January 23, 2012

Spare Change Newsletter: The Strong and the Mid-week

Greetings all fabulous ones,

So, where were we? Oh yeah, wrestling.

We here at SCW Canada have been busily preparing for another Roster Madness program in anticipation of this year's Royal Rumble, which we plan to air this Saturday. In the meantime, some notes have piled up that should be addressed sooner rather than later. It's a mess around here.

It was the 100th episode of NXT this week, so it's as good a time as any to do a little recap of what NXT has offered us in the past and what it's got going for it now. For the first 4 seasons, it was a contest between 6-8 young talents. They had opportunities to wrestle, cut promos, and build their characters in front of the huge WWE audiences. As the seasons progressed, it became plain that it didn't really matter who won the contest, as some NXT winners went virtually nowhere in their WWE careers, and some NXT losers ended up on the fast track to PPV matches.
The current season of NXT started much as the others did, with promo contests, physical challenges, wrestling matches, and eliminations. However, as the season progressed, the format faded away, as there seemed to be no interest in continuing to tally points, or even declare a winner at all. More and more time on the show went to low card talent, usually seen on Superstars (or jobbing on Raw or Smackdown) so that they could develop feuds and storylines amongst each other. This has been the state of the show for the past 7 months. The 3 remaining contestants have each gone through a plentitude of character development, feuding amongst themselves as well as with other rookies and more established WWE personalities. It's developed into a Raw/Smackdown like show, with each member of the limited roster benefiting from being able to develop their character on a weekly basis.
What I like about the show is its air of levity, and willingness to try new things, even if they seem stupid. Sometimes they fall flat, as in the kidnapping of Hornswoggle, but other times the talent makes it work, as in the love triangle angle which came to a head this past week. There's often an undercurrent of humor in the show, which is an atmosphere heavily bolstered by William Regal's screwball commentary, but it remains dedicated to the craft of pro wrestling, with a much greater emphasis on in-ring work and promo ability than in previous seasons.
And with that, I'm done putting NXT over for the moment. This weeks episode featured 3 wrestling matches, one of which was between 2 contestants, and it was terrible. Afterward, one of them got on the mic and delivered the worst heel turn promo I've ever heard. Michael Cole, (temporarily taking Regal's place) couldn't keep his mouth shut about it. Skip to 2:45 in this video to hear what I'm talking about.

I usually hate it when he buries talent, but in this case it really cracked me up. If you feel sympathetic to Titus O'Neal, just go back and watch the whole thing. He got off pretty easy, considering.
The episode ended with an in-ring wedding, which I explained to Alice is a lot like an in-ring contract signing. I mention this because I know you like Matt Striker, who attempted to perform the ceremony while in character as a particularly unconvincing Elvis impersonator. Cole was all over him as well, which was also funny and well deserved. This is that "air of levity" I was talking about. Anyway, drama drama drama and the episode ends with a gross make-out session. It was good corny storytelling and I liked it.

On Superstars, Natalya and Tamina redeemed the divas division with a solid, if short match. After last weeks debacle between Kelly Kelly and a Bella, the real female wrestlers needed to gain some face, so good job ladies.

Like you, I didn't watch the ROH show this week, because I don't care about watching highlights from an hour and a half long tag team battle royal or whatever it was. The whole thing I would watch, but not a cut up version for TV. I did hear, though, that Chikara invaded an ROH house show, and I'd love it if that was integrated into the weekly program. From what little I've seen from Chikara, they seem to be everything ROH isn't, which is colorful characters and long, thoughtfully constructed storylines and feuds. I like ROH, but it is sorely lacking on those fronts.

Impact pushed their luck this week with another decent program. At no point during this episode did I say "Well that's fucking stupid." That's not to say it was great, it just didn't suck. Maybe TNA's plan was to make their show so bad for so long, that when they started turning out a mediocre product it would look good. Or maybe I've just been watching so long I don't notice how lousy it is. That's a scary thought.
Anyhoo, Mickie James and Madison Rayne stole the show (as they're known to do) with a really good steel cage match. It reminded me of that stellar cage match James and Tara had last year, and while it wasn't at that level, it was still a very strong showing by both wrestlers.
Alex Shelley challenged Austin Aries for his title, which could inject some life into the X-Division, which has become stagnant due to lack of competitors.
Angelina Love called out Eric Young for some reason, which resulted in a brawl between her and EY's main squeeze ODB, who's now a babyface by association, the brawl also involving Winter and Eric Young. It's a touchy subject to have males and females wrestling or fighting each other, but Young very deftly avoided being physical with the ladies, and made the whole thing funny and fun to watch.
The main event saw James Storm and Jeff Hardy wrestling for a title shot, which was interrupted by Bully Ray, and by the end of the episode Sting and Bobby Roode were involved in the melee as well. Always nice to have a crowded field around the title.

I'm gonna start my Smackdown review by saying that I like the gimmick wheel of fortune, but I'm glad it's only used once or twice a year. And here's some trivia: The last time WWE was in Vegas was when CM Punk cut his infamous work shoot promo. Lucky bastards in Vegas!
The show kicked off with Daniel Bryan further developing his heelish persona with an understated, but fantastic promo. I was surprised when he wrapped it up, because the whole time I was expecting an interruption by either Big Show or Mark Henry. The commentators were kind of funny after this, because Cole has always antagonized Bryan, but he typically backs the heels, while Booker T loves his boy D Bryan, but is usually more in favor of the babyfaces. They were each babbling after the promo, trying to justify their past opinions while acknowledging that things have changed.
The first match of the night was cool - Cody Rhodes and Justin Gabriel. The Capetown Werewolf even got some mic time, which wasn't a bad idea. I would look forward to it if they had a feud for the Intercontinental title.
Epico and Primo (who should have a tag team name NOT voted on by the WWE universe) had a cool match with the Usos in what I thought was the best stipulation of the night, being that they were all in the ring at the same time.
Then, another Brodus Clay squash! Only this time, it isn't a wrestling match... This segment made me happy. Vickie's spastic dancing was hilarious, and Brodus' rep as resident funkmaster remained intact. Regal's involvement was icing on the cake, and if this was a Marshall Matters Show, I'd definitely have played his line, "How dare you mock this buxom wench."

4 more very entertaining matches (stick it, Raw!) came next, beginning with Sheamus and Wade Barrett. They proved how well they know their way around a tables match, which is very well, and Wade Barrett was able to hand Sheamus his first singles loss in what seems like 4 or 5 months. The next match between Hunico and Ted Dibiase wasn't terrific, but it had some great spots, and Hunico did some balls to the walls shit that looked super cool and he's awesome. After that, Santino put Drew McIntyre on the chopping block in the best blindfold match I've seen. Of course, that isn't saying much, but WWE seem to have learned from past mistakes and are now making their blindfolds a little less blinding. Kudos to both Santino and McIntyre for playing out the ridiculous premise for all it was worth.
Main event. Unlikely as it may seem, Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry have incredible chemistry in the ring. This is infinitely better than Bryan's matches with BS, because Henry actually sells Bryan's offense. Bryan looks tough against the monster Henry, whereas BS made him look weak and ineffective. So, Bryan and Henry had it out a bit, and Bryan kept telling the lumberjacks not to touch him, which made me laugh. The finish for the match seemed to be that Bryan was able to antagonize the lumberjacks to the point that they went into an ass-kicking frenzy, which didn't really make sense but did look cool and built more anticipation for the Royal Rumble. On his way to the back, Daniel Bryan has a heated altercation with Teddy Long in which the match for the WHWC at the Rumble becomes a cage match. Bryan storms off, and I MARK OUT because I really want to see that match!! Hope my boy D Bryan retains, I'd really like to see his character evolve some more in the direction it's going. With the title.

That's the news. Thems the breaks. In personal news I've got a pretty regular freelance gig doing internet stuff, nothing long-term probably, but it's nice to be somewhat employed. I've watched a bunch of CG movies lately, from Toad Warrior to Vampire Hookers, and There's Nothing Out There at your recommendation (good one), but have spent much more time boring my way through Dr. Who, starting from Season 1, which aired originally in 1963. I'm halfway into season 2 now, but have about 20 years left, or something like that. Most of those early episodes are really bad, but it's worth it for the ones that are really good. I expect the average episode quality will improve as time goes on.
If I was still in Portland, I'd be very supportive of your bands and stuff. But from up here in the Great White North, I'll just say "keep up the good work, buddy!"
That includes a thumbs up.

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