Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wrestlemania 31

I like wrestling.  So sue me.  I remember being embarrassed by it at one point in my early teens, and I faded away from it for a few years, but the last 2-ish years got me back into the swing of things.  The biggest night of the wrestling year is tonight for Wrestlemania 31, and I'm kinda pumped for it.  Wrestling is absolutely a pop culture item, so for those of you asking why I'm writing this on a pop culture blog, I got two words for ya: sports entertainment.  Think about how many times in life you've wanted to crack up a couple of beers and a can of whoop-ass like Stone Cold Steve Austin.  How many times have you tried to raise your eyebrow like the Rock?  How many times have you done a crotch chop and told someone to 'Suck It' under your breath when their back was turned?  From Hulkamania to the Yes! Movement, wrestling has at times captured a larger audience than just the typical wrestling fans, and on the day of "the granddaddy of them all" Wrestlemania, I will give you my predictions for each match.

Before I begin, I want to give a shoutout to Rikishi for being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame last night.  Just think, there is a Hall of Fame for scripted wrestling.  There could literally be a hall of Fame for anything, and you're probably wondering how you haven't been inducted into anything yet, but maybe someday. 

Anyways, Rikishi was always my Dad's favorite wrestler and he provided great moments for my sister Allison and I growing up, so congratulations to you, good sir. I still won't forgive you for running over Stone Cold with your car that one time, but I'm sure you were just having a bad week or something.  Moving on.

Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match: Usos vs. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd vs. Los Matadores vs. The New Day:
Jesus.  Who cares.  I feel bad for the Usos and the team of Cesaro and Kidd.  All four have a ton of talent and should just be fighting each other for the tag team titles on their own.  Adding Los Matadores and the New Day adds nothing to this.  The crowd won't care about these two, and if by a miracle either team wins, you know damn well the crowd will boo them out of the building and Wrestlemania will be off to a pretty sour start.  I love Cesaro and think he's the most underrated wrestler out there, and I think he and Tyson Kidd will use some real shenanigans to pull out the victory, leaving millions of kids who are obsessed with the Usos to throw a hissyfit.

Go Cesaro.  Please. God.

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
This one stands out because somehow Jon Gruden of ESPN QB Camp got involved and made a prediction video.  I don't know why Jon Gruden did this but I guess it helps hype up the match where the winner gets nothing more than a gargantuan trophy of, well, Andre the Giant.  This match is just gonna be filler to make sure 20 wrestlers get their Pay-Per-View bonus checks and get their faces out there.  I think the final 5 guys left in the match will be Kane, Mizdow, The Miz, Ryback and the Big Show.  At some point Mizdow will finally give the crowd what he wants, dumps The Miz over the top rope, gets the crowd wild and celebrates, only for Kane or the Big Show to dump him over the top rope.  Somehow, Ryback will defy all the odds and eliminate the Big Show (maybe with the help of Kane), and then eliminate Kane, giving him the victory which we will all forget about in a week.  They gotta give a good guy the win there, so I don't see how Ryback loses, unless they give the crowd what they REALLY want and let Mizdow win, so mark him as my dark horse in this one.

Paige and AJ Lee vs. the Bella Twins:
Blah.  I have nothing against giving the Divas their chance, but how do they not have the championship on the line here?  WWE is obsessed with getting their hit (surprisingly) reality show some love by using the Bella Twins in a match, while AJ Lee is by and far the most talented Diva out there, yet isn't on the show (respect.).  This match will be the shortest of the night, since WWE almost always ignores the fans, and will give the Bella Twins the victory because those of us who actually like wrestling, just aren't that lucky. 

The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt:
A year ago, the Undertaker winning at Wrestlemania was as sure as thing as death and taxes.  A year ago, the world changed and meme creations were rampant when Brock Lesnar shocked the world and defeated the Undertaker's Wrestlemania steak of 21-0.  In all honesty, the Undertaker looked awful that night.  For the first time since I started watching back in '97, the Undertaker wasn't scary.  The only thing scary was that he might legitimately break in half from getting slammed around by Lesnar.  It was almost sad to watch.  I figured that was the Undertaker's great sendoff and he would enjoy retirement.  He hadn't been seen on screen since that night, and all of a sudden he gets into a feud with Bray Wyatt out of nowhere.  I like Bray Wyatt and he certainly has the creepy factor going, almost filling that void in the Undertaker's absence. 

I honestly don't know how to predict this match, since I have no idea how the Undertaker is going to look physically.  While I think Bray Wyatt could win to get a much needed push into the main picture of the wrestling world, I also have a hard time seeing the Undertaker coming back after a year for one night just to lose to a new guy.  I think (and hope) it'll be a much better match than last year, with the Undertaker getting the win, with next year's Wrestlemania being his big sendoff.

Intercontinental Title 7-Man Ladder Match:  
This will be the best match of the night, because it could go in numerous directions.  Ladder matches always have the intrigue factor because people can and have been seriously hurt in them, so the danger is present.  Sterling Archer likes to talk about the 'Danger Zone', and in terms of wrestling matches, a ladder match is a legit Danger Zone.  I think a good guy will come out on top, so I'll narrow it down to Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler or Dean Ambrose.  They won't give it back to current champ Wade Barrett, they won't give it to Luke Harper because no one would care, and R-Truth is too much of a comedy character to actually pull out a victory.  Stardust is weird, and will probably be taken out during the match by his even creepier brother Goldust, so that leaves us with the three good guys.  Personally, I want Dean Ambrose to win because I like his Loose Cannon type of character.  It's kinda fun.  Much like a Nestle Wonder Ball, you never know what you'll get with him.

 As much as I want Ambrose to win, I realize I'm most likely not going to get what I want so that leaves Ziggler and Daniel Bryan. These two are both hugely popular with the crowd, are two of the best wrestlers who always turn out great matches that can get even non-fans into it, which is a huge factor.  Daniel Bryan was the poster boy for WWE last year and mainevented Wrestlemania 30, winning the Heavyweight championship, so it's disappointing to see him in a less important match this year.  Ziggler is underrated and could use this victory to leapfrog him into the bigger picture of WWE.  I think Daniel Bryan will get the win, although it may be the safe pick.  People love Daniel Bryan and I think it may be hard for even WWE to ignore what the crowd wants when it comes to him.  Bryan gets the win in the match that will steal the show.
The fan favorite

Sting vs. HHH:
The old-timers match.  A 'dream come true' for fans to see Sting step into the ring at Wrestlemania after turning down WWE contracts for about 67 years.  It has been an interesting buildup in this feud, yet I think it's predictable.  HHH will start cheating and use his minions to try and win, but Sting will overcome the odds and beat HHH anyways. 

This has been a long process getting Sting here in WWE, and as this is probably his one and only match with the company, I highly doubt he will end up losing.  Sting uses his baseball bat and hit HHH with it before HHH can hit Sting with his sledgehammer while the ref is knocked out, and he gets the win.  I can't believe I'm blogging about men hitting each other with bats and sledgehammers.  

Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins:  
WWE fucked this feud up big time and now it just feels thrown together.  To help put the crowd into a reality check, I see Seth Rollins winning.  To be fair, this should be a very entertaining match, but the future is now and Seth Rollins needs a big win further his career.  Taking down a known name and a talented, credible wrestler like Randy Orton will help give him the push he needs to stay in the big picture for years to come.  Rollins cheats and gets the win.  Also, I really hope we see a classic Seth Rollins flip like this:

I can't do this.

US Title Match Rusev vs. John Cena:

John 'Meep Moop' Cena

Rusev was far more interesting with his 'anti-American' rants than he is in a feud with John Cena.  Let's face it, John Cena is the most popular and hated wrestler out there because people are sick of seeing him shoved down our throats every year.  This year is interesting because it's not a top feud, yet there is intrigue because Rusev is undefeated in almost a year with the company.  This is close to call, as Rusev might got downhill once he is defeated, yet WWE just can't let Cena lose for whatever reason.  I'm 50-50 on this one.  I hope Rusev wins, but I love America so I'm also thinking Cena wins.  Dammit.  You know, I bet WWE pulls some bullshit to make them both look strong and have the match end in a draw or something stupid like that.  

WWE World Heavyweight Title Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns:
Oh baby.  A week ago, I would've said Reigns wins this match and the title because everyone figured Brock Lesnar would leave fake fighting and go join the UFC for real fighting.  That all changed when it was announced on ESPN of all places that Brock Lesnar signed a deal with WWE (his contract was over the day after Wrestlemania: talk about timing), that he said was just simply too good to refuse.  With Lesnar seemingly out the door, everyone thought it obvious that Reigns would win, since, you know, WWE kinda needs a champion.  One thing that surprised me was that they let the new contract news leak out before Wrestlemania, as they had a lot more intrigue with the "well, will Lesnar leave or not" thing.  The safe bet would be to keep the belt on Lesnar and see the money roll in with people who want to see him.  In all honesty, Lesnar is an attraction.  He is a freak and he has the type of presence that if you look at him wrong on TV he'll track you down and break your body. 

This match should be good, but I'm predicting a weird finish.  One of these guys is going to get screwed over in some fashion, and I think it may be Lesnar.  Reigns will turn into a bad guy, and people will be intrigued in seeing Lesnar go on a rampage the following month and try to get his title back.  That being said, after Roman Reigns wins the belt, I think Seth Rollins will come out and cash his Money in the Bank contract, beat up Reigns and take the title off of him either right after the Wrestlemania match as Reigns celebrates, or the following night on Monday night Raw.  

And that, my friends, are my predictions for Wrestlemania 31.  Hope you nerds enjoy it as much as I do, which is very unlikely.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

SXSW Showcase: Something Sneaky

Chris Casserly picked me up the other night before going to a friend's birthday party in Brighton.  The plan was for the two of us to get some food, drink some beers then head over to the pre game and then some bar somewhere in Boston.  I had one more item in mind for the evening: asking questions.  
I hate boring people, always have and always will.  Chris isn't boring.  Chris plays bass in Something Sneaky, a band who is about to go on their first real tour, including a gig at the musical shitshow that is SXSW in Texas.  I guess you could say times are pretty exciting for him.  Chris was excited to show me another local band called Pile, who was pretty damn good.  We were picked up a pizza, got beers and made it to his apartment in Quincy and immediately started talking about bands we both like such as FIDLAR and the Pixies, some bands we recommended to each other like Bass Drum of Death and Wavves, and whether or not good rock music still exists. After telling me about a record store called Cheapo Records and a label called Bob Records, I finished eating pizza, took out my handy dandy notebook (shoutout to Blue's Clues) and asked if he was ready to do this.  He was.

I had been meaning to interview Chris and the rest of Something Sneaky for a while now.  Along with Chris are Justin Iacovino, his brother Jeremy and Jesse George, and together they make some pretty damn good music.  It's always nice when you support your friends if they have a band and play shows, but it is even nicer when they are actually good at what they do. With music on Spotify and iTunes, newly made t-shirts to be sold, and a tour going on, it is good to be a member of Something Sneaky, and I felt that this was the perfect time to stop procrastinating and actually show them some love on the interwebs as they will be gaining more fans along the way of this tour.  

This current journey started when they won a battle of the bands contest a few months ago over at the Middle East in Cambridge.  It was on the same stage that bands like Brand New, You Blew It! and Bass Drum of Death have played over the recent years that they won a slot on the SXSW bill.  I asked Chris about that first.  He kind of shook his head in a little bit of leftover disbelief before telling me they were surprised.

"We were shocked at first, but fucking pumped.  We were so excited to win an opportunity like this, but at the same time we were also like 'shit, what do we do next?'" he said, noting that as great as it is that they got the slot at SXSW, they still had to figure out how to get to the Lone Star state, and had to take advantage while on the road, playing shows in various cities on the trip down south.  One thing I could tell right away from Chris was just how excited he was for this journey.

"We're going into it knowing it's gonna be a small stage, so we're not getting our hopes up.  Just getting this opportunity to play and got on a real tour is basically like a musical bucket list type of thing.  I think it also proves our commitment to this.  We're not exactly looking to get discovered, but we kinda want to get feedback from different crowds and see how they receive us when we play shows." was his response when I asked him what their mindset was going into this tour.  He continued by saying "it won't matter if we play for 5 or 50 or 500 people, we will all be able to say later in life that we did this awesome thing in our lives, and that in itself is pretty fucking cool."
"That'll be a story for the grandkids"  I said.
"Exactly!  I can tell them that grandpa took 2 weeks off of work, went on tour with my best friends to go play music, travel around and drink some fucking beers."  He exclaimed.  Looks like his grandkids are in for some great stories in the future.

I asked him if he was nervous at all going into it.  He explained to me how he's been playing over 10 years in various bands or with friends, and that right now it's not so much about being nervous about messing up in front of people, but more about the desire to sound good when it counts most, and to give the crowd their best show possible.  
"Honestly, the most nerve-racking thing might be figuring out where the fuck we're going to park the van in various cities." he quipped with a smile.  Sometimes, it really is the little things in life.

I asked Chris how he would describe Something Sneaky's music, and he calls he said they describe themselves on their website as "90's influenced, basement infused rock" which is honestly one of the best descriptions I've heard of any band.  He calls it their mission statement, and then furthers that statement by saying that some of their songs "can be kinda groovy in a way, and some can be songs that you know that we're not fucking around on".  It was at this point that I realized this was my favorite interview for the blog ever.  Chris continued on describing themselves, saying that they are proud of their roots playing music in basements at parties.
"We're proud of the Basement EP we made, because it is what it sounds like: fast and loud songs that we literally played in a basement." he then adds that they might feel most comfortable playing basement parties because it feels homey and "people give you beers, it's great!"

On the future goals for Something Sneaky, Chris says "ideally it'd be great to just play music as a full time thing, but in order to do that we might have to change our sound to appease certain people, which is tough.  Making money at basement shows isn't great.  It kinda all depends on how many people walk through the door, but you just gotta play for them, and yourself too."  As a music lover, I have to agree with this statement.  I personally feel that it is tough to be yourself and be successful with your music, mostly due to the corporate greed with record labels and radio stations only playing the same successful artists who are starting to sound similar to each other these days.  My advice: support small bands.  The music is better.

We got an Uber that took us to Brighton.  It was an eventful ride with a nice man in a turban who seemed pretty lost, especially when Chris told him to take the Mass Pike and he somehow completely missed it.  After this shaky Uber ride we restocked on beers and made our way to celebrate our friend Lauren's birthday.  When I arrived, Justin was in attendance and Jesse showed up a few minutes later (I only had the honor to hang with 3/4's of Something Sneaky that night, Jeremy was off doing his own thing according to Chris).  One thing I noticed right away was that Justin and Jesse were just as excited as Chris was when I talk about the tour.  It was so incredibly refreshing to see people my age look so genuinely amped about something.  Maybe it was a sort of stamp of approval to them.  I think about it now and this is a weird age: lots of 20 somethings working jobs they hate, not making enough, dealing with loans and payments and what have you.  It's nice seeing something go right for a bunch of good guys with talent.

After listening to them update each other on things like booking opening bands for shows and a dickhead bar owner in New Orleans who wasn't very helpful to them, I asked Chris about the need to get their name out there.  While he said at first that it would be helpful, he also said not being hugely popular has some nice things to it.
"One good thing about not being that popular is that no one cares about what you say yet, like when we did a couple of radio interviews in the past.  You know, there ain't nothing wrong with rocking out on stage and just being natural to different crowds who haven't seen or heard of you before."

When I ask about the writing process and style, Chris immediately credits lead guitarist Jesse George with his classical guitar background and his affinity to Justin (singer/guitar) is the lyrical mastermind, and gets things going when writing songs.
"Justin usually starts with lyrics and a riff first, and after he shows us we work with it.  Sometimes the lyrics change drastically as the song grows, and sometimes they just work out themselves."

After having more drinks I asked the three of them who their influences are.  Without hesitation Justin went first.
"Definitely Built to Spill and Pavement" he said, which made me realize right away some of that influences in some of their songs, especially on the Basement EP.

Chris went second and said "The Rolling Stones and Pinback.  Also this band called Heatmiser who are pretty sick."

Jesse needed some time to ponder that one and finally told me "Lady GaGa" which I would say perfectly describes their music and got some laughs from all of us in the cramped kitchen.  It was in this moment that I could tell just how close these guys are and that they have quite the journey together.  Going on the road in a van to play music could potentially be the start of a successful career for these guys.  They've certainly got the talent and the drive, and while they may just be happy to be here, they ought to be proud of what they've accomplished.  As I said before, this blogpost isn't just me supporting a band because I know the guys in it, this is a blogpost to help promote them because I legitimately enjoy their music and I think they have a future.  I have a feeling they'll be just fine.

Something Sneaky recently played a show at Trash Bar in Brooklyn, and they have Lousville, Nashville, New Orleans, SXSW in Austin, then as they work their way back home they hit DC and Philly, all starting the 14th.  It's certainly a good time to be these guys, and I hope and bet that they will flourish on this journey.  What Chris said earlier about them being natural on stage and having a desire to play their best possible for whatever crowd is in front of them gives me faith that they're gonna be just fine.  Check these guys out people.  You'll be glad you did.