See, we told you guys that we would start getting this done on a more consistent basis. The Walking Dead is entering the home stretch on what has been a surprisingly satisfying season thus far, and that probably means that we’re about to say goodbye to some more characters, making this week’s rankings fairly important. Enjoy!
Sunday’s game against the Rams was a lot like your classic schoolyard fight, featuring the quiet pipsqueak vs the bully who beats up every kid who crosses him. No one gives the pipsqueak a chance, because well, he’s a pipsqueak. He has no business winning the fight and everyone expects another massacre, but then the fight starts and the pipsqueak walks right up to the bully and punches him in the nose. The bully is shocked, the other kids are shocked and even the pipsqueak can’t believe it, but that’s just the beginning. He keeps coming at the bully with lefts and rights and eventually the bully gives up, not because he is physically unable to win at that point, but because he is mentally psyched out.
If you have the stones to do so, go back and watch that game and that’s exactly what you’ll see. The Rams open up the first quarter as the aggressor; they take shots down the field in the passing game, pound the Broncos’ defense with their running game and relentlessly assault Peyton Manning with creative blitz packages. They take the lead, receive a huge boost in confidence and never let up for a second. Meanwhile, the Broncos do little to adjust and seem to believe that just because they are more talented, they will prevail in the end. What we have here is a severe oversight by the Broncos and a lesson that they should have already known – on any given Sunday, any shrimp can kick your ass if you don’t match his intensity.
Kevin likes to joke with me that we’re basically a Walking Dead blog because this is the only thing we keep up with. Everything else, whether it be movie reviews or sports articles, gets pretty much left by the wayside and before we know it The Walking Dead is already back for its next season. As much as I hate to admit it, he does have a valid point; we don’t do enough for this site and there’s really no excuse for it. I’m not going to promise that we’re going to post more. I’ve done that time and time again. What I’d rather do is let my actions speak for me and the only way to accomplish that is to actually get off my ass and write some more. We’ll see what happens, but in the meantime we do have an obligation to keep up with our Dead Rankings, and this season that comes with a catch.
You see, Kevin’s life has changed a great deal in the past couple of months. He’s now a married man and has left the country for a while in order to seek adventure and indoctrinate children from other parts of the world into thinking that Survivor and the Denver Broncos are the two greatest things in existence. Point being, there’s no guarantee how often he will be able to catch the latest episode, much less contribute to our Dead Rankings.
In the meantime, I will be forced to improvise. My half of the rankings will still make it up every week from here on out, but Kevin’s might not always make it. Without further adieu, here we go!
Last night’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view was supposed to feature the culmination of the bitter feud between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, and when WWE allowed them to main event the program over John Cena and Randy Orton, the reaction from the fans was one of relief and pure joy. Not only were the more deserving superstars going on last, but finally Ambrose would exact his revenge against Rollins and go over clean in the biggest win of his career. And that certainly seemed to be where the bout was heading, only WWE and Bray Wyatt had other ideas. Just as Ambrose was set to deliver the final blow, the lights went out and lo and behold, along came a spider in the form of Wyatt to ruin Ambrose’s big night. Rollins stole another victory and just when we thought we were going to get some answers, WWE changes the questions.
That’s the second pay-per-view in a row where the main event has been tainted by outside interference, and this time it seems we have a bit of a mixed reaction. I wasn’t just being dramatic when I said that people wanted to see Ambrose beat Rollins fair and square. After all, Ambrose has yet to score a big win during this feud and the Hell in a Cell match seemed like his best chance to finally go over. It didn’t go down that way and some people aren’t very happy about it. While I certainly want to see Ambrose defeat Rollins once and for all, I think last night’s finish is a good thing for all involved. Here’s why.
First of all, let me be quick to point out that I thought the main event was outstanding. In an era where Hell in a Cell matches aren’t the bloody massacres that they used to be thanks to WWE’s PG rating, you have to get creative to make them feel special. Earlier in the night, Cena and Orton went out and had the same match they’ve had a million times, doing little to capitalize on the fact that this was the first time they’ve squared off in the cell. Ambrose and Rollins did about everything they could to make their bout memorable, including starting their match on top of the cell and careening off the side of it through the announce tables in the most badass spot of the night. Oh, and there was no shortage of steel chair shots and and tables once they finally made it inside, with Ambrose at one point elbow dropping Rollings through a table between the ring and the cell. It all felt very raw and visceral and it certainly stands out from everything else they’ve done.
This is a huge boost for Dean Ambrose, who fully delivered as the valiant hero and as the Lunatic Fringe that he so enjoyably portrays. The crowd so desperately wanted him to emerge victorious and when that was snatched away from him by Wyatt, I think it garnered him even more support. Moving forward, he isn’t only the no. 2 guy in the company, but is now a proven hand when asked to deliver in the spotlight. Even when Roman Reigns returns, it’s hard to imagine the crowd suddenly favoring him over his former Shield compatriot, and that could once again force WWE to improvise on the fly come Wrestlemania season. Can you imagine how epic it would be if Ambrose was somehow able to dethrone Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania, only to have Rollins cash in on him and steal the title? That would be a hell of way to reignite a feud which still hasn’t seen a definitive ending. I’m giddy just thinking about it.
Shifting my attention to the feud with Wyatt, Ambrose gets a break from Rollins and can enter a fresh program with an adversary that he already has some history with. The showdowns between The Shield and the Wyatt Family earlier in the year were awesome and this is something that’s worked for WWE before. Triple H and The Rock had a lot of chemistry together when DX took on The Nation, but it was their bouts after they left those groups when everything really came together. Some will argue that the heat Wyatt earned from the fans last night was directed more at WWE Creative than the character itself, but I think regardless it gave us a reason to be legitimately pissed off at Wyatt again. He sorely needed that after he was buried by Cena last month, and with the WWE Champion not appearing every week, there is plenty of room for Wyatt to become the monster heel that we all know he can be. If nothing else, the promos and segments between Ambrose and Wyatt will be innovative and captivating as all hell, and that will help solidify this as the most intriguing feud in the company for the foreseeable future.
As for Mr. Money in the Bank himself, Rollins scored another win thanks to help from others, which secures his role as the WWE’s resident slimy heel. My personal preference would be for Randy Orton to turn on the Authority and specifically target Rollins out of spite, and it certainly seems they could be heading that way after Rollins curbstomped the Viper to end Raw last week. However, with Cena not having much to do until Brock Lesnar comes back and Reigns likely returning himself sooner rather than later, those are two other options that would make at least some sense storyline-wise but ultimately would be far less satisfying. Just like Ambrose, Rollins proved that he can be a legitimate main-eventer last night and that should keep him near the top of the card going forward. But seriously, please let it be him cashing in on Ambrose and not on Reigns next spring.
WWE doesn’t have the greatest track record for delivering satisfying payoffs for their top feuds and storylines, and I think that’s where part of the fan angst over how Hell in a Cell ended is coming from. They’ve screwed shit like this up before and could very well screw it up again. Personally, I’m taking the glass half-full approach and to me an Ambrose/Wyatt program will be more beneficial than hurtful for both of their careers. I think Rollins should do fine in feuding with one of those other guys and as long as WWE Creative can get the fuck out of it’s own way and just let Ambrose and Wyatt do their thing, there should be no problems. I know that’s probably a lot to ask, but hey, when you’re a fan of the Lunatic Fringe, anything is possible.
Sports fans sure have changed. Before all fans did was cheer on the guys in their favorite team’s jerseys. These days though, it seems that everybody is an armchair GM. It is honestly my favorite part of being a fan. I love to imagine the decisions I would make if it were my team.
Of course being a fan I only have a limited amount of knowledge. I don’t pretend to completely understand all of the workings of the salary cap. And I am no expert when it comes to understanding all of the intricacies of building a roster. But I can pretend and that is what I am going to do here today.
Disclaimer: Kevin actually had this finished before training camp began, so his analysis has nothing to do with the practice reports from Dove Valley or who had the most carries in the scrimmage today.
As a kid of the 90’s and early 00’s I grew up wanting to be a running back. These were the days of Terrell Davis, Ladainian Tomlinson , Marshall Faulk and many, many more stud running backs. Teams revolved around their running back. Broadcast commentators taught us the importance of developing a running game. We then witnessed the importance first hand when we watched Jerome Bettis bulldoze his way into the end zone. Or when we watched in awe as Barry Sanders juked his defenders out of their shoes.
Every year I bought the new Madden game I would start in the training camp mode. I would work until I could dominate all of the running back drills and then I would boot up a new Broncos season and work towards a 2,000 yard rushing season. That is how I knew football. (And that probably explains why I am so horrible at passing in Madden to this day.)
“The world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes, the best that we can do is to start over.”
If you read my review of Captain America: The First Avenger (and there haven’t been many posts around here lately, so odds are that you did), then you know that I was a pretty big fan of that movie. However, one big weakness of Cap’s big screen debut, as well as his role in The Avengers, was that you never got to see him kick very much ass. Granted, it’s not always easy to look powerful when your teammates consist of the God of Thunder, an enormous green rage monster and a wise-cracking genius in a high-tech armored suit, but Cap is his own entity, right? There’s no excuse for him not to be a bad ass when those other Avengers aren’t around to steal the spotlight.
Only that wasn’t the case in The First Avenger; the action scenes suffered due to the high usage of montages and thus we only saw glimpses of Cap proving his worth in battle. That was a mistake that I hoped all those involved would avoid in Cap 2, partly because the sequel seemed to be taking all of the other right steps to improve upon the original. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in the modern day world? He nails that role. Casting Anthony Mackie as the Falcon? Hell of a choice, guy’s a great actor. Bringing back Nick Fury, Black Widow and then throwing the Winter Soldier and Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce into the mix? I’m already on the edge of my seat. That being said, the movie is called Captain America for a reason and it was high time that he proved why he’s the world’s greatest soldier.
And that’s exactly what happened. Captain America: The Winter Soldier improved upon its predecessor in every conceivable way and reaffirmed my belief that Steve Rogers is a hero worthy of our attention and admiration. Not only that, but the narrative that is very carefully weaved here by The Russo Brothers (first time big-budget directors who are famous for Community) is chalked full of intriguing twists and turns with enormous amounts of payoff, and when you combine it all together, you have the finest standalone Marvel Studios film since the original Iron Man. I’ll go as far to say that it even surpasses our first encounter with Tony Stark.
We’ll start with the plot. Steve Rogers has lent his abilities as Captain America to the service of S.H.I.E.L.D., and though he is less than satisfied with the underhanded way that his new comrades operate (particularly the methods of Fury and Widow), he’s willing to overlook all of that so long as he still feels that he’s helping people and making a difference in the world. That all changes when Fury is pursued by “cops” in broad daylight and then fatally wounded in Rogers’ apartment, which in turn sparks a manhunt for Cap and forces him and the Widow to go on the run. I’d be well within my rights to delve even further into the spoilers, seeing as this movie has been out for three months, but I’ll hold back for anyone who was on the fence about this movie because they didn’t like the first one.
If you are a member of that band of ignorant fools, perhaps I can help change your mind. In my opinion, Evans embodies every essential quality of Captain America in this movie and is as relatable as he’s ever been. Once again, Rogers displays extraordinary conviction and refuses to sacrifice his beliefs or values, even when his so-called allies aren’t doing the same. It’s all well and good to do everything in your power to disarm those who present a threat to the innocent, but how do you react when you realize that your superiors have been holding a knife to your throat the whole time? The America that Rogers sacrificed himself to protect during the war is a distant memory, and what he finds in the new world is that the difference between good and evil is that the good guys will at least apologize after they stab you in the back.
On top of all that, Rogers’ entire existence is shaken to its core when he finds out the true identity of The Winter Soldier, the Terminator-esque assassin who carried out the hit on Fury and whose motivation is unclear. To watch Cap try and make sense of everything as he grapples with all of these betrayals and revelations is something to behold, and the only thing to top it are his interactions with his friends. I feel safe calling them that because over the course of the movie, Black Widow, Falcon and even a returning Maria Hill all prove themselves in Cap’s eyes. You already knew that Black Widow was playing for the home team (Scarlett Johanson absolutely owns that role at this point) but Mackie as the Falcon provides a fresh face and kindred spirit for Rogers to connect with. They are both soldiers, after all, and you feel their chemistry and camaraderie being established right from the opening frames. And spoilers be damned, but the reunion between Cap and Peggy Carter is one of the most intimate and human moments from any superhero movie. It provided us with some much desired closure between those two and inspired me to quote it at the beginning of this review.
Of course, none of this would mean a damn thing if the action wasn’t up to par, but it absolutely is. Cap is literally unstoppable as he bashes his way through anyone dumb enough to take him on and his trademark shield is one of the coolest weapons ever. It ricochets off walls and batters everything from helpless thugs to S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopters, proving once and for all that Cap doesn’t need any help in order to dispatch his enemies with extreme prejudice. His showdowns with The Winter Soldier are epic encounters that actually surprise in the way that they’re carried out and leave you wanting more long after the final credits roll. And speaking of that damned soldier, only Loki has left a more lasting impression as a villain that can challenge our heroes both physically and emotionally. All of this leads to a climax that has catastrophic results for the Marvel Universe at large and will surely impact every follow-up to come.
In short, Captain America: The Winter Soldier accomplished everything that we could expect from one of these standalone films: told a compelling story that was unique, action-packed and further developed characters that we love? Check. Introduced a terrifying villain but made him more than just a mindless husk or maniacal mastermind? Check. Provided us with touching character moments that humanized everyone involved? Double check. This movie went above and beyond in terms of where we normally see comic book movies go and raised the bar for Marvel once again. I adored everything about this film and I’m just as excited for the next Cap movie as I am to see the Avengers reassemble next May. Your move, Joss Whedon.
Jesse’s Rating: 10/10