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Cook’s Top 5: 2017 Wrestling Memories

Steve Cook looks back at 2017, with fond memories such as Dr Wagner Jr unmasking, Roman Reigns getting a big WrestleMania win, and the rise of Jinder Mahal!

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Jinder Mahal WWE Championship

Steve Cook looks back at 2017, filled with fond memories such as Dr Wagner Jr unmasking, Roman Reigns getting a big WrestleMania win over The Undertaker, and the rise of Jinder Mahal!

2017 marked the beginning of my full-time return to rasslin writing. I was doing things for 411 & things for the site that would later become The Chairshot. I was even multi-tasking, still doing some football predicting and expanding my hockey writing portfolio. The Nashville Predators were pretty good at this point.

There was a ton of stuff going on all over the place. Here are the five most memorable moments from where I was sitting, which isn’t too far from where I sit now.

5. Undertaker’s pass of the torch is incomplete

It was a good idea on paper.

Even if Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak had ended back in 2014, the Deadman still had plenty of juice. People still wanted to see him against WWE’s best & brightest on the biggest wrestling night of the year. A victory over the Phenom still meant a ton for a younger competitor. It was the sort of thing that could have finally crowned Roman Reigns as The Guy, Brother.

Roman got the win, and he did the best he could in the match and the weeks after to further his upward movement, but the match itself was a debacle. Undertaker shouldn’t have been in there. He wasn’t ready to put on a main event level match on a major show. It happens to every wrestler at some point. Everybody has a bad night at the office.

Most people are lucky enough for it not to happen in a WrestleMania main event.

4. Wagner Unmasked

Those of you that have read me for awhile know that Dr. Wagner Jr. is my favorite luchador of all time. Something about Wagner always clicked with me. He was a solid hand in the ring, and even if I don’t speak Spanish, his promos always conmnected with me via his pure charisma. He’s been one of the most popular wrestlers in Mexico for a number of decades, being one of the top guys in AAA, CMLL and any other promotion he would appear for. I would read reports from thecubsfan about how Wagner was difficult to deal with, but that just made me like him more.

The time finally came for Wagner to lose his mask. Some of the lucha greats have hung onto theirs forever, largely because they never got a big enough payday to justify it. Wagner got his. TripleMania XXV wound up being one of AAA’s biggest shows ever, largely due to the Lucha De La Decada pitting Wagner’s mask against Psycho Clown’s mask. It was a pretty eventful show, too! Sexy Star injured Rosemary on purpose during their match, which pretty much led to Sexy Star being blackballed from the business, and for good reason. Jeff Jarrett showed up in no condition to work, which led to Anthem backing away from that whole Global Force Wrestling/Impact merger thing they were in the middle of. Lots of crazy stuff going on, including the legendary Dr. Wagner Jr. losing his mask.

Of course, it’s not like the man’s career would end after that. It helped that when he unmasked, he looked like the Most Interesting Man in the World from the Dos Equis commercials. Yeah, Wagner was going to be ok without the mask, and he’d even don it occasionally because who would stop him? The main gripe I have is that Wagner never had that true blowoff mask vs. mask match with his greatest rival, L.A. Park, and I think a lot of Mexican fans have that same complaint, but I get why AAA would try to build a young star off of the situation. We can only hope that Psycho Clown’s physical condition doesn’t break down like his father (SUPER PORKY)’s did.

3. The First Mae Young Classic

WWE’s women had a ton of firsts during this time period. The first women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. The first women’s Hell in a Cell match. Any type of match women could do for the first time in WWE happened from 2016-17. Long overdue.

My personal favorite: the first Mae Young Classic. This tournament introduced me to so many folks that are still doing big things today. It had the first WWE appearance of the likes of Toni Storm, Rhea Ripley, Shayna Baszler, Mercedes Martinez, Piper Niven & Kairi Sane. Kay Lee Ray made an early appearance, along with Dakota Kai, Bianca Belair, Mia Yim, Lacey Evans, Santan Garrett, Sarah Logan, Candice LeRae, Tay Conti & many others. Tessa Blanchard was even involved!

As a fan of women’s wrestling that didn’t have easy access to SHIMMER and other indy feds during the time period, the MYC was a very informative time period for me.

2. Jinder Unhindered!

The Jinder Mahal push was strange. WWE basically took a dude that had done nothing of note in the company in the many years he’d worked for the company & made him WWE Champion without much of a demand prior. It’s not like it was a Daniel Bryan kind of case, where the guy built up such a fan following in spite of constantly losing matches that WWE had to give him some time. Nah, ol’ Jinder was just a jobber to the stars that got the random rocket push to the moon without any build or request whatsoever. Apparently it was to get WWE Network subscriptions in India, which always sounded a little fishy to me because even if Jinder was of Indian descent, the man was Canadian.

As we found out later when WWE finally toured India, folks from India were more interested in seeing the old stars than an Indian-Canadian anyway. I remember hearing “oh, they’re gonna keep the belt on him until they hit India, then it’ll be justified, you’ll see!”. So, what actually happened was that AJ Styles won the WWE Championship right before Survivor Series because Brock Lesnar wanted to face him in the Champion vs. Champion match. Thought AJ would be a better match for him, because, well, Brock has an IQ over 50. Once WWE hit India, Jinder was out there putting Triple H over. Funny how that worked out.

Gotta give my mans Greg DeMarco credit for this though: dude jumped on that bandwagon hard. While most of us were zigging to the mainstream belief that this Jinder push was complete nonsense, Greg zagged and bought into it. I’m sure he really did believe that Jinder was an underutilized talent, and to Jinder’s credit, the man got into super-great shape prior to the push. But Greg also knew he could bite off of that hardcore WWE base that buys whatever Vinnie Mac sells them. Greg made a lot of waves during this time period, and I was happy to be along for the ride.

1. Okada & Omega Break the Star System

Kenny Omega was a young man making waves in New Japan as leader of the Bullet Club. He won the G1 Climax, which entitled him to an IWGP Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom. People expected Omega’s meeting with Kazuchika Okada to be a pretty darn good piece of business. I don’t think anybody expected what ended up happening.

I remember Okada’s matches with Hiroshi Tanahashi getting a ton of hype. Okada’s matches with Omega blew all that out of the water. They also blew up Dave Meltzer’s star system. Their Wrestle Kingdom match got six out of five stars. Their later matches got even more. Okada & Omega changed the game & increased what people expected out of pro wrestling. One could argue that a large part of Omega’s alleged disappointing run in AEW so far is that he hasn’t broken the star rating system in a match with the company just yet.

Which is kind of amazing, since everybody tells me that Dave is on the AEW payroll. Seems that would be easy enough to make happen.


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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

Big boy monster throw down of the year! The Nerds return with a current movie review, and this one should be interesting. Is Dave too forgiving? Is Patrick taking his role as the German judge too seriously? Find out where the overall ratings lands between these two!

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different movie from the Nerdosphere.  This week Dave and Patrick review the fourth installment of kaiju cinematic universe Godzilla vs. Kong!

The Flick:  Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

What’s it About:  A researcher believes a hollow world beneath the Earth’s surface is the birthplace of the mighty Kaiju.  He convinces and old friend to help him take the mighty Kong to find his birthplace even if it means incurring the wrath of the King of Kaiju Godzilla.   The battle between the two alpha Kaiju could result in the end of all mankind.

Metacritic Score: 59

The Nerds’ Take on Godzilla vs Kong (2021):

Dave It is time for the Main Event of Legendary’s MosterVerse, the showdown we have been waiting for: Godzilla v. Kong. If you have been following along with our Nerd Reviews, then you knew this was coming. What you don’t know is whether we feel the climax to the series is worth your time or not. Well allow me to give you my take on that topic.

Plot wise, it has been some five years since Godzilla defeated Ghidorah and things have been relatively quiet and peaceful. Meanwhile, on Skull Island, Monarch has created a dome like structure to observe and try and control Kong. Kong has developed a relationship with a little girl, Jia, who seems to be the last surviving member of her clan. Jia has, for lack of a better term, been adopted by Dr. Ilene Andrews. Jia is deaf and she seems able to communicate with Kong through sign language.

Halfway across the globe, Apex Cybernetics is engaged in some sort of experimentation that attracts the attention of Godzilla, who shows up and annihilates their facility in Florida. Godzilla’s attack shatters humanity’s notion that he is their friend. Bernie Hayes is an employee of Apex, but he also hosts a Podcast focusing on conspiracy theories involving the Titans. He is soon joined by Madison Russell (from Godzilla: King of the Monsters) who is a fan of the Podcast, and her friend Josh as they start poking around the remains of the Apex site in Florida. We soon discover that Apex is looking for a massive power source that they believe is located in Hollow Earth. Hollow Earth is really more of an Earth within the Earth (Middle Earth, perhaps?) and the quandary is how to survive the trip to Hollow Earth. Nathan Lind is a Hollow Earth expert whose brother perished in a prior expedition to Hollow Earth due to a reverse gravitational effect. But Apex has developed vehicles that can survive the voyage. They just need Kong to lead them there.

In the process of transporting Kong to Antarctica, which has an entry point to Hollow Earth, Godzilla senses his old rival and attacks. Godzilla definitely gets the better of this battle, forcing the expeditionary force to transport Kong by air to Antarctica to avoid detection by Godzilla. Kong gets the group to Hollow Earth and it becomes clear there has been an ancient rivalry between Kong’s ancestors and Godzilla’s. Kong discovers an axe made out of portions of Godzilla’s ancestor’s skins. Back on the surface, Bernie, Madison, and Josh have been whisked away to Hong Kong and they discover what Apex is really up to….Mechagodzilla. Mechagodzilla can be telepathically controlled and it is Dr. Serizawa’s son who is pulling the strings, using the severed head of Ghidorah to do so. The problem is that to utilize Mechagodzilla to its full potential, they require more power, much more power to be exact. This is where the search for the Hollow Earth power source comes into play.

Mechagodzilla is activated and this attracts Godzilla. Godzilla also senses what Kong is doing in Hollow Earth and he sends a blast of atomic breath from Hong Kong to, in essence, the center of the Earth. Kong and the Hollow Earth expeditionary force follow the hole made by Godzilla to the surface. Everyone emerges in Hong Kong for a massive fight between Kong and Godzilla. Kong fares better this time around but is ultimately rendered near death by Godzilla. At about this time, Mechagodzilla is imbued with the power source from Hollow Earth and he also achieves sentience. This leads to the big brawl between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla and it is a mismatch in favor of Mechagodzilla…. until Kong is revived, evening the odds in an enormously predictable moment. Godzilla supercharges Kong’s ax with his atomic breath and the two Titans take down Mechagodzilla. Godzilla and Kong show each other a sign of respect and go their separate ways. Apparently, there can be two alpha Titans after all.

Let’s talk about the good stuff first: the monster fights. They are all fantastic. The battles between Kong and Godzilla feel as big as you would expect. They are titanic clashes in every sense of the word. Godzilla fans will have bragging rights after watching this movie because it is clear that Godzilla whups Kong’s ass on more than one occasion. Kong fans save face though by noting that without Kong, Mechagodzilla would surely have triumphed. As for Mechagodzilla, his appearance in the movie was not a secret and he did not disappoint. The clash between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla was done very well to show just how much more powerful Mechagodzilla was and why it took the combined might of Godzilla and Kong to turn the tide. If massive Kaiju action is your thing, then Godzilla vs Kong is definitely your movie.

Now for the bad: The people. Now, I know what Patrick is going to say. That the movie shifts the focus to the people too much and detracts attention from the monsters. I know he thinks the concept of humans using a defibrillator on Kong is absurd. I am OK with those points in a movie like this. The problem I have with the people is this: They don’t matter. Not at all! They are white noise in the purest sense of the word. 90% of the characters are wholly uninteresting and meaningless. They add little to the plot and just get in the way. So, to be real, Patrick and I are, to a certain extent, talking about different sides of the same coin. The exceptions to this involve Jia, who is quite important to the whole notion of establishing Kong as the “good guy”, and Bernie, who is a fun character and kind of represents a microcosm of conspiracy theorists that are quite common in the real world today. Bernie epitomizes the notion that just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you. But, beyond those two, the characters are quite dull and just felt very pointless.

As far as this being the series finale, I greatly enjoyed the movie. The dynamic between Kong and Godzilla is interesting and keeps you engaged, regardless of whether you are rooting for one, the other, or both. There are some interesting concepts in the movie, specifically how Hollow Earth is different than you might expect and much more interesting, no matter how far-fetched the idea might be. Interestingly, this movie really showcases just how bad ass Godzilla is. I am not sure why it took three movies to get it right, but I digress. Then there is Kong, who ends up being a multi-layered creature that is shown even more heroically than he was in Kong: Skull Island. As for me, I always favored Kong over Godzilla and I left the movie feeling fine with the outcome of everything. If there is a downside it’s that it appears the MonsterVerse has come to an end, just when it was getting really good. That’s too bad. As for Godzilla vs Kong, the awesome action sequences and special effects vastly outweigh the issues involving the people. This is a very good final installment (we think) in this franchise. It is the best of the movies involving Godzilla. I still liked Kong: Skull Island more, but this was a close second.

Dave’s Rating: 4/5

Patrick:  Here we are again covering the fourth film in the Warner Brothers/Legendary produced Kaiju Monster universe.  And once again this film somehow finds a way to mess up a simple concept.  If you recall, in my review of Godzilla King of the Monsters I said good kaiju movies minimize the involvement of human beings in the film and let the monsters take center stage.  Unfortunately, the folks at Warner Brothers still have not quite grasped the concept here in its fourth Kaiju film. The result is an uneven film that shines when the monsters are on screen and leaves me tuning out when the focus shifts to the little primates.

In this fourth installment, we learn that Monster research organization Monarch I closely monitoring Kong.  Going so far as to create an enclosure around Skull Island so that he is safe from Godzilla.  This of course will not last because, well, humans.  One human in particular, a man named Nathan Lind comes with the backing of a mysterious tech corporation called Apex to search for “Hollow Earth.” Hollow Earth is a world beneath the surface of our Earth that is believed to be the birthplace of all Kaiju.  Lind visits his friend and Monarch researcher Ilene on Skull Island.  Lind believes Kong is the key to finding this hidden world.  Despite knowing, Godzilla will attempt to kill Kong, Ilene agrees to embark on the expedition.  Of course, Godzilla attacks and we get the first of three rounds of monster battling that we paid for.

Unfortunately, to get to round two and three, the audience has to sit through overwrought dialogue and subplots all in an attempt to help the audience connect to the experience.  It’s all really boring.  You know why?  PEOPLE DON’T WATCH KAIJU MOVIES FOR THE HUMANS. But, I digress.  Naturally the tech corporation Apex is not on the up and up with Lind.  Color me stunned, but Apex turns out to be the real enemy to both Kong and Godzilla.  I haven’t even covered the conspiracy theory guy and his gang of teenagers trying to expose Apex from the inside.  Again, no one cares because, read it aloud…NOBODY WATCHES KAIJU MOVIES FOR THE HUMANS.

But this isn’t the end of the dumb.  The audience is treated to an ancient history between Kong’s ancestor and the other Kaiju where we see Kong find the ancient axe of his ancestors.  Because a monkey wielding an axe is cool looking.  Did I mention Kong can charge the thing up with Godzilla’s radioactive breath?  AWESOME?  How about the humans using a high tech battery as defibrillator to revive a dying Kong?  Just dumb on top of dumb followed by more dumb.  And humans.  All of the humans.

The cast for Godzilla vs. Kong is quite the list of names.  Alexander Skarsgard essentially fills the role of human protagonist Nathan Lind.  Honestly, he is the only human character given anything to work with.  Kyle Chandler is back in his role as researcher Mark Russell, but if you blink you miss him.  Millie Bobby Brown is also back as Madison Russell, but horribly wasted in a sidekick sort of role to the previously mentioned conspiracy theorist.  She is limited to trying to discover why Godzilla has started attacking human cities.  Someone of her talent could have and should have been used better.  There are tons of other folks in this movie, and yet I struggle to understand why we needed them all.  All they do is distract from what the audience wants to see which is GODZILLA and KONG FIGHT.

Ok.  So what’s good about this film?  Well, the Kaiju.  The special effects team outdid themselves crafting these battles.  Kong and Godzilla’s bouts all feel epic.  I was also impressed with how much more well lit some of the night scenes were.  As Kong and Godzilla battle at night in a Chinese city, everything is well lit without appearing phony.  The choreography of the battles are terrific, albeit a little silly at times.  Again, radioactive monkey axe.  But the joy of Godzilla vs Kong is in these epic clashes.  I watched the movie on HBO Max, I can only imagine how amazing it would have appeared on an IMAX movie screen with Dolby sound shaking my eardrums.

I came into Godzilla vs. Kong with pretty low expectations.  I want to stress that I loved, loved, loved the action sequences involving the Kaiju.  Unfortunately, you have to sit through an inordinate amount of human exposition to get to those epic moments.  That’s not to say the humans and their stories need to be gone entirely.  The audience does need a guide and some context.  But Godzilla v. Kong would have been so much stronger with a pared down human side of things and a focus on the monsters. It seems Warner Brothers and Legendary pictures still haven’t learned the key to Kaiju: it’ all about the monsters.

Patrick’s Rating: 2.24/5.0

 

Overall Nerds’ Rating on Godzilla vs Kong (2021): 3.12/5.0


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NXT Minus 6: Stand and Deliver…After

Brad breaks down the NXT Takeovers and his favorite matches! Do you agree?

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These are the six best matches from Takeover week, plus a new bonus feature! 

The John Report: WWE NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver 2021 Review – Night 2 - TJRWrestling - WWE, AEW News, TV Reviews, PPVs, More!

6. Jordan Devin versus Santos Escobar, 4.3 stars Devlin turned in a star making performance. His moonsault off the ladder was absolutely perfect and batshit crazy. Escobar is technically so sound, everything he hits looks great, and he’s top notch on the mic. But he’s not a cruiserweight, and I will never forget that fact. Still, an exciting match that surpassed my expectations.  

Bate battles Dar and more: NXT UK highlights, Dec. 19, 2019 - YouTube

5. Tyler Bate versus Noam Dar, 4.3 stars This match was a blast. Both guys have such a wide array of moves, you’ll never see the same match twice from either of them. The only thing holding this back was the Heritage Cup format. I like it, but it’s hard to have the sustained exchanges necessary to elevate a match to greatness. The breaks slow things down right as they are speeding up. Give these two a straight 20 minutes for the NXT UK championship #1 contender, and you’re look at a MOTY.

WWE NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver results – Night One – 07/04/2021 (New Champions crowned) » FirstSportz

4. Gauntlet Match, 4.4 stars Another match that was just pure fun. Leon Ruff continues to prove he’s not a fluke champion. Cameron Grimes is 100% working the rich hillbilly gimmick. They made the right call by getting L.A. Knight and Dexter Lumis out quickly. And in another star making performance, Swerve Scott started the match against flyweight Ruff and ended it against Bronson Reed. That kind of versatility is enough to earn my #3 Star of the Night. 

WWE NXT Stand & Deliver Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and More from Night 1 | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

3. Io Shirai versus Raquel Gonzalez, 4.5 stars

This was the intense, inspired Shirai I don’t think I’ve seen since her match with Dakota Kai at Takeover 30. If this was her last match, as some are speculating, then she’s leaving on a high note worthy of her greatness. As good as Gonzalez was in ring, her performance after the match was even better. You could tell she kept flipping from “Holy crap, this is real and I couldn’t be happier” to “Yes, I’m a bad ass and I’ll power bomb every one of you chumps.” 

MSK def. Grizzled Young Veterans and Legado del Fantasma to win the vacant NXT Tag Team Championship | WWE

2. MSK versus Legado Del Fantasma versus Grizzled Young Veterans, 4.5 stars

Some other federation might be on their level, but nobody does tag teams better than NXT. All three teams got considerable time to shine. In a match stuffed with terrific action & individual performances, Wes Lee shined the brightest. His hot tag was Cesaro-level awesome, and his athletic ability rivals Ricochet. He is a star in the making, and his performance earned him my #2 Star of the Night.

  WWE NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver results – Night One – 07/04/2021 (New Champions crowned) » FirstSportz

1. WALTER versus Tommaso Ciampa 4.7 stars

I gave Ciampa about a 1% chance of winning. Despite the lack of necessary drama, these two told a masterful story with near flawless execution. Something about WALTER brings out the best in whoever he faces. He did it with Tyler Bate and Ilja Dragunov. He did it with Ciampa. This was easily his best performance since his return from neck surgery. People say he’s a brawler, while guys like Johnny Gargano and Roderick Strong are known for their gas tank. Ciampa showed that he can run with the best. His effort against WALTER earned him the respect of Imperium and my #1 Star of the Night.


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