Shazam! is Totally Awesome

Shazam! whips. This movie is great. I wanted to see more of this character and his adventures before the movie was even over. I’m already hyped for Shazam! 2. It’s the best movie this year about a character involving the name Captain Marvel.

It’s nice to have a made for kids live action super hero movie. Movies like Into The Spiderverse and The Incredibles also slap, but they’re animated films. This is way more along the lines of typical kids movie. It’s really corny and silly and tries its best to nail the kid side of it. It tickled parts of the Power Rangers fan inside me. Teenager with attitude gets super powers and has to learn to be a hero.

It’s almost a Disney flick like The Lion King. It’s a kids movie but its great for adults too. Big goofy kid stuff, but it also has its dark and spookies. And the dark and spookies are great as well. If the movie didn’t nail how fun and colourful the kid stuff was, then this dark and spooky evil bad guy stuff might have fallen flat. The contrast here is executed really well.

There’s something weird about horror directors taking over big action movies and knowing exactly what they’re doing. Who would have guessed that the guy behind Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation was going to do a great job with a child friendly character? David F. Sandberg did a great job, and he got to show his horror chops at points.

I guess it would be just that a good filmmaker is a good filmmaker, so they know how to make good film. Scott Derrickson did Sinister and an Exorcism movie before taking over Doctor Strange. Peter Jackson did a bunch of gory, bloody horror movies before Lord of the Rings. Sam Raimi and James Gunn have done this as well.

It might be the closest super hero movie in spirit and execution to Spider-Man 2002 that we’ve gotten in 17 years. Shazam is so corny. So corny. But its sincere. Much in the same way Aquaman was big and corny, but this is just done better. It takes itself seriously, but it isn’t a serious movie overall.

I love movies that know what they are and nail that tone the whole movie. The Fast and Furious franchise knows it’s a big dumb car movie series, and they act accordingly with it which makes it super awesome. The Deadpool movies get what they are and they take it and run with it. WWE is at its best when it understands how dumb wrestling actually is and goes with it, instead of trying to mimic UFC or boxing.

This movie knows exactly what it is: a lighthearted adventure comedy. A teenager, who is a bit of a jerk like any teenager, goes to a cave where an ancient wizard gives him super powers and doesn’t know what to do with them besides kid stuff: make YouTube videos, buy beer, skip school, busk for money, take selfies, see boobs, etc.

Oh, but also he has to fight demons. Sprinkle in a few cute shenanigans.

Mark Strong is awesome as the villain. In a movie where the main character is so corny, you need contrast in the villain to counter that. He’s such a straight shooting evil jerkoff who wants to be evil because being evil is power. It’s similar to Ronan in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but Strong has more to do and thus can give a better performance.

This is a movie that I don’t think could exist in a pre-Guardians of the Galaxy world. I think that movie opened up a lot of opportunities for Super Hero movies to become more weird and silly and show that people still can take them seriously as long as they’re made well. I think it also helped to open the door for directors to have more influence in their vision of the project and I think it’s benefitted blockbuster cinema as a whole.

Zachary Levi and Asher Angel both do great jobs. I’m curious how much time together they spent on set because Levi is very believable as Asher as an adult-boy. There isn’t much dissonance at all between the two of them. It’s so refreshing that movies are finding kids that can act instead of using the producer’s nieces and nephews.

There is some excellent writing that really fits the characters. Jack Dylan Grazer is excellent as the fanboy+BFF+nerd. The siblings all get their moment and have at least a couple one liners or moments to shine. I don’t want to spoil it, but I really hope you laugh as hard as I did. It was also neat to see some completely unexpected cameos.

There are some neat little references that are just brief enough that they aren’t distracting, but are fun in the meta whether they’re about DC or just winks towards classic movies.

Part of the movie is stopping the bad guy, but the main arc of it all is How To Be A Hero. That sounds like the same thing, but the focus isn’t on doing hero stuff as much as what it means to actually be a hero. Kind of like how another teenage super hero needed to learn that with great power came great responsibility.

The bad guy vs hero plot isn’t the whole movie though. There’s great moments where this movie is quiet and would be great as a “learning about family” type movie. It’s a better movie about family than a lot of movies that try to shoehorn that in to pretend their corporate product has a deeper meaning.

Also, how often is a movie set in Philadelphia? Especially one that isn’t terrible?

It sets up for a sequel in a really non cynical way. There’s some great payoffs all the way through the movie. Even through the credits you want to keep watching. The credits sequence is fantastic and worth every minute you spend in the theater.

Overall, its just rad. This movie whips ass. Its fun and if DC keeps their efforts along these lines with Aquaman, Wonder Woman and emphasis on the good parts of the pre-soft-reboot-post-Justice-League then they’ll have a really successful universe that’ll have people ripping their pants off like they do for the Avengers. I’m honestly excited for Shazam! 2 and I want to see what happens when Shazam crosses over with Aquaman and The Flash and so on.

Get that, this DC movie is so good it made me want to see this character again before I’d even left the theatre.

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Captain Marvel is a Marvel Movie.

Groundbreaking title hey? But that’s exactly what the movie is. It’s a Marvel movie. Its every bit a Marvel movie that has Marvel movied as a Marvel movie. Its the formula with a new lead and a mix of returning and new supporting cast. This time with Captain Marvel as the source material.

Its so safe and generic and inoffensive that its basically Marvel’s very own Star Wars: Rogue One. Not quite sure who was asking for it but now we got it. It efforts itself to do the things that Wonder Woman did effortlessly.

This is the kind of movie that Film Snobs point at when they want to paintbrush all comic-based movies as plain bread with a glass of room temperature water.

I think I might have liked it more had it been more linear vs non-linear but I get why Marvel decided to tap dance around another origin story. However, more time needed to be spent on the past to make those moments seem like they mattered and really stuck with the character so that the payoff is that much more beefy when it comes.

But for an origin story you really don’t know piss all about her at the beginning (by design), during the middle or by the end. You don’t really know who she was on earth, you don’t really know who she is besides Super Soldier on the Kree homeworld. At the end of it all she’s still largely the same character personality wise, just now she’s gone from a lieutenant position to being independent.

Some Thor-esque fish out of water/ “what do earthlings do, earthling?” style moments I think would have gone a long way to helping develop the character on screen. To the best of her knowledge she’s a Kree warrior hero space fleet soldier, but after like 30 seconds on earth she basically fits back in immediately with barely as much as a déjà vu flashback as she walks down a street and that’s what triggers the human side.

I do have to give the movie big props for one thing in particular. You know when you watch a TV show like Suits and you’re yelling at the TV for everyone to stop doing things and just pump the brakes long enough to talk about their plans? I guarantee you’ve seen a movie where you wanted to yell at the characters and shake them and say “JUST TALK. STOP DOING. START TALKING!”

This movie does that. Probably the best part of the film. Just the characters talking. The quieter this movie gets the better it is. The louder it gets the more it just becomes another Marvel Movie. There is some really good stuff in one-on-one scenes, or just when two characters are sitting at a table or in a room together.

I still wish Emily Blunt got this role. I don’t know how you could have seen her in Live.Die.Repeat. and not realized how easy this casting should have been. Maybe she told Marvel to suck it after she didn’t get the part of Black Widow. Who knows.

But what I do know is that Brie Larson is flat, and after seeing her in Room, I wonder if it’s an actress choice or was it direction? The characterization gets a little all over the place. Supremely confident, confused alien, brat, smartass, heroic, stoic, etc. And that’s fine, people and good characters aren’t one dimensional. But there is something inconsistent through it all. Maybe its because they were making a character who, in the meta, is far more of a utilitarian into the Quippy Marvel Lead. Something more along T’Challa or Steve Rogers would have felt more fitting. But again, I only know that from my previous knowledge of the character.

Maybe that’s not fair because at this point I’m used to following the journey of characters like Steve Rodgers and Tony Stark where those characters have evolved and transformed over the last decade. But even then, you usually only see a character go through like two or three phases in a film like this. Here it felt like we got six phases as if they were stopped from a slower approach because of Endgame’s impending release.

It could even be that Captain Marvel as a character has similar issues to Superman. They’re too damn strong that they almost become boring. Once they unlock their potential then their potential becomes limitless so any danger loses its stakes.

I won’t spoil the ending, but it becomes paint by numbers. “Do A, fake B, follow C” etc. You could have gone from A to C. You didn’t need B. B added nothing beyond being part of “how to write an act 3” in the generic Action Act 3 guidebook.

I really was bummed the movie spent so much time on earth. I get why they do that because $$$$ but also don’t tease me with this amazing looking futuristic advanced alien world straight out of Mass Effect and then make me spend time in like Sacramento and Louisiana. It bothered me in Black Panther too. “Look at this amazing civilization! …But only from afar. No details.”

The villains were pretty fun. The Skrulls are neat if their makeup/prosthetics do hinder their ability to speak and enunciate. The first bad guy was pretty neat. Ben Mendolsohn steals the movie any time he’s on screen.

Sam Jackson is much the same. He is just able to take over the screen any time he’s on it.

It has moments where it felt like an off brand Guardians mainly due to the music involved. In Guardians, the music is part of Peter Quill. He’s emotionally attached to those songs. In this one, she left earth in like 1988, came back in 1994 (?) and they’re like “Frig yeah, here’s a No Doubt song from 1995. Nirvana, that’s 90’s. Get some Nirvana in our 90’s movie.”

The songs are just there because they’re recognizable 90’s songs and not because they matter. They show a 3 second flashback of her singing karaoke in a bar, but I don’t think they ever show the song. Whatever song that is would have been the right song for your “I know who I am” moment.

Music was distracting. It was just “LOOK AT OUR 90’S MUSIC”. I’m generally not a fan of recognizable pop songs in movies like this unless they really fit. The music should never pull you out of the scene, even for a moment.

Back in Black for the first Iron Man? Hell yeah. Sets the tone and becomes part of the scene. The music in Guardians? I own those records now because the movie and music are intertwined.

Wong jamming to Single Ladies by Beyonce? Awkward and bad. Shoving 90’s songs into a movie about a character who left earth in the 1980’s? Also awkward.

This was much more Suicide Squad with its music than Guardians of the Galaxy.

The 90’s setting isn’t totally wasted. They use it for some good gags: Blockbuster, LOL. Radio shack! Teehee. Slow computers, ahahaha! However you can easily forget you’re in the 90’s pretty quickly as there isn’t much that’s distinctly 90’s outside of the gags.

It was neat to see the 90s in a throwback movie. You don’t often see that. You get 60’s, 70’s, 80’s throwback films all the time. I’m down for a wave of 90’s movies #90sKid. And then I’m even more down for some 00’s movies just to bring Limp Bizkit back to the main stream.

At the very least, there’s lots of easter eggs in the movie. Going back this far allows you to colour in some of the backstory to things you maybe weren’t quite dying for, but its neat to see anyway.

I wrote years ago, that three movies I was dying for Marvel to make were Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel. They went from thumbs up to two thumbs up to worth seeing but you’re not missing anything. As for its place in the Marvel rankings, I don’t think you put this ahead of Doctor Strange. This is very much Ant-Man or Captain America: The First Avenger. There’s nothing particularly bad, but nothing that terrifically stands out. Hopefully a standalone sequel is her own The Winter Soldier.

I bet it sounds like I’m shitting on this movie way too hard to have left the theatre in a good mood. That isn’t quite the case. It is what it is, perfectly fine. But I’m a bit bummed because you can see where it could have been more than it is. And coming off Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Infinity War and even Ant-Man and The Wasp, it just feels so underwhelming to be back in the Copy&Paste style movies.

Especially for a character that’s so bad ass.

Aquaman: A Fun Blender Of Stupid

Beefcake.

What a trip! Aquaman is like the best movie that is a 6/10 movie. Like the best 6/10 that ever 6/10’d. Warner Brother’s DC’s Aquaman is what happens when you mix the following elements into one movie:

  • Power Rangers
  • Thor
  • The 1980’s action stereotypes
  • The Fast and Furious franchise
  • A 2018 blockbuster budget

There’s no bones about it. This movie is Dumb! Capital ‘D’ Dumb. But it’s also fun.

It has some laugh out loud moments that are intentional. Then some I’m pretty sure weren’t intentional but they’re great anyway, like when ‘Africa’ by Pitbull plays. Or the green screen-CGI looks funny. The gratuitous slow-mo for 80’s style action glamour shots of abs and pecs and super hero landings, plus one scene that looked slow-mo’d through a free iPhone app.

It’s campy. They know it and they take it seriously enough that you believe it, but it’s still campy. I like how silly everything looks. People riding seahorses and sharks with saddles. That’s great!

Shark horses!

Embarrassing looking costumes but they own them. I can really appreciate that. Some of these outfits are stupid. These are some Power Rangers/Super Sentai level costumes. But they take them seriously. There are no winks to the audience. So you roll with it and smile. Amber Heard wearing a jellyfish dress? Sure!

One thing I really did find myself enjoying was the number of different “cultures” they dipped into and explored. The Atlanteans are clearly Greek inspired, with the Amber Heard ones are sort the Rohan to their Gondor, the seahorse people being a “tech” culture, the horrible demon sea creatures (where it felt like James Wan’s horror background really came through) and then the Crab People. That was fun. The Crab People were my favourite. And setting all these cultures up should make for a really fun sequel.

Jason Mamoa is fine. He does his thing. He is buff and large and dopey. Amber Heard is okay. Nicole Kidman needed more screen time. Seeing Dolph Lundgren go from direct to DVD trash to big budget trash warms my soul. It’s cool to see Patrick Wilson get a sizeable role.

The plot is by the numbers. Checkmarks and rubber stamps. Boilerplate. Whatever. No real twists. The romance is bland. It’s enough to keep you moving and get you through the world they want to show. It could have been tightened up but it wasn’t, and it gets by.

It’s a very Thor on earth story. He’s a fish out of water but reversed as he doesn’t really know much about the world underwater. So it’s a fish in water story. He’s unsure of culture, doesn’t care, fight, punch, ignorant, etc. There’s definite Conan The Barbarian vibes. That cheesy level of 80s hero buff-man saves everyone story.

Action and dialogue are often sequestered and it feels strange to have what feels like a 10 minute fight scene have no dialogue beyond grunts and CGI fight moves. If you’re trying to simulate a real serious fight, that’s one thing. But we know they aren’t. The tone of the movie isn’t that kind of tone, so you almost drift when you’re looking at the 14th CGI water attack in a row.

This really felt like DC’s first kick to the nuts of the Snyder-verse. Wonder Woman and Justice League were steps away, but they were still grim and washed out with speed-up/slow-down action scenes.

The look of Aquaman doesn’t “fit” that.

Gone:

  • Five-pronged trident.
  • Edgelord armour.
  • Everything being grey and brown.
  • Everyone frowning.
  • Everyone’s life sucks.
  • Not being able to talk without air.

In:

  • An actual trident with three prongs.
  • The 1960’s orange and green armour.
  • Colours.
  • People smile and make intentional jokes.
  • Characters are allowed to be happy.
  • There is daytime and sunshine.
  • Able to talk under water.

And it should be that way. This is Aquaman. He isn’t Batman. He isn’t part of the Watchmen. He isn’t that serious, and audiences won’t take him that seriously. He talks to fish and pals around with seahorse people and crab people and is a bit of a knucklehead.

The only two real drawbacks to the movie to me come down to two things: run time and cinematography.

This movie could have been 45 minutes shorter and I’m sure if I re-watch it I’ll find myself using fast-forward through a good chunk of the middle 90 minutes. The entire B-Plot villain doesn’t need to be there. A fan edit that cuts that stuff down could really tighten this movie up.

As for cinematography it comes down to two issues. The first, I think they were trying to go for a “free-flowing” camera like it was in water. However, the camera spinning and zipping like crazy has times where you are looking at the screen unsure of what you’re looking at. I really hate looking at a movie and trying to “pause” it in my head so I can figure out who is who and what is what.

The second issue with the cinematography is the number of times they do the “one take” camera shot that is clearly like 1729 camera shots composited together. I can live without this ever happening again in any movie. If it is to happen, it needs to have a style and a trick to it. But there’s no substance to that kind of shot when it’s just zooming through windows and across rooftops then back to the street when everything is clearly a green screen in a sound stage.

However, they deserve huge props for the look of the movie. It could have been super distracting with the underwater effect but they found a way to make it blend in and you don’t notice it. The hair floats a little, the movements are floaty and swimmy, everything is blue and green without being grey, the costume and architecture is distinct and well done.

The movie is fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously. I don’t know if its “run to your nearest theatre” good, but it might be worth a free evening. If not, find a lazy evening once it is on Netflix and stuff yourself with popcorn.

Venom: Sucks So Good

Venom has some serious suckage. It isn’t good, but its good enough. Put this movie on a pie chart and a good chunk is like Suicide Squad and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had a baby. But being a bad movie doesn’t mean it is terrible because it is quite a bit fun. Seriously, two thumbs up.

I was already kind of negative before this movie came out. It looked like a bit silly, and Venom without Spider-Man isn’t exactly interesting. Eddie Brock is Venom because of Spider-Man. The trailers made it look visually messy or bland.

But then I heard some good, or at least not horrendous, things from people and the box office returns were positive. So, why not see it? What else am I doing at 5 PM on a Friday when I have to be up at 7 AM the next morning? I haven’t been to a movie since either Rampage or Ant-Man and The Wasp. Whichever came first. If nothing else, I heard the post-credits scene is worth a $14 ticket.

Everything that isn’t Eddie Brock and Venom is a train wreck. But the train wreck never stops. You know how in another Tom Hardy movie, Mad Max: Fury Road, the chase builds and builds and gets one percent bigger then two percent bigger and then three percent bigger? This is if a train wreck crashing into more train wrecks found a way to not stop and still arrive at its destination in a pile of twisted metal and fire like a Looney Toons skit. When other characters are on-screen you’re sitting there like “WHERE IS VENOM AND EDDIE?”

The dynamic is where the fun is. Think of a buddy cop movie. Venom is beyond the bad cop, he’s an asshole. He’s just absurd. Eddie Brock is mumbling, bumbling doofus.

MORE POWER.

No calm down.

MORE POWER GO NUTS.

Come on relax.

MAXIMUM VENOM POWER.

Oh Jeez.

The last person you should ever listen to about their own movies is Tom Hardy. Mad Max: Fury Road is fantastic and while this movie isn’t good, his stuff in the movie is the best part of it all. Their interactions are fantastic. His complaints that all his good stuff was cut from the film seems silly, since his stuff was the only good and best part of the whole movie. If there was 40 minutes of missing footage of those two then I am totally down for an extended cut. Give it to me. The two of them have some absolute money lines together.

I’m not lying or being a sensationalist fanboy when I say that you can have a good time at this movie for that alone.

Now, if you’re looking for a nice cohesive well told story with multi-dimensional characters? Nah (Although that is kind of the movie’s charm).

The first 30-ish minutes of this movie is nearly walk-out bad but then at minute 31-ish it finally does something. The beginning of the movie is the kind of stuff you’re going to skip past on any re-watches.

Worst super hero movie villains list: Steppenwolf, the Dark Elf guy from Thor 2, Abomination, Bulls-Eye, Apocalypse, Doomsday, Venom era Spider-Man 3, Electro, fart cloud Galactus and then fart cloud Parallax. There are a ton of terrible villains in these movies.

You’d agree those are all terrible? Lets go about 12 rungs down the ladder. Acting. Motivation. Music. Presentation. Design. Character. The absolute worst.

The Life Foundation and Evil Business Guy Carlton Drake and Riot are some of the worst villains. They’re from a pre-Avengers world where the motivation is “They’re just evil. Who cares. Its comic books. Shut up. Bad guy does bad stuff.”

Carlton Drake is making out and having gross PDA with Being Evil. And the speed at which his Evil accelerates is numbing. Just laugh. They literally combined every Evil Businessman trope into one character and then turned up the suckage. Doesn’t get any better any further into the movie, just gets worse. There were points in his Evil Plan where I couldn’t help it but laugh during a Super Serious Scene.

Poor poor love story and love interest. She gets the bare minimum of any form of character you could give someone.

Shaky and suspect dialogue in a lot of scenes. “Have a nice life!”

A great chase scene and a couple of neato fight moves, but the more CGI that is on-screen the bigger a visual mess you’re suffering through. I can’t imagine the migraine I would get in 3D. A nighttime fight between a black CGI goop monster against a charcoal grey CGI goop monster splooping punches of gloopy impact is just… what were they thinking? There are moments in the big action climax where I literally couldn’t figure out what is happening or who is who.

The PG-13 saps some of the life and impact from scenes. There are things that should be more visceral than they are. It doesn’t need to go full vile gore-sploitation mess, but Venom can be a really visceral character. There are elements of body horror and gore to his story and actions. Some of the actions and motivations feel a bit limp as the numbing of anything too extreme is a bit lame. Imagine if you never got more than sideboob in a movie about strippers? Either be PG-13 or be R but trying to be in the middle results in a tonal mess.

In a world where Logan and Deadpool and Dredd exist, you can have a successful R rated Venom.

I still liked it quite a bit. I wouldn’t really say it felt tonally different or really all that distinct. It fits in with the pile. There’s a good, charming performance and a few neat ideas here that are holding that train wreck together as it rolls into the station. I almost don’t think this movie “works” without it being terrible where it is terrible.

As for a sequel, the movie is there and the stinger makes you want to try again and show up again. Take another swing and get someone who has a clue to put it together. Or maybe keep it a bad mess. I don’t know. It was fun and sometimes that’s all a movie has to be.

WWE Summerslam: This One Was Just Right

Wrestling is great. It is a variety show with action and comedy over a soap opera. It’s a stage play of comic book storylines played characters portrayed as super heroes and super villains. And when it all comes together, its worth it. WWE Summerslam got it right. Stories don’t have to be long, drawn out and complicated. Short and sweet, simple and effective,

I was expecting a 5+ hour show with some serious crap. While not everything was spectacular, there wasn’t anything really worth skipping on the main show. The whole thing was worth the time and money.

Pre-show Kick-off:

Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina def. Rusev and Lana, Cedric Alexander def. Drew Gulak, The B-Team def. The Revival

The Pre-Show doesn’t matter.

The Latino Guy, with the gimmick of having a hot girlfriend, beat the European Guy, with the gimmick of having a hot girlfriend. 205 Live did something where moves occurred. A match happened with the worst Tag Division in years.

There’s no way to care about 205 Live. The moves are fine, but Cruiserweight wrestling is whatever now. It isn’t like it used to be where you could only see the acrobatic stuff from the luchadors, Japanese fellas and little Americans. Seth Rollins is flipping around and he’s a main eventer. Jeff Hardy, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor and AJ Styles all flip around and be acrobatic. Sticking these fellas guys in their own division just segregates them from requiring caring. There are small dudes all over the main WWE roster. Having these 205 Live guys on their own just shows they don’t matter. They’re not in the same league as anyone on Raw of SmackDown! Has anything interesting happened on 205 Live since Enzo Amore got canned? I wouldn’t know because these guys don’t get character time on TV.

Who cares.

Summerslam!

Intercontinental Championship Match: Seth Rollins (with Dean Ambrose) def. Dolph Ziggler (with Drew McIntyre)
Image result for seth rollins

Easily the best program on Raw. Probably the best one since Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho with the Festival of Friendship. These guys have carried a bloated 3 hour show for weeks now. Dolph finally finds a character that works, with a serious heavy that can back him up. Seth has been valiant as a baby face

Seth Rollins with the Thanos vest and the Infinity Bootlet. Remember what I was saying about super heroes?

Dolph Ziggler with the Rick Rude pants. Good to see he’s just embracing being a shameless amalgamation of nostalgic characters that got over instead of pretending he isn’t a rip off and not being over with the crowd.

Beef Ambrose’s haircut is a dead giveaway of a heel turn. Bald guys are not face wrestlers without being a heel.

After all the shenanigans in this build up it was nice to get just a simple match. Minor shenanigans, but nothing that makes the match or win feel cheap or dirty. This match was worth all the wait. These guys are all money. A Seth win keeps the good times Rollins.

Two thumbs up.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day def. The Bludgeon Brothers via DQ (no title change)
WWE Photo

This is almost another who cares. The New Day are silly and fun. The Bludgeon Brothers are silly and okay. Wacky dudes against bush people zombie hunters. Pretty straight forward match. Heels do big stuff. Faces make a comeback. Heels cut it off. Then heels get themselves disqualified instead of losing their titles.

One big gripe:
The Bludgeon Brothers are using prop hammers and they still do the stupid HHH hand protected sledge-hammer belly shot? Prop hammers. How did no one think to make these “usable” in this very exact instance? It looks silly with HHH does it, but it looks totally absurd when they’ve got their hand on the hammer end of a giant prop hammer.

A DQ win keeps things “undecided”. That’s fine, but I miss the days when the big pay-per-view events were definitive. There’s not much else going on at Smackdown! so I guess you gotta keep this running.

Sideways thumb.

Braun Strowman def. Kevin Owens
WWE Photo

This is all Strowman has to do. Come out. Dominate. Less is more with anyone who can take the label “special attraction” since you keep everyone wanting more. Dudes like Strowman and Lesnar need to tease the audience. Braun shouldn’t be doing long matches. When he’s in a real match it makes it a big deal.

Owens at this point is a mid-card heel jobber. He needs a break to rehab his credibility because he’s eating a couple more pins away from being on the pre-show with Rusev.

Thumbs up.

SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte def. Becky Lynch, Carmella
WWE Photo

Mella is money. Her gimmick is great. She’s grating and you want to see her lose. If you’d told me that she’d be the longest tenured out of her, Enzo and Big Cass then I wouldn’t have believed you. Her trash talk during the match is impressive. It’s a lost art that only a couple of wrestlers still do. It makes wrestling feel like its crossing over to real sport.

Three ways are usually a bit of a mess. Usually a lot of one-on-one wrestling while someone takes a nap after a standard move somehow pseudo-KO’s them. But the women never really took much of a break. When they were down, it wasn’t an age before they’d get back in. It was a constant cycle. There was a solid mix of Becky-Charlotte, Charlotte-Carmella, Carmella-Becky.

Carmella worked her butt off and kept up with Becky and Charlotte. There were a lot of really interesting moves, transitions and moments. Women’s matches were for so long a bathroom break but now they’re worth the commitment. Everyone looks great coming out of this.

Charlotte pinning Becky is interesting. Carmella never technically “lost” her title and so she still has a legit claim going forward. Becky being pinned makes Charlotte look stronger, but also like a baddie for doing it to a friend.

That whole ending just has me expecting a Becky heel promo on Smackdown despite her finally REALLY getting over with the crowd. I’ll crap myself if she drops some “Fans didn’t believe in me line!” like a bad Ziggler promo.

Charlotte doesn’t work as a face. She’s a head taller than all the other women. She’s probably 130-150% their body weight. She’s powerful and athletic. She’s the daughter of Ric Flair. Those aren’t baby face characteristics. Hopefully they don’t butcher this.

Thumb up.

WWE Championship Match: Samoa Joe def. AJ Styles via DQ (no title change)
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AJ is phenomenal and he’s a better all-round performer than he used to be. He’s way better at making things look like a fight, like he’s mad, like its serious than he used to be. Mic work goes a long way to selling a match. Moves are neat, story is the meat.

Joe is great and a convincing badass. Its unfortunate he’s been injured as frequently as he has since it takes your credibility away when you’re supposed to be a destroyer and you miss month after month with injury. It is kinda supposed to be the other way around.

He’s so acrobatic for a big guy. The top rope knee and his corner moves are worth it. The Coquina Clutch looks like a real submission. He looks like he’s fighting.

These guys got me to buy in. AJ stepped up his game and it got me. Not just moves, he really was fighting like he was pissed off. All the drama with his wife and daughter, Joe claiming he was their new “daddy”, as 2018 as that is, was still great.

AJ snapping at the end and going to town with the chair was fitting. A messy finish works here. It helps tell the story. It fits. Things will continue, but it doesn’t feel lame.

Thumbs right up.

The Miz def. Daniel Bryan
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The Miz Rules. Daniel Bryan is boring and played out at this point. Nothing about him has changed in the better part of four years now. He’s a little dude who tries hard and chants “yes”.

The Miz is a heat magnet. He’s an actual superstar. He’s an actual character. And he’s over. Watching people Yes! chant along with Daniel Bryan is always funnier when the same people are doing the Yes! chant while Miz is delivering his own stupid kicks. Pick a side you bums.

The Miz winning was pretty unexpected, although the crying Daniel Bryan marks will tell you otherwise. I cheered when Miz won. He deserves it. He’s been an MVP on Raw and Smackdown! carrying the primary non-main event program for months. Using shenanigans to win is okay and makes sense. He’s a trickster. He’s a heel.

This match made sense from the build to the promo to the moves to the finish. So good.

Two thumbs up fist pumping!

Finn Balor def. Constable Baron Corbin
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Seeing the Demon was neat, if out of the blue. Squashing Corbin is the only way to go. You don’t go all anime with Balor’s “Final Form” unless you make it dominant. Regular Finn Balor? 50-50 wrestler in the mid-card. Demon Finn Balor? World title level wrestler capable of easy squash matches in the mid-card.

One thumb up.

United States Championship Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
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I don’t understand Shinsuke Nakamura. I don’t understand his appeal. Once his entrance is over, what are you left with? A skinny guy with limp offence and a lame finisher (Don’t @ me over the Kinshasa. Its a limp looking kick most of the time. It’s as bad as the Zig-Zag in how bad it looks when it isn’t perfect.) He’s had maybe 3 actually good matches since debuting on the main roster. He’s trying to be a heel now, and he’s doing okay, but he still does his baby face stuff to get cheers from the crowd. Like, come on dude.

Jeff Hardy has lost about a step since returning and he was already about 3 steps behind from his prime. Fun nostalgia act, but the dude isn’t much in the ring anymore. Credit to him though, he gave it everything he could in this match. He took some rough moves. He crashed and burned leaving a win on the table for Shinsuke.

The Orton tease at the end was confusing. Blandy Boreton should not be a babyface and even as a heel he’s played out.

Thumb up.

Raw Women’s Championship Match: Ronda Rousey def. Alexa Bliss
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What was on Ronda’s face? What is that makeup? Did Jeff Hardy not have any time to help her out? Does she want to be Proxima Midnight? Luna Vachon?  Or did she have a Create-A-Wrestler from an old SmackDown! game in mind when she showed up? What if Ronda has terrible taste and we only didn’t know because she couldn’t rock that in the UFC?

Alexa is great. She’s a real character. She’s the bitchy high school cheer leader who always gets her way through manipulation and cattiness. Ronda is radical. She’s a real badass. This match had one way to go and it nailed it. Any Ronda match against anyone but Nia Jax or Charlotte Flair should be this. Ronda would destroy every woman in the history of the company. This was the exhibition squash it needed to be.

The Bella’s can GTFO.

Two thumbs all the way up!

Universal Championship Match: Roman Reigns def. Brock Lesnar
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Roman is great. Brock is better the less he does otherwise every match is the same. He does some crappy fake UFC strikes and then a bunch of suplexes before getting gassed 5 minutes in only to get hit with a babyface comeback before squashing it.

The Braun Strowman promo was weird. “I’m so manly I refuse to be a coward and stab anyone in the back. That’s why I’m going to stand here all match so you know I’m going to cash in after you’re tired and beaten and bruised and exhausted, instead of you being surprised by me cashing in under those circumstances.”

Having nothing but money moves is the way to go. Lesnar-Goldberg was great. No BS between them. Just the big stuff, go short and hard and fast. This match could have fit in a tweet. Super man punch, super man punch, spear, guillotine, spine buster, guillotine, spine buster, missed spear (not a suicide dive, Michael Cole), F5, spear, pin, win.

Brock taking out Braun saves the whole promo and Braun’s promise. Roman winning actually worked.

Three thumbs up.