Monday Night Open Mic (Raw #1000)

Ahhh we’ve come a long way since January 11, 1993. Some say too far, others say not far enough and some even think we’ve moved backwards.

I don’t expect many storylines to be advanced but we’ll see a lot of old, familiar faces and hopefully the WWE will give us plenty of reasons to forget about the current unsatisfactory product for a night and enjoy the good times.

So for three hours I want you to come out swinging but try to keep it clean. Enjoy the show.


You da man, been reading you forever, all that good stuff.
1. What do you see for Ryback in these next upcoming months? They didn't even let him squash Jack Swagger, as if they need to protect that doofus's heat.

I see Ryback continuing to squash jobbers and low-level curtain jerkers.  Perhaps he'll get new airbrushed tights somewhere in there too.  

2. How can the WWE save Lesnar's run? Obviously he is still going to be over huge regardless of if he loses all four/five matches he is going to do in his run, but they flushed a lot of money down the toilet by not giving him the monster "path of destruction" push. Ahh, WWE egos.

I think WWE and the fanbase are just on different planets as far as what each side expects from the Lesnar return.  I honestly think WWE just wants to use him to put their own guys over in short-term programs and maybe pop a number against Undertaker at Wrestlemania, and that'll be that.  I still find it hilarious that Christopher Nolan figured out how to book a monster heel much better than WWE can these days, because I was sure as hell hoping Batman was going to kick the shit out of Bane by the end of that movie.  

3. What happens to Heath Slater after Raw 1000? I think he is hilarious, and he plays his character perfectly. The crowd loves to boo him, and you can tell Cole and Lawler love his segments where he gets his ass beat. They're laughing the entire time on commentary.

He becomes the opposite of Randy Orton?  He loses all the time and then gets fired for passing a drug test?  

4. What is your favorite food?

Vince's pain every time Linda loses an election.  

More Vince McMahon non-sense for ya!

Hey Scott!!!
Long time reader. Third time that I write to you. I was reading an article you posted on the blog where Vince McMahon brought the funny! Well he kept it coming, just make sure to read this article. Sometimes I wonder how a man in such denial of the performance of his own business can be such a millionaire. Well that's how life works sometimes…

Take care and keep the good work up!

Funny how Vince is STILL claiming 1.3 million buys for Wrestlemania.  It did 1.1 million, which is absolutely impressive but far from the biggest of all time, and further it's kind of ridiculous to just add 200,000 buys (or $10,000,000 gross revenue give or take) simply because that happened to be the number they invented the week after the show.  Like, people have actual money invested in their company, they can't just do interviews where they make up numbers and hope no one calls them on it.  At least I'd assume not.  

Summerslam 2002

Hi Scott,
Wrestlemania X-7 and Great American Bash '89 tend to dominate the talks of greatest wrestling ppv ever, but with your recent bumping of the HHH/HBK Street Fight to *****, I wanted to raise Summerslam 2002 as another candidate.
The aforementioned match received the full monty, you've upgraded Rock/Brock to ****, RVD/Benoit falls just shy of 4* at ***3/4, Rey/Angle was a fun opener given *** by you (which I politely disagree and think it needs like a 1/2* more), and the other matches are completely serviceable. So wrestling wise, seems to be a really good show.
Historically, we've got Brock's rise to the top of pro wrestling (which leads to his success as a UFC draw), the end of The Rock's last WWE championship reign; Rey's ppv debut; and Shawn Michaels' return after a 4 year layoff, launching a comeback that skyrocketed past everyone's expectations.
I find the pace is of the show is good, nothing drags, and the Long Island crowd (almost unbelievably) is on fire.
Care to share your thoughts?

Quality-wise it was pretty damn good, yeah.  However, the main problem I have is that I don't remember ANY of it, outside of the street fight.  It just wasn't a good period for the promotion, to say the least, and the show fell during a time when interest was low and thus I don't think it's a candidate for best ever.  Two great main events?  Sure.  Greatest PPV ever?  Not even close.  

The future of wwe home video

Hi Scott
I wanted to get your opinion on the future of WWE home video releases.  I'm amassed a fairly large collection of wrestling footage over the years and I was wondering what's going to happen to it with all the talk nowadays of streaming/digital video and such.  How much longer will my DVDs be good for?   How would I be able to convert my collection to streaming/digital if it comes to that?  Will WWE offer a service to do that or am I SOL and have to find a way on my own?  Will WWE continue to do home video releases if we move to digital?  How would they be delivered to us? 
I don't know if you have the answers to this question, but considering your contacts in WWE, it's worth a try, I figure.

Uh, I assure you that if WWE had any interest in no longer making money from DVD sales, they would have switched to digital delivery many many many many many many years ago.  Collectors and obsessive wrestling nerds will ALWAYS want something for their shelves and unless the entire industry does a major shift that seems unlikely, there will always be DVD or Blu-Ray or some other physical media to buy.  

Wrestling Documentary Well Worth Checking Out

Hi Scott,
A fantastic documentary aired tonight in the UK on Channel 4 called The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family. It’s about a family who own a small wrestling promotion and academy.
The family’s daughter is FCW/NXT wrestler Paige, and shows her rise from wrestling in front of a few dozen people for her father’s promotion, to getting invited for a WWE trial all the way to moving out to the states and debuting in FCW. It also shows the family’s son and his struggle to achieve the same success as his sister. He has had a few WWE tryouts but was said to be underweight, although he did appear on Smackdown in a squash against Big Show.
It’s well worth watching and can be watched online at the following link:
Unsure if it can be accessed in Canada or US, if not its worth hunting for on youtube.

It cannot be accessed, sadly.  But I'll put it up for any viewers who can. Although the hilarious selection of other choices, like "My Daughter Is A Teenaged Nudist", make it seem like TLC reality series hell.  

RetROH Recap: ROH Motor City Madness 10-7-06

–Since ROH TV this week is a Road Rage featuring clips from Best In the World, I thought I’d do something a little different and recap a classic ROH dvd from their glory days. Motor City Madness from October 2006 wasn’t necessarily the most important show in ROH history but it was a fun one nonetheless, and featured a hot double main event: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson (or as you know him, former WWE World Champion Daniel Bryan) defends his ROH title against today’s current TNA World Champion Austin Aries, and The Briscoes take up the mantle of defending Jim Cornette in his conflict with “The Notorious 187” Homicide, who is partnering with Samoa Joe.


–First off we have current ROH matchmaker Delirious facing a debuting Zack Gowen. Yes, the one-legged wrestler and WWE free-rehab client had a run with ROH for a few years, starting off here and leading him to a membership with Jimmy Jacobs’ Age of the Fall. Gowen has “Moonsault” printed on the back of his shorts here. Because that’s what people are gonna remember about him. His moonsault. For those who don’t know what Delirious’s gimmick was, he was a masked guy who was basically a paranoid schizophrenic, and he predated the Festus gimmick of coming to the ring calm and then freaking out when the bell rings into a flurry of activity. Plus he had a demonic component, with moves called Shadows Over Hell and the like. It sounds like a bunch of indie gimmicks rolled into one but he was pretty good about keeping all the elements in harmony, so he seemed more like a character than an over-ambitious Create-A-Wrestler come to life. Lots of “sports entertainment” jokes from Prazak and Leonard (the commentary team from hell, and one of the biggest reasons not to watch ROH’s early DVDs. If people are overly excited about Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuiness these days, it’s probably because they remember how much worse it used to be). They each hit a few quick spots in succession. Gowen was a better wrestler than he ever got credit for, considering his handicap. You gotta give him credit for at least trying to become a better wrestler in spite of it, rather than just playing into the gimmick and never doing anything else, like so many others would. Gowen misses his trusty moonsault, and Delirious finishes him off with a cobra clutch-backbreaker segued into a Cobra Stretch (basically a Crossface but with a cobra clutch) for the submission. Fun little kickoff match, not much to it though.

Jim Cornette comes out to glad hand the crowd, and announces that Roderick Strong is too injured to wrestle. Roddy then comes out, and declares that he wants to compete, and Jim shuts him down. Six years later and Strong is just as weak on the mic, unfortunately. Homicide comes out to chase Cornette off and cap the segment that went nowhere and liked it.

–Next up we have some women’s wrestling, as Allison Danger (Steve Corino’s sister) and Lacey (the object of Jimmy Jacob’s desire during his “Emo Warrior” days and the subject of some of his original songs) team up against Daizee Haze and MsChif. Some combination of all these girls wrestled in tags and 4 ways on ROH shows for YEARS, give or take an Ashley Lane (aka Madison Rayne). These four are also SHIMMER vets. Not a bad match, although a little heatless, since a lot of the crowd seemed to thin out. Women’s wrestling in America, even top level wrestlers from SHIMMER, is still automatic smoke-break territory for a lot of guys, unfortunately. Haze & MsChif were sort of the faces, mainly, although for long periods they’d extend the formula and draw sympathy heat on Danger. At one point MsChif drilled Danger with a frankly insane rope-hung Pedigree. The ending saw MsChif spit green mist in Danger’s face, after Lacey put her in the path, and Haze scoring the win. Not bad if you want to see some quality female wrestling, although it wasn’t the fastest match ever held and the crowd was dead or not present.

–Before he was an American Wolf or ROH champion, we just had little Davey Richards from Othello, Washington, coming out to “Running With The Devil” and wearing that same robe and pretty much the same trunks. This was very early in Davey’s run and he still hadn’t won the ROH faithful over quite yet, although he got quite a bit of a face reaction. His opponent is Claudio Castagnoli, known these days as Smackdown lowcarder Antonio Cesaro. Claudio is still in his Swiss Banker gimmick here, and still has the stringy long brown hair and snazzy suit. Oddly enough though, Claudio was still part of the Kings of Wrestling at this point and was one half the tag champs, although he & Chris Hero were still in their banker & superhero characters and hadn’t quite yet become the team they would later make their name with. This starts out extremely slow, with a lot of armdrags and headlock takeovers from Davey. After a quick spill to the outside it picks up more, with Claudio working some ground technique and culminating with a series of traded strikes. Chris Hero appears at ringside to distract Davey, leading to Davey getting clubbed in the head with a Halliburton (remember them?) and Claudio hitting the Alpamare Waterslide for the win. Started out a little slow but it turned into something fun.

–Next up, the lights go out, and the soothing sounds of “The Ballad of Lacey” filled the arena as the fans held their lit cellphones aloft while Jimmy Jacobs made his entrance, along with Lacey and his partner Colt Cabana. (Do people still do that cellphone thing at concerts? It’s been a while since I’ve been to a big one. The last one was Sublime with Rome and everyone just held up joints). They are facing “Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels (no appletinis, sadly) and Matt Sydal, who you now know as WWE superstar and Spice enthusiast Evan Bourne. Jacobs is still the “Emo Warrior” here and is infatuated with Lacey, who is mainly just a control freak. The story here is that Colt was sleeping with Lacey, and thus she was added to the team to Jimmy’s chagrin. Colt was still ostensibly a face despite this, so they were basically the “wacky tag team partners who hate each other”. Colt was in the early stages of taking pity on Jimmy here, and that would later lead to a feud between the two. Daniels and Sydal were pretty regular partners around this time. I should note that they come to the ring to Daniels’ regular theme, “Disposable Teens” by Marilyn Manson. Consider this: Colt came to the ring to “Copacabana”, Jimmy had his self-penned emo song, and Sydal was coming out to “Clavicle” by Alkaline Trio, an awesome song but one that sends the complete wrong message for a wrestler by saying “I wanna wake up naked next to you/kissing the curve of your clavicle” in the chorus. This might be the only time in recorded history where the guy coming out to Marilyn friggin’ Manson had the manliest theme song.

Anyhow, the match featured four guys with very unique styles that still managed to mix together well. Cabana & Daniels did a pretty decent comedy spot at one point, with Daniels grabbing hold of Lacey after she interfered, Colt making a charge and stopping himself before colliding with her, Daniels attempting to roll him over with a sunset flip pin, and Colt holding onto Lacey until Daniels pulled the both of them down, leaving Lacey laying between Colt’s legs, and Colt not wanting to let her go, to Jacobs’ chagrin. It sounds better than it was. After some more mat wrestling, Colt got fired up enough to hit the Bionic Elbows on Daniels in rapid order, but Daniels countered the final clothesline into a flatliner-into-Koji Clutch, which I didn’t see coming. Later Colt had another of his signature spots countered in excellent fashion, as he went for the Flying Asshole on Sydal and missed, landing on the ropes for Sydal to hit a gorgeous looking no-hands hurricanrana. In the end of the match, he did finally hit that Flying Asshole on Sydal, but then attempted to launch a top rope maneuver only to have Jacobs knock Sydal into him, leaving Colt crotched on the ropes. Jimmy was ready to capitalize with the Contra Code, but was soon distracted by his woman paying attention to Colt’s crotch, leaving Daniels to tag in and hit Angel’s Wings for the pin. In the appres. Jimmy’s former partner and then-heated enemy BJ Whitmer came out to brawl with him, only to be pulled apart by the other three. Whitmer cuts a promo on Jacobs and chases him to the back.

–But we’re not done yet! Daniels grabs the mic and cuts a promo on the Kings of Wrestling, challenging them to put the tag titles on the line. This draws out Chris Hero, by himself. Hero scoffs at the thought of giving Daniels and Sydal a title shot, and Sydal points out that while Daniels has nothing to prove, if the question is whether he himself is worthy, Hero can come to the ring to challenge. After both hemming and hawing, Hero accepts, and we have us a one on one match. Hero isn’t the muscled guy with the more traditional look that we know as Kassius Ohno today quite yet. Here he still is wearing his Superman-parody shirt and baggy yellow pleather pants. Hero hadn’t hit on the elbow-strike gimmick yet and didn’t much in the way of the cravat variations; here he was mainly a power wrestler with a handful of aerial tricks up his sleeve. It was another interesting contrast in styles, with Hero mainly trying to keep Sydal grounded. Sydal at one point does an AJ Styles-style moonsault into reverse DDT hold, but instead of dropping straight back with the reverse DDT he does that split-legdrop thing that Melina used to do. Claudio attempted to make the run in at the finish but was fought off by Daniels, leaving Sydal to hit Hero with a missile dropkick in one corner and a Shooting Star Press out of the other for the win. And hey, there’s “Clavicle” to play Matty out. Decent match but it showed more of Hero, who wasn’t at his best yet, than Sydal, who was pretty damn good here. He was also exceedingly charismatic, on the mic and on his way out. Wonder where that charisma disappeared to in WWE?

–Cornette’s back out to cut another promo on Homicide (or as he calls him, Homo-cide). Cornette gives his usual energetic hate-promo against Homicide. Imagine what he does regularly against Steen, just replace all the fat jokes with street thug or Hispanic jokes. Cornette finally goes as far as to call Homicide out to challenge him for a fight. At this point Cornette was basically a heel commissioner, although he took great pains to point out previously that he was not doing a heel commish angle and strictly had a problem with Homicide. Homicide gets ahold of Cornette and sets him up for the Cop Killa, but Cornette is bailed out by The Briscoes, who attempt to hit the Spike J-Driller on Homicide until Samoa Joe makes the save, setting up the Falls Count Anywhere street fight later in the show.

–A Six Man Mayhem match is next, featuring some young talent, many of whom are from the ROH training camp. We have “M-Dogg 20” Matt Cross, famous for failing to impress on the most recent season of Tough Enough. We have Pelle Primeau, who was talented but ridiculously small, even by ROH standards. We have Top of the Class winner Shane Hagadorn, who was always involved in ROH’s low card in one way or the other around this time and later became a manager for the Kings of Wrestling. We have both members of Irish Airborne, Dave & Jake Crist, who are now currently the Juggalo Championship Wrestling tag champs under masks as the Ring Rydas. Finally, still using the Embassy theme music despite Prince Nana having left ROH the very night before, we have Jimmy Rave. The gimmick with Rave, at the time, was that when he posed in the ring during his entrance, rather than the fans throwing streamers in the ring the way they would for a main event, they throw rolls of toilet paper at him. Pretty fun stuff, and one I’d love to see the ROH regulars adopt for someone nowadays, since Rave is semi-retired and working as a counselor at a rehab facility after having been a patient himself. Watching this back, I’m struck by how much talent and charisma Shane Hagadorn really had. Unfortunately, not many people have ever looked more like “just another guy” than Hagadorn, and he had no physique worth speaking of. Cross, as many who have watched him over the years will tell you, is actually a very decent athletic wrestler, and was probably written into Tough Enough as someone who was marked for failure. At one juncture he attempts a through-the-ropes baseball slide dropkick on Rave, which Rave ducks, and Cross held on, pulled himself straight back through the ropes, and hit it again. Words don’t do it justice, it was a cool athletic spot that looked like something John Morrison or Kofi Kingston would do today. Later he also dropped the rest of the fray with a Space Flying Tiger Drop. Rave was the biggest star in the match at this point, which is what made it a surprise when Pelle Primeau scored a surprise Stunner on him and the shock victory. Pretty fun for a trainwreck match, and it’s too bad to see that six years later the most successful amongst all these guys are the two wrestling for Insane Clown Posse. That’s wrestling for ya, I guess.

–For the ROH title, we have “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries, a feud that had gone on for a long time in ROH and had headlined a number of shows, including Enter The Dragon a year prior (I have that one too, and if you play your cards right…..). In some ways, it’s really surprising that these two are two of the biggest stars in wrestling today, and in some ways it’s completely obvious, because they are clearly world-class workers. Aries was still an acquired taste for some people, as far as his semi-comedic offense went at this point (that goddamn Pendulum Elbow, bleh) but there was no denying he could put on a great match every time, especially with Danielson, who he had great chemistry with. Seeing Danielson during this time, no one ever believed he’d even make it to WWE, let alone be a World champion and main eventer. He was still wearing plain solid-color trunks, had very little muscle tone, and didn’t wear kneepads or kickpads on his boots. Couple that with his buzz cut, and he looked pretty much like a ringer for Bob Backlund (and he even used a Crossface Chickenwing at times). At least he still had “The Final Countdown” as his entrance music. Aries looks more or less like he does these days. Danielson was ostensibly the heel here, although the crowd still gave him support by doing the dueling “Austin Aries” and “Let’s go Dragon” chants. I won’t attempt to do any play by play here, as these two put on a clinic. Part of what made these two work so well together was that Danielson would put on his usual mat-wrestling clinic and could really get the crowd riled up against him with his smug heel schtick, and Aries could hang with Danielson on the mat but had the more explosive flashy offense, with his high flying moves and power spots. So Danielson could grind Aries down into the mat while mouthing off the fans the whole time and get the heat going, and then Aries could make his big comebacks on his feet and the crowd would pop huge. They had it worked out to a science, and yet their matches never really got repetitive. At the end it looked like Aries was going to finish it off, hitting the Brainbuster and then attempting a 450. Danielson moved out of the way of the 450 and Aries landed on his feet and rolled through, only for Danielson to counter into a small package for the quick win. I love those “slip on a banana peel” finishes because it makes both guys look good: Danielson for being smart and crafty enough to get the clean win, and Aries for having his opponent all but beat until one little window of opportunity lost it for him. Both guys looked like a million bucks here, and it wasn’t as long as some of Danielson’s usual hour-long epics. I’d say this looked like two stars in the making, but at this point they already were stars, and it’s gratifying to know that WWE and TNA have learned to agree.

Samoa Joe rushes out to attack Danielson, who he was feuding with at the time (the two would have one of my all-time favorite ROH matches in a cage at Chi-Town Spectacular) and is immediately cut off by The Briscoes while Homicide runs out to fill out our main event. The coolest thing about this match is that if they really wanted to they could have had a great traditional tag match with lots of mat wrestling and power moves, but they could just as well have a bloody brawl. For this one we got a little sampling of both. Things started out in the ring with some traditional tag work. Jay & Joe did a lot against each other, as they had a long history. A dive to the outside from Mark onto his opponents brought this one out of the ring, where the street fight aspect came into play. Well you don’t need to ask Joe twice: he started throwing half the chairs in the building over the rail onto Jay, while Homicide picked up the fallen ones to club Mark. He also suplexed Mark into a row of upright chairs, and then reversed a charge with a back body drop onto more upright chairs, before simply throwing several of them into Mark’s head. (Nigel would not approve, needless to say). Not to be outdone, Joe even powerslammed Jay through a standing chair. The bumps Jay & Mark take here are absolutely sick, and show what tough fuckers they are for continuing to work after the fact. The action then spills outside the building, where most of the fans spill onto street to watch the Briscoes get thrown into a brick wall, literally (although Mark does a Tiger Mask dodge up the wall at one point, he still looked like he wiped himself out completely). Joe also scores a Razor’s Edge on Jay into the side of the production truck, ala Nash & Mysterio, but Mark finally turns the tide with a Shooting Star onto both men off the same said truck. That’s more or less the last we see of Joe for this match. A table conveniently placed outside the arena is enough for Homicide to go through, although it doesn’t quite break, leaving it for another double-flapjack into it and Jay finally standing on it, attempting to stomp it down. Not to be outdone, Homicide hiptosses both Briscoes through a table back inside, and it still doesn’t break, even after a subsequent suplex to Jay. Jay then slams Homicide into it and the legs bow down, though the table still doesn’t crack. Jesus, Orton sells more than those tables. It’s crazy to see the whole crowd full of fans literally following these guys through the arena, leaving whole sections of chairs empty and primed for bumping into. Back in, The Briscoes attempt at a springboard Doomsday Device is countered into a Cop Killer attempt by Homicide which is then reversed into a Spike J-Driller for the Briscoes win. The crowd gives them the appropriate “That Was Awesome” chant, though Jay heels it up on the mic by telling them that it’s the stupidest fucking chant he’s ever heard, before cussing them all out. That the Briscoes managed to stay standing after the sick bumps they took during that one is astounding. Just an absolutely brutal hardcore brawl, and one that focused more on the hard hitting bumps that each team was taking than bloodletting and slashing stuff. I wouldn’t doubt if this one match shaved a year or two off Jay & Mark’s careers, but it really sold the hatred between them & Homicide & Joe. Absolutely sick.

–As I said, this maybe wasn’t one of the crucial shows in ROH history, but the two main events made it an easy thumbs up and one of my favorites from my modest ROH video collection. I don’t know if this one is still in print, so I can’t necessarily say to check it out for yourself, but if you manage to find a copy, then it’s for sure worth the buy. Until ROH TV next week, you know the drill…

Entrance themes

Hey Scott. Long time reader.
You've probably fielded this one before, but I think it's worth
re-asking. How much is the importance of entrance themes in the
development of a character? Can an otherwise talented performer suffer
with lame or inappropriate music, or does it have little to no bearing
in the grand scheme of things? Are there any examples you can think of
to support your opinion?

Man, now I've gotta provide EXAMPLES to support my opinion?  I'm already grumpy at not being able to afford a trip to Calgary for UFC 149 tonight, don't make it worse for me.
Entrance music can be huge.  Rock never would have gotten quite the pops he did without "If you SMEEEEELLLLL…." hitting the PA system when he came out.  Hogan also had an awesome theme that held up well for nostalgia purposes later on as well.  Instantly recognizable riff and it couldn't help but get a crowd jacked up.  
As for hurting the character, yes, definitely.  Steve Austin lost a lot of his luster when the glass breaking classic got dropped for a while.  WCW was terrible for it, nearly killing Goldberg's entrance when they switched from his traditional theme to "Crush 'Em" at the end, and swapping out Sting's music for "Seek and Destroy".  But they never had much grasp of the art of entrance music in the first place.  

Vince McMahon Brings The Funny

Well you knew I couldn’t let this one go by without commenting. Some choice quotes here:

Listening is a lost art. I have a unique ability to listen to myself as I’m talking. That’s somewhat unique, but I think that to listen is to learn. Once you make a decision, you go with it, and everyone gets behind it. There’s no second-guessing. Certainly the best way to fail in management [is to be distant and imperious]. You shut people down. If you have all the answers, why is anyone around you? If your ego is so big, then there’s no room for anyone else’s. The fear stuff—that is so rotten.

Yes, this is all stuff said by VINCE MCMAHON.  I think this might explain the problems in creative they do have, given the level of denial coming from the top. 

The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One (Blu Ray)

The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek The Next Generation – Season One (Blu-Ray)

(2012 Scott sez: I have been anxiously awaiting the delivery of this one since the initial announcement. Basically, CBS/Paramount has gone back and repaired the film stock frame-by-frame, converting it to high definition 1080P, albeit still in the original full frame presentation. Much like the original Star Trek’s conversion, it’s obviously a labor of love for the people involved. Luckily, I had already reviewed all 7 seasons many years ago…) And now, we go flying back in time to the beginning of one of the greatest sci-fi series in TV history, as Gene Roddenberry took a shoestring budget from Paramount in 1987 and created a monster. It was a pretty unlikely story, too, for those who know the whole backstory with Star Trek: Phase II and the problems that spawned from that (covered in a GREAT book for Trekkies of the same name). In short, Star Trek was supposed to be reborn in the late 70s, with Kirk at the helm again in a new Enterprise, albeit Spock-less (he was to be replaced with an emotionless full Vulcan named Xon) and with a new first officer – William Decker. Eventually the project was scrapped without even a pilot and turned into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but the idea of a new Trek series was floating around for several years afterward. Fast forward to 1987, as Roddenberry finally convinces the studio to pony up approximately $1 million per episode (not a lot in hour-long drama terms) for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which would feature an all-new cast based loosely on the original scripts for Phase II. Decker becomes Riker, Xon becomes Data. Problems beset the production from the start – writing strikes and a total upheaval of the writing team in year two changed the entire dynamic of the show, for instance – but even in the primitive form that was the first year, the seeds of greatness were there. You had to look REALLY close, but there they were. People who haven’t really caught the old eps in reruns (they aren’t generally shown on TNN) (Or Spike TV as it’s now known) might find some significant changes. LaForge and Worf are only Junior-Grade Lieutenants (one silver pip and one black pip) and have command red while working at Ops. Riker is clean-shaven. The Chief Engineer is a rotating job amongst bit players. And the uniforms have no collars. There’s also more annoying style differences that are REALLY noticeable in the early episodes – the music is closer to original Star Trek than what would be produced for the later episodes of Next Generation; a kind of mixture of cheesy orchestral and synths. It’s also mixed further to the front and sounds like a Perils of Penelope serial drama at times. The camera angles are bizarre, as extreme close-ups are used for false drama at key moments and fake zooms are cropped in via post-production when one dramatic stare just isn’t enough to carry the commercial break. Also, there’s a kind of forced familiar banter that just shouldn’t be there in a professional starship crew, let alone one that’s only been together for a few months at that point. Responses are glibly given to direct questions from a superior officer (“Report, Number One…what’s down there?” “Trouble.”), and people refer to each other by first name on the bridge in order to pound names into the viewers’ minds. It’s stuff you didn’t notice the first time through, but is very obvious after watching hours and hours straight of the slickly-produced later seasons. This set contains all 23 original episodes (The first one only counts as one) in original production order (a few are changed in broadcast), and are arranged as follows… Disc One Encounter at Farpoint. This is of course the famous pilot episode sold to syndication, and it still sucks as bad today as it did 15 years ago. It was originally written as a standalone one-hour pilot with the Farpoint story about the alien creature being the centerpiece, until Paramount demanded a two-hour debut instead, and Roddenberry was forced to create another 40 minutes of material in the form of Q’s trial of humanity. The stories feel welded together rather than two parts of the same whole, and neither one is particularly great. However, it did introduce the world to Q. The Naked Now. One episode in and they’re already stuck for ideas, and ripping off the original series. In this case, they run across a ship with the same virus from The Naked Time, they look up the antidote, and Wesley saves the ship again. Oh, wait, sorry, this was the debut of the Deus Ex Wesley ending. Notable for Data being “fully functional” with Tasha Yar and not much else. The “solution” to the problem is even lamer than the problem – Crusher’s original formula from Enterprise’s 75-year old logs doesn’t work, so she tries a “broader base” formula, and it works. Zowie. This one does begin a couple of funny running gags – Picard’s total disdain for Wesley (referring to him only as “the boy” and barring him from the bridge) and Data’s problems with colloquial human expressions. Code of Honor. Love those generic titles. A group of half-naked black dudes kidnap Tasha, but Picard can’t open a can of bald whoop-ass because they have the only antidote to a deadly plague and he has to play nice with them. So he asks politely, but the head dude is all “Yo, G, I’m in love with this bitch” and suddenly his wife is challenging Yar to a boxing match…TO THE DEATH. Everything’s gotta be to the death or it’s not dramatic, apparently. I wasn’t even sure what the POINT of this one was, even though they spend 45 minutes going on about SOMETHING because I guess the poor writers were given a 5-minute plot and then held at gunpoint until they stretched it into broadcast length (the story is effectively wrapped up halfway through). I think the lesson is that black people are savage and backwards, but then I was never good with symbolism. Disc Two The Last Outpost. Yes, history is made as the Enterprise makes shaky first contact with a mysterious race called the Ferengi. Funny story – originally, the Ferengi were gonna be the badass supervillains of the quadrant, until someone thought up the Borg. Just try to picture Quark as the #1 heel on Star Trek. (He ended up being a pretty damn good heel on Buffy, though.) Anyway, speaking of which Armin Shimerman makes his first guest appearance, playing said Ferengi captain, as both the good guys and the bad guys are held captive by an entire planet. Luckily, both Riker and the 600,000 year old alien intelligence are fans of Sun Tzu. No, really. Have I mentioned how bad this first season was? Where No One Has Gone Before. Another 10-minute subplot stretched into an entire episode sees an arrogant engineering tech and his nameless “assistant” doing modifications on the Enterprise’s engines that accidentally takes them 8 billion light years away from home. Whoops. Luckily, unlike Janeway, Picard DOESN’T decide to start taking the long way back, and instead tries to figure out how the hell they got to the edge of the universe in 10 seconds flat to begin with. Aha, but being at the edge of the universe apparently makes everyone insane and we get the standard Braga hallucinations (4 years before he came along, luckily). Oh, and Wesley Crusher may be God. And you thought HHH got a huge push. Another pointless meandering metaphysical piece of tripe about how opening your mind is good and all that stupid shit. Trust me, when Picard gives a general order for everyone on the ship to cast good vibes towards the Traveler and Troi then reports that the ship is a really groovy place to be, baby, you’ll be puking up your granola and LSD in no time. (This one was actually voted by fans as a favorite and given a theatrical release this year. I don’t understand nerds sometimes, either.) Lonely Among Us. Okay, this is a bit better, mainly because it’s written by DC Fontana, who actually knows what she’s doing. While flying by an alien cloud, some sort of intelligence starts taking over the crew and eventually Picard. But in the end, it just wants to go home. Okay, so they recycled that basic plot 18 times afterwards, but this was the FIRST. The subplot with the giant dogs and lizards that are trying to kill each other on the way to the peace conference is pretty funny, as is the debut of Data’s obsession with Sherlock Holmes and the first hints of Picard’s obsession with Dixon Hill. Justice. While visiting a sex-crazed world, Wesley accidentally steps on a flower and is CONDEMNED TO DIE. You’d think Riker would be too busy taking it to the hole on alien chicks to care, but no, it begins a big moral debate between Picard and God (no really, although God is a talking spaceship, kind of an intergalactic KITT, which I guess makes Michael Knight into the apostle or something), which is solved when the writers completely wuss out on any resolution and the aliens get screwed over. I WANTED WESLEY TO DIE, DAMMIT! God is unfair, indeed. The Battle. The Ferengi return, even less ferocious than the first time but more scheming, as one of their ships brings a gift for Picard in tow…the Stargazer, presumed destroyed nine years previous. However, this sets off the 24th century equivalent of Vietnam flashbacks for Picard, as he begins reliving the epic battle that ended his first command, while suffering from REALLY bad headaches. Of course, more is going on than meets the eye, and soon Picard is on the bridge of the old ship and attacking the Enterprise with the dreaded Picard Maneuver (also introduced for the first time in this episode). This one kinda caught me by surprise because I barely even remember seeing it back when I was 13 and it was a really well-built episode considering the early portion of the season. Disc Three Hide And Q. Speaking of returns, Q comes back for the first time, with his character already redefined as a cosmic huckster more than an omnipotent god, and this time he has a deal: He’ll leave humanity alone if Riker can pass up the chance to be given the power of the Q Continuum. This one suffers from the same problem a lot of the first-season eps do, when pacing was still an issue: The premise and conflict are laid out and basically resolved by 30 minutes in, and then there’s 15 minutes left to fill so they talk and talk and TAAAAALLLLLK. In particular the final sequence where Riker offers gifts to all the crew members drags on like roadkill caught on a bumper all for the point of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Well, DUH. Picard and Q exchanging Shakespeare is pretty cool stuff, though. And as the bard would say, this one was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Haven. Originally aired fifth but intended for placement here, you can see why they moved it up so drastically upon original run of the show. Deanna Troi is betrothed to “genetic bonding mate” Wyatt, and the whirlwind that is Lwaxana Troi is unleashed on the world for the first time as the wedding ceremony is to be held on the Enterprise. Now, up until this point, Deanna was little more than a background character, but with the introduction of her mother she was suddenly fleshed out into a pretty full character, and in another historic first, Deanna Gets Hysterical halfway through as a result of her mother’s insane bickering with Wyatt’s parents. Majel Barrett takes a little while to get into the swing of things, but by the time Mr. Homm is bombed out of his gourd and ringing the chimes every time Lwaxana takes a bite of dinner while Data hovers over the table with a grin on his face observing everything, it’s HOWLINGLY funny stuff. The main plot about cosmic lepers invading a paradise planet is strictly throwaway stuff to get the groom off the ship at the end with a plot device, so ignore it. Definitely an essential episode from the early run. (Some people really hate this episode because of the broad comedy. Different strokes and all that.) The Big Goodbye. Another one of those early eps that’s important for introducing details that would come into play later, but kinda suck on its own. This is the first Dixon Hill episode, as Picard takes a much-needed mini-vacation into the “newly upgraded” Holodeck, which now features fully interactive modes instead of the static backgrounds that had been used up until that point. This is of course a hugely effective storytelling device for the writers that is used millions of times later on in every other series that follows. And in another first, Something Goes Wrong On the Holodeck, as a friendly scan from an alien turns off the safety features and Picard’s team of detective wannabes (including Data, chewing the scenery as a hard-boiled gangster, as you might expect) is stuck in there while in the middle of something out of the Maltese Falcon. And of course, Wesley Saves The Ship. This time they didn’t even bother to explain how he did it, or why a 13-year old kid would be allowed to poke around the newly upgraded mechanisms while a highly-trained team of engineers stands around picking their noses, but that’s Wesley for ya. A lot of the minor details were done wrong here – Picard has lipstick remaining from a kiss when he leaves at one point, and when the villains walk out the door they take a minute or so to fade (for dramatic effect), but most of the ground rules are set here. Unfortunately, this one is all potential (like Picard being interrogated and having the time of his life) and no payoff, as once again things grind to a halt at the 30 minute mark and everyone literally stands around and talks for 15 minutes once all the plot developments have been used up. And when one of the holodeck characters asks Picard if he’ll die when the program ends, in a heartfelt way, Picard’s response is basically “Hmm, good question. Well, see ya.” Thankfully they’d address that particular philosophical puzzle in much better fashion starting with the Moriarty episodes, but to all things a beginning, as they say. Datalore. Now, while you don’t often see season one episodes floating around in syndication or on TNN (Spike TV!) these days, this is one of the few that you DO, and for a damn good reason: It’s the best of the inaugural season and one of the best in the run of the show, comparatively speaking. The concept is nicely simple – Data and the crew find another android on his home planet, who turns out to be named Lore. Except he’s evil and uses contractions. The old switcheroo occurs, and the Enterprise is left to discover who’s screwing who over in time to save themselves from destruction via the same Crystalline Entity that wiped out the colonists on Data’s home world 25 years previous. (Check out the CGI redo on the Entity here! BEAUTIFUL!) Sadly, Wesley Saves the Ship again, but at least you get to hear both Picard and Beverly tell him to shut up while he’s running his mouth at the wrong time. I take small pleasures when I can find them. Lore would go on to become one of the great recurring villains of the series. (This was the other one chosen for theatrical release. I approve of that one.) Angel One. Yes, it’s another one of those episodes where the Enterprise preaches to a backwards planet about not violating the Prime Directive and then spends the whole episode interfering. In this case, they travel to a world where women run the show and men are treated as sex objects, in search of a lost escape pod. Riker the Man-Whore proceeds to start dressing like a slut and attempting to score with the leader of the planet, while meanwhile the ship is struck down by a nasty strain of the common cold. (Even though Wesley commented in Datalore that people “used” to get colds, but not anymore.) As thrilling as it sounds. Nothing WRONG with it, but it’s just not a story that lends itself to repeat viewings. Disc Four 11001001. A truly unique title (binary for 201) for once sees the ship in dock to repair the holodeck (last seen damaged in The Big Goodbye), and strange aliens who operate in pairs fixing the computer. While everyone is off having fun on starbase, Riker hangs out in a seedy New Orleans bar on the new improved holodeck and meets Minuet (played by Carolyn McCormack, who became Elizabeth Olivet on Law & Order). However, the Binars turn out to have plans of their own regarding the ship. Again, not really exciting, but an interesting idea that would be fleshed out in FAR more sinister and dark manner with “Starship Mine” in the sixth season. Too Short a Season. No, it’s not talking about the strike-shortened second season. Admiral Mark Jameson uses the Enterprise as a taxi service to a suspicious hostage negotiation on another planet, where his old enemy is in charge of things. Things get weird when the 85-year old Admiral (with a REALLY obvious aging makeup job) starts getting…younger? A heavy-handed moral lesson finishes things off by the end. When The Bough Breaks. This is one of those ones with an interesting premise where the entire conflict could have been avoided if everyone involved stopped for five seconds and thought up a better solution. The Enterprise parks in front of a cloaked world and gets to meet a legendary ancient race, but soon their hospitality goes bad when they kidnap 6 of the Enterprise’s children (including Wesley, of course) because everyone on the planet is sterile and thus unable to have any of their own. The Enterprise can’t just beam them back because there’s a giant shield around the planet, but then they start piling on unnecessary plot points in order to explain away the plot holes. For instance, the planet is controlled by a supercomputer that does all the thinking for them, leaving their super-advanced scientists unable to determine that simple radiation poisoning from the sun is killing their sperm. Of course, Beverly figures this out in mere hours after a tricorder scan. But they can’t figure out how to get through the shield. Right. And no one stops to ask “Hey, why not just ask the PARENTS if they want to stay down on the surface, too?” All that aside, it’s a pretty good ep and Picard’s uncomfortable interaction with the children after saving them is classic stuff. Home Soil. This one is kind of a misdirection ploy, as it starts out as a detective story and then turns into an exercise in saving money on special effects. While visiting a terraforming colony, the crew is witness to a scientist getting carved up with a laser knife by accident, and foul play is immediately suspected once the same thing nearly happens to Data. The investigation of the other three team members begins, and then suddenly the episode takes a turn into left field as they find microscopic life forms on the supposedly-dead planet and beam it up to Sickbay. In classic high-tech Star Trek manner, the alien is a small light bulb flashing on and off inside a bell jar. No, really. And then it starts reproducing (doubling the production budget from one light bulb to two), leading them to think it might be alive. And then it starts taking over the ship (as seems to happen a lot with alien intelligence, as though no one in the universe has anything better to do than take over the ship – doesn’t anyone READ or eat lunch or anything?) and we get thrilling scenes of people standing around on the bridge and talking while little light bulbs flash at them. SMELL THE TENSION! Of course, the miracle of the Universal Translator saves the writers from having to think up anything original again, and everyone makes nice and goes their separate ways. Of course, the alien intelligence brutally murdered someone with a LASER SAW, but apparently “let bygones be bygones” is part of the Prime Directive in the 24th century, too. Coming of Age. Oh, goodie, a whole show dedicated to Wesley Crusher. Sort of. Wesley goes to a planet for his first attempt at entering Starfleet Academy and meets a Benzite – an alien with an inhaler attached to its chest. There they go through rigorous testing doing what looks like playing Tetris and playing “name the alien” in the hallways. Meanwhile, on the ship, there’s CONSPIRACY afoot and Starfleet is investigating Picard for something, but not really. Ooh, this one’s money, baby. In the end, Wesley is a failure. Well, at least it has a happy ending. Disc Five Heart of Glory. The first proto-Klingon episode, as the Enterprise finds a freighter drifting in space with 3 Klingons aboard. Worf immediately bonds with them and gives us our first look at this backstory by relating the Kittimer attack and his adoption by farmers. His brother is even mentioned. We establish that he’s never been to Q’onos before, and soon his Klingon blood starts boiling with the need to kill stuff and howl skyward when one of his comrades is killed. I’ve gotta wonder – is howling to the skies while in space like praying towards Mecca for Muslims, where you have to follow complex charts to figure out what direction to point? Because Klingons aren’t the brightest race to begin with. Anyway, Worf’s loyalties are teased, but in the end he chooses Starfleet. The seeds of the later storylines are sewn here, though, even if all the Klingon stuff is pretty weak and superficial on the first attempt at it. The Arsenal of Freedom. Despite the increasingly tired trips to the same planetary set (redressed with a different climate each time they go there), this one kinda rocks. The Enterprise stumbles upon a planet that is the ultimate in commercial enterprise (no pun intended) – an intergalactic weapons dealer, making death and destruction for whichever species is the highest bidder. One problem – everyone on the planet is long dead and the system is running on autopilot. The away team beams down to deal with it and soon finds themselves battling sentry units that automatically adjust to their tactics and fire on them in new ways as a result. Meanwhile, Geordi is left in charge of the ship and finds himself getting his ass kicked by another sentry ship in the atmosphere. The special effects are a joke and the set looks as fake as Beverly’s dye-job, but it’s a cool story idea and it’s pulled off about as well as the $10 or so afforded by the budget could handle. If this one had been done in season six, it would have cost $3 million and been a two-parter. Symbiosis. Apparently Gene Roddenberry had a drug conviction in his past he was trying to atone for (at least that’s my theory), because this is the most preachy, heavy-handed anti-drug episode humanly possible without having Wesley himself get hooked on crack. The crew finds a freighter floating in the atmosphere of a planet and on the way down, and apparently piloted by Rob Van Dam (Sample dialogue when informed that Enterprise will try a rescue: “Uh, yeah, sounds great.”). Upon rescuing four of the survivors, it is revealed that there’s two groups of people, fighting over “medicine” to fight a plague on one of the worlds. One group makes the “medicine”, the other buys the “medicine”, and the two worlds have maintained that relationship for hundreds of years. Of course, Beverly discovers that there’s not really a plague and the medicine is actually a narcotic. This prompts Tasha Yar to bring the episode to a SCREECHING halt and make a 5-minute long condescending speech at Wesley about how dumb you have to be to do drugs. Picard, thankfully, remembers that he’s bound by the Prime Directive not to interfere with the drug trafficking scam, no matter how hysterical Beverly gets, and his solution to the problem is, while less than elegant, a clever way around that restriction. Two notable inside jokes to watch for: Merritt Butrick (Kirk’s idiot son David Marcus in the second and third movies) and Judson Earney Scott (Khan’s idiot son Joaqin in the second movie) playing opposite each other, as well as an “easter egg” of sorts. The egg comes at the end, when Picard and Crusher are leaving the cargo bay – look behind them into the closing doors, and you can see Tasha Yar acting totally out of character by waving goodbye to everyone. This episode was actually shot AFTER the one following, and that was Denise Crosby’s way of getting the last word in after her character’s death. Oops, spoiled it. Skin of Evil. Yes, in a double whammy, they not only kill off Tasha Yar in senseless fashion, but it’s also one of the worst Star Trek episodes I can remember. Here’s the plot: Troi’s shuttle crashes on a planet (the crash isn’t seen because this one is all about the money). The Enterprise crew investigates, finds the OIL SLICK OF DEATH patrolling the place (apparently that Exxon-Valdez disaster has spread to other WORLDS now), Tasha is killed out of nowhere, they talk to the creature, Troi talks to the creature (poor bastard), Picard talks to the creature, the creature talks to them, the creature talks to himself, Picard talks to the crew, Troi talks to Picard, Riker gets sucked into the creature and probably scores with it because it’s Riker, Picard talks at the funeral, Tasha talks at the funeral from beyond the grave, people cry, I’m bored, the end. Given the task of killing a major character, THIS is what they came up with. And don’t think I’m not pissed off that given the same task for Nemesis the best they could do to kill off my favorite Star Trek character of all time was rip off the second movie. (There was many reasons to be pissed off with Nemesis, but at least the reboot fixed a lot of those problems, plus gave us LENS FLARE!) Anyway, this episode is RIPE for chances to mock it, from the numerous repeated shots to save money (count the number of times that the oil slick covers and uncovers the shuttle, or the guy in the slick rises up dramatically from different angles) to the unintentionally hilarious funeral speech that can be easily augmented with a few well-timed lines, to Troi being Troi. This was horrible, rushed sci-fi garbage at its worst. We’ll Always Have Paris. Things start to get weird, as the Enterprise travels to visit a famous scientist with bizarre theories on time-space relationships. As they get close, people start having dйjа vu and events repeat themselves. At the same time, Picard yearns to see his former love, whom he stood up in Paris before joining Starfleet, and who just happens to be married to that scientist. With the scientist dying and space-time falling apart as a result of his experiments, Data is called on to save the day. The time problems provide for plotholes galore, and in fact one very troubling moral issue: There’s a scene where Picard, Riker and Data are getting onto a turbolift, but time repeats and we see another version of them getting onto the same turbolift, while sharing the space with the originals. However, they decide not to get on and the camera follows them instead of the originals. So what happened to the past versions of Picard, Riker and Data? Did they just vanish from existence? Isn’t that kind of cruel? For some reason that one particular scene really bothered me and kind of freaked me out. Of course, Brannon Braga probably would have had the duplicates continue to exist and join the Maquis or something. Disc Six Conspiracy. As the title suggests, this is like something out of the X-Files. The paranoid admiral and his aide (last seen in “Coming of Age”) return for another go-around, as various Starfleet captains are convinced that SOMETHING is wrong within Starfleet Command and Picard needs to investigate. After getting Data to scope out the last 6 months of orders from Command, a pattern is discovered that leads the Enterprise back to Earth to personally look into things. Once there, they meet the admiral again, but this time he isn’t what he seems. In fact, many people aren’t, leading to a very creepy climax featuring parasitic bug-creatures trying to invade the Federation from within. The Harryhausen-ish special effects for the bugs aside, this one is like a template for what Chris Carter did with the X-Files. Unfortunately, the entire writing team was purged in between the first and second seasons, and a major plot thread about a homing device left on Earth for the rest of the bugs was never mentioned again in the Star Trek universe. The Neutral Zone. The first season finishes with a bang, as the Romulans are back on the block and entire outposts are mysteriously being wiped off the face of the planet. While that particular mystery was never directly resolved (again, due to the writing team change) most assume that it was the Borg. The main plotline for this one revolves around the Enterprise’s discovery of a cryonic ship from the 20th century, carrying three bottom-feeders who now have to adjust to life in 2364. No real big conflict here, just a general sense of foreboding leading up to a staredown with a Romulan warbird, thus reintroducing a MAJOR villain back into the Trek universe to replace the failed Ferengi. Overall, the first season was undoubtedly the weakest compared to the others that followed – none of the episodes are really “classics” (except maybe Datalore) and people were still struggling to get their head around the characters, but the groundwork was there in most cases. They had to start fresh in the second season anyway, as all the writers were replaced and Michael Piller took over as head writer. (He unfortunately died a few years ago.) For most people, you want to start with the third season, definitely. Audio & Video Oh my. When they went back and fixed the show for Blu-Ray, they went back and FIXED it. The CGI effects are now on par with some of the theatrical releases, colors are BOLD and jump off the screen…the dark and murky backgrounds are now bright and clear, it’s amazing overall. Easily just as good as the original series redo. I can’t even overstate how much better this looks and how much work would have been needed to change it from the original videotape resolution into full HD. Plus it’s now in full 7.1 DTS surround, although this isn’t exactly the season to show that off. The Extras Still no commentaries, but they have carried over all the original features from the original DVD release, plus new HD features about the restoration, and a 90 minute documentary on disc six about the beginning of the series. The feature on disc one, Energized, is about the painstaking detail behind converting to HD and it’s amazing. The comparison shots will make you appreciate the work and love that went into this. It also explains why the show hasn’t been altered in 16×9, and shows what the original effects shot would look like if it was moved to widescreen (spoiler: NOT GOOD!), and you can actually see the unwanted light stands and negative scratches on the sides if they opened up the filmed matte. It’s all one breathtaking labor of love and now my well-loved original DVD sets can find a new home. The Pulse Quality issues of the actual show aside, this set is worth buying because the HD conversion gives the show new life and allows you watch for all sorts of details you couldn’t see before. Plus it’s still a fun show and one of my favorites of all-time. Highest recommendation!

Tryout: Meekin On Movies

@MeekinOnMovies On Gaming Ego Trippin’ “If I’m going to have a past, it might as well be multiple choice” – The Joker “The Killing Joke” I’ve been pretty sick of things lately. Most recently I’ve been working a marathon (for me) 60 hour work week marathon, where every day I get up at 6, drive to work, tool around for 8 hours, drive home, and barely have enough energy to get out of the car before taking a nap, waking up for a couple of hours, then going to bed and doing it all over again. During these relatively mundane and soul crushing portions of my life that are becoming more and more common with each passing year, I tend to seek out gaming experiences from my youth to dally around with in my fleeting spare time. Now, sure, my youth included all the gooey Nintendo goodness us gamers have come to expect. Mario and Link and Donkey Kong and I think I may have lost my virginity to Samus in a dream once, but these experiences are all mostly tests of skills and reflex, and even Link’s most devious puzzles mostly involve putzing around Hyrule until you figure out what specifically you’re supposed to do. I wanted something more, and always had. As a kid I think the thing I typed into google most was “Free Games”. Eventually after what I am sure were countless sites that loaded my computer with enough Malware to create a “Firefly” MMO, I stumbled across HOTU.ORG, or The Home Of The Underdogs. And this place was loaded with the games I never thought existed. If you’ve never played “Starflight” or “Colonization” or any of the games from the early days of PC gaming, boy you are missing out. it was on Home Of The Underdogs that I stumbled across probably my favorite non-game game of all time, 1986’s Alter Ego. For the uninformed, who is probably everyone, Alter Ego is a text based life simulator that’s based on actual psychological concepts and coded and designed by an actual doctor. With a degree and stuff, Peter J. Favaro . As a result it’s sort of a ‘choose your own adventure’ with a heart and some science behind it. It’s written deliciously, too, with a charm and rapier wit that reminds me of the kind of thing that made everyone so wet for the Harry Potter series. In fact I think it’s the only text based adventure game where a baby’s first words are spelled phonetically over the course of 4 screens. The game starts out by having you select male or female. Not quite ready to cross *that* particular final frontier yet, I selected male and answered a series of about 30 true or false questions pertaining to my personality. “Do you get the urge to touch signs that say wet paint” “I typically do as my parents say” and other questions you’d probably get if you were under psychiatric evaluation at a local prison. By this point in the game you’re either bored off your ass or thoroughly intrigued. If you’re a gamer who wants more “game” in their games, you’ll probably take one look at the white on black type, notice the lack of guns, military personnel, and online multiplayer, and hightail it for the closest FPS you can get your pudgy little hands on. This is not a game for the impatient, or even the logical. Instead, what Alter Ego offers is a series of loosely connected vignettes, which all add to your alter ego’s score and spheres. As you age, you gain points in various attributes: physical, social, aggressiveness, and a couple of more all go a long way to informing the way your character will act in a given situation. If you have a low social sphere and try out for a school play, the odds are you’ll be booed off the stage and whisked back to the chess club where you probably belong, dork. Similarly if you have a habit of disagreeing with your parents throughout your youth, and suddenly decide to empathize with them, they will be suspicious of your motives. Part of the problem with most life simulators such as ‘The Sims’, for example, is that if you play those games as they’re meant to be played, they pretty accurately reflect the utter monotony and quiet desperation that is day-to-day life. barely enough time in the day to eat, bathe, clean and work, let alone throw a party, learn to play guitar, buy a chemistry set or socially interact. And if we’re being honest here, in that game after I spent 45 minutes creating a character I wanted to look and act just like me, my first social interactions were met with the encouraging messages “Sue-ann thinks Paul is being awkward” and “Sue-ann is uncomfortable”. Depressing. Of course, I’m probably one of three people who attempted playing ‘The Sims’ game for keeps. Practically everyone else cheats at it, gives themselves the most money, the biggest house, maxes out their happiness, and generally scams the system to the point where really the game ought to be called “White Trash Wish Fulfillment: The Game”. Not that I’m any less guilty. I still remember the password for 50k simoleans. (It’s Rosebud.) Alter Ego avoids this by boiling life down to its essence: Social interactions, romantic interactions, and the various moments of truth that really define all our lives. it becomes an eye opening experience. Many a time I have played this game “as myself” answering questions honestly, only to find the moment when I acted against the type of person I am, blow up in my face. Especially since certain events can be fatal (for example in one game I stupidly approached a car offering free candy and was promptly raped and murdered), the effort required to play the game and succeed becomes its own reward. And, then, well, I was humming along in my little Alter Ego life, toiling away in school for Social Services because it was always an interest of mine, dating some chick named Cathy I didn’t really care too much about, when BAM, I won 500 thousand dollars and instantly stopped caring about the choices I would make, or the game in general. I had “rosebuded” without meaning too! Up until this point I was invested, eagerly pondering every possible outcome, attempting to be the best me I could be in the terms of the game. And at that point, I was pretty much me: Creative, a touch anti-social but overly sympathetic toward everyone, a “real character” as the game said. And now it didn’t matter anymore. But now, it seemed, none of that mattered, because I was rich, bitch. But now, as I finish up this article after nap, I am very curious to see what kind of person I would be if I had all the money in the world. Guess there’s only one way to find out. **

Best raw opening and matches

Long time fan of course. This might make for interesting blog fodder this weekend before the 1,000th show, some dude ranked the top raw openings of all time, he included way too many versions of the same song which makes it a long list but really cool to look back on:
Also, off the top of your head and in the spirit of nostalgia…Would you attempt to do a TOP 5 Raw matches of all time?
Thanks for making my days at work go by quicker with your blog.

Off the top of my head?

1.  Bulldog v. Owen, March 97.
2.  Benoit/Jericho v. Austin/HHH, May 2001.
3.  HHH v. Shawn, December 2003
4.  Benoit v. Michaels, May (?) 2004.  The Phoenix match.
5.  The 10 man.  You know the one.  

Dark Knight Rises

I normally prefer to review books and movies from years or even decades in the past, but no one I know has seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, so I had to discuss it somehow:
Warning: while there are no specific spoilers, it's nonetheless spoiler-ish.


The movie seems to be polarizing the internet nerds.  I fell on the side of wanting to yell "PLAY IT AGAIN!" at the screen when it was over, but others seem to disagree.  
I will say, however, that clearly what should have happened is that Batman beats Bane the first time they meet and then spends the rest of the movie making jokes, while Bane has his balding Jewish manager make legal threats at Commissioner Gordon instead of doing anything.  Because, like, who knows if Bane would have bailed in the middle of the movie?  Plus then they used him to let everyone know that Batman is the biggest star!  They'd make BILLIONS!