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We Need Darth Reigns, Not the Prequel Ani Version of Him

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Roman Reigns WWE Championship

RAW WARS – Episode I

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”                                                                 (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode IV – A New Hope)

In the world of entertainment, everything is tied together. There is no cultural phenomenon that does not refer to the works that came before or that cannot be linked to the works that came after. Such is the force of culture. This includes the world of sports entertainment. So, follow me on my weekly journey on RAW WARS, when I search for the binds that tie RAW and the universe of popular culture together.

We Need Darth Reigns, Not the Prequel Ani Version of Him

With Solo – A Star Wars Story hitting theatres, I have been reminiscing about the previous Star Wars movies in recent weeks. I was not born when the films of the original trilogy were released, but I do remember going to the cinema as a teen to see the prequel trilogy. I remember even more vividly the backlash that the movies, especially Episode II, caused. Much of this criticism focussed Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. Hailed as the chosen one throughout the prequels, Anakin Skywalker never lived up to the high expectations fans had because of the quasi mythical performance of Darth Vader in the original trilogies. Instead of being the charismatic and enigmatic badass that we loved from Episodes IV – VI, Anakin Skywalker presents himself to us as a whiny, pouty teenager. He holds awful monologues on the irritating coarseness of sand and on haunting kisses, while being upstaged by the more charismatic characters who are played by the veteran actors. In the moments when he does decide to act, he is not applauded for badassery, but criticised for ridiculous displays of strength and his mindless savagery, making the audience sympathise with his opponents.

Sounds familiar?

The WWE has been booking Roman Reigns in the exact same fashion for years now and just like with Anakin’s portrayal in the prequels, most of the fans do not like it one bit. Yet if the latest episode of Raw on 21 May is anything to go by, the WWE either does not listen to the chorus of boos every week or chooses to ignore the fans’ rejection of the gimmick and taunts us instead. I argue that the WWE executives in charge of Roman’s booking need to (re)watch the Star Wars trilogies to see why they are wrong in casting Roman in the prequel Anakin role and that they need to put Vader’s mask and cloak on the Big Dog asap.

Everything started so promising. As the enigmatic powerhouse of The Shield, Roman Reigns let actions speak for himself. His no nonsense attitude put him over with the fans, especially as indy veterans Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were able to hide his weaknesses. Even after the June 2014 version of the ‘chair shot heard around the world’, fans were still invested in him. They wanted to see Roman confront Seth and vanquish the turncoat. And then Roman’s own version of Anakin’s sand monologue happened: the Sufferin’ Succotash debacle. Fans did not fully turn on Roman then, but this promo did nothing to endear him to the audience. Neither did the many promos that followed this one. But Roman was still a badass, so the relationship between the chosen one and the fans was still amicable.

Until Roman stopped being a badass and became a distorted version of a superhero. Remember that scene from Episode II when Anakin jumps from his floating vehicle on Coruscant to follow the assassin? Or when he effortlessly beats Count Dooku in Episode III, which he could not do prior? I ranted about Anakin being portrayed as some kind of Superman, overcoming all odds. Braun Strowman survived several finishers and signatures moves during the 2018 Elimination Chamber main event, but then suddenly fell victim to a few Superman punches and spears by Reigns. Roman also kicked out of five (!) F5s at Wrestlemania 34, when in the months prior no one even kicked out of a single F5. I can only suspend my disbelief so much. In his current feud with the Modern Day Maharaja, his attacks are too brutal and unjustified (and ultimately pointless), so that the audience grows sympathetic towards Jinder Mahal.

Well, at least he lost the match against Lesnar then, right? And his clean loss was awarded with another title shot at Greatest Royal Rumble, which he also lost (he really did as one foot remained entangled in the apron cover). But, to improve his mood, he was awarded a spot in the main event match at Backlash, despite several titles being on the line on that PPV. He won that, admittedly, but he lost the respect of the fans even further, who could not wait to get home as soon as Roman had successfully pinned Samoa Joe. He then lost the qualifying match for the Money in the Bank ladder match, which leads us the recent RAW episode. Roman came out to confront Stephanie McMahon on how management did not want him anywhere near the Universal title. At that point I got a horrible flashback from Episode II, when Anakin throws a cup against the wall, claiming that Obi-Wan Kenobi is holding him back. This did not endear Anakin to the fans, nor will Roman whining about management help getting him over. This segment on Raw only accomplished one thing for me: it made me resent Roman.

I usually like Roman. A lot. He is one of my top 5 wrestlers, but with each passing week of this awful booking I have to ask myself: how can I justify giving him this spot in my personal favourite list? Which leads me to ask the WWE how Roman is still perceived as the top babyface in the company? Hayden Christensen had the misfortune of having to perform with more seasoned actors who upstaged him quite a bit. Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi for instance. Watching the prequels, I became less and less interested with Anakin’s story, as I grew more attached to Obi-Wan’s story. Roman is currently upstaged by at least two babyfaces on the RAW roster. No matter whether you pick the Monster Among Men Braun Strowman or Red-Hot Seth Rollins, who burns it down every week, you cannot go wrong with either of these men as your pick for top babyface of the company. Alas, the way that booking presents itself, Roman is still the WWE’s chosen one. Braun and Seth do not have multi-facetted storylines, quite the contrary: for the most part Braun is stuck in tag team matches and Seth was even used as a sidekick to advance Roman’s feud on RAW last Monday.

The Solution is Simple

This means: we are stuck with Roman as the top guy of WWE, just as we were stuck with whiny, pouting Anakin during the prequels. Yet, if Star Wars has taught us something, then that there is always hope. Between the most insufferable moments of Anakin in Episode II and his tear-jerking death in Episode VI, something profound happens. Anakin Skywalker turns heel. The chosen one who is supposed to bring the force into balance and fight as a Jedi allies himself with the Emperor and becomes known as Darth Vader. Roman needs to do the same, or the WWE risks angering their fans to the point they stop caring for the entire product. It also would solve so many issues that RAW currently suffers from. Roman Reigns could be the top-level heel that the company so desperately needs and his feuds against the top babyfaces, especially Seth Rollins, would make for some compelling story telling. Roman’s position on the roster would finally match the reactions he gets. Imagine him embracing all that hate! I cannot wait to see that. And as we know from watching Episode VI, it would make his eventual face turn all the more powerful and fans would be likely to embrace Roman as a top babyface in the far future. Anakin Skywalker is at his best during Episode V, which is widely received as the best of all Star Wars episodes. If the WWE finally stops booking Roman in the prequel Anakin Skywalker role and turns him heel, RAW is indeed destined for greatness. Then and only then, I would cheer for him again and enjoy watching how the Roman Empire strikes back.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or message me on Twitter @KirstinHerzog1.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Andrew’s G1 Climax 29 Ratings & Analysis: Night 5 A Block

KENTA, Lance Archer and Kazuchika Okada are setting the early A Block pace! Something’s gotta give. Who comes out undefeated?

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KENTA, Lance Archer and Kazuchika Okada are setting the early A Block pace! Something’s gotta give. Who comes out undefeated?

Shmoxley in the opening tag team match means we should start off fun. Tanahashi and Sabre are in the battle of, well, someone needs to get at least a point out of that.

Then we’ve got Ospreay and Ibushi who are banged up but most likely still going to be psychopaths in the ring. Let’s get ready for the carnage, I mean, no…I meant carnage.

Ratings:

  • Shota Umino & Jon Moxley vs Tomohiro Ishii & Yuya Uemura: Shooter wins via Fisherman Suplex Hold @5:45 – ***
  • Hirooki Goto, Jeff Cobb & YOSHI-HASHI vs Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji & Juice Robinson: YOSHI wins via Butterfly Lock @9:30 – ** 1/4
  • Tomoaki Honma, Ren Narita & Toru Yano vs Jay White, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi: Owens wins via Package Piledriver @8:50 – ** 1/2
  • BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi vs Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru: Suzuki wins via Gotch Style Piledriver @8:35 – ** 1/2
  • A Block: KENTA vs Lance Archer: Kenta wins via Game Over @12:00 – *** 
  • A Block: SANADA vs EVIL: EVIL wins via Everything is Evil @18:10 – **** 1/4
  • A Block: Bad Luck Fale vs Kazuchika Okada: Okada wins via Double Legged Cradle @10:15 – ** 1/2
  • A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: Tanahashi wins via Triangle Counter Pin @13:55 – *** 3/4
  • A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay: Ibushi wins via Kamigoye Knee @27:15 – **** 3/4

 

Analysis:

Moxley and Ishii start off trying to kill one another. This is a great opener and the respective Young Lions have to pull their veteran off as to not incur a disqualification. The Young Lions then take the bulk of the match and Shota has definitely picked up a few mannerisms from Moxley that we slowly see him unlocking. This may be our evolution of Shooter, but for an opening match this was very fun and the fact Moxley and Ishii just want to fight added for a neat dynamic.

Juice and Cobb are both respectful Gaijin faces, so not a lot of heat for this match. Plus YOSHI-HASHI was in it, so I could’ve downed a few Valium and been more invested in staring at a wall. Pork Chop Sandwiches later, and YOSHI-HASHI wins with that awful Butterfly Lock. Great…I can now taste colors.

So Yano wanted to get him a piece of the Jay White on the down turn, but Jay tried to still play the calculating heel. Honma put in a bit of decent work but Narita was obviously the one sent out to eat the pin. Narita held his own against Yujiro and Chase, but Chase eventually stopped playing with his feud and hit the Package Piledriver to tie things up in a nice little bow.

Shingo took a hell of a beating in this match. Kanemaru played random interference and Taichi took Shingo to the woodshed. Naito also continued his distaste of Taichi and Suzuki while being a little protective of Shingo at points. Now being the unabashed fanboy of Shingo, yet also a subscriber to Holy Emperor weekly, I’m very torn about this whole thing. The match played up the G1 tensions and the LIJ vs Suzuki-Gun tensions very well, but my heart knows not which to root for.

Lance is a good foot taller than KENTA and that was the story of the first 75% of this match. Lance was shrugging off the strikes of our returning striker. KENTA was getting effectively crushed, until Lance pushed the anime comeback button and said “You’re fucking Hideo! That’s who you are! HIDEO!” – which prompted the anime comeback in KENTA. KENTA managed to even lift Lance for a few things, but relied heavily on the dropkicks and strikes. He couldn’t quite pull off the Go 2 Sleep, so he went to his Crossface submission, Game Over. And boy howdy, it was game over! (I will see myself out after that)

EVIL and SANADA have this brotherly rivalry in LIJ. Being former 2 time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champions, familiarity is obvious. SANADA starts off the match quickly and this is definitely a match of quick bursts when the one gets an advantage. I guess they are transitioning SANADA away from the Paradise Lock since this is the second match where he had it mostly on, but “something happened” and the opponent gets out of the move. We get a bunch of great back and forth, but something that continues to plague SANADA is his limited moveset when it gets down to crunch time. EVIL pulled out a plethora of tricks, including using the referee as an anchor for the Magic Killer. Whereas, SANADA sticks to Dragon Sleeper variants, into Skull End attempt or a Moonsault. With how over SANADA is, I really expect him to start getting more crunch time maneuvers. EVIL wins and quickly wants to bury the hatchet by extending the LIJ fist bump. SANADA bumps fists, and all is fine in our ungovernable world.

Fale tends to have Okada’s number in tournaments, and he starts off by attacking him in the back and dragging him out. So we get a typical Bullet Club brawl with heel tactics and ref bumps, but Okada perseveres. Okada is able to lift Fale a few times, but can’t hit the Rainmaker, and wins via the wrestling move he tends to fall back on, the Double Legged Cradle.

Well both Tanahashi and Sabre come into this match 0-2, so there’s a level of desperation that both bring to the table. Sabre wrestled circles around Tanahashi, and Tanahashi just tried to keep up for most of the match. After countering the High Fly Flow, Sabre locks in a Triangle Arm Bar, but Tanahashi floats over for the bridging pin counter. The Ace finally has 2 points!

There have been well known injuries for both of these men, and they played into the story of the match well. Focusing on each other’s injuries, calling back to their Wrestle Kingdom match and just a generally high energy and high impact match. Watching this match, you have to assume one of them will die with their style, but it is damn entertaining. Everyone expected this to be a great match and it delivered.

Overall Score: 8/10

Well we had a lot of good storylines and matches that mostly paid off. Lance Archer has been doing great work, Fale and Okada was at least somewhat entertaining and the cripple fight in the main event was fantastic. The inner faction turmoil was now squashed, so we can have a nice tournament while The Ace gets a few points over the petulant British child.

So great show, great entertainment, and generally a good time. I can only hope the B Block carries equal weight.

Block A Standings:

  • Kazuchika Okada: 3-0 (6 Points)
  • KENTA: 3-0 (6 Points)
  • Lance Archer: 2-1 (4 Points)
  • EVIL: 2-1 (4 Points)
  • SANADA: 1-2 (2 Points)
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi: 1-2 (2 Points)
  • Will Ospreay: 1-2 (2 Points)
  • Bad Luck Fale: 1-2 (2 Points)
  • Kota Ibushi: 1-2 (2 Points)
  • Zack Sabre Jr: 0-3 (0 Points)


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Tiffany: New Japan Pro Wrestling: An Introduction From a Newbie

Tiffany decides to check out New Japan! Let’s see how it comes across to a puroresu rookie!

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Tiffany decides to check out New Japan! Let’s see how it comes across to a puroresu rookie!

I’m going to be upfront, I’ve been a fan of WWE my whole life, I NEVER thought I’d get fully into another wrestling promotion, let alone a Japanese one, and my initial interest in New Japan Pro-Wrestling was simply because Jon Moxley, aka Dean Ambrose, had signed with NJPW and I wanted to watch him, however I’ve found myself very intrigued with NJPW as a company the more I watch it and thought that if there was anyone who was wanting to check it out, it would be nice to get some tips from someone also new to the promotion.

TV: The first thing to know about NJPW is that they don’t have a weekly television show like RAW or SmackDown. They do have a weekly show for their Mexican…affiliate, called CMLL, but that show features more Latino wrestlers. They do have ‘Road to-‘ which is a build to their next big show, but it’s more of a series of house show matches to build the actual show than a TV show. CMLL is offered on NJPW and on Fite TV, but neither of them have English Commentary, which makes it a little hard to follow if you don’t understand Japanese or Spanish that well.

The Schedule: NJPW’s schedule is really odd if you’re only used to USA wrestling and seems more like UFC or boxing than the 52 week schedule US fans are used to. NJPW’s schedule seems to consist of building and putting on a show, then taking a break and then starting all over again and their shows seem to consist of a lot of tournaments with a few one day shows, rather than one show running into another. The logic seems to be to give the wrestlers time to rest and recover before starting a new circuit, which seems to work considering that several of their top guys are in their late 30s and move around like guys in their 20s.

The Matches: If you’ve never seen a NJPW match before, it’ll definitely be a shock. NJPW’s matches are a lot more physical than WWE matches and the competitors have more leeway than WWE superstars do. There’s a standing 20 count on the floor and using weapons outside the ring doesn’t create a disqualification and the refs give even more leeway in big match situations.

The Promos: There aren’t a lot of promo spots in a NJPW show, there are some, but they don’t take up tons of time with them. Most promos are done at the post match press conferences, which are literally done right after the matches. Jon Moxley even commented during his first one that they ‘weren’t even going to let him catch his breath’. The fun part about it is that you get their real-time reactions. Yes, it’s still in kayfabe, but it’s definitely not scripted and they can say what they want. Also, there is a LOT of swearing, which is fun and makes things seem more…real. Also, even though most of the promos are in Japanese, save for non-Japanese wrestlers, there is a translator who translates the promos into English and if you watch the promos on YouTube, the Closed Captioning button will translate the Japanese into English you can read.

Women: NJPW does NOT have a Women’s Division and it’s becoming quite the controversy. There are women’s wrestling promotions in Japan like Stardom, but they don’t have a relationship with NJPW and it doesn’t seem like NJPW is interested in changing that. So far, I’ve seen ONE woman in NJPW and it’s Miho Abe, who is the valet of Taichi, a heel with a weird J-Pop gimmick.

The Young Lions: The Young Lions, which is a term you hear a LOT in NJPW, are one of the coolest parts of the promotion. In essences, the Young Lions are the rookies of NJPW, coming up through their dojo system, but they are so much more. The Young Lions train and learn in the NJPW dojos either in Japan, LA, Mexico, or Europe, but they are also the ring crew, part of the security team during matches, the first aid guys after the match, the gophers for the older wrestlers, and the job guys. Young Lions are also fillers in tag matches and don’t really have gimmicks outside of being a Young Lion until they are sent on ‘Learning Excursions’ to another dojo. They aren’t hard to miss and it’s a very cool part of watching NJPW.

Tag Matches: If you are someone who complains about WWE putting on a lot of tag matches, NJPW is NOT for you because that’s a large part of their shows. Seriously, almost anyone who doesn’t have a singles match on a show is usually in a tag match. My understanding is that it’s partly to help build future feuds, but also to keep the wrestlers from getting too much wear and tear on their bodies. The downside is that there’s usually at least three tag matches back to back during a show, which can get tiring.

Titles: Of all the differences between NJPW and US Wrestling, the way the titles are treated is the biggest surprise. NJPW’s titles don’t carry the promotion’s name, they are almost all IWGP __, which is the Japanese equivalent to the old NWA,  and title defenses are few. In fact, the commentators can tell you how many times a particular champion has defended their title and it’s usually in the single digits and champions hold their titles for a LONG time. Current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Okada, held the title for two years and defended the championship 12 times back in 2014-16, which would never fly in the US. That said, the champions usually get spots in any tournament they qualify for, which gives opportunities to build future feuds, but it’s very strange to see a full card and NO title defenses. Also, NJPW does not give their champions an advantage over their opponents. Titles DO change hands if the champion gets DQ’d or counted out, which is actually really fun because it means the champ has to beat the challenger, not the other way around and the champion’s long reign seems more justified because they seem to earn it.

Video OnDemand: Like WWE, NJPW has its own video subscription service called NJPW World, which offers their shows with Japanese or English commentary, an archive of shows, which is admittedly very incomplete, but one thing they offer that WWE could learn from is how they offer PPVs once the show is over. About a week or so after a show is done, NJPW will let the view pick a series and they have the option of watching the whole show, start to finish, or they will be offered the option of picking from, and watching, individual matches. Example: If I want to watch the Jon Moxley’s debut match at the Super Jr. Final, I have the option of watching the whole show, prelim tag matches and all, OR I can scroll down the list, click on Jon Moxley vs Juice Robinson, and not have to sit through a bunch of matches I’m not interested in. WWE sort of offers this with the search option and the dots that show when a match starts and stops, but NJPW’s way of doing it is more efficient, IMO, and more user friendly. Also, one very funny thing that almost always pops up at the start of the PPV is a PSA about how to behave properly in the arena. The video is always full of really ham acting, but the fact that it’s shown even to people watching at home makes me laugh.

So, I hope that this list gives anyone who is thinking about checking out NJPW some information that will help them enjoy the shows. There also a lot of people in the US who enjoy NJPW and are always happy to explain things, or try to. It is quite easy to get the hang of and a lot of fun to watch because you learn a lot about the difference in wrestling culture between Japan and the US. In Japan, professional wrestling is still treated and respected as a sport, while in the US, professional wrestling is often dismissed as ‘fake’ or ‘kids’ stuff’. So, check it out and broaden your wrestling horizons from the comfort of your couch, you won’t regret it.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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