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Booking Backwards: Understanding Naito/Ibushi/White and Roman/Pearce/Nakamura

Greg DeMarco lends his booking expertise to recent storylines to help you understand what’s happening, and how to watch it moving forward.

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Roman Reigns Adam Pearce Shinsuka Nakamura WWE Royal Rumble Smackdown Jey Uso Paul Heyman

Greg DeMarco lends his booking expertise to recent storylines to help you understand what’s happening, and how to watch it moving forward.

Booking in pro wrestling is an often discussed topic among hardcore fans all over, much like play calling in the NFL. Every fan thinks they’re a better coach than the actual coach, and many wrestling fans feel the same way about the bookers around the world, especially WWE–and more increasingly, New Japan.

As someone with 17 years of experience inside the actual business, someone who is responsible for marketing, promoting, and yes booking local wrestling events–events that sell out in advance mind you–I feel qualified to share some perspective with you on just how this all works, and do so in hopes that you will be better equipped to understand what you are watching.

Or at least enjoy it, because jeez man–some of y’all already hate the product before even turning on the television! (Or computer.)

What “Booking Backwards” Means…

You have most likely heard the term “booking backwards,” but you might not fully understand it. Simply put, it’s knowing the point that you want to get to, and working to get there. Many mistake this for literally working backwards from a certain point–that’s not how it actually works.

What it does mean is knowing where you want to end up, and then writing to get there.

And before I go any further, let me clarify “writing” vs. “booking” for you. Booking is the overall direction, say “Steve Austin beats The Rock at WrestleMania to become champion.” Booking also provides the milestones for how you get there, say “Mankind beats The Rock for the WWF Championship on Raw, thanks to Austin, and Rock regains it at the Royal Rumble, Vince wins the Rumble but loses the title shot to Austin in a cage match at the February PPV, Mankind stays involved as the referee for the ‘Mania main event along the way.”

Writing is what you do between milestones, be it weekly as in WWE, or show-to-show as in New Japan.

It’s a different process for many, but it IS a process. And understanding the process will help you understand what you are watching. Just like understanding the philosophy behind play calling will help you understand your favorite NFL team–and realize that very few play calls live individually.

Understanding Wrestle Kingdom: Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, and Jay White

It was really easy to question the booking decision of having Jay White beat Kota Ibushi for New Japan’s G1 briefcase, then having Tetsuya Naito give Ibushi a title shot on Wrestle Kingdom Night 1 “just because.” It made little sense at the time, and even had me left wondering why you don’t have Ibushi challenge Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship on Night 1, and White challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on Night 2. In two nights, you separate the two championships, and “fix” the Intercontinental Championship that has been seemingly “hurt” since last year’s Double Dash concept for Wrestle Kingdom in 2020.

But again, in doing that, I assumed the end goal was to separate the titles, re-elevate the Intercontinental Championship, and keep the Heavyweight Championship on Naito. In reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Hindsight tells us what New Japan’s goal was here:

  • Crown Kota Ibushi as the new champion
  • Have a Heavyweight Championship match close each night of Wrestle Kingdom 2021
  • Effectively write Jay White out of storylines (either temporarily or permanently)
  • Fully merge the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships
  • (Possible) bring more focus to the other singles titles like the NEVER Openweight Championship and the IWGP United States Championship

Now, assuming this is all true, let’s take a look at what happened:

  • Kota Ibushi won the G1 Climax, for the second year in a row, and is fully under contract to New Japan
  • Jay White beat Kota Ibushi for the G1 briefcase, something that has never happened in the history of said item
  • Tetsuya Naito, a two-time G1 Climax winner himself, wants to face the winner of the G1 at Wrestle Kingdom, so he gives Kota Ibushi the shot at Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom, Jay White (holding the briefcase) basically says “have it your way” and awaits the winner on Night 2
  • Koti Ibushi beats Tetsuya Naito to win both championships on Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom, and then goes on to successfully defend both titles against Jay White on Night 2 in a 48-minute classic

Congruently, see what else happened:

  • Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and the Guerillas of Destiny all won their respective matches on Night 1, leaving the spotlight for Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo Takagi, Jeff Cobb, EVIL, and SANADA to all get the bigger spotlight on Night 2.
  • KENTA retained the United States Championship briefcase, and Jon Moxley (the reigning IWGP United States Champion, if you’d forgotten, and I wouldn’t blame you) challenged him to a title match.

It’s not obvious along the way, and it really shouldn’t be. It’s like watching a mini-series, you want the twists and turns along the way, and it’ll all make sense in the end. Whether or not it’s good, or you like how it turned out, is up to you! But evaluate the whole thing based on its overall merit.

Understanding SmackDown: Roman Reigns, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Adam Pearce

This Friday on SmackDown, Roman Reigns opened the show by basically cementing an issue between he and “WWE Official” Adam Pearce, one that we figured would get physical, but one we didn’t figure would end up with Adam Pearce vs. Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble.

But for the sake of this activity–and this one is smaller than New Japan’s above–let’s take Roman Reigns defending the Universal Championship against Adam Pearce at Royal Rumble as our end goal. It’s likely a milestone along the Road To WrestleMania (that’s another article altogether), but it still works.

Let’s see what happened:

  • WWE announced a Gauntlet Match for the January 8 edition of WWE SmackDown, with the winner getting a shot at Roman Reigns and the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view
  • Roman Reigns insinuated that the Gauntlet was done maliciously by WWE Official Adam Pearce (who had a hell of a year on television in 2021) and suggested that Pearce himself wanted the shot
  • Paul Heyman pulled some strings to get Adam Pearce added to said Gauntlet
  • Shinsuke Nakamura wins the “proper” portion of the Gauntlet, beating multiple opponents along the way, including Daniel Bryan, who gives him the babyface handshake to put him over
  • Roman Reigns and Jey Uso take out Nakamura and eventually Pearce, placing Pearce on top for the three count and basically booking Roman vs. Pearce for the Royal Rumble

Now it’s easy to see Shinsuke Nakamura as the loser here, because we were “supposed” to get Roman Reigns vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at the Royal Rumble, dammit! But you have to realize, that was NEVER the plan, the plan is to get to Roman vs. Pearce, and probably Roman vs. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. Shinsuke Nakamura likely gets his shot as a milestone in the story, and Adam Pearce probably gets some teeth as an authority figure.

Realizing that the plan was never Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble helps, and also know that Roman Reigns likely retains at WrestleMania, leaving Nakamura as a great program for the Tribal Chief down the road.

See The Full Picture First

It’s easy to complain about booking along the way, and it’s always easy to complain about writing. Sometimes, the complaints might be valid. But as I hope you can learn from this article, see the whole thing out before making up your mind. Wrestling fans online have a habit of driving themselves crazy. It’s not necessary, and with a little perspective you can go back to enjoying this thing as much as you used to.


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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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Opinion

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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