It’s April and for every wrestling fan, that means only one thing and that is Wrestlemania. The long storied tradition has been the mainstay and the biggest showcase of the immortals for the last 34 years.
This year, located in New Orleans at the Super dome, was a highly anticipated show with many wrestlers in dream matches and a card fully stacked with lots of talent and future hall of famers. The main problem with Wrestlemania this season is that the hype is all there but the end result usually leaves the fans (or in this case the universe) with a bitter taste or apathy at the end with us hoping that the Monday Night Raw giving us more to cheer for. So, with the show being over five hours long including the pre-show, I’ll be breaking down the matches (not move for move because you can write a novel with that) and giving overall opinions based on the end result and give an overall praises and disappointments from the show as well. So, we got five hours to get into a review, so, let’s roll up our sleeves, get those tights fitted and walk down that unnecessarily long ramp way as we delve down and review Wrestlemania.
First, as part of the pre-show festivities was the Andre the Giant memorial battle royal. The goal is for the wrestlers to throw others over the top rope and have them touch both feet on the ground. The match featured more veterans and no real surprises from NXT or indie darlings. The cluster of wrestlers felt very slow and the pacing was drawn out. The couple of highlights featured Goldust being in the match for a while and putting aside a feud with R-Truth before eliminating him. The shocker of the match, if you will insist on, was when “Woken” Matt Hardy was saved by Bray Wyatt as he helped Matt win the match and the two embraced with a handshake and a hug. The will continue the story line for what is going on with Bray and what will become of Matt’s brother Jeff.
The cruiser-weight title was the next match featuring Mustafa Ali vs Cedric Alexander. I was disappointed this was regulated to pre-show as I thought it could’ve been the first match to get the crowd going. With that being said, the match was fine featuring some good spots and some stiff hits along the way but the pacing was very reminiscent of the earlier 205 live days when Vince was at the helm. The new 205 they were showcasing for the last couple of weeks was fast, hard hitting and told a great story along the way and was fun. This match was slow, had some good story and some spots but was a little lackluster and with it being on the pre-show, probably fit it there too. The winner was Cedric Alexander when he hit the lumbar check on Mustafa.
The next match was the 1st womens’ battle royal. This battle royal had more of a story going along with the match with wrestlers like Bayley and Sasha Banks continuing their feud as well as the Riott Squad and Absolution trying to use their stable as a way to keep other wrestlers in check. I enjoyed it more than the mens royal and it featured some NXT wrestlers showcasing their skills and their ability to get the crowd cheering their name. It was quite fun and I think if WWE continue to push women more and more, then the following years to come with get better and better. The winner was Naomi eliminating Bayley when Bayley thought she won by throwing Sasha Banks over the rope.
The pre-show has officially ended and now we start the main show. The first match is for the Intercontinental Championship. We got a triple threat match with Finn Balor vs The Miz vs Seth Rollins. This was one of the best matches on the card. It was face paced, strong shots, false finishes and it told a great story. This had a lot going on that I knew this was a great way to kick off the show with getting the crowd invested. This was a potential show stealer. Seth Rollins won the match and became the new IC champion pinning the Miz after the stomp.
Charlotte Vs Asuka was the next match for the Smackdown Womens championship. I was quite surprised they started out with two huge matches with titles back to back on the line but I was not disappointed. This had lots of great moments with strong strikes by Asuka, Charlotte hitting a top rope Spanish fly on Asuka and Asuka, at the end of the match, having her undefeated streak (longer than Goldbergs) end with the figure 8 leg lock and Asuka tapping out and bowing down to the Queen. This and the IC title match were the best matches for the show and everything else, even though it might have had bigger names or dream scenarios, did not live up to the expectations and floundered.
The next match, we now take a deep breath and start to get our blood pressure to drop since it is now the fatal four way with Rusev vs Bobby Roode vs Jinder Mahal vs Randy Orton. Bathroom breaks and snack lines was for this match. It was slow, not really interesting and it seemed Randy just didn’t really care or bring any kind of investment into the match. The crowd was hot for Rusev and was hoping for his victory but it fell to Jinder Mahal winning the title. The match was forgettable and just was meh.
Luckily, WWE knew people would come back from bathroom and snack line to see the debut of Ronda Rousey. She teamed with Olympic gold medalist and WWE hall of famer Kurt Angle to face Mr and Mrs Stephanie McMahon (Stephanie and HHH). The tag team was a smart idea because you dont want to throw Ronda into a match without someone there to take some of the pressure off of her. Overall, she did very well. She showcased her striking abilities, she took some big bumps in the match and she got the win by hitting the arm bar on Stephanie. The funny thing is that Angle and HHH looked very rusty and I wonder if they did it to not steal Ronda’s moment. Overall, very good match, little on the longer than necessary side, but still a very good match and I’m happy for Ronda and she has done very well since her transition to pro wrestling.
Smackdown tag team match was sloppy and they just wanted to showcase the Bludgeon Brothers as the dominant strong force for Smackdown. They destroyed both the New Day and the Usos. It was a slobber knocker and it was just the Brothers manhandling the two teams. No surprise, they won the titles.
John Cena emerges from the back and we think he might wrestle the Undertaker. After some build up and some lightning and special effects, the dead man emerged from the back and in a weird twist of fate, it was a squash match. I think because Taker gave Cena a rub after his first match back in the early 2000’s, this was a way of Cena making the Taker look strong in probably his last match in the WWE. It was just nice to see the dead man but the match was nothing but Taker showcasing his classic moves before he won the match.
Since the last match had emotions with Undertaker, the WWE wanted more emotion and they used the return of Daniel Bryan next and it got everyone throwing their arms in the air kick starting the return of the “Yes” movement. With Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn facing Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, I was invested and hoping how a 3 year absence from the ring would plague Daniel. He hit all his moves, took bumps to show he can still take them and got the victory with his yes kicks, running knee and the yes lock. This was just a welcome back Daniel match and I was still very happy seeing it happen.
The Raw women’s championship was next with Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax. Another bathroom break match. It was slow, had a couple of spots but the match itself was lackluster and I never thought that Alexa really stood a chance of even winning. Not the best and since it was almost 10 minutes, hopefully the lines at the restrooms were flowing. Nia won the title.
AJ Styles vs Nakamura was a match years in the making since their epic encounter back in NJPW years earlier and it was considered one of the best matches ever. In the WWE, it was another match. I’m not sure if AJ’s injury was hindering or if they were forced to wrestle a certain style but whatever emotional connection they had in Japan kind of fell in WWE. The match was fine and maybe my expectations were so high since they are considered some of the best in the world but something didn’t click as much as I hoped. These two deserved to showcase more than they were given. AJ won and the highlight came after the match with Nakamura giving AJ the low blow and kicking him out of the ring. I’m happy to see a heel Shinsuke and maybe a new stable of “Chaos” in WWE?
The Raw tag belts were next. Bathroom break part three. The Bar faced Braun Strowman and a child from the crowd. Always nice burying the tag team division. Braun beat both Sheamus and Cesaro on his own winning the tag team belts. Good for Braun doing a little comedy setup with the child and the Bar getting those hands.
Last match, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns for the Universal title. When the crowd chant boring and are more interested in gigantic beach balls in the crowd, that shows that no one is quite interested in the match. Brock took Roman to suplex city and Roman was getting a beaten up similar to when Brock destroyed John Cena. Roman got busted open and did get some offense in the fight but, ultimately it took 5 F-5’s and one on the table and Brock shockingly retained his belt. The rumors were that Brock’s contract was due to expire by midnight. Him retaining makes the fan wonder when he will drop the belt and when he will just go away since fans are now sick of seeing German suplexes and F-5 boring matches.
That was Wrestlemania 34. Overall, the show had its high moments and some low points. The highlights of the show were the IC title match and Charlotte vs Asuka. They both put on some stellar matches and showcased themselves in a great way with hard hitting, story telling and putting together some nice highlight reels for the network. The disappointing segments includes the Raw tag team match, which was just an elongated squash match, the Raw Womens title for the same reasons as the Raw tag team. The WTH moment was the return of the Undertaker. He squashed John Cena, which was awesome, but, it was kind of random and though I was happy seeing him, I wanted more Taker to do more post match.
Overall, Wrestlemania 34 was a decent pay per view with some highs and lows. The best matches seemed to have happened in the first half of the show and the last couple of hours had some lackluster matches and underwhelming championship defenses as well. It wasn’t one of the best but not the worst. It would be somewhere in the upper mids for Wrestlemania. I was happy to watch it but happier seeing NXT the night beforehand. If you like wrestling, watch NXT Take Over and then watch Wrestlemania and see what the difference between storytelling and wrestling is between the two different brands.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.