Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The SmackDown Files: The Raw Empire Strikes Back Edition (11-14-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. With this being the final live show before Survivor Series, one can only assume that Raw will carry out a counterattack on the blue brand after Shane McMahon put them under siege a few weeks ago. Did Kurt Angle and company unleash the fury of a thousand burning suns or did they make peace with their blue counterpart over a warm glass of milk instead? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s show in no particular order.

·        SD Live opened with the corniest pep rally in history. It was cheesier than a bowl of mac and cheese drenched with Velveeta on top.  

·        Fortunately, Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles salvaged things as Bryan did his best Paul Heyman impersonation as he hyped Styles vs. Brock Lesnar to the hilt. Bryan accused Lesnar of being a quitter when things got tough. He quit WWE in 2004 and left UFC when a weak ass knee bar forced him into retirement in 2011.

·        Lesnar was big and strong, but he was afraid to swim in the deep end. His thick head would keep him afloat for about ten minutes before he mentally checked out. Styles’ speed and athleticism would wear Lesnar down because he had the stamina to withstand The Beast’s onslaught.

·        Bryan stated that Lesnar will be beaten, victimized, and conquered mentally by Styles at Survivor Series because he is the best wrestler of this generation.

·        Styles thanked Bryan for speaking on his behalf, but he could speak for himself, unlike Lesnar who is nothing more than a puppet that Heyman props up time and time again.

·        Styles put Heyman on notice that Lesnar was about to star in an AJ Styles Production that will see the WWE Champion come out on top as the opening segment came to an end.

·        Bullshit pep rally aside, this was a good way to start the show. Bryan cut a passionate promo as he put over Styles’ unparalleled talent and tenacity while shading Lesnar’s tendency to quit under pressure. Here’s hoping the bout lives up to expectations because both men are capable of delivering a classic if they’re given enough time to do so.

·        Baron Corbin retained the United States Championship when he defeated Sin Cara with End of Days in a solid match. Sin Cara dictated the pace, but Corbin outsmarted him when he avoided Sin Cara’s Senton from the top rope which led to the finish moments later.

·        Corbin will face The Miz at Survivor Series in a United States Champion vs. Intercontinental Champion match that looks absolutely bland on paper. Heel vs. Heel matchups are usually a fail and I expect Miz to be the de facto babyface because he has more credibility in terms of experience and tenure. Try reading that with a straight face five years ago.

·        Despite Daniel Bryan bleeding blue through and through, he still has a bone to pick when it comes to Shane McMahon abusing his power. I guess Shane-O-Mac is heading to the principal’s office despite being the head honcho in charge…

·        Charlotte became a five-time Women’s Champion when she made Natalya tap out to the Figure Eight in a good match. Charlotte’s Drive for Five has come to an end as she will represent SD Live when she faces Alexa Bliss at Survivor Series on Sunday.

·        Charlotte and Natalya had one of their better matches since their epic battle at the first NXT Takeover in May 2014. It was hard-hitting and physical throughout. When both ladies are given time to put in that work, they always over deliver and tonight was no exception.

·        After the match was over, Renee Young interviewed Charlotte in the ring about her win. Charlotte thanked the hometown crowd and noted that she’s been gunning for the SmackDown Women’s Title since the Superstar Shakeup earlier this year. She looked forward to her match against Little Miss Bliss because The Queen wanted to put the Goddess in her place while representing Team Blue to the fullest.

·        Finally, Charlotte dedicated her win to Ric Flair. Her father couldn’t be there tonight, but she knew that he was watching from home which made the moment even sweeter.

·        As she was heading up the ramp, Flair’s music hit which meant only one thing…The Nature Boy appeared on WWE television for the first time since his health scare as he received a big pop in Flair Country.

·        Charlotte ran into her father’s arms as tears were shed by all. That was a nice moment to push her victory over the top.

·        Jimmy Uso defeated Chad Gable with a Superkick in a solid match. Gable has developed a mean streak in recent weeks which suits him perfectly. He is such a dynamic performer that he can get over as a heel or a babyface. If WWE commits to Gable and Shelton Benjamin long-term, they could be an elite tag team in 2018.

·        The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn came to an abrupt end when The Shield put SD Live under siege. I think the trio jumped the gun because the crowd sensed something was about to happen as they focused their attention on the middle aisle instead of the action unfolding in the ring. Sure enough, The Hounds of Justice were on the prowl and all hell was about to break loose.

·        Owens and Zayn stood side by side with The New Day, but they had no sense of brand loyalty as they left them high and dry in the ring. The Shield pounced which led to a full-on brawl.

·        The Usos ran out to make the save which led to an interesting standoff with their cousin Roman Reigns. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins quickly went on the attack as Reigns looked on remorsefully. His sense of family was short-lived as the ass-kicking commenced.

·        The camera cut backstage to the women from Team Raw barging inside the SD Live Women’s Locker Room as they kicked their asses from pillar to post. Even Lana wasn’t spared from the onslaught. Charlotte tried to stand up for her team, but she got decked by Alexa Bliss instead.

·        Back in the ring, Shane led his team into battle as they traded blows with The Shield. Cesaro, Sheamus, Finn Bálor, Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews, and Titus O’Neil joined the fight as they hit everything that moved.

·        Kurt Angle appeared on the main stage and brought out Braun Strowman to finish the job. From there, Shane was a sitting duck as The Shield made him watch the carnage unfold at ringside. Angle got in Shane’s face and vowed that he will finish him off at Survivor Series before giving The Shield the Thumbs Down to drop Shane-O-Mac with the Triple Powerbomb. Angle followed things up by laying him out with the Angle Slam for good measure.

·        The Shield dropped Shane with another Triple Powerbomb as SD Live went off the air with Team Raw standing tall while the blue brand was in retreat mode.

·        It should be noted that AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal were protected from the ass whopping. I guess they left the building early which was very smart on their part.

·        In all seriousness, this was a great way to end the show. Unlike Under Siege: Part I, the sequel was better in terms of execution and crowd heat. Shane McMahon fired the first shot and Kurt Angle delivered the final salvo five days before Survivor Series. Angle didn’t flash a smile or show compassion for his adversary because his job is on the line Sunday. Will both men harken back to their classic match at King of the Ring 16 years ago minus the Plexiglas from Hell spot? We shall find out soon enough.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was decent at best. The in-ring action was so-so with the exception of the SmackDown Women’s Championship Match between Charlotte and Natalya. The main event was nothing more than a segue to Under Siege II which has been teased on television over the past few weeks. It was worth the wait as Team Raw fed SD Live a big slice of humble pie with a side order of crow.

·        However, the red brand can’t claim victory just yet. The matches will tell the true story of Survivor Series as AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar and The Men’s Traditional 5-on-5 Elimination Match will determine which show reigns supreme. It’s like Bragging Rights 2009-2010 minus the fake ass Stanley Cup Trophy.

·        Raw vs. SmackDown is a tried and tired concept, but I commend WWE for making the November Classic feel special for the first time in years. It should be a great show if everything goes accordingly to plan. With NXT Takeover: War Games taking center stage the night before, the main roster better step their game up or they will be left in the dust by Triple H’s brainchild. Here’s hoping the E’s four-night stand in Houston is unforgettable for all the right reasons. Fingers crossed!

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, November 13, 2017

The Raw Exposé: WWE Presents - Who's Your Daddy (A Triple H Story)

By: Keila Cash 

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. This is the first of two go-home shows for Survivor Series which takes place this Sunday. With another European Tour in the books, did the red brand crew feel refreshed or jetlagged once they returned to the States? Most importantly, did my hometown stay awake for all three hours? The answers can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s show in no particular order.

·        The Shield saved Kurt Angle from losing his job six days before Survivor Series by preventing Stephanie McMahon from saying her father’s favorite catchphrase.

·        No one was fired tonight as Roman Reigns put Stephanie in her place by challenging The New Day to a match at Survivor Series. If the trio had the balls to say yes, The Shield was going to kick their ass come Sunday. And with that, the opening segment came to an end with The Hounds of Justice riling up the live crowd.

·        This was a fine way to start the show. Stephanie McMahon calling out Kurt Angle for picking Jason Jordan as the final member of Team Raw instead of John Cena almost made her the smartest person in the room as the fans booed Angle’s decision. Angle had no answer for his blatant nepotism as Stephanie shamed him a like disobedient puppy for his incompetence over the past couple of weeks.

·        From letting The New Day in the building last week without safeguards to Shane McMahon playing him for a fool, Stephanie was in full emasculation mode as she read Angle for filth. Kurt tried to stand up for himself by vowing to break Shane’s ankle at Survivor Series, but Steph wanted her brother’s head on a silver platter instead. I don’t think decapitation is supposed to be a part of the end game, but I digress.

·        Fortunately, The Shield vouched for Kurt which kept his job and manhood intact. For now…

·        Bayley earned the final spot on Team Raw at Survivor Series when she pinned Mickie James with the Bayley-to-Belly in a decent match. Dana Brooke was a part of the Triple Threat Match as well, but she made the costly mistake of punching Asuka which led to her getting kicked in the face for her efforts. At least the Atlanta crowd appreciated the badassery of Asuka as she received the biggest pop since her debut. Thanks, hometown peeps for recognizing greatness when you see it. Smooches!

·        Drew Gulak and Enzo Amore defeated Akira Tozawa and Kalisto when Enzo pinned Tozawa with the JawdonZo in a solid match. Tozawa and Kalisto were super crisp as the crowd was surprisingly into the action for the most part. Enzo was okay while Gulak is always a solid hand in the ring. Gulak might be at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of positioning, but his heel character is on point as he tries to be prim and proper when speaking on Enzo’s behalf. If Gulak starts to get over organically, he could become a star if he’s treated as such.

·        Miz TV featuring Sheamus and Cesaro as The Miz’s special guests was nothing more than a Mutual Admiration Society Schmooze Fest as they bragged about how they were going to defeat The Shield later tonight. The segment was fine, but it didn’t set the world on fire in terms of excitement.

·        Jason Jordan defeated Bray Wyatt with a roll-up, but Jordan didn’t get a chance to celebrate the win as Wyatt attacked him from behind. Wyatt clotheslined Jordan before slamming his left leg against the ring post as the fans showered him with cheers. The savagery from my hometown was pretty sick as they chanted “Thank You Wyatt” for injuring Jordan. Jordan needs to turn heel. Stat!

·        Paul Heyman offered five selling points as to why fans should watch Survivor Series to see Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles.

1)  It’s happening for the first time ever.
2)  Heyman selfishly wants to see the match.
3)  Styles is stylistically better than every other wrestler in the world today.
4)  It’s a Rocky movie come to life with Styles playing the role of the ultimate underdog who will be eaten alive by Brock Lesnar.
5)  This is not a movie because Styles will be beaten, conquered, and victimized by The Beast as Heyman congratulates The Phenomenal One for having the match of his life only to fall short in the end.

·        However, the five-point preview took a hilarious turn when a surprise proposal took place in the crowd during Heyman’s promo which led to a raucous “She Said Yes!” chant. Ever the improviser, Heyman clapped back by saying that the only reason she said yes was that she wasn’t standing in the presence of Lesnar. It was an awesome zinger that popped the crowd something fierce. Heyman continued to call out the fan for interrupting his promo which pushed things over the top.

·        All in all, this was a great way to promote Styles vs. Lesnar at Survivor Series. It’s a special match that should be hyped to the fullest. Here’s hoping both men show up and show out because I don’t want to see Lesnar take Styles to Suplex City before hitting him with the F5 in five minutes or less.

·        The Shield defeated The Miz, Cesaro, and Sheamus when Roman Reigns nailed Miz with a Spear followed by the Triple Powerbomb thanks to an assist from Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. This was a fast-paced match that featured hard-hitting action throughout. The finishing sequence between Cesaro and Reigns was especially strong as they traded counters before Miz made the blind tag.

·        Miz tried to steal the win with a roll-up, but Reigns kicked out at two. Miz followed up with the Skull Crushing Finale, but Rollins nailed him with a flying knee to break the hold. Ambrose dropped Sheamus with Dirty Deeds which led to the finish moments later.

·        It should be noted that Reigns received a mixed reaction when he was on offense. He wasn’t booed out of the building, but it was still noticeable. Even when he’s back with his Shield brothers, he still takes one for the team on the jeers front. Oh well...

·        In a shocking turn of events, Jason Jordan has been replaced as the fifth on Team Raw. His replacement: None other than Triple H! The Game! The Cerebral Assassin! The King of Kings! The Godfather of NXT!

·        Jason Jordan was whining like a little baby as he begged Kurt Angle not to put him off the team. Stephanie McMahon forced his hand as HHH came out to make the announcement that Angle was afraid to deliver. To make matters even worse, he pedigreed Jordan as the fans cheered him on. It was a crazy segment as Jordan’s babyface run disintegrates before our very eyes.

·        Team Raw is absolutely stacked with Triple H joining Kurt Angle, Finn Bàlor, Samoa Joe, and Braun Strowman. Talk about an all-star team. Throw in the in-law element of Triple H facing off against Shane McMahon and we have ourselves one the craziest matches of the decade in terms of star power and storytelling. Survivor Series is going to be insane if WWE doesn’t screw the pooch in epic fashion.

·        Samoa Joe and Finn Bàlor defeated Karl Anderson and Gallows when Bàlor pinned Anderson with the Coup De Grace in a solid match. Bàlor and Joe put their differences aside and worked as a cohesive unit. Joe didn’t stick around to celebrate the win, but at least they’re getting along. For now…

·        Kane vs. Braun Strowman never got underway because both men began to brawl before the referee called for the bell. My hometown crowd decided to take a nap during the main event as they were absolutely dead for this segment which is weird because they were excited about the match earlier in the show.

·        The physical confrontation was fine, but Strowman and Kane lack chemistry for some reason. This isn’t an encouraging sign as they are bound to wrestle each other in an official capacity sooner or later. Here’s hoping both men work out the kinks on the house show circuit because their brawl left a lot to be desired until the end.

·        Strowman dropped Kane with a Running Powerslam which sent them crashing through the ring. You read that right. The referee freaked out as Raw went off the air with Strowman taking Kane to Parts Unknown in the literal sense.

·        This was a bizarre way to end the show. It did nothing to promote Survivor Series on Sunday and it killed an otherwise hot crowd that was alert for the first three hours. The last ten minutes put them to sleep which is a shame because the ATL was making me proud until WWE doused them with Nyquil. Sigh…

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid for the most part. This was a surprisingly easy to show to watch until the last ten minutes. The 10:30 Lull Period of Death usually washes over fans until the main event. On this night, the opposite happened as the 11th Hour From Hell made its long-awaited debut. An otherwise hot broadcast ended on a sour note, but my enthusiasm for Survivor Series is pretty high.

·        Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles is worth the price of admission alone, but the Men’s Traditional Interbrand 5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination Match is stacked with star power from top to bottom. Team Raw (Kurt Angle, Triple H, Finn Bàlor, Samoa Joe, and Braun Strowman) vs. Team SmackDown (Shane McMahon, John Cena, Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, and Shinsuke Nakamura) is going to be a monster matchup.

·        The matter of age should be taken under consideration because everyone in the match is over the age of thirty while half of the field is 40+ (Angle, HHH, McMahon, Cena, and Roode).

·        This is not a youth movement by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a star-studded match that will bring the down the house come Sunday. WWE deserves credit for making Brand Wars 2017 feel special. It’s still faker than a set of breast implants, but the company made Survivor Series a must-see show. Can the E build on this momentum heading towards the end of the year? We shall see, but’s been a fun ride with a lot of twists and turns along the way despite my initial disdain for SmackDown Live taking Raw under siege a few weeks ago.

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!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Spoiler Review of Thor:Ragnarok

By: Jim Scroggs
            November 8, 2017
            JHScroggs on Twitter/Instagam
Edited by Katie Westbrooks

 This franchise hasn’t been the best in the MCU and we all know how kind of lackluster Thor: The Dark World was. In fact, Chris Hemsworth wasn’t all that happy with the direction of the movies but Thor: Ragnarok featured some amazing cast additions along with an out of left field director. So, let’s get into what Thor: Ragnarok and all of it’s metalness has to offer.

What I liked

Chris Hemsworth/Thor

He took so well to Taika Waititi's direction and humor that I’m convinced a fairly sizable portion of his lines/quips were ad libbed. When Hela destroyed Mjolnir, I was wondering how this would affect him going forward and it turns out, not very much. He wasn’t even in a position to use/need his hammer until the final battle with Hela when, through a vision with Odin, it was revealed that the hammer was merely a means to help channel being the God of Thunder. We saw a glimpse of what power he truly possessed early on when some lightning was on his fingers but I didn’t expect that moment to turn into a similar plot point to Wonder Woman – being that the true power was really in him the whole time. In the last 2 films, he’s wavered back and forth about wanting to be king but I feel like he’s really grown up as a character. When the people of Asgard were in imminent danger from Hela, that’s when I felt Thor became the leader we’ve been waiting for. And in that very battle with her, he loses his right eye. He and the rest of the team end up trying to figure out where to go after the destruction of Asgard but abruptly getting confronted by a giant ship, which could be a connection to Thanos as a tease for Infinity War.

Cate Blanchett/Hela

I was already ecstatic when she was cast but I’m glad that a new villain isn’t being treated as a throw away character. Her portrayal of Hela was great although, she wasn’t given a whole lot to do. I wish we spent more time with her but I really hope the speculation of her being the representation of death for Thanos to court keeps her in the MCU and in Infinity War. When Odin died, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Hela was the first born of Odin and when she started to take control of Asgard there was a painting that showed the true story of how Asgard rose to power and shows Hela holding Mjolnir. She was powerful, completely in control of her character, very formidable foe for Thor and even went toe to toe with Surter when he turned into a mountain and destroyed Asgard. I seriously don’t know if I can hate her as a villain.


The supporting cast

Mark Ruffalo’s appearance as Bruce Banner proves that as much as we love to see Science Bro’s with him and Tony, the real friendship, in my opinion, is with him and Thor. We get a little hint of what happened to him between the end of Age of Ultron and now. There’s a cameo from Black Widow and that video that he turned off before the jet took off into space. One of my favorite moments from him is when he gave a suplex to Hela’s giant wolf that she resurrected – the WWE fan in me perked up.  This is probably the best performance from Bruce in the entire MCU and I’m glad we get to see this version of Hulk and Bruce before Infinity War. Also, I can’t forget to mention, we saw Hulk butt.

Tessa Thompson gave a great performance of Valkyrie. She not only showed how much of an amazing warrior she is but she showed how strong she could be on a planet that wasn’t her home and was still able to connect with Thor through their shared history on Asgard. Seeing her history as a warrior in that battle, which looked like a painting, was an amazing sequence and I’m glad that kind of technology was used so well. I really hope we get more of her in Infinity War and in future films since she is such a strong character.

Jeff Goldblum in a Marvel movie is the dream we’ve all had but I hate to say this, I was expecting a tad more from him. This is probably since I was hyping the idea in my head of how awesome this is but I would have loved to see more of his eclectic nature. He still had a sense of humor mixed into the Grandmaster's dictatorship but the most important thing is he didn’t die and we get more of him in the post credit scene.

Heimdall was going to be my most intriguing character because of how little he has been used in the past. I’m glad that Idris Elba was given more to do and actually have a purpose in this film. He became the man on the ground for Thor – as he was taking care of the remaining Asgard citizens since Hela was taking over everything. Heimdall even helped fight in the last battle on the Rainbow Bridge to help rescue his fellow Asgardians. He showed how powerful of an asset and friend that he could be and I hope this will give more confidence in Marvel Studios from Idris Elba.

Karl Urban’s Skurge was a very solid addition to the cast, including his stash of things that he’s collected since he took over for Heimdall. In one scene, he uses a shake-weight (insert joke here) but he was very quick to join Hela as her executioner. But once he went to actually perform the job, he was saved by someone speaking up. Later on, he knew he made a mistake by joining her and tried to make up for that by helping fight the zombie army that she resurrected. He ended up dying but he certainly didn't die in vain.

Loki wasn’t selfish as much in this film but I fully attribute that to the popularity of Tom Hiddleston in this role. I know this is short but come on, it’s Loki. Who hates Loki?

Humor/Easter Eggs

I knew going in that this would have that special type of humor that some people might not get but I’m glad to see how special Taika Waititi is. There’s almost too many to pick from without giving this movie a second watch, but my favorite 3rd tier character in this movie is Korg. He’s voiced by Watiti and when you see this monstrous rock creature with a high pitched New Zealand accent, it’s almost too spot on. I really think he stole the movie for me.  When you watch it or even re-watch it, New Doug is probably my favorite running joke in the movie. A moment when Thor is captured and pretty down on his situation, Loki comes to talk to him in his own little way. The whole time Thor is sitting there throwing rocks at this image of Loki and they are going straight through him. He tries it later for a nice payoff of that joke. Even off the bat, there was a great scene when Thor is captured and talking to Surtur but since he was spinning, the humor was definitely there get the film to a great start.

There are a number of surprise cameos in this film that I didn’t expect – or just forgot about. I remember Sam Neill being cast but was surprised to see he was cast as Odin in a fake performance of the end of The Dark World that’s being lead by Loki (disguised as Odin). But that’s not the most surprising, Luke Hemsworth was cast as Thor in that performance and who played Loki you ask? Matt Damon. Yep, THAT Matt Damon. When Thor and Banner are trying to get the Quinjet off the ground, Bruce’s name in the jet is Strongest Avenger – the name Thor tried for himself among many names including Point Break. During the gladiatorial battle with Thor and Hulk, Thor tries to calm down Hulk by using Natasha’s AOU technique by saying “The sun's getting real low”. I almost thought that would work… until Hulk grabs Thor and tosses him like a rag doll like he did Loki in Avengers. And of course, Loki had a great reaction to that as he’s watching with The Grandmaster. I can’t leave out when Thor is about to be introduced to The Grandmaster and he’s in this chair going through a tunnel ala Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. If I forgot your favorite moment, please forgive me.

Not so much

The CG backdrops weren’t great looking all the time and that kind of took me out of it at some points. I fully understand that this is a space/cosmic movie and those kinds of effects are necessary but that’s just a little thing for me.

The Doctor Strange cameo was something that I was really looking forward to but I felt like it was a tad forced into the story line. I understand that Strange can see what others can’t but I’m glad it didn’t go longer than it did. There was a nice comedic moment with Stephen, Thor and Loki but overall, I’d say it was fan service but it didn’t help or hurt the plot.

Oden’s death early on wasn’t as much of an event as I would have expected. Thor finds him on a cliff in Norway reflecting on his life and what legacy he’ll leave. Loki is there with him as well so I’m glad he passed away – or in this case dissolved away – into the wind in front of his sons.

Final Verdict
I’m glad that Thor finally got his Jack Kirby-like cosmic movie that finally took advantage of the casts strengths but I don’t necessarily agree with the score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s easily one of the most enjoyable movies in the MCU, probably the funniest of the group. It was course correcting for the franchise and was the best move on how to end this series. They took plenty of risks going in this direction with this director and while some of the jokes didn’t land and some of the emotional moments were a tad lackluster, I’d put it in my top 8 of the MCU.

Thor: Ragnarok is in theaters now.