All posts by snarkyitpro

An IT professional's musings on politics, gaming, online dating, and pop culture.

The waiting game

I haven’t posted in a while because emotionally, things have been complicated. It’s always strange how things work out in life. After my last post on connection turning into love, I went on dates with three different women. I had a pleasant conversation with the first, but despite similar backgrounds things didn’t “click”. I can’t really articulate why. The second date, I did feel a bit of a connection l but it would be a semi-long distance relationship (she lived in Ottawa but travels every weekend to Montreal). I didn’t have much expectations though as it requires a lot of effort, more so in the early stages when you barely know each other.

The third was quite the revelation. We matched on Tinder on a Sunday night. She was gorgeous: feminine and athletic. As soon as I read her profile, I “super-liked” her. Instant match. She had swiped right on my profile in the past. What sealed the deal for me was a concise but witty description of herself and her intent for a serious relationship. She was also cosplaying as Chun Li in her last picture.

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Without the exaggerated proportions.

I wasted no time in messaging her. The response was almost immediate. We chatted for the rest of the evening before I asked her out. We agreed to a Wednesday night date at L’Auberge du Dragon Rouge (The Red Dragon Inn for English only readers). She had never been and was looking forward to trying it out. Over the next two days we kept in contact, moving mediums to Facebook messenger as she was constantly getting messages from other guys on Tinder and didn’t want to lose track of our conversation. Our online discussion centered almost entirely on exploring the depth of our geekdom (pretty deep on both ends to be fair 🙂 ). By Wednesday, I was thoroughly excited to meet her. It had been quite a long time since I felt that way about a first date. I had long settled into not having any expectations to avoid disappointment.

While nervous, I decided to try to keep the conversation light on our “nerdy” interests based on my previous experience. We both had a fantastic time talking about ourselves and sharing stories. The conversation moved along nicely and we had good chemistry while avoiding the “job interview questions”. We shared a moment when taking up the “dragon’s blood” challenge (a spicy alcoholic beverage where the staff required us to stand on your table and recite an oath before downing it). Once the restaurant closed, I moved in for the kiss as soon as we were alone; she reciprocated. The walk to the metro was more casual as I was looser and I think she was as well. A second date was planned, and a more passionate kiss sent us on our way. The conversation continued for another two hours over messenger when she got home.

Over the next three days we remained in touch, chatting well until the late night alternating between casual topics to deep discussions about ourselves and our experiences. We both express ourselves better through writing than verbally. It was fascinating but also exhilarating to build a rapport and delve into deep topics and mutual feelings for one another in that format. The last time I experienced something similar was the first time I fell for someone.

We went skating on our second date. As a recent immigrant to Canada, she had little experience but did own her own pair of skates. We were at the rink for about an hour, with me showing her how to skate backwards, and properly skate forwards. She only slipped once but I was able to catch her. She teasingly claimed she did so on purpose so we could get close. I was definitely not going to argue with her. Over the course of the date, I came onto the realization that I felt I was falling for her. During the date, there were times we would finish each other’s sentences. It was surreal to be on the same wavelength. A part of me still wanted to keep the brakes on, but I did tell her for the first time in my life I felt like both aspects of my personality. A third date was scheduled for a few days later.

We kept in touch regularly via messenger and would continue to chat late into the night. It even delved into light sexting, something new for me. We began making plans for future dates, even one where she invited me to go with her to a concert in December. I am someone who enjoys planning and once that invitation was made, I was enthusiastic to reciprocate other future activities together. Luckily, she also enjoyed planning activities and bonding over that brought us closer.

We met for our third date a full week after we first met. I invited her over to my place for a candlelit romantic dinner. I drove her back home late that night as we both had to work the next day but it didn’t stop us from chatting for about another half hour once I got back home.

We remained in touch on Thursday without missing a beat from the night before and planned to see one another on Sunday to watch Ghost in the Shell. Friday, she had a girls night out and a regularly scheduled call with her mother and my own plans kept our conversation short. The tone of her correspondence changed on the Saturday though. She was worried about her taxes as her accountant had mismanaged her account the last few years. I offered her my support if she needed but such a subject can be touchy, especially so early in a relationship. It was difficult because I wanted to be able to help but I didn’t want to overwhelm her either. On Sunday morning, I messaged her to both express I was looking forward to seeing her later that day after my improv class and also to check up on how things were going with her taxes. She informed me the new accountant she found has helped put her mind at ease but she had to cancel our date and would tell me about it later. I was obviously disappointed but under the circumstances, I could definitely understand the stress she would be under.

A few minutes before my class, she broke up with me over text because she felt things were going too fast. It was like a sucker punch right to the chest. I responded asking if we could talk about it after my class as I was already there. She agreed. Suffice it to say, I was not in a proper state of mind to want to practice comedy. I didn’t volunteer for any scenes and simply sat in the corner quietly torturing myself with questions. As is my nature, I began to internalize and analyze every single moment we shared, read all our past exchanges searching for any signs.  Had I come on too strong? Did I do or say anything that offended her? Was I trying too hard? If so, is it because I went too far on the other extreme due to my previous failures?

Once class was over, I asked if I could call but she wanted to keep it to text only. We conversed for some time, my heart feeling twisted and tight in my chest. She explained she felt a lot of pressure but wrote it was nothing I had said or done. She continued to say every moment together was amazing and she appreciated my candor and honesty; a sentiment she had told me previously during our nightly chats. However, she couldn’t explain or describe the source of her feelings of pressure. The only hint left to me is she had been hurt before. I asked gently about it as I did not want to put in her in a position to relive bad experiences. I felt powerless when all I could write was I couldn’t promise I wouldn’t hurt her but I would do my best not to. Eventually, she agreed for us to go on a break. She had an upcoming trip to Cuba and wanted to use that time to re-evaluate her life.

I know time apart is more often than not doomed for failure, but I had strong feelings for her and I could not help but hope time apart might be the best. We did plan to meet just before she would leave to see Ghost in the Shell and for her to return a tupper ware container (I had given her leftovers from our romantic dinner). We remained in contact despite my promise I would not initiate any messages to her in the interim to give her the space she needed. A promise I did not quite keep. I was worried about her, but I also had somewhat selfish reasons as I worried about our relationship going forward. “Out of sight, out of mind” as the expression goes. Over that time, she had planned to do some of the activities we planned together except with her friends. Upon the news, I couldn’t help but feel the painful tightening in my chest again. My mind knows it’s her own life and she can and should do whatever she wants. Nevertheless, it still stung. I tried to keep busy as well, but with mixed results. The activities served more as distractions.

We met two days before her flight. A few hours before, she messaged me to say she couldn’t make the movie because she hadn’t finished packing. We would still meet over dinner though. I winced at the news but acquiesced. I picked her up at the gym. When I leaned in to greet her, we kissed on the cheek. Part of me hoped for warmer embrace. I had baked her a heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie; the hopeless romantic that I am. I had tried a Triforce shaped one but it fell apart.

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I didn’t have a cookie cutter.

 

I joked that at worst, she could break it in two in front of me if she didn’t like it in a bit of self-deprecating humour. The evening went well but I felt awkward. In our last two encounters and part of our first date, I felt the conversation was very natural. Now, I was second-guessing myself even more than usual because I didn’t want to make her feel pressured. I drove her back home and told her I still had strong feelings for her and she was someone worth waiting for. However, I would not wait forever. She nodded and said she would get back to me once she returned. We kissed on the cheeks again and that was that. I didn’t sleep that night. Instead, I stared up at the ceiling, lost in my own mind.

In the intervening time, we’ve kept in touch but the topic of romance has not come up. The few occasions she initiated communication, I felt butterflies in my stomach. It’s been two months now and while my feelings have diminished, they remain a lot stronger than I had thought they would be over this much time. While I don’t know if she has moved on or feel any romantic feelings at all for me, I can’t help but want to kick myself profusely. Sometimes I think I lied down too easily and didn’t “fight” for the relationship, as short as it was. At other times, I circle back to having come on too strong. Then there are a few occasions I just want to kick something as hard as I can due to a feeling of powerlessness. On one hand, I want to help. Other times, the powerlessness comes that there is nothing I can do and that knowledge is infuriating. I am compelled to “fix” things but here I can’t. And then there are a few rarer occasions when insecurities rear their ugly heads.

Recently, we planned to go to the Zelda themed escape room (which I will review later this week) with some of her friends. However, her friends cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. I was the only one who bought my ticket and went alone (non-refundable). I was still able to have fun but it would have been nice to see her again in person.

The few people who I’ve spoken to on the topic have tried to put me at ease by placing the blame elsewhere (usually on her) or suggest I meet someone new. I did try to go on a date but I found myself unable to fully let go of my emotions. It also didn’t help that my date had more than a passing resemblance to my mother which was not apparent in her photos. Something I only noticed after the date.

For now, all I can do is focus on myself and stay occupied until I receive a definitive answer or I am ready to move on. I know it’s best to let her come to her own conclusion and lead her own life no matter how much I want our lives to intertwine. “If you truly love someone, let her go”.

 

Defining Love

I meant to write this post closer on the heels of my previous blog post. Real life has a knack of getting in the way. I also rewrote the post multiple times as I was never quite satisfied with it.

During the conversation with the woman I dated in February, we spoke about connection. In the goal of finding a long term relationship, a connection should evolve into love. Back when I first started dating, I went on numerous first dates for about 2 years. The common refrain was “you are smart, funny, and handsome… but I didn’t feel a connection.” I’ve written before about my early frustration as I never quite understood what having a connection meant. In retrospect, I concluded I mistook attraction for a connection. There were times in fact I began to question myself whether I was even capable of love. Particularly when some women would seem taken aback later on when I’d go on 2nd or third dates and would answer negatively if I watch porn or ever engaged in sexual self-gratification. It is not a matter of shame, just that if I am not stimulated intellectually and emotionally, I just can’t develop physical lust. I wouldn’t say I am asexual but I am probably somewhere on the spectrum.

On to the topic at hand, when does connection become love? How does love feel like? Can you describe it? Is it the same for everyone? The answers are all subjective. I will relate my two experiences and invite any readers to share their own.

My first love was quite intense. I’d say it wasn’t so much an obsession but I was deeply infatuated with her. Every time she would send me a text or message, I’d get excited before even reading it. I would say, it was the among the biggest “highs” in terms of emotional joy I’ve probably ever had. The intellectual and emotional connection was on a level I had never experienced before which perhaps led me to get carried away in the wave of positive emotions and dopamine. We never progressed far physically because of her religious and cultural beliefs. In fact, her previous relationship had lasted three whole years and she was still a virgin. Suffice it to say, my sex drive was fully engaged and I can confidently say I lusted for her. Knowing we couldn’t engage in sex made that feeling stronger. During our first fight, I felt like shit. Like an ulcer had developed itself instantly in the pit of my stomach. It ate at me the entire day until we made up. When she called it off in light of a job offer outside the province, I was devastated emotionally. However, the manner it was done also contributed to it.

The second time was more recent. From an emotional level, I can’t say it was as intense. A more vivid comparison would be between attending a Rammstein concert in all its pyrotechnical glory and the other to cuddling up by a fireplace reading a great book.  Both involve fire and are things I enjoy, but on different levels. I cared for her true, but it hadn’t become a constant distraction. It was definitely more healthy. It’s cliché to say you never forget your first and I can certainly see that now. My feelings for the first were new. I never explored this side of myself. The second wasn’t no less special but I was more mature. From a physical stand point, there was a bit of concern my libido could not match her own as she was liberated sexually. She remains the only woman with whom I felt a deep mutual connection physically as well. After our first time, she said it usually took her approximately 6 months to be able to achieve orgasm with a partner. When it happened the second time we had sex, it became commonplace and I felt a greater satisfaction by bringing her to climax and that led to me “breaking through” myself with her. She was the first person I truly felt comfortable with.

The first love was a raging bonfire; the second a serene sea. Only time will tell if there is a third and what form it takes. I wish anyone who reads this to have found the partner to give them whatever it is they seek, or good luck in finding that person.

 

Maturity in dating

Back in February I went on 2 dates with a woman. Everything seemed to be going very well. However, in the end she explained she was disappointed because while I check all the boxes for what she is looking for in a potential long term relationship, she expected a much stronger connection.

I won’t go into too much detail of what we exchanged. She began the conversation very wishy-washy on her desire to see one another again. Despite seemingly against my best interests, I related to her the law of fuck yes when it comes to relationships. I explained to her the important part is to ask the right question at the right time. We’re both in our mid-30s and as she said, she doesn’t have the luxury to pursue something she isn’t 100% sure. I explained to her that I felt our relationship had a lot of potential but it usually takes me some time before coming to a conclusion whether it will work or not. To me, the question was “Do I like this person? Do I see potential? Am I attracted to her?” and the answer was a definite yes. Questions like “do I see myself getting married to her?” are still premature for me but as a man I have a bit more leeway (we both want children eventually) and I don’t have the same amount of experience as many people my age.

After some further back and forth on the topic, she told me she was surprised at how mature I was throughout the process and resolved that we could go see a movie together as friends at the Fantasia film festival this summer. To which I agreed. It was her surprise at my maturity that inspired the topic of this blog post.

She had several very poor experiences breaking up and refusing to continue to pursue dating men which certainly influences her statement. Again, I won’t comment further on that, but rather than take it as a backhanded compliment I view it as a matter of pride. When I first started dating, I felt frustrated at my lack of establishing this fabled “connection” every woman I met described. It was the realization going into something with a partner who was already having doubts would potentially lead to a less than fulfilling romantic relationship. I told her she didn’t owe me anything but implied she owed it to herself to make the right decision for her. I would rather see her happy than to have to feel the need to make an effort to make me happy. I want to be with a woman who wants to be with me wholeheartedly (of course the feeling has to be mutual).

While I was disappointed things didn’t work out, I made a friend out of the experience and learned several things in our two dates. I’m also disappointed it comes as a surprise to others when myself or a man in general takes rejection with maturity. It speaks volumes of how hard the dating scene can be. My resolution is if the next woman isn’t “Ms Right” to continue to be a positive example for my gender.

Are all network support teams like this?

In my 14 years of experience in IT, I’ve always had a contentious relationship with network teams. They always push back when you contact them even if you prove they are in the wrong. They often push changes haphazardly or clean up firewall rules without verifying if someone would object. Lately however, they have been getting increasingly on my nerves. A few teams don’t ever bother to try to contact the impacted users directly. Instead, they simply reassign it for someone else to do it for them. This leads to long delays and transferring responsibility.What is more frustrating is when they ask for network details… which are already in the ticket and email!

/endrant

 

 

Fantasy Booking TLC to Rumble

My booking was waaaayyyy off from what transpired at Survivor Series. It doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the event. I liked most of it. Here are my thoughts on the show:

-Tye Dillinger needs to move up to main roster. The 10 chant is going to be the next “Yes!” or “What?”.  Bobby Roode can have a brief run with the NXT title before his own promotion.
-Authors of Pain are going to need more seasoning. A few times they looked sloppy and the recent graphic botch seems to indicate they got some more work to do.
-DIY and the Revival are going to elevate the tag division once they come up to main. WOW.
-Samoa Joe re-gaining the title was quite the surprise. Curious to see how he and Nakamura go forward. I, like many others, thought Joe would be coming up to main after a loss.
-Asuka and James was also a good match. I’m hoping James is signed to NXT to help work with the talent there and get a re-match with Asuka.
-Like many, I was stunned by the result of Brock vs Goldberg. It was a positive shocking moment but hurts the rest of the main roster. I don’t see how they book themselves out of this problem as Goldberg is not going to be able to have long matches. I figure he’s going to get booked into multi-man matches (triple threats, Rumble, Fatal Four ways, etc) until the final blow off of Lesnar vs Goldberg.
-Despite the ratings, the crowd at Raw and SS were firmly behind Smackdown pulling the win. I was surprised at how over AJ Styles is even in Canada when he got a reaction similar to Kevin Owens for his entrance.
-The Ellsworth spot with Braun was fantastic.
-Orton and Wyatt’s storyline as a team is far more interesting than their lackluster feud earlier this Fall.
-I didn’t realize how much I dislike Roman Reigns until he was the last man standing for RAW. I, along with the fans at the ACC, were rooting for the Wyatts.
-Going into the event, I was really dreading to see “Super Shane” but I got behind him when he was beating down Reigns and Rollins. The spot with him ramming Rollins’ head into his own knee was lame though.

TLC

Smackdown was a bit in limbo in the weeks heading into Survivor Series and the last two weeks have gone in fast forward to set up TLC. I did not like Styles losing thrice to Ellsworth, but the exchange between the three on the go home show was what needed to be done. Personally, I would have had kept the whole bit about Ambrose being barred from the arena without the run ins on the Smackdown following Survivor Series and have AJ destroy Ellsworth there. This week, Ambrose and Styles would be brawling throughout the show.

With Rumble next month, I feel TLC is a good time to put an end to several of the current feuds and maybe begin to tie up a few loose ends before setting up Wrestlemania season.

 Ambrose vs Styles (c) – TLC – WWE World Title: I’d have Styles go over here. Following this week’s brawl, I’d have the story that both wrestlers go over board with wanting to destroy one another. Have Styles yell “respect me!” to the crowd while he’s beating down on Ambrose. Conversely, Ambrose has plenty of opportunities to climb the ladder for the win but opts instead to deliver another devastating maneuver on Styles. Have Otunga sell it with comments like: “Dean, you got the championship won!” and the like. In the end, Styles defeats Ambrose with a Style Clash off a ladder and onto a table. Ellsworth will not be involved in the match.

Bliss vs Lynch (c) – Tables Match – WWE Smackdown Women’s Title: Bliss has been very effective as a heel. However, I feel Lynch has been just as effective a babyface. Personally, I think the money match for Mania on the Smackdown side is Bella vs Lynch for the title. Therefore, Bliss is not going to come out the winner here. However, she is going to hopefully put on a solid performance. I usually don’t advocate for an inconclusive finish, but I think this is an apt one as there will be a few months of TV time to fill out. Ending of the match has both women jostle on the top turnbuckle and both fall onto a table at the same time, leading to a non-finish. Lynch retains as champion to continue the story for Rumble with a twist (see below).

Miz (c) vs Ziggler – Ladder Match – WWE Intercontinental Title: This feud has been the best on Smackdown but has gone on a bit too long due to [lack of] roster depth. Both have had career resurgences this year with Miz’ star shining brightest of the two. Looking over the current SD roster, I just don’t see many options for a Miz title reign:

-Crews has been done recently and he doesn’t connect with the crowd.
-Kalisto cannot carry feuds on the mic. He’s a decent worker and Miz would look good throwing him around.
-Swagger is also terrible on the mic and has been a jobber for a really long time. He’d have to rebuild his credibility to get to that point.
-Kane is getting long in the tooth. Could be his last hurrah with an IC title run I suppose.
-A demoted Dean Ambrose?
-James Ellsworth shouldn’t win any titles unless he really begins hitting the gym and start turning himself into a legitimate worker at the WWE level.
-Slater & Rhyno: both are ok if they drop the tag titles. I’d prefer Slater since he has more to offer long term. Rhyno can be used to put over some of the heel talent like Corbin. As a tag team, they could also allow the Spirit Squad to stick around a while longer.
-Zack Ryder is a decent singles competitor. Plus, seeing the interaction between Maryse and Mojo would be hilarious. You can also have Mojo counter the Spirit Squad.

Conversely, Ziggler seems to have better options for challengers:

Baron Corbin: he’s the logical choice here on the heel side to see if he can handle a high profile feud. He doesn’t need to win, but put on a good showing.
-Curt Hawkins is at least competent on the mic compared to the face choices. He could be used to give Ziggler a successful title defense to solidify his position.
-Breeze & Fandango: The fashion police schtick is mildly amusing but they are both solid in ring performers. I think they could play off well against Ziggler personality wise and deliver a decent or even breakthrough match.
-Luke Harper: He could go after the title to prove he’s still a valuable member of the family. Having Ziggler get involved in the Wyatt and Orton story would also build that story and could involve the tag team division.

Based on what transpired at Talking Smack, I say the ending should have both Ziggler and Miz laid out. Maryse climbs the ladder to pick up the title for her husband. Ziggler is the first to come to and threatens to push the ladder over if Maryse doesn’t climb down. Miz, not seeing his wife, charges Ziggler who “accidentally” pushes the ladder over. Maryse falls to the mat and Miz looks up at the title, then to his wife, the title, then goes to help his wife. Ziggler stops and allows the EMTs to come to her aid before the two resume. Miz shows fire for what happened to his wife but eventually Ziggler comes through with the win.

This gives Maryse the comeuppance for her constant interference while adding some layers to Miz’ character. It also makes Ziggler look to be the stand up babyface who won’t take advantage of the injured woman nor physically attacking her. JBL can crow all about how it was Ziggler’s fault Maryse was hurt, etc and this can give Miz some motivation later on to avenge his wife or even go baby face because the audience can relate to caring about a loved one over the title. He can still remain heel and it works too, if the Enzo vs Rusev teaches us anything. *rolls eyes*

Beauty and the Manbeast (c) vs Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton – Tag Team Title: I think Slater’s redemption story has plateaued with capturing the tag titles with Rhyno. They do have a good dynamic but I think Slater can go back to a singles program. I want Wyatt and Orton to go over clean here. To mirror what transpired at Survivor Series, see Bray take a GORE! for Randy who follows up with an RKO on Rhyno for the title. Luke Harper’s interference will be countered by Kane.

Nikki Bella vs Carmella – No DQ: Although I’ve written Bella will challenge Lynch for the title at Mania, she already has a built in story against whoever attacked her backstage at Survivor Series. Instead, I think Carmella should be able to take advantage of the No DQ stipulation and pull out the win using dirty tactics. You can have Nikki dominate the match 60-40 here so she doesn’t look too bad either. This elevates Carmella on the roster enough to propel her a women’s title match against Lynch.

Corbin vs Kalisto – Chairs match: After seeing Corbin’s work on Talking Smack, I firmly believe he has more upside than Kalisto. His in-ring work is fine and still developing. He is one of the rare guys who seems comfortable in the heel persona; a rare commodity. The use of chairs can allow Kalisto to even the odds a bit, but eventually the size and strength difference is too much. End of Days on a chair for the 1-2-3.

Pre-Show: American Alpha vs Breeze & Fandango: Have the two teams go out and deliver a solid match. American Alpha can have a pre-match interview where they say they are re-focusing after the Wyatt loss and will be going through the rest of the Smackdown tag team division if they have to. After the match, the Usos run in and attack Alpha to hopefully lead to the blow off of their feud before Rumble.

Post TLC to Rumble

Following TLC, the feuds leading up to Rumble need to be established. With no intervening Smackdown PPVs, there will have to be a slow build to get to where we need to be. Here, I’m in favour of stretching out the stories. The Rumble will likely be a 4 hour event with the Rumble match itself taking about a quarter of that.

I would normally want to setup Rumble qualification matches but the sad truth is there aren’t enough singles competitors on Smackdown for that. Excluding AJ Styles and the tag division, there are only 14 wrestlers (I’m including Undertaker here and the Wyatt family minus Eric Rowan) eligible. So I’m going to delve a bit into NXT to shore up the numbers as I dislike throwing tag teams in there.

WWE WORLD TITLE: The first segment on SD following TLC will have John Cena return (if filming of his TV show and possible movie role permit). If not, it will be fit somewhere during the 8 week build. He will come in challenging AJ Styles, 1 last time, 1 on 1 for the World Title. AJ, still hurting from TLC blows him off. “I beat you at Money in the Bank, Summerslam and No Mercy. You don’t deserve to face me.” This brings in Dean Ambrose who is also selling his injuries from TLC. Here, Ambrose agrees alluding back to their build up to No Mercy. “You can’t just come and go as you please, part timer, and demand a title shot.” The Wyatt family stinger hits and Orton and Wyatt are standing in the middle of the ring. With everyone circling Styles. Miz’s music hits, it’s immediately interrupted by Daniel Bryan’s theme to Miz’ annoyance. Bryan acknowledges Ambrose’s point and decides to set up a fatal five way with all those in the ring to determine the #1 contender. Before leading to commercial break, AJ blindsides Cena with the title sending him stumbling into Ambrose. This starts off a brawl. Styles immediately escapes the fracas.

Later in the main event, Wyatt and Orton are working as a team throughout, forcing the Miz, Ambrose and Cena to work together begrudgingly. With Styles at ringside running down the faces and giving respect to the heels on commentary. As Cena sets up to get the win, Styles runs in and hits him with a chair. Then a chair shot for Wyatt, Ambrose, and Orton. Miz’ smartly, scurries away. Smackdown ends with a non-finish with Styles smarmily proclaiming himself the “Face that runs the place”.

Week 2: The next week, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan call out the competitors of the previous main event. As the group argues their case, shoving commences which leads to blows. Daniel calls for them to stop and declares that the Wyatts have some unfinished business with the tag titles. They’ll face Rhyno, Slater, and Kane in a 3 vs 3 tag match later that night. As Daniel faces away from Miz, he seems to want to grant another shot to Ambrose or Cena. Shane interrupts and tells Bryan he will make the decision as his conflict of interest with the Miz is affecting his judgement. In the mean time, the main event will feature Miz vs Cena vs Ambrose so they can settle their problems and their performance might sway him to decide a number #1 contender.

Backstage Styles is speaking to Bryan and McMahon. He runs down Bryan in front of Shane for not doing his job by failing to keep Ambrose out of the building two weeks ago. Ambrose, still incensed rushes in and attacks Styles from behind. Once more they get separated.

During the main event, Styles comes out focuses his attack on Ambrose for revenge while Cena and Miz brawl in the ring. As Cena once more gets the upperhand, Styles pounces with a springboard chair shot to Cena. Again, SD ends with Styles on top. Miz wisely rolls out of the ring to avoid Styles. This plays into his “I never get injured” talking point.

Week 3: Styles is out first, crowing about how there seems to be no clear #1 contender. Ambrose comes out once more. Styles bails out of the ring. On the mic he yells out: “You had your re-matches and chances and you came up short.” Ambrose agrees but points to the entrance. James Ellsworth’s music hits. “He has a match though.” AJ is fuming while he stares daggers into Ellsworth. Ambrose capitalizes by attacking Styles from behind and leaving him clutching his shoulder after being thrown into the steel steps.

Styles is in the trainer’s office complaining he’s hurt badly. Daniel comes in to assess Styles’ condition. He claims if Styles cannot compete, he will lose by forfeit to Ellsworth. Faced with going down 4-0 to Ellsworth, Styles is irate and claims he’ll be ready and can beat Ellsworth even when injured.

The main event transpires with Ambrose once again at ringside causing mischief. However, the Miz intervenes and attacks Ambrose. Enraged that Ellsworth gets a title shot ahead of him. Furthermore, Miz would be mad about Ambrose claiming to be THE workhorse of the WWE. Styles, now free of distraction, can dominate and take out Ellsworth once more.

Week 4:  Cena, Miz and Ambrose are gathered in the ring. Shane announces the Wyatts are too busy with the tag title scene at the moment and with the Rhyno-Slater re-match, have been removed from contention. Bray, ominously says “this isn’t over Shane. I have tasted gold and it is ambrosia…”. This brings out Styles who wants to know who among these “losers, no offense Miz” he will be facing. Ambrose and Cena have had enough and attack.

This leads to a main event tag team match. If Ambrose and Cena win, they both go on to face Styles in another triple threat match. If Styles and Miz win, Miz gets the title shot. Thus, the heels have a legitimate reason to work together. Styles would prefer the 1 on 1 match to the triple threat against the faces and Miz to get the World title opportunity.

During the match, the heels work together more effectively and double team Ambrose. Eventually, he gets the hot tag to Cena who runs roughshod over first Styles and then Miz. As he prepares to defeat Miz, Styles throws a chair into the ring. Ref bump ensues etc, and the heels use the chair to take advantage. Just before the ref recovers, Styles hits Miz with the chair, betraying his partner. He lays the arms of Miz and Cena on top of one another. This leads to a double pin.

Week 5: At this point the story of Styles trying to avoid having to defend the title has reached its end. Now we have to deliver a match. There are two scenarios based on availability.  The first is a fatal fourway between Miz, Cena, Ambrose and Styles for the title. This certainly plays into the whole babyface authority figure wanting to punish the heel champion for interfering in the #1 contendership. The other option as rumoured, is more intriguing to me though. Assuming the latter goes through, here is how I set it up:

It’s announced Shane will deliver his decision on the #1 contendership “later tonight”. In the lead up, Ambrose, Cena and Miz will try to talk to Shane to plead their case but Daniel intervenes. He states Shane is in deliberation and he’s making his decision based on the body of work  of each competitor. Cena argues what better moment for the 60,000 strong crowd at the Alamodome to see him winning his 16th world title. Ambrose wants revenge for what Styles did to Ellsworth. In a very tense moment, Miz claims he stepped up and were it not for Maryse’s injury he’d still be IC champion. He brought prestige to that championship and would do the same for the World Title.

In the ring, as Shane is about to announce who will face Styles at Rumble, the three principals interrupt. Finally, Styles interrupts Shane reviewing each of their accomplishments. Styles runs them all down before finally stating: “It doesn’t matter who Shane picks. There is no man alive who can take this title from me.” GONG. Undertaker’s music plays. Shane announces: “At Royal Rumble, it will be The Phenom vs the Phenomenal One for the WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPSIONSHIP!” Styles should be selling the announcement as if he were shitting his pants. The show fades to black as the Undertaker stalks towards AJ. For the live crowd, every competitor can take turns attacking AJ.

Week 6-8: This will be devoted to the build between Styles and Undertaker proper. If Undertaker is planning to retire at Mania, have him announce during the build he’s looking for one last ride with the title over his shoulder. Styles can repeat the motto: “I’m a winner. Winners find a way to win.” to psyche himself up.  They could even tease the previous rumour of Styles vs HBK with Styles saying: “The closest you’ve ever come to face me was Shawn Michaels, but I am younger and out to prove I am the best in the world.” (also alluding to CM Punk here).

Down the road, HBK could make an appearance and help fuel the build by saying he’s been following Styles’ career and has been impressed by what he’s seen. But fighting the Undertaker is nothing like Styles has done before, etc. You could throw Styles vs Kane out there as a tune up match while Taker plays mind games with Styles. I’d keep this to a minimum though so it doesn’t dilute Wyatt’s schtick. In fact, I’d have Styles be paranoid with the Undertaker playing this very straight. Give Taker a squash match or two along the way to see how he holds up and to allow some physical confrontation between Styles and Taker where the deadman prevails.

Inevitably, I think Styles should go over clean if Taker is retiring to set up the retirement match between Taker and Cena. I don’t think Cena vs Taker, particularly a retirement match, requires a title to be involved. If he is sticking around, a disputed finish to continue the feud.

WOMEN’S DIVISION: On the women’s side. Nikki confronts Carmella backstage once more who is harping about her victory at TLC to Alexa Bliss. Alexa is still fuming about the result of the tables match. Again, Carmella claims she was not responsible for the attack at Survivor Series but wishes she had. Bliss also proclaims her innocence saying “Nikki, you weren’t worth the effort. I was busy with more important matters like winning the title.” Nikki takes exception to this and attacks Bliss and Carmella. Natalya eventually comes in and suggests the women put aside their differences plagiarizing inspirational song lyrics. This sets up a match between Bliss and Carmella vs Nikki and Natalya. However, once more, Nikki is attacked backstage and Becky comes out to replace the fallen Bella. the match ends with the heels getting the win after a miscommunication between Natalya and Becky.

I’m trying to throw the scent off  Natalya here. Besides James or Asuka, no women on NXT seem ready to make the jump to the main roster. I don’t want to turn Naomi nor Becky heel either. So that leaves only Natalya and a returning Eva Marie as culprits. However, I do want to plant the seeds for an eventual Nikki heel turn. I feel she is better suited for that role. To accomplish this, Natalya will be “investigating” what happened. As the weeks progress, she will have segments with Daniel. Saying there was “dark hair” at the scene of the crime. He can dismiss this as it being Nikki’s hair. Natalya thinks otherwise and points to Naomi. Later she can accuse Becky Lynch who would have been jealous as champion not being team captain. When called on her hypocrisy, she’ll claim she was happy to be team coach.She could then accuse some of the Raw women which might lead to verbal exchanges or Nikki “invading” Raw.

The eventual culprit will be either Natalya or Mickie James. Natalya is the obvious choice here but I want to create some doubt of a potential swerve. If Mickie is signed by WWE, I’d have a similar story to  The Brian Kendrick. Mickie desperately wants to get back in the WWE and losing to Asuka she knew she had to make her mark. She was hoping to get into the match but Natalya intervened sooner than expected. Or you could have them both be complicit with James being the attacker but Natalya the benefactor. That should carry Nikki until the lead up to Wrestlemania.

SD Women’s championship: The inconclusive finish between Lynch and Bliss will push for another match. However, Carmella inserts herself into the mix to make it a triple threat. This prevents repetition of the Bliss vs Lynch feud by adding an additional actor to spice things up. Leading to Rumble, the heels will take turns or team up to beat down Becky every week until Becky manages to stir enough trouble between the pair (along with the “who attacked Nikki?” saga going on throwing itself occasionally into the mix).
SD Tag Team championship:  As I wrote above, the tag title scene will be thrown for a loop when Orton and Wyatt capture the championship at TLC. The Wyatts and the more serious Usos and American Alpha’s gimmicks don’t mesh well at all with the rest of the goofy Smackdown tag division. Only the Hype Bros aad Slater and Rhyno blend the line of serious/goofy to mesh between the upper and lower card tag team acts. With the Cruiserweights and the “big names” in the women’s division on Raw, I think Smackdown should be the destination for the more serious tag division. Ideally, I’d prefer to see the Club move over to SD to be paired with AJ Styles, call up DIY and the Revival to SD and move the Vaudevillains, Tyler Breeze and Fandango, and the Ascension to Raw or down to NXT. Later down the road, TM-61 and a more experienced Authors of Pain can jump to SD. Spirit Squad is really a novelty act around Miz and Ziggler. With their feud over after TLC, I don’t see them sticking around in my scenario with Ziggler reclaiming the gold. That said, I will book to keep things “as is” as much as possible.

I’d have the champs get their re-match sooner than Rumble, I think there is some time to at least build to said re-match seeing as there was hardly any for the first match. Two weeks after TLC, the feud is renewed with a 6 man tag match between Rhyno, Slater and Kane vs the Wyatt family. The faces will prevail here as Harper visibly opts to not save Orton when he has the opportunity. The story will be Harper is loyal to Bray but not Orton.

For the next couple of weeks, you can throw in permutations of the members on each team in singles’ matches with all the shenanigans on the outside. Kane and Harper will also be included. Besides, seeing Orton reverse a GORE into a powerslam will be a thing of beauty. The final singles match should be reserved for Wyatt vs Slater. Slater should be freaked out at this point as his team is being outmatched in singles competition and he falls to Bray. This would be similar Xavier Woods act during the brief New Day vs Wyatt family feud just before the brand split. Slater overcomes his fears to face off against Wyatt but the cult leader proves too much for the One Man Band allowing Wyatt and Orton to retain with a clean win. After Kane or another nullifies Harper.

Meanwhile, American Alpha are still angry about losing to the Wyatts and hope to become the new #1 contenders. They ask Daniel Bryan to allow them to prove themselves. Each week, they will have a match against every tag team in the division. If said team beats Alpha, they get the #1 contendership. If Alpha goes through them all, they are the contenders. Have them start with the Spirit Squad before the cheerleaders are sent off. Next should either be the Vaudevillains or Ascension, followed by Breeze and Fandango. Up next would be Hype Bros and finally the Usos (because obviously). This covers 7 of the 8 weeks of programming between TLC and Rumble. The final week can have a showdown between the Wyatts and Alpha.

Intercontinental Title: With Ziggler on top we need to build a heel program. Personally, I’d save Corbin for a Wrestlemania match if SD isn’t getting any call ups. Nevertheless, I’m calling up two guys for SD to be revealed later but saving Corbin for now as I’d rather his break out take place in the Rumble.

The first week following his win over Miz, Ziggler will call out to the back to see who is man enough to face him for the title. Out comes Curt Hawkins who counters if Ziggler is man enough to “face the facts!”. During the match, Corbin interferes, causing a DQ. The heels take turns beating on Ziggler before Apollo Crews runs out for the save to a likely tepid response, but we have to start somewhere.

The following week, Hawkins states the facts. He would have won the match were it not for Corbin’s interference. Bryan, annoyed by Corbin interrupting another match decides to suspend him for 2 weeks without pay. Punishing Corbin by forcing him into a match is silly because as a wrestler his job is to have matches. Corbin’s character is about beating people up and getting paid to do so. Preventing him of both is a far better punishment.

Hawkins does get his re-match but this time, Luke Harper (now trying to curry favour with Bray), goes after Ziggler during the match. Again, the pair of heels beat Ziggler down until Kane intervenes (as part of the on-going Tag title saga). Crossing storylines here gives the feeling of a shared “universe” of sorts and helps fill out time while providing action.

In week 3, Hawkins again blames outside interference for the result of the match. Another match is booked, this time Jack Swagger joins in the beatdown, wearing Ziggler down. Kalisto, returning from his injuries at TLC makes the save. By the end of the show, Ziggler will go up to Daniel and express his frustration of all these attacks, saying he’d fight all of them at once than face these sneak attacks. Bryan says he could do that at the Rumble. Ziggler agrees to be included. However, as it pertains to the IC title, he’ll have something planned for next week.

Week 4: Has a 4v4 faces/heels tag team match pitting  Ziggler, Crews, Kalisto and Kane vs Harper, Corbin, Hawkins, and Swagger. The heels implode during the match when Corbin gets bumped by Hawkins after a drop kick from Kalisto. He slams his partner, then lays out Kalisto as the illegal man on the outside. The team loses by DQ but not before a brawl between the teams gets out of hand. By the end, Ziggler apparently stands tall but gets clotheslined by Harper as he is turning to head to the back.

Week 5: With 7 would be contenders, and Royal Rumble approaching, Daniel Bryan has them compete in a Battle Royale to determine who will face Ziggler for the IC title. Harper eventually prevails.. After the match, Ziggler returns the favour from the last week with a super kick to Harper’s face.

With week 6 concluding the tag team title feud, I’d have ZIggler lay out Harper. The Wyatts still win, as described above, but it sets up Wyatt family beatdown of Ziggler in week 7 backstage. The final week can show a six man tag between American Alpha and ZIggler vs the Wyatt family. Alpha and Ziggler win after dissension between Randy and Luke cause the team to lose. This would tease Harper not getting involved during the match at Rumble.

Elsewhere on the card: If given time, I’d move along Jack Swagger’s heel turn by setting him up as a “gatekeeper” for new talent for SD Live. I’d call up NXT guys like Orney Lorcan a few weeks ago, face Swagger for a spot on the roster. Swagger will be seen as “keeping down” the young talent. He’s a decent worker and it’s a role that doesn’t require a lot of mic work. Eventually, he will lose to Tye Dillinger who “breaks through” and earns a SD live contract. Livid, Swagger demands a re-match, stating it was a fluke victory. Bryan agrees and sets it up for the Rumble pre-show. However, Swagger’s spot in the Rumble will be on the line. This helps introduce Dillinger to the audience. Post-match, Tye would be given Swagger’s draft ball. Pleased, he utters: “Perfect.”

Royal Rumble

Now, not having written down the Raw side, I’ll focus here on the SD entrants and the few little tidbits of stories leading into the Rumble which can fuel the next PPV which appears to be Elimination Chamber.

My entrants are:

John Cena: After being passed over by the Undertaker, Cena has a sitdown interview with Todd Philips (much like Cole does for Raw). He explains his recent absences by putting over Styles and Ambrose slightly. Explain he’s been at top for so long, it takes a toll but he’s still pushing himself. “Maybe I’ve lost a fraction of a step. It’s a testament to the strength of the roster that slight drop means the gap is that much tighter. Have him show a humble side and vulnerability. Humanize him some to where he can elicit sympathy.

He can even throw some barbed comments to the Raw roster to make himself look strong: “With all due respect to Raw. The only thing that is next, is me becoming WWE World Champion at Wrestlemania.”

Dean Ambrose: I started the seeds of an Ambrose vs Miz feud but it won’t culminate at Rumble yet. I want Ambrose to be the Smackdown “ironman”. To allow that, he won’t have an undercard match to keep him fresh.

The Miz: Excluded from the world title picture, Miz blames Daniel Bryan. In a Talking Smack confrontation, Miz demands what he has to do to get the support of management. Daniel, as the babyface acquiesces he might have been hard on the Miz but if he wants to prove himself, he can enter the Rumble as the first entry for SD Live. Miz, frustrated and in the heat of the moment, barks out “fine! I’ll go in first and I’ll be the last one there to have my arms raised up as the winner.”

Slater and Rhyno: Following the loss of the titles, the pair have parted for singles careers on amicable terms. Rhyno would tell Slater he’s proud of him for overcoming his fears and standing up to Bray even though they lost. It gives a slight rub to Slater. I don’t think all tag teams should end in a feud. With the Rumble approaching, both will enter and can have a moment where they team up one final time to eliminate someone physically imposing like Kane, Titus O’Neal, or Corbin who isn’t at the main event level yet.

James Ellsworth: At #30 because it will get a huge pop as a semi-surprise entry and it would be different to have the #30 be a joke rather than one of the main contenders.

Baron Corbin: As the guy being built up for bigger things, I’d have Corbin go in and have a decent run of eliminations; the most among the SD roster. He won’t make it to the final 4 though.

Tye Dillinger: He defeats Swagger on the pre-show and is the #10 entrant in the Rumble. I’d have him get eliminated by Corbin to set up a feud between the two before Mania.

Apollo Crews: Right now his character is extremely fragile. He has all the physical talents to succeed but he needs more of a character than “happy to be here”. I’d like to pair him with Shelton Benjamin who is slated to recover from injury sometime around or post-Rumble. I’d have him put on an ok showing but get eliminated pretty quickly. This would be the impetus for Benjamin’s return where Daniel Bryan has the veteran mentor Crews. The two are very much in the same mould and so it would be a natural pairing. They are teamed together post-Rumble. I think  having Benjamin there to interact with Crews will develop his character. The two would be amazing in the ring  and do well on the tag scene by replacing  the loss of the Spirit Squad and Heath and Rhyno going to pursue singles careers.

Wyatt family: The Wyatts make true on Bray’s ominous warning about wanting more gold. The three join the Rumble and working together can be a force to be reckoned with. Bray or Randy would be my pick to win the thing under the premise Taker is retiring. Ideally, I’d have both be the last men standing. The face-off between the two would be energetic as the commentators beg Randy to betray Bray. Instead they both jump out at the same time to setup a triple threat.

Dolph Ziggler: The IC champ will be a late entrant. I’d have him come in the 20s. He’s an amazing bump and selling machine so he’d make the top contenders look fantastic before he is ultimately eliminated.

Kane: For nostalgia’s sake. Kane makes what might be his final Rumble appearance.

With 14 spots taken up by SD, that leaves one spot which I think is best to reserve for surprise entries. In this case, my pick would be… SAMOE JOE. His arrival should be met by surprise by the commentators who announce they don’t know which brand he represents. This could be a mystery leading into the first two weeks post-Rumble.

Match results at Rumble: 

AJ retains the World title over Undertaker cleanly if Taker is retiring or via hook and crook (Club run in, low blows, etc) if he isn’t. Either or, this can set up an amazing Elimination Chamber match with AJ vs Undertaker vs Miz vs Ambrose vs Cena vs Samoe Joe. Or you  keep the Chamber for a #1 contender’s match (with Orton and Wyatt not winning Rumble) to determine who faces Styles at Mania. If the latter, replace Styles and/or Undertaker with Corbin or Wyatt and Orton.

I’d prefer Lynch retaining, but Bliss pinning Carmella also works. If Lynch retains, have her get a win over Carmella. Lynch could finally defeat Bliss before Wrestlemania. At Mania, Nikki can get the title which leads to a natural feud of Carmella vs Nikki into the late spring.

Ziggler retains the IC title over Luke Harper who does not receive any help from the Wyatt family after Orton convinces their leader that Luke must win it on his own.

Harper is barred from ringside in the tag team title match as an additional stipulation following the loss in the 3v3 tag match on the go home SD Live show. Alpha uses this to their advantage to capture the titles. With Orton and Wyatt winning the Rumble, I feel they can drop the tag titles for now and allow Alpha to shine. Besides, Wyatt and Orton could have a re-match scheduled at the Chamber which could then be used to finally tease the break up of the two.

Video game review dump

I’ve had a chance to play a few video games over the course of the Fall. I’m going to try to keep these concise:

Civilization VI review

I have a long history with the Civilization franchise. My first experience goes back to the first game back on the SNES. I was 9 or 10 at the time, so the game was a bit out of my depth. In fact, it was the first strategy game I played. I did not get into it as I didn’t understand the game as there was no tutorial and it was a game I rented from the local video store which lacked the instruction manual. Instead, my first real experiences with the series came with Civilization II on PC. By then, I was far more into strategy games due to such gems like Ogre Battle on SNES, Sim City (also on SNES) and a few others. I enjoyed the game tremendously; so much so my friends and I leaped at Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. To whit, it remains one of my favourite strategy games of all time.

The newest iteration of the game does clean up quite a few issues I’ve previously had with the franchise but introduced other ones. As a whole, I find the game one of the best outings of the series but I’ll focus on the things done wrong to encourage discussion on solutions. Note this review includes changes following the first patch.

Diplomacy system is still bad: It never ceases to amaze me how Civilization still continues to fail at diplomacy. The agenda system is a nice attempt in theory to fix issues and works well with some leaders. On the other hand, the hidden agenda often having a random seed can lead to conflicting agendas or making it impossible to be on good terms with a civilization. Frequently, the AI would offer me trade deals which were laughably one-sided in their favour. However, unlike in Beyond Earth, I did find myself making more trade pacts than in that game because eventually I could please the agendas of the rulers to where the deals were fair for both parties.

It is particularly glaring when comparing the early game to the rest. The AI is war happy until the classical age and then rarely launches any wars at all. The few times it does declare war, the other AI controlled civilizations will call me the warmonger even though I was the target of declarations of war.

The AI extremely rarely respects your wishes regarding spies and missionaries when they agree to do so. Furthermore, breaking such promises do not trigger casus belli conditions or warmonger type penalties for the AI the player or other AI can exploit. Your only recourse is denouncing the AI which often triggers other Civs to repudiate you in response for doing so even if you have just cause.

Removing the World Congress also reduces what can be accomplished via diplomacy, making it feel stripped down. To be fair, it is the only feature that has been removed from previous incarnations of the game. I’m hoping it does get included at some point; hopefully free but I won’t hold my breath on that.

AI is lacking: The AI really struggles with the new district system. Only 1-3 cities in any civ will have more than 2 districts even when playing with abundant resources. Often times I’ll see Civs like Russia or Greece (Pericles) hoard great artists, writers and musicians but no buildings to house great works. The AI will build cities extremely close to one another and not exploit ideal land utilization. This is particularly meddlesome to me who likes getting the most out of every city.

On the warfare front, I never feel challenged by the AI except on the higher difficulties and only in the early game where they’ll utilize their huge early advantage to send 3-4 warriors against my only city before I’ve even had a chance to build my first unit. If played smart, 3-4 units can turn away four times their number without issue.

Barbarians are a different beast. They are relentless thorns in your side even until the later periods if you so much as allow enough room for encampments to spawn. Further, the AI almost always has barbarians target your civ ahead of the AI if your units, districts or improvements are within range.

The UI is not optimal: To a veteran of the CIV franchise, it took me a while to figure out where to find some information. You find yourself having to often switch between the newly introduced lenses to find what you are looking for. Further, I often encounter issues where scrolling over a tile won’t reveal the yields. The game also doesn’t warn or prompt you when enemy units are in proximity of your cities. There are times I have units fortified in the area to act against these or enemy units within my cities bombard range but I fail to notice until several tiles have been pillaged or my units have been attacked when I could have reacted sooner if it worked like in Civ 5. Speaking of bombardment, it can be difficult to click on the icon to bombard an enemy unit if your city or encampment has a unit on that tile.

I still haven’t found how to raze cities ceded to me in a peace deal. This annoys me on a personal level more than most, granted.

Building up your cities is more difficult: The designers really wanted to emphasize small or specialized cities and it shows. Every subsequent construction of any building or even unit has an increasing cost. Thus, to “optimally” play the game, you want to avoid duplicates. Nevertheless, the costs still increase as you progress through each age as a sort of weird inflation. Wouldn’t things become cheaper if you’ve already built examples earlier?

The big change of districts and buildings being outside your city is the biggest change in game. I like the new strategy element it introduces as you try to optimize city and district placement to get the most out of your constructions. However, once you lay down a district you can’t remove or halt its construction to replace it elsewhere. You are stuck with that initial decision unless you load an old save. I also dislike that there is no method to hasten repair times of pillaged districts whether it be cash or though another method. You can build buildings through cash or even faith but repairs is a no-no.

Wonders need tweaking: Some wonders need to be re-balanced. The Great Library offers little benefit because by the time you finish building it, you are extremely likely out of the classical period and thus would gain no benefit from the boost of increased research for ancient or classical technologies.

Despite my criticisms, I give the game a solid 8/10. With tweaks, the game has the potential to be the best of the series and close to matching Alpha Centauri.

Hand of Fate

A fun little game by a small developer. I really liked the atmosphere and while I do find some of the random chance in the game to be highly frustrating, it is a fun game. The game reminds me of the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game, in a good way. Sometimes the cards screw you, other times you can breeze through. Good for 4-10 hours of play.

I give it a 7/10.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

I was really looking to like this game but as I progressed through the campaign, I quickly felt disappointed. The game appeared straight forward enough as a call back to classic RTS games. However, the game has far too many different units with special abilities you have to manage in battle. Perhaps it’s just me getting worse at video games now that I’m 34, but it makes the game feel more twitchy like an FPS than the RTS games of my youth.

My main complaint comes in the game interface. The setting of the world is in the title: a desert world. Thus, level variety is severely limited to desert landscapes with differing rocky outcroppings or ruined starships. It does help create a certain atmosphere. Think Dune crossed with Battlestar Galactica. However, most of your units are a colour similar to the sand which makes it difficult in a high paced situation to pick out the right units for the job. It makes sense within universe to camouflage against the sand but your enemies don’t seem to care (they are a bright red) and neither do their targeting systems. Additionally, the basic or visually representative UI is limited in how far you can zoom out. This makes it easy for the AI to try to ambush or flank you if you don’t frequently jump in and out of the “radar” UI. This UI resembles the stick figures models of the old Mechwarrior games. By the end of the game, I found myself exclusively in the radar UI which made for a very bland experience. The game has a lot of depth but it feels very much like playing a war game as a general at the Pentagon. If it required micromanaging every single unit.

I give it a 5/10.

Tyranny

Every gaming group goes through a phase of playing evil characters. It was interesting to see the take of playing a bad guy in a CRPG. I found the game to be fairly fun and interesting. Sadly, I found only one NPC really stood out and it was hard to feel any ownership of the world. Like Pillars of Eternity, the designers started a world from scratch. Instead of keeping to a simple story, they wanted to create a very complex world which leaves a lot of dialogue to be expository. At other times, the game simply gives hyperlinks within dialogue trees to explain what the hell the NPCs are referring to. I’d liken it to Wikipedia: the RPG.

What stood out for me in the game was we could craft our character’s backstory and importance in the world and these decisions play out over the course of the game. Unlike Dragon Age: Origins, the game doesn’t pay lip service to this decision and it offers a lot of potential replay value for completionists. I do feel the game is a bit short but I feel it is worthwhile compared to what else is out there.

An aspect of RPGs I don’t usually care for but did come to my attention in this game was loot progression. I was never really awed by the gear you could earn in game. Pillars of Eternity did a far better job on that front. Further, the skill system favours using the same weapon types over and over again. Thus, if you made a bad decision or split between close and long range fighting, it felt like a detriment. You wouldn’t want to change weapon type for a character as you would be wasting the progression they earned using a different weapon and would be “behind the ball” with new weapons. The way the game gets around this is by allowing you to upgrade weapons but I found myself only upgrading the characters with fixed gear and never on my own and I completed all but 1 side-quest.

I did like how I never felt I had more money than I knew what I could do with as I constantly was low on cash divided between upgrading characters’ gear, purchasing magical customization or going to skill trainers. This made your purchasing decisions matter. As the gear was lack luster in my view, I spent most of my character’s money on character improvements.

A solid effort and I’m intrigued with what they do with it if anything going forward. I’d rather see them stick to one world and flesh it out fully through multiple games like Bioware with Mass Effect and Dragon Age. 8/10.

 

Survivor Series Booking

Booking both shoes alone and trying to keep up with the PPVs was too much. Hell, with the quality of some of the episodes, the current staff being paid to do it can’t sometimes do it well subjectively. I’ve decided going forward for this feature to just outline from PPV to PPV for my own sake.

Pre-Show

The pre-show is supposedly two hours long. After the length of Summerslam dragging down the overall quality of the show, I was disappointed the WWE brass didn’t learn their lesson pf overbooking the show and draining the crowd. Thankfully, they cut out a lot of the filler matches to focus on the “fantasy warfare” tag line they are overusing. From a storyline perspective, the only match that makes sense on the pre-show is a Cruiserweight #1 contender’s match between Rich Swann and TJ Perkins. Give them a full 15 minutes without any move limitations and allow them to wow the crowd. This helps put both men over, the division and adds some stakes to the Kendrick vs Kalisto match later on.

After the cruiserweight match, have Daniel Bryan meet both competitors backstage and congratulate them on the match. Foley will interject, telling Bryan Kalisto hasn’t won yet and to stop tampering with his roster.

Other than that, show various members of the roster “earlier today” arrive at the arena and get interviewed about their upcoming match:

-Ellsworth excited for being at his first PPV should be touched upon. Perhaps he can fanboy over the event with Bayley.
-AJ and the Club reuniting to fawn over the World Title, but AJ asking them where is their tag team title to create a bit of friction.
-Miz facing off against Sami in a backstage segment as they didn’t have any real build to their match.
-Kendrick talking about how he’ll defeat Kalisto is also a must seeing as Kalisto can’t be counted on to carry a feud on his promo abilities.
-The Wyatts brooding somewhere as they get ready for the match. Even a promo where Bray leaves a message for Braun… “RUN!”
-Charlotte showing up with Dana carrying her bags. The two would cross paths with Becky who carries her own things. This would play up Lynch being “blue collar” type champion.
-A Shield reunion tease.
-Jericho and KO reciting and adding to the list, running down the Smackdown team. One example would be adding Orton for having RKOed Jericho at Battleground.
-Enzo tries to hit on Carmella, who seems more interested in the 7 foot tall Cass – alluding to their real life relationship.
-Heyman and Shane McMahon cross paths. Heyman comments sarcastically that it’s good to see both Shane and Randy Orton have recovered from Summerslam, alluding to the beat down delivered by Brock Lesnar. Shane would then retort he’s got more important things to deal with than Heyman or Lesnar as his team faces off against Raw.

Main Show

During the elimination matches, I’d have Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves call the action. The regular commentators for Raw will do the duties for Brock vs Goldberg and the Cruiserweight match. Conversely, Smackdown’s team (minus Mauro) will cover the Miz vs Zayn match to allow Tom Phillips a chance to actually show what he can do to the regular audience who doesn’t follow NXT.

Tag Team Elimination Match

In the interest of spacing out the elimination matches to keep them fresh, the tag team elimination match will start off the show. I’m only going to cover the high points, signature spots and the eliminations for these matches.

Both the New Day and Enzo and Cass should have a promo segment running down their opponents to really pour fuel on the fire and get the crowd invested in the proceedings. Further, New Day should call out Daniel Bryan for saying every Smackdown team can beat them. When Breezango comes down as final Smackdown team, they’ll give out tickets to every Raw team until they get to Enzo… who receives a dozen or so tickets. Slater should also be seen to be trash talking the Shining Stars and wanting to get a hold of them before the rest of the Smackdown roster shows up.

The story leading up to the show was the disunity on the Raw side. This will be the theme of some of the match with forceful tags taking place, particularly between the Club and Sheamus towards the rest of the team. There have been some hints leading up on the show on potential brand rivalries. Here, the New Day would have a chip on their shoulder and want to start things off. American Alpha will want to start, but the Usos will tag in before Jason Jordan has a chance to even lock up with Big E.

As the Heels, the Usos will get the upper hand for 3-4 minutes before Big E goes for the hot tag to Kofi, but instead Primo or Epico will steal a tag. Honestly, they are pretty interchangeable. This brings out Slater who wants to avenge being conned into buying “stocks in Puerto Rico”. Rhyno and Slater score the first pinfall over the Shining Stars to give some legitimacy to the SD champs  and get a slight pay off to that storyline thread.

This will lead to a huge brawl between every remaining team after Smackdown has scored first. Cesaro and Sheamus will be the ones left standing in the ring after the dust settles and the referee finally restores order. The two will nod to one another as a sign of respect before arguing over who should remain the legal man after the elimination. This gives Mojo Rawley the opportunity to tackle Sheamus from behind. Here, the two would have a good back and forth as two big men before Sheamus re-establishes dominance over the Hype Bro. Normally, Mojo never plays the babyface in peril so this should be an interesting flip of the script and allow to see if he can handle that role. It also solidifies Sheamus and Cesaro as the toughest guys in the match. Sheamus and Cesaro would alternate on pounding Mojo before he “hypes up” à la Huk Hogan to get Sheamus to tag in Big E.

Big E will regain dominance over Mojo before he manages to land a spine buster on the champion. This leads to the spot with both crawling to their respective corners. Fandango will get the tag for SD, and Enzo for Raw. Enzo will be a house of fire wanting to avenge the insult about his attire. He’ll throw an elbow to Breeze which draws Prince Pretty into the ring but he gets intercepted by a big boot from Cass. The two Italian-Americans will finish off Fandango and even the score. This leaves us with the more relevant teams on each roster. Not that I dislike Breezango, but there are treated as less important than the others currently.

With Cass as the legal man, Ryder comes in, assuring an anxious American Alpha that “I got this, Bro”. They’ll get into exchanging blows before the 7 foot tall Cass gets the upper hand. Cass and Enzo will double team Ryder who shows his resiliency by kicking out of several double team moves. As E&C set up for their finisher, Rhyno will intervene with a massive GORE! as Cass is setting up to throw Enzo, the legal man, onto Ryder. Chaos ensues as each team takes its turn to come in and topple the interference of the other. Big E tackles Rhyno to keep the man beast contained. American Alpha comes in but before they even get a chance to do anything they get attacked from behind by the Club, specifically targeting Gable’s knee with a chop block. Slater runs in to save Gable with a neck breaker on Karl Anderson. Kofi hits trouble in paradise on Slater for his troubles. In the chaos, Ryder manages to crawl over to his corner and the Usos tag in. As the referee tries to get the Raw side back into their corner, the Usos low blow Enzo behind the ref’s back and score the pin. This gives the pair additional heat while not hurting Enzo and Cass. It also creates future heat between the two teams if ever the Usos return to Raw to rejoin Roman Reigns.

Despite the four on three advantage, I’ll have the Raw team get the upper hand from this point on. My intent is for American Alpha to come out as the stars of this match and to accomplish that, they need to come back from behind. They will sell frustration at never getting tagged in. The Usos remain in the ring, calling out New Day. With emotions high on both sides, the ref should be overwhelmed as each team distracts him from his duties. Opportunities like these allow the Usos to continuously do cheap shots on Kofi like raking the eyes, not tagging in (playing up their similar appearance), etc. Xavier Woods will foil one of the attempts by using Francesca II and tripping up the Usos allowing Big E to get tagged in. He is a house of fire and manages to score the pinfall close to his team’s corner with Cesaro and Sheamus providing cover from interference.

The Usos will be rightly mad at Woods’ interference and will attack him at ringside before leaving. Kofi will splash the twins with an over the top rope splash. The teams then square off on the outside, brawling. As the resident tough, Sheamus excels here and seemingly stands tall posing. He pounds his own chest boasting he’s the best. This leads to Mojo coming in as the legal man from behind and a stare down. As the biggest guy on his team and their earlier exchange, this will hopefully pay off with a good reaction. Sheamus will again strike Mojo a few times, who no sells it. Flustered, Sheamus tags in Cesaro. The two bicker briefly as Cesaro comes in. The Swiss Superman and the Hype Bro brawl with Cesaro eventually getting Mojo into the Big Swing. Ryder will come interrupt the move with a Rough Ryder from the top rope. As Ryder poses after hitting the spot, he’ll get a big boot of doom to the head from Karl Anderson which knocks Zack out of the ring. By then Cesaro will recover and hit the neutralizer on a dizzy Mojo to eliminate the Hype Bros.

With Smackdown now down for the first time in the match, American Alpha are desperate to get in and hopefully the crowd picks up on this. However, Slater comes out to be the legal man, yelling “he’s the champ and the One man band!”. He gets a Brogue Kick as he turns around. Rhyno GORES Sheamus before being pulled back by the ref. Meanwhile, the Club comes in, pretending to have tagged by slapping their hands together in and hit the Magic Killer and a pinfall on Slater. As the Rhyno awkwardly gets in the way for Alpha  to interrupt the pinfall. This should hopefully give the Club additional heat for eliminating a crowd favourite.

Chad Gable will be the first legal man for AA. The Club will be shown grinning from ear to ear. Anderson, the legal man will too sweet Gallows to come in as the bigger man. Alpha, being fresh from having been kept out for most of the match, are able to score some offense in before the numbers game constantly gets the upper hand. Nevertheless, Gable refuses to be pinned and kicks out. Gable manages to reverse a setup for a power bomb into an ankle lock. Before Gallows can tap, Anderson saves his partner but gets thrown out by Jordan. Gallows uses this opportunity to tag Kofi in. Kofi isn’t fast enough to intercept Gable from tagging Jordan who runs roughshod over the smaller Raw champ. Cognizant of the numbers game, Jordan will knock Cesaro, Big E and Sheamus off the mat before applying an ankle lock. With only Gallows in a position to stop the submission, he pulls his hand away just as Kofi is trying to tag. Unable to reach the ropes, Kofi taps out. Incensed, Cesaro pushes Gallows demanding to know why he did that. Gallows kicks Cesaro in the groin and throws him into the steps. Gallows, with Anderson’s help, will limp out to sell the effects of the ankle lock and the Club gets counted out. All of this should put massive heat on the Club for betraying Raw by going after some baby faces.

Now, the piece de résistance is American Alpha vs Cesaro and Sheamus as the final teams representing both brands. As the best workers on both teams, I’d have this go a good 5-10 minutes before Alpha finally pulls the win with a double ankle lock on both Cesaro and Sheamus, giving Smackdown a 1-0 lead. Back on Raw, Sheamus and Cesaro can still claim to be next in line for the title as they were the last team standing and would’ve beat New Day at Hell in a Cell if not for the screwy finish. With the exception of the Shining Stars and a lesser extent Breezango, I feel this series helps elevate every team on their respective rosters:

American Alpha are the big winners here which could lead to a renewed feud with the Usos who were eliminated due to interference by Xavier Woods and would still claim to have sidelined Gable earlier this year.

Slater and Rhyno were fairly involved in the match, breaking up many pins and keeping their team in a position to win. Slater remains a somewhat comedic act so him losing in the way he did plays into his goofy character. The payoff for beating the Shining Stars rewards the audience for watching Smackdown and Talking Smack and shows he isn’t entirely comedic.

The Hype bros got several good spots, with Mojo getting a chance to stand up to Cesaro and Sheamus as a legitimate tough guy who can hang with the Europeans. The odd couple in turn get to stand tall even in defeat. Being eliminated due to a low blow doesn’t hurt Enzo and Cass and having them score a pinfall on Breezango gives them a small win. The Usos and Club continue their heelish ways, selling them as legitimate threats as a team and worthy of being booed for their actions.

Finally, the New Day are set to beat Demolition’s record. Lasting a good deal of time in the match and their promo is sufficient enough to keep them hot. Further, they were featured heavily in the match on the Raw side which might help dispel Daniel Bryan’s statements during the State of the WWE Universe address.

Interlude

After a long match, the crowd might need a slight break so I’d put a segment cutting away to the Pre-show crew talking about what just happened. This will give the ring crew the opportunity to change the ring ropes. Another cutaway will show Mick Foley confronting the Club backstage. They will retort they warned the New Day of the betrayal two weeks ago. Foley will suspend them for their actions and tell them he better not see them the rest of the night.

Cruiserweight Championship: Kendrick vs Kalisto

Now, I’m torn on what the WWE will do with the new 205 Live show debuting soon and taped after Smackdown. Raw is often a drag to watch and removing the whole division would be a blow to filling out the three hour show. On the other hand, NXT Takeover might offer the opportunity for a few call ups to fill in some holes. Furthermore, the division is fairly new and having the title exchange hands often will hurt the credibility of the title. However, there is a way to serve everyone.

Daniel Bryan will join commentary for the match. Along with AJ and Jericho, he has to be one of the MVPs for WWE this year in his role as Smackdown GM. His history with Brian Kendrick will add to the commentary as he will be torn between friendship and brand loyalty. He can also help put over Kalisto who just can’t get himself over on the mic.

The two are quality workers though and I think a good back and forth for 10 minutes or so would be highly entertaining. Just as Kalisto appears to be heading to victory, Kendrick will flee the scene and run to the back. Kalisto will chase after him, knowing full well the title doesn’t change hands on a count out or DQ. However, Kalisto won’t be fast enough and runs back into the ring in the nick of time to beat the 10 count while Kendrick is clutching his belt smugly, waving goodbye to Kalisto.

Interlude #2

Going back to the Pre-show commentary crew, they’ll sell disappointment in the result of the match before Renée is told she is getting news they have an interview with Kendrick backstage. Kendrick will gloat about being smart, and preserving his title and the division on “the flagship” show. Bryan will show up demanding an explanation. Stephanie  McMahon will interrupt in turn, telling Bryan “you won, congratulations. Now leave MY cruiserweight champion alone.” She’ll smile smugly, praising Kendrick for his wits as Bryan is left staring daggers towards the two.

Women’s Elimination Match

As a quick aside, the Raw women’s roster is definitely top heavy… in terms of star power that is. Sasha, Charlotte, Bayley and a lesser extent Nia Jax are all bigger names than all but Nikki Bella and Becky Lynch on Raw. While it’s disappointing Natalya won’t get to be in the match despite the PPV being in Canada, I do feel there is more depth on the Smackdown roster. The writers have done a good job giving each woman a character and reasons to fight or align with one another. My personal favourite has to be Alexa Bliss; disregarding her silly “Bliss me off” catch phrase. Carmella has also shown herself to be effective in an irritating heel role. With Eva Marie shooting movies, Dana Brooke is the weakest link on both shows. Although imagine if Eva was in this match and she scored the final pinfall. The boos would be deafening.

I’d have Natalya introduced first to get the crowd going. As a canuck, the Toronto crowd will be firmly behind her and cheer loudly. Here you can then alternate between the rosters with Lynch or Bayley as the final arrival to end on a good pop. Again, the story on Raw was the women were divided between Charlotte and everyone else. Thoughout the match, Charlotte will be heard ordering her team around condescendingly. On the other side of the ring, Natalya will be giving silly or useless advice and words of encouragement. For added fun, she could pull out some lyrics from Canadian musical acts.

Both team captains will start the match with the announcers recalling Nikki attacking Charlotte on SD. They could also play up how Charlotte originally ended Nikki’s record title reign as Divas champion. Charlotte will get the upper hand early, grand standing to the crowd. She’ll tag in Nia Jax to continue the beat down. Nia and Charlotte will isolate Nikki from the SD side, working her over but the she will not stay down. Nia will line up John Cena’s girlfriend in a neutral corner for her bull rush charge but will miss after Nikki sidesteps. She’ll then roll to her corner and tag in Becky. If she can manage it, have her score a power move on Jax, followed by the Disarmher. Naomi will interrupt the opposing women’s attempt to break the submission with a springboard splash. Jax will power out of the move flinging Becky away forcefully. As Nia drags herself slowly to her corner, Alexa and Naomi also run in to prevent the tag but Nia brushes them aside. Finally, Nia tags in Alicia Fox who goes up against Naomi and performs a northern lights suplex into a bridge for the pin. Out of all the women, Alicia needs a pin the most here and Naomi is the only woman not firmly involved in a feud on the SD team who can eat it.

Before Fox can celebrate though, she’ll be blind sided by Carmella. Eventually, the Princess from Staten island will lock in her neck submission hold. The women will all run in to brawl except for Nia who is still selling the effects of the STF from earlier. The various women on both sides will lock in submission maneuvers on opponents: Banks statement on Bliss, Figure 8 on Nikki, and the Disarmher on Bayley. All of these submissions make it difficult for the ref to sort out who is the new legal woman after Fox taps out for the Raw team. So he breaks all the holds and many of the women are left selling on the mat or outside the ring. Hopefully, the visual of all these submission maneuvers will look great and allow to clear the ring a bit.

Tied at four a piece, Charlotte’s team has a slight edge though as they had Bliss and Nikki in submission moves, leaving Becky and Carmella vs Sasha, Charlotte and a recovering Nia Jax. Becky comes in here against Charlotte as Mauro yells “CHAMPION VS CHAMPION! WHO IS THE MOST DOMINANT WOMAN IN THE WWE?” Dana Brooke will begin interfering to help Charlotte gain an advantage over Becky with trips near the ropes and such. Sasha, somewhat of a tweener won’t say anything about this but Bayley should show some resentment of having to utilize these tactics. Natalya will begin chasing after Dana trips Carmella on the ring apron to prevent a tag. All of this leads to some confusion allowing Becky to tag a reinvigorated Nikki who saves Carmella from Bayley but the distraction at ringside has Natalya accidentally clothesline Charlotte at ringside in plain view of the referee. This has the ref send her away to the back to a chorus of boos.

Mauro and Corey would play up Nikki getting’s injury and loss of the title to Charlotte and this is a chance at revenge. Nikki will dominate Flair but a timely intervention from Dana will allow Charlotte to score the pinfall. A bit early to eliminate Nikki but she’s not the best worker on the SD side among the 4 remaining and yet it’s not shameful to be pinned by Charlotte and due to interference no less.

Carmella comes in and slaps Charlotte, yelling “Nikki’s mine!” and showing frustration that she wanted to take her out after the match. Eventually, Charlotte turns the table and tags in Nia who just destroys Carmella handily and gets the pinfall. Outnumbered at this point, the SD women can’t prevent the pinfall leaving only champion and challenger to have to work together against 4 women.

Now, with TLC coming first, we need to keep Becky and Alexa strong for that PPV. There will be plenty of opportunity to build up the next challenger for Charlotte’s title match. Bayley will be eliminated due to Dana’s interference backfiring. Bliss will score the pin with a roll up. Before Bliss has a chance to celebrate, she’ll be run over by Nia. The size difference here is the most significant and so it will play well for Bliss to be a de facto baby face here. Charlotte will berate Bayley as she heads to the back for being a loser and not ready for the main roster, etc. Incensed, Bayley will go to hit Charlotte but think better of it. Charlotte will gloat before Bayley clotheslines Dana Brooke instead, followed by a Bayley to Belly on the ramp. Charlotte will be distracted by all this while Sasha and Nia fight Bliss and Lynch.

Back to the action in the ring, Bliss will be thrown outside the ring like a rag doll. The babyface Becky will go to check on her partner despite their rivalry. Bliss will see Nia coming for the charge and sidestep while using Becky to take the hit. The pair would crash into the barricades hard. As Nia tries to get back in the ring at a count of eight, Bliss will hit a baseball slide preventing Nia from saving herself from a count out elimination.

Becky will be left out for a while to sell the effects of being rammed into the barricade by Jax.  Charlotte and Sasha will bicker as they take turns working over Alexa. Each time Alexa uses an underhanded tactic to create some separation, she’ll yell to Becky to “get up”. Finally Becky makes it to the mat for a hot tag and Charlotte gets put in the Disarmher for the submission elimination as both Sasha and Alexa are laid out. Graves here can now talk about how Becky could never defeat Banks in NXT. Becky will be fired u at this point as she allows Sasha to get up and fight face to face. The 2 on 1 advantage will however prove too much for the Boss. As Becky goes for the final elimination, Bliss tags in to steal the win for herself.

Post match, the ref raises the two women’s hands. Becky offers to shake Alexa’s hand who teases to reciprocate but instead walks off, giving fuel to their feud without having to end up a brawl putting one or the other down.

Interlude #3

A backstage segment shows the SD tag teams celebrating at a shindig organized by Slater and Rhyno. The other tag teams react negatively to the menu of crackers and spray cheese. The SD women will come in to be greeted by cheers from the male tag team roster. This will help create a level of camaraderie and put the male and female competitors on a similar level. Daniel Bryan will also congratulate the teams. The Miz and Maryse will interrupt the festivities and boast they will return with a win but they expect better catering. He’ll also inform Daniel will have to renegotiate the contract again otherwise he’ll just go to Raw with the title.

On the flip side, Stephanie will be incensed at going 2 down and have an emergency meeting with Foley, threatening the Raw roster. She will not be embarrassed with a clean sweep. She would then call out Sami Zayn specifically that he better come back with the IC title. This should hopefully create stakes for the final men’s match beyond brand pride. Foley will come to the defense of competitors, but blaming the Club for the tag team loss. He can also explain his leniency on them for fear they might simply jump to Smackdown if they were outright fired.

IC Title match

While on paper, Ziggler vs Zayn would have probably been the better match, Miz is no slouch and his mic skills and character have been great. I think the decision is based purely on the heel/face dynamic and the match taking place in Toronto might not go well for Ziggler. Raw has really dropped the ball with Zayn since the brand split so the logic of Miz as the heel would better serve Zayn. Nevertheless, I feel having the title switch hands and brands seems a bit much in such a short time span.

I’m not against SD not having a mid card title, but  there would be too many singles titles on Raw without clear divisions. On SD, there are just not many feuds available. Kalisto, Apollo Crews, Jack Swagger and maybe Kane are the only non-main event faces on the roster who aren’t part of a tag team who could face Miz. All underwhelming options for different reasons I won’t go into here. With tag teams you could have Slater and Ryder in the mix. Ziggler as champ doesn’t have many alternatives either with Hawkins, Corbin and Luke Harper as the likely candidates. Out of those listed, I’d prefer Harper vs Ziggler.

Just as Zayn comes out, I’d make sure to have the ring announcer emphasize Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The pop for his entrance should be top 3 of the night. I’m positive the pair can put on a good match but eventually, Miz will begin cheating. First with Maryse, but then have to resort to waving in the Spirit Squad. However, they will be stopped by Ziggler who superkicks them both. This is very much in line with what a babyface is in line to do. As a twist, despite how I wrote earlier I felt Zayn has been languishing, I’ll have him pull out the win for the more or less home crowd and to create some buzz. It would create even more tension between Miz, Ziggler and Bryan.

Interlude #4

Bryan and Shane will be in Shane’s “office”, showing some disappointment of Miz’s loss. Daniel should show conflicting emotions. He’s happy for Sami and seeing Miz lose but losing the title is a big blow. Shane reassures him though that after SD clean sweeps Raw, they’ll be the dominant brand. Cue Stephanie McMahon who will come in and gloat about getting the IC title “back to where it belongs”. The trio will argue but Stephanie, ever the hateful woman, will be rankled when Shane brings up that SD would’ve won the Cruiserweight match had Kendrick not ran away and SD is poised to sweep the elimination matches. This leads to a bet between the two. A sort of “double or nothing” bet, where SD can reverse the result (from a brand perspective, not the competitors) should they pull out the win in the 5 on 5 men’s match. If Raw wins though, Shane will go on Raw and admit defeat and step down as commissioner. Steph agrees and the two shake on it.

Brock vs Golderg

It looks like this match might be the main event, but I feel the match won’t be as good as the final 5 vs 5 elimination match. Further, I don’t want to see the rumoured Wrestlemania Shane vs Brock match. I don’t see Goldberg coming out and losing here and ending Survivor Series on a down with the heel winning would be a bad end. Thus, I would position this match here.

Have the two start off doing a semi-MMA fight before the german suplexes begin. The match would devolve into an Attitude Era type brawl on the outside. A stiff back and forth between the two with frequent cuts to Goldberg’s wife and son. If the two can emote, show them grow increasingly worried when Brock is on the offensive. Throughout the match, Heyman will berate Goldberg about having his son watch him get destroyed. Eventually, Goldberg begins the comeback and lays out Heyman as he berates Goldberg’s family. Brock uses this distraction to regain the upper hand and prevail, but barely. This can then setup a potential rubber match for Goldberg if he feels up to it. Despite the loss, Goldberg would be allowed to look strong, have his family come to the ring and pose with him for the crowd.

Interlude #5

As Brock and Heyman come through the back, Shane could make a comment to them about how heroic it was to bring another man’s family as a distraction. This can continue to tease the tension, but at this point in time, Lesnar is spent and won’t get physical. It will still tease the feud between the two and make people think Lesnar might get involved in the main event.

Follow this up with the interviews with the various participants in the match:

  • Seth Rollins explains he was promised a face to face encounter with Triple H. He knows he’s the best, and is going to prove it one more time to all the doubters, etc.
  • Jericho explains how all of Smackdown is on the list (recapping the pre-show) and once you are on the list, “you will never, EEEEVER be the same, agayne!”
  • Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton do a typical Wyatt family promo mixed in with how he created Braun, and he can also destroy him.
  • Roman Reigns just says whenever he is in the ring, he gets the job done. Tonight, he’s got 5 opponents, and he aims to eliminate all 5 himself.
  • Ambrose takes exception to Stephanie calling Smackdown the “B show”. It’s not the B show because he beat Reigns and Rollins at Battleground in the triple threat to keep the World title on Smackdown.
  • Kevin Owens claims he is the best champion because he’s the Universal champion.
  • Styles echoes begrudgingly Ambrose’s previous statement. However, he adds he beat John Cena and Ambrose for the title. He runs down KO for receiving help from Triple H for his title after Balor was injured.  His title is the same lineage as those greats like Bruno Sammartino, Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold, etc. All of the competitors are great, but there is only one who is phenomenal…

Main Event: Men’s Elimination Match

This should be a full 40+ minutes affair with your rosters’ main event talent involved. The challenge here is the importance of elimination order is through the roof as you can’t afford to “bury” your main guys. Steph will want to take Shane down and she will resort to every underhanded trick she can muster. So the temptation is to overbook the hell out of it. Jericho and Kevin Owens are the two Canadians in the match and will both get cheers despite their current status as heels. Reigns will get booed out of the building as usual. Styles will get more cheers than boos. Everyone else will get modest crowd pops.

Braun Strowman will be the first man introduced. He’s the lowest on the pecking order as established stars. He’ll be followed by Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton together. The trio will stare each other down as “BREAK THE WALLS DOWN” hits. Jericho, sporting a scarf and the List will come down to cheers. Next down will be Roman Reigns to put back the emphasis on Raw but also to get the boos out of the way early. Ambrose is out next, he pauses at the top of the ramp to allow Ellsworth to catch up. Next out is Seth Rollins. Here, AJ Styles comes out as the crowd pops continue to build. Styles should clearly be looking at Jericho and Reigns as they feuded earlier this year. As Universal champion, Kevin Owens is the last member of his team out. He begins trash talking Styles as he came out last as the more important champion. Then, As Shane is about to come out, he’s attacked by Rusev. As the Smackdown team is stunned, they are outnumbered with the 5 Raw men in the ring who lacking a true babyface, block Smackdown team from intervening to assist their boss.

GONG! Undertaker comes out and chases Rusev away. Medics will come in and check up on Shane before helping him to the back. Tensions are high in the ring as the ref tries to keep the two teams apart. Undertaker makes his way to the ring. Jericho will get face to face with the Deadman who stares him down. Jericho backs away and Undertaker joins the Smackdown team. Rusev is a great performer and not having him on the show was disappointing. This gives him some heat for going after a baby face and a possible story with Stephanie favouring him later on. Adding the Undertaker to the match, even if unannounced will add to the big match feel and people who missed the show another reason to regret it.

As the team “captains”, Styles and KO will start things off first. As the two are about to lock up, KO steps back smirking. He yells out  “I’m the champion of the Universe!” and tags in Braun Strowman. Like the SD women, I feel it’s more important to book the main event for TLC as strong as Raw has more lead up to Roadblock. Especially with Styles being a bit embarrassed in the Ellsworth matches. It is in KO’s character to act dastardly. He has been booked as an opportunistic but otherwise weak champion. Styles is a heel too, but he only does it as a last resort and he has not been shown to back away from matches but in fact challenge his opponents outright. He’s more of a smarmy heel. He’s also the most athletic of the SD team, so he can bump like mad for Strowman to make him look great.

Eventually, Strowman will fling AJ into the SD corner before roaring. At this, Bray will tag in, giggling briefly before becoming deadly serious. Bray would get some offense in here. He’s bigger than Styles so it would give more credibility for Strowman to sell for him. Orton would tag in to help out and the pair manage to contain Braun until Rollins tags himself in to turn the tide. Eventually, a stand off between Bray and Rollins occurs and the cult leader grins, tapping Ambrose in. Ambrose and Rollins have not interacted since the triple threat at Battleground so the animosity between the two would still be there from a storyline perspective even though Rollins has turned face.

After some back and forth, Rollins takes over and works Ambrose over in his corner. The Lunatic Fringe side steps a Stinger Splash. He follows up by punches to KO and Jericho to draw both into the ring. Styles will take out Jericho with a Phenomenal forearm but get speared by Reigns. RKO on KO as he tries to set up the pop-up powerbomb. Eventually, Reigns clears the ring of everyone but the Undertaker who had not come into the match yet. Ambrose, reeling, extends his hands to the Deadman, who tags in. Soupbones to the US champion who, despite his kevlar vest, falls back. Strowman is in next to challenge the Phenom. Have the two go at it with trying to intimidate one another through feats of strength but the younger man seems to have the slight edge.

Ever the opportunist, KO will come in once the Undertaker is slowing down before the onslaught from Strowman. He and Jericho take turns beating on the Undertaker. With Jericho working over Undetaker, have Ambrose go to ringside and pick up the list and begin going through it. This distracts Y2J who demands they drop… IT. Styles snatches the List out of Ambrose’s hands and snaps the clipboard over his knee. Infuriated, Jericho yells “You Stupid Idiots!” Cue Undertaker wrapping his hand around Jericho’s neck as he slowly gets up. Chokeslam for Jericho. As Taker goes for the pin, Owens attempts a six star frog splash from the top, but Taker sees it, and rolls out of the way. Owens splashes Jericho. Taker tags in Wyatt who covers Jericho for the first pinfall. I have the heels get over Jericho who has been turning face because of the List. Styles should get some heat for breaking the list. Wyatt could use a win since he’s not going to be a survivor here. On the flip side, this adds some tension to the Owens and Jericho relationship.

A lot of posters on the internet seem to think Strowman shouldn’t be pinned as it would reduce his standing. I disagree. His inclusion in this match is elevating him. Strowman’s elimination would come not without some shenanigans though. After a sequence against Ambrose who is thrown to the outside, Ellsworth would try to stand in Strowman’s way. The big man would easily swat Ellsworth aside but the brief interruption would allow for Ambrose the opportunity to surprise Strowman with a lariat sending the latter stumbling. Back in the ring, Ambrose strikes Strowman as he tries to get back in, eventually setting up the tag to Bray Wyatt who smells blood (figuratively of course). A blind tag to Randy Orton just as Strowman lifts Wyatt for a running power slam. Orton dropkicks Wyatt who falls on top of Strowman. He rolls Bray off, gets up to be greeted with an RKO for the 1-2-3. After the pin, the lights go out, and Wyatt, Orton and Strowman are gone from the ring, leaving Ambrose, Taker and Styles to face KO, Rollins and Reigns.

This leaves Smackdown team confused as they have lost their advantage. While, I disagree with Reigns position as a babyface, turning him heel here is a poor choice. He would get overshadowed in the shuffle of the stories coming out of the event. Ambrose and Reigns would be in the ring and fist bump before going at each other in earnest. Ambrose will duck a superman punch, and so Reigns will go after Styles in the corner and knock him off the mat. As he goes to hit Taker, he blocks and tags himself in to put down the one who claims to be the “big dog”. Reigns would put up a good fight and I’ve have him get the pin after KO delivers a super kick to the back of Taker’s head setting up a spear. The pin would be in line with WWE’s push of Reigns heading to Roadblock so I don’t have issue with this. It also allows for an Undertaker vs Reigns or Taker vs KO at a later date depending how long Taker will be performing before his retirement.

Styles follows up by pinning KO. The sequence will come after KO jaws off to the former shield members who decide to leave him out to dry. Styles would deliver an emphatic Styles Clash in the middle of the ring.

Down to the ex-Shield + Styles, the Raw team gets the upperhand as action spills to the outside. Styles will get double power bombed through the Spanish announce table, taking him out for several minutes, leaving Ambrose to fend for himself against his former partners. As Rollins and Reigns take turns beating on the Lunatic, he is cheered on by Ellsworth and refuses to stay down. Out of the crowd, HHH comes out, drawing Rollins’ attention. Still mad for costing him the Universal title, Rollins will jump over the ropes to land on Triple H as they brawl on the outside.

Next out is the club just as Styles begins to groggily make himself back to the ring. He smiles, as Ambrose and the Club begin to surround Reigns in the ring. Big boot to Ambrose! The announcers yell out, the Club is team RAW! Styles is shocked. As Reigns looks at both, he goes for the pin on Ambrose. The Club pulls Reigns off and delivers the magic killer. They then slump Reigns’ body on top of Ambrose and flee the ring as various Raw and Smackdown superstars come down to start an all out brawl between brands. The referee counts the 1-2-3 on Ambrose. Styles, then lifts Reigns up for the Styles Clash and the win.

As I’m running a tad late before the show commences, I’m going to follow up in part 2 for the fallout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compatibility doesn’t mean chemistry

So over the early Summer I met a woman with whom I shared many interests. She was very much a geek at heart but it never truly clicked the way I had hoped. I saw her several times hoping chemistry would develop further but it never came. As I was contemplating ending the relationship on a romantic level, she seemingly began avoiding me, followed by cancelling dates, not responding to calls or text messages and removing all contacts. The first hint was she wrote she felt she was stringing me along. So perhaps she felt the same way or sensed my own apprehension. I suppose it worked out for both of us to an extent but I do feel bad it ended in that manner; I did want to remain friends.

This experience goes to show common interests doesn’t necessarily translate into chemistry. I’ve written before about attraction at various levels. While I was certainly intellectually stimulated, the other aspects never reached a crescendo. On an emotional level, I didn’t feel like I was falling for her beyond liking her as a person. From a physical level, she wasn’t my ideal body type but it’s the least important of the three for me.

Compatibility is certainly important in maintaining a long term love, but I think it’s fair to say one needs more out of a romantic relationship than just compatibility. There has to be that mutual attraction. Even so, this opens other questions: “What is love?” “Have I ever experienced it?” “How would I describe it?” I think this is a very personal question we all have to ask ourselves. We all have our own specific wants or needs. I tend to view things from the former rather than the latter. I don’t need to be in a romantic relationship. I don’t have any desire to absolutely be with my partner all the time. Instead, I view it more as wants: I want to find someone with whom I can share our lives together. I would like to start a family under the right circumstances. I feel I am someone who has a lot to offer in a relationship. I don’t need to be romantically involved because of loneliness. I view relationships as something that enhances life and experiences.

I’ve never had a truly long last relationship because of several factors, my own failings or faults included I might add. I started dating late because not so much a fear of commitment but rather fear of hurting someone I would grow to care about at a profound level. Along with low self-esteem at the time due to my physical appearance and inability to truly feel lonely, I did not try to connect at that level with others. However, going back to the subject of this post, I had not met a similarly compatible person until this Summer beyond anything platonic. I tend to be attracted to women who are very different from me. It was interesting and fun to meet someone on the other side of the spectrum even if it ultimately led to nothing but some fun memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy week of Improv

Last week I had two grad shows to the public along with an Improv Summer camp. Originally, I had only signed up for a Narrative form but the theatre manager sent a request for more sign ups to the Harold II class as there weren’t enough people. I felt it would suck for those that wanted to pursue Harold if the class was cancelled so I volunteered to join. Mentally, it was very taxing to have two improv classes every week and having to practice with plenty of stage time. While I did enjoy the classes, it normally takes me a day or two to recharge. Two classes a week was a bit much and I had a tough time motivating myself to get out more this Summer because of it.

Harold

I skipped over detailing my experience in the Harold I class. While I really liked the class, we were 16 class members at times. Our instructor had little time to coach all of us or give sufficient stage time even with an additional 30 minutes he volunteered freely.  The first few classes we had a lot of fun but as time went on, we were tripping over ourselves. I felt our practice performances were getting worse the further we were asked to carry the ideas we originally had into the later stages of the show. To compensate for this, we were instructed to play as mundane as possible from start.

Several of us went to the Sunday workshops to get the stage time we were hoping for to mixed results. We performed two Harolds, one was well received, the other poor. Going into the grad show, everyone I spoke to in the class weren’t confident we’d have a good show. Whether the lack of practice or the mind set going in, we had a mediocre show. I am not blameless either. I felt the same way going in and did not invite any friends or my parents to watch. Harold has a very specific format and we were thrown out of whack by one of the other classmates who screwed up the sequence. This lead to some confusion and we had a hard time getting back on track.

The reduced class number for Harold II was more welcome and we had plenty of opportunity to practice. However, I found a major obstacle in the class because of crazy work hours and being told during the first class we had to start the show as mundane as possible. This led to our scenes not really going anywhere in the first segment, which gave us little to work in the later parts of the show. I experimented with trying to add interesting elements for later in the show but these were not projected well enough for later use by myself or the others.

Nevertheless, I was asked to perform as an opener for the local house team by our Harold II instructor to which I agreed. Again, our show proved mediocre in my view. With the same class mate mixing up the order as during our Harold I grad show. However, the house team had an amazing set with the same format because they did introduce comedic elements from the get go. This hearkened back to the first classes. The next week, I asked for clarification on the “mundane”. Our instructor clarified that we have to leave ourselves room to heighten the absurdity or comedy of our original scene later in the show.

Our grad show was very well received and in many ways the most rewarding of all my performances because of the challenges and initial “failure” of a bad show. Strangely enough, what made the show for me was a screw up by yours truly. I joined someone on stage who was pretending to play with LEGOs. I joined him in doing so. His face turned to the audience, he said “Dad, I really appreciate you helping me build this LEGO tower.” I didn’t hear him say “Dad” and so my response was: “I want to be an architect when I grow up”. He immediately called me out on the mistake saying “But dad, you already are a grown up!” Quickly, I flipped the scene about my character undergoing a mid-life crisis and playing with LEGOs as a way to re-capture my youth. This morphed into the theme of the show. Later scenes had my character wanting to re-live his teenage years while his son was off to his first day of work. A group game involving what to do during a mid-life crisis, a scene about the inability to relate to younger generations, another series of scenes of someone wanting to live forever, “hazing” in prison and university before mixing everything together in a hodge podge of hilarity!

It is definitely a format I enjoy despite the struggle because there are plenty of moving pieces; it feels like playing an improv chess board with every move potentially significant later on.

Narrative

Our narrative class did not face the same struggles. Rather, because of summer vacations and real life our class lost three people by the time the show came around. Nevertheless, we performed a good show with few hiccups. Following the Pixar format, we alternated between hindering and helping our main protagonist Barry Pilkerton and his desire to convert his gas station in his home town of Winnipeg Manitoba to full service. His character was inspired to make the change while vacationing in Oregon.

We had some fantastic scenes and some great lines like “I find tipping morally objectionable.” and “Just get that thing out of me [referring to the gas hose]”. We struggled to raise the stakes and forced a few scenes. One of my scene partners was trying to convince someone to kill Barry and it felt very forced and out of tune with the rest of the story. This led to the story derailing into a far more violent tone than everything preceding it. My favourite scene was one where four of us were pretending to be in our cars waiting to be served with the main character struggling to keep up. We would complain or request service to make Barry feel overwhelmed, argue about how much should we tip, before gradually all of us drove off across the street to the new self-service station.

The show ended when Barry, disgruntled, attempted to blow up his rival but seeing how insane that was, he decided to simply go to Oregon to live out the rest of his days. He left the station to his former assistant who exclaimed. “First policy change, NO TIPPING!”

The show definitely impressed my [first] date. We had a great conversation but sadly, she didn’t feel enough of a spark to envision a long term romantic relationship between us. She did agree to remain friends though. While disappointed, I do feel improv has made me more open and a better conversationalist.

Improv Camp

Over the weekend, I and 35 others attended an improv summer camp. Mixed in between the regular camp activities (kayaking, archery, swimming, etc) we had improv workshops. In many ways, these were more refreshers of lessons from previous levels but with a focus of fine tuning for those of us who were at higher levels. After spending so much time learning formats and how to construct a show, it was a good reminder on scene work.

The biggest challenge for me was being surrounded by a large group of people for an extended amount of time. While I am not afraid of crowds, I find it mentally draining to be around more than 3-4 people for long periods of time. However, it never ceases to amaze me how charming and welcoming the community is. The only time I felt uncomfortable was during the dance party where I had a pounding headache from the obnoxious club music, strobe lights and packed crowd. Once about half the crowd cleared out I felt better although some IB profin definitely provided an assist.

Monday hit me like a ton of bricks though. I had resolved to do some household chores but I needed to recharge mentally. I ended up putting it off until today because I was just mentally exhausted. Nevertheless, I want to go back next year! Spending so much time around the other improvisers of the community allowed us to discuss topics more in depth and getting to know one another more than just passing acquaintances. I was still the “odd duck” of the pack but I never felt particularly excluded except of my own doing.

 

Fantasy Booking 29-30/08/2016

On Raw, Finn Balor’s injury was truly disappointing as it presented not only a new face but also a new direction. Rumours of Jericho and Owens being involved in the Universal title hunt until Survivor Series were particularly intriguing. Those two are constantly entertaining as heels and can put on good matches with a varied move set. This was arguably the best Raw since the stellar premiere but dragged at times as even their larger roster felt stretched and exposed for how shallow the roster is. More on that in the booking.

Smackdown was very well paced and quite enjoyable. By the time the show was over, I barely felt like an hour had passed, no less two. Much of that was the commercial interruptions. Styles and Slater were both the MVPs of the show. The only weakness was Naomi and Natalya on commentary. Both women were hardly engaged in the banter. The former felt very subdued and showed little passion or presence. I can certainly understand not wanting to overshadow what is going on the ring, but the two women need to take a page from Dean Ambrose or the Miz on commentary to see how to contribute to the match at hand while also showing personality.

Talking Smack though has opened quite a debate in the light of the Miz vs Bryan promo. Their feud feels genuine on screen. Bryan set things up well to allow the Miz to deliver the promo of his career. Instead of resulting in a shouting match, Bryan’s walk off stage gave Miz the platform to deliver his message. While I enjoy the Miz’s work as a chickenshit heel, the passion he showed definitely deserves recognition for greater things to come. Whether or not it does, remains to be seen but I feel invested in Mike Mizanin to have greater success whether as a face or heel. The Miz wasn’t the only one to be fleshed out more but the talk with the Usos and even the Carmella vs Nikki Bella acts were enhanced. The show is becoming quite integral to the experience. I know more about the Usos in that one segment than I did throughout their entire program against the Club. Now, they didn’t necessarily endear themselves to me (they sound like jocks), but at least I have something to relate to other than “twins who dress alike and do the Rugby pre-match chant; also cousins to Roman Reigns”.

 

Prime Time Players Tussle

I start off with the worst segment from last week. Titus O’Neil flubbing his lines at numerous occasions made him look amateurish in front of the audience. Further, the whole Darren Young vs O’Neil feud is not captivating although I at least enjoy the fact Titus is calling out Young on never having been great in the first place and to their shared history. But as easily as he dismisses Young, he needs to explain why it matters that he come out on top of the feud. There needs to be stakes for us to feel invested. The Young and Backlund relationship is an interesting one. The amount of time it took for Young to intervene during the Backlund and O’Neil fight did no one a service except maybe Backlund. I think this can be exploited.

During the show, O’Neil will be interviewed backstage on what happened last week. O’Neil will point to him having Backlund being the one with the initiative to come out and Young being too late to help him. Return this back to their time as a tag team with O’Neil accusing Young to not pull his own weight and never having his partner’s back. Accuse Young (the face) to be the selfish one. As the heel, O’Neil should look like the hypocrite and get the audience against him at least. Later in the show, Young attacks O’Neil face to face instead of a sneak attack in the locker room. Have him yell out the accusations of not standing up or not taking initiative to motivate himself in the attack. This enforces the narrative that the underdog is stepping up to the bully.

Universal Title Fatal Fourway

The WWE has booked a lot of impressive fourway and even six-pack matches with talented workers. However, the emphasis here is “a lot”. Too much of a good thing becomes stale. Thankfully, there appears to be room for some outside shenanigans with Enzo, Jericho and even Rusev having reason to interfere in the match. This can make for a great title match which normally could be reserved for a PPV. However, putting this on free TV will certainly help give a slight bump to the ratings.

I’d start Raw with a Highlight Reel segment involving KO and Jericho. Here, KO and Jericho essentially give themselves verbal pats on their backs, before running down the remaining competitors. This draws each in turn to give their rebuttal before all hell breaks loose. Throughout the night, the backstage interviewers will attempt to speak to the four for their thoughts after the altercation. Tom Phillips will do the honours with JeriKO of course. Tangential to this, Jericho and Neville would have a match where Jericho wins due to a low blow missed by the referee.

The details of the match would have Rusev screw Reigns, Enzo and Jericho more or less cancel each other out. I’d involve Neville to tip the scales against KO in revenge for Jericho’s involvement. Rollins will pick up the win and claim the title confirming his status as top heel on Raw. I’m hoping this sets up a Sami Zayn challenge the next week.

Raw Women’s Division

Bayley’s promotion to the main roster was a welcome arrival. The women’s division on Raw is sorely hurting with numerous injuries and poor builds. However, her and Nia Jax are still new and not firmly established yet to be seen as legitimate contenders to casual fans. The squash matches for Jax should continue here with her facing another local talent. Bayley however will face a tougher challenge. No, not Dana Brooke but rather a current heel on the women’s NXT roster. She will face off against Ember Moon. The story here is Ember will be jealous Bayley was promoted despite her loss against Asuka and wants the opportunity. Foley agrees but on the condition she can defeat Bayley on Raw. Moon will come up short but gracious in victory, the two will hug after a good match (hopefully) and allow Moon to go back to NXT with some more momentum despite the loss.

For the heels, Dana Brooke will face off against Alicia Fox after a segment where Charlotte tells Dana she better “step up” her game. Charlotte will be on commentary heeling on Fox and Bayley. Dana will earn a win here with a pin using the bottom ropes as leverage to regain Charlotte’s favour.

Raw Tag Team Division

With Enzo and Cass set to be involved in the main event and a rematch against JeriKO at Clash of Champions, that leaves few options for a lower card build. With the Dudleys departing WWE, there are only two established teams: The Shining Stars and the Golden Truth. The Puerto Rican gimmick was dead on arrival and so despite their talents, I can’t see them accomplish much without another repackaging. Golden Truth is a comedy act. Having both fight one another is fine for Superstars but not necessarily Raw. Which is why I think it is time for a call up.

Tommasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano are well suited for Raw. They can pull double duty for the upcoming Cruiserweight division (more below) and tag team division. Have them come up on a visit to Raw and being shown around by Foley. The pair are introduced to the Shining Stars who suggest instead they visit Puerto Rico instead; implying they might not be ready for the main roster. The two NXT guys will take exception and request a chance to prove themselves. Foley acquiesces by having them fight a group of local jobbers to allow the two the opportunity to show off their move set and hopefully wow the audience. They won’t immediately go to the main roster, but their show case will create some buzz around their eventual promotion.

Cruiserweight Division

Along with the Ciampa and Gargano match, I’d have Sin Cara shown backstage paying attention to the two on a monitor. However, the show would be of the back of his head, unmasked. The mask itself will be positioned next to him to inform everyone of his identity.

I’d also include a video package going into further detail on the four guys officially confirmed to be coming up to Raw; basically a repeat of their CWC interviews.

Sami Zayn

In light of my plan to have Zayn challenge for the title at the next PPV. I’ll need to give Zayn a high profile win. Although the Big Show isn’t on TV very often, he still cuts an imposing figure. A competitive match between the two with Zayn prevailing over the much larger opponent would be good, particularly if Zayn can manage a Blue Thunder bomb or at least a flying helluva kick to pull out the win.

Cesaro vs Sheamus Best of 7

For Sheamus to have any credibility in this series, he’s going to have to win again. This time, let’s go for a  win after he targets Cesaro’s taped up shoulder throughout a long match. This would put the Celtic warrior 2-0 in the series (in truth a 2-2 tie as they had fought twice just prior to the series).