IN THE FLESH by CLIVE BARKER

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As a writer myself, if I had to name the most major influence on my own style of work, Clive Barker would be the one to jump directly into mind. When I first read him, I said to myself, “That’s how I want to write.”

 

I’ve bounced all around genres trying to find a way to get published, and Barker’s style of internal dialogue is always there; his deep, vivid descriptions of the landscape prevails. I’m not saying I pull it off as well as he does, but I certainly try. Once I went with horror writing, I realized where my home is, and it is due largely in part to the influence of Clive Barker.

 

Everything that I love about Mr. Barker is contained within the short stories of In the Flesh: the nightmarish horror that bends the very air around it; the surreal mythos that seek no apologies for being morbid and disturbing; the unabashed propensity towards violence and the grotesque; the living breathing characters of both good and evil; the seedy urban backdrops detailed into life by the author; and the entrancing tales of struggles against insurmountable situations written in the prose of someone who sees beauty in agony and poetry in pain. When it comes to horror storytelling, there is no author as masterful as he.

 

With that said, I loved all four tales in this book. I will offer here a review of each:

 

“In the Flesh”: Darkness confined to a space no larger than a closet, yet Barker expands it beyond the limits of imagination by creating a harrowing, dream-like city for the damned and the depraved. Here he creates fright on a whole new level with a chilling backdrop to paint his visions of pain and suffering. I wish he would give us more stories from this City of Killers because it is fascinating enough to warrant its own legends and chronicles.

 

“The Forbidden: This is the origin of the infamous 90’s Hollywood slasher known as the Candyman. Set in the dregs of a rundown London slum, this tale shows Barker’s appreciation for the downtrodden and the decomposing icons of man’s mighty failures, seen through the eyes of a curious woman fixated on the graffiti murals sprayed across the crumbling architecture of a forgotten and partially-abandoned area of town. I find the setting to be one of gorgeous misery and almost folkloric squalor worthy of a horrifying urban epic. It is an ideal place for the supernatural madman with a knack for eviscerating his victims and removing bits of them to leave behind hacked-up husks of their former selves. Although no back-story of the Candyman is offered, it adds a spicy mystique to his being, making him both frightening and fascinating. I certainly wish Barker would have expanded on the character. But, I am happy with the tiny piece of deadly sweetness that he gave us.

 

“The Madonna”: Undoubtedly my favorite of the collection. The concept contained in the tale’s central narrative is one that is personal to me and my beliefs. It almost makes me feel connected to the author as it appears we may share similar views on such things. The world he creates in this magical tale of fearsome fantasy carries so much depth and potential that I was disappointed when it ended. I wanted to read an entire 600-1000+ page novel on the world and the characters and the myths. What he gives to us is a thought-provoking, enticing scenario of creation and mankind’s role in it. The lure of Feminine Superiority and dominance is a theme that appeals greatly to me, and the play on the fantastical stories about mermaids or Succubae or angels gives an air of classic fairytales, but only told from the shadows: the parts of the stories parents leave out to keep their children from becoming captives to nightmares. I loved this story and was dying to read further.

 

“Babel’s Children”: This short-fiction stands out from the rest in the sense that it doesn’t delve into the twisted and agonized, or the Hellish or wicked. But, it doesn’t fall short on the bizarre meter as it is actually quite a what-if scenario that is excruciatingly horrifying, but also very plausible. Sometimes, if you really take a look at what goes on in the world, you could honestly see the plot of this story not being far from reality. But, this story begins as more of a suspense-thriller and ends under the guise of government-conspiracy-action novel. Either way, I felt this was a satisfying end to the book considering it ended on a note that felt very satiating and didn’t make the reader pine for the rest of the tale.

 

 

So, I continue to thoroughly enjoy Barker’s work, and even more see why he is my favorite author. I look forward to reading more of his stuff as time goes on.

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WRESTLEMANIA 32: SHOWCASE OF SHAME

Good lord–and thank God–WrestleMania is mercifully over, and what an excruciating affair it was. I normally have low expectations for WrestleMania as I expect them all to pretty much put an abrupt and unsatisfactory halt to all possibly progressive angles, an expectation they normally live up to in grand fashion; but this year, the let-down level was Earth-shattering. Maybe this is so because I actually gave them a shred of credit because their recent PPVs and matches on the road to WM have been decent, but the road to WrestleMania found itself screeching to a halt at a dead-end not blocked by a wall, but vanishing at a cliff and now the vehicle of WWE storylines hangs precariously at the precipice looking at a bullseye where it could very easily crash and burn. Yes–I think Mania was that damn bad.

Now, I pretty much bombed out on the predictions, going 3-8, which is fine. I went 6-1 for Roadblock, bringing my yearly total to 17-14. Sometimes, I predict what I hope will happen/should happen in the face of the obvious cronyism and nepotism that prevails in WWE. Other times, I predict things I think will happen because of the politics that supposedly goes on (usually evident by what transpires on the shows), but am often pleased to be wrong when/if it happens. Unfortunately, a lot of my predictions came from giving WWE a chance to prove themselves as a competent wrestling company like they were a couple of decades ago when they had competition, and they failed to provide a very entertaining card.

Now, I’m not like a lot of these marks who hate the mid-card. The mid-card is what made WWE great when it was WWF. It gave the PPVs intrigue as opposed to the redundant levity they possess now. Leading up to Mania, it appeared it was improving, but the way it looks now, I might be back on fan-hiatus come this time next year. But, I’ll have to keep the network because NXT is awesome despite WWE being so watered down. Sad that the “Road to WrestleMania” was far superior to Mania itself. I guess it’s like the old adage that the journey is more fulfilling than the destination. Perhaps the theme for the show should have been “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus.

Here go my thoughts on the matches:

 

  1. Kalisto beats Ryback: I missed this match and I don’t feel like I missed much. This belt is probably getting phased out since they never put any emphasis on it. Both of these men are good wrestlers if they’d just use them correctly. But, I don’t see much in the future for them after Mania.
  2. Total Divas get BAD: I was wrong on this match, but not upset about it. When the faces won, it gave me hope for the Women’s Title Match. I caught this match about mid-way and it seemed Paige and Natalya did the heavy lifting, and the lesser of the Bellas got the pin. Naomi and Emma were impressive; Lana has potential but needs more experience; and I might as well just give up Alicia Fox. It was disorganized chaos as I knew it would be. I love the women, but this match was a bad idea. 2.5/5.
  3. The Usos Reign(s) Supreme: Since they’re doing nothing with the Usos, and have been using the Dudleys in semi-significant roles against Roman Reigns, and could very well use them to put New Day over as faces, it makes perfect sense to have the Usos win, right? <eye roll> Nothing worth anything came from this match, except maybe the crowd expressing their weariness with the cousins of Roman Reigns, suspecting maybe they keep winning matches because of their relation to him. Really dumb and the match wasn’t even that good. 2.5/5.
  4. Ryding the Ladder to the Top: Here is the only point on the show where WWE actually did something surprising. I am not particularly a fan of Zack Ryder, but I recognize the work ethic and time spent by him in WWE, and I am glad for him. He’s earned it and the fans wanted it. Good for him. When he came out with a robe, I suspected he might win; and, they’ve been giving him momentum here-of-late. I toyed with the idea of predicting him, but knew the WWE top wasn’t big on him so I didn’t pick him. This one was actually a nice job on WWE’s part. The match had a few high spots, but wasn’t the dynamo ladder matches tend to be, but at least it had a satisfying outcome.   3.25/5.
  5. Why 2J?: So, I guess it’s official: WWE signed A.J. Styles simply to bury him. I almost turned the show off after this. I could have been working on my book instead of wasting time with this nonsense. I’m not one of these pissy fans who get mad when their guys lose, but the event had already been relatively boring and I recognize what they’re doing. I was wondering why Jericho was so slow and groggy in the ring (even more so than usual), and not performing at a decent level. I guess he was trying to make Styles look bad. I don’t know. But, what good comes of having Styles lose to a washed-up former champion who never wins feuds or titles, anymore? Nothing except a wasted investment. The match was subpar, the outcome was ridiculous, and it is all indicative of the fact that WWE hasn’t changed. Either way, I pray the angle is done. I want to see AJ go against people who are actually on his talent level inside the ring as opposed to over-the-hill slobs who use the same three moves in the same order for fifteen plus years. 2.25/5.
  6. WWE Gets Real Booty: So, here’s WWE “creative” at its best: pulling off a booking move that not only makes absolutely zero sense, but is counterproductive, as well. Let’s give the New Day–the most over men on the entire roster, save Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens–give them a big entrance, take away the title match status and the handicap odds, and have them lose to four has-beens no one cares about. Why? Because Sheamus is HHH’s bud? Look, I understand bringing out the old guys for a cheap pop–goodness knows WWE needs all the positive fan reactions they can get–but, to change the landscape of the match and give us the piss-poor outcome they did, it is laughable. What happened to the match, anyway? It was supposed to be a 4-on-3 handicap match for the Tag Team Titles? Gee, that might have actually worked. If the New Day defied the odds and defeated the League to retain the titles, that might have been a hot WrestleMania moment the fans could have remembered, and then the New Day would have been over huge. After that, the League could have beat them down, then Austin, HBK, and Foley could have saved the day and celebrated with the New Day, and this would have elevated the Positive Unicorns way up to the top. Nope. Instead, they received a de-push as they lose to this boring faction, then relinquish their moments to guys not relevant to the story, and then, one of them gets stunned by Austin, making them look even worse. Good job, WWE; way to mess a good thing up. I knew when the stamped came so early in the match that the New Day was going to lose. Also, the League sucks as a tag team. They have no cohesion, their teamwork is sloppy and they just looked like Indy amateurs. A very bad match with a worse outcome. 1.25/5.
  7. The Few-Holds-Used Slap-fight: You think with Lesnar in a match, there’s going to be Hell to pay, but the only people who paid for Hell were the people who dumped a ton of money down the toilet to go to this dull-as-dishwater event and see the plethora of disappointing matches–this fiasco being among the top. I mean, Lesnar’s a beast, Ambrose is a lunatic, and no one bleeds and they hardly leave the ring? Hell, Al Snow and Road Dogg used to have better no-holds-barred matches than this on Raw. This should have been Ambrose’s moment to move up, but he wasn’t impressive and neither was Lesnar. These are two guys I am a big fan of, and they sorely disappointed me. Pretty much it was Lesnar suplexes Ambrose a lot of times, Ambrose hits him in the balls, throws a bunch of chairs in the ring, and gets pinned. Terrible.   1.50/5.
  8. The Women Save the Day: What kept me watching after all the stodginess that came before was the Women’s Title Match. I’m a huge mark for Charlotte as I think she is the most talented woman they’ve had in so many years. I don’t think Becky Lynch is a very good in-ring performer, but she has this thing about her that makes you want to like her because she seems so amiable; Sasha has a good move set and a lot of guts, but still may just need a little more oil on her cogs, but she has a great presence and look. All of these women deserved to be where they were, and they completely stole the show. They knew what was at stake and brought all the heart, soul, and talent they had in their arsenals and laid every bit of it out for us. I mean, my God–Charlotte’s Moonsault from the top turnbuckle onto the floor was the portrait of a masterpiece; it was perfect and even better than that of the Great Muta himself–and coming from me, that’s a huge compliment. She is a ring Goddess. The only issue I had with this match was the outcome. Believe me, I was thrilled Charlotte won, but why can’t they let her win on her own? Flair’s interference is getting older than his shtick and it might be time to go ahead and file him away in a museum somewhere and let Charlotte shine alone. She might have needed him at first to get over as a heel, but she needs him no longer. Also, when Total Divas won earlier, I pretty much knew that meant Charlotte would win. 4.5/5.
  9. Hell in a Cell, or Fizzle in the Fence?: I didn’t have high expectations as far as performance level going into this match because Taker’s nearing his final days as a competitor and Shane’s been gone for 7 years. With that in mind, the guys put on a pretty solid match. I knew Shane would come off the cage at one point because he’s on a level of insanity that would have wooed an old ECW crowd. (Ambrose–take some pointers). But, my prediction, I admitted, was kind of stretching, but I thought I’d take a chance that WWE might do something interesting. As it stands, this match amounted to nothing more than a slick way to sell tickets, which is okay. But they could have at least had the decency to further the angle. On a card rife with disenchantment, this match didn’t look so bad. Not that it looked too good, but it wasn’t a complete debacle. 2.75/5
  10. Andre Frowns Upon Thee: The only thing that kept this farce from being a complete waste of time was Baron Corbin winning it. Other than that, this was one of the worst Battle Royals I ever watched–even worse than that awful NFL/WWF gimmick at WM2. It was so pointless and so late in the card that it was tantamount to Tito Santana vs. The Mountie at WM7. I was actually kind of hoping they’d skip it, but they didn’t. Ugh. Corbin was the only saving grace.  1.25/5.
  11. The Fall of a King, the Crumbling of an Empire: Talk about garden variety, that was the main event. I like both of these guys, but this was as bland as white rice. How WWE still thinks forcing Reigns on everyone as a face is “what’s best for business” is beyond me. He got jeered worse than John Cena. Nothing happened in this match worth talking about; the only thing I enjoyed was Stephanie’s introduction at the start. But, I’m a fan of Steph–I think she’s great. Other than that, all I can say is that they better have a bang-up continuation in store for Raw, or else they stand to destroy everything they had been building up for the last few months. While I didn’t think this match was absolutely horrible, especially compared to a few other matches on the card, and especially compared to some past WM stinkers (both Cena/Rock matches come directly to mind), it certainly was not a worthy main event for WrestleMania, or even for a TNA card. 2/5.

 

My final thought on the matter is that I am afraid we are looking at some major setbacks. I fear WWE is going to keep on pushing people just because HHH is friends with them, or because they kiss Vince’s ass, or whatever other reasons they push people the fans don’t really care about. I worry they’re going to go back to focusing on guys that are losing momentum (or never really had it), about to retire, or just plain aren’t over, instead of building up the youth. That’s where we stand right now: WWE wasted so much time focusing only on veterans through the years and guys the fans didn’t care much about it, that they never groomed a class to take over, which is why there is no “star power” and they have to bring out a fat, drunken Stone Cold, a broken, washed-up HBK, and a scuzzy, scruffy embarrassing Mick Foley to get any reaction. But wait–hold on, for I just had a brilliant idea: if you listen to the fans and push the people they react to, you might have a real product to work with! Wow! Novel ideas!

Anyway, the show was too long, the matches were too run-of-the-mill, most of the outcomes were too status-quo, and pretty much all the storylines closed in an unsatisfactory fashion without any new ones being set-up to begin. This was a real pisser of a show. If this is the direction WWE is headed, this may be one of my last reviews for a while.

Maybe I’ll start blogging about NXT.

 

 

THE BLACK ARTS by RICHARD CAVENDISH

A very informative collection of brief histories and ideologies based upon different aspects of Occult practices, this book serves as a good guide for beginning Left-Hand enthusiasts. A lot of the categories discussed are concisely summarized with specific lore, practices, and histories contained therein. For someone just getting into Occult philosophy, it can serve as a nudge in the direction of what topics may interest you most.

 On the downside, though, I found the book in parts to be somewhat monotonous and repetitive. There was also less objectivity from the author than I like, as he often times inserted demeaning words on ideas he didn’t particularly buy into, a fad that a lot of Left-Hand Path veterans sadly seem to partake in, which I find funny because the path is supposed to be about finding knowledge on your own and opened-mindedness, yet we have a crowd of people who theorize about a belief system which carries a ton of theories and very little proof. The arrogance makes one shake their head, especially when it comes from the author of a book speckled with a lot of improper grammar and missing words. It’s a bad example to set for someone about to embark on an alleged path to knowledge and enlightenment.

 I did enjoy the read, though, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of astrology and the influence of cosmic energy, which was a practice I used to scoff at; and though I am not a full supporter of the practice as a whole, I do believe there is a lot to be learned from it and it’s not quite the hoax people believe it to be. I also found some of the information about the Black Mass and Devil Worship fascinating, too. There is definitely a lot to consider when you take into perspective the amount of fear-mongering religious fanatics used to utilize in order to stamp out ideas that were different from theirs, and then compare those legends to the mindsets we have today. The writing on the wall is almost too bold to ignore, yet people do, in my opinion.

 If you’re looking for a Grimoire of spells, you won’t find it here. But, if you’re looking for a short account of different aspects of the black Occult practices, and a fair reference guide for some of the better known authors and practitioners, this book is a good place to begin your journey on the Left-Hand Path.

 3.50 out of 5.

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BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

What can I say about the long-awaited superhero crossover? Well, I can start by saying I’ve never been a fan of Superman, Batman or DC Comics. So, I guess my review will be without the comparison of the film adaptation to the original work.

Before reading on, there are some minor spoilers ahead, for those who have yet to see the movie.

Let me begin by praising Ben Affleck. I know there was a lot of negative feedback when it was announced that he had been chosen for the part, but I never gritted my teeth too much. I loved Christian Bale in the role, but I have always been somewhat of an Affleck advocate. I’ve never stood up and said he was a great actor, but he has proven solid in certain roles. This aged, jaded Bruce Wayne, slash suicidal, kamikaze Dark Knight is a very brooding and dry character, and Affleck often brings those qualities to his roles because, judging by interviews, he is sort of that way, anyhow.

Zack Snyder added some artistic atmosphere absent in the Christopher Nolan films and shot far superior action scenes, which is his forte. But, I feel like that’s about where the good times stop.

It’s okay that Batman himself was dry, but that didn’t mean the entire film had to be. The story didn’t have much of a dynamic building up to the anti-climatic showdown–a battle which wasn’t even the finale of the film. I get it that it wasn’t just about the two heroes doing battle, but it was also about the conflicting methods to the philosophies of each individual. However, there was no real selling point and the sudden switch in the direction of the film as to why the fight stops was too easy and not very compelling.

Most of all, the film is not original in visuals or plot. Snyder revisits his adaptation of Watchmen to offer us the Dr. Manhattan plot as to why the world would turn against Superman, gives us a bland Wonder Woman that was dressed exactly like Xena, and an end-boss that looks like nothing more than a redux version of the Kraken/Cave Troll/Cronus and ends up in a scene reminiscent of King Kong, accompanied by yet another comic book film nuclear missile launch into space (speaking of that–how many times have we seen our heroes stranded in outer space, floating just above the Earth in recent years?), resulting in an all-out CG war that did look pretty cool, at times, but kind of seems like more of a validation of the initial fear mankind had in regards to having these super-humans on the planet, instead of curing that concern and giving the world a reason to think Superman is good to have around. So, in the end, what have we learned? That, since this battle was way more catastrophic than the clash with Zod, and with yet another MetaHuman in our midst, we have even more reason to fear for the safety of our planet since their capacity to cause chaos is far greater than we realized; and, now we have also learned that Batman is about ten-times as dangerous as the city of Gotham thought, giving them even more reason to vilify his vigilante ways. Oops…

By the way, without giving too much away: Since when is Superman Scottish? And did they really march all the way from the city out through the cornfields of Kansas? What the Hell?

Also, I am predicting a connection between Lex Luthor and Jared Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad. The similarities are uncanny: the behavior; the posture; the body language; the voice and speech; and even the part where Luthor held the pictures like he was holding a row of playing cards. I wonder if they’re going to do a change-up and make them brothers, since no one really knows the Joker’s identity. It’s either that or the Luthor character was just another example of the film’s lack of originality.

I’ll give the cast credit, though. The acting was very good. The direction wasn’t horrible but could have been better. The screenplay was the real disappointment and I can say that it’s a good thing they released this film in March.

2.75 out of 5.

GODS OF EGYPT

Admittedly, I have a natural bias towards the story behind this film given that the subject matter pertains to certain belief systems that I am interested in. But, if I put that aside, I can recognize that this just simply wasn’t a very good film.

I will say I thought it improved after the first fifteen minutes. I thought it was going to be absolutely horrendous once the completely irrelevant narrator began speaking, and all the archaic television-style angles and shots and garden variety storytelling had begun. Not that the improvement that followed was vast, but it existed.

Summing it up, I would say that the acting was passable and the visuals were okay. Anubis looked cool. Accepting the fact that in today’s world of cinema, the effects have advanced so much that they almost look better than real life, sometimes, I cannot deny that Gods of Egypt could have had better CGI, but I can’t lie when I say I sometimes miss the nostalgic 90s-style computer animation. But, it’s not always about appearances, right? As long as the story is stellar…

But, sadly, it was not. I really would have rather seen a film that followed the tales of these Gods sans the human love element dominating the script. I’m okay with the fact that human perspective is a major player in the old tales, but it didn’t have to be the entire tale. I will commend them, though, for sticking to the story of what happened between Set, Osiris, and Horus. They alluded to many various pieces of the mythos, but sacrificed a lot of it to revolve the story around the quest to bring the beloved heroine back from the dead.

I did enjoy some of the fantasy elements and action scenes, though there was quite a bit of camp and cheese throughout, but by the time the final fight rolled around, I wasn’t interested. The final showdown offered nothing exciting. It was short, uneventful, and stale. Instead of enduring that boredom, I would have liked to have seen more of the Underworld.

However, I really enjoyed the scenes with Ra. They did manage to converge the elements of fantasy and sci-fi in a slick fashion, and casting Geoffrey Rush was a wise decision. Between that and the scenes of the Underworld with Anubis, there was some bit of a saving grace.

But, why was Gerard Butler simply playing a taller version of Leonidas?

Anyway, my partiality to Egyptian beliefs allows me to look passed the film’s many shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is. But, my objectiveness as a reviewer leads me to recognize that it wasn’t a very good film as a whole.

2.5/5

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FASTLANE 2016 RECAP

I know I’m pretty late, but you know how it goes.

I just want to talk a little about Fastlane 2016: how it went down, where the WWE seems to be going, and my predictions.

So, overall, I went 5-2. Not bad, much better than my 3-3 count for the Royal Rumble, bringing my yearly tally to 8-5. Not a stellar record, thus-far. But, in my defense, if I would have known HHH was going to be in the Rumble, I would have picked him, and I did pick him when his music hit. Though I had picked Reigns, when HHH appeared, I said, “There’s your winner.” But, either way, I stick to my guns.

Moving on: Fastlane mostly went as expected, but the matches were pretty solid. I like this event being between RR & WM much better than the Elimination Chamber. I always thought that should be to SummerSlam what the Rumble is to Mania. But, Fastlane makes for a good in-between card sweeping up the Royal Rumble fallout and setting up the WrestleMania blow-up.

 

1) Kalisto defeats Del Rio: Totally didn’t see this coming. I like how they’re taking a chance with Kalisto and I think booking Del Rio to lose proves that WWE realizes they need to move their product in a newer direction and having Kalisto with the US strap heading into WM shows that they are serious about this dynamo. Even after several matches, these two were able to keep it fun and keep it interesting.

3.75/5

 

2) Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks over Team B.A.D.: No surprise here. Tamina and Naomi are the Diva Job Squad and they were up against the two divas receiving the biggest push. The only way I could have seen this match going any other way was if they wanted Becky and Sasha to get crossed up and add more heat to their quest for the gold. It was pretty basic booking of a really subpar match. Becky, as much as I want to like her, I just don’t think she’s very crisp in the ring, and I know everyone loves Sasha, but all I really see out of her is a lot of plodding, posing, and wiggling. She has some moves and she can sell okay, but I just don’t see a whole lot.

0.75/5

 

3) Owens de-pushes Ziggler: I really didn’t care about this match and I still don’t. I don’t like Owens; I find him boring and hard to watch. I admit he is surprisingly athletic for someone who looks like they spend more time at Burger King than the gym and he does have a decent move-set, but I just don’t care. He reminds me of a generic 90s Indy wrestler all the way from his dull entrance theme to his bland, reject clothing. And Ziggler is a lost cause. He’s got talent, but he just doesn’t have “IT.” This was mid-card mania, for sure. The two put on a good match, but it was just like every other match both of them always have against everybody else. If this is what the IC lineage has come to, let’s just retire it and let the US belt reign supreme.

3/5

 

4) The Only True Upset: If there was one match on the whole card that I would have said I was 100% certain of, it was the Wyatts vs. Big Show, Kane & Ryback. The Wyatts have been receiving a mega-push while Big Show & Kane have been fizzling out; and, Ryback can’t seem gain any steam. No way, I thought, the Wyatts would lose–but I was wrong. I even thought the Wyatts losing would be a bad idea, but it wasn’t. This match was the sleeper of the evening as even the old guys brought the best of what they have left. The important part, though, was that the win was all about Ryback, as it should have been. This guy has a world of potential and he keeps getting better; they just have to find a way to stop making him look and act like Goldberg. His grossly unoriginal character is holding him down. But, maybe they have something cooking for him. Combining that with the ever-improving skills of Braun Strowman and Luke Harper’s consistently perfect performance, I thought this was a really solid match.

4/5

 

5) Another Divas Disaster: I had very little doubt that Charlotte would defeat Brie Bella. The only inkling of suspect on the contrary was the recent retirement of Brie’s husband, Daniel Bryan. I thought maybe they’d give it to her on sentimental purposes alone, but thankfully, they did not. It is apparent that Brie still needs in-ring training and she is nowhere near as ready for the big spot as her sister, Nikki. Charlotte did the heavy-lifting here and her performance was the saving grace of the match.

2.25/5

 

6) The Dead Horse Continues: This time around, AJ defeated Y2J, which was not too surprising since one of Jericho’s best attributes in all his years in WWE has been putting over emerging talent. Not that Styles is anywhere near an emerging talent, considering he’s the one guy who’s been able to transcend the need to wrestle in WWE to achieve major respect and superstardom, but he’s new to WWE and when a newbie needs a push, they call in the master: Y2J. Not surprisingly, the match was very good despite a few botches. Both men brought all they had and Jericho is looking better than he has in years. I just hope they don’t keep pushing this feud until there’s nothing exciting left.

3.5/5.

 

7) Why?: Axel vs. Truth? Who cares?

 

8) The Triple Threat: You would think a match with Lesnar, Reigns, and Ambrose would promise some solid wrestling and decent high-spots, but you’d be wrong. This match was mostly Reigns and Ambrose finding ways to take Lesnar out so they could duke it out. We missed the off-ramp for suplex city, and the crowd was firmly behind Ambrose, and those that were not were heavy Lesnar fans, but WWE, per par-of-the-course, ignores the fans and elects the John Cena route and goes with the smallest draw of the three men: Roman Reigns. Don’t get me wrong, I personally like Roman Reigns and do not understand why the people are so dead-set against this guy. But, the fact is that I am in the minority. The crowd is not as responsive to him as they are Ambrose. The match itself wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t all that good. I enjoyed it will enough at times, but expected more.

3.25/5.

 

Now, the truth is that WWE is sitting at the edge, on the verge of something big, and they could easily blow-up again if they do the right thing: listen to the fans. If not, and they keep pushing people just because they want to, then they will find themselves in another John Cena era where half the fan-base becomes alienated. Only problem with that now is that WWE can’t afford to alienate the half they have left. The Cena Era followed the Attitude Era where WWE found itself in the largest boom period, ever. The adult fans were not impressed with Cena, nor were the casual fans. And, the PG Era eliminated pretty much all but the diehards and the kids. If they go with Reigns, they’ll have that all over again, and this time it might land the WWE right back into the New Generation Era where they almost went out of business. This show was solid enough. It was much better than I expected. But, it still had lots of room for improvement.

 

Until next time…

 

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ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD

Kirkpatrick spent a lot of time developing this world from coast to coast and kingdom to kingdom, and he can describe everything he imagines in such beautifully vivid detail that, at times, it was breathtaking and I could imagine myself surrounded by his gorgeous and grim landscapes. Unfortunately, that’s about where the excitement ends.

The pacing of the story is sluggish and the characters are immature and unlikeable. The plot is derivative of Lord of the Rings, the method of storytelling is reminiscent of the Wheel of Time, and the mythology is taken right from the Bible without even an attempt to add a little something original to it. Throughout most of the novel it felt like the story was just going on and on and on and…

There are moments of excitement and adventure scattered throughout, though, and when they happen they make you actually want to keep reading. The conclusion is pretty intense and it does what any good series should do: leave you wanting to know what happens next. The only thing I worry about is that whatever happens next won’t pay off and I’ll have to battle to keep my eyes open through another 600 pages where barely anything of consequence transpires.

Russell Kirkpatrick is a sound writer with a great vocabulary; I just hope he improves upon his storytelling abilities in the next book. The good news is that I do still plan to read it.

2 out of 5.