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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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Eyes On AEW: The Potential For The Future

By @TrueGodImmortal

So, it's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you. Well, honestly, I had no choice. Wrestling has lost most of its luster for me the last few years and while I'm still pretty apathetic about it and I haven't watched a full episode of RAW or Smackdown in about 2 years, I did find myself mildly excited for the announcement of AEW and while I'm still on the fence about just how successful the company can be, I am very intrigued by their potential and what may come down the line. Today, that's why I'm here. To talk about the potential of AEW and what they could end up becoming in the wrestling world. With their free Fyter Fest event coming this weekend, their second event in the last month and some change, along with a TV deal beginning in October, could AEW be on the verge of something huge in the wrestling world? Let's look at their potential.

*The CM Punk Factor
-The current rumor that is buzzing is that CM Punk may have privately set up a deal to work with AEW in the near future. If that was the case, then Punk has done just about everything he can to throw people off, denying it in a troll manner several times. He has spoken highly of AEW in his own way, so if he ends up returning to wrestling, I truly doubt he would make his return to WWE. For someone who grew up loving and worshipping professional wrestling, it does seem strange that Punk wouldn't jump at the opportunity to collect a big payday to work for a rival company to WWE alongside some of his friends. Punk was once quoted as saying that if he did return, it would likely only be against the Young Bucks, but that doesn't mean that Punk couldn't end up working for AEW in another capacity outside the squared circle. Imagine good ol' JR next to CM Punk on commentary. That alone would make people tune into AEW's programming. If Punk does decide to wrestle, AEW has a ton of stars he hasn't faced or went up against, as well as an entirely new roster of formidable opponents. When its all said and done, CM Punk could appear at All Out, surprising the world, or he could just stay away from the wrestling business forever and pass up one of the most intriguing opportunities ever. What will he choose? I guess time will tell.

*AEW Video Game
-So, WWE 2K hasn't hit nearly as hard as it should the last few years. Have wrestling video games lost their luster? Perhaps so. I would think that something new and different like an AEW game could possibly change everyone's perspective? I mean, in terms of the developers, the only developer with a truly built in promo buzz is EA Sports. However, EA Sports messed up their WCW video game foray, and the UFC series was decent, but at times underwhelming. I'd say that if the dollars made sense that EA Sports and AEW could work together to make a game that would be good enough to entice the average fan and beyond. A cover with Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, the Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and perhaps a surprise star (the aforementioned Punk would be huge) would garner a lot of attention. Set the release date for April or May to get a nice Spring and Summer rush and entice the younger gamers who have a few months free from school. While there is no telling if AEW will have a video game, I think this could possibly be a great idea and the potential for success is moderate to high on this idea.

*Mainstream Acclaim
-So, one thing about the WWE is that they have the mainstream game on lock. WWE has almost every major outlet in their backpocket to an extent, but could AEW provide something for a crowd that has tuned out wrestling since post Attitude Era? Or post Ruthless Aggression Era? Honestly, it is up in the air, but I can remember WCW having a lot of mainstream attention through the late 90's, even as WWF would bring in celebrities every Wrestlemania and even had the controversial Mike Tyson as the special guest enforcer of their main event once. If AEW starts to pick up steam, those athletes and actors who have been with WWE replica belts might soon be holding AEW replica belts. If this ends up happening, look out for some celebrity inclusion at some of the events down the line, which hopefully gets done correctly. Either way, AEW's mainstream appeal will be tested truly once they hit TV in October.

*The WWE Hostages Set Free
-I know this is a horrible way to make this point, but we should be honest. The WWE is keeping some of their stars captive in a way for obvious reasons. Long ago, if you asked for your release, you were granted it. If you were unhappy and wanted to try your hand somewhere else or just bet on yourself, WWE would end letting you go. For Sasha Banks, that was not the case. For Luke Harper, that was not the case. For a few others, that was not the case. This begs the question of whether or not the WWE is feeling the pressure of competition from a promotion that has only had a few press conferences and one actual event so far. However, no one is fully aware of how long these contracts are, and with Sasha, she oddly signed an extension just a year ago, so she's essentially trapped. Could WWE cut their losses and let Sasha go be Mercedes in the indies or in AEW while they force Lacey Evans and Charlotte as formidable stars? Sure they could. With the rise of Shayna Baszler, the resurgence of Bayley (convenient), and of course, the power of Becky Lynch, where does someone like Sasha fit now? Could her return be saved for Summerslam? Or should WWE just let her go? I think they should have just let her go, and I think the same with Luke Harper. Gallows and Anderson spoke about being unhappy with their roles according to some reports, along with rumors of The Revival wanting to leave the company. Since those reports, The Revival have won the tag titles and Gallows and Anderson have seen more TV time next to AJ Styles, who also signed an extension instead of letting his contract expire and moving on. AJ seems to be a WWE favorite and solidified, so his decision isn't entirely shocking, but what if The Revival decide to leave? What if the Good Brothers decide to leave? We could end up seeing the AEW tag division getting a big boost in the coming months to a year. Regardless, a number of contracts are coming up and if the wrestlers decide NOT to sign, then I'm sure they can find a new home, whether in AEW or just the indies in general. Hey Cedric, you hear that?

*Wednesday Night Dynamite?
-So, what will the AEW TV Show be called? There are rumors, with Tuesday Night and Wednesday Night Dynamite being the most popular names thrown around. I find it hard to believe to an extent that AEW would choose such an awful name especially since Monday Night Nitro reminds everyone of the failure that WCW ended with. However, a consistent weekly program showcasing their regular stars and newer names could be just what the doctor ordered. A 2 hour time slot every week that showcases great wrestling and hopefully solid promos and decent storylines? It sounds like everything fans have been clamoring for, so if AEW can pull it off, we might have something special. AEW isn't going to wipe WWE off the face of the earth or even replace it as the no. 1 company in wrestling in terms of money or appeal, because WWE has so much loyalty in it from shee... err....fans, but what they can do is provide the proper alternative and add more wrestling to even the most dedicated wrestling fan's weekly plate. Could their TV show find a way to rival the ratings of the WWE's two biggest and long running shows? Time will tell. What I do know is that the success of AEW hinges a lot more on their TV show than anything else. If the TV show succeeds or exceeds expectations, we might be in for the most special era of wrestling. Ever.


Friday, April 5, 2019

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So...About Chris Davis...

By Speed on the Beat

I apologize for the homer feel in this baseball-centric piece in advance.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a Baltimore-area sports fan. I was the guy who went to Baltimore Nighthawks games at the then-Baltimore Arena with my folks because I wanted to see basketball in Baltimore. I’m the type of dude who’ll cheer for the Terps, even when it’s maddening to see them be as up-and-down as they are. Being a Baltimore sports fan means that you’re an optimistic realist. You know that things can go to crap early and/or often, but you still know that there’s potential in every game, in every player, and within every coach. You appreciate the unprecedented runs, the playoff games, and the championships that come the way of our hard-nosed town. Our teams, even when they don’t do well, still embody what it means to be a Baltimorean.

However, Chris Davis is testing my patience as a fan.

I wrote midway through Spring Training that I believed Davis had the capacity to turn his woes around. “No one could suck forever, even if they get old” was the gist of the piece. Then, the 2019 season proper got underway and he started 0 for 17 with an eye-popping eleven strikeouts. He’s closing in, as one Twitter pundit said, on a fresh, new hell. No one expects the Orioles to be the GOAT team this season. They’re scrappy and feisty, just like Baltimore itself, but they probably won’t contend. Even if they lose 100 games again, it looks like it’ll be fun to watch. That’s okay, as it’s Baltimore in a nutshell. As I said in my “Oriole Magic” rap (shameless plug), it’s not the cleanest city, but the water’s kind of clear.

And then you get to Davis and his lack of a batting average and things kind of deflate if you’re a fan. 

Don’t get me wrong here. Chris Davis still plays good defense and contributes to the morale of the team as an elder statesman. He's still a potential role model for the younger players because he's seen both sides of the game, the winning side and the losing side. Plus, next to former Oriole Adam Jones, he's one of the more charitable players on the team.

Something’s up with the offensive side of his game, though, and it’s sad and infuriating to watch. I’m no expert. In fact, the last time I played organized baseball was in my teens, so I avoid playing Friday Morning GM unless I’m playing MLB The Show. I know that the team has been actively trying to help him improve with analytics and the whole nine. He’s the team’s most-recognizable player right now and the longest-tenured Oriole. Davis doing well puts butts in seats (because of his contract, even him doing well won’t procure anything for him in a trade).

However, I can’t help but wonder if his offensive game is effectively finished. Never mind the money owed to Davis. That’d be a tragedy for the man himself and the team if their most-recognizable player can’t put the barrel on the ball anymore. Then once you add in the money aspect, if you’re a fan, you’ll probably want to shed real tears. He’s struggling out there. Yes, he still draws a few walks here and there, because “Crush” Davis can still crush the ball every so often. But, when will enough be enough? He’s closing in on the longest hitless streak of all-time, months after ending one of the worst seasons of all-time. I hate to be the one to say this, but bruhman’s best years may be behind him.

What can we, as a collective fanbase and people who care about the well-being of the team, do? Does the team continue to trot him out there because he gets bank and they need some sort of return on investment, even if it’s a minuscule one? Does the team sit him and have him stew and think about his actions like a toddler in time-out? The fans are actively booing the man pretty much every time he steps up to the plate. To manager Brandon Hyde and new GM Mike Elias, that’s not the way to instill confidence in your team. Remember, fans turned quickly on Buck Showalter in 2017 and 2018 when he continued to put Davis in lineups. And yes, this season is an experimental one. That doesn’t mean that every fan is going to trust the process if it includes watching Davis whiff 200 times in a year.

A few years ago, the crowds would go berserk when he got in the batter’s box. Life comes at you fast, I guess. I thought this piece would offer up answers for Davis’ struggles, but it went completely left. It’s a saddening thing to watch a player go through this. Why? Well, it reminds us that, even if they’re getting paid millions upon millions, these players are still human, and they still will have periods of amazing endeavors and periods of suck. It (usually) helps us empathize with them, but also takes us out of the distraction sports often give us to real world problems.

I just hope Davis can get out of his suck period and provide even a fraction of what he did at his absolute peak. We all want to see the brother shine.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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PA Sports Edition: Jordan is the GOAT

True and Speed recently discussed NBA GOAT-ness. The following is a transcription of this conversation. LeBron stans, don't be triggered.

Speed: Who's your NBA GOAT and why?

True: Jordan. No reason needed.

Speed: I'd either have to say Jordan or, maybe, someone like Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (with an admitted bias concerning KAJ). Not LeBron or Steph, though. Not yet.

True: It's Jordan and it's not even close. No one changed the dynamic of the game like him minus, maybe, Steph. In a point guard and big man-driven league, he was the most-versatile player in the game and played both ends every night. Ten scoring titles, 6-for-6 in the Finals, 5 MVPs, DPOY, and these accolades were amassed over 13 full seasons. Actually 11, since he missed one season and missed 80% of another.

And yes, I gloss over the Wizards years.

But even then, people don't know how taxing it is on the body to retire and come back and dominate the sport again like he did between 1996 and 1998. It's never been done and it'll never be done again. He's the greatest player ever. He did what every player aspired to do, which is why he's so emulated and why so many wanted to be him.

Sure, Russell won eleven titles. His era, however, was kind of bad comparably speaking and his team was full of HOF talent. Kareem, in all his legend, had one of the best-assembled teams when he won as part of the Showtime Lakers. He wasn't always the best player on the team. That's my argument against him as the GOAT.

Speed: With Russell, his team was stacked and not many other teams of the era, Wilt's Warriors and Sixers included, were that full of talent top to bottom like the Celtics were. With Kareem, his teams were stacked. But, I'd argue and say they also revolutionized the game, albeit in not a grand a way as Jordan did.

Steph could go down as, like, 1B, when it's all said and done because he helped revolutionize the game like Jordan. LeBron to me now, and this is not hate, is essentially what Magic Johnson would've been had he not lost the time from HIV. That's not to say that, statistically, they're identical. No. However, and I like LeBron, I just think calling him the GOAT isn't exactly accurate.

True: With Jordan, he was always number one. There was no 1B or 1C. Pippen was his number two, and he was great. However, his number threes were Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman. It's not like Bird, who had McHale and Parrish and Dennis Johnson. It's not even like Magic, who had Kareem, Worthy, Byron Scott, and countless others.

LeBron isn't even in my top three. People think I hate him. No. I just hate the narrative around him. He's a legend. He lived up to his hype fresh out of high school. That's incredible. Too bad his teammate list includes a ton of HOFers and he never really changed the game. People argue that Bron made the game positionless. But he, as you said, was a more skilled version of Magic. Magic was a 6'9" point guard who could play senter or even SF. Magic just couldn't shoot and had some defensive issues.

But Bron? He was a guy who could defend and has learned to shoot decent enough. He isn't a great shooter, nor will he ever be. That's KD. That's Steph. He doesn't have the midrange of a Jordan--or even his finishing touch. And defensively? Bruh's been almost nonexistent for the past five years.

Speed: Look no further than this.

True: As for Steph, it's no secret he's my favorite player today and one of my all-time favorites is Steph. I've never seen anything like him. Undersized guy who puts fear into the league like he's a 6'7" sniping shooting guard or a 7'1" versatile center. He's gonna be top 10 all-time to me. Already is.

No one changed the game like him. He damn near eliminated the impact of the midrange and then developed a solid midrange game of his own. Jordan changed the game from being all about the big men.

Jordan was the guy who changed the game from being all about the big men. Steph changed the way the game is played. Both are the two most-impactful players in the last thirty years. Now, think about what you thought of when you saw greatest shooters ever before Steph Curry.

You thought of Ray Allen, Reggie Miller--even a guy like Kyle Korver--out there sniping. Steph is miles ahead of those guys already. Perennial All-Star, All-NBA player, 2x MVP, 3x champion. This is his era. On top of that, he's unselfish when it comes to giving his teammates shots and options. Jordan got flack about selfishness from some. Kobe got flack about things, too. LeBron, as well. Who has said anything bad about Steph Curry? No one. He's the best player in the world right now, if you ask me, with Durant as a 1B.

Speed: So, in terms of eras of the last thirty years, would you have it along the lines of Jordan, Kobe, Steph--with a few years for LBJ?

True: Era-wise, I break it down like this. From 1988 through 1998, it was Jordan's time. The Pistons and folks like Hakeem had runs in this time, too, but it was mostly defined by Jordan. From 1999 through 2009, I'd say it was the era of Duncan, Shaq, and Kobe. This is where players like LeBron and Dwayne Wade came of age and came into their own. From 2010 through 2014, it was LeBron's era. And from 2015 on, it's been Steph's time.

Speed: Forgive me, but I almost forgot about Duncan's dominance in the 2000s. That's how stacked the NBA was.

True: Duncan is a top-ten guy. Not top five, for me personally, but definitely legendary. My personal lists and who I think are the best are almost identical.

Speed: But that makes sense. You can't be saying someone like, say, Steve Blake or Juan Dixon is a best all-around player. Even if they're personal favorites.

True: Juan was definitely a favorite. But, you have to separate fandom from reality.

Speed: I used to want to go to Maryland because of Juan Dixon and I stayed at Maryland, athletically-speaking, because of folks like Greivis Vasquez. But, neither one of them were legends in the league.

True: Factual. I never understood not being able to separate fandom for sports. Music is different, it's subjective. Sports isn't nearly as subjective. There are actual levels to this.

Speed: It's like people saying that Kaepernick was better than Michael Vick, playing-wise, because he knelt for police brutality instead of possibly kneeling on dogs' necks.

True: Kap wasn't better than Vick or McNabb. He was a good player, sure. But, his social activism makes people overrate his legacy.

Speed: In terms of dual-threats, you'd probably have to put people like McNair and Randall Cunningham over Kaepernick. I like Kap and I think he should get another shot in the league. But, just based on stats alone? He was just "good." Better than I'd be in the league, sure, but still just good.

True: I feel like he'd be better off joining AAF or XFL and balling out there.

Speed: Maybe. So, back to the topic at hand. We're in agreement that Jordan is the GOAT, Steph has a claim for the greatest of this generation, and LeBron is ever so slightly overrated?

True: I wouldn't even say overrated. Like I said, he's a legend. But, the narrative around him skews everything to make it appear he's out here moving mountains at all times when he isn't. Plain and simple.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

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WIRTB Review: Space Jam

By Speed on the Beat

Greetings, all. Speed on the Beat back with the first WIRTB Review in a while on EOTR. Today, we’re going to take a different route. We’re still talking sports and the like, but we’re going to merge the worlds of WIRTB Review and talk a bit about Michael Jordan’s foray into children’s film. No, this won’t be a review of Come Fly with Me or Michael Jordan’s Playground. Instead, let’s keep it light and fluffy…like a bunny tail. With LeBron James recently passing Michael Jordan on the NBA All-Time scoring list—and a Space Jam sequel on the way, because what else can LeBron ape from Jordan Hollywood ran out of ideas yet again—let’s look at 1996’s perennial millennial “classic.” 

And, no, I won’t go all Nostalgia Critic and talk about bunny boobies. While furries are people, too, I think people have run the whole “I think Lola is ‘hot’” thing into the ground a while ago. Besides, I don’t understand the logistics behind it well enough to speak on it and think it’s odd. Sorry.

Space Jam isn’t really a movie that you can say definitively it’s good or bad without offending (or fake offending) someone. Call it good and you’re flying in the face of those who’d call it a by-the-numbers commercial for Jordan’s brand, the NBA, and Warner Bros. Call it bad and you’re pissing on the memories of millennials who cry (for differing reasons) when “I Believe I Can Fly” comes on. It more so lies in that middle ground; we know it sucks, but it’s our suck. It’s so ‘90s, you can smell the Surge and Pizza Cravers Doritos seeping from its pores and it doesn’t hide this. It revels in the fact that it wasn’t setting out to be timeless by lobbing in as many ‘90s references you could into a kid’s movie (Pulp Fiction gets lampooned, Madonna dating Charles Barkley gets spoofed, The Mighty Ducks gets riffed on—both the team and the movies).

On its surface, it’s a basic movie and is kind of a commercial that, ironically, sprang up from a commercial starring Jordan and Bugs Bunny. The plot is simple: Michael Jordan is coaxed back into playing basketball by the Looney Tunes to save them from being turned into alien slaves. Said alien slavers, led by Danny DeVito playing the Dad from Matilda, have sucked the basketball lifeforce out of MJ’s friends to become the Monstars (get it? They’re monsters and they’re stars). And it’s up to MJ and the Looney Tunes to save the players’—and their own—skins by doing Looney Tunes antics, taking placebo steroids, sexually harassing Lola Bunny until she turns the tables and lays a kiss on Bugs (is this equality or Stockholm’s. So confused), trotting out Bill friggin’ Murray, and Gurren Lagann-ing the already-loopy physics of the Looney Tunes mythos.

It’s a shameless cash-grab (though not as shameless as Looney Tunes: Back in Action). But, it’s also a ‘90s kids movie. Most of them, aside from the Disney ones, completely sucked. The fact that Space Jam was even halfway coherent is a victory in of itself. It has moments of brilliance and moments of putridness. But, to be completely frank, it’s not good.

It’s not “bad,” but it’s not good. It seemingly exists as a time capsule of the positives and negatives of 1990s consumerism where everything had to be a movie with an amazing soundtrack. It was fun and funny, but that’s because it was more in on the joke that it wasn’t all that deep or good/it was meant to be just “MJ getting money playing with cartoons while Charles Barkley is a real star.” It’s one of those “so bad it’s good” movies that knows what it is and doesn’t really hide it. Usually, I hate those, but here? It works, and not just because of the nostalgia.

I think that’s what has made it as revered among millennials and others as it is. Never mind the fact that it was Michael Jordan’s first—and only—starring film appearance (outside of the NBA Home Video documentaries and the like). The movie knows it’s ridiculous and runs with it, wallows in it, and reminds you of it until you’re forced to say “well, damn. This is brilliant in a so bad, it’s good sort of way.” Plus, it’s ‘90s as hell. So, if it comes on, would I say go out of your way and watch? Eh, no. However, if you want to see Michael Jordan play Stretch Armstrong and save Daffy Duck from working the corner working for aliens, by all means.

Just...don't expect me to sing R. Kelly ever again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

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WIRTB Review: Can We Ever Boo Roman Reigns Again?

By Speed on the Beat

It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you. However, at least for today, I’m back with a new WIRTB piece.

As I mentioned in my interview with True and Apollo over onSpeedontheBeat.com, I don’t really keep up with WWE these days. I’ll catch a random RAW or NXT and read spoilers on LordsofPain or Twitter. However, my WWE fandom, at least for the current product, has mostly subsided. Call me fickle on some Daniel Bryan stuff, but that’s just how it is. With that in mind, even I heard the news about Roman Reigns returning to WWE after dealing with leukemia.

Leukemia, and cancer in general, ain’t no whore. 

When he returned, it was like the Prodigal Son returning home. Everyone erupted with joy. The heavens burst open. Vince’s grapefruits dropped to his knees at the sound of the cheers. The point is that it was a pretty cool moment. The Big Dawg is back, and even got physical at the end of RAW last night.

Again, cancer ain’t no whore. Coming back from cancer in any field, much less one where you're constantly throwing your body around, is an accomplishment in of itself. As someone who’s had family members who have dealt with cancer, I’m always going to be on Team Eff Cancer and applaud anyone who beat it. And WWE, being how they are, will probably strap several rockets to Reigns and send him to the ends of the universe because of this. That’s expected and I'm not really mad at that.

For all intents and purposes, we're given a man who literally gave Death the middle finger. Meanwhile, WWE, even in today’s atmosphere, is about larger-than-life characters and personas. It’s why we keep getting Taker coming back even though his body doesn't seem willing to handle it anymore. That's why Ric Flair is celebrated at every turn (I'm surprised Migos weren't Ric Flair Drip'n at last night's RAW). And, it's John Cena is still someone they use to get people over (for better and for worse).

Truth be told, I would be surprised if they didn’t push Roman higher than Mount Everest at this point.

However, what if Roman Reigns comes back 120% and nothing has changed from before? What if, a few months, even a year, down the road, Roman Reigns is still the same Superman Punch-throwing, Spear-giving, “Sufferin’ Succotash”-reciting, muscle-y babyface that has the general swag of a heel (yes, even with his “I’m going to use my platform to raise awareness for cancer” speech last night)? What if the same things that gave him that "go away heat" over the years persist? What if the entire creative team goes into flux because Roman Reigns is back and we get Lesnar/Reigns again and again for the next year or two because, you know, Roman's back? These are all hypothetical situations. I don’t know the future, nor do I claim to. Hell, Roman Reigns could come back and start diving and hitting Frankensteiners or some crap for all I know.

If he does come back and, as a performer, he's on the same ol' crap, are we assholes if we boo the man? Are we “edge lords” if we restart saying “Roman Sucks?” Do we deserve vitriol and shame if we don’t immediately get behind Roman Reigns, as a character? Not as a person, but as a character?

I’m going to say “hell, no.”

We’re human. As such, we’re allowed, by free will, to like and dislike whatever the hell we want (within reason, of course, because “-isms” are stupid) People who boo Roman aren’t booing the man because he had cancer. They’re booing him—or will boo him—because they don’t like the character. Most of the time, Roman Reigns, prior to the cancer announcement, was corny as hell. He was Ultimate Warrior-levels of cringe, even down to the over-pushing. Ultimate Warrior, at least, had the faux-spiritualism promos going for him.

With that said, we can cheer the hell out of Joe Anoa’i the man and still be apathetic towards Roman Reigns the character. And, we can do so without looking like trolling morons. Well, we should be able to, at least.

Today, people are ever ready to “cancel” you if you don’t agree with a general feeling/idea. With some things, such as R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein, rapists, or people who beat down LGBT people just because, that’s fair. They deserve cancellation. 

With other things, like not liking a certain show, character, or song, it goes way overboard. Look at how many in the “Beyhive” are ready to eviscerate anyone who says anything even remotely negative on something about Beyoncé, even if it’s an innocuous, unrelated joke. The same thing happens in the wrestling world. For example, I got a lot of flack for saying, in a previous WIRTB Review, that The Attitude Era was kind of overrated. If we're being real here, and excuse any possible cynicism, WWE is probably banking on cancel culture, people who say eff cancer, and the like to get Reigns over more than he’s ever been. Well, that and the fact that Roman Reigns looks like a superhero for kids (hi Aquaman) and probably looks like a snack to a lot of women and some men (again, hi Aquaman).

Shrug it.

Remove even that and the plan is still genius. They may have as much of an almost unbooable talent as they’ve had since the days of Bruno Sammartino. I mean, even Hulk Hogan got booed for some of the things he did at the height of Hulkamania. Plus, you know, Roman Reigns never said that he’d hate for his daughter to date/marry/be intimate with a Black man. Even if he turds it up in the ring years from now, he’s, at least, got that going for him.

Last night, we also got a glimpse into a possible future regarding crowd reactions towards Reigns. A fan said “you suck” during Reigns’ speech and was immediately shut down and shut up.

Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t think saying “you suck” during an anti-cancer speech is the best place to voice negative opinions on a character. That’s Westboro Church-levels of hate and attention-seeking. Honestly, the fan should've just sat there and ate his food. There’s a time and place for just about everything.

However, that was that fan’s opinion and I’m pretty sure the fan was referring to the character of Roman Reigns, even if the timing of his disdain was all sorts of off. But telling people what they can and can’t like, about sports entertainment and otherwise, is weird and borders on repressive. Wrestling, as antiquated as some of its ideals are, has become a place where anyone can show up and show out, from a woman shoving tampons in her opponent's mouth to Kofi Kingston getting two WWE Championship shots (and maybe even a WrestleMania spot). If we start stopping people from voicing their dislike of a character, we might as well say forget the whole thing, turn that sumbish sideways and...well, you know.

In closing, is it bad that Roman Reigns is back? Not at all. Prosper Big Dawg prosper. Will it become intolerable for anyone who doesn’t like his character? I hope not but, if we’re not careful, things could go south quick. If that happens, I don’t think even beating cancer can save Roman Reigns in the eyes of some. If you're happy he's back, be happy. If you don't want to see him on your TV in a few months or so, that's okay. You're not a monster if you don't like Roman Reigns. It's okay to not like a character. Let people like who/what they like, dislike who/what they like, and move the hell on, everyone.

It's better that way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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Eyes On WWE: NXT's Mount Rushmore

By @AmeenKnows

I've been away from writing for a really long time. My notes even say my last article was October 29th of last year. Interesting. Well nearly a year later, I'm back to discuss something that I've never really thought of until today. For a bit of background on this, I saw a picture of Johnny Gargano's stats from a fan made sign that stated he was the greatest NXT Superstar of All Time. I'll get to the stats later and although as of today I can't say that I agree with that fan in particular, Johnny is well on his way.

Before writing this, a lot of thought was put into who I did or didn't want to include in this list. I wanted to add a tag team like The Ascension who was responsible for the most dominant win streak in the brand's history. I wanted to include Paige who was an absolute trailblazer for the Women's division. I thought of adding the Four Horsewomen who certainly had an amazing impact on NXT's Women's Division but I couldn't pick out which one to single handedly knock one name off my personal list to be included. I thought of adding Seth Rollins, who without a doubt was the standard for what NXT would become in the future, however he just doesn't compare to the others on this list to me and I will explain why.

*Honorable Mention: Asuka

The reason Asuka is my honorable mention is because not only did she not have a single loss in NXT but she was so convincingly dominant and brought the best out of every single opponent she had ever worked with. It was tough leaving her off the list knowing how much she meant to women's wrestling in NXT when Charlotte, Becky, Sasha and eventually Bayley, were called up. Now onto my Mount Rushmore

4. Sami Zayn

-Sami Zayn was the heart and soul of NXT from the moment he stepped foot in Full Sail University's hollowed halls. The reaction he garnered week in and week out is the stuff that my generation will tell their kids about what it was like watching The Rock in his peak. I'm not trying to say Sami Zayn was The Rock of NXT but the building went bat shit insane every time they heard the "LET'S GO!" part of his entrance. However, there's a reason beyond catchy theme music and an infectious smile that gave Sami that level of popularity. The man could go. His 2 out of 3 Falls Match with Cesaro at NXT Arrival is the direct launching point of the brand and the WWE Network. Losing every big match he ever had made fans more and more eager to see him finally grip that brass ring similar to Jeff Hardy in 2008. His title win over Adrian Neville is something you can watch over and over and over again and never get tired of it. If I could show any person looking to get into the brand one match that defines the greatness of the NXT, it would be Zayn vs Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Dallas.

3. Johnny Gargano

-The man affectionately known as "Johnny Wrestling" is everything that defines an NXT superstar. I selfishly believe that he should be the first ever NXT "lifer" just necause he epitomizes what NXT is. I mentioned a sign with his stats on it so I'll just rattle them off now:

⁃ Most NXT Takeover Matches in History with his 10th at Takeover Brooklyn
⁃ Most Takeover Main Events: 5 tied with Samoa Joe
⁃ Only man to appear at 3 Takeover Brooklyn events
⁃ Longest singles bout in Takeover history at 36:07

Those are amazing stats and none of them mentioned his two 5 star classics in 2018. Johnny can do it all. He's a part of one of the greatest tag teams in NXT history. He proved he belonged in the main event when given a chance to headline Takeover: Philadelphia. The one thing holding him back is he has yet to win the big one. The NXT Championship has eluded him the same way it had once eluded Sami Zayn and with each loss it only makes the desire to see him break through grow stronger within fans. There's a lot of guys with more impressive résumés than Johnny by virtue of holding the brand's top prize but very few can compare to the excellence he has shown since arriving at Full Sail.

2. Finn Bálor

-Finn Bálor has one of the strongest cases for being the number one guy here almost by default because even with as influential as Adrian Neville was, no one has the impact and reach that Prince Devitt does. Finn, like Neville, put the brand on his back and it led to the biggest surge in support that NXT had ever seen up to that point. His era of popularity made NXT so big that he headlined the final NXT Takeover to be filmed at Full Sail to date because the company realized that this brand is simply too big to leave in Florida. Already one of the world's best when he arrived, Finn brought all the stuff that made him well respected in Japan and turned himself into a Superstar in NXT. His matches delivered time and time again whether it be against Kevin Owens, Adrian Neville or arch rival Samoa Joe. His final match on the brand with Shinsuke Nakamura is truly a gem that hasn't been discussed in a long time. Imagine that, so many good matches that people forget about one of your best!

1. Adrian Neville

-I struggled very heavily with putting Neville here instead of Bálor at number one but the top guy has a very strong case for number one. Adrian Neville is what you would call a jack of all trades. He can work the midcard programs, becoming the first NXT Tag Team Champion, which is a big deal. He can also usher in a new era and carry the brand on his back, which is exactly what he did in 2014. Earlier, I mentioned Cesaro and Sami Zayn's match at NXT Arrival as the launching point for the brand but the first ever ladder match for the NXT Championship between Neville and Bo Dallas was right next to that match in kick-starting something amazing. Neville brought a struggling Tyson Kidd who was going through a reinvention with him to the first NXT Takeover and they delivered. At NXT Takeover: Fatal Four Way they put Kidd in there with 2 new challengers in Tyler Breeze and Zayn, and he still delivered a classic performance. When it came time for Sami Zayn to take his place at the top of the mountain, Neville stepped out of his comfort zone as a face and became the antagonizing tweener needed to give Sami that extra kick in the ass and they delivered the best performance of their careers, up to that point, at Takeover R-Evolution. There were no other stars. The World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Champion weren't coming down to give ratings a boost like they had done in 2012 and 2013. Neville put the brand on his back and set the standard for what NXT Takeover events should be and they got better and better even after he was gone. Neville is the strongest pillar of these four men in stabilizing the success of the brand without help so that the others could build off of it.