Thursday, October 28, 2004

#94. Wrestling, Peter and the Starcatchers, Carlito, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Red Sox World Champions, NaNoWriMi, Roddy Bosset

Now, let's get a little Yesterday Part II action going on. Poor Dan Murphy, if he happened to have fallen through a blackhole and read our humble remarks at the Monk, was probably screaming that it was he, and not the irascible Harry Burkett, who actually sits there and writes the PWI 500. I'm not sure, but I might also have misrepresented Steve Austin as a 12 in 2002, when in fact he was a 13.

But I'd rather be wrong about trivial things like that (sorry, Dan!) than bungle a top slot in a PWI 500, as has happened at least twice very outrageously. You might recall my giving Bret Hart some smack in the past, but it's nothing compared to what the folks at PWI did to him in 1997 when they declared Dean Malenko as somehow being the pacerunner at the end of that particular grading period rather than "the best there is, the best there was, and the best there will ever be." This was when Hart made Austin, mind you. King of the Ring and Jake the Snake in 1996 might have seemed to make him, but people didn't really take Stone Cold seriously until he stood toe to toe with the Hitman, the Excellence of Execution. What's that Ric Flair always says? To be the man you have to beat the man? Well, that's what Austin did, a year before he did it against Shawn Michaels to become champion. All Hart had to do was surrender all pretenses of being a face. The guy was always a snarky little heel. C'mon. Do you remember that vengeful sharpshooter over Jerry Lawler, at Summer Slam 1993? The illusion was created out of thin air by two Yokozunamanias for Bret, plus a protracted feud with his even more dastardly brother, the late Owen Hart. (A footnote here, I recently purchased Austin's autobiography, The Stone Cold Truth, which I'll read after Dave Barry's co-written Peter Pan and the Starcatchers, and a number of other books, unless the spirit moves me to bump him up.)

And that wasn't the last time someone was robbed! But what made it even worse was that PWI couldn't even manage to put Bret in the top ten that year. He barely made the top twenty, coming in squarely at 20! The innanity! Clearly someone had lost favor in those offices, and all he'd need to win back the graces of the wrestling community was the holy trinity of horrors: his last night in the WWF, Owen's last night two years later, and the kick from Goldberg...

The second guy? None other than Chris Jericho, who in 2002 more than eclipsed Rob Van Dam, who incredulously was called the best in an "unexceptional" field. The ignomony! What does one have to do, be the first undisputed world champion in decades or something? Oh wait...And that wasn't even the first of Y2J's successes during that period. He won his very first heavyweight title not long before that, too, and after losing the championship scene went on to a stellar feud with Triple H, who somehow managed to wrestle about the same amount of time in that calender year and be graced with a top ten finish while Kurt Angle and Goldberg this year were denied as such for arguably equally successful or better all-around showings...

But let's move on to other matters. Carlito Caribbean Cool debuted on Smackdown a few weeks ago, punking John Cena not once but twice, the first of his dignity and the second of his U.S. title. This in Cena's hometown of Beantown! (And where is Cena gonna be to celebrate the Red Sox world title tonight? On the movie set of The Marine. Is it a little early for him to be pulling a Rock like this?) "I spit in the face of people who don't want to be cool." Yeah, this guy ain't too bad, as it turns out. He's a good wrestler, and he's actually got a personality (not that I'm saying oddly endearing karaoke machine Kenzo Suzuki of not having personality). He's a welcome shot in the arm. Let's see what develops.

Maven got his routine Tough Enough buzz going this past Monday, getting the win over the much put-upon animal that is Batista (Always on a Leash, should be his motto). If WWE continues these Tough Enough challenges indefinitely, Maven could even be heavyweight champion by 2009, when Conan takes over the Tonight Show!

And speaking of Batista, Gene Snitsky is succeeding where that Evolution pitbull has been consistently failing on Raw. He's a new brute possibly getting somewhere. That's another thing we'll see about.

The PWI debacle reminded me of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda this summer, running a poll to determine the top ten scenes through the first four seasons. The biggest vote-getters weren't bad (you should be able to find the list at its homepage, if you're interested), but the one I voted for, the ending to the second season's spectacular "Immaculate Perception," was nowhere to be found. Keith Hamilton Cobb, who many will still argue was the best thing that ever happened to that show, never had a finer moment than when he was called upon to have Tyr Anasazi try and fool Dylan Hunt into believing his son had died.

Part of what obviously screwed that scene's chances is that fans, current and bygone, are still delusional enough to think the show's best days ended at the end of the first season. Indeed, most of the scenes came from that season. Never mind the fact that its best period was early second season, and that post-"Ouroborus" was not half as bad as everyone automatically assumed it'd be and so thoroughly convinced themselves of sight-unseen, and that the third season was widely worth watching, and that the fourth season was even moreso...The fifth has begun, and as I understand it we're now in the final year. Ironically, we're finally having that Hercules vibe everyone was always so concerned about (star Kevin Sorbow's previous series). I'll die a fan of Andromeda.

Did I mention jubilation over the Red Sox??? The team finally got their heads screwed on properly in Game 4 of the ALCS, getting all of their considerable powers to actually work for them. If you want to know more, Stephen King is co-writing a book on this season, Faithful, to be published in December. Hopefully he'll have put Nomar Garciaparra into greater perspective than most of the knuckleheads I've haggled with since July 31, and earlier.

The comments feature should now be available. I found that if you click on the post-time by the author's name you'll be taken to a new page where you can find it. This might be useful when I insanely participate in the 50,000 word Blogger novel challenge next month. I've never written something that long, but I have to start somewhere...The story is entitled "Roddy Bosset," by the way, and I can't decide whether I'll be posting it here as I write it or at a sister blog...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

#93. PWI 500, Last Comic Standing, Father of the Pride, Scrubs, Red Sox, World Series, Lost

It's been a while, eh? Pro Wrestling Illustrated published its annual PWI 500 recently (and my noting of this would have been even more concurrent had I gotten around to it sooner), and unfortunately, the issue was given the short shrift thanks to the recent (but not as recent) 25th anniversary celebration issue, which was marked by an issue of lists of 25 covering the 25 years PWI has been around, plus a packaged reprinting of the magazine's very first issue. The apparently long-suffering staffer Brandi Mankiewicz, self-styled heel column artist and editor of the 500 project, admitted in print that the team was forced to make due with an abbreviated yearly highlight (ironically, last year's was the biggest yet). The very worst this resulted in was making the affair seeming about 75% less comprehensive than it really should have been.

Chris Benoit snagged the top spot. If you were only focusing on the 2004 portion of the July 31, 2003-July 31, 2004 grading period, he easily made it over nos. 2 (Eddie Guerrero) and 3 (Triple H), serving a stellar five months as Raw World champion after the incredible Royal Rumble win. Problem is, and this was a recurring one throughout the feature Harry Burkett allegedly single-handedly wrote, there was a whole other half-year to consider, and it clearly was not seriously considered. If it had been, Latino Heat would have come out on top. Professional that he has always been, Benoit did not have the momentum Guerrero did coming into 2004. Where to start? The Smackdown US title tournament win, the interlapping tag team title reign with Chavo, and the resulting feud with Chavo proved that Eddie had a lot more focus and momentum leading to a successful feud with Brock Lesnar of all people (and I'll get back to Lesnar, you can be sure) and the ensuing Angle-Layfield quagmire. There's no question in my mind that Eddie was robbed. Not that Benoit is a guy I would really protest over.

That U.S. title hunt? Guerrero's main opponent there until Big Show steamrolled over him (which provides a tasty look into a possible near-future development for Smackdown) was in fact Benoit, who spent the rest of the year as Smackdown's fourth or fifth biggest star (we could argue over John Cena or Show or even Undertaker, at least until Survivor Series, if you'd really like to). He even won a mini-rumble to challenge for the WWE championship in late 2003, and was the other man left standing besides Cena in that Paul Heyman House of Towering Infernos elimination match in November (the card already being named a few lines up). But he just was not that big a force until his out of nowhere January win. And he did spend most of his time as champion living under the shadows of Shawn Michales and...

Triple H. This guy's never going to receive another break from the smart marks, is he? Much like Goldberg's precipitous fall in 1999 and Lesnar's in 2004, Hunter lost the respect of the fans because he became a dominant champion in an era where that is virtually unheard of. Champions today are more reminiscent of The Rock, who won half a dozen world titles, most of which ran in spans of weeks rather than months. Even Steve Austin was never champion for very long, but he spent long periods of time in between his reigns on the shelf. Hunter sticks around, dominates, and is hated, and not in the nod nod wink wink kind of way. An unbiased assessment of the 2003-2004 grading period, which saw him remain at the World title level the entire time, would have seen Triple H below Guerrero and just above Benoit.

But these are just quips, right? Clearly all three combined to rule the roost, and just the fact that they're acknowledged as, in some combination, standing 1,2,3 is good enough. Well, we then have to settle for the next three guys, Goldberg, Lesnar, and Angle being chopped down or left off completely because they happened to miss the last four months of the grading period. When Stone Cold missed the last few two years ago (when the grading was August to August), he had to settle for no. 13. Goldberg gets walloped to no. 48 (see just how unpopular he is?) while Kurt Angle settles for no. 36. What did both accomplish in the time they did compete in WWE? Heavyweight championships, and feuds that marked 2003 and 2004. "Da Man" waited months for his shot at Triple H's gold, and then had to wrestle two main events to do it. He then retained it on a third card, and lost it in a triple threat match on a fourth one. Maybe people really want to believe he didn't have much to offer as a wrestler, but he served as the one person to successfully handle Hunter these past five years. The Rock couldn't do it, Steve Austin couldn't do it, Shawn Michaels couldn't do it. Benoit did eventually, but needed not one but two triple threats involving HBK to get around to it. And then Goldberg left WWE after defeating Lesnar at WrestleMania XX.

Angle, meanwhile, had engaged in an epic feud with Lesnar throughout 2003, culminating in the classic Ironman match in the fall. After playing a supporting role for a while, he went on to challenge Guerrero at WM XX in another classic, and was forced to the shelf again to rehabilitate his neck (shades of Austin all around), before the dramatic reveal PWI notes when he came back for competitive grade and cost Eddie the WWE title in a steel cage match against John Bradshaw Layfield.

And then there's Lesnar, whose exclusion can be chalked up to the fact that he retired after XX to pursue professional football. But he was on perhaps the highest peak of his professional wrestling career before that, and because of some inane rules PWI set up this couldn't be acknowledged in the sports' premier accolade forum. I have other issues with PWI, such as why Japanese stars such as Kenta Kobasji (no. 4) can be assumed to place in certain slots and not really have to justify it like WWE and other North American stars when PWI fails to provide adequate coverage and explanation. At best, from his write-up, Kobashi sounds like a 200s calibur talent. But what do I know?

Randy Orton, John Cena, A.J. Styles, and Chris Jericho all seem to more than hold their top ten water weight, though Michaels is questionable (especially when trying to rationalize with the apparent standards for others already discussed). I could go through all of my thoughts, but I won't, at least not at this time. Orton is still making his case against Triple H on Raw, while Booker T has stood up to one of Smackdown's All Heel Champions, Bradshaw. And Shelton Benjamin is Intercontinental champion! Woo! Wrestling is looking just fine leading up to this year's Survivor Series.

In non-wrestling matters, Dave Mordal won Last Comic Standing, I was eventually able to find out (Father of the Pride ain't that bad, Siegfried & Roy being freakin' hilarious, but Tuesday is still Scrubs Night Special for me, though this week was Heather "I'm Always Pleasantly Smiling" Graham's last call, plus a Futurama-worthy )hearttugger for Molly Shannon). Good for him!

A year ago (the resurrection of the Monk, btw) I was cheerleading Josh Beckett, so it's only appropriate that I mention how I'm in a win-win situation this year concerning the World Series. The Red Sox can win it tonight, or the Cardinals can somehow match Boston's incredible ALCS performance. I love both teams. That Curse of the Bambino, by the way? It was reversed the day the Yankees acquired A-Rod. Nice to know, huh?

And are we watching Lost? Hell yeah! It's Boomtown's replacement as my new favorite show! And what's even better, a significan amount, a large significant amount, of other people is wacthing right alongside me. Let's hope this lasts. And maybe provides residual viewers for J.J. Abrams' other show, Alias, in January.

Lastly, we're a week away from elections. Fittingly, I'm finally letting whatever readership there is providing their own input to the blog. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

#92. Last Comic Standing, Lost, Wrestling

First things first (such logic I learned from the master, Yogi). Blogger, for some reason, placed the Sept. 22 edition on the 13th, as the second entry therein. It did for me, anyway. Those of you (if indeed there are any readers) left scratching their heads as to how I could have been commenting on the Emmy results and show before they occured, rest assured. Evererything is perfectly normal here...

How about that Ralphie May? He's voted off Last Comic Standing and the only thing he can think to respond with is how crappy he feels this show has gotten. The first season (his), he thinks, was the best, the second not too bad either. But this third one, rushed as it was (though how much so I wonder) to production, has been nothing short of a disgrace for the portly comic, left last standing 0-2 now. He doesn't feel like his fellow comics are pushing the medium's limits enough. It's clear he doesn't like John Heffron, one of four comics left standing before next Tuesday's final results. Heffron, who won this summer's season two, apparently isn't edgy enough for May, whose hallmark is his weight and his mildly angry brand of humor (black folks stole fat people's clothes!), delivered perfect with not as much finesse as it could be. No, I didn't develope this assessment after reading his parting shots. The guy is memorable for more than just his size, but I'm still not sure he's as funny as his second place finish in 2003 might indicate. He's brash. Maybe people like that.

Apparently not enough people like Dat Phan's Vietnamese jokes. It got him all the way to the end in the first edition, which I'm sorry I didn't follow (though of the two formats I have to choose from, this current one I prefer, which cuts through odorous bull). This guy has some of the best delivery I've seen. Rich Vos, angry as Ralphie but not so big, has a delivery to match, which is one reason why I'm certain he won't be the winner. Dave Mordal is always bemused, even by his own paper clip tripping. He became a favorite this week, but I still will not call him the most memorable of the LCS set. I think that's the reason season two has done so well this season in the head-to-heads. It has the more memorable comics. Heffron, though, reverses this, as much as Phan does. I love Heffron, and once I drew a bead on him I was totally on his bandwagon, but I would have still have gone for an Alonzo Bodden, Gary Gulman over him to win.

Bodden suddenly got very political this week. Perhaps to make Ralphie proud (he was singled out as comics May respected). It might even get him the victory, in this charged period before elections not a month away now. But I would have loved to to Phan move further along. During the roast of host Jay Mohr (apparently Mohr is so easy a roast target that most of his roasters could spend most of their time roasting people other than him), someone mentioned how they "get" Phan and his Vietnamese bit, just like they got Ant and his Scooby Doo bit. No one's going to say it, but Dat don't go far because he's targeting too small an audience with his routine. Who doesn't have Heffron childhoods (well, among those actually watching)? He might be the most hilarious man in the room, and still not score as much as he should. It's the same reason Alias is not the huge hit it deserves to be. Although Lost seems to be one, and it is equally deserving.

Okay, on to Smackdown's No Mercy pay-per-view from this past Sunday. Call me crazy, but I still believe that this was one of the best cards of the year, and it would have been even when Raw held its last PPV (Unforgiven in September, after having had the last brand PPV, and with Taboo Tuesday now weeks away), as I said at the time. And as I've also said, if Smackdoown's not going to get any respect, then I'm still going to enjoy the results (so long, Rodney).

The show kicked off with Eddie Guerrero taking on Luther Reigns. What a way to start things. Some might say Eddie kicking off a show is demeaning toward the things he's done over the past year, but the context has to be understood. Reigns is still establishing himself, and the feud to set up this match, was never exactly focused on. Someone needed an excuse to give Reigns a prominent perch on a card, so they turned to Guerrero. Who better? I haven't seen the match, or the rest of the card, but it's one very good reason why I should get the DVD when it's released a couple months down the road. The match does nothing to kill the buzz Eddie has built, since his best opponents are all locked up elsewhere in climactic matches that need to be played out. And it does everything to lend credibility to Reigns, even in defeat. This guy's a future heavyweight champion.

Nuznio takes on the Boss, Spike Dudley (not Springsteen, but that would probably be interesting, too, variations on axe handles and everything), as a way of saying Spike is defending his cruiserweight title when the booking folks have obviously run out of real options at the moment. Nothing but the storyline is keeping the belt around his waste, to my mind.

Then we come to Billy Kidman v. Paul London, in one of the better built feuds. These two deserve to be wrestling in a spotlight, and if they have to do it against each other to reach other ends (maybe Kidman could move on to Spike now, and we can find out which one is less deserving emotionally for that championship?), then so be it. London has already struck it up with Booker T, so his future is looking good. If this wasn't a highlight of the card, I'd be very surprised.

Tag team champions Kenzo Suzuki (hair newly thinned of late) and Rene Dupree defended their titles against Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam, two wrestlers who excite the fans but apparently not the booking staff. As mock-ups go, this was probably a good one.

This next one could easily have been the main event. Kurt Angle and Big Show finally met in the ring after the events of last May. Angle, who has built the stable rumor had him building months ago, interestingly lost, which may set Show up for yet another WWE title capture at Survivor Series. I'm not sure where else they could be going with this, except a drawn-out feud between these two. If Show were headed in the direction I think he's going, it might mean the first time the fans would actually be rooting for him to defeat the champion, in this case the against-all-expectations-and-possibly-reason JBL, who survived once again as the champion with the worst personal closing record in modern wrestling history, this considering even Y2J and Latino Heat.

John Cena finally reclaimed the United States championship by winning the best of five series against Booker T. I would almost have prefered Cena losing, as it would have put him in a more interesting position, but apparently not one the writers are ready for. I'm not sure this series gave us any classics (those tend to come from specialty matches, not specialty series), but the two worked well together. Hopefully this means both can move on and start agitating again. They're extremely good at that, and if there's been one thing sacrificed unexpectedly by this series it's been Cena coming out agitating just about everyone by brandishing his own form of respect, and Booker likewise by not respecting anyone else in the lockers. This will no doubt be remembered as an important moment in both their careers.

Charlie Haas and Rico got their way onto the card, plus Miss Jackie, as they wrestled the Dudleys and Dawn Marie. Rico since his return has proven more entertaining than the last we saw him, possibly because no one's asked him to speak yet. He's got wrestling ability and the power to entertain beyond that as well. It's how the tag team contenders got so popular. It's not through their vocal skills. So Haas and his fate are looking less bleak, and his future a little better as well. He's going to be a major player one day. This is the "meantime" in the equation.

Finally, there was the Last Ride Match, where Undertaker once again had to lose twice to the same champion (Brock Lesnar made most of his impact as champion by doing this). Too bad to get here we had to sacrifice (literally, at least in wrestling terms) Oz, Orlando Jordon, who could stand receiving his first PPV match already. Bradshaw continued to be the champion the fans hate to love, this time thanks to Heidenreich (who, regretfully, did not bring a poem with him). This sets up a feud Taker hopefully will not have to dodge because his opponent isn't ready yet (Mordecai), though there's been plenty of talk our Wretched Romeo isn't quite ready either. I guess we'll soon find out. It wouldn't be the first time a big man was pushed, even in what would amount to abandoned onscreen development, in an angle with the Dead Man. But at least Paul Heyman has his revenge, which means the events of this summer didn't go so absolutely to naught as they seemed to.

Compare this to earlier Smackdown cards from this year and you'll see how rapidly the brand has reestablished itself as more than a worthy rival for Raw. And that's all the eye I'm chewing off today...

Saturday, October 02, 2004

#91. Raw House Show Results!

October 1, 2004, Raw Live at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, ME. Results!

Gene Snitsky def. Steven Richards
...The main thing about this match was that Richards used to be head of a group called...Wait a minute. No, that's not right. What was it again? Oh right, "Baby Killer." Gene came out and gave a little speech about how everyone's been ripping him on the incident with Kane and Lita (neither of which were there last night). This uy's another brute. I hope I spelled his name right...

Shelton Benjamin def. Simon Dean
...I made a sign saying "All About the Benjamin," and the only problem was the show was completely in the dark, except for the ring, and the entrance ramp when it was in use. But I still cheered for the former half of the World's Greatest Tag Team. Dean was a tailor-made house show heal. I some how doubt he'll rise beyond that. Shelton picks up a foregone win, and even performed the splash, which is what I was looking for.

Coach made his way out, did his thing. Molly follows him (I should add that the Fink was there to introduce each match. Go Fink!) and then...

Molly def. Victoria
...Dang! Did I mention I love Victoria? It was a good match, too.

Maven def. Mohammed Hassad
...I hope I spelled House Show Heel No. 2's name right, too. Good match.

La Resistance def. Rosey & the Hurricane and Eugene & William Regal
...Eugene was obviously in the spotlight here. He got the first pinfall, on Rosey to eliminate that team in this title bout. When Regal finally got in, he eventually got pinned by I believe Rob Conway. From my seats I couldn't really tell Conway and Sylvan Grenier apart, and they sort of mixed around towards the end. The French win!

Chris Benoit's "4 Real" shirts are blasted into the audience. None come remotely near my party. Then follows a fifteen minute intermission.

Tajiri &; Rhyno def. Val Venis & Chuck Palumbo
...Rhyno hits the Gore! Venis sees the most action for his team! Chuck's grown his hair again! And did I mention Tajiri pulled off the Tarantula quite early? Oh, and Val misses the Money Shot! Pretty good. Hard to miss with these guys.

Chris Jericho def. Christian via submission
...This Intercontinental title bout was of course a highlight of the evening. Tomko ("Cute Little Boyfriend" by Y2J's hysterical reckoning) was thrown out and this made it possible for Chris to eventually lock in the Walls of Jericho.

Chris Benoit & Randy Orton def. Triple H & Batista
...No Ric Flair! But the crowd was obviously pulling for Orton, with numerous chants of "RKO" throughout the match. He took his time after one engagement recuperating. This allowed Benoit plenty of action, plus the three German suplexes which are his trademark, not to mention the Flying Headbutt. Earlier in the day the Crippler appeared on a local radio show, where a caller was able to win a workout with him and ringside tickets by correctly identifying him as the Pegasus Kid in his Japan and Mexico early days. It was great seeing Triple H live, too, the posing and the spitting and everything. It was amazing to see him get tossed around. This was my first live wrestling experience. It was great, a different feeling (the face-heel formula was made all the more obvious), and seeing the wrestling in its purest form, no close-ups, no commentary, was something of a revelation. All told, it was a two-and-a-half hour affair, something to remember. I didn't bring a camera, though! And the program? A glorified picture book! I had to buy it to find out...But I'm not complaining.

Now, let's get Smackdown up here...


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