Saturday, 25 July 2009

WWE Night Of Champions 2009 - Preview & Predictions

This is the second year that this event has been going under the moniker 'Night of Champions' and is unique in that it is the one night when every single title is defended.

WWE Title
Randy Orton (c) vs Triple H vs John Cena

Orton & HHH have been battling over the Raw-brand title for seemingly forever and in order to make things different (read: stop the boredom) they have added Cena. The problem is that Orton has been portrayed as a very weak champion, and I'd be surprised if he retained. Triple H has been chasing the gold for months and so will probably pick it up. I wouldn't rule out Cena, but he just seems to be in here as he is one of their top guys and they had nothing to do for him.

The most interesting thing to come out of this would be for HHH to pin Cena or vice versa to set up a feud with those two which hasn't been done that much. But I'd doubt that as Orton being the heel will most likely do the job.

Honestly, I have zero excitement for this match given it has 2 guys I strongly dislike (Cena & HHH) and another that I'm very neutral on (Orton).
Prediction: Triple H to win the title

World Heavyweight Championship
C.M. Punk (c) vs Jeff Hardy

This has been one of the best feuds in all of wrestling this year, and a true testament of just how much better a show Smackdown is even though the terrible-more-often-than-not Raw is considered by company officials to be the A-show.

Punk is in the middle of a long-needed heel turn to freshen his character up a bit. He is doing a 'straight-edge' gimmick, which made him famous in the enjoyable Ring Of Honor promotion, where he preaches about how he is "better than you" as he doesn't drink, smoke or do drugs. In real-life this is all legitimately true so there is plenty of underlying credibility here. Jeff Hardy has in the past being in trouble with drugs, and coupled with the crowd loving him along with him being a generally sympathetic character, makes him the perfect foil for this.

The best thing about this is that it is being allowed time to develop slowly with Punk cutting some great promos and Hardy playing his part well. The real beauty though is that similar to Chris Jericho's excellent heel turn last year, everything Punk is saying is the truth but the fans are booing him for it.

The match should be pretty good, and Punk should be ideally retaining. How is another matter. Hardy's contract is apparently up in 2 weeks, and if so, then Punk should be going over clean. If WWE can get Hardy to hang on for another month to their next big event SummerSlam, they could get away with a screwy finish here and then have something like a 'Loser leaves WWE' match with obviously Hardy getting beat.
Prediction: C.M. Punk to retain

ECW Title
Tommy Dreamer (c) vs Christian
Dreamer as a champion is a complete turn-off for me as he should not even be wrestling. He is old, slow, sluggish, pudgy, and just generally looks out of place on ECW, which is a show for mainly new, young talent to develop their skills. However, it would be better if he won the match.

Christian needs to get over to Smackdown, which has a worryingly low pool of main event talent. If Christian were to lose this match and stay on ECW, it would do no good. Arguably if he won the belt it would not do all that much given he has already won it once and that was all that was needed to re-establish himself since he returned to the WWE.

Right, fantasy armchair booking time - the match goes on early enough in the show, Dreamer wins via roll-up (to protect Christian), he extends his hand to shake as a sign of respect, but Christian beats him up and then just walks off turning slightly heelish (we'll come back to this in a moment).
Prediction: Tommy Dreamer to retain

Unified Tag Team Titles
Chris Jericho & ??? (c) vs Legacy (Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase)
Jericho and Edge won the titles at the last show after becoming a last minute addition. However, Edge unfortunately picked up a nasty injury at house show that leaves him out of action until the New Year. Jericho is allowed to pick a new partner, but for storyline purposes, it needs to be an upper-card guy who doesn't look out of place beside him.

This is where Christian comes into play. Him and Jericho have previous history both as a team and foes from years ago and it would allow him to eventually go over to Smackdown. The only other possibility I can think of as partner would be a re-debuting Chris Masters, who WWE recently signed back and will no doubt thrust him highish on the card. But to be frank, his run first time around was a bit of a flop and I'm in no hurry to see him back.

Legacy are a strange breed. They are clearly going to be big things much further down the line. But at the minute it is hard to take them seriously as they are Randy Orton's lackeys and more or less Triple H's own personal jobbers who he beats up whenever he feels like it.

I wouldn't expect a title change as they just could have had Jericho play up his own ego and take both of them on. Plus you can play up eventual tension between Jericho and his new partner. Interestingly all 3 confirmed people are heels, it's not often WWE does heel vs heel matches, but I wish they would do more.
Prediction: Chris Jericho and mystery partner Christian to retain

Intercontinental Title
Rey Mysterio (c) vs Dolph Ziggler
One of the other reasons Smackdown is such a better show is that they put focus on mid-card talent to help elevate them up to the higher echelon, for example Ziggler (and John Morrison). Raw doesn't do this, and if Ziggler had of stayed on Raw instead of being drafted a few months ago, he would have been lucky if he had of appeared on the show let alone get a PPV title match.

Ziggler has been improving vastly and is getting better in the ring all the time, and will probably pick up the belt sometime or later, but not here I feel. Mysterio is rock solid and this should be a good match.
Prediction: Rey Mysterio to retain

United States Title
Kofi Kingston (c) vs MVP vs Carlito vs Jack Swagger vs The Miz vs The Big Show
Everyone seems to be involved in something, except bizarrely the champion himself. So they just threw a bunch of mid-carders together. They haven't made clear the rules of the match but I'd imagine it is two guys in the ring and they can tag in anyone else with one fall to a finish.

Using WWE standard booking logic, Big Show definitely won't win as he was made uber-strong this past week by laying out all other 5 guys. Carlito is involved in a feud with his brother Primo so I doubt he'll win. MVP & Swagger are fighting each other that should not need the title. So that leaves The Miz and the champ. It's a coin toss, but I think there'll be a new champ.

The guys are all decent workers at the least, but I fear the scenario may be a case of 'too many cooks...'.
Prediction: The Miz to win the US Title

Women's Title
Michelle McCool (c) vs Melina
McCool won the belt because she is screwing The Undertaker...oh, after winning last time around is the official company message I believe. This is Melina's mandatory rematch. McCool is a poor wrestler and just plain boring as a character. In an ideal world Melina should have retained last time around, and again she should win here. But that won't happen. The problem then is that the only wrestler on Smackdown capable of having a good match is the excellent Natalya, but she like McCool, is currently a heel. Ahh, we'll see what happens.
Prediction: Michelle McCool to retain

Diva's Title
Maryse (c) vs Mickie James
Ugh, 2 Diva's matches on the same show. Is this some sort of punishment for sins past? If I wanted to see a couple of women's matches (that actually feature fantastic matches & talent) in a short space of time, I'd check out the sublime SHIMMER.

Anyway, Maryse is the epitome of why I hate WWE's attitude to women's wrestling. They hire models/ex-Playboy girls and then train them as opposed to getting proven women with a bit of indy experience - it's a case of looks first, talent second.

To her credit, Maryse is a good character, but is an awful wrestler. Mickie James actually has indy background but has regressed so much since these past couple of years and is quite sloppy at times. She is good, just not as good as when she debuted. She needs to win though to draw better wrestlers in (Beth Phoenix & Gail Kim).
Prediction: Mickie James to win the title

Overall
This does not look like the best show. I have no interest in the triple threat match, any match involving Tommy Dreamer is always a bit iffy, and the 2 Divas matches will probably be a mess. Hardy/Punk, Mysterio/Ziggler & the tag titles should be fine though. Expect a few title changes, there kind of needs to be in order to make this format of a show work.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

TNA Victory Road 2009 - Results & Review

TNA's last outing, Slammiversary, was the best show that they put on in ages. So the hope here was that they would use that momentum and build upon it. They didn't...

Angelina Love defeated Tara to win the Knockouts Title
It was a bit of a strange way to open the show with a women's match, and the match didn't deliver all that much. Both girls are solid workers, but if they were given more time further down the card it would have been much better. The ending was awful whereby Tara missed a moonsault and got pinned, but she got her foot on the bottom rope which would normally break the count, however the referee didn't see it. Considering too that Tara only picked up the title 2 weeks ago, it was a farcical way to open the show.

Backstage in the locker room of the Main Event Mafia, Kurt Angle told us "Do not expect a quality main event match". Ouch. Imagine the folks that paid for this show actually hearing that. Then he tells his gang that "if you lose, you are fired from the Mafia", which practically gave away the results of the other matches. What a laughably bad opening to the show.

Matt Morgan defeated Christopher Daniels
Daniels had a legit knee injury going into this match and they played off it well, and he performed a bit better than was to be expected with an injury. There was a good story behind the match with Morgan working it over to the point where Daniels couldn't hit his trademark top rope finisher. Morgan gets the win he needed over an established wrestler to look like a proper upper card guy. Not sure what they are doing with Daniels, he has been in limbo ever since he returned which is disappointing.

Abyss defeated Dr. Stevie in a No-DQ match
Basically an extended squash brawl with carnage about the arena whereby Abyss dominated. He used a 'taser' at the end on Stevie which gave off smoke, but was terribly silly. This appears to be the blow-off to this feud, which in fairness has been pretty good.

Team 3D (Brothers Ray & Devon) defeated The British Invasion (Doug Williams & Brutus Magnus) to retain the IWGP Tag Team Titles
Those tag belts actually belong to the New Japan promotion and not TNA, so a title switch was always unlikely. It was a decent enough match, if not a little formulaic (bad guys work over a good guy, goodie makes the hot tag to his partner, then they clean house). Williams has always been solid and working with veterans can only help Magnus' development. There is room to go back to the well once more with these guys I feel.

Jenna Morasca defeated Sharmell
Well...erm, Morasca had a rather interesting ring entrance. Now let's never speak of this mess again in what will certain to be one of the contenders for 'Worst Match Of The Year'.

Kevin Nash defeated A.J. Styles to win the Legends Title
Ugh, Nash shouldn't even be wrestling. Really slow match and went on way longer than needed. Styles done his best, but not even he could elevate the quality. I'd like to think that they made Styles drop the belt in order to give him a serious World Title push, but I fear I would be giving TNA way too much credit.

Booker T & Scott Steiner defeated Beer Money (Robert Roode & James Storm) to win the World Tag Team Titles
Ugh, Steiner shouldn't even be wrestling. Another boring match too. Dumb spot whereby Storm spat beer in his opponent's eyes and then the referee couldn't make the pinfall count as he was feigning temporary blindness even though he was nowhere near the incident. I honestly couldn't tell you what the plans are for Beer Money at this moment in time.

Samoa Joe defeated Sting
The finish was botched as Sting forgot what was supposed to happen. It was very noticeable too which made matters worse. The other point of note is that Taz made his TNA d├ębut as Joe's advisor. He came out and...done nothing. You think that they would have let him cut a promo.

Kurt Angle defeated Mick Foley to retain the World Heavyweight Title
Really boring match that never seemed to get out of first gear. Afterwards the Mafia all came out to celebrate with their titles.

Overall
This was a terrible show with TNA back to their bad old tricks of silly finishes and nonsensical booking. It was really bad to see the likes of Styles & Beer Money drop their titles to pensioners. Only the Daniels/Morgan & Team 3D/British Invasion matches came anywhere close to being decent. After the surprisingly good show last month, this one was a horrible mess. A huge disappointment.

Friday, 17 July 2009

TNA Sacrifice 2009 - Results & Review

Once again, results come courtesy of Online World of Wrestling.

Sacrifice would be May's show.

  • The pre-show was again a nice bonus for everyone, especially as it featured some good talent.
  • They actually built upon Young's unhappiness later down the line as he turned heel. Perfectly fine opener though.
  • Monster's Ball was way too short. But seeing female wrestlers in a hardcore rules environment was something different.
  • Frankie Kazarian is now under the Suicide mask allowing Christopher Daniels to be himself full-time. The finish was a bit lame though.
  • Love retaining by heel means was fine as it kept her heat and protected the gargantuan Awesome Kong.
  • Joe over Nash was thankfully the right result.
  • For all the things wrong with TNA, and there are many, at least they put effort into their tag team (and Women's) divisions so that there is plenty of talent and depth there. These are some of the few areas where they out-do the WWE.
  • Stupid finish to the 'I Quit' match.
  • The main event was just downright dumb. They built it up well with everyone sacrificing something, but Sting getting the win and not getting the title is just ridiculous. Pretty average main event too.
Overall
It wasn't great. There were plenty of dodgy finishes which killed a lot of the fun in the show. Plus the ending to the main event was just inexcusable.

TNA Lockdown 2009 - Results & Review

Fallen way behind on these recaps, so I'll just give a link to the results from the excellent Online World of Wrestling website and just throw in a few opinions.

Lockdown was the April show, and is unique in that all the matches take place inside a steel cage.

  • The pre-show match didn't really matter all that much, but at least it was something to get people in the mood for the main show.
  • Suicide's dive off the cage was pretty cool.
  • The women's 4-way was forgettable. I was hoping that the always enjoyable Daffney would pick up the win.
  • 3-way tag team bout was a very fine watch. Plenty of good action there.
  • Stupid TNA rules on making your opponent bleed before you can pin them. They love over-complicating things.
  • They had to book the finish to the Knockouts title match on the fly as Love got accidentally concussed, but the referee and Taylor Wilde did a good job of covering it up. It didn't come across as too bad looking on TV. Love is a fine pick for champion, she has been one of the most consistently good acts for a while now.
  • The tag title unification match was probably the most enjoyable of the night, mainly because the crowd were really into it. Winners were a bit obvious though.
  • Lethal Lockdown usually delivers, but this one was a bit lacklustre for some reason. Even A.J. Styles annual crazy stunt was a bit of a let-down.
  • I have zero excitement in seeing Bobby Lashley in TNA. I'm sure we'll get back to him at a later date.
  • Main event was horrible given the combined age of the two participants was 93. Mick Foley just seemed to throw himself over the cage to the floor at the end. And quite frankly TNA giving him their world title is one of the most stupid decisions they have made, at least in recent times.
Overall
Lockdown is usually one of TNA's better shows of the year. But it wasn't as good as it could possibly have been. There was a general lack of buzz during the show, except possibly outside the Team 3D/Beer Money tag title unification match.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Ashes - First Test Review

Cricket has had a bit of renaissance, well with us at least. The recent Twenty/20 World Cup had to be considered a success overall, with Ireland in particular once again punching above their weight. So much so that when the ICC draw up plans for the next few years, Ireland are going to be involved along with all the top nations. Fully deserved as we have been ever improving in recent times.

It also benefits that the World Cup was held in England so that most of the buzz is retained for the latest Ashes series which began last week pitting the hosts against Australia. And seeing as how this is a summer that is absent from from a major football tournament or the Olympics, The Ashes takes top billing in the summer sporting calendar, providing 5 five-day Tests spread out during the summer months. Since there's nothing else on, why not...

Two or so years ago Australia whitewashed England 5-0 to regain the Ashes, but shush, the British media don't make mention to that, they prefer to focus on England's narrow 2-1 win from 4 years ago.

Both sides were going into the contest in not the best form and the teams are much changed from 4, or even 2 years ago. So you had the impression that it was either going to be a case of 2 poor teams cancelling each other out, or either the scenario of each side trying to outdo the other and prove that they are genuinely the best. Thankfully from the basis of the first Test, it looks like it will probably be the former.

England won the toss and sensibly batted first and posted a remarkable score of over 400 all out, however Australia saw their target and raised it significantly posting a score of about 650 for only the loss of a handful of wickets to put them firmly in the driving seat. It was particularly impressive that 4 of their batsmen got centuries or more, something unheard of. Marcus North scored his very first 100 on his very first Ashes match, much to the chagrin of Englishmen everything.

Australia eventually declared and took a couple of England's wickets before a close of a day, a very smart move by their captain, the sublime Ricky Ponting. This left the Aussies with a full day to take 8 England wickets to win the Test. But they just couldn't do it, which resulted in a drawn game. Not even when it came down to England's worst two batsmen, 2 bowling specialists, who managed to stay at the crease for 40 minutes. Praise must go to middle-order batter Paul Collingwood who stayed in for 5-and-a-half hours. He was effectively the glue that held everyone else together.

Now, I am not a fan of England in any shape or form, not even in the slightest, but is was simply compelling viewing to watch them hang in there by hook or crook to do enough to secure a draw.

This Test was actually played in Cardiff, Wales due to the English board actually encompassing 'The England and Wales Cricket Board'. There were a few eyebrows raised - some in favour of taking the sport around the country and giving new places & fans an opportunity; some against as it will cost the club Glamorgan ages to repay all the loans they took out to bid and do up the stadium, and also that the venue took away the opportunity of traditional grounds like Old Trafford staging a venue. The pitch wasn't the best either as the bowlers did not get much out of it, but I guess it gave the batsmen to show off their skills. Ah well, six of one, half a dozen of the other. In the end, was it entertaining? The general consensus is "yes", and so it will ultimately go down as a success for staging it here. It was humorous though to see 15,000 Welshmen cheer on England.

It is rare that a team who post over 400 in their first innings don't go on and win, but Australia were in no mood to mess around. So this draw will feel like a victory for England and conversely it will feel like a defeat for Australia. It's set-up very nicely for the Second Test tomorrow which takes place at Lords, "The Home of Cricket". Before this all started, I had said to myself that I think Australia will take the series 3-1, that's still on the cards.

Friday, 8 May 2009

NHL Roundup - The Finals

Division 1
  • Kilkenny defeated reigning champions Tipperary after extra-time. This was a fantastically enjoyable high-scoring match as both sides really brought out their top game for this one.
Division 2
  • Offaly gained promotion to the top tier next year as they were able to defeat rivals Wexford by virtue of a solitary goal.
Division 3A
  • The extra goal scored by Kildare was enough for them to beat Meath.
Division 3B
  • London fully justified their place in the National League as they defeated Roscommon with 6 points to spare.
Division 4
  • Sligo were victorious over Monaghan in a competitive final that went all the way to extra-time.

Friday, 1 May 2009

NFL Roundup - Final Word

Time to just reflect on this league campaign and to see how things all finished up. There were some very good matches throughout and the managers did give new talent a chance to shine. At the end of the day though, I don't think that anyone can have any complaints about their final league position.

The tables come courtesy of the official website of the GAA.

Division 1

Allianz GAA Football National League Roinn 1 Table
Team Pld Won Draw Lost For Against Diff Points
Kerry 7 6 1 0 114 83 31 13
Derry 7 4 1 2 101 81 20 9
Galway 7 4 1 2 106 92 14 9
Mayo 7 2 3 2 90 85 5 7
Tyrone 7 3 1 3 96 97 -1 7
Dublin 7 2 2 3 124 110 14 6
Donegal 7 2 1 4 86 99 -13 5
Westmeath 7 0 0 7 68 138 -70 0

Champions: Kerry
Relegated: Westmeath & Donegal
  • Kerry end the campaign unbeaten with their 1 draw and 7 wins (including the final) and they should be favourites heading into the All-Ireland in the summer. The disappointing season for Tyrone was touching on previously. But it was even more so for fans of Donegal probably expected to do better than this. Westmeath just seemed out of their depth this year.
Division 2

Allianz GAA Football National League Roinn 2 Table
Team Pld Won Draw Lost For Against Diff Points
Monaghan 7 5 1 1 130 91 39 11
Cork 7 5 1 1 110 75 35 11
Kildare 7 4 2 1 115 88 27 10
Armagh 7 4 0 3 108 103 5 8
Meath 7 2 2 3 82 87 -5 6
Laois 7 3 0 4 96 116 -20 6
Fermanagh 7 1 1 5 87 106 -19 3
Wexford 7 0 1 6 78 140 -62 1

Promoted: Monaghan & Cork (champions)
Relegated: Wexford & Fermanagh
  • In a bit of a strange twist, even though they finished second, Cork are named champions as they won that final one-off game. Those two sides should be a fine addition to Division 1 next year and it will give Monaghan in particular a chance to test themselves against the best. Wexford & Fermanagh had only just come up this year and so are going straight back down again.
Division 3

Allianz GAA Football National League Roinn 3 Table
Team Pld Won Draw Lost For Against Diff Points
Down 7 5 0 2 109 87 22 10
Tipperary 7 5 0 2 104 90 14 10
Offaly 7 3 1 3 89 107 -18 7
Louth 7 3 0 4 109 98 11 6
Roscommon 7 3 0 4 91 94 -3 6
Cavan 7 3 0 4 91 94 -3 6
Limerick 7 3 0 4 81 92 -11 6
Longford 7 2 1 4 76 88 -12 5

Promoted: Down & Tipperary (champions)
Relegated: Longford & Limerick

  • Again the runners-up are crowned champions and this was an excellent campaign for Tipperary as they secured their second promotion in a row. Down as expected also go up a division. But just look how tight it was down at the other end of the table. You have to feel for Limerick getting relegated by virtue of having a worse points difference.
Division 4

Allianz GAA Football National League Roinn 4 Table
Team Pld Won Draw Lost For Against Diff Points
Antrim 8 6 2 0 167 77 90 14
Sligo 8 7 0 1 133 81 52 14
Leitrim 8 5 1 2 128 101 27 11
Waterford 8 4 1 3 112 87 25 9
Wicklow 8 3 2 3 153 102 51 8
Clare 8 3 0 5 144 105 39 6
Carlow 8 3 0 5 114 122 -8 6
London 8 2 0 6 82 146 -64 4
Kilkenny 8 0 0 8 42 254 -212 0

Promoted: Antrim & Sligo (champions)

  • Sligo get the division trophey for winning that final match but the league table in this division is probably fairest of all most definitely the top 2 sides going up. Poor Kilkenny will just be glad that this campaign is finished.