Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

 

 

Summerslam Fantasy Booking & Predictions

Keeping it short and sweet as I will be performing an improv show tonight. I’ll be posting my thoughts on who should win and how, and my predictions on what WWE will do.

 

Pre-Show

The Pre-show tends to be fairly predictable and decent warm-ups for the show. I liked Battleground’s Usos vs Breezango. It was a fun match and we saw the right team pick up the win over the stale twins.

Cesaro vs. Sheamus – Best-of-Seven Series Match #1

Who Should Win: Cesaro is really wasting his time with this feud. As much as I’d like to book him clean sweeping this series, Sheamus needs to pick up at least a win to not get buried entirely. Sheamus wins after a countering the “Big Swing” and pushing Cesaro into the ropes. On the rebound, Sheamus rolls Cesaro into a small package with a handful of tights. Cesaro kicks out at 2 3/4. As the two recover from the pin attempt, Sheamus hits the Brogue Kick + White Noise for the win. The story for the feud will be Cesaro never gets the Big Swing/Sharpshooter combo until the deciding match of the series.

Who Will Win: Sheamus for the reasons above. Likely will be a dirty finish with a handful of tights.

The Dudleys vs. Sami Zayn & Neville

Who Should Win: Good to have Zayn and Neville on the card at least. Sadly, they are in a throw away match no one cares about. Zayn and Neville in a short match. As Neville sets up the Red Arrow on Bubba, D-Von is caught with the Blue Thunder Bomb to prevent stopping the pin. Bubba loses patience with D-Von and walks off leaving D-Von alone in the ring.

Who Will Win: Same as above but I figure Bubba will plant D-Von with a move of some kind. I don’t know what his singles finisher is.

Smackdown 12-man tag match

Who Should Win: American Alpha to continue their dominance and build to the tag team division. The win will come over the Ascension after the requisite clusterfuck where all the teams get involved.

Who Will Win: Same result but I think Simon Gotch will take the pin as WWE Creative seems hell bent on making the Vaudevillains lose.

Summerslam

Jeri-KO vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass

Who Should Win: Enzo & Cass come out to run down their opponents verbally. This will get the crowd hot for the actual card. As the duo hits their stride, the heels’ music will cut them off and respond. Eventually things get heated and all four go for it until order is restored and a proper match structure takes place. Enzo and Cass pulls out the win due to miscommunication between the heels.

Who Will Win: Enzo and Cass, but Kevin Owens abandons Jericho to the Italians.

U.S. Title match: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns

Who Should Win: Rusev gets back his win with a clean victory over Reigns as the announcers hype up how focused he is after the loss on Monday.

Who Will Win: I can’t see the hype train behind Reigns allowing him to drop further down the card despite my belief Reigns needs to turn heel. He wins here because ‘Murica and embarrasses Lana somehow. They’ll particularly play up the fact the crowd will be hot following the opener and hope the momentum from Enzo and Cass transfers to Reigns.

IC Title match: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews

Who Should Win: The shallow Smackdown roster and the budding feud between Kalisto and Baron Corbin leads me to believe that program will start in earnest post-Summerslam leaving Miz and Apollo Crews without a feud except against each other. Miz wins due to distraction by Maryse with Daniel Bryan setting up a re-match for Backlash. The build to this match has been lukewarm and Crews has had too little character showcase for the crowd to get behind.

Who Will Win: I think WWE will have the title switch here but keep the program continue to Backlash if only to claim there was a title switch. Toilet break match #1.

Tag Title match: New Day w/o Big E vs. The Club

Who Should Win: The Club is the only heel tag team with any credibility on the Raw roster (Jeri-KO is likely a one time thing). They pick up the win with the story being they took out the backbone of the team with “Ringpostaytis”.

Who Will Win: The New Day are big merchandise movers and the WWE seem to not really care for the tag division. I figure Big E has a surprise return to foil the Club and the champs retain but a rematch down the line set up because of the interference.

A.J. Styles vs. John Cena

Who Should Win: A weird placement on the card but the card is very much stacked. It is the match I’m most looking forward to. Styles needs the win here. A clean win ideally. Post-match, the Club join AJ in a beat down of Cena to send him off to shoot American Grit.

Who Will Win: After winning the titles, the Club remain at ringside to comment. AJ steals the win due to shenanigans. Post-match beatdown takes place and result is the same. Cena will get his win back at the Rumble or Survivor Series.

Women’s Title re-match: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (w/out Dana Brooke)

Who Should Win: Charlotte is amazing and a more complete package than Sasha in my opinion. While I give Sasha an edge in the ring, her persona and promo skill doesn’t work for me. Charlotte pulls out a win with the Figure 8 to prolong the feud with no viable contenders currently waiting.

Who Will Win:No contest with champ retaining. A a run-in from Dana is intercepted by Bayley which leads to all four women brawling in the ring.

Smackdown 6-Woman tag-teach match

Who Should Win: If Eva Marie was in the match, I think they’d have gone with her getting the pinfall after doing nothing during the match. Her suspension will be played up due to having “missed her flight”. Nikki Bella will make her debut here with the heels and she’ll assist with the win but Natalya will tag herself in to get the pinfall over Carmella. This sets up Nikki and Natalya potential feud as the fans tend to get behind returning wrestlers.

Who Will Win: The heels but Bella will secure the pinfall because they would want to make her return a bigger deal. Toilet break match #2.

WWE Universal Title match: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

Who Should Win: Finn Balor, duh! You can’t have him lose with the first appearance of the Demon and with so few top faces on the card… unless there’s the double turn but there hasn’t been enough to tease a face run for Rollins yet. Next night, Rollins would argue his fight was supposed to be vs Finn Balor and not the “Demon King”. Their re-match will ban Balor from coming out as the Demon King.

Who Will Win: Rollins to surprise the smarks but due to outside interference. J&J security comeback in my view.

WWE World Hvt. Title match: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler

Who Should Win: Another controversial placement but hear me out. Their feud has had much better build up and the title has the lineage than the new title. The match goes on for some time before Bray Wyatt intervenes and lays out both to set up a triple threat at Backlash.

Who Will Win: Ambrose kicks out of the super kick, does his silly bounce off the middle rope followed by dirty deeds with the clean win. Ambrose remains to celebrate in the ring long enough for the next match intros to begin so we have Brock and Ambrose cross paths staring daggers at one another.

Main Event: Brock Lesnar vs Randy Orton

Who Should Win: Brock. Despite the USADA illegal substance abuse violation, I can’t see Orton getting the rub of beating Lesnar here. I’d give it to cement an up and coming star. Instead Lesnar locks in the Kimura lock and Orton taps to avoid re-injuring his shoulder.

Who Will Win: Somehow I think Heath Slater will get involved comically to get destroyed by both wrestlers. This brief interlude will allow the crowd to recuperate long enough before the finish: F-5 into an RKO but Randy is too beaten down to get the pinfall immediately. As he goes for the pin, Lesnar grabs his arm and cinches in the Kimura Lock. Orton passes out instead of tapping for the loss.

Fantasy Booking August 15th-16th

I had a rough weekend with work so I’m going to be short and sweet. I’ll be doing a separate post for Summerslam predictions and fantasy booking.

Thoughts on last week

  • I didn’t know about the Oceanic tour so could not predict several wrestlers wouldn’t be on Smackdown. While it did hurt the show, the focus on the undercard was somewhat welcome.
  • American Alpha defeating local jobbers didn’t do anything for me seeing as they beat the Vaudevillains the previous week. However, them being able to overcome the other teams in the all out brawl doesn’t make them particularly compelling for now.
  • Raw felt lackluster with little development through in ring action. The promos were great though. I find it kind of lame Roman Reigns gets a title shot just for interrupting Rusev twice. I’m curious who will prevail in that feud though.
  • I loved how Bray Wyatt blocked the super kick with Ambrose’s head. It set up the tag match for the main event.
  • I liked that ADR went to injure Orton with a chair to the arm. It plays into that story which may or may not be used for the Orton vs Lesnar match. I hope it does as the last few Lesnar fights have all been about no selling his opponent’s offence and throwing german suplexes around.
  • Eva Marie’s gimmick is fantastic.
  • Miz and Maryse are great. They are going to headline a PPV at some point in the next year.
  • No Sami Zayn was disappointing. Hopefully he gets something and fast.
  • I don’t see what the Bryan and Foley segment served the Orton/Lesnar match but it did make the US title feel a bit more important.
  • The Stone Cold interview of Ambrose was meandering but had a few interesting moments.
  • Raw’s opening segment was great except for the line about Bert and Ernie. Even Cass did well on the stick.

 

Orton vs Lesnar

Lesnar will be at Raw this week. Seeing how Ambrose, Bryan and Austin have been critical of Lesnar last week, I think it’s a good opportunity to put him in a match here. It’s still unclear what the main event for Summerslam will be but I figure either Orton v Lesnar or the Universal title match as Ziggler isn’t rehabilitated enough yet. As Sami isn’t doing anything right now, I think it would be ok to have him fight Lesnar. It’s implied that Orton won’t be allowed on Raw which removes some of the must see moment. However, I think this is a red herring to surprise people. In the middle of the match, Orton will come out and RKO Lesnar. Sami Zayn takes exception even though he was being manhandled in the match. RKO for Zayn before Randy is chased off by security. This can set up a future program for Zayn vs Orton or a rematch between Lesnar and Zayn.

Raw Tag team feuds

I figure the Shining Stars need to get their rematch against Enzo and Cass after the whole Golden Truth Pokémon Go interruption from a few weeks ago. Jericho and Owens will be on commentary running down their Summerslam opponents with the help of Corey Graves. After the match, the pair storm the ring and beat down the upstart tag team with the help of the Puerto Ricans.

Backstage, Foley is unhappy about their actions and books them against the [depleted] New Day to see how well they mesh as a tag team. Near the end of the match as the New Day begins to have the upperhand after a hot tag to Xavier Woods, the Club comes out and goes after Kofi who is left lying at ringside. The heelish Owens and Jericho will distract the ref while this happens but before they can grab the victory, Enzo and Cass come out to even the numbers leading to an all out brawl. The undercard tag teams brawl to the back while the Club rams Kofi’s groin into the ring post.

Smackdown Tag Division

Last week’s brawl should lead to some fall out to be addressed. The Usos and Breezango were conspicuously absent from it though. A tag team fourway match in the middle of the show where Alpha face the other three teams. The story here is the other teams gang up on Alpha before their own egos get the best of them on who gets the pin and Alpha pull out a win.

Raw Women’s division

Last week, Cole dropped the idea that Nia Jax might be next in line after the blow off of Charlotte vs Banks. After two squash matches, let’s have her face one of the women on the card. Paige is apparently injured so that leaves Alicia Fox to take the loss in a competitive match.

With Dana Brooke barred from ringside for Summerslam, I think a confrontation between the two at the opening segment without any of the men interfering to go over their backstory all the way to NXT. Charlotte will also demand to bar Bayley from ringside after she helped Sasha back at Battleground.

Finally, as the lead up to the Holey Foley reality show, Noelle will be at Raw in a segment with her dad. Charlotte will belittle her and tell her to go back home. A set up down the road for the two if Noelle proves capable.

Smackdown’s Women’s division

Eva Marie vs Beckie Lynch take 3, with more shenanigans preventing the match from happening. Here they’ll hook up but Eva Marie will break a nail and call for the match to end. Enraged, Lynch is going to demand a rematch against Alexa Bliss for later in the night. Nataliya will come out and condescendingly agree with Becky about how these young women have no respect; alluding to Carmella. Lynch will take offense and this sets up a tag team match with Carmella and Lynch vs Natalya and Bliss. The heels will come out on top here when Eva Marie shows up and distracts the ref about wanting her match with Beckie now.

Universal Title

A confrontation between the “Demon” and Rollins has been advertised. Here, I’d prefer it if Balor shows up without makeup and tell Rollins “I’m not here to indulge you but to beat you for the title.” Rollins, dismisses him saying he’s all talk. Balor will remove his jacket and inform him if that’s what he thinks, he’ll be happy to give him a real reason to be fearful of Summerslam. Rollins will shirk away as the norm but deliver a cheap shot. The two will brawl but Balor will overcomes the early advantage and prepares to deliver the coup de grace before Rollins wisely escapes the ring.

World Title

I question having Ziggler and Ambrose on Miz TV when Miz’s feud with Crews is undervelopped with him being absent last week. That said, he’s being put to good use here to build the more important match. Miz does a fantastic job of trying to throw fire on a feud and I trust he can do this here following Ambrose’s comments two weeks ago and delivering Dirty Deeds to end last week’s show. However, when Miz begins to get into it, Ziggler delivers a super kick, Miz slumps into Ambrose for the Dirty Deeds and the two engage each other verbally.

 

Fantasy booking August 8th 2016

I’m still experimenting with the exact format on how to present these blog posts. On reflection though, doing segment by segment alternating between shows took more time to write than keeping the stories contained. Anyways, let’s begin with…

Thoughts on last week

  • Last week’s Smackdown was an improvement over the inaugural show following the brand split. That said, Smackdown is going to need some of the talent on the injured reserved list to join the brand once they are healthy and ready to get back into the ring. I’m getting used to the Smackdown presentation far faster than I expected to be. However, Renée Young’s interview panel is way too high. Natalya looked tiny standing behind it.
  • The Sasha-Charlotte-Jericho-Enzo segment had some great lines but was awkward at a few other times making it feel disjointed and meandering. The match was decent and the pst-match interview was great.
  • Reigns vs Rusev has potential but I’m disappointed there won’t be any follow up on Rollins’ slander job in the build up to Battleground.
  • Miz’s work on commentary was far better than I expected. Miz, Ambrose and KO are shoe-ins to become colour commentators once their in-ring careers end.
  • Paul Heyman is fantastic. The Orton and Lesnar bout is building up towards being the main event for Summerslam. I also liked the continuity of Fandango challenging Orton for the comments made during the Highlight Reel.
  • Ziggler showed a lot of fire and got me on board for what comes next. I felt Ambrose did a fantastic job provoking Ziggler, setting him up near perfectly for his rebuttals.
  • I felt AJ Styles’ promo was fishing for cheap heat. I did like Daniel Bryan coming to Styles’ defense on the Talking Smack show.
  • I was originally disappointed there were two false-starts for the women’s division on Smackdown. After some reflection, I understand what they are going for and see it as placeholder until they establish a title of some kind. They are trying to establish the characters before focusing on the in-ring performance. Besides Beckie and Natalya, I don’t know if the rest of the roster are good workers. So a slow build here makes sense.
  • Bobby Roode’s entrance music is the best theme song ever! I listened to it at least 40 times over the week.

 

Orton vs Lesnar feud

Titles should be at the forefront with a few exceptions. Thankfully, Brock Lesnar is one of them.  WWE has already announced Foley has invited Bryan to Raw to discuss the Orton-Lesnar fight. Normally, I’d be against these non-wrestler confrontations but as long as the primary purpose serves to put over the wrestlers’ feuds then it works.

My goal would be to make the audience look out for the possibility of Orton or Lesnar “invading” either show. It looks to me that for now, Orton is being portrayed as a baby face. Raw will open with Foley out in the ring, inviting Bryan out. Bryan joins him in the ring to a chorus of YES! chants. Mick chastises Bryan for not punishing Orton for escalating the feud with his actions last week. The Smackdown GM retorts Foley didn’t seem to make any effort to warn Lesnar not to reciprocate. Further, he doesn’t see why Foley should be calling Bryan out when his time should be better spent to discipline Brock. This leads to Brock’s theme music playing but only Heyman coming out.

Heyman will scoff at any attempts to discipline Lesnar. “Brock Lesnar does, what Brock Lesnar wants to do.” In fact, Heyman will explain he is ready to pursue litigation in that event and remind Bryan Smackdown security was a joke and couldn’t stop Lesnar. Just like Orton won’t be able to stop Lesnar, nor would anyone else on the Raw or Smackdown roster. Having heard enough, Orton comes out to his theme music. Foley is apoplectic and staring holes into Bryan who tells Orton “I asked you to stay backstage while I handle this.” Orton politely replies he has all the respect for Daniel’s accomplishments and for standing up for him but he can do the latter himself. Here, Orton will address Foley and call back to their epic feud which legitimized his main event status. How he went toe to toe to the “hardcore legend” and prevailed. Foley will acquiesce he’s one tough character (PG era).

Heyman agrees Cactus Jack was a sadistic, cruel and twisted persona and someone few would dare face in the ring but this is BRRRRO… to an RKO by Orton who has heard enough from Paul. Orton sheepishly shrugs and excuses himself as “You talk too much.” At this point, Foley’s had enough and calls for security. Bryan and Orton are forcibly removed from the building with Bryan facetiously scolding Orton all the way out before admitting it was kind of cool to RKO Heyman.

The suddenness of the RKO on Paul Heyman will again put the point across at how the finisher can come at any time while adding fuel to the fire with Heyman to goad Lesnar to destroy Orton.

The next day on Smackdown, Lesnar invades. Security confronts him but quickly back down when he doesn’t. Throughout the show, Randy orchestrates hit and run attacks backstage infuriating Lesnar more and more while Bryan and Shane try to organize the inept Smackdown security. An example might be Orton leads Lesnar into a chase into a doorway. Orton hides behind the wall and slams the door in Lesnar’s face, stunning his pursuer long enough to escape. By the end of the show, Lesnar has had enough and storms the ring. He calls out Orton right there and now. The two end up brawling with Lesnar dominating. He sets up an F5 which is countered into an RKO to end the show.

WWE Universal Title

We did get the first verbal exchange between Rollins and Balor last week so the impetus is to continue to showcase Balor to a wider audience but this time through in-ring performance. As it stands, most of the heels seem to be already paired up in feuds except for Sheamus. I’ll repeat what I wrote last week to lead to a bout between the two.

However, where I differ here is Rollins will be at commentary in street clothes to rag on his opponent. During the match, Saxton remarks to Seth Balor beat Reigns to earn the title shot. Seth dismisses this, going back to his promo last week “Roman is a disgrace. He shouldn’t have even been allowed to take part of the title match at Battleground. Besides, I beat him first, and did it better to WIN the title and not just a title shot.” A minute or two later, Reigns assaults Rollins. The latter reeling, makes his way towards the ring after a flurry of punches from the disgraced challenger. This draws the attention of those in the ring and eventually Reigns missing a spear on Rollins but hitting Balor instead. Balor gets a win by DQ which annoys Sheamus who joins the fray.

Later, Foley has all four men in his office demanding an explanation from Reigns for his actions. He’ll look intensely at Rollins and say “I’m fed up of hearing him run his mouth behind my back.” Foley sympathizes with this and books a tag match involving all four men. Rollins is furious as he was promised by Stephanie he wouldn’t be competing tonight. Sheamus is happy about it because he gets to beat up the little new era punk. Finally, Balor confronts Reigns and tells him to not get in his way. Reigns, replies he shouldn’t get in his way either… alluding to the spear. I’m not a fan of Roman Reigns nor his booking, but I dislike loose ends more. I am compelled to at least address these loose threads to tie things together.

In the main event, Balor starts out against Sheamus to resume their bout from earlier in the show. Sheamus will overpower Balor at first towards the “face” side of the ring. Reigns will tag himself in with a hard slap on Balor’s back. After a flurry of offense, Rollins will intervene and the heels take control before going to a break. When we get back from commercials, Reigns will be playing the baby face in peril role as Rollins and Sheamus take turns beating him up. This will show Reigns in a vulnerable position until he can get the hot tag to Balor. Chaos will eventually ensue and the show ends with Balor scoring the pin on Rollins.

This sets up the confrontation for next week between Rollins and Balor. This also preserves Sheamus from taking the loss as I feel he can be a solid mid card guy to feud with some call ups and perhaps leaves him open to a fight with Balor after Summerslam. It also retroactively makes Cesaro look good for getting the pin over him last week.

US Title

I haven’t forgotten the Reigns and Rusev altercation from last week. However, after Cesaro beat Sheamus to “impress for a title shot” this needs to be settled in perhaps a creative way.

The title match will be introduced by the commentators who explain Cesaro didn’t want to wait and immediately requested for his title shot to take place this week. The two Europeans go toe to toe, hitting each other with stiff punches before Cesaro gets the upper hand with an uppercut sending Rusev over the ropes. The two continue to brawl outside with Rusev targeting Cesaro’s taped shoulder. Eventually, the ref does call for the bell after Cesaro is unable to hoist Rusev and much like Styles did at Payback and opts to get the count out victory. Cesaro shows frustration at not being able to score a decisive win to obtain the title and sells pain when the ref goes to lift his “injured” arm in victory.

The plan is for Rusev to come out the following week to run down how Switzerland is as pathetic as the USA and can’t compete with Russia or Bulgaria on a fair playing field. This would then lead to both Reigns and Cesaro getting involved and leading to a Triple Threat for the title at Summerslam. There are already 5 singles matches and at least a tag team match booked for the card so this would give a different flavour during the show. Rusev of course will be livid as he won’t even have to be pinned to lose the title. Now this angle accomplishes a few things:

  1. Clearly defines Reigns as a midcarder to fans who disliked his meteoric rise to the top.
  2. Allows the possibility of Rusev moving on to the main title scene by not taking a pinfall loss but losing the title.
  3. Allows three good to great workers to put on a good show on an already stacked card.
  4. Gives Cesaro and Reigns a potential program between the two leading to the next PPV.
  5. Elevates the US title by having a very recently main event level competitor try to win it.

Smackdown women’s division

As I wrote earlier, the writers are trying to establish and/or build the characters before introducing a championship. I actually really enjoy what they are doing with Eva Marie, although I understand she has a really bad reputation amongst fans. Unlike Roman Reigns, they acknowledge that heat and are using it in a positive fashion. That is, we are more invested in wanting to see one of the women beat her up.

The attack on Carmella was where I had some troubles. Her character is brand new and having her get attacked by the veteran and made to tap out before the match even began does put heat on Natalya but does nothing for Carmella unless the plan is for her to rise up as the underdog. From what I’ve seen, Carmella’s character rides a very fine line between face and entitled “bitch”. To get people on her side, she either needs to back up the talk with in ring action against a very loathsome heel or we try to get sympathy for her. The roster is not deep enough for two strong baby faces yet especially as she doesn’t come with the same pedigree as the 4 horsewomen.

Obviously, Lynch and Natalya are the two who need to “captain” the division to help establish the others. Having a firm grasp on what they are trying to do, I will contradict my previous suggestions somewhat by keeping Lynch and Natalya away from one another in singles matches for now and try to involve the different women.

In this vein, the natural storyline progression would be a tag match involving all the false starts from last week. Natalya & Eva Marie vs Beckie Lynch & Carmella. What the story here is Natalya will be doing the lion’s share of the work on the heel side. Every time she tags in Eva Marie, the all red everything will deliver a slap or a punch and immediately tag Natalya back in. Lynch will be the one being worked over, finally getting the advantage during a sequence Eva Marie deigns to be in the ring leading to the hot tag to Carmella. The Princess of Staten Island will get an upper hand on Natalya briefly while Lynch rolls to the outside following the tag. Natalya turns the tables and when she is ready to score the pinfall, Eva Marie will tag herself in to score the 1-2-3.

This should only help Eva Marie’s heat as fans are smart enough to recognize (especially with say Otunga saying Nattie did all the work) that Natalya carried her team. The goal here is to soften the rough edges on Carmella’s character for a near future feud with Eva Marie and eventually one against Natalya.

As for the other two women, I suggest giving one of them a squash match to show off their offense to a wider audience than NXT. They can then alternate the next week with the face/heel fighting Natalya and Lynch. With such a small roster, my inclination is that whenever they decide to introduce a title, it would probably be best as an elimination 6-women match on a PPV, with say Carmella or Naomi being the runner up to Natalya. This could then segue into a brief feud with the runner up until an eventual Lynch vs Natalya match at Survivor Series for the belt.

Ziggler vs Ambrose

The beat down by the Wyatt family logically should lead to a tag match involving Ambrose and Ziggler against the cultists in order to get revenge. The story here is for Wyatt to try to insert himself into the title picture. To start this off, Ambrose will make his way to the ring and call out Wyatt. He’s obviously mad at being attacked. He’ll explain he intervened because he wanted Ziggler at his best so there wouldn’t be any excuses. Ziggler takes exception and heads to the ring.

Ziggler says he got to be the #1 contender on his own and he also has a problem with Bray attacking him after the bell. The lights will go out and Wyatt will address the pair from the titan tron. He’ll ignore Ziggler and address Ambrose directly. Ambrose will feed into this by not acknowledging Ziggler’s grievances until the “Show off” loses patience and interrupts the two. Wyatt finally admits Ziggler won but only because of the exposed turnbuckle and he could destroy him and more importantly Ambrose at any time he wants… just like he did to both last week. This sets up the tag match later that night just before the ending of the Orton-Lesnar story.

Ziggler and Ambrose won’t be on the same page here. Several times, Ziggler will hold his hand out for the tag but Ambrose will refuse until the heels eventually take over. After an extended period of control, Ambrose will get the wacky lines maneuver on Bray and look to Bray who begins to crawl towards Erick Rowan. He looks to Ziggler, then back to Wyatt, before finally crawling to Ziggler. Wyatt tags Rowan who charges to the other side and pulls Ambrose away just as the tag is made.

Ziggler jumps in and takes over. Things are going well for the faces until Wyatt stirs and begins to beat down Ambrose on the outside, putting him through the announcer table with an Uranage. As he drags Ambrose back into the ring, Ziggler pounces with a fame-asser on Wyatt but he isn’t the legal man. Rowan charges Ziggler who ducks. The two run the ropes and Rowan accidentally stumbles into Wyatt. Looking down at his fallen leader, he turns around to a super kick and Ziggler scores the win.

Ziggler is made out to look strong in the victory which he desperately needs for momentum. This also makes Wyatt not take the pinfall and show he had the upper hand on Ambrose leaving plenty of opportunity to explore matches between these guys later on. This also continues to give Ziggler a chip on his shoulder and can build to an eventual heel turn or to plant seeds of doubt that he could”overcome the odds and win where no one else thought he could”. If he does come out with the championship, it will at least not come off as un-earned but rather there was some foreshadowing he might be able to pull it off without it feeling forced.

Women’s Title

Sasha as a “fighting champion” will come out and declare she’s putting her title on the line to any woman in the back with the guts to take her on. Unlike the previous champ, she’s not going to hide behind her daddy or someone else to fight her own battles. As news seems to indicate Paige is nursing injuries, let’s have Alicia Fox come out for the first time in a while.

During the match, Charlotte and Dana Brooke will come out to commentary. Charlotte will express a mix of displeasure that Sasha is putting the title on the line thus putting her own bout in question but Dana will interject Alicia could also soften Sasha up for Summerslam. As things get heated in the match, Charlotte will say to Dana “this table is getting pretty crowded. Maybe you should go get a closer look at the action.” Once at ringside, Dana pushes Sasha off the corner ropes as she prepared to land an aerial maneuver on a prone Alicia. After the bell, Charlotte joins Dana in the beat down before Alicia comes to and evens things up. The faces prevail but the champ is left holding her knee.

Tag Team Championship

My plan for Enzo & Cass vs the New Day seems to be dead in the water (for now) with the budding feud they have with Jeri-KO. Normally, I’d be disappointed but seeing Jericho paired with Kevin Owens has me hyped for the backstage skits between the two as they prepare for their matches. More on them later.

As far as I’m aware, Big E and Kofi are the usual two who defend the titles. The drama here is Big E’s injury to his groin area will prevent him from competing. Thus leaving the rare pairing of Xavier Woods and Kofi to battle the Club. Kofi and Xavier will address the crowd as Big E is shown on screen from his home couch, sporting a comically large ice pack on his groin.

The Club can be funny guys and they both have excellent comedic timing while being condescending as the #beatupJohnCena bit, their podcast and Ride Along showed. Here, the Club will give as good as the New Day can dish out to make fun of Big E’s groin injury before they make their way to the ring and beat down the champs. A funny bit could have Big E try to armchair general his team mates to no avail. The Club threaten to do the same thing to Xavier if they don’t get a title shot at Summerslam. Big E, on the titan tron,  eventually agrees. The heels of course follow through anyways because heels.

Styles vs Cena

American Grit’s renewal for a second season casts Cena’s near future on the show in uncertainty. I’ve read reports he might be gone for up to 2 months. Now, most Cena fans are kids so they might not be aware of this. But the smart move here is for Styles to go over at Summerslam. However, last week Styles got what he wanted; a match against Cena. I’m tempted if this is going to be a blow off of their feud, to make it a stipulation match but the brand split and the intervention of Enzo and Cass has kind of distracted from that. If the Club were to be a factor, I’d say a cage match would be in order to prevent outside interference. WWE booking logic dictates Cena one-up his rival to build the feud.

Instead, let’s do some good to put over some of the midcarders: Cena vs Corbin and Styles vs Ryder. Styles and Cena will both come out winners here. Cena’s US open challenge was fun from what I caught of it and he can carry Corbin to a solid match before scoring the pin fall. I don’t want to make Styles appear the cheater but a legitimate main event threat. He won’t intervene but while on commentary he discusses Cena’s weaknesses and talks up Corbin’s strengths. After the match, Cena grabs the mic and tells Styles: “Well big man, I’m right here. Aren’t you going to come after me?” Styles distracts Cena long enough for Corbin to attack from behind and hit the end of days. Styles then waits for Corbin to leave before pummeling Cena some more.

Bryan and Shane will confront Styles backstage after a commercial break and inform him he is going back out there as he has a match with Zack Ryder. Right now. Ryder will have Mojo Rawley in his corner. Every time Styles goes to do some dirty trick, Rawley interjects himself without being physical. A sort of re-hash of Battleground. Styles, unnerved by the hype bro is distracted but eventually wins the match. As he goes to add more punishment, Rawley enters the ring and Styles retreats.

Having Corbin lose to Cena at this stage doesn’t hurt him. As Jim Ross would say, by being in the ring with him one on one, and not being squashed does elevate him. Not having Styles interfere elevates all three because it makes them appear legit strong without shenanigans. The goal here is to make Styles and Cena one of the top feuds all the way to Wrestlemania the likes of say Triple H (Styles) and Rock or Stone Cold (Cena).

IC Title

With Apollo Crews as the #1 contender, the match is set between him and the Miz. The champion is already established and truly loathed by the fans as one of the few true heels. The problem with this feud is Crews’ personality remains fairly untapped. He’s “just happy to be here guy” which is bland and doesn’t energize the crowd to get behind him. WWE needs to flesh out his personality and a Miz TV segment allows for that personality to come out with Miz helping him along.

Apparently, in NXT the story was he came from a dirt poor family. Miz’ persona as a privileged movie star contrasts perfectly against this. Miz can play the sympathy card with Crews and the audience. Saying he too came from nothing but the difference is he has the “IT factor”. Something hard work, dedication, etc can never replicate. “The truth is, Apollo you’re just happy to be here. I’m not happy until I have it all: a beautiful wife, championships, millions of dollars, adulation of the fans (he can pose smarmily for the camera) and being an A-lister.”

Here, Apollo has his make or break moment. He snatches the mic from Miz’s hands and talks about how he had to struggle to get where he is today. Just because he’s happy, doesn’t mean he’s content. He’s humbled by being in the WWE like so many of his heroes growing up. He can list off a few names to pops. But he understands opportunities aren’t handed to you, you have to earn them and make the most out of it. At Summerslam, he’s going to do everything he can to reach that next step and that Miz is in his way.

Of course, Miz takes exception to this and says. “There’s only one way to the top… and that’s my way!” He sucker punches Crews and begins beating him down. Crews fights back and just as he’s setting up a standing 450 splash, Maryse pulls her husband out of the ring.

Squash Matches

I’m actually enjoying the presentation of the squash matches on Raw and would like to see these continue with Strowman and Nia Jax. These should continue until Summerslam for now as the rosters, even Raw’s, are a bit shallow and need to be bolstered. Once the Cruiserweight division is implemented, these can be scaled back or dropped entirely. I will say in the case of Strowman, his squash matches should be against progressively bigger guys until he naturally faces the Big Show and/or handicap matches. Heck, I’d like to see the interview of a pair of jobbers argue on how they would split the money. Nia’s appeal is her unique body type when compared to the rest of the main female roster. Having her face smaller women plays better to bolster her dominance once they are ready to pull the trigger on her first singles feud.

Heath Slater vs Rhyno

The One Man Band’s storyline has been amusing so far. The shelf life of the story though is finite before people lose interest if he doesn’t prevail for too long. Had the brand split been later in the year, I’d have made his big moment come at the Rumble with say a final 4 performance (as the #30 entrant of course). Unfortunately, timing isn’t perfect so the story has to come to a conclusion by Survivor Series at the latest.

Heath will get caught in the cross-fire of the Orton vs Lesnar backstage fighting and get laid out before his match. He’ll come out first limping to the ring, but Rhyno doesn’t wait and charges him on the way. Rhyno continues to batter Slater without remorse and finally rolls him into the ring. The ref calls for the bell, and Rhyno pins him immediately; the match lasting a whole 3 seconds. Hopefully, this creates sympathy for Slater’s next attempt but also gives some heat to Rhyno to help propel him into later feuds with some of the faces on the roster.

Jeri-KO vs Enzo and Cass

A one on one match between Jericho and Enzo will highlight the first hour. I’m going to resist putting KO on commentary. Too much of a good thing spoils it and I already have Charlotte and Rollins on commentary this week. Instead, Enzo will be first to the ring with Cass in tow, delivering their spiel. Jericho’s music interrupts with his “Quiet” routine to bolster his already impressive heat. He’s followed out by KO with his own theme music to avoid relegating him to being Jericho’s flunkie.

A good back and forth match here with KO often distracting the ref with his antics at ringside allowing Jericho to get cheap shots in. Cass eventually gets mad and tries to get involved until the ref sends him to to the back when he jumps onto the ring apron. This allows for Jericho to get the pin. Following the bell, he and KO lay the boots to Enzo. Cass naturally runs out and the heels escape and run before the “dangerous one” catches up to them.

What to do with Zayn?

Tom Phillips will interview Zayn to follow up on how he feels since his last match against Owens (a follow up we never got), his loss to Rollins and what is next for Sami Zayn. Zayn will talk about how losing to Rollins showed him how far he still has to go before making it to the top of Raw. He said tonight he’s going back to the basics and only by competing can he get better.

Summerslam is such a stacked card already it is difficult to figure out what to do with Zayn. Much of the roster is paired up in feuds leaving few options for him. I’d advocate for him to have a match against Curtis Axel to help put over the “Mr Irrelevant” moniker. A great way for the heel to get heat by demanding people stop calling him that. Give Axel some offense in a 3-4 minute match before losing cleanly to Zayn.

Prime Time Players explode… again

I didn’t like last week’s presentation of the match between Titus O’Neil and Darren Young. They could have mined their former tag team run together more to fill out the backstory. Another tag team story playing out involves Pokemon Go so let’s throw these together as I kind of run out of ideas…

The match here is that to try to mend the rift of what happened last week, the former Prime Time Players pair up to face the Golden Truth. During the match, Backlund is shouting orders to his team but Titus is having none of it. Eventually, he loses patience with Backlund while Young is in the ring with Golddust. He slaps the manager to shut him up. Young leaves the ring and attacks his tag partner. During the fighting, R-Truth wanders in between the two, immersed in his game. They look at each other, then to R-Truth, then to each other, both punch R-Truth at the same time in a comedic bit and resume their fighting until Gold Dust rolls up Young for the pin and O’Neil walks away in disgust.

 

Ghostbusters 2016 review

Although I’m “late to the party”, I actually did see the movie on opening weekend. Considering the “fan” backlash ever since the movie was announced and the first trailer hit the public, I wanted to take a step back before putting my thoughts on the movie out there. It was a conversation following an improv audition that motivated me to actually write this review.

First things first, the individuals responsible for the first trailer should be fired. Like many, I didn’t like it at all. The jokes they included weren’t funny and made Leslie Jones’ character appear like a caricature. Unless their intent was to set the bar low to exceed expectations.The movie has much better lines which were not included. I found myself laughing way more than I expected going in.

Secondly, I am wary of any reboot of an established franchise. I’ve always been resistant to franchise reboots when the original was good. It’s a cheap ploy to bank off prior success and lazy story writing. I understand why studio executives do it, but it gives bad movies undeserved attention and detracts what would otherwise be good or great movies by innately drawing comparisons to the original source material. You can argue “you have to judge the movies separately”. You would also be wrong. Movies don’t exist in a vacuum. Movies are an art form, although one more commercially motivated than some others. As an art form, it exists as a representation of creativity but also of the times it is presented. It exists within a context and by the creative influences on the original creators.

The movie doesn’t shy away from the originals either. There are frequent call-backs and a few cameos which quickly remind you “Hey, remember that movie you liked? Here’s stuff from it so you can like this movie too!” These are often hit or miss. The sequence with Slimer was great. Bill Murray was not. However, like I’ll note a few times later, this breaks immersion and gets you out of the story.

Now, as our Prime Minister would say, it is 2016. So seeing a reversed gender cast might be in order… if the original movie had a strong theme of male empowerment or male bonding. It really didn’t or if it did, it wasn’t something I picked up on. I didn’t like the original Ghostbusters because they were all men. I liked it because the story was fun, the characters were funny and/or relatable, and the effects were cool (at the time anyway). It was imaginative and had a theme of science prevailing over the supernatural, while portraying the Ghostbusters as high end schlubby exterminators. Presenting the new Ghostbusters movie as a hard reboot (the original movie doesn’t exist in the same continuity despite the frequent call backs) in 2016 would have to add something that the 1984 version couldn’t. They did utilize this twice for minor gags. I won’t spoil them here. The first does set the plot in motion and the other is more a throwaway gag I saw coming a mile away. It was still funny because of the characters’ reactions.

The albino elephant in the room is the debate on female roles in film. When I first read a new Ghostbusters movie was in production, I groaned. When I read it was an all-female cast, I was intrigued by it being a bold choice; when it comes to Hollywood executives that is. On the other hand, I was also worried this would very much be about pandering to women. Thankfully, outside of the hype of the movie, the movie itself really doesn’t play the “gender card”. The main female cast are treated as individuals. There’s no moment in the plot where they are belittled or treated poorly for their gender which was a good thing. The group fails or succeeds because of the technology they have developed through their own skills and initiative which no one else has. This makes them special for the skills and qualities they possess and not what is between their legs. Nor is there a moment of “Girl power!” as there isn’t a

As my Vision of Art humanites course taught me in CEGEP, truly great art has a critique about society or the human condition. This movie is very meta in this regard. The critique here is everything surrounding the movie itself. Much like Fury Road, the Men’s Rights Activists were quick to disparage the movie for making it about the female cast. Then came the backlash from feminist groups followed by the backlash to the backlash. The movie is certainly responsible for beginning a wider discussion on how Hollywood should treat women and how society should accept it. This too looms over the production and would make anyone looking for any misandrous evidence to justify their position and only add fuel to the fire.

That said, a few of the male characters are pretty one-note or lame. Charles Dance is one of the few male characters who comes off looking entirely justified in his behaviour and while bland, he commands a certain gravitas which made me hope to see him later in the flick. The city mayor was fine, and he had one great line delivery that had me chortling. I understand female characters are often treated as romantic interests or window dressing in typical movies. Often reduced to caricatures to easily convey what the screenwriter wants to advance the plot of the story. Again, just making men take that same role doesn’t make it better.

My main problem is with the movie’s villain and the male surrogate of Janine (the secretary if you don’t remember) from the original series. Chris Hemsworth’s character is dumber than a brick. It is played up for gags at first, but quickly becomes so cartoonishly stupid that you begin to wonder how he even manages to dress himself or doesn’t eat his own feces for lack of better judgment. It kind of took me out of the movie. Yes, I know he’s supposed to be the “blonde bimbo”, but they went too far with his stupidity. He does get better…while possessed by the villain.

The villain is pretty much a stand in mix of a mad scientist and super geek who acts weird and gets treated poorly which only further disenfranchises him. He then decides to lash out against the world by opening portals to the realm where ghosts reside in order to kill everyone. He too is pretty cartoonish and his weirdness is played up to 11.

The plot is passable. The story more or less follows the original movie but with a different set of characters and a slightly altered story. It certainly feels rehashed. I’m not going to delve too far into spoilers here. Here, we see more of a progression as the women set up their business. Quite a few of the twists and turns they take to get to the end are fun. However, the movie has a tendency to stop-start frequently as many of the call backs are jarring and throws off the pacing. A particularly bad sequence is a cameo by Bill Murray who clearly didn’t seem to be enjoying himself and was just there because he was in the original and they paid him enough money. Thankfully, it’s mercifully short but it doesn’t lead anywhere. Dan Ankroyd’s inclusion was more brief and just there to deliver a one-liner. It worked well enough as it took me a second to realize it was him and distracted me slightly during the next action sequence.

The first strength of the movie is its female cast. They have fantastic chemistry and seem to be genuinely into their roles. However, there are a few wrinkles. Apart from Kristen Wiig’s character, the other women’s motivations are unclear or flimsy at best. Kate McKinnon’s character is a bit too “out there” and eccentric for being eccentric’s sake. Leslie Jones’ character was more well-rounded than the “token black person” most probably expected. The movie does build towards the climactic action sequence. The plot has the characters introduce gadgets and delve into the technology behind ghost busting more than the original. I’d be interested in seeing more from these characters with a better plot.

The second strength comes from the visuals. The special effects are superb and did not distract from the movie. Note, I didn’t see the movie in 3D, but there were only a few scenes where it seems it might have been worthwhile. Personally, I find 3D to be a gimmick and refuse to pay up the extra money for little to no added value.The movie climax is actually a prolonged action sequence. It’s not as long as Mad Max, but far more action packed than the original two movies combined. At first, I didn’t like it but over time it has grown on me as being zany and harmless.

As a comedy though, this movie has to be judged on whether it was funny. There were a few times I found myself laughing but most of the time I was only slightly amused. After watching the movie, I read a lot of the scenes were actually improvised. As I perform and take improv classes, I am curious to read the script and compare it to the movie to see which scenes were improvised and go through what kind of choices I would’ve made in that position. I have a feeling the many over the top or bad jokes were improvised where the group “yes anded” without a firm idea of where they were going.

In conclusion, had this movie not had the title of Ghostbusters it would probably be massively under the radar and made few waves. Because of its pedigree it was scrutinized both fairly and unfairly. I can’t entirely divorce myself from everything surrounding the movie but I am confident in giving it a 6.5/10. I don’t regret seeing it and enjoyed myself. If you are going in with an open mind or never saw the originals, I recommend it. If you are going into it with low expectations like myself, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, avoid it.

 

 

How I’d book WWE August 1st, 2016

Just realized the blog post was not published. Better late than never. A few quick notes on last week’s shows.

  1. Raw was fantastic. I groaned at first when Reigns won the second fatal four way despite the hypocrisy of my booking him as the contender to Ambrose’s title but was glad to see Bàlor prevail.
  2. I like the look of Smackdown from a production stand point. The camera POV is interesting although it made it harder to follow the clusterfuck that is a battle royale. The wrestlers are going to have to be more careful calling their spots with the increased zoom on the action.
  3. The disparity between the two shows’ talent was made very apparent. Smackdown’s midcard is going to need some serious help.
  4. Shelton Benjamin’s return (and lesser extent Rhyno) will certainly help with that. Many people seem to be disappointed there weren’t any returns during the draft. It’s apparent creative wanted to keep the emphasis on the current roster and bring in the vets or “free agents” gradually over the next few weeks.
  5. They will need to address the tag and women’s divisions on Smackdown eventually, but for now I’m fine with there being only a single champion for those divisions.
  6. JBL is terrible and was dragging commentary down on Raw and now on Smackdown.

On with the blog!

Raw (US Title)

Last week, I proposed an angle where Rusev is dodging Cesaro as the Swiss Superman is not American. I’d still like to visit that story again because Cesaro is a fantastic worker and this is a feud which doesn’t necessarily need a lot of talking to sell. With the brand split, Rusev has a lot of potential to become a main event monster after a decent title reign.

Raw will begin with Rusev and Lana coming to address the crowd, He will rundown the challengers’ he’s beaten the past couple of months and make fun of America. Cesaro will be the first to interrupt, saying he never got a fair on one match for the title. Rusev will refuse because he’s not American. This will bring out Bo Dallas who will say no one Bo-Lieves more in America than he does. Curtis Axel will come out, hopefully a Mr Irrelevant chant will start which he will fuel by demanding the fans stop, and the two bicker. Finally, Darren Young and Backlund come out and demand the pair name the Presidents in order. After they fail, Darren Young successfully recites them. This leads to a brawl initiated by Curtis Axel. Foley will come out and book a triple-threat to determine the next contender for the title. Obviously, Darren Young wins with the cross-face chicken wing after pouncing on Axel following a perfect-plex on Dallas.

A kitsch segment, but appeals to the patriotic sensibilities of the American audience. Besides, I’d love to see the interactions between Lana, Rusev and crazy Backlund. Young failed to win the IC title at Battleground but he did not get pinned. This makes him a decent filler title competitor while stoking the fires for the eventual Cesaro and Rusev feud.

Smackdown (Styles vs Cena)

Styles will begin the show in the ring with a mic. He blames Cena for getting in his way to become #1 contender. He will claim he had Cena dead to rights but Ziggler blindsided him. Cena, not one to back away from a challenge, will come out. AJ will thank Cena for saving him the trouble of having to find him for the weekly #beatupJohnCena. Cena will remind AJ he doesn’t have the Club to back him up as he enters the ring. AJ will throw a fit and attack Cena with a cheap shot with the mic. Styles will hit the Styles Clash on a steel chair and the show will cut to break while medics check on Cena.

Raw (Universal Title)

Unlike Ziggler who gives off a “has been” vibe except without the nostalgia factor of being one of the greats, Bàlor comes in with the new car smell. His presentation as the curtain-jerker ready to make a name for himself can easily be played up with a match against a veteran. A cut away to “earlier today” will depict a confrontation between him and Sheamus. Balor will introduce himself formally to Sheamus, as a fellow Irish wrestler. Before the brand split, Sheamus positioned himself as the guy who hated the “new era”. Sheamus will slap away Bàlor’s offer to shake hands and say Finn had a lucky night but he’s just going to be a flash in the pan, 1 hit wonder. This will set up a match for the top of the 1st hour.

Smackdown (World Title)

After the commercial break, Ziggler will confront AJ backstage which will lead to a war of words and the setup for the main event. Ziggler will be goaded into putting his title shot on the line.

Let’s be honest here. Ziggler didn’t have any momentum before his win last week. Ziggler needs to be rehabilitated to be considered a legitimate threat for the title. This is going to appear like a legitimate shot for Styles to come out on top and delaying the rubber match with Cena at Backlash.

Wyatts

Despite the split of the Wyatt family, I pair them together because their angle would be they are difficult for authority figures to control. While still on the heel side of the fence, they can be worked into an eventual Bray Wyatt solo face run. On Raw, Strowman will be booked for a few weeks in squash matches during the first hour. Each time, he shows off a wider range of power moves and little to no-selling the jobbers’ offense.

On Smackdown, Bray and Rowan would be watching replays of Raw with Bray laughing maniacally at how his black sheep was actually a direwolf in disguise. This will be the beginning of a Wyatt family reunion subplot for the Rumble.

Unfortunately, the face Smackdown roster is thin and mostly engaged in feuds (Cena, Ambrose, Ziggler I guess, Orton) leaving Ryder, Kalisto or Benjamin as the only two options for Wyatt to legitimately feud with. Benjamin was only listed as “coming soon” so he’s unlikely to show up this week. From a storyline perspective, the one who makes the most sense here is Ryder. He’s struggled throughout his WWE career with a few bright spots here and there. His association with Mojo Rawley also easily allows for tag matches against Wyatt and Rowan without much fuss.

This will begin with a match between Ryder and Rowan. The Wyatt family member will come up with the win here when the ref fails to notice Ryder had his foot on the ropes. Wyatt will come out admitting there is no justice in the world, except the justice we make for ourselves.

Raw (Universal Title part 2)

Rollins will be in the GM/commissioner office with Stephanie and Foley where Cesaro is expressing his frustration with not being included in the match for the US title shot at Summerslam. Following up on his speech to Byron Saxton after the loss to Bàlor, Reigns is going to interrupt and confront Rollins directly.

With his push stalled but still positioned in the upper midcard, Reigns is a solid worker with the right opponent. He’s been booked to look very strong, regularly kicking out of finishers so either you keep him up or near the top or you play up the fact he got to where he is because of PEDs. The latter is very risky but if done right can either create a monster heel or a proper baby face instead of the face role but heel heat he currently gets. Because I don’t have to deal with the consequences of screwing up, I have the benefit of pursuing the hard part :).By interrupting Cesaro, this gives off the air he doesn’t respect the Swiss superstar which could make for a good program between the two until Summerslam.

Reigns should be mad about Rollins continuously insulting and committing libel during the build up to Battleground.Further, he never got the 1 on 1 re-match after losing the title. He’d also reason he’s the next contender after Summerslam regardless of who wins due to his loss to Balor. Note, I’m positioning Rollins as a heel for now because the main angle will be with Bàlor with Reigns acting as a tweener. The two can put on good matches together, so a “main event” re-match between the two would be great. However, Rollins won’t have none of that, saying Reigns’ suspension should have kept him out of Battleground entirely. Here, Foley will say they are both right but seeing how Bàlor will be in action with Sheamus, Rollins needs to fight as well. Foley also disagreed with Rollins not having to qualify for the title. Rollins, cockily, will say don’t worry about it. He doesn’t need the practice to beat “the rookie”. Foley will disagree and book him to fight Cesaro.

Reigns will be left stewing with Foley giving him “the night off” after he pulled double duty last week. Instead, he’ll have a dark match to keep the kiddies happy. The story here is to push Reigns further way from the title picture until his character “snaps” and either embraces becoming a heel or is humbled and redeems himself.

Smackdown (Women’s division)

Smackdown’s female roster is more shallow than Raw in quantity and perceived quality. Their segment last week felt forced and without aim other than introduce the women. The match between Natalya and Lynch was good though. Outside of the match, the best performance on the stick came from Alexa Bliss while Eva Marie had the most heat. Supposedly Eva Marie is not good but her ability to generate such a strong reaction can serve. Without a title, I think the best strategy is to have Natalya and Lynch as the top women of the heel/face sides. A six-woman tag match works best here to showcase what the women can do before splitting them off into individual feuds. Lynch will captain the face team but due to double teaming will be the babyface in peril until she gets the hot tag to  … *flips a coin*  Carmella. Alexa Bliss will pick up the win however on a rollup with a handful of tights on Alicia Fox.

Raw (Universal Title part 3)

Balor vs Sheamus should go a solid 8 to 10 minutes or so to showcase Bàlor while allowing Sheamus to get decent offense in before losing cleanly. The finale will come when Sheamus misses with a Brogue Kick and gets hooked up on the ropes. Finn will kick him through the ropes, setting up the Coup de Grâce for the win. I’m holding off a bit on building the confrontation right now as Balor needs to make himself more well-known to the casual audience who don’t follow NXT.

Smackdown (IC Title)

The Miz has been a fantastic heel since winning the belt, I think he deserves to rise higher on the card so it might be time for him to drop the belt. Miz is a solid enough ring performer he can carry his own side of the match. Clearly, Apollo Crews’ was given a big boost with the battle royal win. He also had sequence in the ring against Corbin during last week’s main event.So I’m advocating a #1 contender’s match between Corbin and Crews here.

The ending of the match will have Corbin miss Crews on a punch outside the ring and hitting the ring post “fracturing his hand”. Crews will thus earn a shot at Summerslam and Corbin can go on with a temporary cast gimmick, knocking out people left and right until a feud between him and Crews over the title can be set up once Corbin has “healed up”.

Raw (Sasha vs Charlotte)

Sasha will be asked by Renee Young backstage on her thoughts on Charlotte calling in her re-match stipulation for Summerslam. She will of course accept the challenge, saying she doesn’t need to hide behind others to fight her battles.

With Charlotte reportedly asking for time off, the build here is Charlotte returns to training for her re-match. There will be a package of her working out with Dana Brooke pushing her to the extreme lengths to get ready. This will help sell Brooke as a serious gym rat and power house while building up the re-match as potentially better than their great title bout on Raw.

Smackdown (World Title part 2)

Ambrose will confront Ziggler in his locker room. He’ll compliment Ziggler for standing up for himself against a guy with the credentials of AJ Styles and being willing to put his money where his mouth is. He informs Ziggler he’ll be at ringside to watch. Ambrose giving respect to Ziggler helps elevate the challenger. Further, Ambrose is entertaining at commentary. He’s no Kevin Owens, but he’s fun to listen to and his banter with JBL makes the Texan more tolerable.

Brock vs Orton

On the RAW side, it was announced Lesnar will be on the show. I’ll repeat the part of the build from my previous post for his end of the build for the match.

On Smackdown, I like the story of Orton’s shoulder being a liability and how the RKO can be an equalizer. JBL talked up Lesnar’s Kimura Lock last week. Daniel Bryan and Orton will be in the trainer’s room discussing the Viper’s shoulder. Orton will be “honest” and say it’s still a bit tight after his bout with the Miz but he is certain it will be ready for Summerslam. Daniel will express concern for Orton facing Brock but will mention it just so happens the Smackdown roster has a heel with a submission targeting the arm: Alberto Del Rio. He will set up next week’s main event between the two grapplers.

Unfortunately, my original vision for this feud would’ve seen the return of Kurt Angle acting as Orton’s trainer as a big surprise, leading to Angle throwing in the towel at Summerslam on Orton’s behalf once trapped in the Kimura lock. Angle would have reasoned he did what he felt was best for Orton. It was one fight, and Orton still has many more matches left in him so long as he remains healthy. This would’ve lead to a feud between the pair down the road.

Raw (Women’s division)

Regardless of the result of Charlotte vs Sasha re-match, WWE is going to have to build up a secondary feud in preparation for the blow off. On the heel side of the roster, Nia Jax should follow up with another squash match if only to showcase her size and power. Once she and Dana Brooke are more comfortable in the ring, I think there is some value in pitting the two against one another down the road as “the unstoppable force vs the immovable object”.

On the face side, I’d build up Paige. However, unlike Nia, she will face a “one time” attraction from the NXT roster getting a try out for Raw who isn’t ready to make the jump yet. Paige will prevail and demonstrate there is a gap between NXT and the main roster. This plants a seed down the road for a return match later when that women is finally ready to get promoted.

 

Raw (Tag Team division)

While the New Day appears to be on a collision with the Club. However, I think a little detour is in order. The segment begins with the New Day hawking their Booty Os and ignoring the attacks from last week. Enzo and Cass will come out and an exchange between the two teams takes place for a title shot. These are the two hottest tag teams so seeing them face off will be a huge draw for fans. Enzo and Cass beat the club at Battleground so they have a solid argument for their position as challengers. Just as the New Day accepts they are interrupted…

The Shining Stars demand a re-match because of the Golden Truth’s interference distracting them last week on Raw. New Day joins Enzo and Cass in verbally taking down the Puerto Ricans in dueling insults. Eventually, Primo and Epico can’t take anymore of this and rush the ring for a fight. The New Day just stand back and watch as Cole exclaims “It’s the Shining Stars vs Enzo and Cass, after the break!” The Certified Gs will score an easy win without any shenanigans or outside interference. After the match, the Club will come out and leave Enzo and Cass laying. This prompts the New Day to come in to get some revenge after the beat down last week. The Shining Stars then come in and turn the tides in favour of the heels before being turned on by Gallows and Anderson.

Smackdown (Mexican Pride)

In preparation for next week’s main event, Alberto Del Rio will be facing Kalisto. However, Kalisto will be attacked backstage by Rhyno. Kalisto, still feeling the effects of a Gore, will be unable to mount much of a defense and end up tapping out to the aristocrat in a very short match.

Rhyno can coast on nostalgia for 1-2 losses but if he is to legitimately put over talent, he is going to need to win or brutalize people. I liked the matches Kalisto had with Rusev and I think they can replicate some of the magic here. Sadly, Kalisto should have been drafted to Raw but I understand wanting to add variety to Smackdown. Long term, being the best high flyer (outside of Styles anyways) will give him more room to breathe and establish himself. This is a very easy program to lead to Backlash. Rhyno could be a backstage wrecking ball. A hired muscle to take out people. Say … on behalf of a certain wealthy aristocratic Mexican? ADR’s motivation is he’s still mad about losing the US title to Kalisto earlier this year. So once Kalisto overcomes Rhyno, he can learn ADR was behind the attacks, leading to a feud between the two post-backlash.

Raw (Sign Heath Slater)

Like on Smackdown, Heath will show up on Raw, interrupting a match between Titus O-Neil and recently signed Jinder Mahal, with chair shots. Obviously cross about the betrayal of his former stablemate getting signed ahead of him. Foley will come out and address Heath long enough for Titus and Jinder to regain their senses and double team him.

Smackdown (American Alpha)

Unfortunately, there aren’t any solid established teams on the roster apart from the Usos. Now, I won’t advocate a squash match of the main guys on the roster, but American Alpha should have a short bout to promote their signature moves. The Ascension is going nowhere fast and the horrible performance during the battle royale shows they aren’t trying. They’ll be the first victims. The story here, will have Alpha gradually go through every single team on the current roster to get to the top of the mountain. With the weakness of the teams on Smackdown, I’m of the mind they should not introduce a title until there are more teams in the division or some of the lower card guys make an impact. For now, the focus should be on building Alpha as the premiere tag team for inclusion in the inevitable Raw vs Smackdown Survivor Series elimination match. And perhaps a challenge between Alpha and the Raw champs at the Rumble.

Raw (Cruiserweight Division part 1)

Still awaiting the results of the CWC, I’d build up Sin Cara and Neville as the main roster talent to face the winner. Sin Cara starts out with a match against one of the guys who WWE decided not to retain, billed as tryouts. This gives the guys more exposure to a wide audience and an extra payday. The match would time in the 3-5 minute range to put over the WWE star.

Smackdown (Main event)

Ambrose will be the first one out to not overshadow the competitors as he makes his way to the commentators’ booth. AJ Styles will come out next, trash talking Ambrose from the ring before Ziggler comes out after a commercial break. The match will have AJ dictate the pace. The offense should be split 70-30 in favour of Styles until he begins to cheat.

This of course leads to Cena coming out, sporting bandages on his face, and costing AJ the match. Ziggler manages to score the win. After the match, Cena jumps in and begins wailing on Styles. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Ambrose leaves commentary and takes out first Ziggler, then Cena, allowing Styles to retreat out of the ring, furious at all three babyfaces. They could then have a dark match of Cena & Ambrose vs Ziggler and Styles for the fans in attendance.

Owens-Zayn fallout

Last week, the pair did not get the opportunity to address the situation following their great match at Battleground, I’d book their reactions back to back during Raw. Owens in an interview segment with Renee Young will talk about how he had a moment of weakness and it cost him. That won’t happen again. KO is my favourite heel right now and giving him a bit of a killer edge will seemingly make for a transition to the top of the card despite the loss as he will go on to crush main midcard roster opponents in more brutal fashion.

For Zayn, he’ll be on the Highlight Reel. Jericho will applaud him for how he viciously delivered a 2nd helluva kick. He showed he had no remorse, no conscience, etc. Zayn will interrupt and explain it was difficult but he feels at peace with what he had to do to win. The 2nd helluva kick was the closure he needed. Normally, I’d like to position him for a run at the US title but the logic against Cesaro also applies to Zayn who is Canadian. Instead, I want for a Jericho and Zayn program here with Jericho continuously complimenting Zayn in a facetiously  until finally Zayn has heard enough and storms off.

Raw (Cruiserweight Division part 2)

Neville’s turn to show off his repertoire against a CWC first round elimination.

Raw (Universal Title part 4)

Rollins vs Cesaro will headline the main event  WWE seems keen on putting the main title feuds (at least under Reigns) at the 2 hour mark. However, I am still of the mind the main event should have the top guys.

Rollins and Cesaro should have a good back and forth. Rollins has to score the win here, but it can be with some controversy as a heel and also build up matches in the lead up to Summerslam. Reigns, unhappy to have been given the “night off”, will come out to distract Rollins. Cesaro will gain the advantage but not score the pin. Reigns, frustrated his attempt at revenge failed, will try to spear Rollins but the Architect sidesteps and Cesaro falls victim instead. Rollins scores the win and we have a perfect setup for Balor, Reigns, Rollins and Cesaro in various match ups.

Bruins offseason

As a Bruins fan living in Montreal, I do tend to get into heated debates with Habs fans. However, so far this offseason has been tame as both teams’ management show signs of incompetence. Most Habs fans look at the continued employment of the team’s coach and the Subban trade to [rightfully] be ruining the team. On the other hand, Bruins management feels rudderless. I’m not exactly pining for Chiarelli’s tenure as GM of the Bruins. He doesn’t seem to prize superstar talent as much as he should. He’s traded both top 2 picks from the 2010 draft for mediocre returns. In fact, the Bruins only have Joe Morrow, a number 6 or 7 defenseman, remaining with the team from the Seguin trade.

GM Jekyll and President Hyde

The ousting of Chiarelli seems in part due to a power struggle between himself and team president Cam Neely. Growing up, Neely was my 2nd favourite Bruin behind Ray Bourque. His blend of physicality and goal scoring was exciting to watch. When fans look at Lucic, they see many of the same qualities on the ice. Many felt Don Sweeney’s promotion from assistant GM to team general manager was to allow Neely to control the GM office with his former team mate as a puppet. Whatever the case, the team’s vision seems to be at odds.

Ownership wants to make the playoffs. That much is clear. Playoff revenue for a big market team is a major source of profit. From a business point of view, it is a good short term strategy to maximize your return on investment. From the flip side, you want to build a dynasty or at least a contender to grab the Cup. Upon his promotion, Sweeney spoke to needing to go with a youth movement; mirroring the sentiment of many other teams. Yet these moves are counter to each other. A youth movement usually implies a stripping down of the franchise while a “make playoffs at any cost” strategy usually involves sacrificing your future for the now. Instead, we are getting a mix of both to predictably middling results with a 9th place finish. Hence the 28th rank in the Hockey news poll of the team’s vision.

I already wrote about the Hamilton trade but I’d like to add an addendum to it. Hamilton did not excel last season with the Flames which seems to validate the opinion of those who drank the “we have to return to the [big bad] Bruins’ identity” kool-aid. Yes, he did have a bad year but part of it could be adapting to new teammates and different coaching. He picked up as the season went along though. Claude Julien, for his faults (and he has a few), is a better coach than Bob Hartley. Advanced statistics bear that in mind:

Flames 2015-2016 season

Story 1

Bruins 2014-2015 season

Story 1 (1)

The Flames were a very opportunistic team two seasons ago and were fortunate in facing a mediocre Canucks team in the first round of the postseason. On paper, they improved the team but the underlying problems remained. When goaltending didn’t pick up the slack, the team fell hard. Now they have a new coach. I describe Bruins management as the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of the NHL because for every good decision they make, it is almost immediately followed up with a bad one or vice versa. Let’s review Sweeney’s first offseason with the benefit of hindsight.

2015 Offseason

It started off poorly with the extension of injury prone #6 defenseman Adam McQuaid to a lucrative 2.25/year for 4 year contract. Pundits were quick to parrot Sweeney’s defense this was the “market price” for such a player. When you have to defend your decisions, it implies it wasn’t a great one. Further, it goes against the whole youth movement. If you aren’t going to trust rookies to play your least important spot on D speaks to how weak the team’s drafting and depth pool are, or the talk of youth movement was a bunch of hot air.

It was then followed by a good return on Lucic deal to LA. In hindsight, it was a great deal because of his recent signing with Edmonton but also a later trade. Colin Miller looks to be a future #4 offensive defenseman if Julien actually gives him a true opportunity to shine. It also freed up cap space which was a major factor behind the Seguin and Boychuck trades which severely hampered the team at the end of Chiarelli’s tenure.

Then we got the poor return on the Hamilton trade (at the time), followed by a few reaches on some of the draft picks in the 14-16 range the Bruins had acquired in the first round of the 2015 draft. I lump the two together because they will be linked going forward on whether we truly got good value from the trade of our #2 d-man (and likely future #1). As of right now, it looks to me the team panicked under the threat of an offer sheet; an extremely rare occurrence.

We were then treated to a good return on the Jones trade to San Jose. Some have called it a bad decision. Perhaps in hindsight that might be true seeing as the Sharks went to the Finals. However, I’d contend Jones was solid but not spectacular in their playoff run. It was the top stars of the Sharks who carried the team to success and ultimately failure in winning the cup to a faster Penguins team. With Rask in goal for the foreseeable future due to his past performances and hefty contract, Jones was not going to get a legitimate shot to grab the #1 spot on the team. Thus, the return on what would have been a backup is excellent. Doug Wilson, GM of the Sharks, did go out and trade for James Reimer as insurance for the playoffs just in case. This was a move that belies some lack of confidence in Jones at the time.

Sweeney then balked on Reilly Smith’s contract extension the previous year and shipped him out (along with Marc Savard’s LTIR contract) to the Florida Panthers for the big bodied Jimmy Hayes after Smith had a lackluster sophomore season. In a case of giving up on a young player too early, Smith had a fantastic season in Sunrise and earned himself an even bigger extension after briefly leading the playoffs in scoring. Meanwhile, Jimmy Hayes oscillated between the bottom lines and the press box with the Bruins.

The team opted to keep Julien on as coach. While he is extremely hard on young players, he is a fundamentally and defensively sound coach. The team’s PK improved over the season which is in part to his work, but you can only do so much with what he had.

Sweeney then signed Matt Belesky to what can be described as a good and bad free agent signing. First, the bad was in many ways Belesky benefited from a career season at just the right time and a weak free agent class to have pundits project a vast overpay for his services. In a rare moment of sanity, NHL GMs recognized this and Sweeney was the one who came out with the player signed at what was perceived as below the market value at the expense of an extra year. I’d give this a mild thumbs up since the team lacked a left winger following the departure of Lucic earlier in the offseason. That said, again the team’s talent pool is legitimately weak on the left side and no youngsters appeared ready to make the jump. Belesky played much of the year as a checking forward with various stints on the 2nd line with Krejci or Spooner when #46 was injured. I’ll give it a slight thumbs up in context.

The offseason finished off with the decision not to sign Lee Stempniak following a PTO (which I’ll come back to later) and going with what they team had.

2016 so far

I’ll begin by not faulting Sweeney for the failure to trade Ericsson at the deadline. The team was in a playoff position at the time. While I have a hard time believing the team’s statements no one was willing to send two 2nd round picks in exchange for a 30 goal scorer, it is what it is. Failure to sign him to an extension or trading him during the offseason for negotiation rights is a failure though with the assets spent on the deadline acquisitions.

The team traded a mix of 2nd to 5th round picks for Lee Stempniak (didn’t have to wait long) and John-Micheal Liles. While both played decently in Boston, the team inevitably failed to make it into the post-season. The damning part is the Bruins had the opportunity for Stempniak to be on the roster on the cheap and without giving up assets all season had they picked him up off the PTO. On the bright side, the team did re-sign Liles for 1 year so he turned out to be more than just a rental.

With another early playoff miss, the Bruins began to disappoint me early with signing Kevin Miller to a 4 year 10 mil contract. Miller is a shorter version of Mcquaid. So the team is now paying  4.75 mil for two copies of the same player. There is nothing inherently wrong with that statement… if the two were better than #6 defensemen.

The team finally parted ways with Dennis Seidenberg. The “German hammer” dropped off significantly following knee injuries and couldn’t keep up with the ever speedier NHL crop of forwards. Julien’s reliance on his former workhorse only made things worse for the guy but at the same time I think it expedited the process of the buyout.

The Bruins then chose to not qualify Brett Connolly nor Zach Trotman during the RFA period. I have to admit, nether were setting the world on fire, I do feel they gave up too early on the pair. Trotman had a promising stint at the end of the 2014-2015 season but perhaps part of that was due to Chara still being a dominant d-man. With the aging Slovakian’s drop off, Trotman failed to progress to pick up the slack which led to his ousting. Had he been eased into a less intensive role (i.e. McQuaid or Miller), I think he would have made strides. Instead, the sink or swim on the top pair led to the team parting ways. I question keeping Morrow while dropping Trotman. Could they have not tried at least getting at least a “future considerations” from a team willing to give the guy a tryout? I know a 7th round pick is likely meaningless, but after losing the picks at the previous deadline, anything you can get back has some value if only as a sweetener in a trade. Connolly is a head scratcher. While he shows occasional flashes of good play, he never found chemistry in his first full year in Boston. Still, I think he should have had one more year to give it a go on the bottom lines. His contract was not onerous and he would have [hopefully] busted his ass to prove himself a legitimate NHL player. As of now, he signed early in FA to the Caps. With that team’s success, I expect him to do alright in the US capital.

Signing C/RW David Backes is a curious move. He had a poor season (by his standards) but is paid good money. The bruins are already deep at the pivot position. Spooner proved himself to be good scoring threat at center in the NHL. He turned out to be a great power play specialist and improved his 200 feet play. He’s no Patrice Bergeron, but he can be an average 2nd line center with the right wingers. With Krejci and Bergeron on the top 2 lines, it leads to a few options:

  1. Backes at RW can work depending where they wish to slot Pastrnak. The kid has crazy speed for this team and continues to improve. An injury kept him out of the lineup for a good stretch and Julien doesn’t give him enough minutes for someone of his talent level to fully exploit his offensive prowess. Bergeron and Marchand are so good together, their other winger is often a spare part. I like the already established chemistry between Krejci and Pastrnak. Training camp will likely decide. Either Pastrnak moves up to Bergeron’s line or Backes takes that spot. While Julien favours rolling four lines, I can’t imagine the team justifying Backes’ 6 mil/year contract on the 3rd line.
  2. Spooner at wing: Again, a hefty sum for a 3rd liner, making Backes 3rd line center pushes Spooner to become a winger. However, the kid is a bit small for that role and previous attempts at that position did not yield great results. The other option is an undeserved demotion of Spoons to the 4th line.
  3. Trade Krejci for help on D. Now, following the Hall for Larsson trade, the market for D-man has gone totally out of whack. While Krejci is a great player, his injury history, age and contract make it unlikely the team gets the return they truly hope for. The trade took place the eve of free agency opening probably threw a wrench in the team’s plans; particularly if the Bruins had already reached a verbal agreement with the Backes camp. Now, the Bruins likely have to throw in a sweetener (or more) to get any good return.

I’m not a fan of the move myself because of Backes declining numbers, the cap space required, the uncertainty of the roster, and also preventing a rookie from rising up to the big team but I’ll reserve judgement to see how it pans out.

The return of Anton Khudobin is more or less a sign of lack of confidence in the goaltender prospects the team has amassed. Despite good pedigrees and numbers, the team has legitimate reasons to not pull the trigger on Subban (injury), or the others. How long will they keep guys like Zane McIntyre or Jeremy Smith? Something has got to give or these guys will turn out to be failed prospects or make their careers elsewhere. I have to think a trade is looming or this is protection for next year’s expansion draft.

The final move so far was the signing of Krug’s extension. The guy takes a lot of crap for his size, but he was our 2nd best defenseman. Now, that is faint praise seeing how the rest of the defense corps played. He proved himself capable in a top 4 role though. The increasing value in the eyes of coaches and GMs on defense makes his signing a no brainer at the money given. So as things stand, we have a #2 dman in Chara, a #4 in Krug, Liles as a #4 although I doubt he’ll be paired with the offensive minded Krug, and #6 x2 in McQuaid and Miller with Morrow the replacement for the injured Ms. That leaves a whole 1 spot for Colin Miller (or anyone else) to crack the lineup. Way to go for the youth movement.

In conclusion

So the Bruins opening day lineup projects to be:

Merchand – Bergeron – Backes
Vatrano – Krejci – Pastrnak
Belesky – Spooner – Hayes?
Nash – Acciari – Randall

Chara-C.Miller
Krug – McQuaid
Liles – K.Miller

Rask
Khudobin

The top line looks incredibly solid to shutdown and outplay the opposing top lines. The 2nd line looks woefully inexperienced on the wings and will require Krejci to stay healthy and carry the heavy load on the defensive side. I like Belesky and Spooner combination but unless Hayes improves and becomes a more physical presence the line will struggle on both the defensive and offensive ends. The 4th line is woefully inexperienced and will not get much playtime exacerbating that problem.

If Chara slows down further, this is going to be a woefully inept defense. Rask and Khudobin are going to have to stand on their heads many nights to will this team into the playoffs.

One thing is certain, I suspect I will not be renewing my NHL centre ice package.

 

 

 

The Draft

So a coworker and one of my improv instructors got me back to casually follow pro wrestling again after I stopped watching in the wake of Chris Benoit’s death. Both are amateur pro wrestlers and their passion was infectious to get me to watch it here and there. The main draw however is two local guys are rising up the card: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Like many Canadians, it’s easy for us to root for “our own” to succeed on a world wide stage. Anyways, there is a brand split and a WWE draft tonight. As an aspiring writer, it’s appealing to give one own’s spin on how I’d write (or book) the event. Following the rules as laid out on wwe.com, I’m going over the top 20 picks, but won’t have time to go over the rest before tonight’s show.

 

RAW picks 1-3: The ex-Shield

Clearly, Raw is being favoured as it not only gets a ration of 3:2 to its “rival”, but also get the first turn to pick. This would be played up as an attempt to control the WWE title picture, adding value to the title. Further, this could build on the seeds of the July 18th Raw of the dynamic between Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley. Stephanie would thank Foley for the idea of picking Ambrose and Reigns “because it’s best for business” despite her distaste for the two. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan would be left a bit scrambling while the Raw staff acts smug until…

Smackdown picks 4-5: Cena and the New Day

The addition of Cena to Smackdown establishes the show with star power and raise its profile. Taking the New Day elevates the individual members of the team but also the tag team championships. Additionally, the commentary table should congratulate Smackdown for shrewdly nabbing 3 wrestlers instead of the normal 2 they’d get by selecting a tag team.

Raw picks 6-8: The Wyatt Family

These picks begin a tit for tat move int he rivalry between the two shows. Having to pick all three individually would look like Smackdown outflanked Raw. However, it would be argued by Foley that it allows Raw a shot to capture the tag team titles at Battleground. And who better than Foley to play off the Wyatts? There are elements of Cactus Jack and Mankind in their characters. Additionally, this presents them as a true “threat” within their show and could be used to elevate Bray Wyatt as a main event heel or face later even if they lose at Battleground.

Smackdown picks 9-10: Lesnar and Orton 

Again, adding star power to Smackdown and making it the marquee match at Summerslam for that brand. It certainly is a risk with the pending investigation into Lesnar’s failed substance test for his UFC200 fight, but the potential reward is huge in the long run as the top guy to dethrone.

Raw picks 11-13: Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and The Miz

Once more going to the well of trying to hold all the gold. The woman’s division being on Raw allows for its babyfaces to potentially give Stephanie McMahon the comeuppance for her heelish demeanour.

As the intercontinental title holder, Miz secures another belt (and conveniently frees up the US title for Smackdown up next). Ideally, I’d prefer one of the two shows to have a more international flavour where the IC title resides with the more domestic US-born wrestlers vying for the US title. These plans can be foiled by title exchanges at battleground though.

Smackdown picks 14-15: Rusev (w/Lana) and Darren Young (w/Backlund)

A major reach with Young, but it could be played up as a high risk high reward to try to “steal” both secondary titles for their own and perhaps elevating the IC title as the primary title for Smackdown if they so choose.

Raw picks 16-18: Balor, Brooke and Paige

Here the emphasis changes slightly because Stephanie wouldn’t believe in Ryder’s chances to dethrone Rusev for the US title. Thus, she resigns herself or better yet overrules Foley’s decision to pick him. It could even be played up as Foley apologizing to Zack for not being able to convince his boss otherwise.

Instead, the emphasis is to establish the women’s division (at least those near the top of the card) on Raw and also capturing the “hottest star” of NXT.

Smackdown picks 19-20: Styles and Ryder

Once more a bit of a reach with Ryder, but it firmly places the US title on Smackdown and gives a good mid-card hand to work matches with. Perhaps a later moderate push and he can also tandem with Mojo Rawley who would be picked later on to help the tag division.

The addition of Styles gives the show a great worker and breaks up the club for Balor to take over. Styles is a great performer and doesn’t need to be paired with those guys, instead leading the fight to #beatUpJohnCena alone and the rubber match at Summerslam. Perhaps setting up a Styles vs Lesnar main event at Survivor Series to establish the top title on Smackdown. Who wouldn’t want to see that?