quite the segment. Carlito was in a good mood, leaving the building with Torrie Wilson before the main event. He ran into Ric Flair, and said he didn’t care he lost. Ric Flair then tore into him with an awesome tirade.

Flair lectured him about being a lazy underachiever lucky to even be on the show. He just ripped into Carlito for leaving early and having no passion. Flair said he’s trying to figure out who he is, and Carlito’s leaving before the main event. He called Carlito pathetic and stormed off. This was awesome. Seriously, see if you can find it on youtube. Flair was unbelievable here. Somewhere Brian Gewirtz’ jaw dropped. Who would have thought Ric Flair could cut a promo?

Shawn Michaels beat Edge and Randy Orton to earn a WrestleMania title shot. The wrestlers took turns early. Eventually, Orton hit an RKO on Michaels. He went for the pin but Edge pulled him off. Orton and Edge argued. They shook hands but then punched each other at the same time, which was amusing. Orton went for the RKO, but Edge escaped. Edge went for the spear but Orton leap frogged it. Orton and Edge hit a double crossbody. Michaels took advantage to hit an elbow off the top on Edge.

Michaels went for sweet chin music but didn’t get either opponent. Edge accidentally speared Orton. Michaels then gave Edge sweet chin music and pinned Orton for the win. Cena and Michaels had a staredown after the match. Batista and Undertaker came out on the stage and had a staredown of their own. Then both teams stared at each other to close the show. This was a tremendous finish to Raw.

Final Thoughts:

This was a very strong show. Like last week it had an excellent and focused start and conclusion. But this week the middle of the show was much better and the start and finish were a little better too. WWE build is typically stronger leading up to WrestleMania because they have more focus, and this year is no exception. Hopefully they can actually follow through this year.

Finally, I have a couple things to plug. First, you can read my first column for the here:,1,1492645.story?coll=la-headlines-sports-boxing

It’s a set of MMA rankings, and I think it’ll be interesting to you if you’re a new fan of the sport or an established one. I’ll also be providing coverage of Elite XC and Pride FC the next few weeks, so that should be a lot of fun.

Also, I did an audio show today with Bryan Alvarez at:

I think it’s a fun listen so I encourage you to check it out. The bad news is it is for members of his site only. The good news is you can get membership for a month for less than seven bucks, and that will give you all sorts of other great content including audio shows with Dave Meltzer, Chris Nowinski and others. So if you’re not a member go ahead and sign up. It’s definitely worth it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Descanse en Paz

Thursday, February 01, 2007

MMA Rankings

You can find my first LA Times column here. Check it out!