The Tenants

An exploration of the arts and racial tension in 1970s America, The Tenants is an intriguing film that’s not entertaining in the least but for some people might be worth watching due to its central premise and the fact that Snoop Dogg is in a semi-serious role. Whether that’s genius or terrible casting is still something I’m trying to figure out, although I do know that he did fine in a role that, like the entire film, is far too one-note to hold our attention for 90 minutes.

The lead is Harry Lesser (Dylan McDermott), an author attempting to finish his third novel and the only tenant left in a crumbling building the landlord wishes to tear down. He sits at his typewriter and writes for hours each day, only leaving his home to get groceries. One day, he hears the clickity-clack of another typewriter. He leaves the apartment, heads down a few rooms, and finds Willie Spearmint (Dogg) also writing away. Soon enough, they get to talking, become acquainted, and seem like good enough friends, even with Harry’s reserved nature and Willie’s eccentricity.

Willie had a girlfriend, Irene (Rose Byrne), who eventually becomes one of the prime spots of conflict for the pair. The other occurs whenever Willie asks Harry to read his writing. I swear this happens at least twice, maybe three times: Willie asks Harry to read his work and give his honest opinion, Harry does so and offers some critiques, and then Willie freaks out before bolting off for a day or two before coming back as if nothing has happened.

So, there we have it. We have our two, diametrically opposed characters. We have two points on conflict. Now we can just let them play out, occasionally bringing in larger, cultural points, like race and art, and we should have a movie, right? I suppose so. That’s about all there is to The Tenants. That appears to have been the strategy taken by the filmmakers. The Tenants is an adaptation of a 1971 novel written by Bernard Malamud, and by some accounts it’s relatively loyal to its source material.

The problem is in the characters and in the boring and repetitive story. Harry seemingly wants nothing more in life than to finish his novel; his affection for Irene is about the only growth his character undergoes, assuming you can call it growth. I don’t even think you can, given his prime focus — and he says as much later in the film — is still his novel. Willie has even less of a character. He also wants to finish his book, and he wants to do it his way ’cause no white man’s gonna tell him otherwise. Or something like that. It’s unclear why he even wants to write apart from giving the story’s protagonist an opposing force.

I’ve already described most of the film. It doesn’t do much to deviate from the groundwork I’ve laid out, and it’s predictable from the first time we hear Willie speak. Once Irene gets involved, you can see everything begin to fall into place. You’re unlikely to be surprised or taken aback by anything in The Tenants, and in a film that tangentially wants to be about something, that lack of surprise hurts its ability to make a point.

It’s possible that part of the issue is that the novel was released in 1971 and might have been more relevant and edgy then. The film is also set in this time, but being a 2005 release means we’ve seen these particular ideas addressed before, and in a more effective manner. The Tenants isn’t even entirely clear on what it wants to say — it just knows that there are topics to explore. Exploratory pieces are fine but this one doesn’t delve that deeply, either. It just sits on the surface, makes a few broad statements, and then leaves.

The only genuine question I had after The Tenants was this: “Why couldn’t the landlord evict Harry in the first place.” The landlord, played by Seymour Cassel, shows up from time to time offering Harry an increasingly large sum of money to find another place to live. Harry claims he needs to finish his novel in the place he started it. What sort of landlord can’t evict a tenant? Isn’t that the real question here?

At times, indie films like The Tenants feature great performances that elevate the project to a watchable level. And while this film doesn’t have terrible performances, they’re not good enough to do that. Dylan McDermott shows less range than a typical Keanu Reeves role — he sort of looks like Reeves, too, don’t you think? — although I’m hoping that was by design. Snoop Dogg gets a far showier role, although I never once thought he was stretching; his random rants could easily have been improvised and based less on his character’s feelings and more on his own.

The Tenants explores a couple of ideas that might have been more relevant or necessary back in 1971, when the novel it’s based on was released, but as a 2005 release it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The plot is predictable and surprisingly boring, the two central conflicts don’t wind up being strong enough to hold our attention, and the characters are all one-note. This is a film that lacks anything to keep us watching. You have little reason to watch it, unless you’d like to see Snoop Dogg in a semi-serious role.


Wish I Was Here

I find it really hard to get worked up about Wish I Was Here. Perhaps it’s because I’m not reflecting on life as a 30-something-year-old, like director, writer, star, producer, Zach Braff, or maybe it’s because, despite the best of intentions, the film never reaches the philosophical depths that it seems to want to. It has moments of whimsy and points of greatness, but it feels bloated and more often than not doesn’t amount to as much as one might hope. But it’s also not terrible, and those moments of greatness might just be worth watching.

The film is about Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) attempting to discover himself, all while dealing with, well, a bunch of stuff. His acting career isn’t doing what it should, his father (Mandy Patinkin) is soon going to die, he doesn’t have the money to keep his children (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) in a private, Jewish, school, and his wife (Kate Hudson) might just be getting tired of supporting the family. He also doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life anymore. Oh, and his brother (Josh Gad) won’t speak to his father, even though, you know, there’s that whole “he’s going to die” thing going on. I can see how he can be pretty stressed out.

So, we follow him on a quest of self-discovery, which involves heartfelt conversations and whimsical scenes, some of which involve a CGI robot and where Aidan lives out his childhood fantasy of being a spaceman exploring the unexplored. Yes, it’s weird. But weirdness and whimsy is why some people like Braff as a filmmaker. Would Garden State had been as successful as it was if it wasn’t that way?

Much of Wish I Was Here recalls Garden State, which Braff also directed and starred in. Many of its best moments are retreads from his earlier work, which was better. That one was probably more relatable, too. The lead character here isn’t particularly endearing. He’s going through a lot, sure, but that’s about all there is to him. Some of the choices Braff makes are absurd or downright stupid. Note how most of the Jews are portrayed in the film. They’re taken to comically (offensively?) over-the-top levels, because Braff has no faith that the audience will “get” it otherwise.

Now seems the right time to mention that Wish I Was Here was funded, at least in part, by fans on Kickstarter. Braff set a goal of $2 million, and go that in something like three days. It wound up getting over $3 million. A studio kicked in the rest of the money, from what I can gather. So, this is what you get. Braff got creative control, and this is what he made. Sometimes it’s a good thing to have someone to say “no” to you.

Granted, I don’t think a studio would have done anything about the comical Jew performances anyway. That’s almost a staple in the cinema; I almost want to say that Braff did it intentionally as satire, except there’s no evidence of that. But someone might have cut the film down and taken out the bloat, of which there is a lot. Or they would have made it more tonally consistent. Or made a B-story involving Aidan’s brother trying to woo his neighbor feel more important (or excise it altogether). Or a bunch of things, really.

I would hope, though, that they wouldn’t remove the good parts of Wish I Was Here. There are enough of those to almost recommend sitting through the two hours that make up the film. Take a scene in which Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin have a real heart-to-heart at the hospital. It’s a powerful and poignant scene and … it doesn’t involve Aidan. Actually, most of the film’s best moments don’t involve our lead character. Some of them do, to be sure, but there are just as many that do not — that are made special because of the supporting cast of characters.

It helps that many of the supporting actors turn in great performances. Mandy Patinkin is a scene-stealer as Aidan’s dad. Kate Hudson is better than she’s been in more than a decade. Josh Gad makes a small roll interesting and funny. Joey King is a better child actor than most. Pierce Gagnon is … forgettable, to be perfectly honest, but at least he didn’t ruin the film or anything. And Ashley Greene and Jim Parsons both have really small roles; Greene plays Gad’s love interest, while Parsons plays an actor, which is much the same role he played in Garden State, just expanded a bit.

Here’s what probably needs to happen: Braff needs to crank out more than one film every decade. He got lucky with Garden State, and now, in his sophomore outing, some of the cracks are showing through. If he were to make a film every 2-3 years, he’d be able to iron out the issues and figure out exactly what works and what should probably be cut out. Practice makes perfect, after all.

Wish I Was Here is ambitious, quirky, weird, overlong, tonally inconsistent, and overlong. Is it worth seeing? Maybe, if you’re a fan of Zach Braff or thing the premise of a thirtysomething man finding himself is intriguing. I wouldn’t say not to watch it, I suppose. It has problems, some of which come from Braff having full creative control (I assume), but it’s not bad and there are some truly great moments hidden within it. If you’re up for it, I suggest giving Wish I Was Here a chance.


Raw Review (July 21, 2014)

Spoilers follow for the July 21st episode of Raw.

As so many Raws do, this episode begins with Triple H coming out to the ring to cut a promo. He says he will announce the challenger for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tonight. We all think it will be Brock Lesnar. Randy Orton comes out. He says he should deserve a rematch, and that he would have won last night had it not been for Kane. Kane then comes out, claiming he can win the championship if he’s not having to babysit. Roman Reigns then comes out, because all four men need to be here. Reigns’ argument is that nobody wants to see Cena/Kane or Cena/Orton again. Fair point.

Triple H says whoever impresses him most tonight will get the shot. Roman Reigns attacks Kane. Triple H and Orton run away. Triple H announces Orton/Kane vs. Roman Reigns. Right now. Because Brock Lesnar will get the main event slot for his return.

Randy Orton and Kane vs. Roman Reigns

A decent match. Orton and Kane stay on the same page for most of it, and they work over Reigns, because he has about six moves and needs to save them for the end. Reigns begins to hit those after the commercial break, and then Kane and Orton have a disagreement, leading to Kane being speared to take the loss. Orton refused to tag in. Orton then teases going in to fight Reigns, but thinks better of it.

Match Rating: **1/2

A backstage segment has Stephanie McMahon giving a pep talk to the four Divas who are going to face Nikki Bella tonight to continue Bella’s punishment … for her sister’s actions. Does Brie return tonight?

Alicia Fox, Cameron, Eva Marie, and Rosa Mendes vs. Nikki Bella

During Nikki’s entrance, we find out that Brie Bella is in attendance. Boy, I wonder whether or not she’ll hop the barricade. Stephanie McMahon comes out after Nikki’s entrance. Brie calls Stephanie a certain 5-letter word. Stephanie was going to throw her out, but Brie bought a ticket. Brie calls her that word again, Stephanie slaps Brie, and then security escorts Brie out of the ring. Then the match starts.

The non-Bella Divas are all in the ring at once. They begin the beat down. Alicia Fox hits a scissors kick for the win.

Match Rating: *

Bo Dallas vs. Damien Sandow

Sandow is allowed to speak before the match, which is fun. He’s dressed as Lebron James, by the way, because we’re in Miami tonight.

Sandow dominates most of the match, taunting the Miami fans in the process. And then Dallas hits his finisher and wins the match, because of course he does.

Match Rating: *1/2

Chris Jericho is doing a segment of his “Highlight Reel” show next. His guest: Bray Wyatt. Wyatt is down to the ring first, accompanied by Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Wyatt cuts a promo saying that Jericho is indisposed at the moment. We then see the Wyatt family beat down Jericho backstage. Apparently this happened on the WWE App, but nobody cares about the WWE App, which is why we’re now seeing it on TV. Wyatt then cuts a promo about how Jericho sucks, how Wyatt is here for the fans, and then a whole bunch of other stuff, because he’s Bray Wyatt. Making sense of his promos is like trying to make sense of this analogy.

We get to see a bit of Jericho getting medical attention backstage. He’s bleeding from the ear.

The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler

This match makes a lot of sense. It seemed like Ziggler was going to win last night, but The Miz played possum and eliminated Ziggler to win the Intercontinental Championship.

Miz plays a cowardly heel who protects his face. This limits what his opponents can do, and will continue to lead to mediocre matches. Yes, even against someone like Ziggler. I mean, it can lead to some fun spots and it’s funny for a while, but it’s been the same thing over and over since he returned.

To the credit of both men, they manage to put on a pretty entertaining match in spite of this handicap. One big botch was turned into an even better spot — thanks to Ziggler’s desire to do unsafe-looking spots — the back and forth action was solid, and for a while, you really couldn’t be sure who was going to win. There were a bunch of near-falls, many of which came from quick pins like roll ups and small packages, and it was really quite the solid match. That might be because Miz kind of forgot about that whole “protect the face” thing for much of it. And also because Ziggler won, which is always great.

Match Rating: ***1/2

Backstage, Triple H tells Seth Rollins that there’s no reason for The Game to let Rollins face Cena at SummerSlam, since Rollins can just cash-in the briefcase anyway. Cesaro interrupts and says he should be the one to face Cena. Cesaro announces he’s no longer a Paul Heyman guy; he should be a Triple H guy. Rollins and Cesaro bicker a bit. Triple H announces Cesaro vs. Dean Ambrose for later tonight.

Emma and Natalya vs. Paige and AJ Lee

Emma and AJ begin the match. Emma dominates for a bit before AJ takes control. Paige is tagged in and Natalya eventually gets tagged in, too. Paige loses control and gets put in a sharpshooter. AJ is tagged in and hits the Shining Wizard, from which Natalya bounces back easily. Apparently it’s only sometimes a finisher. AJ locks in the Black Widow and wins.

Match Rating: *1/2

The match was nothing great. What matters is what happens after the match. AJ and Paige celebrate … and then Paige’s heel turn comes to fruition. She pulls AJ’s hair, beats her down, throws her against barricades, screams, repeatedly yells “This is my house,” and then skips off. JBL was right, but WWE probably won’t acknowledge that. Finally, now, maybe Paige can get a reaction.

Fandango vs. Zack Ryder (with Summer Rae and Layla)

A Zack Ryder Raw sighting! This is a rare occurrence. Even rarer: Zack Ryder won the match. Now, it wasn’t exactly clean, as Fandango put his foot on the rope but Layla knocked if off, but still. Ryder won in an incredibly short and uneventful match. But Ryder won. He won!

Match Rating: *

Flo Rida is out after the commercial break to sing a song. Here’s how much I care about that: 0.

At ringside, Miami police confront Stephanie. Brie Bella is pressing charges. Stephanie is under arrest. Brie shows up. Stephanie acts insane. Triple H comforts Stephanie backstage. He will fix this, he claims. This is an intriguing story. I really hope it leads to Brie vs. Stephanie at SummerSlam. One can hope.

After the commercial break, Triple H claims that “family comes first” when it comes to picking Cena’s opponent at SummerSlam. Triple H is about to leave when he realizes that it’ll take time for Stephanie to be processed. He’ll still make a decision and then head to the prison right after. It’s kind of a funny segment, actually.

RybAxel (Ryback and Curtis Axel) vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston

I will never be sold on Big E. Well, never say never, but I don’t see it. Kofi is here to do a couple of great spots and little more. RybAxel is at least interesting. And RybAxel wins here. That’s kind of great. The match isn’t good, entertaining, or particularly interesting, but RybAxel won. So there’s that.

Match Rating: *1/2

After the match, Xavier Woods comes out to begin another Nation of Domination (I hope). He says that “we” can’t get ahead by shaking hands. Effectively, they’re going to become a dominate heel stable of black Superstars. Cool. This could go somewhere. Suddenly, it almost makes sense that The Usos retained last night.

Rusev (with Lana) vs. The Great Khali

Lana starts to cut an anti-America promo, but The Great Khali comes out to interrupt. Well, his music does. Boy, I can’t wait for this match. Yes, that was sarcasm. Khali can barely walk.

This was probably the longest match that Khali has had in over a year. Now, I’m not kidding. It goes for like four whole minutes, during which Rusev no-sells a kick, Khali oversells a kick, and Rusev wins with The Accolade. It’s sad, but this match could have been so much worse. It was already bad.

Match Rating: *

A Stardust/Goldust promo is up next. They should, you know, get some more matches. That’s how you really build them up. We’re wasting precious Goldust time by not putting him in the ring.

Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro

Dean Ambrose’s post-Shield career has been pretty great so far, and while Cesaro’s momentum is basically nonexistent at this point, he can still put on great matches. The two put on a very solid match together. Cesaro works on Ambrose’s shoulder and uses his power moves, Ambrose acts as the brawler and the crazy man — he’s good at both — and the two show some pretty solid chemistry. It’s a solid bout worthy of being in the main event.

And then Ambrose grabs a chair and gets himself disqualified. It doesn’t ruin the match, but it’s a disappointing finish.

Match Rating: ***

Time for Triple H to announce who will face John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam. It has to Brock Lesnar, right? Who else could it be?

Randy Orton’s music begins to play. Triple H didn’t actually announce Orton as the Superstar he chose. Orton’s music just kind of started. Roman Reigns jumps Orton as he makes his way to the ring. They both exit through the crowd. Paul Heyman then comes out onto the ramp. Time to implement “Plan C.”

Then Brock Lesnar’s music starts, and the Beast Incarnate makes his way to the ring. Shocking, I know. Triple H shakes the hands of both men, and then leaves the ring. Heyman then cuts his normal Heyman-type promo. It’s a long promo. It’s a good promo. Heyman kills it. This should be fun. Raw ends here.

The Good: Brock Lesnar’s return. The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler. Paige’s heel turn. Stephanie/Bella storyline. Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro.

The Bad: Rusev vs. Khali. Bo Dallas vs. Damien Sandow.

Match of the Night: The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler.


Battleground (2014) Review

I wasn’t watching at the time, but I’m told that 2013’s Battleground was the worst PPV of that year, and possibly one of the worst of all time. I feel sorry for anyone who paid $50 to watch it. To make up for it, this year’s Battleground has a fantastic card and should make for a good show.

The Battleground Kickoff show has two matches tonight, the first of which was announced only shortly before the PPV started. Fandango goes against Adam Rose. Why? Just because, I guess. Neither deserves a PPV spot, but here we are.

Fandango vs. Adam Rose (with Layla and Summer Rae)

The sideshow that is Summer Rae and Layla being “rosebuds” distracts from the actual match. They parade around the ring with the other rosebuds, which causes Fandango to come out and ask them what they’re doing. They both slap him. Rose then gets Fandango back into the ring, hits about three moves, and wins with his Party Foul. It’s a really good thing this was on the Kickoff show, because it was awful and a waste of time.

Match Rating: *

Cameron vs. Naomi

I’m liking the new attitude from Cameron, but that doesn’t make her good in the ring. She’s not on Naomi’s level. Still, she’s improving and matches like this can only help her. Naomi plays more of a brawler in this match, being physically imposing. Cameron is a more cowardly heel, but also someone who picks her spots.

This is not a good match. It’s surprisingly physical, but it’s not really entertaining. And it has such a weak finish. Cameron rolls up Naomi, pulls the tights, and wins. It was just … it was a weak roll up. It didn’t look like Cameron was putting any force into the pin. Given how much bigger Naomi is, she should have easily kicked out. Oh well. The heel wins, the feud maybe continues, and nobody really cares.

Match Rating: *1/2

2-out-of-3 Falls WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan

A good pick to truly start Battleground. These two teams have amazing chemistry, and although if feels like we’ve seen them do battle about 60 times now, they’re likely to put on a good bout here. The stipulation makes for a longer match, but it really doesn’t add any freshness. It’s up to the competitors to do that.

This had the potential to be the match of the night before the PPV started, and it delivered. This was a solid technical match, a strong brawling contest, and had a couple of very impressive spots. It was well-paced and incredibly entertaining. About the only problem with it was the falls.

The first fall, for instance, came just after a big boot. Yes, a big boot. A move from which most people bounce up rather quickly. It got a three count. Harper pinned one of the Usos twins.

The second fall came after one of the Usos rolled up Luke Harper. But the roll up was terrible — worse than Cameron’s earlier in the night. Harper’s shoulder was up because he wasn’t flat on his back. But it counted, and it looked awful. We knew The Usos would get the second pinfall, though. The match had to go to its third pinfall.

It’s after the second pinfall that the match’s tempo really starts to pick up. The biggest spots and moves are hit. The near-falls begin to become frequent. Finishers are kicked out of. Partners make saves. It is incredible. It could easily be the match of the night.

The finish comes from a double splash from the top rope. But not a sequential double splash like normal; they leap off the same turnbuckle at the same time. That’s just one of many great moments in a match that sets the bar extremely high for the rest of the PPV.

Match Rating: ****1/2

A Seth Rollins interview follows a video package about The Shield’s break up. He hypes his match later on tonight with Dean Ambrose. Ambrose jumps him right at the end of the interview. The two are separated by officials and Triple H. The Game tells Ambrose that he won’t “screw this up.” Ambrose is thrown out of the building.

WWE Divas Championship Match: Paige vs. AJ Lee

It’s a good sign that this match wasn’t put on right before the main event.

These are two of the best workers in the Divas division. They’re talented, they’ll do bigger spots, and … they don’t put on a great match here. It’s unfortunate that their first true match wasn’t better, but there are a few botches, noticeable called spots, a slow pace, and only a couple of moments that were particularly good. You can see the potential of greatness between the two, but they need to work more together. They both have the talent. Sometimes this takes time.

Match Rating: **1/2

Randy Orton and Kane have a … “moment” backstage. They tease their pending breakup, during which Kane will cost Orton the championship. Probably. Maybe. I’m just guessing.

Rusev (with Lana) vs. Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter)

Lana cuts an anti-America promo. They … well, they don’t ignore the recent plane crash. Before the match starts, Lana slaps Colter and Swagger throws Rusev out of the ring. Then, we finally get to see the two fight.

It’s disappointing. The crowd is into just because of the patriotic angle, but the match is slow, boring, and very uninvolving, especially if you’re not from America. Swagger dominates a good chunk of the match, but both men wind up outside, Rusev gets a lucky counter and scrambles into the ring at the count of 9. Swagger is counted out. I suppose that’s the best possible finish. Rusev wins, Swagger looks strong. But the match wasn’t good.

Match Rating: **

Rusev locks in The Accolade after the match. Because of course he does. He really sells the damage The Patriot Lock did, though, which was good to see. So much for Swagger looking strong, though.

Following the commercial break — yes, there was a commercial — Stardust and Goldust do their Stardust and Goldust thing. It’s entertaining but I kind of wish it would go somewhere soon.

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

Seth Rollins is out next for his match against Dean Ambrose. But Ambrose has been banned from the building. Rollins gets a mic and says he’ll accept a victory via forfeit. And then he’s announced as the winner.

Match Rating: N/A

We cut to the commentators, and Rollins walks up the ramp. Ambrose ambushes him. They brawl a little bit and then Ambrose is pulled away by security. He fights through them. Triple H eventually comes out to keep Ambrose away. This isn’t ending any time soon.

Bray Wyatt (with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) vs. Chris Jericho

These two men have put on a good match on NXT before. But it’s difficult for them to generate much excitement with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan at ringside. The early part of the match was simply not very enjoyable. It was slow and felt routine. And then Wyatt’s family got thrown out. At this point, the match finally starts to get good. A really bad botch — and then a repeated spot — hurts it right in the middle, and the two never really seemed to get going like we know they can. You can certainly do worse than these two, but this match didn’t feel like a PPV bout. Perhaps the three weeks of build hurt it. Perhaps Wyatt isn’t that good in the ring, after all. Maybe Jericho is finally showing his age a little bit. I’m not entirely sure. But the match just wasn’t anything special.

Jericho wins with the Codebreaker. That means he’s losing next time. At least the “Y2Jobber” thoughts will be put to rest for a little bit.

Match Rating: **

Seth Rollins is then seen in a parking lot, followed by security. He tells them to leave. Ambrose then gets out of a car trunk and ambushes Rollins. Their brawl on top of a car is hilarious. Rollins eventually gets in the car and drives away. So that means there’s no chance of a Money in the Bank briefcase being cashed in tonight. In kayfabe, at least, having that chance is always a good thing.

20-Man Battle Royal WWE Intercontinental Championship Match

I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a battle royal. They’re all very similar. Few of them are truly great, and even fewer are truly awful. This one has one or two cool spots — Kofi Kingston is in it, after all — a couple of really bad botches, and The Miz wound up winning. He was thrown out — but not over the top rope — early on, and just stayed down for the entirety of the match. Ziggler eliminated Sheamus to look like he’d win, but then The Miz threw him out and won. It is what it is. I guess Miz and Sheamus will compete at SummerSlam in a unification match.

Oh, and Rob Van Dam was supposed to be in the match but wasn’t. That’s weird.

Match Rating: **1/2

Fatal 4-Way WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton vs. Kane vs. Roman Reigns vs. John Cena

Much like the battle royal before it, it’s kind of difficult to have a truly awful Fatal 4-Way, especially with competitors of this quality. At least three of them are bonafide main eventers, while Roman Reigns is getting there. This isn’t one of the most entertaining matches ever, but it certainly isn’t bad, and it’s a pretty good match for the main event, even if it was probably an impossibility for it to top the opening bout.

Near the end of the match, we get a ton of near-falls. Everyone hits finishers and signatures, and they all get broken up by everyone else. The finish comes when Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment on Orton … onto Kane. And then he pins Kane. That’s it. That’s the end of Battleground. Cena wins.

Match Rating: ***1/2

The Good: The Usos vs. Harper/Rowan.

The Bad: Swagger/Rusev. Both Kickoff show matches.

Match of the Night: The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.

Prediction Score: 3/7 on announced matches. 4/8 if you count Rose/Fandango, because nobody would pick Fandango.


Battleground (2014) Predictions

We had our last WWE PPV just three weeks ago, and yet the Battleground card is pretty solid and feels as if it has had a decent amount of build. We might be in “PPV saturation” mode here, but that doesn’t mean that the PPV won’t be worth watching. In fact, it looks like it’ll be a pretty solid card, even if it’s pretty predictable. But, hey, maybe it’ll surprise. If Brock Lesnar could conquer The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, anything can happen.

Cameron vs. Naomi

Prediction: When in doubt, pick the better in-ring worker. Nobody really cares who wins this match, but the long-term plan has to be pushing the far more talented Naomi. Cameron is still very raw in the ring, and while she’s getting better, Naomi is incredibly athletic and can do things that few other Divas can do. Cameron taking a loss doesn’t hurt her — she can just do the “crazy heel” thing after — and Naomi getting a win would be good to see.

Random Thoughts: It’s going to be impossible to tell until it airs, but I still have the feeling that this breakup and mini-feud between Cameron and Naomi is all just for a Total Divas storyline. With that said, it’s a Divas feud that’s not over the championship, and that’s always a good thing.

2-out-of-3 Falls WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan

Prediction: I picked the team of Harper/Rowan to win at Money in the Bank, and while that didn’t happen, I’m going to pick them to come away victorious again. WWE’s 50/50 booking and the fact that, apart from interfering in main event feuds, The Usos haven’t done much as champions lately, it’s time to move on. Also, I really, really, really want to see Harper/Rowan against Stardust/Goldust.

Random Thought: I’m so over The Usos.

Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter) vs. Rusev (with Lana)

Prediction: Rusev’s undefeated streak is still technically a thing, and while it could definitely keep going, I’m going to pick the dark horse here. Given the recent events involving Russia, and the strong sense of patriotism Americans feel for Swagger, it’s entirely possible that WWE will make a statement here by having Swagger come out on top. Swagger wouldn’t be the worst person to end Rusev’s streak, and the momentum he would gain from doing so could only help him. Meanwhile, Rusev will get heat with the Russia angle and can still crush tons of people.

Random Thoughts: Maybe it’s because I’m not American, but this whole Rusev/Swagger thing feels like really cheap heat/pop, respectively. Playing to patriotism always feels that way to me. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking on as an outsider. I don’t know.

20-Man Battle Royal WWE Intercontinental Championship Match

Prediction: Cesaro. I’m just taking a random shot in the dark here. It could be him. It could be Alberto Del Rio. It could be Sheamus. It could be The Miz. But Cesaro really isn’t doing much right now, and I think it’s time to give him the title and a real feud.

Random Thoughts: Battle royals are such crapshoots that picking a winner is difficult. You can eliminate most people, though, which is always fun. You know Sin Cara isn’t going to win, for example.

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

Prediction: It seems like every time Chris Jericho briefly comes back, it’s to put over a younger Superstar. I mean, that’s what veterans do, right? But now he has that sort of reputation. Fans don’t see him as particularly credible anymore because of this. “Y2Jobber” is a saying among the IWC. WWE has to know this. I think they’ll have Jericho win this match. The feud isn’t going to end any time soon, and Jericho taking the first battle — even though he’ll likely lose the war — would be a good idea.

Random Thoughts: There’s no way Jericho comes back to feud with Wyatt for only three weeks. This will continue, probably right through to Night of Champions. Also, if you’re wondering whether or not these two Superstars will put on a good match, go watch what they did on NXT a while back. NXT is usually considered non-canon, and WWE won’t acknowledge the fact that they’ve squared off before, but it was really good and hopefully their Battleground match will top it.

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

Prediction: It doesn’t matter who wins because the feud will continue until at least SummerSlam, if not longer. This might wind up being a draw, actually. Yeah, I’ll pick that. A no contest, double countout, or something else that continues the feud. One does not need to get the best of the other.

Random Thoughts: A street fight has to be coming at the next PPV, doesn’t it? Does that not seem like the most likely of stipulations?

WWE Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee vs. Paige

Prediction: AJ Lee is unlikely to lose her championship at Battleground. The feud/friendship will continue past this PPV, but I don’t see Paige winning the match. AJ just got the championship back; she’s not going to lose it right away. Besides, we still need her and Eva Marie to feud over the title.

Random Thoughts: More interesting than the winner is what happens after the match. Will Paige complete her heel turn and attack AJ? Or will they stay “frienemies” for another month? Given that I’m guessing Cameron does the “heel freakout” earlier on in the night, I could see them drawing out the heel turn until SummerSlam.

Fatal 4-Way WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Kane vs. Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Roman Reigns

Prediction: John Cena walks away from Battleground as champion. I’m sorry, Cena haters, but I don’t see WWE wasting Cena’s 15th title win on a month-long reign. Kane will likely wind up costing Orton the chance to win the title, so it’ll come down to Cena and Reigns. It’s still too early to put the belt(s?) on Reigns, so Cena become the choice.

Random Thoughts: Does Brock Lesnar return here to challenge for the championship? I don’t think so, but how fun would that be?

Outside of the “kickoff” match, are there any that aren’t worth being excited for? This is a PPV with a three-week build, and it’s looking to be a really solid one. Hopefully it delivers.

TL;DR Predictions:

Cameron vs. Naomi

2-out-of-3 Falls WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan

Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter) vs. Rusev (with Lana)

20-Man Battle Royal WWE Intercontental Championship Match: Cesaro

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Draw)

WWE Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee vs. Paige

Fatal 4-Way WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Kane vs. Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Roman Reigns