Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Save Us Dean Ambrose, Plus WWE Hell in a Cell 2014 Predictions

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ugh. This is like eating stale bread.

We are, indeed, in the midst of what has become WWE’s annual autumn slump. Most of what we’re seeing is either tired and stale, or simply uninteresting. With any luck, Brock Lesnar’s next title defense will be at Survivor Series, which means Paul Heyman will have a reason to be on Raw every week again. I’m guessing some of these older rivalries will end here, too. So hopefully Hell in a Cell will mark the end of the autumn slump. Because good lord, we’ve got a Bella vs. Bella match on this show. It doesn’t get much worse than this.

STIPULATION MATCH:
Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella
Loser must become the winner’s personal assistant. 

What’s worse than having one Bella in the ring? Having two Bellas in the ring. Just keep it as short and as painless as possible, okay? As for who wins…I really don’t care. I’ve been fast-forwarding or muting any segment involving a Bella for awhile now, and this match certainly won’t put a stop to that. But since this whole “personal assistant” stipulation obviously favors the heel, my instinct is to go with Nikki.

Rob’s Prediction: Nikki Bella

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Sheamus (c) vs. The Miz

I believe I’ve said this before, but it really speaks to how shallow the WWE roster is right now that United States Champion Sheamus and Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler essentially switched challengers this month. Last week it was Ziggler vs. Miz and Sheamus vs. Cesaro. This month Sheamus has Miz, and Cesaro is with Ziggler. And as much as I hate to say it, because I’m a Sheamus fan, the guy is cold as the U.S. Champion. He’s capable of turning in some really good matches. But his persona desperately needs to be tweaked. As such, despite how hot The Miz’s partnership with Damien Sandow is, this match really doesn’t mean much. How long has Sheamus been champion, anyway? *checks the stats* May 5. And even then, I was calling for a Sheamus heel turn. The other day on The Ross Report, Jim Ross fantasy booked a United States Title win for Rusev, followed by an embittered Sheamus turning heel. Sounds like great booking to me. And with Survivor Series coming up next month, what better time for Sheamus to drop the belt? But for that to happen, he’ll need to get through Miz this month. That shouldn’t be too tall a task. Damien Sandow pinned Sheamus this past week on Raw. So a Miz loss here would further the developing storyline between those two.

Rob’s Prediction: Sheamus

WWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Goldust & Stardust (c) vs. The Usos

I’m just about ready for this one to be over. Both these teams have been lumped into six-man bouts in recent weeks, so we haven’t seen a lot of significant development in their rivalry. As such, they’ve gone pretty stale. So I say let this one die, and let’s find some new pairings. This one’s a toss up in terms of who wins, but I’m going to go with the Usos. They make great tag team champions, and think they’re the best duo to have against whatever up-and-coming teams may be on their way from NXT.

Rob’s Prediction: The Usos

WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
AJ Lee (c) vs. Paige

I’m ready for this one to be over too. I like the AJ/Paige pairing. But we’ve pretty much gone as far as we can go with the whole implied lesbianism thing. And bringing Alicia Fox into the story as Paige’s ally hasn’t brought anything too compelling into the story. So I say we just blow this one off, and let AJ move on to somebody else. As Paige and Alicia Fox have both been added to the next season of Total Divas, I’m not expecting them to go away any time soon. But my hope is that once she’s separated from the Divas Title picture, Paige doesn’t simply become another one of the girls.

Rob’s Prediction: AJ Lee

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Cesaro

The cool thing about this match is these guys don’t need to say much to one another to make things compelling. Their ring work and their athleticism largely speak for themselves. While their pairing does speak to the lack of depth on the roster right now, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good pairing. Quite frankly, this is what the Intercontinental Championship should be about. It should be the worker’s title. And a 2-out-of-3 falls match is a hell of a way to showcase what great workers these two are. After Ziggler played championship hot potato with The Miz last month, I think it would do him good to keep the strap this month. Cesaro, of course, can come back to the well several times as far as I’m concerned. If these two are given the proper platform to perform on, they can do amazing things.

Rob’s Prediction: Dolph Ziggler

The Big Show vs. Rusev

Oh c’mon. Like Rusev’s first loss is really going to go to the Big Show at an October pay per view? Yeah, right. Still, I’ll credit WWE with actually getting Rusev over as a dominant monster. Going through Big Show will do nothing but help him in that respect. As I said, I’d like to see him target Sheamus next, hopefully sooner rather than later. In light of current events, a Russian bruiser who captures the United States Championship could make for a hell of an act, especially with Lana doing the mic work. In any event, Rusev wins.

Rob’s Prediction: Rusev

STIPULATION HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
John Cena vs. Randy Orton
Winner gets a WWE Heavyweight Title shot. 

*sigh* John Cena vs. Randy Orton…again.

Even with their options somewhat limited as to who they can use on this show, it’s pretty ballsy of WWE to give us Cena vs. Orton on a pay per view in 2014. They got booed out of the building at the Royal Rumble. Why? It’s got nothing to do with their individual talents (at least from where I sit). It’s because we’ve seen this match so many times over the years. At this point, I’d say putting this match on a show actually detracts from a pay per view’s drawing power. I’ll say this much, WWE actually gave us a valid reason for putting Cena and Orton together: The winner gets a WWE Title shot. But then again, it was Dean Ambrose who defeated Cena to get into a cell match with Seth Rollins. So does it really make any sense?

In the end, I see Orton taking the win here, and hopefully moving one step closer to a babyface turn. Orton’s recent popularity on Vine may have sparked interest in a turn. But in truth, it seemed like Orton was moving that way already. And thankfully, an Orton turn would force WWE to shake things up a bit, and put some new dance pairings together.

Rob’s Prediction: Randy Orton

HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

If WWE is smart, this will be the last match on the show. Not only will Ambrose and Rollins outperform Cena and Orton, their rivalry is the only one in the company that’s actually worthy of the cell. They were in the Shield together for over a year, then Ambrose targeted Rollins and managed to have a hell of a lumberjack match at Summerslam. To top that off, Ambrose has created one of the most compelling characters in WWE right now, and has made himself the perfect foil for Rollins.

I really think Dean Ambrose needs a win here. Hell in a Cell is a great arena for him, and it makes sense for him to pull out a win here. Ambrose certainly wasn’t at the top of WWE’s list of future main event stars. But circumstances being what they are, they may have no choice but to go with Ambrose. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

Rob’s Prediction: Dean Ambrose

Images from WWE.com.

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A Death of Wolverine Review – Going Out Like a Champ…or a Chump?

TITLE: Death of Wolverine
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Steve McNiven
COLLECTS: Death of Wolverine #1-4
PUBLISHER: Marvel
GRAPHIC NOVEL PRICE: $24.99
GRAPHIC NOVEL RELEASE: January 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder 

Death of Wolverine is a surprisingly quiet story. Quiet in the sense that there were so many paths it could have taken with Logan’s death. He’s an X-Men and an Avenger after all. Half the Marvel Universe could have been incorporated into a big, explosive, cosmic battle, culminating in the death of this once immortal hero.

Instead, Charles Soule, Steve McNiven and the rest of the creative team give us something more reserved, and perhaps more personal for Logan. We see traces of his larger role in the Marvel Universe. But for the most part, it’s a rather intimate affair. It’s Logan, plus some characters that have a special connection to him. It’s not necessarily what you’d expect, but it has a nice feel to it.

Having lost his healing power, Logan is now a marked man. An unknown enemy has put a price out for his capture, and now Logan finds himself vulnerable in more ways than one. In the end, Logan does pay the ultimate price for that vulnerability. But as one might expect, he doesn’t go without a fight. And that fight brings him face-to-face with more than one person from his past.

Death of Wolverine isn’t terribly inventive or surprising. But does it need to be? We already know the outcome, after all. The story is structured like a mini farewell tour for Wolverine, as his quest to find the mystery villain brings him to Canada, Madripoor, and finally a site not unlike the facility where Wolverine as we know him was created. Soule, McNiven, and the creative team seem more intent on making us ponder and appreciate the character, which is fair enough. The execution has its flaws. But I tip my hat to this piece for its intentions, as well as the amazing artwork.

McNiven is definitely in top form here. His art has a lot of detail to it, and in Logan’s case a lot of soul. In the first issue alone, McNiven does an awesome job of showing us a man who’s emotionally and physically exhausted from decades of brutality and violence. Then we move on to hopelessness, pain, depression, and then a bit of that classic Wolverine rage. Over the course of the story, he also gets to draw Logan in a variety of costumes and scenarios. We get good ol-wife beater wearin’ Logan, Logan in costume, Logan in samurai garb, and even sharp-dressed Logan. Again, paying tribute to the character and where he’s been. McNiven is able to maintain that quality over all four issues, which demonstrates just how good he really is.

Under Soule’s pen, Logan seems a bit more introspective as he ponders his own mortality. At first he seems pretty depressed and despondent about the whole thing. But by issue #3 he seems to have found some hope that this change will allow him to live a normal life away from all the fighting. During a conversation with Kitty Pryde, Logan says: “No more doing something horrible and telling myself I’ve got until the end of damn time to make up for it.” The idea that, in the face of his own mortality, Logan has guilt over what he is and what he’s done is interesting. Soule revisits that idea during the story’s climax, which is appreciated.

The story also uses different colored text boxes to illustrate Logan’s different senses. Red for pain, blue for smell, yellow for sounds, etc. The novelty does wear off gradually. But it’s a good choice given who our lead character is, and the kind of story we’re in.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in Death of Wolverine is its need for breathing room. All things considered, Soule might have overcomplicated things. The first issue moves along at an appropriate pace, both setting the table, giving us some action, and establishing Logan’s mindset. But by issue two we’re shoving different characters in front of Logan, simply for the sake of having these epic fights. But they’re so condensed that they don’t necessarily have the time to be as epic or gripping as they could have been.

Take the Wolverine/Sabretooth fight, for instance. Theoretically, the entire story could have been built around one last fight between Logan and Creed, where one of Wolverine’s arch rival finally kills him. Instead, we got a daydream sequence (shown above), followed by a fight that featured Sabretooth in an oddly submissive position courtesy of Viper. And in the end, any potential consequences brought on by the fight (most notably Logan losing his eye) are undone when Kitty Pryde pops up with a dose of “regen serum.” What’s the point of taking Logan’s healing factor away if you’re simply going to give him a miracle cure when he’s in a jam?

I also wasn’t thrilled with the way Logan actually kicks the bucket. While staying spoiler free, it’s poetic in its own way. And again, I appreciated Soule’s nod to the journey Logan has been on as a human being. But in the end, Logan essentially takes himself out, and winds up looking more like a depressed Silver Surfer (if you’ve read the book you know why) than a dead Wolverine. So not only do we not give a villain the distinction of having killed our hero, Logan winds up going out like a chump. All those decades of blood and heroism, only to die like that?

Soule and the folks at Marvel seem to have had a decent take on Wolverine’s demise, and the artists are able to give us a stellar looking Logan. But in the end the presentation got watered down, and quite needlessly in certain cases. But regardless, the end result is the same. Wolverine is off the table…for now.

RATING: 6/10

Front page image and image 3 from comicbookresources.com. Image 1 from denofgeek.us. Image 2 from comicbookherald.com. 

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The Path to Brock Lesnar, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Another handicap match main event? Seriously? Filler, folks. That’s all we’ve been getting since Night of Champions. To make matters worse, injuries to the likes of Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns have left us with a positively painful lack of depth on the roster. You’ve got the same guys (Orton, Rollins, Cena, etc.) appearing over and over again, which does nothing but lend to the notion that they’re just stretching things out for the 3-hour format. Here’s hoping the likelihood of Brock Lesnar main eventing Survivor Series will lead to some more compelling television in the weeks to come. Still, the show wasn’t without its bright spots.

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley makes surprise appearance during Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins segment. These surprise appearances by guys like The Rock and Mick Foley are obviously being done to bring some buzz to some  shows that are otherwise not buzzworthy at all. But I’ll never say I’m not happy to see Mick on Raw. In all seriousness, he got the biggest reaction of the night, second only to cheap Kansas City Royals references. I won’t say the segment did much in terms of build up for the Rollins/Ambrose match. But Mick damn sure saved that segment. I see what they were going for, having Ambrose in there with a bunch of tools and a mannequin. But…no. It just wasn’t working.

Winner of John Cena vs. Randy Orton Hell in a Cell match will face Brock Lesnar for the title. This definitely helps this match from a drawing perspective. But we’ve still seen Cena vs. Orton so many times now, it probably won’t do any good in terms of the performance itself. I don’t have a good feeling about how the crowd is going to react to this one. We may see a repeat of the Royal Rumble, with the fans booing them out of the building.

Orton involved in four dialogue segments during the first hour of RawRandy Orton is a great wrestler, but he’s just not a good talker. I’m sorry, but he’s not. No matter what he’s talking about, it’s always the same boring, monotone stuff. He always comes off as heavily scripted (which he probably is), and it just doesn’t sound genuine. And that’s weird, because ad lib Randy Orton is usually pretty interesting. John Cena seemed to improv with him a bit during their segment (the whole Royals/World Series thing), and it brought out some more emotion and intensity in him. But everything else just feels like looking at and listening to a cardboard cut out.

“By the Numbers” vignette airs for Hell in a CellThis video package made me realize just how poorly Hell in a Cell has been promoted. Here you have a pay per view that features what many would consider the most dangerous match WWE puts on every year. It’s a match that’s given us so many great moments. And yet with less than a week left until the show, WWE is just now playing that up. A pair of Hell in a Cell retrospective segments each week might have not only helped with the pay per view vignette, but also emphasized the WWE Network really well.

Orton and Paul Heyman play up the “Class of 2002.” Yes, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and John Cena all worked in Ohio Valley Wrestling together, and all made their main roster debuts in 2002. Myself and others have speculated about WWE going in this direction for some time. And it makes as much sense as anything else. If Randy Orton is staying a heel, then I suspect this idea will be part of the build up for a triple threat match between the three of them at Survivor Series. There’s another opening to incorporate the WWE Network.

Rusev assaults an “American soldier,” firing up The Big Show. About a month ago I said that nobody does the whole sappy, emotionally vulnerable promo quite like Mark Henry. But if anybody has him beat, it’s Big Show. Jeez, the two guys standing up for America are a little sensitive, huh? No wonder folks are clamoring for Kurt Angle.

So the thing with Rusev kicking a soldier, if he really was a soldier, didn’t do anything for me. Yes, it’s a very heelish thing to do. But the whole thing had a cheesiness to it that turned me off.

Damien Sandow pins Sheamus in a six-man tag. Well that’s pretty damn cool. The seed seems firmly planted for a Miz/Damien Sandow feud. And to his credit, The Miz gave an awesome reaction when Sandow got the pin.

Front page image, image 1, and image 2 from wwe.com. Image 3 from wwedvdnews.com.

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A Review of The Walking Dead S5E2 – “You’ll Burn For This”

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve got to hand it to The Walking Dead. It continues to be that show that makes me look at the clock, and dread the ending of an episode. This one wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat thriller. But we DID meet a pretty intriguing new character: Father Gabriel.

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Thoughts From The Walking Dead S5E2:

Father Gabriel makes his television debut. Readers of the comic book know Gabriel Stokes, but TV-only fans are obviously meeting him for the first time. Seth Gilliam did an awesome job playing him as not only a coward, but a coward carrying a hell of a secret. In his own way, Gabriel is carrying a tremendous weight on his shoulders, and that’s something Rick can obviously sense.

The most chilling moment in the entire episode was seeing ”you’ll burn for this” carved into the church. It not only implies the gravity of what Gabriel must have done, but it plants a haunting image in your head of someone actually doing the carving.

I’m curious to see what they do with the Gabriel character once the secret gets out. Do you have him fall victim to the walkers? Does someone kill him? Or do they have him hang around and be part of the group? He could act as the group’s collective conscience, I suppose. But that role seems to be filled by Tyreese at the moment. Once we find out what he’s done, Gabriel could become easily expendable.

Bob is captured and mutilated by Gareth and the Terminus survivors. Not to harp on the comics too much here, but much of Gareth’s dialogue at the end of the episode was lifted from a scene in the comics which saw Dale in a very similar situation.

The Bob character has been a mystery to me for awhile now. He seems like an easily expendable character. But that almost seems too obvious. So what do you do with him?

I can only assume Bob was secretly bitten when the group was retrieving food. Why else would he have walked off and broken down like that in the midst of a celebration? The group does seem to be getting rather large, so taking a survivor or two out of the equation might not be a bad idea. But with The Walking Dead, you just never know.

Michonne moves on without her sword. It was nice to hear a little bit about the origins of Michonne’s sword, and how she became so proficient with it. It was also pretty damn cool to see her kill a zombie with, of all things, a wisk. But I suspect it won’t be too long before we see her pick a different sword up, and resume her blade swinging bad-assery. I suspect part of the reason she’s lost it is to illustrate to the audience she doesn’t need that weapon to be an ass kicker. I don’t think we really needed that hammered home, but it’s a decent route to take with her.

Carl convinces Rick to save Father Gabriel, is optimistic that the group can handle anything. I hope they’re careful with Carl, here. It wasn’t long ago he was essentially portrayed as the demon child. Now he’s all hopeful and optimistic again. I understand that Carl spent a lot of quality time with his dad last season, and that getting Judith back has probably restored a good portion of his humanity. But he doesn’t have to be naive, does he? If this show has taught us anything, it’s that being happy and hopeful usually means something bad is right around the corner.

Front page image/Image 1 and image 3 from amctv.com. Image 2 from zap2it.com. 

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