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Mathew’s Top 25 Matches of 2020: #25-21

The official start to Mathew’s Top 25 matches! Starting at the bottom, peep 25-21!

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Welcome to the Top 25 Matches of 2020! I’m sure you all have seen the honorable mentions in the previous article and probably thinking to yourself, “what could be on this list?” Well, we’re about to find out together. This has been a rough year for all of us, especially with American wrestling…and I guess the pandemic. This year will be a little bit different due to the circumstances as I usually do two top matches per wrestler but that’ll be lifted for this year, especially with a certain wrestler.

Let’s get down to it, shall we?


25. Kenny Omega and Adam Page vs. Young Bucks (AEW Revolution 2/29/2020)

– It’s no secret to those that know me that I’m not a big fan of AEW and find it to be very mediocre. However, I will give credit where credit is due whenever a good match is involved and this is the best AEW match they’ve produced. The build-up to the match has also been really well done with the tension between all four of them along with the tease of a possible betrayal between the champions. Once the match happened, they gelled well and gave us a good half hour of entertainment.

You’re probably asking yourself, “why is this in here and not Golden Lovers vs Young Bucks when that happened two years ago?” While it is true that it basically is the same match in terms of story, just a different partner for Omega. The real main difference for this is that this one was less sloppy compared to the other one and that was what hurt the quality of the match for me personally. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the Bucks and Omega, this was still a great match and Adam Page is someone I am a fan of, so I was glad to see he was able to keep up with their style of wrestling. Good storytelling, emotion, the conclusion, all-around fun time.


24. Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles (WWE SmackDown 6/12/2020)

– This was for the final round of the Intercontinental Championship and this was a match I didn’t expect to get the amount of time as they did since I was gonna assume they would give them ten minutes on television. I’m glad that’s not the case as they were able to deliver their best match together in the WWE. All of their matches have been enjoyable together and this match is just another one added to the books. It would go on for a half-hour and it made the title seem a little important like how it used to be back in the day, it reminded me of those matches.

The two may be getting up there in age but they have shown that they can still go and show why they’re WWE’s best in-ring workers. We got an actual wrestling match out of it and there was no dusty type of finish of anything, it was clean and that’s what made it better. When AJ finally won the Intercontinental Championship, I did have a small glimmer of hope that we would be getting these types of matches for the title. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case as it didn’t last too long but they did try it at the beginning, so that was at least. We were able to get one of the best matches for the title in a long time and that’s something fans will remember.


23. Charlotte Flair vs. Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley (NXT Takeover: In Your House 6/7/2020)

– NXT was another brand that has been a mixed bag compared to its glory years but this is what happens when you try to force change its magic to try and compete. There was been some great matches from time to time but the rest of the matches on this list were just better than NXT’s best. One match, however, was lucky enough to get on the list and it was the NXT Women’s Championship between Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley, and Io Shirai. I know a lot of people hate Charlotte from how much she gets pushed but it’s hard to argue that she is one of their top stars in the company. You had two of NXT’s best women with Io and Rhea going against WWE’s biggest female star, and they were able to get a great match out of each other.

Io Shirai was someone who reinvented herself over the past year instead of being another foreign babyface like Asuka and Kairi Sane before her, so she was able to get the slow build during all of that and it came into a full circle. All three of them would deliver great action and they would pull the surprise by giving Io Shirai the victory since people would assume Charlotte would either retain for a one-on-one rematch with Rhea down the road, or Rhea would get it back to redeem herself but that’s thankfully not the case. Io has worked hard in WWE and I know people said she should’ve won the title years ago but this moment felt more perfect to work her way up through the ranks and reinvent herself rather than getting it soon as she stepped into their doors. Great match and the right person won that night.


22. Undisputed Era vs. Imperium (WWE World’s Collide 1/25/2020)

– If this had a proper build-up and were able to do long-term storytelling, this probably would’ve been one of the best matches of the year with the story alone before getting into the match. We had the top heel factions of NXT and NXT UK battling it out for brand supremacy to see who was the real top heel faction. The two invaded their respective territories to help hype up the match for the past month at the very least. This alone was enough for the fans to get invested in it and to nobody’s surprise, the payoff in the short-term of things was worth it. Everyone involved in this match looked like a star and it made Imperium feel like they were exactly on their level, which is something you needed to do for this type of match.

The one big takeaway in this match was the unfortunate injury that occurred to Alexander Wolfe, causing him to be taken out for the rest of the match. Despite being a man down, WALTER would make up for the slack and wrecked everyone during his comeback after being taken out by UE. WALTER would get the win for his team, showing the world that Imperium is something you need to be watching. Undisputed Era is already well-established stars, so they didn’t need the win here to get over since they were already over. The right team won that night and we had a great match out of it, making all of Imperium look good in the process.


21. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi (Wrestle Kingdom 14 1/4/2020)

– Honestly, this match in general almost didn’t make the list, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I watched this live in the Tokyo Dome, high chance this wouldn’t be on here. This was the biggest match in Ibushi’s career than when he fought Nakamura five years ago and this was when he won his first G1 Climax leading into this match. The entrance Okada had before he came out was godlike, especially when you’re in the crowd to experience it live, it was just incredible and you know you have a star right in front of your eyes. Watching it on the television days after it happened would show the flaws of the match with how they paced it out.

But I’m not gonna talk about that version of the match and gonna focus on my live experience with it instead as I go forward with talking about it. The atmosphere for this match was intense, the moves were crisp, the story for it was top-notch between the two of them together. This was their best match together on a bigger level, and it showed that Kota Ibushi could potentially be an IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Kota would fail to win the match but still left a big impression on the fans, even coming close to winning. Kota is in the main event of the same night but against Tetsuya Naito, so let’s see if he can bring it home or at the very least, deliver another classic.

This will conclude the first five matches of my list and very excited to show the next five tomorrow. Till next time!

 


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Bandwagon Nerds

BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Free Guy (2021)

The Nerds tackle the new Ryan Reynolds movie Free Guy! It did surprisingly well at box offices and has been quite a topic for the last few months. Does it live up to the hype?

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This week the Nerds decide to tackle another new movie! Free Guy opened with one of the stronger pandemic numbers and maintained number 1 status for two straight weeks. Smaller scale, not a large budget, but it plays in that space that seems to be fairly popular unless it’s Pixels with Adam Sandler.

Does it live up to the hype?

*SPOILER WARNING*

  • Metacritic: 62
  • IMDB: 7.3/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Critic – 80% / Audience – 94%

Nerd’s Take on: Free Guy (2021)

Dave

If you are one of BWN’s loyal listeners (you 22 know who you are), then you know that we just wrapped up our review of Marvel’s What If…? The topic of the Nerd Review this week is kind of like asking, “What If Ready Player One was merged with Wreck It Ralph, The Truman Show, and The Matrix? I am not entirely sure…. but I think it would look and feel a lot like Free Guy. And that, my friends, is a very good thing indeed.

Free Guy focuses on Guy. Guy is what is known in gaming circles as an NPC, which stands for Non-Player Character. Anyone who has played just about any video game since the dawn of time knows what a NPC is, even if they did not know the technical term for it. Well, Guy is an NPC in a MMORPG known as Free City. Every day, Guy wakes up, says hello to his goldfish, grabs a coffee, and heads to the bank where he and his best friend, Buddy, a Security Guard, work. Everyday the bank is robbed, multiple times. It is all good though as it gives Guy & Buddy a chance to talk as they lie on the ground waiting for the heist to be over. Guy, Buddy, and all the other NPCs in Free City have no idea they are not real…. that is until Guy sees the girl of his dreams walking around on the streets of Free City. This leads to Guy getting a hold of sunglasses, which are what the human controlled characters wear. If you ever saw They Live, when Guy puts on the glasses, he sees things the other NPC’s cant, such as med-packs, high scores, and objects that are only visible to human controlled characters as in-game items. Guy has no clue what is going on but he follows his dream girl, known as Molotov Girl, and he is desperate to impress her. She tells him he needs to level up first. This leads to Guy breaking out of the routine of his programming and rapidly evolving into the first true case of AI in existence. Everyone who works at Soonami, the developer of Free City, thinks that Guy is a human controlled character using an NPC skin. Whatever the case, Guy comes to be known as Blue Shirt Guy and he develops a huge following.

Then we have what is going on in the real world. We get to meet Keys & Mouse, who are coders at Soonami and who have been working on the code for Free City 2. But prior to coming to Soonami, Keys developed the code for a somewhat similar game with Millie. Millie is the human controlling Molotov Girl and she is trying to come up with evidence that Soonami’s head honcho, Antwan, stole the source code from the game that Keys & Millie developed and inserted it into Free City to help make the game infinitely better. At first, Antwan loves all the attention Blue Shirt Guy is drawing to the game. But Guy’s antics soon become more problematic. Guy rescues Molotov Girl as she faces insurmountable odds in trying to retrieve a key piece of video evidence from the game. It is during this rescue that Keys comes the realize that Guy is not a human controlled character, but an NPC that has evolved and become sentient. Guy falls in love with Molotov Girl and she reciprocates, at least on some level. Antwan learns that Guy is an actual AI based being but all he can see is the threat to his empire that Guy might pose. He does everything he can to stop him, including rebooting the system and destroying servers. But Molotov Girl is able to restore Guy’s memory and Guy knows exactly where they need to go to obtain the proof that Antwan is a thief. This leads to the climactic scenes of the movie which, like a hidden level of a great video game, slowly reveals a heart-warming love story hiding in plain sight the whole time.

Let me get this out of the way:  I loved this movie. From a nerd’s standpoint, it is loaded with all sorts of nerdy stuff to make you smile. Anyone who has ever played a video game, especially a MMORPG, is going to be able to relate to so many aspects of this movie. There are multiplayer lounges, repetitive missions, just over the top violence for the sake of violence and, yes, there is tea-bagging and flossing going on (and, no, if you don’t know what that means, I am not going to explain it here). It is very clever what director Shawn Levy did here. We have all done things to the NPCs in our favorite video games that we would probably rather not mention publicly. It just goes with the territory. Free Guy, much like Wreck It Ralph did, brings you into the actual lives of the NPCs and gives them personality and purpose, even if it is all a loop and programming. Once Guy learns of the reality of his situation, and of Antwan’s ultimate plan to wipe out any possible existence of the source code from Millie and Key’s original game, he becomes a hero as he defies the odds to help his friends out. There is plenty of action and adventure here for fans of those genres, along with a lot of really funny moments.

Probably the highlight of the movie is when Dude shows up. Dude is a heavily muscled version of Guy whose code has not been completed. Guy’s battle against him is complete with a Captain America shield, a Star Wars lightsaber, and a Portal gun from the Portal video game. The way this is all integrated into the fight is more than a nod to these great movies and games; they actually shift the tide of the fight. There are lots of little things like that in the movie, just subtle nods to Nerdom and pop culture. It is nowhere near the level of nerd-nostalgia that we saw in Ready Player One, but it is tremendously fun all the same. If there is one problem, it is that the movie is not likely going to appeal to non-gamers. Yes, there is a great love-story that finally reveals itself at the end that anyone can enjoy. But the movie is steeped heavily in video game jargon, images, lexicon, and terminology that non-gamers will likely find pretty absurd. Therefore, if you are a non-gamer, this might not be your movie.

The cast is excellent, but that should come as no surprise as Ryan Reynolds, who plays Guy and Dude (except for Dude’s body) is in another zone entirely right now. His performance here is honestly one of his best. It is like he was channeling an insanely good-natured version of Deadpool. Shockingly, there was no mention of Deadpool at all in this movie and that was a good thing. Jodie Comer absolutely kills it as Molotov Girl/ Millie and is the perfect foil for Guy as their relationship evolves. Joe Keery and his immaculate hair is excellent as Keys and there is a lot of his portrayal of Steve Harrington from Stranger Things present here, which really works to his advantage. The possible MVP of them all though is Taika Waititi whose portrayal of Antwan is the perfect blend of evil villain and just total douchebag. There are cameos from Chris Evans and the late Alex Trebek and voice cameos from Hugh Jackman (of course), Tina Fey, Duane Johnson, and John Krasinski. With a cast like that, how could the movie fail?

The short answer is it didn’t. Free Guy is quite possibly the most surprisingly good movie I have seen in 2021. I knew it would be good; I did not know it would be special. It is funny, it is clever, it has just the right amount of nerd-based goodness mixed in with a surprisingly heart-warming conclusion, and it is just very entertaining from start to finish. It is as much a movie about friendship and what it means to be alive as it is about the inner workings of video games. I paid $20 to watch the movie and it was worth every penny. This is one I cannot recommend enough.

Rating: 4.5/5


Rey

Movies like Free Guy make me massively jealous.  I consider myself a creative person, one who has a ton of interesting ideas.  I could NEVER have come up with the premise for such a cleverly written and acted movie.  And that was the appeal of this movie, and then I had the pleasure of watching it.  My goodness, what a movie it was.

Normally, I like to give a bit more suspense in these articles before I give my opinion on a film.  Not this time.  This movie is a 5 out of 5 in every way.  This movie deserves to be in the time capsule.  This movie will be remembered as one of the finest achievements of cinema in this generation.  Kind of crazy for a Ryan Reynolds flick, right?

What makes this movie so genius is simply the way it flips something we know so well – video games – and flips it in a way that only someone highly inebriated and under the influence could come up with – what happens in a video game outside of the first-person viewpoint.  Ryan Reynolds brilliantly plays Guy, a Non-Player Character, who turns out to be a sentient AI created by Millie and Keys (Jodie Corner and Joe Keery), who created a game stolen by Soonami Games and their CEO, Antwan (Taika Waititi).  Both Keys and Millie decided to sell the game to Antwan and Soonami, while Millie feels that Antwan stole their code for the game.  This code turns out to be Reynold’s Guy, a banker in Free City.

Guy’s life is simple.  He wakes up, drinks coffee, looks out of his window, plays with his fish, hangs out with his best friend Buddy (a bank security guard played by Lil Rel Howery), and gets robbed repeatedly.  He carries on with his created purpose until he sees Millie’s Free City avatar Molotov Girl, in which he falls instantly in love.  The rest of the movie is Guy learning more and more about himself, eventually finding out that he’s in a game and that Antwan is trying to destroy it because Millie and Keys figured out that he stole their code.  The journey is hilarious, heartfelt, and ingenious.

There’s no need to go super in depth.  There’s no need to write a long love letter to this movie.  You just need to watch it.  It is legitimately one of my favorite movies I’ve ever watched, and I’m inspired by the ingenuity that led to the idea that became Free Guy.  So I appreciate you guys reading this article, but stop.  Go buy or rent Free Guy.  Then come back and tell me how right I was.

Rating: 5/5

 

Overall Nerds Rating for Free Guy (2021): 4.75/5


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Opinion

A Rational Case for Joe Gacy

Tommy Starr looks at the current gimmick for Joe Gacy and rationally working through his future.

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WWE has toyed with the boundaries of controversial wrestling characters throughout its history, some of which succeeded due to cultural relevancy and others that tanked for failing to resonate with the audience.  Or in some cases, characters that failed due to executive pressures to remove potential threats to that network’s overall bottomline.  A major breaking point in this field occurred for WWE in 2005 in what I could coin the MHS (Muhammad Hassan Syndrome).  Hassan was a character that was well ahead of its time and circumstantially relevant, but when the untimely 2005 London Bombings occurred right at the peak of his push, UPN (at the time) wanted zero affiliation with a radical muslim terrorist character on its programming.  Understanding the changing culture and lack of patience the corporate environment has for anything resembling controversy in today’s society, it is no wonder that WWE has steered away from every truly pushing boundaries to the extent they were able to pull off in the 1980, 90s, or even as short a period as sixteen years ago.

We still occasionally see controversial characters enter the frame, but their overall presentation is always given a corporatized spin to try and “play it safe.”  There is a problem, however, when WWE introduces potentially “controversial characters,” but merely presents them in such dull, politically correct spins that make the characters come off as inauthentic, artificial, and fake.  Enter the frame: Joe Gacy. 

Gacy debuted a woke social justice warrior character on NXT television on September 21 with the sole mission of WWE using him to poke fun at radical leftist activists; it was immediately met with fan backlash and outrage, as to be expected when involving a character that targets the ideologies of a mob-infested agenda.  The concept of WWE booking and writing for an SJW character is, on the surface, not a bad idea; the problem is their methodology as to how the character has been booked.  Much of this problem reverts back to the MHS dilemma as previously discussed.  WWE is walking a tightrope as a publicly traded company with striking any potential backfire and controversy over the Gacy character, thus they likely will not experiment with pushing the envelope too far.  Hence, most of Gacy’s segments revert to extraordinarily empty, dry social justice verbiage that does not resonate with the audience, and the character comes off as contrived and fake.

That said, there are ways WWE can make this character work on television.  And yes, it does involve them pushing boundaries and pissing some people off.  This is why standup comedy is a dying form of entertainment today, because societally weak people just can not accept that the art of comedy is all about pushing boundaries and offending people.  In order for Gacy to succeed as a woke “heel” on television, WWE needs to do more than have him preach about collectivism and safe spaces; he needs to go out and do the work to engage with these communities.  WWE should be booking segments with Gacy engaging in radical activist “protests.”  He should be walking around backstage trying to recruit people that share his ideologies into his cult.  He should be “protesting” and reeking havoc on particular segments on NXT each week, be it story-driven or just to generally be destructive of the flow of the programming.  WWE can also adopt a lot of the elements from the Summer of 2020 by analyzing the situations that occurred in places like Portland, Minneapolis, and most of the big cities across the country.  Yes, it would be extraordinarily controversial, but you know what else it would do?  It would garner attention.  And it was also make the Joe Gacy character far more compelling from week-to-week, because Gacy’s character can evolve to something beyond a preacher of peace.  He can escalate into something resembling a real-life radical extremist.

The point here is that Gacy’s current incarnation is nothing short of a watered down, low shelf life version of what could be so much more if they just went all the way with it instead of holding back.  Judging how things usually turn out with big corporations and their willingness to cave-in to mob pressure, Joe Gacy’s woke character will probably never evolve beyond the level it is at, and that is a true shame.


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