Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Tomorrow is the biggest day of the American pro wrestling year, as it's time for Wrestlemania XIX. (And thank goodness they dropped that silly X-7, X-8 crap and went back to plain old Roman numerals.) So, with that in mind, I'm going to preview the big show, attempting to predict the quality, result and card placement of the ten matches on the show. Let's start at the beginning...
Hold on, the official Wrestlemania website is an enormous pain in the ass, as they have to use complicated Flash for everything, instead of good old-fashioned HTML, so I have to go elsewhere for a match list...
Oh, there we go. It's just really slow. On with it...
World Tag Team Championship: Lance Storm & Chief Morley vs. Rob Van Dam & Kane
This match isn't listed on the WM site anymore, as it's not actually part of the WM card anymore, but it's still happening on Heat, so it's the obvious place to start. I don't have particularly high hopes for the quality of this, as RVD and Kane aren't particularly good individually, and don't look any better as a team. Morley & Storm could make a good team, but Storm has looked less than stellar lately and Morley isn't so great as to carry it all by himself. I expect this will be something of a mess with RVD & Kane coming away with the Championships.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio
They seem to like to put cruiserweight matches at the top of the crowd to get the crowd hyped up, so I will guess this will start off WM proper. It's a pretty easy call that this will be a good match, as Matt has been fantastic lately as a wrestler and a heel and Rey will make a good babyface opponent for him. I think this is a potentially big feud for the Cruiserweight Championship, and it's really only just begun, so I think they'll stretch it out a bit by having Matt retain here by nefarious means.
WWE Tag Team Championship: Team Angle vs. Los Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit & Rhyno
This match could go later in the card, but I think with so many big matches on the show there won't be too much room for it there. And this is sure to be full of action, so they wouldn't want to burn the crowd out by putting it back-to-back with some of the main events that will have big heat. I'm not a big fan of three-ways in general, and if we're comparing matches to this one, the Benoit/Angle vs. Rey/Edge vs. Guerreros three-way from Survivor Series, which was probably the weakest match of the feud between those teams, seems like a pretty apt comparison. This match should still be a very good spotfest if nothing else and should be a crowd-pleaser. I think Benoit & Rhyno will put it out, just because they don't seem ready to give Benoit the main-event singles push he really deserves.
WWE Women's Championship: Victoria vs. Jazz vs. Trish
Last year they threw the Women's Title match on after the Hogan/Rock match to let the crowd calml down before the main event. It didn't really work, as it just started a steady stream of fans out of the arena, but it did give me time to go buy a t-shirt, which was nice. There are so many matches on this card which look likely to have big heat that I think they'll throw this one on earlier before we get into the bigger matches. I am still no fan of three-ways, but this will at least be better than last year's, with Victoria being a significant upgrade over Lita. I think Trish finally gets her climactic win over Victoria here.
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho
Only on this card would this match be so early. This is one of the matches I'm looking forward to most, as I think Jericho will be very fired up going against one of his idols and Michaels will at least bump big for him. The buildup to this has been great, with Jericho cutting some really tremendous promos. I think this is a potential show-stealer if Shawn brings his working boots. And it will be an absolute crime if Jericho doesn't win.
World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H vs. Booker T
It seems that when they have two World Title matches on one show, they tend to stick one of them near the middle of the show to spread them out. I think this one is clearly the weaker of the two and the one with less storyline going in, so it goes here. HHH has looked somewhat better lately, though still not comparing to his 2000 fluke, I mean peak, year. The crowd should be hot for Booker T. Hopefully Goldust will be silent in supporting his friend. This could be a solid match, or it could be a clusterfuck full of runins and sledgehammers that surprise no one but Jim Ross. It will be a crime if Booker doesn't win, but I am predicting that Booker T will be seen at a Seattle police station late at night attempting to press charges.
Underaker & Nathan Jones vs. Big Show & A-Train
This is another of those matches designed to let the fans calm down or go get something to eat. It will be the worst match on the card. Nathan Jones will blow a spot or five. Undertaker will pin someone.
WWE Championship: Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
Yeah, I don't think they're going to end the show with a World Title match this time. I'd rather they did, but I think they're going to try to avoid repeating last year's show at all costs. And also, who needs guys who can wrestle when you've got big stars like Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon? Anyway, the only thing preventing this from being awesome is the status of Kurt Angle's neck. I figure he'll do a couple of things he really shouldn't do, but they'll still keep it on the mat for most of the match and wind up having an excellent match. Brock really has to win this, as Angle needs to go have surgery. I just hope he makes it back next year.
Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon
They just can't put this on last. They've been building it up more than all the other matches put together over the last week, but they just can't. I predict an overly long brawl with lots of weapons, blood and runins. I could certainly see Vince winning via screwjob, but I think Hogan will win, just because I don't think they want to end the show on two heel wins. Speaking of which...
The Rock vs. Stone Cold
I don't think this will be as good as their last WM match, but the Rock is probably a better wrestler now than he was then, and Austin's basically just unproven since his comeback, as opposed to deteriorated, so maybe they still have a great one in them. I think Rock wins this one to break his streak of losses to Austin, just because he's been made to look the weakest of the two during the buildup. It will be pretty depressing to see Goldberg accomplish what Austin couldn't, though. Downward sprial...dying days...
Overall, this looks like a very good show with a few potentially great matchups. All the matchups have some questions, whether they be injury issues or just age, but if everyone steps up for the big show, it could be one memorable night. I don't expect it to give me much optimism regarding the future of the company, though.
I very often post things on this site without proofreading them. In fact, the longer it is, the less likely I am to have proofread it. So, if you saw some typos or sentences that didn't quite make sense in the first part of this review, that is the cause. I promise to consider proofreading this before I post it.
Homice & Da Hit Squad vs. Samoa Joe & CW Anderson & Jack Victory
Jack Victory. It's like the undead corpse of ECW reached up through the ground and grabbed me by the ankle. But I digress... Victory was replacing Michael Shane, who apparently was dehydrated and had a stomach virus. Luckily for me, this was really more of an angle than a match, and therefore I don't have to review it! I'll just tell you that there was another stupid "riot", although there was no danger of anyone buying this one as real, and the match was a short, chaotic brawl, which ended in a No Contest. And thus, I still don't have any idea if Homicide is as good as everyone says he is. There's good news on that front for next month's show, but I'll leave that for the end. In short, this match isn't worth more than a paragraph of my time or yours.
The Carnage Crew (Loc & DeVito) vs. Mase & Hotstuff Hernandez (accompanied by Buff E)
Hernandez is a giant behemoth of a man, and I don't mean he's fat, he's just a huge individual. So his coming out with a blue feather boa around his neck was pretty amusing. This wasn't much of anything, but Mase and Hernandez playing a comically mismatched duo, like Al Snow and Steve Blackman, but with more overt homosexuality, was fun enough. The only thing I really remember about the match was Hernandez doing an absolutely monstrous running plancha to the outside. And then Mase got pinned with a piledriver off of the second rope. Perfeclty fine comedy fare to bring us back from intermission.
AJ Styles & The Amazing Red vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe [ROH Tag Team Championship]
This match was part of the progression of spotfests that I alluded to earlier. This, like the SAT match earlier, was mostly about wowing the crowd with flashy moves, but they at least built to the moves somewhat, and there wasn't too much in the way of finisher killing, so it was a significant improvement. Still, the appeal of the match lay mostly in the spectacular nature of the spots, and thus I won't spend too many words discussing it. I will say that that the Briscoes' execution looked tenative at times, but this was their first ever tag team match in the state of Pennsylvania (wink, nudge) so I will cut them a bit of slack. They had a decent spotfest that the crowd ate up, but which reminded me of flashy ECW matches that got raves at the time, but were short on substance, and thus haven't aged well. Fun to watch live, nothing you need to go out of your way to get a tape of. The finish saw Red hurricanrana one of the Briscoes off of the top rope into the waiting arms of Styles, who then delivered the Styles Clash. It looked great and the crowd went nuts, but given that Styles had to stop the Briscoe's momentum completely after catching him in order to set up and hit the Styles Clash, the hurricanrana didn't really accomplish much outside of adding flashiness.
This match did serve to illustrate an interesting point about AJ Styles. He seems to always wrestle to the level of his opponent, which leads to a wide variance in the quality of his matches. In with this gang of CZW veterans, he brings all his flashiest and most complicated spots. But when he's in with someone like Low Ki or the American Dragon, he proves very carriable and willing to ditch his more complicated or cliched spots in order to tell the story they want to tell. He looks perfectly natural in a more mat-intensive match and that led me to rave about his ability the first time I saw him in ROH (against Low Ki). That match was certainly flashy at times, moreso that Dragon/Styles, but he still seemed to display the ability to work a relatively smart match. Whether he's just willing to have whatever kind of match his opponent wants to have, or he actively tries to wrestle to the strengths of his opponent, I don't know. But it is an interesting phenomenon, and a reminder, to me at least, to predict the quality of AJ Styles matches based more on the quality of his opponents than on his presence.
Low Ki vs. Jody Fleisch
And this was basically the last step in the evolution of the spotfests throughout the night. With Fleisch present, this was obviously going to be flashy as all get-out, but this match did bring more flow and build to the big spots, as well as more selling, than any of the spotfests that preceded it. But what really struck me about this match was how much it seemed like some sort of ECW on TNN midcard-beyond. Specifically, it seemed like a better and more spectacular version of your standard Tajiri vs. Highflyer match. The Psicosis match specifically came to mind, but not having watched that one in a while, I can't point to any specific similarities. But it had a souped-up version of your standard ECW opening of inconsequential, but really cool-looking matwork and counter-wrestling. And after each such sequence, the two men would jump to their feet and stare at each other, soaking in the crowd's applause while Chris Lening shuddered, not knowing why, three thousand miles away. They did two sequences like this, and even injected a little comedy, which I would expect out of Tajiri, but not Low Ki, as Fleisch tried to respond to Low Ki's brutal kicks in kind, to which Low Ki responded just by grinning at him. After this, it was basically Fleisch's flashiness vs. Low Ki's brutality with the enormity of the spots being ramped up throughout the match. Low Ki of course brought flashiness of his own, but it was with his strikes and suplexes that he really gained his advantage over Fleisch. I must mention the most spectacular spot that Fleisch very nearly pulled off. Low Ki was standing in the middle of the ring and Fleisch was on the apron. Fleisch went for a springboard shooting star press into the ring, having already hit one to the outside of the ring earlier in the match, which was amazing enough, but he attempted to land face down on Low Ki's shoulders and grab his head for a tornado DDT. He didn't land quite cleanly and it didn't work out quite right, but it was an outrageous idea and worked well enough that he did wind up spiking Low Ki more or less on the head. And Low Ki sold this huge, whereas if his last name were Maximo, he might have kicked out at two and popped up to run the ropes and hit a dive to the outside. But in the end, things came down to a battle on the top turnbuckle, which nearly saw both men slip off and fall to the floor, eventually won by Low Ki, who hit a brutal top rope Ki Krusher for the three count. All in all, it felt very much like an ECW spotfest, although a very good one and one without any silly table or chair spots.
Raven & Colt Cabana vs. CM Punk & Ace Steel
Before the match, there was some lenghty but excellent mic work from the newly heelish CM Punk extolling the virtues of the Straight Edge lifestyle and chastising the crowd and its lifestyle of substance abuse, as represented by Raven. Raven came out and responded and while his mic work didn't quite match that of Punk, it was still good stuff.
The match itself was basically a formula tag with some weapons added in for the ECW twist. It went a bit longer than it probably should have and the crowd began to lose interest after a while. It's not that the work was bad, but it wasn't anything spectacular, and following two extremely flashy spotfests, a match this long wasn't likely to play well with the crowd. I assume the bookers expected Raven's popularity to keep the crowd hot for the match, but the length of the match as well as its generally ordinary quality served to burn out the crowd somewhat. Raven pinned Steel with the DDT, which he's continued calling "The Raven Effect".
After the match, Punk backed off on confronting Raven and Raven repeatedly DDTed Steel in an attempt to get Punk to get in the ring with him. Punk eventually did, but Cabana turned on Raven, explaining that Punk is his best friend and Steel is his trainer, and the three beat Raven down in the middle of the ring. They should make for a good stable, though I don't know who Raven will bring as back up. I hope there aren't too many more ECW retreads on their way in.
Xavier vs. Samoa Joe [ROH Championship]
Joe entered the match selling a neck injury, which I assume occured in the match/riot earlier. This gave Xavier something of an opening to bring the bigger man down to his size. And they did play up the size disparity pretty effectively as Xavier used unusual amounts of high-flying in addition to neck-based attacks (and in one case, both at once, as a tope suicida turned into a tornado DDT on the floor). Joe sold this very well to make the playing field seem more even and make it appear that Xavier had a chance to slay the giant. And of course Joe used his size and brutality to gain the upper hand. They worked this story well in this somewhat short match (around 11 minutes, I believe). But in the end, Xavier's crafty assault wasn't enough to overcome Joe's power, and Joe followed up some nasty knees to the head with a rear naked choke, choking Xavier into unconsciousness and winning the title.
I was somewhat disappointed in that Paul London's excellent chase of Xavier didn't get to have a proper conclusion, though a Tag Title win probably would have been used as such at the previous show had London been able to wrestle. But Joe is an excellent choice for Champion, as not only is he one of the top wrestlers on the ROH roster, but he's the only real "big man" among the top of the card wrestlers, so he has the ability to provide a great chase for a smaller babyface or build up the credibility of the title with a series of decisive victories. There have been some questionable booking decisions on recent ROH shows, but Joe as Champion will prove to be a good one in the long run, I think.
So, overall this was a very solid show, with Daniels/Williams being the one thing you should really do whatever you can to get a hold of. The next show is on April 12th, and I'll have a more detailed preview of it in as it approaches, but right now I'll just note a few things. Low Ki vs. Paul London and CM Punk vs. BJ Whitmer were among the first matches announced and should both be very good. Dusty Rhodes, Homicide & "his crew" vs. CW Anderson, Jack Victory & "some bar room brawlers" in an "I Quit Bunkhouse Riot Not Booked By ROH" frightens me. And just today, not only was it announced that the American Dragon Bryan Danielson has been added to the show, pleasing me significantly, but also Homicide will finally get a singles match against a good opponent, as he takes on Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe takes on Hotstuff Hernandez in a non-title match. This show is shaping up to be another good one with some good stuff we haven't seen before, including the ROH debut of "Reckless Youth" Tom Carter.
My travel to Philadelphia for Ring Of Honor's show on Satuday was without incident, so I'll just get right into the review.
BJ Whitmer vs. Matt Stryker vs. Dixie vs. Alex Arion [One Fall To A Finish]
This was a fine opener. For most of it, Whitmer, Stryker and Arion just brought your generic indy mat wrestling, with Dixie coming in on occasion to add a bit of character and comedy to the proceedings. This was perfectly fine, and I'll take ordinary mat wrestling over high flying with no regard for selling or fundamentals and day of the week, so I was satisfied. After a while, Whitmer began to distinguish himself a bit with some nice strikes. Dixie played the role of flashy comedy jobber, which worked well in small doses and with the other guys being solid enough wrestlers to not let him get out of control with the spottiness. Then after a while, they somewhat abruptly went into a near-fall section with each guy hitting a credible, but not outrageous, finishing move and having the pin broken up by someone. Fairly soon after that, Whitmer hit a nasty wrist-clutch exploder suplex on Dixie for the win. The opening segment was fairly basic and the finishing segment was somehwat rushed, and neither Stryker nor Arion showed much of a character, but this was a perfectly acceptable opener and the crowd appreciated it, so it worked well enough in all respects.
Then Gary Michael Capetta came out to once again play the role of Mic Stand, this time for Mikey Whipwreck to explain why he turned on his students in February. He called the SAT and Quiet Storm out and gave a rather lame explanation, calling them "geeks" and "squares" long enough for Izzy, Deranged and Angel Dust to attack them from behind, leading to...
The SAT (Jose & Joel Maximo) & Quiet Storm vs. Izzy & Deranged & Angel Dust of Special K
I actually managed to notice that the SAT have their names on their ass, so I could tell which was which. I've since forgotten it and it doesn't really matter. This match was a spotfest (obviously) and a shitty one at that (probably also obviously). Part of the reason the SAT do absolutely nothing for me in their spottiness is that they exhibiting absolutely no character whatsoever. They're just those guys who do some high flying and some head-dropping. Quiet Storm isn't good at wrestling either, but at least he's got the "angry midget" thing going for him. Special K's gimmick is wildly over the top, but that's appropriate for this kind of match. If you're going to skimp on the structure and the selling, you've got to do something to connect with the fans. In spite of those minor potential positives, this match still sucked. It was short and it was a mess and had the absurd finisher-killing I've come to expect from this crowd. One of the Maximos did something like a quintuple-powerbomb, finished off with something resembling a Ganso Bomb. This sequence of course was entirely unrelated to the finish. The finish saw Special K distract the ref while Whipwreck entered the ring and hit the stunner/whippersnapper on all three of his students. This was the worst kind of spotfest, as they were seemingly just doing moves that looked cool to kill time until the finish. The spotfests would get gradually better throughout the evening, luckily enough.
The Backseat Boys (Trent Acid & Johnny Kashmere) vs. The Ring Crew Express (Dunn & Marcos)
This was unannounced and was actually a hell of a lot of fun. If you're unfamiliar with Dunn & Marcos, their gimmick is that they're a couple of really small guys who love 80s hair-metal (they enter to Poison's "Unskinny Bop" and Marcos sports a Guns N' Roses jean vest) who fancy themselves "the top tag team in Ring Of Honor" despite never getting any offense, and always promise to "rock [their opponents] like a hurricane." Anyway, this was fantastic, because they actually got in a bunch of offense and had a real match! Now, I'm of the opinion that if you've seen one Backseats match, you've basically seen them all, or at the very least, you've seen this one, as it was basically just them running off their various super-choreographed sequences and signature moves in under ten minutes. But the reason why this was fun, and the SAT match was boring, is that both teams have massively over-the-top characters, adding much-needed charisma to their repetitive spots and getting the crowd involved in a big way. Also, they don't drop each other on their heads with no regards for selling, but that's another story. Anyway, this match was nothing special, just both teams trading periods of offense and passable selling until the inevitable T-Gimmick for the Backseats' victory. But the Backseats' constant posing and playing to the crowd, which annoys me sometimes, was a lot of fun here, in part because Dunn & Marcos got to respond in kind and were treated like real wrestlers for once. There's not really much more to say on this, and it's probably something that won't be nearly as much fun on tape as live, but live, it was a hell of a good time for a Dunn & Marcos mark like myself. And of course, eschewing the standard post-match handshake for jumping high-fives was the cherry on top.
After the match, the Backseats say they'll be back on 4/12 to warm up for CZW's Best of the Best later that night, and they issue a challenge to ROH's tag teams. I don't think they have anywhere to go but down after how much fun this was, but we'll see.
Doug Williams vs. Christopher Daniels [FWA Champion & ROH #1 Contender's Trophy]
Williams and Daniels have faced each other three times in Ring Of Honor. First, in the fantastic four-way in July to crown the first ROH Champion. Their first singles match was in October and was good, but not of the quality I thought they were capable, based on how good they looked in the four-way and how good they generally look against everyone else. And then they had a good six-man tag in November. But this, this was the match I thought they were capable of and more. It was a fairly simple storyline, but they worked it to perfection. The match started with Williams going for some flash pins and Daniels going outside of the ring to stall. This didn't have all that much connection to the storyline they'd work later in the match, but it established Daniels as something of a cowardly heel in contrast to Williams' role as the aggressor. Williams had the size advantage and proved to be the more powerful striker of the two, as well, so this dynamic was maintained throughout the match.
Early in the match, they did a bit of countering of each other's trademark sequences, building off of their previous encounters. But the main thing that was so simple and worked so well was each of them picking a body part to work on and just tearing it apart. Williams went for Daniels' neck, setting up both his Revolution DDT, which is basically a mid-match nearfall move, and the Chaos Theory German Suplex, which has been established in ROH as his finisher. So he just went to town on Daniels' neck, mostly using his wacky British mat attack to put it in all sorts of uncomfortable positions. And Daniels' selling of this was fantastic. Even on offense, he never stopped selling it, clutching it after every offensive maneuver and never really doing anything that would put any serious strain on his neck. And when on offense, Daniels spent most of his time working over Williams' midsection. Williams' selling of this wasn't quite as demonstrative as Daniels' selling of the neck, in that he wasn't constantly clutching at his ribs during every rest period, but it was still solid enough and he never did anything offense he shouldn't have been able to do in his condition.
For a while I was having trouble figuring out exactly why Daniels was working over the ribs, as his finishers are all more neck-oriented. I supposed he could do the Angel's Wings in a way that the impact was more on the midsection, or perhaps bring the Spicy Drop out of the Curry Man closet, as his opponent usually lands flat on their face in that. But then, late in the match, he hit the double-jump moonsault for a near fall and reminded me that yes, that is one of his moves that he does every match, and I am a moron. It didn't seem like all that credible a near-fall, and I didn't even recognize it as the thing he was working toward until thinking about it later, but it's the best I can figure. There is also the added aspect of wearing down the midsection to try to get the larger man winded more quickly, but I think it was mainly the moonsault he was going for. That the point of Williams' assault seemed more obvious to me, and the assault itself more effective, did reinforce Williams as the aggressor, the one in control of the match with Daniels having to play catch-up and pick his spots more.
Anyway, it was clearer was Williams was going for, and he even teased the Chaos Theory once, with Daniels blocking, to make sure we got it. And in the end, he hit it to a big reaction to win the FWA and the #1 Contender's Tropy, earning him a shot at the ROH Champion (to be determined later in the night) on the April 26th show just outside Pittsburgh. This was one hell of a match and is the kind of thing that makes me willing to sit through all the bad and mediocre that indy wrestling can bring. They didn't have to drop each other on their heads or no-sell a bunch of finishers or come up with some move no one's ever seen before to pop the crowd. They established their characters, built a story logically toward a finish and executed everything well, and the result was an excellent match that the crowd ate up. This match was worth my price of admission and you should get a tape of it. I know I will.
Well, that's about the halfway mark (although technically that's only four of ten matches, I just don't have as much to say about any of the rest of them as I did Daniels/Williams) so I'll call that Part One of this review and return with Part Two another day...
In Part Two:
Nobody cares about another stupid riot angle! Philadelphia loves homosexuality! The Briscoes finally tag in Philly without masks! Low Ki and Jody Fleisch approximate ECW midcards! Raven and CM Punk disagree on the value of controlled substances! Samoa Joe is large and angry! All that and more, when this review continues!
I'll start the ROH review tomorrow, probably, but right now I want to talk about my fantasy baseball team that just drafted. It's a ten team head-to-head league, run by me. For each player, I'll note in which of the draft's 25 rounds I got him, and make some kind of comment on why he's awesome. The draft was done automatically based on each player's rankings of the players.
C: Ivan Rodriguez (Fla, 8th round)
Sure, he's getting older, but he's still clearly one of the top offensive catchers in the game, and I think he's a pretty good pickup this late. He was the fourth catcher selected, also. Piazza was first obviously, and I wish I had him, but Paul LoDuca getting picked in the sixth round seems a bit high. And Jorge Posada was third, which is reasonable.
1B: Todd Helton (Col, 2nd round)
The second first baseman picked, behind that Thome fellow, he'll probably put up monstrous, Coors-assisted numbers again. His home runs dropped off a bit last year, but he still put up an OPS over 1.000, and he's only 29, so he's not likely to hit a major decline yet.
2B: Jose Vidro (Mon, 9th round)
A very good pickup this late, in my opinion. He was the fifth second baseman taken (sixth if you count mutli-position eligible Mark Bellhorn) and I'd take him over Boone or Bellhorn. Bound to ably represent the Expos at the All-Star game again.
3B: Eric Chavez (Oak, 4th round)
I have more third basemen than I know what to do with. He was the second taken in the draft, if you count Albert Pujols. He's definitely worthy of that pick, and he's only 25, so who knows where he could go from here?
SS: Edgar Renteria (StL, 11th round)
Yeah, I missed out on all the AL's big guns (not that I wanted the pretty-boy from the Bronx with the ever-declining numbers, anyway), but he's probably the best of the bunch in the NL and a fine way to round out my infield.
LF: Raul Ibanez (KC, 14th round)
He can play multiple positions, which is a bonus, but he's definitely not the class of my outfield. His numbers have increased significantly each of the last two years, though, and I've got some decent options at LF on the bench if he falters.
CF: Preston Wilson (Col, 10th round)
And of course the important part there is where it says "Col." Not only does Coors inflate power numbers, but it's been known to cut down on strikeouts as well, so Wilson has a chance to put up some big numbers.
RF: Ichiro Suzuki (Sea, 3rd round)
Third round may be a bit high, but he'll get a lot of hits, take some walks and steal some bases.
OF: Austin Kearns (Cin, 15th round)
A good late selection who put up good numbers last year (.315/.410/.500) and is still only 23.
IF: Troy Glaus (Ana, 6th round)
Another of the aforementioned third basemen. Picking two guys at the same position this early is odd, but if they're both this good and I can play them both, it's great. His numbers have declined somewhat, which is troubling and surprising at only 26, but he still hit 30 home runs last year, so even if he doesn't regain his 2000 form, he can still be a more than solid contributor.
My bench consists of Edgardo Alfonzo
, who will be good if healthy, Jeremy Giambi
, who will get more of a chance to do what he can do, which is hit the baseball, in Boston, Adrian Beltre
, who is just excessive on this team, Jose Cruz Jr.
, who I will probably waive before long, Toby Hall
, who'll make a decent backup at catcher, and Jay Gibbons
, who is, shockingly enough, a good young player on the Baltimore Orioles' roster.
SP: Curt Schilling (Ari, 1st round)
Yeah, he's 36 year old. And yeah, he's still great, with little sign of ceasing. The second pitcher taken, behind his teammate, obviously.
SP: Tim Hudson (Oak, 4th round)
Another guy picked behind his more celebrated teammate, and another great pick.
SP: Mark Prior (ChC, 7th round)
This time I got the better of the two on the team. Maybe. A great young prospect poised to really show what he can do.
SP: Joel Pineiro (Sea, 13th round)
Spent some time in the bullpen last year, which was bad news for his numbers, but perhaps good news for him arm.
SP: Josh Beckett (Fla, 13th round)
He had some blister issues last year, but he could do very well this year if he remains healthy.
RP: Mike Williams (Pit, 17th round)
I could question what a team as bad as the Pirates needs a closer for, but he put up good numbers last year, so I'll just hope that continues.
RP: Scott Williamson (Cin, 23rd round)
Good numbers, but he's got some injury issues and may not last too long on my team. If he's healthy, he'll get more save opportunities than in the past.
And on my bench, I've got Vincente Padilla
and likely waiver wire-bound Ismael Valdes
Super-quick ROH thoughts to be expanded upon later:
Very good show. Doug Willams vs. Christopher Daniels was fantastic. Other stuff was good, but less so. Dunn and Marcos got in some offense and it ruled. The SAT still suck. Samoa Joe is your new ROH Champion.
They did it. They really did it. If Goldberg ever gets in the ring with Funaki, I will soooo be shouting obscenities and throwing things. Thank god baseball season is almost here. I'll be able to watch the Mets kick ass, and possibly take names, on Monday or Thursday night while this jackass is doing his thing. Argh.
This Saturday marks Ring Of Honor's return to the Murphy Recreation Center in Philadelphia after a near three month absence, and as usual, I will be there. And, as I did prior to last month's show in New York, I'm going to preview the card here.
ROH Title Match: Samoa Joe vs. Xavier (Champion)
Joe won the #1 Contender's Trophy last week in Boston in a four-way over Homicide, BJ Whitmer and EZ Money. This has the potential to be an excellent match, although it will be something of a stylistic departure from Xavier's recent quality matches. Xavier has played the role of cocky heel Champion who dominates flashy babyface challengers quite well, but that won't really work with Joe, who is sure to lay a pounding on the Champ. It'll be interesting to see if Xavier can reverse roles from the one controlling the majority of the match to the one bumping big for the monster Joe. Looking at this matchup I'm scratching my head to figure out how Xavier could possibly overcome Joe's assault, but I don't really think Joe will or should be the one to finally take the belt from Xavier. Paul London or Low Ki would be a much better choice for that, given the storyline of Xavier's reign thus far. This will be Joe's second match of the night (more on that below), so I suppose Xavier will absorb a tremendous beating but somehow manage to eek out a victory.
FWA Title Match: Doug Williams vs. Christopher Daniels (Champion)
The FWA is a British fed. And it was just announced that the now vacant #1 Contender's Trophy will be up for grabs in this match as well, with the winner getting a shot at the ROH Champion on April 26th in Pittsburgh. Anyway, these two had a good match in October, but I think they've definitely got a better one in them, and it's nice to see them fighting over something better than that silly handshake stipulation. The first match had a somewhat screwy finish with Daniels going over, so I assume Williams will be winning this one and taking the FWA Title back to England with him. He'll presumably bring his usual nasty mat-based assault and Daniels will heel it up bigtime, making for good heat and a very good match.
ROH Tag Team Title Match: Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. AJ Styles & The Amazing Red (Champions)
Styles and Red won the belts last week from Daniels and Xavier after Styles' original partner, Paul London, had to have surgery on his sinus cavity and missed the show. It would be nice for the tag division if they could get the belts on an actual tag team instead of a pair of singles wrestlers for once. I understand not doing it before, as most of the actual tag teams in ROH are pretty weak, but now that Mark Briscoe is old enough to wrestle in Pennsylvania, and has turned face to team with brother Jay, they've actually got a halfway decent tag team to put the belts on. I don't know if they will or should do it here, but it should happen in the near future. Jay and Red have worked together a couple of times in ROH and the results have been generally spotty, with more head-dropping than selling, but this match should at least make for a fun spotfest, and since there isn't one of those clusterfuck Scramble matches booked on this show, I can certainly live with that.
Jody Fleisch vs. Low Ki
When this match was announced, the match that popped into my mind and the minds of many others was the Low Ki/Red match from last June. Low Ki showed that he can work with a small highflyer and produce really exciting results, with the immensely fun kung fu movie style opening and Low Ki working quasi-heel the rest of the match, laying a beating on the tiny, resilient babyface Red. But there are several things different with this match. First off, Fleisch isn't as good or as small as Red. He's rather lanky and his matches often seem excessively choreographed. Also, Fleisch is clearly supposed to be the heel in this match, due to his affiliation with the goofy raver heel stable Special K. This match is part of Low Ki's new quest to "beat some respect" into the Special K guys, so I assume the massive beatdown aspect of the Ki/Red match will be present here, but it will make for a different dynamic given the reversed heel/face structure. I have questions about Fleisch's ability to work heel at all, but it'll be especially unusual for him to be playing the heel while simultaneous getting beaten down and presumably making really flashy comebacks. And Fleisch isn't much on selling, as far as I can tell. All that said, this should still be a fun action-packed match. I'm just not sure if it'll rise above the level of spotfest, and it'll almost certainly be the kind of match that's more fun to watch live than on tape.
Six Man War: Homicide & Da Hit Squad vs. Samoa Joe, CW Anderson & Michael Shane
The first team is, along with Low Ki, a loose assemblage of bald, stiff-working babyfaces from New York. None of them are as good as Ki, and the Hit Squad are severely lacking in redeeming qualities as far as I can tell, but they all have the ability to bring a lot of action to a match, which should be enough, along with a good heel/face dynamic, to make for solid six-man action. The latter team is Steve Corino's unnamed stable--thankfully the King of Bleeding and Shouting At The Fans Instead of Wrestling won't actually be at this show--and they range from competent to awesome and can all play the heel fairly well, although the fans don't have any desire to boo Joe. Not that it'd be a wise move to make the man mad. This should be solid, and hopefully it won't result in another stupid riot angle. Maybe this'll be the match where Homicide finally lives up to the hype. I just don't know.
Tag Team Grudge Match: Raven & Colt Cabana vs. CM Punk & Ace Steel
Raven and Punk have begun a "Straight Edge vs. Drug User" feud that really kicked off with their singles match last week in Boston. Apparently Punk has turned heel, or is at least leaning that way, and I'm very interested to see that. Punk and Cabana have had a pair of good matches in ROH and I expect more good work from them. I haven't seen any of Raven's post-WWE work, so I don't know what to expect of him. I assume he'll at least work hard and will look significantly better than Konnan did in his ROH debut. Steel has had one solid, if short, match with Jay Briscoe in ROH. This could be good to very good depending on how Raven looks and generally how well he and Punk work together. I am cautiously optimistic.
Special 4-Way Attraction: Matt Stryker vs. BJ Whitmer vs. Dixie of Special K vs. Alex Arion
I am utterly unfamiliar with everyone but Dixie, who I thought looked pretty good in a four-way tag match in October. Your guess is as good as mine on this match.
Plus more with Special K, SAT, Dunn & Marcos, Carnage Crew, Hotstuff Hernandez, Alexis Laree, Allison Danger, Simply Luscious and more!!!
It looks like the Carnage Crew will take on Hernandez and the Christopher Street Connection in a six-man tag. That could be okay. The SAT really suck lately, and they, along with Quiet Storm are going to "confront" their trainer, Mikey Whipwreck, who turned on them in February. I'm hoping he says he turned on them for being shitty wrestlers and making him look bad as a trainer. I'm also hoping no match comes out of this confrontation. I'm expecting to be disappointed on both counts. Storm is heading off to train with my man TAKA Michinoku in Japan for three months after this show. It'll be interesting to see if TAKA can reign in his spottiness and turn his physical talents and intensity into something resembling wrestling ability. Dunn & Marcos will be amusing, whatever they do. The women will be annoying, whatever they do. I hope we don't get another catfight in the middle of the main event.
Overall, despite the absence of American Dragon and Paul London, this looks like a very good show. And the number of matches on the show seems like it'll be less than usual, so maybe they'll trim some of the fat and put on a slightly shorter show this time. Bits of sports entertainment and, specifically, ECW wannabe-ism have been creeping into the product of late, and I hope they note the negative reaction to these things and return to their "pure wrestling" roots to some degree. This could be a really fun show if they don't muck it up with runins and bad promos and riots and catfights.
I was reading a newspaper article today that alerted me to a fact I should've known; the fact that this is the last year of Armando Benitez's contract. And while the Mets will have several decisions to make on free agents at the end of the season, the Benitez decision is one I think I can weigh in on without waiting to see how he performs this year. The Mets need to let him go.
Yes, he is probably the best reliever on the staff at the moment. And no, there isn't an obvious replacement on the team currently. Nor are the Mets the kind of team that needs to worry excessively about making the most of every dollar. But still, there's no reason to pay a guy six million dollars to pitch 75 innings. Benitez had a fine year last year, improving his walk and home run rates, as well as his ERA, and basically maintaining his strikeout rate, but he did all these things in the less-than-crucial role of closer for a last place team. In recent years he's proven less than reliable, to put it kindly, in the important games in September and October. If the Mets fancy themselves cotenders, and they seem to, they really should be wary of putting the ball in his hands in pressure situations. And if they look real hard, they just might be able to find someone else in their system capable of recording three outs with a three run lead.
I recently watched another match from my favorite wrestling feud of all time, and thought I'd write a little bit about it. The feud is Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, and I'm trying to fill in the gaps in my collection lately, so maybe I'll make this a little series, writing something about each match after I see it. The match on tap for this evening is their match from the round robin Champion Carnival of 1995, dated April 6th. This is, as far as I can tell, their first singles encounter since their classic Triple Crown match on June 3rd of the previous year, although they did cross paths in some tag team action in between. The 1994 match had been the closest Kawada had come during his then 19-month-old quest to pin Misawa. Kawada defeated Steve Williams to win the 1994 Carnival on the 16th of April, using a spinning chop to the head to break a waistlock and hit a rolling koppo kick, leaving Williams vulnerable for Kawada's third powerbomb of the match, which earned the three count. Kawada used an almost identical sequence to try to put Misawa away less than two months later, but Misawa managed to roll out of the ring after absorbing the koppo kick, thus avoiding the third powerbomb long enough to come back and take Kawada out emphatically with the Tiger Driver '91.
Now, the 1995 Carnival match, which is still the one I'm attempting to review here, in case my rambling on previous matches has confused you, is certainly most famous for what happens in the opening minute. That being, Kawada breaking Misawa's orbital bone with a high kick. Now, that would probably be pretty infamous even if they decided to stop the match right there to, you know, let Misawa get his broken face checked out. Instead, after a brief respite, they go on with the plan and wrestle another twenty-nine minutes. And as you might expect, they do slow down the pace a bit from what it normally would be, with some chinlocks and various other restholds to allow Misawa to gather himself. But first, before they get to the resting, Misawa decides, as his first offensive maneuver after getting his face kicked in, to knock Kawada from the ring and hit a slingshot tope, basically face-first into Kawada. Then the two of them return to the ring and take it to the mat for a bit.
After keeping it on the mat for a few minutes, they basically get back to wrestling the way they always do. Misawa's execution is occasionally less than crisp, and there's perhaps one spot in the entire 30 minute match that I could call "blown", but overall he does a remarkable job of keeping it together despite the injury. Kawada seems to come at Misawa with a two-pronged attack. There's the old reliable powerbomb, and he works over Misawa's midsection throughout the match, along with his normal head-and-neck-intensive offense, to set up that. But he also puts a lot of stock in his dangerous backdrop suplex, seemingly not by design, but based on how successful it is for him early in the match. He attempts it as one of his first offensive maneuvers, and Misawa scrambles like mad to escape, acting like he'd rather be anywhere but in position to take that move, putting over its danger in the eyes of the fans and perhaps in the mind of Kawada himself. Kawada goes to it again early in the match and is able to hit it, and Misawa is able to escape defeat only by the grace of proximity to the ropes. The tried and true powerbomb is still Kawada's biggest weapon, as evidenced by repeated attacks to the midsection; stopping Misawa's flying offense with kicks to the stomach and back, even using a double stomp. But the threat of the dangerous backdrop is always there.
For his part, Misawa, in between withstanding Kawada's assault, which includes the usual assortment of kicks to the face, seems intent on putting Kawada away with the Tiger Suplex. He goes for it repeatedly throughout the match, only to have Kawada block it or escape. When he finally does hit it, as the clock ticks toward the end of the thiry minute time limit, it provides the best nearfall of the match, with Kawada just barely getting his shoulder off the canvas before the count of three. Misawa, undeterred, goes almost immediately for the even deadlier Tiger Suplex '85, but Kawada is able to escape as time ticks away and frantically try to hit the dangerous backdrop again to put Misawa away. The first attempt at the end of the match is prevented in mid-air by a Misawa cross body, but Kawada quickly gets up and tries it again. The time limit expires with his arms wrapped around Misawa's waist, unable to hit the backdrop that might have given him his first victory over his rival.
So, it's Misawa and Kawada and it's another excellent match. Who'd've guessed it? Obviously, Misawa's broken orbital bone hampered his ability to work somewhat and slowed the pace of the match down early, but it really was remarkable how little it hurt the match. And while a broken bone is never something you want to have happen in a match, the injury wasn't serious enough to prevent Misawa from working any dates (in fact, he wound up winning the tournament nine days later.) And in the end, Misawa's broken orbital bone became just another layer in the story of Misawa/Kawada, just as Kawada's injured knee had been 16 months years earlier. The Champion Carnival final would see Kawada's tag team partner Akira Taue brutalize Misawa's face, turning the snake eyes into a legitimately nasty offensive maneuver in the process. And two months later, in the greatest wrestling match I've ever seen, when Kawada & Taue finally wrestled the World Tag Team Titles from Misawa & Kenta Kobashi, when Kawada finally completed his near three year quest to pin Misawa's shoulders to the canvas, what was the first interaction in the match between Misawa and Kawada? Why it was Kawada's boot meeting Misawa's face as he stood on the apron, of course. This match from the Champion Carnival tournament of 1995 may not be the best match Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada ever werestled against each other, but it is certainly an essential chapter of their story.
Well, the punishment for last week's incident between Dodgers relief pitcher Guillermo Mota and noted heterosexual Mike Piazza has come down. Five games suspension. For each of them. Seriously. Can anyone look at the footage and point out to me the part where that makes any sense? Guillermo Mota threw a fastball inside to Mike Piazza. It didn't hit Piazza. So he tried again and succeeded in finding the shoulder with the ball. Piazza threw down his bat and helmet and ran toward the mound, to which Mota responded by throwing his glove at Piazza before setting some kind of backwards-running speed record all the way through the dugout and the clubhouse into the automobile of teammate Brian Jordan which took him away from the stadium. Piazza didn't actually succeed in hitting Mota, or anyone else for that matter. So basically he's being suspended five games for running out of the baseline, while the guy who instigated the bench-clearing brawl gets the same by hurling a projectile upwards of eight miles an hour toward a human being gets the same. And while Mota is a pitcher, and thus would never have played in all five of those games anyway, the Mets are losing Piazza for five games for which he would've almost certainly been in the lineup. This is justice?
I've already written one thing
about the Mets' outfield, but I think more writing is necessary to fully cover how much the group of guys standing out on the grass sucked last year. Take Jeromy Burnitz...please. Brought in to add some offense to the team, the 33 year old outfielder hit .215/.311/.365 with 19 HRs and 54 RBI. And, unlike some of the Mets' other 2002 flops, there's not much reason to expect him to turn it around. There was nothing much to blame for his troubles other than deteriorating skills and moving into a more severe pitchers' park. He hit .229/.333/.394 against righties and a Timo Perez-like .174/.242/.281 against lefties. There's just no way to justify giving him 500 at-bats again this year.
Luckily, the Mets aren't entirely without a clue, and have been trying to get rid of him, but the outrageous $11.3 million dollars he's getting paid this year have made that difficult. It's rumored that the Padres might be interested
, and I say the Mets should do whatever it takes to get a deal done. Having to pay $10 million of his salary for him to play somewhere else wouldn't be as painful to the team as having to pay him $11.3 million to play right field. Even an outfield that had Roger Cedeno in it every day, with Cliff Floyd and a Perez/Shinjo platoon staffing the other two spots, would be better than one with Burnitz in it. The planned Floyd/Cedeno/Burnitz outfield is bound to be two-thirds ugly. Getting rid of Burnitz, by any means necessary, would be a good second step, with the Floyd signing being the first, toward returing the outfield to respectability and productivity.
And if they can't shop him, and he starts off the season looking a lot like the 2002 Burnitz, they should be willing to just bench him. I'm repeating myself from what I said about Cedeno, but paying a guy 11 million dollars to do nothing isn't quite as stupid as paying him 11 million dollars to actively hamper your chances of winning. A perfect outfield for the Mets this season would have a healthy Cliff Floyd in one spot, Shinjo and Perez in another, and either a revitalized Roger Cedeno or someone not currently on the roster in the third. Jeromy Burnitz seems like a good guy, and he worked really hard last year without accomplishing anything, but I just don't see any way he'll be good enough to deserve one of those spots.
This week's Raw was example number 3 billion and 22 why The Rock is great and Triple H is not. They both had a match against a small, low-card guy and the matches couldn't have been more different.
Triple H squashed Maven in a match that really had no story behind it and seemed to serve little purpose outside glorifying HHH's ego. Then Al Snow ran in to save Maven and got immediately Pedigreed. HHH is not feuding with either of these people, and probably won't even remember they exist next week.
The Rock wrestled the Hurricane, in a match that has been building for three weeks now. Not only did Rock sell huge for Hurricane and take just about all of his offense, including his preposterous chokeslam, but he actually jobbed! Sure, it was a rollup upon being distracted by Steve Austin, but that makes perfect sense. Rock is fighting Austin at Wrestlemania, not Hurricane. So he put over a guy that had basically vanished from Raw until Rocky came back, and built up his Wrestlemania feud in the process. Oh, and the match was really excellent.
Triple H squashed a pair of jobbers after his Wrestlemania opponent had "left the building" or some such, building up absolutely nothing. Early in the show, Booker T actually got to beat up both Flair and HHH in response to their racist comments of this week and last, but HHH couldn't let the last image of him on this show be him getting his ass handed to him. He had to make sure everyone knows that he is in fact better than the black man, just like he said.
Maybe HHH is going to lose the belt to Booker at Wrestlemania. Now that Booker's gotten the best of him on not one but two occasions, I'm not so sure. The show should be great regardless, as Jericho vs. Michaels is now official, to go along with Rock vs. Austin, Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy and probably Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Benoit. Hell, Hogan vs. Vince should be fun, too.
Dude, Hiroyoshi Tenzan is cooler than you or me. (He's the one on the right, although Chono's pretty badass too.) That outfit is so awesome that it can cover up the best mullet in the world and still not be a disappointment. Fuck Goldberg, Vince. Sign up Tenzan and tell him to bring his metal-bird-Judge Dredd-whatever outfit. Money in the bank.
On the other side of wrestling injures, Toshiaki Kawada is coming back to rule the world yet again on the 12th of April, teaming with Masa Fuchi against Keiji Mutoh and Satoshi Kojima. That is bound to rock some ass.
Well, it appears that months of giving and taking half a dozen German suplexes in every match continue to take their toll, as now Kurt Angle will join Edge on the injured list for the next year following that really popular neck surgery all the kids are having. Angle has had neck problems for years, so the suplex-happy Smackdown style of wrestling can't be pointed to as the sole culprit in this, but I still hope that the current near-crisis situation that has shelved two top stars and destroyed the Wrestlemania main event that everyone's been waiting months for will lead the WWE to wise up and tone down the neck bumping a bit. Sure, they got rid of the piledriver and such moves a while back, but stopping people from landing on the top of their head doesn't do much good when the number of times people land on their neck in every match keeps going up. And the difference is, the piledriver only hurts someone when it's done wrong. If you do it properly, nobody's going head first into the mat. But with the German suplex, even when it's done right, it takes a toll on the neck.
I'm not saying they should ban the German suplex. I like the German suplex. I just think they need to get back to the days when a single German suplex meant something. Lately, guys like Benoit and Angle have, during some admittedly great matches, been turning the German suplex into the new punch. A guy can take three of them in a row and still be in good enough shape to reverse the waistlock and hit three of his own. And as a result, the fans don't really care that much about the move. It's not a finisher. Three or seven or ten in a row still aren't a finisher. It's just that move they do a bunch of times before they get to the submission holds. And so the fans pop for the submission holds. I wish the WWE would notice the reaction the Crossface or the Ankle Lock get. Or the great response that the opening matwork sequences in the Benoit/Angle matches at Wrestlemania XVII and Unforgiven 2002 got. The fans don't need flashy moves and dangerous bumps to pop. The good wrestlers can get the crowd into their matches without killing themselves. A more mat-based style could get over if pushed consistently. And as an added bonus, if the wrestlers decide to use a German suplex, they can get over one of them as a dangerous move again.
It's really sad to see the best wrestlers in the WWE killing themselves to put on good matches when they're capable of having good matches without the crazy bumps. All the bumps do is shorten their careers and lessen the number of great matches they can have. The period last year when Smackdown had Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Brock Lesnar, Rey Mysterio and such all healthy and doing good work was lots of fun, but if they keep up this style of wrestling, we probably won't see another period like it again. Edge and Angle will be missed. Hopefully they'll come back to a WWE not encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.
Assholes on Kazaa who act like they've got songs from the new White Stripes album, but really only have four minutes of the first thirty seconds of the song over and over again, can go to hell. "Seven Nation Army" rocks, anyway. And if you know me, you know I'm going to buy the album when it comes out, so don't worry about my mp3 thievery stealing food out of the mouths of the White family. Those kids can have my fifteen bucks any day.