Monday, January 31, 2011

Royal Rumble 2011

The Royal Rumble hangover is now in effect and that means the Road to Wrestlemania has begun.

The event started off with a bang with the World Heavyweight Championship match.  Dolph Ziggler finally gets his chance for the strap.  The stip in this match is that Edge cannot use his spear or else Ziggler will be awarded the title.  A very fun match, Dolph continues to perform at a top level.  Ton of close calls and some involvement with Vickie Guerrero.  Kelly Kelly (!?) comes out and fights Guerrero and makes her a non factor.  Edge gets the win with the Killswitch (?!) to keep his title.  Very fun way to start off the night.

Next up we have the WWE Championship match (!?).  They continue to book Miz as a beatable champion, which is fine with me.  Randy Orton gets thwarted by the Nexus making their way in and hand picking who they want to win, and that was The Miz.  Orton catches a GTS from Punk and pulls Miz over Orton.

The cool down match is a four way match for the Diva's Championship.  Eve wins. Now to the Rumble

Royal Rumble:
-Punk draws number 1 and my pick to win has to have a Flair like showing to win the match.  But before things can start he is jumped by the Corre and then the Nexus makes their way starting a brawl.  The Raw GM chimes in and calls for order in the ring or else they will be unable to compete in the Rumble.
-Daniel Bryan is number 2 and the ROH fans get themselves a treat.
-The first portion of the Rumble had the lower card wrestlers make their way, including the Nexus members.
-John Morrison has an incredible spot by clinging on the guard rail to avoid elimination and leaping back into the ring.
-The Nexus eventually clear out the ring and show dominance.
-The Great Khali returns and tosses Husky Harris, but is eventually overwhelmed when the next entrant was the Nexus strong man, Mason Ryan.
-BOOKER T!!! The Bookman makes a return to a loud ovation and lands all of his signature spots before being tossed out by the Nexus.  Very fun spot.
-Odds are evened, because we already know that John Cena can beat up the Nexus by himself and incase you forgot he does it again and clears them out.
-Hornswaggle enters next (Ugh!) and him and Cena have a cute buddy buddy Nickelodeon run eliminating Kidd and Slater.
-Order is restored as more credible competition enters the ring.
-I knew that a real dick of a heel needed to enter to toss out our pint sized friend and I got my request fulfilled when Sheamus' music hit.  As expected he got business to pick up again and took care of Hornswaggle.
-Kevin F'n Nash!!!!!!! With his classic Diesel gear!!!!!!! By far the mark out moment of the night.  The crowd exploded even more, Boston was great.  Nash got some offense in, but never got in a Jack Knife. Damn!  Him and Rey exchanged some offense, remember when Nash was the person to force Rey to unmask in WCW? He doesn't last long however, Wade Barrett sends him out of the ring.
-As Nash was leaving, Big Show entered and they started each other down.  I love it, nice throwback to WCW, they have a lot of history together.  If Show does not have any competition at Mania, why not put him in the ring with Nash for old times sake?
-I really hate that Ziggler and Orton had spots in the Rumble. LAME! Why does Randy Orton have to be involved in everything?
-Alberto del Rio is crowned the Royal Rumble winner! Great ending, the Santino teaser was cool.  My friend always came up with a scenario about how an unlikely candidate would win the Royal Rumble for once.  This was very close to that scenario, but ADR out maneuvers Santino to win.
-I love that del Rio as the winner.  For once a fresh new face wins the Rumble and shocks the audience.  A year ago, none of us even knew the name Albert del Rio and now he is the Rumble winner and going to headline Mania.  He has the talent and the personality to be a headliner.  Last time someone who debuted within a year won a Royal Rumble was in 1993 with Yokozuna.

It was a really good match, and a Royal Rumble that will be remembered.  The 40 man format worked out well in my opinion.  The undercard was solid too.  A great way for the WWE to start out their 2011 PPV year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bear Down?

Photo from

The story of the 2010 Chicago Bears started with controversy after winning on a technicality of the NFL rulebook and ended in controversy as their big name quarterback didn't finish a game that could send them to the Superbowl.  It was a roller coaster season for the Bears, after 3 years of no postseason play, the city was booming again over the Bears.  They overshot expectations with a trip to the NFC Championship against their oldest rivals the Green Bay Packers.  
After losing Superbowl 41, it was widely considered that the Bears were only missing a franchise quarterback.  After turmoil in Denver Jay Cutler was acquired by the Bears to fill that void.  Expectations were raised for the Bears and for Cutler.  After one season, Cutler became familiar with what it's like to play under the lights of a large media market like Chicago.  Although setting a career high in TDs, he shattered a career high in interceptions.  Another criticism of Cutler was his body language and demeanor.  He comes across of not caring or being arrogant.  I don't know him personally, but there were certainly times when he did look like he was pouting after a bad game. 
His second season, he started to regain respect from the fans.  A porous offensive live led him to get sacked more times that any other quarterback this season.  He always came back, except for one missed game due to a concussion after take 8 sacks from the Giants.  However his interception numbers were down, and he was more efficient.  He was a very important piece of winning a division for the Bears and leading them to the NFC Championship.
After a poor start in the game, he took a hit from the Packers and he seemed shook up by it.  In the 3rd quarter, backup Todd Collins enters the game and Cutler was seen on the side wrapped up in a jacket.  It was announced that his day was over.  Even though 3rd string, Caleb Hanie, nearly created a miracle, all of the attention was on Jay Cutler.  Fans were questioning his toughness and his heart.  I'll be the first to say I did, I didn't like to see our franchise quarterback on the sideline with a trip to the Superbowl on the line, emotions ran high.  In addition to the fans and the media, his peers around the league were harsh on Cutler.  His teammates and coach defended their quarterback to the end and with passion.  Earlier today an MRI revealed an MCL tear.  Skeptics, including me backed off our criticism, but there are still many who won't buy it.  He was told by his coaches and training staff that he is not to finish the game, and he complied.  It's one thing to question his attitude on the sideline. I personally think he shouldn't of hung his head like he did, but maybe that's because he isn't the person who shows his emotions.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but don't call him out on being a quitter.  He was injured and he couldn't finish the game.  His staff was looking out for him making sure he didn't jeopardize his career.  His staff was looking out for his team, they felt that an injured Cutler would compromise their chances to win.  
In the end, the Bears lost and the season ended.  Getting to the Superbowl isn't easy, and the Packers weren't going to roll over.  Ask the Jets who failed to reach it two years in a row now.  Going into next season, Jay Cutler is our quarterback.  The bar has been raised and now there is scrutiny on the Bears, and there is a goal that still needs to be reached.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bears vs. Packers


Everyone knows that this Sunday decides the who will dance in Dallas at the Superbowl.  I'm sure by now that you know that the Bears and Packers are competing for the NFC representation in Dallas.  And I'm sure you heard that this is the first time these two storied rivals met in the postseason since 1941.  Here is America's Midwest, the hype is real and the hype is huge.  I grew up a lifelong Bears fan and I seen several games between these two teams.  Some were close, others were blowouts courtesy of Brett Favre and others the Bears defense smacked the Pack around.  

It's surreal that this is going to be the biggest meeting between the two.  A trip to the Superbowl is on the line, and both teams are on top of their game.  The Bears have the advantage at home, and the turf has been much concern during the week.  Jay Cutler got his playoff jitters out of the way with 4 total touchdowns vs Seattle.  Aaron Rodgers has orchestrated a couple of huge road wins to get to this point, so being away from Wisconsin doesn't concern them.  You can throw out stats, previous games, odds, the spread, none of it's going to matter.  Both teams are bringing their top game.  I can tell you that the execs at Fox are having a wet dream right now with this match up.  It's going to pull in huge numbers.  I'm getting more and more anxious as Sunday gets closer.  I can't tell you who's going to win, but I'm fairly sure that it's going to be a close game.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Days When Royal Rumbles Only Had 30 People.

As announced yesterday and as I went over, the Royal Rumble up it's wrestler count from 30 to 40.  It's arguably the most excited event of the year for the WWE and I am fortunate enough to see every one.  I actually seen just about every live from 1991 to present with the exception of 2008.  With that said, I still seen the other ones on DVD or on VHS at some point.  I'm going to present you with a retrospective of the big event.

The first Royal Rumble was in 1988, but it wasn't broadcasted on PPV but on the USA Network.  This one also only had 20 contestants.  It's the guinea pig for the match, and obviously it was a hit.  Jim Duggan holds the honor of being the first winner of the Royal Rumble.  Jessie Ventura's reaction is pretty funny when Duggan wins.

1989 would be the first time the Royal Rumble was featured on PPV, and would be to this day.  I can't think of any standout moments, it was treated as a spectacle.  No stakes on the line for it.  Hall of Famer, Big John Studd would win the match.  It should be pointed out that the first two winners never won the WWE Title.

1990 and 1991 are both jumbled together for me.  1991 was the first I seen live, I believe, but not certain.  Both were won by Hulk Hogan.  In 1990, 1990 Hogan was the champ and in 1991 he was not.  He did go to Wrestlemania that year to challenge for the title, but I'm not sure if the title shot stipulation was enforced yet.

1992 was a great one, and one I seen several times.  This is the first and only time the WWE Championship was on the line in the match.  No other Royal Rumble had stakes this high, and for what it's worth Ric Flair went on to Wrestlemania to defend his title.  Flair was great in the match, he came in confident he would win, but the odds were against him coming in at 3.  Bobby Heenan was also great on commentary.  He was like a fan rooting for his team in the Superbowl with Flair.  Flair took advantage when Hogan was tossed out by Sid.  Hogan was upset that he wasn't immune for 'every man for himself' and tried pulling Sid out, and Flair assisted by dumping him out.
"With a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment in my life.' -Ric Flair

1993 was a transition era rumble as Hogan was seeing his last days in the WWE.  The stipulation of the winner going to Wrestlemania was put back into place with this one and has been every year since then. A new face this time around, Yokozuna, won the match using his massive size to advantage.  I'll always remember when Randy Savage was pushed out because he tried to pin Yoko(!?).

Bret Hart and Lex Luger were the co-winners in 1994.  It was almost as if they used it to poll the live audience on who should be the man going into Wrestlemania 10.  Lex Express was pretty much the Real American version 2, but it didn't catch on quite as expected.  Bret was more popular and right choice on who won at WM.  Really can these two be any different? Bret is Canadian and Lex is made in the USA.  Lex is built like a machine and Bret like a human.  Bret was great in the ring and Lex wasn't at all.

1995 is regarded as the worst of the bunch, no surprise considering that the intervals were only 60 seconds making it rushed.  Also 1995 wasn't a prosperous era in the WWE.  But there is some good in it, Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog went wire to wire in the match.  The Bulldog tossed out HBK and went on to celebrate and even played his music.  But he or just about everyone watching live didn't see that BOTH of Michael's feet didn't hit, but just one.  HBK pushed out Davey Boy to net his first Rumble win.  That's still one of my favorite endings yet.  HBK lost at Wrestlemania in a match against Nash that isn't a Mania classic.  And the presumed winner, British Bulldog, opened Wrestlemania with the previous year's co winner, Lex Luger, to fight the Blu Brothers.  Talk about a fall.

HBK rebounded and won the 1996 Rumble for the 2nd straight year, this time as a face.  I like this era because they didn't have the roster to fill 30 spots so they got wrestlers from the outside.  I particularly enjoy the Headhunters or as Vince called them the SWAT Team.
3...2...1... HONK
Vince: That's... a member of the SWAT team!
Vader then beat them both up at once.  You know?  I really wish Vader had a better run in the WWE.

1997 also had a cool ending.  Steve Austin dominated the match, and he came up as a bully and a badass.  I like when he taunted whoever was the next one to come out after he cleared out the ring, and then Bret's music hit.  The look on Austin's face is "Oh Shit!" and then he then calls Bret Hart to bring it.  The end had Bret throwing Austin out, but in the mean time the refs were occupied breaking up a fight between Mankind and Terry Funk.  Austin snuck back in and cleaned out the ring, including Bret.  Declaring him the winner despite cheating.

Austin, like HBK, bounced back and won a second straight year as a face.  It was pretty obvious he would win since he kept guaranteeing it leading into the match.

2000 was the year of the Attitude Era that Austin was missing.  Filling the void was The Rock, who worked nicely as the top of the company.  He went on to win this year at the Garden.

2001 was a still standing record of a 3rd win from Austin.  This was a fun one to see live.  It had Haku, Drew Carey, and Honkey Tonk Man getting smashed with his own guitar.  It even had a hardcore portion in it.

In 2002, four superstars from the past made their return.  The most notable was Mr. Perfect, who looked great.  It's a shame what happened to him after that, but at least we got to see him one more time.  My favorite part was when Maven eliminated Undertaker, the crowd went nuts.  Predictably, HHH won this one after coming back from a serious injury.

2003 was the year of Brock Lesnar.  2004, however, was the year of Chris Benoit.  This was one of my favorite Rumble matches, but now I can't watch it without getting a creepy vibe.  Still an overall enjoyable match, a lot of emotion.  Obviously, it's tainted, which is unfortunate.

2005 to me marks an important transition to a new era of stars personified by the final two wrestlers, Batista and John Cena.  Bastista won, but not without controversy.  I think the ending was messed up and both guys hit the ground, shades of 1994.  Except I don't think it was supposed to end that way.  An irate Vince McMahon came out to clear up business, but severely hurt both knees for his trouble.  He still managed to call for sudden death, where Batista ended it quickly with no dispute.

I was not a fan of Mysterio winning 2006, say what you will, I hated it.  I respect him and think he is a good worker, but I can't help but get annoyed by him.  I was also not a fan of him going wire to wire, especially after it was done two years prior.  In retrospect, it's for the best because they don't have to beat around the bush of having Benoit being the record holder for being in the match the longest.

2007 was great because one: being a fan of the Undertaker as a kid and wanting him to win, it was finally cool to see him add a Rumble victory to his resume.  Two:  the last sequence between him and HBK was really good.  A teaser for two future epic Wrestlemania matches.

I missed the 2008 Royal Rumble live, breaking my long streak, because I was occupied down at school. I was admittedly surprised when I read Cena made a surprise return to win it.  The WWE did a good job swerving their fans with that.  2009, sticks out because of the awesome one time return of RVD.  Orton winning was kind of vanilla to me.  He wasn't a top face at the time, and he wasn't a heel looking for his big break.  He's already been established at this point, but I didn't hate it either.

And leads us to last year, that had a Cena-esque 2008 surprised with Edge returning to win it all.  I didn't care for how this one was booked.  The ring never really filled up.  It was every entrant got a couple minutes to do some offense and then got tossed.  CM Punk was great though.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Royal Rumble to Add 10 More Entrants


This morning Joey Styles made the announcement that this year's Royal Rumble match will add 10 more participants to the match.  Naturally, this became the biggest topic in the wrestling news and there were various opinions.  It was discussed if it will help or hurt it.
The match will still stick with the 90 second intervals, and as a result the match will be roughly an hour.  Will adding 10 more wrestlers that really have no shot of winning it dilute the field?  Some think so.  I personally think the more the merrier.  Every year, this is the event I look forward to the most.  It's the most fun match to watch, and let's face it we usually don't want it to end.  Sure, Yoshi Tatsu and Zack Ryder won't win it, we all know that.  But I personally like to see the lower to mid card people get their shot.    Would a Royal Rumble be as fun if it was all the serious big bad main event players?  No.  You need the comedy parts.  And who didn't get excited to see RVD made a one time appearance two years ago?  And instead of thinking about if it's going to hurt the match, think about the 10 extra guys that get that PPV paycheck.
Most importantly, just sit back and enjoy the match.  We can all sit here and say if it's going to improve or devalue the match.  But how can you judge something that hasn't happened yet?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My first Retro Review is your choice!

In the spirit of my recent post I decided that it would be fun to do a retro review on one.  Well doing all of them would be fun, but that is just time consuming.  I think it would be fun to leave the decision up to a poll on which one to do.  This would be my first of hopefully man retro reviews.  So, exercise your right to vote and pick one of the following games on the side.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My 15 Most Influential Games

The inspiration came across reading the blog of Brentalfloss, in which he was inspired by a note that circulated around Facebook (I need more friends like his.).  Now let me clarify that this isn't my list of my greatest games of all time, although some if not most might be considered.  Let me clarify that this isn't a list of games that influenced the industry today, but me as a gamer, although once again most of these games might qualify in that category.  This was difficult for me to choose and decided to grab my balls and rank them as hard as it might me.  In retrospect, I might change my mind and interchange my choices, but let's roll with this and what we have now.  Perhaps after some viewings and some healthy debate, some of you can change my mind.


15. Super Mario Bros.
NES 1985
This is the Hulk Hogan of video games, it was huge in the 80s and paved the way for the rest of it's industry.  The original bar set for 2D platformers.  I have it so low on the list for two reasons. One, I wanted to get an obvious choice out of the way so it wasn't anti-climatic.  Two, because I can't remember the first time I played it as I as probably 3 years old.  The fact that I spent much of my life playing games could be attributed to SMB.  This is the earliest released game on the list (well that spoils it, the remaining 14 games are from the past 25 years.) The 2D platforming Marios from the main series that followed can be mostly agreed are superior to this one, I would agree with that too.  But something has to be the first.

14. Super Mario Kart
SNES 1992
Well I'm not much on racing games, maybe the RC Pro-Ams or Micro Machines of the old days, but I never got into the realistic ones.  The Mario Kart games are a different story however.  The SNES version is the one to start it all, and eventually the series became one of it's own instead of simply a gimmicky Mario spin off.  The controls were sharp and the learning curve was small, anyone could pick up and get started.  The inclusion of items to use to your advantage, is what gives the game an unpredictable edge.  And you can't forget the battle mode, which for what is worth is the more popular of the multiplayer options of the game.  Since then, I've picked up just about every version of Mario Kart and it never gets old.  Sure the frustration can be high, but that's part of it.  And winning gives you a genuine thrill of victory.

13. Street Fighter 2 AND Mortal Kombat (tie)
Arcade/SNES/Genesis 1991 (SF2) 1992 (MK)
This next entry is a tie, and would technically give me 16 titles overall.  So I cheated, sue me.  But let me explain the tie.  To me and perhaps several others these games are two sides of the same coin.  They both were released within a year and were popular during an arcade popularity in the early 90s.  SF2 came out first and people crowded to just get a chance to play.  I remember as a young dorky kid, finally getting my chance after waiting in line.  Having no experience or idea of how to execute moves or even play I chose based on who looked the coolest (Blanka).  Then I got my ass handed to me, but it was worth it.  Then came a time being excited to put some coins in SF2, but there was a crowd around a new game.  It was Mortal Kombat.  As I looked I seen blood drip from the bodies of the fighters then seen the player execute a move which had one ninja in blue pull the head off his foe with the spinal cord still attached.  Sound graphic? Well it was, and at that time it was edgy.  And as a young boy, that was AWESOME.  Eventually, both games were ported on home consoles.  Naturally, I got both for the SNES.  MK was disappointing because the Big N wanted to maintain a friendly image and removed the blood.  At least I knew friends that had the Genesis version (ABACABB, who knows what that is? And yes, that was from the top of my head.)  SF2 was the superior game overall, it didn't have the violence or the controversy following it.  What it had was a more solid foundation of a fighting game.  From the arcades to the home consoles to my heart, I salute both of these titles.

12. Resident Evil
PS1 1996
This game has the honor of being the first game to scare the shit out of me.  By today's standards this game did not age well.  But it has it's charm to it.  The dialog is notorious for being so bad it's funny.  The controls are clunky and ridged.  Back in it's release, it was effective... at least to a grade schooler.  This isn't the first game meant to haunting, but it's the game that gave life to the survival horror genre.  I'll never forget renting this game and traveling through the empty mansion with the eerie music.  With a limited amount of ammo you had to make sure you can take down the zombies placed all over the game.  The part that's burnt into my memory is when traveling through an empty hallway and a dog breaks through the window.  After that, there was two choices:  either find someone to watch you play or turn on the lights.  Because I wanted to play this game with dry pant.

11. Goldeneye 007
N64 1997
multiplayer FPS's.  This game is iconic, it probably holds the prestige of being the best game for the N64, it's easily the best movie based game, and it's probably the best local multiplayer game ever.  Odds are if you have an N64 you had this game.  You either had friends come by or you went to a friends house and you played this game for hours on end.  Every house had their own set of rules they liked to play.  Everyone had the maps in their heads and they knew the good points to place proximity mines.  I always remember how no one called the guns by their actual names (RC-Pro Am, DD Destroyer).  The game was remade for the Wii, and for what I know it did a good job being true to the original. But it wasn't the original.  The problem is that the original is owned by Rare, who know is exclusive to Microsoft.  I always said that someday Rare should once again release this exact game for download, but add an online multiplayer.

10. Pokemon Red/Blue
GB 1998
Go ahead, laugh if you want.  Pokemon wasn't just a game but an addiction.  This is the first and only game on the list to be on a handheld.  The drive to catch every Pokemon was enough to but some serious hours into it.  For those that played, you know what I mean.  They made you work beyond just playing it to actually get a substantial amount of Pokemon.  The further you progressed the more you would collect and the more powerful they became.  You got to customize your fighting team, even some of them evolved into more powerful forms.  The game in every generation was released in twos.  The first generation was red and blue.  Certain Pokemon were exclusive to a color.  To get those, you had to know someone that had the other color and needed to link your Gameboys and trade.  It's truly one of Nintendo's more innovative and profitable IPs.

9. Resident Evil 4
GCN 2005
This is the most recent game on this list and the only one from the new millennium.  This is now available on multiple platforms, but originally it was released for the Gamecube.  This is the second title from this series, and while it follows the same canon, this could not be any different from the this game's predecessors.  I'm not big on FPS games and I wasn't the biggest fan of the original RE game's tank style of controls.  RE4 created an over the shoulder 3rd person perspective of shooting, which has been becoming more relevant in this generation of gaming.  The original couple games were all about surviving on a small amount of ammo that's provided.  When you played RE4 you felt like fucking Rambo as you wiped out the hordes of crazies trying to rip you apart in pieces.

8. Contra
NES 1988
You want to talk about a game that made you feel like Rambo, then maybe you should play Contra. A truly premier co-op experience for me.  There was Bubble Bobble, but this game didn't make you feel as much of a pussy when you played it.  You would think that having the help of a second player would work towards your benefit, but unless you are both on the same wavelength then your teamwork might become your demise.  Missing a jump or being two fast might cost you or your partner a life (looking at you Waterfall stage.)  Lives are cost at the expense of the greed of being wanting the ever so dominant spread gun.  And there is nothing to stop your partner from stealing your lives when they just aren't good as you are.  Everyone is going to remember Contra for it's use of the Konami Code, or some might even call it the Contra Code new because it's synonymous with this title now.  Entering that would ensure that you got 30 lives, combined with 2 continues, which would equate to a total of 90 overall tries for both you and the second player.  If you can't finish the game after that, well you belong in the Glass Joe category.

7. Super Metroid
SNES 1994
This for what it's worth is one of the all-time great games.  It absolutely blew me away when I first played then completed it.  It didn't sell as much as it should have, but regardless the game is still considered a masterpiece.  This got the same face lift as Mario and Zelda from 8 to 16 bit that made those series true greats.  SM was set in the same planet as the first one for the NES, planet Zebes.  Nintendo really did a great job on giving the environment of the planet a personality.  The soundtrack complimented the areas well, from the fires of Norfair to the abyss of Maridia.  You had a true feeling of solitude, it was just Samus and the habitat and creatures of Zebes.  This is a great combination of exploration and action.

6. Metal Gear Solid
PS1 1998
This was the rebirth and the rise of one of the greatest stories ever told.  Not the first Metal Gear made, but for creator Hideo Kojima, a chance for him to restart on a clean slate on the PS1.  This was a game of stealth instead of firepower.  For it's time and even now, it's one of the finest works of voice acting in a game.  The characters were given a life that made you involved and want to continue to find out what happens next.  It was just like watching a TV show, you couldn't put the controller down.  Every turn there was a new twist that blew your mind or there was a new villain that intrigued you.  Psycho Mantis is still one of the greatest characters ever made, and his introduction and fight is unforgettable.  Snake is the definition of a badass and his voice work done by David Hayter is top notch and iconic.  Kojima was devoted to make this game feel not like just a game, but a cinematic experience.  Great gameplay on top of it is just a bonus.  The main Metal Gear Solid saga spans on 3 generation of consoles with 4 titles overall.  None of them disappoint.  If you are going to play MGS, play the PS1 version of it and not the Gamecube remake of it.  Despite the upgrade, this original is still superior.

5. Final Fantasy VII
PS1 1997
This game (along with the original Playstation) is and always will hold the title of the best Christmas gift I ever received in 1997.  I relate this game to ushering me into Sony's regime in the gaming world.  It convinced me that the Big N wasn't the only big dog in town anymore.  Not the first FF game I ever played, but to many it was.  It was the franchises true breakout title.  For it's time, the game's cinematic scenes were too good to be real.  Of course now they show their age.  FF7 sported a great soundtrack (as always with a Nobuo Uematsu composed game).  It used a great and simple battle system.  The story was great and emotional.  Hell, this is the game that popularized the term "SPOILERS".  Sephiroth is still an idol amongst nerds all over the world.  FF7 has spawned a couple spin offs and even a sequel in movie form, but fans are still hoping that a remake is in the works.  I don't think it particularly needs to be remade, but I'd also like to see it happen too.

4. Mega Man 2
NES 1988
Super Mario Bros was the original, Super Mario Bros 3 is considered the best.  I'm not going to disagree with that.  My childhood however was built on the memories of the blue bomber, Mega Man.  There was 6 of these on the NES, 10 overall now.  Mega Man 2 was the first one I played and it really captivated me.  It was a classic platforming game, but it used different elements that separated it from the rest and was also attempted to be emulated.  The best of series is either 2 or 3, which is always debated.  I always will have my bias towards this one.  MM2 was cool, because you were able to choose where you wanted to start.  Beating a stage gave you a new weapon that would be an advantage over another boss that you had to decipher on your own.  It's an advanced form of paper, rock, scissors.  If I were to give a newcomer a hint, it would be start with Metal Man, because his weapon is completely dominant.  And man, did this game have some kick-ass 8 bit music.

3. Super Mario 64
N64 1996
It's not the first game to enter the third dimension, but it's the game that transition the industry to the 3D era.  While Sony and Sega were trying to figure out how to make a great 3D platforming game, Nintendo was working on Mario 64.  When this game came out, it raised the bar high.  To this day, games still can't make a 3D game with controls as razor sharp as this.  I would say this goes in hand with the introduction of an analog thumb stick on a console controller.  No longer were we held down by 8 rigid directions, but now had the use of virtually an infinite amount of directions.  This was the missing link to the success of 3D gaming.  It changed the industry.  I could go on another rant about how many creations by Nintendo are now trends followed by other competitors.  Before anyone praises Sony or Microsoft, take notice of the analog sticks that are now standard on controllers for 15 years now.  And that's just one of several others, that's not this topic.  Mario 64 is a spectacular game on it's own.  It's change on the industry was felt immediately and any kid at that time wanted their hands on it.

2. Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan)
SNES 1991
Now to return to games that were influential to me as opposed to the industry.  When I was about 5 I had a strategy guide mailed by Nintendo Power for the original Final Fantasy.  Looking at it, it was full of cool monsters and weapons and I knew I wanted to play it.  I rented it and I thought it sucked, but I was also 5 and didn't have the attention span for an RPG.  Some years later my cousin rented Final Fantasy 2, and this time I thought the game was incredible.  It used the same battle system and had the same random battles, but this was different.  It had great music.  It had intriguing characters that you actually cared for. And it had a plot that you wanted to follow.  I have it at this part of the list because at my young impressionable age, I could of never played another Final Fantasy or RPG ever again.  Getting a second chance and playing this one made me not only become a fan of RPGs, but they became one of my favorite genres of games to play.  If it wasn't for this game, I'd never play any of the other Final Fantasy games, which are some of my all time favorites.  I would of never played Chrono Trigger.  I would of never played Earthbound.  I would of never played Breath of Fire, Super Mario RPG, the list goes on.  And for the record I went back and played the first Final Fantasy, and it wasn't so bad after all.

1. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
SNES 1991
Here we are and a game that without a doubt deserves this honor.  Ironically, number 1 and 2 on this were both released in the same week.  Zelda games are an industry staple.  The NES game was good, but this was the one that I really think back on.  This is flawless as they come.  LttP was an epic adventure or everyone's favorite silent protagonist (which ones aren't though).  Much like how Super Metroid gave life to planet Zebes, LttP gave a life to the kingdom of Hyrule.  It even had a dark bizarro version of it.  The gameplay is fun, the dungeons are filled with puzzles that rattles the mind.  The exploration for new items to reach new parts of the map was always good fun.  The classic overworld theme is one of the most beloved tunes in gaming.  Once you defeat Ganon and save the Triforce, you can sit back and watch one of the most satisfying endings of any game and let it soak in.  I can't say anymore about this game that already hasn't been said.  Now my list is concluded.  I hope everyone enjoyed this and took a trip in memory lane.  And by all means, I hope you are inspired to make a list of your own.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 WWE End of the Year Awards

With this being my first year of doing wrap ups and reviews, being the end of December I am going to hand out my awards for 2010 in the WWE.  I'd love to do all wrestling, but I don't follow ROH and I just can't handle watching TNA to make a judgement.  I'll just narrow to the brand that I follow the best.  After an awful 2009, I think the company bounced back finely for 2010.  It was an interesting year to usher in a new decade of wrestling and without further adieu let us get started.

Best on the Mic:
This award goes to person who shined when they had the microphone in their hand.
CM Punk
A pretty solid year for people on the mic, but I think when I sat back and thought about it I had to give it to Punk.  It all started good when he cut a promo DURING the Rumble match and he continued to shine as the Straight Edge Savior.  His promo on Rey Mysterio and his family was probably the best of the year.  I think what gives him the edge over the competition was when he was injured he did some commentary on NXT and Raw.  It gave him a chance to break away from the SES character and create a new dimension.  And it's hard to ignore his work against John Cena on the final Raw of the year.
Runner ups:
The Miz
He continues to improve every chance he gets.  He has the catchphrase and he really knows who to work a crowd.
I wanted to say John Cena, but you expect that from him at this point.  I enjoyed the from Sheamus this year, not the greatest ever but he is comfortable on the stick.

Best Team
With today's product being thin on tag teams and stables, I decided to combine the two for one award.
Once you read the word stable you should of known what would be the winner.  Besides Barrett the group may not have the most polarizing members, but make no mistake about it they were a force and a huge story in 2010.  Barrett was the master manipulator and the star of the team, Gabriel was the best worker, and Otunga may be the opposite of Ricky Steamboat, he does have natural ability on the camera to act as the number 2 of the group.  They were a gang, a group of thugs and they got heat.  When you heard that music you knew business was about to pick up.
Runner ups:
Hart Dyanasty
Even though they been around a couple years, this was their breakout year.  They were a great tag team and had a great chemistry.  It's a shame that they broke them up early, but they had a great year nonetheless.

Best Heel
This goes to the superstar that produced the most heat.
CM Punk
The last couple weeks might have edged out this one for me.  Barrett might have the most fresh memory for everyone, but you have to remember how good Punk was the first half of the year.  His feud with Mysterio was one of the year's best by far.  And for the most part he did it on his own, sure he had the SES.  The SES weren't nearly as intimidating as the Nexus as a whole. 

Runner Ups:
Wade Barrett
No doubt Barrett boosted himself to main event status quickly.  His smug British attitude is one you love to hate and he was a master manipulator.  They did a good job on making him seem like a force too.
In a packed year of heels this man would have one certainly other years with what he's done.  He's not the manipulator like the above two.  And he isn't as good as a wordsmith as the other two, but he is a bully.  And he played that bully role better than any heel this year.
Best Face
To the superstar who the crowd paid to see give someone their come uppins.
Randy Orton
Surprise, the 180 that Randy Orton pulled was quite smooth.  Sure Cena sells the merchandise and sells tickets, but he's expected to do that.  Randy Orton got arguably just as good as a reaction to Cena.  He isn't your cookie cutter face either, he's all business.  He doesn't grab the crowd like Cena, but his RKO finisher is ultra popular.  For the most part Orton had an overall big year with a title reign to boot.

Runner up:
John Cena
Cena's saga with the Nexus put the crowd behind him nicely.  He did his job again as holding the company name on his shoulders this year.
Rey Mysterio
Smackdown's resident merchandise pusher had a big year in his own right.  In a heel heavy brand and with the Undertaker being gone for a majority of it.  Rey was the big hero of the blue brand.

Moment of the Year
This is to that moment wrestling fans will remember at the end of the year and beyond.

Bret/Shawn Hug
The first show of the year produced the best moment of the year.  It has to be this because months prior to this, it was unheard of that Bret Hart would return to WWE television and he did.  He came to peace with his differences and did something that I think he legitimately enjoyed.  His face to face showdown with his once real life rival Shawn Micaels was a great moment.  When they shook hands and hugged everyone got chills.  It was an image no one expected to see and at this point at both of their career and lives it came at a perfect moment.

Runner up:
HBK Has Left the Building
It wasn't the fanfare of what Flair had, but still a genuine moment in an industry most call fake.  Real tears were shed by HBK as he gave his farewell speech.  It's a great moment because just about everyone who watched wrestling at some point watched Shawn Michaels.  It's great to see him get the sendoff that he deserves and that's on his own terms.
The Nexus Debut
After the experiment and semi successful first season of NXT, everyone was asking what's next of these 8 men.  And in a peroid of the year when it seemed like nothing was ground break, the 8 rookies ran in like outsiders and destroyed the Raw set the crew and John Cena.  The havoc they caused looked real.  It created a buzz in the wrestling world and I would imagine that just about everyone that watched tuned in the following weeks to see what they were up to.

Story of the Year
This goes to the biggest story outside of the realm of the WWE writing.
Daniel Bryan is Fired... and then Returns
There were many excited fans when Bryan Danielson signed with the WWE, and they waited patiently.  He made his first appearance on the first season as NXT as a rookie who would be mentored by the Miz, and his name would be changed to Daniel Bryan.  That initially raised some eyebrows, but the dynamic of them two became a reason to tune in.  After a disappointing first season, he returned as part of the Nexus in their intial attack.  Then news broke that he was released.  Allegedly during the attack, he choked announcer Justin Roberts with his own necktie, violating the PG rating.  Many fans were upset that he never got a fair chance and never fulfilled his feud with the Miz.  Three months later at Summerslam he made a surprise return in the main event, prompting people to question if it was a work or not.  No doubt that was the biggest buzz of the year overall.

Runner ups:
Shawn Michaels Calls it a Career
This one overlaps in both inside and outside of the WWE realm, but many people's favorite wrestler calling it a career after so many legendary matches was something big.  Being wrestling there is a lot of speculation if he will return, being the nature of the business.  I think he's done and as time does it's thing, it will sink in that he is really done being the Showstopper.
The Monday Night Wars End Before it Starts
TNA decided to fire bullets at the WWE and claimed they were going to restart the Monday Night Wars.  Within one month they moved back to their Thursday time slot.  TNA has some of the right pieces to be a successful company, but their downfall is their obsession with being the next group to make Vince sweat.  It's almost as if they don't realize that they aren't as big as WCW was in it's prime.  They also don't realize that during the 9 years since Vince bought out WCW that his empire grew even bigger than it was in the 90s. 

Most Improved
This is for the wrestler who picked up their game from the year before.
At the end of 2009 Sheamus won the WWE title, but there were skeptics that he wasn't ready for the spotlight yet.  This year he proved that he was.  He had a high profile Mania match against Triple H.  He continued to get more entertaining on the mic and in the ring.   He was given a second reign which looked more legit that his first.  It was a tough call, but I feel comfortable with this pick.

Runner up:
The Miz
This man should have this award named after as he continues to rise even higher every year.  I was conflicted to give him the nod again as he once again upped his game.  The thing that held me back was that I expected him to get better in 2010 and he didn't disappoint.
Dolph Ziggler
Simply enough he went from being a mid card whipping boy to the reigning IC champ.  His character and matches improved and he looks like he got the confidence of management.

Rookie of the Year
For the wrestler who had an exceptional first year in the WWE.
Daniel Bryan
He might not be a rookie in the ring, but he is one in the WWE.  After an event filled year in his career, DB settled in and became a solo wrestler that delivers for the fans.  Just about every match he's been in he made look good.  I think this is the start of a special career, at least let's hope.

Runner ups:
Wade Barrett
A true rookie, considering entering the year no one knew who this man was.  From NXT rookie to being thrown in one of the year's biggest angles, it looks like we have a new star to watch for the next coming years.  Very good on the mic, but still needs some polishing in the ring.  Not that he's bad, but there is certainly room for improvement.
Alberto Del Rio
A later entry into the WWE cost him being ranked high, but in the couple months so far he has excelled. The only person of these 3 that wasn't in NXT.  He shown that he has all the tools to be a star.

Breakout Star of the Year
To the superstar that found a niche that made them a name that all fans know.  (Note: This is different from ROY in that this can pertain to all wrestlers.)
Wade Barrett
Daniel Bryan may have won the rookie of the year, but no one this year became a household name faster and better than Wade Barrett.  As mentioned before no one knew who he was when the year started and now he's a main event player.  There is certainly some debate about how his feud with John Cena should of been handled, but it should be considered that being in a 6 month feud with the companies top player is a big deal.  Any way you cut it, that feud has helped put him on his feet.  Making his fame from being a stable leader and in a Cena feud, I am excited to find out what lies beyond for him once he is on his own.

Runner ups:
Dolph Ziggler
Sure he has a silly name, but he's moved beyond the self introducing gimmick that was given to him post Spirit Squad.  He's survived being future endeavored long enough to prove that he's a credible worker and personality.
Alberto Del Rio
Much like Barrett, no one knew this name when the year started.  He's become a top player in the blue brand and was involved in some big matches with some big names.  I'm fairly confident that in 2011 ADR will being wearing some gold and maybe even the top strap.

Best Feud
For the best series of match ups between bitter rivals and enemies.
John Cena vs. The Nexus
This was the feud of 2010 without a doubt.  For the start of it, it looked like they finally found a force that John Cena couldn't deal with.  Of course the hero overcame and there was some questionable decisions concerning the direction of it, but it certainly had everyone's attention.  The Nexus is probably now the most hated group in the company right now and it's because of this feud.  And for what it's worth, it's still continuing to this day.

Runner ups:
CM Punk vs Rey Mysterio
A nice match up between two of the companies top workers.  CM Punk was great as a heel in the match and these two had some solid matches on PPV.
The Undertaker vs. Kane
It was hard to pick this one, it wasn't their greatest feud and they didn't have their best matches.  From a nostalgia standpoint it was cool to see them go at it again.  This time around Kane was made to look like the superior one too.

Best Worker
For the person who consistently entertained the crowd in the ring and did it regularly.
Dolph Ziggler
I have really become a fan of Ziggler this year.  He went from a joke wrestler to a contender to a champion.  And since becoming the IC champ he put on great matches regularly on SD and on PPV.  He made people want him to lose and did a great job in the important opener to warm the crowd up.  It seems that management are sold on him and I look for his stock to continue to rise.

Runner ups:
Rey Mysterio
Personal opinion aside, Rey is a great worker.  He was expected to miss a considerable amount of time, but then an audible was called and he was needed to stay and be the face of the blue brand.  There wasn't any noticeable signs of him slowing down and he wrestled every week on SD.
The Miz
This might raise some eyebrows, and I know that there is more talented people on the roster than the Miz.  But just watch him and watch how hard he is working to get better.  He is putting on some damn entertaining matches.  Every match and person he works with he finds way to make himself better.

Event of the Year
For the best overall card produced within the last year.
Wrestlemania 26
It didn't live up to the expectations, then again expectation were huge.  Bret/Vince was the fail of the year if I had that award.  But the main event was epic, both title matches were damn good, and most of the undercard was fun.  I think when it all stacks up, this was the best card, as a Wrestlemania should be.

Runner ups:
The last PPV of the year was a close contender of the best.  Almost every match was fun to watch.  Even the Divas match was excellent.
Night of Champions
My bias played a part in this choice.  Regardless from watching live I thought it was a solid PPV.  It was said that there was better ones, but I wasn't there live to see them.

Best Match
For the showdown that had us on the edge of our seats and had us feel like kids again.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Wrestlemania 26)
I could write why this match was great, but I'll just say this:  Watch the match and see why.  Like a two part play, the curtain closed to a standing ovation.

Runner ups:
John Morrison vs. Sheamus (TLC)
I just got done with a discussion that involved this match.  It was great because it didn't focus on high spots but instead focused on the participants.  Just like the winning match, watch this one.
The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan (Night of Champions)
Yes, I can be blamed for being biased again, but this was a great match.  It could be argued that Ziggler/Bryan was better, and it was great.  This match however, was a culmination of a long feud and the emotion of DB getting the gold made it a fun match for the viewers.

Overall Best Superstar
For the superstar that had the best year of them all.
The Miz
This wasn't hard for me to pick.  He continues to silence his critics and did it in a big way this year.  2010 seen Miz pick up his game in the ring and on the mic.  He was in his first Wrestlemania and won on the big stage.  He won the tag titles, US Title, and WWE Title all in one year, a triple crown in one year.  He won MITB, he was in big feuds, and he earned a lot of respect.  As mentioned before the topping of the year was him winning the WWE Title.  The ball is in his court and it's up to him to watch him run with it, and I think he's going to continue to get better.

Runner ups:
Randy Orton
I think he edges out Cena, who is expected to be on top.  Orton successfully turned face and competes with Cena as the top face on Raw.  He dropped The Legacy baggage and had a run with the title.
His matches may not be classics during his run and his angle with Edge was hard to watch.  But Kane has been in the company for 12 years and prior to this has only had 1 day as champ.  He finally got his break as champion and held it for about half the year.  For that I give this nod to Kane, who deserves it.

And there is it, you can agree or disagree and you are encouraged to.  In the mean time I will continue to watch and next year we will see how the landscape has changed.