Thursday, May 26, 2005

#108. WrestleMania 21, Comic Books, Craig Ferguson, Carrie Underwood, Bulfinch's Mythology

It seems that Luther Reigns met his end with WWE recently, which means Batista has officially won that contest, which I humbly put them in. He reached the conclusion that he was never used to his potential, and I agree, and we'll leave it at that.

Speaking of potential, I finally got around to watching WrestleMania 21, and it was a good show, maybe not one of the greatest, but it was solid from stem to stern. The first match was, of course, Eddie Guerrero versus Rey Mysterio, which was a good a match as it could be, better than some reports would have it, and things have only gotten worse between them since, which includes the unresolved heat that was explored at Judgment Day last Sunday. This is the Smackdown response to the great Raw, Jericho-Christian feud of last year, and it's an improvement, if I must say. This is a contest of equals, with more genuine emotion and less padding.

The Money in the Bank match followed, which Edge won, as he always seems to, by taking advantage of others and appearing at the end, when everyone else had already worn themselves out actually doing things and not resting, or whatever it was he was up to. That led into a feud with Chris Benoit, which the Rabid Wolverine dominated when things such as metal briefcases weren't in the equation, culminating in the Backlash match a month later, in which Edge won. To follow that up, he capitalized on a real backstage drama to earn another title shot for Batista's world's heavyweight championship, which Triple H got around to spoiling. There're a number of ways this can continue to play out, one of which would be that Edge goes on to feud with Kane while Hunter and Dave continue their spat, or the muddied waters continue intermingling, which in this case includes Christian, who may or may not be headed to Smackdown in the near future.

Randy Orton-Undetaker followed, and this was one for the history books. Orton has been seen as some as a familiar, both since Batista and not he was given the Royal Rumble and Mania spotlights, and because Orton's SummerSlam victory last year did not result in a lengthy championship run. It's not as if he's been knocked out of the upper tier. Far from it. He was given the chance to break Taker's winning streak, and he provided one of the Dead Man's best Mania matches in years. Heck, it might even be one of the best, period. Given that he became known as the Legend Killer, it seemed as if the hype might actually be on his side for a victory, even, and that would have been a heck of a boasting point, especially for a guy who's a "failure." So he didn't get the win. So what? He proved he was a worthy challenge, and that's as proud a feather for his cap as any other. If anything, Orton proved, once and for all, that he belongs exactly where he's found himself. When he gets back from this latest injury, I think it'll show.

Trish Stratus-Christy Hemme followed, and I found it a refreshening women's match. Hemme, for all the trash talk directed toward her over this bout, didn't do too badly. If anything, she's one of the better competitors I've seen in a WWE ring. Nowhere was the deliberateness that plagues most of these matches. Oh sure, she might have been deliberate, being a newbie in the ring as she was, but she sold everything as it should be, and not as most female competitors end up trying to, with overcompensation. Will she get a chance to build on this? Probably not, because, once again, the idiotic reception of a perfectly good thing will have spoiled its chances for a proper encore.

Kurt Angle-Shawn Michaels was excellent, better than HBK-Y2J from XIX. What more can be said about these two? They're among the best. Michaels went on to another great match with Shelton Benjamin on Raw, and a feud with Hassan and Daivari, bringing Hulk Hogan alongside him. The Arab Americans are now deeply involved in a feud with Benjamin and Jericho, as we wonder whether Jericho's passion for wrestling has left him along with diminished prospects (a brilliant storyline, by the way).

Akebono-Big Show was fine for what it was. Big Show got his posturing in, and a big power move, when he manhandled the sumo champion long enough to lift 'n' shift him, only for Akebono to prove soon after that this particuar sports works differently. Some of your less patient fans had a real problem with this one, as they did with Hemme, and they were going to no matter what.

John Cena defeated JBL, as was pre-ordained for the WWE title, in a fairly typical match for the Doctor. I've gotta see Judgment Day (which I'm getting to in a moment) to see what they two can do in an "I Quit" match. Then came Batista's nearly half hour war with Triple H, which didn't seem to impress many people, but I thought was worthy of the hype. I really need to watch this one in particular again, mostly because I was distracted the first time around and might have missed some important points, especially the ending. It was strange seeing Motorhead performing Hunter's theme song live, because I've only heard the song recorded. The lead singer wasn't quite as I pictured him, but I got used to that quickly. He didn't seem very enthused about all of it, but that might just be how he always is.

The other segments included the Hassan spot (plus Eugene!) and Hogan, then Piper's Pit. Good god does Piper have an ego, and did he make it more than evident during that particular segment. He made Steve Austin uncomfortable, and didn't give Carlito the proper opportunity, either. Ah, well! But as I said, it was a good, solid PPV, and the bonus DVD battle royal was fun, too. Good spot for Booker T, and unepectedly for Chris Masters as well.

And speaking of which, Judgment Day seems like it was, too. Oz had his first offical PPV match (his appearance in the Royal Rumble doesn't quite cover it), successfully defending his US title against Heidenreich, who is a character who won't quit. Maybe he'll even catch a break in the ring some day. Most reports indicated this was the weak match, but then, I've been considering myself ahead of the Orlando Jordan curve for more than a year now. He's getting there, slowly. Hopefully this is only a step in the right direction (and Rene Dupree can start getting some of the same juice). Carlito, with Matt Morgan, wrestled on the card, against the Big Show. How much more brazen can this guy get? Paul London and Chavo Guerrero finally got their match, which I'm eager to see. Booker T got one over Angle (in one of his more disturbing storylines), the DQ Mysterio-Latino Heat match, and Charlie Haas & Hardcore Holly's challenge of tag team champions MNM ( named Haas Wrestler of the Week over it), not to mention Cena-Bradshaw II.

A.J. Styles is TNA champion again, just in time for the promotion to lose its TV show (great, just when I've found it...). I'm sure it's nothing he did. Hopefully things'll work out.

In non-wrestling news, I seem to have picked up my first variant cover, for Green Lantern #1. I've got an Alex Ross cover, while standard editions sport regular artist Carlos Pacheco's work. I saw another variant there, too, for #638, with the secret revealed on the cover rather just merely on the last page, and refrained myself from splurging, on both accounts. I also picked up the heart-wrenching JLA: Classified #7. Yes, it's a heart-wrenching "bwa-ha-ha"/Super Buddies/I Still Can't Believe it's Not the Justice League issue. Shows you a thing or two about range, like Futurama revelled in until it was cancelled. Also, The O.M.A.C. Project #s 1 & 2 (for a not wholly different take on Booster Gold, among other things), Day of Vengeance #2 (finally! Ragman is back in the spotlight!), and DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #1, which sports the first appearance of the new DC logo. I swear, last time I bought comics, I got some non-DC titles as well...

Back to TV now, Craig Ferguson is working out just fine on the Late Late Show. He's charmingly endearing, and his enthusiasm is contagious. There's plent I could say about recent cancellations, or even about the new fall line-ups, but I won't bother. Carrie Underwood may be the new American Idol, but Constantine and Nadia were robbed. Either was better, and both deserved to be in the final two rather than Underwood or Bo Bice. But like y'know, whatever...

I recently found employment and lost it again, and have since been scrambling all the more. It's disrupted my creative process a bit, but I've gotten back on track, and Bulfinch's Mythology, another victim, is the same case. It's a big book, but I'm not intimidated. I've just finished the Greek section. Finally!

That's all for now...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

#107. TNA, Would-be Comics Writer

First news first. I've been wildly sidetracked from the Leopold project, and now it's more a matter of getting back and finishing than giving updates. Speaking of updates, it looks as if my personal website might finally be returning. Thanks to Webspawner, the new age of Mouldwarp might finally be upon us. I tried to transfer the file of the previous version to the computer I'm presently using, but as it turns out, either I can't or Trellix Web is finicky. I found out it was a paid service after visiting the product's site, something I didn't need to bother with previously because the software had been bundled in with my previous computer.

At any rate, that's a personal update. Last Friday I watched TNA !mpact! for the first time, and got to see Petey Williams in action. It was a fine match. The last match of the hour, however, was both the figurative and literal showstopper, as the Naturals took on and defeated America's Most Wanted for the NWA world tag team championship, with the help of Chris Candido in his final appearance in the promotion before his untimely death. This has never been a blog interested in speculating in the personal lives of professional wrestlers (which is one reason why I can't directly address the Matt Hardy-Edge-Lita drama), so I can say is that the one-time Bodydonna will be missed, as he was always an asset to sports entertainment, whether he was competing in WWE, WCW, TNA or any of the many smaller promotions out there. In this era that explores as much what professional wrestling has been as what it is capable of becoming, he was a signal entity within it.

TNA, as it turns out, in the meantime, is good television. It's weird to think that all the action it sees is one hour of free television a week, and one PPV a month. Obviously a lot of competitors go unused, at least as part of TNA, in this context. Fox Sports Network, which TNA pays to air its hour of programming on, is gracious enough to broadcast the show at a reasonable time, Fridays at 4 in the afternoon, and again several more times throughout the rest of the day, which makes the notion of WWE's abundance of scheduling, over several networks, all the more generous, which we can sometimes take for granted. Men like A.J. Styles, Monty Brown and Sonjay Dutt (whom I also saw compete, against Shocker, current contender for the X-division title) shouldn't have to wait so long for their share of the spotlight, but often it's not what we deserve that we get, but rather what we can afford, and that leaves plenty of room for growth. TNA seems to be managing its fledgling existence, with bumps here and there, fairly well. If there's room for another large-scale competitor again, as there was in the '90s, to WWE, TNA would do that spot proud.

WWE, meanwhile, is approaching another draft lottery. Last year's turned out better than some of the naysayers (including, unfortunately, the Monk) would have led you to believe. This year it appears Christian is a lock to make the jump, from Raw to Smackdown, being that he's already picking a fight with WWE champion John Cena. I guess I'm fine with that. Kane is another guy who could use a change of scenery, but I wonder how likely that would be, given his current attachment to Lita. Would both go, as a package deal? Unlikely, given Edge would be left behind (or maybe this would be one way to hush up some of that murmuring). Chris Jericho would be another fine choice from Raw's side. There's also word Randy Orton would be trading sides, but that's one I would rather not see, since I still want that epic feud with Batista.

Smackdown, meanwhile, is replete with possibilities that started out on Raw or were there just last year. Big Show could use a change of address (a feud with Triple H would do both men good, and he's already be rumored there anyway), Booker T might be ready to go back, having reestablished himself. Charlie Haas is a current fantasy for some to transfer, so he could feud with Shelton Benjamin, his former partner in the (Self-Proclaimed) World's Greatest Tag Team. But I really don't know what'll happen at the draft. And that's half the fun, I guess...Both brands are doing fine right now anyway, having finally shook loose the uncertainty of 2004 and the blocks that were built during it.

I found a comic book store near me, which is the first one I've now regularly visited in more than six years. It's bizarre to be able to say that, surreal. All I need are the funds to support this patronage. I've been working at breaking into the business, too, at the forums of Digital Webbing, honing my scripting craft and helping to realize the skills it takes to create a story worth reading. I'll talk more about this at some future time. I've probably already yacked on for long enough...


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