Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The SmackDown Files: The Life Is A Crayola Battleground Edition (7-18-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the go-home show for Battleground which takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sunday. Jinder Mahal promised that he would unleash hell on Randy Orton by bringing the Punjabi Prison to The Magic City. Did the structure live it up to its mystic or did it conjure up vivid nightmares from the past? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order.

·        Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers gave a tutorial on how to escape the Punjabi Prison while Randy Orton came out and proclaimed that he had nothing to lose on Sunday.

·        Orton stated that Mahal was carrying the country of India on his back as he tried to prove his worth to his people. Being the 50th WWE Champion was another milestone that few could claim. Having the pressure of living up to expectations would weigh heavily on Mahal which will give Orton the opening he needs in order to regain the WWE Title. The Viper climbed to the top of the big cage and told Mahal to enjoy the view because that’s what his future would be like after the announcer declares him the NEW WWE Champion as the opening segment came to a close.

·        This was a fine way to start the show. Mahal continues to be bland on the mic and his hoarseness only hampered his delivery. I need the modern-day Maharaja to invest in some Halls or Ricola because this has been a recurring issue over the past couple of months.

·        Orton did a nice job conveying that he was playing with house money come Battleground. He spoke with conviction as the crowd hung on his every word. Their Punjabi Prison match will be a hot ass mess, but here’s hoping it’s more pleasing to the palate than Batista vs. The Great Khali and The Big Show vs. The Undertaker from ten years ago.

·        Jimmy Uso defeated Kofi Kingston when he countered Kingston’s cross body with a rollup in a solid match. Jey Uso provided the distraction down the stretch, but Big E and Xavier Woods shooed him away. However, it wasn’t enough to change the outcome as Jimmy won fair and square. Booking suggests that The Usos are dropping their SmackDown Tag Team Titles to The New Day after winning five days before a PPV. As with all things in WWE, expect the unexpected.

·        After Charlotte suggested that a match against Becky Lynch wouldn’t be competitive, Shane McMahon took Natalya’s advice and booked them in a match for later tonight. It should be good if they are given enough time to shine.

·        Chad Gable took the abrupt end of American Alpha in stride as he assured Renee Young that he and Jason Jordan talked it out over the phone last night. Gable is happy that Jordan is forging a father-son relationship on Raw and vowed to thrive as a singles star on SD Live. Gable has all the tools to be a future World Champion someday. Will the Powers That Be get behind him or hold him back? We shall see.

·        Mike Kanellis defeated Sami Zayn in his debut match when Kanellis pinned Zayn with a Samoan Driver. Zayn dominated the match until Maria Kanellis got in the ring to save her husband from getting nailed with the Helluva Kick. The diversion gave Mike enough time to drill Zayn with a right hand which set up the finish.

·        Mike hiding behind his wife makes sense, but he will look like a pansy if doesn’t find a way to fight his own battles. Hopefully, his rematch with Zayn will be a bit more competitive which will give WWE fans who are not familiar with his work in ROH and TNA a reason to care about him on an emotional level.

·        John Cena delivered a passionate promo about the American Flag as he hyped his Flag Match against Rusev to the hilt. It was patriotic and tugged on the heartstrings which gave a sense of importance to this bout that was nonexistent a couple of weeks ago.

·        After his speech, Cena grabbed Old Glory and waved it high in the air until Rusev attacked him from behind.

·        Rusev nailed him with a Superkick before locking in The Accolade. Cena tried to power out of the move, but The Bulgarian Brute had it cinched in from start to finish. Cena eventually lost consciousness as Rusev let go of his submission hold. Rusev grabbed the Bulgarian Flag and waved it proudly before planting it in a flag stand as the segment came to an end.

·        Cena and Rusev did a hell of a job plugging their Flag Match at Battleground. Cena tried to hype it as the biggest thing on the PPV. He might have been a bit overzealous, but it I think he did enough to make fans care about a gimmick match that has not historically been must-see over the years.

·        Rusev has looked a like badass since returning from injury and I expect him to have a good match with Cena on Sunday. Plus, neither men will eat a pin fall which is a smart way to protect them heading to SummerSlam.

·        Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte when she made her tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her in a good match. The in-ring work was a bit too choreographed for my tastes early on, but it was reigned in after the commercial break.

·        After the match was over, Charlotte shook Becky’s hand, but the Mutual Admiration Society was short-lived as Tamina and Lana made their way to the ring.

·        Natalya attacked Charlotte from behind as the heels pounced on the babyfaces. Natalya went after Tamina, but Lana yanked Nattie’s hair when she tried to put Tamina in the Sharpshooter. Tamina nailed Nattie with a Superkick as the weird relationship between her and Lana continues to confuse the masses.

·        The Fashion X Files had me rolling as Tyler Breeze channeled his inner Scully while Fandango looked dapper in his detective uniform. Aiden English warming up behind a curtain while sounding like a ghost was a great touch as well.

·        The anonymous office trashers sent a package to Breezango which contained the severed head of a stuffed horse that Fandango was galloping with last week. The culprits also left a note indicating that the mystery will be solved at Battleground. With The Colons, Ascension, and Hype Bros in the clear, who is the dastardly team behind the attacks? I guess we will find out the truth come Sunday. At least it won’t be H…

·        Baron Corbin and Kevin Owens defeated AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura when Owens pinned Styles with a Popup Powerbomb in a good main event match. The heels tried to gain an unfair advantage early on when Corbin attempted to nail Nakamura from behind with his Money in the Bank briefcase. Nakamura avoided the hit and went on the attack. Owens came to Corbin’s aid which caused Styles to jump into the fray.

·        From there, Corbin and Owens isolated Nakamura from Styles for a large chunk of the match. He eventually made the hot tag to Styles which shifted the momentum in the babyfaces’ favor.

·        Styles was about to nail Corbin with the Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens yanked Styles off the top rope which sent him crashing against the ring apron.

·        Nakamura tried to even the odds, but Corbin tossed him over the barricade which played into the finish.

·        Corbin threw Styles back in the ring and was about to drop him with End of Days until Styles wiggled out of the move. He backed Corbin into the corner which allowed Owens to make the blind tag.

·        Styles had Corbin in position for the Styles Clash, but Owens nailed him with a Superkick which led to the aforementioned finish. SD Live went off the air with Corbin and Owens celebrating on the main stage while Styles and Nakamura were trying to gather their bearings in the ring.

·        Once again, booking suggests that Owens is losing on Sunday after pinning the United States Champion five days before a PPV. We shall see how it all plays out, but conventional WWE logic never ceases to shock and awe the audience.

·        As for Nakamura and Corbin, I think both men compliment each other well in the ring due to their striking abilities. This could be a breakthrough performance for The Lone Wolf if he’s able to showcase his style of wrestling in a believable way. Having the King of Strong Style as his dance partner doesn’t hurt either. Here’s hoping the match is laid out in a way which will allow both men to shine instead of Nakamura selling for 80% of the match a la his debut match against Dolph Ziggler at Backlash two months ago.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was decent at best. The in-ring action wasn’t blow away, but WWE did a nice job pushing the Battleground PPV by hyping every match on the card in a meaningful way. Like their red counterpart, SD Live can break their streak of ho-hum PPVs by delivering a smartly booked and well-wrestled show from top to bottom. The margin for error is slim, but I expect everything to make sense heading into SummerSlam. Hopefully…

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Raw Exposé: Kurt Angle, You ARE The Long Lost Father (AKA The Maury Povich Complex)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. After weeks of mysterious texts and phone calls, Kurt Angle vowed to reveal his dirty little secret to the world. Did Angle’s bombshell announcement change the course of WWE history or was it a letdown instead? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.

·        Dean Ambrose kicked off Raw by calling out The Miz and his Miztourage to finish what they started last week. Seth Rollins made his way to the ring and suggested that Ambrose come up with another game plan. Ambrose blew him off which eventually turned into an impromptu group therapy session where Rollins apologized for breaking up The Shield for the first time since turning babyface last year.

·        Rollins wanted to team up with Ambrose to take on Miz and his Miztourage, but the Lunatic Fringe rebuffed his former brother at every turn.

·        Rollins was willing to take a chair shot to the back as a form of penance. Ambrose was tempted, but he threw the chair down as the fans cheered about a possible Shield reunion.

·        Miz ruined the moment as he made his way to the ring and mocked both men for putting on a compelling performance that was worthy of a Hollywood remake. Miz and his crew grabbed steel chairs and ambushed Ambrose and Rollins. Both men took the fight to the heels, but the numbers game caught up to them.

·        Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel double teamed Rollins while Miz slammed Ambrose into the steel steps at ringside.

·        Miz got in the ring and laid Rollins out with the Skull Crushing Finale onto a steel chair.

·        Noticing that Ambrose was stirring on the floor, Miz hit him in the back with a steel chair for good measure as the opening segment came to an end.

·        This was a good way to start the show. Ambrose and Rollins were compelling on the mic as Rollins showed remorse towards his former brother for the first time in three years. The fans were hot for the segment which speaks well for a temporary Shield reunion. Rollins and Ambrose facing the Miz and his Miztourage is not the sexiest matchup in the world, but it should be entertaining nonetheless. The fact that Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel are front and center in a major feud is pretty damn remarkable considering where they were a month ago. It’s a Christmas miracle in July!

·        Bayley defeated Alexa Bliss with the Bayley-to-Belly thanks to an assist from Sasha Banks. The match was fine, but the finish pushed things over the top when Banks attacked Nia Jax at ringside. She drop kicked Jax against the ring apron as Bayley picked up another win over the Raw Women’s Champion. Based on the Hugger Extraordinaire recent winning streak, it appears she’s back in title contention. Good for her!

·        Jack Gallagher and Mustafa Ali defeated The Brian Kendrick and Drew Gulak when Ali pinned Kendrick with the Inverted 450 Splash in a decent match. The in-ring action was okay, but the crowd was bored throughout.

·        Enzo Amore set a trap for Big Cass when he brought out The Big Show for backup. Big Show had the upper hand for a while, but Big Cass kicked his ass fair and square. Enzo tried to make the save, but Cass booted him in the face before leaving the ring. Big Show got back on his feet and seethed in the ring as the segment came to an end.

·        Enzo’s promo was fine, but it went a bit too long for my taste. He’s a great talker, but some self-editing will do him a world of good when it comes to getting his point across in a short amount of time. At least he squeezed in a Big Comfy Couch reference. That’s always a win in my book.

·        After Big Show dominated Big Cass last week, Cass returned the favor. His check didn’t bounce this week which adds fuel to their presumed match at SummerSlam next month.

·        Kurt Angle booked Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. The Miz and his Miztourage in a 2-on-3 handicap match that will take place on next week’s show.

·        Elias Samson vs. Finn Bálor ended via Disqualification when Samson smashed his guitar over Bálor’s head. It was a sick spot that actually added a bit of gravitas to the situation. Before the DQ, Samson and Bálor had a solid match which saw Samson on offense for the most part. Bálor had a burst of offensive flurry, but he was stopped dead in his tracks when The Drifter channeled his inner Jeff Jarrett. Despite Bálor scoring the win over Samson last week, their mini-feud is far from over.

·        As Bálor was making his way up the ramp, Bray Wyatt appeared on the big screen and delivered an ominous message to The Demon King. Wyatt wanted to feast on Bálor’s soul while inflicting unbearable pain and agony at the same time. This feud was on hold due to Braun Strowman’s elbow injury, but it appears that both men are on a collision course towards SummerSlam next month.

·        Most importantly, Bálor gets to bust out his body paint for the first time since returning from injury which will ironically take place at the same PPV and venue from last year. Here’s hoping that he has a happier ending this year.

·        Kurt Angle’s matchmaking skills were on full display once again as he booked Bayley vs. Sasha Banks for next week with the winner going on to face Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title at SummerSlam.

·        Ariya Daivari defeated Akira Tozawa via referee stoppage after Titus O’Neil asked the ref to stop the match due to Tozawa’s shoulder injury. The match was fine, but the crowd was dead for the most part. Sound familiar? Read my recap of Ali and Gallagher vs. Kendrick and Gulak.

·        Despite the lack of crowd heat, the match did a nice job establishing tension between Tozawa and O’Neil as their business relationship has hit a snag.

·        Kurt Angle’s dirty little secret turned out to be that he fathered a son while he was in college. Angle didn’t know about it until recently, but he wanted to introduce his long-lost prodigy to the world. And with that, Jason Jordan made his debut on Raw while dressing like his newfound dad at the same time. They shared an emotional embrace in the ring as the fans cheered them on.

·        On the shock and awe scale, I’ll give Angle’s announcement a six. Jason Jordan being sent to Raw puts an unceremonious end to American Alpha which sucks, but here’s hoping Jordan thrives as a singles star. His relationship with Angle will be interesting to watch as well. Will he get a case of the bitters over his dad not being there for him when he was little? We shall see.

·        The Revival defeated The Hardy Boyz when Scott Dawson pinned Jeff Hardy with a roll-up thanks to a yank of the pants. This was a tale of two matches. The first half saw the Hardys dominate the action, but Dash and Dawson gained the upper hand after the commercial break as they isolated Matt from Jeff.

·        Matt eventually made the hot tag as the action picked up down the stretch. Jeff was about to hit Dawson with a Swanton Bomb for the win, but Wilder knocked him off the top rope which set up the finish.

·        There is a bit of controversy when it comes to Jeff’s shoulder coming up before the three-count, but I’m sure newfound father of six Kurt Angle will remedy the situation. Hiccup aside, this was easily the match on the show thus far.

·        Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe ended without a decisive winner because Braun Strowman came out and kicked their asses in epic fashion.

·        Before Strowman wrecked shop, Reigns and Joe had a very good match that had the Nashville crowd on their feet. It was a grimy match that featured hard-hitting action throughout. The counters were on point as both men tried to one up each other move for move.

·        Reigns had the match in hand when Strowman came out. The Badass Samoans held their own for a while, but Strowman was too much for them. He laid out Reigns with a Spine Buster before dropping Joe with a Powerslam. Reigns suffered the same fate as security tried to break things up. Strowman hit his finisher a second time before heading backstage. Raw went off the air with Reigns and Joe laid out in the ring while the camera cut backstage to Kurt Angle and Jason Jordan preparing for their joint interview on the WWE Network.

·        Strowman crashing the party was expected which should lead to a Fatal Four Way match at SummerSlam featuring Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, and Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship. However, the rumor mill is still running rampant that Reigns vs. Lesnar for the Universal Title is the end game. Will Kurt Angle book Reigns, Joe, and Strowman in a Triple Threat Match in order to stretch out the inevitable? We shall find out soon enough.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was middling at best. Kurt Angle’s announcement was underwhelming, but he bolstered the third hour with good in-ring action which staved off the 10:00 P.M. Lull Period of Death.

·        The rest of the show was fine, but it wasn’t must-see TV for the most part. Fortunately, the final hour salvaged things which is usually not the case most weeks. At least WWE loaded up next week’s show which should give fans a reason to tune in.

·        Finn Bálor vs. Elias Samson in a No Disqualification Match, Bayley vs. Sasha Banks in a number one contender’s match for the Raw Women’s Championship, and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz and his Miztourage in a 2-on-3 Handicap Match should improve the in-ring aspect of the show.

·        WWE planning out shows a week in advance is very refreshing to see. Can they maintain this trend heading into the fall season? Time will tell, but at least there is some forethought when it comes to the company getting their proverbial ducks in a row. Let’s hope they can keep it up as SummerSlam draws near. Fingers crossed!

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Geektified's spoiler review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

By Jim Scroggs
July 16, 2017
JHScroggs on Twitter and Instagram

             Those who know me know that Peter and Spider-Man have been a huge part of my life going back close to 25 years. I loved the Raimi movies(not the 3rd), the first Amazing Spider-Man and Tom Holland’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War so much that I teared up multiple times. So, I’ve really been looking forward to writing this review. With all that said, let’s dive into what Marvel Studios has to offer in the latest chapter of the MCU, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

What I liked

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man    

         I can’t start this sentence any other way: Tom Holland IS Peter Parker. Holland's performance in this film captured everything that I picture Peter being --both in and out of the suit. Spider-Man is always trying to prove himself and he certainly did that in two very big ways. On a class trip to Washington, D.C. he saves his classmates from a falling elevator in the Washington Monument and then later in the film while taking on Vulture himself in the middle of a plane hijacking. He showed shyness when he asks out Liz to Homecoming -- Peter didn’t know how to close out the conversation so he just said “I’m going to walk this way." Peter showed genuine excitement when finding out everything his suit can do each time he put it on and that's an aspect that we haven't seen until now. 

        Then there's the moment I think he truly became Spider-Man. A warehouse roof collapses on Peter and he's crying for help, scared for his life. I couldn't help but feel  every  second of that. He wills himself by saying, “Come on, Peter” over and over again. Nothing. He’s still trapped. All he does is change one word. “Come on, Spider-Man” and he pulls himself from under the crumbled concrete. After listening to a recent interview with Tom Holland on The Nerdist podcast, this role of Peter and Spider-Man couldn’t be in more capable hands.

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture

       When Keaton was cast, It was already assumed that he would give a good performance so I was not worried at all if he would be a good Adrian Toomes/Vulture. What I wasn’t expecting was how convincing he was that he truly was the hero of his own story. He runs a salvage company that cleans up all the alien destruction around the world (mainly the Battle of New York from The Avengers but there’s also some pieces that can be seen from the London Battle in Thor: The Dark World) but Damage Control, which is a pretty deep cut in the comics, takes over.  And who else would own it but Tony Stark. So, Toomes has more of a reason to hate him. 

       One of the twists/surprises in this film came when Peter goes to pick up Liz for the dance and who answers the door? Adrian Toomes. Turns out, he’s the father of Liz. While I was surprised at that, there were rumors that one of his classmates was related to Toomes but I never read who that could have been. What follows after the door opens is a pretty awkward conversation (like any father would have with a guy taking his daughter out) but things got really tense in the car ride over. Toomes started to figure out who Peter really was. The exchange between Holland and Keaton was easily the most tense moment in the entire MCU and I applaud Jon Watts for getting that tension right in the scene. 

       The final battle between Vulture and Spider-Man is when Vulture is trying to hijack a Stark Industries plane and ends up on crashing (on Coney Island I think). As Vulture is trying to get away, Spider-Man tries to stop him because he notices some of the same explosions from the D.C. trip and he ends up saving Vulture’s life. In a mid-credit scene, Toomes is confronted by Mac Gargon in prison (he becomes Scorpion in the comics), who we saw earlier in the film, and he’s asked about who Spider-Man is. Toomes denies knowing his real identity which could lead to a future battle between the two in a later film. 

     I’ll end with this: Toomes is the best MCU villain since Loki.

The supporting cast

     All the people that Peter came in contact with never seemed out of place. Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is that stability that Peter needs because at times, his life can get out of control balancing being Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I was a little surprised that she found out that Peter is Spider-Man but that’s what Kevin Fiege, the head of Marvel Studios, set out to put on screen with this new version of the character. I’m really interested in seeing how her knowing will affect Peter going forward.

     Jacob Batalon really stole some scenes as Peter’s best friend, Ned Leeds and I’m glad Peter will have that “Guy in the chair” in the future. Ned, like almost any 16 year old kid, wants to tell the world that his best friend is a superhero and almost does that in a scene in Midtown High’s gym. But, Ned’s good at keeping secrets, even if he puts himself in trouble's way by covering for Peter. 

     Flash Thompson, played by Tony Revolori, wasn’t your typical bully. He’s very mental in his bullying of Peter and you can tell by the way he dresses and carries himself, he’s that arrogant bully who has rich parents -- and we all know how those kind of spoiled kids can be. 

     Donald Glover didn’t have as big of a role as I thought he would but he did set up something in the MCU that a lot of people are looking forward to. Glover plays Aaron Davis aka The Prowler and he mentions in a conversation with Spider-Man that he’s got a nephew living in the area. If they stay true to the comics, that means that Miles Morales is in the MCU and I really hope we get to see both Spider-Men in this amazing world. 

     Zendaya's role of Michelle was a mystery leading up to the film because there were so many conflicting reports of who she was but she revealed in the film that her friends called her “MJ”. If they go down the road of a relationship with her and Peter, great. If not, that works too. I was hoping Mary Jane wouldn’t be seen in this film because I feel like her and Peter’s best stories are later on in high school and into college but I thought she was funny and really did a great job. I’m glad they didn’t do the typical high school movie thing of turn her into a beauty queen at the end, ala “She’s All That” but I’m excited for what she can bring to the franchise.

     There was an additional character that wasn’t advertised in the cast list but they are definitely a major part of the MCU and that is Pepper Potts. Yes, she makes an appearance when Tony brings Peter to the Avengers facility for a surprise. Tony was so pleased with how Peter handled himself in that last fight, probably from reports through Happy Hogan, that he unveils a new suit for Peter and it looks to be the iconic Iron Spider suit. Peter is obviously surprised at the new duds and then on top of that, Tony offers him a spot in the Avengers. Peter turns him down, much like in the books, and Tony jokes that there are reporters in the other room waiting for announcement, which there are. Pepper walks through a door, much to everyone's surprise, and turns out that her and Tony are back together and Happy has even been carrying around an engagement ring since 2008. 

Not so much

     This is going to be a little short. Like many effects heavy movies, some of the CG was a little off. Not horrible like a Syfy channel movie but maybe they didn’t have enough time to perfect it so I won’t kill it for that. Having two people play “The Shocker” was a little annoying because it wasn't necessary to have two people in that role. Toomes has an argument with Logan Marshall Green and ends up vaporizing him by accident so he tell’s Bokeem Woodbine that he’s the new Shocker now. I’m still going back and forth on Michael Giacchino's score so the jury is still out in that aspect.

Final Verdict

     I think seeing Peter and Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War was the perfect way to introduce him but I can’t say that my excitement exceeded that when I went into Homecoming. I think it’s a really great movie and I love seeing these little corners of the MCU. On a personal note, I’m really happy and proud to see my favorite character's stand alone movie being shot in my hometown of Atlanta. 

     Tom Holland is the best overall Peter and Spider-Man we’ve got and as of right now, I’ve got Homecoming neck and neck with Spider-Man 2. I’ll have to see it one or 6 more times to see if it exceeds the Raimi sequel. I can’t wait to see what the sequel will bring us with my - and I hope your -  favorite web-slinger.

Spider-Man; Homecoming is in theaters now

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The SmackDown Files: The Night Of A Thousand Battleground Teases Edition (7-11-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. With one week to go until the Battleground PPV, WWE had to kick the hype machine into high gear as the penultimate event before SummerSlam draws near. Did the company give fans a reason to care about a show centered on pretty flags emblazoned with each wrestler’s insignia that asserted his or her dominance in a fictional battlefield? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order.

·         Fans were on the brink of witnessing John Cena vs. AJ Styles for the United States Championship, but Kevin Owens and Rusev ruined the wet dream when they attacked both men to kick off SD Live.

·         Cena stepping up to the plate was a pleasant surprise, but I knew that there was a twist coming due to his Flag Match against Rusev at Battleground. Therefore, Owens crashing the party made perfect sense.

·         Cena was willing to run through Owens and Styles but got ran over by Rusev instead. Styles tried to make the save, but KO laid him out with the Popup Powerbomb.

·         Rusev nailed Cena with a Superkick before locking in The Accolade as the opening segment came to an end.

·         This was a hot way to start the show. I have a sinking feeling that a tag team match is afoot with Cena and Styles teaming up to face Rusev and Owens later tonight. It’s a great way to forward two feuds at once while teasing tension between Cena and Styles as they join forces for the first time.

·         And just like that, Shane McMahon made the match official for later tonight. My wrestling spidey sense rarely steers me wrong.

·         Jinder Mahal defeated Tye Dillinger with the Cobra Clutch Slam in a decent match. Dillinger was dominated for the most part. Throw in the outcome never being in doubt and this was a complete misuse of Dillinger as an up and coming star on the SD Live roster.

·         After the match was over, Mahal vowed to unleash hell on Randy Orton by bringing the Punjabi Prison to Birmingham, Alabama next week. That monstrosity of a structure will be unveiled for the first time in ten years and some poor panda bear continues to starve his or her ass off due to a bamboo shortage. Shameful…

·         Xavier Woods defeated Jey Uso with a flying elbow from the top rope while Jey was draped on the middle rope in a quick match. Referee Charles Robinson ejected Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Jimmy Uso from ringside after both teams got involved in the action. Woods built momentum for his team heading into their SmackDown Tag Team Championship match at Battleground while The Usos continue to stew over getting one-upped in the rap battle last week (even though they technically won) and eating another loss in the ring. I am sure the twins will bounce back during the go-home show next week.

·         Shane McMahon announced that Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Tamina, and Lana will face off in a Fatal Five Elimination Match at Battleground with the winner going on to face Naomi for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at SummerSlam next month.

·         Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin never got underway because Nakamura took the fight to Corbin at ringside. Both men brawled into the crowd as the fans enjoyed seeing the action up close and personal.

·         WWE Officials broke things up which drew boos from the audience. Nakamura got back in the ring and did his signature “Come On” pose as he goaded Corbin to get in the ring. Mr. Money in the Bank raised his briefcase in the air to signal that he had nothing to fight for and headed up the ramp as the segment came to an end.

·         Considering the fact that most fans expected to see Nakamura vs. Corbin at Battleground, the non-match didn’t surprise me one bit. This was a clever way to get the King of Strong Style on the show without giving his PPV match against Corbin away on free television.

·         Natalya and Tamina defeated Becky Lynch and Charlotte when Tamina nailed Charlotte with a Superkick for the win. Lana provided the assist down the stretch when she climbed on the ring apron to distract Charlotte. The Queen tried to swat her away, but the diversion allowed Natalya to make the hot tag to Tamina while the referee was in plain sight.

·         Charlotte tried to lock Natalya in the Figure Four, but Tamina broke things up which led to the finish.

·         This was a solid match and easily the best thing on the show thus far from a wrestling standpoint.

·         The Power of Love hit Sami Zayn in the face in more ways than one when Maria Kanellis slapped him while her husband Mike Kanellis smashed a glass vase over his head. Love hurts…

·         Runway Walker Texas Rangers was a hit just for the opening sequence alone as they paid tribute to Walker Texas Ranger. The Fashion X-Files closer was even better as the Truth is Not H. I love Fandango and Tyler Breeze to no end.

·         AJ Styles and John Cena defeated Kevin Owens and Rusev when Cena pinned Owens with the AA in a good main event match. Styles and Cena managed to put their differences aside and worked as a unit as they squeaked out a win over their Battleground opponents.

·         Styles played the babyface in peril as he was worked over for a large chunk of the match until he made the hot tag to Cena. After Cena nailed Owens with the Five Knuckle Shuffle, he went for the AA only to get nailed with a Superkick by Rusev.

·         Styles countered with the Phenomenal Forearm and nailed Owens with a Pele Kick before Cena hit his finisher for the win. SD Live went off the air with Cena and Styles celebrating in the ring while hinting at a future United States Title match in the not too distant future.

·         This was a fine way to end the show. All four men delivered the goods in the ring which built anticipation for their respective matches at Battleground next Sunday. The heels will probably get a measure of revenge next week, but this was the faces night to shine. After a heel heavy Raw exclusive PPV two nights ago, seeing the good guys come out on top was a nice change of pace.

·         Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was solid. This was not a blow away show, but WWE did a nice job hyping the Battleground PPV. The card is coming together nicely it should be a very good show if everything goes according to plan. Their red counterpart turned Great Balls of Fire into a must-see event despite the shitty name. Can the blue brand return fire next Sunday by delivering an equally entertaining show by balancing out the face/heel win ratio? We shall find out soon enough.

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls! 

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Raw Exposé: The How To Get Way With Attempted Murder By Blaming It On The Attitude Era Edition (7-10-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Last night’s Great Balls of Fire PPV exceeded expectations and ended the streak of poorly booked brand exclusive shows. The record stands at 1-4, but a win is a win in my book.

The biggest headline coming out of the PPV was Roman Reigns committing attempted murder when he rammed an ambulance into the back of a tractor trailer while Braun Strowman went along for the ride. Based on recent history, Reigns won’t serve any prison time which continues the great tradition of crime without punishment in WWE.

Elsewhere, Brock Lesnar barely beat Samoa Joe to retain the Universal Championship. Joe was in control for the most part, but the F5 did him in. With Reigns vowing to face the Universal Champion at SummerSlam, did the company make things official? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.

·        Big Cass kicked off Raw and trolled the fans by asking them “How You Doin?” Cass took pleasure in beating up Enzo Amore and put the locker room on notice that he was gunning for the Universal Championship. He didn’t want the crowd jumping on the bandwagon once he became the top guy in WWE. Cass vowed to main event WrestleMania, be a guest on the Tonight Show, and represent the company to the fullest. Nobody could touch him because he was 7 ft. tall and you can’t teach that.

·        Big Show came out to confront Cass which resulted in a brief skirmish. Cass avoided disaster and headed up the ramp as the opening segment came to an end with Big Show standing tall in the ring.

·        This was a fine way to start the show. Big Cass did a solid job on the mic, but he’s not someone who is going to set the world on fire with his promos. Also, there were a few technical glitches that clearly showed that the seven-second delay was alive and well which threw things off from a production standpoint. Quibbles aside, Cass showed passion and generated heat by trashing his former best friend.

·        It appears that Big Show will be feuding with Cass as we head into the SummerSlam PPV next month. It makes sense storyline-wise because Cass tried to pin the backstage attacks on Big Show to cover his ass. Will this simmering issue translate into a good match at the second biggest show of the year? We shall see.

·        Finn Bálor defeated Elias Samson with the Coup De Grace in a solid match. It appeared that Bálor was going to cruise his way to victory, but momentum swung in Samson’s favor when he blocked Bálor’s running knee on the ring apron. The Drifter slammed him shoulder-first against the ring canvas which gave him the perfect fresh target. Samson had a couple of near falls, but Balor clawed his way back into the match and hit the Overhead Kick/Slingblade/Running Dropkick/Coup De Grace Quadruple Play for the win.

·        This mini-feud was cute while it lasted, but Bálor winning straight up was the way to go. At least Michael Cole put over Samson by saying he has a bright future in WWE despite eating the loss. Optics are everything when it comes to serving multiple masters at once.

·        In what has to be considered a minor miracle based on recent booking, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows defeated The Hardy Boyz when Gallows pinned Matt Hardy with The Magic Killer in a decent match. The bad night for The Hardyz continued when The Revival came out and did further damage when Dash Wilder nailed Matt with a Flying Knee from the top rope while he and Scott Dawson hit Jeff with the Shatter Machine to send a message that they’re back and ready to kick some ass in the tag team division.

·        The Hardy Boyz suffered their first one fall loss on Raw since returning to WWE a few months ago. Plus, Matt and Jeff threw in some references from the Broken Universe which could lead to the return of Brother Nero and Broken Matt Hardy if their legal issues with Anthem have been resolved. Therefore, their losing streak makes sense if the brothers are about to devolve into madness.

·        The Miz held the first-ever Mizzies Awards and gave trophies to Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, Maryse, and himself for being great. Miz cut a good promo about how he was the only one to guarantee victory after Seth Rollins and The Hardy Boyz failed to hold up their end of the bargain at GBOF. He praised Dean Ambrose for being his toughest competitor but claimed that he was the new tough guy in WWE. Dean Ambrose came out and attacked Miz, but he got tripled team by Miz and his Miztourage.

·        Seth Rollins ran out to make the save as the segment came to an end.

·        The Mizzies was cute, but a waste of time. On an even sadder note, the never ending Ambrose-Miz saga is not over yet. I like both men, but it’s time to Old Yeller this feud.

·        Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss when Bayley pinned Bliss with a rollup in a basic match. The crowd was dead for the most part, but Bayley got a measure of redemption by picking up the win for her team.

·        Goldust defeated R-Truth with the Curtain Call in a decent match. The action was fine, but the crowd was absolutely dead. This doesn’t speak well for this feud having legs beyond this match.

·        After a sleepy second hour, shit got real in a hurry when Kurt Angle tried to control the egos of Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and Samoa Joe. Angle congratulated Lesnar on his win and wanted to pitch some match ideas for SummerSlam. Paul Heyman scoffed at the notion and told Angle to give them a call when he’s made his decision.

·        Roman Reigns came out and tried to explain why he was justified in damn near killing Braun Strowman last night at Great Balls of Fire. Reigns chalked it up to borrowing inspiration from the Attitude Era, but Angle said things have changed since then. Reigns gave zero fucks and told Angle that he owed him for taking care of Strowman while Lesnar wasn’t around to do it himself. Therefore, the Big Dog felt he deserved a shot at the Universal Title.

·        Lesnar told Reigns he didn’t deserve shit which drew oohs and ahs from the crowd. Samoa Joe joined the Mean Guys party and told Lesnar that he got lucky last night and vowed to put him to sleep sooner rather than later. Lesnar blew off Joe’s comments by telling him he kicked his ass last night. Reigns threw in his two cents and all hell was about to break loose until Angle announced that Reigns and Joe will face off next week with the winner going on to fight Lesnar for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. Joe and Reigns kept things civil as Angle warned both men that he would cancel the match if they got physical with each other. Joe headed up the ramp to keep the peace as the segment came to an end.

·        This was by far the hottest thing on the show thus. Joe vs. Reigns III should be very good with the outside of chance of Strowman getting revenge on his longtime adversary if WWE chooses to go in that direction once again.

·        Kurt Angle’s dirty little secret will be revealed next week. Let’s hope it’s juicy and salacious because Corey Graves channeling his inner Olivia Pope is starting to wear thin.

·        Akira Tozawa and Cedric Alexander defeated Noam Dar and Neville when Tozawa pinned Neville with a Senton Bomb from the top rope. It was a solid match that had decent crowd heat for a change. Tozawa paid Neville back by letting him hang out to dry on the ring ropes before hitting his finisher for the win. If I am not mistaken, I believe this is the first time Neville has been beaten on television since becoming Cruiserweight Champion.

·        If my calculations are correct, the announcers didn’t make a big deal about it which is a shame because Neville has been the champ for almost seven months. By failing to drive that point home, this is the height of ineptitude and complete obliviousness on WWE's part. 

·        Bray Wyatt defeated Seth Rollins with Sister Abigail in a good main event match. The action was a bit slow at first as the fans started doing The Wave which usually spells the kiss of death for a match. Fortunately, Wyatt and Rollins got the fans emotionally invested down the stretch which saved things from falling off a cliff.

·        Rollins made a great babyface comeback, but his eye injury gave him trouble down as it was closed shut when he tried to nail Wyatt with his jumping knee finisher.

·        Wyatt head butted Rollins’ eye and nailed him with Sister Abigail for the win. Wyatt disappeared while Rollins was left alone in the ring.

·        Looking for their pound of flesh, The Miz and his Miztourage came out and triple teamed Rollins until Dean Ambrose made the save. Ambrose hit Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel with a pair of chair shots before wailing on Miz’s back before his henchmen pulled him to safety. Ambrose stood tall in the ring as Raw went off the air. Or so we thought.

·        The camera cut backstage to Kurt Angle talking on the phone with someone. Angle tried to reassure the mystery caller that everything will be alright after they come clean next week. He told him or her that he loved them as Raw went off the air.

·        Based on the conversation, it sounds as if Angle is having an affair which makes no sense because his family life is about to be highlighted on WWE 24. This might be a red herring to throw fans off from the big surprise, but I am looking forward to the big reveal nonetheless. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype because the creative team has put a lot of time and effort into this storyline over the past couple of months.

·        As for Ambrose coming to Rollins’ aid, it appears that a makeshift Shield Reunion is on the horizon. Anything to shake up the Ambrose-Miz feud is a blessing in disguise at this point.

·        Meanwhile, Bray Wyatt’s words wrote a check his ass could cash for a change. Wyatt is 2-0 against Rollins and it appears that he’s moving on to his next conquest. We shall see if he keeps the momentum heading towards SummerSlam next month.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was middling at best. Great Balls of Fire generated good buzz, but WWE didn’t capitalize on it from an execution standpoint.

·        The in-ring action was so-so and the fans were lukewarm throughout the show with a few exceptions. The Home Run Derby was taking place at the same time which has historically hurt the company from a ratings standpoint. However, I expected more oomph coming off a PPV that didn’t suck for a change.

·        At least WWE hyped next week’s show featuring Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe to determine the number one contender for Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship along with the reveal of Kurt Angle’s dirty little secret. It should be a hot show in Nashville if everything goes according to plan. Fingers crossed!

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!