Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DDP Yoga

I'm kinda fat. It might come as a surprise to hear that a guy who not only watches wrestling, but also writes about and podcasts about wrestling is overweight, but it's true. I say "kinda" fat because I'm not morbidly obese or anything, I'm still that kind of fat that you can sorta hide with the right combination of clothes and growing a goatee to hide your double chin, but I don't think I'm fooling many people. I've pretty much always been like this too, I think it was in 4th grade gym class when another kid said "Razor, you're fat." And since I maintained by "chubby, but at least not obese" weight without any serious work, I never had any motivation to do anything about it.

But leave it to wrestling to be my inspiration to finally get off my ass (which, surprisingly, isn't fat at all, it's almost comically tiny) and do something. Surely by now you've seen the amazing work Diamond Dallas Page has been doing through DDP Yoga with Jake "The Snake" Roberts and more recently, Scott Hall.

Looking at that picture, something just clicked in my head that this was the time to get serious about my health. Jake has always been one of my favorite performers in history, and when I look at him now, I see my dad, who looks eerily similar and has had numerous health problems as well, which is a glimpse into a future I don't want for myself.

So I'm trying to follow the program pretty closely, I'm not sure I'm the culinary wizard to follow his nutritional guide to a tee (it's a drastic lifestyle change), but my wife and I did the "Pantry Raid" and have been making much healthier meals, rather than going to Chipotle three times a week. Yeah, my wife is doing it too; she didn't know who DDP was before all this, but after seeing what he's been doing with the program and since she married a wrestling nerd, she was convinced. Her favorite parts of the program: no gym, no equipment, you can do it at home, and it's yoga that gets your heart rate going.

Which brings us to the workouts. Following the guide, you start off learning the "Diamond Dozen" moves and that's it for day 1. It was pretty easy, not terribly intense and I was thinking "that's it?" And then came the first proper workout, which we did this afternoon and when I was done, I had to take a quick break to go die.

This stuff is no joke. It is low-impact on your joints, which is great, but for a lazy guy like me, the cardio and old school calisthenics made my body literally feel like it was changing as I was doing it. This isn't middle school gym class where you do some jumping jacks then they make you run for a half hour and it's not like getting on the Stair Master, it's a legit, proper workout that's suited to your ability level. I sound like an infomercial for it now, but DDP does a great job explaining what you're supposed to be doing, but there's none of that "GET OFF YOUR ASS! COME ON!" drill instructor nonsense, nor the new-age hippie shit you get on the opposite end of the spectrum, there's a reason it used to be called Yoga for Regular Guys (and gals, in my house).

Even if you're not a wrestling fan, if you're ready to get serious about working on your fitness (Fergalicious def), and don't like the whole gym thing, I highly recommend DDP Yoga, because I'm feeling great right now. I'll keep you posted with regular updates on my progress and we'll all have a big party when I'm slutty skinny.

Stupid Wrestling People

When I started Kick-Out!! four years ago, I was much more confrontational and pissed off than I am today. I was so sick of what we accepted as a wrestling "media," but thanks to social media, that probably has largely solved itself. And rarely does a conversation about wrestling get me riled up, because these days I just try to focus on the show, but occasionally I read something like this, in regards to the whole Glenn Beck thing.

The point is NOT whether you agree with Beck’s point of view, whether you appreciate his broadcast style, or whether you like his haircut. The point is that if we, as wrestling fans, continue to sound off in such idiotic ways, we will do nothing but prove that Glenn Beck was right after all.

Now, I don't disagree that wrestling fans often embarrass themselves when allowed out in the harsh light of day, emerging from the sewers to grab a $450 replica title belt when they should be paying rent, but I just can't allow a statement like "Glenn Beck was right" to slide... and not just about wrestling, about anything. Glenn Beck is never right!

Now, my comment on the story may be deleted, so here it is in its entirety:

You seem to go into this with a bias that profanity-laced tirades are somehow automatically less intelligent, and I have to take issue with that. I'll take George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" over any 7,000 that Glenn Beck has ever written or spoken.

Profane language is sometimes all a target deserves, and Glenn Beck is one of said targets, because he's a fucking idiot that is the intellectual equal of a monkey flinging its own shit.

JR may have meant he hadn't heard Beck's name since he left Fox, considering his propensity for flipping things in his mind, I wouldn't be surprised if that's what he was thinking. And since leaving, excuse me, getting his ass fired, from Fox, he has been largely irrelevant. His value is drastically overstated by the conservative entertainment complex, which is an incestuous ecosystem of narrative creation. Glenn Beck is popular because the conservative media says he is. Who's in the conservative media? Glenn Beck.

The stuff Zeb Colter said during last night's debate segment was more intelligent, thought-out and nuanced than anything Glenn Beck has ever argued. For Beck to somehow talk about "stupid wrestling people," when he, a glorified morning zoo disc jockey, relies entirely on the stupidity of his paranoid and dimwitted legion of angry get-off-my-lawners, is pretty fucking rich, if you'll pardon my French.

To claim that wrestling fans are the problem when using harsh language toward Beck or simply not giving a shit about him, is silly. Glenn Beck does not deserve well thought-out responses (although Zeb's out-of-character response was awesome) because he's not a serious person. At best, he's a complete charlatan who cons dipshits out of their money (at least wrestling is honest about the con), at worst he's a googly-eye sociopath. Let's run down some of Glenn Beck's greatest hits, shall we?

-He's a global warming denier who uses his position of "authority" (that's a sad reality) to promote the destruction of the planet.

-He once joked about poisoning then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

-He "hates" the families of 9/11 victims. Yes, he actually said that.

-He once called the sitting President of the United States a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred of white people."

And that's just scratching the surface... here's the Top 50 worst things he ever said, just on Fox News.

Yet this guy's going to call other people stupid? He makes a living off selling stupid to stupid. So I don't really give a shit if JR has never even heard of the guy, he's not worthy of being heard of. Sometimes you just gotta take a cue from The Iron Sheik and say "Glenn Beck you are dumbest motherfucker in the world."

Way Too Early

This might be the greatest thing I have ever seen. Considering the name of the site, I had to share this with you... Antonio Cesaro's Punch-Out!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WWE Raw - February 25, 2013

When bookended properly, I can forgive a show that takes a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-g time to get to the point. A good beginning and a good ending is what people remember, and while I don't advocate this kind of storytelling as the accepted norm, it can take a bad wrestling show and make it good. Or in the case of last night's Raw, an okay show that becomes spectacular.

We began the evening with Paul Heyman & Vince McMahon fighting. We all knew this was going to turn into shenanigans, but I can't believe it went as far as it did, that tackle made me uncomfortable. Obviously it was all to set up Brock Lesnar and the returning Triple H, which I have to admit I was dreading after the SnoozeFest at SummerFest, but their brawl last night was instantly better than anything they did last year, from the second Triple H did the most extreme Thesz Press ever. Lesnar busting his head open on the turnbuckle post (and getting 18 stitches) shows he's ready to go fucking crazy again and Triple H looks like he's in the best shape he's been in in years. Although that might just be the long overdue haircut talking.

By the way, doesn't SummerSlam feel like eons ago? Maybe it's because I tuned out for so long, but that's another reason why the rematch doesn't bug me, that somehow seems not as recent as Rock vs. Cena. I'm probably just a weirdo though. Anyhoo, as long as we get more of that at WrestleMania, let them kick the shit out of each other. Screw it, just put them in Hell in a Cell.

Ryback vs. Dolph Ziggler was fun, if for no other reason than to see Dolph Ziggler be bounced around like the world's most unfortunate pinball. I'm sure people are upset that Ziggler lost yet another match, but at this point, Ziggler somehow comes out of every loss looking even better than when he went in. Anyone can look good when they win, but when you can Lose Like Ziggler (worst Maroon 5 song, ever), you're something special.

CM Punk hyped the main event of the evening by coming to the ring and declaring himself "God." Well that's hardly a fair comparison since I've actually seen CM Punk perform miracles - get a good match out of Randy Orton and make me want to cheer for Jeff Hardy - that qualifies him for (Second City) sainthood!

Mark Henry vs. The Great Khali is when the show started coming to a halt. Nothing wrong with this match, it did what it needed to do, cap off their little mini feud, but I want to see Henry doing more. Break necks, split wigs, etc.

Signs of life were still present in the surprisingly effective Miz TV segment with Alberto Del Rio, Ricardo Rodriguez, Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter. Not only effective, but well executed and actually... kind of... smart? I know, I still can't believe it, but WWE has not only managed to make a batshit teabagger an effective bad guy, there is a layer of nuance to his character. It doesn't make him likable, mind you, but it's at least less cartoonish than I anticipated the Zeb Colter character to be. You know you're in some weird (and sad) reality when the wrestling spoof character is more rational and informed than the real-life villains he's spoofing. Zeb Colter is an awful person, but he's still better than Rand Paul, a democratically-elected sitting Senator of the United States. That's terrifying.

It's probably no secret by now that I'm a flaming liberal, so if you want to go a little deeper down that rabbit hole with me, I suggest reading Oliver Willis's fantastic piece today about the angle. Pretty cool to see wrestling used in a legitimate media context without being embarrassed to be a fan. A quick sample:

On Monday’s edition of WWE Raw, Colter and Del Rio had a debate about immigration that really could have been ripped right out of cable news. Colter again complained that undocumented workers were taking American jobs and weren’t hard workers, while also whining about it being politically incorrect for him to refer to “illegals.”

He was booed. Loudly.

Del Rio responded by describing America as “the greatest country in the world,” which was the motivation for immigrants coming here to seek a better life for themselves.

This argument from Del Rio, coming from the Latino character in response to the right-wing xenophobe, was roundly applauded and prompted a “USA” chant in the arena.

In Texas.

Well done, WWE. Pat yourselves on the back with this one, you earned it.

Randy Orton vs. Antonio Cesaro again... with Orton beating Cesaro again. I just don't get the constant need to pair these two up and have Orton win decisively each time. It does nothing for Cesaro and Randy Orton continues one of the biggest slides down the WWE mountain I've ever seen, so it's clearly not helping him either. I will say this, the Dallas crowd was very into Orton last night, so there's still hope for the guy, I suppose. I still don't get it though, never will, but if they don't figure out where he fits in 2013 WWE, I don't know if the audience will keep chanting "RKO!"

I do not understand this Sheamus/Wade Barrett storyline at all. I get that they're promoting a new WWE Film, that's fine, but surely there's someone else they could pair Barrett with than Sheamus? Are they setting up a Mania feud? If so, it's the weakest prep for a WM feud since Edge and Booker T battled over a fake Japanese shampoo commercial (BTW, did we ever get to see that commercial?) and if not, what's the fucking point?! Also, Sheamus is still neck deep in a feud with The Shield, so I don't know what the hell is going on with this. Seriously, even Brodus Clay could be playing Barrett's foil here, just not someone that has three other things going on.

R-Truth vs. Cody Rhodes was entirely forgettable, but at least Damien Sandow provided some entertaining commentary.

Continuing out screeching halt, Team Hell No vs. The Prime Time Players, featuring a blindfolded Daniel Bryan and a one-armed Kane, was another "oh... okay" segment. Nothing wrong with it, I guess, the stipulations provided a little comedy, but... I don't even have anything to finish this sentence with because it was just "oh... okay." Get these two prepped for their inevitable Mania match, already.

There is something "off" about Dean Ambrose. I'm not sure what it is, he could either have a truck filled with semiautomatic weapons or kittens that he loves dearly, but nothing in between those two extremes. Roman Reigns might just be the breakout member of The Shield though, as I grow to enjoy him more and more each week. Still not exactly sure what the goal of The Shield is, you can't say you "solved the John Cena problem" when the dude is literally headlining the biggest show of the year, but I'm always happy to see them. Not so much Sheamus & Orton though, who are just ruining everything lately. When The Shield issued their challenge to "anyone," I was hoping for something new and exciting, instead we got two dudes we'd already seen and already sucked the fun out of the night.

Jack Swagger vs. The Miz made perfect sense to do with Zeb Colter accusing Miz of liberal media bias earlier in the evening, but it was just another one of those "oh... okay" matches. Nothing wrong with it, both guys performed well, Swagger looked diabolical, but you could probably do play-by-play for the match without even seeing it.

But then it was time for our main event, yes Raw ended with an actual match for once, John Cena vs. CM Punk for the #1 contender spot at WrestleMania. While I can be a bit hyperbolic at times, I try to avoid phrases like "instant classic" except when they're deserved, but this match deserves it. Wow. Just wow.

Yes, there were commercial breaks, yes it means Rock vs. Cena II, yes it means Punk doesn't get final match honors at WrestleMania, but this match was damn near perfect. The only bad thing I can say about it is Rock and Cena have to somehow follow it and I don't know if they have it in them. This is a match I would've gladly paid for and very likely will when it makes it onto the Best of Raw & Smackdown 2013 DVD.

Dude, CM Punk busted out a goddamn piledriver!

It had everything you want in a WWE match and epitomized the notion of that frequently said, but hard to define phrase: "main event style." When you can make every move, no matter how common, feel like a match-ender and reel a red-hot crowd into buying it? You're doing something right.

And no griping about Undertaker not showing up, you don't overshadow a match like that. He can still set up his all-but-confirmed match with Punk next week, right?

So yeah, a kick-ass opening segment, a shockingly good bit with Zeb Colter and a jaw-dropping main event was about an hour's worth of great content spread out over three hours and fifteen minutes, but I'll gladly take the journey with WWE every week if I'm going to get stuff like this. If you watched this morning on DVR, your fast-forward button surely got a workout, but I don't regret staying up past my bedtime for Cena vs. Punk... I just hope the show I pay $60 for on April 7 can live up to the hype they just gave it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jack Swagger arrested

Jack... what are you doing, dude!? Via TMZ:

WWE star Jack Swagger was arrested last night in Mississippi, TMZ has learned -- after allegedly driving under the influence ... with pot in his car.

Sources close to the situation tell TMZ, Swagger -- real name Jacob Hager -- was leaving a "Smackdown" taping at Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi when he was pulled over for speeding.

According to law enforcement, the officer who pulled him over determined Swagger was driving under the influence -- and a search revealed Swagger was in possession of marijuana.

We're told Swagger -- a former WWE World Heavyweight champ -- was taken in by local sheriff's deputies ... and later released on his own recognizance.

He has been charged with DUI, marijuana possession, and speeding -- all misdemeanors.

We reached out to WWE, who tells TMZ, "Mr. Swagger is responsible for his own personal actions."

I'm not entirely up to date on my WWE procedures, but I think this counts as a violation of the Wellness Policy, which would see Swagger suspended for 30 days. Does WWE still have the ability to suspend pay but still make the guy work?

30 days would still have him back in time for WrestleMania, but I wouldn't be shocked if WWE made some adjustments. Even if they don't, Swagger's push was never going to be anything other than a triumphant moment for Alberto Del Rio, so it's not like this derails the next three-to-six months of programming. Hell, even if he's not on TV, Zeb Colter can do the talking throughout the suspension.

But this is probably bad news for Swagger in the long run, which is unfortunate given his considerable talents and the fact that he stuck with it though a really long dry spell, but this is not his finest hour. And it really seems to be a trend for guys to make these kind of massive mistakes right we're they're about to have the biggest moments of their careers.

The DUI is a really stupid decision, but it's a mistake that many average folks make on a daily basis and pot is harmless, so I don't think there's anything here for people to really freak out about in regards to Swagger's health, but I do sincerely hope he's okay. And if he is, then I just have to shake my head and repeat, "what are you doing, dude?!"

WWE 2K14 confirmed

ESPN with the confirmation this morning:

2K has officially inked a five-year deal to publish WWE games. Under the 2K Sports label, the next WWE title will be re-branded as WWE 2K14 and Visual Concepts will be brought in to assist longtime WWE developer Yukes with the game. WWE 2K14 is still scheduled to arrive this fall...

“What we’re going to do moving forward is meld Yukes with the team at Visual Concepts, so we can have the best of both worlds. Having Yukes’ experience and then getting the Visual Concepts guys on board with them, we think this is going to be a dynamic duo.”

And the logo!

image via: WWE

I honestly don't think I've been this excited for a WWE video game since I first saw pictures of War Zone way back in 1997. Now, hopefully this ends better than War Zone did and I am mildly nervous about a potential too many cooks in the kitchen scenario with Yukes and Visual Concepts working together, but on its face, this is fantastic news.

When WWE signed on with THQ way back in 1999, it was exciting because you knew you were going to get the awesome WCW style games with the WWF brand that had taken control in the Monday Night War. Okay, it was only good news if you had a Nintendo 64, if you had a PS1, you were stuck with the shitty Smackdown games (and Know Your Role sucked too, yeah I said it).

Sadly, the AKI games were put to bed and smothered with a pillow, non-Playstation owners got a series of horrible games and the Smackdown series kept on being the Smackdown series. It had its ups (Here Comes the Pain, 2006) and it had its downs (all of them except those games), but things mostly stayed the same. WWE '12 and '13 were steps in the right direction, '13 in particular, but this is the first major change for WWE video games in over a decade. A new developer is working on a WWE game!

I wouldn't count on WWE 2K14 being the drastic change, they've been working on it for a year already, but with a new developer to polish the game and a new publishing arm to actually listen to feedback, this could finally be the return of WWE video games.

Oh and put No Mercy out on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade already with an updated roster. It really can't be that hard.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alex Jones thinks wrestling is real and 9/11 is fake

I hesitate to give any sort of attention to a feces-flinger like Alex Jones, noted 9/11 Truther and libertarian loudmouth. At best, he's a deeply disturbed individual in need of serious psychiatric help, at worst, he's a charlatan playing a character in order to con rednecks out of their money... kinda like a wrestling promoter!

If you haven't heard of Jones, surely you saw his rant on Piers Morgan last month where he said Americans need to be heavily armed for the coming war with the United States military, which I imagine would go down a lot like last night's match between Mark Henry and Sin Cara.

Now, don't get me wrong, screaming at Piers Morgan is good, clean fun for the whole family, but I think we can all agree Jones is an asshole. Anyhoo, he's not thrilled with WWE's new Tea Party character, Zeb Colter, he had this to say today.

This is part of the divide and conquer tactic of cultural subversion to manufacture racial division and to characterize the Tea Party, conservatives, libertarians, opponents of uncontrolled illegal immigration and constitutionalists as racist, extremist radicals who should be pushed to the fringes of the political discourse.

Now the demonization runs so deep that it’s even being bolstered by WWE wrestling.

The fact that WWE is owned by Vince and Linda McMahon, who are part of the Republican establishment, also tells us a lot about how grass roots conservatives and libertarians are viewed by those near the top of the power structure.

Why are we getting so wound up about a wrestling gimmick? WWE programming reaches 14 million Americans every week – and millions more worldwide. To put it in context – that’s more than 10 times the amount of viewers who watch America’s top rated news show, The O’Reilly Factor

10 times the amount of viewers that watch Bill O'Reilly? Maybe there's hope for America yet.

And a huge "LOL!" to Vince and Linda McMahon being "near the top of the Republican power structure." Yes, the Linda McMahon who spent $100 million to lose two bids for the US Senate and the Vince McMahon who was indicted by the federal government. They're just a heartbeat away from global domination!

Now, I don't agree with Vince & Linda's politics at all, but they are what the Republican Party has traditionally stood for: give me your money. The problem with this isn't that they're a couple "establishment types" making fun of the Tea Party in a fake wrestling story... the problem is, in the real world, the Tea Party has pushed the establishment to the fringe. You can't be a part of the Republican Party anymore if you don't subscribe to their extreme brand of politics: anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-government, anti-science, anti-shower, etc. In today's America, Vince & Linda are more toxic than they usually are, they're not just smut-peddlers, they're smut-peddlers who also dress nice and speak in complete sentences.

If you ever want to piss off a racist, hold a mirror up to their racism, which WWE is doing here. WWE has a huge Latino fanbase... also a huge European fanbase, Australian fanbase, Asian fanbase, Arabic fanbase, etc. etc. etc. and their history of racist storylines and characters has always struck me odd considering this fact. But that's changing; today, their World Heavyweight Champion is a proud Mexican who doesn't hide his heritage, but it's also not his only defining characteristic. Alberto Del Rio is a great wrestler who also happens to be Mexican, he's also a great friend, very stylish and a bit of a joker. That's a very welcome change from having a Mexican wrestler drive to the ring on a lawnmower.

So in this progress (which, admittedly, is entirely financially-driven), WWE is capitalizing on the current immigration fight by presenting a strong Mexican role model against a batshit crazy white racist. This is new(ish) territory for wrestling, usually the shoe is on the foot with the strong white hero conquering the evil foreigner, and much like the shifting dynamics of real-world America, racists are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with this change, which makes them increasingly louder.

Alex Jones and the paranoid doomsday preppers that he panders to are dying off. And in a last ditch effort to preserve their idyllic 1950s America, are willing to wear their hate right on their sleeves in an almost cartoonish fashion. What better place to see it play out than in the cartoon world of professional wrestling?

WWE Monday Night Raw - February 19, 2013

But she's got a new hat belt!

John Cena kicked off last night's show, as he is wont to do, only to be quickly interrupted by CM Punk, who is not ready to just hand over the chance to be in the main event of WrestleMania. Punk said Cena hadn't earned anything, basically writing off the Royal Rumble in a way that would have made Cena-haters heads explode had he been the one to say it, but Punk did have a point: he had The Rock beat last night. Just like he had a point with the controversial Rumble finish, Punk hasn't been put away and it will cast a huge shadow over the WrestleMania event if it's not addressed.

Enter John Cena's fighting spirit (he's basically puro, guys). Much like Ryu, ceremony means nothing, the fight is all and he must prove that he can defeat CM Punk in order to face The Rock. So Cena puts the title shot on the line and CM Punk agrees to fight... next week. While Cena's integrity here is admirable (and he managed to get through the promo without a gay joke, bonus), there are few things more dangerous than a man who has nothing to lose. Next week should be interesting, which was kinda the running theme of last night's show.

In-ring action began with Mark Henry vs. Sin Cara, and Cara losing his magical lighting should've been all the indication you needed that this match was ending with him as a pancake; not even Triple H bats .1000, my friend. The Great Khali came to the ring after the match for revenge from last week, but Henry just laughed him off and said, "if I wanted to dance, I'd get a date." There's a Sexual Chocolate joke in there somewhere, but I'm not that funny. I hope the Khali thing was just a bit of continuity for a future Smackdown or Main Event match and not indicative of Henry's WrestleMania plans, surely they have something better in store for him than that?

The Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro in a no-DQ match was fun, very reminiscent of an Attitude Era hardcore match, and how old does it make you feel that that's considered a throwback now? I liked Miz turning the tables on Cesaro's knee, using all the tools that Cesaro used on his shoulder to strike the champ's knee, but Miz winning clean in a non-title match obviously means this is getting dragged out further, but surely it doesn't have the legs to get to WrestleMania? We're also drifting dangerously into Dolph/Kofi, Christian/Booker T territory of just having these guys wrestle each other every week with no cohesive story surrounding it. I don't like that, they're both better than that.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler was a surprising pairing that I wasn't thrilled with, but it actually wound up turning into a fun little story. First off, the match was awesome, which wasn't shocking, but I was reeled in a bit by the Money in the Bank tease. Ricardo stealing the briefcase could've been enough to sell it, but then he drops it and Ziggler goes for it again only to get kicked in the head? Really fun and a terrific use of AJ and Ice Train. I didn't want to see these two wrestle specifically because of the MITB implications, but it worked really well.

I have no idea what the hell that segment with Wade Barrett and Sheamus was all about. I get it, Barrett has a bit part in a Colin Farrell movie and Sheamus is Irish, but goddamn, Armstrong couldn't make that stretch.

I've been letting the Brodus Clay & Tensai thing slide, but sorry, I gotta veto it. It's not because they've turned Tensai into a comedy character because that doesn't really bother me and he's quite good at it. No, my issue is that it made Brodus Clay a thing again, and that jumped the shark with that embarrassing Mama bit at last year's WrestleMania. I had non-fans at my place for that show and I literally had to apologize for making them see that.

Okay, so let's talk about Zeb Colter & Jack Swagger. It's too real and Mantell is too good in the role. That's not WWE's fault, but it is a sad commentary on the voices we lend credibility to in our current political climate. In all honesty, Zeb's probably a little too tame for our current debate, but man, he's got the character down; even while they were waiting for Daniel Bryan's music to hit, he just had this crazy, lost look in his eye and it was dead-on your average Teabagger. And their YouTube video earlier in the show? If you don't have a crazy uncle doing that shit, then you are the crazy uncle doing that shit.

The match with Bryan was really, really good too. The crowd still doesn't seem 100% sold on Teabagger Swagger and it's still unclear whether Bryan's supposed to be a face or heel, but they worked well together. I know some people are concerned that Swagger's going to get cheers in the south, but I'm not that cynical, and he can just have Zeb start calling for the criminalization of birth control for a more authentic Teabagger experience.

The Vickie Guerrero/Paul Heyman segment was weird and a waste of Heyman's considerable talents. Okay, making Brad Maddox Assistant to the Managing Supervisor and doing The Office "Assistant Managing Supervisor" joke was cute, but Mr. McMahon appearing the TitanTron and challenging Heyman to a fight next week went over like a lead balloon. Obviously this will set up Lesnar vs. Triple H (or The Undertaker, if they're feeling frisky), but does anyone really care if Vince McMahon can beat up a frumpy manager?

The Shield vs. Ryback, Sheamus & Chris Jericho seemed like the perfect set-up for some classic Jeritrolling, but Y2J played it straight here, taking up the mantle of WWE hero against the invading band of misfits, and it earned him a flying knee to the head. Again, I don't really know what the plan is for The Shield, but WWE has really stumbled onto something special here and they are kicking seven shades of ass. Another Match of the Night for these guys and I think it would be very wise to just keep letting these guys raise all kinds of hell. They're already much further along than Nexus ever was, primarily because they win and don't look like Heath Slater and Darren Young.

Damien Sandow vs. Kofi Kingston never got started since Sandow was feeling a little violent, but R-Truth returned and saved his ex-tag partner. No one wants to see Kofi/Truth vs. Rhodes Scholars, we want Rhodes Scholars vs. Booker T & Goldust, dammit.

Hey, you know what else no one ever asked for? Randy Orton vs. Kane. But man, what does it say about Orton that he's gone from WrestleMania headliner to dude that makes Barney the Dinosaur jokes? And yes, that was the premise for this match, Kane mentioned "snakes" backstage, which caught the attention of Orton (he's a viper BTW), and then Orton called Kane "Barney" because he enjoys the occasional man-hug. Considering Kane matches have also been set up by spilling coffee and accusations of necrophilia, I suppose this wasn't the worst in his unfortunate history, but still... Barney the Dinosaur references in 2013? Can't even throw in a Yo Gabba Gabba joke?

In our main event, because again, matches ending Raw is passé, The Rock unveiled a new WWE Championship. Yes, after eight years, your prayers have finally been answered, the Spinner is gone, replaced by a new title you can bitch about.

image courtesy:

In all honesty, the Spinner never really bugged me, especially since it hasn't spun since 2007, but it was time for a change. Cena's title outlived the Attitude Era belt and the Undisputed Title combined, so I'm cool with something new. I'm not particularly impressed with this, I think it's the diamonds that bug me, but there's nothing particularly "WOW!" about it, as The Rock would lead us to believe. I would've been fine if they had just gone the route they did with the IC Title and update the classic 80s/90s belt, but the new one's fine and I suspect it'll grow on me. It looks a lot better in WWE's pictures and on TV than in the leaked pictures from awhile back or in screencaps.

The Rock's promo was something he could've done in his sleep and I did get excited when Cena made his way to the ring since it would be the first time they've been face-to-face since WrestleMania, but CM Punk put the kibosh on that by attacking Cena with the old belt and then throwing it on the ground. Man, when WWE moves on from something, they really move on from something.

They certainly seem to be setting up a triple threat, don't they? Punk is not a side character in a story that could easily be Rock vs. Cena II, he's essentially the linchpin right now. That could all come to a decisive end next week, and perhaps it should, but as of this moment, the WWE Title picture still centers around the man who held it for 434 days.

Good show. They didn't do much to set up anything new for WrestleMania, but there wasn't really anything bad here either. The time between Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania seems longer than usual, so they have time, but as of now, we still only have one WM match set in stone. That's a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

Monday, February 18, 2013

WWE Elimination Chamber 2013

Elimination Chamber is always a weird PPV. The rules seem to change every year: do both titles get defended, do no titles get defended, does the Chamber determine a WrestleMania contender? All of the above? The easy answer: this show is whatever WWE needs it to be to get them on the WrestleMania path.

Much like last month, Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show for the World Championship kicked off the show, but this time the story going in was Del Rio hadn't pinned Show yet, he'd only won in Last Man Standing matches. Well, isn't that more impressive, keeping someone down for 10 instead of just 3? It turned out to be moot since Del Rio made Show tap to the Cross Armbreaker, which should be the most impressive victory yet. It's one thing to drop a table on a guy or keep him down for a pin, but Del Rio took the World's Largest Athlete to the point where he had to quit.

I really liked the match, these two have great chemistry and have managed to keep it enjoyable three times now. If that doesn't tell you how improved these guys are, do you really think they could've got three awesome matches out of heel Del Rio and face Big Show in 2010 or 2011? I'm kinda sad to see them go their separate ways into WrestleMania.

Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz for the US Title was the most engaging this feud has been so far, but damn, that ending was horrible. I get keeping Miz strong since working hurt is really getting the crowd behind him and Cesaro doing the football soccer, "OW! MY GROIN!" move was funny, but that is not an ending of a match. Ending aside, I thought these two just clicked tonight and the hot NOLA crowd didn't hurt.

The Elimination Chamber started off slow, but once Mark Henry was unleashed and wigs got split, it was awesome. Honestly, I could watch Henry just beat the shit out of people for two hours straight, they should make it an entire episode of Smackdown sometime. I was shocked and appalled when he was eliminated, but at least he got to come back in and split the wigs of the remaining wigged participants.

There was no over the top insanity in this Chamber match, but I thought it worked for what it was. Although Jack Swagger stealing the win with a schoolboy on Orton was pretty weak, especially with it being a fairly hard hitting match. What, the dude can't hit a Gutwrench Powerbomb for the win? Obviously the point here is to get Swagger vs. Del Rio with 48 days of anti-Mexican racism from Zeb Colter, but I'm not sure I'm buying it. Don't get me wrong, Teabagger Swagger has potential, but this is a guy that hasn't really done anything for two years. Anyone can be reinvented, but it's WrestleMania time, I feel like he's just a means to an end: Del Rio finishes the job for Obama and defeats racism forever, but Ziggler becomes the first guy to cash-in at Mania and rob him of his moment. Mark it down, I called it tonight.

The Shield vs. The Super Friends was my pick for Match of the Night. It was shorter than I expected it to be, but The Shield was legitimized tonight. No half-assing it like The Nexus, no winning after ten tons of bullshit like the nWo, these guys just came in, went toe-to-toe with John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus, and left them beaten. Clean. 1-2-3. The best part of the match was they looked like a team, a crew with a purpose, even if their motivations have been a bit flimsy over the last few weeks, they made up for it tonight. I'm not sure what the endgame is for The Shield or where they go from here, but these guys have arrived.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston is something I would like to never have to write again. Match was pure filler, but at least Ice Train mugging Kofi after the match was amusing.

Divas Title Match - lol.

CM Punk vs. The Rock for the WWE Title was, unfortunately, not up there with their match last month. I know where they were going with it - Punk was doing his anti-everything shtick and trying to deprive The Rock of the power of the crowd by keeping the pace slow, but it really took awhile for the match to get going. It wasn't without highlight though, Punk hitting the Rock Bottom on the reinforced Spanish Announce Table was pretty gross and Heyman was spectacular as always, but I was taken back out once the shenanigans started. Punk still has a legitimate claim at the title - he pinned The Rock in the center of the ring, but there was no ref, then The Rock eventually managed to eek out a win... that's not what good guys do! That's how good guys lose the belt - have it in the bag, but someone else's screw up allows the baddie to take advantage. Again, this isn't the guy I want to cheer for!

It's gotta be a Triple Threat at Mania, right? Besides the fact I have no idea what else Punk would do, he has been screwed out of the WWE Championship two matches in a row now. Sure, he cheated at the Rumble and tried to cheat tonight, but The Rock just can't seem to put him away without controversy, can he? It only makes sense to settle it in a match with no rules and the only outcome is a pinfall or submission.

But at the same time, the table has been set for Rock/Cena II for a year now. I know people love to poke fun at the "Twice in a Lifetime" thing, but if you didn't think a rematch was happening immediately after Rock won last year, you must be new at this.

And perhaps that's my issue with tonight, I don't really know what's happening at Mania. Usually at this time, a picture has come together, but as of now, the only match that is set in stone in Del Rio vs. Swagger. The WWE Title situation is still a little murky, Lesnar's opponent is probably Triple H, but we haven't got any significant hint there and who knows what, if anything, The Undertaker will do. And those are just the marquee matches, what about Ziggler, Ryback, The Shield, Sheamus, Orton, Bryan, Big Show, Mark Henry, Jericho, Barrett, Miz, Mysterio? Tonight was a rock solid PPV, but there's still a lot of work to do in the next 48 days.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday Night Raw - February 11, 2013

Any show that begins with Paul Heyman doing his thing on the mic is a-okay with me, but I didn't really see the point of the whole, "I'm quitting... j/k! Punk and I are besties!" Here's how I imagined it went down:

Writer A: Okay, so we'll have CM Punk and Paul Heyman talking about The Rock...
Writer B: OMG! The Pope is resigning?!
Writer A: We should totally make a joke about that tonight, it's so topical!
Writer B: We're practically The Daily Show!

And then they had to talk Vince out of retooling Tensai as "The Portly Pontiff."

Regardless of the flimsy premise and the fact that it was completely inconsequential, Heyman sold it like a champ though, it's not hard to see how he managed to convince fan and worker alike that ECW was a journey worth taking.

In-ring action began with a trip to the Hall of Pain and Mark Henry just decimating The Great Khali, and then Hornswoggle, because that what he do. I'm still not exactly sure what sparked all this, it's not like there's been a fundamental change in Henry's character, but for the last two years, everything has just clicked with Henry as he's doing the best work of his career, more than 15 years after his debut. If it weren't for the Big Show, who has also experienced the mysterious "click," I'd say Henry is the best in the business right now.

Chris Jericho, who's been in more Elimination Chambers than anyone (really, more than Kane?), wants to be in this Sunday's match for a chance to face the World Champion at WrestleMania. While we're on the subject of flimsy premises being used to give us something awesome, Smackdown GM, Booker T, told him he could be in the match if he beat Daniel Bryan.

I'm still not the biggest fans of these three-hour Raws, but when it gives us 10 minutes of these two with a red-hot Nashville crowd totally into it, I guess I'll take it over an NCIS rerun or a full night's sleep. I also really love that Jericho's yearly return seems to revolve around him working with whoever the hell he wants, hence Punk and Ziggler last year and now Bryan. Hopefully this means Jericho vs. Cesaro is on the way in the next few weeks.

Fandango is coming soon to capture your heart and get you to the movies on time.

John Cena, Ryback & Sheamus vs. 3MB did what it needed to: find someone more obnoxious than John Cena, so you'd cheer for him by default. Heath Slater is so unbearable, he makes John Cena's weekly derp seem downright charming, but at least the match was a fun little showcase of The Superfriends. It should say something though that despite being put on the backburner, Ryback is still the guy the crowd reacted the most for, that's the power of an effective chant.

Big Show was left speechless after Alberto Del Rio put his bus on cinder blocks last Friday night. That really wasn't very nice of Del Rio, that's Big Show's home when he's working. He can't fit in airplanes and hotel rooms aren't made for him, and Del Rio forced him to go to Pep Boys, which is often a fate worse than death. He also punched Matt Striker in the face, which is leading me to question if he really is the bad guy in this feud.

Zack Ryder's "Hoeski" has cracked the top 100 on iTunes, and if it weren't for the Grammys, that would be the worst thing to happen to music this week.

Jack Swagger came out to face Ryder and that's when things got weird. You know, weirder than a dude with a song called "Hoeski" cracking the top 100 on iTunes. Swagger was joined by his new manager, Dutch Mantell, who was formerly known in WWE as Uncle Zebekiah, but is now Zeb Coulter Colter (Ann is very litigious), a right-wing, doomsday prepping, pissed-off Vietnam vet that hates immigrants.

That's right, Jack Swagger got his very own Teabagger.

I'll have more thoughts what happens when Jack Swagger listens to AM radio in a column later this week, but I approach this new gimmick with cautious optimism. For one, it's nice to see WWE do a political gimmick that's not "lol, liberals are dumb," so at the very least, they've upgraded to equal opportunity offenders, which is progress for them. Two, this is just batshit enough to work: Dutch seemed a little nervous out of the gate, but I'm sure in a couple weeks, he'll be able to go the Full Nugent.

I like that The Miz has incorporated the upside down WWE logo into his attire, that's a nice touch. I wasn't thrilled with the match with Cody Rhodes as I don't think they did enough to sell Miz's ballsy, but ultimately stupid, standing up to Lesnar last week. The DQ finish was weak and did nothing for anyone, but Rhodes taking advantage of an injured Miz, beating him easily and then leaving the bones for Antonio Cesaro to pick would've been much more effective. Although Cesaro airplane spinning Miz repeatedly into the barricade was pretty fucking rad and might just give the crowd a reason to care about this feud.

Brodus Clay & Tensai vs. Primo & Epico was obviously a beer match, but I'll be damned, Primo trying the ol' double-noggin-knocker had me rolling.

I have a great idea for The Shield: just let Ambrose do the talking. Reigns is fine in that football player that just sacked the QB kind of way, but Rollins sounds like The Undertaker in Suburban Commando and it isn't doing wonders for the image they're trying to sell here. "You fail at existing, John Cena!" Oh dear God.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of this address was other than the fact that we have a "John Cena problem," which about half of the WWE audience has thought for about 7 years now, and that's a fine basis for The Shield to work with, but they never really sell it. The pins are set up and they threw a 7-10 split here, if they're supposed to be something different than the nWo or Nexus, then give me something different other than "we're tired of John Cena." Get real, get mean, go further than Punk did and point out the very legit problems with Cena and his shtick, mention that he talks about how his "worst year" involved headlining every PPV last year while they slogged away in NXT. Take it to such a ridiculous extreme that people will still boo, but don't just regurgitate what CM Punk said two years ago.

Oh and The Superfriends made an appearance here too and brawled a bit, which was pretty much the ending to last week's show.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Damien Sandow was criminally short and I hope these two get a chance for a rematch on Smackdown or Main Event soon because I think they could have a great series together. I read someone over at PW Torch complaining that Sandow is "stuck" in the role of being an "impressive opponent" for top guys to beat decisively, but let's remember, he's been on the main roster for less than a year and that's a pretty great spot to be in. Drew McIntyre was supposed to be World Champion by now, so things could be much worse for the Intellectual Savior of the Masses.

New rule: if you're ever in charge of booking matches for a WWE event and you think Wade Barrett vs. Kofi Kingston is a good idea, you're wrong.

Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler was to determine the final participant in the Chamber match Sunday, but Dolph doesn't need to kill himself in that ungodly structure and Kane's not going to win it anyway, so I consider it a push. No idea where this leaves Dolph for Sunday though, leaving him off the PPV entirely would be a shame.

Despite the rumors, no Undertaker last night, which bummed me out.

So I guess the concept of ending a show with a match is passé? The Rock closed the show by telling Nashville about the time he bought a car from a crackhead in a country bar... I'm not making that up. Although to be fair, "this is The Rock's whip now" might be the funniest thing the guy has ever said.

But the whole "story time" thing really showed my problem with The Rock and WWE in general. The Rock's Nashville story would've been absolutely hysterical in 1999 WWE, probably would've been the highest brow humor the company had ever seen at that point. It was certainly light years ahead of "This is Your Life," but in 2013? It's lame. To return to a point I made two weeks ago, The Rock is a walking Chuck Lorre sitcom, he's just a method of delivering funny lines that really aren't that funny in the first place. Then CM Punk comes to ringside and I see something like Lena Dunham's Girls, someone who's not afraid to look vulnerable, but is also effortlessly cool (and covered in tattoos).

The Rock makes a gay joke about Punk and Heyman (at least he managed to avoid a Brokeback Mountain reference), and what does Punk do? Put his arm around Heyman and snuggles up to him, then eventually rushes the ring, kicks The Rock's ass and takes the WWE Title. Why would I cheer for The Rock over that guy? The Rock is an anachronism, a relic from a bygone era, he's the Motley Crue reunion tour, which has its place, sure, but it's not what the centerpiece of an industry anymore.

But as they say, the masses are asses and people love The Dwayne. He's starring in 87 movies this year, his was in half the Super Bowl ads, and true story: while I was standing in line at the hardware store yesterday (because I'm manly), I heard a customer and a cashier (a male and female) talking about how they're both watching wrestling again because "The Rock is back." Obvi WWE can't ignore that, but this particular fan wants to see Punk knee him in the fucking face.

This was another excellent Raw. Things are still on the treadmill while we wait to really get into WrestleMania high-gear, but the amazing crowd last night and getting Jericho vs. Bryan made it worth the investment.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monday Night Raw - February 5, 2013

What a difference a week makes when you're not painting yourself into a corner with the Raw Roulette gimmick.

CM Punk opening the night and saying you shouldn't believe anything Vince McMahon puts on his program was pretty funny, there's breaking the fourth wall, then there's firing a ballistic missile at it. Booker T interrupting to set up the Raw Active portion of the evening was weird, but I guess it wouldn't make sense to have Vickie do it. At least we got some of Booker's infamous tongue-tying, shucky ducky!

Ryback vs. Antonio Cesaro made a lot more sense than the random pairings of last week. Cesaro has been ducking Ryback for awhile now and finally got his comeuppance, but it was arguably Ryback's hardest fought win to date, the US Champ took him to the limit in what might be Ryback's best match yet.

Jack Swagger's return continued with an easy victory over Santino Marella. Everyone keeps talking about the new Jackie Swaggs, but all I see is bad hair. Calling the ankle lock the "Patriot Act" is a nice touch, but it doesn't change the fact that everything else about Swagger - look, attire, that fucking theme music - just screams "this dude's act is as fresh as ECW on Sci-Fi." Let's at least boost him up to "Syfy," okay?

I like Swagger, I'm glad he's back, but he's gonna need a lot more than looking like the asshole who's trying to shut down the rec center if he wants to be taken seriously again.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Cody Rhodes suffered from random pairing syndrome, but it would appear that's Cody's role for the time being. Del Rio was wonderful as ever though, as were Big Show's hotel antics. For my money (which isn't much), these two are the best thing going in WWE, no one else is playing their parts to perfection like these two and their feud is both deliciously old school and refreshing.

Hey, if you're just gonna give me Daniel Bryan vs. Rey Mysterio, I'll buy the PPV as a thank you. If I could offer one critique though, it's that I'd love to see these two square off with some kind of stakes. Not a title necessarily, but give them a story to work with. I know Rey and Sin Cara are kinda-sorta feuding with Team Hell No, but really it's more like Hell No are feuding with each other while Rey & Sin Cara are in the background.

That's fine for the current situation, WWE's still tepid about the tag division and the shenanigans between Hell No is the story, but I want to see Bryan in a wrestling feud and Rey is the go-to guy for stuff like that. When CM Punk and Chris Jericho need something to do, you can throw them in there with Rey Mysterio and magic happens, I want Bryan to be that guy. Hell, throw him in there with Sin Cara too and we might actually see Cara break out of his shell a bit.

Oh and MARK HENRY returned! Asses were kicked, wigs were split, the K-I-N G was in here, it was magniflorious. I don't know what his role is going to be in the WrestleMania scene, but we should just hand the World Championship back to its rightful owner. HALL OF PAIN, MOTHERFUCKERS!

I have no idea why Sheamus vs. Kane happened, other than to further push the rift in Hell No... whose entire concept is a team with a rift from within. Seemed silly and the match was probably the weakest of the night, also diminished Sheamus's appearance later in the evening, but more on that later.

I'm just going to throw this out there: Miz TV last night did more for The Miz than headlining WrestleMania. The start was a little shaky, a bit too typical modern WWE face for my taste with Miz slinging fat jokes at Paul Heyman & Vickie Guerrero, but the minute Brock Lesnar's music hit and Miz went did that little "FLAME ON!" pose? Fuck yeah, that's The Miz I love. Make no mistake, Miz got his ass handed to him, he knew what was going to happen, but he didn't flinch and not in that John Cena trying to take on three guys kind of way, he knew he was outmatched by the most dangerous beast in the business, but went balls to the wall anyway. Brock throwing those director's chairs on Miz's face was NASTY~! and I think I'm going to hire "There Goes the Pain" movers next time I need to get my couch to a new house.

Best segment of the night, hands down.

Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett made more sense than Orton/Cesaro, he has a deep history with Barrett, but I can't say that I was a fan of the match. I did like them telling the story of Barrett's scar and elaborating on his bare-knuckle history by saying more than "the former bare-knuckle boxer," but the match was by-the-numbers Orton and Barrett.

So Bruno Sammartino is finally going in the Hall of Fame? Man, when Vince buries a hatchet, he really buries a hatchet. Bruno went from practically non-existent in the last 25 years of WWE history to "THIS MAN IS THE GREATEST WRESTLER OF ALL-TIME AND THE GREATEST HUMAN BEING TO EVER WALK THE FACE OF THE EARTH!" overnight. Kudos to WWE, particularly Triple H, for making it happen though... sometimes all it takes is a phone call.

Why CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho went on before that silly "main event," I do not know, but what a phenomenal match. I honestly think these two get better with each match against each other and with the roles reversed, it felt significantly different than their two encounters last year. They got a great amount of time, Punk quelling the increasingly insufferable "this is awesome chant" was amusing and they tore the house down as usual. I need more of this.

John Cena "calling out" The Shield was your main event, except Cena didn't call them out and instead set-up an ambush. Aside from Sheamus running through the crowd looking like a ginger pug, I don't know what possessed them to have this close out the show. Sure, it made sense to have Ryback and Sheamus as backup, and the other guys who have been wronged by The Shield blocking the ramp was fine, but really, this is your main event, The Shield running off? Woopity-doo.

However, I do love the idea of doing The Shield vs. John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus inside the Elimination Chamber... War Games style and it would appear that's what they're setting up.

Other than a weak ending though, this was a great Raw from top-to-bottom. We're not quite in overdrive yet, but Elimination Chamber was set up well and the WrestleMania picture is still a little fuzzy, which keeps me guessing and that has me pretty excited.