Saturday, April 21, 2018

A World Only Gods Know

Before I get started, I want to make a few things perfectly clear.

  • I consider Shells one of my best friends.
  • I would never lie about my opinion of music, especially if it's a friend.

I say this so you all know what to expect of this and that perhaps my bias is too strong here, but not as you would expect. As someone who wrote music/lyrics for the better half of their life, I don't feel it is fair to ever tell an artist a lie about their art. If there is something I do not like about your music, I will say it, especially if you're a friend. I point out that Shells is one of my best friends because it's important to understand that if I am critical in this "review" that I am only being so because I know Shells expects his art to be from his soul. This also is not a forewarning, Shells, so breathe easy good brother. This may also be a long ass review, so...

TL;DR - The art is fucking amazing. Lyrics in the booklet is my shit. I'm in Scorcese's thank you's and that's dope. The music is fucking incredible from front to back!

I have listened to the album twice since it was handed to me on Thursday night. I am currently on a third listen and jotting my thoughts as I go. I wanted to be fair in my review, and I've often felt that the first listen to any song or album is always a unique experience for many reasons. Some of those reasons are that you can over- or under-state the "value" of the project to yourself. I did jot initial thoughts down that I will share, but the actual reviews of the songs/album will be from a few listens.

One of my first impressions from the physical CD copy of the album (go buy yours for the bonus tracks Company, Caesar, and Black Zombie), is the art. I was not at the listening party for the album, so I don't know exactly what Scorcese Shells x Alpha Davis were aiming for with the art, but what I envision from the front and back cover art is that the album isn't just a journey of the mind, but a journey of the consciousness inspired by cultures.

Then we get to my favorite part of the style of the album/case... the booklet. We don't typically buy physical copies of albums anymore in this world. Especially not CD's. And for a long time, CD's came with booklets that had credits, and maybe a few thank you's, and the personality and personable trait ended for anyone who wasn't mentioned inside. My favorite albums growing up would have lyrics (even if just snippets) or handwritten notes, or pictures from touring and recording in the studio.

Again, as someone who wrote music and lyrics for the better part of my life, I enjoy few things musically more than seeing an artist lay out their lyrics. It's one thing to see how a fan writes the lyrics down for websites, it's another thing entirely to see how the artist laid out every line. Shells brought that to the pages of the booklet for AWOGK, and it's something that instantly I connect with and become enamored with, because I can SEE how he expresses his art, rather than just hear it.

Lastly about the art/booklet... appreciate the shout, brother. I've been included in thank you's in album booklets before of people I actually wrote/rapped with, but to get a shout out from someone I haven't rapped or wrote with (yet) is a cool experience.

  1. HELLO WORLD - Right out of the gate I'm told from the title of the song and the vibe of the track that this is the opener and this album was put together with thought and a vision. Also, right away, Shells' flow is established with a mix of Philly Beans and an aggressive hint of Pimp C, but don't let influence confuse you with imitation.
  2. CIGARELLO MELODIES - From Hello to Grab Your Vice and enjoy your comfort. But don't get too comfortable. These are the tracks that hold an album together. This one reminds me of Cudi, where it just flows not as a rap song, but something melodic where you're reminded that music can capture every mood.
  3. DONALD TRUMP STATUS TOO - I'm familiar with Shells' work from before this album, so it fits right in. Especially the way he uses the audio of Trump. To point to the relevancy of Trump in a way we aren't accustomed to, again, playing against our comfort. But it's something the drive in all of us should be able to relate to, even if not on Donald Trump Status.
  4. 4 AM IN DALLAS - Shells has told me the story of this track in the car on the way to watch a wrestling show, so I'm familiar with the process on this one. This is Shells in HIS comfort zone, lyrically and lyrical content. The rhyme patterns in the first verse can draw you in so deep that you find yourself skipping back to listen over again.
  5. GALACTUS - Poetic Shells. One of the first times we chilled, Shells was spitting poetry, and that's something that resonates with me because when I used to write, one of my favorite things to do was incorporate a spoken word verse. But even just as the audience here, you have to appreciate the power of a calm tone, especially here where Shells is calling himself Galactus, the Eater of Worlds. There's also a fun breakdown at the end where Shells puts the focus on Alpha & treats it like a guitar solo.
  6. DUNCAN & GINOBLI - An old-school style drum beat where the basics are the focal point a-la the Duncan & Ginobli Spurs. And I can't stress enough, Shells' tone is so powerful because he's calm. The content says what it needs to say. VodKa jumps in with the same tone, the flow & beat hand-in-hand and there's a couple cool B.I.G.-style flow bars. Another one of those concrete tracks that holds the album together and transitions through the story in each phase.
  7. BIG - First verse belongs to BIGSPITGAME and the Philly Beans style flow is back here from the start. IDK if that's an intention of BIGSPITGAME but I hope he appreciates that it comes through with the hint. This track is BIG in more than just title. The flow. The beat. The tone. There's an aggression here that, again, transitions. I'm a huge comic book nerd... this track where it is in the album is Avengers in the MCU. Shells backed by the guitar is such a tough section in the song. Sandman comes in and the nods to B.I.G. are evident but Sandman's flow and vibe owns this verse.
  8. POETRY & GUNS - This is the sipping whiskey song. The "depressant". This one is meant to level you off from BIG. It fits so perfectly in the layout of the album. More poetry, which again, is a personal preference.
  9. A WORLD ONLY GODS KNOW - The title song. My favorite hook on the whole album. This flow is so similar to a lot of what I wrote myself, so I instantly connect with this track based on that. Shells telling you that you gotta be you no matter what. People are going to see you for you, flaws and all. If you can't relate to that, you don't have a heartbeat.
  10. DREAMERS THEME - Brian Ennals back again. There's a similarity in the sound to HELLO WORLD beyond just it being Shells & Ennals. It's the kind of subtle callback that you know was intentional, just a slight reminder that you're still in this universe. But the message is more important. You're only going to go as far as your drive will take you. It's a perfect followup to A WORLD ONLY GODS KNOW's message that you just have to be yourself and accept everything that comes with it because you can't hide you from anyone else or yourself in your pursuit of your dreams and success. Sir Michael Rocks joins in on this one and tells you clear as day "It's me how I am and if I rock with you, I rock with you."
  11. ANGELS - The wordplay here is everything. This track reminds me of Twista's Heartbeat/Adrenaline Rush, and not just because of the vocal effects. The dichotomy presented as a necessary blend, like yin and yang.
  12. UNTITLED (HELL ON EARTH) - Another flawless segue from track to track and message to message. Filthy Angels bringing Hell on Earth. One of my favorite beats on the whole album. Killer Mike & Pastor Troy both in their element on this one. This track is too tough.
  13. WHY I HATE MY MAMA - Shells mentioned this one to us on a ride out to Virginia, but I don't think I anticipated what actually went into this track just from hearing him talk about it. The depth to this track is not easy to state. Self-hate projected as hatred for his mom because she loved him no matter what he did and how unfair it is that someone can be such an unselfish being. Taking mom for granted, and all she does is love you. Shells, this one was AMAZING and the emotion here is too powerful.
  14. GOODBYE LIFE - From HELLO WORLD to GOODBYE LIFE. The credits to the film. The legacy is laid out all over the album and this one wraps it all up. As Big Rube said, "GOODBYE LIFE doesn't mean you saying goodbye to living, What it means is we can no longer accept simply existing." God complex. This whole album is about reaching beyond man-made limitations. Exist as a God where everything is infinite.

I won't harp on the bonus tracks. All I can tell you to do is follow the link above AND BUY the CD so you can listen to them!!!!!

Anyways, to wrap up this review, I more than enjoyed this album. I love it. From beginning to end. This isn't just an "album", it's a project going chapter to chapter. You gotta go through each track to truly appreciate them. And listen again, because Goodbye Life flows back into Hello World, because expansion into the infinite is proportionate.

I mentioned a few times how powerful the calm tone was. And that was something that I discussed with Shells before they released the album. He pointed out that he tried more aggressive tones and it was just overly aggressive and took away from the confidence and power of the whole song at times. And he also said he wanted to use that tone more for when it was necessary so it had a real impact. Safe to say he found the right balance on this one.

Reading back through my thoughts on each song, I feel like I didn't express enough how incredible Alpha Davis' production was on each individual track as well as putting the whole album together so it flows like a great book.

Also, Shells said "keep ya scrutiny"... no need, brother. None to be heard on this one. If I could respectfully offer a critique though, it would be that I know that there's more to you that could have fit seamlessly into this project. But as the saying goes: always leave 'em wanting more. Respect brother.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Booking SmackDown Live's Tag Division Through SummerSlam

SmackDown Live's Tag Team Division has grown a bit stale since the brand split, but not for a lack of quantity. Initially with The Uso's, American Alpha, the Headbangers, and the rise of Beauty & the Man Beast, it looked like SDLive could thrive in tag team wrestling. Add in Breezango and The Ascension and SDLive's ranks were no joke. Not to mention, Triple H was overseeing the brand, so everyone thought he would try to replicate what was successful in NXT's tag division.

Right now, we're basically just an American Alpha/Usos feud with a bunch of jabronis becoming fodder for John Cena. My mission here is to fix that.

Right now, The Uso's are your SDLive Tag Team Champions, and I won't have them dropping the belts leading into SummerSlam. In fact, I would only amplify their heel tactics in feuds with guys like the Headbangers. Yes, yes, I know... old guys. But that's the point. They're an act the crowd still gets into, and they too can be booked credibly only to serve as a doormat to the Usos.

But I want to start next week. With the Superstar Shakeup. I would move Enzo & Cass to SDLive in exchange for Slater & Rhyno. It doesn't seem like a fair exchange on paper, but Slater & Rhyno on RAW could help serve as another stepping stone for The Revival. That's the ONLY change I would make to the tag division.

So on night one next week, I would have The Ascension facing Breezango and I would have The Ascension cut the ring off and not allow Breeze to tag in Fandango once.

The following week, I would have The Ascension face American Alpha, and again cut the ring off. But I would not have them win, nor would I have them lose clean. I would have Konnor hit the YAH kicks in the corner on Chad Gable, not break for the 5-count, and get disqualified.

The week after that would be a rematch, but Alpha, who has a program with The Usos, would get attacked mid-match by the Uso's, costing them the match. Jordan would be pulled from the apron, ref doesn't see, Gable gets hit with The Fall of Man (the wheel kick version, not the European Uppercut) and pinned.

Fast forward a few weeks to SDLive's first PPV after Mania with Backlash in May. The Ascension are facing Breezango again while The Uso's finish up with American Alpha. The Ascension once again cut the ring off, not allowing a tag, and pick up a clean victory by pinning Fandango. The Uso's defeat American Alpha by taking out the leg of Jordan (not Gable).

The following Tuesday, Enzo & Cass call out The Ascension. It's key for Zo & Cass to call Ascension out, not the other way around. Ascension tell Enzo & Cass they need to actually win a match (hilarious shout to Ascension's losing streak on the main roster), so Enzo & Cass face American Alpha thanks to Shane. Jordan plays up the leg injury, Enzo & Cass take advantage (in a non-heel way) and win the match. Immediately following the match, The Ascension hit the ring and blindside Cass, hit Zo with Fall of Man, and take off before Cass can get them back.

Over the next few weeks, The Acension are booked to face Cass & Zo. Zo starts the matches with Viktor, they cut the ring off, they get DQ'd for the YAH kicks in the corner on Zo and flee before Cass can give them their comeuppance. This happens both of the first matches. In the third match, Cass starts, Ascension are cutting the ring off. Cass is being shined up, he's having his comeback, takes out Viktor. Just as he starts to crawl, Konnor takes Zo out from the apron and slides into the ring. Fall of Man on Cass as he gets to his feet. Pin him clean, on SDLive.

Going into the June PPV at Money In The Bank, Ascension faces Cass & Zo again. Uso's defend the titles against The Headbangers. Ascension are cutting the ring off on Zo, you think they will do the same thing, but Zo manages to get the hot tag. Cass is shining and taking them out. Hits the Empire Elbow on Konnor, goes for the pin, the ref won't count because Viktor is the legal man. Cass turns from being distracted by the ref, Konnor kicks him in the face, and they hit Fall of Man on a dazed Cass and pin him for the win. After the match, they see Zo checking on Cass, grab him, throw him into the corner, and YAH kicks. The referee tries to break the action, but Ascension won't stop. The referee reverses his decision and awards Enzo & Cass the win by disqualification. Viktor attacks the ref.

On SDLive, Viktor gets suspended for attacking the referee. Konnor is booked in a handicap match with Cass & Zo. He manages to cut the ring off and keep Zo in the match, by himself. He punches Cass off of the apron, and Cass jumps into the ring. Cass is working his spots, but goes for the big boot with Konnor on the ropes. Konnor evades, Cass falls out, and Zo tries to hit a cross-body on Konnor who catches him. Konnor slams Zo and pins him for the win.

The following week, Konnor sees Jordan backstage and Jordan tells him his win in the handicap match was impressive. Konnor looks at Jordan, smirks, and then kicks his bad leg. He's attacking him when Gable runs up and gets in the way. Shane & Bryan are there and Gable demands a match with Konnor. In the match, Gable gets in some offense based on his emotion, but Konnor ends up getting the upper hand. He is giving him the YAH kicks in the corner and again gets DQ'd for not breaking at the 5-count.

A week later, Konnor is in Shane's office demanding he lift the suspension on Viktor. Shane tells Konnor that's not going to happen, and puts him in a match with Cass. In a decent 5-minute match, Konnor gets the upper hand when Cass again goes for the big boot and misses. Cass's leg gets tied up in the ropes and Konnor stomps him out as he's tied up. The ref frees Cass who struggles to get to his feet in the corner. Konnor with the YAH kicks again, but instead of getting DQ'd, he backs out, then goes right back to them. When he's finished, he lifts Cass and slams him with his solo Fall of Man (flapjack followed by legdrop to back of the head) and pins Cass clean.

At the July PPV Battleground, Viktor is reinstated and The Ascension have a match with Cass & Zo. As Cass & Zo are being interviewed, Ascension attack and take out Zo. Then they focus on Cass and beat him down. They hit him with the Soul Driver against the bay door and walk off. Ascension come out for their match and Zo comes out without Cass. He announces Daniel Bryan has named a tag partner for him, and out comes Gable. Konnor and Viktor cut the ring off, keep Zo from tagging Gable in until Gable dodges an attack on the apron. Gable gets in the ring, takes out Viktor, but Konnor overpowers him. Viktor recovers on the outside, takes Zo out against the steps, slides in and they hit Fall of Man on Gable for the 3.

Over the next couple of weeks, Ascension repeatedly get DQ'd with YAH kicks in the corner against The Headbangers, Breezango, and then face Cass & Zo. They cut off the ring and beat Zo down. Then they ALLOW Zo to tag Cass in and they beat him down. Tag moves galore as they cut off the ring, Zo is out on the apron. Zo starts to come to, Cass manages to fight out of the corner. Cass tags Zo in, who climbs to the top, Cass throws him off on top of Viktor. Konnor tags himself in thinking they didn't see, but Zo dropkicks his leg out. Zo back up top and Cass throws him again. Konnor catches him, Viktor pulls Cass out of the ring, and Konnor slams Zo. Viktor shoves Cass into the steps, slides in, and they hit Fall of Man on Cass & Zo for the clean win.

At the go-home SDLive before SummerSlam, Konnor and Viktor are calling out The Uso's for the SDLive Tag Team Championship. Instead, American Alpha show up on the stage. Jordan says he's all better, and they're the one team Ascension haven't beat clean. Bryan comes out and announces they will face each other for a chance at The Uso's at SummerSlam in the main event. Yes, the MAIN event.

So Ascension are doing a good job cutting off the ring. Alpha eventually get the upper hand and cut off the ring with Viktor in their corner. Eventually Ascension regain control of the match, they use the ring post to attack Jordan's leg, Gable tries to help but the ref keeps cutting him off. Ascension are both in the ring, ref cuts Gable off again, Ascension hit Fall of Man on Jordan. Gable is about to get in the ring but Viktor cuts him off and Konnor pins Jordan clean to close the show as #1 contenders.

At SummerSlam, Ascension dominate the match. They cut the ring off. They don't allow Jey to tag Jimmy in at all. They just completely control the match. They're using the YAH kicks in the corner, you think they might get DQ'd, but they keep tagging out just in time and both doing the YAH kicks repeatedly (word to New Day's Unicorn Stampede). They knock Jimmy off of the apron, hit Fall of Man on Jey, go for the pin, but Jimmy breaks it up. He clears the ring, hits a dive over the top on Konnor. Jey recovers, hits a Superkick on Viktor, and crawls to the corner to go up top. Konnor and Jimmy both get up on the outside but Konnor throws Jimmy into the ringpost. He climbs up and shoves Jey off of the top rope into a wheel kick by Viktor, who covers him for the pin and the win. Ascension have the titles, they're the top heel team on SDLive.

The first SDLive after SummerSlam, they dismantle The Uso's in their rematch, YAH kicks DQ, they're getting nuclear heat when suddenly DIY's music hits, they come out to make the save and clear the ring. We'll book that later.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mock Royal Rumble 2017

I do not have any insider knowledge about surprise entrants into the Royal Rumble. As of me writing this, I believe there are only 22 confirmed participants for the Rumble. I also do not have any insider information about the order of the entrants, or the winner. I am just putting together a mock I think makes sense + what I would personally like to see accomplished in the match.

1. Sami Zayn - Zayn will be the Iron Man in this year's Rumble, building onto his Daniel Bryan-esque push of late with Stephanie making his life more difficult than it has to be for no apparent reason.

2. Chris Jericho - Iron Man #2. I expect both of these guys to go the distance in this year's Rumble, and Jericho's as good as any for spurts of offense in a long match.

3. Big E - We have to add some size early to immediately slow down Zayn & Jericho. In recent years, the first 10 spots in the Rumble have entered and been eliminated quickly, and we haven't seen the ring fill up until mid-match. That's going to change this year.

4. Tyler Bate - He's under contract with WWE, even though he's free to continue working in the UK (and elsewhere in Europe, I believe). He just won the WWE UK Championship, so capitalizing now could get fans who didn't watch to tune in on the Network to see more about the 19-year old Bate.

5. Sheamus - Sheamus is a Rumble winner, so him entering early is a decent story, and it adds another person to slow down Zayn and Jericho. I also would love to see a tease from Sheamus about the UK Championship with Bate.

6. Xavier Woods - Here's where we get our first look at someone teaming up as New Day gets a numbers advantage. But we won't see an elimination just yet.

7. Rusev - Rusev goes straight after Woods after his comments about Lana on RAW.

8. Baron Corbin - Corbin will hit the ring and immediately make an impact before being attacked by multiple opponents. But that won't last too long.

Corbin eliminates Tyler Bate.

9. Randy Orton - Orton will hit the ring strong, hitting his usual spots. He will fight to take out Jericho who will hold on to the ropes.

10. Tye Dillinger - Perfect 10.

At this point: Zayn, Jericho, Big E, Sheamus, Woods, Rusev, Corbin, Orton, and Dillinger are left.

11. Luke Harper - Harper and Orton will "clear" the ring, but not with eliminations. They will have a staredown, but turn to continue working at trying to take people out.

12. Kofi Kingston - New Day will all be in the ring at once. Kofi will hit the ring and New Day will try and take out Baron Corbin, but will not succeed. Kofi forced into one of his miraculous spots staying alive in the Rumble.

13. Diesel - Kevin Nash will get to re-live his Diesel return. A Diesel staredown with Corbin is best for business.

14. Dolph Ziggler - Ziggler there to add pace back to the match.

Diesel eliminates Dillinger. Turns into a superkick from Dolph and falls over the top rope a-la HBK's second Rumble victory. Diesel is eliminated.

15. Cesaro - Cesaro hits the ring and he and Sheamus immediately gain control of the ring, working together. BTW, they're no longer tag champs.

Cesaro and Sheamus work together to eliminate Kofi. Out of nowhere, Cesaro dumps Sheamus over the top rope.

16. Goldberg - Yes, it's time for Goldberg to hit the ring, and this is where things start to get interesting.

Goldberg hits EVERYONE with a Spear. He dumps Ziggler over the top. He dumps Rusev over the top. He dumps Xavier over the top.

17. Bray Wyatt - Bray hits the ring and gets right in Goldberg's face. Before Goldberg can get his hands on him, Harper and Orton pull Goldberg from the ring under the bottom rope and beat him down.

18. Braun Strowman - Strowman hits the ring, gets right in Bray's face, but instead of fighting, they focus on Big E and Sami Zayn.

19. The Miz - Miz takes his time walking to the ring seeing Braun & Bray beating people down, and seeing Goldberg on the floor being beaten by Orton and Harper still. He stays to the side.

20. Dean Ambrose - Ambrose hits ringside at full speed. He takes out Miz in the aisle, but doesn't focus on him. He runs down and hits Orton & Harper, throwing them back in the ring, Goldberg stays outside to recuperate a bit.

As Ambrose gets in the ring, Bray lays him out with Sister Abigail. Orton and Harper are butting heads again trying to get to Ambrose, and focus on each other. Big E gets involved and shoves Orton into Harper, who bumps Bray. Orton and Bray surround Harper as Strowman looks on.

At this point: Zayn, Jericho, Big E, Corbin, Orton, Harper, Cesaro, Goldberg, Bray, Braun, Miz, and Ambrose are left.

21. Erick Rowan - Rowan stalks to the ring, and puts himself between Bray and Harper. Rowan turns as if he's going to attack Harper and hits Orton instead. Bray tries to control Rowan.

Goldberg gets back in the ring and takes out Harper & Rowan. Orton and Bray jump on him.

22. Mojo Rawley - Rawley hits the ring fast, and he and Goldberg actually work together to take some people out.

Strowman eliminates Rawley, Big E, Harper, and Rowan.

23. Brock Lesnar - Brock hits the ring right away and eliminates Goldberg.

Corbin eliminates Brock Lesnar as he taunts Goldberg.

24. James Ellsworth - He's getting put in, we need to be realistic. But he will immediately get tossed by Strowman.

25. Samoa Joe - This is where things really pick up. Joe hits the ring and eliminates Bray & Cesaro.

At this point: Zayn, Jericho, Corbin, Orton, Braun, Miz, Ambrose, and Samoa Joe are left.

26. The Undertaker - It's Taker time, and everyone is trying to beat him into a corner. Taker suddenly starts throwing fists and most jump out of the ring through the middle rope. Taker sees Samoa Joe staring him down in the middle of the ring. Just before Taker gets in his face, Corbin attacks.

27. Kurt Angle - It's true... it's damn true! Kurt freakin' Angle in the Rumble match. Kurt hits the ring and goes right after Orton.

28. Eugene - He teased it and it makes sense to throw someone completely random in this late. He'll get eliminated right away by Jericho.

Miz gets in the ring and eliminates Ambrose. Miz immediately gets dumped over the top rope by Zayn. Orton eliminates Angle, only to get hit by Corbin and eliminated.

29. Big Show - Show hits the ring and this is where the Rumble sets up the final stretch.

At this point: Zayn, Jericho, Corbin, Braun, Samoa Joe, Undertaker, and Big Show are left.

Big Show eliminates Strowman and Jericho. Samoa Joe dumps Big Show.

30. The clock counts down, but nobody shows. Commentary speculates.

At this point: Zayn, Corbin, Samoa Joe, and Undertaker are left.

Undertaker is tangled up with Corbin, and Zayn tosses Corbin over the ropes as Taker holds on. Taker grabs Zayn and chokeslams him. Joe grabs Taker with the Coquina Clutch and The Deadman is fading.

Lights go out. Red lights flash.

30. Finn Balor - Making his return to the WWE at the Rumble. Finn stalks his way to the ring. Joe is waiting for the Demon King. Sami kicks Joe from behind to eliminate him.

Finn gets in the ring, stares down Zayn and looks at Taker over on the mat in the corner. Finn & Zayn grapple, Finn shoves Zayn to the corner and gets him over the top rope onto the apron. Sami hits Finn with a forearm, who responds with a high kick. Sami is off balance but not going down. Joe grabs Zayn and pulls him off of the apron to eliminate him.

Undertaker sits up behind Finn who is looking at Joe & Sami. Taker crosses his throat when the Demon King turns around. Finn doesn't play up any fear, he responds by rushing Taker, who scoops him into position for a Tombstone. Finn kicks his feet to get loose but Taker dumps Finn over the top rope and Finn lands on the apron. Finn hits Taker with a high kick. Taker stumbles back, then rushes. Finn ducks as Taker goes for a big boot and takes himself out of the ring and gets eliminated.

Your winner: Finn Balor!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 Wrestling Matches of 2016

Before we begin, these are strictly my opinion for what entertains me. I would love to hear anyone's opinion on my list, along with what their list is for the 2016 calendar year. I am not focusing strictly on the WWE, and this list will not be strictly singles matches. I also have not watched every match from every company, so if I'm missing something you believe is clear cut, there may be a chance that I did not see the match.

Top 10 Wrestling Matches of 2016

2016 was a very incredible year for professional wrestling, in mainstream promotions like WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling, to independent promotions like EVOLVE and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. British professional wrestling promotions Revolution Pro Wrestling and newly formed What Culture Pro Wrestling have been a refreshing spark in the European scene and have since seen prominence in WWE's Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) and upcoming United Kingdom Championship Tournament.

See the list after the break.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

You Must Be The Greatest!

"The irony was not lost on me: the man my trials had molded me into, was the master I'd spent all these years trying to find. I was lost and alone, awash with despair. I sought mentorship, I sought guidance- I'd fallen to my knees and begged for it. And now, there is no other way to say it, than to say I'd been blinded by suffering; I just could not see that my many struggles had been the hands sculpting me into the guide I'd sought. Where I once sought from others their forgiveness for my failures, I now forgive myself, and seek to help other extend the same to themselves. Where I once sought from my loved ones support for my dreams, I find now that they did not extend aid because they saw who I could be, and not who I was. I am my own master. Master, and servant - I am not above humanity, nor below it. I am of it, I am it. I am all that is human: life, death, love, loss, joy, and suffering. I am all of it, and because I am all of it, I am important, and necessary."

I didn't mourn Ali with a long piece, though he is probably my most important hero. I believe that both Ali and Camus can be felt when I speak, though the latter is likely most evident when I write. So, a piece in homage to the Greatest of All Time will be written in the tongue of Sisyphus.

I've no interest in discussing Ali's skill as a boxer, nor his stature as an activist. Both are relevant, and important, but neither thing infused me with confidence. The importance of Ali, for me, came from his faith in self. His faith in self informed Ali the boxer, and it encouraged Ali the activist. The man who told America that he was the greatest because he thought he was, and because he thought it was necessary for him to be that, that is who I look to and draw confidence from.

It wasn't an empty boast, it was honest faith. Ali didn't simply have strong belief in himself, he had faith. And I respond to visceral expressions, be they chocked full of emotion, or evidential of incredible faith. My favorite rappers as a younger man were DMX, Beanie Sigel, and Scarface. I didn't connect with DMX because of his aggressive energy, but because he had such faith that it would move him to tears just to speak of God. I connected with Beanie Sigel because his emotions could, and often did, overwhelm his ability to deliver the lines he'd written. I connected with Scarface because he possesses an unusual fluency in emotionality- it doesn't matter whether you've experienced what Face is rapping about, you will feel how it impacted him. But their powers of expression all come of pain, they all are lost in it. That they can communicate how lost they feel is miraculous, but it is no longer enough for me.

My favorite rapper now is Chance the Rapper. Not because he's the most talented lyricist, nor because he has the most entertaining delivery, but because, as he puts it, he speaks to God in public. There are songs in his catalogue that aren't simple vehicles for expression, there are songs that are very plainly prayers. He espouses a faith the likes of which has been absent from rap for as long as I've known it. There is a happiness in his music that does not exist in most other popular rap. Kendrick's music, for all its thoughtful consciousness, is bound by despair. Drake's music, for all its honest emotiveness, is beset on all sides by misery. Kid Cudi's music, for all its self-confident themes, speaks blatantly of losing self to mental suffering. But Chance, his music is faith-filled. And his happiness is not a blind optimism, he speaks of struggle. But he is happy in spite of it. His music is an acceptance of suffering's ubiquity, but a defiant love of life in spite of it.

Chance's music is an involuntary, genuine smile, and that energy is very reminiscent of young Kanye. Kanye broke into the public consciousness with the complaint that if he talked about God, his record wouldn't get played. And now, a decade later, Chance speaks to God in public.

I reference these things as I speak of Ali because he embodied the defiance I sense from Chance, and used to sense from Kanye. It is easy to accept suffering, and that can lead one to wallow in it. It is necessary to have voices that openly defy it, especially in a year as trying as this one.

The time now is for neither hope nor despair. We cannot admit hope, because hope speaks to transcendence, which the human condition does not now allow, and we cannot admit despair, because despair heeds inferiority, which the human condition never allowed. To be human is to be neither transcendent nor inferior, to be human is merely to be. You are both a speck of dust in the infinite universe, and a coalescence of all the universe's most fundamental elements. You are unimaginably small in the grand scheme, and unfathomably important to mortal progress. You are inferior in size to the universe, but you are transcendent in importance to humanity. Being- yours is something more than what you think, and something less than what you think. Your being is simultaneously disparate parts acting in concert, and a unified whole. But if you are two things, you are neither thing- you are something else entirely. As Rebecca Sugar might say: You are an experience.

What defines that experience? God? Life itself? Truth?

The question of whether God exists orients humans against each other, because either answer is so profound as to allow and encourage a raw and prepossessing radicalism. But if all answers to a question are equal in value, then it is not the answers that will draw humanity at odds, but the question. If all the answers to a question are worthy conclusions, then it is not the answers that are faulty, but the question. You ask whether God exists, but I find other thoughts to be more pregnant questions: what does God's absence or presence matter? What would God's existence add to our experience, and what would God's absence take away? What matters about our lives?

The question of life's value orients human beings against themselves, because life is fraught with suffering, and the truth of the experience of death is outside our knowledge. To live is to suffer, but what death yields is unknown. In consideration of mortal suffering, you will be confronted with a question: "To be, or not to be?" Are the intermittent joys of life enough of a counterweight to the ubiquity of suffering? What is the truth of the matter?

The question of truth orients humans against each other, because that is our most natural inclination. To be human is to pursue truth. But objective truth is well beyond what the human condition allows, and subjective truths are not truth, but fragmented pieces of truth. Our capacity for knowledge is such that there can be relative certainty, but the limits of our condition mean that absolute certainty is right now beyond us. The human condition causes us to thirst for truth, but the human mind cannot yet find truth's fountain, and the human body is ill-designed to digest its waters. Is our pursuit of truth beyond us? No, but it is nigh impossible.

And that, the apparent impossibility of ascertaining truth, that is why you must pursue it. You must live in pursuit of truth because it now appears impossible for you to find it.

You must exist within the constraints of your condition because it is your condition. But you must rebel against your condition because your condition demands it of you. Your condition limits you, but your condition demands that you stretch its limits.

You must fight against your fears because your condition ensures that you are already powerful enough to overcome them. But to fight fear is not to force it down- your condition ensures that there is much to be afraid of. To fight fear is to live both in acceptance and defiance of it.

That is what it is to be human. To live both in acceptance of death, and in defiance of it. To accept that objective truth is beyond us, but to defiantly pursue it. To accept that we cannot truly know the experience of another, but to defiantly extend kindness and empathy.

To accept that you must fail, that you will fail, but to defiantly continue to fight.

Behold this world, this social world, and all our machinations. Our arts, our languages, our currencies, our governments, our organizations, our scientific works, all of it. The social world is our canvas, and to be human is to both be scientist and artist, if there is a difference. We can discern its truths because our hands can form creations, and those creations reveal truth to us in pieces. That process makes each and every one of us important as individuals; that process makes important the understanding that we are all integral parts of a greater collective. We need each and every human to express themselves, to create, in order to discern understandings, and we need collective humanity to fit all the pieces together, in order to discover truth.

Be defiant in your assertion of self, and be defiant in your pursuit of truth.

These are the lessons I learned from Ali, and from Camus.

And for that reason, they are important, and they are necessary.

That they are those things, means that I am those things.

I am important, and I am necessary.

That I am those things, means that you are those things. And, the next idea, it follows that pattern:

I must be the greatest.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Why I'm Trying To Stop Saying "Redskins"

First, let me start by saying that my use of the term in the title and throughout this blog is strictly about being honest to discussion.

I am on record on Don't Laugh, People arguing in favor of the name and how it is not a slur. But I believe there are several angles to attack this discussion from, and it would be unfair of myself to not attack each angle equally.

While I've maintained that fans of the Washington Redskins are not using the name with ill-intent, that does not mean that others can find no offense in the term. I was born into a family of fans of the team, and from very early on (witnessed a Super Bowl victory at three-and-a-half years old), I have associated the name with happiness, pride, and respect. My own bloodline consists of Native ancestry, and I always believed I was fair and respectful in my honoring of the name.

We fans say that a lot. We honor the tradition and history of not only the football team, but the people the team is supposed to represent. Our logo was drawn by a Native. We took some of the racist southern ties out of the fight song (Old Dixie became Ol' DC). And I do believe that our fans are genuinely hate-free when using the term. Obviously not all of us (even myself) pass as Natives, but many of us feel like we are the people we honor.

But it is not our call to make whether others are offended. Saying "I did not mean to offend" is admitting that someone was offended. We did not mean it, and we still do not mean it (well, most of us). The problem comes when those who speak up get lashed out at. The problem comes when someone tells us it offends them, and then some of us use it to offend those people further.

My shift in stance comes from a very close-to-home experience. A fellow Washington Redskins fan—a full-blooded, obvious by appearance, Native woman—spoke with me recently about her experience with the term. I will not disclose full details of the conversation or the incident, nor will I expose her. But I asked for full-disclosure from people who were offended by the term and her response was very candid.

So this girl attended the Packers vs. Redskins playoff game last year. After the loss, she was leaving FedExField and voicing displeasure in the effort of our players with several other fans. She was then approached by a few more fans just outside of the stadium in the parking lot who began attacking her. Not defending the team. Not telling her that she should have more faith in a young team who should have a bright future. They attacked her personally. They called her a "dirty Injun" and a couple of the guys danced around her like she was a bonfire. They then started calling her a "disappointment" and a "savage whore" before saying "redskins like you make everything about this team impossible to support."

This young lady had pictures from the game. She was decked out from head to toe in team gear, all fully-adorned with "Redskins" in clear, bold, large print. If you see her in the pictures, you see a young lady who would be accused of perpetuating racism towards Natives, even though she is Native herself.

I know these fans are not representative of our fanbase as a whole. I think everyone else is aware of that fact, also. But it still reflects on us, and it is proof that the name can be used to hurt someone. For me, I got the open discussion I asked for, and the pain evidenced in her experience that night.

Out of respect for this fellow fan who still attends games adorned in clothing with the word emblazoned, I am making my own effort to cut down on the use of the word and I encourage others to at least consider the same.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Our Freedom Begins in Faith.

"So I need to believe in God in order to be liberated from economic destitution?"

If you associate faith squarely and solely with religion, or even squarely or solely with God, then you misunderstand faith, and you misunderstand human beings.

Faith is complete trust and confidence. Not blind trust, not absolute trust, but complete trust. Not, "I follow you because you know better than I", but moreso, "I walk with you because I, while whole in and of myself, am made stronger through my bonds with you." And that kind of faith can be had in other human beings, in ideals, not just in religion, not just in God. Faith is an acknowledgement of human flaw, coupled with the will to persist. Human beings are hardwired for faith, and for good reason: faith gives us strength when it is impossible to be strong. Humanity would have expired long ago if not for faith. Belief is our greatest asset, and to wield it yields this: power.

Money, the lifeblood of our American economic system, is an accepted trading chip on the good faith of citizens. I exchange paper money for goods not because paper money is itself valuable, but because we collectively, and implicitly, trust in the government that issues it. Our society is fundamentally organized around faith, around trust. That trust is regularly violated, but we mustn't ever lose faith in ourselves, or in each other. We must place our faith in worthy ideals, and our faith will carry us when our legs cannot.

But trust, and faith by extension, doesn't exist in a vacuum. Trust is built through experiences. And our experiences in America, particularly the experiences of Black Americans, of poor Americans, of homosexual Americans, of gender nonconformist Americans, etc, are colored with mistrust. And that mistrust often translates into the threat of, and often the execution of, violence.

Not long ago, actor Jesse Williams spoke on this broken trust, and mentioned documented instances of police brutality. When many applauded his words, some raised a question: "Why is this black man receiving more attention than other black men who deliver the same message?"

Never mind the issues inherent in the assumption that only black men spread this message, those questioners were answered by this thought: the medium is what afforded Williams a greater audience.

I completely agree that the medium, TV, is the only reason Jesse Williams had a bigger reception than say David Banner, or Dr. Umar Johnson. But the rebuttal is: "Well, how did Jesse get the nationally televised platform? Why don't Dr. Johnson and Banner have it too?" The answer to that is that Jesse worked for it, and that Dr. Johnson and Banner haven't shown enough public interest in that platform. But even there, you'd run into people saying: "Jesse may have worked hard to get where he is, but his light skin made the path easier."

And that's what makes colorist thinking hard to overcome: there are grains of historical truth in it. Never mind for a moment the fact that those grains were seeded by a supremacist power structure, and acknowledge those grains as partial truths. Yes, the colorist thought process itself is badly flawed, but there's just enough truth in it that people can hold it up as an answer and not be completely wrong. Colorism isn’t what allowed for the reception Williams' words got, television is, but American history, particularly black American history, is bounded up in colorism. The history of blacks in American entertainment is bounded up in colorism too, so colorist thinkers will always have a leg to stand on when it comes to that discussion, even if their viewpoint is logically faulty.

We can't erase these centuries-entrenched divisions with thoughtful and well researched arguments, especially not when those trenches were dug with action (mostly violent action). Spreading the message that Black people are suffering disproportionately has become an exercise in futility because the message isn’t being acted upon in a meaningful and transformative way. Hope can't in and of itself transform suffering into prosperity. And neither can smart arguments. You can bring facts, and evidence in the form of statistically significant findings, and people will still argue you down because they have anecdotal evidence that supports their worldview. It just isn't enough to spread a message. It wouldn’t even be enough for black people to come together as an economic unit, as is often called for. It wouldn’t be enough because a unified front of 75 million people suffering under the weight of inequality would fall short because American resources are so concentrated at the top. 

The cries of, "black America possess 1 trillion USD in purchasing power!" are misleading for several reasons: the 1 trillion USD is based only on the 30% of black households that have bring in an income of 50,000 USD or more; the average black household is nearer to the poverty line for their respective household size than to 50,000 USD; the federal rules regarding what constitutes impoverishment actually obscure how many black families are actually impoverished; if household income, household ages, and household size were not wed as the measure of impoverishment, many, many, many more black families would be federally recognized as impoverished; and that income does not constitute wealth, as even free income not spent on groceries, rent, and utility, are typically swallowed whole by consumer debt in the form of student loans, housing loans, business loans, and auto-loans.  The poorest black people constitute the poorest American demographic, and American poverty is likeliest in the black community. That 1 trillion dollars in purchasing power is not only much weaker than it seems, but it is also not accessible to most black families. 

And if calls for black unity are calls to pick up a gun: this isn't 300. The revolution can't be initiated by a small portion of American citizens, roughly 75 million people, raising their guns against the strongest military state in the world, with the most powerful economy on Earth behind it.

If neither black economics, nor black militancy, can usher in the revolution of their own accord, what then is our recourse?

I believe that the revolution can be initiated through a combination of the intellectual discussion we’re clamoring to have, combined with an increased access to more economic opportunities, and a system of protection that can answer our needs by defending our bodies from rogue law enforcement agents, and by holding those same agents accountable. We need help from outside our community, and I believe firmly that the American government can provide it. Will it provide it? It will if we, along with the rest of our American family, very purposefully define what help we need, and then relentlessly demand it. Attempting to withdraw or ignore politics, these are not solutions. Going off the grid, i.e. self-reliance, is a coping mechanism for souls fed up with what they perceive as insurmountable obstacles, it is not a means of uplifting the least of us. We must work together, but does that work entail? It isn’t enough to say that black women are undervalued, there has to be some redress of that undervaluing. There has to be monetary recompense, along with increased social engagement, and protection of her being.

Yes, you must bring attention to suffering, but you’re just never going to have enough evidence to convince everyone with socioeconomic leverage that our suffering is real enough and constant enough to warrant change. The scientific method cannot change hardened hearts, only inspire open minds. There has to be a fundamental restructuring of the American political process into a form that acknowledges that our society is made up of constantly changing cultural parts, and mostly distinct ethnic parts. There has to be a fundamental restructuring of the American economic system into a form that acknowledges this: since our history is mired in destructively divisive policies and practices, and many of the social elite are informed by this history, any attempt to create a completely unregulated, and truly free market will always lead to our economy devolving into the elite class monopolistically controlling the resources. The institutions themselves are not the problem, the unconscious prejudice of many of the leaders that people it are.

Black people in America are the lost children of Africa, but are no longer African. That was taken from us before we were born and destroyed, much as our ancestors were taken from their homeland. That aspect of our familial history was long ago eradicated. We are Americans now, for better or worse.

But more important than looking back is living now. Where we live, America, this is the house that our families helped build, our blood is in its foundations. And to make our house into home, we will have to do more than spread the message of our suffering. We will have to do more than support black businesses, we will have to work to deconcentrate economic resources.

Some white people, e.g. Tomi Lahren, have taken offense to Jesse Williams because folks of her ilk assume that his words implicate them as racist just for being white. If this is your understanding, then you possess a flawed and incorrect perception of what race even is.

Whiteness, in and of itself, is the basis for American racism. That is not to say that white PEOPLE are inherently racist, it is to say that WHITENESS as an ideal is fundamentally racist. “Whiteness” was used as a means of asserting hierarchical socioeconomic and sociopolitical supremacy in the New World.

In antiquity, skin color had no useful meaning as a social category because those ancient societies prioritized birthplace. But whiteness as we understand it today was invented, to borrow Jesse Williams’ phrasing, to differentiate between pure Europeans (white), pure New World natives (brown), and slaves (black). Racial thinking of that nature led to the racialization of the new world. Slavery was racialized as a means of establishing order among the people living in the new world. In effect, racism created race.

In American specifically, race, particularly Whiteness, truly came into being after poor Americans banded together with slaves against wealthy Americans (e.g. Bacon’s Rebellion). The rich Americans and the Englishmen they were loyal to had to diffuse that situation, so rich American lawyers restructured American social categories to prioritize “whiteness” and suppress “blackness” (e.g. Virginia Slave Codes of 1705). This restructuring, this prioritization of skin color and ethno-national heritage, led to the creation a codified, LAWFUL, social hierarchy which theretofore had not existed in America. Whiteness became a way of unifying European people in America. But Whiteness was initially fractured, as you were only “white” if you were an Anglo-Saxon Protestant. But as wars were fought, Whiteness became "inclusive" of all Europeans (e.g. Irish Catholics were assimilated into Whiteness after World War II). Poor, or uneducated, you were White so long as you were of European descent, and Whiteness was the highest American social class, above “mixed race” persons, Natives, and the slaves. The American constitution reflects a desire to protect minorities, but that desire is overwrought by well-meaning judges and Justices. The only minority that early American lawmakers sought to protect was the wealthy. They were understood as the driving class of America, so they and their assets had to be protected against the desires of the masses. The poor masses were divided against themselves in the name of Whiteness, and black persons, then slaves, have suffered and continue to suffer the worst under this arrangement. Poverty came to be the greatest enemy of American progress, and it is so resilient because the lowest of us, black people, were devastated to the point where recovery for America as a collective will necessitate sustained legislative effort aimed at specifically at the poorest of us. Indiscriminate anti-poverty legislation will cause a rising tide that cannot lift all boats, because the poorest black boats were, generally, sunken under the weight of White supremacy.

You must understand a simple thing: Whiteness is inherently racist. Whiteness, i.e. ethno-national heritage and complexion, is the metric by which Americans for centuries have been measured, and those that do not meet that standard have been, destroyed, killed, ostracized, and alienated. Though black people suffered the worst of it, and to a greater degree, "white" people were also alienated (e.g. "No Irish need apply"). Yet Whiteness being inherently racist does not mean identifying as a white person makes a person racist. Having the complexion and craniofacial build associated with whiteness does not make a person racist. If a person identifies with their whiteness, chances are high that they do so only because it was the ethnic culture handed to them. But many "whites" identify with their ethnic heritage because Whiteness initially alienated them too. 

I will go so far as to say “Whiteness” and “Blackness” are empty identifiers. But I do not dismiss race because it is a social construct, because that is nonsense (though I did once believe otherwise). That race is an abstraction does not correlate with its consequences being illusions. In other words: even though race has no scientific justification as a biological category, race is and was understood as a real line of demarcation, and people were and are killed over it. Once blood is shed, an idea no longer gets to be set aside as just a bad idea— it is now a social reality. That bad idea of ordering people according to race had real consequences, and we as human beings still suffer under the weight of those consequences, and we as human beings have to deal with them together. So when I say that “Whiteness” and “Blackness” are empty identifiers, I mean that the vast majority of the people those words refer to are not active participants in a racially supremacist power structure. And while there are many active participants, the most difficult thing to accept is that we all participate, even if only passively.

And that said, it is important to note that while Whiteness itself is inherently racist, poor individuals, in general, cannot be racist. Individuals can be prejudiced, and they can act violently or callously upon those prejudices, but even those prejudiced actions do not in and of themselves constitute the creation of an oppressive, repressive, and suppressive hierarchical system that is ordered and maintained according to racial identity. In this discussion, the subject at hand is supremacism, not mere prejudice. Violence perpetuates that supremacist system, yes, but violence is just the oil that keeps the gears working. Whiteness is its engine.

When otherwise well-meaning people bemoan “black privilege” and “reverse racism,” they are trying to call attention to the efforts of society to undo the damage that the invention of whiteness caused. These people feel that whiteness is becoming the trampled upon social class because so much has been done to uplift the descendants of slaves. These claims, while understandable from the perspective of the average American who was taught that Natives and Pilgrims were perfectly friendly parties that shared a warm, loving, bonding dinner on Thanksgiving, are ignorant (that isn't condescension, I too believed that there was only peace in the times of Columbus and Squanto). Whiteness, the ideal, NEEDS to be brought down. Again, not white PEOPLE, but WHITENESS. Not the color of a person's skin, but the perception of that skin, and the heritage of that skin, as inherently valuable because it is white. White PEOPLE are human beings; WHITENESS is an ideal. If you possess aspects of that ideal, then use your whiteness as a platform to bring a light to the racist, sexist, and transphobic issues, but do not identify with an ideal that was and is used as a justification to oppress, suppress, and repress other human beings— identify with a better ideal.

Cries of “black privilege” are also mistaken because “privilege” in this context refers to aspects of the dominant, hegemonic class. There can be no “black privilege” because white wealthy men constitute the dominant social class in America. If you do not possess at least one of those three traits, whiteness, wealthiness, maleness, you are at a disadvantage, and if you do not possess the first, you at a disadvantage even if you possess the other two (hence why poor black women and poor black gender nonconformists suffer the worst of any demographic in America). There is no reverse racism because Black Americans, for all the social programs aimed at uplifting them (many of which failed and continue to fail because they attempt to uplift all boats without specified concern for black suffering), do not now possess the power to subjugate, oppress, repress, and suppress white people. Obama’s presidency has done nothing to change the fact that white Supremacy is fundamental to the American experience.

White supremacy was understood as so fundamental to the American experience that White Southerners seceded from the Union and started their own nation to build around it, fought and killed their own family members to protect it, and gave their lives to defend it. Yes, the Civil War was fought over states' rights- a state's right to have slaves. And that understanding of Whiteness as the ideal, that supreme valuation of Whiteness, it did not die with them, nor did it die in the one hundred fifty-one years since the Civil War ended. Whiteness still holds as the supreme racial category in America, although now in a much subtler, less overt way. Gone are the racial legal codes, replaced by racialized attitudes that inform the decisions and public activities of laypeople, practitioners of the law, law enforcement officials, and even lawmakers. Its virus-like adaptation to our attempts to destroy it can be seen through social experiments that show bus drivers, black and white, are likeliest to allow a white person ride without paying, that show employers are likeliest to hire persons with “White” sounding names, and that show that disabled blacks are, when compared to disabled whites, the likeliest to be refused government benefits. Though that last example points to a study that is over 20 years old, it is still evidence that these types of prejudices did not die away, even in the post-civil rights era. Again, Whiteness is not about people, but about an IDEAL. People feel safest with what registers as familiar, and blacks, homosexuals, and transgender persons are aliens to the White ideal, and those demographics are thus alienated by White America, and that alienation is one of the largest contributing factors to the nearly insurmountable economic disadvantage of poverty. White supremacy, now removed from American law, lives on in the hearts of Americans. Now an internalized attitude, racism, invaded and now pervades all aspects of American culture.

This gaseous form of White supremacy cannot be overcome just with marches, nor with speeches. This form of White supremacy is impervious to just a presentation of evidence, be it televised, printed, or digitized. This form of White supremacy cannot even be quashed solely with laws, and the rule of law is America’s greatest accomplishment. These things must be executed as part of one, carefully researched, thoroughly planned, and unified approach. Executed separately, these approaches are a complete waste of our energies and efforts. We rise together, or fall together.

Americans, as a whole, must accept that Whiteness is the foundation of the racialized system of dominance that colors the American experience. Yes, present tense, colors. To be American is to understand yourself in racial terms. The Census survey identifies us by race. Our driver’s licenses identify us by race. For all this generation’s political correctness, we, and our predecessors, still find a measure of descriptive value in stereotypes about other races. Racist acts are generally perpetuated by individual perpetrators, e.g. the writers of the Virginia Slave Codes, but it endures because those “lone wolves” are alone only in action, in deed, not in thought, not in feeling. It is for that reason that Morgan Freeman’s plan of ceasing to talk about race will not dismantle this system: people will still harbor harmful feelings and problematic thoughts. And those feelings, those thoughts, will continue to give rise to people who act on them.

What then is our course of action? When Hillary Clinton meets with BlackLivesMatters activists and tells them that her business is changing policies, not hearts, what are we to respond with? The gaseous nature of White supremacy means that the work of changing this world for the better lies squarely in changing people’s hearts and minds. But if that cannot be done through law, through the government, how are we to do it?

Just as many black men and black women are still being destroyed inside by the antisocial “wisdom” handed down by their elders, so too are many white men and white women corrupted by the antisocial dogma (sometimes spread through humor) that is taught to them by their elders. Countless Black American parents have clipped their children’s wings over the past two centuries, and White American grandparents have been active in spitting vitriolic messages, and White American parents have been sharing informative jokes about other races with their children for even longer. How are we to undo that damage? How am I to teach a black boy that his life has value when his father tells him that running around outside carries the potential of death? How am I to teach a homosexual black girl that her life has value when her orientation makes her father consider himself a failure? How am I to teach a young Black gender-nonconformist that their life has value when their mother disowns them for trying to understand themselves? How am I to teach a young dark skinned girl that she is beautiful when the elder female cousin she admires skin bleaches herself? How am I to teach a young light skinned boy that he is a valuable part of the Black community when his blackness is regularly dismissed by grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, and friends? How is a young white boy to understand that his skin tone was used to as a justification to subjugate and kill people colored dissimilarly, without him questioning the value of his person? How is a homosexual white girl to understand that her experience as a queer woman does not preclude her from enjoying the social privileges of Whiteness?

Those last few questions are understandably dismissed by many as “white tears”, as it isn’t the job of the oppressed to make others comfortable with the burden of their social reality, but they are legitimate obstacles because the people with the power to start meaningful conversations withhold their thoughts over those questions. How do we answer these questions, then?

I believe very firmly that the answer to all of those questions begins in lovingness, in patience. It isn’t enough to say that we have to do better, it isn’t even enough to actually do better. We can’t eat representation, hope isn’t sustenance, we need economic goods, but despair robs us of people that could have otherwise changed our world for the better. The answer to that despair, is love. Love imparts hope. If I am to teach you that you have value, I must welcome you. More than accept you, more than tolerate you, I must love you. We cannot allow ignorance to inform how we interact with each other. The way to create the kind of loving openness is not through political correctness, but through open dialogue that allows for the airing of viewpoints that may offend our sensibilities, and through open discussion of our need, our desires, and our goals in relation to those viewpoints. And open dialogue is more than just voicing an opinion that offends and leaving it there, it requires sharing the stories behind the formation of that opinion. If Americans are to dismantle this gaseous White Supremacy, we must begin with openly loving our own: the light-skinned, the dark-skinned, men, women, intersex, heterosexual, homosexual, genderqueer, all of us. That means gaining intimate knowledge of our own, and doing away with our ignorance.

But the work does not end there. It is not enough to talk to a poor black woman, to give ear to her grievances, and to be emotionally supportive of her. That work must be followed with the consignment of a room of her own. She must be afforded not only my kindness, but also economic opportunity. Whether that be the space to pursue artistic endeavors, or the funding to pursue a study of astrophysics, she must be afforded the opportunity to exercise her creative powers.

Whiteness will lose its power when whites and nonwhites are understood as equals, not merely in the eyes of the law, but squarely in the hearts and minds of Americans. Redistributive programs that focus solely on the poor inevitably feed into the sense that whites and nonwhites are not equal, so perhaps a better approach would be to universalize benefits (perhaps through instituting a system of Universal Basic Income).

The analogy of a race is often used to discredit social visions. In the analogy, society is a race, and wealthy people are Usain Bolt, and poor people are not athletic. While it’s unfortunate that the poor person is a lesser athlete, the race in and of itself is fair. In this analogy, progressive would try to rig the race so that Usain is somehow inhibited, and that the lesser athlete is able to finish at the same time, and that this is unfair to Usain.

The analogy is wrongheaded because it assumes wrongly that the idea behind extending benefits through taxes is a desire to to rig society against the most creative of us. The idea that progressives want everyone to cross the finish line at the same time is nonsense, the progressive wants everyone to start at the same time, and at the same line. The following animation illustrates this version of the analogy well:

A study of history produces a different picture of the race: wealthy people are not Usain Bolt, and poor people are not terrible athletes. Instead, wealthy people started running along a largely obstacle free path when the gun went off, and poor people were given a signal to stay put. When wealthy people had amassed a nearly insurmountable lead, poor people were given the sign to go, and had to run along an obstacle laden path.

In America, Black dark-skinned poor homosexual gender nonconformists have five obstacles in their racing lane: they are black, they look black, they are poor, they are not heterosexual, and they are genderqueer. At the opposite end of the spectrum are White, fair-skinned, wealthy, and heterosexual men. Those five categories, race, color, gender, orientation, and economic power, intersect, and depending on the axis of intersection, they grant privilege in varying degrees, but can only offer the maximum grant when the intersection includes Whiteness, and Maleness.

But, again, the purpose of this is to acknowledge that we are at war with an IDEAL, not with people. Though people will fight for the ideal, and against us in the process, our war is not with them. Killing some police officers will not kill the ideal that informs the violent activity of many police officers. We are at war with thoughts and feelings, and our work is to change minds and hearts. Our work isn't to erase the racial differences, it is to deconstruct Whiteness as an ideal. There is no issue with people being categorized, there is only an issue with using the categorization to dehumanize people. And that is what Whiteness was, historically, legally used to do, and is presently, informally, used to do. Those who lose themselves and fight in the name of Whiteness, they too are victims of a savage ideal, lost souls who become our enemies because they had faith in a vicious ideal.

Ideals like Whiteness cannot continue to be what we have faith in. Black people reveled in the ideal of Blackness because their original culture was taken from them and Blackness is what was given them. But it too is empty:

To be "white" is nothing, to be a "Negro" is nothing. To be an American has value, but its value is badly warped by Whiteness, and black Americans suffer discord among themselves because of their relationship under the foot of Whiteness. Black is beautiful, but light skinned blackness is to be regarded with vitriolic skepticism. Black is powerful, but, in general, black people are so economically disadvantaged in the wake of Whiteness that that supposed "power" is little more than a people desperately trying to keep sane through positive thinking, and through a symbolic repossession of that which was taken from us, African-ness, and that which was handed us, Blackness. There is no beauty in the struggle, only ugliness, suffering, and death.

We, all Americans, are of a land that was given a name by supremacists; we, all Americans, are a people named by supremacists. But our faith cannot be in their now ancient racial ideals, but in the overarching principles of liberty. We cannot continue to place all of our collective faith into the institutions that supremacists built, we must redevelop those institutions into forms that reflect what we have learned of ourselves, and what we have become.

I, a light skinned black man, am of this land. Sean Bishop, my friend, a white man, is of this land. Our ethnic heritages are so different that we, in another time, would be wholly alien to one another. But America is a nation where unity can only come through civic nationalism, through bonding over ideals. He and I are, effectively, part of the same people because we are both American, because we share the same faith in the ideals of America. America cannot be made whole through prioritizing ethno-national heritage, as other nations, e.g. Japan, and Scandinavia, are able to do, for doing so here caused nearly irreparable damage to all of us. Yes, all of us. Just as Patriarchy harms men, so too did Whiteness corrupt and harm white people. But we do not have to erase our ethnic heritage in order to progress, and to do so, to act as though the racial ordering never occurred, to act as though the differences are imaginary, would do more harm than good. There is no "transcending" race, there is only the work of dismantling a social ordering that prioritizes Whiteness. We have to accept that our differences are real, and that our predecessors actively destroyed their own, and that our present-day America is psychologically fractured because of that destructive activity. And that is where I believe our work begins: in acknowledging that we are different, and in embracing those differences; in accepting that our present and historical experiences are different, and in respecting those differences.

Progress for us as Americans begins in placing our faith in the founding ideals of America: equality among all Americans, a right to life for all Americans, a right to liberty for all Americans, and a right to pursue happiness for all Americans. Earlier generations of Americans did not do the work it took to create legitimate equality, and did not do all the work it will take to secure those rights. Establishing equality among all Americans will require that we secure those rights.

Securing the right to life means that our understanding of violence must change: the taking or damaging of an American life under any circumstances must be understood as an unfathomably egregious and grievous offense. There can be no excuses: if you fatally wound someone, if you kill someone, this action must be understood as an offense against the entirety of the American people, no matter who perpetrates it, no matter what circumstances surround it. Violence that threatens our lives must be understood as unacceptable in all circumstances, because any allowance for any manner of violence will come part and parcel with the execution of violent activity. If an officer kills someone, he or she cannot be absolved of this on the strength of their occupation. The question of self-defense will be raised, but a right to life is one of our founding ideals. Self-defense techniques that do not result in death must be the bedrock ideal for our republic.

Securing the right to liberty means that our understanding of economics must change. Our economic situation is beset on all sides by our government's historically active, and presently passive, participation in the subjugation, oppression, repression, and suppression of segments of our population, particularly the members of the African diaspora. To correct this will require intensive research into discovering what will resolve the issues that support, maintain, and strengthen American poverty, particularly black American poverty, and then the restructuring of our system to address those issues. It is not possible to exercise one's agency in the wake of the gaseous, and even the tangible, institutional racial discrimination that led and leads to economic deprivation, and mass incarceration. Designing frameworks that allow for all Americans to exercise their agency with respect to each American's right to life, this must too be a bedrock ideal that we place our faith in, and use our energies toward realizing.

Securing the right to pursue happiness means that our understanding of wellness must change. Though one can point to many improvements, and many people on the front lines promoting that change, it remains that our collective perception of mental illness is altogether too dismissive. Correcting this will require social engagement on a level that many Americans are to this day afraid of, a fear reflected in the informal (by which I mean that there is no law enforcing it) housing segregation. We do not want to live among people unfamiliar to us, and this is reasonable, and understandable. But if we are to progress as Americans, we will have to be more than tolerant of that which we do not understand: we will have to learn to be loving toward one another.

The work of establishing equality for all Americans can be done. If you hurt for the loss of American life, of black lives, of the lives of officers, of human life, then know that the heart in you that bears that pain is the reason the work can be done. Do not correct someone who says, "Black Lives Matter," with, "All Lives Matter." Quiet yourself, and allow them the space to air their grievances. Be patient, be kind, be loving. Let us value life, liberty, and happiness, let us value love, patience, and kindness. Let us place our faith in these ideals, and let us work toward realizing these ideals.

We can know liberation, just believe, and place your faith in worthy ideals.


May love ever possess you, may peace come into your life.

WWE Brand Split Mock Draft

So we're coming up very close to the brand split in the WWE, where RAW and Smackdown will be exclusive brands with exclusive rosters, and Smackdown will be going live every Tuesday.

Now, there are a number of factors that could shift the way the draft is handled. For example, we're still uncertain which show Shane and Stephanie will run. We're still unsure if they're certainly going to bring back the World Heavyweight Championship, or run with my idea and merge the IC/US titles and make that the main title on Smackdown. We're still not aware if tag teams will be split, if each show will have a unique division and title. We're still not sure if we're going to have women exclusive to each show and what that means for the Women's Championship.

Now, barring all surprise (not currently on the roster, and not NXT) draft choices, let us work with a few assumptions. First, I want to assume they will be bringing the World Heavyweight Championship back. I want to assume they will only keep one tag team championship and the whole division is spread through both shows but all aiming for the WWE Tag Team Championship. I want to assume the women will be split on both shows but will all be aiming for the WWE Women's Championship. I want to assume that the IC title will be on Smackdown, and the US Title will be on RAW. Lastly, I want to assume that Stephanie McMahon (and Triple H) will be running RAW while Shane McMahon will be running Smackdown. Also, Brock Lesnar is untouchable (and default RAW). Also note some NXT talent may not be with NXT and are open to this draft.

The first 12 selections will be done on Smackdown on July 19, and the next 20 will be done on the following RAW after Battleground. There will be a few selections on Network after.

So with that in mind, here is my mock draft, complete with some explanation.

1. John Cena. Yes, I have Cena going to RAW, which has for the first time dipped below a 2.0 rating since early in the Attitude Era. RAW needs ratings, and much of this dip was in response to Roman Reigns as WWE WHC, so Cena will be the reliable first selection.

2. Dean Ambrose. I believe Ambrose loses the WWE Championship to Rollins at Battleground, so splitting them up before the PPV hints at the change but it makes it seem like Smackdown could take the WWE Championship with them.

3. Seth Rollins. I initially wanted to put Rollins at number 1, but the ratings decline forced my hand with Cena. Rollins will be number 2, which plays out well in this current run where he's accepting challenges and pinning guys in the middle of the ring (mostly clean). It also starts to build towards Rollins vs. Triple H at Su... we'll talk about that later. Will be WWE Champion following Battleground.

4. Sami Zayn. Shane McMahon's character since he has returned is about new talent, new faces, new matches... so Shane McMahon's character needs to shine through in the draft. It is not a selection about who is most popular, it's about new, and fresh, and exciting. Shane taking this chance shows that Smackdown will be different than RAW.

5. Roman Reigns. Yes, yes, I know... this puts Reigns and Cena on the same show and people have said all along that they have to be on different shows. Well, I have Reigns being a full-fledged heel at this point to counter Tweener Rollins and babyface John. And Reigns needs to be near Triple H on- and off-screen.

6. Kevin Owens. I know what you're thinking: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens need a break. I agree. And they will, for a while. Owens and Shane need to be paired up. They both teased it, and Owens' brilliant improvisational mannerisms sold he wants to fight Shane. It happens at some point after building on Smackdown. May be World Heavyweight Champion when they crown one at Summerslam.

7. Randy Orton. Sticking with that status quo thing. Also, he's facing Brock at Summerslam, and this isn't a feud you build on different shows. You mix them up on RAW.

8. AJ Styles. Styles gets away from Cena momentarily, but they will have their rubber match at Summerslam. Having 2 months built into this feud already allows them to not have to work on the same show to build match 3 (or it allows a few Cena appearances on Smackdown in order to add some established star power to the show's first month).

9. Sasha Banks. Sasha will NOT be the Women's Champion at this point, but she will still be embroiled in a feud with Charlotte, who Stephanie has not been fond of recently on-screen.

10. Charlotte. Still the Women's Champion, Charlotte to Smackdown keeps her away from Steph and the siblings keep their own rivalry alive symbolically through Sasha v Charlotte.

11. Robert Roode. Yeah, they have had Roode touring with NXT doing live events and while it has appeared that he may be on NXT's roster, bringing him to RAW makes an even bigger impact. We also know that the WWE main-roster audience is familiar enough with guys from that other company.

12. Finn Balor. Finn will be gone from NXT following his match with Shinsuke Nakamura. Just in time for the WWE Draft as well. This pick will close the show on Smackdown.

These next few picks will be supplemental following Smackdown on the Network and will not count towards the numerical order of the Draft.

A. Apollo Crews. Crews to RAW makes a lot of sense to me. He gets to be a bit of filler, but also gets to work on his character a bit more, whereas his ring work comes naturally.

B. Lana. An awkward selection, especially going before Rusev. But we will rectify that very shortly.

C. The Vaudevillians. Throw more superstars over to RAW to keep the roster packed for 3 hours and give them a pair of reliable workers. We will put a few of the lesser teams in this supplemental round.

D. Dana Brooke. Have to keep her with Charlotte.

E. The Dudley Boys. Even more bodies on RAW, especially with Bubba Ray who is capable of having some solo matches.

F. The Lucha Dragons. Throw another team on Smackdown, and add more reason for the Hispanic/Latino audience to tune in to Smackdown.

G. Titus O'Neil. Far better suited for the RAW roster, and hopefully Vince is okay with him at this point and he can get some substantial time to progress.

H. Darren Young w/ Backlund. DY gets to show off on Smackdown and use his Crossface Chicken Wing to help get over. Hopefully DY being showcased in good WRESTLING matches with some notable tapout wins will make this storyline actually mean something.

I. Natalya. Natalya to RAW is a safer bet for me, since she will be paired up with Sasha, who is going to get face reactions no matter what for the time being. Could be a great feud following Sasha v Charlotte.

J. Becky Lynch. Get her away from Natalya. Their feud shouldn't last, entertaining as it may be. Becky fits what I think Smackdown will be built as.

13. Alberto Del Rio. He makes a lot of sense on Smackdown if the focus will be on in-ring, but Del Rio is the kind of guy who can enhance RAW's show in a 3-hour format.

14. Rusev. The Bulgarian Brute needs to be on the show that will showcase his ability in the ring, and be away from the bigger superstars that WWE is inclined to bury him in feuds with.

15. The New Day. Yes, all 3 members. As I said, the tag team division will be spread but they will keep teams together. It also allows for more draft picks in a shorter time span on the show itself. New Day's entertainment factor will put them on RAW rather than Smackdown.

16. Enzo & Big Cass. Responding straight away, Shane drafts his buddy Enzo and brings his tag partner along. While the entertainment factor would probably benefit them on RAW more, it brings something different to Smackdown's programming.

17. Sheamus. Sheamus is just a body for RAW at this point. He's capable of making a feud physical and can be a stopgap if anyone gets injured.

18. Neville. Not only should Neville be returning soon, but he should be on Smackdown where he can show off his in-ring work and maybe bring back his feud with a Kevin Owens.

19. Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt is going to RAW in this mock draft even though I feel he needs the same focus that Rusev needs. However, Bray is more character than in-ring worker, and RAW being 3 hours every week allows Bray ample time to be shown in vignettes, promos, and matches.

20. Luke Harper. This is my shock selection of the draft. Immediately following Bray's selection, Harper is split from Bray and sent to Smackdown. He will still be on the shelf but there's a hint at something greater here.

21. Dolph Ziggler. Smackdown would be the better option for him, but RAW needs some in-ring ability, and someone who can bump and sell and put on entertaining matches with anyone.

22. Chris Jericho. This run has been more than we expected, and Jericho has gone back to the heel tactics. Maybe that's why he is so happy to keep this run going this time around. Plus, we need a ton more from Jericho & Owens going forward.

23. The Usos. It's time to start going back to tag teams, and these guys fit on RAW where they can be some filler and maybe even be heel and keep along with Roman.

24. The Club. Dropping hints at them joining Finn and turning on AJ.

25. Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman. They get to follow Bray to RAW, and they can continue their feud with The New Day on one show without having to force travel the first month.

26. Cesaro. I wanted Cesaro on the RAW roster, but I think he's better off against guys on my Smackdown roster where ring work is more important. Plus, Vince won't be directly overseeing Smackdown, so hopefully that allows Cesaro a little more freedom and breathing room.

27. The Miz w/ Maryse. I wanted to put Miz so much higher based on his current run being so entertaining. I also think he works better with some of the Smackdown roster, but he's a good enough heel to help maintain babyface reactions for guys like Cena and Dolph.

28. Bayley. Yep, she will be on her way to the main roster soon enough.. might as well do it at the draft and try to get her there as quickly as possible.

29. Baron Corbin. Relax, relax... I'm not suggesting they do any more Baron v Dolph matches, I just think that he's best suited on RAW where he can be another powerful heel.

30. Ryback. Yeah, yeah, I know... he's in a contract dispute, or happiness dispute, or shoot mode, or something... it's all a work. Ryback took time off to get necessary surgery and get his mind right. He has also been trying to rehab some nagging injuries, so this break was worked to look like Ryan Reeves was unhappy.

Following this RAW, the rest of the roster will be determined on the WWE Network.

A. Zack Ryder. Ryder needs character development more than anything... and he IS a good character. Hopefully with 3 hours and a limited roster, Zack is able to get some on-screen time and show off his creativity.

B. Breezango. This is more for Tyler Breeze than Fandango. I think the team sticks together for a while, but I think the goal has to be to find a way to put these guys over as workers.

C. Golden Truth. I am not thrilled about this team at all... but Vince McMahon is. They're bodies on RAW.

D. The Ascension. Get them the Hell away from Vincent Kennedy McMahon. I know it's built to look like Shane is running Smackdown, but that's Triple H's show in reality and he knows how to make these guys look strong.

E. The Shining Stars. Yeah, Primo and Epico to RAW... because why not? They'll be given lame promos and camera time for a couple of weeks.

F. Paige. Paige belongs on Smackdown where maybe she can start caring about WRESTLING again.

G. Nikki Bella. I'm still unsure when she's set to return. They've suggested multiple times that it could be any day now, but that has been going on for a little over a month. She's not going to be far from Cena, especially while shooting for Total Bellas.

H. Big Show. Kinda just throwing a part-time giant who does a lot of face work for the company now over on Smackdown where he can help elevate some talent. As much as I dislike Big Show the wrestler in 2016, he's still capable of telling a good story IF booked correctly.

I. Social Outcasts. There was a "squad" back in the day... they will fill this role. And no, I will NOT use that word and disrespect Kevin Owens.

J. Alicia Fox. Just filling gaps now.

K. Naomi w/ Tamina. Naomi isn't going to be far from her Uce husband.

L. Jack Swagger. Again, filling gaps.

M. Kane. I guess I have to put him somewhere.

N. Rosa Mendez. Yup.

O. Eva Marie. She's got legit heat, can't wrestle great... she can mask that deficiency on RAW and just be a face for the brand.

P. Summer Rae. Better in ring than she has looked since joining the main roster. Needs the right opponents to help her out.