Okay so it's that time. You were kind enough to leave me feedback on my extortionately long and tiring show, and dammit I'm going to pay that back if it takes me a week after writing this. I should start by saying thanks for your input, it was intelligent and insightful and I can only hope this feedback is half as helpful. TO BUSINESS
Special Edition Feedback for 619IDH's
Wrestlemania The Outer Limits Marathon*dear Kirby - stay in Canada you stupid pink fur ball*
So here we go. Lord knows I'd been waiting for this for a while, so much so that it ashamed me not to have left any predictions... even more so because I think I nearly would have got full marks
The opening VP set it all up very well; you spoke about my use of the old 'full circle' technique but you are truly the King of it, no pun intended. We saw it with the subtleties in your writing at World Ablaze and AVMW, and you got it started right from the get-go with this VP. Calling back to the war aspect, in many ways the AOW 'bible' in the form of Sun Tzu, drives right back to the heart of the company and it's the best start to what is essentially your Mania. You got down to the innate desires of each of your main characters ahead of the show, and I really dug it, especially the imagery of the warrior with the sword and the general's head. Set the tone pretty well considering what we've seen from this company so far. You sick frrrreak.
I think starting with the Cruiserweights was the right way to go; Danielson/Helms are capable of a lot in the ring, as we've seen before, and it's exactly how to heat up the crowd. Obviously after what you and I discussed about this match I was interested to see which way you'd roll with it... well I wasn't disappointed. Right from the beginning you could feel the tension, the heat between the two - going at it from the bell, Helms acting like a cruel bastard and aiming for the injured orbital bone, his nightmarish smile after the railing spot, Danielson actually BITING Helms, you crazy S.O.B you. All of this painted that picture of a rivalry that's been working since the very beginning of the company really, and it's the explosive start we expected, not just to this match, but to the whole show. Hell, even with the minimal covers in the early going and the nod to the wrist-clutch stops, you were telling a story, and I love that. It's the kind of match writing you love to immerse yourself in, because it's not just about the action, it's about something bigger than that. This continued with the cruiserweight one-upsmanship, this constant idea that Helms needs to validate himself not by history, nor by other cruiserweights, but Danielson specifically, as if he's blinkered and can't see beyond the champion. Could be interesting to see how you use him after this, with that considered. The Butterfly Suplex on to the aisle was the first real chaotic moment of the night, depending on your views on biting; an absolute stroke of genius there, sounds absolutely brutal. Scratch that, the flying knee sandwich was worse; careful, he'll fracture Helms' orbital bo- OH SHIT it must be another nod. Helms making Danielson bleed, then using almost solely face-targeting moves shows just how focused, how violent he can be, and it makes the rivalry feel uncomfortable (in a good way), like these two are out to hurt each other until one falls and stays fallen. It's a great dynamic, played against the one-upsmanship in which it's just as easy to telegraph your opponent as be telegraphed; in a way it's the rise and fall, the ebb and flow, the yin and the yang
, it's perfect. There was a small section where the pinfalls came a little quick and I wondered if you missed a chance to maybe paint a bit more of a picture of the exhaustion between them... that said, it's personal preference and I'll let it go because just about everything else here was art. From here, -ironically-, you then got a bit artistic with the description anyway, so it made up for where it was missing a little before, then threw the title belt and the 'I have til five!' in there because you couldn't miss any nods to previous happenings. The forty spins were just incredible and in a way I think this brutality had to end with the wrist-clutch stomps until Helms was pretty much dead. Danielson covered in blood, title pressed to his face - what an image. The title is almost synonymous his blood, his heart, and it really showed. That's the kind of match that ends a show, not opens it; you filled it with perfect little story moments, while throwing in enough 'new' stuff in terms of spots to keep it from being formulaic. Considering your concerns ahead of writing this match, you came up with a real special display. I could read this again and again - that being said, I'm glad the rivalry is done and Danielson can move on now. As bon a start as you could ask for.
Jericho really should have taken the call. Pretty sure it was TARVER offering to save his title match for him.
Immediate dichotomy in the entrances of the two tag teams. The Sons enter to a hero's welcome, united and in the heart of their homeland... and then the WGTT seeming detached, from their entrance down into that muted argument regarding who steps into the ring first. During the early Benjamin/Wilson exchange, I realised how the smaller paragraphs makes it much easier to follow the flow - I think sometimes you've had issues with just general coherence, just extending a sentence a clause or two too long in the past by accident, but certainly in the early parts of the show I see none of that, and the small paragraphs do help there. Honestly, it's something I should adopt more, because I'm aware that my huge blocks of text can be off-putting at times. Anyway, enough of me, back to that tag action. Needless to say the early exchange was technically excellent, with things beginning to heat up nicely when they started to deliver the bigger hits, and obviously bringing Smith into the fray helps that. Things as small as Haas staring at his partner after a tag are just enough; it doesn't need to be hatred, nor happiness, but sometimes just a second will do for the subtleties of it, and you know that better than anyone. At first I was worried that Haas was going to look a little weak (and we all know he kills in cold blood, he breaks legs for fun, was going to push him in the Comeback
) but you sold his in-ring IQ well by trying to wear down Smith at first rather than try to beat the big man into submission. I struggled a little with Smith taking the triple Germans; I always envision him as such a huge guy that for Haas to do that seems a tad much for me. The prose around the Hangman's Knee Strike was also a bit clumsy so I had to re-read a couple of times to understand what had happened, but it was an anomaly in the grand scheme of things I think. While I'm here, I think 'I could've done better!' is a little too on the nose for Benjamin to say, seeing as up until then it had been mostly a subtler touch. Was Benjamin's aggression really worthy of more boos than everything Helms did btw? I'm going by "This garners the most undisputed heat thus far in the night", unless you meant the match, in which case never mind; I think Shelton showing some real aggression is a nice touch, given that he took the loss against Haas and really he's the one who's been trying to duck and weave out of it... if the team splits up, as much as I rate heel Haas, it'd inevitably fall on Shelton to fulfil that role, so you're laying the groundwork here. That said, I found it odd that Smith could chuck Shelton into the corner - wicked move btw - but suddenly he was crawling for the hot tag... I got the impression that if Smith has suplex-level strength, he wasn't needing to crawl. Small thing. The Code Blue into a Samoan Drop is a counter I would put money on the table to see, excellent thinking there, and I knew you'd get a Turnbuckle Powerbomb on the show somewhere, don't think I missed that. This feels to me like what I'm about to call 619IDH Lashley Syndrome
* with Shelton, in that up until this point he'd shown some heel tendencies, but this match is where it finally came to the fore. His brutalisation of the Sons, in Canada no less, and especially the fact that he enjoys
being so aggressive, takes him well and truly into heeldom, if there had been any doubt before. I'll say it here; I know independent wrestling generally is a bit more pinfall-happy than say WWE, but I think things got a bit hectic in that regard here. At times I think it needed to slow down and have us focus on the characters, because sometimes it's good to have fast sections, but here it felt a bit messy in places. God I love the Haas of Pain, such a cool move, and it actually does Haas a lot of favours for Smith to break it up rather than Wilson escaping, makes it seem like a submission was truly incoming. It was a little strange to have Smith re-enter the ring and keep getting clotheslined out though, I wanted to say STAY ON YOUR FEET MAN. The exchanges after this were very strong, with some great writing to re-immerse myself into the action, the Rolling Stampede and the Scissored Armbar in particular standing out as the big crowd reaction moments, and you sold them as such. Once again you made some references to previous bouts between the various combinations of these four, which is more than fair enough given the effort the Sons had to go through to get this 2-on-2 match, and in a way, calling back to WGTT's previous problems in the finish makes perfect sense. Again we've come full circle, this time with the WGTT's reign finally being ended here, and tbh I think the timing is right. The door is open for whatever angle you want to run with Benjamin/Haas now, while the Sons needed this win to validate their status as the best on-mat tag team around really; that said, I'd have liked to see the Sharpshooter locked in at some point, given the location, though I don't know if you were maybe saving that for the main event (which I haven't read in detail at the time of writing, so I don't know if you did it with HBK). I voiced a few concerns but they falter when you look at the bigger picture, I think. A good contest, maybe with a few too many pinfalls, but some very strong action and overall, I think you told the story well. Sets you up very nicely for the future, with both teams. Time for Samoan Fight Club to step up maybe? Who knows. Either that or the mysterious girl joining American Made vs. Natalya joining the Sons? Eh, what the hell do I know, I'm just a knight.
Loved the Dynasty tourney ad. I should have found Punk funniest but somehow 'we've got two guys acting like Hooliganz on table four' slayed me. Tournament itself should be incredible stuff. We really getting Danielson/Joe?
Something as simple as Carlito refusing the lock-up was good enough to set his character in stone from the opening bell; I think in a match with Mysterio, someone who prides himself on his honour, on his attachment to history, for Colon to do that works really well. I think this was probably the match I was excited for the least, so there needed to be some added heat and I think you provided that pretty well in the differences between Carlito's disrespect versus Rey's general respect for competition, etc. Like with Haas I was worried that Rey was going to take a bit too much of a beating, but here it was more justified when you noted that every time Rey tried to restart the engine, Carlito basically shut him down. That said it was nice to see Rey get back into it on the Hurricanrana and the huge Senton to the outside, because in a Mysterio/Carlito match you'd hope for some open back-and-forth, high flying stuff in places rather than just Carlito working the bag. The nod towards Mysterio's former injuries is a good one, maybe implying that he's past his sell-by date, though it feels a little strange given it's only 2008 here and he's still going strong in 2013. That said, the story works well, especially cast against the background of Carlito's comparative status as the young up-and-comer. I've never really seen Lito as a cold, calculating type, but the arrogance he holds naturally works well as a sort of hybrid between the two - cocky but he's got the cruelty in him to back it up. It felt at times like every other pinfall was a pinning combo, not an actual move leading to a fall, which maybe
grew a little tiring, especially when both men have sizeable movesets that they can use to put the other man down. I think the knee injury gave you an out to have Mysterio lose after the 619, especially with him selling the knee after he hit it. I'd also suggest the idea of Mysterio springboarding, and Manu getting into the ring and immediately hitting the Samoan Drop was a bit of an awkward one, seeing as Manu would have to move mighty quickly and it seems a little farfetched to me. Apart from that, it gets Carlito some serious heat and a much-needed big win, so all is well here - it also reminds me of what you said about how much fun it is to have Mysterio get pounded on, so I can understand the way this contest rolled at times. As with the last match, I had a couple of sporadic issues, but the action itself was good and you obviously know exactly what you're doing with both men. I think Rey could also use a big-name win when AOW returns, if only because I feel he'd be one of your bigger names in terms of getting casual viewers in, and he's kind of stuttered since first signing, mostly due to the injury. The image of Carlito with his arms over the SFC's shoulders is a good one, showing that Lito is talented but he's not above phoning it in, and I'm interested to see where he goes from here too, as much as I'd like SFC to branch out a little and make the Sons work for their first or second defence. While I'm here, the match order seems strange to me - you had two huge face wins and then this, but this seems like the perfect match to buffer the Cruiserweight and Tag Title babyface wins. Just a thought, but the match itself was good so no worries here.
In a way I was surprised to see Tres Reyes get to the finals, but looking at the alternatives, maybe I shouldn't be so shocked, seeing as Aero Star is better matched with these two than with the Hooliganz and Aero on the card had to happen. Considering how the Mercs seemed to be running through this tournament with just about everything going 'their way', it's good to see Tres Reyes throwing themselves out of the ring and taking the focus back their way as the match begins. I'd venture that a two-and-a-half count so early might have been a bit much, but you were playing it as a big final so I can understand the need for an added ‘unpredictability’ if you will. I'm not sure if you noticed but after Super Crazy fell into the Tree of Woe you just had "Super Crazy's" written as if you were going to say something else and it's just there. Typo. Immediately after you have Regal's "SICK HIM!" comment and I just love that, it's the Hyde beneath Regal's forced Jekyll that just epitomises who he is, and what a time for him to truly burst to life with his real aggression. Similarly, I kind of like the fact that you don't adhere to the face/heel dynamic (yeah that bitch again, remember my essay on Lashley/Christian all that time ago?) when thinking about crowd reactions. Far too often I'm thinking 'heel hits a move, surely he was booed' in my writing, but considering AOW's status and affiliation with the Hammerstein etc., coming to Canada and having the smarks out in full force would probably lead to a system where you'll get cheered if you do awesome shit. That makes sense, and let's face it, Burchill does a lot of awesome shit. Speaking of which, trying to force Aero Star into the fray reeks of Total Badass, and even if it was part of the team's strategy, any time someone tries to force the opposing team to make tags they always comes off looking indestructible. I also like that Burchill knew what he was doing without Regal telling him to - it shows a level of commitment, a level of preparation that the Mercs clearly had coming into this. The description of the triple team was a little hard to follow at first, but once I'd figured it out, it sounded awesome, and this was the kind of thing we were hoping for; I've never watched a lot of Trios wrestling, hell most of my knowledge on the subject comes from Dubya's sporadic threads where it's involved, but certainly the final of the tournament is where you should be showing off the benefits of the match type. That you did, plus Aero breaking up the pin to make a little nod to his involvement previously in the tournament, while the Triple Tope Torpedo is probably the best spot I've heard of in a long time, that sounds fucking incredible. If there's footage of that actually happening, I want to watch it when I wake up every morning. I love the link to the concussion-causing qualities of the Half Nelson, yet another (as important as any) nod to what's come before, especially because it's had such an impact on the build to the final.
As with before, Aero's counter to the Mercy Kill was a little difficult to envisage until I'd had several tries at it and drawn a few elaborate diagrams, maybe passed a weekend course in quantum physics, but once again as soon as I understood it, it works really well and I applaud your creativity. I also find it interesting that you're playing up Aero's occasional moments of frustration; so very often you only see the daredevilism (if it's not a word, it is now) that he supplies and not the emotional response from him, so again this would be the stage to see it come to the fore. The immediate Royal Mutilation after the pinfall suggests that anything can happen, the whole fashion in which a match like this can swing back and forth, and like earlier it gave it an unpredictability that read really well. Similarly it was nice to see Tres Reyes engaging in a bit of the triple team stuff as well. I was just about to say that Regal had become a non-factor since the opening - though you could argue he was being a puppeteer I suppose - but the Knee Trembler to Crazy, with the concussion such a talking point, really stamps his influence on the contest and again allows you to raise the captaincy debate through the medium of Joey Styles. This was your chance to show the Mercs' precise side and you took that chance, with the quick tags showing that they had a gameplan and stuck to it, despite Regal's frustrations with the opponents. I maybe found it odd to see Regal as the one most frustrated, given that he had been the one preaching patience and all that good stuff to the other two, but do as I say, not as I do I suppose. That said I know you were hunting for the Crucifix pin reversal but I can't shake the feeling that if Regal wants the fall after the Regal-Plex, he'll stick in the pin, it's just the way. The action sped up leading into the finish, were it possible, with the quick falls taking you into Aero's Double DDT, which is possibly his 'finest hour' given how this ended. Burchill taking the bullet for Albright was, in my eyes, your best character moment of the night so far, showing how far these two have come as mentor and rookie that Burchill did it without thinking about it. Brilliant. I think it does a lot for Aero Star not to be pinned and to walk out as captain undefeated, and certainly his performance was stronger than his teammates too. I was a little surprised with your usage of Regal - maybe it was just that I felt he moved away from his established character in this match somewhat, when I'd got this impression that he was playing mastermind with the Mercs and in the end he seemed like just another member of the gang. Maybe that's just how I viewed it, I realise other people might see it another way. All in all, I'm glad the Mercs won the tourney; after the Hassan business they needed something to refocus their attention and the tourney itself was a success in my eyes, there was a lot of good action in there. Albright getting the winning fall does him a lot of favours too. Joey Styles naming them 'the very first ever AOW Trios Tournament Champions' suggests maybe you'll do this again, which considering you show no signs of slowing down, could work really well later in the AOW calendar if you want to call this match back. Endless possibilities with asking where the Mercs are however many months on. The very possibility of AOW developing a history and you being able to do things where "the inaugural" doesn't have to be put in front of it... well it's nice to see projects that are given the time to run. Good stuff here, I think this was the right call and we got some entertaining and imaginative action - roll on Mercenaries Inc., then.
DAT OFFSEASON. Obviously seeing as wrestling's never had one, neither has BTB, so it'll be interesting to see what you do with it, if anything major happens or if you just work the champions to death with hard-fought wins. I like that JBL isn't fully behind the concept of the 'offseason' concept, as if he wasn't too keen with the idea when it was pitched at the meeting of the "Founding Fathers"... a meeting that I wish I had been at, they're all awesome. Speaking of the developmental talents being used, remember our deal. I have copyright on HIM until I've at least posted my next couple of Raws, so hope you have no plans for him until around 2018.
If anything goes down, Kirby's in my sights. I'll be watching.
Joe totally no-selling the black eye does, as you say, make him look even more badass. Up until now his main moment in the company has been getting hung by Finlay, nearly matched by his antics in the War Chamber, so it feels like this is his chance to bury Wright on his way out the door and move on to bigger (were it possible) things after the offseason. When you open with a slugfest as you did here, it needs good description to sell both men's power, and you provided that very well, with the added touch of noting how only Samoa Joe could withstand some of the punishment that Wright delivered. You could feel every punch, every thumping hit, it reverberated in the writing, I really liked it. Needless to say, eventually this had to stop being constant striking, lest this become Big Show/Khali from Backlash '08, which makes me sick just thinking about it. Instead, you gave us the stiffness of the Elbow Suicida and showed us how hot the crowd is with the 'OLE's heading into the Ole Kick, but I think the main thing was showing that Wright doesn't take these moves like normal men. It was evident that it reeled him, but in a way you have to hit every move twice on him, and his Spear on the outside just epitomised that. Similarly, his pure size stops Joe having his way with submissions, and I think so much of Joe's offence being ineffective, something almost unheard of, really stacks the deck against him to lead us into a heroic win, starting with not falling from the KO Punch and nailing the Samoan Drop to boot. From here it became a better match than it had any right to be; their back-and-forth was highly enjoyable and having Joe drop the big man with the gigantic German Suplex forces everyone to acknowledge that Joe is
strong enough to slam Wright, just to make it all a little more believable leading into the finish. Even so, if this was Wright's last hurrah then he went out red-hot - the KO Punch into the Chokeslam was well choreographed out of the Island Driver, with the kickouts from both that and the Diving Elbow Drop just selling how powerful Joe really is. The image of Wright lifting Mahoney up to his level, maybe finally caving to genuine anger rather than a quiet frustration, is one you could tout again and again in the photo album of 'Welcome to AOW, Please Look At All The Crazy Shit We Get Up To'. Ironically you then used the 'all the offence has to be doubled here' line, so certainly you and I seem to be on the same page - again
- and the very concept of the last-breath Elbow Drop having to be used TWICE to put Joe down is an incredible sell in his favour. Wright getting hit with the Muscle Buster is something that normally would raise eyebrows, but the fact that he was already up top and all Joe really had to do was package him up and drop him makes it easier on Joe himself, without taking away the fact that he technically pulled it off. Could it have ended any other way? Of course not. I don't know if that felt like sixteen minutes of action, but certainly the action we did
get was, as I've mentioned, better than this match really should have been, and is testament to your match writing. A jarring brawl of a bout, with a colossal finish to match its colossal participants. As I say - if this was Wright's last moments, what a way to go. Very bon indeed.
Again, to steal your thing here, DAT ORIGINS AND ENDINGS. Four hours for the anniversary? Outstanding.
At first I wasn't sure about Romero having a genuine character moment - my thought process was something along the lines of 'SHUT UP AND ASK YOUR QUESTION' but it occurred that of all people, I'm the last person to talk about it, I do this kind of thing all the time. It was actually quite touching, especially seeing as Romero's sort of been standing by watching the whole of AOW unfold, and it's nice to see him voice one of the concerns he's had. Also you'd had five matches without a full promo segment to really buffer them, so this was needed. The promo was a strong one, driving right to the heart of one of your most important characters in the thread, one I physically couldn't believe didn't win Best Used Character, but opinions differ so I'm over it.
I think it was a good time to give him that first smirk, and obviously the 'instant classic' line implies that maybe he feels he's come full circle, similar to his lines about coming full circle in terms of the ten bucks, etc. Exactly what the doctor ordered, bon stuff.
Justin "The Pimp" King officiating Banks/Punk by special request? You're really doing everything you can to push the envelope here, aren't you? The Malcolm X theme behind the VP was certainly an emphatic one, but what I found more interesting was the references to Muhammad Hassan, such as the 'street rat' comment in unison with Hassan saying it. I think given how Hassan plagued Punk, tormented him, he feels like a huge part of Punk's AOW past, and while I'm glad you didn't really raise it in the race debate, I'm glad that you're acknowledging that Hassan is as big a part of Punk's past as Banks is a part of Punk's present. I know the Banks character has divided opinion, but in the grand scheme of things this is one big 'What if?' scenario and I'd say it works well - he's not a victim of racism, he just believes
he is, and any character who believes something that isn't true is always a wonder to work with, whether that's in BTB or just in general writing. More on that in my task for the summer, you know the one. Small things like Banks trying to get the fist bump out of King and Punk checking behind him out of habit are great, they're the subtleties people very often don't put in their work because they think no-one will notice them or appreciate their value. JBL's rant about Punk not truly exploring the 'dark side' of the business is the makings of an incredible feud, please do that. Still, Layfield's got problems with other people to sort out, Danielson included, so if he steps away from the announce desk it might not be for Punk. Also if anyone's stepping back in the ring, I do believe we've agreed it should be Foley. Onwards to the match then; oh god the Muhammad Ali reference, just because you can - outstanding. Having them exchange taunts and maybe show off their similarities in their brash styles is actually quite interesting, given how much Banks tried to distance himself from Punk in the build to this. Eventually it had to get a bit more physical and Punk would be the one to start that, with the Suicide Dive and the Guillotine Elbow showing that while he can out-taunt Banks, he can very easily out-fight him too. By the time Banks had got back into it you sold his bruising dominance well, and I might as well say it here - like the smaller paragraphs, the description of crowd actions like clapping or the boo/yay stuff in a more extended format reads really well and is part of the immersion of the experience. It's something I've considered in the past, simply because it's a unique way of making you feel a part of the crowd. I was surprised to see this one become a bit more action-based for a while, leaving their characters behind in favour of actual wrestling in the stretch before Banks complained to his 'brotha' in King, but you needed a period of Banks dominance to sell the Punk resilience really, and you couldn't exactly have Banks shouting pseudo-racist comments after every kick. Maybe it's just because in other matches you'd been able to bring the feud's focus into the ring, but obviously this feud was about something completely different from wrestling, so King was really your only way to do that; in short, there was some good back-and-forth action, but after so much story earlier in the night I was surprised to see them just wrestle. Nothing wrong with that, though, as the action was well-written. At times it felt a little formulaic - get frustrated, pick them up, do a move, cover, get frustrated, pick them up, reversed, other guy does a move, cover, so it was nice to see you begin to mix things up with the elevated Roundhouse and taking the action to the outside. Likewise, you got Punk's aggressive side in there and the fact that he wants no count-out victory, which meant things got a little more story-related here and obviously Banks forcing King into the way was a very nice touch in that regard. Banks keeping Punk down for the four means that he has adequate ammo for a rematch, mixed with the claim that he should be champion, while a still-relatively-fresh-as-champion Punk gets to keep his reign going a while longer. Punk also has a fair argument in that Banks pulled King in the way himself, not to mention basically cheating to get his chance at the Drive-By... this is probably the best solution to give both guys something to work towards heading forward. Needless to say this feud is far from over, with the post-match assault virtually guaranteeing that. The match was good, the finish was ideal. This feud can only heat up from here, though this is one of those situations where I wonder if you might lose some of that heat with the Offseason standing in the way.
Terrific segment with HBK and Heyman. Paul E.'s dialogue was as slimy as you'd expect, with HBK staying cold and emotionless on a night where it would be too easy to give in to the romanticism of the occasion. "Please. It's not the worst thing I've done in this building" might be an early contender for line of the year, that's just pure gold. Interesting to see Heyman's influence from here on out, seeing as he's taken a bit of a beating in AOW's inaugural year and I was kinda hoping he'd stay in charge so Mick Foley can go... explore his other talents... maybe closer to an AOKO Match... or something even more sick...
Expecting an absolute bloodbath here with RVD/Finlay. The minimalistic VP was good - I think often you're worried that your VPs need a heap of symbolism and a strong metaphorical theme or they won't be effective, but in this case what you needed was just the facts, the words from the mouths of both men on why they want to kill the other, and you provided that. The idea of RVD's broken identity cast against the brutality, the in-your-head cruelty of Finlay, was perfect. We came into the match knowing that one of these men would leave broken, and that was all we needed to know. No metaphors, just the excruciating physical and mental pain of several months... heading into one final showdown. Like with HBK's emotionless state just before, there was the temptation to let everything get a bit emotional but you shut that RIGHT down by having RVD's comeback stopped in its tracks off the Finlay pre-match assault. I also like that RVD had to use the headbutt to force Finlay away; it's almost as if he's not truly himself again yet and all he cares about is hurting Finlay - in many ways that's a very powerful image. Similarly the idea of RVD matching Finlay blow-for-blow on the Scoop Slams is also powerful, as if Van Dam has a blood lust that can only be settled by hurting Finlay as he's been hurt. RVD crotching himself on the railing makes my eyes water, but not quite as much as him then taking a chairshot to the head from that position, that's pretty innovative and it sounds brutal to boot. I'm not sure how to feel about the reference to American Made's blonde in this kind of match, but certainly I laughed so I can't judge. Honestly I was hoping you'd lay down some of Finlay's pure brutality and sadism in the early going, rather than give RVD some superhuman wife-based urge to kick Finlay all around Canada, so to see the evil streak in Dave that drove so much of this feud was good. It reminds me a little of my own recent Stretcher Match, the brave face against the truly evil heel. I can understand the table's involvement given Finlay's desire to genuinely break RVD's body, but I thought maybe Van Dam recovered a little too quickly after being choked to the point of near death.
Once again you merited your Most Creative prize with stuff like that Powerbomb counter from RVD, very impressive thinking. You also got a nice metaphor in there about neither man being in the ring at the same time, seeing as this match isn't about the ring, the rules, it's about something far more violent. In that vein, it was understandable to see RVD get the ladder out and call back a little bit of ECW; almost as if he's retracing his steps to remember just who he is. The use of the guard rail was again the inventive stuff I'd expect here in a No-DQ bout, including the Crossbody. Even so, I couldn't help but feel it needed less creative violence and more outright violence, which is why my concerns immediately evaporated on the smashed glass bottle into the table spot. At heart, that was what I came to see, though I understand why you took the opportunity to get a little bit imaginative when the chance was there. For that reason, too, I was pleased to see THE DREADED SHILLELAGH return, if only because this feud was so vicious in the build-up that it needed a violent conclusion. I sound pretty sadistic in saying that, but RVD/Finlay was always about a man being broken and thus Finlay's enjoyment worked well. As before, the sight of RVD bloodied follows that train of thought, the idea that this match was more about violence than a showcase, so I was glad you made sure Finlay got as close to breaking Van Dam as he promised. The whipping reminded me of HBK's Unsanctioned Match with Jericho in 2008, the harshness and cruelty that defines the rivalry, a violent image despite Finlay trying to remove Hebner's trousers in the process. Here is the dark before the dawn, the pit of despair when all is lost, and you painted it brilliantly, having Finlay almost deliver the killer blow of the Celtic Cross only to lead into RVD's emphatic reversal. It was poetic justice to see Finlay smashed with the splintering shillelagh, and of course both men had to bleed to sell the horrors of the feud ender, the graphic imagery after the barbed wire chairshots finally delving into those dark areas that we knew were coming. I love the idea of Van Dam looking at the crowd in awe, almost as if he can't believe their own blood lust, like how in the past he's yelled at them when they tried to chant his name - he's had a peculiar relationship with the fans in this thread, especially seeing as they haven't suffered as he has, and having them call for something he's not even sure of at first is just another step in that. There are many ways this match could have ended, but after Finlay was massacred I think the Five Star Frog Splash, the very move that defines RVD as who he is
, was the way to go. Having the thumbs taunt for the first time was a perfect storytelling moment as well. It tells a huge story to say that there were no pins until the win was well out of the question - these men didn't want to win, they wanted to make the other man suffer, and I think you achieved that sense of hatred very well. As I've mentioned, the creative stuff earlier on maybe felt slightly out of place, but it's just something that happens with RVD as a staple, and I think it's understandable that you didn't just want non-stop cruelty from start to finish. If Finlay was going to get pinned, being murdered ECW-style by RVD seems like the way for it to happen. Excellent match. You're totally insane, but excellent match.
A real sweet segment here to keep us excited for when AODubya returns. The first time I read the segment it was a bit hard to swallow with all those people, but it gets better with each reading; you underlined that the future is bright for the AOW 'undercard' if you will, and this was the sweeping gesture that helped you do that. It's nice to see you acknowledge that Danielson needs to step into pastures new, too. Personally as a huge fan of Sydal I'd like to see him climb the ladder, if only because he could become a great character if he started from the 'bottom' and slowly became a genuine force to be reckoned with. Regardless you have a lot of possibilities with these characters, a lot of talent in there, so I eagerly await the next chapter in AOW after this. Lots of great potential storylines on the horizon.
Even with one eye on the future, there's one more match, and so I turn my eyes to my most eagerly awaited pay-off... to be honest, probably in any BTB ever. From the Man on the Moon promo, through the double turn, the War Chamber, everything - I've waited for Christian's moment in the sun for a while. As I've said before, at first I feared HBK's inclusion would ruin it, but if anything, it's just made the feud heat up to its extremes, with the very idea of Michaels competing in such a vital match, in such a vital location, injecting a whole new meaning into what this main event match means. The pre-match VP made a lot of the emotional toils of these three, especially the challengers, over the course of this mesmerising angle, and set up perfectly for the explosive finale. In a way, Michaels acting like a bit of a prick about the whole affair is understandable, given his relationship with this very crowd and the fact that having him come out as usual, complete with Cena-esque refusal to accept his fate, would have been very jarring. Likewise the contrast in Christian's demeanour and their respect for one another sort of separates them as two very different characters, and in Triple Threat matches that's of upmost importance. JBL staying away from 'heel hates all faces' mode for Christian was a classy touch as well. Even so, didn't you once proclaim 'the King steals from his subjects' in jest, possibly about Randy Orton referencing the moon in a Raw promo? Jericho's entrance seems awful reminiscent of my Wade Barrett 'marionette' entrance from the King of BTB 2012 Tournament... a tournament that you won, so I'm gonna be quiet before I cry.
To the match - you did a wonderful job selling the occasion with that opening description, fully taking us into the Bell Center and the fiery atmosphere that drives the story forward. Love it. I think HBK and Christian unloading on Jericho was a great way to start, though I'd probably stray away from any reference to Jericho not
being able to think on his feet, no matter the occasion. Similar to Survivor Series 2009 when HBK Superkicked HHH in their Triple Threat, it's crucial to note that he is nobody's heartfelt ally when the rules don't say so. Michaels has always been an enigma, and like with his entrance, you had to make it clear that he'll take any route to win. Hey, you got a Kane reference in here, TKoW would be pleased if he knew what that felt like.
I notice you've had a lot of early near-falls tonight; it's not a criticism, more an observation, like how you noted the Superkick-heaviness of my roster, but I would mention that kickouts at one do happen. There were a few moments where HBK did stuff to Jericho and I wanted to see how the crowd reacted, or more so when the opposite happened, but you got a fair few mentions in there about Michaels getting some begrudging pops if you will. I thought maybe Christian didn't sell HBK's Moonsault all that much when he disrupted the Superplex, though this early into what would be a marathon contest it's arguable that too much selling could pin the performers down a little later. Damn, thought you were going for a Doomsday Device spot when Jericho shoved HBK away up top, but c'est la vie. The classic trope of the heel covering one guy, failing, and covering the other in a Triple Threat turns up here again, a little tactic I've always enjoyed. Also thought the metaphor of Jericho playing with the puppets after the Irish whip collision was a sweet little bit of prose, cleverly done. I was surprised to see both the Walls of Jericho and the Flashpoint come out so early, however, given their relative importance in both men's movesets; perhaps you were just selling the big occasion.
Having written so many matches for Christian, especially in tournaments, I'm always staring beady-eyed at other people who put him in huge matches, but I was pleasantly surprised - well, the word isn't surprised
, you know exactly what you're doing around these parts - to see that you know him just as well, if not better. The same could be said of the other two, however; the action flowed very nicely indeed, the three working in conjunction with ease. That said, I think it'd have been nice to have a bit of JBL and Styles' reaction after Christian got catapulted into them, if only a throwaway sentence, and you also have a small habit occasionally of repeating words at the end of clauses, like how I'm about to do by repeating these words at the end of my clauses. It's a minuscule thing, but one that you might just want to watch out for, especially when you're writing for counters/reversals or using props like the ring lip, apron or the steps, etc. Again, I was hoping to hear from the crowd when HBK's back injuries reared up under the threat of the Walls; were they booing or cheering the concept of their hated champion snapping their hated challenger in half? The taunting also reminds me that this is a world where the Jericho/Michaels blood feud never happened in 2008, though (despite me being one to talk about it, geez) I thought maybe if Jericho was going to be quoted, it needed to be something a bit more major than basic trash talk. As I say, I'm in no position to talk, seeing as I used the technique more than I had any right to do with Over The Limit, but you stole my point out of my mouth with Michaels' taunts to the Canadian crowd anyway, that's exactly what I meant. With Michaels hitting SCM, it was written in the stars for Christian to defy medical advice and get up off his ass to come stop the pinfall, a good moment there to show his wretched, burning desire to make this night his own. From one beautiful piece of imagery to another, the sight of HBK and Christian locked in haunted stares is just magic, with the Christian right hand breaking the spell to show that these two men have been through so much... but neither will sacrifice their dream for the other. The Crossface makes me cringe a little - in a good way, I suppose, but I'm still a little unnerved - with the whole Canadian issue hanging in the air anyway. As before, watching you write for Christian reminds me how well you know him, his classic back-kick-into-Sunset-Flip spot keeping the action entertaining and the near-falls tense. Oh thank fuck you had the Sharpshooter. I was genuinely, genuinely worried you weren't going to go for it, but you were way ahead of me, on the one true babyface in the match to boot - this is actually a weight off my mind, I thought you were going to miss an opportunity. Jericho's reaction reminds me of how the crowd cheered for Ziggler cashing in the briefcase irl, that disastrous moment you imagine Vince backstage asking everyone how Del Rio could possibly be hated for being the good guy. I'm glad you acknowledge the awkward crowd moments like these, you're a better man than I. Not that I have many Michaels-in-Montreal moments in INTWT.
A third paragraph for this match, and I'll start it by saying SHAME ON YOU for your awful pun in "man(itoba)hood" and SHAME ON ME for finding it amusing. Christian was a little low on his share of covers, so I'm glad you got one in following the Inverted DDT, which is a big enough part of his moveset that it really needed a two-and-a-half in hindsight. Interesting to see the Double A Spinebuster from Michaels, though with a guy like him you wonder if he had something else in his locker instead. Maybe just seems a tad strange seeing as HHH was working for 'the enemy' at the time. Two Kip-Ups is testament to how big a match this really is, the idea that Michaels has to dig deeper than ever before, and maybe assuages some of those worries you had in that you wanted Michaels not to be lost in the shuffle behind Christian/Jericho after we all took such a shine to the Canadian pair. Oh screw you, you had the Doomsday Device spot anyway. Bet you were so bloody smug after you saw what I wrote earlier. "Just keep scrolling down, he'll get such a surprise, Kirby stop juggling the royal ornaments and come laugh at this..." I think given all the hatred between Christian and Jericho, you needed at least one point where Captain Charisma could just unload on Jericho and pay him back for all the shit he's done, so Christian going nuts on him was exactly what I was after. As soon as Christian and Jericho wiped each other out on the announce table, it became awfully obvious that the only man left available has a nasty habit of throwing himself through desks from the top rope... but what surprised me is that he missed. In a way, that was his own version of going down the staircase like Heyman, but I thought that was your huge spot for the night. To be honest I think it probably made more sense for Michaels to crash and burn, if only because of all the metaphors about his mistakes he's made in this building, and also because you needed a bit of time on the clock during which we could have Christian/Jericho get their aggression out. I thought maybe you needed to have them sell the exhaustion a bit more here, because it seemed almost like the beginning of a whole new match, and they'd both taken a fair few hits by this point tbh. One of your sequences of the night leading into the first Unprettier though, really seamless action leading into the big crowd-erupting moment, excellently done. I was surprised to see Jericho bleed, but I think the metaphor of Jericho not being so 'immortal' after all makes it worthwhile. Christian attempting the Spear seems somehow more fitting than HBK's Spinebuster, in fact it seems quite poetic given the location. Speaking of poetry, Christian in the Walls saw some of your finest writing yet in terms of physical prose on paper, if only because you could feel the emotion radiating from it... but as beautiful as the following Cloverleaf counter was, your sentences got a bit clunky in places and it was like a piston snapping in the steam engine. You fixed it almost immediately after that, but if you look at, say, phrases like "With all this going on, everyone forgot about the man with the most documented history of determination and wills to win!!"
, maybe you understand that it was a little jarring.
I love the image that if it wasn't for Michaels' input, if it wasn't for him signing his rotten name on that contract, if it wasn't for THAT Superkick, Christian would have made Jericho tap and claimed an ending made of true justice. It sort of epitomises Michaels not only in this match, but in this feud - he doesn't care if he's not wanted, because he knows nothing else, because this is his chance to rewrite history in many ways and most of all, because whether you love him or hate him, he puts on a show like no other. You even slipped in that crucial word 'impossible' during your description of the three fallen warriors - perfect. I got a bit confused with the idea that Michaels was in the corner but got Speared; even if he stepped forward for the kick I can't shake the feeling that he would have taken a nasty hit against the ropes or the buckles. Likewise I was surprised to see Torrie, as poetic as it was for her to arrive, almost 'teleport' to ringside without any real mention of a change in crowd noise or anything to suggest that she wasn't just standing there from the beginning saying "Is it time for the bit with the title yet?" That said, you were dead on with how you wrote it - Torrie was how it all began, that naivety that let Jericho start his tyranny in the first place, so this was your ultimate, final 'full circle' moment. After everything Torrie and Christian went through, their near-collision was crucial, so maybe I'd have liked a quick mention of Cage's expression after that, but otherwise this was the picturesque ending I imagined. I can't help but feel Michaels needed a bigger spot than just a Spear three small paragraphs back to take him out of the equation, and you didn't have a GIGANTIC FUCKING POP to sell the win at the end, which I felt given the crowd's influence up to now, was kind of a given. No HBK or Jericho reaction either, but I imagine you were probably tired by the end of this and just wanted to share it. While I'm here, I might suggest that JBL using a JR line, or more importantly, a WWE line, sort of contradicts what AOW is about... it's not about the consumerism, the materialism of the WWE, it's about the art of it. Maybe this was just a moment to leave WWE quietly at the wayside and let this just be AOW's new beginning without their influence. Even so, Christian basically crying into the title and the embrace with Torrie is your image for the ages, and it's been one hell of a ride to get here. Almost certainly your Match of the Night to finish the show, and a heart-warming scene to signal Christian's journey from outcast to true saviour. Out of personal preference I might have left Joe behind - despite his own issues with Jericho I think he's just too hungry for the top to help someone else's parade, but that's not the character you're building, so it's merely a small thing. What an end to the show. I waited for that and it didn't disappoint.
Overall - this was outstanding. Of course you went overboard but we expected nothing less, it was a spectacle. You had the story-driven art in Helms/Danielson and your main event, the superb action in matches like WGTT/Sons and Banks/Punk, and the pure war of Wright/Joe and especially the Van Dam/Finlay bloodbath. You had Art, you had War, you had Wrestling. Poetic as it gets. As always, providing the little nods to previous story elements makes the experience so much more immersive, so much more than just wrestling and actually becoming a story that resonates, something you can really enjoy. Considering your concerns before writing it, the Cruiserweight Title bout was the surprise of the night, a real special piece of storytelling, while the main event delivered in every way to kickstart a new AOW era. The future looks incredibly bright with this set of great characters, possibly with some more on the way over the course of the Offseason, and with Banks/Punk, the new blood in the Cruiserweight division and of course Christian as the new champion all to look forward to as well. In terms of criticism, I had a few gripes here and there but in hindsight they're not anything to worry about. Occasionally you get wrapped up in the emotion of a match and you lose track of your prose, but this isn't a novel you're writing here, this is BTB, and some might say there are far more important things to consider... and consider them you did. I read this show cover to cover and it was truly a pleasure to do so; I hope somewhere in that mess of words and thoughts you manage to extract something that might help you going forward. After you trudged through Over The Limit, the least I could do was offer you my honest opinion. I've been sat on my most recent show for a few weeks, but reading this properly really kicked me into gear somewhat, so I'll thank you for the inspiration as well. The King stays the King. The MelvisKnight's seal of approval... BAM, there it is. This was as bon as it gets - here's hoping I get to write this all over again for the same show, one year on. Congrats fella, you came up with a corker.