AEW In 2021 – A Year In Review

All Elite Wrestling - Wikipedia

2021 will absolutely be remembered as one of the most… how can I accurately describe it? … One of the MOST BATSHIT-FUCKING-INSANE years in the history of professional wrestling. And this is for wrestling as a whole, but particularly for All Elite Wrestling. When they started up almost 2 years to this very day, their goal was to change the business and bring back people who had either lost their passion or completely fell away from being a wrestling fan… and my oh fucking MY have they done that and then some! And in 2021 they doubled down with some of the best matches, storylines, events and most unbelievable moments any of us have ever seen… One in particular stands out more than any (maybe EVER), but I will of course get to that later… For now lets begin my year in review of AEW in 2021 by looking back at some of the goings on in the company across each month of the year.

JANUARY

Kenny Omega Retains AEW Belt, Good Brothers Attack Jon Moxley & Ally With  Young Bucks - Metal Meyhem Radio

The year got underway with the now annual New Year’s Dash special… and after a stellar AEW Championship match, with Kenny Omega retaining after a BANGER against Ray Fenix (I may mention this match again later), we had the first real foray through The Forbidden Door in AEW… as a couple of GOOD BROTHERS made their way to join the CLUB of the Elite…

FEBRUARY

What's Next For KENTA In AEW? - Cultured Vultures

And as if an act coming from Impact into AEW wasn’t big enough of a deal, what about the ultimate… something which has been spoken about as a dream and a possibility since the very beginning of AEW… but hurt feelings on both sides seemed to always stop any partnership from every materialising… but suddenly after a change in leadership on the other side, we then had New Japan Pro Wrestling’s KENTA make a shocking arrival in AEW, to build up to an eventual and long-awaited IWGP United States title match with Jon Moxley.

MARCH

AEW Revolution Fans Hated the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch's Final  Explosion

Perhaps for the first, and hopefully only, time in history we had an AEW PPV conclusion be roundly BOOED by the fans in attendance. And they’ve not had all thar many major mishaps or botches since they began, but this was an absolute fucking HOWLER! Of course I am talking about the main event of the Revolution PPV where we had Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley concluding their exceptional rivalry for the AEW title in an Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch… The big finish was of course supposed to be, erm, a big explosion (take a look on YouTube for what it SHOULD of looked like), instead we got a pretty underwhelming anti-climatic, glorified sparkler display… They tried to kayfabe explain it but it didn’t wash, we all knew really…

APRIL

10 Ups & 0 Downs From AEW Dynamite (April 14) – Page 11

Off the back of one PPV, and with another around the corner, April saw us have some tremendous matches on the weekly Dynamite shows… from Darby Allin vs Jungle Boy as well as a fucking BANGER between the Young Bucks and Ray Fenix & PAC (a match very close to making it on my Match Of The Year list).

MAY

Backstage Notes On AEW Double Or Nothing 2021 Stadium Stampede Match

May felt like AEW was starting to really hit the ground running, but not quite full steam ahead just yet… Fans returned in time for the Double or Nothing PPV, but that wasn’t before the first Blood And Guts match between The Inner Circle group and The Pinnacle. It was very much a brutal bloodbath that ended with MJF pushing Jericho off the cage… As for the Pay Per View it was quite the show featuring a tremendous crowd that saw Britt Baker finally get her moment, a huge pop for the Eddie Kingston/Jon Moxley entrance, a great three way for the AEW title, and the redemption match for The Inner Circle where Sammy Guevara led his team to a big feel-good win in the second Stadium Stampede match.

JUNE

AEW Dynamite live results: Omega vs. Jungle Boy World title match

June was where it really felt like AEW said goodbye to the ‘Jacksonville era’, as they got set to return to touring. We did though see a few more BANGERS with Kenny Omega beating Jungle Boy (after ‘Jungle Jack Perry’ had won the right to get a title shot with his battle royal win at Double Or Nothing), and also MJF beat Sammy Guevara in a match that felt like it could easily be a world title match in years to come.

JULY

The Better Entrance? Hangman & the Dark Order or The Elite? | AEW Dynamite  FFTF, 7/28/21 - YouTube

July was indeed FULL STEAM AHEAD! And they’ve not looked back since!!! In their first night back on the road for the Road Rager special in Miami (among a series of highlights on a BRILLIANT Dynamite) was the shocking debut of MALAKAI Black! We also had the labours of Jericho which saw some unbelievable moments and matches as Jericho fought his way towards a match with MJF. And we also had what we THOUGHT would be the set up for the Hangman and Omega… but for now it was not meant to be…

AUGUST

Behind the scenes: Watch CM Punk react to his music, Guinness World Records  talks about AEW debut | Sports News,The Indian Express

Even with the debut match of Malakai Black with his amazing SQUASH win over Cody Rhodes, the main news from AEW in August came from the beginning of their second TV show, Rampage on Friday nights. The first episode opened with Christian Cage winning the Impact title from Kenny Omega in a great match… but let’s be honest… it was all about the second ever Rampage. The United Center, Chicago, ‘The First Dance’… and you know the rest…

SEPTEMBER

I’ll get straight to the point… All Out 2021. The best PPV in AEW history. CM Punk vs Darby Allin, The Bucks vs Lucha Bros in a CAGE, MINORU SUZUKI IN AEW, Ruby Soho debuting and winning her first AEW match… oh and after Kenny Omega retained the AEW title against Christian Cage… we had a couple MORE new arrivals to the ELITE company… and it was at this exact moment it really did hit me that AEW really was THE place to be in wrestling.

OCTOBER

WATCH: Behind the scenes footage of Adam Page's return on AEW Dynamite -  Wrestling News

We thought for a little while thar THE story in wrestling wasn’t going to happen after all, and with the likes of Punk, Cole and Danielson coming in… would our heroic Cowboy be forgotten about? No. Absolutely not. This is AEW, and they make us fans happy here. We wanted The Hangman, and when he was ready to come back having been with his wife and their new born child, he returned. And he got what he deserved all along. Adam Page, after winning the Casino Ladder match would FINALLY get his shot one on one with Kenny Omega for the world title. And all felt right in the world again!

NOVEMBER

Adam Page Wins AEW World Title, Jay Lethal Debuts - Full Gear 2021 - YouTube

Well… he did it. To cap off another great AEW ppv (check out my full review blog if you can), Full Gear 2021 ended with the finish we ALL wanted. One of the best underdog-babyface does good storylines in wrestling HISTORY. Adam Page, AEW World Champion… and that is some good COWBOY SHIT!

DECEMBER

Adam Cole Opens Up On Kyle O'Reilly Leaving WWE NXT For AEW

December capped off a heck of a year for AEW, but for a month with so many highlights (more that I’ll mention later… one match in particular which I’m sure you can figure out)… The moment that touched me personally the most, given my past allegiances was the one above. Welcome Kyle. Welcome to where you belong!

MATCH OF THE YEAR

AEW has never been short of great matches, but in 2021 they’ve taken it to another level. Collectively the standard across the board has been phenomenal, but in terms of picking a top 10, let alone a winner, it was nearly impossible. So before you read my personal top 10 I’d like to point out this is purely my opinion, and if anyone else was to have any of the top 4 of mine as their personal number 1, I would not argue one bit. I would like to give an honourable mention to the match between Bryan Danielson and Nick Jackson, of which was in my top 10 up until Danielson and a certain Cowboy decided to do a fucking MADNESS… But without further ado here is my top 10 matches from AEW in the year 2021!

10. PAC vs Andrade ‘El Idolo’ (Rampage, 22/10)

The rematch between these two was somehow even better than their first encounter. Two of my absolute favourite wrestlers who I’d happily see wrestle 102 matches let alone a couple… And although the angle coming immediately after the finish here took the gloss off the match slightly, it was still an absolute BANGER!

9. Thunder Rosa vs Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D – Unsanctioned Lights Out Match (Dynamite – St. Patrick’s Day Slam, 17/3)

Can’t recall ever seeing an all women’s match quite like this one… sure we’ve seen them in Hell In A Cell and what not, but this was on another level. It really was the match that cemented just how big a star and how far Baker had come, and Rose showed exactly what she was about. This was as brutal as it was excellent.

8. PAC vs Orange Cassidy vs Kenny Omega (C) for the AEW World Championship (Double Or Nothing, 30/5)

10 Best Matches From AEW Year 2 - Page 2 of 3 - WrestleTalk

I can’t say I’m massive on three-way matches in wrestling usually, but this was tremendously entertaining. Three very different wrestler, but each got to show what they were all about and had their individual chances to shine. And despite Omega being the overwhelming favourite, they did such a good job at different points of making you genuinely believe that PAC or even Cassidy could walk out as World Champion.

7. MJF vs Darby Allin (Full Gear, 13/11)

MJF Constantly Adjusting His Jock at Full Gear: A Review

On a match where the standard of wrestling was at such a high level, this and one other match stood out. Darby and MJF opened the main card, going just over 20 minutes and having a GREAT match! Only these two could make an engrossing story in a wrestling match over a HEADLOCK TAKEOVER, but these two did it. I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing them do this time and time again as AEW goes on, and I’d put money on them not opening but CLOSING shows in the not so distant future as well…

6. Bryan Danielson vs Minoru Suzuki (Rampage Buy In, 15/10)

As part of the head to head Rampage vs SmackDown night, Tony Khan had the genuis idea to not only put this DREAM match on the lead in, but tot put the match for FREE ON YOUTUBE (skip to 28.30 in the video above). And it was EVERYTHING we had hoped it would be! Striking and submission, technical wrestling for the ages by two legends of the art.

5. Ray Fenix vs Kenny Omega (C) for the AEW World Championship (Dynamite – Ney Year’s Smash Night 1, 6/1)

The first Dynamite of the year closed with two of the very best. Ray Fenix, my god, I don’t have words to describe some of the things this guy can do, so imagine him against the best wrestler alive… and unsurprisingly they put on a great match. Again the afters took away somewhat from the match but it still didn’t take away from how great it was to me at least.

And this is where it gets difficult. Honestly on another day I could pick these next 4 matches in any order, they were all SO SO good! All 4 would be in the top 10 matches I’ve ever seen, so for them all to come in the same year from the same promotion is incredible!

4. Bryan Danielson vs Kenny Omega (C) for the AEW World Championship (Dynamite – Grand Slam, 22/9)

Opening the biggest Dynamite in history in front of over 20,000 at Arthur Ashe tennis stadium sounds like a heck of an ask right? Well… how about the debut match of The American Dragon in AEW, in a first time ever dream match, for the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP? Expectations were high, and they met them and beyond. Although the fans booed the finish I think that was more because they wanted to see a winner, not because they didn’t like the match. This was an AMAZING match and a privilege to watch.

3. “Hangman” Adam Page vs Kenny Omega (C) for the AEW World Championship (Full Gear, 13/11)

AEW Full Gear recap, results: Hangman Page era begins - Sports Illustrated

The opener of the PPV was great. The main event was out of this world! Usually you get a match have a great storyline, but the conclusion never lives up… this did! I was so focused on the story and the hope that Page would win the title, I didn’t really think to how good the match would be. But this was an amazing performance by both men, Omega clearly hurting put on a performance for the ages, and couldn’t of made Page look any better in doing the job if he tried. I also thought I’d just seen Hangman have the match of his life, which I’m sure we all did… until…

2. Bryan Danielson vs “Hangman” Adam Page (C) for the AEW World Championship (Dynamite – Winter Is Coming, 15/12)

Arn Anderson: Bryan Danielson vs. Hangman Page was the best match I've seen  in at least 25 years - Wrestling News

So this opened the show, which of course Danielson vs Omega did so it wasn’t unusual for AEW to put ‘the main event’ first… But little did we know they did it for the same reason this time around as well! I watched this match in bed the morning after, and said to myself I’d get up and ready for the day when it finished… and then it kept going, and going, and GOING! But NOT AT ALL was that a bad thing! This was a clinic! It was only really at around 45 minutes-ish I had a feeling they were going an hour, and honestly it was a masterpiece.

1- The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero M & Ray Fenix) vs The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (C) – Steel Cage Match for the AEW Tag Team Championship (All Out, 5/9)

If you would of told me at the start of the year that once again the AEW match of the year would be a tag, I’d of said NO CHANCE and that Page & Omega vs Bucks could never be topped. If You’d of told me said match would be under the constraints of a Cage, I’d of said you were off your tits! But well… These two pairs of brothers did it again! They somehow had a match better than all of their other classics down the years, and on the best PPV I’ve seen in a while they were the highlight. From the incredible Lucha Brothers entrance, to all the amazing moves and nearfalls, Matt Jackson and his Thumb-tacked shoe, the tearing at the Lucha Brothers’ masks, Fenix flying off the cage, and then that HUGE pop for the finish that left even me (with the Young Bucks in my twitter and WhatsApp profile pics) was cheering for and punching the air in delight. And then after seeing Penta and his family topped it all off. This was by far the best cage match I’ve EVER seen, my AEW match of the year for 2021, and an ALL-TIME classic!

WRESTLER OF THE YEAR

I should point out that as I have done with similar lists for my WWE blogs in the past, I will stick with the rule here that although this list is entitled ‘wrestler’ of the year, in the interest of fairness I count those predominantly as tag teams as One entry, and the same goes for groups or factions in certain circumstances that make most sense. Given the number of names that have joined AEW across different points of the year, i have done my best to try and put this list together with the interest of fairness in mind. Although different names on this list may of not been active or even in AEW for certain periods in the year, they more than made the most of the time they were active for… so here is my top 20 list of performers across the year 2021 for All Elite Wrestling!

20. Chris Jericho

The Labours of Jericho and his continued leadership of the Inner Circle were the main marks of a fairly stellar year for the veteran.

19. FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood)

An abundance of big matches against a tonne of big names, along with winning the AAA titles… dressed as frogs…

18. Cody Rhodes

What a fascinating year for the AEW version of 00s Triple H/John Cena, and 2022 with him now TNT Champion once again is going to be… interesting… Oh and I can’t talk about Cody on AEW TV in 2021 without talking about his coach Arn Anderson, and his GLOCK (one of the best promos of the year by the way from The Enforcer, check it out when you can).

17. Eddie Kingston

A proper all-rounder has really proven what a valuable player he has been for AEW in 2021, from his teaming with Moxley to his feud and great match with CM Punk. Eddie Kingston is such a STAR!

16. Christian Cage & The Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus)

I’ve put Christian with this team in my list, as although he has had a solid run in AEW since he joined the company, I feel like since the battle royal where Jungle Boy last eliminated Cage to get the title shot, and then he joined the team and they became essentially a trio, I’ve LOVED everything they’ve done. And with the slow-burn to Christian turning on them already clearly underway, 2022 and the break-up is going to be spectacular and could be the making of our favourite Jungle man…

15. Adam Cole

A potential contender to be towards the very top of this list in 2022, but given he only debuted in September the impact he has made already has been unsurprising given his star-power, but also the matches he’s had in his short time with the company have been consistently great. Lets see where the whole thing with him, reDRagon and the others in The Elite goes next year…

14. Darby Allin (with Sting)

I genuinely believe this man could well be THE face of AEW within a couple of years, he’s just incredible. And Sting being by his side has made these two such a tremendous act, and the fantastic booking of Sting in AEW has benefited many people (Sting and us fans included), but I think more than anyone else, it’s benefitted Darby Allin maybe more than anyone. 2022 for Darby Allin… the year he wins THE BIG ONE???

13. Orange Cassidy

He will forever divide opinion… but I ADORE Orange Cassidy! His match with PAC last year at the Revolution PPV was such a joy, and we’ve seen OC have matches of all sorts with Chris Jericho (AND WIN), a world title match on PPV, and more recently he’s been a key part of the Best Friends matches with The Elite. 2022 I’ve no doubt Orange Cassidy will do what he always does, entertain.

12. Jon Moxley

He carried AEW on his back in 2020. In 2021 although not the tippy-top guy he more than played his part in a stellar year for the company. His encounters with Suzuki, his part in the casino ladder match, and although his year was cut short, when he is fit and healthy enough to do so, I already cannot wait to see Mox back in an AEW ring in 2022.

11. Malakai Black

One of the top comments on a YouTube video of his AMAZING theme music read “Years of a wasted sports entertainment career totally resurrected in one entrance and a 4 minute match. Both awesome and sad at the same time” and whilst I don’t totally agree (his NXT run of his time in WWE at least was incredible), I will admit that Malakai Black after his first match was more over than Aleister Black ever was. And since then I think he’s been great, sure a little iffy at times but given his character there’s always chances that may happen. But I personally adore the man and the character, I have two of his AEW T shirts in fact. So yes I am a very proud member of the house of Black, and the leader I’m sure will have a great 2022… Maybe even a TNT title to his name before the year is out…

10. CM Punk

New Match and CM Punk Appearance Set for Tonight's AEW Dynamite New Year's  Smash Episode

I’m not too sure many people would’ve predicted that the start of the CM Punk return would pan out as it has, but I mean that in a good way. The fact he wasn’t immediately catapulted into a world title feud, the fact he’s wrestled on Rampage, the fact he’s wrestled people like Daniel Garcia and Powerhouse Hobbs I fucking LOVE! CM Punk has been such a joy since he came back, and his recent stuff with MJF and the alliance with Sting and Darby, one word, MAGIC! If he would’ve been in AEW since January he’d be even higher on this list.

9. Miro

Miro Fires Back At Those Who Call Some AEW Talent "WWE Guys"

2021 was simply the year that Miro was everything Rusev should’ve been. What an awesome reign he had as a dominant TNT Champion, and whilst since losing the title his next step is still unclear, I hope in 2022 he can look to become God’s favourite champion once again…

8. Sammy Guevara

It could be said this was the year that Sammy Guevara, after previously being somewhat of an afterthought in the Inner Circle, a plucky loser who flew around and was a great cocky heel… but funny enough despite his ‘Spanish God’ moniker I really think he’s found his groove as a babyface. It was a super cool way to do things when it was Sammy who got the pinfall to win the Stadium Stampede match at Double Or Nothing in May (given he was the one pinned in the previous year’s edition and it was he who surrendered to bring an end to the Blood and Guts match… AND it was he who actually quit the group during MJF’s time as a member of the Inner Circle). The redemption story was completed when he was the first man in AEW to defeat Miro as he won the TNT title… and although his reign didn’t last too long, the moment itself was well deserved indeed.

7. The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix)

AEW World Tag Team Championship Title History

PENTA SAYS these two individually could easily be champions, but together they are a quite incredible team. PENTA SAYS in 2021 The Lucha Brothers went from a good/great team to THE team and their masterpiece came at All Out in that cage. I’ve never seen a match from these two where I haven’t been amazed at least once, I just enjoy what they do and their act so so much. If they don’t lost those tag titles at any point in 2022 I can’t say I’d be all that upset either.

6. MJF

Jon Moxley Is Right: MJF Is the Future of AEW and a Main Eventer Right Now  | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Another who could well be number 1 on this list in 12 months time… And if things go how I think they will he stands every chance. He always seems to be in a big storyline and 2021 has been no different with Chris Jericho, Darby Allin and CM Punk just some of the names to cross his path this past year. The thing I always worried about with MJF was he wasn’t ‘great’ in-ring… he was very good, but not a top wrestler in my opinion. I really do think in 2021 he’s really raised his game and his match with Darby Allin at Full Gear was the perfect example of that. And my oh my that Punk match is going to be ABSURD!

5. Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D

Britt Baker Recalls 'Harsh' Fan Criticism Early In AEW Career, Talks Fans  Cheering Her

With absolutely no real competition whatsoever, the WOMAN of the Year in AEW was undoubtedly the Dr. It seemed at the beginning of AEW that Britt Baker would indeed be the face of the women’s division, but as a fighting babyface back in 2019 I don’t think she was ready… in 2021 as a cocky heel she has come on leaps and bounds… Her incredible Lights Out match with Thunder Rosa, and her well deserved AEW Women’s Championship win at Double Or Nothing were the two highlights of a GREAT year for Baker… again much like with the Lucha Brother’s I wouldn’t be all that upset if she’s still holding her Championship when I write my blog reviewing AEW in 2022.

4. Bryan Danielson

Ric Flair Says Bryan Danielson Is Just An “Okay” In-Ring Performer

In the history of wrestling, I would put up a strong argument that nobody has ever had as many 4-5 star matches in a 4 month period as The American Dragon has had since he became ALL ELITE in September. I think we all knew Danielson was a GREAT wrestler, but I think we are at a point now where we seriously need to be talking about him as one of THE very best professional wrestlers of ALL TIME! And that’s before we even talk about his promo and character work as both a babyface chasing after Omega and The Elite, to his heel turn and chase of The Hangman and kicking the fucking heads in of The Dark Order. He’s done SOOOOOO much in his short time in AEW already, so 2022 can only add to the legend of an ALL-TIME great.

3. “Hangman” Adam Page

Celebrate National Cowboy S*** Day with the New AEW World Champion | AEW  Dynamite, 11/17/21 - YouTube

As I said in my blog prior to Full Gear, Adam Page has been and IS in my opinion Professional Wrestling’s best babyface. He’s just everything you want your hero to be. And best of all, aside from not one but TWO of the best matches we’ve seen this year and EVER up to this point in AEW history… but best and most satisfying of all, he FINALLY made cowboy SHIT bring him some championship GOLD!

2. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)

The Young Bucks File Interesting New AEW Trademark Application

The best tag team in the world, the best tag team of this generation and of this decade, and one of the best tag teams of all-time, having had the best year of their careers… Yeah… not exactly a shock they find themselves so high on my list is it? But aside from a plethora of unbelievable matches, with one standout of course, but their unique and ridiculously over-the-top extravagance that has only got more and more in terms of loudness and volume as their heel run has gone on… All in all it has only enhanced them as characters and wrestlers, and I for one have loved every moment of it.

1- Kenny Omega

Kenny Omega On AEW Closing The Gap: "WWE Is Desperate"

Much in the same way as his fellow Elite comrades, Kenny Omega (the best wrestler in the world) has not only had 2 of the matches of the year among a collection of good/great matches in 2021, but his amazing character work and promos throughout his world title reign have just been beautiful to watch. He for me has had the best title reign in AEW history to this point, a true WORLD champion in every way possible, and he of course was the perfect villain in-chief in the best storyline his company has ever told. Lets hope he gets his rest and recovery he needs during his time off, and when he comes back if his 2022 is even a little bit as good as his 2021 in AEW was, we are in for another year of classics and moments to remember. My 2021 AEW Wrestler of the Year, is without question, Kenny Omega.

5 FOR 2022

A bit of fun I liked to have in the past with my year in review blogs was to pick out some names that I thought would have big years ahead in WWE. I tried consciously to pick people who weren’t quite at the top yet, but I thought would certainly have years to remember ahead. And given the changing nature of wrestling, my predictions had… erm… shall we say ‘mixed’ success-rates… Matt Riddle, Kacy Cantanzaro, Mustafa Ali, WALTER and Io Shirai I tipped at the end of 2018 to have big years in the following 12 months (not too bad I think), and a year after that I went with Ricochet, Damian Priest, Tegan Nox, Austin Theory and the tag team of Deonna Purrazzo and Chelsea Green… which… well 3 of those 6 no longer work for WWE, Ricochet is a nobody in WWE’s eyes at least, Austin Theory is busy gazing lovingly into Vince McMahon’s eyes… at least Damian Priest is somewhat of a big star there… But I digress… here’s 5 names from AEW I’ve picked out to have big, break-out years in 2022.

HOOK

I feel like I’m going to be writing and talking A LOT about my new favourite wrestler in 2022. So I’ll save my words for now and I’ll just show you the above clip of his FIRST EVER match… Now you watch this and tell me this guy doesn’t already look like a superstar!

Daniel Garcia

Daniel Garcia Believes We Are In An Era Where “Shoot-Style Pro Wrestling”  Is Favored - Wrestling Inc.

Daniel Garcia is TWENTY THREE YEARS OLD… and whilst he has worked a few different places before, he was really stepped up his game since coming to AEW. His recent partnership with the 2.0 tag team has only enhanced his character and star-power… and when he wrestles… my oh my he looks like a seasoned veteran! He has already had singles matches with CM Punk, Jon Moxley, Darby Allin and Eddie Kingston, and I think that he will prove to be another great example of how AEW slowly but surely push a young star to the top… Look at what they’ve done with the ‘four pillars’ already since AEW began… The future I think can only be bright for Garcia, lets see where his character goes in 2022…

Trent?

Look Who's Back! | AEW Dynamite, 12/8/21 - YouTube

So having not long comeback after many months out injured, Trent returned looking JACKED… And given he’s already teased a distain for his ‘replacement’ Wheeler Yuta, and just some of his mannerisms have already given me the idea of him as a heel. And now I can’t get it out of my head. It would of course ruin the terrifically entertaining Best Friends with Chuck Taylor, and now Orange Cassidy and Kris Statlander, but I see a lot in Trent for him to be a potential singles star. But lets see… I think even without a heel turn he and that group will still have another good year continuously being entertaining as hell.

Darius Martin

AEW Unsure Of When Darius Martin Will Return Wrestling News - WWE News, AEW  News, Rumors, Spoilers, WWE Day 1 Results - WrestlingNewsSource.Com

You know of Dante Martin if you’ve watched AEW in 2021 right? Amazing high-flyer with huge potential to be a big star… Well he has a brother, and the two were a tag team in AEW before Darius was injured… but at some point in 2022 he’s going to come back… and I can’t say he’s better than his brother, but after so long away who knows how he will return and what sort of impact he will make… Given Dante now has his thing going on with Lio Rush as a team of sorts, will the brothers pick up where they left off? Or will they go and each do their own thing? Only recently Tony Khan spoke about Dante in an interview, and he said that he had big plans for him and would love to team him back with his brother.. Given both are still in their early 20s the possibilities for the future are SO exciting!

Kip Sabian

AEW's Kip Sabian Debuts New Look At Unannounced Meet and Greet

WHERE THE FUCK is Kip Sabian??? This out of all my picks is the biggest punt of the lot… Given we haven’t seen him on TV AT ALL since his former Best Man Miro destroyed him… and many of you wont know, but he’s kind of began a gimmick online where he plays up to the ‘forgotten’ and ‘disregarded’ brush some may now tarnish him with. I’ve even seen him wearing the paper bag over his head when signing autographs for fans outside of an arena before a show. And I’d really be interested to see if they explore this gimmick more and bring it to TV, but lets see. Kip was on TV a lot in the very early days of AEW, and they really played up to his relationship with his now wife Penelope Ford… So, it’s a longshot, but I HOPE we see NORFOLK’S own (yes, really) Kip Sabian on AEW TV in 2022…

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

Wrestling for me is as much about the matches as it is about the storylines and the moments. And in AEW we’ve had so so many in 2021 that I and every other fan will never forget. Many I’ve already touched upon and many more I could mention still. But before and even more since fans and full arenas returned, AEW have taken it to another level and given many of us moments we will never forget. I’m sure you already know what will come top of this list, but let me firstly take you through the other moments in my top 10 list for the best moments of what has been a spellbinding year for AEW.

Honorable Mentions:

2 for me that transcended professional wrestling, and therefore I felt it unfair to include them on any ranking list. The JR one only happened last night as I type this, but it was everything I had hoped it would be, to see him get such a great ovation at the very start of the show warmed my heart. And the Dark Order one was beautifully done, when little Brodie threw the papers I nearly lost it I’ll be honest…

Jim Ross’ return after beating Skin Cancer

Video of Jim Ross Making His Return to AEW Dynamite

Amanda Huber and -1 help reunite the Dark Order

(Some more admin before I get on with the list… When I say ‘moments’ I do include under that umbrella entire segments as well, but I’ll explain more on that as I go on…)

10. Darby Allin challenges the ‘Best In The World’…

Moments after the announcement that the second episode of Rampage would not only be called ‘The First Dance’ (a play on the title of the Netflix docu-series on the famous Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls) but also that it would take place at the home of the Bulls (the United Center in CHICAGO… who could possibly sell-out a 1 hour show on a Friday night…), this very brief interview segment from Darby Allin gave us the clearest wink and a nod yet that HE was coming…

9. Sammy gets his moment

As I’ve said already, it really did cap off a great redemption story, and a sign of how far he has come in such a short space of time when Sammy Guevara ended the TNT title reign and undefeated streak of Miro in AEW. And I’ve a feeling it wont be the last time we see the ‘Spanish God’ win championship gold in AEW…

8. A Judas LIVE performance… with a twist…

So what or how would it effect Chris Jericho when (as a result of MJF’s pre-match conditions) he couldn’t have his beloved entrance song ‘Judas’ played as he made his way to the ring for their match? Well… MJF would of assumed that meant there would be NO judas at all… The fans in attendance however had other ideas… You can only imagine how it must of felt being Jericho during all of this? An amazing moment.

7. Dr. Britt Baker, C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N

AEW Women's Champion Dr. Britt Baker talks about her relationship with  veteran commentator

If you want example of a wrestling performer growing and finding themselves before our very eyes, I cannot think of many better examples than Britt Baker. So off the back of a tremendous winning streak and continuously great promos, at Double Or Nothing 2021 it was finally time for the Doctor to see the AEW Women’s Championship NOW! And it came at the end of a really good match as well… and how cool was it to see her hug her biggest fan afterwards, her best friend… Tony Schiavone.

6. Christian CAGE in a RAGE on RAMPAGE

I can honestly say I DID see this one coming (I’ll get the messages I sent to a friend of mine before this show saying as much… don’t make me do it… I WILL DO IT)… ANYWAY… the debut episode of Rampage got underway with a preview of the upcoming PPV’s main event, only this time the belt collector would put his Impact world title on the line… and because this isn’t WWE, the hero champion didn’t in fact beat the babyface ahead of the world title match, and so for the first time in well over a decade and after a pretty good match as well, a HUGE pop greeted the sight of Christian Cage as the new Impact/TNA World Champion!

5. AEW fades to BLACK

When was the last time (mainly because of the internet) we had a pro wrestling debut or return that genuinely caught everyone by surprise? Like there wasn’t even a murmur or rumours of the impending arrival at all really beforehand? Well, thanks in large part to the stupidity and incompetence of… them… we got the absolute delight of this debut a whole 60 days earlier than we assumed we may get it, and to do it on the first show back on the road? *chef’s kiss* … I could’ve easily put his debut entrance (cool as FUCK) or the actual match against Cody (incredibly shocking booking, genius in fact), but the actual debut… I did a little scream when I saw it I’ll be honest…

4. The promo battle we were ALL waiting for…

Quite simply (and this, by the way is where that little bit about me including entire segments in this list too comes in to play)… this was one of the best promo segments I have EVER seen. All I can say is sit back, grab an alcoholic beverage, take a drink every time a line pops you, get hammered as a result as you enjoy two absolute MASTERS of the microphone at work.

3. YES YES YES… BAY BAY!!!

Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson stun the wrestling world after making huge  AEW debuts at All Out PPV

Hard to pick out a high point of the ending of the Full Gear PPV, so I’ll just say that everything following the bell of the Omega/Christian match was maybe the best ending to a wrestling PPV I’ve seen for a while (let’s discount the one where all 3 shield members held the WWE title within the same 5 minute period shall we?) … to debut one of those guys at the end of the show would’ve been spectacular, but to do them BOTH back to back, and the way they did it with Cole then joining the Elite and then Bryan coming out after that? Absolutely PERFECT booking. I can’t say how many times I’ve gone back to watch this but it’s well in to double figures at this point!

2. Champion SHIT

2021 AEW Full Gear results, recap, grades: 'Hangman' Adam Page wins world  title to end incredible show - CBSSports.com

The perfect ending to the perfect example of long-term storytelling. I can’t say enough good things about this, and in any other year it would’ve come top of this list by a mile, but of course you understand why it didn’t. Nonetheless The Hangman finally conquering all his demons, and then getting to celebrate with his adopted family the Dark Order afterwards, was just so beautiful. Wrestling Should indeed Be Fun as my friends would say, and this was the best example of that. Give the people what they want, and they’ll keep coming back for more. And AEW is great at that… which brings me to…

1- HE is back!!!

I’ve put the entrance and the promo in this because, well it was simply all our dreams coming true wasn’t it? I can’t quite remember anything in my entire time as a wrestling fan ever being built up as this moment was… and the fact that AEW did absolutely everything to promote this as the debut of CM Punk, but NEVER mentioned his name once, was so incredibly genius in hindsight. The numbers and business for the company that this show and moment did speak for themselves, but for me personally it’s not just my wrestling moment of the year, but my wrestling moment of ALL-TIME. To finish my year in review of AEW in 2021, my moment of the year is of course, the return of CM Punk to professional wrestling.

I don’t think I can understate what AEW has done for me personally as a fan, and for wrestling as a whole in 2021. Here’s to the next 12 months ahead, and given the last year we’ve had WHO THE FUCK KNOWS what All Elite Wrestling in 2022 will look like! But I am very much excited for it and can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Happy New Year AEW. Here’s to 2022, and THANK YOU!

Josh.

Zambia – The Story Of Africa’s Most Incredible Champions

Zambia Home baju bolasepak 2012 - 2013.

Zambia. Not exactly the first name that comes to mind when you’re asked for footballing giants. Not on a world level or even that of African football. People will speak maybe of Roger Milla’s Cameroon at Italia’90, maybe Nigeria or Senegal of the late 90s/early 00s, Ghana at the World Cup in 2010 getting to the quarter finals of the World Cup and Ivory Coast’s ‘all-stars’ with the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Toure… Even today we have superstars like Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez lighting up African football. But one name that I’m sure not many people will list alongside those names, is Zambia. Aside from Patson Daka of Leicester City, I can’t say I could name one other Zambian footballer past or present before I began putting this blog together.

Now think about this… Heading in to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, Zambia were ranked 71st in the Fifa World Rankings. They were ranked as the 16th best African national side, and the 9th highest to qualify for this tournament. To put that into context… the current 71st ranked team in the latest world rankings are Bulgaria (70th are the UAE, 72nd are Montenegro, 73rd are Cabo Verde). Going in to this past summer’s European Championships; the 16th highest ranked European side were Ukraine, the 9th highest that qualified were Switzerland. Remember those facts as this blog goes on…

This amazing story has another quite sad backdrop to it though, it isn’t quite the happy and glorious fairytale it may seem to far… Back in 1993 the Zambian national Football team were flying to take part in a qualifying match for the World Cup to be played the next year. The plane carrying the team were travelling to Dakar to face Senegal, but sadly the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean not long after take-off… A subsequent investigation discovered that the pilot had shut down the wrong engine after an engine fire, as well as that the pilot was apparently suffering from fatigue and there was also a faulty instrument in the flying of the plane. Sadly though the crash meant that all 25 passengers and 5 crew members on board all passed away, this included the 18 Zambian players as well as the entire coaching and support staff sadly died in the accident. The team itself were quite the promising side up to this point, having beaten Italy 4-0 at the previous Olympic Games as well as a 3rd place finish in the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations and a place at their first World Cup. It was truly a tragedy that rocked African football, and we will never know what this promising national side could’ve gone on to achieve.

Laying Flowers at a Memorial for the 1993 Zambia Football Team Plane Crash

Now, fast forward to 2012 and Zambia had another shot at glory. The final of this years tournament would take place in Libreville in Gabon… just a few hundred metres inland from the site of the tragic plane crash. To add to the incredible twist of fate… Zambia’s first game of the 2012 edition… was against Senegal…

But as I’ve said previously, Zambia weren’t exactly fancied or close to favourites, despite the obvious good-will towards them. They went in to this tournament lead by their manager, Frenchman Herve Renard (who had yet to win a major trophy in his managerial career having previously worked in the lower leagues of France as well as Angola and Vietnam)… their captain was Christopher Katongo (who went on to gain over 100 caps for his country) and their sole player playing his club football in europe when the tournament began was Emmanuel Mayuka who at that time played for Young Boys in Switzerland… Basically, with all due respect, they were far from anything even remotely close to a team of stars…

Zambia send player home - Eurosport

The draw for the tournament would see Zambia grouped with Senegal, Equatorial Quinea and Libya. They were kept away from tournament favourites Ivory Coast, and the other notable African sides such as Ghana, Tunisia and Morocco.

Their opening match of the tournament was an emotional one, given it was against Senegal… the very team the Zambian team were en-route to play when the tragic plane crash took place 19 years earlier…

Against a far more fancied Senegal side (featuring a number of notable names such as Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse of Newcastle United, and Mohamed Diame of Wigan) Zambia put in an inspired performance, coming flying out the blocks with 2 goals in the first twenty minutes thanks to strikes by star striker Emmanuel Mayuka and midfielder Rainford Kalaba. Even a goal from Senegal in the 73rd minute proved only to be a consolation. Zambia had opened their tournament with a solid win against a reputable African side, but their second match would present a much different kind of challenge.

Libya, another nation not renowned for their footballing history… but Zambia were even greater outsiders than the Libyans. Libya ranked 63rd in the world by Fifa, 8 places higher than their opponents in the second group game. In front of just 1,500 fans the game went according to the script early with Libya taking the lead in the 5th minute, and although Mayuka found an equalizer, Libyan midfielder Ahmed Saad scored his and his nation’s second goal of the game to give them a 2-1 lead 3 minutes in to the second half. But Zambia again showed the fighting spirit they would become renowned for during this tournament, and their Captain Christopher Katongo grabbed a second equalizer just 6 minutes later and the game finished in a draw. Despite yet to taste defeat Zambia would face a very tricky task in order to reach the knockout stages…

Their final group game would see them face tournament hosts Equatorial Guinea. But even with the crowd against them, in front of a sell-out 44,000 strong Guinean support, Zambia again defined the odds. Katongo scored his 3rd goal of the tournament so far in the 68th minute what proved to be the only goal of the game, and after 2 wins from their opening 3 group games, the quarter finals beckoned. Amazingly Senegal, who 10 years earlier at the world cup shocked the world in beating defending champions France, were out of the 2012 Afcon at the group stages after losing all 3 of their matches.

After winning their group, Zambia faced a relatively easy task of taking on the second lowest ranked team in the competition, Sudan, in the quarters. In fact the only team ranked lower were the host nation, who Zambia beat in their final group game.

In front of (and I’m not making this up) a reported attendance of just TWO HUNDRED, Zambia had their comfiest game of the tournament with a resounding 3-0 win. Goals coming from captain Katongo, defender Stoppila Sunzu and striker James Chamanga. But from the easiness to the most difficult… and given the nature of the draw for the tournament, Zambia now faced the toughest of tasks on their road to immortality… Having to defeat the number 2 ranked team in the semi finals, and then the number 1 ranked in the final… Argentina and then Brazil in the Copa America, Rafael Nadal and then Roger Federer at Wimbeldon, South Africa and then New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup… To become one of the most unlikely champions we’ve ever seen, Zambia would have to defeat Ghana and then the all-stars of the Ivory Coast to become champions of Africa in 2012….

Ghana Clash Is The Most Important On Zambia's Calendar- Faz President Bwalya

So the first semi final would see Zambia take on a Ghana side featuring notable names such as Jordan and Andre Ayew, Sulley Muntari and lead up-front by star forward Asamoah Gyan. Ghana, having starred just two years earlier at the World Cup (getting to the quarter finals), were heavily fancied to reach the final and set up a blockbuster clash with pre-tournament favorites Ivory Coast. It was quite the game, despite the lack of goals we were not short of drama…

Ghana dominated the game for the majority, and were awarded a penalty after Davies Nkausu fouled Kwadwo Asamoah… only for Gyan to have his penalty saved in the 12th minute by Zambian keeper Kennedy Mweene. And against the script, Zambia took the lead through Emmanuel Mayuka, who came off the bench to score what proved the only goal of the game. After midfielder Derek Boateng was sent off after his second yellow for Ghana in the 83rd minute, the feeling of heartbreak was repeated from South Africa as 2 years on Ghana faced elimination from another tournament after a missed Gyan penalty. But for Zambia, it was an incredible victory just to reach the final of a tournament nobody expected them to come close to winning… but now… the ultimate challenge awaited…

After quite the journey to reach the final, Zambia now faced the Ivory Coast. A team made up of some of the more well known African footballers of the decade… Kolo Toure, Sol Bamba, Didier Zakora, Yaya Toure, Cheick Tiote, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Max Gradel, Wilfried Bony… AND Didier Drogba. You’ve heard of the 2002/4/6 England side referred to as the ‘Golden Generation’… this Ivory Coast team was truly a Golden-Era for African football, and a team that were expected to do great things, at this tournament and even at the World Cup two years after… They were ranked 18th in the Fifa World rankings, the top African side (8 places above Ghana and 25 above Senegal)… and as mentioned previously they were the overwhelming favourites to win the tournament now and even before the competition began. Never before has an African team been so revered in the footballing world, and in this competition in history I don’t think the Zambians could’ve had a better team to have to come up against.

Ivory Coast, Zambia to meet in African Cup final - News - CAN 2012 - Ahram  Online

I recall watching this game at the time, and I’ll be honest when I said I was tuning in to see this great Ivory Coast team have their crowning moment. I knew little, at the time, of the Zambia story… in hindsight now the match was even more extraordinary than I thought it was at the time…

Zambia/Cote d'Ivoire: Two Outstanding Teams to Clash in Cup of Nations  Final - allAfrica.com

The Zambian’s showed much of the same heart and desire from their run to the final in the showpiece itself, as they took their much-fancied opponents to extra time following a penalty miss in normal time by Didier Drogba (who a few months later would make amends in scoring maybe the most important penalty of his entire career… but that’s for another blog on another day…).

Zambia Celebrate Another Drogba Africa Cup of Nations Failure

Zambia did have their own chances during the match mind, with Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry making a couple of saves to keep the score level. Yaya Toure also missed a great chance from around 10 yards but Mweene in the Zambian goal was rarely tested really. It seemed very much to me as the game went on that the mammoth pressure on the Ivorian All-Star team began to tell, and even substitutes Gradel and Bony for Ivory Coast couldn’t combine to find the back of the net… and so a penalty shoot out beckoned…

Zambia's 2012 Africa Cup of Nations-winning team: Where are they now? |  Goal.com

This is about as emotional a shoot out as it gets by the way…

Penalty shoot outs are always exciting as a neutral… this one was extraordinary. Ivory Coast took first and scored their first two from Tiote and Bony, with Zambia equalizing each time via Katongo and Mayuka. But then Bamba appeared to be the first one to fail to score… however goalkeeper Mweene was penalized for encroachment and Bamba was given a second chance, which he took full advantage of. Penalties were then converted by Chansa, Felix Katongo (the captain’s brother), goalkeeper Mweene, Sinkala and Lungu for Zambia, and for Ivory Coast Gradel, Drogba, Tiene, Ya Konan all converted. So we sat at 7-7 as Kolo Toure stepped up… But the amazing Mweene saved and Zambia were a kick away from immortality… but not yet, as Kalaba blazed over his chance to be the hero… And with it back to sudden death it was Gervinho this time who fired his penalty high and over… and so it was down to Stoppila Sunzu, a modestly talented midfielder who at this point in his career was plying his trade at club level in the Congo… and NOW it was Zambia’s time. Against ALL oods, Zambia had done it. Champions of Africa at last!

Zambia is 2012 Soccer Champions in Africa after beating Ivory Coast 8-7 on  penalties

For me… this victory at international level is right up there with Greece at Euro 2004. I mentioned Zambia’s pretty average standing in African football coming in to the tournament… But on their journey to winning it they:

  • Defeated the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd highest ranked African teams in the Fifa world rankings at the time, as well as the host nation
  • Conceded just THREE goals during the whole tournament
  • Had a squad of players playing for clubs in: Congo (5), Russia (1), South Africa (8), Zambia (5), China (2), Switzerland and Sudan (1 each)
  • Their coach Herve Renard had never previously won a major trophy in his professional career
  • They had never previously won the Afcon (having lost in the final on 2 previous occasions)

It was just the most amazing win, especially given the motivational backdrop of the tragedy that occurred 19 years earlier. But spurred on by the events of 1993, this triumph meant so much more to this team and the entire country of Zambia.

But what came after this win, and what followed for the heroes of 2012? Well Zambia were eliminated in the first round of the next two Afcon’s, and failed to even qualify for the next two tournaments after that. As for the manager Herve Renard, he would leave his post the next year to join French club Sochaux before later winning the Afcon once again as coach, this time with (of all teams) Ivory Coast in 2015. For the players big moves and individual accolades followed; Captain Christopher Katongo won the won the BBC’s African Footballer of the Year award later in 2012.

Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene to date has an amazing 122 caps for his country and after joining South African side Mamelodi Sundowns in 2013 has since won numerous club domestic and continental honours.

The most notable name to English football fans may be striker Emmanuel Mayuka, who earned a move to premier league side Southampton in the August of 2012.

Emmanuel Mayuka | SaintsPlayers.co.uk

There are even other remarkable moments and stories of individuals in this amazing team that I haven’t mentioned, but if nothing else I hope I have shined even a small light to a few people on what is, for me, truly one of football’s most remarkable ever stories.

If anyone ever says to you that football is just a game, tell that to the people of Zambia who witnessed this footballing miracle. Truly this team were Africa’s most incredible ever champions.

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS 2012: Zambia 0 Ivory Coast 0 (AET 8-7 on pens): Zambia  win tournament | Daily Mail Online

Josh.

My First Ever Wrestling Show (ROH: Reach for The Sky – Leicester) – Review

Everyone remembers their first time right? First kiss, first football match, first date, first… wrestling show… Well despite my fandom beginning in the year 2000, and aside from a few Butlins shows which I couldn’t tell you one name on any of those shows, I didn’t actually start going to live wrestling shows until 2016. Since then I have been to indie shows, TV tapings and live (to tape) WWE shows… My first show was in the not so glamorous surroundings of the newly opened home of the Leicester Riders basketball team, the Morningside Arena. I’m not sure exactly how many were at this show, but it holds less than two and a half thousand for Basketball. Myself and my friend Stefan (the first friend I made at Uni, who just so happened to be a wrestling fan) started to get in to wrestling outside of WWE around this time, and when we noted that Ring Of Honor (at the time maybe the second biggest American wrestling promotion) were touring the UK, and one of the stops was in my home-city of Leicester, we just had to go. And myself personally it was a disaster of a day… My phone at the time had broken, so I had no phone for the show. Although that meant a very long wait as there was no way for Stefan to tell me that he and his brother would be slightly later than planned, and so I was stood outside waiting for a LONG time… but it also meant that I could take no photos or videos during the show… At the time that was gutting, but in hindsight it did mean I had no choice but to sit back and take in the event… totally free from the ‘pressure’ of getting a good clip or shot… and you know what? I had an absolute blast! It was also the first time I ever wore contact lenses when going out, so it was a totally new thing for me to be able to enjoy myself without worrying about breaking my glasses.

2016/17 was quite the golden era for independent wrestling. The names me and Stefan saw live in the smallest of venues in the most random of cities in England was absolutely absurd… The names on this card alone are crazy, in 2021 this same show would be an absolute super show! So… let me get on to this show in question… It’s quite sad that as I write this we have just seen (maybe) the final PPV as we know it for this same promotion, but back in 2016 Ring Of Honor was still thriving. Before the show began in fact we saw the likes of Adam Cole and Jay Lethal talking with fans and selling their t shirts. We also had a rather funny incident in hindsight were Stefan asked Nigel McGuinness a question about something to do with something in the venue I think (I’m sure Stefan will correct me)… but it was just so cool that Nigel didn’t at all act like he was bigger or more important, and he talked just like any normal person despite his role as a big part of the promotion we were about to watch.

I will speak more as I watch this show back shortly (having purchased the DVD) but it goes without saying I had a GREAT time. I in fact recall we before the show were more excited for the NXT TakeOver that was also that night (It was the one were we had the famous DIY vs Revival match), and also the Survivor Series the night after that saw THE Goldberg v Lesnar squash… But this show was great. I knew or had a casual knowledge of some people on the card, but some I didn’t have a clue who they were. Lio Rush and Donovan Dijak for example, which as I’ll explain was a PHENOMENAL match to see live and up close, I didn’t have a clue before this show who either were. Now in 2021, given the internet and my far FAR great knowledge of wrestling all across the world and in different promotions, I’m not sure how or who I could see wrestle or appear for the first time and me not know who they were. But as I said, you never forget your first time right?… SO… Let me get right on with this review. I’m just going to grab a tea, and then I’ll put the show on and watch it back for the very first time. Here is my review as I rewatch the first wrestling show I attended; Ring Of Honor’s show on their November 2016 ‘Reach for The Sky’ tour in Leicester!

Leicester Sports Centre & Sports Venue Morningside Arena

The ring announcer was the legendary ROH announcer Bobby Cruise. The commentators for the show are Kevin Kelly (now lead English commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling) and Steve Corino (now one of the top trainers and producers at NXT). They showed graphics for our main event later in the night, as we went right in to a video entrance for one of our competitors in the main event, the then ‘Local Hero’ Joe Hendry. It was an odd juxtaposition for us, given the other promotion we would go to shows of at that time (WCPW) had Joe Hendry as their champion, and here he was in the opener. Nonetheless getting a shot with a promotion like ROH was huge for him. He in fact was on the card for Final Battle 2021, so good going for him…

Jay White defeated Joe Hendry

As much as I could talk about what a star Joe Hendry was at that time, these were the VERY embryonic days in the rise of Jay White. A former New Japan ‘Young Lion’ has since gone on to rise and rise and rise, in terms of absolutely every aspect of his craft, and his unbelievable progression in character work, promos, and now where he is a fucking FANTASTIC professional wrestler had seen him have multiple 5 star matches, be the defacto leader of the Bullet Club, and have a spell as IWGP Champion… so safe to say since I saw him on this show he has done OK… Hendry was really over with the crowd, most like me I presume knew him from the English indie scene. I know it was 5 years ago but I can’t get over Jay White’s (lack of) physique in this match… The crowd was very quiet early on (I of course didn’t know if this was normal or not at the time, but watching it now it comes across as BAD, but given there cant of been more than a few hundred in the building, it makes sense)… The match itself was perfectly fine, very much your classic wrestling moves early on with it going very 50/50, Hendry as the bigger guy took charge after with suplexes getting him the advantage and nearfalls, with his delayed suplex showing off his power. Jay White tried to get the crowd into it after, and he used his speed advantage after to keep Hendry down, including with a Crossbody from the top that got White a nearfall. I will add one thing this match reminds me is the chops they do sound HORRID to take when you’re in the building with them, I was at another show once where I got to witness some poor soul get chopped by WALTER for example… ANYWAY… Jay White hit a great dropkick to try and get back into it, and then followed with a tope dive through the ropes to Hendry on the outside. After he got a missile dropkick, and a Urinage for a 2 count. White later came off the top again, but Hendry caught him with a Fallaway slam for another nearfall, they had a striking exchange which ended with Hendry getting a nearfall roll-up, followed by two more nearfalls after. White hit a big suplex, and then his Kiwi Crusher finisher for the win. In 2021 it is so odd to see Jay White wrestle like this, totally unrecognisable from the man who has since gone on to be one of the top names for New Japan. (The internet tells me there were more than 2000 in the building for this show, which I can’t say I agree with but whatever…).

Jay Lethal defeated Alex Shelley

Alex Shelley is somewhat of a legend for both ROH and TNA/Impact wrestling, along with Chris Sabin they formed the Motor City Machine Guns tag team. Jay Lethal was one of the names I knew going in to this show, more from his TNA days and his Black Machismo gimmick (as I’ll mention later I wasn’t the only one…). Lethal was the first wrestler I saw up close and was struck by how enormous he was in real life. His thighs were like tree trunks! Lethal was challenging Adam Cole for the ROH title on the following night of this tour, and he had been champion for well over 400 days previously. The crowd were very welcoming to Lethal when he came out, the most over on the show by a mile up to this point. Duelling chants were the soundtrack as the match got underway, and early on you could very much tell this was two veterans chain wrestling at speed in contrast to our opener. A great exchange followed by a cartwheel into a dropkick by Lethal got the crowd excited some more, Lethal then did the Randy Savage-like punches which led to a nearfall, and we had our first ‘oooooooh, yeaaaaah’ from the crowd. They exchanged advantage as each tried for a suplex, with Lethal eventually hitting it much to the crowd’s delight. They were far more invested in this than the opener… Lethal eventually got a superkick that sent Shelley outside, and went to go after him but Shelley knocked him back with a kick, he then hit a number of kicks and had Lethal slumped in the corner before hitting a kick to the back that sent Lethal to the mat floor. Shelley mockingly did the ‘ooh, yeahhhh’ which made the crowd laugh, and then and Lethal down in submission using his legs to wrap around Lethal’s neck, and soon after he hit a spinebuster that sent Lethal down again. Lethal was soon up and hit a hard strike, more strikes followed, and an enziguiri had Shelley down. Lethal combination got Jay a nearfall not long after, the pace continued to quicken after and Lethal signalled it was time for the big elbow, but he also was ahead as although Shelley raised his foot Lethal was ready, and one ‘WOOOOO’ later he tried for a figure 4 but Shelley kicked him into the turnbuckle. Shelley sent him again into the turnbuckle, and after another exchange Shelley took Lethal down and went for his finish, but Lethal ducked and hit his own Lethal Injection for the win. Good match between two very good wrestlers who are still killing it today in 2021. Shelley remains a legend and does more of the indies these days, Lethal recently signed with AEW.

NOW… this next match, at the time and still to this day, was one I remember very fondly. On paper in 2021 this would be a banger and in 2016 not knowing either guy I didn’t know what to expect, I recall being blown AWAY! I hope so badly it was as good as I remember it being live. I wont take as many notes of this one as I really want to watch it back in full… but…

Donovan Dijak defeated Lio Rush

I can confirm Dijak was a GIANT irl. Which only made Lio seem even smaller, Lio was by far the best high flyer I’ve had the pleasure of seeing wrestle live too. The success of both these men since this show is no shock to me, I’m so happy to see Lio in AEW these days, and Dijak (Dominik Dijakovic in NXT who had all those bangers with Keith Lee) will hopefully get his chance to shine bright again in the near future…

I totally forgot until now, but the lights went out just before this match started, and so they had to use the spotlights to light the ring… only in Leicester and the joys of a far smaller venue I guess…

Update: This match was FANTASTIC! The size differences made for a great story, and the two phenomenal wrestlers help as well… The crowd was so hot all match, but we also had the… odd stuff with the lighting that went off and on again and off again for most of the early part of this match. Nonetheless Lio sold so well for the giant Dijak, at one point we had Lio try and mount a comeback, only for Dijak to hit a big strike and then try and go for his finish, but Lio reversed and hit a reverserana for a nearfall. Later with both men on the top rope, Lio hit strikes and then went for a superplex, but Dijak choked him and threw him outside… and THEN in a spot that was WILD to see live the giant Dijak hit a moonsault to the outside which got a standing ovation from the crowd. Lio later hit a crazy spanish fly on the apron, which again to see live was amazing. Rush later kicked Dijak and the momentum from his run up sent the giant over and into the fans behind the barricade. He later got back in the ring just before the ref’s count would’ve ended the match, but Rush soon hit a Frog Splash… only for Dijak to again catch him by the throat and hit a Chokebreaker, and then his Feast Your Eyes finisher for the win. As good as I remembered!

reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) defeated The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe)

Ring of Honor wrestling take Leicester city by storm – Leicestershire Press

To my knowledge, The Briscoes have been ROH until the very end. Not often you see loyalty to one company in this day and age like these two supremely talented wrestlers have shown. Undoubtedly STILL one of the best tag teams in the world, I cannot wait to see what they do next. It was within a year of this show that both Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly would begin an all time great run as a tag team dominating NXT. Fish was let go earlier this year and was snapped up by AEW… There is every chance O’Reilly follows in the new year… I really could watch these two teams wrestle all day, both with very hard offence with some technical mixed in too. Just really solid stuff from both, it was a 50/50 match I’d say with the obvious size advantage of The Briscoes meaning they often took charge, but Fish would comeback with hard kicks and O’Reilly would show his amazing ability to get in a submission from anywhere… This was certainly the hardest hitting match I had seen up close to this point, and I recall one stage early on here where Mark Briscoe hit a chop across the chest of Bobby Fish, and I myself felt the pain it was so loud! The crowd were polite but it wasn’t out of lack of interest that they weren’t always loud, more they were just enjoying the good ‘rasslin I think. I do recall at the time being impressed with the lethal strikes and kicks from O’Reilly (combined with his submission skills), which of course now given I’ve seen a tonne more of his matches in the years since is no shock, but back then and watching back now he comes across as a killer! He showed his comedy in this match too, as also became a theme of his down the years… One stage he had a submission locked in before the other Briscoe broke it up and he said “what the hell you ass?!”… At one stage during the match we had all 4 guys down… when The Young Bucks made their way out… which allowed for O’Reilly to hit a running knee on Jay Briscoe to take him down, meanwhile as Fish and Mark went at it in the ring Stefan pointed out to me that Matt Jackson got his phone out to film content for their Youtube series ‘Being The Elite’… It was only some weeks later I first checked out their weekly vlog series, and amazingly I haven’t missed once since and it’s now among the highlights of my week, that all came from this moment. Nick got on the apron to try and ‘two sweet’ Mark, who gave him the bird back and hit his elbow drop, only for Fish to get knees up… And not long after Fish and O’Reilly combined to hit their Chasing The Dragon finisher for 1,2,3. Good solid tag match. The story here was The Briscoes are in the ROH tag title match at the upcoming PPV, hence the run out here by the Young Bucks.

It was at this point that us in the arena got the intermission in the show. I don’t think we did much of anything due to lack of funds, although I do recall a lot of chat about the upcoming NXT TakeOver show that night, and hoping to god that DIY would win the tag titles at long last…

Anyway, after the break we got a segment with Stefan’s friend Nigel McGuinness. A former legendary wrestler for ROH now acting at this stage as a part time authority type figure and commentator. You will have seen him more recently in WWE working for NXT, I think he does or did recently the co-comms for NXT UK. McGuinness naturally got a great reception from the fans being an Englishman himself… He took the mic here and introduced himself, and said how great it was they were back in England, and also he was once a student at the University of Leicester. He thanked the fans for coming, the boys in the back for proving how good ROH was, and he just put over the company (and rightfully so). It was great stuff, and he then went on to join commentary before we got our next match, which was such a great choice for the post-intermission spot. If you want a FUN match this was the one for you…

The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) defeated Delirious & Dalton Castle

Daniels and Kazarian both legends of TNA and ROH. Daniels even won the world title a couple years after, I was lucky enough to shake his hand even and say it was a long time coming (for him to be champion), he said thank you very much. Both of whom are currently with AEW. Delirious was a proper wildman wrestler, I had a blast watching him here. I believe he had or has a big role behind the scenes in ROH, and Dalton Castle also went on to win the world title a couple of years after this show, but injuries during his run as champion curtailed his momentum somewhat, a momentum which had him heavily linked at the time with a switch to WWE, but it never came to be. So here we had two extravagant babyfaces against two experienced veterans, it promised to be a lot of fun and it was just that. Delirious was chewing one of the streamers as the crowd were singing the ‘Hey Baby’ song to Dalton Castle… Kazarian grabbed a mic and said they were searching for a new member of The Addiction and that they wanted that to be Delirious, he even offered him SHOES as a gift to join! Delirious spoke in… Delirious on the mic… Daniels said he spoke perfect Delirious as revealed what he actually said was (a lot of nice things) about Kazarian. After Delirious has declined the invite as Dalton told us what he had actually said, the bell eventually rang and from here Delirious went wild. He did a great job of getting the crowd into the match at different points, and Frankie and CD played their role so well here. There was a really funny spot where Daniels and Kazarian tried to teach Delirious the jump up and leapfrog spot… and as they tried one last time that was when Delirious took advantage instead of doing the spot. We even had the referee Todd Sinclair to a couple of hip tosses, before Dalton insinuated that Sinclair and Kazarian should have a match… after the ref did a back suplex the match went again from there… and it really continued as the fun but solid affair. The Addiction were always going to win of course, as they later did when Kazarian stood on Delirious’ bare foot and then he and Daniels hit the Best Meltzer Ever for the win. Very fun stuff here between 4 very fun wrestlers.

Adam Cole defeated Chris Sabin

Sabin, like his tag partner Alex Shelley, is another legend of the game. Adam Cole as ROH Champion here has only continued on his trajectory here to where in 2021 he is one of the best and biggest stars in wrestling. I’m also super privileged I got to see this entrance, with a CLASSIC theme song (seriously Adam Cole’s ‘I’ve got Something for You’ ROH theme is such a BANGER)! This was the first time live I got to see a man who now in 2021 is one of my absolute favourite wrestlers. As you could expect this was such a banger of a match, Cole played the cocky heel great and Sabin was solid as a rock in his role. And also getting to do the ‘ADAM COLE BAY-BAY’ in person was a life highlight! We also got a tremendous spot where Sabin got a young lad from the crowd (who earlier Sabin had thrown Cole’s shirt to, after Cole faked throwing it out to them), he dragged Cole over to the barricade on that side, called the kid down and to the delight of the crowd the kid gave him a chop (kind of), great stuff! It of course wasn’t of the multiple BANGERS I’ve seen Cole have in the years since this, but it was still pretty good. Cole and Sabin meshed well, Cole being more of a dickhead where Sabin was more high-flying… but there was the moves from Cole which became very familiar to me in the years that followed… and eventually Cole got a low blow behind the ref’s back, and hit what then was called the Last Shot, but not the running knee to the back of the head, but this was the one where he drops the guy on to his knee from a suplex position.

Cole got the mic after the match and started to cut a promo on England, but called out Jay Lethal for tonight so he didn’t have to spend another night in the country. Lethal came out but Cole soon rolled out the ring after he came out. Classic chicken heel shit. Good stuff. Lethal got a mic and called Cole a ‘chicken piece of crap’ and said he would be the 2x Ring Of Honor world champion. He said when that would be ‘Too Sweet’.

Our main event was by far the match of the night, given who’s in it not a shock at all is it really…

The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (C) defeated Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll to retain the ROH Tag Team Championship

ROH Wrestling on Twitter: "Reach for the Sky Tour Leicester VOD is now  available! Relive the action of ROH's historic return to the UK. 🇬🇧  https://t.co/TxP7srPFka https://t.co/knDoN6oh70" / Twitter

The Young Bucks have gone on to cement themselves as the best tag team in the world and one of the best ever since this time (don’t fight me on that, you will lose). Ospreay has only gone up and up too reputation wise since this time when he was one of the hot stars around already. The two challengers were historically big rivals but teamed up here, and as the two Englishmen got huge ovations coming out, particularly Ospreay. The Young Bucks, to this crowd, were possibly the biggest stars on the show. Nick cut a promo before the match talking about both the challengers getting ROH Contracts and Ospreay winning the ROH TV title the prior night, he then suggested they make this for the ROH tag titles (it wasn’t beforehand), Nigel McGuinness then made that official. Match itself was excellent, not to my surprise. These 4 guys went at 100 miles an hours, but didn’t miss a beat, and The Bucks have always found the tremendous balance between their natural high-flying style, but an excellent ability to combine that with being complete and utter assholes. Ospreay was still moulding himself as maybe THE best high-flyer/acrobatic wrestler in the world, but he was excellent in this match. The odd-couple dynamic between the challengers was fun, and they combined in-ring well also. Nick Jackson was an absolute superstar in this match, and still in 2021 he’s one of my favourite wrestlers. I just think the guy is a wrestling genius. The Bucks did the duel Omega-Terminator spot he used to do all the time in Japan as well which was fun, and later on we had a funny spot where Matt pretended to be Ospreay and reached to give a tag, but instead this allowed for Nick to hit a superkick. Ospreay hitting a handspring double Pele kick to both Bucks was insanely good, as was Ospreay hitting a somersault and then a dive over the ropes onto both Bucks on the outside. Matt took a series of superkicks from both challengers for a nearfall, and almost got caught in a submission before The Bucks had a superkick party (Kevin Kelly was hilarious on commentary), before Ospreay went crazy too and hit a series of moves which ended with him flying in to a pair of superkicks (think similar to the famous Ricochet-Adam Cole spot from NXT). Eventually with all 4 men down, Matt got hit with a pair of thrust kicks on the turnbuckle before Ospreay FLEW over him and onto Nick on the outside in another crazy dive spot. Honestly this match on tv is good, seeing it live it was incredible. We almost had a submission before Nick broke it up, and after a striking exchange and people moving all over the place, we had Nick hit a summersault off the top for a nearfall. The Bucks then signalled for the Meltzer Driver, but Ospreay caught Nick in mid-air with a flying forearm, and Opsreay hit a series of moves after for another nearfall that was only broken up by a Swanton by the other Young Buck. We had a spot where The Bucks accidentally took out the ref but then both got hit with low blows… Later on Ospreay got hit with a superkick and then he came back after to stop The Bucks getting the pin after hitting More Bang For Your Buck. Not long after The Bucks went for a Meltzer Driver, but as Nick dove down Ospreay caught him mid-air with a hurricanrana in a CRAZY spot, and accidentally this was enough to give The Bucks the win! Crazy way to end a crazy but very good match. One of the best matches I have ever seen live.

The Briscoes came out after to confront The Bucks after ahead of their tag title match at the upcoming Final Battle PPV.

And that was pretty much it. A very good show as my first, and indeed you always remember your first time, and I will never forget this ROH show in Leicester.

Josh.

Thank You NXT TakeOver – A Tribute

WWE NXT TakeOver 36 Results (8/21/21): Kross vs. Samoa Joe, More!

With the HORRIBLE recent transition to NXT 2.0, the Black and Gold brand that we all loved is well and truly DEAD. And so it seems that the cherry on the most beautiful wrestling cake, NXT TakeOver, is also no more. Recently they announced NXT: War Games… not NXT TakeOver: War Games… It was a subtle change to some, but to me another sign that times are changing… Now I adored pretty much every TakeOver event, some of them were among my favourite shows I’ve ever watched. So it feels appropriate to look back at them now, enjoy the nostalgia, and the excellence, and see some of the more familiar names get their big start… and as will sadly become a theme we’ll be able to see just how great some of these performers WERE presented, and the dross they had to put out some years later…


NXT TakeOver (29/5/2014)

The first TakeOver in the early days of the brand becoming the next big thing… And the most memorable match saw the Queen of WWE get her first bit of championship success, as a young Charlotte defeated Natalya to win the NXT Women’s title vacated by then Diva’s Champion Paige. We also had two great matches with Tyler Breeze beating Sami Zayn to get the next shot at NXT Champion Adrian Neville, who retained his title against Tyson Kidd. And elsewhere… erm… we had the likes of Adam Rose, Camacho (who would later turn into Tanga Loa of Bullet Club and New Japan fame), The Ascension, Kalisto and El Local (Ricardo Rodriguez)… We had to start somewhere I guess…

NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way (11/9/2014)

Five years ago today was arguably one of the best fatal four ways in the  2010's era between Adrian Neville, Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze, and Sami Zayn  at NXT Takeover: 4 Way :

With 4 of the 6 matches on this show going under 10 minutes, and the other going just above that, as you can presume by the title of it, this TakeOver was all about the main event. And boy did they deliver… Probably the 4 best wrestlers in NXT at that time, in a match for the title, and it was GREAT. But as good as Breeze, Kidd and Zayn all were it was still Adrian Neville who continued his reign at the top of NXT.

NXT TakeOver: R Evolution (11/12/2014)

The most notable TakeOver so far saw two of the defining moments in the brand’s history. Having won his first TakeOver match in the opener, Kevin Owens would reappear at the conclusion of the main event (where Sami Zayn defeated Neville to finally win the NXT Championship)… It was after that KO set an all to familiar precedent, by turning heel on his triumphant former friend…

NXT TakeOver: Rival (11/2/2015)

Women's Champion Sasha Banks on NXT's Growing Popularity and Her Own Success

Although the headlines from this TakeOver were taken by Owens (who won the title from Zayn in the main event), reading this card on paper and the semi-main jumps out as most historic… We got a fatal 4 way between the 4 who would go on to be the Four Horsewomen of WWE, in which we saw Sasha Banks emerge as the new NXT Women’s Champion beating Charlotte, Bayley and Becky.

NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable (20/5/2015)

For the first time, in what would become a theme of these TakeOver shows, we ended not with a match finish… but with a surprise… After the rematch between NXT Champion Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn ended in a no contest (Zayn injured his shoulder, but Owens continued with his beat down which then drew out NXT GM William Regal), Owens was then confronted by the debuting… SAMOA JOE!

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn (22/8/2015)

Asuka vs Ember should be the main event at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III – I  Maintain The Double Foot Stomp Is Silly

The show that changed it all for NXT. Finally they moved away from Full Sail to the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York. And for a big show to be truly remembered, it needs that one classic… and my OH MY did this show have it!!! Sure we had The Demo Finn Balor and Kevin Owens in a ladder match, and sure we had JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER… But we also had one of the all time great Women’s matches, a match that really changed the game for women’s wrestling… As Bayley claimed her place as the top female in NXT with a win over Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s title, as the former followed Charlotte and Becky to the main roster.

NXT TakeOver: Respect (7/10/2015)

Many talk about the Brooklyn match, but for me this 2 out of 3 falls match between Bayley and Sasha was even better! An absolute all-time classic that told a superb story, with the beloved babyface finally putting away the bastard heel. We also had a couple of notable happenings which would begin historic spells for NXT, with the TakeOver debut of Asuka, and Samoa Joe and NXT Champion Finn Balor winning the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

NXT TakeOver: London (16/12/2015)

Another sign of the incredible growth and popularity of NXT was the first international TakeOver. And thus we had to have The Demon come out with a themed entrance, this time Finn Balor had a Jack The Ripper inspired entrance, in London of course… before he beat his former tag partner Samoa Joe in a great main event.

NXT TakeOver: Dallas (1/4/2016)

Shinsuke Nakamura V Sami Zayn @ NXT TakeOver: Dallas (1/04/2016) | by  Joshua Woodcock | Medium

Genuinely, one of my all-time favourite TakeOvers. A tremendous opener with American Alpha beating The Revival, Asuka beginning her historic reign as NXT Women’s Champion, a ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ inspired Demon Balor beating a bloodied Samoa Joe to keep the NXT title… and of course… the WWE debut of a MEGAstar from Japan with an awe-inspiring entrance, and an all time classic match…

NXT TakeOver: The End (8/6/2016)

NXT TakeOver: The End Results - 6/8/16 (Samoa Joe retains the NXT Title,  Austin Aries vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, lots of debuts) -

As the title of the show suggested, it really was the end… After shockingly losing the NXT title to Samoa Joe at an NXT live event, the title rematch took place here inside a steel cage… where we saw Finn Balor’s final TakeOver match… for now…

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 2 (20/8/2016)

If the first Brooklyn TakeOver was historic, the second was maybe one that represented new beginnings for the brand… It featured Takeover debuts for Ember Moon and Bobby Roode, an NXT swansong for Bayley, and in the main event a phenomenal match ended with a new King of NXT being crowned to a thunderous ovation.

NXT TakeOver: Toronto (19/11/2016)

DIY thanks William Regal after last night's NXT Takeover: Toronto,  post-match reactions and more - Wrestling News

The first TakeOver Toronto was another very good show. And I could talk about the fun all-Canadian opener with Bobby Roode and Tye Dillinger, Asuka and the legendary Mickie James having a great match, or even the shocking main event finish with Samoa Joe winning back the NXT title… but for me this show will forever be remembered for one of the very finest tag team matches in company history… 2 out of 3 falls… The Revival finally losing their NXT Tag titles to a couple of familiar faces who would go on to define the entire brand of NXT…

NXT TakeOver: San Antonio (28/1/2017)

By the time NXT TakeOver rolled into San Antonio, Shinsuke Nakamura was once again NXT Champion… but not for long… And after we had seen the likes of Asuka and The Authors of Pain walk out of their matches as champions. this was the night NXT truly became… GLORIOUS! It was also this show where Seth Rollins made a surprise mid-show run in to try and call out Triple H, ahead of their eventual WrestleMania match some months down the line… “Show’s Called TakeOver right!?”…

NXT TakeOver: Orlando (1/4/2017)

drew-mcIntyre-Drew-galloway-on-camera-at-nxt-takeover-orlando-2017-wrestlemania-1  - PWPonderings

I LOVED this show!!! And sure I can talk about the TakeOver debut of Aleister Black, or the excellent matches between Asuka and Ember Moon, and the tag three way with AOP, DIY and The Revival… or even Bobby Roode retaining the NXT title against Shinsuke Nakamura… but I remember this show most of all for the familar face that appeared in the crowd, some weeks after I had watched him wrestle at an indie show in Nottingham… DREW MCINTYRE was in NXT!

NXT TakeOver: Chicago (20/5/2017)

It was around this time that NXT and TakeOver shows were really starting to get a reputation for being excellent shows, and this was no exception. Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate had a classic to really put NXT UK on the map, and following the main event of the show that saw AOP retain the NXT Tag Titles in a brutal ladder match against DIY, we had one of the most defining moments in TakeOver history, and one that would change NXT forever…

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 3 (19/8/2017)

For a long time this was my favourite TakeOver, and anyone who said it was the best one I certainly would not argue… a tremendous wrestling show top to bottom that had everything… whether it be Johnny Gargano failing to rid himself of the demons from his former tag partner’s betrayal in his loss to Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, SAnitY’s NXT Tag title win being overshadowed by a post match attack by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, Aleister Black and Hideo Itami kicking eachother to pieces, Asuka again beating Ember Moon in a match featuring one of my favourite ever nearfalls, and in our main event Drew McIntyre won the NXT Championship from Bobby Roode, but his celebrations were quickly cut short by another post match assault and a HUGE debut… BAY BAY!!!

NXT TakeOver: War Games (18/11/2017)

WWE anuncia salida del luchador mexicano Andrade

Yet another fucking GREAT TakeOver saw the debut of NXT’s take on the War Games match featured previously in WCW, and a creation of the great Dusty Rhodes. In this we saw a strange 3 way War Games match with the Undisputed Era beating SAnitY and a mashed together team of AOP and Roderick Strong. Elsewhere we saw Ember Moon win the vacant NXT Women’s Championship, after her long time foe Asuka ascended to the main roster, and in a pretty shocking result, and a very good match that was only hampered somewhat by Drew McIntyre’s injury that sped up the finish and kept him out of action for many months after (in fact this would turn out to be Drew’s final NXT match, as he returned to the ring on Raw not long after WrestleMania the next year)… but it all meant that we had a NEW NXT Champion…

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia (21/1/2018)

Another great TakeOver show, with an absolutely incredible match in the main event. Johnny Gargano finally got his shot to banish his demons and win the NXT Championship… but came up short against Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas in a match of the year candidate. Elsewhere we had a brutal Extreme Rules match between Aleister Black and Adam Cole, and Ember Moon somehow escaping as still the NXT Women’s Champion after a battle against Shayna Baszler. And again… we got a staple of these shows… as the closing graphic tricked us all… again… and HE was back!

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans (7/4/2018)

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST… WHAT AN UNREAL SHOW!!! On the eve of WrestleMania, NXT may well of stolen the weekend… Opening with a 5 star ladder match as Adam Cole was crowned the first ever NXT North American Champion, Shayna Baszler taking her position as the true Queen of NXT, Adam Cole pulling double duty as the Undisputed Era not only kept the NXT Tag Titles, but also added Roderick Strong to their ranks in an awesome moment. Aleister Black also became a new champion as he won the NXT title in a forgotten classic… Forgotten because everything on this GREAT show played second fiddle to the main event. An Unsanctioned Match that was well over a year in the making… Tommaso Ciampa entered to a chorus of boos, but with all his might and evil intentions he still could not keep Johnny Gargano down. One of the all time best matches in NXT to close one of their best ever shows.

NXT TakeOver: Chicago 2018 (16/6/2018)

WWE NXT TakeOver: Chicago 2 recap & reactions: One way or another -  Cageside Seats

Another great show with 4 good-very good matches, with another brutal Gargano-Ciampa gimmick match in the main event. This one though was way more violent and physical than the previous… and this time we didn’t get our happy ending… in truly shocking fashion it was Tommaso Ciampa’s time to end TakeOver as the winner, with a ddt on the exposed ring wood-floor… all with his hands in cuffs by the way… In the same city where he first turned on his former friend a year prior, Ciampa once again had his moment…

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 (18/8/2018)

Great photo of Adam Cole's superkick to Ricochet at Takeover: Brooklyn 4 :  r/SquaredCircle

Well, what a great birthday present for me this was! So many highlights with Ricochet beating Adam Cole in one of the matches of the year (featuring one of the ALL-TIME best spots), Kairi Sane (my favourite wrestler) winning the NXT Women’s title, and in another brutal main event (this time with the NXT Championship on the line) Tommaso Ciampa again JUST got the better of Johnny Gargano, who now would begin going down a much darker path after once again failing to conquer his former DIY friend…

NXT TakeOver: War Games 2018 (17/11/2018)

NXT TakeOver: WarGames II – five things we learnt from last night's  pulsating NXT show

Another epic show with something for everyone on it. The quickest match in NXT history saw Matt Riddle beat Kassius Ohno in SIX seconds of the impromptu opener, Shayna Baszler (who had won back her championship by now previously) won a great 2 out of 3 falls match against Kairi Sane to retain the NXT Women’s title, Aleister Black avenged his mystery attack from the now heel Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa’s reign as champion of NXT continued, and the second NXT War Games match saw the more traditional 4v4 concept match as the babyface team of Pete Dunne, Ricochet and the War Raiders defeated the Undisputed Era in a FORTY-SEVEN minute main event!

NXT TakeOver: Phoenix (26/1/2019)

2019 continued where 2018 left of with another epic TakeOver show. But as good as the other matches on the show were, really this show was part of the much longer and bigger story between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa… No it was NOT over just yet!!! Gargano beat Ricochet to win the North American title, whilst Ciampa retained the NXT title in the main event against Aleister Black. And then after the show… the unthinkable happened… our former hero stood side by side with his mortal enemy… two former friends now ran NXT as heels, and we got an image that my friend Dan predicted we would see at the shows end… and he said this would happen before the show even started!

NXT TakeOver: New York (5/4/2019)

WWE NXT TakeOver New York Results: Johnny Gargano and Biggest Winners and  Losers | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Not just the best TakeOver, but one of the best wrestling shows I’ve ever seen! An amazing opener with War Raiders beating Ricochet and Aleister Black in both of the later’s NXT farewell, Walter winning the NXT UK title in a brutal fight with Pete Dunne, Shayna Baszler overcoming Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, and Kairi Sane, and in the main event… No not Tommaso Ciampa, who sadly had to forfeit the NXT Championship due to a serious injury, and the need for surgery… but we instead got Adam Cole facing off with Johnny Gargano in a 2 out of 3 falls match for the vacant title… and well, there’s no other way to put this… we got the best match in NXT history! And as if the match, and Gargano’s eventual triumph wasn’t enough, we got a surprise return at the end of the show… but this time we got a happy ending, one that made the author of this blog shed a tear… still gets me emotional this image now…

NXT TakeOver: 25 (1/6/2019)

Triple H Says NXT Takeover 25 Is a Statement, Talks Adam Cole and More

Sadly, or not if you’re me, Gargano’s reign wouldn’t last for long… Another good show (highlights of which included the Street Profits winning the NXT Tag Tiltes) concluded with Adam Cole defeating the former champion in another match of the year candidate. Just over half an hour of absolute top quality professional wrestling… and the beginning of the Undisputed Era of NXT… BAY BAY!

NXT TakeOver: Toronto 2019 (10/8/2019)

Adam Cole Retains The NXT Title After A Brutal 2-Out-Of-3 Falls Match At  TAKEOVER: TORONTO

Another good TakeOver with another great card. But as good as the likes of Street Profits vs Undisputed Era and the newly heel Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae was, this show really was a one match show. Cole vs Gargano 3 was an insane 2 out of 3 falls match, with an extreme twist… Fall 1 was a singles match (which Cole won), fall 2 a street fight which Gargano won to take us to fall 3… a quite insane BARBED WIRE steel cage match… After a brutal 52 MINUTES Adam Cole retained the NXT Championship, and Johnny Gargano’s quest to reclaim the NXT Title was over…

NXT TakeOver: War Games 2019 (23/11/2019)

The first TakeOver show after NXT went live, really showed how the brand had gone to another level once again. Top to bottom this show was excellent; a great first War Games match for the women saw Rhea Ripley lead her team to glory, Pete Dunne earned an NXT Title shot for Survivor Series the next night, Finn Balor made his TakeOver return beating Matt Riddle… and finally in a phenomenal men’s War Games match, The Undisputed Era were on the losing end of a dream team of the recently returned Tommaso Ciampa, along with Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic and the surprise Team Ciampa member, KEVIN OWENS (which once again my mate Dan correctly predicted)!

NXT TakeOver: Portland (16/2/2019)

NXT TakeOver Portland - Gargano turns on Ciampa, Charlotte Flair accepts NXT  challenge for WrestleMania, Broserweights win title

The final TakeOver before the pandemic changed the world forever, but boy did this show go out with a bang! Arguably the best TakeOver (in-ring wise) of the lot; Keith Lee vs Dominik Dijakovic, and Finn Balor vs Johnny Gargano were both classics, but neither were close to an incredible main event with Adam Cole retaining the NXT Championship against Tommaso Ciampa, thanks to a truly shocking assist… FROM JOHNNY GARGANO!!!

NXT TakeOver: In Your House (7/6/2020)

NXT TakeOver: In Your House | WWE

As NXT went indoors, this TakeOver had a very different feel, but that was to be expected sadly… We still got some good stuff mind, including Karrion Kross beginning his dominance of NXT with a decisive victory over Tommaso Ciampa, and in the main event Io Shirai won the NXT Women’s Championship in a triple threat match by pinning Rhea Ripley as the Charlotte Flair experiment came to an end…

NXT TakeOver: 30 (22/8/2020)

NXT TakeOver XXX (August 22) Results & Review

Another good show, but a sign things were changing very quickly in NXT, and maybe the first sign NXT was no longer a priority for WWE… As not too long after he became the first man to hold both the NXT and North American titles simultaneously, Keith Lee lost the NXT title here, and the next night at SummerSlam was on his way to Raw… It was Karrion Kross who left this show as champion, but due to injury he too wasn’t champion for long… We also got Damian Priest winning the vacant North American title in a great multi-man ladder match, and a match between Adam Cole and Pat McAfee that was WAY better than it had any right to be!

NXT TakeOver: 31 (4/10/2020)

Finn Balor Taken to Local Hospital Following NXT Takeover 31 Main Event |  411MANIA

Kind of a slower TakeOver in terms of blockbuster action, but still one that had some great wrestling. Shirai vs LeRae, Priest vs Gargano and Santos Escobar vs Swerve were all great, as was a very brutal main event with now NXT Champion Finn Balor retaining against Kyle O’Reilly, in a match that Balor suffered a legitimate injury such was the force of O’Reilly’s attacks… This show also marked the beginning of NXT’s time in the Capitol Wrestling Centre, which added to the dark and underground feel.

NXT TakeOver: War Games 2020 (6/12/2020)

NXT TakeOver: War Games 2020 (December 6) Results & Review

Another solid War Games TakeOver, with 2 decent War Games matches sandwiching some good matches elsewhere… With the main event seeing The Undisputed Era claim a War Games win against Team McAfee.

NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day (14/2/2021)

Adam Cole Turns Heel - Undisputed Era Explodes NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day  (VIDEO)

The year TakeOver died began with another solid ‘rasslin card. As Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez and then MSK won the women’s and men’s Dusty Classics respectively, Gargano retained his North American title against KUSHIDA, Io Shirai retained her Women’s title and then Finn Balor defeated Pete Dunne to retain the NXT title in a match that was as good and hard-hitting a match as the participants in it would suggest. However the show would end in shocking fashion… as once Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong had come out to make the save for Finn Balor after Pete Dunne’s pals came to back him up… UE leader Adam Cole took exception to this… and the unthinkable split of NXT’s most dominant faction began…

NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver (7&8/4/2021)

Kyle O'Reilly emerges victorious at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver after  brutal Unsanctioned Match

A first for a TakeOver in that it took place over two nights. But for me it was a triumph as a really enjoyed both, and it was nice to see more people be able to shine on the TakeOver stage. Night 1 saw a BANGER between Walter and Tommaso Ciampa and later Raquel Gonzalez winning the NXT Women’s title from Io Shirai. Night 2 had a good undercard, but really was all about the final 2 matches… as Karrion Kross won back the NXT Championship he never lost, and in the main event Kyle O’Reilly won his showdown with former UE stablemate Adam Cole in a brutal unsanctioned match.

NXT TakeOver: In Your House (13/6/2021)

NXT TakeOver: In Your House | WWE

We went back inside for our penultimate TakeOver. But really this was a one match show… And although the tide had began to turn on the all-conquering Karrion Kross, he still had to go through a heck of a challenge to walk out with the NXT Championship after winning a 5 way match against Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, and Pete Dunne.

NXT TakeOver 36 (22/8/2021)

WWE 'NXT TakeOver 36': Samoa Joe becomes NXT Champion - UPI.com

This was a really weird show, tinged with a lot of sadness for many who had loved what NXT had become. We all kind of knew this would be the last we would see of NXT as we knew it, with rumours of what would become the current NXT 2.0 rife… NXT was changing if we liked it or not… And so a lot of this show was predictable, we did get some highlights though with Ilija Dragunov ending the historic reign of Walter and NXT UK Champion in an ALL-TIME CLASSIC, Kyle O’Reilly came out on top in the conclusion of his rivalry with Adam Cole, and finally the recently returned SAMOA JOE sent Karrion Kross off for his spell on Raw (wonder how that will go for him), and bizzarely going in to the ‘new era’ of NXT, the veteran now was the first ever 3 time NXT Champion… not for long of course…

So like it or not, NXT TakeOvers are no more. But as the old saying goes… don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. And whatever monstrosity NXT 2.0 is… NXT TakeOver will forever be remembered as the greatest collection of shows WWE ever produced, and to everyone who was a part of that… Triple H and his crew behind the scenes, Neville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Ember Moon, Drew McIntyre, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, Shayna Baszler, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Adam Cole, Kairi Sane, Keith Lee, Karrion Kross as well as the likes of Tom Phillips & Corey Graves, Mauro Ranallo, Percy Watson, Nigel McGuinness, Beth Phoenix, Vic Joseph & Wade Barrett… I can only say one thing…

Thank You!

Josh.

10 Best Choices To Be The NEXT AEW World Champion

AEW Full Gear 2021 Results: Adam Page Beats Kenny Omega, Wins World Title

So after Full Gear, we are now in the era of COWBOY SHIT! It is a quite wonderful time where The Hangman is the champion of the world! But as those of us that have been blessed enough to see the story of Adam Page all the way… up to the point where is now the AEW Champion… But it’s clear for a few reasons that this story still has places it will go and can go… And given the long term booking shown from Tony Khan already, including in the story of The Hangman, I have no doubt that the story of who next becomes the company’s champion will be another for the ages… So just WHO could that be? Well, here I will take a look at the CURRENT 10 best options to eventually dethrone Our heroic Cowboy… Now I am by no means saying I think or would want the reign of Adam Page to end anytime soon, but of course it must end at some point… Given the tremendous way in which AEW builds up it’s characters I believe there are a number of realistic options of who could be the next man to hold the richest prize in AEW… So here now is my list of the 10 best possibilities on who could be the 5th and next AEW Champion!


10. Eddie Kingston

Eddie Kingston Takes Shot at WWE After AEW Dynamite Goes Off The Air |  411MANIA

Some will say he already had his shot at being the top guy, and others will say the fact this man was cheered even against CM PUNK, all means that Eddie Kingston being the man to dethrone Adam Page is unlikely to happen… But I think he has already shown at times in AEW that should he need to, he can play an asshole VERY well. Just imagine the promos Kingston would cut if he was up against, and then beat the beloved Hangman… Imagine how upfront and in-your-face he would be as the world champion. I think the idea of a heel Eddie Kingston turning up his already-high intensity to 11 and beating down Adam Page, if nothing else, is intriguing to me…

9. Andrade ‘El Idolo’

Andrade El Idolo Segment Added To AEW Dynamite: Fyter Fest

Although he had a rocky start to his time with AEW, Andrade had picked up some steam now following some classics against PAC, and their involvement with the Cody-Malakai feud. Anyone, like me, who saw his run as NXT Champion will tell you he is a tremendous wrestler, capable of playing the arrogant, cocky heel role to perfection. And give him the right story and motivation and I could definitely see him as a rival for the Hangman.

8. Miro

Backstage News On Miro Appearing On Wednesday's AEW Dynamite

He came in as Kip Sabian’s ‘best man’… but he’s very much his own man nowadays. Since dubbing himself as God’s favourite champion during his dominant run as TNT Champion, Miro has been on an absolute tear. An despite two recent high profile losses to Sammy Guevara and Bryan Danielson, I don’t think either have hampered the run of Miro too much. His promos each time make him come across as the menacing monster that ‘Rusev’ never quite was. Miro could be a top heel champion in any era for me, I for one wouldn’t be too upset if he was once again ‘God’s Favourite Champion’ in the future.

7. Bryan Danielson

MFTM: Bryan Danielson Calls Out The Champ 11/17/21 | TNTdrama.com

The current number one contender, and by proxy the most likely to be the next champion. I don’t think he will be, but this newly found aggression and attitude both in and out the ring make him a formidable threat to anyone. He was already one of the outstanding wrestlers on the planet, but now he really will, happily, kick someone’s fucking head in!

6. PAC

Latest On Pac's AEW Return Status

I’m just SUCH a big fan of PAC. He really is a BASTARD, and despite kind of being positioned as a babyface right now, it wouldn’t take too much at all to make him a top heel once again. And given his history with Adam Page, that goes right back to the very, very beginning of AEW… seeing these two go at it for the World title would be something else… and we really do need a PAC world title run before it’s all said and done.

5. Jon Moxley

AEW star Jon Moxley entering rehab for alcohol use

It felt very much like to me, and it’s been pretty much eluded to by sources since, that Jon Moxley was scheduled to win the recent contender’s tournament, and be the first challenger to The Hangman. It wasn’t to be at this time… but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future, it was of course Mox that Page was battling against before he eventually climbed the ladder to get his title shot in the first place, and much like PAC you would say it wouldn’t take too much at all to flick that switch and gift the world a crazed, heel Jon Moxley. It may be tricky to get him legitimate heel heat given his recent battle, but I’ve no doubt if you gave Moxley a mic, he could make us all hate him soon enough… and then he could always just beat the shit out of a top babyface upon his return, and we’d be off to the races right away…

4. Malakai Black

Malakai Black opens up on being allowed to unleash his creativity in AEW  with Tony Khan, possible House of Black stable and his final plans in WWE

Honestly can’t express my joy as to how AEW have booked Malakai Black since he joined the company. Even from his entrance he just comes across as a BIG deal. He’s having great matches all over the place, and that spinning heel kick has kept being protected which is promising. And even his loss to Cody Rhodes was well explained within the story, and again it wouldn’t take too much to push him to the top of those AEW rankings. I would predict within the next year, Malakai Black will be a champion in AEW in some form…

3. CM Punk

AEW: CM Punk non ha alcuna fretta di affrontare Kenny Omega | Spazio  Wrestling

I feel like the CM Punk heel turn is inevitable at this stage… There’s still plenty of matches and rivalries for him to have as a fan’s favourite, but my god I think he would be an even better heel in 2021 than he was a decade or so ago… As someone who came to AEW to fight and help the younger talent, it would be great to see him against the likes of Jungle Boy and Sammy Guevara but as a heel… and just imagine those promos… And surely it’s too tempting not to utilise the straight edge CM Punk against the beer-loving Hangman… How the wider wrestling fandom would react if CM Punk became AEW World Champion is one thing, but just think of the stars he could make, and what it would do for the man who eventually took that title from him…

2. Adam Cole

Tony Schiavone on his confrontation with Adam Cole- Wrestling Inc.

Way too many reasons as to why I think this would be so good… But firstly just imagine, by the time Kenny Omega returns from his injury-led absence he comes back to find Adam Cole not only having taken his place as the ‘leader’ of The Elite… but also holding the championship that he carried for so long… I don’t think you need the world title to tell that story, but it would be cool right? Aside from that I think anyone who saw any of his work as champion in NXT and even before that in ROH know how well Adam Cole carries the ship of his company as World Champion… I for one wouldn’t mind seeing it again… but as great as Adam Cole is, I think there’s just one who would be an even better choice to dethrone The Hangman…

1- MJF

MJF WILL Be AEW World Champion - Why Wait? - 1Z1 Pro Wrestling

Tony Khan recently said he had mapped out right from the start who his first 4 world champions were… and I’d be willing to be if you had asked him at the time to pick his best bet for his 5th, he’d of given you the name of Maxwell Jacob Friedman. He is EVERYTHING a heel should be and then some, the most outstanding character maybe in all of wrestling, such is his commitment to being absolutely despised. I cannot think of anyone who even comes close to being as good a candidate as MJF to beat Adam Page for the gold, you saw how MJF milked when he beat Cody, when he beat Chris Jericho, when he recently beat Darby Allin… Can you even imagine how he’d be if he became the world champion???…

Oh and as a sidenote… I’ll even give you my pick right now to be the 6th champion of All Elite Wrestling… and maybe one day, I’ll tell you more about it…

Darby Allin match announced for next week's AEW Dynamite - Wrestling News

Josh.

AEW Full Gear 2021 – Review

See the source image

It seems like we say this every time they put on a PPV… But this really does feel like the biggest show in the history of All Elite Wrestling… so lets see how they do shall we? …

The usual Buy – In format saw a series of video packages highlighting the matches on the main PPV card, before we had our one live match… Only this time we had a little extra…

Tony Schiavone was in the ring to interview Dante Martin in his home town… He asked him about Team Taz’s offer to join them the previous night on Rampage… Before he could answer Max Caster and Anthony Bowens of The Acclaimed came down… The did their usual rap gimmick including one line that said “Lio Rush can’t handle this kind of environment, he’s about to go on his 15th retirement” – that popped me good. Anyway, Dante showed his usual extraordinary athleticism as he declined The Acclaimed’s offer to join them instead. Fun little bit to get the hometowner over.

Hikaru Shida & Thunder Rosa defeated Nyla Rose (with Vickie Guerrero) & Jamie Hayter

This was fine. The babyface team was very over with the crowd, Rose played her role great here… she suplexed both the babyfaces at one point, whilst also taking a heck of a beating not long after… Shida hit a crossbody from the middle rope to the outside onto Nyla, and Thunder Rosa hit a crossbody onto Hayter… Serena Deeb (who was sat in the crowd) distracted Shida, and this allowed for Vickie Guerrero to target Shida’s knee… Hayter then hit a suplex, and Nyla hit a Frog Splash (which was cool on the anniversary of Eddie Guerrero’s passing), but Thunder Rosa broke up the pinfall. Nyla went for the win but Shida rolled through and got the win.

***1/2

Tony Schiavone interviewed Orange Cassidy and Best Friends… On Dynamite next week is a tag match with Butcher and The Blade taking on Orange and a partner of his choosing… And given they are now members of CHAOS, Cassidy said he would use ‘Ask Jeeves’ to see who was in CHAOS… and one of those will be his partner… so lets see then… If only New Japan had a show in the US this weekend, meaning a few people would be free for Wednesday… Hmm…


MJF defeated Darby Allin

This was SO GOOD! MJF was booed by the crowd, and Darby had another cool mini-film before he came out… with Sting! The crowd was so with this match all the way, and both men responded in kind. Surprisingly the crowd was 50/50 with duelling chants at times, the wrestling here was super good, with a Tombstone Piledriver from MJF to Allin on the apron the highlight. Sting then cameback out to run off potential interference from Shawn Spears and Wardlow, but this distraction gave MJF the time to retrieve the Dynamite Diamond Ring from in his wrestling shorts, punch Darby with it, then use a Headlock Takeover (which factors in to a long time story between these two, where Darby once beat MJF with the ‘basic’ move on the indies some time ago)… And MJF got the win. One of MJF’s best matches for me, a GREAT opener for the main card.

****3/4

The Lucha Bros (Penta & Fenix) (C) with Alex Abrahantes defeated FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) with Tully Blanchard to retain the AEW World Tag Team Championship

This was a very good match let down slightly by a confusing finish. FTR played old-school asshole heels with their usual excellence, and you can’t not like The Lucha Bros. The in-ring stuff was as good as you’d expect, with a few shenanigans thrown in. At one point Tully tripped up Penta, and this allowed for Dax to hit the 3 amigos to him, which naturally the crowd HATED… but Penta cameback and countered the 3rd one and hit 3 amigos of his own, and Fenix hit an excellent Eddie-Frog Splash for a close nearfall. Then came the finish, and I’ve had to go back to make sure I got all this… Cash came back in the ring wearing one of the silly masks they’ve been wearing recently (to mock the Lucha Bros and the Luchador culture, given they are now AAA tag champions too), and Wheeler tried to get a pin with his feet on the ropes, but he was caught by the referee. Then The Lucha Bros hit their piledriver-finish on Wheeler and got the pin…BUT… Wheeler wasn’t the legal man this time, and so the champions retain by pinning the illegal man… This isn’t the end of this feud, given they’re rematching for the AAA titles at Triplemania soon, but this finish was odd… although I have eternal faith in this company to make everything make sense eventually.

****

Bryan Danielson defeated Miro in the final of the World Title Eliminator Tournament

The video before this match was really good. The match itself was a great mix and technical wrestling and striking. Danielson’s standard of matches with a range of opponents since he came to AEW is becoming absurd now, not that Miro isn’t tremendous in his own right… Finish of this match was really good too, Danielson fought out away from Miro’s grasp with elbows and strikes… and then one spinning ddt off the ropes followed by the gullotine got him the win. This plays in to the story told from his previous matches that Miro has a week neck, which is great continuity. What Miro does next after two big losses recently will be interesting… as for Danielson he’s the new number one contender for the championship.

****1/2

Jurrasic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus) & Christian Cage defeated The Super Kliq (Adam Cole & The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson)) in a Falls Count Anywhere match

The Bucks used ridiculous purple dye for their facial hair. The babyfaces wore jeans, your surefire sign this is a street fight. Cole’s face was covered in blood at one stage, we had a couple of big table spots, a great spot where the three heels did a BTE trigger with thumbtack-covered knee pads, but the highlight of a super-entertaining match was Luchasaurus hitting a shooting star press, which left Jungle Boy and everyone else who saw it gobsmacked. The cool finish saw Jungle Boy hit the conchairto on Matt Jackson for the win. This was just a real crazy and wild brawl, but really good fun to watch.

****1/2

PAC & Cody Rhodes (with Arn Anderson) defeated Andrade El Idolo (with Jose) & Malakai Black

Cody is SO clearly AEW’s John Cena… The odd-couple dynamic from both teams in this match made for a really interesting match, but the wrestling was really good as well as you’d expect from these 4. We had a great spot the crowd loved where Arn got wound up by Jose, and then got his ‘glock’ out and beat him up and chased him from ringside… For the finish Andrade went for a figure 4, but Cody countered and got his own… PAC got the tag and hit a 450 for a nearfall. After he went to go after Black on the outside but he pulled Rhodes in the way… After Cody hit a suplex to Black on the floor, and Malakai kicked him over the barricade, taking both men out. Meanwhile Andrade went for his finish, but PAC hit a suplex into the turnbuckle… then hit a poisioned rana and the Black Arrow for the win. This was good stuff all round.

****

Dr. Britt Baker DMD (C) (with Rebel & Jamie Hayter) defeated Tay Conti to retain the AEW Women’s Championship

Tay’s kicks were something else! She might be the most improved wrestler on the planet in the last year… amazing what you can achieve when you leave ‘developmental’… This match was fine, the story was Britt couldn’t get the Lockjaw in as Conti kept maneuvering out of it with her Ju Jitsu skills, and she got a couple of nearfalls along the way… but for the finish we again got Hayter and Rebel trying to interfere, which really was starting to take me out of Baker’s matches because it’s EVERY SINGLE TIME… BUT… Conti took them both out, and went for the win… Conti reversed another Lockjaw attempt into a cradle pin, but Britt reversed that into her own cradle and got the win.

***3/4

CM Punk defeated Eddie Kingston

This was a real personal feud going in, and the match reflected that… this was a FIGHT! Punk had UFC-style shorts, and right as the match started Kingston hit a big spinning backfist that took Punk down… From here it was a proper fight, with the crowd unsure of who they wanted to win at different points. Punk even got some boos at one stage, and he kind of indulged them by hitting some JOHN CENA moves and teased a 5 knuckle shuffle, but he just gave Kingston the bid instead. Crowd booed that, but cheered when he did the 3 amigos. For the finish both guys missed moves and seemed exhausted, Punk got elbows and knees and then hit a second GTS for the win. He tried to go for a handshake after the match, but Eddie didn’t shake it. Crowd were lively for this, but went back and forth on who they were behind which made it interesting. Good match though.

****

The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Santana, Ortiz & Jake Hager) defeated Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page & American Top Team (Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski & Dan Lambert) in a Minneapolis Street Fight

This went longer than it needed to, but they did a good job still. I thought both Junior Dos Santos and Andre Arlovski did their roles really well, Dos Santos got in it with Jericho towards the beginning and hit a powerslam and a standing moonsault for a nearfall! Apparently all the weapons around ringside were from Minneapolis… OK then… It was another wild brawl type match, but not of the level of the earlier 6 man match… but nonetheless it was fun to see. We had a fun moment where Ethan Page got into it with Jake Hager’s wife who was at ringside in the crowd… sat next to her was a man called Baron Von Rasch, a AWA and Minneapolis wrestling legend who was introduced to the crowd before this match… he put a Khali-style claw on Page and the crowd ate it up. The finish was the exact finish they should’ve done… Dan Lambert was alone in the ring with Jericho, and after Dos Santos stopped him hitting a Lionsault allowing Lambert to get a nearfall… Jericho then used a kendo stick and a stapler to attack Lambert, and he finished him off with a Frog Splash in tribute to his good friend Eddie Guerrero. Jericho was very emotional as Inner Circle celebrated their win. This was fun.

****

Among the matches announced for Wednesday’s Dynamite was The Butcher and The Blade vs Orange Cassidy… and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s TOMOHIRO ISHII!!! HOLY, FUCKING, SHIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTT!!!

Tony Schiavone was on the stage, where he introduced AEW’s newest signing Jay Lethal. He immediately challenged Sammy Guevara, who came out to accept, and the two will have a match for the TNT title.

“Hangman” Adam Page defeated Kenny Omega (C) with Don Callis to win the AEW World Championship

This was everything we hoped it would be… and then some…

There was an awesome video played before Hangman came out. Omega was booed which hasn’t always been the case before big matches since his turn… As you’d expect this was such a well laid out and well wrestled match. The pacing was excellent and the crowd loved every second of it. I’ve not quite seen a crowd want a babyface to win this badly before in an AEW match, this was another level.

They had a exchange of strikes early, with Kenny getting an advantage after Don Callis tripped Page up… and then he choked Page when Omega distracted the ref… Hangman fought-back, but soon Omega rammed Page’s back into the barricade and then the ring apron. Hangman hit a big suplex on the floor, and got a nearfall after but Omega thumped him in the eye and now he took charge again. Callis again attacked Page, and Kenny thought about the buckshot lariat… and Page tried to comeback but soon got hit with a big rana and then Omega’s Terminator Dive, a signature of his big matches from his days in Japan. They went back and forth some more, with Page hitting a crazy moonsault from the top rope to the outside, this got a big “COWBOY SHIT” chant. They had a series of nearfalls for both during the next part, and as Omega was raining down punches he bit away at Hangman’s forehead, soon after Page punched Omega when he was on the top rope and then he bit at his head. Soon after, Omega rolled outside, and Page came off the top of the actual ringpost and hit Omega which sent them both through a nearby table. Page eventually got Omega back in the ring and tried the buckshot lariat, but Omega dropped out the way of it… Page went for a V-trigger but Kenny ducked, Page tried a pop-up powerbomb, and again tried for his finish but Omega instead grabbed the ref so he took it instead. This was when Don Callis tried to hit Page with the title belt, but Page took him down. Omega then tried for a belt shot but Page ducked it and hit a Dead Eye… he had Omega pinned, but Aubrey Edwards sprinted out and only managed to get a 2 count for The Hangman… they went back and forth some more, and when both men were down the Young Bucks came out, still selling from their match earlier… eventually Omega hit a V-trigger as Page went for a buckshot, he then tried the One-Winged angel but Page countered into one of his own and got a VERY close nearfall. The finish of the match was so fucking awesome, and if like me you’ve followed this whole story of Page from the beginning the little bits they did hear meant the world… so Page goes for a buckshot lariat to the back of Omega’s head… Nick Jackson was looking on and could’ve stopped it, but hesitated and didn’t… Page went to the other side, Matt Jackson was looking on at Page and could’ve stopped him… but instead he looked at Page… and nodded… it was time… Adam Page hit the buckshot lariat, and pinned Kenny Omega. 1,2,3. Dark Order all came out and joined with the celebrations, the show closing with them all in the ring, and the hero of the hour being hoisted up high. A tremendous way to end an exceptional show.

This match was (MINIMUM) in the top 3 matches from AEW this year, and one of the best matches in company history.

*****

I don’t really have anything more I can say about, from an in-ring point of view definitely, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen…

Those of you who read my blog on Hangman I did last week, know how much this story has meant to me. I was very emotional and so beyond happy that we got the happy ending… and this is only the beginning of it.

All hail The Hangman. Long live the era of Cowboy CHAMPION shit!

Josh.

“Hangman” Adam Page – Professional Wrestling’s Best Babyface

Backstage News On Hangman Page's Absence From AEW TV - Wrestling Attitude

At it’s finest, as my friends at Wrestling Should Be Fun will tell you, wrestling is the story of the good guys finally beating the bad guys. And when we finally get that moment of overwhelming joy, there really is nothing quite like it. When Hogan beat Andre, when ‘the boyhood dream’ came true, when the ‘Austin Era’ began, the miracle on Bourbon Street became a reality, when The Man came around, when Kofi finally did it… some of the best feel good moments the business has seen. Moments which people will be talking about forever, all built on long term stories and characters, all with a babyface at the forefront who went through the shit, got back up, kept fighting, and eventually scored the biggest win of them all. And we all absolutely LOVED them for it… On Saturday Night, All Elite Wrestling could well be about to add it’s own babyface legend to the all-time list… AEW Full Gear 2021, the night we see some serious COWBOY SHIT!!!

I’ll tell you another thing the examples I’ve listed had in common… relatability. The Hangman doesn’t have a gimmick really, his gimmick is he likes a beer, but he’s a good guy and doesn’t stand for people who are dicks. He’ll do good for people who do good for him, and he stands up for what is right. He’s been through his struggles, his own self doubt and worries about his mental capacity to win ‘the big one… but he’s taken his time to learn and grow. And now he’s ready. Now he’s ready to go, he’s fired up, he’s motivated, and now he has the chance to prove his haters wrong. The show his once ‘friends’ that he’s more than just ‘A guy’ he’s ‘THE guy’! And if you can’t relate to any of that in some capacity in your own life, I don’t know what to tell you…

So, for the few of you who don’t know, let me run you through the story of The Hangman in AEW…

From legit day 1 of the company, Adam Page stated a desire to be the world champion. No messing about, right off the bat he told the world he wanted to be the world champion. And even injured, he earned the right to compete again Chris Jericho to crown the first ever AEW World Champion. Everyone who was everyone said it wasn’t Hangman’s time, me included. We all felt that All Elite Wrestling needed a big name like Jericho to carry the world title in the company’s early days, the logic being the bigger name leading the ship would help the company draw attention and grow. Adam Page was well aware he was the underdog, in kayfabe and reality. But he believed… we weren’t quite with him yet…

Chris Jericho Wins AEW Championship - Den of Geek

It wasn’t Page’s time… yet…

So from here, Page kind of last his way a little. You ever been after your ultimate success, not quite made it, and suddenly you lose your way because you’ve no focus, no pathway… no direction… Yeah, me too…

Page decided it was time for him to leave The Elite group of his then friends Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, and Cody Rhodes. He needed to go out on his own to find himself… and (in kayfabe) he found his way to a bottle… I know this storyline was very much a joke and tongue-in-cheek, but again it’s a very real story that I’m sure many watching have been through or been affected by in some way. Again Page is RELATABLE. But again, much like in reality, the world works in mysterious ways, and sometimes opportunity’s come when they are least expected…

At this point, with Page having settled his feud with PAC, he found himself teamed with fellow Elite member Kenny Omega in a tournament to decide the new number one contenders for the AEW Tag titles. Both men predominantly singles competitors, both men polar opposites, yet both fantastic at what they do. And as often is the case, opposites attracted…

But of course, when you are the champions, everyone will come for you, The Best of The Best. And when you talk about tag teams, and GREAT ones… you can’t look much further than… Fellow Elite members The Young Bucks… and what came about was the an amazing feud between… ‘friends’… the beginning of the end of The Elite…

And one of THE best matches in company history.

(Following report from my AEW Revolution PPV blog: https://nobodyisready.com/2021/04/23/the-best-all-elite-wrestling-ppv-so-far-revolution-2020-review/ )

Hangman’ Adam Page & Kenny Omega (C) defeated The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) to retain the AEW World Tag Team Championship

The Young Bucks got a superstar entrance, with the money cannons and everything. Page and Omega (coming out separately to one another) got huge crowd pops, particularly Hangman. Once he came in to the ring Hangman went nose to nose with Matt Jackson, tension was very high. They also had some cool lights interspersed in the crowd that changed colour in line with the music and what was going on during the entrances. It was subtle to some but looked cool. Interestingly also The Bucks were booed a little during their intros. Page and Omega were both cheered. And then it was finally time. We had a real big fight feel. ‘Cowboy Shit’ chants came from the crowd as the match got underway.

We had fun wrestling exchanges early, but that changed when Matt and Page got in the ring and Page SPAT in Matt’s face, before a brawl ensued. Nick and Kenny tried to stop the two from doing serious damage, but as the match went on it seemed the Young Bucks worked more and more like heels. Page even wanted to put Matt Jackson through a table that was set at ringside, but Kenny Omega reasoned with him not to. In terms of a proper move by move analysis of this match I didn’t write one to be honest. This match was a proper joy to watch; move for move it was perfect, everything within the match on it’s own made sense, and when you add in the huge backstory and build, it made for a classic. And it was just that. The crowd loved every minute of it, and above all else these 4 guys are GREAT professional wrestlers and each performed to their maximum here. Towards the end of the match (that went almost dead on 30 minutes) things went crazy in a good way; Kenny tried for a One Winged Angel off the middle rope (he had done the move against PAC on the previous Dynamite), but Nick Jackson countered into a poisonrana and Omega took a nasty looking bump. Speaking of nast looking bumps… Matt Jackson hit THREE consecutive nothern lights suplexes on Page up the entrance ramp (so imagine they flipped over three consecutive times, and Page took the bump over and over and over). As if that wasn’t bad enough for the Hangman, The Bucks then hit him with the Indytaker on the ramp. The crowd really didn’t like that one (they were so behind Page during the whole match by the way). After that The Bucks went at Kenny… they hit double knees, but Omega kicked out at ONE!

Then they both hit knees again and he kicked at 2…Matt Jackson in frustration tore the protective tape from Omega’s shoulder. They then tried for the Meltzer Driver, but Hangman Page came back in to play and put Nick Jackson through the table that was ringside with a powerbomb. Page and Omega hit what became their tag finisher (a Buckshot Lariat/V-Trigger combo) on Matt Jackson, who kicked out at 2. Omega then tried for the One Winged Angel (a move that STILL has never ever been kicked out of) but his shoulder gave way, and this was where Hangman turned into Hulk Hogan peak Hulkamania and it was AWESOME… He tags in, HE hit the One Winged Angel on Matt… but Nick Jackson makes the save during the pin. And then Page with a Buckshot Lariat to Nick Jackson whilst he was on the apron, and then sprung right into the ring and hit the same to Nick. And that got the 1,2,3. This match was awesome but Hangman Adam Page (who still now in 2021 I feel like is set to long term get THE big moment for the title) was the crowd favourite and really the MVP of this incredible match.

After the match it appeared that Omega made peace with Matt and Nick, but Page seemed not willing to do so. We had a super cool tease of Page hitting the Buckshot Lariat to Kenny, as he was stood on the apron looking menacingly towards Kenny, but as Omega turned around Page paused, and then held the ropes open for his tag partner to step through, and the crowd cheered as they left together. Page also got a beer from the crowd as he walked up the ramp. This was a fun tease, and the right call for it NOT to happen as I feel like Chicago would’ve rioted if their hero turned here.

AEW's Seven Best Matches From the Company's First Year

This was one of the ALL TIME great Tag Team matches, and possibly the best match in the history of AEW.

*****

But… All good things must come to an end… as the long running tensions within The Elite continued, Page and Omega would lose the tag titles to FTR in September of 2020. And soon after Page and Omega split and Page was OUT of The Elite.

Ever been shunned by people you thought were friends or those you cared about, just because you stayed true to yourself and didn’t just go with the flow? Yeah, me too…

From here Page and Omega went their own way as singles competitors once again. And they would find themselves in a singles tournament with the winner eventually facing Jon Moxley for the AEW title. And as Page battled his way past Colt Cabana and Wardlow, Kenny Omega took personally the constant jibes from people asking where the ‘old Omega from New Japan’ was… A newly found aggression saw him squash Sonny Kiss and then beat Penta… and so we had Omega vs Page at Full Gear 2020…

Kenny Omega Earns AEW World Title Shot At Full Gear (Pics, Video) | 411MANIA

Again though… Page came up short. He still wasn’t ready… Omega was still better than him. And Omega even told him as much after… From here Omega went on to prove how good he was, and did what Page never could… Ever seen someone lie and cheat to get something you bust your ass trying to get? Yep, I’m with you…

Kenny Omega Wins AEW World Championship With Help From Don Callis

As 2021 began, and Page’s former friends ran AEW with all the gold as the top heels… The Hangman would soon be connected to another faction… Although, he was reluctant at first to trust another group of people, having been let down before by people he trusted. And yes, I too have trust issues to new people that mean well, purely based on past experiences…

The Dark Order Make Offer To Adam Page On AEW Dynamite

The Dark Order were looking to change their ways, in light of the passing of their leader Brodie Lee. They now wanted to spread their message, but for good, and so looked to recruit The Hangman and help him find his way again… Early 2021 was when The Dark Order first made a move for Page… We are currently in November 2021 as the story approaches its peak… and that’s just THIS portion of the story…

At the Revolution PPV in March 2021, Page defeated Matt Hardy… The Dark Order chose to standby The Hangman, and they came to join the celebrations. Page had found friends again, that he could trust and they could trust him. Not friends he expected, but friends he needed…

Now he had his new friends behind him, and his self belief back, Page went again for his ultimate prize. By now though Omega had decided that Page was beneath him, out of fear? Or mockery? … But it wasn’t just Page who believed it was his time, so did The Dark Order… and so did WE the fans.

And so it was set, one of the biggest matches in AEW Dynamite history. The Dark Order and Adam Page vs The Elite and The Good Brothers. 5 vs 5 elimination style. Page and his crew win, he gets his shot at Omega and Evil Uno and Stu Grayson get their shot at The Young Bucks, who by now were tag champions. But if The Elite team won, not titles shots for anyone on the other team. It really was ALL on the line… and so we got an epic… but firstly, watch two of the best entrances of all time… and a heck of a Goosebumps video package about our new Hero…

But… it didn’t quite go to plan, or as ANY of us expected… The Elite WON! No title shots for Dark Order. No title shot for Page…

And so… Hangman eventually went away (in reality he was on maternity leave)… And the once solid Dark order began in-fighting and going off the rails themselves as a team. Bickering became the normal for the group, once united with a common goal, now split in two and with members contemplating leaving full stop and being missing for weeks…

But once again, our hero was not to be denied. Again The Cowboy went away, dusted himself down, and came back to fight.

On the October 6th AEW Dynamite, over 2 months since he was last denied his shot at Omega, The Hangman returned, re-focused and ready to finally claim what was his…

LISTEN to this pop. Time for some COWBOY SHIT!!!

Confirmed. 100% HIS. Hangman finally had his shot at Omega, his shot at the world title, his shot at redemption.

And he said as much himself, he was ready. He believed, WE believed.

Below is one of the finest babyface promos I’ve seen for a LONG TIME!

Saturday night. AEW Full Gear 2021. One year after Omega beat Page to get his shot at the title he now holds, the same two men will now close the show for the richest prize in the game. But they really aren’t the same two men are they? Omega remains one of the best wrestlers alive, now an asshole who cares only for himself and his world title. Adam Page remains a great wrestler, but now one with a grit and undeniable desire and determination. Stone Cold Steve Austin was more than ready to release a can of whup-ass on Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania, Hulk Hogan was ready to have Hulkamania run wild on Andre The Giant at WrestleMania 3, and now… Adam Page is READY to let some COWBOY SHIT on Kenny Omega.

I don’t often say this about AEW, but I truly hope they go for it this time. I don’t think they can do anything else. It really does feel like it’s Hangman’s time. A story that has been ongoing since Day 1 of the company, I now feel like it’s at it’s peak. I’ve not seen this much love and support for a babyface since AEW started. For sure Adam Page would be the least recognizable name to be AEW World Champion yet, Chris Jericho, Moxley and Omega all have been world champion elsewhere on bigger stages. But for those of us who’ve been with AEW since day 1, there really couldn’t be a better champion for us all to believe in that The Hangman. Like Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, and even Becky Lynch before, Adam Page winning the world title at Full Gear really would feel like a win for us all. I can’t think of a more relatable story in wrestling that than of Adam Page in his time with AEW.

And remember this:

“What is it that makes a cowboy? It’s not the boots or the buckle, its not the chaps, its not the jeans, its not the lasso or the cattle, not the horse or the saddle, you might think they’re all long gone, but you don’t need a hat to be a cowboy. A cowboy isn’t too busy to lend a hand to a partner, not too proud to take one either, and when they get knocked in the dirt, bloodied and trampled, a cowboy dusts themselves off, and gets back up. And they’ll stand by their partners and challenge those who have it all. And they’ll keep ridin’, ’til they find their peace.”

Good luck Hangman, we are all with you.

Josh.

THE Batman Films – Ranked & Reviewed

Well… I’m trapped in COVID jail! So to take up the time I’ve decided to write reviews of my favourite set of films ever made… so if you like Batman… please read on… My apologies for the lack of a full and proper introduction, but I’m kind of ill as I write this, so please excuse me. Anyway here’s my full analysis, review and ranking of each film, Batman and it’s Villain. Enjoy, I know I will.

Batman (1989)

Batman (1989) Movie Review

Michael Keaton puts in a solid showing as Batman, and equalled in performance level to him is the iconic Jack Nicholson playing the iconic role of The Joker. Particular shout out to two lines in the film that popped me good: Jack’s (pre-Joker transformation) response to his mistress saying “you look fine” … ‘I didn’t ask’ was a gem… and of course “You Wanna Get Nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts”. Solid Batman film with the most solid of stories, but had the slightly edgy/wacky elements that Batman is famous for. I liked this film as it shows how Jack Napier became The Joker, and the elements behind the man who became the monster. The side-story of reporter Alexander Knox and photojournalist Vicki Vale investigating the whole existence of “The Batman” was also super fun, and of course Bruce Wayne becoming and being Batman, and how all 3 sub-stories eventually intertwine was tremendous.

The foreshadowing was particularly great when Napier’s criminal boss says to him “you are my number 1… guy” (when sending him on a task that takes him to a chemical factory… the task that’s actually just a cover up to have Napier Killed for sleeping with Mob Boss Carl Grissom’s woman)… later in the movie a fully formed Joker uses the same line when talking to his second in command also… Grissom uses corrupt police lieutenant Max Eckhardt to arrange the hit on Nappier, which of course leads to him falling in acid and becoming the most famous of Batman Villains, after a brawl with the mysterious Batman himself. Napier is presumed dead, as The Batman makes his exit from The Police. As for Napier… well, he would return somewhat… different…

Joker Shoots Bruce Wayne - Batman (1989) Movie CLIP HD - YouTube

As Bruce Wayne is… entertaining… Vicki Vale… A newly transformed and much more psychotic Napier (via assistance from a backstreet plastic surgeon) goes on a rampage, killing Grissom and eventually killing some of his associates and taking charge of his mob empire. Joker instructs his own “number 1… guy” to follow Knox and find out what he knows about the mysterious Batman, who Joker sees as his main obstacle now. Vicki Vale later tries follow Bruce Wayne, having become intrigued by his mysterious and vague nature. She follows him to a spot in downtown Gotham where he lays a pair of red roses, at the spot his parents were killed by a mugger in front of him many years prior.

Wayne and Vale are both then witness to the killing of more of Grissom’s former associates, led by The Joker and his men. Joker uses this attack and murder as his “big reveal” to Gotham. It is here that Bruce Wayne and The Joker first come face to face. This all comes on the eve of a huge street festival set to take place in the city, and again it appears that the mysterious Batman may be taking The Joker’s much desired attention. It was made very clear at this stage a showdown between the two characters was inevitable. Wayne’s butler Alfred sets about helping him find out as much information as possible on Napier and what he may have planned. It then appears that Joker had requested photos of those looking in to The Batman, and upon seeing these he falls weak at the sight of Miss Vale. He then proceeds with his plans and scheming to destroy Gotham… after he encourages production of…something… in a factory, we cut to the story of the mysterious deaths of a number of beauty queens, which is revealed via a news report. The lady reading the news then begins to laugh hysterically, before collapsing to her death. The Joker then takes over the tv airwaves with a very bizarre and novel advert for his Joker-branded… products…

Meanwhile Bruce Wayne discovers all about Jack Napier and the grand plan of The Joker, who it turns out wants to use “Smylex” (the name of this chemical that leaves those who inhale it to… die laughing…) to terrorise Gotham City. It appears that this mystery substance has already been placed in various products that civilians use regularly, yet nobody knows where or what they are in. Lives continue to be claimed and even the news readers show after have developed spots and a more ragged-looking appearance as a result of unknown exposure to the deadly “Smylex”.

Later… The Joker further acts on his growing affection for Vicki Vale, and in time lures her to the Gotham Art museum… he does this by pretending to be Bruce Wayne, and as she is running mate she phones Wayne Manor to alert that she will be late. When Alfred relays this message to Bruce it becomes clear that Vale is about the be the butt of a very nasty… joke…

Vale takes her seat at the museum, at a table she believes has been reserved for her by Bruce. But a rather long time after, a gift is given to her… she opens a small box to a gas mask… and a note telling her to put it on…and soon after a deadly gas begins to engulf the room and knock out everyone in it… Napier and his crew then enter, with a rather wacky and… well…

After Napier introduces himself and tries to impress Vale in his own unique way, and tries to get her to join him and take photos of his… work… he reveals to Vale that he has caused a facial disfigurement to his mistress… as more of his… art… Napier finally tries to find out what Vale knows about Batman, to which Vale denies any knowledge of, she soon tries to escape… before Batman arrives just in time to take her to safety.

Batman, after escorting his damsel away from danger in the iconic and original Batmobile, later shows Vale his research into the Smylex and The Joker… in return to letting her know all about him and the spite of the city, Batman takes the film of the photos that Vale had taken, whilst Batman was fighting off Joker’s cronies. After this we next see Vale waking up the next day, and she soon tells of her evening adventures, suddenly Batman is front page news, as Vale gets word out about Joker’s plan and how and what he has done. The citizens are told of which products to avoid, new ones are on the way… and have the people now taken to the mysterious winged super-bat. Has the Joker been foiled already??? Well, he certainly is now after the big bad bat…

Not long after that… Bruce Wayne (who is definitely a different person to Batman, as far as Vicky Vale knows), who has now fully fallen for the photojournalist, plans to reveal all to her… and goes round to her place to talk things over… Vale seems more upset about Bruce and his materials ways, not letting Wayne get a word in… And he’s just about to reveal all… only for The Joker to interrupt. He goes on to use the famous line “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”, which was too used by the muggers who killed a young Bruce’s parents. Joker shoots Wayne, who survives thanks to a serving tray (hidden under his shirt) taking the bullet instead. In fact… this whole scene is great… so take a watch for yourself…

We later see Knox tell Vale that he has discovered that Bruce did indeed see his parents be killed right in front of him, what that does to someone Knox questions… Later we see Joker again take over the airwaves, overshadowing the announcement of the postponement of the big upcoming Gotham gala… This time The Joker says that tries to appeal to the less well off in Gotham, saying that at midnight he will dumping 20 million in cash on the crowd of his own parade he plans on putting on. He also lays out a public challenge to Batman to reveal himself… Napier is of course is trying to get people to gather for other means, he’s not just happy to literally throw money away… Bruce soon realises, upon watching this tv address, that it was indeed Napier who killed his parents… now it really was personal.

Alfred Pennyworth (Wayne’s butler played superbly, in this and the following 3 Batman films, by Michael Gough) then leads Vicki Vale to the Batcave… and to Bruce and he reveals all. Alfred has been trying to encourage a relationship between Wayne and Vale, and it is then that she is told THE secret. Wayne tells Vale (played by Kim Basinger by the way) that he cannot concentrate on a relationship with her whilst The Joker is on the loose. He departs to try and stop the disaster that may lay ahead.

Batman goes on to use the Batmobile to destroy the factory that is producing this terror product. But The Joker is still on the loose, and his parade is about to begin. He uses a number of moving floats and platforms, and sure enough a huge crowd of people emerge to see it… and Joker’s cronies begin to throw the cash into the crowds as promised… Money is everywhere and the crowds of people are loving it, until finally it is time… Vale and Knox arrive at the parade just as Batman is travelling in, by air… And then… Joker as he gives away his free money, and The Batman appearing to be a no show… until Joker spots him flying through the sky and instructs his men to put on their masks… One button later and one of the floats of the parade begins to unleash this deadly gas into the air, about to poison the people below… Vale in taking pictures of the parade spots that the gas is being released from below one of the balloons, but the disaster has already started…

Thankfully for Gotham, Batman soon flies in in his fighter-like jet, and is able to trap the balloons and take them far away from the Gotham people. He sends the balloons high into the sky, and the gas being released with them. Joker in frustration take with quite well actually… by shooting his “number one… guy” Bob.

Batman then returns to the scene to try and take out The Joker. But somehow Joker is the one who strikes first, shooting Batman’s flying Bat down to the ground. The Batman is though nowhere to be seen in the wreckage… and this Joker takes Vale right to the top of Gotham City cathedral. Batman soon emerges and gives chase…

To conclude the movie, and to set up the next, Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent reads a note left by Batman that says he will protect the city should crime strike again. The Police Commissioner Gordon (played by Pat Hingle, who like Gough also returns in all 4 of these original Batman films) unveils the famous “Bat Signal”. The films ends with Alfred explaining to Vale that Mr Wayne will be a little late, with her adding she ‘isn’t surprised’, and we see Batman looking across and seeing his signal projected across the city skyline.

Overall: 7/10

Batman: 7.5/10 – Michael Keaton (1)

Villain: 7.5/10 – The Joker (Jack Nicholson)

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns (Warner Brothers, 1992). Bus Shelter (45" X 59.25") | Lot  #53035 | Heritage Auctions

If Batman could be described as wacky, the word is use to describe Batman Returns would be Dark. Another all star cast with Keaton being joined by Danny De Vito as The Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and Christopher Walken as Max Schreck. I love this film for so many reasons, De Vito is SO great and very much portrays the dark and tortured soul of Oswald Cobblepot, a complex individual who is conflicted between wanting adulation and power. Special mention also to the soundtrack of this film, it perfectly suits the tone of the movie and the scene with Selina and Bruce dancing later in the film is unbelievable. Line of this film for me though… “Remember Max, you flush it, I flaunt it”… Tremendous.

The film begins with something I really liked… just like in the previous movie where they explained how Jack Napier became The Joker, this one begins with the very beginnings of the transformation of Oswald to Penguin… a background detail you don’t often get from these type of films. We see Tucker and Esther Cobblepot, and it’s Christmas Day, and to make things even more glorious is appears Mrs Cobblepot is giving birth in the other room… but all is not well, the doctor comes out and Mr Cobblepot runs in and we hear an almighty and haunting scream. Baby Cobblepot has been born deformed. But rather than love their new born unconditionally, the two new parents decided their child wouldn’t sit well in their high society company, and so they keep their child in a CAGE, and then one night they take the baby in a pram and when the coast is clear they THROW the pram into a river and he drifts away into the sewers… and that’s where he is discovered underneath the local Gotham City Zoo… by a family of penguins…

We then cut to 33 years later. There we see the local ice beauty princess performing the traditional lighting of the Gotham Christmas tree. And with local newspapers reporting of a mysterious sighting of a Penguin-Man living in the city’s sewers, we get a glimpse of the creature himself watching on from below… We then meet Max Shreck, who is wanting to build a power plant to supply Gotham with energy, not that the mayor agrees… Later, Shreck’s speech to announce the plans is interrupted by The Red Triangle Gang, a former circus group who have now grown to crime. Batman is of course not far away, as Bruce soon sees the bat-signal has been lit and he’s been called upon. However, although he’s able to make the gang retreat (including a brief moment where he saves a certain Selina Kyle from one of the members… and she takes with her the shocker he used to try and attack Batman with…remember that device for later…), at this point the gang have abducted Max Shreck… well I say abduct, Shreck ran away from the melee and stumbled into an underground passage which somehow ended with him right at the head of the table of his attempted captures… It is here we are introduced to the gang’s leader…

By this point, we have been very much introduced to Shreck’s secretary, Selina Kyle. She soon finds out that the actual idea for the power plant is to drain Gotham of it’s power supply, which will mean by then Max is in control of the city and therefore can’t be prosecuted. His answer to finding this out? Well… he pushes her out a window… and this… changes Selina…

Back to Cobblepot next, and his grand plan to make his big return to the world is to have one of his gang members take the mayor’s baby during a speech he is giving, and below the sewers the gang member who took the baby fakes his dialogue to make it apparent that he’s given the baby to The Penguin out of fear, presenting Penguin as a hero to the people who rescued the baby… not that they know he’s the leader of the gang of course… Oswald emerges back up as a hero… From there, he asks to be allowed in to the Hall of records so he can find out about his real parents. He’s doing this not only for that, but to try and present himself as a sympathetic character who’s less of the monster he may look like. Bruce Wayne however is suspicious, and looks into his background and possible links to the Red Triangle Gang. He finds out that the former circus group has been shut down due to the disappearance of children during their performances, and one who went missing before being interrogated, who Bruce believes to be Cobblepot. We also see Penguin not only discover who he really is, but that his parents have since passed.

We later see Wayne meeting with Max Shreck, where he says he is against the proposed power-plant and makes the accusation that Oswald runs the Red Triangle gang… It’s here Bruce meets Selina (who makes a surprising reappearance after Max said to Wayne she was “taking vacation”…) and the two hit it off right away… Shreck then tries to persuade Oswald to run for mayor, and through this he tries to get the people to turn on the current mayor by having his Gang wreak more havoc around the city. It is after this that two of the other big characters in the film have their first meeting, with neither realising who the other one REALLY is…

After Oswald officially announces his campaign to become to new Mayor of Gotham. Catwoman later meets up with The Penguin and agrees to join in a plot against Batman. Whilst Penguins gang will tamper with the Batmobile, Catwoman suggest they turn Batman in to what he hates… one of them…

Catwoman visiting Penguin | Batman Returns - YouTube

Whilst the relationship between Bruce and Selina is thriving, the plan for Penguin and Catwoman to take down Batman gets underway. Firstly he abducts the Ice Princess of Gotham (a big star to the people), and tries to potentially frame Batman by leaving using one of Batman’s throwing Bats to attack the Princess and leaving it behind for the police to find. This brings to an abrupt end a nice evening Bruce and Selina were having (where amongst other things, he was explaining how his ex Vicki had a… problem with his… duality…), as both make their excuses to one another having seen on the tv news about the kidnapping. With both unaware as to why the other has had to leave, both of course set upon their own… different… evening escapade…

We next see the gang try and do their own work to sabotage the Batmobile as the caped crusader goes about his rescue mission… and much as Batman tries to chase and rescue the Ice Princess from Catwoman and Oswald, it is Penguin who causes her to fall from the top of a building, unleashing a large group of bats as she falls to her death… but of course it is Batman who the people can see, and so they think it was he who pushed her. Whilst celebrating the events that have unfolded to disgrace Batman, Oswald tries to come on to Catwoman, but when she declines Penguin breaks off their partnership, and tries to kill her… but again she survives (Cats really do have all those lives it seems).

With Penguin’s gang having sabotaged the Batmobile, by the time he returns to drive it, it’s now a literal ticking time bomb. Penguin has overridden the controls, and so can speak through the car to Batman as he drives it. He uses a number of tricks from his control station to override the Batmobile’s controls, and sends it on a rampage through the city. Eventually Batman it able to override Penguin’s control over the car, enough for him to escape the police and return to the bat cave.

Oswald was always walking on the edge with his two lives, and soon it catches up with him… Bruce and Alfred use audio they had recorded of Cobblepot from during the previous chase of the Batmobile through Gotham…

Penguin vows revenge. He goes ahead with his plan to abduct and kill all the firstborn Sons in Gotham, as his parents wanted to do to him. And then we have one of my favourite scenes in all these films, where Bruce and Selina meet and realise what has really been happening with each of them…

Penguin soon makes his dramatic entrance, and reveals to everyone there his horrific plan. He wants to take Max’s son Chip first, but Max reasons with Penguin to take him instead.

Batman soon after stops the gang from taking the children, before then going after Penguin… He has since set his own plan of destruction into place… We then get quite the showdown between Batman… and an army of Bomb-equipped penguins, whom are set by The Penguin to blow up Gotham…

Batman Returns was released June 19th 1992. A mix of real penguins and  mechanical penguins were used for the filming. The mech-penguins were so  realistic that the real penguins could be seen

Luckily… Batman, between himself and Alfred, jam the signals that were due to set the Penguins on their plan. And with the penguins now on their way back to the sewers, a final battle would ensue… (you’ll realise I’ve included, and will continue to do so, a lot of clips from this film rather than typing stuff out… I just feels it needs to be seen because I think it’s pretty great stuff, and I want to share it…)…

We then see Max Shreck try and make his escape… until Catwoman stops him…

Bruce finds Max’s charred body, but Selina is nowhere to be seen… it is then Penguin re-emerges from the water, and he meets his end in what is actually quite a poignant and emotional scene…

The top comment on this YouTube clip sums it up beautifully: “This scene is so powerful. Penguin died mourned by the only living thing that ever loved him: his penguins”.

With everything appearing to be as it should be in Gotham… we see Alfred driving Bruce home, when Wayne spots what he that was Catwoman’s shadow in an alley, but when he gets out the car to try and go to her he finds only a small cat, who Bruce takes home with him. The film ends with the Bat-signal in the sky… and Catwoman looking on at it…

Great film. Some great performances, but Danny De Vito’s is by far the finest of a good bunch.

Overall: 8.5/10

Batman: 8/10 – Michael Keaton (2)

Villain: 9/10 – The Penguin (Danny De Vito)

8/10 – Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer)

Batman Forever (1995)

The year of my birth also brought us possibly the Batman film I’ve watched more than any other. In fact there was a time when I was going to dress as Jim Carrey’s Riddler for Halloween this year, such was the love I have for this performance. For me just as Danny De Vito’s Penguin was the star of the last film, for me this was the Jim Carrey-Edward Nygma show. He plays the role of the lunatic, wacky scientist turned enigmatic supervillain to perfection. And sure Tommy Lee Jones is great too as Two Face, and… no as much as he was panned by many I didn’t mind Val Kilmer as Batman in this. And I mean… Nicole Kidman is Nicole Kidman, so her mere presence in this film is enough for me to like. I will say this, much like the film that follows, is very different to the tone of Tim Burton’s first two Batman films in that this was much more a classic superhero film, rather than looking at the darkside of things that Michael Keaton’s Batman had to face up to.

The film begins with Batman suiting up and setting off in the new and improved Batmobile, before we cut to a chaotic scene outside a bank that Two Face and his gang of thugs is attempting to rob. He has one of the security guards held hostage, and it is up to Batman to save him… Batman soon arrives to be given the brief by Commissioner Gordon, and also briefly interacts with, and make a heck of an impression on, clinical psychologist Dr Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman).

Two-Face robs a bank | Batman Forever - YouTube

Batman soon enters the build to thwart the plot and the thugs… But soon walks right into a trap… as the security guard lays trapped, Batman walks into a giant safe (which is being carried through the sky by Two Face’s helicopter…) the safe soon locks behind him, and begins to fill with boiling acid… luckily Batman cracks the safe and is able to send the safe and the security guard to safety… Still in pursuit of Two Face, he clings on to the chain that is still dangling from the helicopter, survives a crash through glass, and enters the helicopter to confront Two Face… the end result… Two face escapes using a parachute… and Batman is left to flee as the helicopter crashes… but still Two Face lives to fight another day too…

Next up we are introduced to Edward Nygma, an employee of Wayne Enterprises who tries to persuade Mr Wayne himself with an idea. Nygma proposes to Wayne that he has an invention that can beam TV directly into a person’s brain. Bruce though sees the potential for mind manipulation in this, and so rejects the idea.

“You were supposed to understand… I’ll make you understand”…

Bruce soon sees the bat-signal has been lit… but arrives to see it is Dr Meridian who has done so… a quite erotically dressed called him out to simply tell Batman about Two Face’s coin…but also isn’t backwards in coming forwards about her attraction to Batman himself… who’s reply is “try fireman, they have left to take off”… she seems to be persistent… I particularly liked the line from Dr Meridian “or do I need tight vinyl and a whip”…

Edward Nygma is left infuriated by Bruce’s rejection of his idea, and the crazed man then goes about killing his supervisor and making it look like a suicide (he launches his chair out a window after using him to practise his mind manipulation invention on, and then edits the CCTV footage to make it appear that the man in question simply ran out the window himself… oh and he created a fake suicide note just for good measure).

We here see (via a news report) how Two Face came to be, as a mob boss threw acid onto his face when he was still working as District Attorney Harvey Dent… despite Batman’s best efforts to save him… it is then Bruce is told about the… “accident”… Nygma resigns from his position at Wayne Enterprises down to the stress caused by the “suicide” and then begins to secretly send Riddles addressed to Bruce… and his transformation begins…

Batman Forever (2/10) Movie CLIP - Dr. Edward Nygma (1995) HD - YouTube

Next we see Bruce Wayne (who we see throughout the film experiencing flashbacks to his childhood… all of which allude to how he became who he REALLY is today…) attending an appointment with Dr Meridian, regarding the riddles he has been sent… Bruce then takes Dr Meridian on a date to the circus… this is where she reveals to Bruce she has fallen for Batman… but the event is cut short when Two Face and his crew hijack the event, armed with a giant bomb that he threatens to detonate… unless Batman gives himself up… Bruce now of course has to act… In that time The Flying Graysons (the family of acrobats who had been the stars of the show up to that point in the circus act), come up with a plan to try and stop Two Face and the bomb, but just as Dick Grayson (the Youngest of the family), is able to take the bomb and launch it into nearby water… where it explodes underwater thus negating any possible damage it would’ve done… Dick returns to the circus ring to see the utter horror…

Eventually, the now orphaned Dick Grayson has nowhere to go, and so it is decided he must reside at Wayne Manor… He is though reluctant to stay, but Bruce soon persuades him to stay to fill up petrol for his bike, and shows him his huge car and bike collection in the process… and makes him an offer of one of his bikes to keep if he can repair it… Funny enough Dick is more willing to stay and recalls Alfred back with the dinner he was going to give to the dogs as Grayson was leaving…

We then see the first of Bruce’s flashbacks… This time to his parents being killed and their funeral after…

Alfred then gives some words of encouragement to young Grayson… choosing to keep his circus outfit Dick wanted him to throw away, saying … “broken wings mend in time… one day Robin will fly again…, I promise …”

Later (after another battle between Batman and Two Face sees yet another attempt by the coin-wielding psychopath to rid Gotham of its savour end with the winged superhero escaping)… From here, and for a little while after maybe until the conclusion of the film… it’s all about The Riddler for me… and it is then that a deadly alliance is formed…

From here Riddler and Two Face run riot around Gotham, robbing and committing crimes in order to gain the funds to finance Nygma’s new company (in return for Riddler helping Two Face discover the identity of Batman) … and his planned Brainwave device… which he puts forward publicly as the future of TV… but in reality it is his way of literally draining the brain power of the people of Gotham for his own gain…

As Bruce sees the news of Riddler and Two Face’s latest activities… the inquisitive young Dick Grayson begins to wonder what is behind the one locked door in Wayne Manor…

I’m not quite sure why… but this next set of clips I just LOVE… Jim Carrey’s Riddler is my GUY…

When the coast is clear… Dick Grayson soon gains access through the one locked door of Wayne Manor… and sure enough he finds the batcave, much to Alfred’s annoyance. We then see Dr Meridian gift Bruce one of her dream protection dolls, Bruce also sees how much Dr Meridian has been looking in to Batman… and just as he is about to explain that they are one and the same… Bruce calls a call from Alfred that Master Dick has taken the OTHER car…

Yep … Dick has stolen the Batmobile…

Later Edward Nygma hosts a high-end party as he launches his new Nygma Box… and after Bruce congratulates Edward on his success, he soon finds his way in to the trial set up at the party, which shows the box in action… Nygma claims it shows people’s fantasies in holographic form as he shows from two examples to the adoring crowd… Soon enough Bruce (who again questions the possibility of mind manipulation possibilities) finds his way in to the box, and with help from one of Two Face’s assistants, Bruce enters the box room and his visions recorded… more on that later… (There is also a line during this bit from Drew Barrymore’s character, she plays one of Two Face’s girls, where she says “oh, you can call me anything you want”.. which even today still gets me…

The Party soon turns chaotic when Two Face crashes as the two villains attempt to lure in The Batman… who almost meets his end… almost… (the “why can’t you just die” scene at the end of this next clip is TREMENDOUS by the way)

Bruce is furious with Dick for risking himself though, and furiously declines his proposal of a partnership. Alfred adds that young men with an eye for revenge need guidance… Bruce’s mind though is with Chase, with Alfred suggesting he should let her decide if she wants Batman… or Bruce Wayne… Batman then goes to Dr Meridian, but it is there she explains to him she has fallen in love with someone else… or so she thinks he’s someone else…

Two Face is inconsolable to hear that Batman survived… but overjoyed once Riddler shares with him the findings from Bruce Wayne’s trip into the box… A bat was certainly on his mind…

Bruce is then seen decided he has chosen to end Batman, and he is no more. Master Grayson tries to plead with Bruce, with Bruce saying he should let go his vendetta for Two Face… Bruce says to Dick he is going to tell Chase everything… and so Dick takes his bike he was promised, along with his Robin outfit… and he leaves…

Whilst Chase and Bruce are having their evening together, Bruce has another flashback to his parents being shot, and a young Bruce is seen running through the rain… He struggles to tell Chase what is really bothering him, he explains how a young Bruce took the red book of his father’s, and raced into the storm to try and run away from his pain, Where he then fell into a cave, and out of the darkness flew towards him… a bat… and in that moment he realised the figure in the dark was his destiny, that he would use to strike fear into the hearts of evil… and then… just as he is about to explain… and they kiss… Chase realises who he really is… and then…

Once awoken by Alfred, Bruce is told that Dr Meridian has been kidnapped, the batcave has been destroyed, Master Dick has ran away and there is another Riddle for them to solve… We next see that Riddler has indeed taken Dr Meridian… and uses his own mark to signal a call out to Batman…

Batman: The Riddler Almost Got His Batman Forever Moment | CBR

Between Bruce and Alfred, they deduce that The Riddler is in fact Edward Nygma, and he sets about a plan to rescue Chase and foil both of the villains… but he is offered another helping hand… and finally one of the most iconic superhero partnerships is brought to life in film…

Whatever people want to say about this film, the ending is phenomenal… so sit back and enjoy some GREAT scenes…

But what of Two Face? Well, Karma is a heck of a bitch isn’t she…

And that’s that… Batman and Robin would return soon enough, Val Kilmer though would not, but a fun film, not for everyone… but it will forever will be a favourite of mine as a film I grew up with. I’ll always love it and no amount of negative reviews from elsewhere will EVER change that.

Overall: 8/10

Batman: 7.5/10 – Val Kilmer

Villain: 9/10 – The Riddler (Jim Carrey)

8.5/10 – Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones)

Supporting: 7.5/10 – Robin (Chris O’Donnell).

Batman and Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin (1997) - IMDb

Oh boy… if ever a Batman film has divided opinion, it’s this one! But… guess what? Yep… of course I grew up with this film also, and also I loved it then. Let’s see what me as an adult thinks if it shall we?… Now, before we start I will admit… there’s not many females on this planet I fancy more than Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in this film. There’s also not much that makes me laugh more than Arnold Schwarzenegger acting tough in films… so his iconic voice behind Mr Freeze in this film just entertains me so much. If Batman Forever was dark, Batman Returns was wacky, I think this film falls somewhere in the middle… and as for George Clooney… He’s not great is he let’s be honest (as a Batman)… but he’s also not as terrible as many will have you think he is and as this films is… it’s far from being terrible let me reassure you.

Batman (played on this occasion by George Clooney) and Robin now have to foil their latest adversary, Mr Freeze. Freeze has been on a series of Diamond heists with his gang of men. During one attempted robbery at the natural history museum, after Mr Freeze steals one very large diamond, he freezes Robin and so Batman is unable to chase after him. I’ll put a few clips of this in as I think it’s just kind of cool… I really like the way the film right off the back introduces who everyone is and what they do. Simple but effective…

Our heroes soon discover Freeze was once Dr. Victor Fries, a former scientist who was working on a cure for a rare disease his terminally-ill wife had called MacGregor’s Syndrome. Whilst he conducted his research, he was able to keep his wife alive by freezing her in a cryogenic chamber… But during a lab experiment, Fries fell into a chamber of liquid gas, and as a result from then onwards he was unable to stay alive without wearing his cryogenic suit (which is powered by diamonds) or being in extreme low temperatures.

Meanwhile… at a Wayne Enterprises lab in Brazil, we see Dr. Pamela Isley who is working under the eccentric and frankly crazy Dr Jason Woodrue. Woodrue is working with a drug he has created called Venom, which he issued to turn average people into “super soldiers”. Dr. Isley peaks in and sees Woodrue attempting to sell his secret drug, and the promise of an army of his pumped-up soldiers, to various world leaders… He even offers a demonstration to show the Venom in action… and later her witnessing this spells disaster for poor Pamela Isley…

(after the previous clip Woodrue pushes Isley into variously shelves of chemicals and toxins as they fall on, and presumably kill, her)

Although… Isley would be back, very very different…

We also get a glimpse at a softer side of our ice man…

Back in Gotham… Alfred is surprised by the arrival of his niece Barbara, who makes a visit and says she’ll stay until she has to go back to school.

Later, we see Wayne Enterprises presenting their new telescope at the Gotham Observatory. It is during this that Dr. Isley approaches Bruce Wayne with a… unique… offer on how she can help alter the project to protect the environment. Wayne though declines… given her plan involves millions of people dying… He does though invite her to a charity ball Wayne Enterprises is holding later that night… and it is there we meet Pamela Isley in her full form…

Now when I say this is one of my all time favourite scenes, I mean it. This woman to me in this role is the most attractive human I’ve ever seen. And nobody will ever be able to change my mind on that… enjoy…

Dr. Freeze soon crashes the party…

We also begin to see that Barbara isn’t as innocent as she seems… as Dick follows her and finds out that she has been taking part in illegal street races to try and get money to help her uncle Alfred… by this point it is clear that Alfred, who has been showing ill health throughout the film, has contracted the same disease Mr Freeze’s wife has… This leads to quite the scene when Dick joins her in one of these deadly races… 10 points for anyone who spots the world famous rapper who has a cameo in this next clip…

As Barbara said, Alfred is indeed sick. And as Bruce was about to say, he is sadly dying…

Mr Freeze by this point is locked in Arkham Asylum, where he is met by a new ally…

We then get one of many quite touching scenes in this film, a theme that isn’t really touched upon when people talk about this film… but of course it can’t last long… as soon Our heroes have to go and save the day again. They find Nora Fries in her frozen state, but soon as Mr Freeze is attempting to reclaim his ice lair and top up his diamonds for his suit, Batman and Robin run into Ivy and Bane… but are let down as their ongoing tensions soon run them in to difficulty…

After Ivy kicks away the tube that is keeping Nora alive… she sets about her own twisted plan to use Freeze…

With Batman and Robin at each other’s throats, Alfred in very bad health (a doctor diagnoses him with Macgregors Syndrome), Dick seems to be in love with Ivy, whereas Bruce tries to get him to understand it is all an evil plot. Barbara then sees to her sick Uncle’s bed side, where he gives her a disc that he claims for is for his brother… when Barbara asks him what it is he says “it is a sacred trust of two good men I have the honour of calling son”… (I thought this bit was genius storytelling) Alfred says it is so his brother can take on his duties in his absence… Let’s see what Barbara does with this disc shall we… (this was another scene I thought was genius too)…

By now it has become very clear that Ivy has used some of her love potion to make both men fall for her… however Bruce is ultimately more wise to this and tries to get Robin to trust him, and that this is all a trick from Ivy… he comes up with a plan, and asks his friend and partner to trust him… Ivy then invites Robin to her own lair… and later Batman and Robin are this time saved themselves by an unlikely source…

“You’re about to become compost” is a heck of a line by the way… Anyway… The new team of THREE superheroes then go after Freeze, who is by now already embarking on his plan to Freeze the whole of Gotham. And whilst Batman goes after the Dr, Batgirl and Robin are left to fight off Bane…

After the heroes save Gotham from becoming eternally Frozen… Batman then tells the truth to Mr Freeze about what happened to his wife…

In return, Batman asks for help from the Dr…

So in the end a happy ending for everyone, well Pamela Isley aside maybe… but you can’t help but enjoy this film, it really has everything a superhero film should have, regardless of what any critics may say otherwise. I smiled a lot during this film, and isn’t that the whole point? FUN? …

Overall: 8/10

Batman: : 8/10 – George Clooney

Villain: 7.5/10 – Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

7.5/10 – Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman)

Supporting: 7.5/10 – Robin (Chris O’Donnell – 2)

7/10 – Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone)

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (2005) Original French Petite Movie Poster - Original Film  Art - Vintage Movie Posters

We then fast forward nearly 10 years, and a complete different trilogy of Batman films. The great Christopher Nolan now went about telling the complete story of Batman… Beginning-Middle-End. And thus this film isn’t as action packed or dramatic as the two that follows, but you needed this film to set up the next two. It’s the worse of the three, but I’d change to least great, because alone this film was very good. Christian Bale … may well be THE best Batman of the lot…

Batman Begins: How Christopher Nolan Rebuilt Batman | Movies | Empire

We begin with the set up that underpins the entire Batman story… a young Bruce Wayne is seen falling down a well, and into a swarm of Bats… but this is just a flashback in a bad dream… in current day we see Bruce in a Bhutan Prison, where he gets into a huge brawl with multiple men… and wins… it is here he meets Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who recruits him to join the League of Shadows, a group of warriors led by Ra’s al Ghul. It becomes apparent that Bruce has been spending time travelling the world, training himself in combat and gaining knowledge of the criminal world. Ducard gives Bruce a quest to complete, and if he is able to do so (take a rare blue flower to the top of a mountain but through many many long journeys in between) he will be able to join the League…

In another flashback, we see a young Bruce being reduced from the well by his father. But by now a fear of Bats has been developed, Bruce’s dad tells him that the Bats only attacked him out of fear… After this we see he and his parents (whom it becomes clear where basically the architects and savours of Gotham, helping to build trains and infrastructure) attending the opera, where Bruce becomes frightened by a scene where the performers dress as… Bats. As a result Martha and Thomas Wayne choose to leave early. Outside they are confronted by a mugger named Joe Chill, and the skirmish ends with the mugger shooting and murdering Bruce’s parents right in front of him. Bruce is of course raised from here by his butler Alfred (played in this trio of films by the legendary Michael Caine). We also see a key scene that will be called back upon towards the very end of film 3… so don’t forget it…

We cut to more of Bruce’s training next…

14 years on… Joe Chill is now up for parole, in exchange for him testifying against Mafia Boss Carmine Falcone. Bruce Wayne has since returned to Gotham for the hearing, but still clearly a frustrated and angry man… Even venting his anger towards Alfred, who tries his best to explain he still cares and won’t ever give up on him. Bruce’s friend Rachel drives Bruce to the hearing…

After this… he reveals to his friend Rachel (Katie Holmes), she berates Bruce for his plan…

Bruce then sets about confronting the face of evil, Carmine Falcone, himself… and the wheels begin to be placed into motion of our hero’s true motives… quite the speech this by Falcone, if ever a superhero needed a motivational talk… this was the one…

Bruce then sets on his travels, learning about the ways of crime, doing so from the inside… Now having completed his training, Bruce finds out the League know of Gotham City, but see it as beyond help and intend on instead destroying it. Bruce also rejects the League’s edict that it is necessary to Kill, and so he goes about destroying the group and everything within it…

Bruce then makes his return to Gotham, where he goes about his plan to live this double life, by day he would be Gotham’s favourite son, but under the cover of darkness he would be a crime-fighting vigilante, intent on using what he has learnt to fight crime. Bruce also takes an interest in his family’s company Wayne Enterprises. He finds out the company has since been taken public by a man named William Earle. From here though Bruce meets Lucius Fox (the great Morgan Freeman), who is a company archivist and was a friend of Bruce’s father.

And so Bruce continues with his quest to put together… his suit… (again I adore the detail they go in in this film regarding the creation of Batman…, the attention to detail is exceptional)… get a load of THIS Batmobile by the way…

His first fight is against Falcone… and now… Bruce comes fully dressed for the occasion…

After Batman intercepts the drug shipment, he passes on the evidence to Rachel (and later makes friends with James Gordon too… more on him later…) and this is enough to have Falcone arrested. Whilst locked up Falcone sits with the crazed Dr Jonathan Crane, a psychologist who uses a… unique style of questioning… and is actually working with Falcone on behalf of… someone… Essentially Camine is being paid by Crane to supply him with his thugs. Crane uses his powers to declare Falcone’s men insane so they are sparred jail, and instead sent to Crane’s Arkham Asylum… Here we see Falcone get a taste of what Crane has to offer for himself…

Batman soon becomes aware of this secret drug… what not what it is being used for… soon though, he becomes a victim of it himself… (Honestly the sight of Alfred in tears as he’s driving Batman to safety is horrifying to me).

Later as we again see Rachel (now in her role as a Gotham Assistant District Attorney) accuse Crane of corruption… but he then drugs Rachel… and so Batman has to save her, whilst founding out the shocking name behind Crane’s mission…

But now of course, Batman must out run the police, give they are not yet aware he isn’t the enemy…

Indeed as Crane said, Ra’s al Ghul is NOT dead… and he would reveal himself and his plan to Bruce at his birthday party…

Batman (after Alfred’s help in putting himself together again, just as Gotham is falling apart with the deadly poison now unleashed on the city) then goes after Ra’s, but on his way finds time to rescue Rachel too… and thus he is set in a race against time… he must save the city in turmoil, and stop the microwave emitter that has been loaded onto Gotham’s monorail system (where Ra’s plans for it to be released directly into the city’s central water source)… well he rescues Rachel… and also reveals to her…

So what then of Ra’s?…

So after all that… Gotham is safe… for now…

Rachel as such falls for Bruce, but tells him she cannot be with him now, but only when Gotham no longer needs Batman, only then can they be together… Batman is now the public hero of Gotham, as also Bruce Wayne is back in charge of Wayne Enterprises having purchased the company his parents created. He fires Earle and replaces him with Lucius to run the day to day operations. Sergeant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) is made a Lieutenant for his work, and sets about creating a signal that can be lit whenever Batman is needed… he also tells Batman of what looks to be the next menace to the city (and my oh my is this but exciting!)…

So yes, very much a set up film, but as a stand-alone movie I’d say it was pretty solid in its own right.

Overall: 7.5/10

Batman: 8/10 – Christian Bale (1)

Villain: 7/10 – Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy)

7.5/10 – Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson)

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight (2008) - IMDb

I’ve mentioned about Danny De Vito and Jim Carrey arguably carrying ok Batman films as villains… but The Dark Knight is a GREAT film, maybe the best Batman film full stop… but see this as like when Lionel Messi or Michael Jordan were the GOAT among a team of stars. This is indeed a great film with an all time great performance by its main villain. And anyone who says he only won the Oscar because it was awarded posthumously, CLEARLY they’ve not watched this film. This film is well and truly the Heath Ledger show.

Joker's Pencil Trick Scene - The Dark Knight (2008) Movie CLIP HD - YouTube

The film begins with a gang of criminals robbing a mob bank, but all is not what it seems… as they execute the plan, at each phase one of the gang kills the other, until eventually there is just one left… The Joker. And it is he who escapes the bank with all the money… Meanwhile we see that Gotham is now protected by a trio of crime fighters; Batman, Lieutenant Jim Gordon and new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Bruce quickly becomes impressed with Dent’s ideas and publicly backs him… privately he hopes that with Dent protecting Gotham, it means that he can retire Batman and pursue a relationship with Rachel (continuing on from the end of the previous movie)… the issue with this is, Rachel (this time played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Harvey Dent are now an item… He’s quite the character this Harvey Dent guy … a name for those eagle eyed Batman fans, you all know where this poor guy’s future is heading…

We later see a meeting of mob bosses; Sal Marino, Gambol and the Chechen group. They hold a video call with their accountant Lau (whom also masquerades as a honest businessman attempting to work with Wayne Enterprises), who says he has hidden their collective funds to keep them safe whilst he himself has fled to Hong Kong. But of course they now have the problem of a Law Assisted Batman to contend with… enter a certain someone with an offer of help… let the genius of this all-time great acting performance commence…

Want another clip of Joker being The Joker? Sure, here you go:

So now it is up to Batman to travel to Hong Kong to find Lau. And with the help of Lucius Fox, who has travelled to see Lau as part of a Wayne Enterprises meeting, he eventually infiltrates and captures him. This allows for Dent to apprehend the ENTIRETY of the mob… so what now? All is well right? Well no. The Joker now makes this a straight fight between himself and Batman. He makes a chilling ultimatum to the city of Gotham, in exchange for the caped crusader…

And so it’s time for the Bruce fundraiser for Dent… and so the chaos begins… Joker makes it clear his three targets are the police Commissioner, the judge who sent the mob down… and Dent… Soon after Joker murders Commissioner Loeb, and a the top Gotham Judge… Dent is next… And now it’s time for more Heath Ledger excellence…

Batman saves Rachel, but Joker manages to get away… and it soon becomes clear that his next target… is the mayor of Gotham…

So indeed as the name tag suggested at the end of that clip, The Joker’s next target is Rachel… Batman and Dent go about their ways of finding the joker…

As Bruce checks with Rachel about her previous promise regarding Batman no longer being a part of Bruce’s life, to which she again says yes… and as Alfred tells Bruce that he must endure this period for the greater good… A press conference is arranged to reveal who Batman really is…

Dent is then taken into custody, whilst the Joker sets an attack on the convoy of cars that is now taking Dent down. This allows for the real Batman, and Gordon (who faked his death earlier to protect the mayor) to make the save and bring The Joker in to custody… As Jim Gordon is made the new commissioner, it soon emerges that both Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes have gone missing… and next up ladies and gentlemen is one of THE all-time great scenes in any film I’ve seen. The acting here is next level stuff.

So the twist is Rachel is in one place, Dent in another, with both locations rigged with explosives… but their is another dark twist with truly horrific consequences…

And so Joker escapes, Gotham is in chaos again…

So Alfred makes a choice to protect Bruce, NOT to give him that note… and to let Bruce believe what Rachel had said before… Meanwhile… By now we have been introduced to Coleman Reese, an accountant for Wayne Enterprises. He has learnt of Batman’s true identity and earlier in the film tried to blackmail Mr Fox for his silence. The Joker soon finds out about Reese’s plan to go public with his secret, and as he doesn’t want his own twisted plan to be ruined by this, he makes another sickening demand to the people of Gotham… That a hospital would be blown up unless Reese is killed within 60 minutes! And whilst every Hospital in Gotham is being evacuated, The Joker infiltrates one to get his meeting with Harvey Dent… face… TWO face…

So what next? … well… Dent seeks his revenge, driven to madness by Joker’s words…

We then move on to one of the more powerful scenes of any movie… and we get there by The Joker rigging two ferries (as Gotham evacuates it’s people due to the Joker’s ongoing carnage) with explosives; one contains civilians, the other with prisoners… and yes… for you Wrestling fans reading this, the tall man at the end of the prisoner’s boat scene is indeed ZEUS!

And so Batman once again must go after The Joker…

Joker, as you saw, goades about what he has turned Dent in to… Batman and Gordon fear that Dent’s rampage (Dent has been killing people he holds “responsible” for Rachel’s death) could become public knowledge… Now again, another genius bit of storytelling along these films from Christopher Nolan, and why it is absolutely vital that you watch all 3 of these films in order to get the full brilliance of the stories being told… This murderous rampage of Dent may seem like a secondary issue to The Joker in this film, but it’s vitally important for the next film, as it essentially underpins the entire argument from the key villain… Anyway… Gordon and Batman soon find Two-Face… and the rest… yeah is a little dark…

So with Dent now dead, Gordon and Batman have a decision to make… do they tell Gotham that their golden hero turned to the dark side? Or do they use the Harvey Dent name as a beacon of hope? Well… with a couple of the most iconic lines in recent superhero film, Batman makes not quite the ultimate sacrifice (that comes… later…) but he does sacrifice the image of Batman to protect Dent and with it the hopes of Gotham…

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”

“Not the hero we deserved, but the hero we needed”

Truly iconic. Goosebumps is the only emotion I have at the end of this film. Genuinely, and no hyperbole from me needed, this isn’t just the best Batman film ever made, not just (in my opinion) the best superhero film ever made, but one of the ALL TIME great movies.

Overall: 10/10

Batman: 8.5/10 – Christian Bale (2)

Villain: 10/10 – The Joker (Heath Ledger)

(Also… Two Face in this film I won’t rank in my list. But credit to Aaron Eckhart for a fine job, same goes to Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Maggie Gyllenhaal. All of whom are exceptional in their supporting roles in their own right.)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises [Batman] [DVD] [2012]: Amazon.co.uk: Christian Bale,  Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary  Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson,  Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale,

A film I went to the Cinema to see, such was my hype for it. And it well and truly delivered. An amazing performance by Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway rivalling Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy as THE sexiest women I’ve ever seen (in THAT Catwoman suit), and Christian Bale doing a stellar job in the lead role. This film could be argued to be better than Dark Knight, such is the standard… but we got a lot of sub stories in this film that were beautifully woven together at the end. The ending 20 minutes of this film, are beautifully spectacular. And if you ever needed an example of the ultimate hero… take a look at Batman at the end of this one making THE ultimate sacrifice for the greater good.

The main villain of this movie is Bane. And we soon get our introduction to the masked man… this time Tom Hardy plays a super intelligent version compared to the mindless thug of Batman & Robin…

We are 8 years on from the tragic events that saw the death of Harvey Dent… and now Gotham is free of organised crime in large part thanks to the ‘Dent Act’, a set of legislations put in place to help speed up criminal convictions designed to keep the streets of Gotham clean and safe. Commissioner Gordon has maintained publicly with the idea Batman was to blame for the crimes Dent committed… for now…

In this time; Bruce is now a recluse, with his company losing a lot of money… but he’s about to get a lot more of a headache from one of his house maids… who goes by the name… Selina Kyle…

You noted Miss Tate and Mr Daggett during that clip right? Remember them. They’ll both be important as the film goes on… anyway, next we get one of many quite heartfelt messages from Alfred to Bruce… (remember this one as the film ends also…)

Selina intends on selling Bruce’s prints to John Daggett, who is a corporate rival of Wayne’s… as she sits down to exchange the prints for her pay, it appears they intend to kill her… so she pulls a fast one… but what we also see is Daggett is working… for Bane!

With the police in pursuit of Daggett’s henchman, they follow them into the sewers (where Bane has set up his base)… but soon Gordon is captured… and taken to Bane himself, who makes an interesting discovery that changes the entire course of Gotham’s ‘crime-free’ city…

So as a young cop named John Blake (played brilliantly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) rescues Gordon… and later he finds Bruce Wayne … oh and Blake knows THE secret… He tries to convince Bruce to bring back Batman to fight off the threat that this new villain poses to Gotham. As does a bed ridden Gordon, who Bruce visits (with a makeshift mask on of course)… Later Bruce goes in pursuit of his… house maid… whilst also running into another lady who would ply a key part in his future…

Erm… where was I? Before I was blindly intoxicated by Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), Bruce does indeed find Selina… And we get a little call back to a certain other scene involving Bruce Wayne and the future Catwoman…

Bruce then meets up with Mr Fox… to see what he has been … working on… since he has been gone…

So it looks like Bruce is preparing for a comeback… but Alfred has his reservations… enter Michael Caine being brilliant again…

Speaking of Bane… he moves ahead with his plan to corrupt Gotham, next going after the Stock Exchange… armed with a certain Billionaire’s fingerprints…

If only there was someone who could help the police out… well… he’s back…

Fancy a 2nd coming of the… partnership… between Our favourite Cat and Bat…

We then get quite the scene between Bruce and Alfred. And I must say AGAIN… Michael Caine is particularly excellent in this film…

Bruce though is comforted through his troubled times… with help from the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises… With his own finances waning, he convinces the board to back Miranda state and allow her to takeover the company…

Meanwhile… as Bane is busy KILLING Daggett, Mr Wayne and Miss Tate grow even closer still…

But now Batman must go after Bane, and with help from Catwoman (Bruce had gone to Selina saying Batman can offer her what she wants in exchange for her taking him to Bane)… and so she does lead him to Bane… but it is a trap… and for maybe the first time in any Batman film, we see our hero get his ass well and truly handed to him…

After this… Bruce is taken to an underground prison…

Back in Gotham, Bane takes full control; trapping the police in the sewers and destroying the bridges so that nobody can exit the city. And then begins his plan to destroy the city’s body, and its soul… By now Bane has infiltrated Wayne Enterprises, and taken possession of the power source that we saw Bruce, Fox and Miranda talk about… although by now he has used the Dr he abducted to turn it into something quite different…

Bane then goes to Blackgage prison, where he reveals the truth about Harvey Dent… and let’s loose the prisoners of Gotham…

Bruce is then told of the story of Ra’s al Ghul’s child and how they were raised in the prison…

With the motivation that his city is falling apart before his very eyes, Bruce sets on the impossible, and works all he can to try and escape the pit… at the third attempt… (I adore this scene)…

So what next for Selina? Will she stay and help Gotham? Or hide?…

We also see that Bane has set it up so that all the elite members of Gotham’s are placed into a horrific court for their “crimes”, the court is led by … Jonathan Crane…

Death by exile… what now for the GCPD officers… well…

And so the fight is ON… The cops vs the thugs… Batman vs Bane 2…

But what of Miranda Tate… well in wrestling we call it a heel turn, and this was one for the ages…

With Talia now having activated the bomb’s detonator, Gordon manages to block the signal. But as Talia leaves to find the bomb, Bane prepares to finally kill Batman…

It appears Batman is chasing Talia and the bomb… but as we soon find out, it will not be as simple as it seems to disable it…

So although the bomb has been located, Talia is still able to remotely flood the bomb’s reactor chamber before she meets her end, thus destroying it and ending any chance for the detonation to be stopped. And so All is lost… well, remember that ultimate sacrifice? Here is one of the most beautiful endings to any film I’ve seen… and yes I’ll happily admit I was close to tears the first time I saw it… just as I am now watching this again…

With all the emotion you could possible have, the film isn’t done quite yet. You feel sad when you see what Batman did, but what he left behind will make you adore him all the more…

Just… oh man… honestly I struggle to find words to do the end of this film justice. It’s so beyond perfect. A great film with an unbelievably good ending. Credit to EVERYONE involved.

Overall: 9/10

Batman: 9/10 – Christian Bale (3)

Villain: 9/10 – Bane (Tom Hardy)

Supporting: 8/10 – Catwoman (Anne Hathaway)

And so brings to an end my reviews into 7 of my all time favourite films. This isolation has been at times one of the hardest times in my life, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone and my oh my have I missed going OUTSIDE. I don’t know when you’re reading this but Wednesday 3rd November is my freedom day, and putting together this blog has helped me massively keep it all together in the days I’ve been locked away.

Oh and for the record… here’s the leaderboards based upon all 7 films…

Villains & Selected Main Supporting

  1. Joker (Ledger)
  2. Penguin (De Vito)
  3. Bane (Hardy)
  4. Riddler (Carrey)
  5. Two Face (Lee Jones)
  6. Catwoman (Pfeiffer)
  7. Catwoman (Hathaway)
  8. Joker (Nicholson)
  9. Ra’s (Neeson)
  10. Robin (O’Donnell)
  11. Ivy (Thurman)
  12. Freeze (Arnie)
  13. Scarecrow (Murphy)
  14. Batgirl (Silverstone)

Batman

  1. Christian Bale
  2. Michael Keaton
  3. George Clooney
  4. Val Kilmer

Films

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Batman Returns
  4. Batman Forever
  5. Batman & Robin
  6. Batman Begins
  7. Batman

Batman is the best superhero bar none. 🙂

Josh.

Mr. Brodie Lee – A Tribute to the Exalted One

Jazwares Will Work with Jon Huber's Family, AEW to Honor Mr. Brodie Lee –  Wrestling Figure News

On September 29th this year All Elite Wrestling’s premier weekly show, Dynamite, will emanate from Rochester, New York. It is one of many shows that is a rescheduled show, having originally been set to take place during the pandemic. The show was originally dated for 18th March 2020, and was heavily rumoured to be the show where the FKA Luke Harper (in WWE) would debut for the company. And indeed it was the case… the leader of the Dark Order group, The Exalted One, was indeed revealed as Mr Brodie Lee. And later on in the same show we had the AEW debut of BROKEN Matt Hardy… but neither got the thunderous crowd reactions the Rochester fans would’ve given them, particularly Brodie in what was his hometown. Instead the Dynamite show took place in a near empty arena, with fans not present as a result of the pandemic. With AEW finally heading to Rochester… sadly we won’t get to see its favourite son get the ovation he so richly deserved.

Jon Huber, Mr Brodie Lee, sadly passed away on December 26th 2020. He was just 41 years old.

I was such a big fan of Luke Harper. But the Brodie Lee that appeared in AEW was one of my favourite characters in wrestling I’ve seen for some time. So compelling, so exceptional in that role. I’ve rarely seen a performer execute a character so perfectly.

This is the story, and my tribute, to the All Elite Wrestling run of The Exalted One, the leader of the Dark Order, the late, and VERY great, Mr Brodie Lee.


After finally being granted his release from WWE on December 8th 2020, there was plenty of speculation about where Jon Huber’s professional future would take him. But at long last, as previously mentioned, on the 18th March 2020 episode of AEW Dynamite (a show originally scheduled to be in Rochester, New York) we finally got the big reveal of the leader of the Dark Order faction, of which Evil Uno of the group had been repeatedly referring to as ‘The Exalted One’.

Up to this point in AEW, the Dark Order had been… well they hadn’t exactly been an overwhelming success. The gimmick wasn’t getting all that over, Evil Uno and Stu Grayson at the front as the main tag team were fine without being superstars, and the likes of John Silver and Alex Reynolds as seconds again where just that, secondary… Dark Order had been given big spots before with big wins, and also a much talked about show-closing angle where they essentially took out the entire Elite faction. In the early days of the group it was just Uno and Grayson and a bunch of nameless guys in masks, known as their creepers. And well… here’s what they did…

The main talking point after, aside from the fact a gimmick that was NOT over (case and point, the CRICKETS-like reaction form the crowd) was given a main event spot and they beat up the top babyface group at the time, was that one of these ‘creepers’ threw punches at Dustin Rhodes during the brawl, and clearly (and ON CAMERA) made absolutely ZERO contact with Rhodes. The gimmick as a whole looked dead in the water… they needed SOMETHING… And hope looked to be on the horizon when the idea of this ‘Exalted One’ came about. This would be the first AEW Dynamite of the ‘pandemic era’, and as such took place at Daily’s Place Arena in Jacksonville, Florida with 0 fans in attendance. It was going to be a very unique show for sure, little did we know it would be one that would set up the next few months of programming for the company. The identity of the Exalted One would FINALLY be revealed… For months now he had been talked about, largely by Evil Uno, as this all-powerful… maybe you could even call him a “HIGHER POWER” (if you know, you know)… And then finally he was going to arrive. March 18th, to confront longtime enemy of the Dark Order Christopher Daniels and his SCU group, The Exalted One arrived… Would it be Matt Hardy? Would it be Lance Archer even? Speculation was rife… and we were not left disappointed…

The thing I found most notable form that was Evil Uno saying how the Exalted One would breathe new life into the Dark Order. My oh my he could not of been proven more right. I also very much loved how CD called out the failings of the Dark Order to this point. Now it was up to the Dark Order and the Exalted One to change things… And so they would do just that…

“You are not the first out of touch old man to not believe in me”… I’ll let you figure that one out.

I can only imagine the beyond belief level pop this would’ve got if such has taken place in Rochester, New York. But as segments and debuts go, this was a home-run for me, under the extraordinarily difficult circumstances they faces, and at a time when we ALL needed to see some GOOD SHIT on our TVs.

And so what followed was, week after week, a GREAT vignette of Mr Brodie Lee telling us all what he intended to bring to AEW and to the Dark Order. The references and subtle winks and nods to… someone… were obvious… but nonetheless it was all GREAT stuff…

Yeah… The Boss man is not a happy man it seems… And he was not afraid to show his won just how serious he is…

Brodie Lee was going to change the entire course of the Dark Order. Legitimately it seemed liked this absolutely brilliant professional wrestler was going to DRAG this whole faction and get them over by force.

And he wasn’t just coming in as a mouthpiece, or a big guy who can’t back it up, people forgot I think that this guy could GO… He never really got too many chances in the later part of his WWE run to show off… But he was coming in here as a monster… He began in AEW with 3 quick and dominant wins against QT Marshall, Lee Johnson and Justin Law.

His fourth match came in what was maybe the biggest miss-match in AEW history…

IS MR. BRODIE LEE UNSTOPPABLE? | AEW DYNAMITE 4/29/20 - YouTube

After another dominant win (this time against 5 foot 2, 117 pound Marko Stunt), Mr. Brodie Lee set his sights on the richest prize of them all, and he and his Dark Order made his intentions known after the conclusion of AEW Champion Jon Moxley’s match with Frankie Kazarian of SCU, a faction whom the Dark Order had been feuding with…

The Exalted One wanted Jon Moxley and the AEW World Championship. And just as he said they would under his leadership, what the Dark Order want they will take… After laying out Daniels and with the Dark Order swarming all of SCU (including Scorpio Sky who also came out to try and help Mox), after his challenge was accepted Mr. Brodie then STOLE the AEW world title belt!

WAS DANIELS AND SCU ABLE TO OVERCOME MR. BRODIE LEE AND THE DARK ORDER |  AEW DYNAMITE 05/13/20 - YouTube

The next week on Dynamite, we finally got the big grudge match between Mr. Brodie and Christopher Daniels. And sure CD got his stuff in, but it was mainly another relatively dominant win for Mr. Brodie.

The next week, Mr. Brodie Lee cut another great promo and then set the responsibility on Preston “10” Vance to take on Jon Moxley.

Mox did then get the win over 10… But then tried to bargain with Mr. Brodie… which went about as well as you’d expect…

And so it was ON for AEW Double Or Nothing 2020… Jon Moxley vs Mr. Brodie Lee for the AEW World Championship. Two men still undefeated in the company battling for the top prize… and my oh my was this a FIGHT!!!

Jon Moxley (C) defeated Mr. Brodie Lee to retain the AEW World Championship

Ranking Every AEW World Championship Match From Worst To Best

Brodie came to the ring with Mox’s world title belt, my word what a visual that was… Given this was essentially an empty arena match, these two undefeated guys had not a wrestling match, but a FIGHT! Very aggressive strikes and offence from both right from the off, the referee was lenient enough to allow them to brawl a lot outside the ring. We even had Lee suplex Moxley onto the top of the ring announce table that had been leant against the guard rail which looked nasty. Back in the ring Brodie seemed the aggressor to begin, but Mox gave as good as he got. Moxley went outside again and seemed to set up the steel steps for something, but after Brodie got the advantage he then set Moxley up on the steps, and then looked to be going for a piledriver or even a slam, but Moxley flipped him over and Brodie went crashing through the nearby bell table. The brawling continued after, Mr. Brodie in the ring hit a big suplex only for Mox to counter with cradle cover for a nearfall. Back outside Mr. Brodie hit a dragon suplex into the wood set of cards that were nearby, with Lee then slamming Moxley into the wood cards. Mox tried to reverse Lee in the, but was countered with a big boot and a sit out powerbomb for a nearfall. A battered Moxley staggered to the ring entrance ramp area, as an increasingly frustrated Exalted One followed after him… Moxley threw what was described as a ‘fiber glass poker chip’ at Lee, but Brodie avoided the Paradigm Shift after and hit a kick to the mid-section of the champion… Mr. Brodie then signaled for a powerbomb and signaled towards the entrance ramp… And after a brief back and forth we got a quite amazing spot of Moxley hitting the Paradigm Shift to Lee that sent both men THREW the wood entrance ramp!!! Eventually the doctors and officials cleared as Moxley and Lee (with a heavy cut on his head) emerged… Brodie went for the big discuss clothesline as soon as he staggered back in to the ring, but Moxley ducked and hit the Paradigm Shift… BUT BRODIE KICKED OUT AT 1!!! But Moxley wasted no time in unleashing a series of hard strikes and elbows to the already busted open challenger, after biting followed knee strikes, then the big finisher… Brodie kicked out at 2… and then Moxley locked in the chokehold with the rear naked… and Lee’s arms dropped and Moxley was declared the winner. Great finish that makes Moxley look strong, but also protects Brodie very well. I though this match was awesome and was everything it needed to be. It was executed and laid out perfectly given the story they told leading up to it and both of the men involved. Great stuff all round.

****1/2

After failing to capture the top prize, Mr. Brodie Lee and the Dark Order looked to instead increase their numbers… And after sending out an invitation to Colt Cabana, they looked to another person who they thought they could recruit and change their fortunes too. One that would add a whole new dimension to the group…

The following week, Colt Cabana (alongside Mr. Brodie Lee) scored what was a rare win for him in AEW in a tag match against Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela. And on Night 2 of Fyter Fest, Cabana again saw the benefits of his new allies help, this time in a 6 man tag against SCU…

Mr. Brodie continued with his recruitment drive for the Dark Order… This time with maybe his most ambitious potential recruit yet…

The next week on Dynamite, after Stu Grayson and Evil Uno of the Dark Order failed to win the AEW Tag titles from Page and Kenny Omega, Mr. Brodie decided he still was not done…

This culminated the next week on Dynamite in a huge 6v6 tag match to open the show. With the collective of 3 of the best tag teams in AEW (Omega and Page, the Bucks and FTR) taking on “9” , Grayson, Evil Uno, “5”, Cabana and Brodie…

Among a huge number of top stars, it was Mr. Brodie who got the big win and the dominant performance. And as always in AEW, it was all for a purpose…

The next week on Dynamite, after then TNT Champion Cody had retained his title in a super-fun outing against Scorpio Sky, Mr. Brodie made his intentions clear…

And so it was set. For a special Saturday edition of AEW Dynamite; Cody defending the TNT title against Mr. Brodie Lee…

When I tell you I have watched the following YouTube clip maybe 30 times I am not lying. If ever you wanted a summary of Mr. Brodie Lee in AEW and just how GREAT he was, how much bigger he made everything feel, and how he dragged his stablemates up to the top with him, this was all that and more.

Mr. Brodie Lee. A champion. How it should be.

Update On Cody Rhodes Announced For Next Week's AEW Dynamite

With Brodie as TNT Champion, and the Nightmare Family on it’s knees, we next went to the All Out PPV where Matt Cardona, Scorpio Sky and The Natural Nightmares (Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall) (with Allie and Brandi Rhodes) defeated The Dark Order (Brodie Lee, Colt Cabana, Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) (with Anna Jay). It wasn’t a major match, just more one to get all these people on the card maybe, oh and of course it wasn’t Lee who took the pin. In fact the finish, which saw Dustin pin Cabana, led to a TNT title opportunity and a chance at redemption on the next episode of Dynamite.

A solid effort by Dustin, but there was still no stopping Brodie.

2 weeks later, Mr. Brodie again had a defense of his title. This time in a complete contrast of styles, Lee beat Orange Cassidy…

MFTM: Mr. Brodie Lee vs Orange Cassidy for TNT Title 9/23/20 | TNTdrama.com

… but then it was a familiar face that kind of stole the headlines…

Mr. Brodie was NOT pleased… (I absolutely LOVE this promo by the way)…

Honestly as far as heel promos go, I thought this was AWESOME. And that really laid the foundations for THE match…

So after the chaotic scenes it was made official, set for the special episode of Dynamite the next week that celebrated 30 years of the career of Chris Jericho… Cody vs Mr. Brodie Lee for the TNT Championship in a DOG COLLAR MATCH.

I’ll be honest and say I’m quite emotional typing this right now. I’ve not watched this match back since it first aired, and of course knowing that this would be Brodie’s last really hits home. But I guess it’s as good a tribute to the performer he was that his last match would be not only a huge main event match, but one that played out like it did. One that showed off just how great in his role he was. If you can go out of your way to watch it…

Cody defeated Mr. Brodie Lee (C) in a Dog Collar Match to win the TNT Championship

They had Greg Valentine in the crowd, having been one half of “the most famous dog collar match of all time” against Roddy Piper in 1993 which was a cool touch. Commentary noted that it took just 3 minutes 10 seconds for Brodie to beat Cody for the title. Lee had Silver and Anna Jay come out with him, Cody had Arn and Brandi and it was Silver who brought the dog collar and chain. Justin Roberts also announced the ringside doctor and Valentine in his pre match intros. They really did all the could to make this match seen absolutely massive! Eventually the ring cleared and the dog collar and chained were attached to each man, and we got underway. Brodie cut a brief promo beforehand saying this was what Cody asked for and now he will have to deal with him, also telling Arn to shut his mouth. After Cody used the chain to knock Silver (who was also busted open) off the apron, Brodie dominated after. Cody came back but could not take Brodie down, with Lee using the chain to yank Cody off the top to stop a springboard cutter. Lee tried to pull Cody to the outside using the chain, and Mr. Brodie beatdown Cody after. Mr. Brodie got a chair for Silver and instructed him to take a seat, Cody immediately dropkicked Silver and took him out again. Lee dragged Cody back in the ring using the chain, then tightened it before hitting a DDT onto the chain. Lee instructed Anna Jay to take Silver to the back, before he then used the chain to tear at the face of Cody, who was also busted open by this point. Arn tried to motivate Cody, but Lee backed him off and then continued to go at the bleeding face of Cody. Cody eventually got back into it using the chin to hit a low blow and then a Russian leg sweep. He tried to pump himself up, but Lee tried to retreat… Cody hit a Tope to send Mr. Brodie into the barricade, but Lee yanked Cody twice into the same barricade and then back over it. Lee moved the timekeeper’s table, eventually with both men fighting on the apron, Cody somehow yanked Lee off the apron into a cutter which was a great spot. Lee was on the apron and very close to going through the table that was now next to it… Cody then hit a package piledriver through the table off the apron!!! Mr. Brodie now had a heavy cut on his head also. Cody went for the first pin but Lee kicked out at 2. Cody tried to pump himself up again, with Lee’s face now completely covered in blood. Akin to near Roman Reigns Mania 34 main event level of blood. Brodie tried to crawl up, with Cody screaming at him to get up before hitting him time and time again with the chain, then a huge slam into the chain. Cody whipped Mr. Brodie with the chain over and over, then used the chain to punch Lee in the head over and over… Cody wrapped the chain around the ringpost trying to choke Lee, Mr. Brodie then tried to choke Cody over the ropes, before hitting a bossman slam for a nearfall. Mr. Brodie then threw a chair right at Arn Anderson, who then came into the ring to confront Lee… Alex Reynolds tried to run in, but got a signature Spinebuster from AA (that’ll never get old) for his troubles… Lee then did take a shot at Arnderon, Cody got a roll up nearfall after… then really went in with strikes at Lee using the chain… Lee was now down from all the chain-assisted strikes. Cody used the chain to try and choke Mr. Brodie out, but he wouldn’t give in… Cody went to the top and got a moonsault for another 2 count. After a kick from Mr. Brodie, Cody hit the Cross Rhodes but Lee kicked out at ONE, Cody looked demonic as he hooked Lee up… Mr. Brodie hit a couple of kicks and a huge powerbomb, but Cody kicked out at 2. Lee tried to get at Cody but he instead went face first into the ringpost… with Cody on the top Lee went after him and hit a huge superplex. Both men were down exhausted as the ref began his count… they exchanged strikes and slammed one another’s head to the ring floor, eventually Lee hit a release dragon suplex, and went for the Discuss Lariat but Cody ducked and hit a great counter. He then wrapped the chain around the mouth and face of Mr. Brodie and hit strikes and elbows before hitting another Cross Rhodes… and Finally that was enough for the win. Brandi, Arn and Dustin got in the ring after to help up the new TNT Champion Cody. The members of the Dark Order looked on from ringside in disbelief. Cody cut a great babyface promo after, and they set up his next title match against Orange Cassidy with OC coming out to essentially make the challenge… This match was a great, big-time tv match that played out as brutal as it was built up to be. My personal favourite match of Mr. Brodie in AEW… it would of course take on more meaning in the months that followed than we could of ever known…

****3/4

From here Cody would go into his second reign as TNT Champion. The Dark Order would be without their leader on TV and would seem to be directionless going forward. We all kind of presumed Lee was being kept off TV for storyline reasons. But on December 27th 2020 it was sadly revealed that Jon Huber had in fact passed away. It was news that shook the entire wrestling world, and came as a shock to many. But it appeared that many around Huber knew he was not well, but to the credit of everyone the privacy was respected.

The Dynamite episode of December 30th would be a show dedicated to the life and memory of Mr. Brodie Lee. It would be a show of unique match ups featuring the members of the Dark Order, as well as a main event match featuring a team of Mr. Brodie’s son, Brodie Jr. aka -1, favourite wrestlers teaming up. It was one of the most emotional wrestling shows we have all ever seen.

We had a number of matches and emotional tributes paid by various members of the AEW roster. All of which can be found in the following playlist from the AEW YouTube page. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLILTWWX_AIJQpybUJvxQpVb_HrhBp8EgY

The show itself opened with the entire AEW roster, as well as Lee’s family and Tony Khan, stood at the top of the entrance ramp for a 10 bell salute, followed by a personal message from then AEW Champion Jon Moxley.

Our opening match had Matt Hardy and Private Party take on the unique combination of the Dark Order and another AEW act. The whole show in fact would feature a number of fan favourites team up with the Dark Order members. This time it was Colt Cobana teaming with the Young Bucks.

From the off it was very clear we would see a lot of tears and red eyes tonight, but this opener was a great example of the professionalism of this roster. They paid tribute to their friend in the best way possible, by doing what brought them all together.

Darby Allin was next to pay tribute to Brodie. He talked about how Brodie had no ego, and was here to elevate everyone.

The next match saw the team of Dark Order’s Evil Uno and Stu Grayson team up with Lance Archer. Archer, in a tribute that certainly made me smile a lot, wore a familiar looking attire to fans of a certain Luke Harper…

The next video focused on Brodie and his love for his family. I don’t have the words to do this justice.

Our next match was a very emotional one. We had Adam Page team up with Alex Reynolds and John Silver of the Dark Order. Silver was wearing gear inspired by Mr. Brodie, and was actually made for a skit that was intended to later be a part of BTE… This match was beautiful for a few reasons… but the ending sequence was just wonderful…

Big Red’s run in, -1 getting his spot, Silver with the discuss clothesline finisher, Erik coming back out after with his sign… all of it… wonderful.

Erick Rowan's AEW Status Following Appearance On Dynamite

Eddie Kingston spoke next with some very thoughtful words. Followed by a match between Mr. Brodie’s personal recruit into the Dark Order Anna Jay in a match teaming with Tay Conti.

Chris Jericho spoke next, and told a story about a time he and Brodie spent in Jeddah. He finished by promising that everyone would take care of his family.

The main event of the show was an awesome concept. Essentially Brodie Jr, who eventually would become well known as Negative 1, picked his three favourite AEW wrestlers; Cody, Orange Cassidy and 10 of the Dark Order, and they teamed up in a 6 man tag.

The show concluded with this:

I’ll finish this blog with a video that gets me every time. And the first time I saw it I wept like a child. Please if you never watch the clips in my blogs, more than ever, I beg you to watch this absolutely beautiful video.

Thank You Brodie.

From Russia with Love: The extraordinary story of the Rise and Fall of FC Anzhi Makhachkala

Firesale and licence stripped - Anzhi Makhachkala's incredible demise since  defeat to Newcastle - Chronicle Live

Ever heard the one about the Russian football team that had never won a top level major honour, not been in existence much more than a decade, and only in the top flight for a couple of years or so… who then suddenly had a legendary former World Cup winner and is one of the most recognizable footballers of all time, a multi time champions league winner, a world renowned and legendary manager, Oh and they also had a former France international once rated as a top prospect, and a Brazilian international who would go on to play in the English Premier League for 8 years after… Oh and a 6 foot 8 Ivorian international forward… Sounds like quite the fantasy story right? Well… Billionaire Suleyman Kerimov decided that he wanted this humble Russian team to become the talk of world football for a couple of years and invested heavily and quickly to get them there… and then just as quickly decides upon severe budget cuts… and within 3 years of then shocking the football world with the signing of Roberto Carlos, the team finished bottom of the Russian top flight and were relegated.

This is the extraordinary story of Rise and Fall of FC Anzhi Makhachkala.

Russia protests ​arrest of billionaire playboy Suleiman Kerimov on  suspicion of French Riviera tax fraud

In January of 2011 Russian Billionaire Suleyman Kerimov (pictured above) purchased the football club most local to his home of Dagestan, FC Anzhi Makhachkala… But it was not quite as it seemed, as it emerged later that he was in fact given a 100% stake in the club by the Dagestani President (including 50% of the shares of the club’s former owner). This was to be in exchange for financial support and backing of the club, presumable the idea was that if the Billionaire was running the club he would invest into it heavily. And indeed that was the idea, with Kerimov planning investments of up to 200 million towards the club infrastructure (the main focus of which being a new stadium that would meet UEFA requirements).

Dynamo Stadium (Makhachkala) - Wikipedia

Anzhi’s home at that time was the Dynamo Stadium. A modest venue with a capacity of just over 15,000. However given the uncertainty of the region, where clashes between the military and insurgency fighters meant that many of the club’s more matches were played in Moscow… a nearly 2 and a half hour flight and 1200 miles away…

Kerimov wasted no time in investing in the playing squad of Anzhi, and in the winter transfer window of 2011 the club made their first major signing…

Roberto Carlos, Samuel Eto'o & Bugattis: Whatever happened to Anzhi? -  Planet Football

The legendary former Brazilian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos shocked the world by joining the club following his departure from Brazilian club Corinthians. Following him in came Midfielder Jucilei from Corinthians for 10 million euros and Mbark Boussoufa from Anderlecht for 10 million.

In the summer of 2011, Anzhi stepped up a gear recruitment wise… Highly rated midfielder Balázs Dzsudzsák from PSV for 14 million, and also Russian international Yuri Zhirkov from Chelsea. And then came… THE big one, the real deal that put Anzhi on the map… in their entire run of big spending no other transfer garnered the headlines of this one…

Samuel Eto'o signs for Anzhi Makhachkala - Planet Football

Samuel Eto’o , the striker formerly of Barcelona and Inter Milan, a 4 time African footballer of the year and a two-time treble winner, joined the club on August 23rd 2011. The finances of the deal were extraordinary… not as much the 28 million euro transfer fee (a fair rate for a top forward at that time), but the reported world record salary of 20.5 million A YEAR… At the time a wage of just under 400,000 a week was the most anywhere in world football. Just bare that in mind.

Guus Hiddink resigns as Anzhi Makhachkala coach - BBC Sport

The legendary arrivals kept coming at Anzhi, and in February of 2012 the club appointed Dutchman Guus Hiddink as their new manager. His first signing was defender Christopher Samba from Blackburn, a solid defender in the premier league at the time yet Anzhi managed to get him. And later that year Anzhi’s spending continued… Lacina Traore (the towering Ivorian forward) and Lassana Diarra came in from Real Madrid. And the next February another now familiar face came in…

Liverpool to splash the cash on Anzhi star Willian | Football | Sport |  Express.co.uk

Samuel Eto’o and Lassina Traore up top, Willian providing for them, Lassana Diarra controlling the midfield, Zhirkov providing crosses and patrolling the left… Hiddink as manager, and renowned coach René Meulensteen as his assistant for good measure…. FC Anzhi Makhachkala looked quite the outfit right? Success could only follow right? Right…? …

Lets start at the beginning of the Kerimov era at Anzhi and look at the results on the pitch. The first season of his ownership was 2011-12. The playing squad underwent a huge turnover with the new investment throughout the season (a total of THIRTY ONE players joined the club, with a similar number departing at various points), and as a result the players often took time to adapt and develop as a team. They lost just once in their first 9 games of the first phase of the Russian top flight (away to Zenit the defending champions), but a disappointing later half meant they finished in the final spot for qualification to the next phase. Now they would be mixing it with the biggest clubs in Russia, however a 5th place overall finish did mean qualification for the Europa League the next season. European football being achieved was a big step in the development and progression of the club. A mixed bag of results did mean a number of changes of management along the way…

Gadzhi Gadzhiyev was dismissed as manager on September 29th 2011, with Yuri Krasnozhan appointed his permanent replacement on a 5 year contract later that December… however, before he could take charge of a competitive game he also left the club. This time an unstable relationship with the players was given as the reason… Anzhi and their new found finances would now flex their muscles in the managerial realm with their next appointment… Former PSV, Russia, Holland, Real Madrid and Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink became the club’s new manager on February 17th 2012. As previously mentioned, Hiddink led Anzhi to 5th in the league and sealed qualification for the next season’s Europa League.

By this point, Roberto Carlos has retired from playing to become an official at the club. Lacina Traore and Lassana Diarra were notable arrivals in the summer transfer window, as well as Willian the following winter. Success followed in the league for Anzhi as they lost just twice in their first 19 games and finished the season in 3rd place, behind only long time Russian giants CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg. Heartbreak also came in the Russian Cup… After beating Zenit in the semi finals they suffered a loss on penalties in the final against CSKA. The most notable and telling sign of the club’s progression though would be in their debut foray in European club football, in that season’s Europa League. After sailing through three rounds of qualifying (without conceding a goal), Anzhi made it to the lucrative group stages… were they would be drawn in the same group as one of the game’s true giants…

UEFA Europa League group stage draw | UEFA Europa League | UEFA.com

After a mixed bag of results in their first three group games (a win, a draw and a loss, of which included a 1-0 defeat at Anfield), Anzhi would take on Liverpool in their 4th group match… it turned out to be arguably the greatest night in the club’s history…

Anzhi Too Good For Liverpool | Scoop News | Sky News

A lobbed finish from Lacina Traore gave Anzhi a 1-0 win over Liverpool to balance out their previous defeat. And as expected both teams advanced to the knockout rounds. Anzhi would first face german club Hannover…

A 1-1 draw in the return leg sealed Anzhi’s progression. And in the round of 16 they would face another English club in Newcastle United.

Anzhi Makhachkala FC v Newcastle United FC: You rate the players -  Chronicle Live

A 0-0 draw in Russia meant it was all to play for in the 2nd leg at St James’ Park…

And so a 93rd minute header put an end to Anzhi Makhachkala’s European adventure for that season. But given their experienced coach, ever-growing quality of players and huge transfer and recruitment budgets, it was presumed they would be back sooner rather than later… and possibly even in the Champions League in years to come…

Or so we then thought…

The 2013/14 season began for Anzhi Makhachkala in similar fashion to what we had come to expect… Russian international captain Igor Denisov arrived from Zenit, and Christopher Samba returned from QPR. Aleksandr Kokorin came in also from Dynamo Moscow… and then in a surprising turn of events, the beginning of the end of this Russian love story began…

Rene Meulensteen coaching sessions - Elite Soccer

On the 22nd July 2013, after just two games of the league season, Guus Hiddink resigned. He stated that he had taken the club as far as he could, having achieved European qualification two seasons in a row. His assistant, former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen was given the role… but only lasted until August 7th when Gadzhi Gadzhiyev was re-appointed. It was the day before his return though that the club was given it’s final call… as owner Suleyman Kerimov effectively read the club it’s last rights.

Ремчуков Константин Вадимович — Компромат

On August 6th Anzhi announced, via their president Konstantin Remchukov that “a lot of expensive players will leave” after Kerimov decided to make DRASTIC cuts to the budget for the team. And my word did we see some exodus…

Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Kokorin and Igor Denisov ALL left for Dynamo Moscow. All three had only joined the club in the last two years for over €50 million. Remchukov would comment on these departures saying that it was as a result of a “sharp deterioration in the health of Suleyman Kerimov, because of worries about the club’s lack of success”. The Russia Today news outlet would back this up by stating that:

“The decision to slash spending could be more closely connected with Kerimov’s finances, amid speculation that the billionaire may need to raise cash to cover stock market losses.”

Dynamo Moscow also acquired Samba, Vladimir Gabulov and Aleksei Ionov. Lassana Diarra, Mbark Boussoufa and Arseniy Logashov went to Lokomotiv Moscow. João Carlos was sold to Spartak Moscow and Oleg Shatov to Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Samuel Eto'o almost joined Arsenal but instead chose Mallorca in 2000 |  Daily Mail Online

The real headline departure was that of Samuel Eto’o to Chelsea. Given he was their marquee signing it was maybe no shock that he left given the budget cuts and his huge wage. Willian also joined Chelsea, which was not a shock given how rated he was during his time at Shakhtar Donetsk before joining Anzhi. Departures continued the following January with Jucilei joining Al-Jazira and Lacina Traore leaving for Monaco.

As a result of the dramatic drop off in quality of the playing squad, the team’s results nose-dived… Anzhi lost in the first round of the Russian Cup, and after scrapping through the group stage of the Europa League (despite two heavy defeats against Tottenham Hotspur) Anzhi would eventually go out in the last 16 to AZ Alkmaar. The league campaign for 13/14 was a whole new level of disaster…

Once super rich, Russian club Anzhi struggling to survive | Taiwan News |  2018-10-26 20:15:00

With an extraordinarily BAD record of just 3 wins from 30 games, and just 20 points amassed, Anzhi were relegated. Quite fall from grace you could well say.

They did gain promotion back the next season, and just about stayed up after that by narrowly avoiding the relegation play-offs. In December of 2016 Kerimov sold the club, and they were relegated once again at the end of the 2017/18 season. . But they somehow sustained their place in the Russian top flight after FC Amkar Perm stated that their season license had been recalled by the Russian Football Union (as a result of financial issues that eventually dissolved the whole club), and as a result Anzhi were NOT relegated. In the 18/19 season though this time Anzhi didn’t get any sort of revoke and were relegated once again.

Things went from very bad to even worse for them… In May of 2019 the club general director Absalutdin Agaragimov revealed that they had no been granted a license by the Russian Football Union. And later that month it was announced that the club’s appeal had been rejected and thus they would NOT be in the second-tier Russian Football National League in the 2019–20 season either! The club at that point had two options; apply to be in the Russian third tier, or face bankruptcy. Eventually, in June, they finally got their license and thus were playing in the Russian Professional Football League for the 2019–20 season, albeit they were not permitted to register new players due to outstanding debts. They took a squad of mainly youth players in to what was the third division in Russia, finishing a modest 15th when the season was halted due to the global pandemic. The club finished 6th in the 20/21 season ran from August 2020 to June this year, and so it looks like another stint in the third tier for the once uber-rich Dagestanis.

In 2021 though the sports world takes more note of another famous descendant of that part of Russia, rather than it’s once famous football team. Anzhi even made headlines once again more recently with club officials stating the door would be open should Dagestan’s favourite son wish to become a professional footballer. Maybe the days of Anzhi at the top of European football as the big spenders are over, but maybe the spotlight could return one day, should The Eagle say so…

UFC News: Khabib Nurmagomedov presented with an honorable memento during  soccer match in Dagestan

Josh.