Sunday, November 26, 2017

My Fifteen Favorite Matches

I want to write about wrestling I love, so I'm going to make a list of my fifteen favorite wrestling matches. This isn't an attempt at some kind of definitive best matches ever list just the matches I can watch any time and be happy to watch them. It was just going to be ten with five honorable mentions I didn't write about, but I love too much wrestling. I was surprised making this list that I had no PWG matches, but the shows overall are always awesome so matches rarely stand out. This was a hard list to narrow it down to and I find it pretty weird I don't have anything by Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, or Rey Mysterio on the list, but I can't really find something I'd want to get rid of. I had an original list of nineteen and it was tough cutting some of those as well, but if there aren't some hard choices to be made it's not much of a list to make.

15. Samoa Joe vs. Necro Butcher (IWA:MS Something to Prove)
This would be the easiest to cut from the list, but it's just insane to watch and got Necro into a lot of non-deathmatch matches. It's not a pretty match to watch, but it's hard hitting and Necro messes up some bumps and takes them forehead first and gets busted open hardway and bleeds a ton. It's just such an insane spectacle to watch. Definitely not for people who are turned off by blood though.

14. CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money in the Bank 2011)
Their match on Raw two years later is technically a better match, but this one has the best storyline of the past ten years going into it with Punk threatening to leave with the belt if he won and the interference and shenanigans at the ending were so well done. John Cena pulled out his shitty hurrincanranna and this was just a match where both men did everything to tell the story of Cena being the stalwart WWE guy, but still wanting the clean win and Punk wanting to screw over the McMahons.

13. Paul London vs. Michael Shane (RoH: Unscripted)
I rewatched this match when people tweeted about it's fifteenth anniversary and it's so goddamn good. It's the match that made me a huge fan of London and Shane has always been underrated. These guys give it their all and innovate so much with the ladder. I don't know which is more iconic; London running up the ladder in the corner and doing a plancha to Shane on the outside, or London coming off the ladder with a shooting star press while the crowd chants please don't die. It builds on the rivalry these two had before hand and a lot of other stuff from other graduates of the TWA class that competed in RoH and is just amazing.

12. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XII)
The Ironman match and the demonstration of how well these two could work together, even though they hated each other backstage. These two just do what they both do best and it goes together so well. Bret is the great technical wrestler, but Shawn takes chances and flies and those pay off for him. To me this is the easiest to watch hourlong match, which is more impressive considering there were no falls until overtime. This match made a lot of the matches I watched in WWF afterword pretty disappointing because it was such an impressive bar to clear.

11. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles (NJPW Wrestlekingdom 10)
This was one of my most looked forward to matches from the moment AJ showed up in NJPW and it took a full year before it happened and it was worth the wait. Two of the smoothest performers in the ring had a damn fine match. They do hold back a bit as it wasn't the main event of the show and NJPW tends not to let matches outshine the main event. I'm looking forward to a rematch between them in WWE, preferably high on the card at Wrestlemania.

10. Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuhara Misawa (NOAH Navigate to Evolution)
This fucking match is awesome. I don't always feel in the mood for two big dudes beating the fuck out of each other pretty much legitly so it doesn't go higher, but this is one of the best matches ever and these guys do some crazy shit like suplex each other off the ramp to the floor and generally drop each other on their head a lot. This is the first match where I really understood what Strong Style was and started to get into the Japanese Heavyweight style of wrestling.

9. Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz (WWE: Wrestlemania X7)
Fucking TLC man, you know what I mean. Anybody who doesn't love this match is a crazy person. The swanton off the way too tall ladder and all the other crazy bumps. It's just pure chaos and fun.

8. La Sombra vs. Volador Jr (CMLL 80th Anniversary)
Lucha Libre is fucking awesome and I needed a match to represent that and this one is damn good. A lot is added to it as Sombra loses his mask and it was basically his goodbye match before going to WWE. But these two feuded forever and always have good matches against each other.

7. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (WWE: Wrestlemania X)
A great demonstration of just how good pure wrestling can be. Plus it's got the great backstory of a younger sibling wanting to best his older brother. Plus I made a music video to this set to Metallica's “Hero of the Day” which has sadly been lost to time on the internet and many computers ago, but this was match was just great and I love watching it.

6. CM Punk & Ace Steel vs. Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer (RoH: Death Before Dishonor 2 Night 2)
This is my favorite crazy bump hardcore match and these guys go all fucking out. There's blood, barbed wire, and the crowd fills the ring with chairs and they wrestle on top of it and it's just so crazy and awesome. Plus it makes me happy to give three guys who don't get much props for their indy work a spot on this list.

5. Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW Wrestlekingdom 11)
This match is awesome and both of these guys did insane shit in this match and it fucking ruled. They both take some crazy bumps and Omega takes one of the craziest bumps, although it's not even the craziest bump he took in NJPW that year involving a table, but that's because he's crazy. These guys go all out for the last twenty minutes of this match and it's an awesome rollercoaster.

4. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW Wrestlekingdom 9)
These two guys are both awesome, but most importantly it has the first time I've ever seen the coolest move where Ibushi stood on the second rope and german suplexed Nakamura from the apron into the ring and it was dope. Also the entire match was great.

3. Roderick Strong vs. Bryan Danielson (RoH: Supercard of Honor)
This match is the final of a trilogy between these two and it's hard hitting and goes for a long time and it's awesome. They weave in amazing technical wrestling and Roddy doing his stiff chops and backbreakers and they just go back and forth the whole time. I was a big Roddy fan before this, but this match cemented the idea that he was big time.

2. KENTA vs. Naomichi Marafuji (NOAH First Navigation 2006)
These two guys were the ones that got me into Japanese wrestling to start with thanks to the RoH forums and people talking about how good they were and asking for them to be booked. They were great as a tag team, but even better as opponents and they beautifully play up how well they know each other with tons of counters and stealing each others moves.

1. Paul London vs. Bryan Danielson (RoH: The Epic Encounter)

This has been my favorite wrestling match since the first time I saw it. These two were guys I was instantly fans of when I first saw them in RoH and this match is just so good. These two guys work perfectly together and just have an amazing match. The way the top rope belly to back suplex is built up to is phenomenal. These guys just have a good, really well worked match and I love it so much.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

RoH: Road to the Title Review

RoH: Road to the Title

This is the first independent wrestling show I ever bought and watched. I was still watching WWE at that point and the internet and specifically the Extreme Warfare Boards, where people posted about EWR led me to find out about the existence of independent wrestling and the hype for Ring of Honor was strong and as I've always been a sucker for tournaments this seemed like the perfect show to start with. I watched it on my laptop on the top of a bunk bed in my college dorm and I fell in love right away. My obsession with wrestling took on a new facet there and it only waned when I had to start paying back college loans and RoH started running ten shows a month that made it too expensive to follow. I somehow failed to review this one before which is impressive considering it's always been an important show to me personally. So without any further ado let's get to it.



We start with Mack and Homicide firing up Low Ki and telling him it's his time to shine. Low Ki then starts beating up the wall and yells at the camera. Simple, but effective. We go right into some techno and highlights of the competitors entrances. I will freely admit that I'm dancing to the techno as I type this. I'm going to get this out of the way here instead of complaining about it in the first match write up. RoH production doesn't have their cameras set up right and will never fix this until they get real lighting on the ring so the color from the hard cam and the hand cam is not the same and it gets annoying. The hand cam is also zoomed in too much, but that is a thing they do eventually fix. For commentary we've got Donny B and Steve Corino who do a solid job. Definitely a team RoH broke up too soon as commentary was bad until they got Prazak in the booth.

Bio-Hazard vs. American Dragon Bryan Danielson

A fun quick squash from Danielson. Bio-Hazard looks a little rough at stringing moves together, but with Danielson there to lead him and them both coming from the same wrestling school they keep it together well. Hazard gets a solid showcase and we get Danielson moving on as we all knew he would. 4/10

Paul London vs. Spanky

Two matches in and everybody is from the Texas Wrestling Academy so far. But looking at three out of the four competitors and what they did in the future, that makes sense. The match starts off back and forth with simple chain wrestling and arm drags traded back and forth and slowly builds from there. Both men counter each others finishers and the end starts to ramp up as they both know they have to take it to the next level. Unfortunately that features a brutal botch from the second rope. Commentary says London might have tried to block it, but he gets dropped and hits his feet on the ropes and lands head first on the mat. I'm pretty sure he's concussed because on the next move a suplex he doesn't jump at all and almost gets dumped on his head again. Spanky hits the sliced bread #2 shortly after for the win after a good match. Most of these first round matches are pretty quick since the second round is where the good stuff happens, but still a good match from these two men even with the botch. 7/10

Jay Briscoe vs. Doug Williams

The first of the original new wave of British wrestlers that were making a name for themselves along with Fleisch and Storm who are later in the show in Doug Williams. A solid match from these two men. Jay hits a powerbomb on Williams that looks brutal as Williams is quite bigger than most indy guys. Williams has some kind of weak looking knees, but finishes the match off with the Chaos Theory which became my favorite move for a long time after this match and made me want Williams to win all of his matches so I could see it again. 6/10

Jody Fleisch vs. Johnny Storm

This is the most indy ass wrestling match. Not that it's a bad thing, but it is definitely by the books. Fast paced exchange to start that ends in the indy respect standoff and applause from the crowd. They have a long pinfall exchange sequence. Both men do big dives. Kickout of finisher counter a move and win. It's a fine match, but both men are a little sloppy, which is easy to have happen when you do lots of springboard stuff and they both do. Storm misses the ropes several times and Fleisch's 720 DDT always looks pretty iffy. Not really a good debut, but since they both hit big moves it leaves an impression. Fleisch's springboard shooting star press to the outside is really impressive looking. Fleisch picks up the win after countering a rewind 'rana into a sitout powerbomb. 5/10

Low Ki vs. Prince Nana

Nana jumps Low Ki to start the match and keeps the advantage for the entire match, until the end. Low Ki avoids a running hip attack in the corner then hits an enziguri and Nana is knocked out to end the match. Not much of a match just a way to show how dangerous Low Ki is. 2/10

Xavier vs. Amazing Red

A fast paced spotfest where they hit everything and do some great wrestling. Early in the match Red goes for a phoenix splash on a standing Xavier who catches him and powerbombs the fuck out of him. Really good back and forth stuff from these two guys and Xavier really doesn't get his dues for how good he was at wrestling. Red hits an Infared (a twisting moonsault where I think he spins 540 degrees while moonsaulting) then a standing SSP for the win. 6/10

Christopher Daniels vs. Scoot Andrews

Daniels picks up a quick win over Andrews which was surprising because I remember Andrews doing well early in RoH, but guess they needed to get the match over quick for Daniels to cut a promo and then Simply Luscious cutting her promo afterward. 2/10

Sumie Sakai vs. Simply Luscious

Simply Luscious is not very good at wrestling, but Sumie is very good so it turns out to be fine. Luscious is often lost when trying to figure out what to do between moves, but she can execute the moves she knows well. Sakai hits a couple of big missile dropkicks then a moonsault to pick up the win. Steve Corino's commentary on this match may be worse than attitude era Jerry Lawler, it is brutal. 2/10

AJ Styles vs. Jerry Lynn

This is the best match of the first round by a large amount. These two get plenty of time to work the match and they're both great at it. Styles focuses on the arm of Styles so he can't lock in the cradle piledriver. Lynn just wrestles like Lynn because he's great at that and it's good to watch. The beginning is even until Styles gets some good shots in on the arm. The two have a great pinfall exchange sequence that ends with Lynn hitting a big bridging German suplex for a two count. My favorite part of old school AJ is seeing him hit the Spiral Tap even if it only gets a two count. Styles blocks an attempt at a piledriver from Lynn then lifts him up into the Styles Clash for the win. 7/10

Jody Fleisch vs. Spanky

Solid match from these two. Less wild than Fleisch's first match. Fleisch does a springboard moonsault to the outside that destroys the guardrail, but apparently doesn't hurt himself too much on it. They go back and forth a little more before a sliced bread #2 gets the win for Spanky 6/10

Bryan Danielson vs. Doug Williams

Great technical wrestling exchanges and plenty of hard hitting strikes. This is a damn good match. Williams winning is a real surprise as Danielson was one of the big three in RoH and felt like a lock for the finals which is a nice choice, and makes the results of the next two matches less certain. The definitive moment in this match is both men locking in a leglock and rolling to the ropes then outside of the ring with neither man letting go. Williams hits a beautiful Chaos Theory, but Danielson kicks out. The finish of the match is a kind of weak looking suplex into a sloppy submission hold/cover for three, but doesn't take too much away from a really well wrestled match by both men. 8/10

Low Ki vs. Amazing Red

This match starts out with what is called the matrix minute and is an impressive display of dodged strikes and kicks and running dodges that led to the amazing displays we get from Ospreay and Ricochet today, and it's still looks good after all these years. Low Ki hits Red with all of the kicks he can and Red fights back and plays the underdog perfectly. I forget just how unique a presence Low Ki is in the ring. Nobody else has ever moved and fought like him and it's just awesome to watch. Ki's most painful looking move is the Krush Rush when he lifts Red up for the Ki Krusher then runs him into the corner and drops him to the outside. They go back and forth with great counters and moves until Low Ki blocks a top rope hurrincanranna and turns it into a top rope Ki Krusher. Just an awesome athletic display from both men. 8/10

AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels

This match is built like the biggest match of the night and it carries that title well. It's back and forth until they start fighting on the apron. Daniels gets in the ring and kicks Styles off the apron and into the guardrail busting him open. Daniels goes to work opening the cut up further and trying to wear Styles down. Eventually Styles makes the comeback and they brawl to the apron again. This time Daniels gets draped over the second rope on the inside and Styles hits a Lionsault on him. Also get to see Styles kip up 'rana which I haven't seen in a while. Styles goes for a Styles Clash, but Daniels picks his leg into an ankle lock. They go through a quick pinfall exchange then start going back and forth again. Styles goes for the Lionsault into a DDT, but Daniels snapmares him over then hits the Last Rites for the three count. Really good match between these two, but they have way better matches in the future. 8/10


Overall it's a pretty good show still. A lot of the first round is a little weak because they have a lot of matches they want to get to, but the Styles/Lynn is really good and the last three matches are all awesome as well. And all very different kind of matches which has always been the drawing point of RoH. It's still cool to go back and see a lot of the big names in wrestling back in their early days and see just how far they have come. If you see this show for $5 somewhere pick it up. Or if RoH ever realizes they should have a streaming service this match is one you should watch. RoH has definitely had better matches, but this one has a lot of import to the history of RoH.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

WWE's Production: What The Fuck Are You?

WWE is sports entertainment and are basically the only name in that game. Granted Impact Wrestling is the same thing, but they copy what WWE does so you can't really use them as a comparison. The closest sports comparison would be UFC shows that generally run five to six hours with about ten fights give or take depending on everybody making weight. And also the idea of matches is pretty similar. Plus many fighters in UFC and other MMA shows have been happy to cut wrestling promos after wins to get the crowd to boo them and be invested in a future loss for them. The difference is the scripted nature of wrestling, but there is no other scripted show that is anything like WWE. Mostly because scripted shows have a story they tell over an episode and they generally run nowhere near as long as WWE. I've got several idea of how WWE presents themselves like those other things and how they can make themselves more proficient in those areas.

WWE as a Sport

We're going to look at how WWE presents itself like a sport and how to be more like a sport first, because that is the method I would like WWE to adapt to the most. The first comparison goes toward all other sports on television and how WWE differs from them and that is that they cut away from the action for a commercial.

Granted a wrestling match doesn't have timeouts or stops in play, but hockey and soccer both run for longer than almost any match WWE puts on without a commercial so it can be done. And I've seen both of those sports on USA as well. Putting a commercial break in the middle of a match can kill the flow, but a lot of other wrestling shows that do it are at least tape so they can just restart without the viewer missing anything. For the most part WWE should have the leverage to negotiate a twenty-five minute match without commercial breaks and throw them in more often before and after, or possibly get what they had with the Smackdown debut where the match would continue in a small window while the ad aired. The fact that interviews are never interrupted while matches always are shows where the importance lies in the company. Related to that are there are many times when they will show a replay or cut to the audience and miss action that is happening in the match right away. Yes, the crowd is important to a wrestling match, but their noise is more important than seeing them.

The big changes WWE can make to fix the commercial problem is sell advertisements on the show or the mat. They do the ads in the show already with Snickers and KFC being pretty obvious examples and every PPV is sponsored by something. The mat is pretty empty as are the turnbuckles, but WWE seems pretty insistent on keeping that on brand for them. If they couldn't negotiate for longer breaks between commercials they should have the leverage to get the split screen during commercials or just have the announcers pick up slack with announcing the advertisers more.

After the commercial issue we have to address the fact that nobody ever knows what's going to happen on an episode of RAW/ Sometimes like this week we have a match made on Saturday on twitter to give us a random match on the middle of the show. What WWE really needs is to have some kind of schedule for what we're going to see on a given show. At least three matches. I'd prefer they have five matches planned out for each episode, but I'll give them some leeway for the element of surprise that they love. But the viewer should always have an announced main event, even if it changes during the show, and a couple of other matches that matter ahead of time. They have five different titles on the show and usually four shows between PPVs they can have a different title defended on the main event every RAW and only have the World Heavyweight's Championship defended on PPVs because it's the big belt that means the most. So the main event for every week is simple just a different title defense. That means the week before you have a number one contenders match and that's built out of people who are winning matches on previous shows.

Now once WWE is building schedules up ahead of time and naming contenders you need a ranking system or at least an acknowledgment of wins and losses going into the fight. Are they on a hot run that can negate a bunch of losses earlier. Maybe somebody can't win the number one contenders match, but they've beaten the champ before he won the belt and wins all the other matches. Just a general sense of what has been going on before hand is important for building up credibility of the challengers going into title matches and even the number one contenders match. The win loss record for their career isn't something WWE needs to keep track of, but just a general sense of having a hot run before getting a title show would be nice. Even stealing an idea from Chikara where they require a tag team to win three matches in a row before they can challenge for the belts. This gives non-title matches repercussions as well so there is something at stake whenever a match is happening.

You can still keep the concept of anything can happen by having interference that leads to impromptu tag matches and stuff, but really the concept of anything can happen at any time has kind of run its course when WWE isn't trying to compete with WCW anymore for viewers. There is no need to keep up the idea of stealing a wrestler from the competition or having a bigger surprise match than them.

The setup of established matches ahead of time allows for another great thing to steal from UFC and that is the hype videos they have ahead of the match. There is an interview with both fighters and the interview footage is intercut and overlayed on highlight videos from past fights. Showing big moves gets people excited for what they might see and the heavy production can allow wrestlers with weaker promo skills to still sound badass. And while I can point out bad production elements in WWE one thing they have been great at it for as long as I can remember is cutting together a hype video with music and interviews. I don't know who does that for them, but they are amazing at their job and deserve so much money and awards.

Now this presentation style would be my preference. You still have promos live in front of the crowd, but it puts the emphasis on the sports aspect and gives a more structured style to build the show around. Granted it may not be for everybody, but there is another way to change how WWE is presented that is to put the emphasis on the entertainment part of the show.

WWE as Entertainment

If WWE wants to focus more on the entertainment they need to work on their story telling and make the stories compelling on the basis of the story. A lot of fan involvement in feuds is more related to liking the wrestlers in the feud than enjoying the story that is being told. The stories have to be structured more like comic books than any other kind of medium, because the performers stick around after the story is done. So ideally every story will make both performers seem more interesting afterward and won't just be one person's credibility taking a dive because they can't get the win. One of the big flaws in WWE's stories is that people will just disappear after a story finishes. Rhino and Heath Slater are a great example of that. Heath's quest to get signed by one of the two shows was a strong plotline that lead to the tag team and some fun shenanigans before they won the belts and secured Heath a job. Once they lost the tag belts they just kind of never had a story for a rematch and they just became directionless and then got moved to RAW and haven't done anything. Now not everybody needs to be involved in a story at all times, but there is a need for them to have some kind of direction that they are moving in. Sometimes in comics or tv characters are just kind of there, but it's generally not going from being the head of a team (tag champs) to drifting around in the background while other people get stuff done.

If you look at the basic story structure of an episode of RAW it's a fucking mess. There is usually no episode long story, which makes sense as there are three hours and not all of it should be devoted to one story all the time. In general an episode of RAW we start with a long promo that sets up the main event of the evening, or if leading up to something like Money in the Bank you get a bunch of matches set up for the show one of which happens after the commercial break. Starting a show about wrestling with somebody talking for twenty minutes isn't exactly exciting, and it's also just having people tell the fans what they are going to do. There is no drama in most of these promos, they follow a standard format every time and generally lead to the same conclusions. A lot of the suggestions I'm going to make for fixing the entertainment part of WWE are going to kind of suck for a live audience, so I'll try and work other stuff in that keeps the live crowd interested.

One of the suggestions people often throw out on how to fix RAW is to cut it to two hours, but really there is plenty of talent and stories to tell to fill all three hours. The thing is since RAW is presented as a single episode for the whole time they are running one major story throughout the whole thing. RAW has five titles on it, kind of four since Brock Lesnar doesn't show up with the World Championship, and each of those titles can be given a section of RAW as their own show. Or at least have a story that is important for that week that leads to what happens to next week. With five or six episodes between PPVs, in general, they can main event each show with a different title and change the focus between the weeks and also change the formula of the show which gets tired after being the same for years so far. With 180 minutes you can give the division you have main eventing the show a full hour of focus and split the remaining time evenly between the other four divisions with a half hour each. Obviously there is leeway as the time division isn't super important, but it gives a good baseline for how to build each divisions story. A focus on monthly stories from PPV to PPV for a title is important, and having more long term plans so they keep undercard workers present and can have them getting built up so that they are ready if they are going to become a championship contender in future months.

Each week every division gets time for a lengthy match or two shorter matches and time for promos or vignettes for the characters. The important thing is to build up why people are fighting. A lot of the time it's going to be because they want to win the championship, but personal feelings can carry fights as well when somebody feels like somebody else cost them their shot at the title, or maybe they felt disrespected by them. Long term planning is a necessity to focus on the entertainment aspect of WWE and having a clear plan of where storylines are leading and how to build a next story off there. It also allows them to write characters off for a while to give them breaks from wrestling for a bit and recover. Time away from the ring could also be used for WWE Network shows focusing on the life of wrestlers away from the ring. It also could allow for wrestlers to be written off to go work on WWE movies instead of them just disappearing for a couple of weeks without any notice.

Lucha Underground is the ideal in terms of telling a story outside of the wrestling as the wrestling and vignettes are filmed separately and edited together in post so the live crowd doesn't have to sit through any pre-taped stuff. Obviously WWE can't change their style that much, but they do air pre-tapes for the live audience so what they can take is the more cinematic direction and style that those vignettes use. The most obvious and present example of the lack of directorial style in WWE is the backstage shot of people watching a match on tv. Every time this shot is set up its a static shot with everybody lined up along the tv in a way that no human has ever actually watched tv. The way to make this shot look better is to have the camera move. The ideal way to do this would be to come in from behind and shoot the wrestlers from behind and see them watching the tv then swing around so the camera is behind the tv looking at the wrestler taking notes or talking to whoever they are watching with. The other big thing WWE does wrong is that they always put the backstage thing in the main screen while the match is in the picture in picture screen which is the wrong order of doing things. The viewer doesn't need to be focused on the people watching as long as they are seen. The match is still the key thing for fans to be watching.

I haven't been watching WWE consistently for a while, but the other day I was watching Smackdown and they had a backstage interview with Charlotte and the camera was just kind of wandering around the whole time. WWE is a gigantic company that should be able to afford a steady cam instead of trusting a camera man to hold still. And sometimes a still two shot is fine for a conversation that WWE likes to use a vignette, but the problem then becomes the set dressing. They are in different arenas every show, but every interview is in the same spot and you would never know it was a different place from week to week. It doesn't have to be a big change, but just utilizing the arena they are in to give interviews a different feel. Another option is putting more of these interviews in the locker rooms or give them more of a press conference feel from before the show instead of having them stand awkwardly in their wrestling gear while answering questions. I watched a Fashion Files vignette yesterday where its done in black and white and the performances are good especially given the fact that the New Day are there with Fandango and Breeze. Breeze and Fandango would talk to each other telepathically without the New Day hearing them and not getting it and that was a great segment with great writing, but the way it was shot was bad. It was one camera and it has no goddamn steady cam. The frame is moving all over the place. I know I talked about this before, but that's the kind of scene that can be improved by having multiple camera angles. The wide angle with everybody is fine if the camera is steady, but then you can intercut it with over the shoulder shots. Even when WWE comes up with a good angle they just don't know how to film it well.

There is obviously a middle ground between the urban fantasy world that Lucha Underground produces and the sterile simple sports stories that WWE tells. One of the things that sets them apart is that WWE seems to be okay with using a fine take for a story instead of trying to get everything done really well or even great. They are using taped segments, but not putting in the time to get something great out of the people in the scene. But that's a thing that comes down to the producers who aren't directors and don't understand how to get the best out of an actor. I talked about directors being important for knowing how to move the camera in scenes, but getting a great performance is another skill they're important for and WWE would be wise to try and gets somebody with television experience for that role and not just limit the television experience to the writers. When the director uses multiple angles it makes it so that the wrestlers don't have to nail the entire scene in one take and can cut between the best parts of each take, which is a big positive considering most WWE wrestlers aren't really actors and can do well, but aren't going to nail everything in one go.

Conclusion

The more likely approach WWE would take is a combination of these aspects and that's fine. Of the issues that WWE could mostly easily fix it is their production. Compared to other wrestling companies WWE spends a lot of money on production. They have awesome stages, great cameras, high quality sound, pyrotechnics, and great highlight videos, but the production flows are that they don't utilize those things that well. Lucha Underground will be my go to for this, but that's a company that doesn't have as much money in production, but they use it to maximum effect. The arena has a character, which is easier for them as everything is shot in the same place, but it's not just a giant stadium it's a place the fans like to see. WWE presents every stadium as the same except for the exterior establishing shots. They can make each stadium feel different and look different because they are. But the bigger thing is that they have gotten way better cameras, and they don't shoot RAW any differently than they did when the cameras had motion blurring and it was hard to follow what was happening. WWE rebranded themselves from wrestling to entertainment in the early 90s, but have never changed how they shot the product which is one of their biggest problems. The in ring product and the writing have evolved, the former more than the latter, but the direction is the same as it's always been and doesn't serve the product well. The fans know it's entertainment, WWE can shoot their show that way.


Personally I favor WWE going toward a more MMA approach with how they present the program, because they won't go far enough toward the Lucha Underground craziness if they go toward entertainment so I'm pretty sure my arguments in that section are stronger and have more conviction. The entertainment section is important and the lack of different directors for WWE is a big problem. All long running shows change their show runners over time, but WWE has only had three with Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn, and Stephanie McMahon, and Vince has never really stepped down from that position even while giving Steph more influence. No matter what the writers are giving the talent its all being overseen by an out of touch 71 year old man. There's lots of writing influences WWE takes from Hollywood and the idea of rotating show runners would probably be the most beneficial for the show.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Storylines and History have context in Wrestling, or Another take on why Jinder shouldn't be #1 contender

Jinder Mahal is the number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship and it's because he won a six pack challenge match on Smackdown which is the first singles match I can remember him winning in forever. Now I'm all for the idea that anybody can win any match at any time, but the problem is I know Jinder has been a jobber his entire career and he hasn't won enough, or any matches, that make me believe he can beat Randy Orton to become the champion. This relates to one of my problems with WWE which is their belief that wins and losses don't matter. Now to a certain extent that is true in that I can forget losses from a while ago as long as a person is on a winning streak, but I still have an idea of how well a wrestler is performing in the win/loss column.

Officials in WWE have been on record as saying that fans will cheer for people regardless of wins and losses and that is true to a certain extent, but that requires a connection with the fans that only a few wrestlers have. Currently Bray Wyatt and Sami Zayn are capable of getting that kind of reaction. I'm pretty sure some of the other big name guys can do that as well, but they haven't lost as much as those two to prove it.

Pro wrestling is scripted, but it is nominally supposed to be formatted like a sport, and there should be some kind of metric for how well people are doing in the sport and wins and losses are generally that metric. UFC is generally the closest sport comparison I go with for them and there are definitely people who get title shots that don't deserve them, but they have gotten wins and have gotten the fans behind them to a certain extent and created interest in the fight. Jon Jones is going to get a shot against Daniel Cormier that he doesn't deserve having been gone from fighting for like three years with one fight in that time and he barely won that fight against a nobody. Georges St. Pierre is coming back and getting a title shot in a weight class he's never fought in, but he's still GSP and people want to see that fight.

On the other hand there is Jinder Mahal winning the match and getting the title shot. In the match you have the best argument for a midcarder going over and getting a shot at the title in Sami Zayn as the crowd was super supportive for him. If you want to tell a great story you have a challenger in either Luke Harper or Eric Rowan who are Wyatt followers still left on Smackdown after their leader left. Zayn fits the same mold of Jinder as an unexpected challenger, except Sami has been in higher profile matches and wins matches fairly regularly unless it's against top tier opponents. Also as I mentioned earlier the crowd loves Zayn. I get the idea of surprising the crowd, but sometimes surprises work because you don't expect it, but you get where it came from. Other times the surprise is Jinder winning a number one contenders match after never having won a match since he returned to WWE and being a jobber when he left them. Jinder has been involved in one match that was really good and that was WeeLC and he wasn't much of a factor in making it awesome. But he was part of it and it was awesome so he does have that going for him, and that's it.

I will admit that in general I'm not interested in a Jinder Mahal push, but if WWE committed to it before hand and had the Bollywood Boys come up a while ago and help him win matches or he won matches on his own before he won the number one contenders match it would be a different situation. Going on a win streak can overcome any number of losses in the past, but that's not what happened.


Jinder Mahal has lost every match since he came back and has no fanfare. He has a tag team from 205 Live which many people don't watch interfere to help him win the match for the first time and it just happens to be a number one contenders match that he has no reason to be involved with in the first place. While WWE is a scripted show it is still modeled after a sport and in all sports wins and losses matter. WWE doesn't place any faith in that idea so we are stuck with a perennial jobber like Jinder Mahal getting a title shot against Randy Orton at a PPV and that's not a good, or interesting idea.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My thoughts on Goldberg as Universal Champion

Last Sunday Goldberg beat Kevin Owens in twenty seconds to win the Universal Championship. I didn't watch the match because I've been pretty good about keeping up on my promise to boycott WWE. I still haven't given them money, but I watched Royal Rumble with a bunch of friends, because I like hanging out with people and yelling at wrestling while drunk and I watched Elimination Chamber because I love the chamber. I didn't watch this match, but it still infuriates me in a way stuff I watch doesn't.

For years WWE has been banking Wrestlemania on the name value of part timers and claiming that the full time guys can't draw. And for the most part it's their own fault that they can't. Plus 'Mania is going to get a ton of viewers no matter what the card is. Owens being destroyed in under a minute is something I could rant on for a long time and I might still, because I have to try and learn how to edit audio for a podcast my friend wants to do, but for right now I'll compare it to the closest comparison which was CM Punk losing the World Title to The Rock at Royal Rumble 2013.

At the surface they're similar as the champ is losing to a part timer in order to make the part timers match at Wrestlemania have more gravitas. That and the part timer did nothing to earn the title shot, but that is the extent of the similarities.

CM Punk versus The Rock started on RAW 1000 when the show ended with Punk laying Rock out with a Go 2 Sleep to end the show. On a personal note I was watching that show with a bunch of friends and that was the coolest fucking thing to us at the time especially for me as I had been watching Punk wrestle since he debuted in Ring of Honor. Rock disappeared again, because he had movies to make and Punk kept defending the belt for a record length in the modern era. Rock gets a title shot at Royal Rumble because he said he'd face the champ at Royal Rumble and that's why Punk laid him out. Also Rock was becoming a huge fucking deal as an actor and people fucking love him.

Now we get to the definitive difference and that is largely the length of the match and the quality. This was a good match. Rock was a little less good, because he was way too fucking big with muscles, but he still had a good match and he took big bumps and made the match feel big. The Shield even power bombed him through an announce table. And Punk won the match after Shield interference during a black out before the match was restarted and let Rock get the win. This was a good back and forth match that made both men look good. Then we went to the next PPV of Elimination Chamber and the men met again. Again we had a twenty minute match that Punk would have gotten a pinfall on Rock, but the ref was knocked out and The Rock ended up winning, but it was a good match and both men looked good. Rock went on to Wrestlemania and had a fine match with Cena although it was ruined by him tearing a muscle during it.

Now I defended all of Rock winning the title, but rest assured I hated it at the time and still do, but it makes sense and both men looked good coming out of those matches.

Then we get Goldberg getting eliminated from the Royal Rumble after about five minutes and beating only Brock Lesnar once and now he gets a title shot. Kevin Owens has been on a hot streak and just dumped his partner who kept helping him get wins because of the advice of HHH. So the match starts, Jericho's music hits, Owens gets distracted then speared, jackhammered and pinned for the win. It takes under a minute and now Owens looks like shit, because he got wrecked in no time, and the partner he ditched for other help screws him, while the others guys ignore him. To make matters worse Owens isn't getting a rematch at the title so Goldberg is the Universal Champion going into Wrestlemania. He's wrestled about six minutes in three matches, most of which was in the Royal Rumble which doesn't require a person to do any wrestling and he's supposed to be a big deal going into Wrestlemania.

All of this complaining before hand ignores the fact that the first time Brock Lesnar and Goldberg fought at Wrestlemania it was one of the worst matches I've ever fucking watched. In his peak Goldberg was mediocre at best and that was twenty years ago. Lesnar is only good when he's laying in shots and throwing his opponent around and Goldberg isn't going to go for any of that shit because he never has.


So what I'm saying is that Goldberg going into 'Mania with the belt has no real reason behind it whereas Rock going in built up Punk even with him losing and it escalated the rematch from last 'Mania between him and Cena. Even with those losses Punk was still over enough to face the Undertaker and make people believe he might be the one to end the streak. Owens will probably face Jericho in a good match that means nothing as Jericho will be leaving to play with Fozzy after Owens beats him. Then Owens will hang around in the upper midcard and do nothing for a couple of years and basically be Sheamus, except people like him.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tournament of Death XI (2012)

I'm reviewing an old CZW Tournament of Death because why the fuck not? Linkin Park provides the theme for this show so it's off to a bad start. The audio is also really poorly mixed and the music for interstitials is loud as fuck. You can barely hear the commentary over the crowd noise. The video says it's almost five hours long, but that's because every match has a shit ton of replays afterward.

Danny Havoc vs. Devon Moore vs. Lucky tHURTeen (Drunken Scaffolding Match)

When people talk about garbage death match wrestling this is the textbook example of it. There is no selling and they just move from spot to spot and it just looks dumb. The first move in the match is Lucky getting backbody dropped out of the ring through a barbed wire board. The worst part is Lucky hitting a top rope Canadian Destroyer and Moore straight up kicks out at two. Or maybe the worst was Havoc getting kicked off the side of the scaffolding through a barbed wire board and getting right up so he can powerslam Moore through another board because Moore hit the apron instead of a board. There are some cool looking spots, but it's not much of a match. Plus I'm pretty sure that is actual legit alcohol they are drinking in the match because they are dumb as fuck.

Drake Younger vs. Rory Mondo (Ladders and Lighttube match)

The crowd hates Rory Mondo because he uses Nick Mondo's name, but is no Nick Mondo. This match starts off with a ladder in every corner covered in random shit. They use the first minute to tease ladder spots and then they stop giving a shit and hit every fucking spot on every fucking thing. Younger starts with an overhead belly to belly suplex onto a ladder and then spends a couple of minutes beating the fuck out of Mondo. Mondo fights back with a ladder to the side of Younger's head and busts him wide open. This is like five minutes in and just keeps escalating. Mondo hits a one winged angel onto a lighttube ladder that only gets two then Younger hits a tiger driver onto a lighttube ladder for two. To finish the match they put two ladders across the ropes in the corner then Younger hits a vertabreaker on them which looks gnarly. They bounce off and Younger hits another vertabreaker for good measure.

MASADA vs. Scot Summers (Panes of Glass match)

The crowd gets grumpy at this match because it starts slowly like an actual wrestling match and it's my favorite of the first round. They trade some holds early then they trade forearms and then they trade some more holds. They tease the glass well before making use of it and every spot through the glass matter and not just something that looks cool. They break the two in the corners and Summers gets his back fucked up. MASADA hits a nice suicide dive then goes to get another pane of glass and Summers launches himself over the ropes and into him and the glass. They go back to brawling in the ring before MASADA hits a huge jacknife powerbomb then pulls out two cinder blocks and sets them next to each other and piledrives Summers on it. Summers hits the blocks hard because his head is busted wide open. He kicks out of the piledriver so MASADA hits a DVD on the blocks for the three count. A good back and forth match that uses actual wrestling and treats the weapon spots like big moments.

Abdullah Kobayashi vs. Matt Tremont (Lighttube bundles and Ultraviolent Bats match)

They have all kinds of bats covered in sharp stuff and a bunch of lighttubes and they don't waste time before putting them to use. Also both men bite a lighttube in half to start the match because they are fucking insane. They build pretty quickly to a superplex through a bundle of lighttubes and then just keep hitting each other with bats, lighttubes, or jabbing broken lighttubes in each others foreheads. DJ Hyde runs out to the ring and smashes a lighttube bundle over Tremont's back then Kobayashi goes off and starts hitting Tremont with everything he can get his hands on before climbing to the top rope and hitting an elbow drop with a lightube for the three count. Probably the second best match of the first round as it felt like a fairly back and forth match before Hyde's interference.

I skipped forward through some stuff, but it looks like somebody might have proposed at tournament of death so I'm sure that's a good relationship.

Joe Gacy vs. Ryan Slater

Gacy is a fucking sloppy wrestler and it is brutal. Especially since Slater takes every real bump in this match. It starts off bad when Gacy tries to chokeslam him onto a microwave and then only part of Slater that hits it is the back of his head. Later Gacy sets up four chairs vaguely next to each other to create a landing spot. They tease DVD's both ways on the apron before Gacy clotheslines Slater over the ropes into the ring. Gacy grabs Slater for a two handed choke slam then kind of throws him over his head, but really lifts him up and Slater falls out of the ring hits the front two chairs and smacks the back of his head on the ring frame. Gacy no sells any of the offense Slater gets in then powerbombs him through a coffee table with lighttubes and thumbtacks on it. This was bad and was basically an extended squash.

Danny Havoc vs. Drake Younger

So this match is full of crazy fucking hardcore spots and doesn't feature too much excessive finisher spamming and kicking out so I'd say it's pretty darn good. Plus there is fire. Drake controls much of the first match after being exploder suplexed through a spider trap. Drake hits a nice piledriver on the apron through some lighttubes. Both men steal each others finishers through some lighttubes for nearfalls, but can't finish it. The back of Drake's head is gushing after the Kudo driver. The craziest spot happens when they set up a thumbtack strip trap across the apron and guardrail then Drake hits a DVD off the top rope to the outside through it and both men somehow survive. Drake gets a set of lighttubes and lights them on fire, blows a fireball, then hits Havoc with it, then goes for a la majistral, but only gets two. Drake swings another set of lighttubes and Havoc ducks it and counters with a dragon suplex through a table of lighttubes and Drake is once again gushing blood from his head. Havoc sets up some lighttubes across two chairs and lights them on fire and goes for a DVD, but Drake counters with a Drake's Landing for the three count. They hit a lot of big moves through crazy shit, but it felt like everything built up to the end instead of them hitting big shit at the beginning and no selling it so I'd say it's pretty damn good for a deathmatch. I forgot to note that in the middle of all the crazy shit. Drake hits a northern lights suplex and does a perfect bridge, which is always nice to be reminded that Drake actually knows how to wrestle.

MASADA vs. Abdullah Kobayashi

I hate pretty much everything about this match. They spend a lot of time shoving wood skewers into each others foreheads and they stick into Kobayashi's head better since he's more scar tissue than skin. They also shove some metal razor things in each others heads which is tough to watch. So just where you know where I draw the line on deathmatches this is where I find it hard to watch. There's also a bead of nails where they pretty much miss it with the first three bumps they go for which has to make it worse as they don't land evenly. Eventually MASADA gets Kobayashi down and sets the bed of nails on him and slams two bricks onto it then climbs to the top and moonsaults onto it for the three count. MASADA also cuts his arm badly doing a forearm through a pain of glass on Kobayashi and we see CZW medical staff at their best as they duct tape a towel around the cut. This technically follows my rules of building up the crazy stuff to the end, but fuck man, I don't like the weapons they are using.

Before the match starts DJ Hyde comes out and says that it's not safe for MASADA to wrestle, but of course it ends up happening anyway.

MASADA vs. Drake Younger (No Rope Barbed Wire Match)

This match is pretty slowly paced and Drake goes after the taped up arm of MASADA for the entire match breaking many lighttubes on it. MASADA goes after Drake's head because he's bald and it bleeds real good. First big moment of the match is Drake sending MASADA onto a barbed wire piece of cage draped from the ring to the guardrail. They go back and forth before MASADA hits a crossbody block onto Drake that sends them both onto the barbedwire cage and they both lay there until people help pull them out. Eventually they pull a lighttube cabin into the ring and MASADA hits a Regalplex through it, but Drake grabs him as he goes for the pin and turns it into a cross armbreaker. MASADA escapes and ducks a kick and turns it into an STF and grabs a chair to pull Drake's head back and get the submission. A pretty low key affair here. There's lots of lighttubes and Drake bleeding, with quite a bit of barbed wire, but the bumps aren't very big and there's not a lot of excitement. Even the crowd there is disappointed. They chant for fire for large portions of the match and when DJ Hyde comes out to present the trophy he says they gave the fans what they wanted and you can hear a fan yell “Not really.” It's not a horrible match, and probably is one of the smarter worked matches of the tournament, but as the crowning moment of the tournament it's just really subdued and lacks big oh my god moments that I was looking forward to.

Overall


This was about what I expected from a CZW Tournament of Death so it was pretty fun to watch except for MASADA vs. Kobayashi. Something I've got to be in the right kind of mood to watch and obviously it's not great wrestling. There's also a bonus match on the show I didn't feel like watching. The sound mixing is terrible and the endless replays after every match are kind of a bummer when you're just trying to watch through the show. I know because I've started and stopped watching it so many times before this review for that very reason. I can't really say I'd recommend this, but it's not something I regret buying either. Also I'm pretty sure I got the download of this on sale one time so that made it seem like a better purchase as well. Here's the link to the download for sale on highspots if this review has made you interested http://www.highspots.com/p/VD_czw_todIX.html

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why I cancelled my WWE Network Subscription

I've spent a lot of time on twitter retweeting people arguing against the Trump presidency and I haven't made a move to show my displeasure in any way that matters. Now, with the appointment of Linda McMahon to the Small Business Administration I can let my disappointment hit people who matter in the pocket books. Granted the ten dollars a month I pay for the WWE Network that I'm about to cancel isn't a lot, but it is just the beginning as it also mean that I won't be buying any WWE merch and there are a lot of wrestlers I like to support in the company even when WWE is providing poor programing, and that is going to be lost as well.

There are probably lots of WWE wrestlers that don't support Trump and that sucks that I won't be watching them anymore. I grew into a real wrestling fan watching a lot of those guys come up in the indies, but I've talked a big game about boycotting things in the past for their bad actions. Stuff like not listening to R Kelly or Chris Brown was easy because I didn't like either of them before their shitty behavior. I put a minor move toward that in action today when Kid Rock came on the radio with “Bawitdaba” one of the two songs of his I like and I changed it because he's an asshole. And nothing really tests my resolve like canceling something in wrestling which is probably my second favorite thing behind video games. I've stopped watching Raw before, but this time fuck 'em. Raw sucks anyway and Smackdown may be good, but I've got plenty of NJPW to watch with their streaming service anyway. Plus there are many other independent companies that provide streaming services to watch as well.

Of those I'm mainly looking into getting Progress Wrestling or Chikara. I'm not a big fan of Chikara's comedy, but they have a strong continuity and I do love a good time with my wrestling shows. On the other hand Progress is a company I've heard nothing but good things about and has the UK wrestlers who have been a huge deal in the US and Japan recently so they've got damn good wrestling. Some may say FloSlam is a good choice, but Gabe Sapolsky tweeted something about how Linda was a good choice for the position and that bums me out. Now I know part of it is that WWE has been working with Gabe recently and helped him so he wants to support them even though he is on a competing streaming network, but that bums me out because of how the WWE with Linda and Vince in charge has operated.

There are places where you can find more comprehensive histories about how WWE came to be what it is, but there are many reasons that should disqualify Linda from being in any kind of position regulating small businesses. First of all WWE came into being as a regional product then went around spending money across the country to buy tv or wrestlers to come to their promotion and leave the one they were working in order to spread their influence across the country. Sure they faced hard times during the nineties, but they also had a court case for distributing steroids and got out of that some how despite the fact that later almost everybody admitted they did steroids including the poster boy Hulk Hogan. During their fight with WCW they employed lots of lawsuits to try and hinder their development and with the third party fighting them, ECW, they signed wrestlers to bigger deals to leave.

Throughout their history wrestlers who work for them have been considered independent contractors which means WWE doesn't have to pay for their shit. These people travel across the country and and work nearly everyday for the WWE, but somehow aren't actual employees. When wrestlers are fired or quit they are subject to a 90 day no compete clause, which is bullshit because it has been beaten in court by two of the bigger name wrestlers who left and had the money to fight WWE in Alberto Del Rio and CM Punk. Recently they tried to get a bunch of wrestlers to sign contracts that would prohibit them from working for companies that have TV deals or streaming services, but allow them to work smaller indie shows.

Now, Linda McMahon is a good business person, not great, we know that from WWE's many pitfalls like the XFL (which I personally thought was awesome, but didn't catch on) and the bodybuilding league. But what she doesn't do is promote small businesses. WWE has had a monopoly on wrestling ever since they bought WCW through some what dubious methods and in any respected industry the government would have looked at that purchase and said it was not legal and forced WWE to at least sell parts of WCW off like it does with phone or cable company mergers.


So today I say goodbye to the WWE and that's going to be rough, but I can't just boycott stuff I didn't like in the first place. But really I'm looking as it more as a chance to support an actual small business that Linda McMahon is supposed to be promoting anyway. I'm not sure which company it will be, but it will be a company that promotes the inclusiveness and positivity that I embrace.