Cagefighter: Worlds Collide – Review

The movie that Dean Ambrose announced he’d be featuring in when he left WWE, before becoming Jon Moxley again and appearing in AEW, dropped this weekend for a one night only Fite TV PPV. He’s billed here by his real name – Jonathan Good – and plays Randy Stone, a pro-wrestler turned MMA fighter. Was the one night gamble, Mox-risk worth it?

Fair play to director/writer Jesse Quinones for allowing Moxley to ad-lib and breathe authenticity into the role. And fair play to Moxley and Jay “Christian” Reso (who appears as an MMA podcast presenter) for facing the digs at pro-wrestling head-on.

The premise is five-time MMA light-heavyweight champion, Reiss Gibbons, is offered a big-money crossover bout. A Clive Balls Top Tip here, when appealing to a mainstream audience, saying the guy is “Five Time Champion” does not mean five successful title defences. It does here.

Head of MMA organisation Legends, Max Black – played by Gina Gershon whom men from a certain age will recall with misty, faraway eyes from Bound – sells the idea to Gibbons’ best friend and agent, the charismatic Reggie, played by Elijah Baker.

Baker may be too endearing for his own good, he comes across as more real and engaging than Alexander Tanikie-Montagnani who plays Reiss. That isn’t to say the lead is weak – he’s not – he just lacks some of the Rocky-esque humour needed to offset the troubles.

For those who need a crash course on the formula here, familiarise yourself with Rocky III. It does depart from that style but you’ll appreciate the general gist. Continuing the nod to Rocky, Georgia Bradner plays the Adrian character, known as Ellie. She’s a tad different, she wants her man back in the ring so she can get the horse she always wanted. She’s cute, but I wouldn’t want to annoy her. There’s enough council crey-crey lurking in her expressions to make me rather face a pissed Randy Stone in a cage than tell her no.

A special shout out should go to Chuck Liddell. He’s a pure MMA fighter, dipping his toe into the acting waters, and he came across as one of the most natural on screen.

The downsides of the movie would be some of the production values. It’s clear there is a staged audience during ring-walks and no stadium during the fights. But these are cancelled out by the intensity of the fight scenes. It’d be easy to be dismissive before the film of how the combat scenes will play out but each bout is gripping and hard-hitting.

It could have benefitted from more character work, something a sequel could explore and there’s no doubt the many AEW fans who flocked to see the PPV would have enjoyed more Moxley time. He proves that whether playing heel or face, he’s unmissable entertainment. His angst at not being taken seriously in the early movie is top drawer, reaching a climax when he draws on peak Mr T.

Mr T Clubber Lang Dreaming of a Real Man

Overall, a good film, well worth checking out when it gets a wider release.

7/10

Why I’ll Watch WrestleMania (by an AEW fanboy)

I haven’t watched a full WWE PPV since Evolution. I totally believe in the positive strides taken to recognise women in Sports Entertainment, and in that particular point in time, they deserved all the attention not because of the “Women’s Revolution” but down to the fact they were markedly better than the male counterparts.

I stopped watching WWE because of Bad Creative and the Saudi situation. Any company that can ignore murdered journalists and still collect a pay cheque is morally bankrupt. Evolution came at an unfortunate time for me to make that ethical choice. Once the PPV was over, the Network was cancelled.

On Saturday, I will again decide to become an active subscriber. (This will be on the back of one of my many personas who have yet to take a free trial.) Much has changed in the intervening period. I’ve become AEW – I’m All In. WWE has further morphed into the modernised version of eighties WWE that was trounced by an emergent WCW. If you can’t learn from history, you are destined to fail. Vincent K. McMahon doesn’t view history – he has a clearly defined end version he’s been trying to paint for years.

Starting Saturday, even Vince will be forced into parts unknown. Everyone around him advised it was best to have a WrestleMania delay. Vince refused. It could be he’s so stubborn, he needs to see WrestleMania chalked off his calendar on exactly the correct date.

It could also be that the most successful and influential wrestling promotor of all time knows how to make prosperity out of chaos.

WWE will always be able to say WrestleMania proceeded unabated. The pre-filmed nature means they can aim for a cinematic feel. Vince is on record saying he makes movies. This is his chance to make The WrestleMania Movie. The two-night affair is also a handy trial. The event has become too long. Now they have a chance to see if two nights, two main events, is palatable.

I’ll be watching WrestleMania this year because it’s a once in a lifetime experiment. If they get it right, it’ll be like nothing we’ve seen before – or will again. AEW has done a far better job with its crowd-less shows so far. It could be WWE has deliberately downplayed the Performance Centre so what we see this weekend blows us away.

The Showcase of Immortals has never been so intriguing.

Now, as long as The Fiend wins, Goldberg is exiled, The Man finishes looking strong, Charlotte Flair loses, Drew looks strong, The Undertaker comes as the American Bad Ass and Edge is retired with an RKO, WrestleMania will be a great success.

The Stranger — Season 1 — Episode 1

“Have you seen the new Netflix show?” A question that is synonymous with getting on board with the latest viewing trend. That’s how I wound up watching The Stranger. With it being on Netflix, I hoped for something edgier than mainstream telly. Something up there with other thrillers on the streaming service.

That isn’t what I got.

Welcome to ITV Sunday night’s from the nineties, replacing the best of those moments (Coltrane) with the camp and absurd.

Richard Armitage plays Adam Price. A guy who’s as inviting as an eye-poking convention. He’s tipped off that his wife, Corrine — ramped up to high levels of annoying by Dervla Kirwan — is a bit of a liar. Adam goes digging and finds out she is.

Somehow, Jennifer Saunders finds herself in the show. After years of telling jokes, she ends up inside one. She’s one of a handful here whose talent exceeds the script. Siobhan Finneran plays the detective who adds levity to proceedings. She’s not the sort of cop that cares for crime scenes. She stands all over the spilt blood from a llama’s head.

That takes place under the watchful eye of Robert Peel’s statue in Bury town centre. It’s fitting the man that made policing witnessed the crime of this series firsthand. Being in Bury, a place Danny Simms has made me frequent, could explain why everyone involved in this project is so out of kilter.

It’s out of intrigue and a love of car crash telly it manages to get a rating of:

5/10

AEW Dynamite – First 3 Episodes Review

Rather than dive into reviewing Dynamite prematurely and feeding into the ratings side of the Wednesday Night War, it was decided to let the dust settle. We were never going to understand everything after just one night, or two, but by three, we have a decent idea about what AEW is going to feel like on a weekly basis.

It was fitting that the debut fight saw Cody take to the squared-circle. He is a founder and face of the company. Unlike The Other Place, where connection to the powers that be buys unfair air time, Cody is legitimately a top tier star. He is World Champion level talent, he is recognisable as Mr AEW, he should be opening the first bout on TNT.

The match with Sammy Guevara helped build the stock of the youngster and storylines, with Chris Jericho entering the ring to give Cody a painful reminder of what to expect at the Full Gear PPV when the two face-off for the World Title.

It would take too long to cram all the matches from the opening three weeks into one article. Those have already been reviewed elsewhere. But to examine the tone and feel, we also need to consider direction. PAC against “Hangman” Adam Page gave us big hints. PAC made “Hangman” tap out, albeit after a low blow. It’s a sign the Geordie is well thought of in AEW. As for Page, is he destined to play the tortured nearly man for a period of time?

Of course, episode 1 saw Riho get the shock win over Nyla Rose. “Shock” is used sparingly there. Lots assumed Rose would get the strap first but that was based on the amount of media work and exposure. Riho, in many respects, was the safe choice. It builds another name and unleashes Rose as a person that wants to stomp through the division.

The first main event saw Jericho, Santana and Ortiz versus The Young Bucks and Omega. It was never a fair match. Moxley saw to that. He stole Omega from ringside, planted him through a glass table backstage, and the inevitable beatdown of the babyfaces ensued.

The Rhodes brothers ran to the ring, followed by Jericho’s newest buddies including the former Jack Swagger – MMA’s Jake Hager.

Which leads us into episode 2 and the best promo Jericho has cut in years. And that is saying something as Jericho doesn’t do bad promos. He derailed the crowd’s “We the People” chants, aimed at Hager. Jericho derided WWE and killed what could have become a career hindering, never going away chant in a simple but cutting line: “‘We the People’ sucks and it’s dead and buried. It was a stupid idea from bad creative and all that’s gone.”

The amusing thing is, the crowd lapped up the comment, Hager looked a little hurt. He’d been using the gimmick in MMA. Dense people of the Twitterverse, have remarked Jericho was a hypocrite in the promo. That he dogged WWE Creative while still hinting at his old gimmick, like The List. Jericho is his own invention. His creations did not require WWE Creative. He can recycle his old material to his heart’s content.

His latest creation is the stable now known as The Inner Circle. It looks like we’re heading for good authority figures trying to overcome an evil, dissident group that holds power.

The second episode allowed a few things to become clearer. Like, this is a wrestling show. The action goes at a faster pace. There are fewer segments than WWE. It’s in-ring action plus. I don’t want to say total, non-stop action as that would have a grossly unfair connotation. While we’re at it, the notion it’s WCW-lite is wrong too. This is new with a slight nod to the past.

Week two had a real sporting feeling. It wasn’t polished to within an inch of its life like The Other Place, to the point where a ring walk feels like a catwalk. This felt like combatants about to get it on. There was a big fight feel throughout. An atmosphere closer to a boxing arena than Vince McMahon’s circus.

AEW showed that shocks will come and not just for the sake of shocking. The Young Bucks – pre-tournament favourites – where eliminated in the first round tag match by Private Party. Also, expected results aren’t delivered with ease. Every win was worked for, from Moxley over Spears and The Inner Circle over Rhodes and Page.

The best compliment episode 2 received was from a friend who is a time lapsed WWE fan, he was genuinely enthralled and giddy with each and every match. This was without him knowing any of the characters beforehand. He took it on face value and said it was as good as WWE at its best.

Last Wednesday’s Dynamite completed the overview of how the show will run. The focus on in-ring action was underlined. It does seem to have a hard act on its hand of delivering top level matches, with its best talent, while avoiding over-exposure. Already, Moxley/PAC is announced for episode 4. That’s a PPV main event right there, given away on telly.

Mox went full Stone Cold and flipped a double-bird before delivering Paradigm Effect, setting up the beef. It’s also notable PAC undersold the finisher and needed a few more from the opponents of Omega and Page before swallowing the three-count. The win-loss record counts in AEW and PAC has a rep for not accepting defeats. Next week they need to avoid a convoluted finish to maintain integrity.

The Jericho/Allin Philly Street fight struggled with this. It was clear Allin was being put over during the inevitable defeat but it risked making Jericho look weak while giving the emerging star a 1 in his loss tally. Also, after WWE’s Hell in a Cell debacle, why risk the fans ire by having referee Aubrey Edwards call for a break during submission moves whenever Darby Allin reached the rope? The fans even shouted: “It’s a street fight”.

AEW has a great concept with Dark on YouTube. It needs to increase the length of that show and have jobbers fight one another more, building respectable records amongst themselves. These talents should then lose to big names on Dynamite, preserving the win-loss records of top tier stars. Otherwise, explicit jobbers will have records resembling 2-50, with the big names on the books having 50/50 stats at best.

AEW arenas have that big fight feel but big fights don’t happen weekly in UFC and boxing. Big stars need tune-up matches; in pro-wrestling context that means being fed jobbers.

This is a minor concern in an otherwise successful launch. Dynamite has a unique feel without being completely alien to lapsed fans. It satisfies those burnt by stupid ideas from bad creative. Now all it needs is time to build backstory and relax into not pulling out the big matches every single week. And that in itself shows how strong AEW has come out of the blocks: we’d be happy to see them apply the “less is more” rule.

Episode 1 – “Are You Elite” 2 Oct, 2019– 8/10

Episode 2 – “The Inner Circle” 9 Oct, 2019 – 9/10

Episode 3 – 16 Oct, 2019 – 7/10

The Great Hack – Review

The Great Hack is the type of documentary that becomes part of pop culture and everyone watching it thinks they’ve uncovered some great unknown. The Cambridge Analytica “scandal” is a modern-day scandal, in that, people’s naivety leads them to shock. It’s best to explain what happened by drawing the obvious comparisons with how things work in the Star Wars universe.

Okay, so Cambridge Analytica is the data observer for the Galactic Empire. It’s hard to pull the strings if you can’t run a bit of propaganda now and again. Cambridge Analytica sells a product that claims to know how voters can be swayed. So, they have the Death Star of press releases, right? No, they just have an extensive database. That’s it. Their leader, Alexander Nix, is a Sith Lord that sells the tool to campaigns needing an advantage. Some say, an unfair advantage.

Like any Sith, he needs an apprentice. Enter Brittany Kaiser. A bright-eyed, morally sound, successful left-wing orientated business developer. Under Nix’s spell, she experiences a step into the perceived Dark Side. Cambridge Analytica are making people not vote in campaigns that run counter to the expectation of the electorate. They plant seeds on the Internet, sometimes in the form of memes, and watch chaos ensue.

Just like Anakin, the Dark Side takes its toll physically. She goes from poster girl to a bloated mess of a character. Then, she decides to speak out against the organisation (who continue to proclaim innocence). And that’s about the gist of the whole, drawn-out affair.

The biggest conspiracy here is how Cambridge Analytica has managed to convince people to part with millions for dubious data returns. The scam is how Nix has packaged and sold something as a Golden Skeleton Key. Fair play for pulling off that deception. It goes to prove: there’s no such thing as bad press.

4/10