Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Another good episode of Smackdown this week. The highlight for me was the "Five Minute Challenge" between Kurt Angle and The Artist Formerly Known As Spanky, Brian Kendrick. Kendrick's been playing the role of Earnest Youngster Seeking A Job instead of the role of Goofy Guy With An Awesome Hat And Occasionally Pink Trunks that won him acclaim on the indies and in Japan, but he's still entertaining. Angle played the role of WWE Champion and just beat the crap out of Kendrick for most of the match. Kendrick bumped great as usual and the Canadian crowd was totally into his comebacks. It looks like he'll make a good babyface for a while. I'd love to see him go up against Matt Hardy for the Cruiserweight belt at some point.
Things that were bad included too much of too many McMahons, Nathan Jones and the announcement that Paul Heyman will be in the main event next week. The continued Heyman-centricness of the main event angle makes me question the validity of rumors that his creative role has been diminished. But hopefully they'll get the "Brock F5s Heyman" spot over with next week so it won't become the focus of the Wrestlemania main event like "HHH Pedigrees Stephanie" did last year.
And Edge is out for a year or so with the same neck surgery that Benoit, Austin, Rhyno, Lita, et al. have had recently. It really sucks for Edge to be missing so much time just as he was making it up to the Smackdown main event scene. It would be nice if the WWE took a look at their wrestling style and tried to figure out why it resulted in so many serious neck injuries, but they haven't really been big on figuring out what's wrong with their product and coming up with ways to fix it in recent years. I wish Edge a speedy recovery.
I just added this new thing that allows you to respond to my blog entries, if you're actually reading them. If you're not actually reading them, then it might not be worth your time to respond to them. Just click on the "SHOUT OUT" link. I didn't name it and can't figure out how to change it, so don't be coming to me griping about the inappropriateness of me using hip-hop lingo in a non-ironic context, okay? I got the idea from Nate over at Hipster Detritus
, which you should read. I'll throw it up on the links roster for your convenience. In conclusion, respond if you're reading this.
I promise to come back with real content soon.
I got my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2003
yesterday and I can't put it down. I'll probably be throwing up random things from the book on here for a while. You should all go buy it, if you love baseball. If you don't love baseball, learn to love baseball.
Anyway, today's shocking thing comes to us courtesy of the Kansas City Royals. Now, I didn't pay much attention to the Royals last year, given how much they sucked (record: 62-100) and the fact that they play in the AL Central. So I did not realize just how much they really sucked. They had Chuck Knoblauch, Brent Mayne and Neifi Perez on the team at the same time. And they all got at least 300 at bats! Alas, this wasn't quite as sad as it could have been, as they didn't have Knoblauch playing second base, but it's still really something. Let's look at some numbers.
Knoblauch hit a dismal .210/.286/.300 (avg/obp/slg) in exactly 300 at bats over 71 games. BP says of him, "No longer worth the roster spot, except as a pinch-runner and as someone who can lean into a curveball and pick up a cheap hit-by-pitch when you need it." He's 35 years old and his numbers have plummeted over the last three years. Even the Royals have better options in LF than this guy.
Of Mayne, Bill James said, "It was really watching Brent Mayne play that broke my spirit, and caused me to abandon all hope for this organization. He's just awful; he is just frigging awful. He can't hit, he can't throw, he doesn't hustle, he is slow as a tank rolling uphill, and he's now 34 years old. Why in the worldl they don't just release Brent Mayne and try to find somebody who can play at least a little bit is beyond me." Mayne hit .236/.312/.310 in 93 games as catcher. So the Royals released A.J. Hinch, who hit .249/.321/.409 for a salary less than the current league minimum and kept Mayne and his multimillion dollar deal.
And then there's Neifi Perez. BP lists his position as "SS/Cancer" and they're not referring to his astrological sign. He hit .236/.263/.303 in 135 games. "Put it this way: replacing Perez with a league-average hitter would help the Royals more than replacing Michael Tucker with Shawn Green would." Tucker hit .248/.331/.406, in case you're not familiar with him. Perez signed a two year deal with San Francisco. As a Mets fan, I love to see a player this spectacularly awful on his way to the NL.
So how did the Royals manage to lose only 100 games? Well, there's Carlos Beltran (who apparently wants out of KC when his contract is up, and who can blame him?) and there's Mike Sweeney (who actually took less money that he could've gotten elsewhere to stay there). But I thought it was amusing that three players who showed no reason to deserve a starting spot on a major league roster could get so much playing time on the same team.
Raw was very watchable tonight. For one thing, The Rock showed up and was awesome. Heel The Rock is the greatest thing in the world and he could've talked for half an hour and it would've been Gold. He talked for almost twenty minutes to start the show and was at the height of his powers. His heel mic work is a lot less repetitive and catchphrase-dependent than his face work and is just must-see TV.
Then there was a bunch of stuff in the middle of the show that was okay but unspectacular. They continued building the Jericho/Michaels feud, which is great. Jericho held the Walls on Stacy for an inordinately long time before anyone came out to save her. She took the move better than any guy on the roster, though. It was great when Jeff Hardy ran in and Christian just took him out immediately with no trouble. And then HBK finally came out and it was all good and shaping up for a great Wrestlemania match.
And then the main event was the battle royal for the number one contendership to the Raw Heavyweight CHHHampionship. Battle royals with that many guys usually suck and this was really no exception, but who gives a shit because Booker T won the thing by eliminating The Rock! Booker T is going to WrestleMania, and The Rock continued to show why he is in every way better than HHH. He's awesome on the mic, he can still go in the ring, and he puts Booker over clean in his first day on the show. No wonder HHH didn't even bother to make an appearance on the show. The Rock was showing him up in every way imaginable.
Also, I think they should always refer to The Rock as "The Rock." Never just "Rock." Like "The Cheat" on Homestar Runner
. I think that would be hilarious.
Anyway, Wrestlemania is shaping up to kick ass. Rock vs. Austin always rules. Jericho vs. Michaels will be lots of fun. HHH blows in the ring, but if Booker beats him for the belt, it's all good. And jesus, Lesnar vs. Angle! Find something for Benoit and the Guerreros to do, don't sign Goldberg, and this will be on hell of a show.
I may be a cold soulless emotionless robot who walks alone through the valley of darkness most of the time, but when it comes to sports, I am an eternal optimist. Hell, I'm still watching Rangers games waiting for them to start the winning streak that will catapult them into the playoffs. But there's no better time of the year to be optimistic than this time of year, because it's spring training time. Time to start talking about baseball without having to deal with the cold hard reality of your team actually losing a game. And as this page will soon be transmogrified from the place where I talk about random crap and post indy wrestling reviews really slowly into the place where I hoot and holler about how great the Mets are doing, it's time for me to kick off My Unbiased New York Mets Preview 2003 (or, Why The Mets Will Win The World Series). This is the part where I talk about the Mets' lineup this year and how everyone is going to have the season of their lives to achieve the unprecedented 162-0 record and drive George Steinbrenner insane. I mean, even more insane.
I plan to take a journey around the Mets' starting lineup in the coming days and weeks, commenting on each position and the players likely to be stationed there. And most of this will be me talking about how awesome the Mets are, but I'm going to start on a less than optimistic note.
New Mets manager Art Howe has apparently already decided, with spring training barely underway, that Roger Cedeno will start in center and bat leadoff this upcoming season, and I have to shake my head. There's no plausible justification for this aside from the inability to unload Cedeno and his outrageous contract this offseason. And while I agree with the logic that putting Cedeno in the leadoff spot and keeping him there will probalby be better for his offensive production that Bobby Valentine's musical chairs lineups of a year ago were, I still don't see how it will be enough to make him the best choice in center. Leaving defensive concerns aside for a moment, let's take a look at some numbers.
Last season, Cedeno hit .260/.318/.346 (avg/obp/slg) in 511 at-bats. Not particularly inspiring numbers for a leadoff hitter, especially when compared to the competition, who I'll get to in a moment. Getting on base is the leaoff hitter's job. And the only projected starter for the Mets who had a lower OBP than Cedeno last year was Jeromy Burnitz, whose season was altogether disastrous. Presumably the Mets are hoping that Cedeno will bounce back somewhat to the form that his given him numbers of .278/.339/.377 on average over the past three seasons, but not only is that rather optimistic, there is still a better solution.
The Mets' most regular centerfielder last year while Cedeno was in left was Timo Perez. Now, Timo put up better overall numbers than Cedeno (295/.331/.437), but most importantly, he put up better numbers against right-handed pitching, which was Cedeno's strength (.318/.352/.479 to .273/.336/.349). Timo was downright awful against lefties (.156/.206/.188), but Cedeno didn't look much like a starting lineup caliber player against the southpaws either (.231/.275/.340). So if we were to replace Cedeno with Perez in center, we'd still have the issue of who to play against lefties.
Luckily, the Mets found a solution to this problem cheap, in the person of Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Now I probably like Shinjo more than anyone not of Japanese ancestry, and probably more than he deserves, due to a number of clutch hits in his first tour of duty with the Mets in 2001. But, my irrational love for him aside, let's look at the numbers. Last year against lefties, Shinjo hit .291/.328/.491, significantly better than either Cedeno or Perez. And his career numbers vs. lefties (.297/.338/.432) outdo Cedeno's over the same period of time.
I understand that unloading an overpaid, underproducing player like Cedeno in the current market isn't easy, but does that really mean he has to start? Playing Shinjo just because he's got a big contract is a lot like the WWE's frequent attempts to do something with Mark Henry or the Big Show just because they absurdly overspent for their services a few years back. I understand not wanting to pay a guy a huge sum of money to just sit around, but is that really worse than paying him to hamper your team? A Perez/Shinjo platoon would likely be more productive offensively than playing Cedeno every day. Cedeno could be the league's most expensive pinch runner until you figure out a way to get rid of him. That's better than wasting two guys who can do his job better than him. Given that Perez and especially Shinjo are both superior defensively to Cedeno, giving him the centerfield job right now makes no sense.
Mets outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo: the illegitimate love-child of Jon Bon Jovi and Koji Kanemoto?
Hey hey, it's Joe the lazy blogger, finally back with the third and final installment of my ROH review.
Low Ki vs. AJ Styles vs. Paul London [Number One Contendership]
This match had some big shoes to fill. The match that put ROH on the proverbial map at the debut show a year ago was the three way main event between Low Ki, Christopher Daniels and the American Dragon. I’m not a fan of three-ways, and I wasn’t there live to see it, so I didn’t like it quite as much as lots and lots of people did. But it was certainly a really fun match and the way they minimized the portions of the match where one guy was lying around selling while the other two fought by involving all three guys in numerous spots and sequences had to make for a fun live experience. This is a little different coming in, because while that match just had three Big Name Indy Superstars wrestling each other to have a good main event on the company’s first show, this match actually has something on the line, as well as back story not only among the three competitors, but also between each of them and the Champion, Xavier. All three have lost to Xavier in a title match once. Low Ki lost the belt to Xavier when Xavier turned heeled and joined up with Daniels. Styles lost to Xavier in early December. And London’s ride from obscurity to main event level star in the company on a wave of tremendous fan support saw him lose a hard fought match to Xavier in late December.
All three were over big as babyfaces on this show, but none more than London. His rise to popularity has been perhaps the most surprising and fun story in ROH’s first year. He hasn’t done it by being remarkably unique or revolutionary. His high-flying style is more reminiscent of the old Jeff Hardy style of using aerial moves because he’s crazy enough to put his body on the line for the win and for the fans, rather than the RVD style of doing aerial moves because they look cool. He’s got the added advantage of looking like the clean cut all-American babyface, rather than the more niche-oriented goth-kid-turned-hobo style of Jeff Hardy. I heard someone sitting near me remark that London has the best babyface facial expressions, and damned if they weren’t right. London’s at his best when he’s taking a beating for a while, only to make a comeback by putting his body on the line with some high-flying maneuver. And during those beatdown segments, his selling really works. I don’t think I’ve seen a match where he’s had a specific body part targeted, and if someone were to attack his knee, it might not work out too well. But his facial expressions and body language are great for general fatigue and trying to fight on valiantly through it all so as not to let the fans down. The fact that he’s the one important guy in ROH who basically made his name here and nowhere else thanks to the ROH fans probably adds something to their love for him as well. He’s not a great wrestler yet, but he’s doing a lot of things right to stay over with the crowd as he improves.
The match was about what I expected. The three-way format basically necessitates some spottiness and abandonment of logic, but, like last year’s three way, these three managed to work within that framework to create an action-packed match that the crowd ate up. They went basically the same route as the previous three-way, using spots and sequences involving all three men to replace the traditional sequences of two guys fighting while another is out on the mat. The keys to a match like this are innovation, execution and constant action, and this match managed to hit on all of those cylinders without a lot of no-selling or completely absurd spots. While the crowd probably would have responded well to seeing them repeat some of the much-praised three-way spots from last year’s match, they kept it fresh and came up with some new and fun spots, mostly playing off of Styles’ bottomless bag of offense. And he hit all of his offense crisply. And there was enough selling that on occasion one man would be down while the other two fought, but these instances were kept reasonably short, not overdoing the selling. And unlike certain spotty matches that I will talk about later, there was very little killing of finishers in this match. Having three men allowed credible finishes to be broken up rather than kicked out of. And it didn’t take anything outrageous to finish the match. All three men were fighting on the top turnbuckle, which led to Low Ki hitting a top rope Ki Krusher on Styles. As always, the impact of this move caused Ki to go flying when he hit the mat and leave Styles alone in the center of the ring to be hit with London’s shooting star press for the win. The crowd of course at this up, both the London win and the match in general. I think the small “match of the year” chant that broke out was a little excessive, but it was certainly a fun match with a crowd-pleasing finish.
But suddenly Xavier announced that if London wanted his title shot, he’d have to take it right now. This continued the odd theme of wrestlers seeming to have the power to book their own matches and interviews, but it fit in well with the quality chickenshit heel character Xavier has developed over the course of his title reign.
Xavier vs. Paul London [ROH Championship]
Xavier’s matches as Champion have followed a basic and time-tested formula of the cocky heel beating on the babyface for most of the match, letting him up for occasional hope spots until it’s finally time for the big babyface comeback. He has proven great at drawing heat with this kind of match, especially against as sympathetic and popular a face as London. I didn’t like this match quite as much as their match in December, in part due to some unnecessary valet shenanigans, but the crowd heat was fantastic and made for a great finishing sequence. The crowd was going nuts on the nearfalls, the best of which being Xavier getting his foot on the ropes after taking the shooting star press from London. London may have been a little too energetic in this match, given that he’d just wrestled a lengthy match, but giving his all for the fans every time he’s in the ring works out well with his character, so it wasn’t too problematic. The crowd was into everything he did, and they don’t really respect Xavier’s abilities as Champ, so there wasn’t any issue of the crowd buying his ability to keep coming and coming despite the beating he was taking. Xavier ended up winning with a rollup, which was good as it doesn’t give the win to the guy who’s already wrestled once in the night, but it also puts heat on a rematch. I hope they keep going with this program and give London a third shot at the title so that he can win it. He’s the most popular thing in ROH and I hope they keep riding him as the top babyface. A title win over Xavier would be sure to make for a great crowd response.
The SAT, Divine Storm, Da Hit Squad & Mikey Whipwreck vs. Special K (Jody Fleisch, Dixie, Izzy, Deranged, Slim J, some other little guys)
This was a really odd choice for a main event, but I guess they figured nothing else on the card could top this for pure action. They were wrong. I knew this match would either be a fun, inoffensive spotfest, or an over the top clusterfuck. I never thought it could go so far in the latter direction. If you decide to buy the tape of this event, and there’s a lot of stuff worth seeing, I urge you to stop the tape before it gets to this match. Trying to find any order in this crap would be pointless, so I’m just going to make a list of everything wrong with it, which will also suffice as a list of everything wrong with indy wrestling.
Length. This monstrosity went over half an hour. When a match has fifteen guys who know nothing but spots, there’s no reason to give them anywhere near that amount of time. They didn’t use this time to inject any kind of story into the match. It just increased the volume of ridiculous spots, which in turned lessened the impact of each individual ridiculous spot.
Nonsensical heel turn. Mikey Whipwreck came out as a surprise partner for the face team because Red, who was originally booked for the match, had to go to Japan. Mikey “trained” the SAT (Jose & Joel Maximo) and Divine Storm (Chris Devine & Quiet Storm), as well as Red, so now that he’s ignoring his retirement of a year ago, it only makes sense that he’d team with this crew. But then, halfway through the match, he turned on them all. They were courteous enough to attack him black ninja style so he could hit his finisher on each of them one at a time. This of course made no sense, as he had been beating on the opposite team for the first half of the match but was now apparently in cahoots with them. The only thing I can figure is that he entered the match as a face, but got so upset with his team impugning his ability as a trainer by wrestling like shit, that he got fed up and decided to beat them up. If he comes out and explains that his heel turn was a result of his students being shitty wrestlers, I will retract any bad words I have said about this angle. But I don’t expect that to happen.
Finisher killing. There were like fifteen people in this match, and even more at ringside. So you’d think if a guy got dropped directly on his head, instead of kicking out, someone would come and break up the pin. You’d be wrong. One of the Maximos has this horrible move where he does a piledriver, doesn’t let go, and hits another piledriver, repeating until he’s hit three or four. This is all in spite of the fact that ROH tries to promote these guys as having something to do with lucha libre. Anyway, whichever little guy he did this move on in this match had to kick out of it. It wasn’t the finish and all of his teammates were apparently otherwise occupied, so he just sold it as if his neck were impervious to pain. That’s just one example. This match was fully of outrageous deadly moves being kicked out of like they were nothing. Which of course leads to…
Selling. Or, lack thereof. This match was over thirty minutes of pure offense, with some of the most ridiculous moves you’ll ever see, and yet, by the end, everyone in the match was still able to run and jump and flip at full speed, as if the match had just started. I don’t understand the mindset of coming up with all of these absurd, nasty moves if you’re just going to shit on them so no one cares about them. These guys have been wrestling for a little while now and yet they still haven’t learned how to put their insane moves over as anything but a meaningless two count.
Ridiculous moves. I’ve touched on this already, but one of the trademarks of these type of matches in ROH is that, once a match, everyone will all of a sudden congregate on one turnbuckle and a bunch of guys will superplex a bunch of other guys, while getting powerbombed by another bunch of guys until everybody hits the mat in an indistinguishable mass of bodies. The crowd chants “holy shit” and I shake my head wondering what the hell just happened. These spots make zero sense, even compared to the rest of the match. It makes me wonder if these guys learned to wrestle by watching gymnastics and competitive cheerleading. This match had nothing to do with professional wrestling.
That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I urge you again, don’t watch this match. The match finally ended when one of the Hit Squad guys hit a second rope Burning Hammer. That’s a fine finish for a match when every other offensive maneuver has been rendered meaningless, but the crowd has turned on this match by then and mostly didn’t care about this devastating offense maneuver. Maybe if these guys learned how to build to their crazy offense, people would care about them. But I guess that would require some actual thinking, and who needs thinking when you’ve got flipping and head dropping?
Overall, this was a really good show, marred by two really awful parts. Still, it’s an easy thumbs up with all the good matches and great crowd heat for all the stuff that deserved it.
I left the show and walked to the subway entrance at which I had arrived, but the door was locked. So I had to walk all the way down to the next entrance, which was luckily open. I was able to get on the E train which took me all the way back to Penn Station and everything was smooth sailing from there.
The Mets signed 40-year old David Cone to a minor league contract and will let him compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation in spring training. I do not know what to think of this. I suppose if he can stay healthy there's a chance he might be able to show something of his old form, but that seems like a huge "if" at this age. I'd honestly rather see Mike Bacsik or Aaron Heilman pitch well enough to prove they're ready to start at the major league level and take the spot. Bacsik looked good in his first couple of starts last year before falling off somewhat. Heilman hasn't pitched in the major leagues yet, but when's he's ready he certainly has more upside than David Cone in 2003. Hopefully one of these guys will pitch so well in spring training as to make the decision. But if Cone starts out the season in the fifth spot, just holding it until Heilman is ready, that might not be so bad.
I'll will have more of My Unbiased 2003 Baseball Preview (or, Why The Mets Will Win The World Series) next week, probably.
I’m back, fashionably late, with the second half of my review of Ring Of Honor’s First Anniversary show. If you haven’t read the first part, scroll on down and do that. If you have read the first part, why haven’t you gotten in touch with me to tell me how great it was? Anyway, I suppose I’ll just get right into the second half of the show.
Dunn & Marcos vs. The Outkast Killahs
Except not really. These two teams came into the ring and were about to wrestle, when they were interrupted by Gary Michael Capetta, who told us that someone from Steve Corino’s group wanted to speak, and whatever that group wants, they get. It isn’t really explained why they have so much influence, but then it hasn’t really been explained why Gary Michael Capetta gets paid to be a mic stand who asks stupid questions, either. Out came CW Anderson, who, after disposing of the two jobber tag teams singlehandedly, took the long way to saying he was issuing an open challenge to anyone in the back. This brought out CM Punk, who in turn brought out questions regarding the whereabouts of his scheduled opponent, the artist soon to be formerly known as Reckless Youth. (It turns out Youth was in a car accident, but isn’t seriously hurt.)
CM Punk vs. CW Anderson
Honestly, this match made very little impression on me aside from my thinking it was a rather poor choice to get the crowd back into the show after the previous angle. Not as poor a choice as I thought Dunn & Marcos vs. Outkast Killahs was going to be, but still. Anderson isn’t exactly over with the crowd, and Punk didn’t bother to introduce himself, so, looking like a regular dude in gym shorts as he does, some of the crowd didn’t seem to know who he was. He seemed determined to suck up to the crowd, though, shouting “NYC!” on more than one occasion despite being from the Midwest. It made me wonder if he was overdoing it on purpose as a preface to a turn to his much praised heel character. His straight-edge character wouldn’t likely have difficulty drawing heat from ROH’s base audience of drunken and high Philadelphians. I am probably reading too much into it. Anyway, Punk ended up winning by reversing an attempted spinebuster into a sunset flip.
American Dragon Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe
And now we get into the meat of the card. These two wrestled in January in Pittsburgh, with Joe emerging victorious. I did not see that match. This match started out in fairly predictable and logical fashion, with the smaller Dragon attempted to take the big man off of his feet to the mat where he could use superior mat skills and neutralize Joe’s size advantage. This didn’t last too long, though, as Joe was able to gain openings to get back to his feet and begin pounding on Dragon. Joe dominated the match for a significant amount of time using simple but effective offense which emphasized his size and power advantage. His offensive attack didn’t make any reference to the Emerald Frosion that won him the previous match with Dragon, as he focused his attack primarily on Dragon’s back. When he wasn’t standing up and pounding away on Dragon with brutal forearms, chops and slaps, he used power moves like the powerbomb, or submissions that worked the back, like a particularly nasty Boston Crab variation that seemed to bend Dragon’s back at a 90 degree angle. Dragon’s comebacks mostly abandoned the matwork strategy of early in the match, choosing to try to trade brutal strikes with Joe whenever an opening or a bit of fighting spirit presented itself. This, of course, took a while to be effective. Dragon will elbow a man in the face as stiff as just about anybody, but even he must eventually yield to the overwhelming brutality of Joe. Because of this, the match seemed one-sided for a large portion of time. Dragon was just picking his spots whenever possible to inflict a bit of damage before the thunderous hands and feet of Joe put him on the mat again. This built well, as early in the match Dragon was using fairly simple strikes for brief periods, and over the course of the match, Joe began to wear down and allow him longer periods of offense until he was eventually able to bring out the big guns like the rolling elbow.
While the majority of the match built very well and was brutally stiff and intense, the part of the match that has me somewhat scratching my head as to what to think of the whole thing is the finish. It looked to me like Joe went for a powerbomb, Dragon tried to grab his head as if to reverse it, perhaps Kidman his way out of it, but his hands slipped and he got powerbombed. Then Joe leaned over and Dragon rolled him up with an inside cradle. A rollup finish wouldn’t be illogical after all of Dragon’s offense failed to make up for the size difference and Dragon was left with no choice but to try to sneak a win and get out with his skull and spine intact. But it just seemed from my vantage point that they were going for something else and resorted to the rollup finish when it didn’t work out, so I don’t really know how to connect the finish to the rest of the match. Even with the finish I don’t quite get it was a very good match, and probably my favorite on the show. They didn’t do anything especially complicated, but what they did progressed logically. The simple but brutal offense employed by Joe at all times and Dragon at most times was appropriate given the escalating hatred in this feud that’s now spanned three ROH matches, including the four-way from December. Maybe it’s just the finish that’s given me this impression, but this match seems to beg for another rematch. I just hope they do it in my neck of the woods.
You know that part up there where I said "second half"? Yeah, this review is going to have three halves. I'm not so much bad at math as I am slow at writing.
Paul London, babyface extraordinaire! Xavier, the Champ! Mikey Whipwreck, shitty wrestling teacher! Joe Bradley, fan of public transportation! And some more!
Anyone who can figure out where the new title of this page came from without just plugging it into google gets imaginary internet bonus points.
Anyway, onto my Saturday night/birthday. I left the house around 3:30 or so for the Edison train station to catch a 4:42 train to Penn Station in New York. I had never been to this train station before and apparently drove right past it on my first try, before turning around, asking a guy at a gas station and finally getting there around 4:30. Got into New York around 5:30 and found out that the E train I was planning to ride for most of my journey to Queens wasn't running from here in the afternoon this weekend. A sign told me to take some train to West 4th street and take the F from there to get to Queens Boulevard. I did that, but after getting on the F, the train stopped at Penn Station. Why didn't the sign just tell me to get on the F from there? Anyway, I got to the station where I was to get off and started walking in a random direction, following a couple of guys who were carrying signs who I figured were going to the show and might know where it was. After a couple blocks, they realized they were going in the wrong direction, I asked them if they were going to the Elk's Lodge and we walked together the other way and made it to the building, probably around 7:10 for the 7:30 bell time.
The building is bigger than the Murphy Recreation Center, where ROH runs in Philly, and looks the same as it did when ECW ran there, as far as I can tell. I thought about sitting up on the balcony, but decided for a floor seat instead. Most of the seats in the building were filled from what I could see, and people are estimating 700 or 800 people were there, which seems accurate, and which would be ROH's largest crowd to date. The crowd was pretty hot the whole night, at least when it made sense to be. The show kicked off with...
Chad Collyer vs. EZ Money vs. Michael Shane vs. Colt Cabana [One Fall To A Finish]
This was a perfect way to start off the show. Not a spectacular match, but very solid work, with constant action and good build to the bigger spots through the course of the match. All the guys were over with the crowd and the presence of Shane, the only heel in the match, added some story to the match to elevate it above the level of a standard spotfest. Collyer looked good and while he still looks like the charisma-deficient love child of Dean Malenko and Crash Holly, he did show more variety of offense in this match than he did in his previous ROH match with American Dragon, which was contested almost entirely on the mat. That approach obviously wouldn't have fit in with this kind of match so I'm glad he was able to do more and just use the matwork for the initial feeling out portion of the match and for a near fall late in the match with the Texas Cloverleaf. Money brought his standard highspots intended to be done by smaller men than he, and hit most of them well aside from a blown handspring elbow that brought out the dreaded "You fucked up!" chant from the annoying ECW fans contingent in attendance. Money did annoy me on occasion when he decided it was more important to pop the crowd by making a funny face or gesture than sell the submission hold he was in, but in this kind of match, it wasn't too big a deal and didn't detract from the match, so I'll let it slide. Shane's heelishness and less than flashy moveset proved a decent foil for the three babyfaces. The best near fall in the finishing sequence came when Money hit a slingshot double clothesline, taking out Collyer and Cabana, only to be rolled up by Shane from behind, with a grab of the tights and everything. Very believable that it could be the finish, but also a completely plausible kickout. Cabana was solid as another babyface presence with some good highspots for near falls. He's shown he's capable of more than that, but he was able to adjust to this style well. The finishing sequence may have been somewhat on the long side, but unusually for this style of indy match, there wasn't much in the way of finisher killing. There were four guys in the ring, and they were used appropriately, as moves that were too deadly to be kicked out of had their pins broken up by one of the other guys. If only some people later on the card could learn to do that. Money wins with I don't remember what to cap off an effective opener.
Fast Eddie, Don Juan & the debuting Hot Stuff Sean Hernandez (with Rudy Boy Gonzalez) vs. The Carnage Crew of Loc, Devito & the debuting Masada
This was short, but solid enough action to maintain the crowd heat. Hernandez is a monster of a man, and his offense all looked good, but I wonder if ROH really needs another large bald guy who doesn't sell. Eddie & Don Juan did a good enough job hitting their highspots and Hernandez was used effectively as the recipient of the hot tag. The Carnage Crew were inoffensive but unspectacular. Masada looked like a fairly solid addition to the team. I'd like to see more of both him and Hernandez before I really pass judgment on either. This ended on a DQ with the Carnage Crew breaking out the ubiquitous hubcaps. This finish failed to sap the life out of the crowd, as the subsequent beatdown of Rudy Boy and his students was interrupted by the return of the original Christopher Street Connection of Buff-E and Mase, bringing all of their homosexual-flavored offense to clean house to the delight of the crowd. The reason the CSC are great, as opposed to offensive, is that the fans refuse to boo them. Once ROH realized this and started booking them as faces, as opposed to booking them as the target of gay-bashing that the crowd was supposed to love, it was all good. People just aren't going to boo a tag team coming out to "Y.M.C.A.", attacking their opponents with confetti cannons and kissing in the middle of the ring. The crowd ate this all up.
Jay Briscoe vs. Mark Briscoe
This was a solid match, but not on the level of their previous match in August. It was announced as their "last match ever", but it really didn't have the epic feel of a final encounter. It felt like Just Another Briscoe Match, which isn't a bad thing, but wasn't quite what I was expecting. They started off with some good counter wrestling, the upshot of which ended up being Jay working on Mark's leg for a while. Jay sold it all right, but it unfortunately didn't go anywhere. Mark went back to it once a little later in the match with a half Boston Crab, but after that, it was entirely forgotten about by both guys. The best thing going on for most of the match was Jay constantly going for his finisher, the Jay Driller (double underhook piledriver) with Mark fighting like hell to get out of it every time. The move was put over as deadly and both guys knew it. Jay knew it was how he was going to win the match and Mark knew enough to not want to be anywhere near in position to take the move. And then, that kinda fell apart when Mark decided to try and hit the move himself, and did it with ease, and Jay responded by kicking out at two. It really made no sense given the buildup of the move for the rest of the match. And then to completely wipe the thought of the Jay Driller as a deadly move out of our minds, Jay decides he needs to hit three of them in a row before trying to pin Mark. After the buildup for most of the match, one Jay Driller would have made an effective finish. Three was just excessive. Given that this was really the only narrative element that played out throughout the entire match, it was disappointing to see it disregarded so emphatically at the finish. There was some good work in this match, but they didn't do anything to make it seem special, like a feud-ending match should. After the match they hugged, and they'll apparently start working as a tag team now that Mark is old enough to wrestle in Pennsylvania. They should make for a decent addition to the tag division, but I do wonder what will become of Mark's membership in Christopher Daniels' heel stable.
Steve Corino (with Simply Luscious and Samoa Joe) vs. Homicide
My expectations for this match weren't too high, other than hoping that Homicide might show me something in his first significant singles match in ROH. Corino came out before the match and did his thing on the mic. He insulted the crowd, which apparently makes him a great "old school" heel, as opposed to a cheap heat machine. He was accompanied by Luscious and Joe, and also introduced a couple of new members of his nameless group. The first, to the surprise of no one, was Michael Shane. The next, to the surprise of maybe a few people, was CW Anderson. And this is where the booking gets really stupid. CW Anderson was fired, or maybe "fired" from ROH last year (I'm not sure how legit it was at the time), ostensibly for taking an ROH booking on the same night he was already booked in Japan. He and ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky traded words on the internet and then a few shows ago, Anderson showed up in the ring to cut a "shoot" promo, with all the Russo-esque trappings that implies. So now they're running a stupid "shoot" angle where Anderson "doesn't really work here" and is apparently just wrestling for free because he likes fighting so much. This has as little logic as your average "shoot" angle, as trying to make this seem more "real" than the rest of the card devalues the rest of the angles, rather than making this one particularly interesting. Corino closed by saying he had one more spot in his group and had his eye on Low Ki.
I guess the match was better than the booking, but it still wasn't particularly special. Homicide hit a lot of big spots early with little to no build, and Corino responded by not really selling the effect of numerous head drops throughout the course of the match. Corino's offense wasn't particularly interesting, nor was any of it particularly well executed. All of this made for a relatively boring match that the crowd didn't really get into. At one point Homicide sat Corino on a chair on the outside and went inside to go for a tope suicida into Corino. Corino moved and Homicide hit the chair and was pretty much out for the rest of the match. Corino got him back in the ring and tried a few submission holds before finally winning it with a cobra clutch. And then the shit pretended to hit the fan.
Throughout the match, Corino's posse were at ringside jawing with the fans, and in particular a group of guys who I later found out were some local indy wrestlers who are students of Homicide. These guys jumped the railing and started a big brawl around the ring, which brought some wrestlers out of the back to quell the disturbance. A good deal of the crowd bought into this riot, and it was certainly a chaotic scene. There weren't many security guards involved in trying to break it up, and I saw some wrestlers throwing what looked to be worked punches, so I didn't really buy it. It was a reasonable facsimile of a riot, though, and with numerous fans buying into it, it could have easily gotten out of control and evolved into a really dangerous situation. Corino's group jawing with regular fans just like they were with the plants in the audience certainly could have resulted in some actual fans jumping the rail to get involved. ROH is trying desperately to put over Corino and his group over as a big deal and something different from a standard heel stable, but this was a stupid angle that left a lot of fans pissed off, with no real upside. It could certainly have been worse, but as it was, this match and the subsequent angle took the life out of the crowd as we went to intermission.
The second half of this review! CW Anderson refuses to go away! CM Punk finds a new opponent! American Dragon and Samoa Joe try to reconfigure the shape of each other's skulls! New York City loves Paul London! Mikey Whipwreck is a shitty trainer! And more!
I haven't posted anything since Friday. I'm going to post post something on the ROH show later. Briefly: A lot of stuff was good. A couple things were awful. I will elaborate later.
Also, I will try to come up with a less shitty title for this blog. I expect to fail in this endeavor.
That's all for right now.
Because I watch my share of ESPN (and not a second more), I've been hearing about the whole issue of black head coaches in the NFL over and over again. And I don't disagree that discrimination has probably run wild in the NFL throughout it's history, just like in every other segment of American society. And it's probably still going on in some places on some level to this day. But what I don't quite understand is exactly how many black head coaches the NFL has to have before we can consider this problem solved. Black people make up about 12 or 13 percent of the population of this country. At this point in time, 9.375% of NFL teams have a black head coach. If the 49ers' blind stumble through the dark head coaching closet nets them a black head coach, that'll be up to 12.5%, or about the same percentage as blacks make up in the general American population. A lot of people would be pretty happy if 12.5% of Congress was black, and yet I somehow doubt that percentage among NFL head coaches would satisfy anyone. Should it? And if not, why not?
Okay, there's the fact that about 60% of players in the NFL are black, and that's presumably the result of people getting jobs because they deserve them. The racial percentages among the players of the NFL are clearly not in line with those of the population of this country, but I don't see any way to argue that this is a result of discimination. Now if the argument is that the percentage of black coaches should more closely resemble that of black players, I'm not sure I understand that. If NFL head coaches were drawn exclusively from the pool of former players, I suppose one might expect that the racial percentages among coaches would resemble those among players. But is this a reasonable expectation? The skills required to be a coach certainly differ from those required to be a player, and with the percentage of black players so unrelated to the percentage of black people in the US, I don't see any reason to expect it to bear much resemblance to the percentage of black coaches. And anyway, being a former player is not necessarily a qualification for being a head coach, so I don't see any reason the percentage of black head coaches should resemble the percentage of black players.
So, what should be the percentage of teams with a black head coach in the NFL? I think most people would agree that there is no set percentage that would suddenly make everything okay were the NFL to achieve it. Once it can be said honestly that there are no longer qualified black head coaching candidates being discriminated against in the hiring process due to their race, I would say the problem has been solved. There will always be black people who could be considered qualified for a head coaching job who don't have such a job. There are more than 32 people in the world qualified for the job, but there are only 32 jobs. This means qualified candidates of every race will be without a job at all times. When a job opens up, if candidates are considered based on their qualifications, regardless of their race, all will be well. I'm not sure the NFL is on this track now.
The Cowboys and Lions have both recently hired white coaches without seriously considering any black candidates. This is in violation of league rules, although the Lions seem to be the only ones getting in trouble for it. And while the league rules are well intentioned, in these particular cases, I don't see either team as having done anything wrong. Parcells and Mariucci were clearly the most qualified of the available candidates, based on their experience and history of winning. Of course, this creates a vicious cycle, where black coaches have a difficult time gaining the experience that would make them qualified for the job because they don't have the experience to get the job in the first place. But I just don't see how two frachises in desperate need of a good coach can be faulted for going with the relatively sure thing rather than taking a chance on an unknown quantity.
Basically, I'm just saying that there's no specific number of black head coaches that would suddenly signify equality in the NFL. And forcing teams to interview black candidates that they have no intention of hiring isn't the way to get there either. After decades of discrimination, attaining equality in NFL hiring practices will take time. Getting more black head coaches while there are still very few black assistant coaches, general managers or owners will be rather difficult, and it certainly won't mean the end of racial disparities in the NFL as a whole. Trying to get more blacks at these positions, whether by encouraging teams to hire black assistant coaches and front office personnel, or by actively seeking out black owners when a team is for sale, might be a better way to really solve the problem of inequality in the NFL.
On a side note, why doesn't anyone complain about the lack of Asian or hispanic head coaches? Aren't these minorities underrepresented, even moreso than blacks?
Feel free to contact me and tell me I'm an idiot. Spring training starts next week, so I'll start working this page into the groove of All Baseball, All the Time soon.
This Saturday is my 23rd birthday, and I will spend it trying to find my way to the Elk's Lodge in Queens, NY for Ring Of Honor's first anniversary show. And because this page could use some content, I am going to preview the show for your amusement and mine. On paper it seems like perhaps the most stacked show in the short history of the company, despite the notable absence of top heel Christopher Daniels and the lack of any major additions to the ROH roster. To the card...
#1 Contender's Trophy Match - Winner Gets A Title Shot That Night: Low Ki vs. Paul London vs. AJ Styles
Low Ki was involved in probably the best three way match I have ever seen on ROH's debut show a year ago with Daniels and the American Dragon. I don't expect this to match up to the quality of that one, or be the best match on this card, but Ki's presence in the match leads me to expect a similar styled match to last year's match. So it should be action packed and without the long periods of one guy laying on the ground selling while the other two fight amongst themselves that often mar traditional three way matches. Styles and London are no Dragon and Daniels, but they're both very capable of fast paced high flying work, which I would expect a lot of in this sort of match. This will presumably be in the first half of the show and I expect a fun match that the crowd will be hot for.
ROH Title Match: Xavier (champion) vs. winner of #1 Contender's Trophy three-way
This match of course depends on who winds up winning the three way, so I guess I'll have to predict a winner in that. Low Ki is the obvious choice, having lost the belt via nefarious means to Xavier back in September. London is a potential dark horse, as he and Xavier had perhaps the best match of Xavier's title reign in December, the end of which left the fans chanting "rematch." Both are quite capable of having a good match with Xavier, despite the somewhat disappointing match between Ki and Xavier in which the title changed hands. I would personally prefer to see London in this match, simply because he is more of a classic babyface than Low Ki and that is the kind of wrestler that Xavier works best against. Either way, this should be a solid main event with a crowd hot for a title change. Ki is perhaps the more rightful champ, being the more established star and the former champ. I personally wouldn't mind seeing London pull the upset. Either way, I expect a good title match, with a probable title change.
Strong Style Rematch: American Dragon Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe
Yeeeeaaaahhhh. I've been waiting for this match ever since Joe showed up in ROH in October, having heard great things about their work together in California. First the match was booked for the early December show, but wound up being cancelled when Joe had to go to Japan. Then it was booked again in January, but that show was in Pittsburgh. I am quite stoked to finally be seeing it on this show. Dragon is the lord thy God of indy wrestling. And Joe is a large, angry man. They will pound the shit out of each other enough to amuse the crowd, and will likely also have the awesome deep storytelling going on to amuse me. This is the match I am most looking forward to on the night.
Civil War: Jay Briscoe vs. Mark Briscoe
The really weird thing about this match is that they've suddenly announced this as the last match between the two brothers in ROH. This is despite the fact that they're both only eighteen years old. The fact that they've only had one previous match in ROH, and that was only six months ago. The fact that their first major match against each other was less than two years ago in CZW. Having this be their last match would lead one to believe that they might "settle their differences" and decide to add some life to ROH's stagnant tag team division now that Mark is old enough to legally wrestle in the state of Pennsylvania. But Mark very recently joined Daniels' heel stable "The Prophecy", which has recently lost two members in Samoa Joe and Simply Luscious, so I don't see him turning face. And Jay turning heel and reuniting with his brother would just be odd.
Bizarre storylines aside, there's a wrestling match here. And probably a very good one. These two always look far better against each other than they do against anyone else. Their match in August was excellent and blew away their previously celebrated CZW match from 2001. With the whole "final conflict" angle, I would imagine they'll be pulling out all the proverbial stops here. That could mean putting a match even better than their August match. Or it could mean kicking out of a million headdrops to pop the crowd. Based on the relative restraint they showed in their last match, I'm going to guess the former and be quite pleased about it. The kickass card rolls on.
Grudge Match: Steve Corino vs. Homicide
I don't know quite what to expect from this other than excessive violence. Whether I'll mean that in a good way or a bad way remains to be seen. Homicide hasn't gotten the chance to show off what he can do in a singles match in ROH yet, so I don't know quite what to expect of him. And I don't know which Corino will show up. The really annoying one who spends more time jawing with the fans than wrestling? Or the tolerable one who worked a damn fine tag match with Low Ki against Masato Tanaka and Shinjiro Ohtani in November? All I really know to expect is lots of blood. This could be a mess, or it could be a pleasant surprise. Here's hoping both guys step it up for the big show.
The Mother Of All Scrambles: SAT, Hit Squad, Divine Storm & ??? vs. Jody Fleisch, Izzy, Dixie, Slim J, Deranged, Angel Dust & Hydro with Slugger and Yeyo
I don't know who the question marks will be. I don't know who half the guys on the second team are. I know this match will be spotty as all hell, but maybe fun in its way. It could be a giant clusterfuck, or it could be a smooth fun match full of high flying and no-selling. I predict lots of people will like this match more than I will.
Special Challenge: CM Punk vs. Reckless Youth (the debut of his new name and gimmick)
This could be really good, though I don't know quite what to expect from Youth's new gimmick. It is probably a smart idea to drop the "Youth" from his name, given how long he's been around the indies. These guys are both very good wrestlers, and had a good match together in the 2002 Jersey J Cup. I will be interested to see if they play off the fact that Punk cracked his skull diving to the floor in that match. It would be a decent narrative element that at least some of the crowd would probably pick up on. This should be a very solid match.
One-fall To A Finish Four-way: Colt Cabana vs. EZ Money vs. Michael Shane vs. Chad Collyer
Now there's an odd grouping. Chad Collyer seems particularly out of place. What's the mat-centric Malenko trainee to do in a match like this? This is going to be the opening match on the card, so I expect it to be spotty and fast paced to get the crowd going. Cabana's the best of this bunch, but they're all capable wrestlers in their own way. If it's not too much of a bizarre clash of styles it could be a fun, decent match.
Odds and ends: Loc & Devito are bringing their hubcaps, Alexis Laree, Simply Luscious, Allison Danger, Trinity, the return of Rudy Boy Gonzalez and his students and more!
Loc & Devito suck. I have nothing to say on the women, really. I can't comment on Gonzalez's students, not knowing which ones he's bringing. So this is basically nothing of value.
And finally, it seems like a distinct possibility that Raven might show up. I don't know what exactly he'd do, but it could be interesting. On a show with this much good wrestling, I can live with a talking segment or two.
Overall, looks like potentially ROH's best show yet, which is saying something given the quality of some of their shows last year. A fine way to spend a Saturday night indeed.
I tried to post the following as the description of my blog, but it was 476 characters too long, so I'm posting it here:
This is my new blog. It is replacing the blog I used to have before I got lazy and stopped updating it. It contains me talking about stuff that interests me, like baseball and wrestling and music and why the Yankees suck. Those are just examples. I am interested in other things. I am quite the half-assed renaissance man. This description is bound to be longer than many of my blog's entries. I am right now listening to The Doors' Waiting For The Sun album, specifically "My Wild Love." Interesting tidbits like that about me may or may not be contained in this blog. I'm sure it will be fabulous, though. Until I get lazy and stop editing it again. That event would probably coincide with a Mets losing streak, if they weren't going to be so awesome this year. But that is the kind of thing that would theoretically lead to me getting lazy about this. Go Mets! Jose Reyes motherfuckers! Maybe! Go read the blog. It's bound to be less interesting than this.