Tuesday, December 19, 2017

WWE Clash of Champions 2017 Results

Results time!

Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley

I didn't love the feel of this match, though the action was decent enough. My problem was there were too many points where I knew I was supposed to think that Mojo is some sort of monster, and he's just not. He's a pretty big guy who's obviously getting a push, but Zack Ryder is a former Intercontinental Champion. Ryder should be able to hang with anyone who isn't a true monster.

Anyways, Rawley with the win after a big punch.

My prediction: Rawley via pin
Result: Rawley via pin

United States Championship Match: Baron Corbin (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode

This was the match of the night in my book, and it wasn't really close. Ziggler is always brilliant, and Roode was good, but the story here to me was Corbin. His timing was really good, his moves were crisp, and the End of Days/Zig-Zag to finish the match was awesome. Who knows how long Ziggler will keep the title, but I was genuinely excited from start to finish.

My prediction: Corbin via pinfall on Ziggler
Result: Ziggler via pinfall on Corbin

Breezango vs. Bludgeon Brothers

Obvious squash is obvious.

My prediction: Bludgeon Brothers via pin
Result: Bludgeon Brothers via pin

Smackdown Women's Championship Lumberjack Match: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Natalya

I guess this match was chaotic? Really it was just sloppy all around. The roving gangs of women outside the ring ended up mostly looking way too fake, and the only decent moments were the dives by Naomi and Charlotte.

The funniest/worst part was when Natalya gave a promo after the match and turned heel...from heel. Ridiculous.

My prediction: Flair wins via pinfall
Result: Flair wins via submission

SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. Rusev and Aiden English

This match was alright, though I thought it still wasn't as good as it could've been. The New Day and The Usos have had some great matches, and adding the insanely over Rusev along with dynamite athletes in Gable and Benjamin, I thought the match could really be something special. I guess there's a point at which you have too many cooks though.

Those German suplexes that Chad Gable did near the end of the match were amazing. The one on Aiden English looked like it killed him, and the one on Big E was thunderous. I'm sold on these guys, let's get them a real tag-team name and give them the belts.

My prediction: Benjamin via pinfall on Rusev (for the inevitable boos)
Result: Uso #1 via pinfall on Gable

Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (with special referees Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan)

I hate to say it, but Daniel Bryan kind of ruined this match. No, ruined is too strong a word, because it was still alright. But I'm of the opinion that it could've been a lot better if Bryan was a better actor. The finish was muddy, as it ought to have been. A little more story advancement would've been cool, but that hasn't been WWE's mentality with PPVs for years.

Which is dumb, because that's how WCW overtook them. Superstars helped, but every WCW PPV from 1996-1999 left you with a question of, "Holy shit, what's gonna happen on Nitro??" Blah.

My prediction: Nakamura via pinfall on Zayn
Result: Zayn via pinfall on Orton

WWE Championship Match: A.J. Styles (c) vs. Jinder Mahal

This was by far Jinder's best match in WWE, at least that I've seen. He was crisp, violent, and other than his trunks (flesh brown? really?), he looked like a wrestler. Part of that is that A.J. Styles pretty much only puts on great matches, but it was also better than their previous title match in Manchester.

The match was good and the result was right. Not a bad main event.

My prediction: Styles via submission
Result: Styles via submission

Summary

The women's title match was terrible. Natalya is sluggish and clumsy, and the lumberjack gimmick didn't make up for that at all. The new girls need polish, Lana needs practice, and Tamina and Carmella need to be put in better situations. The tag matches were fine, as was Mojo vs. Zack. Jinder and AJ was good, and the triple threat match was great. All together, it was probably about a C+ event.

I really think the WWE does a poor job of tying pay-per-views to what's coming next. If you think about the big PPV moments, they were at least as much about storyline twists as they were about impressive matches. That's how you keep people coming back, how you capture your audience's attention.

I keep wishing they'll change, and they keep not changing. Who's more foolish?

PS: One last thing I want to say is that Boston came to play at Clash of Champions. The building was electric, and that can make a huge difference in how the event plays on TV. Well done, Boston.

Friday, December 15, 2017

WWE Clash of Champions 2017 Predictions

I'm looking over this card, and I'm not sure if I'm less tuned-in to what's going on in the wrestling universe than I had been, or if this pay-per-view is just a mish-mash of nonsense. Based on my expectations of the WWE, I would guess it's the latter. Still, could be some okay action at least. Let's get started.

Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley

I wonder if this would've seemed a cleaner storyline if Ryder hadn't gotten hurt. As it is, it feels kind of irrelevant, which is okay, and unexciting, which isn't. When a tag team breaks up violently, you want the split to generate some fun segments, surprising interferences, etc. This has been kind of a slapdash concoction that seems like it expects to get by just by following the standard formula.

I don't think this rivalry will go head-to-head for too much longer, so I expect this to be the culmination of the main storyline here. And I think Mojo wins that main storyline.

My prediction: Rawley via pin

Breezango vs. Bludgeon Brothers

I can't imagine how Breezango would win this fight. Maybe The Ascension interferes? Who knows. The smart pick is 2B, with for a tag title match at Royal Rumble.

My prediction: Bludgeon Brothers via pin

Smackdown Women's Championship Lumberjack Match: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Natalya

I'm kind of getting the sense that something is going to happen with this championship and the RAW women's title that prompts the implementation of a first-ever women's Royal Rumble. The call-ups of Ruby Riot(t) et. al., the return of Paige, Carmella still having the Money in the Bank briefcase, and the generally open nature of the RAW title picture makes me think that chaos is coming.

For this particular match, I expect things to break down early and often, and the whole scene to conclude in absolute disaster. I could see Carmella cashing in and then getting screwed out of winning the title by Becky Lynch, and then the resolution of the whole deal being related to the Royal Rumble.

My prediction: Flair wins via pinfall

United States Championship Match: Baron Corbin (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode

I actually kind of have high hopes for this match. Corbin had a great match against The Miz at Survivor Series, which I didn't expect at all from either of those two. Bobby Roode is tremendous in the ring, and Ziggler might be even better. If these guys all meet their potential, this could be a match-of-the-year possibility.

As far as what to expect? It seems like Ziggler is kind of an afterthought these days, so it'd be really shocking to put the belt on him. I get the impression that after dropping the briefcase, Corbin is still slotted for a long-ish run as US champion. Ziggler is probably in the match to take a fall, so I think Corbin will get the drop on Ziggler.

My prediction: Corbin via pinfall on Ziggler

Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (with special referees Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan)

This match kind of feels similar to the women's championship match, where a lot of folks are in one place and nothing will get resolved by this. Nakamura put over Jinder a couple times, and I think he's on track for a big match versus A.J. Styles at the Rumble, or more likely Wrestlemania. That means he needs some noteworthy wins, and I think this is one of them.

More than a winner or loser, I'm interested to see the ending of match. Hopefully the culmination is something interesting, something that sets things off for "Wrestlemania season."

My prediction: Nakamura via pinfall on Zayn

SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. Rusev and Aiden English

Hmm.

So, this is a match where I could see a lot of different things happening, and that's good. But when I think more about it, I think the answer becomes a little clearer.

Rusev is over as hell right now with his whole Rusev Day gimmick, so he doesn't really need a win, and obviously neither does Aiden English.

The New Day has done most of what they can with the titles, at least for the time being. I think the WWE would be better off mixing them up some more. All three of those guys put on exceptional matches.

So it's down to The Usos retaining or Benjamin and Gable winning. Either team should theoretically get run over by Harper and Rowen down the line, but I saw the Natural Disasters lose multiple times to Money Inc., so not everything is "monsters win."

If Jason Jordan was still with Gable, I'd lean on the Usos, but I think Shelton Benjamin brings the clout of the team up a notch, and a notch is all it will take. Plus remember how awesome Team Angle was? Maybe we can get some of that flavor back, with these two looking primed to turn heel any day now.

My prediction: Benjamin via pinfall on Rusev (for the inevitable boos)

WWE Championship Match: A.J. Styles (c) vs. Jinder Mahal

This seems like too easy an answer, right? The easy answer is for the Singh Brothers to pretend to be allied with Styles, side with Jinder again, but still come up short. Styles is a great guy to have as champion because you have a really great shot at a great main event for each of your pay-per-views.

I think this formula is simple enough even the WWE will understand it. This is a company that generally knows how to put a great champion on top. Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Stone Cold, Triple H, Kurt Angle, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, CM Punk, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, these are all guys who can tell a story in the ring, and most of them are excellent, impressive wrestlers. Styles fits the bill there as well.

So, like I said, I'm going with Styles retaining.

My prediction: Styles via submission

The last SmackDown-only PPV was Hell in a Cell, which I really enjoyed. So the bar is high, hopefully they meet it. See you next week for a recap!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Survivor Series

Hey everyone, sorry about not getting predictions or recaps up for Survivor Series. I was fighting a miserable cold and honestly it completely just slipped my mind. We'll get back on the wagon for Clash of Champions.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

GoodPointJoe's Top 5 Gaming Bundle Sites

Seven years ago, my friend Anthony brought to my attention a promotion called The Humble Indie Bundle. It was a collection of games from small-time developers that I had mostly never heard of, and the proceeds would be split between the developers and a couple of charities. This of course spiked a conversation about the concept of charity and whether anyone could be truly charitable, but dmore importantly, it started my journey into bundle-shopping.

That first bundle included six games: Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru HD, Penumbra: Overture, Samorost 2, and World of Goo. In what would set the tone for my next seven years (plus) on Steam, I have only played two of those games (stay tuned to find out which!...just kidding, World of Goo and Gish), but I was hooked on bundles.

Since then, some bundle sites have come and gone. Indie Royale always had some really interesting games, but their prices tended to be higher than most of the other sites. Blink Bundle had great bundles, but seemed unable to keep their business model afloat.

But plenty of sites are still chugging along, offering multiple games at a minimal price. So, in the interest of continuing my tradition of doing a Top 5 list about anything, here are my Top 5 Gaming Bundle Sites.

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5. Indie Gala


Now don't get me wrong. Indie Gala is far from a perfect bundle site. In fact, if you said that you knew about Indie Gala and hated Indie Gala, I wouldn't fault you. Indie Gala puts out a lot of crummy bundles, sometimes even bundles without a single game that really deserve more attention.

BUT.

They generate a shit ton of bundles. And while a lot of them can be junky, they also occasionally put out a really solid set of games. Or, they'll put a gem in a bundle, and it makes you end up checking out a few games you might not have normally given a second thought. They do a good job of persisting in one of the most useful purposes of bundling games, which is to jointly benefit from the games' individual popularities.

Some Favorites from Indie Gala:
  • Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition
  • Jolly Rover
  • Zombie Driver HD
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4. Go Go Bundle


Go Go Bundle is an interesting site. They don't make any claims about the quality of the games they provide, they just promise a cheap set of games. The big difference for Go Go Bundle is that they offer a reduced price if you buy larger quantities of the bundle.

This might not seem useful if you're just a person who plays games, but if you're a person who plays games and streams them on Twitch, this can be very handy. The amount of discount you can receive on bulk bundle purchases is substantial; usually you can pick up 50 bundles for $20. This equates out to anywhere from 300-500 Steam keys, each of which you can use as a giveaway on your stream.

Sometimes the games are shovelware, sometimes they aren't. But most Twitch viewers who are turned on by giveaways don't mind if it's a no-name, unexceptional game. Intentionally or unintentionally, Go Go Bundle is helping Twitch streamers add another layer of fun to their broadcasts.

Some Favorites from Go Go Bundle
  • 12 Labours of Hercules II: The Cretan Bull
  • 12 Labours of Hercules III: Girl Power
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3. Bundle Stars / Fanatical


Bundle Stars recently rebranded itself, and the site is now named Fanatical. I haven't delved too deeply to see what's changed, but at first blush, it seems to have the same types of deals and bundles as it always did.

Bundle Stars had frequent bundles of varying quality, but overall I'd say the games they offer are of a higher quality than Indie Gala or Go Go Bundle. Additionally, they sometimes have excellent deals on individual games. I was able to scoop up the complete Shadow of Mordor pack for a mere $3.00 a couple months ago, and while I still haven't played the game, I know it'll be good when I do.

Overall, I like the games, the interface, and the overall vibe of Bundle Stars/Fanatical. While it's a little trite to say, it really does feel like a site that's been developed by gamers, for gamers.

Some Favorites from BundleStars / Fanatical
  • Hoard: Complete Pack
  • Pixel Puzzles
  • Pixel Puzzles 2
  • Trapped Dead
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2. Groupees


Groupees has this one weakness that keeps them from ranking higher on my list: the games aren't that good. While Groupees doesn't have noticeably worse games than a site like Indie Gala, nor do they have games that seem to be any better. They have their fair share of shovelware, and it's not often that they post a bundle with any sort of surprisingly good game. So why is Groupees one of my favorite bundle sites?

Music!

While many Humble Bundles and some of the other bundles include game soundtracks as part of their content, Groupees regularly includes actual music albums in their bundles. In fact, some bundles have only music, no games. And while lots of the music is conventional rock or hip-hop, a lot of the music feels like video game music. There are chiptunes (think original NES music), orchestral themes, electronic songs, and all other sorts.

Groupees also dives into comics as much as any other gaming bundle site other than maybe Humble Bundle, giving you some more media to consume. Groupees also offers you the option of contributing a portion of your payment to charity, if you're into that sort of thing.

Some Favorites from Groupees
  • 8-Bit Adventures: The Forgotten Journey
  • Party of Sin
  • Payday 2 - Clover Character Pack (to troll Chip)
  • Assorted chiptune albums
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1. Humble Bundle


Ahh, the Humble Bundle. The founder of the feast. The one who started it all. There's no question that Humble Bundle remains the biggest name in bundled games, and deservedly so. They frequently have high-quality games available, uncommonly bundled games, and interesting partnerships. And because a portion of their proceeds go to charity, they'll always be looked upon favorably.

Are they perfect? No, of course not. The Humble Monthly Bundle has been sort of hit-or-miss; I subscribed for a month and wasn't really impressed with my results. And unfortunately, most (or all?) of their mobile bundles have been for Android only; my iPhone sits unattended by Humble Bundle.

Still, when it comes to quality and variety, you can't beat the Humble Bundle. I'm tuned in every Tuesday to see what they've got brewing, and when they partner up with organizations like Awesome Games Done Quick, they've got my full attention.

My list below is by no means exhaustive. HB has provided me with a load of great games.

Some Favorites from Humble Bundle
  • And Yet It Moves
  • The Binding of Isaac
  • BIT.TRIP.RUNNER
  • Braid
  • Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten
  • Dungeon Defenders
  • Dungeons of Dredmor
  • FTL: Faster Than Light
  • Organ Trail
  • Super Meat Boy
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Summary

The Humble Bundle has provided me with far more gaming entertainment than any other bundle site. In fact, I'd say that Humble Bundle rates behind only Steam and Blizzard in terms of the number of delivering enjoyable content to me. And Steam is cheating, since they're basically the hub through which half of my gaming goes.

But they're by no means the only game in town. I'm interested to see if Fanatical pushes out new and interesting ways to drop content, and if I ever get my Twitch stream going again, I'm sure I'll dabble into Go Go Bundle. And of course, every time Groupees releases a bundle full of chiptunes, they've got a customer in me.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Baseball Story of Dale Murphy / Is Dale Murphy a Hall of Famer?

This article was founded in the following conversational sequence between myself and Other Joe:
Me: So you got any suggestions for people for me to look at as my next topic for either "The Baseball Story of..." or "Is He a Hall of Famer?"
Other Joe: Dale Murphy.
Me: Is Dale Murphy already a Hall of Famer?
Other Joe: Sounds like you have an article to write.
So I started looking into Dale Murphy (not already a Hall of Famer, by the way). And as I delved into his history, his stats, his awards, I became really uncertain as to whether or not he was legitimately a Hall of Famer.

My decision became that I'm going to write this article, not knowing where I'm headed at the end, and try to be open to whatever result to which my writing brings me. And because I want to get the whole picture, this is going to be a combination of an abbreviated version of "The Baseball Story of Dale Murphy" and "Is Dale Murphy a Hall of Famer?" You get like 1.5 articles for the price of one. Which is still nothing, but hey, the price is right either way.

Early Days

Dale Murphy was drafted by the Braves 5th overall in 1974, and was a September call-up in 1976 and 1977. He acquitted himself nicely in his second September (.316-2-14), and managed full-time at-bats for Atlanta in 1978, going .226 with 23 homers and 79 RBI. He also led the league in strikeouts with 145, the first of three different times pacing the league in that category.

From 1979-81, he'd have his share of ups and downs, batting anywhere from 2nd to 7th as he would average .270-22-65 per year. He'd settled in as a solid bat for the Braves, but was hardly a potential HOFer.

A Monster Stretch

From 1982-1985, Murphy was arguably the most exciting hitter in baseball. He played in every game for the Braves all four of those years, and earned MVP awards in 1982 and 1983. His average season was as follows: .296 batting average, 114 runs scored, 36 home runs, and 110 RBI. And remember, this is in an era when baseball went without a 50 HR hitter for twenty years.

Murphy picked up a bunch of that notable "black ink," the kind of stuff that would catch your attention on the back of a baseball card. He led the league in HR twice, RBI twice, SLG twice, and R, BB, and SO once each.

He had a down year in 1986, but bounced right back in '87 with a career-high 44 home runs as well as another season of 105+ runs and RBI. He finished 11th in the MVP voting with the Braves languishing towards the bottom of the standings.

Vanishing from Relevance

That was pretty much the end of his reign of terror, though. His free-swinging ways started to get the best of him, as he piled up 125+ strikeouts in each of his next three seasons, slipping back into the 6-hole all-or-nothing hitter he had been at the beginning of his career. He joined the Colorado Rockies for their inaugural season, but only managed 49 plate appearances, and didn't make much of them when he got them, hitting .143 with one double being his only extra-base hit. He played his last game in May of 1993.

Is Dale Murphy a Hall of Famer?

So, time for some comparables, right? That's how we judge people most effectively, against other people. Two people who come to mind pretty quickly are a pair of guys who also played for the Rockies, but with a lot more flourish.

Andres Galarraga was a solid middle-of-the-order hitter for the Expos in the late 80s and early 90s, though he shared Murphy's penchant for swinging and missing; he led the NL in strikeouts for three consecutive seasons from 1988 to 1990. He really took off after joining the Rockies in 1993, batting a scorching .370 in their inaugural season. He followed that with five years that matched Murphy's relative mastery, averaging a .305-102-39-120 line.

But the whole league was trending upwards, and he only finished as high as sixth in MVP voting. Let's try another guy, a pitcher this time.

Tim Lincecum had a pair of Cy Young awards in his second and third seasons, but trailed off mightily in the second half of his career. He reached the same heights as Murphy, though he had more team success and less longevity.

What's the Verdict?

I think Dale Murphy falls just behind Juan Gonzalez in my assessment of his Hall of Fame credentials. While Gonzalez may very well have been a beneficiary of illegal supplements, he has always denied that, and no legitimate proof has ever been produced to indicate decisively otherwise. And his production, particularly during his prime, was exceptional. He averaged .302-36-116 for ten years from 1992-2001, and earned a pair of MVP trophies himself. His lows were higher than Murphy's, and he had a longer, more productive career.

And all of that considered, I think Gonzalez (and as a result Murphy) falls short of the Hall of Fame.

While Gonzalez and Murphy had great years, and Gonzalez even had a fairly prolific 10-year stretch, baseball has always been a game about longevity. Cal Ripken Jr. is one of the legends of the game because he played every day for years and years and years. The big numbers in people's minds when they consider players for the Hall of Fame aren't 200 hits or 300 strikeouts or even 60, 61, or 70 home runs. The big numbers are 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 wins. Longevity matters.

Hall of Fame status should be reserved for those players who embody what we love most about baseball, not just the highlights, but the grind.

Hank Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a single season, but he's lauded as perhaps the greatest home run hitter of all time, because he did it every year for many, many years.

Ted Williams is revered not just for hitting .406 in the third season of his career, but for somehow battering 521 home runs during a career that gave up perhaps its three best years to fighting World War II.

That's not to say that you can't be Joe DiMaggio and do something no one has ever done like hit in 56 consecutive games to solidify your spot in Cooperstown. But you have to already be close, and while Murphy and Lincecum Gonzo had a couple of MVP (or Cy Young) seasons, none of them has the "never-been-done-before" nature to it. Plenty of guys have won MVPs.

Wrap-Up

So anyways, that's the whole story about Dale Murphy. It was an interesting little investigation, though I wish I'd come back with a positive result. I feel like this whole series is becoming, "Why Doesn't XYZ Belong In the Hall of Fame?" Ah well, I'm sure there'll be an ebb and flow to it, as there is to all things.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

WWE TLC 2017 Results

So obviously there was a big change-up in two of the matches at TLC, inserting AJ Styles and Kurt Angle for Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns, respectively. I had a really shitty and busy weekend, and I gave it some thought and decided I wouldn't change my prediction based on the changes anyways, so I didn't post any updates.

Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox (Pre-Show)

My prediction: Fox via pin
Result: Banks via submission

Not that I care a whole lot, but I still think this was a waste of a match. You don't need to add a random win over Alicia Fox to convince me that Sasha Banks is really good. A six-day feud is just unnecessary.

Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann vs. The Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher

My prediction: Kendrick and Gallagher
Result: Alexander and Swann via pin

This match was fine. I picked it incorrectly, but again, my level of caring was just zero. Another situation where a manager would do a ton to give us some story substance. I think the biggest problem with 205 Live is that it gives potential managers a lot of space to go not be managers. And the WWE could really use some managers.

Emma vs. Asuka

My prediction: Asuka via submission
Result: Asuka via submission

Duh.

Raw Women's Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James

My prediction: Alexa Bliss via pin
Result: Alexa Bliss via pin

I love how Alexa manages to win these matches basically "clean," but always with some kind of tainting that makes you remember she's a heel. This time it was a fakeout begging off that let her lure Mickie into a turnbuckle smash and her finisher DDT. She's one of the best-booked heels in the company right now.

Cruiserweight Championship Match: Kalisto (c) vs. Enzo Amore

My prediction: Amore via pin
Result: Amore via pin

Kind of an old school "dirty" win for the heel, a thumb to the eye while the ref wasn't looking and then a finisher for the 1-2-3. I'm okay with it. Not sure what the cruiserweight division has to offer going forward, but they stand a better chance of being interesting with Enzo than with Kalisto as the champ.

WTF Match: Finn Balor/The Demon King vs. Bray Wyatt/Sister Abigail A.J. Styles

My prediction: Pain...and I guess Balor via pin
Result: Balor via pin

Look, maybe Wyatt would have won against Balor according to the original script. But there's no way they were going to book Styles with no buildup as being the first person to beat "The Demon King" version of Finn Balor.

Styles and Balor put on a pretty decent albeit very vanilla match. Would've liked to see more substance to it, but I understand that a guy flying across the globe and jumping in at the last second is probably not ready to give a match-of-the-year performance.

Only thing I'd add is that, in how the match played out, it felt like a waste of one of those first-ever "dream matches." Oh well.

The Shield (minus Reigns, plus Kurt Angle) vs. The Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, Braun Strowman, and Kane

My prediction: The Shield via pin
Result: The Shield via pin

Adding Kurt Angle at the last minute didn't make the match less of a mess, that's for sure. I'd be interested to know how the match was originally booked, but my guess is that Angle filled Reigns' role pretty much to the letter. It seems like a situation where they would've sent Roman out via some big bump, had him return mid-match, just to continue conditioning people to cheer when they hear Roman's music.

The pop for Angle's music was definitely bigger than Reigns' would have been, though. And look, it was great to see Kurt in the ring again. He's so charismatic, so entertaining, and obviously still can get around pretty well. If that's his last ever match, he did it well.

Overall: 5/7 (71% correct)

As I said, I had a shitty weekend. My dog had surgery on Friday, and we really don't know if it was truly successful, or how long he has. So my head wasn't really in the PPV, and I can't say for sure how I felt about it. Probably I'll never be able to look at it objectively, because of all the emotions I've got associated with it now.

But in my current mentality, it was okay. I didn't like that we had so little in the way of story advancement, with all of the big players confined to 1.5 matches (and Lesnar obviously not on the show, because reasons). The matches were okay. And the main event, while a train wreck, was moderately entertaining. Good to see that Kane still can acquit himself pretty well in the ring. That guy's an all-time great.

Here's hoping Survivor Series gives us more story to work with (doubtful), and that my dog makes a full recovery. If I have to choose between them, though, Survivor Series can suck an egg.

Hang in there Franklin.

Friday, October 20, 2017

WWE TLC 2017 Predictions

In looking over this card, I'm having some regrets about starting up this whole "do a prediction blog for each PPV" policy. TLC looks to be a really, really, really bad pay-per-view.

The Universal, Intercontinental, and Raw Tag Team titles are all not being defended, which dramatically reduces the amount of excitement surrounding the card. When that happens, the other matches have to pick up the slack; Wyatt/Balor V and a 5-on-3 meaningless main event do not pick up said slack.

This is a pay-per-view that really would've benefited from a random Brock Lesnar title defense, but we don't even get that. This is gonna be bad.

Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox (Pre-Show)

I can't really bring myself to care about this match. I think Fox wins dirty, under the assumption that they hope this to be just the beginning of a feud. Also because heels always win the pre-show matches.

My prediction: Fox via pin

Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann vs. The Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher

I have to admit, I'm completely out of the loop when it comes to the cruiserweight feuds outside of the stuff that gets pushed on Raw. I like Jack Gallagher as a heel, and Kendrick has always been a really skilled performer. Swann and Alexander can put on decent matches too.

When in doubt on a Raw PPV, pick the heels.

My prediction: Kendrick and Gallagher

Emma vs. Asuka

With great writing and incredible work, Emma could win this match and keep the Asuka hype train moving, but the great writing doesn't exist in the current WWE. There's a non-zero chance they try it anyways, but my money is on the easy story here.

My prediction: Asuka via submission

Raw Women's Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James

Hard to say what's going to happen here. Initially I thought this was just a filler feud to set up for Bliss vs. Asuka, but the buildup has been effective at convincing me Mickie has a shot. Of course, now that I've become aware that the buildup is what's convincing me that Mickie has a shot, I'm back to my original viewpoint.

Yeah. Yeah that makes the most sense.

My prediction: Alexa Bliss via pin

Cruiserweight Championship Match: Kalisto (c) vs. Enzo Amore

As an aside, if Neville doesn't return to the WWE, it'll be another blow to an already unexciting cruiserweight division. It's a shame because the talent is there for a really exceptional division to exist, between Neville and Austin Aries, Akira Tozawa, Gallagher, Kendrick, and yes Enzo.

I remember being excited about cruiserweight matches back in the late 90s in WCW, with guys like Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr., etc. There's no reason you couldn't hit that same height when you're the only game in town.

Alright, back to this match. I feel like Enzo is likely to reclaim the title, no doubt through nefarious means. Maybe he puts together a small stable of heels who he "pays" to ensure his victory. Or maybe he wins on his own with something like his victory over Neville. Something predictable but useful.

My prediction: Amore via pin

WTF Match: Finn Balor/The Demon King vs. Bray Wyatt/Sister Abigail

I'm so pissed off at this "feud." I don't know why they dislike each other, I don't know what the premise is supposed to be with these alter-egos, I don't know why the one question left for Bray Wyatt would be answered with "it's just me in a dress." It feels like they didn't know what to do with Balor or Wyatt, so they just threw some terrible Hollywood director at the feud and figured it would get worked out.

Oh, which is exactly what happened with Wyatt and Orton earlier this year, with that bizarre projected bug ring at Wrestlemania and then the terrible House of Horrors match. I'm horrified to say it, but I wonder if Wyatt has some input on these miserable storylines.

Or maybe the deal was, "Okay, we'll let you win the title at Elimination Chamber, but then you have to let my idiot nephew Todd write all your stories the rest of the year." And Bray says, "Sure, how bad could they be?"

Oh Bray.

My prediction: Pain...and I guess Balor via pin

The Shield vs. The Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, Braun Strowman, and Kane

Speaking of WTF. Why would you throw these five people together, and ignore the fact that The Miz already had a stable? Why would you book a 5-versus-3 match? Why did Kane come back? Why does TLC have the IC and Tag title holders in a non-title quasi-handicap match with random other folks?

WHAT THE F.

I think this match will be effectively a "no contest" in the end. This whole deal smacks of outside interference (Bo Dallas? Curtis Axel?), surprise returns (Samoa Joe? The Undertaker?), turns (Kane? Reigns?), and utter nonsense (everything WWE). But the WWE doesn't go with the "sports entertainment finish" these days, so I'll say that at the end, The Shield gets the victory, as they have three main-event-caliber wrestlers, and their opponents have 1.5 (Braun and sort of The Miz).

My prediction: The Shield via pin

My expectations were high for Hell In A Cell, and they were met and exceeded. My expectations for TLC are ridiculously low. I'm worried that they might not even be met.

I guess you never know.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 Results

For as ho-hum as No Mercy was, Hell in a Cell was actually a really, really good pay-per-view. While we still didn't get a ton in the way of story advancement, stuff did happen, and most of the matches were really entertaining. I'd say it was the best event the WWE has put on all year.

And that's not just because I had a lot of correct predictions.  :)

Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs. The Hype Bros

My prediction: Gable and Benjamin via pin
Result: Gable and Benjamin via pin

Decent match, though nothing really happened. But that's what you usually get on the pre-show. I will say that Gable and Benjamin are starting to show some more chemistry, which I do appreciate. I wish they had an actual tag team name, but if they're entertaining I can get over it (see: Sheamus and Cesaro).

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

My prediction: Orton via RKOOUTTANOWHERE
Result: Orton via RKOOUTTANOWHERE

God, they gotta do something with Rusev. He's just so entertaining, such a great heel even during the match. His whole style, his crowd interactions, everything screams that he should have gotten the push that Jinder Mahal got. Frustrating.

Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match in Hell in a Cell: The New Day (c) vs. The Usos

My prediction: The Usos via pin
Result: The Usos via pin

This match was phenomenal. They had a bunch of great spots, the workers are great, they were creative and explosive. Hopefully this opens up The New Day for some singles competition as well, as it feels like a waste to have three great workers condensed into a single match every month.

Smackdown Women's Championship: Natalya (c) vs. Charlotte

My prediction: Charlotte via submission
Result: Charlotte via disqualification

I don't find Natalya all that entertaining to watch, and this match wasn't any exception. It wasn't a bad match or anything, just didn't feel like it had the excitement of a title match. That it ended in a DQ was fine with me; extending the strife between these two is okay, and you want Charlotte to stay strong. She doesn't need to take a loss to Natty, even a clean one.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode

My prediction: Ziggler via pin (dirty)
Result: Roode via pin

My first incorrect winner, but I'm okay with it. It set off a continuation of the feud, which is fine with these two accomplished workers. I also absolutely loved Ziggler's 80s heel entrance. I was just thinking that a no-music entrance would be a cool throwback, and while he wasn't the wrestler who came to mind, Ziggler ran with it perfectly.

I mean, of course he did. He's Dolph freakin' Ziggler.

United States Title Match: A.J. Styles (c) vs. Baron Corbin (vs. Tye Dillinger)

My prediction: Corbin via pin
Result: Corbin via pin

This was actually a really well-crafted match. During the pre-show, Dillinger chatted his way into the match after showing he beat Corbin on Smackdown, adding some last-minute excitement. Then for the finish, Styles hit his finisher on Dillinger but Corbin shoved him off and stole the pinfall. It worked out well for everyone.

And now that Styles lost his rematch on Smackdown, he can get out of the U.S. Title picture and into the WWE championship scene.

WWE Championship Match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

My prediction: Nakamura via pin
Result: Mahal via pin

Mahal was about a C- in this match, which is considerably better than he's been in all of his other matches. It still wasn't good, but it was a bit better than usual. They probably could've afforded to drag out the ending a little more; if the Kinshasa is supposed to be a true finisher, an extra four seconds for Charles Robinson to get back in the ring shouldn't be the difference between a pin or a fail.

Anywho, overall the match was fine, probably bottom three on the night though, which isn't what you want out of your premier title. Hopefully something good is coming.

Hell in a Cell Match: Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon

My prediction: Owens via pin
Result: Owens via pin

Remember how I said my expectations were high for this match? Well, consider them met. Owens is such a great, animated competitor, his matches always seem to have so much meaning for his character.

The whole sequence where he sets Shane up on the table and tries to psyche himself up to jump off the cell onto him was just brilliant. Then when Shane climbed the cage and they executed a bunch of moves on top of the cell, even though they were on the same section and you knew it wouldn't break, there was always the worry that something would go horribly wrong. It was well-executed drama.

Then, finally, FINALLY, they had a PPV match end with some questions about what's going to happen next. The insertion of Sami Zayn to save Owens and then plop him on top of Shane for the win was a great way to refresh Sami's character and generate buzz for Smackdown.

Overall: 6/8 (75% correct)

Even though this PPV was fairly predictable (and really any non-mark should've gotten Roode and Mahal correct), it was immensely entertaining. Great matches, good story progression, good setups for future feuds, it was all there. It's no coincidence that the better brand seems to be the one with Kevin Owens on it. The man is just incredible at his job. And A.J. Styles is probably the best in-ring wrestler in the company.

RAW has The Shield again. So...I guess that's cool.

Good luck at TLC.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 Predictions

EDIT: I completely forgot Corbin/Styles when I wrote this initially. Added it below.

First off, I think Hell in a Cell is a terrible name for a pay-per-view. I don't think the match stands out as so different from a regular steel cage match that you need to name the event for it (unlike Royal Rumble or Elimination Chamber), and now that we're into having more than one Hell in a Cell matches in a given card, it's not even describing the main event.

Also, in general, I'm not really into the death-defying leaps that typically "make" a Hell in a Cell match, so I could really just do without the match type altogether.

But, this is what we've got, so this is what we'll predict.

Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs. The Hype Bros

The problem with this is that it's most likely just incredibly predictable. I assume that the Hype Bros will lose, probably as a result of some mistake Mojo Rawley makes, and that Zack Ryder will turn heel on him, and ho hum boring next match please.

In a perfect world, the Hype Bros would actually win the match as a result of Gable turning on Shelton Benjamin for the sole reason of, "You're not Jason Jordan, you could never be Jason Jordan! I AM THE AMERICAN ALPHA!" That'd be cool, and it would preserve one of a short list of tag teams that have joint names.

But, I can't predict that. I predict disappointment.

Winner: Gable and Benjamin via pin

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

You can't convince me that Randy Orton was willing to do the job to Jinder Mahal three times in a row without some guarantees that he was going to win at least his next couple feuds. This is one of those feuds. Rusev is the guy who should have gotten Jinder's push, but alas, he's from Bulgaria and Jinder is from India. It's a numbers game...because apparently according to the WWE writing staff, good characters and storylines are less likely to sell the Network than "Hey that guy is from where I'm from!"

Lame.

Winner: Orton via RKOOUTTANOWHERE

Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match in Hell in a Cell: The New Day (c) vs. The Usos

It's been a pretty good feud, and their matches have actually been really, really good. But all good things must come to an end, so this match has to end in a way that sets up the future for the tag team titles. That means the heels have to win.

The only other tag teams that even exist on Smackdown are all faces, at least currently. You've got The Hype Bros (who I expect to not exist after this PPV), Gable and Benjamin (the likely next opponent for The Usos), and Breezango (an outside shot at the next title feud, or more likely to feud with whomever has been destroying their locker room/office, probably NXT's Authors of Pain). Regardless of who's next, they're all faces, which means the heels have to have the titles.

Or you put The Ascension into a tag team title feud. It would be funny to watch The New Day make fun of them for a month, but that'd be a short ass feud, and you'd be back to square one in a month.

Winner: The Usos via pin

Smackdown Women's Championship: Natalya (c) vs. Charlotte

Initially I went into a diatribe about the problems I have with the women's division in WWE, but it got way out of hand. Maybe an article for another time.

I think Charlotte should be the champion, but that would translate to an awfully short title reign for Natalya. Is it possible this is the first of two or three matches, culminating in a Charlotte victory? Perhaps. But I know Charlotte should win the title, so I'm not going to pick against that happening ASAP.

Winner: Charlotte via submission

Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode

I go back and forth here. Ziggler really deserves to win a feud here one of these days. He's charismatic, an incredible performer, and he's put over plenty of guys of late. But on the other side of the coin, bringing up Bobby Roode from NXT (where he was absolutely electric) to have him lose his first pay-per-view match seems an odd choice.

In the end, I think Roode as a face can survive a loss, especially some heel-ish loss like a foreign object. Ziggler coming to the ring as The Mountie with the shock stick would be hilarious and give them an easy weapon to use. Heck, maybe he could even get Jimmy Hart to manage him in a one-off.

Winner: Ziggler via pin (dirty)

United States Title Match: A.J. Styles (c) vs. Baron Corbin

I think we're supposed to think of this as a match that Styles should win because he's a better wrestler. He is a better wrestler, but that's why he should lose it. Get him out of the US title picture and into the WWE title picture.

One of the hallmark moments of the Money in the Bank match this year was the staredown between Nakamura and Styles. As you'll read below, I think Nakamura will win the WWE title on Sunday, and there's no reason to wait for Nakamura/Styles. Set it up for Survivor Series. They could probably do a 3-4 match run all the way up to Wrestlemania, and we'd eat it up. Do it.

I'll mention just for posterity that Baron Corbin is Styles' opponent.

Winner: Corbin via pin

WWE Championship Match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Lord in heaven.

I gotta tell you, I find Jinder Mahal incredibly boring to watch wrestle. He's stiff in a bad way, strong in a bad way, and he can't sell. Shinsuke is basically the opposite on all counts. I would be delighted to watch Nakamura take down Mahal and win the title on Sunday, but I just can't figure out a reason why you wouldn't have that happen at SummerSlam if you wanted it to happen.

Oh wait. The WWE thinks they're smarter than anyone else. I'm sure some idiot in a meeting somewhere said, "Let's not waste Nakamura winning the title at SummerSlam, where we're already gonna have Seth and Dean win. Let's save it for Hell in a Cell.

It's stupid, and I 100% believe it's what's going to happen.

Winner: Nakamura via pin

Hell in a Cell Match: Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon

I have to admit, my expectations are high for this match. As I said before, I'm not a big fan of the whole high spot style, and Hell in a Cell is purely a high spot style match. But Owens and Shane are so good at executing a story in the ring, so good at putting on a great match, just so good at wrestling that I'm expecting a really fun, really brutal, really exciting match.

I'm also not certain how the story advances from here. Obviously this will not be the end of the saga, so the match could go either way. I've heard theories that Triple H will interfere on one side or the other, or the Undertaker, or Sami Zayn, or Daniel Bryan, or one of the other McMahons (Vince or Stephanie, Linda obviously is busy being part of Donald Trump's cabinet).

In the end, my general policy is to pick the guy who benefits most from going over, so I'm going with Owens. You don't want Owens to lose clean to Shane, so if he does end up losing, it has to be with some kind of interference. If Shane wins clean, it'll just be another sign that WWE is clueless on what to do with KO, when he could be the next Triple H. Seriously, he's that good.

Winner: Owens via pin

Monday, October 2, 2017

Is Carlos Beltran a Hall of Famer?

In the spirit of revival, as I do my best to bring the blog back to relative activity, I'm bringing back a small feature I did that I like to call, "Is He a Hall of Famer?" It was started by Other Joe, as he posited that Jorge Posada was not deserving of a place in Cooperstown.

The question was brought up by a Twitter follow of mine, Josh Reese, who works in Houston sports:


The reaction among his comments was overwhelmingly in favor of Beltran's status as a surefire future Hall of Famer. My initial reaction was that he's a good player, but not ultimately destined for the Hall. Like any good baseball question, though, this is the kind of thing we figure out with statistics.

Arguments in Favor

Beltran's career triple crown numbers are...solid. He has a career batting average of .279 with 2,724 hits, 435 HR, and 1,587 RBI. The numbers are eerily similar to HOFer Andre Dawson (.279, 2,774 438, and 1,591). Obviously the numbers don't cross the magic thresholds of 3,000 hits and 500 HR (neither of which I expect Beltran to surpass before retirement), but they're very good.

He also raised his game during the playoffs, upping his average to .323 across 55 postseason games and mashing 16 home runs, including 8 bombs in two series with the Astros in 2004.

Beltran has been a big-time run producer, notching seven seasons of at least 100 runs and eight seasons of at least 100 RBI. Again, very good numbers.

Arguments Against

Of course, the Hall of Fame isn't for players who are "very good." It's for the ultimate elite in baseball history. Andre Dawson's numbers were accumulated in a much weaker offensive era, a period when baseball went from 1978 through 1989 without anyone hitting 50 home runs. During Beltran's career, 22 different seasons of 50+ home runs have been recorded.

Also worth noting is that the Hall of Fame, historically, has been meant to reflect the players who were at the top of the game during their careers. The players who most frequently are elected to the Hall of Fame are those who have league-leading statistical seasons, MVP seasons, Cy Young seasons, etc.

Albert Pujols is a great example. He'll undoubtedly be a Hall of Famer, and probably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He finished first in MVP voting three times, and four other times he finished second or third. He led the league in HR twice, R five times, SLG three times, and a number of other top finishes. Beltran has led the league once...in games played. He did win Rookie of the Year, which puts him in such elite company as Raul Mondesi, of embezzlement fame.

Tying It All Together

In the end, the argument usually ends up somewhere in between. This time, we've got a pretty fair comparable player we can use to determine what we should think about Beltran: Gary Sheffield. Sheffield came into the league a little bit earlier, but his playing prime was right around when Beltran's was. He won a single batting title, but overall shared Beltran's lack for individual accolades. He generated impressive power numbers during a period when everybody was generating impressive power numbers.

His final tallies come in at a .292 batting average, 2,689 hits, 509 home runs, and 1,676 runs batted in. I think you can fairly compare the two players, and I think the final verdict is going to be that Sheffield, while a very good player, is not a Hall of Famer. He picked up just 13% of the vote last year, in his 3rd year on the ballot. I don't expect he'll get anywhere near the late surge that Tim Raines or Bert Blyleven got. In the end, he'll likely be left on the outside looking in, as a member of the Hall of Really Good.

That's my call for Beltran as well.

Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer

Monday, September 25, 2017

WWE No Mercy 2017 Results

No Mercy was alright. It reminded me of some of the old WWF Raw episodes, where you knew nothing was going to happen, but you got some fake-out title matches, and one or two "main event" level matches that you'd never seen.

It didn't elevate the level of recent PPV shows, though, not by a long shot. The two "Wrestlemania level matches" didn't even remotely live up to the hype. And there weren't any surprising undercard matches that made up for them.

Anyways, here's how it went, and how my predictions shaped up.


Pre-Show Match: Apollo Crews vs. Elias

My prediction: Apollo Crews via pin
Result: Elias via pin

Ah well, it's really not a match of much relevance. Maybe they build a mini-feud off of this, with Titus O'Neil getting back in the ring to fight Elias down the road. And maybe not. No one will care.

Cruiserweight Championship Match: Neville (C) vs. Enzo Amore

My prediction: Neville via submission
Result: Enzo via pin

I'm 0/2 so far. But in looking at the results for this one the day after, it works okay for me. The WWE needs 205 Live to have some more mustard, and Enzo is still pretty over. You can probably get 2-3 more matches out of these two, and then mix in a few other cruiserweights to finally establish your "main event" tier for the show.

Probably it won't work, but Enzo winning is a decent way to try to add some flavor. Of course, I think you could've gotten more out of Austin Aries if you'd given him the title in one of his forty-five matches, but hey, that's just me.

Enzo cheating to win is good going forward, though. Because you don't believe he could win fair. But if he cheats his ass off, who knows?

Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

My prediction: Finn Balor via pin
Result: Finn Balor via pin

Hey, finally got one right. Of course, this match was perhaps the most insanely predictable 15 minutes of my life. Every single moment, it felt like you knew exactly what was going to happen next. You know who gets excited for that? Nobody.

Balor won, hopefully they let Wyatt sit for a while to figure out what to do with him next. Honestly, it wouldn't be terrible to just leave him off TV until January, and then have him come out as a modest surprise at the Royal Rumble.

Intercontinental Title Match: The Miz (C) vs. Jason Jordan

My prediction: Jason Jordan via DQ
Result: The Miz via pin

So I got the interference right, just not the final result. I thought this was actually a pretty good match; The Miz and Jordan actually had some decent in-ring chemistry, and both performed solidly (although I still think The Miz is just way too slow).

But the result made everything feel stupid. Much like the Singh Brothers' boring interference in Jinder Mahal's match against Shinsuke Nakamura at SummerSlam, this felt like the kind of result you would get on Raw, not on show you have to pay to watch.

Oh, and whoever decided that Renee Young should jump in the ring and interview Jordan right after the match should be fired. And banned from wrestling. And get Bonzai Dropped by the ghost of Yokozuna.

RAW Tag Team Championship Match: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose (C) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro

My prediction: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose via pin
Result: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose via pin

Another highly predictable match, I think the WWE did us a disservice in this match though. Sheamus and Cesaro pulled off a number of heavily impactful moves, culminating with Sheamus hitting White Noise on Ambrose, followed by Cesaro POWER-BOMBING ROLLINS FROM THE TOP ROPE ONTO AMBROSE. And Ambrose kicked out.

No. No that's stupid. That's a move to end a match. Having someone kick out of that puts literally the whole show on blast, because it highlights how everything is scripted. "Great move, but it wasn't a finisher, so the guy kicks out." For a company that's all too happy to have matches end in schoolboy roll-up pins, they have a ridiculous aversion to acknowledging the impact of non-finisher moves.

Also Cesaro knocked out a couple teeth on the ring post. Crazy.

RAW Women's Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax vs. Bayley (vs. Emma)

My prediction: Alexa Bliss via pin
Result: Alexa Bliss via pin

Alright, now we're hitting stride, two in a row. Emma did fairly well in the match, a reminder that most women wrestlers these days actually can wrestle. The other competitors were fine, though overall unexceptional. Nia Jax is so obviously on a different planet from the other girls as far as size, but they did an alright job of using that effectively, by forcing the other women to team up to fight her. The four-person power-bomb of Nia onto the floor was a pretty good moment.

The finish was again very Raw-worthy, with Alexa sneaking a DDT on Bayley and getting a quick pin to retain. A fine match, if not a highlight.

John Cena vs. Roman Reigns

My prediction: Roman Reigns via pin
Result: Roman Reigns via pin

Really, really bad match. Things started slow as hell right from the get-go, with even the first few punches of the match taking 5-10 seconds each to "recover from" before advancing to the next move...usually another punch. I don't know if someone wasn't feeling well or something, but the whole match was incredibly slow.

The spot of Reigns spearing Cena onto the announce table was alright, but I liked it better when it was Reigns spearing the Undertaker. Some creativity people, jeez.

Reigns wins in utterly boring fashion: Kickout, Spear, Pin, Repeat. And you wonder why people boo this guy.

Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Braun Strowman

My prediction: Brock Lesnar via pin
Result: Brock Lesnar via pin

Look, it was fine. For a standard match between two big guys, it was fine. But after SummerSlam, the excitement for Lesnar and Strowman to put on a great brawl was palpable, and they fell flat. Almost the entire match took place inside the ring, there was no real noticeably "violent" moments, and the two guys altogether did like six different moves.

If Braun's loss brings about some interesting changes for his character, maybe trying to coexist with a manager or some backup, that could be useful. But right now, he just came out looking like he could never beat Brock, so he might as well go home.

Overall: 5/8 (62.5%) Correct

No Mercy was kind of a nothing pay-per-view, but that's been the case for most of the non-big-four shows for a couple years now. Zero run-ins, one match with interference, one other match with some explicit cheating. One big spot, the power-bomb in the tag match, but the fact that it didn't win the match sapped that momentary excitement.

I get that not every PPV can be a winner. I even get that it's important for there to be less exciting PPVs, so that the good ones stand out even more. But when you're asking for money for these shows, and when you're adding an extra 6-8 PPVs every year with the brand split, and when you're talking about either increasing the price of the WWE Network or creating a second tier, you've got to deliver.

Still waiting.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

WWE No Mercy 2017 Predictions

I'm trying a new thing. One of a short list of items that I try to keep up with is the WWE. While I haven't sat down and watched an episode of RAW or Smackdown in years (like, fifteen years maybe), I keep myself tuned in through various websites and a very entertaining recap show podcast, What's Wrong with Wrestling.

I also have a subscription to the WWE Network, and while most of my viewing is of classic wrestling content, the fact that the account provides live access to all current pay-per-views makes it very easy to keep up with the "big events." I've watched each of the PPV shows this year (though almost always on a delay; I normally work Sunday nights), and have enjoyed making my own predictions and seeing how they pan out.

So, because it's fairly easy writing and I've been hurting for content, the goal is to start making predictions for each WWE pay-per-view event, starting with No Mercy.

Here we go.

Pre-Show Match: Apollo Crews vs. Elias

While this match obviously doesn't have the backstory that a lot of the other ones do, I think it could actually be an entertaining battle. Crews is incredibly gifted in the ring, and Titus Worldwide is at least a stable, one of 2.5 in the company along with The Miztourage and whatever association Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers might call themselves.

I think it'll be a 10-12 minute match, with Crews picking up the victory. I'd hope against hope that something interesting happens, but that'd just be foolish.

Winner: Apollo Crews via pin

Cruiserweight Championship Match: Neville (C) vs. Enzo Amore

Neville is one of the more entertaining wrestlers in the company. He's agile and violent, and he's a really effective heel right now. Enzo, meanwhile, has spent the past three months getting the shit kicked out of him by various big guys, with a few random 205 Live wins sprinkled in.

The problem here is that Enzo's strongest skill is his ability to take a massive bump and look like he just got murdered. Braun tossing him around, Big Cass smashing in his face, these worked. Against Neville, he's not going to be able to sell that. So does he win?

I don't think so. I believe that Neville being champion is the only thing that lends legitimacy to the cruiserweight division right now. He was able to elevate Akira Tozawa into at least a watchable star, and the WWE needs him to stay as a brutal heel champion to pull a few more 205 stars up to his level. Enzo can be entertaining in a loss; that's been basically his entire career.

Winner: Neville via submission

Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

Oh, god, why?

Look, they're both solid workers, and they put on a decent match. But Bray Wyatt needs to be off TV for like, four months. He needs to lose this match and then disappear to "find his smile." And by that I mean he needs to go reacquire a Family. A cult leader without any cult is just a guy shouting at the moon.

There are so many cool things you can do with Wyatt and a stable, but they won't happen here. So just let Balor win, and get ready for his brief jump up to the main event where he'll get annihilated by the big hogs.

Winner: Finn Balor via pin

Intercontinental Title Match: The Miz (C) vs. Jason Jordan

Jordan is a terrible singles wrestler. He had some chemistry with Chad Gable as a tag team, and he's pretty good in the ring. But on his own, when he has to use his own words to generate pops, he's utterly incapable. It takes a special kind of awkward to transcend Roman Reigns in terms of failed promos, and Jordan does it every week he opens his mouth.

Given all that...I expect Jordan to win the match. Shenanigans, probably. My pick is a straight DQ finish where The Miz retains, but it's entirely possible that some failed interference attempt by Bo Dallas or Curtis Axel could cost Miz the match and the title. But it seems wasteful to build up to this match for two months and have Jordan NOT win, even if he doesn't grab the belt.

Winner: Jason Jordan via DQ

RAW Tag Team Championship Match: Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose (C) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro

Phew, those tag team names are a handful. I miss the days of the Headshrinkers and Demolition and Strike Force and The Rockers. I guess we still have some of that over on Smackdown, with The New Day, The Usos, The Hype Bros, and Breezango.

Anyways.

I really enjoy Sheamus and Cesaro, honestly. I wouldn't mind seeing them get the titles back. They're 'tweener enough that they can feud with anybody, and big enough assholes that they can get heat in any matchup. They kind of remind me of the Acolytes, actually.

But everything with Rollins and Ambrose since SummerSlam has been chaos. Three-way tags, eight-man tags, it's been just silliness. I don't see them losing their first title defense to the same guys from whom they won the belts.

Winner: Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose via pin

RAW Women's Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax vs. Bayley (vs. Emma)

First off, let's set aside Emma. She's just there to take a few bumps and then take the eventual fall in the match...I hope.

Even without considering the fifth member of the match, I still think it's a tough nut to crack. There are reasons and ways to have each of the other four competitors win and have it make sense. Sasha could win, eliminating the question of why she never got a one-on-one rematch with Alexa Bliss. Nia could definitely win, as we all sort of expect her to win the title at some point. Bayley could win by screwing over Sasha a little bit, beginning the simmer on a feud that culminates in a Wrestlemania match.

But in all circumstances, the most likely result of a championship match is that the champion retains. Especially because it's a big match, with the potential for a complicated series of twists and turns that set up the women's division for the next couple months, I don't think you need a title change on top of that. Title changes should matter, and in this situation, you just don't need it.

Plus Alexa looks so sexy with that belt. Never ever take it away from her.

Winner: Alexa Bliss via pin

John Cena vs. Roman Reigns

The promos between Cena and Reigns have been must-see TV, though at times they were a bit too real for me. I don't want to see behind the curtain most of the time, at least not on the show itself. Still, they were plenty entertaining, and reminded us why we all enjoyed John Cena for a long time.

There's a lot of talk about how this match can set up XYZ at Survivor Series, or the Royal Rumble, or Wrestlemania, and that Cena winning is the best way to do that. I disagree.

Since defeating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, here are Reigns' PPV appearances:
  • He lost via pin to Strowman at Payback.
  • He lost a five-way match to Samoa Joe at Extreme Rules.
  • He lost an ambulance match to Strowman at Great Balls of Fire.
  • And he lost a fatal four-way for the Universal Title to Brock Lesnar.
He can't keep losing big matches. Even though it's Cena, I think we're in store for a Kickout-Spear-Pin-Repeat.

Winner: Roman Reigns via pin

Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Braun Strowman

The hot internet rumor is that the WWE is angling for a Reigns/Lesnar matchup to headline Wrestlemania in 2018...you know, because it worked out so well the first time around.

Sarcasm.

The reason I brought that up is that people seem to think that Lesnar is likely to win this match in order to keep the Universal title on Reigns or Lesnar, to preserve the title matchup. That's not necessary though; we saw the WWE title move around several times last year in order to serve various storylines. The Wyatt/Orton storyline was ultimately a disaster, but that was going to happen regardless of the WWE title because Orton is utterly checked-out.

All that said, I still expect Lesnar to come out on top. The "main" titles generally don't get moved around without a good reason, and there's no good reason to take the belt off of Lesnar here. Braun can still be a monster without the belt, and in fact, his story becomes more interesting if he's unable to win the title on his own. He could start looking for a manager, or allies, etc. And while I'd prefer for Strowman to win, so that we could get the belt on the show every week, this isn't about what I want to happen. It's about what I predict. That's my pick.

Winner: Brock Lesnar via pin

Sunday, August 20, 2017

WWE Power Rankings

Because I'm stuck at work during Summerslam, and because I haven't written anything in a while, and because I love lists, I'm gonna do an off-the-cuff "power rankings" of the top male superstars in WWE. I'm going to hold off on including anyone from NXT, because while I'm sure Bobby Roode deserves to be ranked, I'm less certain about anyone else, and I don't want to speak about a subject that I don't feel like I have all the information I'd need.

The basic logic for this is what I think of their "championship trajectory" for the next 18 months or so. Current title-holders will be credited for their current titles. For the purposes of these rankings, I'm assuming the following:

- RAW titles > Smackdown titles > 205 Live titles
- Universal Title > Intercontinental Title > RAW Tag Titles
- WWE Title > US Title > Smackdown Tag Titles

Reverse order, because drama.

25. Rusev - This slot was initially Bray Wyatt, but honestly, Wyatt is pretty much nowhere right now. Rusev isn't much better, but he at least is active. I wish Jinder hadn't stolen all of his "evil foreigner" mustard.

24. Breezango - People forget this, but Tyler Breeze and Fandango aren't just jokers. They can put on some great matches. At some point I have to think the WWE will want to get them back in the ring with more frequency, and I think they'll make their way into the title picture as the tag division evolves.

23. Akira Tozawa - I mean he's the Cruiserweight champion now. Can't completely dismiss that, even though the Cruiserweight title isn't terribly important.

22. Sami Zayn - Right now he doesn't feel close, but he's a great performer and is still over with the fans. A brief reign as US champion could be useful for him.

21. The Usos - Somebody's gotta be Smackdown tag champions. You'll see what I think of the New Day later, but the Usos will likely be one of the top two tag teams in Smackdown for a long, long time.

20. Baron Corbin - A week ago, Corbin would've been 5-10 slots higher, but dropping the MITB briefcase is a massive blow. I could see the WWE doing a whole loose cannon/redemption angle, and Corbin not getting another legitimate title shot until Wrestlemania or later.

19. Neville - I don't think Neville will win back his Cruiserweight title tonight, and I don't think he should. He's an excellent performer and makes good heel promos. Time to elevate him to a real title.

18. Randy Orton - It's certainly possible that Orton finds himself in another title match or ten, but the whole Mahal program has sapped so much of his steam. Probably I'm underestimating him, and overestimating the WWE's ability to read their fans, but I think Orton's trending down.

17. Jinder Mahal - If he is a champion for more than 6 hours of the next 18 months, it's a colossal waste of the WWE's title picture. But this is a company that's already given him three months as champion, so clearly he's going to get some more gold.

16. Finn Balor - His only real issue is that the top of the RAW roster is four massive physical specimens. Beating Bray tonight will help (which is a virtual certainty), but he's still going to look overmatched against someone like Lesnar or Strowman. Might be better suited for an IC title reign.

15. The Hardy Boyz - I have zero idea where the Hardys are headed. I feel like they and the company would benefit from shipping one of them over to Smackdown; Jeff could feud with Rollins or Styles going into Survivor Series and give us a match we've never seen to look forward to.

14. Big Cass - I'm not impressed, but he's been obliterating Enzo every week for like two months, and pummeling the Big Show a fair amount as well. It's obvious he's got an upward trajectory.

13. Braun Strowman - Braun is almost certain to hold the Universal Championship sometime over the next six months. How long that title reign is remains to be seen, but if he doesn't win the championship soon, his whole rivalry with Roman Reigns will feel like a waste.

12. The Miz - I'm convinced that the WWE wants The Miz to break Jericho's record number of Intercontinental title reigns. So I expect him to lose it and win it again at least twice over the next 18 months. That puts him about here on the list.

11. Samoa Joe - If I thought his character would settle for the Intercontinental Championship, I'd rate Joe higher. But he seems like a "Universal Title or bust" sort of character, and that's just a harder nut to crack. He's a great heel and a decent in-ring performer, though, so the chance is there.

10. Shinsuke Nakamura - He's very, very over. I'm not sure if he'll win the title from Jinder Mahal tonight, but clearly the WWE title can reasonably be won by an unproven commodity, since Jinder was like 3-41 when he got his title shot.

9. The New Day - It's starting to feel like the New Day needs to split up. I would've done the split up at the post-Wrestlemania "Superstar Shake-up," and immediately thrown them into programs for individual titles. All three are great performers, good on the mic, and believable champions. What are you waiting for??

8. Sheamus & Cesaro - The current tag champions (until like 9:00 PM tonight, according to most predictions), Sheamus and Cesaro actually have been a pretty great tag team in my opinion. They're both solid workers...okay, Sheamus is solid and Cesaro is incredible. If the team ever splits up, I'd put plenty of money on both of them holding gold again.

7. Dean Ambrose - I think he and Seth Rollins will probably win the tag titles at Summerslam, but it seems a trend in the wrong direction for Dean. I'm sure he'll be in the mix for some gold, but I'm really uncertain what WWE Creative has planned for him.

6. Kevin Owens - The prize fighter fights for prizes. He's an incredible mic guy, draws insane heat especially from young fans, and puts on great, GREAT matches. He's gonna be all over the title scene.

5. Seth Rollins - Something feels odd about the whole "Shield reunification" angle he's got going with Dean, and I really don't expect it to last very long. Rollins puts on phenomenal matches, and is a great heel on the mic. Take one guess how I expect Rollins/Ambrose to pan out as a tag team.

4. Brock Lesnar - He's been surprisingly present at RAW over the past couple months, and while I'm still not a fan of his part-time nature, I fully expect him to be in the title hunt whenever he's around.

3. Roman Reigns - I find him pretty boring, but it's obvious that the WWE has no intention of slowing down the Roman train. He'll be fighting for titles for the next ten years.

2. John Cena - He gets plenty of boos, but he's also probably the most popular active wrestler in the WWE. He's a huge name, he still puts on great matches, and when he's in a main event, you buy into it. For a company that's had Jinder Mahal in two main events this year, that's not nothing.

1. A.J. Styles - A.J. Styles should be in every main event on every big four pay-per-view. He's the best entertainer in the company, and there are still so many great matches that we haven't seen out of him yet because he's still pretty fresh to the WWE world. He's over with everyone, and he deserves to be.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My 2016 Games of the Year

For you longtime blog visitors (both of you), this will bring back memories. For the rest of you, here's a quick explanation.

I don't play new games all that often. So, rather than come up with my games of the year, evaluating the four actually new games that I played, I generate a list of the top ten games that I played during the previous year. That means that the games could have been released at any point in history (see #2), or are repeats from last year (see #1).

Anywho, here's my list. I spent most of the second half of this year playing D&D, and while I do love dungeon delving with the total freedom that D&D gives you, I kind of miss video games. We'll see how 2017 pans out.

I always put my lists in order, because I need to judge things.

10. Rocket League

Rocket League is an international sensation...which I find to be just decent. It's not that I dislike the game or anything. I get why it's fun, and I enjoy it from time to time, I just don't have the same excitement that it gets from a lot of other people. Specifically Scooter. Still, it's fun enough to round out my top ten.

9. Clash Royale

I'm not generally one who sticks with phone games. I get my fill and then move on, because none of them really ever have an "ending." You just keep going, keep building, keep leveling up, keep grinding, and never really "accomplish" anything.

Clash Royale has a lot of that same grind to it, but there's something gratifying about finding a deck that you can run well, and rolling over a couple opponents in a row. Combine that with a solid clan and regular splashy content, and I find myself consistently engaged by the Clash.

8. 4 Elements

So the funny thing about this game is that I only started playing it because I knew I wasn't playing many games, and figured I'd start towards the top of my games list. So, starting with the number "4" and 4 Elements, I fired up a new game. It's a simple puzzle game with its own twists of strategy. I wouldn't call it revolutionary on any level, but it's aesthetically pleasing and simple enough to pick up. I would just barely recommend it, if you're looking for something to kill a few hours.

7. Destiny

I bought Destiny basically because a friend told me to. I hadn't played an XBox One game in a while, and he had suggested it a few times. So I grabbed some pack off Amazon that included a couple expansions and fired it up. It's made by some of the same folks who made Halo, and it shows in a lot of the artwork and gameplay. That said, it doesn't really capture that certain something that Halo's campaign system had.

The game itself is fairly fun, it's essentially an MMO first-person shooter, but your experience is very rarely "massive," which is a good thing. You can do a series of solo missions (that you can bring friends along to complete as well), and you can also join a queue for dedicated multiplayer missions, missions that are considerably more difficult and require teamwork to complete. Overall, it was a pretty fun experience, and while I won't be paying $60(!) for a new expansion, I might pick it up down the road someday.

6. Dead Rising 3

I love Dead Rising. If I had to pick one franchise that I think defines all that I like about video games, it's Dead Rising. It's got great weapons, a somewhat open world, and the the ability to render massive numbers of zombies inert. Eddie got me Dead Rising 3 for Christmas last year, and I dove into it eagerly.

And it was good. It wasn't the perfect sequel like Dead Rising 2 was, and it wasn't a revolutionary advancement like Diablo 2. It was a solid game with some interesting characters, and enough of the classic material I enjoy to keep me entertained. The one caveat I would give it is that, while the graphics are an "improvement" over the previous games, the extra layer of detail is a bit difficult on my eyes over longer gaming sessions. It became too much eventually and I set the game aside, but someday I definitely plan to get back into it and finish the story.

5. Heroes of the Storm

A repeat from last year's list, it's still a very solid game that has developed a lot over the past year. There are a ton of new heroes, though this year's crop is a bit less revolutionary than last year's; there's no hero like Cho'Gall or Lost Vikings this year. In that regard, it's getting a bit closer to League of Legends, but with the solid gameplay, the introduction of a similar "brawl" system to Hearthstone's, and the fact that the game continues to be completely free to play, it's still a winner in my book.

4. Lifeline

Anthony told me about Lifeline when it was free on iPhone for a couple days (or maybe is still free? I don't know). It's essentially a choose-your-own-adventure book, put into the context of you being on the other side of a communication device, trying to help a stranded space traveler survive on a moon or asteroid or planet. I don't remember the specifics, but I remember really enjoying the game. The way it presented the story was insanely entertaining, and while the finish was clearly built to encourage you to purchase a follow-up game, it was satisfying. Very well done.

3. Sid Meier's Civilization V

So I was a little late to the Civilization V achievement hunter party, but I did get there eventually. Over the past year, I nabbed a couple dozen achievements through considerable playtime, as I figured out what settings I needed to use on my laptop to make it work without crashing...often. The game is just really, really solid. Every time you play it's a new experience, and the maps and different civilizations provide nearly endless replay-ability. It'll be a while before I get the new one, obviously, but that's partly Sid Meier's fault. He made the previous version just too damn good.

2. Total Extreme Wrestling

TEW is a wrestling simulation game. That's right. A wrestling SIMULATION game. The game puts you into the role of a head booker at a wrestling promotion, and your job is to put on the best product possible to increase your popularity, generate income, and keep your job. You manage rosters, contracts, locker room chemistry, pushes, and all of the business aspects of how you put on a show.

It's the kind of game that appeals only to a narrow group of people, but I'm one of those people. I freaking love this game.

1. Dungeons and Dragons

I mean, what else is there to say that I haven't already said? I play D&D 2-3 times a week, which when you compare that with the 4 times a week I work, it takes up the lion's share of my free time. It's complex, it's cooperative, it's creative, and it's social. I say again, D&D is the perfect game.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...