Shadows of Mordor Review

Reviews

Let’s get this out-of-the-way, if you’re looking for an elevator pitch of The Shadow of Mordor, you can’t really go wrong with telling your friends that it’s Assassin’s Creed meets Arkham Asylum meets the appendices of Tolkien’s greatest work. If that interests you, you’re going to have a good time here.

 

The open world is, as mentioned, basically Assassin’s Creed. You’re parkouring all over the place, scaling towers like it’s child’s play. That part of the game feels great and comes with the same polish we’ve come to expect from the Creed games. However, the selling point is not the movement. If you’re playing this game, chances are you’re here for the combat.

 

Arkham Asylum-style combat is almost always excellent, which is why so many games steal it. Mordor’s moment-to-moment combat is essentially the same, but there are a few changes that make it unique. First of all, you can slow down combat and use those precious few seconds to let loose a few arrows into the closest Uruk’s face. This becomes a lifesaver as you move through the game and come across new Uruk types that differ from your standard fodder. Defenders, in particular, are a prime target for your trusty bow, as they aren’t countered by the same button as everything else and generally serve to throw you off your flow of combat.

 

Another thing Mordor does to differentiate itself is to throw a host of various abilities at you that change how you fight. For instance, early on you learn the Wraith Stun, which allows you to stun an enemy and knock it out of combat for a few seconds. You can also vault enemies to get behind them and deal extra damage. It’s smart additions like these that make Mordor’s combat interesting throughout.

 

Speaking of new abilities, the game does a remarkably good job of providing you with a slow drip of new things to do, right up until the final moments. This means you’re consistently being greeted with new types of missions and gameplay options throughout the 20-hour campaign. One would think that, with the numerous side quests, you’d run into some duplicate mission types fairly early. However, even the side quests are varied and interesting, making this a game that is easy to 100%.

 

You’ll want to do those side quests too. Specifically, I would recommend everyone finish all of the weapon-based missions. These constantly introduce you to new ways of dealing with enemies and you might just supplement your preferred fighting style after seeing the many options in front of you. The collectibles missions aren’t something you must complete, but the hunting missions are a fun little diversion to take part in while you run to your next storyline mission.

 

If the game has any weakness, it’s the main story. Interestingly, this is less a function of the story-telling being bad and more that the emergent stories produced by the Nemesis systems are so much better. It’s much more effective to let a player learn to hate or care about a character through gameplay than it is in exposition, and in Mordor, that works against the tale crafted by the developers. You can tell me that The Tower is a bad dude, but I haven’t interacted with him and thus, to me, Zunn Meathooks is the real antagonist of this story.

 

Now that we’re talking about the Nemesis system, I should say that this is the reason to play the game. It’s an absolutely fascinating new development and one studios are sure to copy going forward. Essentially, you’re shown a tree of Uruk captains and war chiefs and then let loose. Later in the story, you can actually dominate a Uruk and bring him under your command, but it’s how interactions with the captains and war chiefs play out that is the interesting thing here.

 

You see, you and I will have different Uruks on our tree. That’s because Uruks rise in power when they kill you. So if a random berserker chops your head off in a melee of 30 Uruks, then he becomes a captain. Later on, he might engage in a Beast Hunt or a Duel and gain standing among his fellow Uruks. Over time, that lowly Uruk might become a war chief and rule the Uruks from his throne of skulls.

 

This is what next-gen should be about. Shiny graphics are great, but thinking of new ways for us to interact with our medium are much more interesting. This is something that later games will build upon and could become a major staple of game design in the next few years. Developments like this change the gaming landscape forever and make titles like Shadows of Mordor a must-play. Think of the possibilities for this engine. Do we get a Bully 2 where you’re trying to climb the Nemesis system to become the most popular kid at school? Or what about a sports version of this where you build your rival through a system similar to what exists in Mordor? It’s an exciting time to be in gaming because titles like Mordor show that next-gen is finally here

 

Score: 9.5/10. Mordor is my early game of the year. The main story has problems and the combat can drag toward the end. However, the Nemesis system is great and the game has found a near-perfect trickle of upgrades to give you new and interesting options up until the very end. A must-play and a great reason to own a next-gen console.

All Hail Ambrose (Hell in a Cell 2014)

Wrestling
  • As someone who currently holds a Bachelors degree in Communications and will, knock on wood, hold a Masters in the same field after this upcoming summer, I don’t think I can stress enough how impressed I continually am with WWE’s video packages to open up PPVs. Hell in a Cell’s recap/hype video for the dual-main event was excellent from a technical/visual aspect, as well as from a story-telling side of things. There are quite a few jobs I wouldn’t mind doing, but being on the team that puts those things together is definitely on my short list of dream jobs.
  • I really love that they’re starting this show off with Ziggler-Cesaro. These are two young guys who can easily steal the show with their in-ring work. This two-out-of-three falls contest should set the bar high and force everyone to bring it in a big way if they want to be noticed in Dallas.
  • Speaking of Ziggler, that boy can sell. I’m about halfway through this match and, while the technical wrestling hasn’t been as good as Cesaro’s matchup with Sami Zayn in NXT, this match has been satisfyingly stiff so far. Everything Cesaro does has that “snap” that almost makes you think it’s real. Ziggler can take anything well, and is making Cesaro look like a million bucks while playing the role of baby-face opportunist as well as ever. We don’t even have the second pin-fall and I can’t even begin to tell you how many false finishes we’ve had already. Cesaro really does have the best uppercut in the world. The Honky Tonk Man knows what he’s talking about.
  • With Ziggler picking up the early win; one would assume that this means Miz is going over later. I’m somewhat disappointed that Cesaro didn’t even get one fall, but I don’t think this loss really hurts him. Both guys looked incredible and I’m fine with giving Dolph a big, clean win if it means that Creative has more faith in him going forward. These two should matchup quite a bit over the next five years, and if that doesn’t have you excited, you should probably stop watching wrestling.
  • We could really use a second face team in the tag team division. The Usos are great in-ring performers, but I’m honestly getting tired of seeing them as the team the Dust Brothers or the Wyatt Family go up against. Sadly, The Ascension is probably the only team from NXT that could be called up tomorrow and would be able to handle it, and there’s no universe where those two get over as baby faces. The most intriguing team for the second face spot might just be Enzo and Big Cass. They (and I really mean Enzo) can’t really wrestle, but they make people watch on charisma alone. At the very least they are something completely different from what we have right now, and that makes them valuable. Hopefully we see a string of call-ups as we near the holidays.
  • Someone needs to make a poll to decide who’s doing more with less: Damien Sandow or Cody Rhodes/Stardust. These guys were gimmick extremely weird gimmicks that had a relatively low chance of getting over, and they’ve made it happen. Crazy that they used to be a low-tier tag team and are both still toiling on the mid-card, at best. Both are supremely talented and obviously don’t lack for charisma. It’ll be interesting to see if they sustain their momentum when they move on from their current partners.
  • Interesting that Orton-Cena gets put in the middle of the card after Triple H made such a big deal about this being the co-main event of the night. Obviously, no one was ever frothing at the mouth to see these two go again (especially when Rollins-Ambrose’s blood feud in on the card), but I wonder if that’s almost a good thing. It’s like when you go to see a movie that you’re not very excited about and, because of your low expectations, the movie actually turns out to be pretty good. This match, though a tired pairing between two over-exposed Superstars, has a chance of doing just that.
  • I want to wait until the end of this match before I give any thoughts on the storyline, but I just wanted to talk about one thing very quickly. I would really love to see the following spot in a match with Orton. Orton’s opponent is groggy at one side of a table. Orton leaps over the table and delivers an RKO into the table. It might be dangerous, but I don’t remember ever seeing him do it. It’s the kind of move that an audience is going to give the pop of the night to, and one that I’d personally love to see. I’d prefer to see someone young like Seth Rollins take it and come back to pick up a career-defining win, but I’m really not picky.
  • CENA, PLEASE SELL SOMETHING!!!
  • Not the show-stealer I thought it might be, but not near as plodding or boring as many of Orton and Cena’s recent bouts. The AA through the table was a solid finish, but not really worth remembering. However, I love that Cena went over here, just from a storyline perspective. Cena and Lesnar have unfinished business that must be dealt with, hopefully well before Wrestlemania. Orton, on the other hand, is now freed up to continue his story with Seth Rollins. I’d like to see Orton split from the Authority in the coming weeks and form his own quasi-faction for a traditional Survivor Series match in a month. I want to talk about this more in another post I plan to have up later in the week, so I’ll leave it at that. People might be mad Cena won (because they’re always mad when Cena wins), but I think it was the right decision for both wrestlers.
  • Well, we didn’t get a Mizdow face turn tonight, but we did get some decent (?) comedy from the stunt double. Further, Sheamus and Miz had a solid match that made the YMCA comedy routine more bearable. I love Mizdow as much as the next guy, but they can do better when booking him as a comedy act. I really hope Miz and Damien don’t split up too soon. Miz is getting over with Mizdow at his back and I think they can really build this to a solid feud to solidify Miz as a quality mid-card heel. He wants to be hated and honestly, he’s pretty dang good at it. This storyline could greatly help both guys get over in their respective roles. Miz as a mid-card heel and Sandow as a comedic baby-face.
  • Were JBL in charge of physics, quite literally everyone would be broken in half by every move, in every match. Go-to phrases are fine, but he’s said that one in almost every match of the night.
  • As sad as I am for America, you gotta love the WWE’s willingness to book Rusev as an unstoppable force, even against decorated stars like the Big Show and Mark Henry. Everyone expected a Henry heel turn that never came and I think it was the right move. Rusev needs to continue along this path for at least a few more weeks and cheapening a massive win against Big Show would only cheapen the pay off for whatever young star finally beats Rusev. Here’s hoping Rusev moves on from the Big Show and Henry and on to someone smaller and more athletic. It’s great to see him dominate seven-footers, but his moveset is restricted when he does. I still think Big E was the best dancing partner we’ve seen for Rusev yet and I wouldn’t mind seeing the two go at each other again over the coming weeks.
  • That Ambrose promo.
  • I don’t even….Dean Ambrose is Wrestling and I’m his disciple forever. He’s just….I can’t….words….
  • I want to preface this by saying that, when I was growing up, I almost never purchased any pay per views. In fact, the first ppv I can remember watching is Wrestlemania 25, the first time Undertaker and HBK went toe-to-toe. That means I missed out on quite a swathe of the best matches in WWE’s history and likely makes my next statement less impactful. However, in my estimation, Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose’s Hell in a Cell matchup was the best story-telling I’ve seen in a ring since those ‘Taker-Michaels matches. I’m not talking about wrestling ability (though there was plenty of that) or huge spots (quite a few of those as well). I’m talking about the story told in the ring. Ambrose was on another level last night with his character and you could feel the pain he was experiencing in finally taking out his frustration on his former brother. The moment he screamed, “you stabbed me in the back, you son of a bitch” was one of those moments where goosebumps run down your spine and for one fleeting second, you think it’s all real. This match was the epitome of wrestling. A career-making moment in both of these two men’s lives and a benchmark for others to live up to over the coming years. But that’s not the most impressive thing. I’ve spoken before about how I wish this feud would blow off at Mania, and I think Creative found a way to get us closer. You see, we got to see a classic from Rollins and Ambrose, but we didn’t get to see it finish. Bray Wyatt’s appearance to disrupt the show means that Rollins and Ambrose get to take a few months off from each other (hopefully), before ramping up to the blood feud to end all blood feuds at the Granddaddy of them All. This might be the show of the year, and that match was certainly the match of the year, as far as I’m concerned.
  • Closing Thoughts: Hard to think of much more to say that wasn’t said in the last bullet point. An all-around excellent show with a phenomenal finish. We should be set up for an exciting next few months as these stories play out. I’m hoping to start a new segment this week, where I fantasy book next month’s pay-per-view the week after the last one ended. So look for that on Thursday or Friday. Thanks for reading and please, tell me how much you love Dean Ambrose in the comments.

The Wait Continues (NXT Reactions, Oct. 25)

Wrestling

No Raw this week. My Internet was down from Sunday to Friday, and I just felt that I had missed the party. Anyways, NXT is more fun to watch regardless. Let’s get into it.

  • You have to wonder if Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan will catapult to serious contender status when The Ascension makes their inevitable move to the main roster. Jordan, in particular, has the “look” the WWE brass is looking for, and both guys are respectable wrestlers. It could be interesting to see what they can do with the extra opportunities teams will be provided by the Ascension-sized hole that NXT will have by the end of the year. At this point, I can’t even tell you what their finisher is, but they’ve shown enough to make me interested to see what they could do with a bigger, longer run.
  • The slow burn of Hideo Itami and The Ascension continues. I’ve been waiting to know who Itami’s real partner is going to be (let’s be honest, Funaki was never a serious contender) and the wait continues. I have to wonder if people will get bored with this angle if they don’t blow it off soon, but there could be a logical reason behind the long wait. Since NXT films four episodes at once, it’s possible that the WWE wanted to build the story over one taping, without spoiling the end for people that read the show notes. If they build the story over four episodes (one taping) and then open the next taping with the introduction of Itami’s teammate (Fergal Devitt??? Kevin Steen??? Shelton Benjamin???[A man can dream, right?]) it’s more likely to be a surprise. If that’s where the story’s going (and I think it is), then it’s a smart way to book this type of show. Obviously, anything that’s not live is going to have spoilers in this age of the Internet, so you have to do everything you can to keep big secrets from getting out early.
  • NXT is a very interesting wrestling promotion because it’s set up as something of a farm system for the WWE. That means they can’t really hand their stars losses because they’re trying to build them up and help them get over with their main audience. That means when you get matchups like Tyler Breeze vs. C.J. Parker, you can’t really care because you know with near-absolute certainty that Breeze is going over. There’s something to be said for guys like Parker going out and showing something, but he isn’t going to get much build in a matchup against a future Raw Superstar. And, at the end of the day, even if the wrestling is solid, I’m still not interested in the matchup because I know who’s going to win before it even starts. However, NXT does do a solid job of building its over storylines (in this case, bringing in Mojo Rawley as a distraction) even in these glorified squash matches.
  • Is Mojo Rawley going to evolve his gimmick? It’s about time. He’s been one of the more bland guys on NXT for a while. He can do some high impact stuff and make the crowd pop, but he doesn’t really have anything else. Hopefully he adds some new wrinkles to make himself interesting again.
  • I often talk about how I don’t think the Vaudevillains will get over on the main roster, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t hope I’m wrong. They’re different, which makes them interesting. Aiden English looks very different than any NXT superstar and is solid on the microphone. Simon Goch is somewhat of an enforcer for English, though he isn’t a giant, by any means. Most importantly, they work well as a tag team, and that’s something Raw and Smackdown could really use. I’d love to see two or three teams added to the current division to make it competitive again. Raw has three hours to fill, surely we could put something on TV besides eight segments of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and John Cena. Two, maybe three tag team matchups a week? I’m sold.
  • Bayley cleanly lost two straight to Charlotte for the NXT Women’s Championship and now adds a clean loss to Sasha Banks. It’s great to have a lovable loser like Sami Zayn, but I fear that Bayley has become too much of a loser lately. Also, does Banks’ win and Becky Lynch’s heel turn signify a face turn for Charlotte? You can do heel-heel storylines, but the division is lacking a top face to go with Bayley against Banks and Lynch. It’s certainly an interesting prospect for Charlotte, as it gives her a chance to show off her versatility as a performer.
  • More Enzo, please. That is all.
  • Pitting Adrian Neville against someone that isn’t Tyson Kidd, Sami Zayn, or Tyler Breeze is certainly a good thing; however, the early stages of this Neville-Titus O’Neil contest are pretty sloppy. The two wrestlers don’t look to have much chemistry and we’ve seen at least two clear botches in the first two minutes. That’s not something you see from Neville, so logic would dictate that O’Neil might be rusty from spending so much time out of the ring on the main roster. That said, there’s still time to bring this one home, as we head into the break.
  • Well, I’ll say this, Titus brings a new moveset to the NXT main event scene. It was definitely a different sort of match than what we’ve gotten used from the “Big Four” since Neville won the championship many months ago. However, the finish of that match was pretty poor. With being surprising, it came out of nowhere and left me feeling like they’d left a lot on the mat. Titus was dominating throughout much of the contest and then Neville hit him with a boot and dropped the Red Arrow. It didn’t feel like he did enough damage to make his win feel credible. It felt cheap to me, but that’s just my opinion. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Titus at NXT because he does provide something no else can in this promotion. He’s a believable monster who represents a significant challenge for NXT’s many high-impact players. It was a solid match, but I would’ve gone with a different finisher.
  • Closing Thoughts: A relatively lackluster NXT show this week, considering how excellent the offerings have been as late. The Itami storyline was the only one that was interesting to me and I even think that one needs to pick up soon. I really question how Bayley is being booked of late. She really needs a quality win shortly, maybe she can come back to relevancy against Becky Lynch in the coming weeks. Finally, I think NXT really missed a chance to give Adrian Neville a credible win over Titus O’Neil and left a lot of story in the ring. If they go back to this well in a few weeks, I hope they can tell a better story.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

Reviews

I must admit, I was not very interested in playing Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes when it first came out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the Metal Gear series; having played through 1-3 back in my PS2 days. I tried to beat MGS4 in a weekend on a friend’s PS3, but I ran out of time about halfway through, so, as a 360 owner, I’ve never seen the end of Sons of Patriots. However, I was really interested in purchasing a two-hour primer for the upcoming Phantom Pain and then having to wait six-plus months before getting my hands on the real game. Then MGSV’s TGS trailer dropped.

 

The second that 20-minute teaser finished playing, I put Ground Zeroes in my Gamefly queue, knowing that it likely wouldn’t calm my hunger pains for the Phantom Pain, but not really caring. I just needed some Metal Gear in my life. As you’ll see throughout this review, this was an interesting game to me. I say interesting because it’s hard to apply the words “good” or “bad” to what is essentially a demo that you’re paying 20 bucks for. Is it worth it? Read on to find out.

 

Story: As with the majority of the Metal Gear games, the more you’ve played past games, the more the story of other games means to you. Sadly, I never played Peace Walker and, from digging through the Metal Gear wiki, it seems like that’s where most of these characters come from. So to me, it felt like there were just random characters popping up for me to protect/save that I had no history with. It might have been helpful to place a Kojima-cutscene at the first of the game to set up the story for those of us who never played through this side game.

 

That said, I’m certainly glad I played through this story because it sets up the plot for Phantom Pain (I assume) by somewhat bringing me up to speed with the characters Paz and Chico. Additionally, new players (and I count myself among the newbies) get to see Camp Omega and the many people who are, in theory, going to be important to Snake in the Phantom Pain. Obviously, if you’ve played Peace Walker, you’re going to get more out of this than I did, but I think the story did a competent job of at least telling me who these people are before we move on to the next main entry into the series.

 

Design/Presentation: Metal Gear games are always gorgeous, and Ground Zeroes is no different. There weren’t too many cutscenes that let Kojima really show off his skill at directing his little mini-movies, but the in-game graphics were excellent. The only real negative with the game visually was how shiny everyone looked in the rain. This has long been one of my bigger gripes with cutting-edge titles, because it always looks just off. It’s not a huge deal, especially when everything else looks this good, but it does throw off your immersion a little bit. The rain on its own? Looks great. The shininess of the models? Not so much.

 

However, that wasn’t the biggest thing that threw me out of the game, not even close. I knew that Kieffer Sutherland was taking over for David Hayter as the voice of Snake, but I really didn’t think I would notice. Boy, was I wrong. The first time I heard Sutherland, I thought maybe the game was glitching. Now, I don’t want to be one of those guys who poo-poos an actor because he’s “not the guy I’m used to”, and I really don’t have a problem with Sutherland playing Snake going forward. It just blew my mind for maybe two minutes at the start and took a while to get over. See you later David Hayter, we hardly knew ye.

 

Gameplay: If you liked Metal Gear combat in the past, you’re going to like this game. It’s a little weird to get used to at first, as you’re pressing different buttons than you’re used to when shooting, but once you get it down, it feels pretty good. Shooting is just hard enough that you definitely want to sneak, and this is a Black Ops game, after all. Going in guns blazing just isn’t going to work, especially with the limited arsenal you begin with. Most often, you’re going to stick to your sleep dart gun. That means you need to move quickly before they wake up or someone finds their comrade taking a nap.

 

The main mission was well designed and makes you feel like you can really take it on any way you want. That said, sneaking through the bushes is almost always going to be the way to go. At the end, the game kind of encourages you to try and fight the base, but it’s very easy to just skip all that and sneak around until you find a place to call in your helicopter. The Side Ops set up the same base with different win conditions from the main game, in an attempt to add on value to the product. However, at the end of the day, you’re just replaying the same area over and over again, trying to unlock new guns and outfits for your character.

 

Overall: This is a tough game to score or even review, in some respects. Its essentially one mission with a few different win conditions tacked on to give the appearance that there’s more to do than there really is. You’d be hard-pressed to talk me into spending money on Ground Zeroes, but, if you’re looking at this as strictly a demo for the Phantom Pain, it does a pretty good job of whetting your appetite. You’re getting classic Metal Gear combat with shiny (in a good and bad way as detailed above) new visuals and some solid setup plot for the main game. That said, it’s not really worth the price of admission and is only recommendable as a demo. It’s a good demo, but not really a game.

 

Score: As a Demo: 8/10. As a game 6/10.

A Game of Thrones Second Edition Play-through (Oct. 21)

Board Games

The idea behind this blog was to make a place for me to write about various things that interest me, with a focus on wrestling, video games and board games. However, so far its been mostly wrestling with a bit of Survivor theory-crafting thrown in. This can stand no longer and so, without further adieu, let’s talk about board games.

 

This post isn’t going to be a review of game, simply because it’s been a long time since my first experience with A Game of Thrones Second Edition, and I’d prefer for any reviews to be posted before I’ve starting digging into the deeper strategy behind a game. That way, my review better describes the experience a player will get as they’re learning the game and not be too in-depth for a newcomer to understand. With that said, when I do play games I like (and AGoT is a game I REALLY like) and have played more than a few times, I want to review the session, describe the various strategies used, and see if I can find new strategies through my analysis. Now that this is properly set up, let’s begin.

 

If you’ve never played A Game of Thrones Second Edition (AGoT, for short), here’s a quick primer to get you somewhat up to speed. This is a game of Westeros domination, with a heavy emphasis on diplomacy over straight war (the thinking man’s Risk). Basically, you start as one of six factions (or less if you’re playing with less players) and you attempt to control seven castles through warfare, treaties, and good, old-fashioned backstabbing. My group was at five players for this playthrough, so the Martells were left unused, as per the rulebook. I’ve spent the majority of my time with this game playing the Tyrells and using the fact that they start out somewhat away from the majority of players to eke out quite a few victories. However, in this game, I was playing the Baretheons, who I usually ally with until around turn seven before backstabbing them for a victory. Outside of a single case where one player just laid down for another to win, I think I’ve won every time I’ve played as the Tyrells and used that strategy.

 

However, that was working against me in this game. You see, grudges often build from game to game in AGoT and when you play with largely the same play group every time, you begin to get long-lasting enemies. This was precisely the case in last weekend’s game, as the player who’d I’d backstabbed a few months ago was now playing the Tyrells to my Baretheons and claimed from the very first turn that his only goal was “to end me.” Obviously, this was going to make it difficult for me to have a chance and I basically had to spend my first few turns doing nothing to try and appease him before I could make my moves.

 

In fact, the only real moves I made before turn six was to conquer both King’s Landing and The Eyrie while building up a formidable navy. Now, many players forgo upping their naval presence in favor of building as many horses and siege engines as possible. This can be an effective strategy, and I usually don’t push my navy quite as hard as I did this game. But I knew I’d have to strike quickly and having lanes for my army to quickly move from place-to-place and be in a good position. This would prove invaluable because no one could keep up with me as I darted around the map, putting me in a position to win in the seventh round.

 

However, I could not have done what I did without the strong play from both the Tyrells and the Greyjoys. Both of these players were veterans, with even more plays than me, and they both jumped out ahead of the pack. The Greyjoy player, in particular, looked strong and actually held six of the seven castles needed in the sixth round with what looked like an easy victory in front of him. With that in mind, I laid down my final movement commands, knowing that turn seven would be my only chance at pulling out an upset victory.

 

Things didn’t look too rosy for me when the turn began. Greyjoy had laid claim to the Iron Throne, meaning he was first on turn order. He immediately went after a Lannister castle, which would’ve been the winning move. However, the Lannister player had the Raven and was able to change one of her move orders before the attack. She changed a territory from defense to support and was able to hold onto victory against Greyjoy. The Tyrell player jumped in right after and attacked the Lannister castle while she was weak. He easily overtook the castle, but I still had moves to make. Knowing the Tyrells had just used a few of his stronger cards, I attacked the castle he had just taken from the Lannisters and won it away seconds after he’d acquired it. Then, I used that navy I spoke of earlier to move the bulk of my troops from The Eyrie to an open castle close to Sunspear. Finally, I used my final movement and my Valaryian Steel blade (+1 to attack) to take my last castle from the Tyrells.

 

Essentially, I moved from four castles and fourth place into first and the win in a single turn, taking three castles to get there. Obviously, without the Lannister’s solid Raven play, I wouldn’t have had a chance, but I felt like I played a very good game overall. I generally like to lay low and try to win the game with a few big moves at the end and that’s exactly what happened. AGoT seems to have quite a bit of leader bashing, at least among my group, making late wins paramount to success. With that said, my play probably wasn’t optimal considering I had to rely on another player to even have a chance. A better move might’ve been to use my navy to make a move on the Starks earlier in the game, using two of their castles to supplement my holdings in the South. With that said, it’s difficult to ever get mad at a win.

 

In the end, this game represented the things I love about AGoT. There was a major backstabbing between the Greyjoys and the Lannisters. I made three big moves to win the game in a single turn. I didn’t mention it earlier, but I did a fair amount of lying during Wildling attacks, which is always fun. I’m not sure if this is enjoyable to read, but I’ll continue doing these when the gameplay is interesting to me. However, I’m going to try to more reviews in the future, which shouldn’t be hard considering the number of board games I’ve purchased in recent months. Tell me what you think of AGoT in the comments and let me know about any interesting scenarios that have developed during your own playthroughs.

Late Night With Seth Rollins (Raw Reactions Oct. 13)

Wrestling

Super late with this one. My apologies. My girlfriend was visiting from out of town and I just got behind on posting this. Anyways, on to my reactions from Monday’s Raw (Note: This will probably be the only post I make this week because, again, super behind on everything currently).

  • I’m sure I mentioned this last week, but why is John Cena involved in this deeply personal feud between Rollins and Ambrose? I understand that Rollins probably cost Cena a title, but, from a storyline building sense, what does Cena’s involvement add to the feud between the former “brothers”? The only thing I can come up with is that the WWE wants to keep Ambrose and Rollins “apart” for a little bit longer without them actually being apart. So Cena gets inserted into the story as a third member that both guys have to concentrate on before they meet up with each other. If that’s the case, I think I can get behind it. Cena has no one to feud with, and you want to save the Rollins-Ambrose blow off for one of the “Major Four” PPVs (though I’d love to see them continue on until Wrestlemania, but I don’t know if it has enough steam to last another seven months). However, if that is the case, does Cena go over Ambrose and get the match with Rollins? If they book it correctly (read: a Brock Lesnar run-in that costs Cena his match with Rollins), that seems like a decent enough move to further both storylines. That said, the WWE isn’t exactly known for its long-term booking, so I question if they have the foresight to make a move that develops all four characters and two storylines at once.
  • Wow! Cena and Ambrose get to face someone that isn’t Randy Orton and Corporate Kane? This is refreshing. Of course, the only two legitimate tag teams are about to get buried by an impromptu team and make that division look weak for no reason. Let’s face it, Cena and Ambrose don’t need a win here, and if Creative gives it to them, the only thing that happens is that the tag division looks like it can’t compete with anyone in the main event scene. Such shortsighted booking is why we never have show-stealers like the Hardy Boyz or the Dudleys anymore. For those of us who grew up with a strong tag division, it’s pretty sad to see these guys relegated so far down the ladder of importance.
  • What are the rules of this tag team matchup? Only two teams are going at once, so is it an elimination match and when the Usos lose (because, come on), then the Dust brothers will come into the match? Oh wait, now Cena and Ambrose are out of it after the break. How did we trade out which team was in? Is it some kind of time limit? I’m so confused by the logistics of this match. Wait!?!?! You can just tag in anyone? How does that make sense? This is just pure lunacy at this point. The WWE has turned into Who’s Line Is It Anyway? The rivalries are made and the rules don’t matter. And yes, why not have your tag team champions lose to two guys that aren’t a legitimate team. It only makes sense. Thanks, Creative.
  • Do you think they could do an entire three hours on just Cena and Ambrose? They sure are going for it tonight, aren’t they?
  • An Orton and Ziggler pairing is pretty interesting because you have two guys who want to be heels (or at least seem to want to be heels), but they can’t ever really be true heels because people love them too much (and I think they both want to loved, which is probably the problem). Both are excellent wrestlers, both can tell a great in-ring story, but neither can ever be truly hated. Take Orton tonight for example. He’s an Authority lackey, who is supposed to be universally hated. What does he do? Plays to the crowd for huge cheers through his various taunts. Heels don’t do that. Heels want to be hated and I don’t think Randy wants that. Is this the beginning of a face turn? It could certainly be interesting so see Orton at the head of a new face faction. He’s proven that he works as the leader of a faction with the Legacy and seeing him as a mentor of sorts to some new guys from NXT might be the way to reinvent/reenergize his career. It’s easy to get him there as well. He’s fed up with being second fiddle to Rollins in the Authority, so he breaks free and forms his own faction to oppose the Authority. He becomes that groups Triple H and brings in a couple of guys to fill out his stable. Roman Reigns could be have potential as the enforcer, but I think he needs a singles run to solidify his status. There seems to be high potential for Orton to bring in Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, and maybe even Ryback to fill out his stable. That gives you a mastermind, a high-flyer, a great all-around wrestler, and an enforcer. Not a bad faction, if I do say so myself.
  • Now, I’m still behind the idea of turning Orton face, but that certainly leaves a void for main event heels. I mean, after the reaction tonight, you could argue that the only heel wrestler in the main event scene is Seth Rollins. Orton’s victory over fan favorite Dolph Ziggler was greeted with huge cheers, while Rollins was booed with vigor after delivering a Curb Stomp to Ziggler after the match. Outside of Rollins, who does the WWE really have? Cesaro? Miz? Mark Henry? Are any of those guys legitimate threats to guys like Cena, Ambrose, or Orton, if he turns? Bray Wyatt is the one guy who I didn’t mention that could run a program with any of those guys, but he hasn’t been on TV outside of vignettes in awhile. They really need some new blood in the heel ranks from NXT and I don’t know if any of those guys are ready just yet. How many people can Seth Rollins feud with? At this point, he looks like he’s in a program with at least three guys and maybe four, if you count Roman Reigns.
  • Seriously, is there another story on WWE programming besides everyone hates Seth Rollins and wants a piece of him? I love the guy as a wrestler and am interested in his character, but there’s got to be something else for us to watch, right?
  • Rusev can really go in the ring and packs surprising athleticism into his gigantic frame. However, pairing him with guys like the Big Show and Mark Henry is probably a mistake. Neither of those guys are going to be able to let him show off what an incredible athlete he is and their matches are bound to be somewhat plodding. Big E was probably the best opponent Rusev has had so far because they’re both pretty similar in regards to size and athletic ability. Hopefully, Rusev moves away from Show after Hell in a Cell and can go against someone smaller than him. After all, it’s hard to see him as “monster heel” when the guy he’s fighting has six inches or more on him. Pairing him with someone like Dolph Ziggler might make for an interesting combination of skill sets. Titus O’Neil could also be intriguing, given his size; however, his solid work on NXT probably signifies that he’s going to spend a few more months down in Florida before coming back to the main roster.
  • In case you’re wondering, there were 10 segments on Hulu’s version of Raw tonight and seven of them were dedicated to the Cena-Ambrose-Rollins-Orton storyline. Is the roster really this weak that four guys need to be involved in almost every aspect of the night?
  • I’ve spoken before about how Dean Ambrose isn’t the best wrestler in the business, but his moveset fits his character more than just about anyone in the WWE. This was exemplified tonight when he gnawed on Cena’s fingers to get out of the STF, or whatever Cena’s finished submission move is called nowadays. I love how everything about Ambrose, from his delivery to his moveset to his facial expressions build upon his character. He’s not the best at any one thing, but he uses everything at his disposal to make himself into a must-watch character. And that’s why he’s the fastest rising player in the Main Event scene.
  • Closing Thoughts: I would love for someone to explain the logic behind the booking tonight. Cena is inserted into Rollins and Ambrose’s feud, giving the WWE the chance to extend the feud’s blowoff to a “Major Four” pay-per-view. Further, they build up the animosity between Rollins and Orton in a convincing and interesting way. And then they throw it al out of the window. Cena’s involvement ultimately amounts to squat, as Ambrose gets to face Rollins mano-a-mano in a cell in two weeks and Randy Orton’s recent development is rendering virtually useless, as he’ll be facing Cena for the billionth time on a PPV. This is the kind of shortsighted booking I spoke of early and largely the reason NXT is becoming the WWE’s real flagship program if you want quality television. I am beyond frustrated right now.

It’s Titus’ Turn (NXT reactions Oct. 9)

Wrestling

WWE’s number one program is back again this week, as NXT brings us another exciting episode of wrasslin’. The card was filled with up-and-coming talent looking to make a name for themselves, and some of them did just that. Read on to see my thoughts on this week’s episode of NXT.

  • OH MY GOD, IT’S TYLER? Tyler Breeze is one of the most intriguing guys on the NXT roster. Obviously, he’s a supremely talented wrestler and completely owns his gimmick. However, you can’t help but wonder if said gimmick has any chance on Raw. On NXT, I love it, you love it, everybody loves it. But can it get over with an audience numbering in the tens of thousands? Or is it something that only works with an NXT-esque crowd (probably the best crowd in the business right now). I have the feeling that his wrestling will be enough to make him a future star, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him alter his gimmick before he gets a call-up. Then again, I’m not a booker, so what do I know? At the very least, I’m hopeful that Tyler makes it to the next level because his combination of talent and ability to generate heat is something the main roster could really use. Fresh heels are needed on Raw and Smackdown and Breeze could be that guy.
  • That was an….interesting submission move by Carmella. Is that her finisher? I’m not opposed to it, I’ve just never seen it before. Some kind of head scissors, but she torques it by holding her body up? I guess the scissors part makes sense, considering she used to be a hairdresser prior to joining Enzo and Big Cass.
  • I’m really liking Viktor’s intensity in his match against Itami. That’s going to go a long way towards getting The Ascension over if they join the Raw roster later this year. They need to come in and dominate teams to quickly become a legitimate threat in a growing collection of quality tag teams. The Ascension could be the biggest heels in the company if they bring this same style to Raw and Smackdown. If they do what they’re doing to Itami lately to someone like the Usos, they’ll make a quick ascension to the top of the tag team ladder. Konner and Viktor are classic heels and that makes them a valuable commodity.
  • I’m still holding any judgment on Itami as an NXT wrestler. He hasn’t really had a chance to show himself off yet, which is a product of his current storyline. I don’t read any NXT spoilers, but I have a feeling they’re going to team him with Fergal Devitt or Kevin Steen soon and let them take on The Ascension two-on-two. That seems like the best place to let Itami finally show off his full skillset. So far, it’s been relatively vanilla and we all know Itami can bring it in the ring. It’s just a matter of time before he starts taking the NXT singles’ scene by storm.
  • I know I talk a lot about wrestlers with gimmicks who might not get over if they get a call up to Raw or Smackdown, and I kind of hate that. Not because I want those gimmicks to get over on a bigger stage, but that we’re all so focused on whether or not these guys will make it what we think of as the “Big Time”. I would put forth that the NXT might just be the big time because it’s the best weekly wrestling show I’ve seen in at least the last five years. If guys like Aiden English and Simon Goch never go to Raw or Smackdown, but continue their successful run in NXT for the next 3-5 years, why isn’t that a huge win for those two? They may not be traditional “WWE Superstars”, but they put on an entertaining program and will have achieved continued success on a quality wrestling show. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, if I was a wrestler, I think I’d rather stay in NXT and be the top guy that never made it to Raw than be called up and realize the company has no plans for me (see Adam Rose and Xavier Woods). I’d certainly enjoy myself more in Florida than I would traveling all over the place on WWE’s notorious schedule. And it would be much easier to raise a family if I was working for NXT. I’m not saying guys shouldn’t strive to be on Raw; I’m just saying we shouldn’t get upset or put huge expectations on guys who are better suited for the smaller, more intimidate rings of NXT.
  • Enzo kills his promo like usual, but Big Cass with the Stoop Kid reference? How you doin’? These guys are the best act in the business for my money. And you can’t teach that. If anyone should get a call-up, it’s these two.
  • Obviously, Enzo and Big Cass project as a babyface team given their undeniable charisma on the microphone; however, they would make an interesting heel team. You can easily imagine Enzo playing the coward heel that doesn’t have the bite to back up his bark. He would talk a big game, but then constantly hide behind Big Cass’ size and athletic ability. That kind of program could last for a month or so and then the pay off is seeing someone finally get their hands on an unprotected Enzo. You could play that as a singles angle or keep them together as a tag team. It also gives you a viable angle to break them apart as singles stars, if you decide that’s the way you want to go. Personally, I’d be fine if they stayed tag team babyfaces their entire career, but who knows what Vinnie Mac will think when he sees Enzo with a mic in his hands for the first time on Raw.
  • Becky Lynch looked pretty solid tonight with some excellent technical wrestling and quite a few displays of her intense striking ability in what could’ve been a quick squash match for Sasha Banks during her run to a challenge against Charlotte. However, I don’t know if I’m the biggest fan of her guttural screams after almost every offensive move. Are they trying to play up the Irish warrior princess gimmick? Or is that just her style? I don’t know, but it distracted me from her overall performance and I hope she turns it down a bit if she sticks around. In other news, Sasha Banks was exceptional in her heel persona as usual.
  • I really love Titus O’Neil as an NXT wrestler. The championship tier doesn’t really have a monster heel right now. Tyler Breeze and Tyson Kidd are quality wrestlers, but they aren’t really a mountain for someone like Sami Zayn or Adrian Neville to climb. O’Neil is exactly that, and if this run is extended for a month or two, he could give even more credibility to NXT’s babyfaces in the title picture. Further, he gets a chance to work on his craft with some of the best workers in the business. Anytime you’re in the ring with a guy like Zayn or Neville, you’re going to pick up new insights into how to work a crowd and tell a story. This move for O’Neil makes sense for both parties and I’m totally behind him being inserted into NXT’s title picture, if that’s what happens.
  • That powerbomb by Titus, though….what a finish for the Big Dog. If he continues delivering like that, it’s going to be hard to keep the title off of him. It’ll be interesting to see if they continue this angle or if Titus just moves on to Neville’s title. I guess the ending sets up a three-way dance for Neville, Titus, and Zayn, but we’ll see.
  • Closing Thoughts: This week was better than last week for me. Titus O’Neil is a much more interesting personality than Tyson Kidd, so I’d rather see him in a program with the top babyfaces than watch Kidd put on another excellent, yet similar match with Zayn or Neville. The mid-card was more exciting this week, as it always is when Enzo and Big Cass come to play. However, I really liked the work The Ascension is doing with Itami. Obviously, it’s all Ascension right now, but that will probably change as Itami adjusts to the NXT style. The most interesting thing going forward is who is going to come to Itami’s side and give him the running partner he so desperately needs. My vote is either Fergal Devitt or Kevin Steen, but time will tell.

Survivor Theory-Crafting: Don’t Rock(er) The Boat (Oct. 8)

Survivor

This week on Survivor we were treated to a few interesting developments, most notably, John Rocker’s identity (and past homophobic and racist comments) was made known to all the Survivors by Jeremy after Rocker failed to save Jeremy’s wife Val. Unfortunately, Jeremy won’t know until he watches the show that Val was voted out because she made an idiotic play, but that’s neither here nor there. However, he made John’s past clear and painted a gigantic target on a gigantic man. We’ll get into what happened with John soon, but for now let’s break down a few other key things that happened this week.

 

Early in the episode, Baylor made the comment that she’s “finally going to play for myself”. Um, Baylor, why weren’t you playing for yourself this entire time? Survivor is not a team game and you’re obviously on the outs with your tribe’s macho guy alliance. This is a concept I don’t think I’ll ever understand. Obviously, alliances are important, but at this stage, you should only be making tentative alliances at best. These people who you might backstab don’t matter much as far as the jury and, when you’re tribe is being dominated each week, the trust you build with your own tribe seems to become less important. Baylor has to focus on making it to the merge and then put all her efforts into joining the Hunahpu tribemates against the Coyopa alliance. That’s her best play at this stage. It’s like March Madness. Survive and Advance.

 

John made a few mistakes this week, but I think the most important one was letting everyone know that he tried to keep Val in the game. That’s a discussion you save for the merge, and only if Jeremy makes it with you. Telling him right now that the decision was out of your hands does basically nothing positive for you, and only makes your alliance lose trust in you. This, and not people learning his identity or his outburst to Natalie, seemed to be the biggest factor in him being voted out this week. Sure, the drama obviously didn’t help his case, as it made people question if it was worth it to keep him around if he continued to have meltdowns like he did at the immunity challenge. That said, it was pretty obvious that John lost a lot of trust for him when it was made apparent that he had tried to save Val. I honestly felt that his fate was sealed the second he opened his mouth at the reward challenge.

 

Even though I was pretty certain Rocker was on his way out if Coyopa lost early on in the episode, I still didn’t think it was the right move. First of all, that male alliance is pretty solid right now, and covers quite a few of the bases you want in a pre-merge challenge. Further, if I’m Josh or Wes, I’m looking at the other three members as people I can relatively easily beat once the merge hits. John’s a huge target with his athletic ability. Alec doesn’t seem like the brightest crayon in the box and hasn’t really shown much as physical threat. And Dale is 55 years old and isn’t winning immunity anytime in the near future. Wes and Josh are the two guys from Coyopa that I could legitimately see winning this thing, and they had a chance to ride an easy alliance to the merge. And then they broke it up.

 

Like I said last week, keeping strong, physical beasts around is a solid idea pre-merge because they become such a huge target that you can kind of hide behind them as you integrate yourself with your new tribemates. Say Josh brings John to the merge and neither of them win immunity, then Josh can throw John under the bus as a physical threat and save himself for at least one more week to build his social game. This is a much better strategy than keeping Baylor, who really does nothing for you unless you’re considering her a non-threat to keep around for a potential final two deal. However, I would put forth that Baylor is dangerous at this stage because, if she makes it to the merge, you’re risking a deadly all-girls alliance between the women of Copoya and Hunahpu. The Hunahpu girls are going to be mad that you picked on the girls early and will bring in any leftover Copoya girls to form a force that will likely wreck havoc on your game. The Copoya men choose early they were going to go the all-male alliance route and they should’ve stuck with it.

 

Instead, they gave Rocker the boat and lost their most impressive physical threat. That doesn’t spell outright doom for the Copoya tribe, but it does make things interesting for the next few weeks. Depending on the type of competition, they seem even more likely to suffer another loss to Hunahpu and that means yet another tribal council. If you get there, what do you do? The safe bet is for the males to go after Baylor and use her as the easy move. However, with another week (or however long they have in real time), could she fully turn Josh to her and Jaclyn’s side? Or do the girls try to talk the boys into getting rid of Dale because he’s a non-competitor in the majority of the immunity challenges? There’s quite a few ways to go, but if I’m Josh or Wes, I think I try to keep the all-boys alliance going and get Baylor out. And if Hunahpu loses, Reed and Drew are the most obvious choices. They still have their loved ones in the game on the other side and are legitimate threats in the game. That makes them important players going forward. You never want to see two strong players get together who have a built-in bond and that should make those two targets for Hunahpu.

Finally! (Raw Reactions Oct. 6)

Wrestling

Well folks, I’m a day late because of some schoolwork I had to take care of Tuesday, but I hope you’ll forgive. Tonight’s Raw was electrifying, in a way (see what I did there) and I had quite a few thoughts while watching the broadcast on Hulu. Let’s get down to it and review my Raw reactions this week.

  • So, like all of you, I’m loving Rollins as a heel and Ambrose as face, which is so far from what everyone assumed they’d be once The Shield broke up. In fact, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Rollins (Tyler Black) generally been a face his whole career and the same for Ambrose as a heel? So it’s great to see them play against type (whether that’s their real type or just what we, the fans, initially perceived). However, I think it’s going to be very interesting to see when/how both of these guys make their turns. There’s no way Ambrose or Rollins doesn’t turn at some point (potentially in a double-turn involving Roman Reign). And that’s going to be the point in which we truly know if these guys are Main Event players for the next decade or not. I believe that true Superstars (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Jericho, etc.) can play both sides of the card very well. Obviously, guys like Cena (face) and Orton (heel) can draw major money as predominantly one or the other, but my favorites have always been able to go back and forth. It will interesting to see how the WWE handles the potential turn and, though I love this current program, that’s probably more interesting for me.
  • I say I love this current program, but there’s a certain stink about it. And his name’s John Cena. Let’s be real, Cena’s the biggest star in the company and that probably doesn’t change for another five years. However, does he really need to be inserted into every major feud? Are we that worried that Rollins/Ambrose can’t carry a card without Cena being involved? Maybe they can’t, but we’ll never know if we don’t try. Cena’s involvement seems pointless and I’m not a fan of it. I don’t want him feuding with Randy Orton, but I really don’t want him in the middle of this. Honestly, I can’t even think of an interesting storyline for Cena right now. He doesn’t fit this feud and pretty much anyone he can wrestle either needs more time or has fought Cena so many times that its not interesting at this point. Cena would be well served to take a month off for injury and let some talent build up to his level. But we all know that will never happen.
  • Tag teams have always been important to me as WWE fan. When I first started watching wrestling, Goldust and Booker T were my favorite wrestlers and Jericho and Christian were right up there. That’s why I’m glad we’re seeing legitimate tag teams like the Usos and the Dust brothers get real runtime on Raw. Hopefully, the WWE will really bring back the tag division once they bring up teams like The Ascension from WWE. However, I feel like both shows are missing a team that reminds you of the Hardy Boyz or Edge and Christian. Those are teams people can get behind and I don’t currently see anyone on either roster who will bring in a similar level of fandom. Well, maybe Enzo and Big Cass, but, while that team oozes charisma, I don’t know if they’ll ever match the classic teams on the level of wrestling talent.
  • Cody Rhodes has really taken it to the next level as Stardust. I doubt this is what he saw for himself when he was running with Orton and Dibiase Jr. in Legacy, but he’s really carving out a spot for himself on the roster for years to come. I don’t know when he’ll ditch the Stardust gimmick (if ever), but I must say that this character shows that he take almost anything and turn into money. That’s a great skill to have, in my opinion.
  • Yes, WWE, Hoda and Kathie Lee are the exact people I want to see in my 90-minute condensed version of Raw. Why would we show wrestling when we can show lame attempts to get recognition in traditional media. I guess the good news is that this gets Adam Rose on TV this week.
  • If that’s a “Raw Moment”, I hope we never have another one again.
  • These Luke Harper vignettes are great and all, but what are they trying to do with them? He’s already (obviously) debuted, so it’s not like we’re bringing up an unknown from NXT. Does this signify that Harper is going to break away from Wyatt and forge his own singles career? Or is it just a way to keep the Wyatt’s in our collective subconscious while they take a break to heal up? Something to keep an eye on (or something I’m totally missing).
  • Now this is the Bo Dallas I want! He’s a coward who’s running away from Henry early and often, and he’s getting the absolute crud beaten out of him. Then, to top it off and make it perfect booking, he sneaks a victory in one of the weakest ways possible. Obviously a lack of real victories could end up hurting him in the long run, but right now it works well. He needs to continue this current streak of fluky victories for awhile and then let him get some clean wins after his Henry program to make him more credible. Preferably against someone closer to his own size. Maybe a Kofi Kingston or Xavier Woods. Or heck, even Ziggler. At this point, Dolph will job to anybody, right?
  • Ambrose continues to save every segment he’s in. John Cena’s babbling rarely makes sense and was basically going nowhere. It would seem Ambrose agreed with me as he just up and left Cena standing in the ring speechless. It was unexpected and it was hilarious. Dean Ambrose, you are the man. Please never change, and at some point, could you just beat the tar out of Cena for us? Thanks, brother.
  • Don’t you know Triple H? Ambrose just don’t care. And that’s what makes him a Main Event mainstay for the next decade. We’ve seen guys come and go (Ryback comes to mind), but I can’t see a future that doesn’t involve Dean as a major star if he wants to be. That said, I could also see him “pulling a Punk” and leaving at random for the Indies.
  • Rusev actually is pretty solid on the mic. I understand that he doesn’t talk because of his gimmick, but it’s great that they’re giving him extending mic time two weeks in a row. And he gets The Rock to elevate his program? They must have high hopes for this young man! Hopefully he doesn’t get verbally dominated here. The Rock needs to make sure he’s helping push young talent when he makes appearances like tonight. That said, I don’t think you have Rusev beat Rocky clean at any point. He’s not ready for that. Excuse me while I mark-out for the next ten minutes.
  • Okay, I’m back. First off, Rocky still has it and really brought it that segment. He was hitting all his high notes in his promo, but his (seemingly) off the cuff jokes were as good as ever. I don’t know how long he’s back for (this could easily be a one-off, but I doubt it given the segment), but man, did he have me on the edge of my set. However, I think the most impressive part of the segment was how well both Rusev and Lana verbally stood with The Rock. That’s a place many young Superstars might struggle, but I thought they both (particularly Lana) did an excellent job tonight. The Rock did the most talking, but I didn’t feel like he dominated the conversation, if that makes sense. It wasn’t a one-sided verbal war and when Lana and Rusev got the mic, they impressed. That’s something I wasn’t suspecting. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues because a victory over The Rock would obviously be a major knot in Rusev’s belt.
  • AJ and Paige should just go to NXT, at least they treat women’s wrestling like it’s actually a thing and not just a way to show off scantily clad women.
  • Where are these Wyatt vignettes going? Now we get a Rowan-centric version? What is this building towards? Someone enlighten please, please?!? And who is that woman with the belly?!?! Why is the WWE turning into Lost!!??
  • How does Super Cena get out of this pickle? I vote super strength to simultaneously AA his three opponents after receiving all of their finishers twice. And of course, he will no-sell everything because Super Cena is invulnerable to all pain and your insults.
  • We’re always hearing people complain about how stale Cena is and how we want him to evolve the character (most often through a heel turn), but isn’t Orton in the exact same boat? He’s been the same character for at least three or four years and most of his feuds are boring. I mean, remember a few months ago when he and Cena got booed out of the building during a PPV? Shouldn’t we be asking for the same thing from Orton that we ask for Cena? Or is it okay because Orton doesn’t love the kiddos? I’d be interested to hear any and all thoughts on this topic.
  • Of course, it potentially have to do with Orton not no-selling people’s offense so often during his comeback. Super Cena might be the most tired and annoying thing in wrestling today. I don’t mind the guy as a character, I just wish he didn’t win so many matches in this exact same manner.
  • Ambrose with the safe! He’s just too good. Ambrose should just randomly enter every segment on Raw and ratings will go through the roof.
  • I once ate an entire can of raw sauerkraut, second worst eating experience of my young life. Also, it stunk up our dorm for about two weeks. Needless to say, having an entire thing of sauerkraut dumped on me is not my idea of a good time. You know what is? Seeing Dean Ambrose tong Seth Rollins penis on live TV. There are no words.
  • Closing Thoughts: Raw continues to have the problem of focusing too much on the Ambrose-Rollins-Cena feud. This could be a product of watching it on Hulu, but I still feel like we get three segments on this every week and not many other angles are advanced. That said, Rocky’s return was huge and unexpected, as was Lana and Rusev being able to hang with him on the mic. Finally, I’m a fan of how Bo Dallas was booked this week, as it’s the exact way his coward heel was booked to perfection in NXT. Hopefully that trends continues. All in all, a solid Raw that maybe focused too much on the main event. However, we now know that that angle is going to make up two matches on the Hell in a Cell card, so maybe they need the time. Hopefully we see a little more feud building in the mid- and lower card to full that PPV out. Time will tell, I suppose. Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts, especially on whether or not Orton needs to evolve like everyone wants Cena to. I’d love to hear what you think.

Save Us Fergal! (NXT Reactions Oct. 3rd)

Wrestling

I said it earlier in the week during my Raw reactions post, and I’ll say it again. NXT is BY FAR the best hour of television the WWE produces each week. The wrestling is better, the gimmicks are great, and the story lines are generally top-notch. Join me as we break down, react, criticize, and fantasy book WWE’s real flagship program, NXT:

  • As much as Bayley is over in NXT right now, I don’t really see her making the same impact if she ever gets the call up. She’s a solid wrestler, but I don’t think her gimmick works in a sold-out WWE arena. That said, she’s awesome on NXT and I hope she can carve out a great career in wrestling. Charlotte, on the other hand, looks like the real deal. She’s as good of a wrestler as Bayley (probably better, even) and she looks like someone we see on Raw every week. If Charlotte doesn’t get the call to come to the Big Leagues by December, I’ll be surprised. That would give the Divas division some much-needed diversity. Charlotte, AJ Lee, and Paige can all go and it wouldn’t be such a two-woman division anymore. And I don’t see how you can mess Charlotte up; her build to the main roster is just too easy, in my opinion.
  • “Bayley’s Gunna Hug You” is the best chant in wrestling, just sayin’.
  • Wouldn’t it be incredible if the women on Raw were able to wrestler like they are on NXT? I know there’s quite a few ladies there who are just a pretty face, but watching NXT makes you wish Vinnie Mac would actually use his Divas to actually, ya know, wrestle….
  • As we head to commercial break, I really like Charlotte taunting the crowd and Bayley by chanting, “Let’s go Bayley” while applying a submission hold. I was a little worried after last week that she was going to lose some of her heel tendencies, but that show of disrespect tells me that her mean strength is still there.
  • I love when wrestlers with a submission-finishing move target a single body part for an entire match. It makes so much sense, that it’s almost stupid when they don’t do it. Obviously, you can’t do it every night, but in matchups where there’s something on the line (like Charlotte-Bayley tonight), it only makes sense that you’d use everything to your advantage. Great story being told by Charlotte and Bayley tonight, some good ring phycology. Also Charlotte’s bridge during the figure four was something I’ve never seen before. That’s why you have to love NXT, these young men and women are really trying to innovate in a bid to get noticed.
  • So now Bayley has to be done for in the championship picture for a while right? That’s gotta be at least two clean losses to Charlotte and I just can’t fathom her challenging again until the strap changes. Which means Alexa Bliss is the next woman up? Is there another babyface that gets a shot before her? It’ll be interesting to see where they take the Women’s division from here.
  • Ah man, I was hoping this was the week Fergal Devitt (Finn Balor?) debuts with Itami against the Ascension. I guess there’s still time, but seeing that singles match on the commercial bumper made me a little less excited for NXT tonight. Hopefully Enzo makes an appearance and then all is forgiven.
  • Oh, we might see Fergal after all…. this Ascension beat down is promising.
  • Come on Regal! Give us a tag team match with Itami and Balor against the Ascension for later tonight. You can do it!!!
  • Maybe next week, ladies and gentlemen. I know I’m waiting with baited breath.
  • Oh, Enzo, you’ve given this world so much. Please never change. I don’t even know if I want you to go to the WWE because they’ll probably just ruin everything that makes you so great. Also, we were just talking about who comes after the Women’s belt after Bayley, and Carmella might be another lady to watch out for.
  • I think Barrin Corbin might be one of the least impressive guys I’ve seen debut on NXT since I started watching. I don’t know, he’s huge, his finisher looks awesome, and the announcers love him. However, I just don’t care when gets in the ring and I don’t feel like he has that “it” factor. Obviously, it’s still VERY early in his development, so I could easily be proven wrong, but I don’t see why he’s on the show right now over Fergal or Kevin Steen outside of the fact that he’s almost seven feet tall. He does nothing for me as monster, and I can’t see where he goes behind someone’s enforcer. Oh well, I’ve been wrong before.
  • I don’t know if I love or hate the Vaudevillains, but man, I sure do something them. Which is much more than I can say for Corbin. Their gimmick is so terrible, that I can’t help but love it. There’s no way I see these guys going to Raw in their current format, but man, I can’t help having a smile on face when their entrance music starts.
  • Are Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan the new Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, minus the Kurt Angle connection? That’s literally all I see every time these two are on air, not that that’s a bad thing. They don’t have a ton of personality, but they both look great and are more than solid tag team wrestlers. Give them seasoning in NXT and I think they could easily make it as a tandem on the main roster. Of course, if they keep jobbing to teams that shouldn’t make it past NXT, they’ll never generate enough momentum to make any impact. Time will tell, I suppose.
  • So we’re not getting Fergal and Itami, at least not for now. My hopes of the Itami, Fergal, and Steen faction will have to wait a few more weeks at least. Sigh.
  • I know NXT doesn’t have a ton of wrestlers under contract, but I feel like we’ve seen Neville face Tyson Kidd a few too many times at this point. This also applies to Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn to some degree, but I feel like Kidd’s been in this same match 20 times in the past two months. That said, Itami, Fergal, and Steen aren’t ready. Corey Graves is still injured. Enzo, though I love him, should never win a championship. Bull Dempsey is not compelling enough to make a feud matter. Really, the only other guy “on the roster” that makes sense is Titus O’Neil. Hopefully, his presence at ringside signifies that he’ll have a part to play in the championship picture soon.
  • Tyson Kidd did himself sooo many favors when he finally cut his hair. I think that stupid thing he called a haircut during his first WWE run buried him more than anything else he ever did.
  • It would be interesting to know how many of the “pain faces” shown on WWE’s “Don’t Try This Home” PSA are just wrestlers selling and how many are legitimate injuries. I’m not saying people don’t get hurt, because they do, but it would just be a cool statistic to know.
  • Another thing that would interesting, though probably something we won’t see anytime soon, is old wrestlers sitting down and reviewing “game tape” so to speak, letting casual fans see what the pros see. We all know the basics, but I would love to hear someone break down some of their best matches from a more technical viewpoint. It would interesting for those of us who are too old to really have a chance to get into wrestling and gives young wrestlers a real look inside the business. Anyways, back to the match: Nice powerbomb by Neville, he might be small, but I have no doubt that, with his moveset, look, and obvious strength he can make it. The only thing holding him back is probably his accent.
  • I think I would’ve gone a different way with Titus getting involved. I think it would’ve been more effective (if he’s staying involved at NXT) to have Neville in the process of pinning Kidd after a Red Arrow. Then Titus pulls Neville off of him, the ref rings the bell for a DQ, and then Titus proceeds to beat the crap out of Neville. Kidd loses his ability to challenge for the belt, which is what they obviously wanted, and Titus is immediately inserted into the picture. As it stands now, we’re looking at Neville-Zayn for our next title bout? Not terrible, by any means, but less compelling than Neville-Titus, in my opinion.
  • Closing Thoughts: Some great wrestling as always and Enzo continues to entertain like no one in the business. However, I felt there were a few questionable storyline decisions here. First, Bayley losing clean to Charlotte makes her much less interesting as a potential challenger. We’ve already been down that road, and I don’t think the two women have any more story to tell. Then, no one made the save for Itami during his beatdown by the Ascension. This could’ve been a HUGE moment to debut someone like Fergal Devitt and set up the tag team division with yet another promising duo. And finally, I really hated how Titus O’Neil was used in the main event. Unless he was just at NXT to be at NXT, he should’ve inserted himself into the main event during the match, while costing Kidd his final chance at the strap. NXT continues to impress as a show, but the storylines fell a little flat this week.