Thursday, January 24, 2013

more Pre Rumble thoughts

Deeper thoughts on the upcoming Rumble.

PRE-SHOW:  Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro for the U.S. Championship

The Miz now has a new submission hold to complete his already formidable arsenal. The Miz is an amazing in-ring worker capable of…. HAHAHAHA!!!! Yeah, no… the Figure Four Leg Lock is one of those classic holds that nearly every wrestler knows or learns at some point, and the Miz has an extremely sloppy version that takes far too long to apply than it should for a new finish. Antonio Cesaro, on the other hand, is doing a fantastic job as the United States champion and is building that title a little higher than it has previously seen. Miz doesn’t really need the U.S. title to elevate himself, but he is the bigger star in the match.

Winner: Cesaro after a dirty trick.


Team Hell No vs. Rhodes Scholars

Team Hell No have come full circle, rebuilding the tag ranks with a couple of legitimate teams who could threaten for the gold in coming months. Now they’re set to face the Rhodes Scholars at the Rumble, and things have been going extremely well for the dynamic duo… which makes me think that they are absolutely doomed to lose those titles come Sunday. The Scholars are primed and ready for a heel run with the straps, Sandow and Rhodes having built up some decent credibility with their gimmicks and they could be a team people really want to see lose those belts down the road. Team Hell No could continue to entertain with their gimmick and their matches, but I think the time is coming where they need to break up and split with a short feud leading into Mania.

Winner: Rhodes Scholars taking advantage of miscommunication between Hell No.

LAST MAN STANDING: Alberto Del Rios (champ) vs. Big Show (World Title)

The Big Show has done a fantastic job in putting over Alberto Del Rio, cementing the Mexican stars face turn with a series of great matches that showcase the abilities of the former Luchadore. And Del Rio has also done an amazing job in finding a new niche in the WWE… his face turn has been credible, his story has meaning, and he is definitely connecting with the fans. Increasing his high flying move arsenal is helping to put over his face turn as well, and I think this match has the potential to be a huge boost for the Mexican star. I expect him to have a new finisher at the end of the night, and that the Big Show continues this feud into Elimination Chamber.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

CM Punk vs. The Rock: WWE Championship match.

This match alone would be an amazing Wrestlemania Main Event! CM Punk’s heel turn earlier this year cemented the star as the Man in the WWE, holding onto the belt by the tips of his fingers through one dirty tactic after another and another. His title reign is stuck in the craw of many fans, and having the Rock come in for a shot at the belt is definitely going to increase the buy-rate dramatically… this is Punk’s moment to shine. The verbal back and forth between the two has been epic and their brief physical encounters have been dramatic and brutal.

Winner: CM Punk by way of interference from either Brad Maddox or Brock Lesnar

I think there will probably be a Diva’s match just before the WWE title match. It hasn’t been announced that I know of, but there’s that. Mostly a breather between World and WWE title matches.

Royal Rumble:

30 men at any point in the match, and it’s one of those big gimmick matches so many people look forward to. There are usually a few returning stars who make an appearance, a few surprises, and some character building throughout the course of the Rumble.

Some predictions:

1.      Kane manages to finally eliminate more over-all superstars than Shawn Michaels.

2.      Ziggler becomes the marathon man of the night,  starting the Rumble and becoming one of the last eliminated.

3.      New Age Outlaws are both in the ring for a reunion.

4.      John Cena enters at number 27.

5.      Mick Foley is a surprise entrant.

Rumble Final Five…. The point that we all look forward to:

1.      Cena
2.      Orton
3.      Ryback
4.      Sheamus
5.      Ziggler

I can see this going down, with the Shield coming down right after the elimination of Ziggles… and my guess is that either Cena or Orton will turn heel on the other two and reveal an alliance with the Shield. I say Cena because it would be one of the best heel turns ever… it would make sense with the given storyline and how things have been progressing, leading into a showdown the Rock should he win the title. I could also see the Orton heel turn, though it would make less sense since Shield damaged his shoulder a few months back.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Mostly Cena Related.

It must be awful to go on after The Rock.

It must be terrible to be that guy who has to follow up the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. The pressure must be intense. John Cena had to be that guy on Monday Night Raw and he delivered a promo that will go down in the record books, for certain. After nonsensically rambling for nearly ten minutes and making jokes about the fans at ringside, he eventually got to the point where he said that he was going to win the Rumble… and I sort of believe him. It’s not for the right reasons that I believe him… I don’t think he’s fortified or strong or driven to win the Rumble, I just think that it’s already been scripted and he couldn’t care less who knows it. He just went through a program with Dolph Ziggler that left Mr. Ziggles looking like one of the weakest men to ever hold Money in the Bank, he’s already buried brand new debuting talent with dismissive shrugs and “charming” smiles, and he totally killed the momentum of rising star AJ Lee by his involvement in her storylines over the past year. Johnny has effectively stunted the growth of three rising stars in the WWE with his dumb “superman” gimmick and his inability to sell a match is costing the Rumble buy rates.

And this isn’t the usual “Cena Sucks” chanting I’m talking about, this is an honest analysis of his ability in that ring. He’s not a bad wrestler, he’s not horrible on the mic, but Cena is totally dropping the ball when it comes to meeting expectations and building feuds. Last years’ Mania featured the “dream match” between him and The Rock, a feud that largely depended on a yearlong build up with a war of words that John Cena found himself seriously outclassed in. He was verbally beaten down week after week until Rocky finally decided to write stuff on his forearm for the pure sake of giving Cena SOME sort of ammunition in his own promos… and the difference between Rock and Cena was never more pronounced than it was this Monday.

Cena needed to come out and build one of the most grueling matches in the history of the WWE, he had to build 29 other guys and the fact that just about any single star could possibly walk out the winner, and he had to show the WWE that he was the man to overcome the odds and walk out of the Rumble with that called shot at Wrestlemania. He succeeded in making people think that he is going to win, but that’s only because he’s the Corporate yes-man he’s always been and nothing is going to spoil that in the foreseeable future. He dismissed the Rumble match itself… cake walk so far as he’s concerned. 29 other guys? Not one of them meant a single thing to John Cena. Sheamus appears in the aisle and builds up some tension, laughed off by Johnny boy. Next guys down the aisle, and the next, and the next… no real reaction from Cena.

We also have Rock facing Punk for the WWE title, and there has never been a more clearly defined difference between two major stars (Rock and Cena) than in what we saw from the most electrifying man. We saw Rock build up the long title reign of CM Punk, we saw him acknowledge everything that Punk has done during his reign, that it is noteworthy, and that Punk is just as bad as he says he is. (Contrast that with Cena’s last ‘big’ promo against Punk, where he dismissed everything Punk has done for the past year of holding the title… a year that saw Cena in the main event month after month where he just played Superman to various villains in the company.) All of that and we see that the Rock has a hill to climb, that he’s willing to pay the price for climbing it, and that he’s ready to face Punk on an even field. We know THIS match is going to be one for the ages… and, unlike Cena, the WWE Champion didn’t need to see notes on the Rocks’ forearm to return the verbal beating. He didn’t crack jokes,  he didn’t smile about it, he didn’t act like he just deserved to win… he talked about what the title meant to him, what his title reign has been like, and he talked about destroying the Rock. He talked about destroying the will of sheeple. He made people believe it. He made people believe in the match.

It must suck to follow the Rock. It must suck even more to see someone else going toe to toe with the Rock and not needing a crutch to get the job done.

And then, the Rock did something John Cena was either unwilling or incapable of doing… he took a beating from three young upstarts, he sold the beating, he spit blood on the mat, and he had the WWE going to commercial without the faintest sign of a smile on his face. Cena took on Ziggler in a cage with interference from Big E Langston and AJ Lee, but he couldn’t even bother to sell a finisher… he couldn’t bother to sell the cage, the distraction, or even the slightest sign that he was remotely bothered by Ziggler. And it wasn’t just one night… it was over the course of the past month or so, Cena gave not one moment to sell for the guy currently holding the Money in the Bank shot that has yet to be cashed in. And in a span of roughly four minutes, the Rock effectively showed that the Shield was a viable threat, dangerous, and CREDIBLE. Can anyone name one star that was made to look credible by Cena?

The Rock MAY win the WWE title, but the story has been a great build up and the feud has been done very well. Five to one odds that no matter the outcome, CM Punk will probably look far more credible in the outset of this match than he has ever looked before. John Cena may win the Royal Rumble, but he’ll likely get more jeers than cheers in the process when all is said and done. The kids will keep on loving him, I suppose. He’s over enough to get by on that for a few more years, but I honestly think he’s starting to hurt the business with this shtick. And the truth is, you can only blame the WWE Writing staff so much for what happens in a given match… the work itself is up to the wrestlers, and Cena doesn’t have to lose to make people look credible. He only ever needs to make it look possible that he could lose.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dark Shadows : Followed by a spoiler-filled rant.

Dark Shadows: The Tim Burton adaptation

There is a sketch comedy skit about Tim Burton “conceptualizing” his next film project… he takes a creepy concept, makes it more creepy with plenty of black and white stripes, casts Johnny Depp and his wife, uses the same music tempo, and then throws it all together with a film about being a misfit in an uptight community. The thing is, that formula isn’t necessarily a bad thing and he often utilizes it to interesting effects… but he also does it over and over and over again. Dark Shadows is a revisit to the same predictable formula, but it isn’t a bad little trip down familiar roads oft travelled before. It’s often cute, amusing, and whimsically dark… the whole film tends to hinge on Johnny Depp as Barnabus Collins, so much so that we’re sort of left with just Barnabas Collins at nearly every turn.

Dark Shadows has a number of characters who we could have followed in various scenes, but we spend so much time with Barnabus in little gag moments that many of those characters just feel wasted. Michelle Pfeiffer, a brilliant actress who could have brought so much to her role as the family’s matriarch, is reduced to momentary appearances to spout exposition and provide comedic statements that are meant to hide Barnabus’ true nature. Chloe Moritz is mesmerizing, but we hardly get to know her character before the sudden climax of the film, and villainous Angelique is played up as lacking any depth at all for the severity of her curse upon Barnabus. Burton scoops out the whimsy and sprinkles it throughout the film, leaving the audience with just enough of a taste to pass the time but nothing of any substance really get a good meal out of.

Dark Shadows was a fun ride, but severely lacking in several areas. Still, if you’re in the mood for a Tim Burton film, this is a fun movie.

You’ve been warned…. Alright, rant ON!!!

The ending of this film was saccharine sweet and completely without value. It’s meant to be “romantic” but just sort of wallows in this uncomfortable cash-in on giving a “Hollywood” ending to a story with a little more pathos than the conclusion warranted. Barnabus Collins spends the film lamenting his cursed immortal state, feeling badly for every person he’s forced to kill, and that each death takes away a little of his soul. He’s a monster, he knows it, and he knows what it all means….

So when the new “Love of his life” informs him that there’s only one way for them to be together, he rightfully states that to do so would be nothing short of damnation for this woman he loves. A short time before this big moment, keep in mind, he chastises Angelique for wanting to possess him, not love him. So the woman he professes to love throws herself from the cliffs, and he dives after her… sinking his fangs and changing her into a vampire, despite knowing that this is a curse of damnation, that each person she kills will mean tearing away bits of her soul, and that this will happen for all time.  He turns her into a vampire… and we’re told, through voice over, that his “curse” is lifted when she joins him in vampiric immortality.

Is this supposed to be a “feel good” ending for the film? Barnabus Collins now gets to watch the woman he loves devour her own humanity, her own soul, under his watchful eye over the next several hundred years… this is what happens when you give vampires the sparkles, ladies and gentlemen. You get twisted morality like this, where its’ wrong for Angelique to want to possess the charismatic Barnabus, but it’s totally alright for Barnabus to condemn the woman he loves to an eternity of inhumanity.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

V/H/S (or... More bitching about Ti West)


So the horror community is going gaga over this movie and I decided I needed to see at least one of the vignettes in this anthology film. So I went home on Saturday night and popped this up on my Netflix streaming video. Settling down… giving it an opportunity… and let’s start the ball rolling.

First, each of the vignettes have two things very much in common… first, they are all shot with a sort of hand-held camera, providing a “first person” view of events. Second, the underlying theme beneath each of these stories is “betrayal”… every story tends to cope with a betrayal of some sort, either direct or something beneath the surface of every situation. The shaky cam effect is a little hard to get used to, but the underlying theme is kind of neat when looking back on the film as a whole.

The first story deals with a trio of men out for a night on the town… the lead character is, essentially, the audience. The shy, somewhat good hearted guy is fitted with a pair of video glasses so the group can look back on the night. He isn’t entirely comfortable with the activities or the glasses, but the voyeuristic streak keeps us in line throughout the story where he meets “Lilly” and the three men bring her and another girl back to their hotel room. Lilly seems a sweet, uncomfortable, and slightly uncertain young girl who constantly looks to the lead character and stares into his eyes with a whisper, “I like you.” She tells him this one statement a number of times… and things turn out far differently than is expected for all three men.

Director Ti West brings us the second and weakest story of the bunch when we follow a young couple out for their Second Honeymoon. The wife records most of their activity and there’s plenty to foreshadow what’s to come, but the ending fell far flat for me and I am personally kind of irked that Ti West is seen as some sort of a savior to the Horror Genre by so many “fans”.

Some kids head out for a weekend in the woods in the next vignette. They are stalked by a slasher-killer of some manner. It’s an interesting if ultimately eventless piece with an cool monster sort of caught on film. I get the feeling I’ve seen one of the young actors some place before, but I honestly can’t remember where from… it’s going to haunt me, I’m fairly sure. I’ll have to look it up. Ah well.

Next we have a film that sort of breaks the theme of shooting on first person when we watch a video chat between a guy and his girlfriend over the course of a number of weeks. It’s a fairly creepy story, though… I enjoyed the ending and thought this story, at least, did more with the time it had than most of the other pieces so far.

The fourth film in the anthology was probably my favorite… it wasn’t anything amazing, but more the story of a group of buddies who may have taken a wrong turn somewhere and wound up in a haunted house on Halloween night. This one is definitely twisted and had one of the better reasons for someone to be shooting the whole thing from the first person point of view… specifically, he’s wearing a “nanny-cam” bear suit. I found it funny and a little more plausible than some of the people who were running around with cameras.

Bookending each of the stories is a vignette that runs through the whole of the piece… a group of thuggish friends are hired to break in and steal a v/h/s from an old dilapidated house. When they get there they find the elderly tenant dead in front of a number of monitors and VCR players with a pile of VHS movies on the floor. Each vignette comes from one of these tapes, watched by one member of the group after another.

Over all, I thought the premise was interesting and the execution delivered well enough. The film was an interesting experiment where some of the shorts worked far better than others, but the over-all effect made for a decent enough film. Some of the stories lacked a concrete ending, leaving things up in the air for a number of the stories. “Amateur Night” and “Lake in the Woods” both seemed to have far more story to them than was allowed with the time constraints, but the bookend and the “Skype”-ish story seemed complete enough on their own.  I still don’t see what all the hype is behind Ti West and I thought his vignette was the weakest of the bunch.  I’m kind of looking forward to the films sequel currently in the works.

4.5 out of 5.

RAW 20th Anniversary thoughts:

RAW 20th Anniversary thoughts:
*Warning: Some things are going to be out of order. These are thoughts, not an in depth review.

McMahon opens in the ring with some comments for the fans, but gets interrupted by the Big Show. This is all so they can set up a match between Show and Alberto Del Rio at the Royal Rumble, a World Title rematch. They are mostly just setting Alberto up as a big Face, which oddly seems to fit him far more than the heel persona he’s been playing for the past year and a half. I’m not even kidding… Alberto Del Rio seems much more naturally inclined toward the Face role, much more comfortable with cheers, and the match is on for the Rumble. Decent stuff, mostly solid, I have nothing to complain about here.

The Intercontinental champion faces Randy Orton, though I’m not sure if this is a title defense of not… but here’s the big shocker: Wade Barrett not only wins, but he does so clean with a solid Bull Hammer elbow. Orton is pinned clean by the heel champion… not sure if people are really aware of how huge that win actually is for Barrett, but Orton has been golden boy for so long that a clean loss like this maneuvers Barrett and his title into a much better picture.

A really good segment with Team Hell No and their doctor… entertaining, funny, and perfectly fits within the confines of a wrestling angle. It has a purpose, it develops the feud with Rhodes Scholars, and it gives the team a chance to do something more than JUST argue with one another. As much as Bryan and Kane have been comedy gold, the schtick does need to grow beyond the same rehashed moments over and over again… this segment allowed for some real growth.

The two matches are spaced wide apart, but both are good and Team Hell No both grab individual wins over the upcoming challengers at the Royal Rumble. Everyone takes huge advantage of the television time they have, decent television timed matches from all involved.

Foley inducted into the Hall of Fame, huge deal and a great moment for the fans who have followed his career… I’m a big Foley mark as I’ve loved Cactus Jack since the first I saw him. But he doesn’t get a chance to have that big “moment” when the Shield come down to rain on his parade. This would seem like a huge jeer from a fan like me, but I’m actually thrilled he took this big moment and used it to help put over the three young guys and Ryback when he came down for the save. Little thing I loved about that is Dean Ambrose’s reaction when Ryback’s music hit… this frustrated stomp and the rolling eyes bit was a huge sell, and while many marks may have overlooked it that little reaction sold the moment better than a huge pop from the audience.

Little side note… they’ve been showing tweets all night from past and current stars on the roster, including an interesting comment from the internet “sensation” that is Zack Ryder. The recent end to his internet show and some recent tweets have made it sound very much like Ryder is on his way out the door… frank truth is that the WWE dropped the ball when it came to cashing in on his successful self-promotion but they may finally start gaining some dividends if they’re just building up a heel turn. Frankly, he really does need the heel turn or something big to put him back on the map or the WWE is going to wind up losing a guy whose tireless self-promotion will go to work for someone else. Ryder isn’t the best worker in the ring or on the mic, but he’s capable of upper midcard right now and could probably develop himself much higher if he’s lucky.

CM Punk vs. Brodus Clay is getting some “heat” from a couple of smart marks on the Wrestlemaniacs facebook group as being a pointless segment that didn’t actually do anything for either wrestler. I don’t only beg to differ, I’m going to give a little lesson in the psychology of character and storyline development.

An advertised segment for the Rock Concert absolutely demanded a response from CM Punk… and what better response than for him to come out and wrestle a match? This is a man who calls himself the best WRESTLER in the world, not entertainer and he’s not some Hollywood part time star. He isn’t there to trade verbal barbs with Dwayne Johnson, he’s there to put his knee into the face of his opponent. By taking on the 400 Lbs. monster known as Brodus Clay he’s able to add legitimacy with a clean win, he’s able to openly mock the fan friendly dancing, and he’s able to solidify the differences between him and The Rock.

What did this match do for Clay? Perhaps some people only pay attention to the winners and losers, but the match showed Clay as a brutal monster capable of being far more aggressive than he has been in the past year. He tosses wrestlers over his shoulder, he drops them on their heads, and he barrels through them with a fairly brutal offense… and he’s shucking and jiving for the kids to get a big pop. This match opens the door for him to get more aggressive… he took a certain offense to CM Punks’ comments, and maybe he takes it with a heel turn or he decides to defend his own choices with regards to his character. This match provided a terrific opportunity for Clay to showcase his ability in the ring and find a foot-hold to develop his character beyond the Funkasaurus Rex simplicity that has relegated him to the lower card.

Rock and Sock Connection back stage and the magic between them is still there. But it felt like something more could have come from this segment, and it just fell a little flat toward the end. It served to pretty much remind the fans that the advertised “Rock Concert” was going to happen near the end of the show, that the Rock was really there, and that he was going to lay a verbal beating on Vicki. Yay?

The Miz interviews the Natchah Boyeee(!) in a segment that served to look back on catch phrases throughout the twenty years of RAW… and, the Miz is still supposed to be a face and he’s still supposedly over in the eyes of the WWE. This segment goes on… and on…. And on… before Antonio Cesaro hits the ring and drags the segment out even further by allowing the Miz to put the figure four leglock on him after Ric Flair chops him a few times. Dumb segment made dumber by not putting over the heel, made even stupider by the time allotment for this segment. JEESH!!!

Sheamus vs. the 3MB… was odd. I like that Sheamus was eliminated and that the 3MB finally managed to win a match. Sheamus seems to be kind of stuck right now, hitting that brogue kick every week on people. No feud in the near future. Not sure what they want to be doing with him, to be honest. This was mostly an excuse to talk about the Royal Rumble, let’s be honest.

Build up to the steel cage main event… and the cage match itself can be encapsulated with the following statement: Nothing says “credible opponent” quite as much as having John Cena repeatedly defeat Dolph Ziggler and his brand new debuting bodyguard in a series of matches designed around the fact that Cena is superman. The past few weeks have been time well spent on having the all ready over and shining golden John Cena repeatedly beat Dolph Ziggler in one match after another. Bravo?

Rock concert… CM Punk interrupts.

Eh, it was okay. 

8 out of a possible 10, or 4 out of 5. Not out of the park awesome, but better than average. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pre-Rumble Thoughts on the WWE

I do not know who will win the Royal Rumble this year.

Let me be clear… I have previously been wrong about who would walk away with the Rumble win, but I have never had NO idea who would win. I have always had my favorites, I have always had the people I cheered for, and I have always had educated guesses based on a wrestlers position with the company and who the champion was at a given time but this years’ Rumble is developing in an atmosphere of absolute uncertainty. The ball could fall in just about any court and that lends a certain degree of excitement to what is normally one of the highlight Pay Per Views of the year… and this is quickly beginning to develop as what may be one of the best build PPV’s of the year.

I think WWE begins to build their next “era” of stars this year. It’s been obvious to many fans for several years that the WWE’s stars have become stale and the program has generally been boring for far too long. The “Summer of Punk” saw a resurgence in the traditional fans’ interest, and 5 star matches with Daniel Bryan helped restore some degree of credibility to the title but the insistence on pushing John Cena to the main event despite the lack of title also hurt the product on the whole. The program with Johnny Ace fell flat as no one bought John Cena as battling the corporate “yes man”… Cena IS the corporate yes man. Punk’s necessary heel turn provided a far better nemesis for the banner-man to fight, but Cena’s injury sidelined him and the WWE was forced to scramble and push a still-green monster to the title picture. (more on that later) The WWE has seen a number of their “go-to” guys have time catch up with them… Orton’s behavior has had him sitting on the sidelines more, Rey Mysterio’s injuries keep him from being a major force, and HHH is better served behind the scenes than in front of the camera (More on that later, too.). Taker has been doing this gig for over 20 years now, and the time has come to hang up his boots, Lesnar hasn’t brought in the dividends that the WWE thought he would, and Rock is a part-timer coming in for attraction matches. We need new blood!


Sheamus won the Rumble last year, going over the expected winner and going on to a Wrestlemania match that was so disappointing that it left him in the cold. The effect of his single brogue kick had the opposite effect than was intended. After struggling for most of the year to get over as a viable World Champion, Sheamus eventually dropped his title to the Big Show in a series of terrific matches that saw him losing one rematch bid after another. He’ll likely enter the Rumble and could go over for the second year in a row, but I just don’t think the WWE is willing to pin that level of success on him again.

His beaten Wrestlemania opponent has gone on to get WAY over the audience. Daniel Bryan, who was supposed to be a kicking dummy, wound up getting a huge pop the night after Mania when the fans let the company know what a mistake the WWE made in dumping the potential match so many were looking forward to. He went on to challenge CM Punk in a series of 4 and 5 star matches in his heel persona, his relationship with AJ giving that Diva a springboard to success in her career. This eventually resulted in his pairing with Kane, which has both men carrying the tag division back to prominence in a series of tag matches with some up and coming teams. I don’t expect Bryan to win, but he’s worth a mention here as an up and coming star.

Alberto Del Rio debuted only a short while ago and immediately rose through the ranks to challenge for the Title at various points… he even won the 2011 Royal Rumble and headlined Wrestlemania in what would become Edge’s last match. His arrogant rich heel persona is quickly giving way to a face turn that shows Del Rio developing a sense of compassion for his “manservant”, rising to the other mans’ defense at various points. I don’t think he’ll be IN the rumble, but he may challenge The Big Show and that could be a show stealing match if given the time and story it needs. This is also Alberto’s last real chance to get over with the audience that largely finds his work to be “boring” at best.

Wade Barrett… this guy is a beast and may be the best pure brawler in the ranks right now. Bare knuckle champion, a certain degree of British arrogance, and a new finisher has reinvigorated this guys career… the bad thing is that he sat out most of the year with an elbow dislocation and didn’t get a major chance to shine until his return.

My last Semi-Guy isn’t really new, but he’s been slowly climbing the ranks and he made the highlight reel in last year’s Rumble… Kofi Kingston shocked the world with a handstand to avoid elimination and went on to a terrific showing in the Rumble itself. This year has been filled with ups and downs… his Air Boom partnership with Evan Bourne dissolved when Bourne was twice suspended for Wellness Policy infractions, he went on to team with Truth but ultimately lost the titles to Hell No. He went on from there to win the IC title and has had a series of terrific matches with Miz and Wade Barrett. He recently lost the IC title, but his feud with Barrett has been terrific and has brought some prestige to a title that has fallen to footnote in the past several years.


One guy who NEEDS to make an impact at the rumble is the Funkasaurus Rex… debuting with a dancing gimmick has kind of stalled the career of Brodus Clay, but that doesn’t make him a bad performer at all. I can see him elevating his game this year, if given the chance… but the chance needs to come. There’s almost always a “monster” performer at the Rumble, and Clay could seriously fill that role though I expect the role goes to my next topic.

No new star has made a bigger impact than Ryback. If anyone is a favorite for the Rumble winner, it’s Big Hungry. Pushed in a distinctly Goldberg-ish manner, Ryback went on a brutal winning streak before finally losing to Punk at Hell in the Cell due to referee shenanigans. He’s still very green and isn’t the safest worker in the business, but that didn’t stop either Goldberg or Ultimate Warrior from gaining prominence… and Ryback is set on that path of destruction. He could very well walk away with a rumble shot at either champion and he’s being pushed to the stars already.

Then there’s the current U.S. Champion; Antonio Cesaro. A big “indie” guy, Cesaro is an absolute powerhouse and is possibly the most athletically gifted performer to debut this past year with the WWE. He’s good on the mic, he’s a great performer in the ring, but while he’s been a great mid-carder, the WWE seems hesitant to push him beyond the work-horse standard of the midcard. That’s not a bad thing as many stars have made names for themselves in the mid-card area.

The Shield are a group of three men who have a ton of promise to offer the WWE… and I’m expecting that the Rumble will be all about these three men and the kind of impact they have. They’ll be targeting Ryback for sure, Orton, and maybe some others… and they’ll also be major targets for the majority of the performers. I’m expecting that big OMG moment from these three guys… something where all three are standing alone in the Rumble ring before Ryback enters.

Finally… crooked referee and current “whipping boy”, Brad Maddox… he’ll be in the Rumble, but I expect he’ll be a comedy entry with a quick arrival before getting tossed over the top by Ryback. Maybe wrong about Big Hungry eliminating Maddox, but I don’t see this guy going too far in the rumble itself… I do, however, see Maddox eventually developing into a pretty decent performer and I’ve seen good matches with him in FCW so it’s a matter of time there. On the bad side, however… Maddox doesn’t really have his own character. He tends to try to emulate people in his promos… and it just feels forced and unnatural. But there are definitely worse out there.


HHH is largely stepping out from in front of the camera to become the new Talent Relations guy, and he’s been taking the company in a gradually different direction for years now. He’s been hiring more independent stars, he’s developed the NXT system to become more of a feeder to the WWE, and he’s become much more proactive in selling guys who are working hard to improve their game. The business is the hands of him and Stephanie, with Shane having largely stepped out of the WWE to run his own multi-media company. So what does this mean for the near future?

The Rock gets a title shot at the Rumble and I know that he and Punk are going to tear down the house… the question is whether Rock walks out with the title or not? I don’t think he does… I don’t think they give the banner to a part-timer. A lot of people are predicting that he does win, however… and that the E uses the star power of the Rock to draw ratings during the road to Mania. Problem with that theory is that both Rock and Brock Lesnar are scheduled for appearances along the road to Wrestlemania anyway. The title should be more important than a part-timer, in my opinion. It should be defended and competed for by guys who are there full time.

The rumble is nigh impossible to call… but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Rock wins it. Odd, yes…  especially when I just said that the title should be competed for by full-timers. But it could be the best call they make if Punk goes over the Rock with shenanigans and booking a villainous Punk vs. Rock for mania would guarantee buys. On the other hand, Taker vs. Punk could also be an incredible match. But again, there’s the whole “Part Timer” theory… it would be nice to have a streak vs. streak match with Punk defending his year-plus title reign against the undefeated streak of Undertaker, but it still kind of rubs the wrong way.

Then there’s John Cena. The golden-boy of the WWE is the best full time “good guy” the company has. The matches between he and Punk have been amazing, each meeting a new level in their long-standing rivalry. There’s great chemistry between them and I think it’s the most logical head-liner to the biggest PPV of the year. I’m not a big fan of Cena, but I recognize the talent he brings to the business and that his fans are going to absolutely explode if he wins the Rumble and calls out Punk. Putting it beside a Rock vs. Brock secondary main event could blow the roof off New Jersey.

We’ll see.

DVD: Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold:

Based on the novel by James Le Carre, the film was adapted for the screen in 1065 and starred the legendary Richard Burton in what I suppose would be the titular role. Burton plays Leamus; an agent in charge of coordinating the Berlin operations for a branch of the British Intelligence Service when we first meet him. After a double agent is killed, Leamus is pulled off the mission and we see he’s a world-weary man who has grown weary and morose through a life of espionage. “Control” tasks him with a final mission, setting him up as an agent forced into retirement struggling to find work and taking to drink. Leamus finds work in a library where he meets a young woman who he starts having an affair with, and the plan to lure in enemy agents begins to bear fruit.

I don’t want to spoil anything, because this is a twisted game of espionage with an absolutely amazing performance from Burton. It’s not the typical “spy movie” in that everything is played down, the characters are very dark, and it becomes harder and harder to “root” for the good guys in all of this. Le Carre’s most famous protagonist, George Smiley, makes a number of brief appearances and his role is integral to the over-all plot of the story. This is truly a wonderful film.

It’s extremely dark. It’s ruthless, it’s brutal, it’s vicious, and it’s definitely NOT the feel-good movie of the year. If “James Bond” is at one end of the Spy Movie spectrum, “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” is at the other… a gritty movie about cold war espionage with people who are neither kind nor gentle in the way they do their jobs. The movie delivered a brutal kick to the gut and was, at times, a little hard to watch.

4 out of 5.