The RAW Review: Golden Dynasty (14/10/13)

Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton discuss Hell in a Cell

Last week, Shawn Michaels was announced as the special guest referee for the upcoming WWE Championship match between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan. Makes sense - a third match between these two needs something special to hype it up, and with the dusty finishes in the previous two, it makes sense for that "something special" to be a special guest referee. HBK works in this role - hates Randy, likes Triple H, likes Bryan. He's conflicted, so you can't predict if he'll call it straight down the line or turn on one of the challengers. It works.

Here's my issue with this opening segment - HBK kind of sucks on the mic. His whole shtick is "goofy legend", and he falls back on it heavily here. He jokes about "your old buddy HB Shizzle" calling the match and generally doesn't add much to the storyline. Nothing's gained besides a few groans when he says to Randy "were you saying something? I wasn't listening!" You'd be as well as adding in a few comedy horns in the background as Shawn winks into the camera. Randy does as well as he can as a heel in his hometown - he gets some heat from the crowd, and there's a nice bit of physicality in the end of the segment when Randy goes for the RKO and HBK for the Sweet Chin Music. There's no lasting impression left though - a bit of a dull segment, all told.

Rating: C

The Miz vs. Randy Orton followed by Wyatt appearance

I'll preface this segment by saying I've started to watch wrestling alongside my flatmate, so the way I've been watching wrestling has changed. If a match is great, then it's really great - we both really get into the match and it's heightened as a result. However, the reverse is also true - a stinker is made worse as we both chat amongst ourselves. It's the living room equivalent of chanting "RANDY SAVAGE" at a live event.

If I'd been watching alone, I'd likely have lumped a B- on this and went on my way. But, it was made worse by boring two people instead of one. Here's a few reasons why: 
  • The Miz doesn't work as a face. The crowd loved it when the Wyatts threatened beating him down a while back and they loved it when Randy did it here.
  • Randy, as hard as he tried, can't get heel heat in his hometown. It's not his fault per se, as he's up against bloody Miz, but it doesn't make for a strong match.
  • It ended up with the tired old "shit, music is playing" distraction. To be fair to The Miz, the lights did go off as well, but it's still unoriginal.

The Wyatt Family came out to said distraction, and Bray talked about how Miz's yearning for fame pisses him off. It worked as a promo, and it's miles better than his pseudo-cryptic bullshit about bringing down the machine. The only issue I have with it is a feud between The Miz and Bray Wyatt will mean Bray gets cheered for mauling the ineffectual Miz. 

Rating: C

You Should Watch... Attack on Titan

When you hear the word "anime", what image is conjured in your mind? Is it one of ridiculously toned men with similarly ridiclous haircuts screaming at each other in a wasteland somewhere? Is it one of ninjas battling in a forest for twenty episodes in a row? Or is it one of stupidly busty girls giggling in a school? Anime gets a bad rap for the aforementioned archetypes - look beyond, and there's some seriously clever stuff out there.

Attack on Titan isn't like any of those. Attack on Titan (or as it's known in Japan, Shingeki no Kyojin) is a gritty and traumatising show with more in common with Game of Thrones than anything else. It's set in an alternate version of Earth where humanity has been forced to flee behind several fifty-foot high walls as they're being hunted by gargantuan Titans seeking to feast on their flesh. One hundred years of relative peace ensue, but eventually a boy named Eren Jaeger witness the fall of the outermost wall by the hands of the biggest Titan anyone has ever seen.

You may be thinking, "oh, okay, so it's a David vs. Goliath situation here, this boy Eren's going to easily beat all these Titans and save the day". Not the case. When the smaller Titans burst through the broken wall and begin slaughtering everyone, there's an overwhelming sense of helplessness. The young Eren can only flee from these beasts alongside his friends Mikasa and Armin, and is entirely vulnerable. One of the series' earlier shocking moments occurs when Eren cannot do anything to prevent the death of his mother. He is rooted to the ground in frustration, in anger, in fear as one of the towering horrors picks up his mother like a child would a doll and devours her.

Later, Eren and his friends join the military, inspired by the chilling events they witnessed in the fall of their hometown. The military uses ropes and swords, and appear like Spider Men soaring through the cities. The supporting cast is introduced here, and each of them are as interesting as the main trio; Annie is stoic and mysterious, Reiner is strong and duty-driven, Connie is headstrong and eager to prove his worth, Jean is simultaneously brash and cowardly... it's a strong supporting cast. Yet none of them are safe. When the crew are sent out to the field, a typical anime would have them cutting their way through the Titans. But in Attack on Titan, several main characters are either gravely injured or outright killed in their first battle, hence the earlier comparison to Game of Thrones. It's a realistic portrayal of going up against the odds, and it makes the show a compelling watch.

The art and music present this horrific image of war perfectly. The Titans have a freakish array of facial expressions, from stoic like the Colossal Titan in the image to the left to all-too humanlike in some of the smaller Titans. The colours are rarely vibrant, and the show does not shy away from gritty violence. The music is heroic when it needs to be, lulling the hapless viewer into a false sense of security, swelling at the moment when you believe your hero will succeed, before changing to reflect a harrowing scene. It's all perfect presentation to accompany a gritty and bizarrely realistic story. I say it's bizarre as the story presented is about giant otherworldy beings fighting humans swinging around on ropes.

Even if you're not a fan of anime, I wholly recommend giving this a try. You can watch all 25 episodes currently released at the link here for free right now, so you've nothing to lose for trying. Just, don't get too attached...


My Life - Flu and Me (Week of 7/10/13)

Greeting and salutations good people.

So, straight off the bat I have to apologise, more to myself than anyone, for neglecting this blog over the past week. There's a reason for it - namely a horrid flu that plagued me midweek - but I still should have posted once or twice. I need to get on top of my schedule, as I can feel myself slipping behind both on this and on uni. I'm not happy with my work ethic right now, and I need to change it.

Anyway, moving on to my past week. I spent the weekend over in Glasgow reuniting with a childhood friend. I'm always amazed by how easy I find it slip back into an old friendship. With no effort whatsoever, my friend and I were speaking like we'd seen each other yesterday, and that same comfortable rapport we've always had came back into play. True friendship doesn't just fade away like that. It was a reminder I needed to have, as a worry I've been having recently is one that when all the people I know who went away abroad to have a brilliant time on their years abroad come back to sunny Scotland, our friendships will have faded. Last weekend helped settle that fear. I'm rambling.

So, after an amiable reunion with my longtime pal, a night of drinking and meeting mad but brilliant people ensued. At one point in his party, after somebody turned off a Rush song, I yelled "DON'T HUSH THE RUSH". I hope they had as good an impression of me as I had of them. Waking up in the morning worse for wear, both in health and in wallet size, I returned to the merry city of Edinburgh. Pro-tip, if ever in Glasgow City Centre, there's a milkshake place there (I can't recall the name) that do a Parma Violet milkshake. It's as divine as it sounds.

After a brilliant weekend in Glasgow, I paid the price during the week. My mate and his flatmate were suffering from a brutal sounding cough and a fever/flu respectively, and as my dumb luck would have, both of those symptoms were mixed up into a disgusting cocktail of illness for me to experience. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and some of Thursday was dedicated to illness. I even had to miss class on Wednesday, which really sucked. Now I'm in the unfortunate position of playing catch-up, which is only building to my stress. Luckily, I'm getting to play catch-up from the comfort of my Mum's and my Dad's over this weekend, so I can take some solace in that.

I'm hoping next week will be better, I'm at a pretty low ebb right now.

Updates next week...I PROMISE! 



My Life - Blogging Anew (Week of 30/9/13)

So this is the first of what is hopefully going to be a long stream of "personal" blog posts. A diary of sorts, I suppose. I really don't expect anyone to read these, beyond close friends and family and even then I would be surprised. I'm ultimately writing these for myself.

This week has mostly been about this blog. I'd let it lie dormant for far far too long and it was beginning to get me down. I felt I was disappointing myself by not writing here regularly. Hence, I came up with a weekly schedule and I fully intend to keep to 5 posts a week. I tried to set myself a day-by-day schedule but that fell through 3 days in - however, when this goes up on the blog, I'll have fulfilled my goal! I'm excited to build up a portfolio of work, regardless if people read it. The goal here is to develop my writing style, and people are already complimenting it. It's an honour that people read this, and even more so that they enjoy it.

I started back at university a few weeks back and the schedule has been difficult, but manageable. I'm only in 3 days a week at uni, but the majority of my time is spent reading or writing. English Literature might seem like an easy degree to some, but there is a hell of a lot of work that needs put into it. Last week I had to read a 500 page tome in a week, which I had to do on top of other assignments. It's pushing me though, and it's getting me motivated.

I went through somewhat of a tough time towards the beginning of the month, as a lot of my friends went meandering over to Europe for their years abroad. Part of the curse of doing French in first year but dropping out and switching to single honours English Literature is that most of my friends came from languages, and were ultimately going to leave my life for a year. I won't mix my words - I was pretty lonely. I used to see them several times a week and not having that has sucked. I'm not worried about losing touch with them, Skype and Facebook has seen to that. But I'm worried about not meeting new people. Luckily, that seems to be changing somewhat. I've been meeting new people on my course, and some people from my previous summer job have kept in touch. Things are on the up.

This is just a short one this week - I think what I'm going to do is change this to a Sunday blog post. It makes more sense to chronicle a full week rather than doing Friday to Friday. The weekend will be fresh in my mind that way, and everyone knows the weekend is when interesting stuff happens. Nobody wants to hear about my degree anyway, probably my future self reading this back included! So, till next Sunday.


Silver Linings Playbook - Movie Review

Lawrence and Cooper - stars or out of their depth?

The review I ought to have written about seven months ago... better late than never!

Silver Linings Playbook is a film that entered the cultural zeitgeist suddenly with a string of seemingly sudden nominations during awards season. When all eyes were on Lincoln, Les Misérables and Argo, this unassuming indie romcom rushed up and demanded attention. Did it deserve its nominations and the awards that it won, or is this a case of the Academy getting it wrong?

The film opens with Bradley Cooper as a patient in a mental hospital. Initially, there's doubt. Bradley Cooper is best known for The Hangover trilogy and thus taking him seriously in a dramatic role is difficult - but following his performance here he's paved the way for a serious career. He displays both naivety in regards to his illness but there's also a fractured and angry side to him that you can see bubbling under the surface in nearly every scene he is. He's excellent at portraying the unpredictability of mental illness and he shines throughout.
You talking to me?

The film details how Cooper as Pat struggles to readjust to life outside of a mental hospital. He's trying to get healthier, but mentions of his wife, who caused Pat's psychotic breakdown after he found her cheating, cause Pat to deteriorate further. His father, played by Robert de Niro seems to have more time for his "job" betting on football matches than he does for his son. de Niro for the first time in some time wakes up for this role. His disappointment at himself for losing his job is directed towards his son yet at the same time his fatherly instinct remains. It's refreshing to see de Niro in a role where he can act seriously. It feels like too long since we've seen him not in a comedic capacity, and he shows once again why he's one of the all-time greats here. He elicits sympathy for Pat, who at times can be difficult to empathise with as he's such an erratic character. Enter Jennifer Lawrence.

Jennifer Lawrence is on a whole other level from the rest of the film. She elevates what essentially is a quirky romcom with some dark themes pervading it to something special. She plays Tiffany Maxwell, a recent widow who's had a string of meaningless sexual encounters as she's so detached and distant since her husband passed away. She forms an odd friendship with Pat after offering to get him in contact with his estranged wife. Slowly as the film progresses, the pair bond over dance and their shared mental issues. It's an endearing pairing, but where it succeeds is coupling Cooper's naivety and frustration at his situation with the hauntingly vulnerable Lawrence. She deflects her weaknesses through a solid barrier of snark and blunt questioning, but when it falls she reveals a broken soul. She's so bitterly angry at how life has went for her and she uses Pat as a mental punching bag. Lawrence does an absolutely outstanding job at reflecting this raw hurt, and when she explodes with rage, it's as if Lawrence truly has undergone this emotional turmoil that Tiffany has. It's the sign of a truly great actress. Just look at how Lawrence shows both true anger and humiliation simultaneously in the image below.

Every scene Jennifer Lawrence is in is elevated to a new level.

It's a shame that despite the outstanding performance from Jennifer Lawrence and the impressive showing from Bradley Cooper that a surprising change in tone part way through the film deflates it somewhat. What was shaping up to be a bittersweet exploration of two characters relying on each other to heal from their mental wounds but being unable to process that because of said wounds strays into all too cliche rom-com territory. The climax of the film is so brutally predictable and it's disappointing. For a film with such unpredictable and complex characters - even the supporting cast - to fall into convention is saddening. Still, it's not entirely film-ruining and if you can overlook the cloying stench of cliche then there's a five-star film here.

Final Verdict: A stunning performance from Jennifer Lawrence who truly deserved that Best Actress gong at the Oscars. Praise must go to Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro who put in layered and believable showings as well. An outstanding film marred by an all-too familiar ending.


Pixels and Polygons - Thomas Was Alone

...until he made some friends.

How do you get somebody to care about a group of brightly coloured quadrilaterals?

That's the question Thomas Was Alone poses. On first glance, it would be easy to pass this off as one of the many, many faux-artistic puzzle platformers that followed the incredible success of Braid. But give it some time, and you'll be treated to a clever and heartwarming experience.

Each block has unique properties.
It's difficult to do this game justice just through words and screenshots alone. Without experiencing this for yourself, be it through playing the game or watching a video, it's tricky to explain its charm. But I'll do my utmost to convince you why this is a little gem. You start off the game as Thomas, a little red rectangle who can jump pretty well. As you progress through your journey you meet different coloured squares and rectangles who join you on your quest for... well, nothing really! But they're there, and they each have different properties. Christopher, the short stumpy orange block can't jump very high. Claire, the big blue square, can float in water, allowing her to ferry passengers over deadly pools. The game gives you different combinations of these characters and challenges you to solve its puzzles. They aren't particularly taxing, but they're fun enough to drive you onwards. This isn't a game where you're expected to be sitting staring at the screen, totally stumped as how to progress, but one where you're gently pushed forwards. It's more a platformer than anything, requiring you to make some tricky jumps. There's frequent checkpoints, so frustration never sets in. This isn't that sort of game.

Visually, it's a typical indie title - minimalist graphics. But that all adds to the charm, and here we get into the meat of Thomas Was Alone. You may have noticed I referred to the blocks by names, and with genders. The reason for this is Thomas Was Alone's brilliantly quirky story. Through an almost children's storybook style of narration, Danny Wallace (perhaps most famous for being That English One in the Assassin's Creed series) tells a tale of how each of these blocks come to meet one another, and he gives them personality. Thomas is alone in the world and looking for a friend; Christopher is grumpy but slowly opens up to his comrades; Claire has body issues but grows to accept her usefulness when ferrying her pals over water obstacles. What could have been a game where you're given differently shaped blocks with different properties and are told to complete level after level becomes a lovely quest full of character. It's witty as well - Danny Wallace is no stranger to comedy, and he adds humour where needed without ever stepping over the line into parody.

The end goal is to get each shape into its respective white outline.
The score adds a lot as well, coupling with Danny Wallace's storybook-like narration to create an ethereal dreamlike air as you play through. The end effect is immersion, and that's integral to getting you to care about some squares and rectangles. Some AAA games studios struggle to make you care about their characters even with ten-minute long cutscenes and the best voice actors money can buy. Here, with the narration of one English man and a story which essentially boils down to "some blocks meet, what happens next?", you grow attached to these shapes. It's ridiculous, but true.

It's a shame the puzzling wasn't just that little bit more complex in the later stages, as the difficulty does remain at a fairly low level throughout. Whilst that does lend itself well to the quaint storyline, it does mean that Thomas Was Alone is an all-too fleeting experience. Savour it while you can, as it is a short game as most indie titles are

Final Verdict: A great experiment in storytelling that is ultimately successful - Thomas Was Alone makes you care about coloured blocks. That's an achievment unto itself. Couple that with some decent puzzling and platforming action and you have the end results of a great indie title that's well worth the few quid you can pick it up for.



No Post Today!

Apologies for this, but due to unforeseen circumstances i.e. I'm really damn tired, there won't be a post today. It's only a minor setback though for tomorrow, plucky readers, all five of you will be treated to a double post! Two in one day! WOW.

So yeah, no games review tonight, instead it'll go up tomorrow alongside a film review.



The Raw Review: A load of bull (RAW 30/9/13)

Let me preface this first Raw Review by saying that if you're not a pro wrestling fan I'll be using a lot of vernacular, like babyface or heel, that won't make a lick of sense to you. I'm not talking about fresh-faced wrestlers or the bottom of their boots, but rather heroes and villains respectively. If there's any terms you don't understand but you still want to read these, then this page here will help you out. Even though I don't expect any non-wrestling fans to read these, it still pays to help! With that bit of business out of the way, in the immortal words of Michael Cole, the Raw Review rolls on!

Monday Night RAW has been a staple of the wrestling scene for over twenty years now, so it's definitely a pro wrestling institution. That's why I'm going to be reviewing it instead of any other wrestling shows out there. I'm not going to list my favourite wrestlers and I'll try my best not to show bias (there are some wrestlers I really don't like) but react to this in terms of how much I enjoyed it. Bias will undoubtedly show through regardless! So, without further ado, let's finally start with this segment-by-segment Raw Review!

CM Punk promo

RAW opens with a promo from Chicago's favourite son, CM Punk. A CM Punk promo is never a bad thing - he's nearly always passionate in his delivery and knows how to work a crowd like putty in his hands. It's also a welcome change from the usual Triple H "I am the C.O.O., LISTEN TO ME PEONS!" openings we've been having as of late.

The issue here though is what Punk is saying. He's talking about getting a hold of Paul Heyman and beating him for his inevitable betrayal back at Money in the Bank. It made sense for him to continue on this line of thought after SummerSlam as he barely touched him during his veritable war with Brock Lesnar. But, after Night of Champions it's almost as if Punk's been struck by a case of sudden amnesia. He got a hold of Paul Heyman and beat him to within an inch of his life with a kendo stick. The way Punk talks it's like he wants to brutally murder Paul Heyman then salt the earth he would be buried in. I understand he's wanting revenge on Ryback for making it go down in the record books that Paul Heyman pinned CM Punk but jesus... He still wants Heyman?

Nevertheless, it wasn't a bad promo (even if it did include an appearance from Mr. Awkward himself Brad Maddox) and it lead nicely into a cracking match.

Rating: C+

CM Punk vs Big E Langston

This was a great short opening match-up to warm up the crowd, and it makes sense in storyline too. Punk needs to prove that he can beat a big man in the ring considering he came up short against Lesnar, so out comes the woefully underutilised Big E Langston. Langston is a deadly cocktail of speed and power and he crushes Punk in the opening section of this match-up with some huge splashes and clotheslines. When he puts Punk in the half crab in the picture above, it looks like he could legitimately snap Punk in twain if he wanted to. 

My only gripe is that it wasn't a longer showing from the pair, but it showed everything that it needed to: Big E got to dominate, Punk got his win and this happened.

Look at it! Big E sells that like he's just been hit by a hammer to the skull and as if he's actually been knocked out. Great stuff.

Rating: B+

Fandango vs Kofi Kingston

Oh yippee. Both Kofi Kingston and Fandango are regularly used as "the guys you put out there to kill ten minutes" and this is no exception. A by the numbers match that is mostly just one big rest hold - the only high point is a sick armbar Kofi pulls off midway through the match. Other than that it's as you'd expect - Kofi gets beat down, hits Trouble in Paradise and it's done. When Summer Rae is getting chants and two supposedly "popular" guys are being ignored, surely that means it's time to find them something to do besides have by-the-numbers matches with each other or the half dozen other guys like them in the locker room?

My interest was recaptured though when our favourite cultists shuffled down the ramp.

I would have totally included this in its own segment if anything of worth actually happened. Usually when Bray Wyatt and his Family turn up, someone gets beat down and Wyatt cuts a creepy promo. Here, his promo essentially could be translated from Hick Cultist to English as "I was a troubled man, now my purpose is to beat up wrestlers". Surely you'd follow that with him and his boys rushing the ring and eviscerating Kofi? But no - one cut to commercial later and the Wyatts were gone, leaving nothing but the faint stench of disappointment behind.

Rating: D+

Randy Orton threatens Daniel Bryan

So this is great. For the second week running, Orton creeps over the Bella Twins, in particular Brie Bella who as you may or may not know (you will by the end of RAW, more on that later...) is Daniel Bryan's fiancee. Before Orton's heel turn he was dull and uninspired, but since his turn he's been one of the best parts of RAW, especially in recent weeks since he went full-on psycho mode. 

His interactions with the Bellas have been no exception. He either creepily flirts with Brie whilst emasculating Daniel Bryan or this week makes brilliant threats which he makes sure the Bellas understand. This is a direct quote: "If you don't reschedule your wedding to before Sunday, before Battleground, then there's a good chance your little fiance, Daniel Bryan, won't make it down the aisle. Because he won't be able to walk." I love how Orton needs to reiterate everything, making sure we all understand why Sunday, who Brie's fiance is and why he won't make it down the aisle. It's reminiscent of that scene in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World where Todd talks about how Scott will be dust by Monday, because that's when the cleaning lady comes, and she dusts. Great stuff from a menacing yet unintentionally hilarious Orton.

Rating: B

Paul Heyman Interview

You'll get to know this about me in the weeks to come if you choose to read again - Renee Young is like a ray of wrestling sunshine that comes into my life every week. She's the best backstage interviewer the WWE has had in a long long time and the fact she's dabbling in announcing over on NXT warms my heart. 

Anyway, enough gushing. This is again more treading of old ground that further suggests the Punk/Heyman feud might be growing stale. Heyman continues his shtick of saying how Punk has fallen from grace and how he Paul Heyman was the real best in the world. It's a promo we've heard many times before now. What raises this segment in my eyes from just being purely average to above average is Renee talking about how Ryback and Curtis Axel are hiding nearby behind boxes. Wrestling is just so wonderfully ridiculous sometimes.

Rating: C+

So, what's next? This has been an okay RAW so far, all told so what have we ne-

Oh... oh no.

Los Matadores vs 3MB


So, Los Matadoes debuted last night after weeks of promos, and lo and behold, they're a so-called comedy team. Comedy in wrestling can work when used sparingly - Santino Marella is great at it, and I can take 3MB in small doses. This though... jesus, was this dumb. So you have two bullfighters from Spain (they're actually from Puerto Rico IRL, but we'll gloss over that) called Fernando and Diego (the announcers couldn't get the names right) accompanied by a midget dressed a bull, who's also a luchador. There is so much wrong with that sentence I don't know where to begin.

Maybe this isn't for me, maybe someone will find it funny, but on the whole it just came off as stupid and the in-ring action was slow and sloppy to boot. Just please, please stay away from The Real Americans. They are better than this and the only way it won't kill me to see Los Matadores in the ring with them is if Antonio Cesaro uppercuts them into remembering they have some dignity.

Rating: F

Rhodes Family Showdown


After...whatever that was, we're treated to the Rhodes Family facing off with The Authority, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. This is straight-up the best storyline WWE is running right now, and here's why:

  • Triple H and Stephanie are fantastic heels, condescending yet imposing at the same time. You want to hate them and they want you to hate them too, so they'll play to that.
  • Cody Rhodes is a future star, and this is the storyline that'll cement his position in the main event.
  • Dusty Rhodes is one of the all-time greats on the microphone, and every time he holds it in his hand you're captivated. Also, him squaring up to Triple H whilst also blocking out Steph? GENIUS.
  • All of the Rhodes family have been shamefully underused by the McMahons, who coincidentally they're now feuding with. There's a legitimacy to this feud and it makes us, the viewer, invested.
  • The Shield are involved.
The end result is a little predictable, granted, as The Shield rush the ring and put the boot into the Rhodes family. But the end result is that we have a great match booked for Battleground this Sunday and it could result in a Cody and Dustin (I vote for the Rhodes Warriors for their teamname) tag team championship reign.

Rating: A

Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth

And good feelings gone. Remember how earlier on I talked about Kofi Kingston and Fandango being two guys with nothing to do? R-Truth is another one of those guys, and Curtis Axel would be too if he didn't have Paul Heyman there to smirk and clutch the Intercontinental Title whilst Axel wrestles. Don't get me wrong, it's not a particularly bad match, but it's one that isn't needed. 

It also contains pretty much the worst wrestling trope ever, the "guy's music starts playing, in-ring competitor is distracted as he gawks away at the stage allowing other guy to sneak a win" trope. I'm sure there's a catchier name for it. Anyway, it's almost as if Curtis Axel and the countless others before him who've been distracted go into hibernation and forget that they're in a match. It's dumb, overused and unbelievable. 

Rating: C-

Brie Bella vs. Alicia Fox

I'll admit - I groaned when I saw that these two were going to have a match together. But they surprised me with what they pulled off. Brie Bella, who is normally pretty awful, pulled out some great maneuvers like the Fireman's Carry takedown you can see in the picture above, and Alicia Fox, who is normally just alright, used her leg strength to dominate Brie. It was a surprisingly decent match from one that I expected to be awful.

I would have given this a B- if it weren't for the ridiculously bad commentary. Commentary during women's matches is notorious for being off-topic, demeaning and condescending. Here, JBL noticed a half-way decent match going on in the ring and berates Michael Cole for not doing what he's paid to do and calling the match. Cole goes in a huff and tells JBL to call the match. He tries, but he's not the play-by-play guy so he fails. All the while Jerry Lawler's pulling out ridiculously backwards comments about the women in the ring. It's distracting and disrespectful to the female roster. Poor show.

Rating: C

Big Show Interview


Okay, some context needed. So Big Show, understandably pissed off from being manipulated by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon for weeks and weeks is reaching his breaking point. He decides part way through his interview he's going to find Triple H and punch a hole in his face, and whilst deciding this seems to tread the fine line between utter rage and pure insanity. It looks like he legitimately wants to murder Triple H and he's going to do it with nothing but the Hammer of the Gods, his fist. 

The pay-off happens later in the show, but I'm as well as discussing it now as it's linked to this. He marches to the General Manager's office and strangles Brad Maddox in an attempt to find the whereabouts of Triple H. This is A Good Thing, as Brad Maddox is generally a bit shit. The fuzz turns up and it looks like old Thunderfist himself is going to jail. But he's saved from this fate by Stephanie McMahon, who in front of the police officers and the millions watching around the world continues on her quest of belittling the World's Largest Athlete. Sure, it's all a little convoluted, but Rage Show is something I want to see more of and Steph in bitch mode is always a treat to watch.

Rating: A-

Alberto del Rio vs. Zack Ryder

Zack Ryder's face = my face upon seeing this match.

I really don't mind Del Rio - but he's been embroiled in boring feud after boring feud since he won the title back in June. That's a long time to be dull. He's a great heel wrestler, but with no legitimately interesting stories so I can't get invested in him. Add to this cocktail Zack Ryder who jobbing out again on what seems to be going through a series of diminishing pushes every six months or so and you have a nice and dull affair for all to enjoy. Whilst it was nice to see Zack get some offense in, it served no purpose. He won't be winning titles. Have ADR go out there and break Ryder in two with a chair or throw him through a table and say "I can be hardcore!" and you've furthered the storyline he has with Rob Van Dam right now. See, it's not hard to make a match interesting WWE!

Speaking of RVD, further points are lost for putting him in front of a microphone in a segment I'm linking with this (it is ADR and RVD's feud after all) and sucking horribly. He's not good on the mic - isn't that why he was paired with Ricardo Rodriguez? So why's he not acting as RVD's mouthpiece? Overall - not great.

Rating: D

Ryback Mountain

Props to Jerry Lawler for the title, in his contracted one good joke of the month.
Hoo boy. Where to begin with this...?

So, since he was saved by Ryback, Paul Heyman has acted smitten with the guy. He's made "flowers smell sweeter" for the ECW founder. This leads to Paul saying he wants to "propose" to Ryback. It's pretty obvious that this is going to lead to Paul asking Ryback to be one of his clients, to be a Paul Heyman Guy. And lo and behold, that's what happens. It's the whole "we're insinuating we're gay lol" thing I'm a bit uneasy about.

On the one hand, it's pretty easy heat for the pair, especially in the somewhat less progressive Deep South, where this is broadcasting from. Take a look at JBL's face here to pretty much summarise the reaction of Southern wrestling fans to this.

On the other hand, it's a little hypocritical for WWE to call themselves "part of a progressive era" and yet be relying on "these two are maybe gay lol", especially after the praise the heaped on Darren Young for coming out a while back. All in all, I wasn't sure how to take it, and it made me a bit uneasy.

Oh, and then CM Punk came out and battered Curtis Axel into tiny shards of mediocrity with a kendo stick, so that was good.

Rating: C

Dolph Ziggler and the Usos vs. The Shield

As nearly always these days, The Shield are involved in the best match of the night. Every single one of these guys are talented, if perhaps a little underused in regards to the babyface team. 

There isn't a whole lot to say here - Rollins and Ziggler sold every move they took like a car crash, The Usos were energetic, Ambrose intense and Reigns (who is quickly becoming the best part of The Shield) brutal. If you're not convinced in Reigns, then just look at this spear.

Doesn't hurt that it's Ziggler who took the spear either. A solid match with little wrong with it. Believe in The Shield (to put on a great match).

Rating: A-

Antonio Cesaro vs. Santino Marella

This was a decent enough match. I'm trying not to show any bias here as to the fact that the ridiculously talented and better-than-this Antonio Cesaro is wrestling Santino Marella (known for his use of a snake sock puppet he pulls from his singlet...) and to look at this as it is.

Santino is harmless enough when paired with the right guy. Fighting an established talent he can lose but still elicit a smile or two from fans as he's charming in his comedy shtick. He can elevate a match with a lower card talent with his pretty good wrestling skills. Here's my issue with this - Antonio Cesaro shouldn't be losing to Santino. He shouldn't! Santino is wandering around with The Great Khali and fucking Hornswoggle and Cesaro is losing to him. This is a man who wrestled in the best match of the year (vs. Sami Zayn, 2 out of 3 falls, find it, trust me) and he's losing to Santino. Why?! 

Nonetheless, it brought another chance for Cesaro to use the Giant Swing, which is great and all, but I hope it doesn't become his defining thing. 

Rating: C+

Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton face-off

Remember when Daniel Bryan didn't have to resort to being sarcastic in his promos, and instead was an impassioned and believable babyface? Yeah, me too, and I miss it.

Daniel Bryan's latest promo recipe has been "OH. You said that. Did you hear that loving fans? He said that about me! Great job guy, no really, great job saying the thing!" It's annoying, and it needs to change. Bryan is the plucky underdog and he should rely on that. Talk about how Orton was raised to be a champion from birth - born into a wrestling family, hand-picked by Triple H to join a stable designed to make him a star, getting his own stable later on to legitimise him further - there's plenty there to riff on. Relying on snark won't do.

Still, it was another dosage of psycho brutal Randy, and that's a good thing. He's at his best just beating the shit out of people and we got to see him RKO Bryan through the freakin' announce table. You might be wondering, who is he staring at in the picture above?

Oh just BRIE BELLA OH NO. Here's why I'm uneasy - working Bryan's fiancee into the storyline made sense and allowed Randy to be menacing, but only when removed slightly from the main action. Bringing Brie to ringside could take this storyline down a dark route, and I don't mean as in "Breaking Bad is a dark TV show", I mean as in "JESUS THIS IS SHITE". You can't help but feel that the only reason she's here is because of E! reality show Total Divas. And that's a worrying thing indeed.

Rating: B

All in all, a solid RAW with only a few high spots (Rhodes family, The Shield) to elevate it above average.

RAW Review: B-