Monday, March 30, 2015

Wrestlemania 31 Review

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Last night, WWE put on their annual show-of-shows, Wrestlemania 31, live from Levi’s® Stadium in California. A show of this magnitude, I did not believe prior that WWE's creative team had the proper build for the entire card. Turns out, most of the card absolutely did not need it.

In this review, I will recap the event's matches and face-offs, and provide a prediction for what I think is next for certain parties.

On the Wrestlemania pre-show, WWE kicked the event off with the 4-way tag team championship match, in which Tyson Kidd & Cesaro defended against The Usos, A New Day, and Los Matadores. I was a bit surprised to see the match moved to the pre-show, and the superstars in the ring must have felt disrespected, because they put on a helluva match, with Kidd & Cesaro ultimately retaining their titles. In the coming months, I'd be interested in seeing a new tag team in the title picture. Perhaps The Ascension?

Then there was the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which was, well, what you expect. Once the fat was trimmed and NXT-representative Hideo Itami was eliminated, we were left with The Miz, Mizdow, and Big Show. Mizdow turned on The Miz and eliminated him, and then had an awesome 1-on-1 with The Big Show for about 5 minutes. The crowd was even more alive for MizSandow than they were the tag match and the battle royal prior. In the end, Sandow was eliminated by Big Show, much to the crowd's dismay. But looking to the future, Sandow may have some serious momentum, and Big Show may end up going after one of the single's titles.

The Intercontinental Championship 7-way ladder match kicked off Wrestlemania 31's main card. With superstars like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, CodStardust, and Dean Ambrose, you just knew it was going to be a major spot-fest. Throughout the match, there were 1-on-1 brawls that made you think "they really should have put these two in a singles match," but fans were still treated to a great battle. At the end of the match, Daniel Bryan had fought off all others and became the new Intercontinental Champion. Also, the crowd chanting YES! along with Daniel Bryan during his celebration ended up being the biggest chant of the night for what it's worth. Going forward, I would expect to see WWE finally give us the long-rumored feud between Daniel Bryan and a heel Sheamus.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Next up was Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins, and this may have proven to be match of the night. J&J Security had a presence in the match early, but Orton took care of that. Orton and Rollins ended up having a solid back-and-forth with both men controlling for a fair part of the match before exchanging momentum and finishers. Orton was a step ahead, however, and after landing the most impressive RKO spot we have seen to-date, pinned Rollins in the middle of the ring. Moving forward, I fully expect to see Orton in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture. Especially if he is cutting promos like this:


Following Orton and Rollins was The Icon Sting and Triple H. Sting's entrance was not anything too fancy in-terms of props, but he had a group of percussionists wearing his face paint in a clear and cool homage to The Crow. Triple H however, spared no expense. The Game ascended from beneath the stage in an Exo Suit, surrounded by ascending Terminator droids. Then the T-800 Model 101 Terminator, Arnold himself, showed up on screen declaring it is time to play the game. Triple H's entrance was bad-ass if I must say so myself. The crowd was insanely into the theatrics and the moment, as a "This Is Awesome" chant filled the stadium. The match was not too fast-paced, but The Game and The Icon played psychologically perfect with the crowd. As things started to get chippy, Degeneration X made their way to the ring in order to help Triple H. Then came Hogan, Hall, and Nash as the nWo to even the odds. Shawn Michaels broke up the Scorpion Death Lock with a Sweet Chin Music, and then it was back to 1-on-1. In the end, The Game used the remnants of his sledgehammer to knock out Sting for the pin. After the match, the two were in opposite corners with their respective groups and Triple H offered his hand to Sting and the two shook and embraced. I do not have a prediction going forward, other than that I do not believe this was Sting's last match with the WWE, or his final Wrestlemania appearance.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
To follow WCW vs. WWE, we had The Bellas vs. Paige & AJ Lee. I did not find much reason to care for this match going into Mania, but in the end, after some awesome spots, I'm glad they gave these ladies enough time to do a little. I'm still not a fan of the Bellas, but AJ and Paige did a great job carrying this match and making it watchable. Next up from these ladies? It's time for Nikki to drop the title, and I expect Charlotte to get the call-up after Vince McMahon witnessed first-hand on Friday Night 5,000 NXT fans chanting "THIS IS WRESTLING" to Charlotte and Sasha Banks' match.

Next was the United States Championship match, as Rusev defended against John Cena. After the theatrics from both for their entrance, they got into a physical contest and both men repeatedly locking in their submission holds. Lana, who made her return after a few weeks of absence, was on the apron and took a nasty bump from Rusev to the outside. Cena took advantage of the moment and beat Rusev to become the new United States Champion. There will be a rubber match at Extreme Rules, but I would not be surprised to see Big Show get a shot at the US Title vs. Cena at some point.

Stephanie McMahon and her husband Triple H hit the ring to tout the crowd turnout. Then Stephanie and Triple H ran down the crowd, saying they owned the people. All of a sudden, "If ya smelllllll" and out comes The Rock and the crowd at first erupts, then boos a bit, then goes apeshit. Rock makes his way to the ring and cracks a few jokes and insists he's ready to fight Triple H. Stephanie gets in the way, slaps him, then tells him to leave her ring, since he won't hit a woman. Rock exits the ring, then stops and starts walking around ringside, and invites the baddest woman on the planet--Ronda Rousey--over the barricade. The two enter the ring and Stephanie McMahon's tone changes a bit until she realizes her tactics are not working. Rock decides to attack Triple H, Rousey gets a shot in on The Game, then she manhandles Stephanie's arm. Rousey and Rock celebrate in the ring in front of the crowd. This would be a fun mixed tag match next year at Mania, but I think we're likely to just see Rock vs. Triple H. Regardless, WWE is making a lot of fun headlines at the expense of UFC and Dana White this past week.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
The scene was set for Undertaker and Bray Wyatt now. Bray made his way to the ring with a bunch of scarecrows lined up, coming to life after he touched their head and escorting him to the ring. The only thing that would have made this entrance any better is if it was dark in the outdoor stadium when it was happening. Then came The Undertaker, who at first look appeared to be in the best shape he has been in since his second match with Shawn Michaels 5 years ago. Undertaker controlled the match early, and hit Old School and landed firm with the rope flip to the outside. So much for all those rumors once again of Taker having no hips or knees left to stand or walk on. Deafening "You still got it!" chants ring out directed at Undertaker, who could be seen at one point smirking at the suggestion. After some exchanges and kickouts from each other's finishers, Taker nailed one final Tombstone and pinned Bray Wyatt in the middle of the ring and celebrated with the WWE Universe. It would not thrill me to see Taker leave for another 12 months right now, so I would expect to see him soon to at least do something to write him out of storylines. Maybe even let Bray finally get the upper hand and put him down for a while until Sting resurrects Taker himself for Wrestlemania 32.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Finally we got to the main event. Roman Reigns' music hit and he came through the crowd, shoving some hostile fans. Reigns had more security for this entrance than any of his others. He hit the ring to boos. Brock's music hit and the place erupted. The two had a staredown, Heyman took the mic to introduce his client BROOOCK LESNARRR, and we got underway. Brock dominated Reigns for the first 5 minutes with suplexes and stiff punches. He even landed an F-5 thirty seconds into the match. Reigns started landing some stiff shots to Brock, but it just always seemed to make Brock more aggressive. Reigns, however, took each suplex and punch and smiled, begging for more. He kicked out of a second and third F-5. Reigns started getting the upper-hand after pushing Lesnar into the post on the outside. Lesnar bleeding the hard way. Reigns with a couple Superman punches, and a couple spears, but Brock still managed to kick out. Brock countered a third spear attempt with an F-5 but couldn't make the cover. Seth Rollins' music hits and he comes out to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Brock tries to F-5 him, Reigns spears Brock, Rollins curbstomp to Reigns and pins him to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. I'm interested to see if Brock cashes in his rematch on RAW or even at Extreme Rules. Reigns didn't lose his 1-on-1 so I expect him to be in the title picture. Orton beat Rollins earlier in the night, so no chance in Hell he does not try to insert himself into the title scene. Ultimately, we may see a Fatal 4-Way at Extreme Rules. Or we may not have Brock around until SummerSlam. No matter what, RAW tonight will be incredible.
Photo Courtesy of WWE.com




Sunday, March 29, 2015

We're In This Together.



"Who really cares?
Who's willing to try
to save a world
that is destined to die?

When I look at the world
it fills me with sorrow.
Little children today
really gonna suffer tomorrow.
Oh, what a shame.
Such a bad way to live.
Oh, who is to blame
when we can't stop living?

Live, live your life.
Live, live for life.
But let live everybody.
Live life for the children."


In a world that, on the surface, exalts and even overvalues childhood, there exists the dual reality of a world that denigrates the worth of a child's life. Time and time again, the lives of youths, the lives of human beings are snuffed out, and we who survive them argue over the corpse to no end.

Having just discussed it with a friend who held a different viewpoint, I turn to the Tamir Rice case. I don't know if Officer Loehmann was acting maliciously. I can't say one way or the other what provoked said officer to shoot that child, but Tamir Rice lost his life as a result of this man drawing a firearm and firing. There is no contextualization that can change this. Tamir Rice is a victim, his victimhood cannot be erased on any grounds. The only immutable fact in all this is that Officer Loehmann ended Tamir's life, anything else is speculative and unfounded. But still, there are those among us assigning blame to Tamir, there are some of us absolving Officer Loehmann of all blame and there are some of us laying all the blame at the feet of law enforcement officers in general.

I cannot assign blame to anyone, to any individual person, nor to even groups of individuals(e.g. "whites", "blacks", police officers, etc). I assign blame to the institutions that inform our perceptions, as these institutions, originally perceptions themselves, invite the occurrence of such situations. Institutions are perceptions and intellectual concepts that underwent a long process of reification: an earlier generation of people held a viewpoint, and that viewpoint was perpetuated through enough ensuing generations that it, the viewpoint, was transformed into a key component of our present social reality. Prejudice is interwoven into our social fabric, and the psychological and physical ramifications of having people in positions of power being taught to perceive certain people a certain way based on subjective criteria is what is meant by institutionalized racism/sexism/etc. Institutionalized racism is not a mythic "White Man" out to destroy minorities. It is, instead, a set of attitudes ingrained in the minds of the American elite that lead not only those elites, but Americans in general, to criminally, though generally unconsciously (but consciously more often than most would like to admit to), undervalue the abilities and even the lives of people who register as unfamiliar. Institutionalized prejudices are a set of attitudes that lead persons with socioeconomic leverage to, in the name of fairness, undermine the efforts of the disadvantaged to uplift themselves ("I built myself up, why can't you?"). Again, it is important to note that, in general, this destructive activity occurs sans any critical assessment, these people aren't thinking. They are reacting, and everyone suffers for that lack of self-awareness. Prejudice on its own(e.g. "I don't like black people", "I don't like children", "I hate feminists", etc) is not what we struggle against. No, we struggle against prejudices that have been operationalized into agents of oppression through the process of institutionalization. In other words, when people with those harmful unconscious attitudes are given the lawful power to kill people, we all suffer- THAT is what we struggle against.

With respect to all that, it is clear that Tamir was the victim of an event that involves multiple things beyond just his skin color and a toy gun. It's deeper than race and even government regulations of toy gun manufacturers(not that those things aren't factors, but that they're secondary). There is a fundamental issue with how we as Americans understand violence. Violence is the oldest human institution, it stands above and supersedes all other modes of oppression and separation. As such, I believe that it is a social issue that can't be resolved by reducing the terms of engagement to race, ethnicity, orientation, gender identity, etc, or even to the individual actors who participated in the event. These things have been intertwined and made inexorable from each other. Though each -ism is indeed worthy of individuated study, to understand them as separate things does a disservice to the cause of resolving them, as they are each different aspects of the same thing.

But let me make it clear: It is of the utmost important to recognize that we ARE different, that there are "White" Americans, "Black" Americans, Hetero Americans, LBGQT Americans, etc etc. To say that you are color blind in regard to race(i.e. to reject skin color's very existence), is to say that you are both willfully ignorant(there are very obviously different skin colors) and uneducated("it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain an idea without accepting it" - a quote that I understand this way: an educated person can listen to, absorb and retain the points of a different/conflicting view without it destroying or immediately replacing their own worldview). So no, do not pretend to be color blind in an attempt to be inclusive. Instead, communicate with the people who are different from you, learn from them and broaden your worldview(more than even that, simpler than even that - make some friends, man!). And to truly and properly communicate means that we have to recognize that when people who identify as Black find the courage to admit that they are suffering, we have to give them the space to express their suffering and not derail their expressions with "NO YOU'RE WRONG, ALL LIVES MATTER NOT JUST YOURS!"-esque comments. That means that we have to step back and allow transgender persons to express themselves and their struggles, we cannot tell them "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST BE A BOY/GIRL, WHY DO YOU HATE YOURSELF." Said simply: shut the hell up and listen.

Regardless of how well-intentioned we may be in offering our opinions, the reality is that our opinions are not as valuable as our time, our ear, our patience, our attention and our love. In offering our opinions without prompt, all we are doing is imposing ourselves on their already frayed consciousness, obstructing our own cause of developing a genuine sense of community and togetherness. As people working toward resolving human strife, we must quiet our uniformed opinions and allow those who suffer as we all do to inform us of the nature of their suffering. And even where our experiences may be similar enough to encourage bonding, it must be kept in mind that we can never, ever completely and absolutely translate our experiences to the experiences of another. We each experience ourselves and our lives in a way that is too intensely personal for anyone outside of our minds to know the absolute truth of our experience. But in spite of that, all is not lost. Though we may never know with absolute certainty, we as human beings are gifted with one true power: the capacity to understand. The potential for understanding each other is why it is imperative that people are not only given the time and space to express themselves, but also having a loving and inclusive audience to receive them.

I may never know all there is to know about you, it is probable that I never will.

But if I quiet myself and genuinely listen to you, I can understand you. As a human being, it is within me to understand all things. Therefore, to "tolerate" you as though you were a burden to be endured, this is insufficient and unacceptable.

Our work is not done until we can all turn to each other and say: My friend, I am come to be with you, to share this harrowing experience of life with you. Though we experience life alone, I am come to see that you will never again know loneliness. Where you have been broken, I am come to restore. Where you have felt forgotten, I am come to recollect you. I am come not to tolerate you. I am come to understand you. No, I am come for more than even that.

I am come to love you.




"Father, father...
we don't need to escalate.
War is not the answer...
for only love can conquer hate.

You know we've got to find a way
to bring some lovin' here today..."

(forgive the continued allusion if it offends, but to know me is to know music.. anyone who has seen me has seen music. lol)

From a perspective of love, another distinction must be made: inclusive =/= politically correct. To be inclusive is to communicate more effectively, to be politically correct is to attempt to avoid conflict. The sturdiest and truest friendships are forged in the context of openness, there can be no avoidance of conflict. It must be faced head on, together(and doing so comes with the added benefit of deepening the relationship after the conflict has been faced together). Therefore, the point of inclusivity isn't to say we should, for example, take someone who murders children and ask them why in an attempt to relate to them emotionally. Instead, the idea here is that we can't reduce enormous social issues to our differences. We will never be able to absolutely know one another, this is currently impossible given the nature of human perception. But we can work toward being more than tolerant. The way inclusive parents love their transgender children because said youths are their children, this is the way we must love one another because we all are human. Love does not require accepting another's choices as ones we might have made ourselves given their circumstances. Rather, it requires understanding ourselves as separate from one another regardless of circumstance, it requires that we afford every human being we meet the same respect we desire ourselves(in respect to a child murderer, I believe that a trial, in theory, is as much love and respect as can be shown such a person, making the effort to hear their side speaks to a very nearly inhuman level of patience and respect, given the common inclination toward vigilantism or vitriol against such persons).

More to the point - focusing on our differences would not resolve our issues because our differences are not why our issues exist. Were we all one race, one faith, one sex, one gender and of one language, there would STILL be violence, still oppression. That we are different is only an excuse for aggression and violence. The essence of all human strife is, to me, rooted in need and the fear of not having. Violence itself, this is a thing fundamental to American culture, it is the foundation upon which this nation was built(to suggest anything else is ahistorical). So "but what about black on black crime!" is a ridiculous stance to take if you're honestly trying to solve this thing, as every American race perpetrates violent against itself - you're going to find that people tend to act criminally toward the people closest to them(and it just so happens that many Americans segregate themselves according to creed and color) . That isn't to say we should overlook topics such as "black on black crime" but rather that we should understand it as a subset of a much larger thing and not use them as ammunition to derail conversations about understanding the humanity inherent in the persons we, historically and currently, tend to marginalize.

The American institution of violence transcends faith, ethnicity, race, nationality and anything else we identify ourselves by. It affects each and everyone of us, whether we are the one being harmed or not("An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."). It's not about demonizing police or exalting Black Americans, it's about recognizing that people everywhere are destroying one another, killing one another. And there is no solving this issue until we recognize that while we are all human, our experiences are separate, unique and different and have to be respected as such. More, there is and will be no resolving our issues until we recognize that while we are all unique and different, physical, emotional and mental need is universal.

How we understand violence must change.

And a paradigm shift of this magnitude, from a viewpoint grown through centuries of bloodshed to a viewpoint centered on inclusiveness will inevitably invite violence, it's the nature of many people to resist change, perhaps even violently so. But there will be no future for our children and their children if we don't at least try.

tl;dr - We all in this together, fam.

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

p.s. - I'm willing, Marvin... I'm willing.