Monday, October 27, 2014

Hell in the Cell Recap

 WWE Hell in a Cell 2014 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

Hell in the Cell is in the books, and for the third year in a row it's screw the good guy in the main event time.  In 2012 it was Ryback, last year Daniel Bryan, and this year it was Dean Ambrose. It's also the fifth straight time the bad guy has gone over in the main event.  All in all I thought it was a pretty good show.  The matches were good, the results weren't all obvious going in, and the booking was decent although some things didn't make a lot of sense to me.  This show seemed to be a major program-ender of sorts; most of the matches had an air of finality to them in the results.  So what all went down?

  • Intercontinental Title Match - The show opened with the two out of three falls match for the I-C title.  Dolph Ziggler won the match to retain the title, which is fine, but the booking was strange.  He got a quick win in the first fall then wins the second fall and the match.  That's the kind of finish you would book if Cesaro was leaving the company.  The match itself was good and Ziggler didn't job so his fans didn't get another knife stuck in their backs.  Maybe one day he can actually get a win over Seth Rollins.  This also looks like that's it for Cesaro this year.  He's competed for every major title without winning any of them and took clean defeats from everyone involved.  Oh well, maybe next year.
  • Tag Team Title Match - The Rhodes Brothers beat the Usos again in another good match.  Not surprised or disappointed here.  I would suggest getting some new challengers for the Rhodes' and letting the Usos get a little break before maybe getting the belts back sometime next year.\
  • Nikki vs Brie Bella -  The match wasn't bad; the Bellas aren't as bad in the ring as some people think.  Obviously neither of them should be champion but they did OK here.  Nikki wins, naturally, but did so cleanly.  So now we get 30 days of Brie foiling Nikki's plans as her personal assistant as per the match's stipulation.
  • US Title Match - Sheamus beat the Miz to retain the title.  Again, no surprise.  Miz and Damien Mizdow are funny in their whole routine and the match was pretty entertaining.  The ending and aftermath again looked to be the last go round for this program.
  • Big Show vs Rusev - Show jobbed to Rusev as expected.  The Mark Henry people were expecting turn did not come. Show went out clean so there's no reason to continue this one.  It's probably time for Rusev to get a title match with Sheamus or Ziggler and get a belt around his waist before he goes on to be fed to Cena in a few months.
  • Diva's Title Match -  AJ wins again.  It's time to end the AJ-Paige show now.  The matches were good, sometimes very good, but we've seen it a million times already.  Time to send in a new challenger.  Once again I vote for Natalya.  She's a good wrestler and the two of them can have some excellent matches trading submission holds and what not.  After that if they want to bring Charlotte up from NXT, have at it.
  • Hell in the Cell : Cena vs Orton - OK, color me surprised here.  I had Orton winning to further the rift between he and Rollins.  Instead, Cena wins with a spectacular Attitude Adjustment through a table to become the number one contender.  And with that, all the Cena haters began to groan with fear that this is the first step towards Cena beating Brock Lesnar to get the title back.  I don't see that happening, honestly, unless the plan has changed to Cena putting over Roman Reigns at WrestleMania.  That would actually be a much better match than Lesnar vs Reigns but whatever.  Once again the Cena haters need to give it a rest.  He's not going to lose every time, OK?  You guys get your share of Cena jobs more than you realize; get over it already.
  • Hell in the Cell : Rollins vs Ambrose - Contrary to the rumors, they saved this match for last.  You know, sometimes these guys do know what they're doing.  Loved this match up until the finish.  Lots of cool spots, both guys brought their A games.  The table use was top notch all the way.  Rollins winning with help was one of my expected outcomes, but that help coming in the form of Bray Wyatt left me perplexed.  Wyatt's beef with Ambrose will likely be explained on RAW but it all seems kind of abrupt.  Of course if the intent was to end the Ambrose-Rollins program and move both guys on then some kind of clean break was in order.  What's next for Rollins?  Not sure.  The simmering rift with Orton can continue, with him ribbing Orton for losing while he won and Orton giving it back to him for needing help.  The only question is whether it drags out to Survivor Series or happens in time to set a match on that show between the two.  We'll see.
Overall, my assessment of the show is that it was entertaining but not earth-shattering.  Another WWE Network special, worth the $9.99 you pay a month but not worth the $50 it would have cost for pay per view.  It will be interesting to see what goes on tonight on RAW to follow up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

WWE Hell in the Cell Preview

Hell in the Cell goes down this Sunday, part of what I called the doldrums of Fall for WWE events. Unlike Night of Champions last month, this one actually has a little drama to it and some implications for the near future.  This is also the second year in a row that we're getting two Hell in a Cell matches with Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins followed up by John Cena vs Randy Orton.  We also get four title matches, a second Diva's match, another victim for Rusev and the conspicuous absence of the WWE World Champion Brock Lesnar.  As is the case with today's WWE, the in-ring action will be mostly very good and the storyline stuff will be up for interpretation as to its quality.  If you're a regular WWE storyline basher you will likely find fault with the show; if you're not then you should be fine with what transpires as long as you personally like the results.  What do I think is going to happen?  Here goes:

  • Hell in Cell: Cena vs Orton - The big stipulation here is that winner gets the next title shot against Lesnar.  I've seen some complaints that this match is going to be the main event, largely from the usual Cena-hating suspects.  Get over yourselves, already.  Cena goes on last because people other than you want to see him up top.  And besides, you're going to get your wish here as Orton will be winning the match.  Of course, the Cena-haters will give John exactly zero props for putting somebody over yet again (this will be the fourth time he puts Orton over since last December).  I'm supremely confident in the result here because Cena already faced Lesnar twice so a third time with the same result (Lesnar walking out as champ) would be major overkill.  Orton wins here, gets the title shot, and that will lead into a program with Rollins as rumored and hinted at.
  • Hell in Cell: Ambrose vs Rollins - This is a hard one to figure, as there are reasons for both guys to win.  Rollins won their first match so Dean getting the favor returned makes sense.  Then again, this kind of match is an easy place for match deciding interference from the Authority, be it Triple H or Kane, on behalf of Rollins.  I'm betting on Ambrose here, given my call for the main event.  A Rollins loss plus an Orton win adds to the drama leading to their eventual blowup.  This should be a great match and could join the Hell in a Cell matches that everyone remembers years later.
  • Tag Team Title Match: The Usos vs The Dust Brothers - These two teams work great together, the match should be excellent.  I got the Dust Brothers retaining the titles here.  I really hope this culminates in a TLC match either at TLC in December or at WrestleMania.
  • US Title Match: Sheamus vs the Miz - I have no idea here, really.  Sheamus has held the title for a while now, so having him drop it probably isn't a bad idea.  Miz is coming off the Intercontinental title program with Dolph Ziggler, and would be fine as U.S. champ.  I like his Hollywood character and Damien Sandow is a hoot as the stunt double.  I just don't want another 24 hour title reign for him (he's had two of those in the past two years already).  I got Sheamus retaining the title by some kind of disqualification; I think he's a big enough deal that him losing a title should come under a different set of circumstances.
  • Intercontinental Title Match:  Dolph Ziggler vs Cesaro (two out of three falls) - This could be the sleeper match of the night.  Both are great performers.  I got Ziggler winning here.  The two out of three falls format allows Cesaro to get a win in one of the falls and still look strong.
  • Rusev vs Big Show - Show jobs to Rusev here, to continue the march towards being fed to Cena at WrestleMania 31.
  • Divas Title Match: AJ vs Paige - These two have good matches, so this one should be, too.  Expect Alicia Fox to get involved on Paige's behalf some kinda way, but for AJ to keep the title.
  • Nikki vs Brie Bella (loser has to be the winner's personal assistant) - Nikki wins, but Brie will use her personal assistant job to cost Nikki future matches.  We've seen this movie before.
 This should be a good show, and more interesting than Night of Champions. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DC Movie Schedule Drop

Warner Bros released it's entire planned schedule for it's movies from the DC Comics Universe.  Here's what we got:


In addition there are no dates but plans for a Green Lantern Reboot and a Cyborg movie, probably in 2020.  So contrary to what a lot of people were thinking and spouting off about on the internet, DC did indeed have a plan they were cooking up.  What's intriguing here is that DC will be getting into the meat of their schedule as Marvel goes and finishes up Phase 3 with the big Avengers-Thanos throwdown in 2018.  By then the murmurs about Superhero fatigue you're getting now will be full throated roars, so having a new slate of characters and stories up and running can breath any necessary new life into the genre.  Holding off until 2016 to start things off also means that you won't have a situation where both companies run out of steam at the same time and we hit with a plethora of second rate films on both sides.  The order of releases is interesting also.  We get Dawn of Justice then an immediate changeup to the Suicide Squad.  That gives an opening to introduce ARGUS (DC's version of Shield, with a little less morals) and some of the DC villains.  Wonder Woman gets her big introduction, and then the Justice League's big bow follows.  Then we get the Flash and Aquaman movies to expand on whatever introduction we get to them in the first Justice League film followed another full feature for the whole team followed by Shazam.  And once that's all wrapped finished we get Green Lantern and Cyborg movies to flesh out those characters.  Holding off the Green Lantern film until later also allows them a chance to get a better Green Lantern in place so that no one will care about that debacle with Ryan Reynolds anymore.  There's still a lot of time (almost two years) before we get the first movie so there are a lot of questions to be answered between now and then.

  • Will we reach peak whining fanboy? - It's only been a couple of days, and it's already been unbearable.  I've heard that DC took too long, that they're rushing things, that they're copying Marvel, that they're not copying Marvel enough (by not connecting the movies to the TV shows), and that the movies are gonna suck anyway (I swear DC has seemed to have cornered the market on pre-hate).  And then there's the crying about the casting choices.  They chose to cast a different actor to play the Flash than on the TV shows; that set a lot of people off even though many of them didn't like Grant Gustin being chosen to play him on TV until three weeks ago when the show debuted.  Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot have been panned as choices for Batman and Wonder Woman ad nauseum, as has Jesse Eisenberg as the pick to play Lex Luthor.  I'm getting real close to asking the White House to name a new national holiday, Smack a Fanboy Day.
  • Will we get any major story adaptations? - Obviously doing something huge like Blackest Night or Crisis on Infinite Earths is too much to ask.  But will we get something like Tower of Babel (which was already adapted into the animated film Justice League: Doom), or the Justice League - Origin from the New 52 continuity (which was also turned into an animated movie, Justice League: War)?  Maybe.  The separate films slated for Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman could be based on one of the well known story arcs as well.  More than likely you'll get an adaptation in name only, where the title and some elements of a known arc are used but with an original story (like Captain America: Winter Soldier).

  • Who else are we getting? We know about the Justice League members, Lex Luthor, and the Suicide Squad.  But as these films continue who else from the extended DC Universe will we get to see?  When they get around to doing another Batman film I'd like to see the extended family (Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl) in action.  I'm hoping that Green Lantern will be John Stewart (or Simon Baz if they really want to get crazy with it) and not just Hal Jordan again.  What other bad guys will we get?  Ocean Master (for Aquaman), Cheetah (Wonder Woman), Sinestro (Green Lantern)?  Or could we get the Red Lanterns?  There's so much there to work with beyond Luthor and Darkseid.
 We got a year and a half to speculate and find thing out.  I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Calm down with the 'Civil War' talk already, will you?

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OK, so the news that Robert Downey, Jr. is set to play a big role in Captain America 3 got everybody running 90 miles an hour with the crazy talk.  With 30 seconds of the announcement, there were a million pieces being filed with the title "Civil War' in the title.  By the end of the day it seemed that a lot of people had settled on it being a done deal that Cap 3 would either set off or be totally about story based on the 'Civil War' Marvel series from about ten years ago.  You would think that there was an official studio announcement that yes, the subtitle of Cap 3 would be Civil War and that the story would be based on it.  But I sure as heck didn't see that anywhere.  Remember folks, until you get an official studio release anything you hear is a RUMOR and nothing else.  'Sources close to the studio' could be anyone from a top executive to the guy who wrote the piece.  Some of these websites do talk to people, but it's more often than not it's a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy.  They don't have Joss Whedon or Kevin Fiege answering their phone calls.  A lot of these stories are people projecting their desires onto anecdotal evidence and creating a narrative.  And these sites are wrong more than they're right.  Now, they very well could be doing a Civil War-type story but I doubt it.  Cap 3 comes out in 2016 and there are way too many things that would have to be set up in order to make it plausible.  Here's my short list:

  • Need more people - Right now, we have the six Avengers (Cap, Stark, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, and Thor) and we're getting Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision in the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie. And you can throw in War Machine/Iron Patriot and Falcon.  So that's eleven people. A Civil War story is going to need more people in order for the factions to have any weight to them.  Now there will be more available as the Netflix projects drop, but for a movie coming out in 2016 they don't have a whole lot of time to finish shooting.  
  • A place to fit in - Marvel is building towards a big throwdown with Thanos for Avengers 3 in 2018.  Everything they've done has pointed that way.  How do you fit a Civil War story in there, deal with the fallout, and then get back to the Thanos story?  And when is Cap going to fit in time to find Bucky, which is what he was setting out to do at the end of Winter Soldier?  Assuming that he hasn't succeeded on that mission by the time Ultron comes out, that still has to be resolved doesn't it?  2015's slate of films is already set with Ultron and Ant-Man.  Yes, you could use season three of Agents of Shield as your runway, I guess.
  • Spider Man? - Spidey is a huge part of Civil War in the comics.  He is the first to comply with the registration act and unmask himself, then goes to work for the establishment side before having a change of heart.  As you know, Marvel doesn't have movie rights to Spider-Man so unless the rumors are true about a sharing agreement being worked out there is no Spider-Man for the film.  Now you could use a character they do have to play that role in the story if need be, but that would kinda suck.
Of course what is very likely to happen is that the movie has the subtitle 'Civil War' and have an entirely different story.  That is, after all, what they did with Winter Soldier and are doing with Age of Ultron.  We'll see folks.  Until then, don't jump to any conclusions.

The doldrums of Fall


I haven't had much to say about WWE for a while, and there's good reason for that.  I'm not bashing it at all; I think they're making the most out of a roster that's decimated by injuries.  No Daniel Bryan, no Roman Reigns, and even no Wade Barrett has made it harder to put things together hese past few months.  And while they made the right call to have Brock Lesnar go over at Summerslam to become the champion, his schedule leaves a whole in a three hour show every week to feature your title holder.  Yes, Paul Heyman coming out to do his thing on Brock's behalf is gold almost every time but without a match to hype it doesn't carry as much weight after a few weeks.  The last month of RAW and Smackdown has been a game of 'how can we rearrange John Cena and Dean Ambrose vs Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, and Kane this time?'  And now we have a big show in two weeks where there will likely be no title match and some mishmash of Cena, Orton, and Kane to go along with the Ambrose-Rollins match in the main event.  And while that match will likely be awesome, it's coming a few months before they wanted to do it because of Reigns' injury.  Ambrose was supposed to out longer due to being put out of action by Rollins and Orton but Reigns getting sidelined forced him to come back earlier.  And once we get through this month, we still have Survivor Series and TLC ahead before they can reset at the Royal Rumble when Bryan and Reigns are slated to return.  This truly is a stretch that makes you wonder if we need all these big shows.  (I wrote about that in a piece for Get on the Ball Sports before Night of Champions.)

The post-Summerslam period is usually a time to tread water until the Rumble in January.  The difference for this year is that everything we're getting now is coming at least a month or two before it would have had the roster been full.  My guess is that Lesnar was going to win the title in August regardless, but the victim wold have been Bryan and not Cena.  Cena would have gotten chances to beat Lesnar in the fall and winter instead of losing the title to Brock and trying to win it back in September.  The Shield breakup definitely got fast tracked due to needing some action near the top to make up for Bryan's absence.  So now we're faced with two months of the company trying to make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what.  And you can expect two more months of gratuitous company-bashing on the internet, as people take advantage of the current situation to unload every nonspecific gripe they've had about the company in an effort to get clicks.  The decimated roster does not vindicate your 'John Cena shouldn't have gone over at WrestleMania 30' post from April, OK?  The next two months are going to be hanging by a thin thread, by no fault of the company's own.  What they do have going for them is that the in ring product below the main event is as good as it's been.  Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, the Wyatt Family, the Uso, Gold and Stardust, Miz, Sheamus, etc. can provide plenty of good matches for our entertainment until January.  Let's hope that can hold the fort down for these next two months.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Big change for Batgirl


OK, so the new Batgirl comic dropped last week.  It's the first issue with the new creative team, and with the new team has come a change in the overall tone and setting of her story.  The 34 issue Gail Simone run was excellent and was loved by fans and critics alike; pretty much everybody was sad to see it come to an end.
Simone is one of the best comic writers out there and has written for Superman, Wonder Woman, and Deadpool before her work on Batgirl.  Anyone following her has tough shoes to fill, but doing it with a major change in the stories is an even bigger challenge.  The  Simone run was very dark in tone, as grim as many of the Batman story arcs that we've seen over the years.  That's probably what made it work for so many people.  The new team is lightening things up a lot.  In Simone's last issue Barbara Gordon found out the her brother James Jr. was not dead, thus exonerating her from his murder (in a fight between the two James went over a rail and seemingly vanished at sea; presumed dead, Batgirl was fingered as his killer and had to go underground).  Having dealt with that problem and one of her main enemies in Gotham, Knightfall, Barbara opts to leave the part of Gotham she's lived in all this time and move to a safer, more hip part of town.  The move across town is an obvious allusion for the move from one creative team to another.

So in issue 35, we find Barbara with new roomates, a new outlook on life, and a new start.  Instead of being haunted by the Joker, she's haunted by the news she gets about a drunken make out session she had with a guy the night before.  Her new roommates are much more fun loving than the environmental activist she shared an apartment with before.  The only throwback we get to the old days are when she meets up with Dinah Lance (Black Canary), who things are still frosty with after the last mission they went on together as the Birds of Prey.  By issues' end she's suited up again and gone into action, and gets a cryptic phone call from someone claiming that they know who she is.  Now a lot of people are upset over the change.  Batgirl was one of the best liked New 52 titles among the people who read it, and as we all know the number of people looking for a reason to whine about the New 52 are legion and looking for any reason to dish up some new complaints.  This is right up their alley.  Now forget that a lot of the complainers are the same people who didn't like them going back to Barbara as Batgirl in the first place when New 52 started; consistency is not a requirement to complain about comic books, after all.  People wanted their Batgirl to stay dark, dammit!  No time for happier stuff!

I've only read issue 35 once; I haven't given it my second reading where I usually soak in all the nuance and detail.  I enjoyed Simone's run on the book, but I'm perfectly fine with them changing things up.  The Simone run got a little too melancholy for my tastes at times.  It's understandable that Bruce Wayne has a life that always goes to pot just as it starts to get better.  Dick Grayson went through a lot of that in the Nightwing series, too.  But somebody in the Bat family needs to live it up a little.  Jason Todd is nuts, and Tim Drake is all responsible as the Teen Titans leader.  That leaves Barbara; seeing as how she's the one with the closest to a normal life of the crew it makes sense to lighten her story up a little for a spell.  No murdered parents and no death at the hands of the Joker followed by a dip in a Lazarus Pit. Yes, she has a psychotic brother and yes she did get shot and paralyzed by the Joker, but she recovered from all that.  She can have some fun in her story without it turning into a death wish for those around her.

We'll see what happens over the next few months.  If you've been reading it, I advise you to continue.  Don't drop the book because it switched up some.  After 34 issues, maybe it was time to do so even if things were going strong.  The books are for enjoyment after all.


Friday, October 10, 2014

In defense of Teen Titans Go!


Yes, I'm going to defend Teen Titans Go, one of the most maligned superhero cartoon shows in history and the current champion for hated on animated shows.  Now I am admittedly inclined to defend some things and people that are hated on (DC's New 52, Agents of Shield, John Cena) and as with those things I feel I am justified and that the haters are being flat out stuck on stupid.  Is Teen Titans Go! a dopey, goofy kids show?  Yes!  Is it the last thing a 'serious' comic fan should spend their time watching?  Maybe.  Was it an absolute travesty to cancel Young Justice with this on deck?  Yes and no.  (Cancelling Young Justice was a lousy move regardless of Cartoon  Network had lined up next; that it was Teen Titans Go doesn't make the decision any better or worse.)  Was anyone really clamoring for this kind of show?  Not really.  So why am I sticking up for it?  Two reasons, really.

  • Kids need something - Most of the superhero-related media today is geared towards teens and adults.  The books certainly are, and have been for some time.  The live movies have violence and enough adult language to get PG-13 ratings across the board.  And now even the animated movies have some profanity to go along with the violence (which is more like the live action movies) and even some sexual innuendo (see the Suicide Squad-centered Assault on Arkham).  Parents who grew up on the Super Friends and now are back into the genre do want to be able to share their experience with their kids without having to explain why Thomas Wayne shot Professor Zoom in the head (from the Flashpoint Paradox animated movie) or why Harley Quinn was  disrobing and giggling in a bedroom with Deashot before they went on their mission in Assault on Arkham.  There's more than enough material out there for 40-year old me to get my serious action fix.  I don't have to have it all.
  • The show isn't bad at all - Yes it's goofy and all, but it's really a respectful send up of the DC universe, one that applies a tongue in cheek approach to the lives of teenagers who sit around all day waiting for some bad guy to pop up that needs dealing with.  Instead of sitting around carefully monitoring the situation they do what teenagers would do....mainly goof off and get themselves into all kinds of dopey predicaments.  And the show is actually funny even for adults if you sit down and watch it.  The humor is wild and crazy enough for kids but smart enough for their parents.  The Adam West Batman TV show was so campy it almost singlehandedly birthed the more serious tone of comics and movies, and the Batman Animated series that came 30 years afterward did serious without being too adult for the kids.  And people my age all want that every time out.  But you can do funny without spiraling into camp and Teen Titans Go nails that pretty good.

The real anger towards the show is for the reason I mentioned early, Young Justice getting cancelled.  Young Justice was based around the sidekicks/younger members of superhero teams, and centered it's stories around their struggle to gain acceptance from the older Justice League Members while facing the same enemies and dangers.  It was really well done, and was on a par with the rest of the animated universe DC has so well put together in the 90s and 2000s.  It had just finished its second season and was a big hit with comic book fans.  And then the plug was pulled, largely because they weren't selling enough toys based on the show.  And them shortly afterward, Teen Titans Go debuted on the same network.  Some of the same characters were on both shows, but instead of the serious show we'd just lost were handed a comedy show geared towards kids. So a lot of us revolted and said it sucked, without even watching an entire episode.  It's obviously not the same show as Young Justice but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining.  And Young Justice was going away even without this show in the wings.  It wasn't fulfilling the purpose the network intended either in it's audience demographics or in merchandise sales.  It is what it is.  I'm not saying you must watch the show and like it, but apparently some people do.  And upon further review, I happen to be one of them.