Gary Ballance

IMDb member since July 2001
    Lifetime Total
    25+
    Lifetime Plot
    1+
    IMDb Member
    19 years

Reviews

WWE No Mercy
(2004)

Smackdown's best PPV this year
I know that's not exactly a ringing endorsement considering the PPVs Smackdown has churned out this year, like Judgment Day and The Great American Bash, but their October show No Mercy was OK for the most part. No Mercy took place on Sunday, October 3rd, 2004. Its card had one outstanding match, a few decent matches and a few pretty poor matches.

The following is an account of what went down (including the results, so *Spoilers ahead*) and my rating out of 10 for each match:

Match 1- Eddy Guerrero vs Luther Reigns. This certainly surprised me as the opener, as Guerrero (as a former WWE Champion), like Chris Benoit the previous month at Unforgiven, was "jerking the curtain." This feud had little build-up save for Reigns costing Eddy a 2/3 falls match against Kurt Angle a few weeks before on Smackdown, and would seem to be a transition feud for Guerrero until they put him back against Angle or give him a shot at JBL for the Title. The match itself was OK. It was typical of WWE's "modern" style in that the middle of the match was slow with many restholds, and the pace quickened before the finish. Reigns has one or two good moves but he hasn't done much to set himself apart from the other 'big men' WWE have bombarded us with over the last few years. (Nathan Jones, Tyson Tomko, Gene Snitsky, Matt Morgan, Kevin "Mordecai" Fertig, Test, etc.)There was nothing really of note except Eddy hit a beautiful reversal of Reigns' 180' DDT finisher- almost a version of the Sliced Bread #2. The finish had Eddy blast Reigns with a truncheon and hit the Frog Splash for the pin. Not much of a setback for Reigns, not much of an achievement for Eddy. Match rating: 5.5/10.

Match 2- Spike Dudley vs Nunzio (ECW's Little Guido.) This was a rematch for the Cruiserweight Title of a pretty poor non-title match these two had on the previous Smackdown; Nunzio pinned Spike with a roll-up. So, there wasn't really much build-up for this match- Spike had been booked in a feud with Rey Mysterio for a good while, but since Rey was teaming with RVD this match was thrown together. The FBI aren't "over" with the fans (usually cos the writers can't make up their mind about whether they're heels or 'faces) so the match was pretty lifeless, crowd-wise. The match was better than the TV one but still bad for a Cruiserweight match. Some interference from Bubba & DVon led to the finish where Bubba crotched Nunzio on the ringpost and Spike pinned him. Again, this match served no purpose- it was just "a Cruiserweight title match." Match rating: 4/10.

Match 3- Billy Kidman vs Paul London. THIS is one thing that Smackdown has done right this year- this feud had been consistently entertaining (if a little rushed) over the weeks leading up to No Mercy and both guys had proved that they could put on a great match. The build-up was great for this. After Kidman knocked out Chavo Guerrero with a botched Shooting Star Press, he was reluctant to do it again in case he hurt anyone else. (Well-written as any wrestler could realistically relate to that fear of injuring someone in the ring.) Kidman's reluctance led to him walking out on London during two matches and they lost the tag titles as a result. The bad blood built from there and led to this match which I would comfortably describe as one of my favourite matches of this year, along with the main event at WrestleMania. With some great fast-paced action, wonderful high spots (including a springboard asai moonsault over the top rope to the outside by London) and some superb psychology, this was without doubt the best match of the night (even at its relatively short 10 minute running time.) Kidman worked London's rib/torso area for the entire match setting up for the finish, which was masterful. London missed his London Calling off the top rope (his version of the Shooting Star Press- a thing of beauty) landing ribs-first on Kidman's knees [obviously damaging his already weakened torso.] Kidman went up top and hit HIS Shooting Star Press and landed awkwardly with his knees into London's ribs. He got the pin off this and London began "bleeding internally". Kidman then hit ANOTHER SSP onto London who was on a backboard ready to be put onto a stretcher. This (a) got him over as a heel and (b) ensured that this feud will continue somewhere down the line. Hopefully it will- I'd love to see a rematch! A great match and some excellent feud-building. The only thing I would criticise is Kidman's naff 1970s-esque ring jacket. Otherwise, great stuff. Match rating: 8.5/10.

Match 4- Kenzo Suzuki & Rene Dupree vs Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam. Again, another feud with very little build up whatsoever. The only interaction between these two teams was RVD saving Rey from a beating from Suzuki & Dupree after they cost him the Cruiserweight title against Spike Dudley. Nonetheless it was a reasonably entertaining match- RVD & Rey hit their usual exciting offense after a boring middle portion of Suzuki & Dupree wearing down RVD. The finish had Suzuki roll up Mysterio cheaply for the win. Hopefully they'll do a better job of building up the rematch assuming there will be one. Match rating: 5/10.

Match 5- Kurt Angle vs Big Show. Save for the Big Show's return during the first two weeks- where he had to "choose" who he would face at No Mercy- this feud had been dealt with reasonably well. Show caused Angle a serious injury a few months previous by Chokeslamming him off a balcony (which led to Angle's disastrous run as Smackdown GM) and then went missing for a few months. When he resurfaced, Angle shot him with a tranquiliser dart after a tag match and shaved his head! Thus, both men had a score to settle going into the match. Show's offense was as usual fairly slow and plodding, but the match really picked up when Angle aggressively went after Show's ankle with the Ankle Lock and blasted it with a chair. After a few minutes of good psychology (with Angle working the ankle) Show won, Chokeslamming Angle from the top rope. Decent enough match and better than expected. Match rating: 6/10.

Match 6- John Cena vs Booker T. This was built up well even if their Best of Five Series hadn't been remarkably good. Michael Cole, after the match, described it as a "mirror image of every other match in the series". While he meant it in a complimentary fashion, I would certainly agree with the statement. As the fifth match in the series, it really was like any other match these two have had: decent enough, but nothing spectacular. Cena got his third win of the series with the F-U. Three wins, all with the F-U! They really should've booked better finishes for these matches- Booker T looked weak, in that he had to cheat to beat Cena. They should've given him at least ONE clean victory. Anyway, match rating: 6/10.

Match 7- Charlie Haas, Rico and Jackie Gayda vs The Dudleys and Dawn Marie. In a sense of art, imitating life, imitating art, Charlie and Jackie's real-life engagement was used to advance a pretty pathetic soap opera-type storyline where Dawn Marie claimed to have had her way, as it were, with Mr. Haas. Dawn & Jackie had a catfight on Smackdown during a tag match between Rico/Charlie and the Dudleys, so this six-person tag match (for lack of a more "PC" term) was booked. Haas is a fine wrestler- pity the other 5 are not. The match was average, ending with Rico pinning a Dudley off a moonsault. This probably WILL advance the storyline but I bet that in 6 months, this angle will be forgotten and Jackie & Dawn will be teaming up. Continuity has NEVER been an issue in WWE! Match rating: 4.5/10.

Match 8- The Undertaker vs John Bradshaw Layfield- Last Ride (Hearse) match for the WWE Championship. Nothing in this feud interested me. JBL is an amusing enough character but he does not belong as the WWE Champion on Smackdown. Nor does this lame 2004 incarnation of The Undertaker. The Deadman gimmick has been extremely diluted this time around and while his entrance may be good, an entrance does not a good wrestler make. The match was dreadful for the most part, ending predictably with a run-in from that masochistic, poetry-reading psychopath, Jon Heidenreich. Heidenreich distracted Taker long enough for JBL to blast him with a lariat and put him in the hearse for the win. After, Heidenreich smashed into the hearse with an SUV causing an explosion in true OTT WWE style. Obviously Taker-Heidenreich is on the cards. God help us. Match rating: 3/10.

Well, that was the card. As I said, not a ringing endorsement, but one of the only PPVs this year with a match that I would rate higher than a 7. (The Kidman/London match.) The main event was absolutely appalling and possibly the worst this year. Overall though, it was a watchable PPV and one Smackdown can be relatively proud of.

WWE Taboo Tuesday
(2004)

Worst PPV I've seen this year
WWE hyped this pay-per-view as "the world's first interactive PPV" and that "the fans would get to decide the matches."

In actuality, nearly all of the matches were decided in advance (and I guarantee that NO-ONE would have chosen the matches WWE did) and we, as fans, got to vote on very little. If ever there was proof that the WWE's focus is on segments rather than wrestling it's right here. Read on... (What follows is an account of the matches, such as they were, and a rating out of 10 per match- spoilers ahead..)

MATCH 1-- Chris Jericho vs ?? (Intercontinental Title.) The internet audience (myself included) voted Shelton Benjamin to face Jericho for the I.C. Title. Both guys have proved that they can wrestle exciting fast-paced matches. Unfortunately, this match was slow, rather dull and a massive disappointment. This should have stolen the show, but it was a poor match and typical of the modern WWE style: bit of action, grind the match to a snail's pace with restholds, bit of action to finish. This won't cut it anymore. Anyway, Benjamin won with his Exploder Slam and got the IC Title. I hoped for and expected better from these two. 5/10.

MATCH 2-- "Fulfil Your Fantasy Diva Battle Royal." The vote here was whether the fans wanted the divas dressed as nurses, French maids or schoolgirls. Schoolgirls was chosen and the battle royal took place involving Trish, Stacy, Nidia, Molly, Gail Kim, Jazz and Victoria. Trish won. So much for the credibility of the Womens division- not pick who should face Trish, but what they should wear?! Ridiculous. 4/10.

MATCH 3-- Kane vs Gene Snitsky: Choose Your Weapon Match. The vote was whether the fans wanted to see the two use chairs, a lead pipe or a steel chain. The chain was chosen. While this feud has been built reasonably well (despite it coming off the appalling Lita pregnancy angle) this match was horrible. Utterly horrible. The only highlight was Snitsky "crushing Kane's throat" with a steel chair. It's interesting to see them build up Snitsky- the guy's crap, don't get me wrong, but I've been genuinely surprised that he has got the best of Kane in this feud so far. As a piece of feud-building, it was a good angle. As a match, it was poison. 2/10.

"MATCH" 4-- Eugene vs Eric Bischoff- Choose the Stipulation Match. The loser would have to (a) be the winner's servant, (b) wear a dress for a month, or (c) shave his head "bald". This was absolutely pathetic. Eugene beat Bischoff in about 2 minutes with a legdrop and then Vince McMahon embarrassed Bischoff on PPV for about the 5th time. Vince, WCW's finished- get over it! This long, painfully drawn-out segment had Vince mocking Bischoff for dying his hair (pot calling the kettle black) and forcing Jonathan Coachman to wear a dress. Much like WWE's other stipulations, they didn't follow it through- Bischoff wasn't shaved bald- he merely got a short haircut. Awful waste of time. 0/10.

MATCH 5-- La Resistance vs Benoit & Edge. (World Tag Titles.) Seeing as how HBK was chosen to face HHH for the World Title, the two guys not chosen (Benoit & Edge) were to face La Res for the tag titles. OK match. Edge walked out towards the end, furious at not getting the Title shot. Benoit fought on alone and won the belts, forcing Rob Conway to tap out to the Crippler Crossface. Good action at the end. Otherwise, typical WWE tag match. 5/10.

"MATCH" 6-- Christy Hemme vs Carmella DeCesere. The winner and runner-up, respectively, of the risible Diva Search competition faced off in a "match" to be chosen by the fans. The fans chose the lingerie pillow fight, rejecting an Evening Gown match and an aerobics challenge. The girls took nearly 5 minutes to get ready, undressing "provocatively" (not) in front of a white silhouetted screen, and had a 2 minute "match". Christy hit Carmella with a pillow then pinned her, with her shoulders obviously up. To think of all the actual talent that didn't wrestle boggles the mind. 0/10.

MATCH 7-- Triple H vs Shawn Michaels. World Title Match. Michaels had a torn meniscus ligament in his knee so could barely wrestle. The match consisted, basically, of him being barely able to move around and HHH working the knee. Good psychology but not much of a match. Edge did a run-in at the end, Spearing HBK. (He could have at least whacked his knee with a chair to make Triple H's previous offense worthwhile, but when have WWE ever adhered to logic?) Triple H retained, pinning Michaels from the Spear. 5.5/10.

MATCH 8-- Randy Orton vs Ric Flair. The fans chose the stipulation- a steel cage match. This feud was built up reasonably well, despite the fact that they've used this same situation of "doubting the Nature Boy" several times over the past few years. The match itself, though, was horrible. There's not really much else to say. Flair, if he is indeed a true legend, should know when to bow out gracefully. He does not belong in the main event anymore. RKO for the win from Orton. 3/10.

OVERALL-- Taboo Tuesday could have been good had we, the fans, been given a little more say in what went down. I highly doubt any serious wrestling fan would want to see Bischoff vs Eugene or Christy vs Carmella. As I said, this is proof that the WWE no longer has a focus on wrestling- the Bischoff segment took ages, Christy and Carmella were "undressing" for about 5 minutes and there were numerous backstage promos, etc. The actual output of wrestling as a whole was disgraceful. Not one match got a higher vote than 5.5 on my rating. WWE have not got their heads screwed on right and if they continue along this road they're on, the ratings and the PPV buyrates are going to plummet.

This was the worst PPV that I have seen this year.

Summerslam
(2004)

A respectable PPV
Spoilers WWE's second biggest pay-per-view of the calendar year is SummerSlam and it has been since the event began back in 1988. After WrestleMania, SummerSlam is the next big event of WWE's year. This is how they should have hyped this year's event, not, as they insisted on reminding us every two minutes, that it was WWE's version of the Summer Games. That's rubbish. There have been Olympic Games in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000 and WWE/WWF has never attempted to cash in. I was disappointed that they had to rely on this to hype the PPV.

That said, the 2004 SummerSlam event took place in Toronto, Canada in the Air Canada centre (referred to several times in the course of the night by Jerry Lawler and Tazz as "bizarro world", due to the intelligent fans' response to certain matches or situations.) An animated live crowd always bolsters a live PPV. Look what Brock/Goldberg would've been like without the fan heat. Anyway, on with the matches.

Match 1- The Dudleyz (Bubba, D-Von and Spike) vs Rey Mysterio, Paul London and Billy Kidman. This was the obvious choice for the opener and was an enjoyable and exciting match. Kidman and London are an excellent pair and it's great to finally have them as a fixture on Smackdown. Great also is the heel turn of Spike Dudley. He's a natural and is doing very well in his new role as leader of the Dudleys. This was a fine match with some great action- pity the crowd wasn't really into it. The Dudleys won with a 3D on Kidman.

Match 2- Kane vs Matt Hardy, v1.0. A much better encounter than their previous one at Vengeance, but that's not saying a lot. This feud is absolutely ludicrous and benefits no-one involved in it. This is the 2004 Al Wilson or Katie Vick. This is sensationalist Vince Russo-esque soap-opera booking and, as I said in my review of Vengeance, it stinks of Stephanie McMahon's involvement. The completely implausible stipulation was that Lita would marry the winner. Whatever. Decent enough match, it has to be said, with Matt getting a bit more offence this time round. Kane won with a Chokeslam from the second rope, which Matt sold very well. Please kill this feud.

Match 3- John Cena vs Booker T (1st in a Best of 5 Series for the US Title.) WWE really dropped the ball on this by making this the first in the series thus it had no suspense whatsoever and means little. There was nothing in this match to set it apart from previous encounters between these two. It was decent enough. Cena got a win out of nowhere with his FU. I hope they have a few different types of matches in the series- watching these two have 5 identical matches doesn't do it for me.

Match 4- Edge vs Chris Jericho vs Batista (Triple Threat for the WWE Intercontinental Title). The big surprise of the night was the reaction of the Toronto fans towards Edge (who is FROM Toronto.) Edge definitely got the most heel heat in this match- even more than Batista! The fans were completely behind Jericho. This was a typical WWE triple threat match with one guy "recovering" on the outside while the other two fight in the ring. (I would advise anyone who wants to see an actual three-way match to track down AJ Styles vs Paul London vs Low Ki from one of Ring of Honour's 2002 shows- excellent stuff.) Anyway, this was quite good, but not as good as the Edge/Jericho match from the previous Raw show. Edge picked up the win anti-climatically with the Spear, adding further to Jericho's PPV loss record. (He did the job here.)Hopefully Edge will turn heel soon as his bland face character is way past stale.

Match 5- Kurt Angle vs Eddy Guerrero. Better than their WrestleMania match, in my opinion. A very enjoyable, psychological match with Angle using the Ankle Lock to wear down Guerrero throughout. The build-up to this match wasn't wonderful, but it was really enjoyable and it was good to see Kurt get a clean PPV win with the Ankle Lock.

Match 6- Triple H vs Eugene. The Canadians didn't take kindly to Eugene and booed him heavily during the course of the match! The match itself was quite poor. I hear Dinsmore is quite a good wrestler but this Eugene character is gonna kill any chance for him to get to show that. I don't agree with him using the finishing moves of other wrestlers- he needs to develop his own style. Triple H should've got a better opponent for this event. I suppose this is fate screwing him over for last year's appalling Elimination Chamber match! Flair and Regal got involved at the end (with Flair loudly cursing into the camera- very funny!) and HHH got the win with the Pedigree. This was rather typical of a feud that was more storyline-based than built around the promise of a potentially good match. (Interesting to see what HHH thinks of this feud: he wasn't wearing his white PPV boots!)

Match 7- John Bradshaw Layfield vs The Undertaker. (WWE Title match.) Better than I expected (keeping in mind I expected this to be utter crap, that's not much of a compliment.) The fans made this match interesting. During a boring resthold sequence, a Mexican wave was started; something I've never seen in my many years watching WWE! The fans also called for the Spanish table to be used, but nothing happened there. Taker got disqualified for hitting JBL with the belt then bloodied him and chokeslammed him through the roof of his limo! The animated crowd sang # Hey-ey-ey good-bye # as JBL was loaded onto the stretcher with Tazz lamenting their lack of compassion. With the amount of "worked" injuries WWE has subjected us to over the years, could you blame the fans for their skepticism?

Diva Dodgeball. Worse than the Kane/Matt/Lita angle on Raw is their mind-numbingly excruciating "Pop Idol" cash-in attempt the Diva Search, where a bunch of girls who can't act or wrestle have been put on our screens for the last X weeks in some of the worst television I have ever seen. In a series of 10 (yes, 10!) painfully unfunny segments, the "Divas" attempted to seduce former WWE "great" Kamala and sell us an ice cream cone. Dreadful stuff. What's the most shocking is that WWE are willing to give the winner a $250,000 contract- more than what the actual female wrestlers are earning. I'd love to know what exactly they're smoking up in Stamford! Anyway, some "genius" thought it would be a good idea to pit the female wrestlers (Trish, Molly, Gail, Jazz, Victoria, Stacy and Nidia) against the Diva Search girls (don't even ask me to remember their names) in a game of dodgeball (an obvious cash-in from the Ben Stiller movie). While I thought the idea was lame, the actual execution of it was a poorly-shot and miserably-timed affair, lasting maybe one minute or so in length. This crap discredits the Women's division entirely. Abysmal.

Match 8- Randy Orton vs Chris Benoit (World Heavyweight Title.) Now onto something good. This was a really enjoyable main event and was definitely one of Orton's best matches yet. Some great action here and an exciting finish as Orton nails Benoit with a beautiful RKO (full marks to Benoit for the selling) and pins him to become the youngest World Champ in history, thus making Lesnar's push redundant and erasing him from the history books! Time will tell as to whether this was too much too soon for the third generation star (he only dropped the IC Title last month) but I believe he should be given his chance in the main event spot as Orton's character has improved hugely this year. Fair play to Benoit for wrestling an excellent match as always. Pity his Title reign has to end.

Without a doubt this year's SS was better than last year's (which in my opinion was absolute poison apart from Angle vs Lesnar). WWE can be reasonably proud of this event and while there's still room for improvement, as the second most important PPV of the year this was a respectable showing.

WWE Vengeance
(2004)

A disappointment
Raw has been absolute gold this year. I saw a Raw House Show in May, in Manchester, and was highly impressed with the improvement in quality of the brand. Raw is far better than Smackdown at the moment and one need only compare the reviews for Backlash & Bad Blood against Judgment Day and the Great American Bash to see that. Backlash and Bad Blood were both very impressive, so I had reasonably high hopes for Vengeance considering the card that had been put together. Unfortunately, Vengeance was a disappointment compared to the other Raw brand PPVs of 2004. The matches were as follows: (*Spoilers*)

Match 1: Tajiri & Rhyno vs The Coach and Lance "Garrison" Cade. The Vengeance card began with this unremarkable tag match that had been signed on Heat. I'm puzzled why Coach has wrestled on every Raw PPV this year. He bumps well, but he's not a wrestler. It's a little odd. The match itself wasn't great. It might look good live, but on TV it was quite boring up until the 'hot tag' to Rhyno. The former ECW alumni got the win when Tajiri misted Cade (who was subsequently Gored) and kicked Coach in the head for the pinfall. Good that Tajiri avenged his Backlash loss against Coach, but not much else to recommend about it.

Match 2: Batista vs Chris Jericho. Dreadful match with the wrong result. Batista dominated Jericho for nearly the entire match with boring restholds (chinlocks, headlocks, sleepers, etc.) Jericho is used way too much to put other guys over. If Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit can beat Batista, why not Jericho? He should've won this match; instead Batista gets an utterly pointless pinfall victory despite Jericho's foot being on the rope. I'm a fan of Jericho's, but this was possibly one of the worst matches of the night. Bad match, bad finish. A massive disappointment.

Match 3: Eugene & Ric Flair vs La Resistance. Entertaining enough tag match with Eugene copying all of Flair's moves (chops, thumb to the eye, the strut, the "Flair Flop", etc.) An amusing enough encounter, but this does nothing to increase the credibility of Raw's tag division. Eugene gets his team DQ'd for bumping the ref.

Match 4: Matt Hardy v1.0 vs Kane (No DQ). I can't believe WWE have gone back to these stupid soap opera story lines. I bet Stephanie McMahon has something to do with this plot. She wrote the atrocious Al Wilson/Dawn Marie saga of last year, and demanded that the Cruiserweight belt be put on Jacqueline. This storyline involving Lita and her "baby" is ridiculous, and I feel bad for Matt Hardy- a great wrestler with a terrific gimmick (the whole 'Version 1'/'Mattitude' thing), who is stuck in the middle of this feud with a guy who has not had a good match in ages. This match was quite poor and the only good thing was a) Matt Hardy was finally back on PPV and b) he won! albeit with interference from Lita. Lita prevented Kane hitting Matt w/ the steps so Matt blasted them into Kane's face w/ a chairshot for the pin. I hope Matt can step out of this awful feud and build a good niche for himself on Raw cos he has a good following.

Match 5: Randy Orton vs Edge (Intercontinental Title match). Incredibly boring match up until the action at the end of the match. Orton used rest hold after rest hold and grinded the match to a snail's pace. Like the Batista match earlier, I would sum up this match with the same phrase- bad match, bad finish. In other words, the wrong guy "went over" again. Edge won with a Spear, ending Orton's reign as champion. (He held the belt since December of last year when he beat Rob Van Dam at Armageddon.) Edge should not have been the guy to, as it were, dethrone Orton. He brought a bit of class and credibility to the title and should have kept it til maybe Survivor Series to enjoy a long reign as Champion. Edge vs Orton may have sounded good on paper, but it was a slow tedious match for the most part.

Match 6: Molly Holly vs Victoria. This match was for the #1 contender ship for the Women's title (currently held by an injured Trish Stratus, who has been a great heel of late.) This match (a rematch from WrestleMania XX) wasn't great. Molly & Victoria don't seem to have much chemistry in the ring, and while the match wasn't dreadful, I would've rather seen Gail Kim vs Molly or Victoria for a change. Victoria won with a kick to the face.

Match 7: Chris Benoit vs Triple H. (World Title). Good match between these two. There was some excellent 'psychology' with Triple H working on Benoit's injured chest and this was (for the most part) a satisfying main event. Unfortunately, I felt the antics involving Eugene certainly took away from the match. The finish, (Benoit rolled up HHH after Eugene accidentally hit him in the head with a chair) was lame and was a disappointing end to an otherwise good match.

OVERALL: Having bought this on pay-per-view, based on the strength of the card, I feel let down by Vengeance. It wasn't Kenzo Suzuki bad, but it was definitely a step back for Raw from a PPV point of view. Jericho should've beat Batista, and Orton should've beat Edge, so I was very disappointed by the overall booking for Vengeance. With results like this and another silly soap opera story, I'm beginning to question the strength of the writing on the Raw brand. I just hope they contribute well for SummerSlam, and that their next solo venture (No Mercy, I think) will be a hell of a lot better than this.

WrestleMania XX
(2004)

Not hugely remarkable for a 20th anniversary show
*Spoilers ahead*

Hyped for a year in advance, WrestleMania XX would've had to have been pretty damn good to live up to its enormous hype. Held in New York's Madison Square Garden, with the questionable tagline of "Where it all begins again", WMXX wasn't that memorable save for the excellent main event between reigning World Champion Triple H, Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels. While the main event was given plenty of time, the card was way overbooked and many matches were far too short- in particular, the Cruiserweight Open. Thus, the midcard was a mixture of good and bad matches. Onto the matches..

Match 1- John Cena vs Big Show [US Title]. A strange choice for an opener as the point of the opening match is to warm up the crowd. Big Show killed the crowd with some dreadful, slow, plodding offence. Cena only had a little offence at the end and, unsurprisingly picked up the win w/ an FU to begin his long overdue US Title reign. The match was a little boring during the middle with Big Show on the offensive. He was a terrible US Champion, so it was good to give the Title to someone who'd defend it. Average match.

Match 2- La Resistance vs Dudleyz vs Cade/Jindrak vs Booker T/RVD [Raw Tag Titles.] Thrown-together Fatal 4 Way match. Not great to be honest. RVD and Booker T were a thrown-together team which devalues the Tag Team division- same w/ Edge and Benoit. Raw needs some more ACTUAL tag teams as opposed to just throwing 2 popular midcarders together as they so often do. Booker T and RVD retain via 5 Star Frog Splash. (What happened in 2003? 2002 produced Randy Orton, John Cena and Brock Lesnar. 2003 produced hosses like Matt Morgan, Nathan Jones and bland wrestlers like Cade, Jindrak, La Resistance, Rodney Mack and Orlando Jordan. Hopefully some promising new talent will emerge this year.)

Match 3- Christian vs Chris Jericho. Jericho is my favourite wrestler and while I was extremely annoyed that his WrestleMania losing streak was further extended, a loss to Christian was the right result to continue the feud properly going into Backlash. Jericho won the feud anyway, so it's not the end of the world! The match itself was really enjoyable and was, in my opinion, the best match of the night after the main event. Disappointing ending, but some terrific action. How has Jericho not been World Champ on Raw yet? (Oh yeah, Triple H.)

Match 4- Evolution (Orton, Batista, Flair) vs The Rock & Mick Foley. I was annoyed at the time this match was signed as I thought the Orton- Foley feud was going well, and a singles match between the two was in order. This handicap tag match was fine though. Interesting to see Foley and Flair in the ring together as they supposedly despise each other outside the ring. Good action here, and a brilliant (but unpopular) finish as Orton nails Foley out of nowhere with the RKO for the pin. Hopefully if The Rock does return later this year he and Orton will feud, as that would be extremely interesting to see.

Match 5- Torrie Wilson & Sable vs Stacy Keibler & Jackie Gayda. The T&A portion of the evening. Dreadful wrestling and mercifully short.

Match 6- Cruiserweight Open, featuring Shannon Moore, Ultimo Dragon, Jamie Noble, Funaki, Nunzio, Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio, Akio, Tajiri & Chavo Guerrero. Considering the appalling amount of time they were given, this was quite enjoyable. I thought it was absolutely shameful, however, that they didn't include the excellent Paul London in this match. A great talent. The eliminations were far too quick and the overall finish was pathetic. (Billy Kidman followed in Brock Lesnar's footsteps showing you should never attempt a Shooting Star Press at WrestleMania! He nearly killed himself trying to hit one to the outside!) The amount of time given to this match shows the contempt WWE treats its Cruiserweight Division with; ironic, as the Division could be the one thing that could save Smackdown from the crap it has become.

Match 7- Brock Lesnar vs Bill Goldberg. For the build-up this feud had, this match was absolutely atrocious. Both men were leaving after this match and should be ashamed of themselves for ending their WWE careers with it. The only good aspect of this match was the animated MSG crowd who chanted "This match sucks", "Boring", "We want Bret" and "You sold out"(at Lesnar). WWE dubbed over these chants on the DVD thus making the match utterly unwatchable now! Goldberg won this dismal display with a Jackhammer. (I won't presume to know what life on the road is like for a WWE wrestler, but Brock Lesnar was given a huge push immediately by WWE and was "put over" by many big names like The Undertaker, The Rock, Kurt Angle and Hulk Hogan. I can see why many are annoyed by his departure. Goldberg's year in WWE was dreadful and it's better for all concerned that he's gone.)

Match 8- Scotty/Rikishi vs Bashams vs APA vs The World's Greatest Tag Team. I mentioned already that 2003 was a disappointing year for new wrestlers- the only exception (besides Brian "Spanky" Kendrick, who has since left) has been The World's Greatest Tag Team- Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. Hopefully, they will go on to greater things in the coming months. This match was, like the Raw 4 Way, thrown together. It wasn't great, and once again the champions (Scotty & Rikishi, still living off their gimmick from 2000) retained. Pointless.

Match 9- Victoria vs Molly [Women's Title.] Raw has a fine Womens division (despite what the critics say) and Molly & Victoria are excellent additions to that division, but this match was far too short and was disappointing. The end was typical for a Womens match: a roll-up. Whoever's booking the finishes to these matches should be shot! Let them use their finishers for Christ's sake! Victoria's 'Widow's Peak' is a brilliant finisher!

Match 10- Eddy Guerrero vs Kurt Angle [WWE Title]. Angle hasn't been his old self this year and his role as Smackdown's General Manager has, to use an Americanism, sucked. This match was pretty good but was a little lacking considering how good it could've been. The finish (another roll-up) was a little better than the Women's match as it was quite clever. Some good action, but could've been better.

Match 11- The Undertaker vs Kane. The Undertaker's appearance disappointed everyone, I think, as he looked exactly like the old "Biker Undertaker" only with a different entrance and Paul Bearer. The match was a fairly typical "hoss" match which Taker won w/ a Tombstone. Great entrance, but that was about it.

Match 12- Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit [World Heavyweight Title]. One of the best main events of recent years, and certainly the best match Triple H has had in quite some time. Brilliant back-and-forth action. A triple threat match usually always delivers as there's no need for 'restholds' (sleeper holds, chinlocks, etc.) as one wrestler is usually knocked outside while the other two go at it. A great match and the right result. Benoit finally gets his chance to shine and begins his World title reign, making Triple H tap out to the Crippler Crossface.

Nothing too memorable on the whole. The only disappointments were the Cruiserweight Open (time-wise, not action-wise) and the abysmal showdown between Lesnar and Goldberg. Otherwise, a fine event.

WWF SmackDown!
(1999)

The better of the two brands.
Ever since the brand extension in April 2002 it's been fairly obvious that Smackdown is the stronger show. And while WWE seek to flush all of the SD! talent to help boost the floundering Raw show, SD continues to provide better wrestling on a week-to-week basis.

That said, Smackdown is not without its own flaws. I'll go into those in a moment.

But, first the good elements of the show.

1) a fresh and entertaining commentary team. Tazz and Michael Cole are no J.R. and The King- and they're much better for it! While Raw's announce team had to hop into the ring in September 2003 to make a change, Cole & Tazz don't need that kind of gimmicky crap. They focus on the action (not harp on about puppies or put Triple H over) and have respect for the wrestlers in the ring. [One of the things I hate about Heat is the fact that Marc Lloyd and Jonathan Coachman just cannot call a match, instead waffling on about what's happened on Raw. It's a lack of respect for the wrestlers- no wonder Heat is regarded as a relegation!] Tazz is one of the best colour analysts I've heard (and adds some comedic value- particularly crooning along to The Cat's theme tune 'Somebody Call My Mama'!) and Michael Cole has really come on as a commentator in his own right. A good commentary team is essential for a wrestling show and Smackdown are lucky to have such a good team.

2) A great roster of superstars. While Smackdown has lost a lot of its stars from the original draft pick (Jericho, Matt Hardy, Randy Orton, etc) it still has a great array of superstars- Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, John Cena, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas and even The Undertaker has his moments! The roster- particularly the use made of it is also one of my pet peeves about the show.

3) Better solo-PPVs than the Raw show. Compare Bad Blood and Unforgiven to Vengeance and No Mercy and it's obvious that Smackdown can put together a superior PPV.

4) PPV-like matches often on the show. While Raw are happy to churn out lacklustre matches w/ Mark Henry every week, Smackdown! has, on numerous occasions, held PPV-quality matches. Examples: TLC 3, the Edge-Guerrero ladder match, the 60 min Lesnar-Angle Ironman match, a Royal Rumble, 2 battle royals and one of the matches of 2003- Undertaker vs Kurt Angle in a one-on-one match for #1 contendership. Even recently, the Rey Mysterio-Jamie Noble match on Smackdown was BETTER than their match at the Royal Rumble. Smackdown provides frequently.

and finally 5) Smackdown is, for the most part, a younger show giving time to non-established stars. (At least it was originally.) Cena, Orton, Edge, Mysterio, Lesnar all flourished on Smackdown. Compared to Raw, which has a decrepid Ric Flair, a worn-out and downright poor Triple H, Kane and Mark Henry, Smackdown has a fresher feel to it.

As I said though, Smackdown is not without its faults. There are a few:

1) McMahon overload. 2003 was quite simply pure and utter hell for me. Action speaks louder than words, but Smackdown was barely audible last year w/ Vince and Stephanie hogging the limelight. Every week would start w/ Vince and another promo. It was a joke. Stephanie was a joke as a GM and Paul Heyman is doing an absolutely fantastic job as the current GM at the moment. Vince and Stephanie even booked themselves into matches on the SD-only PPVs- Steph vs Sable, Vince vs Zach Gowen, Vince vs Steph- it was abominable. Vince and Stephanie were ruining their own show for the most part of 2003 and I hope such an occurrence never happens again. I don't take kindly to promo time taking away from match time or non-wrestlers getting matches where other actual wrestlers suffer on Velocity or dark matches. Hopefully SD will continue along the road it's on now without the McMahons interfering.

2) Stupid storylines. Mr.America. Dawn Marie and Al Wilson. The Undertaker's "affair". I'm saying no more except these were embarassing and unnecessary.

3) Misuse of the roster. In particular here, I mean misuse of the entire Cruiserweight division- since when has the division been 3 guys (Mysterio, Tajiri and Noble)? Shannon Moore, Paul London & Billy Kidman are fantastic talents yet WWE lets them sit on the shelf and passes at the opportunity to expand the division. It's ridiculous. And the loss of Brian 'Spanky' Kendrick was in my opinion a huge blow. Tons of charisma and a brilliant wrestler. They didn't know what they had. It looks like Ultimo Dragon will go the same way- what an embarassment for this well-renowned Cruiserweight.

Benoit and Guerrero were also criminally misused in 2003- the former wrestling A-Train or the F.B.I frequently, the latter in a feud with the Big Show! Things are looking up for these two though, thankfully.

4)Misuse of the roster II. Ignoring the Cruiserweights and pushing overweight slobs or "legends" (read: geriatrics who can't string a move set together.) How A-Train, Nathan Jones, Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Big Show, Matt Morgan, Rikishi, Chuck Palumbo and Bradshaw got unlimited TV time in 2003 while the above superstars (Cruiserweights) got relegated to Velocity shocks me. Hogan and Piper put on the worst match of the year at Judgment Day and Hogan is an overrated embarassment who can't wrestle worth a damn. His Mr America feud w/ Vince was pathetic.

The problem is- if WWE decide they need to cut the roster, no prizes for guessing from which list they'll choose from.

5) Main events limited. Angle and Lesnar has been overdone a bit. They need to put a few new faces up for title contendership- NOT Undertaker. Good to see Eddy Guerrero get a shot and I hope it's the start of things to come.

Weighing up the pros and cons SD is a much more watchable show than Raw. While its use of its star power is highly questionable, at least the action is generally very good.

Could be better though. I'm begging for an expanded Cruiserweight division. Hopefully 2004 will be a good year for it.

Unless a drastic loss of superstars to Raw occurs, I don't think SD should worry- it has a better GM, better commentary team and all-round better matches. I don't see this changing anytime soon.

WWE Bad Blood
(2003)

First RAW-only PPV
Ever since the brand extension in April '02, there have been debates over which is the better show- RAW or Smackdown? The general consensus is that Raw is better for storylines (look no further than Smackdown's Al Wilson fiasco or the neverending Hogan-Vince feud for proof of that!)

Smackdown, however, takes the lead (generally) from a wrestling standpoint (Big Show, Albert & Rikishi excluded) with fantastic talents like Matt Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, Billy Kidman, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. The Raw brand suffers from a weak selection of mid-card wrestlers, so the outlook of the first Raw-only PPV didn't seem too good. Here's what happened at June's Bad Blood (**Match result SPOILERS**)

MATCH 1- Rodney Mack and Christopher Nowinski vs The Dudley Boyz. I don't like the Dudleyz (though Bubba is a good singles wrestler) and I haven't been impressed by Mack squashing 'jobbers' every week on Raw, so I wasn't looking forward to this match. At all. It was a pretty dull match with Mack & Nowinski picking up the win after Nowinski hits Bubba in the head with his protective mask. Not a great start. (2/10)

MATCH 2- Scott Steiner vs Test. OK match. Steiner's fall off the apron is pretty funny! Not much else to say. Steiner wins with a version of the Flatliner/Novacaine and gets the services of Stacy Keibler. (4/10)

MATCH 3- Booker T vs Christian. Quite good. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but good. I like when signature moves are swapped, so Booker's reverse DDT (Christian's move) and Christian's Bookend (Booker's move) keep things interesting. Very weak ending that the crowd did NOT like one bit! (Chants of "Bullsh*t" after the match!) Christian tries to get counted out, then deliberately gets DQ'd, blasting Booker with his IC title. Decent match, dreadful finish. (6/10)

MATCH 4- La Resistance vs RVD/Kane. Another dull tag match. RVD wrestles the same match every time in the tag division. They should let him go solo again- he's a much better singles wrestler. RVD messes up a tumbling senton over the top, hitting Kane, and falls victim to a double spinebuster. La Resistance get the 1-2-3 and the tag titles. (3/10)

MATCH 5- Goldberg vs Chris Jericho. The only match on the card I was really looking forward to, especially considering the history these two have had (on and off-camera). Apparently, Goldberg refused to work with Jericho back in WCW because of his size, and Jericho didn't take too kindly to it. Then, when Goldberg arrived in WWE this March, it was rumoured that the two had an altercation as a result of some derogatory comments made by Goldberg regarding Jericho. (Jericho reportedly trapped Goldberg in a front facelock!) So, this match had a pretty good build-up. The match itself was very good, I thought, even if a win for Goldberg was obvious. (Interestingly enough, Goldberg is booed for another PPV with a number of Jerichoholics leading a 'Y2J' chant). Good selling of the arm injury by Goldberg and a great effort (as always) by Jericho- the king of Raw! How is this guy not a World title contender? Spear, Jackhammer win for Goldberg. (7.5/10)

MATCH 6- Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels. Flair has surprised me recently, with a number of good matches- this being one of them. Except for a slight miscalculation with his flip-over-the-buckles spot, he & HBK work a great match. Michaels too is on top form- his top rope splash through a table to Flair is spectacular, so too is his Sweet Chin Music to the Nature Boy. Randy Orton blasts Michaels in the head with a chair and rolls 'Naitch' on top for a cheap victory. Great match. (8/10)

Before the main event I must mention Austin & Bischoff's 'Redneck Triathlon'. The first event- a belching contest (with piped-in belches) was painful to watch! Awful lip-synching. Austin won. We were promised a 'pie-eating' contest and (like every other time WWE tries to be risque to win buyrates) it fails to deliver. (Remember the HLA farce at Unforgiven with Rikishi in drag? Sorry for the reminder!) Anyway, Mae Young bronco busts Bischoff in a thong and Bischoff wins the second event. Why do they bother promising things they can't deliver? Austin throws the Bisch in some pig manure for the win (bringing back some fond memories of when Triple H used to fight in those hog pen matches!) Bit of a waste of time, to be honest. (I really could have done without seeing Mae Young in a thong! Although, big respect to the woman for taking that powerbomb through a table a few years ago.)

MATCH 7- Triple H vs Kevin Nash (Hell in a Cell) Better than their Judgment Day bout, but I'll never buy Nash as a serious #1 contender. Totally undeserving. Without Mick Foley as guest ref, this match wouldn't have been half as good. Great man. Triple H wins with the Pedigree, thankfully. Who will he drop the title to? I definitely don't think he'll job to Goldberg- at least not on their first encounter. Anyway, average match. Nash will go the way of Booker, Kane, RVD, Steiner and every other person who has challenged Triple H in the past- straight down into the murky depths of... the midcard. (5/10)

2 very good matches, the rest poor to OK. I was surprised that Jazz vs Ivory wasn't a match (but glad at the same time, as Jazz would've killed Ivory's momentum). As a PPV, Bad Blood was average. The failure to make good on the 'pie-eating' contest will not be forgotten the next time WWE tries to promise something risque. The question now is: how will the Smackdown-only PPV Vengeance fare next month? It'll be interesting to see.

WWE Judgment Day
(2003)

Poor.
The May PPV Judgment Day shows just what is wrong with WWE at the moment- stuff like A) not giving matches enough time, B) favouring feud-building, promos and storylines over actual wrestling, C) giving main event slots to the bigger, slower guys and burying the talented smaller guys in pointless feuds or on Velocity/Heat. I've been watching wrestling for 11 years and I'm sad to say that (despite an extensive and talented roster) this is the worst it's been for some time! Judgment Day went down like this: (Spoilers)

MATCH 1- The FBI (Palumbo & Stamboli) and John Cena vs Brian Kendrick, Chris Benoit & Rhyno. Great potential for this match, but it was given less than 4 minutes. That's a travesty! They could have easily ditched a few promos and the pathetic bikini contest and let this match go longer. Disappointing. Kendrick, on the other hand, is fantastic- he seems to be really popular with the crowds and he always looks to give 110% in the ring. (So like I said, next stop Velocity!) FBI get the win with the Kiss of Death, a double-team move resembling Demolition's old finisher. Good match, which I can't rate, due to its brevity.

MATCH 2- La Resistance vs Test & Steiner. Less said about this the better. Double-team spinebuster on Steiner for the win. The whole "hate us, we're French" thing is so damn lazy as a gimmick and I'd be surprised if they continue 'getting heat' on a long-term basis. Bad stuff here. (2/10)

MATCH 3- Eddy Guerrero & Tajiri vs Team Angle--Ladder Match for the SD! Tag titles. Impressive ladder match. Guerrero's frog splash was tremendous and Shelton's leap off the ladder (a la The Beverly Brothers) looked nasty! Ouch. Good win for Eddy & Tajiri, who was filling in for an injured Chavo Guerrero. (7/10)

MATCH 4- Battle Royal for the returning IC Title. Poorly put together. Most of the guys (RVD, Kane, Storm, Val Venis) were gone after about a minute and a half! Came down to Jericho, Booker T & Christian. Christian won, under somewhat controversial circumstances (ripping off Austin's Royal Rumble 'win' in 97) I'd like to think that they're not giving Jericho the title because they're setting him up for a shot at Triple H. Yeah, right. They should've never taken him off Smackdown! Huge mistake. (4/10)

The bikini contest was up next. An utter waste of time (and pointless, since both Sable & Torrie were in Playboy.) Sable got a bigger cheer, but oddly, Torrie was declared winner.

MATCH 5- Mr America vs Roddy Piper. How can this pathetic Mr America thing be Smackdown's top plot? Shocking stuff. I'm not gonna comment on the match- the rating speaks for itself. (0/10)

MATCH 6- Triple H vs Kevin Nash--World (RAW) title match. Awful feud, awful match, awful finish. This piece of crap is gonna drag on into Bad Blood as well. Cheap DQ finish and a totally undeserving challenger in Nash. His kickout of the Pedigree actually managed to piss me off! If the move (used once) can beat talented guys like Angle, Jericho and Booker, why does Nash get to kick out of it? Only highlight was the post-match Jackknife through the announcer's table. Oh yeah, Triple H's purple boots were really dodgy! (2/10)

MATCH 7- Fatal 4 Way for the Women's title- Trish vs Jazz vs Victoria vs Jacqueline. Good show from the women. Trish took a hard landing out on the floor and busted her lip, but still kept going. Fair play to her. RAW really needs more women wrestlers (or at least stop letting Jazz squash Molly & Ivory!) Jazz DDTs Jackie for the 1-2-3. (7/10)

MATCH 8- Brock Lesnar vs Big Show--Stretcher match for the WWE (SmackDown!) title. Just one big brawl up until the disappearance of Brock and the appearance of Rey Mysterio. Things get really good after that! Brock makes novel use of a forklift to move Big Show for the win. (Bit boring up til Mysterio) (4.5/10)

Poor show from the WWE. No Goldberg, no Kidman, Hurricane, Matt Hardy- this PPV could've done with a dose of Mattitude! The PPV split is very dangerous from WWE's point of view. RAW is noticeably the weaker show- something drastic will have to be done.

Some awful matches, too many promos and bad time management led this to be one of the worst PPVs in the past few years.

The Mothman Prophecies
(2002)

Very atmospheric
The Mothman Prophecies is easily one of the most atmospheric movies I have seen for a good while. It's not tense necessarily, just weird. You just feel that something's not right. I remember thinking after I saw it in the cinema that it was an eerily quiet film.

The combined use of a terrific musical score by Tomandandy (even just over the opening credits) and some amazing cinematography help to create this atmosphere. Some of the shots are just fantastic (the camera inverting as it passes the telegraph pole in the field, the zoom into the picture of Mary, the use of filters in flashback, etc). This is one of the best looking films around without a doubt.

The film is also strong story-wise. It's extremely intriguing and the parts are very well-acted. The only downside is that I think the story goes a bit off-the-rails for a while when Klein leaves Point Pleasant to visit Leek. It doesn't last too long though.

I can see why some people might think it was boring, but I didn't personally. This is one of those movies that requires your undivided attention if you are to get anything out of it.

2 scenes are particularly memorable- Gordon's encounter with Indrid Cold at the chemical plant (great tension) and the telephone conversation between Klein and Cold. One of the strong points of the film is that the Mothman isn't shown. Its appearance is revealed fleetingly and all we have to go on is eyewitness reports and the drawings (which look pretty cool)

I enjoyed this film and I believe anyone who appreciates a good story and a good atmosphere will too.

WrestleMania XIX
(2003)

Impressive
This year's WrestleMania was, overall, an impressive affair with 2 excellent matches, a few good ones and only one bad one. Here are the matches on the card (w/ MATCH RESULT SPOILERS).

MATCH 1- Matt Hardy vs Rey Mysterio (for the Cruiserweight championship). Good, but short opening match. It's unfortunate that it just goes over 5 minutes, but those are 5 action-packed minutes! Good high-flying (as usual) from Mysterio and Hardy's offense is unique as always (nice Side effect out of the corner.) Matt pulls out a surprising win, reversing a victory roll into a pin. Again, a bit disappointing that it's only about the length of a SmackDown! match. Good though. (7.5)

MATCH 2- The Undertaker vs Big Show & Albert. Ugh. As expected, this was the worst one on the card- it's not 100% crap (Taker's fujiwara armbar and jujigatame made it interesting at least). However, as soon as Show & Albert go on the offensive, the match nosedives! 'Taker wins anyhow w/ the Tombstone on Albert. (4)

MATCH 3- Trish Stratus vs Jazz vs Victoria (for the Women's title). Pretty good- the end was a bit crap, but the action was good throughout. Nice modified Michinoku driver by Jazz. Trish wins anyway w/ a high roundhouse kick to Victoria. Weak ending. (6)

MATCH 4- Team Angle vs Los Guerreros vs Rhyno & Benoit (for the SmackDown! tag titles). Not as good as I expected, but still good nonetheless. The end was also a bit frustrating- Benamin pins Chavo after a Gore. It's good for heel heat, but it's still a bit irritating. (7)

MATCH 5- Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho. This was the match I was most looking forward to, and it delivered in a big way! Great action for 20+ minutes and a number of near-finishes (which I always like). Despite falling victim to the Walls, the Lionsault and his own Sweet Chin Music, HBK wins, pinning Jericho w/ a rolling clutch pinning combination. Jericho gets the last laugh, suckering in Michaels after the match with a false display of sportsmanship, then hitting a low blow on his idol. Great match. (9)

MATCH 6- Triple H vs Booker T (for the RAW world title). Not a bad match- Triple H executes a mean Indian deathlock and Booker's Scissors kick (which usually is a poor finisher in my view) looks brilliant in this match. Anyhow after plenty more action (including a nice Spinebuster by Triple H and Booker's rolling hangover) Triple H retains w/ the Pedigree. (6.5)

MATCH 7- Hulk Hogan vs Vince McMahon. Better than I expected. Vince's ladder spot shocked me, so too did the appearance of a former Intercontinental champion in one of the worst run-ins EVER! Hogan wins this bloody affair w/ 3 legdrops in succession. (6)

MATCH 8- The Rock vs Stone Cold. Also good. The near-finishes towards the end really add to it, with both men using their own, and each other's finishers. It takes The Rock 3 Rock bottoms (the last one is particularly good) to finish off Austin and get the 3 count. Rock finally gets his well-deserved WM win over Austin (who gets a lukewarm crowd reaction it seems). (7)

MATCH 9- Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle (for the SmackDown! undisputed title). Great match throughout. Excellent action and a spot that made me absolutely cringe! (The last time I had a cringe-worthy moment like that was when Shane McMahon was belly-to-belly suplexed on his head at King Of The Ring '01!) Lesnar's shooting star press (where he starts nicely, but clatters his head off the mat) was nasty! Amazingly he still manages to complete the match, pinning Angle after a third F-5. Brilliant performance by both men and a terrific main event. (8.5)

I definitely believe that this year's WrestleMania outdid last year's. As I said, impressive.

WWE No Way Out
(2003)

Pretty good lead-in to WrestleMania
The WWE's second PPV of the year was a fairly good effort and provided a decent set-up for next month's WrestleMania XIX. The crowd, also, in Montreal proved entertaining during a number of matches due to their complete unpredictability. Anyhow, here's the matches in the order in which they occurred: (each match is rated out of 10)

MATCH 1-- CHRIS JERICHO vs JEFF HARDY. I was disappointed with this match the first time I saw it, but it gets better each time I watch it.

As an opening match it's good- it's allowed to go for a nice 15 minutes or so & there's some good near falls (for Hardy, his Swanton and Old school expulsion-like Twist of Fate and for Jericho, a soft-looking Lionsault and a Sleeper drop). There are a few faults with the match though- Jeff messes up a fair few spots (a weird roll-up near the end and a jawbreaker where he falls flat on his back) which sort of took away from the action.( Plus, Jeff looks like he's come straight from a paintball tournament.) In the end, Jericho powerbombs Jeff off the second rope and locks in what they're calling the Walls of Jericho, but what is actually just a run-of-the-mill Boston crab. Jeff taps anyway to this butchered Walls. HBK saves Jeff from the "Walls" after the match- he comes out to boos (Survivor Series 97) but ends up being cheered, which is weird because Jericho started off the match to boos, but the crowd switched to his side halfway through. (7.5)

MATCH 2-- STORM & REGAL vs RVD & KANE. OK match. Not wonderful. Storm hits a nice DDT halfway into it, but that's about it. The finish is, like one later in the evening, one you'll either like it or you won't: Storm messes with Kane's mask so he can't see, RVD is pushed into him and gets Chokeslammed. Regal covers RVD for the pin. (5)

MATCH 3-- MATT HARDY (v1.0) vs BILLY KIDMAN. Another match that grew on me after a second viewing. Matt & Kidman are two of Smackdown's greatest talents and this is a fine match. Hardy has some good offense during the match (his Side effect is impressive and Kidman takes Matt's Twist of Fate perfectly) and pulls out the win w/ a top rope Twist of Fate for the pin and the Cruiserweight Title. The crowd wasn't into this at all, which is a pity since it was one of the best matches of the night. (8)

MATCH 4-- THE UNDERTAKER vs BIG SHOW. Ugly. It's so slow at one point that Show hits 6 elbow drops (slowly) in succession as well as 5 headbutts. The only highlight of the match is Taker's plancha to Heyman and Albert (I refuse to call him A-Train- it's ridiculous). 'Taker wins with an abnormally quick chokeout w/ the Triangle hold. (The ref called for the bell way too quick) (3)

MATCH 5-- LESNAR & BENOIT vs TEAM ANGLE (HAAS, BENJAMIN & KURT ANGLE). Edge didn't compete due to a neck injury that will keep him out for a year, so they had it that Team Angle ambushed him in the back before the match. Good match as expected. Bit slow in the middle, but some great action towards the end. Lesnar F5s Angle while Charlie Haas is trapped in the Crossface. Haas taps out and Lesnar and Benoit win. (8)

MATCH 6-- TRIPLE H vs SCOTT STEINER. Big surprise as the Montreal crowd boo the crap out of Steiner and cheer The Game. The match is marred by too much interference by Evolution (though Flair's eyerake to Steiner and subsequent strut is pure gold!). Triple H manages to escape the Steiner recliner and blast him in the head with the World title. One Pedigree later and HHH leaves with the gold. Not a bad match. (6)

"MATCH" 7-- STONE COLD vs ERIC BISCHOFF. No surprise here. 4 Stunners to Bischoff from Austin, who's enjoying himself. JR goes way OTT and is advis ed by Tazz, after, to switch to decaf. Funny stuff. OK return for Stone Cold.

MATCH 8-- THE ROCK vs HULK HOGAN. New entrance vid for The Rock (very cool). Short return match between these two with a weird but excellent ending. Hogan hits the Legdrop and a guest ref (local guy) counts 1-2.. lights out. When the lights come back on, the ref is unconscious and there's a chair beside him. (I was thinking Vince at this point, then Goldberg when Vince was on the ramp, but it turns out it was the ref who was crooked). The Rock nails Hogan with the chair and Rock bottoms him. The ref springs to life and counts the 3! Interesting. (7)

Overall, No Way Out was pretty good- both Hardys had good matches, the 5 man tag was impressive and Rock-Hogan II was short, but sweet. It also set up feuds leading into WMXIX- Jericho vs Shawn Michaels (should be a classic), 'Taker vs Albert (should stink up the card), and Vince vs Hogan (should be awful!) A good night's entertainment.

The Ring
(2002)

Quite chilling, just avoid the Japanese film beforehand (SPOILERS)
My only advice to anyone going to see The Ring is NOT to see the original in advance. It sort of spoiled my enjoyment of this as I was constantly comparing it, in my head, to Hideo Nakata's version.

That said, The Ring is still a very interesting story and manages effectively to create a tense atmosphere- maybe not as tense as Nakata's, but certainly one of the most chilling US horror movies in recent years.

Gore Verbinski's take on the original Koji Suzuki novelette 'Ringu' is interesting in its own right- this is not a shot-for-shot remake (like Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake) and it was enjoyable to get another angle on the story. The opening scene, for example, is more subtle in the original, but I like what Verbinski did with it: he extended the scene a bit and ended it very well, I believe. The revelation near the end, delivered by Aidan was also a nice addition that didn't appear in the original.

While a bit heavy-handed (showing us a scene in the present then showing us the corresponding scene on the tape) I think Gore Verbinski's effort was quite good.

However (comparing it to the original) there were a few things I didn't like during the film (besides it stopping halfway through, the lights coming on and that awful, awful Avril Lavigne song Sk8er Boi starting to play!). They are as follows [MAJOR SPOILERS]: I didn't like Samara in this one- they shouldn't have shown the face and made us sympathise with her- Sadako was much creepier. And what the hell was with A) Rachel coughing up that long piece of lace and B) the scene with the horse running amok on the ferry? (it was good from a supernatural point of view, but it was bizarre!) Still though, the TV scene was very, very good and the well being under the cabin was a nice twist.

The Ring is definitely worth seeing- it delivers some good shock moments with an underlying tension throughout. Perhaps not as unnerving as Nakata's, but a good horror film in its own right.

(BTW: I didn't like that they tried to tie in the title with the film. The ring in the original (to the best of my knowledge) referred to the video tape getting passed from person to person not a ring of light like in this one. So I thought that was a bit stupid.)

Final Destination 2
(2003)

Good sequel **Minor Spoilers**
Good, faithful follow-up to the original Final Destination, released 2 years ago.

It starts off pretty much like the first one, with a girl [Kimberly-- A.J. Cook; Wishmaster 3] having a premonition of a huge road accident about to happen. She manages to survive, and save a few others doomed to die, but her friends aren't as lucky and she knows Death is coming back to get the survivors...

The plot is basically the same, but it does pull out some interesting surprises: the tie between the new batch of potential victims and the victims of the original is, while a bit convenient, a cool tie-in to the original, one of many.

The death scenes are really well done, and the good thing about this film is that there's a lot more 'teasing' in this film from the director, showing a number of ways the victim could be 'offed' before following through with a brutal finish! Good work from David R Ellis. (The only thing missing from the death scenes in FD2 was the cool black shadow that accompanied the deaths in FD1).

The acting was good (Cook, Landes and Larter particularly) also, and I only have a few gripes about FD2: Tony Todd's cameo was even more pointless than the original, Michael Landes' character seemed to be a cop merely

for convenience purposes and the baby plot thread, while being the driving force of the second half, was a bit stupid.

Overall though it's well worth seeing- the premonition of the car crash at the start was intense, the death scenes are all great (the guy cut in 3 by the barbed wire was excellent!) and it delivers a few surprises along the way. Better than FD1? I'm not sure, but it's easily as entertaining as the original.

ECW Guilty as Charged 2001
(2001)

Final ECW PPV
MATCH RESULT SPOILERS AHEAD...

Guilty as Charged 2001, which took place in January of that year, was ECW's last pay-per-view as it went bankrupt shortly after. The event itself is pretty damn good and a lot better than some of the stuff WWE churned out in 2002. So, here are the matches on the card:

MATCH 1.. Cyrus & Jerry Lynn vs Christian York & Joey Matthews. York & Matthews were jumped by the Baldies before the match and taken apart, making it very easy for Cyrus and Jerry Lynn, who sauntered down to the ring. York was subdued by the Baldies as Lynn hit his fantastic Cradle piledriver on Matthews for the win. (Cyrus made the cover, to add insult to injury). Small, but good amount of action w/ York and Matthews trying to hold off the Baldies, but this is more of an 'angle' than a match, as Lynn cuts a promo after the pinfall.

MATCH 2.. Danny Doring & Roadkill vs Hot Commodity (EZ Money & Julio Dinero) Some great action here- particularly memorable is EZ Money's vertical suplex turned into a powerbomb of sorts. It's a good tag match and in the end Doring and Roadkill retain their ECW tag titles w/ the Buggyback. (D & R's tag move finisher)

MATCH 3.. Nova vs Chris Hamrick This was an impromptu match as Nova saved Doring & Roadkill from a post-match beatdown, courtesy of Hot Commodity. Another good match here. Hamrick's top rope standing hurricanrana is fantastic, while Nova's Kryptonite krunch is a fine finishing move. After

some confusion (as Spike and Chris Chetti & Lou E Dangerously do run-ins) Nova picks up the win nailing Hamrick w/ the Kryptonite krunch for the pin.

MATCH 4.. Tommy Dreamer vs CW Anderson-- I QUIT MATCH Very good match which is an interesting blend of technical wrestling (a good amount of submission attempts) and hardcore brutality. This is a better match than these two had at Massacre on 34th Street. Anyway, Dreamer gets the win- he Spicolli drivers Anderson through a table then gets him in a crossface of sorts, wrenching back with a strip of rubber that was from the shattered table. Anderson squeals I quit. One of the best matches I've seen Dreamer in.

MATCH 5.. Tajiri & Mikey Whipwreck vs The FBI (Full Blooded Italians) vs Super Crazy & Kid Kash. Fantastic action- great high spots from Crazy & Kash, three submission holds being performed simultaneously, those cringe-inducing kicks from Tajiri, and a whole lot more. Kash & Crazy are eliminated first as the FBI's enormous enforcer Big Sal crushes Kash w/ a big splash. After some crazy action between the FBI and Tajiri & Mikey, the latter come out on top with a pair of bridging German suplexes for the pin.

MATCH 6.. Simon Diamond & Swinger vs Balls Mahoney & Chilly Willy. This match never even gets going, as Rhino (who was much more vicious in ECW) stampedes the lot o' them, including valets Dawn Marie and

Jasmine St Claire, who is piledriven head-first into the canvas off the second turnbuckle. Joey Styles (the best commentator in the business) sums it up best: "Holy crap!!" The second rope piledriver is almost as bad as Rhino's piledriver off the apron (through a table) on Lori Fullington. Almost.

MATCH 7.. Sandman vs Steve Corino vs Justin Credible--TABLES, LADDERS, CHAIRS & CANES MATCH FOR THE ECW TITLE. Not a great match. There's nothing really creative done w/ the weapons and it's reasonably slow. Sandman's two falls through tables and the presence of Francine are good though. Sandman wins the match, and the title, but not for long...

MATCH 8..Rhino vs Sandman-- MATCH FOR THE ECW TITLE Rhino threatens Sandman's family who are sitting in the crowd, so Sandman is forced to give him a title shot. Rhino gores Sandman through a table, piledrives him off the apron through another table and piledrives him once more on a shard of table for the win. Rhino becomes the last ECW World Heavyweight Champion.

MATCH 9.. Rob Van Dam vs Jerry Lynn. Rhino lays down an open challenge for his newly won title which is promptly accepted by RVD. However, Lynn ambushes him from behind leading to a match between the two. Another great display from both men. Van Dam hits all his signature moves and pins Jerry Lynn after a skull-crushing Van Terminator!

THE VERDICT... A fine PPV. The TLCC match was disappointing and 2 matches were scrapped in favour of angles, but the rest of the card was excellent as ECW did what it did best: showcase great wrestling. It's a shame that this company went out of business.

OTHER GOOD ECW PPVs TO CHECK OUT... Anarchy Rulz 2000 is a really good show, as well as Heatwave 98 and Hardcore Heaven 2000. Path of Destruction is also a good compilation of some great ECW matches through the years.

I'm sure there's loads more but these are some of my personal favourites.

Jeepers Creepers
(2001)

Not as bad as I first thought (MINOR SPOILERS)
I saw and reviewed this film when it first came out and I was really annoyed with he second half of it as the awesome first half had so much potential.

However, I got the film dirt-cheap on VHS recently and was pleasantly surprised. Knowing that the film was going to change direction as it did made it easier to adapt to. It's still not half as good as it should have been but it doesn't ruin the film THAT much.

The first half (for those who haven't seen it) is really suspenseful, exciting and funny- the brother/sister carry-on between Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long). There's stuff that makes you care about what happens to them- unfortunately there's little of this in the second half. The "Pipe Scene" is also quite good despite the fact that the 'bodies' are very, very obviously dummies! As well as that the killing of the cops is done tremendously well. (The Creeper on top of the car in the backround was ingenious).

The second half loses the plot a little. Eileen Brennan's (the cat lady) scene is a bit pointless, but Trish running the Creeper over repeatedly is gnarly! And, ah yes, the infamous psychic.. I don't hate the character as much as some, but she WAS pointless. The police station scene still does nothing for me from a suspense point of view. The Creeper still looks ridiculous.

However, the ending is still shocking: it was a good idea to go this route, I think, and do something a bit different. (The music used as Trish looks up into the sky is really good, too.)

On the whole it's a fine film. The first half is, as I said, terrific, but the second is less so. I've heard that a sequel is in the works, as it were. Unless Trish returns, I think it'll probably flop cos I don't see the Creeper gaining cult villain status like Michael Myers or Jason or Freddy Krueger, etc.

If I had to grade the film I'd give it about 7 out of 10. (I think I gave it 5 the first time round).

WWE WrestleMania X-8
(2002)

Very playable- (Review of the X8 video game)
Obviously the No Mercy game for the N64 was a tough act to follow, but X8 is a competent follow-up nonetheless. There are good and bad points to the game:

GOOD POINTS-

Good amount of wrestlers including Rock, Austin, Triple H, Angle, Jericho, Taker, Kane and new characters like RVD, Booker T, Storm, Hurricane and the nWo to name a few. Characters like Benoit, Rhyno, Flair and Vince can also be unlocked.

Gameplay is fairly simple to pick up.

Some of the moves are fairly well executed and each wrestler has their own characteristic moves. What's good also is you can customise the moves list of the wrestlers.

Wrestlers look realistic and entrances are good, despite some theme songs being absent due to licensing issues or something.

The Hell in the Cell match is brilliant. Best yet for any console. Really well done

BAD POINTS-

The create-a-wrestler is far too basic. There are limited costume choices and the moves are just those in the game (unlike No Mercy which allowed you a huge selection of other moves and finishers). The CAW is just there, really, to allow you to create wrestlers that Jakks didn't have time to put in (Kidman, Saturn, HBK, Billy Gunn, Chuck Palumbo ,etc)

There's no real reward in winning a match- there's no ring bell after a pin and the opponents don't tap out to submission holds (like in No Mercy). It just comes up on the screen as "SUBMIT" which is pretty crap- if they could put in the realism of wrestler entrances, surely they could have added tapping out to make it more realistic.

No story mode.

Some of the finishers don't look great ( the Pedigree, for one, looked better in SD3).

No 'psychology'- in No Mercy you could work over a body part (leg/arm/neck) and your opponent would sell the injury, but there's none of that in X8, which makes it less rewarding again.

THE VERDICT- Not bad- by any means, but it should have incorporated the best qualities of No Mercy and added to them. Hopefully the follow up to this will be a slight improvement and rectify the bad points I mentioned above. X8 is very playable, but it could stand to improve.

Survivor Series
(2002)

Easily the best PPV of 2002 **SPOILERS**
Fantastic stuff from this year's Survivor Series. Absolutely excellent- this is setting the bar for what all their PPVs should be like. Here are the matches on the card:

MATCH 1- Bubba, Spike & Jeff Hardy vs Rico & 3 Minute Warning--TABLES MATCH. Pretty good table match, which thankfully ditches the tag format and goes for mayhem. Good choice. Spike's the first eliminated getting a double flapjack, of sorts, through a table. Rosey goes next after Jeff hits a Swanton bomb off the balcony. Jeff is splashed through a table by Jamal to be elimnated, but Jamal falls victim to a second-rope powerbomb through a table by Bubba. Down to Bubba & Rico, and D-Von makes the save for Bubba, helping him 3D Rico to win. OK. Fairly decent match- watch out for a major flub, as Rico is waiting AGES on the top rope prepping a moonsault for Jeff to push him off and yells "C'MON JEFF, GODDAMMIT!!" (7.5)

MATCH 2- Billy Kidman vs Jamie Noble--CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH. Brilliant action here. Some great moves by both men- Noble's falcon arrow, suicide dive and vicious DDT from the turnbuckle, plus Kidman's fireman's carry neckbreaker, a back suplex swung into a facebuster, a top rope facebuster and the shooting star press, which picks up the win for Kidman, and the Cruiserweight title. Really enjoyable match. (9)

MATCH 3- Victoria vs Trish Stratus--WOMEN'S TITLE, HARDCORE RULES. Decent stuff here- good use of the broom in the opening moments. Victoria's 'mirror, mirror' promo backstage was quite funny- what a psycho! Anyway, Victoria wins w/ a snap suplex (??) to win the Women' s title. Much better than their No Mercy match. (7)

MATCH 4- Big Show vs Brock Lesnar--WWE UNDISPUTED TITLE MATCH

This match is only about 4 and a half minutes long (due to Lesnar's broken rib) which is a good thing if you ask me. Amazing power by Lesnar as he hits three suplexes on Big Show (back, german and belly to belly) and a brilliant F-5. Incredible. Heyman turns on Lesnar, though, allowing Show to win w/ a chokeslam on a chair. The last time Big Show was champion it was an utter failure (Bossman was #1 contender!!) I hope they know what they're doing. Good match, anyhow- its brevity works in its favour. (8)

MATCH 5- Los Guerreros vs Edge & Mysterio vs Angle & Benoit--3 WAY TAG FOR THE WWE TAG BELTS. Some great action here as usual. Particularly memorable here is the crossface/anklelock double sumission on Edge and a brilliant double pin attempt where Eddy Guerrero sunset flips Benoit, who german suplexes Edge simultaneously. Edge spears Benoit to eliminate his team, after a great misunderstanding between Angle & Benoit. Guerreros make it the 3rd title to change hands as Eddy makes Mysterio tap out to his cloverleaf/sharpshooter hybrid, the Lasso from El Paso. Another fine match from these men. (9)

SCOTT STEINER SEGMENT- Christopher Nowinski & Matt Hardy (Version 1.0) rip on New York until Steiner comes out and destroys both men with suplexes and press slams. Good segment.

MATCH 6- Rob Van Dam vs Triple H vs Kane vs Booker T vs Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels--ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR THE WORLD TITLE. Brilliant main event- the structure looks fantastic and the set-up of the match (the separate pods) is a great idea. RVD & HHH started out, then Jericho, Booker T, Kane & HBK were released within 5 mins of each other. RVD is first out after a terrible frog splash off one of the pods (he injured HHH landing his knee on his trachea) and a missile dropkick from Booker T. Jericho gets rid of Booker T and Kane w/ Lionsaults, but falls victim to some Sweet Chin Music as he has Triple H in the Walls. HBK wins the title w/ the Sweet Chin Music on Triple H, capping off an amazing number of title changes at the PPV. (10)

OVERALL-- No terrible matches on the card at all. The elimination chamber was outstanding and the tag & cruiserweight matches were very exciting. The only bad things about the event were the end of the women's title match and RVD's elimination. Both a bit weak. Aside from that though, this is the strongest PPV in a good while.

WWE No Mercy
(2002)

Pretty average (Match result SPOILERS follow)
Here are descriptions of the 8 matches on the 2002 No Mercy PPV (matches are rated out of 10):

MATCH 1- Chris Jericho & Christian vs Booker T & Goldust --(FOR THE RAW TAG BELTS) Not bad at all. Things really pick up after the 'hot' tag to Booker, with plenty of action. The highlight of the match is that the middle ring rope snaps as Jericho goes to springboard dropkick Booker. Christian & Jericho win, as Goldust is bulldogged on a tag title by Jericho and is hit w/ a top rope moonsault- excellent improv by Jericho as he would've gone for the Lionsault had the rope not broken. (7)

MATCH 2- Torrie Wilson vs Dawn Marie. Good effort by both women. I'm sure w/ a bit more improvement a women's division on Smackdown! could be formed. Torrie wins w/ the swinging neckbreaker. (5)

MATCH 3- Rob Van Dam vs Ric Flair. Not as ugly as I thought it would be, but, still, they could've booked RVD a better opponent. Thankfully RVD picks up a deserved win w/ the 5 Star Frog Splash. (6)

MATCH 4- Jamie Noble vs Tajiri--(FOR THE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE) Totally non-Cruiser match and a big disappointment. I think it's time they gave someone else the Cruiserweight title - Billy Kidman, Shannon Moore, even Matt Hardy- Version 1.0) Not an atrocious match, but nothing memorable. Cheap rollup for Noble gets him the win. (5)

MATCH 5- Triple H vs Kane--(FOR THE INTERCONTINENTAL AND WORLD TITLES) Typical slow Triple H match. Triple H retires the IC title by beating Kane w/ the Pedigree (w/ help from Flair & a sledghammer). The short-sightedness of the WWE at the moment is shocking- they have NO singles titles on RAW besides their World title. The IC title was an excellent means to push a lower card wrestler- look at all the former champs who have gone onto greater things- Rock, Austin, Jericho, Triple H, etc. As well as the IC title going down, the Hardcore and European titles have gone down right along with it. Unbelievable stupidity- what are they thinking?? (5)

MATCH 6- Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle vs Edge & Rey Mysterio--(FOR THE SMACKDOWN! TAG TITLES) Good action as usual from these 4 gents. Edge & Mysterio are a fantastic team- their double team moves are very innovative, especially Edge launching RM into a top rope Frankensteiner. Looks great. Unfortunately, Benoit & Angle slow down the action until the 'hot tag' but it gets very good after. Benoit & Angle become the 1st holders of the new Smackdown! tag titles, as Angle traps Edge in the anklelock, and Edge taps out. (8)

MATCH 7- Trish Stratus vs Victoria--(FOR THE WOMEN'S TITLE) Not as good as I thought it would be- average. Victoria's a good challenger, but drop the soap opera storyline! It's unnecessary. Rollup win for Trish. (6)

MATCH 8- Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker--(FOR THE UNDISPUTED TITLE) Hard-hitting HIAC match, which [disappointingly] doesn't leave the Cell. Lesnar reverses a Tombstone into an F-5 for the victory.(5)

VERDICT- One very good match out of 8. They are going to have to drop the UNBELIEVABLY POINTLESS soap opera storylines (Katie Vick, 'Taker's affair ,etc.) and start putting more emphasis on the wrestling. (ie,take a page out of ECW's book.) The Smackdown brand is flourishing because of it. RAW really needs Scott Steiner as their top 'face.

WWE Unforgiven
(2002)

Not very good ***SPOILERS- MATCH RESULTS, ETC.***
2002's September PPV, 'Unforgiven', is a fairly unremarkable event. Here's a review of each match on the card:

MATCH 1: Bubba Dudley, Goldust, Booker T & Kane VS The Un-Americans (Christian, Test, Regal & Lance Storm). An 8-man tag is always a decent way to kick off a show- they're more exciting than the standard 2-on-2 matches. This is quite a good one culminating in an exciting climax w/ almost everyone hitting their finishers. In the end though, Kane pins Storm after a chokeslam. [INTERESTING NOTE: the WWE writers pulled the plug on the Un-Americans angle, as Test & Christian refused to cut their hair to give the group a more 'stable' feel to it] MATCH RATING (OUT OF 10)-- 7.5.

MATCH 2: Chris Jericho vs Ric Flair. Rematch from this year's SummerSlam is, like the first one, nothing to write home about but the finish is excellent. Great psychology by Jericho, who fakes a knee injury (landing on his feet from a missed Lionsault) then taking advantage when Flair's back is turned. Jericho rolls up Flair and makes him tap to his Boston Crab version of the Walls of Jericho.[ I don't know why he's using a Boston Crab, the Walls (an elevated/standing crab) looks much cooler and is more effective.] MATCH RATING-- 5.5.

MATCH 3: Eddy Guerrero vs Edge. These men have had better matches than this one. Guerrero deserves this win after a great performance at SummerSlam (vs Edge also). Good victory, with a stiff-looking Sunset Flip into a Powerbomb from the top rope. MATCH RATING-- 6.

MATCH 4: Rosey & Jamal vs Billy & Chuck. Very unremarkable debut for R & J. They win when Jamal (I think) hits a overhead press (from an Irish whip) into a Samoan drop. A pre-match stipulation meant Stephanie had to perform HLA as her brand's team lost (more on that later). The intro to Rosey & Jamal's music is great, Bischoff's "Wait a minute- did I just hear myself say THREE MINUTES?!?". MATCH RATING: 4.

MATCH 5: 'The Game' Triple H [not to be confused w/ the game Hungry Hungry Hippos] vs Rob Van Dam. Triple H really knows how to grind a match down- his offense slows down the fast pace of this match for the World Title (the old wCw title- why don't they just call it the RAW title??) Anyhoo, HHH picks up a win, as usual, after Flair does a run-in and nails RVD w/a sledghammer. Could see that coming a mile away. MATCH RATING: 6.

MATCH 6: Trish Stratus vs Molly Holly. Trish wins the Women's title in another unremarkable match- good finish though, as Trish takes a page out of Rey Mysterio's book, countering a wheelbarrow german suplex into a bulldog for the win. MATCH RATING: 5.5.

MATCH 7: Chris Benoit vs Kurt Angle. I really liked the dozens of reversals of ankle lock vs crippler crossface, but the middle of this match is quite tedious. Benoit hits a stunning german suplex, where Angle actually backflips onto his stomach- it looks terrific. Neither man taps out, so they go for a cheap feet-on-the-ropes ending, with Benoit coming out victorious. MATCH RATING: 7.5.

HLA SEGMENT: Really stupid waste of time- Bischoff teases everyone by bringing out the hot lesbians for Stephanie to get it on with, but then decides he'll humiliate her by setting her up with the ugliest lesbian he can find (who is actually Rikishi in drag). Rikishi gives Bischoff the stinkface and that's it.

MATCH 8- MAIN EVENT: Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker. Very controversial ending to a pretty p***-poor match. The ref gets bumped about 3 or 4 times, and throws the match out as a double DQ. The post-match scuffle is the only thing worth mentioning, as Lesnar is launched through the set design. [NOTE- 'Taker didn't want to lose 'clean' to Lesnar in this match, thus the double DQ ending was concocted] MATCH RATING: 5.

OVERALL: Possibly the worst PPV this year. The fans are screwed twice (HLA, main event climax) and the matches aren't wonderful. A decent cruiserweight match would've been good (although seeing Noble vs Tajiri at No Mercy, perhaps not!)

Halloween: Resurrection
(2002)

Dodgy (**SPOILERS TO THIS, AND REFERENCES TO H20**)
This is a loose follow-up to H20 from 1998, a spin-off for want of a better word. It's not terrible, but it is fairly cheesy. As a fan of the Halloween series, I must say that this is an unnecessary addition to the series- not unWELCOME, but there just doesn't seem to be any reason why it was made. 1,2 & H20 focused on Michael vs Laurie, and 4,5 &6 focused on Michael vs Jamie. This is Michael vs bunch of disposable teens. Greed obviously led to the making of this film (duh!), but I'll get off my soapbox and review the damn thing.

The opening scene with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) felt very short, and it was OK. Her death cheapens H20, but I liked the fact that Myers was built up as more menacing in this film, as opposed to the watered down H20 version (no pun intended). Good throat-slash w/ the guard and a rather strange angle as Myers frames a mental patient for Laurie's killing. Why? 2 things bugged me early on:

A) no mention of John (Josh Hartnett)- a passing reference would have done.

B) the explanation for how Myers isn't dead was ludicrous (even for a fan who suspends disbelief for most of these films!) So Myers switched clothes with a paramedic and Laurie killed the medic- how could the medic NOT be dead after (1) having his larynx crushed, (2) being hit by the coroner's van [and sitting up immediately after- H20] and (3) being crushed by the van after it rolls down the hill!! Bloody hell!

Besides this, the rest of the film is very average. The kills are very good (knife through skull, impalement on spike [a la H6], the rip-off/homage to 'Peeping Tom'- the tripod leg through the throat, etc.) and, like Valentine, is almost the best part of the film. The characters are criminally underdeveloped, even lead girl Sara (Bianca Kajlich- Boston Public).

This may sound unbelievable, but Busta Rhymes saved this film from being TOTALLY crap. His jive-talkin' face-to-face w/ Myers was just ridiculous, but also amusing at the same time. He delivered the two best lines of the film: 1- "Trick or treat...[LOOKS MYERS UP AND DOWN].. Mothaf**ka!" and 2- "Hey Mikey, Happy f**kin' Halloween!!" The fact that they had to resort to the comedy speaks volumes, but it was very funny.

Michael makes his obligatory return from the grave at the end (of course) opening the door for Halloween 9. (If they cast Nelly in that I swear to god..!) They should only make a ninth if Josh Hartnett returns.

I liked the opening credits (it was cool to hear the theme for the first time in a cinema) and the theme was done very well.

CONCLUSION: Laurie's exit isn't memorable, the teens aren't written well and the number of jump moments was a bit OTT, but the kills were good and the Sara-'Deckard' thing was done well from a tension point of view, and Busta Rhymes was hilarious. 6 or 7 out of 10.

Halloween II
(1981)

Loses its Shape during the middle **SPOILERS**
This direct follow-up to the 1978 original is a pretty good sequel, but obviously not a patch on the original. There's not enough of Laurie and too much of uninvolving superfluous characters, so it ends up as a typical '80s horror. However, it's not all bad.

FIRST 30 MINS: Very good. Shows the closing moments of the original (albeit with some different, but pretty damn good, music and goes from there. Myers is still on the loose in Haddonfield, while Loomis & Bracket look for him. There's some good stuff in the opening half hour with Myers killing another teen (good tension) and finding out where Laurie is at the hospital.

SECOND 30 MINS: Lets the film down big time; little time is spent with Laurie, while the action switches over to the idiotic doctors and nurses at the hospital (including the moronic Bud). The kills are a lot gorier this time around (the hot tub, the needle in the eye, hammer in skull, etc.). Mostly this portion of the film is simply boring.

FINAL 30 MINS: Takes control again- a good chase w/ Laurie & Myers through the hospital (w/ suspense at the elevator), "revelation" that Laurie is Michael's sister and the confrontation w/ Myers & Loomis at the hospital. Explosive. Myers walking through the flames after the explosion is one of the most amazing visuals, for me, in the entire series. It's a good finish to the film, and it's shocking that both Myers & Loomis survived to H4!

OVERALL: Out of 10, I'd give it about a 6. The boring middle lets it down. I'm going to see 'Halloween: Resurrection' tomorrow- hopefully, it'll be good. Couldn't be any worse than H5, could it? Yes/no?

Signs
(2002)

Intense. A good mixture of humour & suspense [POSSIBLE SPOILERS]
There was a fantastic atmosphere when I saw this film about a month ago. People screaming, laughing, making stupid comments (like "That's their house!" when we're shown the illustration of a farmhouse in flames), etc. I have never been to a movie with such an amazing atmosphere before, so [on that alone] this is a movie well worth seeing.

M. Night Shyamalan directs this perfectly lulling the audience in with humour, then hitting the shock moment. The sense of dread is maintained throughout the movie, as we see the Invasion from the point of view of a widowed minister who has lost his faith, his two children and his brother. It's good to see the effects of an invasion on a small-scale, as opposed to a global scale like 'Independence Day', a vehicle for Will (uh uh Big Will ha-ha ha-ha uh yi-yi-yi-yi) Smith. The effects on the family makes you CARE what happens to them, which is good, obviously, since what good is a movie if you really don't care what happens?

Excellent acting all round. Shyamalan really knows how to get the best out of child actors- Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin (who got "awww" ed everytime she said something cute) were both terrific. Gibson & Phoenix were also good as usual.

I don't really see the point of doing a whole GoodStuff/BadStuff that I usually do, as the film is almost flawless. It is easily more suspenseful than 'The Others' and 'What Lies Beneath'. My friends and I started a round of applause when the film ended and, while only about 10 others joined in, it certainly deserved it. Why don't people clap at movies anymore? I can understand people not clapping if a movie was crap, but if a film is good and you've enjoyed yourself why not show your appreciation? CLAP for god's sake!

My Little Eye
(2002)

Good premise, poor execution. Too many irrelevant plot threads ** SPOILERS**
The trailer for this looked good when I saw 'Signs' and I heard a lot of positive things about the movie, but I was disappointed in the end with this film. (Two older women in front of me laughed when the credits came up at the end!) But, it's not THAT bad.

If you haven't already heard the premise here it is: 5 people (3 guys, 2 girls) are signed up to do a live webcast in a deserted house for 6 months. If they last the 6 months they get $1 million dollars. However, if ANY one of them leave, no one gets a cent. The story picks up a week from the end.

GOOD STUFF-

Danny's stalker urban legend- this is when I thought things were going to pick up. They didn't.

The 4 remaining contestants realising that A) their site is code encrypted and barely accessible, and B) it's a snuff site - the whole snuff thing worked in '8MM'.

Matt turning to the cameras and saying " Will I kill her now?" The only REAL shock moment of the movie. Good kill w/ the plastic bag.

Good decapitation and good use of the camera angles throughout.

BAD STUFF-

A very slow middle with little fleshing out of characters- they could have at least tried to distinguish Matt from Danny. Their characters were identical.

The snuff angle was done poorly, as was the over-ambiguity of The Company. Why put 5 people in a house for SIX MONTHS only to scare them in the

final week?? The end was very vague as well. I don't mind an ending that makes you think, but I think it was just laziness in this case.

Not scary. There was an opportunity for a bit of the old " he's behind you" suspense (towards the end just before Rex is decapitated) but it's blown by switching angles. Rex's over-the-shoulder angle looked cool- Adams should have left it.

OVERALL REVIEW:

Bad outweighs the good. It's far too slow, and the tension isn't there at the end. The slow bits don't delve into the characters, so it seems like a waste of time. The whole John Reilly thing (a Michael Myers-type story) was interesting but discarded. The good bits are few and far between, unfortunately.

OK, but nothing memorable. I wonder how 'Halloween: Resurrection' will fare in a few weeks time.

Summerslam
(2002)

Pretty good, overall
What follows is my rundown on all the matches of the 2002 SummerSlam (the 15th SS for those counting), SPOILERS ahead, by the way. And ranting. Each match is rated out of 10.

Match 1: KURT ANGLE vs REY MYSTERIO (9). I was a little apprehensive about RM being booked against a non-Cruiserweight, but Kurt Angle proved me wrong selling the high-flying moves flawlessly. There's some fantastic fast-paced action in this and great spots from Mysterio's 619, West Coast Pop and Tumbing Senton, to Angle's amazng German suplex reversal of Mysterio's jumping bodyscissors. Great action and, for me, the match of the evening. ANGLE WINS w/ the Ankle lock, making Mysterio tap out.

Match 2: RIC FLAIR vs CHRIS JERICHO (2) Awful finish to an abysmal match. [What are the WWE bookers doing with Jericho- he has lost 5 of his 7 PPVs this year and only won the other 2 cheaply]. I don't know one person who considers Ric Flair a good wrestler- how can a quote, unquote legend get away with using only 2 moves for 30+ years? This is an atrocious match and further adds to Jericho's decline (through no fault of his own). I didn't think he could sink any lower than jobbing to John Cena, but here's proof: FLAIR WINS (which is, to be honest, a goddamn disgrace) as Jericho taps to the Figure Four. The first-ever Undisputed champion is plummeting due to pathetic match booking.

Match 3: EDGE vs EDDY GUERRERO (8.5) Scientific wrestling at its very best here courtesy of Guerrero, who uses an innovative series of moves to methodically wear down Edge's shoulder (even Frog Splashing the damn thing!) EDGE WINS w/ the way too over-used Spear. (The constant use of it in run-ins have made me sick of it). Good work from both guys- Edge for his selling and Guerrero for his scientific wrestling.

Match 4: THE UN-AMERICANS (LANCE STORM & CHRISTIAN) vs BOOKER T & GOLDUST (6) Good Tag team psychology from the Un-Americans in this decent match. STORM & CHRISTIAN WIN when Test does a run-in, flattening Booker T w/ the Big boot. (Anyone else miss Storm's Canadian Maple Leaf single-leg crab? He hasn't used it in ages)

Match 5: ROB VAN DAM vs CHRIS BENOIT (7.5) Not as good as their recent RAW match, but pretty damn good nevertheless. Very stiff contest. Benoit's series of Northern Lights suplexes to break down RVD's arm are memorable, but VAN DAM WINS THE IC TITLE in the end w/ the Five Star Frog Splash.

Match 6: TEST vs THE UNDERTAKER (6) While big men matches aren't my thing, this is one of the better types of those matches. 'TAKER WIN w/ his seldom-used Tombstone piledriver.

Match 7: SHAWN MCHAELS vs TRIPLE H (7.5) Impressive return for HBK who delivers an Elbowdrop from the top of the ladder and a Splash through a table to Triple H. JR and 'The King' do a great job of hyping HBK's back injury which really helps sell Triple H's offense. His backbreaker on a chair is quite cringe-worthy. SHAWN WINS w/ a double leg pick-up and roll through reversal of the Pedigree. (HHH's shoulders aren't even down by the way). The post-match action is the real shocker, though, as HHH works over Michaels' back w/ his trusty sledghammer.

Match 8: BROCK LESNAR vs THE ROCK (7). Lesnar is OK, but I'm still waiting for him to live up to his CONSIDERABLE hype. The real shock of this match is the Nassau Colisseum fans' booing of The Rock! BROCK WINS THE UNDISPUTED TITLE w/ the F-5. I was hoping he'd pull out a 450 Splash (which I've heard he can do quite well). Big cheer for Lesnar as he captures the gold.

THE VERDICT: Apart from Flair's match there were no VERY bad matches at this year's SummerSlam. Mysterio & Angle's match was outstanding, and Edge & Guerrero's was also pretty good. The only bad thing was seeing Jericho slipping further down the WWE ladder. A 'face turn might be a good remedy, but he can't go on losing to rookies and pensioners (!)

Soul Survivors
(2001)

Good if you know the ending (SPOILERS)
I already reviewed this a while back in January when I saw it in the cinema. It was disorienting, but not bad. I decided to give it a second chance and rented it on video about a month ago and found it was actually pretty good. Although I think it's taking a bit of a gamble that people who detested the movie first time round will watch the damn thing again. That being said, onto the review. Again.

I'm not gonna restate the plot, but I'll mention briefly the interesting stuff that you can find from watching this film again:

As ravens are used in certain cultures to represent Death, I think the character of Raven IS Death. This is particularly evident towards the end when (s)he says to Cassie that it's not her time [to die] and to "go back to Sean" who is alive.

I still can't figure out who represents which but both Annabel and Sean represent Cassie's wish to either give up and die or fight to live from her coma state. Sean may represent the former (possibly because Cassie thinks he's dead and it IS, after all, HER subconscious), when in reality Sean has survived and is willing her to live. It's pretty cool to watch when you know who lives and who dies.

The Masked Man and Scarred Man represent the crash and Cassie's guilt over causing it. The chases might be her mind's way of helping her to face what happened. This is reenforced by Father Jude's explanation that her dream state is a result of not being ready to face what has happened.

* Basically that's the gist of it. I don't exactly know what Matt represents (possibly just the coma- he doesn't make Cassie "choose" like Annabel), but it's not a bad movie once you know what the hell's going on. All you need to know is Cassie is between living and dying and she's in a dream state where she has to decide whether she's going to live or die.

The whole Life vs Death thing is done a bit better in 'Jacob's Ladder' to be honest, but there are times in this film where it is visually excellent. The only thing I REALLY didn't like was the very end when Cassie gushes that " I heard all of you". Ugh.

If you saw it once and thought it was OK, watch it again. You might find it better. If you HATED/DETESTED/DESPISED... the film, you'll probably not want to see it again and I don't blame you.

Interesting film- but it's not gonna win any awards anytime soon.

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