Monday, May 25, 2009

Ring of Honor on HDNet Thoughts

So, the lady and I upgraded to a flat-screen and an HD receiver through DirecTV, which enables us to view the hour-long Ring of Honor TV show! Very exciting stuff. After two 15-plus hour days of death metal, I came home and we checked out the show.

Opening match was a three-way dance between Jay Briscoe, Kenny Omega and Kenny King. Decent 8-minute match or so that saw Briscoe get busted open hardway over his left eye and Kenny Omega with a bloody nose and the win.

Next match was a tag match between Irish Airborne and Dark City Fight Club. Quick match that saw the Dark City guys with a victory.

Third match was Chris Hero vs. Eddie Kingston (no relation to Kofi, I don't think). Decent singles match that was more of a brawl than anything.

Main event was Necro Butcher and Delerious vs. Jimmy Jacobs and Brodie Lee. Necro took a wicked double suplex out of the ring that allowed Jacobs and Lee to focus on Delerious for a while. Good, 12-14 minute match.

Now - there weren't any commercials to speak of, just previews for the next two weeks of ROH programming, spotlights on wrestlers (one was . . . someone, the other was on Bryan Danielson), and some promos.

It was just a breath of fresh air. Sure, the crowd in Philly where they tape the shows is pretty small, but the camera work is fine, the promos are hilarious old-school style promos that you don't really get anymore in the WWE, and the pace of the matches is much faster, hard-hitting, and inventive.

Commentary between Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak is just okay, but even hearing the NAMES OF MOVES BEING DONE IN THE RING is enough to make me happy at this point. Elbow strike? Senton? What are these things you speak of?!

Tag matches were good to see, and although I appreciate tag matches actually being relevant, the ROH style of chaotic tag-team wrestling is a little disorienting at times. The ref just stands around and looks helpless, which doesn't really make his three count all that important. Like, why does he get the officially finish the match when he can't enfore any other rules (most of the time)?

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Judgement Day Results!

OK! Here we go!

Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison (0/1)

Oops! Guessed wrong on this one. These two have been having a cool, back-and-forth feud, so it could have gone either way. I really like Morrison, so this is good news, despite my bad prediction.

Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho (IC Championship) (1/2)

Got this one right! This works, because Mysterio has barely defended this belt to begin with.

CM Punk vs. Umaga (2/3)

This just makes sense. Sucks that this PPV had to happen in Punk's hometown, but this is just where we are in this storyline. Cool tease on Smackdown of Punk cashing in his Money in the Bank contract, but it being the Friday before a PPV, you knew it wasn't going to happen. Makes sense in the scheme of things.

Big Show vs. John Cena (2/4)

Good lord. On Monday, Cena was a wreck, tonight he manages to hoist up Show and finish him off. Fucking retarded. No wonder Show gained a bunch of wait and doesn't seem to give a shit anymore. I just keep thinking back to when Show was ECW champ and he was so awesome, throwing Flair into tacks and generally causing problems for other people. Now he's just some blog that fucked Vickie Guerrero. Fuck me.

Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (World Heavyweight Championship) (3/5)

Called this one. Matt Hardy interference with The Cast causes Jeff the belt. It's like Matt has just been treading water until he could cost Jeff the belt again. Why hasn't he been interacting with Jeff on TV? Just so we can get this screwy finish? Whatever. I know I predicted that this would re-ignite the feud, but what has it stagnated to begin with?

Christian vs. Jack Swagger (ECW Championship) (4/6)

Wait, Swagger tried to pin Christian while holding his tights, the ref noticed and called him out, but then Christian won via holding Swagger's tights? I'm not into the fact that WWE is teaching kids that it's okay to be a dick if someone does it to you first. Lame.

Randy Orton vs. Batista (WWE Championship) (5/7)

Orton hits the ref to get himself DQ'd (and we're not talking about Hot Eats and Cool Treats, Stunt Granny fans), Legacy beats the shit out of Batista until Flair makes the save, an old-ass man fighting off three youngsters. Maybe Jericho is on to something here . . . but I'n still glad HHH hasn't shown his mug in a month.

71.4% correct . . . about as well as I did in math in school.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Judgement Day predictions!

Here we go again! Let's take a look at this Sunday's Judgement Day PPV and make some picks!

Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison

This one has to go to Shelton, probably somewhat sneakily. Morrison has been on the Face Trail since his split with The Miz (who has gone Mega Heel), so Shelton winning via some sort of shady behavior seems likely to develop this feud and Morrison as a face.

Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho (IC Championship)

Seeing as how Mysterio has been in limbo storyline-wise lately, and Jericho seems to be antagonizing anyone who will listen, I have no idea what's going to happen here. Mysterio could lose the belt and give Jericho something else to brag about, or he could retain and continue this feud. Um, Mysterio.

CM Punk vs. Umaga

This is an interesting one. Punk has beaten Edge twice in the past few weeks (once via countout with Edge doing the I-Don't-Need-This-Shit-I'm-The-Heel wave-off and once with Punk pinning him clean and Umaga interfering before Punk could cash in the Money in the Bank contract), but Umaga has been destroying Punk after each match.

The thing that's cool about Umaga is that he doesn't need a reason to attack someone. The character doesn't even speak English, rendering promos useless, so he just attacks whoever he wants. Pretty brilliant.

There could be some big bumping from Punk in this one, but I think he'll most likely succumb to Umaga's Thumb. Also, this is Punk's hometown, so yeah.

Big Show vs. John Cena

Realistically, Cena should have no chance, considering he was chokeslammed into a spotlight less than a month ago, and was completely destroyed by Show after Miz called him out. I mean, when he answered Miz' call-out, he was moving like a rusty robot (honestly, I thought he was just going to be faking it and destroy The Miz, but . . . ) and Show totally worked him over. That was a week ago. Cena should have no chance, so I'm going to go against WWE policy and side with common sense: Big Show gets the win.

Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (World Heavyweight Championship)

Hmmm . . . another tough one, but I'm going to say that Edge retains via some sort of interference on the part of Matt Hardy. I don't quite understand what's up with the Hardy Boyzzz feud since Mania, but this would be a good opportunity to remind the fans that the Hardy's hate one another. Cost Jeff the title and bingo, shit's re-ignited.

Christian vs. Jack Swagger (ECW Championship)

Christian will win this match, because Christian losing the belt back to him this early would kill Christian's momentum. The fans don't hate Swagger enough, but then again . . . maybe having him pin the champ would do the trick. Still going to go with Christian, though.

Randy Orton vs. Batista (WWE Championship)

Hopefully we get a clean finish out of this one, with no HHH appearance. Maybe it'll be something like Batista fucking up again and getting DQ'd. That way, HHH can get pissed at him and finally just turn heel for a Batista/HHH feud. We'll see about that. I'm going to pick Orton to retain.

Funny, so announced Women's title, Diva's title, or Unified Tag title, or US title matches on this show. Huh. See you on Sunday night or Monday . . . sometime . . . with a self-graded results post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Your new hero, your party host...

Hey, I'm Bobek, and like my good man Hoffa, I love wrestling. I'm flattered that Hoffa asked me to contribute to The Stunt Granny... wish I'd gotten computer access at home sooner, but such is my laziness/poverty.

Thankfully, wrestling fandom goes well with laziness/poverty.

I'm not entirely sure what all I'll be putting on here, but I think I'll be taking more of a "big picture" view -- I'm fascinated by the particulars of booking and promotion, so those will likely be my main focus.

Of course, I planned a whole big first column a couple weeks back talking about fundamental booking concepts and where I see the companies (particularly WWE, since I mostly can't be bothered with TNA's third-rate presentation and Russo) failing to stick to the fundamentals of solid wrestling programming, but then saw excellent columns on the subject by Jim Cornette and Lance Storm, both of whom know a hell of a lot more about the subject than I do.

Trying to think of other subjects, I keep coming back to this thought about the superior heel depth at the top of the WWE card, and the real struggle the company seems to be having with creating top babyface stars. In Randy Orton, Edge, and Chris Jericho, WWE has three of the great heels of recent memory. All three performers are at the top of their game, and are among the rare characters in the company that have been well-booked.

Orton has grown by leaps and bounds. While some complain about his in-ring work ("Another chinlock, Randy?"), I find his work in the ring to always be solid and convincing. Sure, he lacks a spectacular moveset, but his ability to incorporate his pouncing, snake-like character into his in-ring work has impressed me. Moveset isn't that important anyway -- digging into a chinlock to actually make it looks like a move that matters, desperately grasping the hold, sneering at the audience, and building heat are far more important than "big moves" (in my opinion, a big reason for TNA's failure to connect with anything beyond a hardcore audience). Orton's use of every movement to tell the story, from the way he walks down the ramp, to the pauses in his promos, to his posture in the ring, reminds me a great deal of Jake Roberts at his best -- perhaps the "viper" thing isn't such a coincidence...

Having once despised Edge's performance as a babyface, I've been pleasantly surprised with the heel character he's developed. His babyface run seems like such a distant memory, and in fact it's hard to imagine him as anything but a heel at this point. The "Ultimate Opportunist" character is a perfect in-ring fit for a talent who's best at selling and out-of-nowhere indy reversals... of course, you would think this would serve him well as a babyface, but his offense in that context was less convincing than even Cena's. On the mic, he's rivaled only by Jericho among current heels. He can rely on cheap heat at times, but really excels at selling the conniving and sneaky elements of the character. I think it says a lot about Edge as a performer that he's never booked particularly strong, but is always seen as a top threat. Any number of other performers would lose all of their heat in such a context (see Jericho's Undisputed Championship run).

Speaking of which, the heel character that Chris Jericho has developed over the last year or so far eclipses even his ever-popular heel run in WCW. WWE seriously dropped the ball on his Undisputed Title run through inept booking, but this time around the character has been given a whole new dimension, mostly through Jericho's performances. To say that his time trying to make it an actor has paid off in his return would be a serious understatement -- Jericho has crafted a rich, compelling, and shockingly well-acted (for wrestling) character. The pathos, the comtempt ooze through the screen, and I'm sure an old school performer like Jericho (hard to believe, but he really is one of the last) is even better in person at connecting with the fans and drawing their ire -- which his heat levels would suggest is true.

The same goes for Orton and Edge. In fact, all three draw levels of heat not seen in WWE since Triple H's first top heel run back in 1999-2000. While I may not get a lot of agreement on this one, I would go so far as to say that Orton, Edge, and Jericho are all currently performing at all-time great heel levels.

So, if you know your basic booking philosophies, it would stand to reason that WWE should be awash in top babyface characters, with the fans eager to see the hated heels get theirs. Yet this is far from the case -- aside from The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, who are clearly being phased out of the main event picture, there are very few babyfaces with the kind of heat one would expect. Jeff Hardy and (maybe) Batista are probably the closest, but only the always-unreliable Hardy seems to have a run on top still left in the tank. The company's other top babyfaces would probably be best served as heels at this point...

Which leads to quite a quandry. I'll pick up next time with a look at the top babyface performers and where they fit in this context, and maybe along the line try to figure out why such top heel talent doesn't seem to be drawing out the depth of babyface challengers one would expect.

I'd love to hear any feedback if there's anyone reading this besides myself and Hoffa. Regardless, it's been fun!

Hoffa, more recaps!