Wrestlemania 33 Review (Spoiler Free)

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Movies, Video Games, Theatre…and now wrestling.  Or could it fall into the category of Theatre?  Either way, here’s my spoiler free review of both the Wrestlemania Pre-Show and the main show itself:

1. Neville vs Austin Aries for the WWE Cruiserweight Title:

This was a good match – I would have preferred it on the main card, but chances are, not enough people are watching 205 Live, and I can understand that…but you should, because it’s starting to get better.  They put on a 19 minute match that would have made an excellent TV Main Event, and Austin Aries even pulls out an old favourite from his past repertoire.  ***3/4

2. The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

This was the first chaotic match of the night and is effectively the equivalent of the opening match Battle Royal that New Japan has at Wrestling Kingdom on January 4th, only here there’s a big gold trophy that resembles Fezzik from The Princess Bride at the end.  The match had many wrestlers worthy of their own matches on the card, including the Smackdown Tag Team Champions the Usos, American Alpha, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn and Luke Harper.  It also features the Wrestlemania debut of the Northern Irish Wrestler Killian Dain, who is currently being built as a monster heel in NXT as part of the stable Sanity, as well as the Wrestlemania debut of the 22 year old Rookie from China, Tian Bing.  The winner made me go “huh?  Really?”  But in general, it exists to get folk on the show and give them a bonus in their pay-checks.  *

3. Dean Ambrose vs Baron Corbin for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Once again this felt like an okay TV Match between the 2, with some good moves executed by both men.  Little stood out, but hey, the IC Belt was defended at Wrestlemania.  **1/4

Now onto the Main Show:

The New Day are hosting.  Last year they came out dressed as Dragonball Z Characters and this year their theme was Final Fantasy (Because they’re nerds and this show is sponsored by Final Fantasy 14) – they did a good job in getting he crowd wakened up again.

4. AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon

What an excellent way to open the show!  And what a great way to show off what Shane has learned from 1 of the newest hobbies; MMA.  This match comes across as AJ Styles showing us why he should have been much further up the card and in the WWE Title match between Orton and Wyatt.  After his lack of direction in his final years in TNA Wrestling and his renaissance in New Japan Pro Wrestling followed by his WWE Debut last year (1 of the best 1st years WWE has had since Kurt Angle), it’s safe to say that Styles has a lot that he still wants to prove, and why not prove it by putting on the match of the night against the son of your boss, who is 46 years old and still a bit mental.  The match was just over 20 minutes, but it deserved each 1.  The spots were excellent, and included some very pleasant surprises.  Thoroughly enjoyed it.  ****1/4

5. Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho for the WWE United States Championship

This is 1 of those matches that doesn’t stand quite as well without its story beforehand.  Throughout 2016 and up to this point, Chris Jericho (who, like Shane McMahon, is also 46) has had an excellent year which includes some good 4-star matches to his already legendary name.  Throughout this time he wrestled more often as part of a tag team. His partner?  The then WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens.  Kevin Owens is 32, and when he was growing up, 1 of his favourite wrestlers was Chris Jericho.  Their duo was easily the most entertaining part of RAW for most of the year.  During which, Jericho captured the US Championship from Roman Reigns with the help of Owens in a Handicap match.  Then Jericho goes too far with the absolutely fabulous segment known as “The Festival Of Friendship”, where Jericho expresses to Owens his undying bromance with his favourite guy in the whole world…Only for Owens to turn on him like a fan who sees his Hero become something he hates (Think “The Incredibles”).  Later on, Jericho interferes with Owens’ match against Goldberg at WWE Fastlane, leading to Owens losing his title in 22 seconds and pressing on to this match.  It was a classic Hero vs Fan story on paper, and while it was a good match in itself, it was like watching a good main event on RAW.  ***1/2

6. Bayley vs Charlotte vs Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks for the WWE Raw Women’s Title

This match was under Elimination rules and ended up being well told.  You don’t have to guess who the faces and heels are in this match, and in terms of eliminations, much of the booking made a lot of sense.  It also has some pretty pleasant surprises.  Though it was just under 13 minutes long, the match felt short, which is what happens when you remember them wrestling for 20 to 30 minutes on NXT back in 2015.  I enjoyed it, but I felt it could have lasted 5 more minutes to make it that extra bit special.  ***3/4

7. Big Cass and Enzo Amore vs Cesaro and Sheamus vs The Club vs ??? in a Fatal Four Way Ladder Match for the WWE RAW Tag Team Title

New Day came out after everybody entered the ring to announce that this match went from a 3-way tag to a 4 way at the last minute – and oh how excellent that was!  A particular team of legend returned, and the crowd went absolutely nuts!  The match itself was excellent fun, but also about 5-10 minutes too short.  It was an action movie of a match with few pauses and something going on all the time.  The secret team haven’t missed a beat, and the new chants they created on the Indies rang throughout the arena. Really enjoyed this, and definitely woke me up after the last 2 matches didn’t rank with AJ/Shane.  ****

8. John Cena and Nikki Bella vs The Miz and Maryse in a mixed tag match.

The only people who would get anything out of this match are people who watch Total Divas.  However it wasn’t a bad match for what it is.  The Miz was actually very over with the crowd – but within the context that John Cena is used to having “Cena Sucks” chants, while The Miz has actually gotten really, really good over the last year.  You would think he finally hit his prime at 36, that’s how much of a smack it was.  Kind of surreal.  It was all very usual, and the post-match was a very sweet moment.  *1/2

9. Seth Rollins vs Triple H w/Stephanie McMahon in a Non-Sanctioned Match

At Summerslam 2002, Triple H wrestled this style of match against a then uncertain-if-he-wants-to-return-to-wrestling Shawn Michaels in what was a show stealing match that amazed fans who saw it either live or the next day.  However, the circumstances between this match and that 1 are quite different.  While Michaels was contemplating on returning after being out with a back injury from 4 years prior – Seth Rollins was only just about cleared to wrestle this match after an in-ring accident with the then-debuting Samoa Joe accidentally aggravated the very knee that not only put him out of action for 6 months, but also stripped him of the WWE Title, his match at Wrestlemania 32, and put him out for 2 months this year.  Desperate to make it happen, they turned this into a Non-Sanctioned match, and since it was a grunge match involving the Boss of NXT vs the 1st NXT Champion (who he built up to be a star and eventual WWE Champion), it seemingly wrote itself.  It was very story-driven with Rollins relegating his most dangerous moves to spots and even selling the knee during pivotal moments.  While the match went on for 25 minutes (Which, to be fair, could have been shorter and given to the 2 matches before this), it was still well done despite Rollins actually being in questionable condition.  Triple H was in excellent shape for 47 – like a bald, big-bearded version of his 2002 self and slowly turning into the Heihachi Mishima of WWE…or Kratos today.  It’s clear that at 100%, Rollins would have hit this match out of the park and put on at least 4.25 stars- but he did well despite his setbacks.  ***3/4

10. Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt for the WWE Title

10. It’s hard to believe that once again the WWE Title isn’t the last match on the card – but when you consider who’s in the match, you can almost understand.  After 3 years of waiting, Bray Wyatt finally won his first WWE Championship back in February when he defeated 5 other wrestlers in the Elimination Chamber match, including AJ Styles, John Cena and Dean Ambrose.  At the Royal Rumble, Randy Orton defeated 29 other wrestlers to become the number 1 contender for any world title when he eliminated Roman Reigns last.  They had a story of “will he or won’t he” since Orton was part of the Wyatt Family when they were both scheduled to face other at this event.  But eventually they did when Orton burned down the house of Wyatt’s unseen mentor Sister Abigail.  The match was… good…boring, but good, if not a bit short (10 minutes).  There was some gimmick-nonsense involving huge, blown-up videos of maggots, worms and cockroaches appearing on the ring’s mat in order to “psychologically disturb Orton because Bray’s a psycho” – but other than that quite typical, but also quite anti-climatic.  ***

11. Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) vs Bill Goldberg for the WWE Universal Title

People were actually scared of this match, or at least they weren’t necessarily looking forward to it…because this is their third match…and anybody who witnessed the other 2 can tell you a lot about what was going through their heads before either man stepped into the ring.  Their 1st match was at Wrestlemania 20 in 2004 – both men were leaving the company, the crowd didn’t get into the match, and it ended up being a 14 minute pile of dull, and more dull.  It was by far the most disappointing match, possibly in Wrestlemania history.  Fast forward to today, and Paul Heyman actually told a fantastic story about this feud.  That Goldberg is the heroic Knight, and Brock Lesnar is the beast he had to slay.  After the Knight beat the monster, he rode off into the sunset.  But the beast didn’t…instead the beast went to UFC and became an even more dangerous wrestler than ever before.  The Knight then returned after 12 years away, and showed the Beast that he “still had it in him”, by beating the Beast just over 1 minute.  Now it’s the third match.  This…is the best possible Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg match.  By far!  It lasted less than 5 minutes…and that’s exactly what it it needed to be.  The 50 year old Goldberg doesn’t do military slams anymore – it’s all about the spear and the Jackhammer.  Brock Lesnar is almost entirely about 2 things – german suplexes and F-5s…and that’s all they did…and it worked!  It was the best match they could have ever had against each other – no real rest holds, just 2 guys trying to get the pin early.  It was the match they should have had 13 years ago, but that’s okay.  They did it.  It’s settled.  We can now say they had a decent match.  Not quite Shibata vs Ishii.  But still good.  ***

12. The WWE Smackdown Women’s Title Six Pack Challenge, featuring Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Mickie James, Naomi and Natalya

This was the second chaotic match on the card, and despite to its position, it doesn’t mean it’s as highly ranked as the 2 world titles – instead it’s a bathroom break before the main event.  There was little to no structure in this match when compared to the RAW Women’s title earlier on, and the only memorable thing about it was probably the winner.  DUD

13. Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker.

This didn’t feel like it lasted 23 minutes…or at least I don’t think so, as I was running on yoghurt, bread, cheese and lots of water (forgot to buy energy drinks before the show and kettles are noisy at 5AM in a full house) – but anyway, here we are again, the 3rd Wrestlemania in a row were Roman Reigns is in the main event.  First he challenged for the WWE title, then he challenged for the WWE title again, and now he’s going after the unofficial wrestlemania title – which is to say that you had a match against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  Undertaker looked almost like his old self again with his hair all long and everything dyed black for the evening.  While he’s in vastly better shape compared to 3 years ago, it’s clear that age and injuries caught up on him long ago and it’s all borrowed time from here.  Either way, he managed to have quite a good match against Roman Reigns.  It was nowhere near the calibre of his matches against Triple H, Shawn Michaels or CM Punk – but it was still a fair match, despite its predictability.  The crowd was incredibly hostile towards Roman, and there was even a sign that said “Roman Reigns Is A Holocaust Denier”…I’m guessing some of us are trying to top the Wank-Pheasant sign this year.  The post-match was also incredibly memorable.  If you’re not sure about the match, at least watch what happened afterwards.  ***

In conclusion it was a good show.  The best matches were very good but not absolute classics.  A majority of them were above average and on par with good TV matches.  Some of them really brought my overall score down, whether it’s because they’re too short or boring or pointless or predictable in a bad taste sort of way.  The surprise entrants for the RAW Tag titles was the best part, Shane vs AJ was the best match, and compared to other Wrestlemanias, to say the least there have been much, much worse…more matches than a factory-full here.

Overall: **3/4








WWE 2K16 (2015) Video Game Review

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For this review, I’ll be touching on a hobby that I hint at, and even discuss among people who get it, and also people who don’t.  Today, I’ll be talking about professional wrestling, a.k.a the male soap opera, a.k.a Live-Action Martial Arts Movies at Disneyland, a.k.a. Mr Universe Bikini Circus  a.k.a. stories told through pre-determined exhibitions of athleticism.  More specifically, I’ll be talking about a Professional Wrestling Video Game, and at the moment, possibly the only wrestling game that actually comes out every year.  Much like FIFA, NHL, NBA, and every other EA Sports/2K Sports game, some wrestling games will always be remembered, while others will either be forgotten or looked back on with a bitter aftertaste.  So a new question arises; Has the WWE put out a good wrestling game this year?  Lets find out.

This year we’ve been presented with some excellent features; first, we have the largest roster that the series has ever produced (at least 120 wrestlers), and features quite a fun selection of current wrestlers from both the main roster and WWE’s farm show NXT (which is actually their own “Indy Wrestling Show”) as well as a combination of legends and other wrestlers from days long gone (with many, sadly, no longer here).  It also features quite possibly the best non-wrestler to appear in a while, as Arnold Schwarzeneggar provided his likeness as part of a business deal between the makers of Terminator Genisys and WWE.  So we get The Terminator from both the 1st and 2nd film in the game.    However, even within the context of being up-to-date, there are some very big problems that fans will point out.  The most obvious being that the Four Horsewomen of Wrestling (Sasha, Charlotte, Becky and Bayley) are not included, even though they had been putting on the best women’s wrestling matches since the All Japan Women’s Wrestling boom in the ’90s and the TNA Knockout Division in the late 2000s…and yet Eva Marie (1 of WWE’s answers to the Kardashians, and is a reality TV star before she is a wrestler) is in the game.  To smark wrestling fans who look past the facade, this kind of decision is rather infuriating.

Next we have the 2k Showcase, which is a type of Story Mode, and this year the main focus is on 6-time former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.  We’re given the opportunity to recreate/relive/rewrite some of his most memorable matches, which includes his trilogy with Bret Hart, and 5 out of the 6 matches were he won the World Title, because unfortunately Kurt Angle isn’t in this game.  Is 2K Showcase great?  No, but it’s still very good.  The lack of Mike Tyson, Owen Hart, Kurt Angle and (obviously, but understandable) Chris Benoit doesn’t help in its attempted authenticity.  At the same time, the fact that they’ve thrown in some key matches from outside of his WWE career was pretty cool, such as “Stunning” Steve Austin vs Ricky Steamboat in WCW and “Superstar” Steve Austin vs ECW Champion Mikey Whipwreck at ECW’s November To Remember PPV (1 of only 2 matches that Austin wrestled in the company).

Another feature, which is only available on the PS4 and XBONE is the MyCareer mode, which focuses on a wrestler you create, and the journey you take as this wrestler, starting at an abysmal Overall rating of 60 and working your way up to entering the Hall Of Fame and possibly being at least 95 Overall (where you receive a trophy/achievement/digital can of coke).  This part of the game is very close to the sort of thing I’ve always wanted.  It’s flawed, with some (very) annoying voice acting, and 1 of the main goals has a “What the…” quality to it…It’s 1 thing to hold a title for over a year, or be a 3 time WWE champion or hold every title available…but lose every match for 3 years?  That’s brutal!  (I know, because I’ve done it.).  Also, while we’re still on subject about voice acting – the commentary is still awful, and is closer to propaganda/brainwashing than actually telling a story…I miss the days when they just played techno-metal instrumentals and promos were done with subtitles only.

Lastly we have WWE Universe mode, which is effectively “playing the show”.  You can choose to wrestle in any match on the card, change up the rosters, and make all of the decisions in the directions of rivalries, character personalities and whether you injure someone.  There is no manager mode however.

Now onto the technical aspects of the game:  Graphics-wise, WWE games have not been anything special for well over 10 years.  Every time we talk about its graphics, it will always be compared to other games from the same time period or earlier.  WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role looked good until you saw Tekken 3.  WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2006 looked good until you saw Final Fantasy 12.  And WWE ’13 looked good until you realised how little had changed in the last 5 years.  2K16, even on the PS4 is no exception.  It isn’t even as good as Grand Theft Auto 5…for the PS3.  But this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s the best looking WWE game to date (on current gen consoles, of course).

The music in the game is a major downfall this year, as you’re no longer able to customise it to your heart’s content.  This doesn’t mean you can’t take out songs from your jukebox, but it also means that if you were hoping to have The Undertaker come out to For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica, recreate CM Punk and have him come out to Living Colour’s Cult Of Personality again, or in my case, come out to Link Wray’s Rumble while carrying a glass of wine, guitar case full of weapons and Samurai Sword, then you’ll be very sorely disappointed.  On top of that, the main menu soundtrack can’t be used as entrance themes.  So any Hardcore Philly fan looking to recreate former CZW Champion John Zandig (who came out to Youth Gone Wild by Skid Row) will have to stick to some other theme.

The gameplay…As far as in-ring action is concerned, the gameplay is very expansive, and while WWE Smackdown Here Comes To Pain is the prime example of WWE games being more arcade in style, This game is 1 of the best at emulating a realistic style.  1 that looks and feels more like a WWE or old NWA match and less like a badly booked indy match that is nothing but spots (Parts of the match that work brilliantly when you only see a maximum of 5 in 1 match, rather than using them for every move).  Is this perfect?  Nah, it’s got some bugs here and there.  But it’s still quite a strong experience.

Now lets talk about customisation.  I love this part of video games, and WWE have usually delivered in this department.  So what’s it like this year?  Yes, there are some options that are officially gone, custom theme music is gone, and create a finisher is gone (though they thankfully gave us a proper Butterfly Pile-driver, a brain-buster to the knee, and Kota Ibushi’s package fallaway power-bomb, and other moves that look dangerous rather than too safe, so it’s harder to complain about this).  But this year, we can now add our own designs and faces to our create-a-wrestler (a feature that I remember seeing in Triple Play baseball 2001).  The feature were you use a photo of your face and add it to your main character was a pleasant surprise, but I did spend hours perfecting it, as many attempts looked too much like Victorian Era plastic surgery.

Would I recommend WWE 2K16?  If you’re a Wrestling Fan and someone who buys these games when told that it’s better than last year, then I’ll say “Yes, go for it”, as it’s a good addition to the series.  It’s far from perfect, but it’s a vast improvement over last year’s game (which I never played, but after seeing videos and experiencing hearsay, I decided to put that money towards something better).  And if my predictions are correct, 2K17 will probably be the best WWE game for this generation’s consoles.  We can wait and see.  But until then, it’s worth checking out when it’s £20-£30 or less on PS4 or XBONE…But beware; they reserve some of the best features for DLC…Like Tatsumi Fujinami, Curt Hennig and the ability to make wrestler attributes more realistic…It has a £20 price tag via Season Pass, so get this game as cheaply as possible…and before it’s made redundant by next Halloween.

Graphics: ***1/2

Music: ***1/4

Gameplay: ****1/4

Options: ****

Customisation: **** (despite lack of outsider music)

Roster: **** (despite lack of 4 Horsewomen)

Voice Acting: * (Really annoying, cheesy and generic.)

Overall: ***1/2

Guardians Of The Galaxy Movie Review

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As somebody who enjoys comics but still has a vast landscape to explore (for better or worse), I didn’t hear about the name Guardians Of The Galaxy until shortly after Iron Man 3, when I asked myself “What’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe going to do next?”.  So I had a look at the phases of production that they were listing; at that time I had Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier to look forward to, as well as this other film called Guardians Of The Galaxy.  So I did a little bit of research, and made sure I bought at least 1 comic on the group.  To say the least, the concept of a trigger-happy Space Racoon in cinema was very attractive.  Then I saw the trailer.  Not only did it look like a fun film directed by James Gunn (who also made Super, Slither and wrote the wonderfully bizarre story of the video game Lollipop Chainsaw), but also reminded me how much I love the song “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede.

Our film begins in the year 1988, where 1 of our heroes, Peter “Starlord” Quill (played by a 60lb lighter Chris Pratt when it grows up), experiences easily the most life-changing day of his entire life.  Not only does his mother pass away in a haunting fashion, but he gets abducted by aliens as well.  Fast-forward 26 years later, the 30-something Quill is now a very skilled and active “Junker”, somebody who collects things and then sells them to dealers who are willing to buy them.  In an almost Guy Ritchie/Lock Stock/Snatch fashion, an item he finds and then tries to sell, just so happens to be something that a powerful being, Ronan The Accuser (Played by Lee Pace, Legolas’ Dad in The Hobbit), is looking for.  Ronan sends the adopted daughter of Thanos (that purple guy in the post-credits ending of The Avengers), Gamora (Played by Zoe Saldana in her green phase, after doing a blue phase 5 years ago), to get this item off Quill and take it to Ronan.  At the exact same time, 2 bounty hunters named Rocket Racoon (Voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel) notice Peter Quill has an enormous bounty on his head, and try to capture him in a giant bag.  What is the end result of this massive fight between a Junker, a green Assassin that Captain Kirk would adore, a space Ent and a Lab Racoon?  They all go to jail, where they end up meeting an inmate named Drax The Destroyer (Played by former WWE Heavyweight Champion Dave Bautista), and from here our story can truly begin.

If you were to compare Guardians Of The Galaxy to the other major group-related Marvel movie, The Avengers, it could easily be pointed out that this film was already at a disadvantage with its audience before it even began.  Lets put this into context; when the Avengers came out, we already knew who these characters were from previous films.  Those who saw Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor and…Ed Norton’s Incredible Hulk, knew who these characters were and therefore we enjoyed the on-screen chemistry to a much greater extent.  With Guardians Of The Galaxy however, the previous knowledge of these characters was narrowed down to those who really know their comic books and those who watch the Avengers Assemble cartoon on the Disney Channel, where they appear in a handful of episodes…plenty of exposure.  So despite this, how does the film hold up?

To put it nicely, this film was an insane amount of fun.  The type of fun you would expect from Michael Bay films after seeing the trailer, but don’t receive when Michael Bay soaks your £5 note in toilet water.  The type of fun Family Guy was between seasons 3 and 6.  The type of fun that Persona 3 & 4 are after each new playthrough.  The type of fun that would involve eating dinner with Robert Downey Jr, Marlon Brando and Lawrence Olivier.  Does this movie have low points?  Indeed it does, if it didn’t there wouldn’t be any change, growth and challenge, and each character has their own tragedy.  The humour is also fantastic with each character possessing a different role; Peter Quill is very much a Hans Solo character, adventurous, rebellious, a bit of a womaniser, an outcast and a clown, who likes listening to music from the ’60s and ’70s, even in situations that would probably require caution.  Gamora is the most serious member of the group, the “straight-woman” so to speak.  Drax is hilarious because he’s oblivious to humour.  Groot is the nicest member, who may not say much outside of introducing himself, but his body language and actions suggest a gentle giant with some pretty awesome powers.  And Rocket Racoon is definitely “The Crazy 1”, making him the exact opposite of Gamora.

The soundtrack is really good, as James Gunn once again features Cherry Bomb by The Runaways (after featuring it in Lollipop Chainsaw) along with other tracks by the likes of 10CC, David Bowie, Redbone, Raspberries, and of course, Blue Swede, among others.  The CGI is phenomenal and beautiful – to the point that I might look at getting the art book sometime soon.  The acting was excellent, and that includes Dave Bautista.  His transition from wrestler to actor actually surprised me, considering I’ve seen The Man With The Iron Fists, and his return to the WWE this year was a case of “wrong place, wrong time”, leading to a classic simpsons joke being the inspiration to the now memorable chant “Bootista”.  Also, for those who heard that Nathan Fillion is in this film in some fashion…I’ll let you look for him.

The story itself is fast but well paced, well developed, and leaves a lot of room for a sequel.  There wasn’t a dull moment and it’s full of surprises.  And considering The Avengers had the advantage of having prequels for most of their members, I thought they did an excellent job with the main characters, and they’re likeable enough for us to want more, while at the same time being strong enough in this film alone.  Well worth my money and I look forward to future appearances from this group.

Overall Rating: ***** out of 5