Tuesday, March 20, 2007

#139. WrestleMania 23 Preview

Well...haven't done this in a while: Let's talk wrestling!

And let's start by noting how different the scene is today than just nine months ago, at least as far as WWE is concerned. Nine months ago, ECW was still a big question mark. How was it going to return, exactly? Could it sustain its own show? Rob Van Dam had cashed in his Money in the Bank at One Night Stand II and was now WWE as well as ECW champion. Sabu was a major player. Kurt Angle had just jumped brands (brands, not promotions, at this point) for the second time that calender year. Rey Mysterio was World champion, worrying about JBL, the Great Khali, anything but King Booker (who wasn't even King Booker yet). Batista wasn't even back yet.
And then in the span of a month, everything started to change again. RVD and Sabu sabotaged their momentum on the side of the road, Edge won the WWE title, Big Show got the ECW belt, and King Booker bested Mysterio. Heck, even Batista was back, finally. Now, if you will, flash-forward to the present.

John Cena is champion again. Heck, people don't even seem to mind anymore. He's being embraced. Batista is champion again. You might call this a flashback to 2005, but the circumstances have wildly changed for both stars. Batista's past is long behind him now. Now, he's the beloved champion who was once forced to surrender his title, but made a heroic comeback to reclaim his thrown from pretenders. Bobby Lashley has the ECW title, and a third era for that brand has begun, one for the first time without Paul Heyman. This is the era set for WrestleMania 23, and it may make for the best WrestleMania in years.

  • At the top of the card you have Batista defending his championship as he challenges the Undertaker's legendary undefeated streak. Naysayers have been suggesting he won't be able to snap it, because his bosses see him as too little dedicated to the sport, that Batista being the man to end the streak wouldn't be appropriate. They call him the new Ultimate Warrior, a fairweather wrestler, like Goldberg, or Brock Lesnar. Me, I don't see that. Batista is his own man, and I believe in his commitment. I believe that he may even see his career as a debt owed to Eddie Guerrero, the man who truly ushered him into the ring. When he gave up that title more than a year ago, I believe it really pained him. If he lacks commitment to any degree, it's because he knows his body can't withstand the rigors required of most other competitors. Two major injuries in his WWE career may already have made that point for him. The Undertaker has come a long way since I proclaimed his career over when he feuded with JBL some two years ago. I believe once again that he's as great an asset to the company as he has ever been. But sooner or later, his days in the ring will become so far in between that he won't truly be considered a contender, but a special attraction. Will he deliver a match for the memories? There's no doubt about it. But does he have another championship run in him? I think this year he loses. Whatever it ultimately means in Batista's career, however long that is, however much longer he's champion himself, this moment belongs to him.

  • On the other end, there's Cena defending his own title against Shawn Michaels, another monumental figure in WWE lore, who has proven time and time again that you can never count him out. Win or lose the actual match, John Cena going to be the real winner here, just because he's been given a match against HBK at WrestleMania, where the Showstopper stops the show each and every year.

  • In the Battle of the Billionaires, Umaga will defeat Lashley, likely because Chris Masters, irate over his Masterlock finally being broken, will interfere. However, if that's not how the match finishes, Lashley wins, simply because it's far more likely Vince McMahon will volunteer to have his head shaved than Donald Trump. Either way, there's Steve Austin here!

  • MitB III will be the best yet, simply because the caliber of competitors is at an all-time high. Edge seems destined to win, simply because of his own undefeated streak at this event, but the climax will definitely involve Randy Orton, because these two are going to be feuding very soon.

  • Kane beats Khali, more than likely.

  • Ashley captures the Women's championship from Melina.

  • Chris Benoit will likely retain the U.S. championship over MVP.

  • The ECW match will be interesting. I peg the ECW Originals as winners, but the reverse could work, too, if someone steps up to provide an awesome finish for the group. Either way, it's nice that RVD and Sabu get to cap their work over the past year with something like this, even if they've been not exactly given the same opportunities throughout.

  • I project Carlito to wrestle Ric Flair, probably announced next week on Raw, and emerge triumphant. I'm so glad they're doing this for Carlito, who completely deserves what is fast becoming Chris Jericho 2.0, an improved version that may shoot past Y2J's success into the realm of The Rock.

  • I also see Paul London and Brian Kendrick defending their tag team titles against M-N-M, and probably retaining.

  • And Chavo Guerrero defending his cruiserweight title against Gregory Helms, though the winner could be either one. Though these final two matches, if they happen at all, as much as I'd love for them to happen on the main card, may take place on Heat, or something to that effect.

I'll usher updates as they become available. Two weeks left!

Friday, March 16, 2007

#138. A.C Hall, Poetry, Comic Books, Cloak of Shrouded Men, Paperback Reader

Okay, okay...Am I at the right blog? Yes! Okay! Safe to continue!

Now that last entry's...unpleasantries are past us, let's move forward, shall we? There may be guests. Fellow Paperback Reader contributor A.C. Hall moonlights at another comics site, Stumbebum Studios (I don't get that, either), where he writes a column called Ring Psychology (still lost, Ace, which is something I've been callin' ya, bud, in my head; at least now it's out there). Several months ago, he came 'round with a few writing prompts for a few of his friends, to use for the column, and among them was one that asked those friends to reimagine the concluding arc of The Matrix. This week, Ace included my version, which was one of the few responses I still remain proud of. If you liked it, too, that's why I'm writing this post, because I probably owe ya, in case you followed that link and found your way here and wondered if there was anything actually worth reading.

Sometimes there is.

Sometimes! And I'm not even speaking of the regularity, or lack thereof, of the actual blogging on this blog. If you review the archives (and brave ye those waters, if you must), you'll discover that when I began, I pretty much stuck some slappy things every days at this old Monk.

I think now would be a good time to apologize for some of the things I'm saying, because I'm saying them funny. I don't do that. Much. You can find poetry at the Scouring Monk. I won't apologize for that, not on your life, my new and good friend. Anyway, speaking of poetry, while I was home, fretting over Midtown shipping matters you might discover in my own column, I sculpted a new poetry collection out of the material available on my parents' computer, where I wrote most of my formative work upon leaving the college workshop. This one ended up being called Card Games. But you aren't really interested in that at this time, are you? Ah, well, I'll get you another time.

I wrote up that Matrix plot basically around the existing material for Reloaded and Revolutions, and maybe that's sometimes clear and maybe sometimes it's not. I hope Ace uses my write-up for the RoboCop prompt, because I like that one even more. But I'm not always basing all of my ideas on other people's ideas. My spanking new ComicSpace page, which you can find here, boasts about three original comics projects I've been working at for a couple of years now, Bandit, The Astrals, and The Conformists. If you'd asked me three years ago which one I'd prefer and were most eager to pursue, it'd have been Bandit, no question, and it wouldn't have been just because, at that time, it was the only one of the three extant. That one's got the longest story. The Astrals mythology has been expanding since its original proposal to the aborted Cabal from my Digital Webbing days, but it's a story that's more easily contained and thus might be easier to introduce first. The Conformists is a concept of characters more than anything, and I love those characters, but the more I think about them, the more I wonder if they have a specific story to tell as well. I have other concepts, one that the boys behind the Death Lurker Saga have in their court, others sprung from other prompts. Many of my favorite ideas come from prompts, actually. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't come up with something good just because someone asked you before you thought of it yourself. That's the story behind Lost, after all. In my earlier years, I wasn't quite as good at it as I would become, but I've really come to value the method.

But I'm still just a hack who isn't actually being published. I'm editing my first novel at the moment, woven from three acts written during successive NaNoWrMos. It's called The Cloak of Shrouded Men and I'm going the indy route, self-publishing. It's called taking fate into my own hands. And I was sure I was done the story, too, but I'm come up with a coda, which I may include in the volume, a most appropriate conclusion to the affair, much as I discovered a new beginning a few years ago.

And did I mention writing for Paperback Reader? Y'know, that's something I'm constantly struggling with. You may have come here after having read something I wrote, but you've got to understand, my experience with my writing is that very few people actually end up reading it. A decade ago, it would have been because I didn't show it to anyone. Now, though, now I just don't know. I do know that I've been writing a weekly column for nine months now, and I've not once gotten a response, beyond my colleages, from it. I'm constantly thinking of pitching the whole thing in. Why bother, right? Well, maybe because if I'd never written for Paperback, not a single review, not a single column, Ace'd never have asked me about those prompts, and you would've never come here. Strange kind of way, how things happen.

Well, things'll keep on happening, one way or another, and I will continue blogging away at the Monk, and I will add more friends at ComicSpace, and someone will read what I write, and I will be published, one way or another. I will tell my stories, and everything will sort of work out.

But yeah, you came here for The Matrix?


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