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Cook’s Top 5: 2018 Wrestling Memories

Steve Cook is in the final stages of his trip down memory lane, with 2018 bringing up many not-too-distant memories!

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WWE Evolution 2018 Nikki Bella Ronda Rousey

Steve Cook is in the final stages of his trip down memory lane, with 2018 bringing up many not-too-distant memories!

Now we’re getting to the part of the countdown that everybody should be able to remember everything about.

The tricky part: Not enough time has passed to tell which events in 2018 will go down in history as the most important. We’ve got a pretty good idea, but who knows for sure? All I can say is that my status in the Internet wrestling writing world remains virtually unchanged since 2018. Could be worse!

Here are the top 5 events from 2018…

5. Gargano vs. Ciampa

Tommaso Ciampa had shocked the NXT world by turning on his tag team partner Johnny Gargano in May 2017. There was a slight inconvenience, as Ciampa suffered a ruptured ACL during the match leading to the turn that would put him out of action until 2018. Once Ciampa returned, it was time for what many call the biggest & best feud in NXT history. Ciampa was the biggest bad guy in the business, while Gargano was that plucky, never say die whitemeat babyface.

Gargano temporarily lost his NXT contract in a match with Andrade that saw some Ciampa interference. Johnny got his contract back by beating Tommaso in an Unsanctioned Match at TakeOver: New Orleans. Ciampa got the edge in a Chicago Street Fight, and beat Aleister Black to win the NXT Championship. Ciampa successfully defended the title against Gargano in a Last Man Standing match, temporarily giving him the advantage in the feud. The story wasn’t quite over when 2018 was.

4. Daniel Bryan Got Cleared

You knew it wasn’t going to be the end. Daniel Bryan would do whatever he possibly could to get back in a wrestling ring. He loved it too much to step away forever, whatever the doctors told him. Once he got cleared by enough doctors, he had to convince WWE’s doctors. It took a long time, but eventually Bryan got cleared to return to a WWE ring.

The guy didn’t take it easy! Bryan lasted 76 minutes in the Greatest Royal Rumble, setting a record that likely won’t be broken anytime soon. Bryan’s in-ring highlight in 2018 came when he turned heel and became WWE Champion again. He was indeed a New Daniel Bryan. He embraced his status as the Planet’s Champion, because environmentalists are evil in WWE.

3. A Deal With The Devil

WWE had run a number of events in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia earlier in the 2010s, those mostly flew under the radar due to the fact they weren’t televised. People took notice in 2018 when WWE announced a ten year multi-platform relationship between themselves & the Saudi General Sports Authority, which would feature two WWE Network events per year, and plenty of propaganda glorifying the Kingdom & its leadership.

It wasn’t a great look for WWE from a PR standpoint. It seems to have worked out pretty well financially, though reportedly not as well as they had originally hoped. Obviously they only held one show in Saudi Arabia in 2020 due to the coronavirus, and there was a bit of a kerfuffle in 2019 where much of the crew had difficulties getting out of the country. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when things “get back to normal”.

2. Evolution

2018 saw WWE’s women doing a ton of things for the first time. The first Women’s Royal Rumble. The first Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. This all wound up leading to the first WWE all-women’s PPV event, which was right around a time when most of WWE’s male roster was in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis weren’t too keen on having women on their shows, so it made sense to give the women a show of their own.

It made sense to have Ronda Rousey & Nikki Bella go on last. After all, Rousey brought a ton of star power with her from her UFC days, while Nikki is still a reality TV show star. In the eyes of many observers, the real main event was the Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch Last Woman Standing match. Charlotte & Becky certainly thought it was the main event, and did everything they could to make sure their match was what people were talking about at the end of the night.

It was one of the best WWE events of 2018, and my personal favorite. No wonder they haven’t had another one yet.

1. All In

This might end up being the most important show ever done depending on where the wrestling business goes after 2020. Right now, it’s All Elite Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania I, except they don’t have the rights to it. AEW wasn’t a thing at this point except an image in the mind of Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Hangman Page & whoever else was involved in this. It was a response to Dave Meltzer’s opinion that Ring of Honor or anybody else other than WWE couldn’t draw 10,000 fans to a building. Cody took that as a challenge, and the Bucks were on board, and they rounded up everybody they possibly could to create a card that could do big numbers on Labor Day Weekend in Chicago.

It was a damn good show! The main event got cut a little short due to satellite time, but that’s what happens when you book such a loaded card. ROH & the NWA had title matches on this show, and both went over pretty well. Everything went over pretty well, there isn’t one match on this show that I can say screwed the pooch. The seeds were laid on that night, and somebody with a large amount of money that happened to be a big wrestling fan and was able to make connections within the television industry noticed.

These boys went All In, and it paid off for them & the rest of us. Unless you’re one of those folks that only wants wrestling produced by one promotion.


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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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