Monday, April 3, 2017

WWE Wrestlemania 33 commentary

Sports-entertainment's biggest day arrived. At this point, with NXT TakeOver and the Hall of Fame, it really is pro wrestling's biggest weekend of festivities. How did it measure up?

The WWE Hall of Fame was okay, but felt a little lackluster. I enjoyed some of the previous speeches more than the ones delivered this year. NXT TakeOver: Orlando was great, however! It was a great show from start to finish.

Now, onto Wrestlemania 33.

Considering it was supposed to be a 4 hour show, it ended up being closer to 5 hours -- and that's not including the pre-show and kick-off. I didn't end up seeing Neville vs. Austin Aries, the Andre the Giant battle royal or the Intercontinental Title match. I read, however, that Neville retained (good choice), that Mojo Rawley won the battle royal (awful choice! poor Braun sure is slipping down the ladder, isn't he?), and that Dean Ambrose retained (again, wrong choice).

As for the main part of the show, it kicked off with The New Day, dressed somewhat similar to the 3 Musketeers, coming down to the ring and cutting a promo.

I respect that these guys turned a silly idea into a great attraction and have stuck with the gimmick for so long, but it's time to do something new with them. Hopefully tomorrow night will be a new chapter for them. I

t's time to freshen them up in a big way, whether that means Xavier Woods competing in the cruiserweight division or Big E breaking out into the U.S. Title scene. Some kind of change is needed.

Surprisingly, outside of this, a brief appearance before the Raw Tag Team Title match and announcing the attendance record, The New Day didn't do anything as hosts.  I figured we'd get a brief Rock appearance and interaction with them.  Something.  Anything to make the hosting gig worthwhile.

But, no, there really wasn't much that happened with them.

Match 1: Shane McMahon vs. A.J. Styles.

This was a surprising opener and a surprisingly good opener.  The entire feud didn't make sense to me (though I admit that I haven't watched Smackdown in weeks).  I'm not sure why WWE feels the need to have Shane McMahon, at 47-years-old, compete in a match.  He was never an official wrestler.  Though, at this point, he has enough matches to fill a DVD set, he's not an active member of the roster.

So where exactly is the logic in having possibly the best wrestler in the world (and WWE's Smackdown Champion as recent as three months ago) compete against a non-wrestler at your Super Bowl of shows?

On the other hand, I was very happy to see that WWE had enough faith in A.J. Styles to give him a match with Shane McMahon.  After all, they wouldn't give him a match with the boss' son if they didn't have total confidence in his ability to pull off a good, safe match.

That's exactly what Styles did.  Although he couldn't completely work his usual style, he did well meshing with Shane.  A.J. got in most of his offense and Shane ended up busting out some big spots as well.

After he hit the elbow drop onto the announcer's table this past Smackdown, I figured we wouldn't see that again tonight.

We got the coast to coast tonight and, out of the blue, a shooting star press!  It wasn't flawless, but Shane's shooting star was surprisingly fluid.

Thankfully, the right man won this match, so it made the rushed and random feud, the unusual clash of styles (no pun intended) and Styles being in the opening match worthwhile.

Winner: A.J. Styles

Match 2: Chris Jericho (U.S. Champion) vs. Kevin Owens

I was surprised to see this match occur right after McMahon/Styles.  After all, there were just a handful of 'personal rivalry' singles matches on this card, so I figured they'd spread them out a little bit more.

A lot of people have commented on Kevin Owens' appearance since he became Universal Champion, but, personally, I don't see what's wrong with it.  Is he an Adonis?  No, certainly not.

However, he's not a completely obese man either.  He's got agility and he's tough.  Most of all, he's a great heel.  I'm a big fan of his work.

Jericho was out next, with just a scarf.  Oh wait!  There are the lights.  It's a light-up scarf -- to replace the light-up jacket!  Appropriate.

The match itself was pretty good.  Jericho busted out a top rope frankensteiner.  Owens got in his usual offense.  Jericho ended up reversing a pop-up power bomb into a Code Breaker.

Jericho went for the pin, but Owens reached over and got his pinky (yes, his pinky) onto the bottom rope to break up the pinfall.

Owens power bombed Jericho right into the side of the ring and brought him into the ring to end it.

Winner (and NEW United States Champion): Kevin Owens.  The right man won this match.  Not sure it was a classic, but it was good.

Match 3: Bayley (WWE Raw Women's Champion) vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match for the Raw Women's Title)

I'm not a big fan of champions entering the ring before their challengers, but that's a minor complaint.  Bayley, Sasha and Charlotte all took it to Nia Jax right away.

This was actually a very well booked match.  Nia is still very green, but she's getting better ... slowly.

Some good spots included: Nia running down all three of her challengers in a triple clothesline-esque move, a triple power bomb, and a combination suplex/big boot.  All of these moves ended up being too much for Nia.

Elimination 1: Nia Jax

There were a couple of spots to the outside (a plancha by Sasha over the top rope and an incredible corkscrew moonsault by Charlotte) and then Charlotte rammed Sasha's head into an exposed middle turnbuckle.

(and just like that) Elimination 2: Sasha Banks

Charlotte and Bayley battle it out a little bit (Charlotte gets in her Figure Eight leg lock), but Bayley and Charlotte end up on the top turnbuckle.  Bayley flips Charlotte into the ring with a somewhat scary looking back body drop.

Bayley nails a Macho Man elbow drop from the top and retains her title.

Elimination 3: Charlotte
Winner: Bayley

Not a bad match, overall, but it felt just a little rushed.

It's time to introduce the WWE Hall of Famers.  They come out to the ramp.  Then Kurt Angle's music hits and he's greeted with a huge round of "You Suck" chants intermittent in his theme music.  Just as it should be.  Welcome back, Kurt.

Match 4: Four Way Ladder Match for the Raw Tag Team Titles: Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Big Cass and Enzo vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (Raw Tag Team Champions)

As the participants were making their entrances, all I could think of was 'The Hardyz have got to return here.  It's a ladder match.'  But Smackdown would probably be a better place for them, creatively.

Then the New Day music hits and out come the popular trio.  This is now a four-way match!  But The New Day is in their ring gear.  Is WWE going to swerve us and have New Day compete or will they give us the Hardy Boyz?

Just like that, we have an answer.  The Hardy Boyz make their return!  Matt has his blonde streak in his hair, but his hairstyle is more WWE than Broken Matt.  Jeff looks like typical Jeff.

This was a great match.  It too, felt almost rushed, but it had great spots.

I'm not sure how they do it, but the Hardyz still manage to come up with incredible spots, 17 years after their first Wrestlemania TLC match.

Big boot for you, big boot for you, and big boot for you.  Big Cass hits everyone with big boots.

Cesaro and Sheamus have a nice combo spot where Cesaro swings Anderson and Sheamus pounds on Gallows' chest in the ropes.

Eventually Matt ends up nailing a big Twist of Fate on Anderson from the ladder.  Jeff Hardy climbs a massive ladder on the outside and does a Swanton onto Sheamus and Cesaro (on top of two ladders laying horizontal at ringside), which snaps one of the ladders in two!  Wow!!

Matt goes up top and grabs the Raw Tag Team Titles for the victory.

Winners (and new Raw Tag Team Champions): The Hardy Boyz

I'm hoping The Hardy Boyz get to take on Anderson and Gallows in their first return feud.  It'd help to cement Anderson and Gallows a little more in WWE -- working with such an established tag team.

Match 5: John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse

Ugh.  This one was rough to watch.  From Al Roker's confused look as he made the ring introductions to the lackluster in-ring action between Maryse and Nikki Bella, it didn't really deliver.

The best part of the match was Miz's gloating as the fans cheered him on in his battle against the overpushed (and soon-to-be taking a break) John Cena.

Miz and Maryse should've won since Nikki and John will be taking a hiatus, but I knew better than to expect that.  I counted on a Nikki/Cena victory.  If this is one of John's last Wrestlemania matches (and possibly Nikki's if rumors of a new neck injury are true), then WWE will be giving them the win.

Winners: Nikki Bella and John Cena

The real reason for the match became clear after the match was over.  Cena was given this match (and victory) to set up his proposal to Nikki.

Yep.  They're engaged.  I don't know if the TV I was watching on wasn't that loud or if my friends' conversation drowned out some of the cheers, but it sure didn't seem like the proposal got a huge reaction.

Nikki didn't seem that emotional either, considering this was what she's been waiting on for so many years.  As much as I don't like Nikki Bella or John Cena, I can respect that it was a nice moment for them.

But if WWE was trying to recreate a Macho Man/Miss Elizabeth moment, this was far, far from it.

Match 6: Unsanctioned match: Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon)

What was with Triple H and Stephanie's entrance?  Were they watching Wrestlemania 17 and enjoyed The Undertaker's entrance?

Did they really think Triple H's unconvincing effort to be a biker was the best route to go here?

His Robocop entrance was great.  His Conan The Barbarian entrance was good.  This, though?

The slow-moving motorcade lead by police (which, I guess, is supposed to represent the fact that Triple H and Stephanie are the authority??)

Awful.  Lackluster.  Disappointing.

Seth Rollins came out carrying the torch.  Nice symbolism there.  Granted, he looked a bit like a Power Ranger until he removed his shirt.  But the costume and entrance fit his moniker (I'm not sure when he got it) as the "King Slayer."

I go back and forth on Triple H's Wrestlemania matches.  I usually like them or find them to be very boring.

Sheamus vs. Triple H?  Boring.  Triple H vs. The Undertaker?  I didn't really like it much (any of them).  Triple H vs. Goldust?  I liked that match.

Tonight was a very good match.  Seth Rollins may have had a lot to do with that though.  Rollins reminded me a lot of Eddie Guerrero tonight, both in his color scheme and in some of his moves and mannerisms.

I wasn't sure how well Rollins would be able to compete with his recently repaired knee.  At first it looked as though he was favoring his knee, but that may have just been him selling it.

The psychology in this match was pretty much on point.  Rollins did a great job selling.  Sure, a couple of times, he went from nursing his injury to delivering high-impact moves that required the use of his knee, but you've got to believe that the adrenaline flow made up for that.

Triple H took a couple of big bumps off the top in this match.

The ending was just a little bit anti-climactic.  Stephanie's table bump was nothing compared to some of the table bumps the ECW ladies took back in the late '90s.

She gently dropped through that table.  Then, the distracted Triple H takes one pedigree and is pinned.

Winner: Seth Rollins

Just as it should be.  It seems Triple H's ego has finally been put aside in recent years.  His putting over newer talents almost makes me want to forgive him for his ridiculous dominance from 2002 - 2005.

I am a little disappointed that there was no Samoa Joe or Finn Balor involvement at any point of the match (even if it were just Joe coming to ringside, only for Stephanie to order I'm to the back).

But, oh well.  They can show up on Raw.

Match 7: WWE Heavyweight Title Match: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (WWE Heavyweight Champion)

After Triple H's lame entrance, it was unfortunate that Randy Orton walked down the aisle with a computer-generated graphic of a snake leading the way.

It sounds like a cool idea, but, as one of my friends pointed out, that snake ended up looking more like a giant sperm than a snake.

This match seemed rushed from the start.  It was understandable.  I'm not sure if Rollins/Triple H or Jericho/Owens went over on time, but these two weren't allowed the same amount of time to tell their story as the previous three singles matches on the card.

It's unfortunate because it's a match for the WWE Heavyweight Title.  It should be given a decent amount of time, right?

Then again, given the strange three times that the match was interrupted by an overlay of graphics on the mat, maybe it should've been shorter.  What was that anyway?

I guess it's a cool idea -- that Bray is playing mind games with Randy Orton.  But he didn't capitalize on it at all.  He just stayed in the same spot.

Yes, I know it's scripted, but, meanwhile, wouldn't Bray have had to have paid someone quite a bit of money to make that happen in the middle of the match?

Oh well, though.  After all, the result was disappointing.

Instead of fully committing to Bray Wyatt and making him more of a maniacal, Mankind-like character of Undertaker-esque character, Randy Orton takes the title after an RKO (that wasn't outta' nowhere).

Winner (and NEW WWE Heavyweight Champion): Randy Orton

I'm hoping that the goal is to have Randy Orton feud with A.J. Styles going forward.  If that's the case, however, I'm not sure why they even pulled the title from A.J. in the first place --- other than to give John Cena 16 title reigns and give Bray a short run with the title.

Instead of having Styles drop the title to Cena at the Rumble, it seems like it would've made more sense to have Randy Orton go into Wresltemania to face champion A.J. Styles.  Give Randy Orton the title at Wrestlemania and then go onto feud with Bray Wyatt.

This would've given WWE and additional two months to build up the Bray Wyatt/Randy Orton story. If Styles would be given a rematch, then it would've given WWE another month after 'Mania to build to Wyatt/Orton.

Match 8: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs. Goldberg (WWE Universal Champion)

A big part of me was hoping for (and a smaller part was anticipating) a Steve Austin appearance as a special enforcer, doing the Wrestlemania 20 match the way it should've been done, but no such luck.

I was not thrilled with the way Brock went on the attack right away, getting in 2 german suplexes, only for Goldberg to pop up and hit Brock with a spear.

I think there were maybe 4 different moves used in total -- a jackhammer, a F5, the spear and the german suplex.  Thankfully it really was Suplex City.  Lesnar delivered probably 7 suplexes throughout?

There wasn't much variety in this match, but who was expecting a technical masterpiece?  I'm sure Bret Hart wouldn't be too impressed by it.

Lesnar ended the Goldberg return by capturing the Universal Title, which is the result that should've happened.

Winner (and NEW Universal Champion): Brock Lesnar

So, where do we go from here?

There are a few possibilities.  Seth Rollins.  Samoa Joe.  Shinsuke Nakamura.  Roman Reigns.  Braun Strowman.

Those are the guys I could see taking the title from Brock.  Unfortunately, after being fed to Goldberg, I don't see Kevin Owens entering the title picture again soon.

Out of the five guys I mentioned above, the one who seems to stand the most chance at this point is Roman Reigns.  However, I guess it depends when Brock Lesnar's next title defense is.

If he doesn't defend it until Summerrslam, then there's plenty of time to build up a new challenger.  If it's sooner than that, then Roman Reigns seems like the best choice.

Match 9: WWE Smackdown Women's Title Match: Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella (with James Elsworth) vs. Naomi

Unfortunately, given how much over Wrestlemania was at this point, this match had to be cut down quite a bit.  That much was obvious.  It was far from the awesome 6 Pack Challenge that the Smackdown ladies competed in at Backlash in September of 2016.

It probably could've been just as good, but the cuts, due to time, limited the potential.

There was a small botch there with Natalya tripping while applying the double Sharpshooter.  Overall, the ladies seemed on point, despite the rushed nature of the match.

At the end of the day, this match wasn't about being a classic.  It was about getting them a spot on the card and giving Naomi a feel-good moment in her hometown.  And, to that end, the goal was accomplished.

Winner (and NEW Smackdown Women's Champion): Naomi

Match 10: Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker

I figured, after Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg occurred earlier, that Roman was winning this one.  I mean, it's been years since The Undertaker closed out Wrestlemania.  That means this match was going to be big.

Plus, Jim Ross was out to call this match.  I'm assuming that was at The Undertaker's request.

So I figured this may be Taker's swan song.

After a somewhat back-and-forth match that went to about 25 minutes (it seemed like there should've been more action in that amount of time), 'The Big Dog' took over The Undertaker's yard.

The crowd didn't seem into it for a while (though they may have just been spent after 6 or so hours of wrestling action).  By the end of the match, the crowd was into it --- maybe realizing what this match meant.

Winner: Roman Reigns

I know a lot of people have differing opinions on this match.  I, for one, thought the match was as good as it could be with The Undertaker's age, nagging injuries and limited abilities.

I also thought, after the struggle to reverse the tombstone, that it was time for The Undertaker to put his boots away for good.  I'm a big fan of The Undertaker, but seeing him perform these days is like seeing him as a shell of his former self.

That's not how I want to remember The Undertaker.

It really seemed like this was the best option, especially since The Undertaker's streak was broken against Lesnar two years ago.

I'm somewhat surprised that Taker's last match wasn't advertised as such, but that'd kind of give the ending away, wouldn't it?  Knowing what a stickler The Undertaker is for the old school ways of doing business, it makes sense that he would want a little bit of suspense built into his final match.

It also makes sense that he'd do the job to the company's new, young 'it' guy.  That guy, like him (and I do) or not, is Roman Reigns.

Just like that, Wrestlemania 33 went from a average card to being all about #ThankYouTaker.

It's not a happy ending that everyone would've wanted, but it was good from a storytelling standpoint.  That's always what The Undertaker has been, so it does make sense.

I am a little surprised that there was no Hulk Hogan.  No Rock.  No Steve Austin.  I'm surprised, but not disappointed.  I'm happy to see that maybe -- just maybe --- WWE is going to put a little more faith in some of their newer stars.

That's something they need to do if they don't want to become a 2000 version of WCW.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Central Intelligence - reviewed.

Ooh. I'm a bit disheartened writing this review because I had such high hopes for this one. Some people don't like Kevin Hart, but I think he's hilarious. He's got this charisma and style to his punchlines that just kills me. The Rock usually does well, too. He's one of the most successful dudes in Hollywood right now.

I figured Central Intelligence would be a great movie with those two involved. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

This was one of those movies where the trailer showed the best parts of the movie.

They took a different route than the typical buddy cop movie plot. Instead of having two guys team up to the save the world, they through a twist in there. The Rock's character -- Bob Stone -- was a good guy. Or was he bad? Or maybe good? Or bad? The storyline throughout the movie had you guessing whether his character was an insane bad guy or a misunderstood agent.

It was different. I'll give them credit for that. It didn't really pan out the way I assume they wanted though. It's not a classic cop movie like Beverly Hills Cop or Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys.

For some reason I wasn't invested into the plot. There weren't amazing jokes or incredible action scenes. It was one of those movies that just kind of ... was.

The movie started off as Stone and Calvin Joyner (Hart) were in high school.  Stone was fat and was the victim of a bully tactic by a group his classmates.  He ended up in front of the entire school, naked.  It was refreshing to see Calvin try to assist without hesitating.

Flash forward 10 years or so and things have changed.  Bob Stone is no longer fat.  Calvin Joyner is married to his high school sweetheart, but doesn't like his job and that seems to be spilling over into his lovelife.

Enter Bob Stone.  He's big and chiseled so he's the cool guy now, even if he's wearing a Unicorn t-shirt and a fanny pack.

Calvin gets caught up in Agent Stone's sorted tale of espionage because he only has a certain amount of time to solve a case.  But when the CIA shows up and says that Bob Stone is an unhinged agent-gone-rogue, it's plausible.  Who does Calvin trust?  Who does he help?

He's stuck between a rock (no pun intended) and a hard place.

I think that's where the movie went off the rails.  They introduced this way too soon.  Sure, Bob and Calvin bonded throughout the movie, but the doubt about whether or not Bob was the real bad guy or whether the CIA just had the wrong intel was always lingering.

Again, not a bad idea, but it didn't result in an entertaining movie because the story wasn't good enough. Kevin Hart did a great job playing a bewildered regular guy who ended up intertwined in a confusing CIA case. But that's really the only memorable part of the movie.

I'm struggling right now to come up with one single punchline from this movie.  There wasn't too much that was memorable in this movie.

I guess The Rock's fat suit was impressive at the beginning of the movie.

And there was the scene where Bob Stone was playing therapist to Calvin and his wife.  That was alright.  I'm assuming there was some improved acting in that sequence.

The story unfolded in an alright way, but it wasn't very entertaining.  I was waiting for it to be over, almost.

There was a surprise appearance by Melissa McCarthy, which was fun. It didn't last long enough though.

Related Content:
• Nine Lives - reviewed.
• The Jungle Book - reviewed.
• 10 TV shows and movies that STILL aren't on DVD, but should be

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Can I be serious for a minute? Let's talk about media bias ...

I generally like to keep things light-hearted on this blog. I like to blog about music, movies, TV shows --- things that can help take my mind off of the real world. I don't bury my head in the sand, avoiding the world's issues, but I work in the media and I get enough news during my daily 9 hour shifts.

It's gotten to the point that I don't even like watching certain movies, like London Has Fallen (not the best plot anyway), because it's just too close to reality with some of the various terror attacks that have happened across the world.  House of Cards was a fun show, but I'm not sure if the next season will, again, seem too close to reality.

I use my entertainment to be entertained and to escape the partisan issues that seem to be spilling over everywhere online and on TV.

Again, I'm not dodging the reality of the world. I just get enough of it at work. I know a lot of my colleagues in the news media can relate to that sentiment.

But today I do want to blog about the real world.

I'm not late to the party on the media bias discussion, the divisive rhetoric or the contradictory actions and words that some people have displayed and used.

It's not something I want to harp on every day though.  Who wants to stress out about that on a regular basis?  It's easy to get caught up in that kind of thing.

Whether it was when there were the 12+ Republican candidates going head-to-head(-to-head-to-head), when the allegations of the DNC helping Hillary Clinton to defeat Bernie Sanders divided some of the Democrats, or during the war of words that occurred when Donald Trump and Clinton were officially nominated last summer, one thing is for sure: it's been a long election cycle for a lot of people.

Maybe you had to delete a Facebook friend or unfollow someone because of a difference in opinion on an issue or not agreeing on a candidate?  We've all probably been there at some point during this election cycle.

I had Facebook friends who were very pro-Republican, very pro-Democrat and very much Independent. Others didn't vote. Others were insulted that people didn't vote.  Others rallied after Donald Trump was elected.

I tried to expand my own mind by reading posts of my friends with very different views on my Facebook timeline.  I did delete one person though.

Every single post ( was politics. To make matters worse, this person had far too good of an Internet connection (I really should try to get that cell network) because there were probably two dozen posts a day. I felt like I was being bombarded by those Facebook posts. Too much! Less is more sometimes.

I made it a point to try not to be that person in 2016's election cycle, so I didn't post about politics. Unfortunately, some of the same problems that bogged down 2016's election cycle seems to be rolling on into 2017.

It's just gotten to be too much for me to keep inside, so I'm going to go ahead and voice a few opinions here.

I'm not going to bash one specific party or make light of the very personal choice anyone made inside that voting booth because those really aren't the main issues. It's a bigger picture situation here.  I want to talk about media bias.

This is the big topic for me. This is the issue that hits home the most because I probably dissect news differently than someone who hasn't worked in the media.

There is sometimes a theory that everyone in the 'media' is conspiring together against one person or a particular party. That's not the case. It's not one big, giant conspiracy theory.

A recent Huffington Post article by Christina Nicholson did a great job highlighting some gripes about comments you tend to hear when working in news.

It was a great starting point, but she did miss a few topics.

Number one: I do see media bias. I see it a lot actually. It's there in just about every media outlet and every format that is offered up to you.  Go to NBC?  It's there.  Fox News?  Yeah.  CNN.  Sure.

Donald Trump made a lot of people in the media angry with his tweet a couple of days ago (and the press conference a few days prior to that) in which he called the media (and 'fake news') an enemy of the American public.

I'm not about to talk about my position on politics because I'm certainly not an all Republican or all Democrat person.  I find that very few issues are that simple.  My views do not fit into one party or the other.

However, media bias is a problem.  CNN clearly leans left. Fox News clearly leans right. If you dispute that, you're just not paying attention to the entirety of their news programs or the content they generate on their websites.

For that bias, I blame the media.  All of them.  I blame CNN, ABC, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, and any other news agency you can name.

All the websites --- Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vox, Breitbart, etc., etc.  They've all had a hand in the situation we have today.

When it comes to television coverage, the big two with the most blame are CNN and Fox News.

24 hour access to news isn't a bad thing. It's one of the great aspects of technology.

 If I work until 3 am on a crazy, breaking news kind of day, I can go home and read the latest review of the new Marvel movie or maybe get sucked into watching dozens of Jimmy Fallon or Ellen YouTube videos.

I love the instant access! The problem arises when CNN and Fox News repeat the same sound bites hour after hour and spend hours on end talking about the same thing.

Sure, one hour you get Bill O'Reilly talking about it. And the next it's Sean Hannity. Or it's Anderson Cooper and then Don Lemon on the CNN side.

Either way, the topics stay the same. Same, regurgitated information. Same carefully selected guests on every night.

Instead of bringing the experts on to explain things and provide actual facts, these news channels claim to be fair by presenting both sides. Sure, they bring on someone who is pro-whatever topic they are talking about and someone who is against it. But that doesn't factor in the anchors own bias.

It ends up being a two on one or a three on one verbal attack rather than an interview that dissects what's going on and presents a complete and clear picture of the story.

And that brings up another point. When exactly did journalists become personalities? That's the point in time that I started seeing journalism take a back seat to things like ratings and 'entertaining' news programming.

It ruins the credibility of an anchor when they chime in with their two cents.  You should be the moderator -- the presenter of the news -- not the news itself.  If your opinions mattered, then you'd be the expert guest on the panel.

These days the anchors don't even bother trying to hide their balance. And I'm fine with that --- if they'd present themselves as an opinion show.

Let Jake Tapper present his own views, but don't you dare try to pass it off as impartial, unbiased journalism because it's not.

Judge Jeanine is pro-Trump.  Fine.  She's a televised columnist.  She's got an opinion.

Therefore she's not a journalist, but she's blurring the line between unbiased television news anchor and a TV personality with a formed opinion on President Trump.  She works at Fox News.  She has her own show.  She's not the news though.  She comments on it.

I think blurring the line can be very dangerous because it's hard to know who to trust.

Another way journalism has been blurred is thanks to misleading tweets.

Time Magazine or the Huffington Post or other publications on Twitter.  They'll tweet a headline and a link to what I presume is a story.  I start reading it's filled with one-sided comments and biased rhetoric from the author.  Then I scroll back up and realize it's an opinion piece.

There is no disclaimer in that tweet or in the headline that says 'Opinion: America misses Obama' or 'Opinion: Trump is most successful President ever.'  It just has the headline.  It's presented as a fact.  Then thousands of people retweet and share it on Facebook and all those people think it's fact.  Yet it's just the opinion of one man or woman.

The opinions should be inside the quotation marks.  Let the experts and the real people have opinions.  As the journalist, you should be reporting what the facts are.

Then again some journalists seem to cherrypick their facts.  You can find some report out there published at some point in time that supports whatever argument you're trying to make.  As people, having discussions, it's natural to do that.  You want to find something that backs up what you're saying.

As a reporter, you shouldn't be doing that.  You should report whatever the latest unbiased statistics say.  Don't do 'fact-check' and use data from 3 years ago.  Or at least acknowledge that there is other, more recent data, that doesn't match with the previous report.

Worse yet, with social media, these so-called 'news' agencies republish their own tweets 6 hours later and then 12 hours later and then 3 days later.  What?  There's so little news in the world that you have to send out the same tweet for the same article again and again and again?

Are you interested in delivering the news or promoting your most click-worthy articles?  There's a big difference.

A great example of certain members of the media seeming to take a side on social media is CNN's Hala Gorani.

British news columnist Katie Hopkins ended up having an very defensive interview with Gorani back in November (or late October?).  Hopkins is a columnist, so she's allowed to have an opinion (no matter how much I agree or disagree with it), but Gorani, as an anchor and occasional field reporter, shouldn't.

The fact that she, in her interview with Hopkins, seemed so focused on arguing the idea that CNN isn't biased was laughable.

Take one look at Gorani's Twitter feed.  Anti-Trump retweet, anti-Trump tweet, anti-Trump retweet of a CNN article, etc., etc.  Again, that's fine if you're a columnist and write opinion pieces.

If you're going to be a reporter and proclaim to be a journalist, then keep your opinions to yourself.  Oh, but wait.  She's a host, too.  So I guess opinions are allowed??

See the blurry line there?  I'm not a supporter of that at all.

At least Gorani doesn't have that nonsensical 'retweets aren't endorsements' statement that so many journalists like to use because that's, very often, not true.

I'm all for the media reporting the truth, no matter how ugly it ends up being.  It shouldn't matter how much power the subject of an article has.  If there's a report to be done on something and a truth that is out there, then it's up to the media to do it and find it.

However, when you're only retweeting negative stories, that's not to be commended.  You're not some kind of super hero saving the world from the corruption of the world.  You're adding to it.

I'm not specifically talking about Gorani here, but you can probably all name so-called 'journalists' who fall into that same pattern of reporting and tweeting just one side of an argument.

That's not journalism.  Your job isn't to go out to find a soundbite that happens to fit the story you're trying to tell on that particular day.  It's not about telling a story.  It's about telling the truth.

Politics is messy.  Sometimes there isn't an obvious truth.  Most of the time we don't know the full truth due to national security.  It can be difficult to find the truth because, yes, the President, every Senator, every lawmaker -- they all have their own spin doctors.  They have their own media team.  They don't want negative stories.  They want the positive stories.  So it's not as though they will volunteer information when the politician they are working for puts his or her foot in their mouth or makes a mistake.

You sometimes need these unnamed sources.

If someone within a particular Washington agency gives the media information as an 'unnamed source,' it's likely because it's against that agency's guidelines to give out that information and there are no plans, whatsoever, to release it.

So, that whistleblower or news leaker would likely be fired if they were caught.

But the way a lot of stories are presented today (about any kind of politics -- national or local) make it obvious that there is bias.  It's in the headlines of the newspapers and lower-thirds on your TV screen.  It's in the amount of ink or time given to the 'other side' of the argument.

The condemnation of the possibility of media bias that Jake Tapper and Don Lemon and Chris Wallace have makes it clear that they just don't get it.  They're not seeing the bigger picture because they're too busy staying in their defensive mode.

People are tired of having to go to 12 different websites and watching 4 different news channels to get a glimpse of the truth.

The more they spend air time pushing back against Donald Trump instead of reporting on additional stories, the more they're giving Donald Trump room to criticize them.  Don't give him ammunition!

Do the TV personalities (instead of on-air journalists) make for heated televisions conversations?  Yes.

Are they better serving America for it?  No.  It's just taking up more air time in another day of the cycle.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

After dishing out all of this criticism (hopefully in a constructive way), I must say, David Muir does it right.  I don't know if he's a Democrat or Republican.

I'm assuming maybe Democrat due to the fact that he was on the list of reporters invited to dine with Hillary Clinton's campaign staffers, according to one WikiLeaks email.  But his name being on the invite list certainly doesn't prove his party affiliation.

You wouldn't be able to tell his opinions based on his reporting.  Maybe there is some bias in his reporting, but, from what I've seen, he does his job well.

He doesn't interject his opinion into the introduction or tag lines of the stories that are presented on World News.  He doesn't use his Twitter to sway the opinion of his followers with biased tweets.  He presents the news of the day.

That's the way it used to be and that's the way it should be.  If there were a few more journalists who could put their opinions aside, some less click-baiting headlines, less TV personalities and more journalists, I think the three-way realtionship between the media, the American people and the President would improve greatly.

End of the real world.  Back to entertainment-based reality.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nine Lives - reviewed.

I watched Nine Lives the other day. It was a pretty decent movie. With all the bitterness and anger in the world, even on the weekends, I wanted something light and without any controversy. What better choice than a family comedy about a man being trapped in the body of a cat?

It didn't disappoint. While it was far from amazing -- definitely not an all-time classic, it was alright. It served its purpose.

Some over-the-top cat antics (which lead to some not-so-believable CGI) and a little bit of bland acting prevented it from being better.

The story is about a big-time businessman who is obsessed with building the largest building in the USA. He devotes all of his time to that quest, not giving enough attention to his second wife (Jennifer Garner) and their daughter (Malina Weissman). He also neglects to give any kind of credit to his son (Robbie Amell) from his first marriage -- who works for his father.

Kevin Spacey was great throughout the movie (even if he's in cat form for most of it) but he couldn't do it alone.

Jennifer Garner, for as beautiful as she is, has never been a great actress. She's passable and exceeds in more over-the-top roles (like 13 Going on 30) than she does in roles that are more serious.

The actress of played their daughter, Weissman, wasn't great as a young April O'Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and she wasn't out-of-this-world as the young Supergirl in the Supergirl TV series. If you saw her performance in those two movies then you pretty much saw her performance here.

The other day I mentioned how I despise bad child acting and how impressed I was with the young actor who portrayed Mowgli in The Jungle Book. This movie shows just how good and atypical he is.

At the end of the day, for what the movie ended up being, Weissman didn't hurt the movie too badly. I would give her a pass since I wasn't expecting much out of her, but she was one of the main characters of the movie --- one of the main two main characters, some would argue.

After all, the entire movie is about her relationship with her father and his road to become emotionally closer to her.

While Robbie Amell is no Oscar-winning actor, he did an OK job -- better than I'd expected considering he's been used as the beefcake in some of his films (no real acting ability required there). He was kind of a third-wheel character, but has an important role at the same time. That's tough to balance.

You don't want to take attention away from the main plot line, but you can't be a completely supporting character because you're part of the culmination of the main plot line.

He was almost the only one in the movie who seemed whole-heartedly invested into the role he had, trying to make the movie bigger than it was instead of settling into an acceptance that this movie wouldn't be a huge box office success.

So, overall, he did well.

Christopher Walken was great. That's no surprise though. Walken plays an eccentric cat whisperer. In every body switch movie there has to be that somehow mystical or powerful person who is there to lead the main character down the right path.

That's basically Walken's role as the cat whisperer. How did he end up in that role? That's not really explained, but it's an accepted role in the movie.

I figured he'd be in and out pretty quick, but he had a fairly large role in this movie. Not that this is a bad thing -- just surprising.

Like I said in the beginning of this blog, this movie was not and will not be a classic, but it's an OK family film. It's a movie you'll probably see on TBS or Freeform at some point.

I wouldn't go purchase it on DVD, but if it's one of those $2 Black Friday Walmart specials or available on Netflix or Redbox, then, sure, go check it out.

If you're in the mood to get away from some of the negative aspects of the world, it's not a bad a choice. It'll take your mind of things in a fun way for a little while.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

The Jungle Book - reviewed.

One of my co-workers asked me the other day if The Jungle Book was any good. 'I hadn't seen it,' I said, 'so I'm not sure.'

But, the other night I saw it on Netflix and thought, 'Huh. Why not?'

I wasn't expecting too much. I'm still kind of torn on this whole 'live action Disney classics' thing that Disney is going forward with these days.

I haven't seen the live action Cinderella, so I'm not sure if that was any good. Maleficent was very good. I'm intrigued by The Beauty & The Beast. The original trailer, with a minimal glimpse into the movie, looked good, but have you seen the Beast? The costuming/CGI combo looks like the work of an amateur -- not that of a multi-billion dollar company like Disney.

I was never a huge fan of the animated Jungle Book movie anyway. It wasn't bad. I loved the songs. I remember singing the Bare Necessities when I was a kid. Even though the movie wasn't one I watched again and again, I was a big fan of Tail Spin (the Disney Channel's spin-off show in the mid-90's).

There The Jungle Book was just one click away on Netflix. So, I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did! It was a very good movie.

I wasn't sure how they would do with the computer graphics. Obviously there wouldn't be real animals like in Life of Pi. The tiger's work in that movie was pretty much sitting there.

 The animals in The Jungle Book have to interact with Mowgli, so CGI is to be expected.

It was really good work though. Not shabby at all. Take a look at the picture to the left. Not bad, right?

I didn't remember the entirety of the original Jungle Book story, but I remembered most of it. This one did deviate a little bit, but not in a bad way.

 It was in more of a 'this movie needs to be updated in order to be a live action movie in 2016' kind of way.  I'm not a fan of movies that change large parts of the originals, so I was happy to see that they didn't do wrong by the classic animated version.

Besides crappy CGI and script changes, the one other worry I had was bad childhood acting. I'd say 75% of child actors are not good. 15% are OK. 5% are good. The remaining 5% are great. This actor -- Neel Sethi -- was awesome.

 He showed an entire range of emotions -- fear, anger, happiness, confusion -- and he displayed them all at the right times. Of course, he also looked the part.

 He seemed like an agile kid, too, climbing on things and running through the woods. It was quite a physical role, really.

I don't know what he was like to work with, but the staff behind this project better thank their lucky stars that he was on board for the movie because without him -- that movie could've been completely awful.

The voices of the rest of the characters included: Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Bill Murray as Baloo, Christopher Walken as King Louie and Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Each one did a wonderful job. No complaints at all on any of their performances. 

Kudos have to go to Murray and Walken for singing in the movie too (what is The Jungle Book without a couple of its classic songs?).

We start off with Mowgli doing just fine in the jungle, living with the wolves, until Shere Khan rears his one-eyed head (having dealt with man and fire before). He's not happy that a man-cub is living in the jungle.

You don't get the entire backstory through one flashback right away. It's interwoven a little bit throughout the movie. Good decision for the pacing of the movie because it heightens the emotions as things unfold.

Of course, Mowgli takes his leave and ventures out on his own. Cinematically it's quite stunning to see the mixture of real-life and CGI. The setting looks real and things pick up very quickly, but the plot is a bit of a downer until Mowgli gets out into the jungle.

It's, of course, a little mysterious, as Kaa makes an appearance, but once Baloo shows up, the entire mood of the movie changes.

I don't know if Murray had any ad-libs in this movie, but his performance of Baloo was spot-on. With some much-needed comedy interjected into the plot, the movie only gets better.

But Mowgli's life isn't without problems, of course. In comes King Louie. I guess if I had one complaint about the movie, it'd be the exaggeration of King Louie's size as an Orangutan. Upon reading a little bit more about what the moviemakers had in mind, though, it wasn't a bad choice.

King Louie wasn't in Rudyard Kipling’s original stories as the Orangutan wasn't native to India. Apparently during research, the moviemakers found out the there was a giant extinct version of an ape that in the area: a Gigantopithecus.

So, King Louie became a Gigantopithecus. Makes sense, since he is supposed to be a king of the monkeys.

I don't want to spoil the entire movie -- although most people know the general plot of The Jungle Book -- so I'll just say that the climax of the movie doesn't disappoint.

Overall, really good. My second complaint about the movie, I guess, would be that I kept thinking, 'If all the animals team up, surely they can beat one tiger.'

I mean, I get that Shere Khan is a dangerous tiger who is bigger than Bagheera (the black panther) or any of the wolves, but if they all teamed up and got maybe a rhino involved, too, don't you think they could come out on top?

It's nitpicky to complain because it really is a very good movie. Put aside a couple of minor things like that and it's all good.

Between CGI and a child actor as the main star of the movie, this movie could've been really, really bad.

What could've added up to a disaster ended up being a surprisingly good movie (I read that it was apparently a surprise hit in the box office as well).  I don't know if anyone was expecting this to be the successful movie that it was.

You would've thought that a more recent classic Disney tale might be more lined up for box office success, but it's kind of poetic that this underdog of a movie ended up making a good bit of money.

I've got to say, again, how surprised I was that this was a good movie. If you haven't given it a chance yourself yet, I'd highly recommend that you do.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 commentary

Updated @ 11:02 pm

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match - continued

Wyatt is going vicious with the ground-and-pound on Styles.

Styles hits a sliding dropkick to Wyatt's left knee.  Forearm and a cover, but no luck.

Wyatt back bridges up though.  Sister Abigail attempt, but AJ counters.

Phenomenal Blitz by Styles, but he's clotheslined by Wyatt.

450 by Styles on Wyatt, but that doesn't do it.

Styles removes his elbow pad.  Jumps up but Sister Abigail.

1, 2, 3 -- Bray Wyatt wins!

Winner: Bray Wyatt (new WWE World Heavyweight Champion)

I'm surprised, but I'll take it.  Hopefully he does good things in his reign


Updated @ 10:57 pm

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match - continued

All three men are down on the mat right now.  Sister Abigail on John Cena.  Wyatt eliminates Cena!!


Updated @ 10:56 pm

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match - continued

AJ Styles and Wyatt team up (or appear to) for  a bit, but that ends quickly.  Cena dishes out some punishment on Styles and Wyatt.

Double 5 Knuckle Shuffle onto Wyatt and Styles.

Attitude Adjustment to Wyatt.  Styles Clash on Cena!

He kicks out though.

Styles leaps onto the top rope but ends up taking an Attitude Adjustment.  He kicks out!  Whew.

He's still in it.


Updated @ 10:52 pm

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match - continued

Corbin is in and the action continues to be all over the place.

Corbin ends up being the first one eliminated though.  Before he takes his leave he does some damage to Ambrose for good measure.

Ambrose is the next one out.

The Miz takes his spot in the match and takes advantage of the already worn-down competitors.

Clothesline in the corner to Cena.

Skull Crushing Finale on Wyatt after that.

Cena lands an Attitude Adjustment on The Miz, though.  He's outta' here as the crowd boo's Cena.


Updated @ 10:41 pm

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match - continued

Uh oh.  Styles and Cena are climbing up the cage.  What's going to happen here?

Cena ends up falling to the platform below.  Styles, meanwhile, goes to the top of one of the pods.  Ambrose joins him up top though.  He throws A.J.'s head into the fiber glass up on top.  Ambrose leaped onto Bray, but Bray got a fist into the mid-section.

Bray is talking to himself or talking to Ambrose.  Not sure which.

Ambrose and Wyatt fight on the top turnbuckle, but AJ climbs down and we get a  unique Tower of Doom-style spot.


Updated @ 10:39 pm

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match - continued

Ooh! We get a two man german suplex.  Cena germans Styles at the same time that Styles germans Ambrose.

Cena tries to go for two FU's, but gets stopped both times.  This action is fast!  And here comes another entrant.

It's Bray Wyatt!  Clothesline to Ambrose, cross body to Cena, suplex to Ambrose and then he takes out Styles.

Bray tries to run into A.J., but instead his shoulder goes into the turnbuckle.  Styles then delivers a leg drop from the inside to the outside.


Updated @ 10:33 pm

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match - continued

Dueling "A.J. Styles, Let's Go Cena!" chants as these two pick up where they left off at the Rumble.

A.J. with the Argentine backbreaker and spins it out into a slam.  Doesn't get the 3 though.

Holy crap!  Cena with a sunset flip power bomb -- the kind that Melina and Rey Mysterio used to do. First time I've seen him do that.

Cena goes for the 5 Knuckle Shuffle, but the countdown stopped him.  Out comes Ambrose and he goes right after Cena!


Updated @ 10:26 pm

Dasha is back to interview Carmella.  Elsworth takes care of business, as Carmella is getting annoyed, and tells Dasha to scram.

Match 7: Elimination Chamber Match

Alright, Corbin, Ambrose, Miz and Wyatt are all in their pods.

That means it's A.J. Styles and John Cena starting it out in the ring.


Updated @ 10:07 pm

Match 6: Smackdown Women's Title Match - Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Naomi - continued

Alexa Bliss kicks out of the Rear View.  However, Naomi is positioning her for the split-legged moonsault.  Alex quickly puts an end to that by grabbing Naomi's legs and then delivers Insult to Injury -- the handstand/backflip knees to the stomach move she utilizes.

Alexa pulls Naomi to the corner and goes up top.  Naomi jumps up and kicks Bliss right in the face.

Alexa gets a DDT and --- no, not the win.  Tantrum time for Alexa.

Bliss goes for Twisted Bliss, but misses and Naomi connects with a moonsault to win the gold!!

Wow!  Well my predictions aren't doing too well tonight, huh?

WWE going with the Cinderella story for Naomi going into Wrestlemania in her hometown of Orlando.

Renee Young is out to interview Naomi in the ring.

A Mickie James run-in, maybe?  Or will they let her have her moment?

Naomi cries as the crowd chants, 'You deserve it!'


Updated @ 10:00 pm

Before the next match, Natalya and Nikki Bella fight backstage.  Maryse is watching, but during the brawl she gets covered in makeup that gets tossed off the table during the brawl.  I guess that's going to set up the rumored Nikki/Cena/Miz/Maryse mixed-tag?  Alrighty then.

Match 6: Smackdown Women's Title Match - Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Naomi

Naomi is out with her glow-in-the-dark entrance.  It is pretty epic.  She took what Lita and The Hardyz did for a while in 2001 and cranked it up to 1000.

Alexa reminds me of Melina in that when her music hits, there tend to be a good amount of cheers mixed in with the boo's.  It's not because she's not doing a good job as a heel, but because she's that good as a heel.

Big fight ring announcement to give the Women's Title some credibility.

And here ... we ... go!

Little Miss Bliss flips her hair into Naomi's face, but Naomi goes for a quick roll-up.

Naomi bulldogs Bliss into the middle turnbuckle.  Kick to the side of the head.  Naomi goes for the springboard, but Alexa stops her and throws her to the mat.

After some back-and-forth, Bliss gets Naomi in a submission hold.  It doesn't last long, though, as Bliss jumps off the rope with a flip and rollup.

I feel like this match's time may have been cut short a bit.  Both women seem like they are on fast forward mode compared to the previous matches tonight.


Updated @ 9:49 pm 

Match 5: Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper - continued

Orton got his DDT and appeared to be setting up for a RKO, but Harper hits Orton with a superkick -- not once, but twice!

2 count by Harper.

Kick to the mid-section by Harper and then a sit-out power bomb!  Still, just a two count.  The crowd is into the match.  WWE is giving Harper much more offense than I would've anticipated.  I'm happy to see that this is the case, but I am surprised.

Meanwhile the crowd is chanting, "This is awesome!" as both men are lying on the mat.

Both men make it to their knees and exchange punches and forearms.

Now they exchange European uppercuts.

RKO!  And it's over.

Winner: Randy Orton

It was an expected outcome, but Harper still comes out better off than he did before the match.


Updated @ 9:45 pm

Match 5: Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper - continued

I'm kind of surprised but Orton is getting over as a heel against Harper.

Harper gets worked over by Orton, but eventually Orton goes for the mid-rope DDT.  Harper escapes that.

He slingshots Orton in between the bottom and middle ropes.

Harper appeared to have been going for a suicide dive through the ropes but Orton forearms his face.

Ah!  Harper goes for it again and connects!

It wasn't the most graceful of suicide dives, but for a man his size, it was impressive.

Orton changes the pace of the match, once again, with his powerslam.

Harper has Orton in the ropes on the turnbuckle.  Not sure what he was going for, but Orton put a stop to it.

Oron climbed to the top and got a superplex.


Updated @ 9:34 pm

Match 5: Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper

Back and forth to start the match off, with Harper eventually getting the better end of it.

He even threw a dropkick!

Harper tries to go up top but gets sent to the outside courtesy of an Orton right hand.

Randy poses for the crowd on the turnbuckle as Harper is at the 6 count on the outside.

He makes it back in and tries to take it to Randy, but Randy is on the offense here.

He tosses Harper outside on the other side of the ring and gives him a back body drop onto the announcers' table, which doesn't break.


Updated @ 9:22 pm

Match 4: Nikki Bella vs. Natalya -- continued

Natalya applies the sharpshooter.  Nikki goes to the ropes, but Nattie drags her right back in.

Nikki counters into the STF variation (apparently called the Fearless lock).

Nattie makes it to the ropes and both women end up on the floor.  Double count out coming?

Ref is at 8.  Wow.  Nikki tries to get in there but Natalya grabs Nikki just in time to prevent her from doing so.  Double count out!

Didn't see that one coming.

Are they ending it like this or will Daniel Bryan come out and order a recount?

Nope.  Instead we get a big Nikki Bella tackle onto Nattie.

Maybe they'll let this feud move onto Wrestlemania after all.

Winner: nobody

Carmellsworth back up in the Skybox eating popcorn.

Looks like it's time for Orton and Harper.


Updated @ 9:19 pm

Match 4: Nikki Bella vs. Natalya -- continued

Nattie is mocking the fans, telling the ref to 'shut your moth' and waving at Momma Bella.  She then tries to get a 'Nikki sucks' chant going, which prompts a handful of the fans to chant 'Let's Go Nikki!'

I just can't help but smile as Natalya finally gives the heel turn her all.  It's the most exciting Nattie match I've seen in years.

Natalya goes for the sharpshooter, but Nikki gets her forearm in.

Nattie kicks out!  Nattie kicks out!  I figured that might be the end of Nattie, but not so much.

Natalya counters the Rack Attack 2.0 but eats a spine buster instead.  This match is being given some time.  Then again, it is the culmination of a 4 month feud.

Nikki is on point tonight with her moves as well --- but I have no doubt that her opponent is a large reason for that.  Natalya is a great worker and she and Nikki are good friends, so it makes sense that they're comfortable in the ring together.

Superplex by Natalya from the ropes.


Updated @ 9:12 pm

Match 4: Nikki Bella vs. Natalya

Nattie/Nikki feud recap through a video package.  Out comes Nikki (she does look good).  Then Nattie -- wearing that dominatrix catsuit.  Ooh, she took a fan's sign and threw it in the railway.

She's going for some strong heel heat tonight.

After a mocking 'You Can't See Me' hand gesture, Nikki and Natalya exchange some aggressive holds.

Nikki gets the better of it with an arm breaker and a slap to Natalya.

Nattie gets irritated and starts to pound on Nikki.

But the showboating costs Natalya the advantage she had.

Nikki gives a diving clothesline to the outside floor.

Natalya lures her in by calling for a time out and then shoves Nikki into the ring post.  Heel Nattie is awesome!


Updated @ 9:01 pm

Usos getting a post-match attack in as well -- just like Dolph.  They couldn't have done that with Mickie James earlier?

Match 3: WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title Match (Tag Team Turmoil)

The Ascension aren't in any hurry to come out and put an end to this beatdown.  Nice setting up by WWE to make it seem like Ascension has a chance to win the titles tonight.

Hmmm...The Ascension have a new look since last time I saw them.  They almost get them infall on Jordan, but Gable makes the save.

Gable gets taken out of the equation and Ascension double teams Jordan.  Romero pointing out how they are looking to FINALLY win tag gold in WWE after being dominant in NXT.  I just don't see that happening tonight, though.

Gable is tagged in and -- after a well-timed double-team, American Alpha retains.

Winners: American Alpha (phew!  I finally got a prediction right)


Updated @ 8:55 pm

Match 3: WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title Match (Tag Team Turmoil)

I'm not sure which Uso is in the ring right now -- it's hard to tell these days.

Great Samoan drop by the one Romero calls Jey Uso, though!  Jimmy super kicks Slater into the 1, 2, 3.

Eliminated: Heath Slater and Rhyno

Out come the champs -- American Alpha.

Usos go up the ramp to meet them and a brawl ensues.

All 4 men end up in the ring and Alpha gets stereo german suplexes.

Gable gets a cross body.  I was worried that was going to be a pinfall.

Not-so-random fact: Jimmy Uso is married to Naomi.  Lots of marriages in this match, huh?

JBL reminds us that there's still one team left -- so basically whichever team wins this pinfall wins the match because there is zero chance The Ascension gets the titles tonight.

Usos tagging in and out fluidly, showing that they've been tagging for over half a decade at this point.

Big Jason Jordan -- AKA Black Kurt Angle -- is waiting for that hot tag into the match.

And, not too long after, Gable eliminates The Usos.

Eliminated: The Usos


Updated @ 8:47 pm

Match 3: WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title Match (Tag Team Turmoil)

Out next are The Vaudevillains.  We'll see if this match picks up pace and sees some quick eliminations or if they're going to devote some time to these guys.

Second random fact: Aiden English is married to one of Eddie Guerrero's daughters.

English goes for the swanton on Slater, but Slater puts him away with a DDT.

Eliminated: The Vaudevillains

Out next -- those bad dudes ... the Usos.

One of them looks a little heavier than the other.  I don't know if that's muscle or just some additional weight.


Updated @ 8:44 pm

Well so much for my predictions panning out tonight, huh?  So far I'm 0-2.

Match 3: WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: American Alpha (Champions) vs. The Usos vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango vs. The Ascension vs. The Vaudevillians

Out first is Rhyno and Heath Slater.  This is the first time I've seen Tyler Breeze and Fandango in a while.  Good Lord, they really have a Magic Mike gimmick going, huh?  The Fashion Police, their name is?

All kinds of commentary teams tonight.  Where are all these guys when you need an abundance of announcer's booths -- like at TLC?

How can you not cheer for Slater as Fandango is grinding and giving a salute??  lol

Slater returns the favor after a high hip toss -- doing some grinding of his own.  More of a comedic start to this match, but Rhyno comes in.

That means a vicious spine buster isn't too far off.

Shoulder block and a chop and Irish whip into the corner first though.  Short-arm clothesline and tagging out to Slater.  Where's that spine buster, man?

Random fact: I just found out last week that Tyler Breeze married former FCW and NXT Diva Audrey Marie.

Fandango is dropping fashion tickets on Slater's face as he grinds above him.  That's some powerful ... ummm .. hip action there.

Rhyno tagged in against Fandango.  This can't be good.

Gore!! 1,2, 3.

Eliminated: Breezango


Updated @ 8:33 pm

Match 2: Apollo Crews and Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler, continued

Heel Ziggler has the American flag on his tights tonight.  He's a patriotic heel, I see.

Nice jumping elbow drop by Dolph, who should probably be in the main event instead of a mid-card match.  Hopefully this heel turn will finally be a good sign for him in 2017.

There's Kalisto, making his way to the ring.  He gets tagged in.  Fury of offense there by the user-talented Dragon.

Crews makes the tag though.  Crews and Kalisto get the victory

Winners: Apollo Crews and Kalisto

So much for a Crews heel turn.

But Ziggler gets some revenge on Kalisto and Crews after the match.  There you go.  Make him the focal point.

Ziggler got an Edge-like quality right now from circa 2005.


Updated @ 8:23 pm

Match 2: Apollo Crews and Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler

We'll see if this match ends up in an Apollo Crews heel turn.  I'm hoping so because he's highly athletic but without a storyline or character.  Generic babyface Crews is boring.

Ooh!  Dolph attacks Kalisto on the stage.  So much for that handicap match -- unless Kalisto makes a triumphant return later in the match.


Updated @ 8:21 pm

Carmellsworth is in the Skybox for a quick interview with one of WWE's dozens of female interviewers.

Baron Corbin is punching the air backstage, prepping for his match later tonight.

Then we get a WWE video game commercial.  Anyone else think they kind of downsized Ric Flair's nose in that commercial??


Updated @ 8:19 pm

Match 1: Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch - continued

Hey!  Network goes out as Mickie and Becky are on the outside.  When I get it back up and running, Mickie is in control inside the ring.  It's like one of those unwanted, pointless WWE Network commercial breaks!

This match is going really well, but it's not as fast-paced as I thought it would be.  Becky isn't the quickest worker in the ring and Mickie was working as a heel, so she slowed it down a bit.

Good back-and-forth forearms there!

Uh oh.  Bex-ploder suplex.  Mickie moves out of the way of Straight Fire and goes up top.  Sit-out Lou Thesz connects.

Becky's hair really is orange, isn't it?  Quite the mishmash of orange tonight.  lol

Spinning Mick Kick connects, but Mickie isn't able to pin her quickly enough.  The ref's black gloves come out because Mickie's elbow is bleeding.

Mickie goes for the DDT, but it is predictably countered.  Disarm-her but no luck.  Becky gets the quick pin.

Your winner: Becky Lynch

That's a mistake in my opinion.  Way to kill some of Mickie's potential heel momentum.  To make matters worse, they didn't even let Mickie do a post-match attack to regain some heat.


Updated @ 8:11 pm

Match 1: Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch:

This one starts off the show.  Not a bad decision.  A face that the crowd cares about and a heel that the crowd cares about.

Personally, I'm all about Mickie James, but if they're going the heel route here with her, they need to give her some new entrance music -- something less happy-go-lucky.

Long collar-and-elbow tie-up there.  That'll sometimes happen in matches, which looks more fake than realistic in my opinion.

They get into the action nicely though with some nice exchanges that eventually ends up with Mickie on the outside.

Then the Network goes out on me and I miss about a minute of the match.


Updated @ 7:55 pm

Mojo Rawley vs Curtis Hawkins:

Not a bad match, but unfortunately it served to push Mojo Rawley as opposed to giving the more talented Curtis Hawkins any shine.

Awkward moment there when Hawkins went to throw Mojo into the barricade, but that pesky camera crew was in the way -- so the veteran, Hawkins, throws Mojo into the ringside apron instead.  Mojo didn't seem to catch onto that until after it happened though.

Mojo's finisher is pretty good.  I'll give him that.


I figured, now that I'm an official WWE Network subscriber, I'd give a shot at providing some real-time notes on Elimination Chamber tonight.

With any WWE pay-per-view (they're still calling them pay-per-views, right??), you've got to start with some predictions.

Disclaimer: it's been something like 13 years since I last predicted winners of a WWE pay-per-view.
2nd Disclaimer: I haven't seen a full episode of Smackdown leading up to Elimination Chamber. I've scanned the results of each Smackdown Live! episode and watched a few highlights on or YouTube, but I haven't actually watched an episode.

So ... with that being said, we'll give these predictions a shot:

Pre-Show Match: Curt Hawkins vs. Mojo Rawley

Mojo Rawley is going over here, no doubt. They seem to be making his character a little more serious after Zack Ryder's injury. A new direction for Mojo means they're going to want to keep his momentum going.

 He made an appearance in the Rumble, but he didn't make a memorable impact there, so I've got to think WWE officials will give him the win here. Plus, his opponent is Curt Hawkins. How many appearances has that man even made since returning to WWE?

That's not a knock on Hawkins, by the way. It's a knock on WWE. He's a good wrestler. While many Superstars are flourishing on Smackdown, Hawkins isn't one of them. I'm afraid he'll be an eternal jobber while in WWE.

Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch

I'm not sure which match will start off the show. My guess is Mickie vs. Becky, Alexa vs. Naomi or the tag turmoil match. Looking at past pay-per-views, WWE likes to start them off with tag team turmoil matches. But, this is a Smackdown pay-per-view in the New Era and they like to do things a little differently.

Regardless of where they are at on the show, I think Mickie vs. Becky could be one of the more memorable matches on the card and the best of the three women's singles matches on this pay-per-view card (a first for WWE!). It'll be the first time the two have worked together and hopefully not the last.

Mickie proved, beyond any doubt, that she never lost it during her match with Asuka in November. Anyone who watched her matches with Impact Wrestling should've known that, though. She was really hitting her stride when she left that company a few years ago.

So who gets the win? Mickie should get the win. She's the one who needs the win. Becky lost her Women's Title a while ago, yes, but she hasn't lost much of her standing in the women's division. She's still the most over babyface (sorry, Naomi) in the division and she was booked strong in her rematches against Alexa. In fact, it was only after interference from Mickie that Becky ended up losing that steel cage match.

If this were WWE of old (or even a Raw pay-per-view), I'd go with the babyface because it would be the expected result. This would be the end of the Mickie James/Becky Lynch feud. This would be where Becky gets her revenge.

Thankfully it's a Smackdown pay-per-view, though. That means Mickie gets the win, their feud continues on to Wrestlemania (probably in a tag match or multi-woman Title match) and Becky's big feud-ending victory comes later this Spring.

WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: American Alpha (Champions) vs. The Usos vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango vs. The Ascension vs. The Vaudevillains

I was a little torn on this one. There were two possible teams I figured could come out on top here.

First, though, let's rule out the ones who won't be winning. Heath Slater and Rhyno have made a decent run considering they started off as a very thrown-together tag team without any reason to team or tag chemistry. I don't see them becoming the first ever two-time Smackdown Tag Team champions though.

Tyler Breeze and Fandango? Nope. Haven't been used as serious tag team since they paired together.

The Ascension still has potential but I don't see WWE doing anything big with them here.

The Vaudevillains could be really good as well. While they probably have a better shot than The Ascension, they're in the same boat of NXT call-ups that didn't work as well in WWE as they did in NXT.

So it really comes down to American Alpha, who won their silver-plated, blue belts on the Dec. 27, 2016 edition of Smackdown, and the heel Usos. Given that the Usos haven't had a heel run with the belts, I wouldn't be shocked to see them win. I think WWE will probably hold off on a heel push for them until after Wrestlemania though. I would think maybe end of April or mid-May for those two.

That leaves American Alpha walking away as the retaining champions. In some ways, I'd probably prefer an Usos win because it would be more fun to watch American Alpha chasing The Usos to regain their titles.

American Alpha is one of those teams that works better as babyface who are trying to capture the championships than the team that is defending the titles as the top tag team in the division.

Nikki Bella vs. Natalya

Ugh. This feud. It'll be the end of it (I hope!) (and thankfully!), which means Nikki Bella goes over the more talented Natalya. Given the rumors that Nikki may be taking some time off due to her neck and then working more of a part-time schedule down the road, Natalya should be the one who wins.

It would make more sense, in my opinion, to give Natalya the victory since she'll be sticking around longer. Plus, she's been shining in this feud. She has finally been doing some good mic work and she's the only who brought any believability to the feud.

 I respect that Nikki Bella became a better worker during her second WWE run, but she does not rise to the level of any of the other women.

With Eva Marie absent and Maryse in a managerial role, Nikki Bella is the weakest link of the division. She'll go over in this feud, though.

Apollo Crews and Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler

I'm not sure how this match came about, honestly. Like I said in my disclaimer above, I haven't seen Smackdown (no cable TV subscription or Hulu subscription). I do scan results each week and read columns over at Lords of Pain, but I don't recall much setting this match up.

Without knowing too much of the history here (if there is one), I'm predicting a Crews/Kalisto victory

Dolph had his heel turn, so it would make sense to give him the win and extend a feud to some kind of Wrestlemania showdown, but I feel like WWE has more interest in the mode of pushing Kalisto as the next Rey Mysterio than they do in giving Dolph a legitimate push to main event status. Then again, maybe we have a Crews heel turn?

That'd serve both he and Dolph well.

Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton

Well this one seems like a no-brainer. I know that I've been touting how unpredictable Smackdown's pay-per-views have been compared to standard WWE booking, but Randy Orton just won the Royal Rumble. He is a big name, main-eventer. He's not losing to Luke Harper.

I see Orton winning and taking Luke Harper out of the Wyatt Family picture.

I hope this match is unexpectedly good though. I like Luke Harper, so, despite a loss, I'm hoping a surprisingly good match will increase his value in the company rather than writing him off to low-card or jobber status.

WWE Smackdown Women's Title Match: Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Naomi

I'm not as invested into this feud as I should be, but this seems to be more of WWE's typical booking rather than the innovative Smackdown booking that has been a pleasure to watch over the past several months. It seems like a throwaway title feud rather than a rivalry that actually means something.

WWE went the route of giving Naomi several victories over the past few weeks, to build her up I guess, but it seems like a rush job instead of a slow and steady build. I have zero doubt that Alexa Bliss will retain in this match, but I was hoping for a more exciting lead-in to the match.

Naomi could very well win the Women's Title in Orlando if WWE wants to go with giving the hometown girl a hometown pop (I don't see that happening either, honestly), but not at Elimination Chamber. It's only a filler feud at this point, but I'd hoped WWE would've been a little more creative than just giving Naomi the upper hand the entire way through it.

Nonetheless, it should be a good match. Alexa and Naomi had a great match on Main Event back in November, before Naomi got injured. With Naomi's athleticism and Alexa getting more and more comfortable performing on the main roster, it should be a good outing for both women.

WWE World Heavyweight Title Elimination Chamber Match: John Cena (Champion) vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose vs. A.J. Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. The Miz

As much as I didn't want John Cena to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title again, I figured it'd happen. WWE wasn't going to NOT have John Cena tie Ric Flair as having the most world title reigns in history.

As much as I hoped WWE would've let A.J. Styles retain at the Rumble, I'm glad Styles and Cena had a great match before he lost it. Styles was elevated in that match (despite the fact that he lost) by having a superb outing in a big time match in front of a large crowd. That bodes well for his future booking while in WWE.

In terms of the Elimination Chamber match, I'm excited to see these 6 guys get creative.

The winner? Well, there's no way that newcomer Corbin wins. Maybe next year, but not this year.

The Miz has had an incredible year, but he's not walking out as WWE Champion. He'd be my choice if WWE was going for shock factor because nobody would really be expecting it.

Dean Ambrose has the Intercontinental Title after coming out on the losing end of a title feud with A.J. Styles last year. They're not going to make him a double champion going into Wrestlemania.

That leaves A.J. reclaiming his gold, John Cena retaining it, or Bray Wyatt capturing it for the first time.

I had trouble deciding which one has the best chance of winning.

Styles becoming the first ever two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion (since WWE's brand split) would show that he's a big-time player. Winning it again so soon after losing it would be reminiscent of the Charlotte-Sasha Banks feud over on Raw, but I don't think it's a bad way to go.

Rumors are that Cena is going to have more of a mid-card match at 'Mania (but those are just rumors on wrestling websites).

Bray Wyatt is apparently supposed to face Randy Orton at Wrestlemania, but is that a big enough match at Wrestlemania for the WWE World Heavyweight Title? The fact that the Title would be on the line would add a little bit more of a 'big time' feel to a match between Wyatt and Orton.

But does Wyatt, after not getting pushed for ages, really end up retaining one of WWE's most prestigious championships at their biggest event of the year? It seems unlikely to me. On the other hand, would Orton win ... just a month after Wyatt won it ... just a couple of weeks after Cena won it? That also seems unlikely to me.

I think it'd be a better story if Bray Wyatt lost the match and then tried to convince Orton to give up his number one contendership --- which Orton would refuse to do --- setting up a more intense rivalry for 'Mania.

I think the better way to go would be a multi-man match with John Cena going in as champion. It's not my preference, but given the alternatives, it is probably the best option. Therefore, I see Cena retaining in this match.

Be sure to check back later tonight for live, updated commentary on Elimination Chamber.

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