Monday Night Raw #1

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about pro-wrestling. I just haven’t felt compelled to spew out thoughts on the meta-textual, physical performance art that airs weekly on network television. I either say that or “hot people pretending to fight” — You know, I really haven’t settled on a way of describing it yet.

Last night on RAW, the entire McMahon family came out and addressed the WWE fans. They tend to do this once every few years when TV ratings have hit a low, and they need a way of rebooting themselves.

Even though the McMahon’s are still in character, as the real owners of the company they like to come out and tell us that they “haven’t been listening to fans, but we are now” or “you’ve had your intelligence insulted.”

Don’t tell me whose intelligence is being insulted! I watch a show every week without fail that I only enjoy maybe 25% of the time — I know exactly where my intelligence stands, thank you very much…

These announcements are sort-of storyline breaking, but then quickly settle back into the show by transferring all of the potential heat (negative backlash) to one of the on-screen villainous wrestlers.

It’s like when the director of a school play runs out onto stage to deliver lines for the kid who is puking in the dressing room. Everyone stops to look at the teacher, confused as all hell. But as soon as the lines are spoken the teacher looks to one of the other on-stage students and claps enthusiastically, as they slowly back off to the side of stage.

Everyone is pulled out of the story for five minutes, but then we’re back in it with the same old same old.

And that’s the problem with pro-wrestling, especially WWE — You can only rebrand it so much.

Sure, you can add some new faces and change a few rules — But ultimately it’s still larger than life personalities fighting each other in choreographed performances.

It’s like when your friend says they’re “rebranding” and they show up for coffee the next day in a new hat. But they’re still complaining about the exact same things and still said that one word that you’re fairly certain is an offensive slur, but you don’t want to be caught googling it in public.

But hey, at least they have a new hat.

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They opened the show by punishing and humiliating the former on-screen authority figure. The irony of the McMahon’s punishing a guy who is essentially an actor for all of the creative decisions they’ve actually made over the last three months is laughable.

But still, I’m going crazy because Kurt Angle is there, and Heath Slater is getting some justice too. Ah, wrestling.

The commentators then tell us we’ll be seeing a lot of new faces around on Raw and Smackdown in the coming weeks, and the wife and I immediately start fantasy-promoting people from the NXT (development) roster.

Instead, we get video packages for the floundering NXT mid-carders who haven’t really found a place on the “college league” brand, and also Nikki Cross.

I’m being harsh, EC3 and Lars Sullivan are two guys whom I’ve always said are better suited to the bright lights of the main roster. Lacy Evans and Heavy Machinery however, are talents who could never really find a place in NXT, but who also still have a lot to learn.

Who knows though, because I felt the same way about Liv Morgan and Elias and they’ve both proven me to be the incorrect fan I am.

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During a discussion with the former tag-team champions, Shane McMahon established a new and interesting rule. Or rather, he abolished a long-standing one — There will no longer be mandatory rematches for championships.

This is interesting, and definitely the most positive take from the soft rebrand of Raw. For years we’ve had to watch boring, zero-heat feuds go on for longer than they need to due to the “rematch clause” rule.

I’m assuming that if a feud is hot, then we’ll still get some kind of rematch. For example, we all want to see Asuka vs Becky Lynch at some point soon, but we don’t want to see Seth vs Dean agai… oh this no-heat feud for a title is still happening? Okay. Business as usual then.

However despite all of this, the episode did fill the final hour with an eight-woman gauntlet match to crown the number one contender for Ronda Rousey’s championship.

It had some slow spots, sure, but ultimately it was a well-paced match that managed to get most of the competitors over. Natalya was booked like 2009 John Cena and people (including me) went crazy for it.

The only thing this new show was missing was some storyline hook — Some twist in the ongoing narrative that would get people to tune in next week.

I thought for sure it was going to be a Ronda Rousey heel-turn at the end of the night, as she hugged and celebrated with her friend and future opponent. Alas, it did not happen, and it left me feeling that same sense of disappointment I’ve felt for the last three months of Raw.

If Vince McMahon really wanted to shake things up, he would’ve retired on-screen as the chairman, and handed the reigns over to his daughter and son-in-law. Even if he didn’t do it in real life for a few more years, just that on-screen change would’ve given the fans a transitional period, before Triple H takes over for good.

I’ll keep watching, because it’s me, but Smackdown and NXT remain the two brands I would show to first-time viewers. Raw is at best a distraction (last night) and at worst a chore (the last three months), and that’s not something I should be able to say about a brand’s flagship TV show.


Today is Tuesday, December 18th and I can’t believe it’s a week until Christmas. Fill me with cookies and wrap me in bacon.

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AMC: The ‘M’ stands for ‘Movie’

With announced TV-movies for both The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, it’s as though some new, young executive at AMC has just discovered that long-form series aren’t the only medium for storytelling.

You get a movie, and you get a movie! All our beloved franchises get a movie!

As far as The Walking Dead goes I think this is the right decision for the brand. Robert Kirkman and co have established his world as the zombie fiction universe. We live in the age of franchises, more content is only a good thing. Hardcore fans will watch everything regardless of quality, and word will get out if a specific film or series has a narrative worth watching.

AMC did their usual bait and switch last Sunday, as they had teased the “departure of Rick Grimes”, declaring episode five of season nine as “Rick Grimes’ final episode”. I’d fallen for their tricks before (Glenn, dumpster), so I knew the character wasn’t going to die. But I was curious to see how they would write him out of a show in which death walks on two legs and is around every corner.

Rick has been taken somewhere else in America, so that Andrew Lincoln can star in three films set in The Walking Dead universe. The latest episode was the best written in some time, in fact, this whole series is the strongest the show has felt since season five.

On top of this, they’ve introduced a major time-jump after Rick’s departure, as a way of soft-rebooting the characters and allowing for completely new narratives. This is, presumably, thanks to new show-runner Angela Kang.

I can imagine a world where the old show-runner remained, and we then had a subsequent twelve episodes of our cast crying about Rick. A (minimum) five year time jump allows for the characters to change, and have moved on from the leadership of Rick Grimes. Although I doubt his memory will be at all forgotten.

These movies can be good if they’re kept to small, personal stories — Reminiscent of the first series of the show. Some of the best narratives in modern fiction have been low-concept, character-driven stories, set in high-concept, often post-apocalyptic worlds.

The Walking Dead is a universe filled with sprawling narratives, hundreds of characters, and plenty of comic books to still be adapted. Making TV-movies as spin-offs, that feature the central protagonist of the entire show, makes perfect sense for the franchise. More of those stories can be told, and the world can grow at a faster pace, ultimately pleasing the content-hungry fans.

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But what about Breaking Bad? A show often, and rightly, cited as the best open and close narrative in TV history. Breaking Bad is the very definition of golden-age television. Vince Gilligan took a simplistic, genius premise and allowed both his story and characters to breathe over the course of sixty episodes.

Breaking Bad wouldn’t have the same effect across a two-hour story. There would be room for all of the big scenes, but entire characters, sub-plots and beautiful, small moments would be lost.

Now, rumours are that the film will be about Jesse Pinkman, following the events of Breaking Bad. Even though I think his character’s eventual fate would be best left to speculation, and that more time spent with Jesse would weaken his characterisation, I also didn’t think an entire show about Saul Goodman was necessary, but it remains compelling television.

My main issue here isn’t Gilligan’s need to return to his established universe, but that we’re to only get a couple more hours in it.

If AMC had announced a Breaking Bad sequel, with Aaron Paul as the lead, following the life of Jesse Pinkman ten years after his escapades with Walter White, then I’d be all-in. Gilligan has proven himself a highly competent storyteller, who has a real gift for long-form television narratives.

I’m worried that a TV-movie, two hours of new content, would either feel too rushed OR be kept small-scale, but leave us wanting more. No matter which it is, the Breaking Bad sequel film likely won’t feel as satisfying as a brand new full series, or it not even happening at all.

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Movies based on TV shows rarely work, and a successful transition in the opposite direction is more common. The fact that AMC are slated to be making them as TV-movies work in favour of the projects, as they will be kept on a smaller-scale and hopefully close to the narratives they blossomed from.

I’d like to see Vince Gilligan eventually work on something that isn’t set in the Breaking Bad universe. He can tell a similar story — Character-driven yet still about the deep world of organised crime — with a similar tone, and nobody would complain.

His ability to create richly unique and compelling characters is enviable, and so, personally, I’d like to see that brain put to use on a new story. However, we live in the age of franchise and bankable property, and unless your name is Stephen King, you aren’t going to get by as a writer on your name alone.

It could be that Gilligan has many ideas for other TV shows or movies, but AMC is throwing enough money at him to continue telling the stories of the people he originally dreamt-up a decade ago.

It’s as though AMC have remembered that the M in their initial stands for Movie, and so now they’ve decide to return to the roots of their original branding without thinking too much about the consequences.

No matter how I feel about them, they’ve peaked my interest enough for me to watch the movies of The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad universes, and that’s all that matters from a business standpoint.

People, like me, complain about the over-reliance on established franchises in modern fiction, but we only have ourselves to blame. We’re the ones who’re still shovelling it all down, like the filthy little content goblins we are.


Today is Thursday, November 8th and bigger things have happened in the last twenty-four hours, I just needed to write about something light. Stay safe, hold on to each other.

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Crown Jewel: A Night to Forget

I wrote these words (not these ones, but the next one-thousand or so) during the live broadcast of the Crown Jewel PPV in Saudi Arabia. I bit the bullet for you guys. You’re welcome.

When WWE signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to perform exclusive shows over the next decade, they didn’t anticipate that they’d be at the centre of one of the biggest controversies of the year. These shows are to be a part of ‘Saudi Vision 2030’, a campaign by the new royal family to bring their country into the 21st century — A promise we all know that they’re absolutely sticking to…

Recent events called for WWE to pull out of the deal, but last week chairman Vince McMahon decided to go ahead with the show ‘Crown Jewel’ — Choosing millions of dirty dollars and potentially catastrophic PR over the majority of public opinion. On top of all of this, they’ve added Hulk Hogan to the show, a controversial figure in his own right, who (rightfully) hasn’t been in good-graces since he repeatedly used a racial slur on tape.

It should be noted that as far as the match-card is concerned, it’s bizarre even by wrestling standards. Shawn Michaels is coming out of an eight-year retirement to wrestle a legends tag-team match; Ruining what is regarded by fans as the most satisfying ending to a career in wrestling history.

Obviously, none of the women are wrestling. Women are only just able to drive in Saudi Arabia, putting on tights and pretending to fight would be too much of a stretch for 2018.

The former Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, had to pull out of the main event due to a legitimate Leukemia diagnosis, and top stars John Cena and Daniel Bryan have refused to attend the show from a moral standpoint. In the case of John Cena, it’s perhaps to save his blossoming Hollywood career.

As well as all of this, the majority of the show will be a “world-cup” tournament that’s made-up of eight Americans. So the winning country will be America, no matter who wins — A sentence that’s so typically American.

The pre-show match finishes with the line of commentary, “Retained the US title in controversial fashion,” and so before the main show even begins, we’ve heard the C-word from the company themselves. Welcome to the most tone-deaf show in entertainment history, welcome to WWE Crown Jewel.

Hulk Hogan starts the show, and comes out to more cheers than he’d receive in the US in 2018. I start playing a game with myself — Who will accidentally mention the words Saudi Arabia first. Hogan says a few sentences before his music plays once more, my hope is that American audiences won’t forget what he said, and that the world has outgrown men with opinions like his.

We cut to the crown-prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, at ringside. He receives fewer cheers than Hulk Hogan. His expression isn’t as jubilant as it was back in April, during their first visit to his country, so he’s likely well-aware of the controversies. It feels wrong to show him in a positive light on American programming, but here we are.

During their April show, The Greatest Royal Rumble, WWE aired plenty of propaganda packages, encouraging people to visit the “progressive” Saudi Arabia. There’s none of that this time around. It’s as though both WWE and Saudi Arabia are just trying to get through this show, hoping that everything will have blown over six months from now.

In the opening four matches, Rey Mysterio, The Miz, Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler advance in the tournament. It’s during these matches that I start to notice the fans. Seeing all of the children in the crowd getting excited whilst witnessing their favourite WWE Superstars makes me loathe the royal family even more.

Most citizens of Saudi Arabia are just trying to enjoy mindless entertainment like the rest of us, on this shared home we call Earth, and a smile on the face of a five-year-old in a John Cena t-shirt makes that clear.

Popular tag-team The New Day ride down to the ring on a mechanical magic carpet for their match, with the commentary team mentioning magical blue genies. WWE has always been about stereotypes, but maybe it would’ve been for the best to avoid them at a show like this. I guess when you’ve already got Hulk Hogan appearing in Saudi Arabia, nothing seems too controversial.

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Dolph Ziggler and The Miz qualify for the finals of the World Cup. Interestingly, both of these men are from Ohio. So not only is this “global tournament” limited to one nation, but now it has all come down to who is the best from the Buckeye State.

Samoa Joe, who is a last-minute replacement for Daniel Bryan, faces AJ Styles for the WWE Championship next. I’m two hours into the show and it’s important to point out that nobody has mentioned the words ‘Saudi’ or ‘Arabia’. Crown Jewel is a ‘Global Event’ that constantly has the feeling of Simpsons-esq, worried collar-pulling.

Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar fight for the vacant Universal championship. As much as WWE would like to sweep this show under the rug, this is the one match they’ll have to reference in the future, as a new champion has to be crowned. It’s heartwarming to see half the crowd watching the show via the camera app on their phones, just like we do in the West; We’d all be the same if it weren’t for our respective murderous oppressors.

Paige, the Smackdown General Manager, can’t be here tonight due to her status as a woman. So Shane McMahon steps in to play the role of authority figure on behalf of the blue brand. It’s time for the World Cup final. Smackdown vs Raw. Blue vs Red. Cleveland, Ohio vs just outside of Cleveland, Ohio.

Miz is fake-injured and carried away to the back. So Shane McMahon steps in and takes his place. This is stupid, so therefore this is wrestling. For the first time at Crown Jewel I forget that the controversy exists, because it’s over-the-top storytelling without any offense intended.

Shane McMahon wins the tournament, which legitimises how bizarre and nonsensical this entire show has been. Perhaps Vince McMahon took some nepaitistc advice from the Saudi royal family, and decided that this was the best direction to take the story of Crown Jewel.

It’s time for your main event, DX vs The Brothers of Destruction — Four men who have a combined age of two-hundred and six. This match is disheartening to watch, as one man’s legacy is tarnished in exchange for a large paycheck.

The realisation that this whole show is meaningless happens, as the Saudi royal family film Shawn Michaels’ return to the ring through their cell phones, in a match they’ve paid millions of dollars to be shot professionally in their own country. They don’t care about legacy, they care about looking progressive. And apparently the way to do that is to pay fifty-year-olds to choreograph a fight.

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After decades of trying to push professional wrestling out of the dirty bingo halls and into mainstream entertainment, Vince McMahon has surely set his company back a few years by performing in Saudi Arabia today. However, it’s hard to believe that anything can topple the giant that dwarves any company within its niche industry.

WWE will walk away with a lot of dirty money, but at least Crown Jewel wasn’t the propaganda-fest that Greatest Royal Rumble was. Although it’s a little alarming that the crown prince was still shown live on air in a featured moment, in behaviour akin to any other alarming dictator.

Commentator Michael Cole closes the show by describing the main event performance as one that “we will never, ever forget.” Cole, I think it’s in everyone’s best interests that we do.


Today is Monday, November 5th and America should set off fireworks today as well as July 4th, because it’s actually dark on an evening.

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Evolution Review

If you ignore all of the unnecessary self-smoke-blowing from the WWE, then you can come to the conclusion that women’s wrestling is in a very healthy state right now. On Sunday, WWE held their first all-women’s Special on their Network, and my only true criticisms of it were the number of times they had to pat themselves on the back for doing something they should’ve been doing for years.

Every two minutes we heard the words, “historic” or “history-making” or “look! women can do things too!”. Okay, maybe not that last one, but that’s what the sentiment felt like.

I completely understand why, from a business perspective, you’d want to promote doing something like this. In the corporate world of male-dominated entertainment, this is a big step to take. But as someone who has always tried to be a good ally to women, I couldn’t help but wonder if two (or four) more women could’ve had another pay-check, if they’d done one more match instead of the twenty minutes WWE spent giving themselves a reach-around.

That’s probably a poor choice of phrase, and might negate the whole “ally” status thing I decided to thrust upon myself. But it’s there now, and you can’t edit blog posts…

Well that’s the negativity out of the way (for now, it’s always stirring), because the rest of Evolution was highly entertaining. Several matches didn’t receive a whole lot of build, and they were thrown together at the last-minute. These included a six-woman tag and a twenty-woman battle royal. It felt as though WWE wanted all of the main-roster athletes to at least get a small appearance payday, and I can understand that.

Both matches were better than they had any right being. The six-woman tag was fluid, fast-paced wrestling, and above the bar for a regular Raw or Smackdown. This match also solidified to me that the WWE should introduce trios championships for the women’s division. It would make them stand apart from the men, and offer a different kind of wrestling on a weekly basis.

The battle royal was won by a character who they can never quite play right. Nia Jax is a plus-size model, who enjoys success inside and outside of the squared circle. So they play her up as a sympathetic good-guy, someone who tells girls that it doesn’t matter what you look like, you can do anything. Brilliant!

Except for the fact that they have her bully everyone during her backstage interviews, and then expect her to be cheered when she wins matches. It’s bizarre, it’s like they see a bigger wrestler and assume she must have to play the bad guy, but at the same time, WWE want that juicy PR of her being a great role model.

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The Mae Young Classic, a 32-woman tournament that took place over the last ten weeks, had its final at Evolution. This was the wrestling purists match, and featured two of the top ten wrestlers in the world (male or female). It wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been, due to it only receiving ten minutes of show-time, but it was technically sound and featured perfectly executed spots.

When the “women’s evolution” began, around three or four years ago, I assumed that it would be all about raising women to the same levels as John Cena, The Rock or Triple H — Larger than life character who know how to tell a compelling story between the ropes. However, I didn’t expect us to see the female equivalents of AJ Styles, Ricochet or Kazuchika Okada — Technically proficient athletes who can do incredible moves to precise execution.

The fact that they’ve done this in the space of four years is the real thing they should be patting themselves on the back for. But don’t tell them that, because this match was far better for being all about the prestige of a tournament.

The three championship matches all delivered in different ways. The NXT title match was more of the technical athleticism we’ve come to expect from the black and yellow brand. And Shayna Baszler (former UFC fighter) captured the belt in what would be the only title change of the night.

The Smackdown women’s championship feud is currently one of the hottest of the year, and it all ended with a Last Woman Standing match. Becky Lynch, who has shown a Stone-Cold-Steve-Austin-like side to her personality in recent months, defeated the hand-picked “WWE Superstar” of Charlotte Flair, daughter of the legendary Ric Flair. This was match of the night. Both women killed themselves to tell a very ruthless-aggression-era style of story. This felt like Edge taking on John Cena in 2006, and it was wonderful.

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RAW women’s champion, Ronda Rousey, headlined the show against the B-grade Kardashian, Nikki Bella. This may not have been a perfect wresting match, but the story of fighter vs “diva” was throughly enjoyable. Mostly because the fighter won. I mean, could you imagine the statement WWE would have made if they’d had the old-era, “tits out for the lads, lets slap and tickle each other for ninety seconds” woman win the match?

You could argue that the presence of Ronda Rousey is the only reason WWE have been able to sell out an arena featuring only the women’s roster. The division will take a few years to grow even further, and WWE will need to keep appealing to young girls, the same way they had only appealed to young boys when I was a kid. It really feels as though Ronda is here to give the company the mainstream shot-in-the-arm it needs, so that a few years from now they can survive without her.

I’ve been telling people that Evolution was better than a regular WWE show, but not quite as good as an NXT Takeover, as they continue to be the benchmark for three hours of quality wrestling.

Now we look forward to WWE Blood Money — sorry — WWE Crown Jewel, a show that’s for the Saudi royal family, in Saudi Arabia, this Friday. I kid you not, they’re going ahead with this spectacle, despite what the American people and WWE fans have said. This is going to be a PR nightmare.

On one hand, WWE gives us an all-female show. But on the other, they put on a show for millions of dollars, to a family of murderers, in a country where the women aren’t allowed to perform. One step forward, about fifty-six million steps back.


Today is Tuesday, October 30th and today is 189% less spooky than tomorrow will be. That’s science people.

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Evolution and Devolution

At the end of the month WWE will be hosting its first all-woman Pay-Per-View — Evolution. The announcement back in July was met with positivity and universal acclaim, with only a few people on the far fringes of the fandom suggesting that women had “gone too far this time”, and “when are men going to get an all-male show?”

Well, thanks to a ten-year, $450million deal with the Saudi Arabian royal family, WWE has two all-male shows every year. Beginning back in April with The Greatest Royal Rumble, and continuing with Crowl Jewel, which takes place just five days after Evolution. Fans can expect these shows to be twice a year for the next decade. Although perhaps not, given recent global political events.

Jamal Khashoggi, is a Saudi journalist who writes for The Washington Post, and he went missing on October 2nd. He has been openly critical about the Saudi royal family in recent years, given their crackdown on human right’s activists and a military campaign in Yemen. He has been living in exile in the US for the majority of the last year.

While in Istanbul on October 1st — where he was looking to obtain a marriage certificate for himself and his Turkish fiancee — he visited the Saudi embassy. CCTV footage shows Khashoggi enter, but he doesn’t emerge from the building. His fiancee waited until after midnight and returned the next day, where there was still no sign of him.

Turkey has pressured the Saudi royal family to own-up to a potential assassination attempt, as royal family private jets arrived in Turkey the day before and left the day after. America back an investigation, and President Trump claims to have spoken to the Saudi royal family “more than once” about Khashoggi’s “disappearance”. The royal family, of course, deny the allegations.

To my limited knowledge, very little will come of this. Many Western governments, including America, turn a blind eye to a lot of the events in Saudi Arabia, in exchange for financial benefits. However, Trump is a wild card who likes quick and easy publicity wins. By putting pressure on the Saudi royal family he can market himself as a man who is tough on the sorts of people his followers perceive as the ultimate villains.

Saudi Arabia is supposedly undertaking a culture revolution, setting their sights on 2030 as a date by which they’ll be progressive. This seems highly unlikely, and Khashoggi is right to criticise them for it, as women still lack basic human rights, LGBTQ people are still considered to be committing illegal activities by being themselves, and the royal family maintains a dictatorial stranglehold on its people.

I know these things take time, and twelve years is a long way away, but murdering human rights activists, those campaigning for women’s rights and allegedly assassinating a journalist are all steps in the complete opposite direction.

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All of this could put WWE in a rather awkward position, especially if Trump decides to retaliate against a potential state-sponsored assassination. Of course, the money received from the royal family might go a long way to stop any real reaction. Also, Lina McMahon (wife of WWE owner Vince McMahon) currently works for the Trump administration. So a quick favour for a friend could see that tensions do not escalate, if only to protect a $450million entertainment deal.

Which, I should point out, is silly money for professional wrestling. This deal nets WWE more than ten WrestleMania’s will.

Any negative attention that WWE receives for performing for the Saudi princes (who are essentially billionaire WWE fans paying for their own, personal show) will only highlight the other issues with this deal. Particularly when it comes to women’s rights and the “evolution” of women’s wrestling, as female wrestlers are not allowed to perform in front of live audiences in Saudi Arabia.

Five years ago the women of WWE were still simply models who’d been hired and taught a few wrestling moves. Nowadays they’re legitimate athletes, putting on the same athletic, choreographed stunt-shows as their male counterparts. They boast talent from MMA (including Ronda Rousey), various women’s sports leagues, and prestigious Japanese promotions — All of whom would not be interested in WWE if it weren’t for their progressive shifts.

So if women’s matches in WWE are no-longer a sexy pillow fight (this happened), then why do Saudi officials have a problem with them? Well, it’s all down to how the women dress.

Even though the male athletes wear far fewer clothes than today’s female athletes, the issue is that the women are showing the slightest bit of skin. Even if they wore full body-suits, as they did at an emotional Abu Dhabi show last year, they’d still be showing too much, in the form of their hair.

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Now, I know it’s a different culture, dominated by a different major religion, so it’s not our place to decide what a country does and doesn’t allow. But when many Muslim women are dying for their right to be free of the oppression of their male religious leaders, you have to empathise with that cause. I ask myself sometimes if it’s right to tolerate intolerance? It’s a complex issue.

WWE may be about to have their first all-female wrestling show, but they’ve also added two all-male shows to their calendar year. Evolution was aways going to happen eventually, as the talent of the women’s division has grown enough to justify it. But this is almost literally one step forward and two steps back for WWE — Given that they can now boast one progressive event per year, and downplay two regressive money-grabs.

Women already get less time on WWE TV than men, and are featured in fewer matches on PPV. I figured that Evolution was going to be their way of balancing this act, especially when you include the fact they’ve kept up their all-female summer tournament for the second year-running. But with events for Saudi Arabia, where women have only just been given the right to drive, the cynical side of me is screaming that WWE are only making these progressive steps, so they can pocket $450million in royal money with a clean conscience.


Today is Thursday, October 11th and political attack ads in the US should be illegal. You can literally say whatever you want.

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WE are the Walking Dead

I’m a big believer in not having guilty pleasures when it comes to media. You like what you like and if you can justify the enjoyment it brings to you, then you should keep on enjoying that thing. People (like me) will reserve the right to say that thing is objectively terrible, but you should continue to defend it, because nobody can argue with subjectivity.

I both objectively and subjectively despise The Walking Dead, and yet I can’t stop watching. Help me.

I watched the season nine premiere yesterday, which made this the third year in a row that I ignored my instinct to stop. I think at this point it has become a form of punishment; You don’t deserve good things, so here you go Matt, watch fifty minutes of crudely constructed television that manages to mess-up despite an inexplicably high budget.

The first season of the show was groundbreaking, next-level television. The tight, six-episode story was refreshing for an American production, and at no point did it waste a single minute of your time. I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the best “first seasons” in TV history, up there with Breaking Bad.

Season two saw a drop-off in quality, which we can largely assume was due to the departure of Frank Darabont. The show became less focused, but for a few years still managed to tell interesting-enough stories. Half of the characters were two-dimensional beings lifted straight from a serialised, soap-opera-esq graphic novel, but the rest were well-rounded, complex individuals.

Up until the second-half of the sixth season I can still recall story arcs and individual episodes that entertained me. And in a show with sixteen episodes per season (I thought we were done with this 20th century BS), that’s probably the best you can hope for. With season seven and eight, I felt like the zombie — Glued to the screen but completely dead behind the eyes.

I think the only reason I tuned in this year is because of new show-runner, Angela Kang. My hope was that we’d get a completely new direction, and a fresh pair of eyes at the helm. I didn’t think she’d be able to bring TWD back to the glory days of season one, but I hoped for the quality of season four or five.

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Season nine opens with a set-piece, in which most of the main survivors (and a few red-shirts) are at a large museum building, where they’re recovering old pioneering supplies. The biggest object is a covered wagon, which they slowly pull down the steps of the museum. The ground floor of the building is made of glass and, of course, hundreds of Walkers are below.

The group decides to carry-on with their wagon-salvaging attempt, despite it being the least useful of the objects they came to recover. The glass cracks and King Ezekiel is the one to fall. Surprisingly, not a single red-shirt fell into the Walker-filled abyss to build some tension. Ezekiel manages to avoid fifty sets of teeth and nails, to survive without a single scratch.

This opening sequence puts us back in the place we were last year; Zero reason to care emotionally about these characters because they survive the most ridiculous and complex situations. About five minutes after this scene a red-shirt is bit suddenly from behind as he goes to fetch a horse. Go figure.

Sure, protagonists should overcome difficult challenges, but if those challenges are painlessly conquered then I’m not going to care when they eventually succumb to whatever kills them off. The classic TWD example being that Glenn’s impossible survival and fake-out death ruined the emotional impact of his real death.

I did enjoy the small moments between survivors during the museum scene, particularly the scenes with Michonne. She looks to the history displays and sees words like “confederacy” and lots of pictures of old white people. In looks alone we get the sense she has anxieties about building America in the exact same way it was in the beginning. Later this is confirmed when Michonne and Rick are talking privately, and she suggests that they draw-up a charter instead of a constitution.

You can make the argument that race doesn’t really matter in TWD, and that a zombie-apocalypse is the great equaliser for society. However, the best post-apocalyptic fiction reflects contemporary society where it can, and last year the angered far-right went absolutely crazy at the introduction of a Muslim character. So I’d say an understated commentary about race is appropriate.

The second-half of the episode is about Maggie’s leadership of the Hilltop. It’s been a year and a half since the war ended and since then they’ve had an election. Maggie won the vote, against the scheming former-leader, Gregory.

Gregory opportunistically capitalises on the death of a red-shirt from the Hilltop, and convinces the grieving father to assassinate Maggie. This fails and Gregory is found-out, resulting in his execution at Maggie’s command.

I really enjoyed this storyline and I’m interested to see where they go from here. Maggie confronted Rick and showed her power as a leader in this episode, which is more actual character development than we saw from anyone else. I also liked the continuing themes of rebuilding society and the struggles that come along with it.

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Overall, the premiere was average. I’m excited about some things, but also nervous about others. There are far too many characters to truly care about any of them, so I feel as though they need to take an axe to the cast. It worries me that Negan is being kept alive, as that’s a poisonous storyline that should’ve just ended, never to be returned-to.

The previous show-runner once said that TWD could go until the fifteenth season, I hope that idea has died with him. I think I’m with this show for the long-haul now, because I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction, and I still have fading memories of what once was one of the the strongest season premieres in recent history.

I am a zombie, the seven-million US viewers still watching are also the zombies. We’ve been told our role in this story, I just hope we can witness a few decent moments before we disintegrate into mush.


Today is Tuesday, October 9th and an Evangelical leader said this about Democrats; “The most intolerant people in the country are those that preach tolerance.” I thought the irony there was depressingly hilarious.

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Back to The Good Place

The following jumble of words have been organised into a review of the season three premiere of The Good Place. If you have not seen this episode, or the rest of the show, then come back tomorrow when there’ll be fewer spoilers. I’ll probably write about Trump or Kavanaugh or Brexit — You know, the usual.

Actually before you go, here’s a quick plea — Watch this show. Stop watching whatever you’re currently watching and catch up on The Good Place. The cast are delightful, the writing is near-flawless and it’ll push the limits of what you thought possible of a twenty-two minute sitcom. Also, Ted Danson is better in this than he is in Cheers…okay bye, leave before you can rebut that hot take!

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We’re back with Team Cockroach — Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason — only this time they’re on Earth. In an attempt to prove to his superiors that supreme beings need to revamp the way in which human’s are treated in the afterlife, Michael, and his assistant Janet, are running a little experiment. Team Cockroach have been placed back on Earth, right before the moment of their death, where they’ll be saved by a passing stranger (Michael). This provides them all with a near-death experience, that will (hopefully) push them to become good people.

The plan works, for a while, as all four humans turn their lives around. However, remaining a “good person” proves to be difficult, and before long they’re back to their old ways. So Michael intervenes again, with some protest from Janet, and nudges them a little closer together — All so that Team Cockroach can meet on Earth and once again help each other to be better.

All of this while they’re being hunted by a pack of demons for breaking the rules of the bad place — Specifically Micheal, for being the demon who went rogue. But you know that, you’ve seen the show!

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The transition from the second to third season went a lot smoother than the first to the second. It appears as though Micheal Schur is set on flipping the script on the premise at the end of each season, by jumbling all the chess pieces into a different order, before moving them in roughly the same direction. This helps to keep the show feeling fresh, and both of the soft resets have made sense within the context of the narrative.

Last season felt a little jarring, and it took a few episodes of season two for the show to really feel like itself again. They haven’t faced the same problem this time around, aided in part by the season two finale giving us a little glimpse into what to expect for the third outing. Also because characters are very much behaving like their lovable, imperfect, archetypal selves from the get-go.

Ted Danson continues to give a career-performance, as he expertly blends his brand of sitcom delivery with heartfelt, uplifting monologues. Which isn’t to say that the rest of the cast don’t perform — because oh boy do they. We didn’t get too much of Janet in this episode, which is always a shame, as her arc as a computerised super-being slowly becoming more human is one of the most compelling on the show. Adam Scott’s character has returned, however, and we always need more Adam Scott on our screens.

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We’re introduced to new character, Simone, a researcher and neuroscientist from Chidi’s university who plans on helping Team Cockroach on their journey to becoming better people, by showing them the science-side of their near-death experiences. Her and Chidi hit it off instantly, leading to an incredibly cute scene inside of an MRI.

Eleanor encourages them to start dating, as she sees the overflowing chemistry between the two — Which is gut-wrenching for us viewers, who know that once Eleanor and Chidi become close in a timeline, they’re a great match for each other.

Still, it’s proof that Eleanor is fundamentally a good person, and I for one can’t wait until she’s promoted to the position of “God” or “Supreme Afterlife Guardian” by the end of the entire show.

Jameela Jamil, who plays the egocentric Tahani, continues to be the biggest surprise of The Good Place. Although at this point, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. Despite only recently venturing into the world of acting, Jamil was born to play the role of Tahani. Her opening Vogue-style web-interview is one of the best character reintroductions I’ve ever seen, and her celebrity name-drops are already on-form.

The highlight for Jason came as he bore his soul at a harbour in Jacksonville. Being the dimwitted member of Team Cockroach, Jason is quietly and innocently the most good-hearted of the group. We finally see the urban dance-crew he organises and manages, and although they all still resort to a life of crime, he’s genuinely trying to be a good person to the best of his abilities.

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Nearly every element of The Good Place works to perfection, and as long as Schur has a clear ending planned, then this may well go down as one of the greatest cult sitcoms of all time.

It’s an enjoyable ride with a likeable cast, so no matter what happens I’m in for the long-hall. However, once the show comes to a conclusion (whenever that may be, I can think of a premise for season four and five, but any more than that might be pushing it) we’ll be able to fully judge the overall narrative. I’ve been burned by too many shows with a meandering story that eventually lead to nowhere.

It’s the little things that make The Good Place so good…place; The subtle world-building, the forking curse-words, secondary characters for days, genuine philosophical lessons and Schur’s trademark reaction-shots.

The season three opener matched the overall quality of the show, so I can’t wait to see where Team Cockroach will go next.


Today is Tuesday, October 2nd and the days are getting darker. This is both a positive and a negative; Find balance in all things.

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If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

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