Categories
Sports Strength

Cody and Brandi Rhodes Talk AEW, ‘Rhodes to the Top,’ and More

Life certainly comes at you fast, especially when you and your significant other are a part of the day-to-day operations behind one of the largest wrestling organizations in the world – All Elite Wrestling.

Speaking of AEW, the company’s main show Dynamite has been the #1 cable program on Wednesdays for the past six straight weeks. Wrestling fans have flocked to AEW’s unique presentation, which is something that the Rhodes’ have been extremely pleased with thus far. Cody Rhodes (the blonde-haired son of a bonafide wrestling legend) and his lovely wife Brandi Rhodes (the Chief Brand Officer of AEW) got married in 2013. And now, they’re ready to accept the challenge of being first-time parents. Cody and Brandi lead busy lives that mostly revolve around the wild and wonderful world of professional wrestling. And now, fans have a chance to take a first-hand look at what goes into their exciting business and home lives through the TNT reality series Rhodes to the Top.

Just one day ahead of the season finale on Saturday, October 23 at 10/9c, Cody and Brandi spent some time with ONE37pm to have a chat about the show, guilty pleasure reality shows, and so much more.

Cody Rhodes

ONE37pm: You’ve come such a long way from your days as a WWE blue-chipper, Cody. It’s amazing to witness your growth and see your position within AEW today. What comes to mind when you reflect on the biggest moments of your career?

Cody: Fate meets hard work. To have this lauded position in our sport, to have it on Turner Networks is full circle with my family.

ONE37pm: What’s the most difficult part about your role within AEW? And what would you say is the easiest?

Cody: Hardest part is likely the tough love or more stern direction I might deliver to a younger talent. Easiest thing is my match on the card…that’s been in my bones since I was a baby…it’s like gliding. It’s the best.

ONE37pm: How did the concept of Rhodes to the Top come to be?

Cody: The good folks at Shed Media sought to capture us in our peak professional time…entering our peak personal time with the coming of our first child. Roll the cameras and it’s quite a life.

ONE37pm: Was there any pushback regarding parts of the show giving viewers a peek at AEW’s backstage happenings?

Cody: No pushback internally. It’s a specific flavor and I think the super fans in our audience love the fact they get more of the brand. It was tough for me being raised and trained “old school”…to share that side with folks, but this was a reality show and it would be an insult not to give those tuning in that reality.

ONE37pm: Out of all the contracted talent within AEW, which ones do you think would make for a great starring role on their own reality show?

Cody: Taz or our lead seamstress Sandra…I don’t know why. They’re just so unique and both see it all.

Brandi Rhodes

ONE37pm: Congratulations on your and Cody’s newest addition to the family. How did you mentally prepare yourself for the arrival of your first bundle of joy?

Brandi: There’s no way to mentally prepare. I did everything I could to physically prepare by being diligent with my medical appointments and continuing to train in the gym daily. I trained the day that I went into labor!

ONE37pm: What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten on being a mother?

Brandi: The best advice has been NOT TO listen to anyone’s unsolicited advice. Let your instincts be your guide and ask for help when you need it.

ONE37pm: A Shot of Brandi is a pretty dope interview series. Who are some of your most memorable guests? And who are some fantasy guests that you’d love to have on the show?

Brandi: Most memorable have been Jon Moxley, Orange Cassidy, Chris Jericho, and most recently, Stephen Amell. I would love to have more chefs and foodies on the show. Looking at you Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri!

ONE37pm: What’s been your biggest takeaway from filming Rhodes to the Top?

Brandi: It’s a lot of work. Months and months of shooting and the episodes just fly by. So much amazing content doesn’t get to make it to air. That’s the hard part. You want people to see so much more but there just isn’t time.  

ONE37pm: Are there any reality shows you watch and regard as a guilty pleasure?

Brandi: I’m a big fan of Selling Sunset. Really looking forward to their next season. Otherwise, I watch Food Network and HGTV, which I think falls in unscripted and I love everything from Chopped to Love It or List It.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

These are the MCU’s Prospective Young Avengers

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a lot of moving parts when it comes to setting up potential galaxy-wide threats and multiple teams that could beat back that threat. 

With what fans have seen of Phase 4 thus far, it’s looking like Galactus and the Thunderbolts are just a sample of the new elements that the MCU will introduce in the near future. Another interesting team formation that’s looking more and more possible is the Young Avengers. Now that we’re getting introduced to a hall of heroes in the MCU that are of the much younger generation, our gut is telling us that the powers that be at Marvel and Disney are prepping everyone for a show or movie based on the fan-favorite ensemble.

Now with all that being said, let’s take a look at all the prospective members of the potential lineup for the MCU’s Young Avengers.

1. Cassie Lang (Stature) – Played by Kathryn Newton
Marvel Studios

One of the most heartwarming parental relationships the MCU has given us is the one between Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie Lang. The first film featured her as an eight-year-old girl played by Abby Ryder Fortson, while Avengers: Endgame introduced moviegoers to a teenage version played by Emma Fuhrmann. And now that we know Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is on the way, Cassie is being recast once again as Kathryn Newton. 

Don’t be surprised if Cassie ends up embracing her father’s technological powers in order to shrink/enlarge herself at will in the next Ant-Man film. In the comics, Cassie takes on the moniker of Stature and also steps into the role of Stinger to take command & communicate with every type of insect imaginable. It’d be pretty cool to see her combine the powers tied to both of her comic book aliases and become one of the founding members of the Young Avengers.

2 & 3. Billy and Tommy Maximoff (Wiccan & Speed) – Played by Baylen Bielitz and Gavin Borders
Marvel Studios

WandaVision introduced us to the wonderful and always cheerful offspring of Wanda Maximoff and Vision, Billy and Tommy Maximoff. When Wanda was forced to destroy the very reality she created in order to live a better life, her two twins went along with it. But the final post-credits scene we saw during the final episode of WandaVision gave everyone a bit of hope concerning the futures of both Billy and Tommy. As Wanda utilized her abilities as the Scarlet Witch to do some magical research, the voices of her children could be heard crying out for help. 

It’s evident that they both still exist in some form, which is why we’re hoping Wanda locates them and saves them from whatever part of the multiverse they reside in. That scenario sounds like a real possibility that could play out in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Should they be saved and brought over to the mainline universe of the MCU, older (as in, aged up) renditions of Billy and Tommy could also become prominent members of the Young Avengers. Billy’s psionic abilities and Tommy’s super-speed are a lethal combination that can be used to combat evil with ease.

4. Eli Bradley (Patriot) – Played by Elijah Richardson
Marvel Studios

One of the most maddening revelations viewers became privy to during The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was just how horrible the U.S. treated one of its patriots during the earliest stages of Super Soldier experimentation. Isaiah Bradley was revealed as the Korean War veteran that was experimented on and shoved to the side by the very country he chose to fight for. Eventually, Sam Wilson rectified his nation’s wrongs by enacting a form of acknowledgment for Isaiah’s historical triumphs within a museum. 

Isaiah’s grandson is Eli Bradley, who viewers also became familiar with during the entirety of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Comic book buffs know that name all too well since it’s connected to a costumed hero that’s similar to Captain America. That hero is referred to as Patriot, who could possibly debut on the big screen once the fourth Captain America movie hits theaters. And once we finally become familiar with Eli’s physical prowess and sense of duty, we should be comfortable enough seeing him step up as one of the founding members of the Young Avengers.

5. Kid Loki – Played by Jack Veal
Marvel Studios

The Loki Disney+ series was packed with a bunch of Variants based on the “God of Mischief” himself. We ran into Lady Loki, Classic Loki, Boastful Loki, President Loki, and even Alligator Loki! One of the more intriguing versions of Loki that popped up onscreen was Kid Loki, who aided the mainline Loki by helping him escape the wrath of the all-consuming monster known as Alioth.

At some point, we hope that Kid Loki finds a way to escape the Void and reunites with the very same Loki he helped find his freedom. Another hope that we have is Kid Loki realizing his potential as a do-gooder and aligning himself with the Young Avengers troupe. Sure, the possibility of Kid Loki doing something nefarious is high. But we can totally envision a future within the MCU that sees Kid Loki doing a whole bunch of good deeds alongside his equally youthful counterparts.

6. Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) – Played by Hailee Steinfeld
Marvel Studios

On November 21, 2021, the MCU is going to take viewers on a wild ride through the most wonderful time of the year. That ride will come courtesy of the Hawkeye Disney+ series, which will bring back Jeremy Renner’s rendition of the crossbow-wielder. The biggest aspect of that new series is its introduction of Kate Bishop, the Hawkeye mega-fan that comes into the picture with some expert bow & arrow skills of her own. Once we reach the close of this upcoming series, we’re pretty sure that Kate will step up to the plate and become a more integral part of the MCU. And with that, she’ll play the part of Hawkeye for the Young Avengers contingent. Her badassery with a bow & arrow and sword will do wonders for her fellow teenage heroes if they’re ever confronted by overwhelming threats.

7. Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) – Played by Iman Vellani
Marvel Studios

It may have taken forever and a day for Marvel Studios to bring a live-action rendition of Ms. Marvel’s coming of age story to the small screen, but it’s finally happening. The great Kamala Khan, who got shoved back into the superhero spotlight thanks to her starring role in the Marvel’s Avengers game, is getting her own Disney+ series. For those now in the know, Kamala is a Pakistani teenager who’s a diehard fan of the many Marvel heroes that inhabit her world. 

After developing superpowers of her own due to being exposed to Terrigen Mist, Kamala adopts the moniker of Ms. Marvel as a dedication to her favorite heroine Captain Marvel. Once the show establishes Ms. Marvel’s toolset and ambitions, she’ll move on to even bigger things once The Marvels film groups her up with her idol and Monica Rambeau. Here’s hoping that her on-the-job training in her standalone series and that aforementioned film develops her into the sort of savior that can handle her lofty responsibilities. And one of those responsibilities has to be tending to her duties as a trustworthy member of the Young Avengers.

8. America Chavez (Miss America) – Played by Xochitl Gomez
Marvel Comics

The multiverse has already been explored through the Loki series and will be expanded even further due to the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. And once we make our way to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it’s likely that we’ll come into contact with even more alternate universes and different versions of the heroes that inhabit them. One of the newest MCU heroes that’s been confirmed to appear in the second Doctor Strange movie is Miss America. 

And when it comes to the whole multiverse thing, she has the power to open portals and explore other realities thanks to the simple act of kicking a massive hole into the fabric of reality. Package that mind-blowing ability with her superhuman strength & ability to take flight and you have someone that could turn into one of the MCU’s most formidable forces of good. Miss America was a prominent member of the Young Avengers in the comics, so it’s a foregone conclusion that she’ll do the same once the live-action version of the team comes to be.

9. Riri Williams (Ironheart) – Played by Dominique Thorne
Marvel Studios

One of the more shocking Disney+ MCU series announcements was the confirmation of a show based on Riri Williams aka “Ironheart.” The young genius whose tech mastery is on par with Tony Stark is not only getting her own show, but she’ll make a second appearance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The homie Tony made the ultimate sacrifice at the end of Avengers: Endgame, which made everyone think that his daughter would eventually be the one to rise up and take on the iron hero mantle.

But now that we know Riri is becoming a part of the MCU, it’s clear that she’ll be the one flying around in her own sick suit of armor and possibly aiding Don Cheadle (War Machine) from time to time. Ironheart would fit right in as the perfect tech maestro for the Young Avengers and create the sort of gear that would really benefit the rest of the team. And it’d be pretty cool to witness Riri & Shuri combine their intellect to create even more beneficial tools for their allies and all of Wakanda. Every superhero team needs a tech wizard – Riri definitely fulfills that essential role for the Young Avengers.

Categories
Gaming Interviews

AHAD Goes ‘Inside The Screen’ With Aaron “Don” Dukes

This week’s Inside The Screen, hosted by Aaron “Don” Dukes, features special guest AHAD. AHAD is a self-described broadcaster and genius who jokingly regards himself as being rated #1 in female focus groups. As a content creator/broadcaster, AHAD pulls off the flashiest of plays and sprinkles in a bit of his personality while grinding in Valorant. While he’s been known to dabble in other popular first-person shooters such as Battlefield 2042 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, AHAD is most known for creating memorable moments during his focused Valorant sessions.

Once the topic of putting in the work comes up, AHAD provided an interesting anecdote when it came to time management. “Last year, I was streaming Valorant from day one,” he noted. “I was streaming from 6 pm to 6 am every single day. And I was clocking in 300 and something hours streamed every single month last year. I would sleep for two hours, go to work in the morning, I’d come back from work at like 2 or 3 pm, sleep for two hours, wake up again, quickly shower, eat something, then go live at 6 pm again every single day. That’s 12 hours almost daily for all last year starting in March.” To say that AHAD’s schedule is not for the faint of heart would be a severe understatement.

AHAD is known for hopping on Twitter to vent about Valorant’s Ranked mode. In a very vivid description of the sometimes infuriating game mode, AHAD stated that “Ranked is like an ex, bro. It’s like an emotionally abusive ex. I just keep going back every day for 10 hours a day. I’m trapped. I’m not even in love, bro. I got an illness.” AHAD perked up a bit more when he began speaking on women gamers and their affinity for communicating/not communicating during his Valorant sessions – “I think girls when they don’t comm, it’s totally cool. But you know what’s crazy is girls at the Immortal/Radiant level will always communicate. There is never an issue of using the microphone or typing ever. I’ve noticed I have lots of friends that are girls that play Valorant at lower ranks that don’t use their microphone or prefer not to. And I totally understand.” AHAD clearly understands the toxicity that girl gamers deal with in an online environment, especially when it comes to playing competitive games such as Valorant.

Due to the 2020 pandemic, gaming ended up becoming a central hobby for many as they chose to pass the time while under lockdown. After Aaron spoke on the societal realization that gaming is now an essential part of everyday living. AHAD spoke on the influence of gaming on the casual side of things by stating that it doesn’t really exist anymore – “there’s probably a Tweet I put out a long time ago, something along the lines of casual gaming is not really casual gaming anymore cause everybody wants to attempt to go pro or get a contract. So any piece of mind that you get from playing games is gone.” Aaron and AHAD have clearly run into a whole bunch more “sweats” these days that go just as hard as them when it comes time to grab some W’s in Valorant.

Make sure you sit in on the rest of AHAD’s lit conversation with Aaron “Don” Dukes on the latest episode of Inside the Screen. Their chat takes a deeper dive into Valorant’s Ranked match woes, his past streamed games, the flood of younger pro players entering the scene, and so much more.

Categories
Culture News

The 30 Best Marvel Graphic Novels of All Time

Spider-Man. The X-Men. Captain America. Iron Man. The Hulk. Captain Marvel. Those iconic heroes and so much more belong to the House of Marvel.

Arguably the world’s top comic book imprint and entertainment powerhouse, Marvel has gifted the world with amazing storylines, beloved characters, and a long line of top-notch blockbusters that have captured the attention of millions. Thanks to the business/creative moves made by innovators such as Martin Goodman, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and several others, Marvel has morphed into a huge facet of American culture and can be throughout every corner of media. On the comic book side of the spectrum, Marvel has produced a wide swath of riveting tales that have been compiled into must-read graphic novels.

We’re here to provide you with the very best stories Marvel has to offer in graphic novel form. The 30 stories we’ve put here before you here perfectly capture the pomp and circumstance comic book fans have become accustomed to when it comes to Marvel.

EXCELSIOR!

1. Secret Wars
Marvel Comics

Secret Wars is one of the most monumental events in not just Marvel Comics history, but comics as a whole. The presence of The Beyonder leads to an epic struggle between the entirety of the Marvel universe and results in a pretty wild plot that sees Doctor Doom end up at the center of that struggle. Secret Wars may not have gotten the most positive reception upon release but over time, it’s garnered a bit of love due to its long-lasting effect on some of Marvel’s greatest characters. Plus the action-packed panels make it an exciting read.

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2. Infinity Gauntlet
Marvel Comics

The all-powerful Thanos gets quoted by anyone and everyone these days thanks to his incredible villain role in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. The story arc that clearly inspired those films and brought the “Mad Titan” to the forefront is this one. Infinity Gauntlet is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to get wrapped up in the Marvel Universe – it follows the Avengers, the New Warriors, the X-Men, Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock, and more as they clash with Thanos & his universe-altering gems.

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3. Hawkeye by Matt Fraction & David Aja
Marvel Comics

Matt Fraction and David Aja’s combined efforts led to a career resurgence for Marvel’s expert bow and arrow wielder, Hawkeye. This Eisner Award-nominated run follows the hero as he comes to grips with a tumultuous life that shows more of his human side over his heroic exploits. When he eventually does get into some superhero hijinks, this series gets even more engrossing as Hawkeye clashes with mobsters and so much more alongside his understudy Kate Hudson & his loyal pup.

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4. Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle
Marvel Comics

The man behind the mask is Tony Stark. And his biggest issue comes in the form of rampant alcoholism. Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle follows Mr. Stark as he’s forced to confront his innermost problem while simultaneously contending with Justin Hammer & his formidable army of baddies. The clever writing included in Demon in a Bottle does an amazing job of handling the difficulty of alcoholism and presents Tony in a more relatable light for readers who’ve been forced to deal with it themselves.

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5. New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout
Marvel Comics

New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout takes place after the dissolution of the original Avengers team lineup. With such an important event taking place within the Marvel universe, a concealed evil rises under the surface to take advantage of it all. A series of harmful events leads to two of the original Avengers members reuniting and aligning themselves with a strong class of fellow superheroes. This astounding tale follows the initial formation of the New Avengers during their rebooted run as a superhero collective.

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6. Alias: Ultimate Collection, Book 1
Marvel Comics

If you got sucked into the Jessica Jones show that used to be on Netflix, then it’s definitely worth checking out the series she originated from. Alias: Ultimate Collection, Book 1 showcases a side of Marvel Comics that delivers more mature storytelling, darker humor, and intriguing detective work from the former costumed hero turned private eye. Jessica Jones gets caught up in conspiracy theories, disappearances, and even a date with a beloved superhero. And you’ll end up loving every bit of each and every plot thread.

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7. Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 1: Gifted
Marvel Comics

Marvel’s mutant contingent has been rebooted plenty of times already. One of the best fresh takes on the fan-favorite team comes from creators Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. Astonishing X-Men. Vol. 1: Gifted brings Cyclops and Emma Frost into the picture as they build a new X-Men troupe. A major event that centers around a supposed “mutant cure” goes public and a new foe named Ord comes into the picture, however. With those two obstacles put in place, this new X-Men team has their work cut out for them from the start in the most difficult ways possible.

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8. Captain America: Winter Soldier
Marvel Comics

If you’re reading this right now, then you’re probably one of the many MCU fans who hold the Captain America: The Winter Soldier film in very high regard. The original storyline lifted right from this graphic novel’s pages came to life wonderfully on the big screen, which is why you should pay tribute to those same pages with a thorough read. One of the best Captain America stories of all time features the return of Bucky Barnes, the demise of the Red Skull, and a dangerous group of Red Skull followers who are out to wreak havoc in his wake.

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9. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Marvel Comics

When the X-Men of the 1980s are made aware of their race’s ultimate demise in the future, they’re forced to spring into action to prevent that future from coming to fruition. X-Men: Days of Future Past centers around Kitty Pride as she converges with her future self to help the X-Men prevent a specific event from transpiring in order to save mutantkind from a doomed future. Alongside that monumental story, this graphic novel includes the debut of Alpha Flight and marks the return of the Wendigo. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the quintessential X-Men story from the Silver Age of Comic Books.

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10. X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills
Marvel Comics

Chris Claremont is regarded as one of the greatest comic book writers of all time. And his biggest claim to fame is his run on the X-Men from 1975 right up until 1991. When he went into graphic novel mode alongside comic book artists Brent Anderson, greatness ensued with the creation of X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. This storyline forces Professor X’s mutants to align themselves with their mortal enemy Magnet in order to confront an overwhelming threat. The religious zealot at the heart of this grand tale raises the stakes for the X-Men and all of mutantkind.

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11. Daredevil: Born Again
Marvel Comics

Frank Miller’s legendary status is due in part to his run on the Daredevil comics during the 1980s. The biggest and best story arc from that run has always been considered to be “Born Again,” which follows the ground-level hero as he encounters one of his biggest struggles. With his identity known by the Kingpin menace and his life in more danger than ever before, Daredevil must overcome his mental anguish and fight for survival.

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12. Civil War
Marvel Comics

When Marvel’s most influential heroes work alongside each other, you can’t help but root for them in their fight for justice. It becomes a tough endeavor once those heroes enter into a major conflict that threatens to disrupt their unity, however. The “Civil War” storyline produces such a dispute between those saviors. Once the U.S. government enacts the Superhero Registration Act, lines are drawn between those who support it and those who don’t. What ensues is the most action-packed…well, disagreement in the Marvel Universe.

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13. House of X/Powers of X
Marvel Comics

2020 marked the relaunch of the X-Men as a pillar of the Marvel Universe before the start of the “Dawn of X” story arc. When Professor X makes the world aware of the mutant nation of Krakoa, a temporary partnership between mutant and humankind is put into action. But at some point, that perfect union comes apart at the seams and leads to a brand new mission statement for all of Homo superior. The X-Men mythos is impacted in the most shocking manner possible across their past, present, and future.

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14. Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe
Marvel Comics

Deadpool’s hilarious fourth-wall-breaking antics never disappoint. Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe heads off in a much darker direction by pitting an even more unhinged Wade Wilson against Marvel’s wealth of beloved heroes. The violence and gore from this one are off the charts, so prepare yourself for a Deadpool graphic novel that delves into his maniacal crusade against the superhero community.

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15. Marvel Zombies
Marvel Comics

The multiverse always gives way to crazy interpretations of everyone’s favorite heroes and presents their origins & clashes with their Rogues’ Gallery in unique ways. Marvel Zombies takes readers to a wild sector of the Marvel multiverse that’s filled with zombified versions of the greatest superheroes of all time. The Ultimate Universe’s version of the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards aka “Mister Fantastic” ends up in their crosshairs, which leads to some of the craziest storytelling in the Marvel Comics mythology.

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16. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man Volume One: Who Is Miles Morales?
Marvel Comics

Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics offers a fresh spin on the long-standing legacy of its most iconic characters. Readers ended up falling in love with that spinoff universe’s version of Spider-Man, which is fulfilled by the teenage hero named Miles Morales. His origin story is contained within this graphic novel’s beautifully animated pages – you’ll end up falling in love with him too as he comes to grips with taking on the mantle of Peter Parker.

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17. Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & Joy
Marvel Comics

If the Hulu TV series based on this collection of young heroes caught your attention, then you need to spend some time with the comic book series it’s based on. The first volume of The Runaways introduces readers to the motley crew of Alex, Karolina, Gert, Chase, Molly, and Nico. Their lives are turned upside down once they learn that their parents are all super-powered baddies, which forces them to run away from home and seek out a life that differs from the one their evil parents abide by.

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18. Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story
Marvel Comics

Shang-Chi may have taken the spotlight as Marvel’s martial arts maestro, but that title once belonged to Danny Rand aka “Iron Fist.” This graphic novel provides answers to the biggest questions surrounding Iron Fist’s origin and everything that goes into the legacy of his superpowers. Prepare yourself for eye-popping flashback sequences that delve into the past wielders of the Iron Fist moniker.

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19. Marvel 1602
Marvel Comics

When Marvel transported its superheroes to the Elizabethan Era, a breath of fresh air arrived in the form of Marvel 1602. This focused timepiece tale sees our favorite Marvel heroes reside in England and clash with a powerful stable known as The Witchbreed. Spider-Man, the X-Men, Nick Fury, and a slew of even more Marvel saviors appear as alternate versions of their familiar selves as they navigate the dark reign of the year 1602.

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20. World War Hulk
Marvel Comics

The “World War Hulk” storyline sticks out as one of those Hulk arcs that makes you feel for the big guy. After being exiled from Earth by the very same heroes he once fought side by side with, The Hulk finds himself wandering through space before taking refuge on the planet of Sakaar. Hulk soon finds himself in a struggle that places him on the side of the slaves who seek an uprising against their rulers. Hulk’s crusade alongside them eventually leads to him becoming their leader, which ultimately sets them all up for a violent return to Hulk’s home planet. For revenge, of course!

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21. Silver Surfer: Parable
Marvel Comics

Stan Lee and Jean Giraud’s masterful work together resulted in one of the best galactic tales ever told in comic book form. Silver Surfer: Parable features the space-faring champion as he fights to save Earth from two evil forces – Enslavers & Mrrungo-Mu and the all-powerful planet consumer known as Galactus. The climactic battles Silver Surfer is a part of are awe-inspiring, while the story’s themes of false prophets and human nature will keep you intrigued from start to finish.

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22. Fantastic Four: 1234
Marvel Comics

The creative duo of Grant Morrison and Jae Lee puts forth the well-known origins of Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four, with a much darker tone. Fantastic Four: 1234 showcases each member of the superhero squad with their own singular stories, which all delve into some of the dysfunction at the heart of their innermost struggles and relationships. The striking art style and mature storytelling are much different than the Fantastic Four stories that came before this one.

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23. The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank
Marvel Comics

Frank Castle’s life is redefined by the team of Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Tim Bradstreet in The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank. Frank’s return to prominence as a vicious vehicle for retribution against the worst criminals known to man has earned him the ire of two cops and the mob. Along with those opposers at his heels, Frank must contend with three individuals that try to co-opt his gameplan and have him join their group of vigilantes.

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24. Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Marvel Comics

One of the most beloved runs for Daredevil came during the late 90s. And that’s all thanks to Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. This defining series of stories follows the ground-level hero as his real identity becomes known to the world. And of course, this results in his most infamous foes doing everything in their power to make his life even more of a living hell. This comic book run also features some amazing guest appearances that make this a star-studded storyline worth checking out.

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25. The Ultimates
Marvel Comics

The Ultimates are presented as a different interpretation of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” The art style presented for this series grabbed everyone’s attention during its initial run and it’ll do the same for anyone that decides to check it out in this collection. You’ll definitely enjoy watching Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, and more as they combat familiar threats and confront a world overrun by varied supervillains.

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26. Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt
Marvel Comics

One of Spider-Man’s most notorious (and fan favorite) villains is Kraven the Hunter. In “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” the fearless warrior embarks upon a final feat in order to defeat his greatest adversary. After succeeding at his lofty goal, Kraven takes over Spidey’s role and ends up serving the city as a much more benevolent hero. Once Spidey escapes from Kraven’s grasp, he sets out to take back his role as the city’s savior.

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27. Captain America: Truth
Marvel Comics

One of the most intriguing parts of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Disney+ series is the way in which it explained the earliest example of super soldiers and the horrible acts committed by the U.S. government towards one of its patriots. Captain America: Truth delves into the tragic life of Isaiah Bradley, a soldier who donned the Captain America costume before Steve Rogers but was stricken by a horrible treatment by his superiors that speaks to real-world issues.

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28. Marvels
Marvel Comics

Imagine a world in which superheroes are first introduced to the general public and, as a photojournalist, you set off to document their early days. Marvels, which comes from the combined efforts of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, presents that intriguing storyline in the most gorgeous fashion possible through some of the best-looking panels we’ve ever seen. This special edition of Marvels features extra content that focuses on the X-Men and even the aforementioned photojournalist that gets caught up in all the action.

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29. Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.
Marvel Comics

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. drops a lot of humor into Marvel’s usual array of action-packed epics. The story follows a group of anti-terrorism specialists known as the Bizarre Weapons of Mass Destruction. But once Nextwave learns that their overseers are terrorists themselves, they become a bit peeved and set out to hand out some much-needed revenge. Get ready to laugh a bunch and most definitely get ready to remain excited throughout every explosive panel of this graphic novel.

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30. Wolverine by Claremont & Miller
Marvel Comics

Chris Claremont and Frank Miller came together during the early 1980s to send Logan on an international journey that produced one of his finest acts to date. This storyline sees the highly celebrated X-Men member head off to Japan to rescue his beloved Mariko Yashida from an arranged marriage. But after facing firsthand embarrassment from Mariko’s father, Wolverine basks in his sorrows. Of course, you’ll get to follow his resurgence as a badass hero as he fights alongside a newfound assassin and clashes with the individuals trying to keep him from his true love.

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Categories
Sports Strength

Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: October 11-October 17

WWE Raw

High Spots: It’s crazy to think that there were only two positives to come out of this insanely bad edition of Raw. The first one is that banger of a King of the Ring tournament match between Xavier Woods and Ricochet – Xavier has been campaigning to be the man to win the classic tourney and it was awesome seeing him make it past the first round. Ricochet never lets me down whenever he starts filling and dipping, so I was more than happy to watch him work with the perfect dancing partner in Xavier. When Xavier flawlessly popped Ricochet off the ground into the air and dropped him with his signature gutbuster, I popped like a MF’er! My feelings are usually hurt whenever Ricochet takes another L, but I wasn’t upset this time around since it happened after a competitive match against an equally amazing superstar. 

As for the second highlight of the night, that belongs to the sensible winners we got during the Queen’s Crown matches. Piper Niven made it past Natalya and Shayna Baszler butchered Dana Brooke to proceed further into the tournament. SO ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD! Now we’re going to get the match between Piper and Shayna that was teased a few weeks back and I for one am ecstatic about watching that first-time meeting take place. As for the actual match length of those two tournament bouts, they left me feeling a bit empty…

Botches: Sadly, this episode lived by the moniker “Raw is Apathy.” There were just a whole bunch of segments here that left me with a feeling of emptiness by the time they came to a close. I came into this episode excited to see what would happen between WWE Champion Big E and his Crown Jewel opponent Drew McIntyre. Their opening war of words lacked the heated back and forth banter it truly needed to grab my attention – the generic speak from both guys and random inclusion of The Usos that was clearly set up to book a tag team match for the main event hampered the start of the show. The tag team match that ended the show delivered a lame count-out victory for The Usos and a super predictable attack from the challenger to champion that was decidedly average at best. 

Why does WWE insist on ending something worthwhile before it even has a chance to be fully explored? Not only did the duo of Mustafa Ali and Mansoor lose in nothing but a minute to Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander (A MINUTE!), but they also got broken up during a completely heartbreaking backstage angle that saw Ali jump all over his former tag team partner. I was so ready for Ali and Mansoor to work their magic on SmackDown and eventually win the tag straps over there. And now, that dream is nothing more than a lost fantasy. The short runtime of that aforementioned match was the theme of the night, it seems – everything except for Xavier vs. Ricochet and the main event was woefully short when it came to total runtime. The Queen’s Crown tourney may have provided two sensible winners (unlike SmackDown), but both those matches were “blink and you miss” type of affairs. Omos vs. Riddle was another disgustingly short bout that didn’t even get saved by a post-match RKO.

Jeff Hardy vs. Austin Theory could have been a star-making performance for the NXT 2.0 prodigy and the perfect showcase for the face-painted veteran. Instead what we got was another match that ended faster than a quick trip to the kitchen. Plus it was made all the more horrible thanks to the inclusion of the always terrible 24/7 goofs running in. Theory won with a roll-up after dodging a Swanton Bomb, which was quite the lame way to put the newly drafted guy on Raw over. Jinder Mahal continued to suck the life out of the room thanks to his channel-changing match with Kofi Kingston. And to make matters even worse, Jinder won! They couldn’t just throw my Kofi a bone, bruh? I can’t find a single damn to give about Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley at Crown Jewel, so you can probably guess how I felt about Bobby’s mid-show promo about the guy and his annoying son.

The biggest disappointment of the night came during a women’s tag team match that deserved way more than the four minutes it got. Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch is a PPV-worthy matchup that could easily nab MOTY honors with 20+ minutes attached to it. Instead, we got nothing more than a pathetically short match that the ref was forced to throw out due to “excessive violence.” The post-match beatdown just left me feeling even more let down by the booking of this whole affair. Oh, and before I forget! F’s in the chat for John Morrisson. That man is down bad tremendously…

NXT 2.0

High Spots: Before the show even got started, (S)Hit Row got ambushed in the most dangerous location in all of wrestling – the NXT parking lot. I’m sure Kenta got horrible flashbacks while he watched Isaiah “Swerve” Scott and his crew get served a beatdown by Legado Del Fantasma. And with that, I got treated to a solid installment of NXT 2.0 that started off hot and ended even hotter. Joe Gacy got on his soapbox once again to hit the audience with every keyword that disingenuous social justice warriors always use. While his promo sucked, his match against NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa was way better than I expected it to be. Gacy looked good for the very first time in my eyes and Ciampa got to look like the psycho killer he’s always been. After the match, Harland and his American History X haircut came out to do some damage on both champion and challenger. For some reason, the big guy calmed down once Joe caressed him with a slight touch. That sure was…something. So we’re getting another big debut in the coming weeks based on the creepy vignette that was shown here. It was pretty cool, not even gon lie. Now I have to ask – is it really going to be someone entirely new? Or are we getting the return of someone familiar under a brand new moniker? Could it possibly be…Dakota Kai? Sure sounded like her, don’t ya think? 

Xyon Quinn got to squash another victim and, to the surprise of no one, he did it while looking nigh unstoppable. I like the guy, so I can’t wait to see more of him during an extended matchup. So the Grizzled Young Veterans have it out for Ciampa, it seems. Luckily, the NXT Champ has some backup in the form of his title challenger Bron Breakker. I totally understand where Bron’s coming from – it’s better to beat Ciampa at his best by aiding him against his many threats and keeping him healthy for the big showdown at Halloween Havoc. Can’t wait to see those two duos square up. The Diamond Mine continued to rebuild and prosper with some impressive squashes of their own. Ivy Nile rearranged her opponent’s back with a sick Torture Rack, while Julius Creed knocked Ikemen Jiro’s block off. Kushida came out to help Ikemen from a post-match beatdown, but he was only met by an assault from Roderick Strong for his troubles.

Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner engaged in a halfway decent match against the UK brutes Pete Dunne & the SmackDown-bound Ridge Holland. I wasn’t overly impressed with Von’s performance here, but he wasn’t outright terrible by any means. Von ended up getting the W and did it by pinning Ridge, which makes total sense since Ridge is heading off to the main roster real soon while Von continues to rise up the NXT 2.0 ranks. The main event was full of surprises, I must say! Not only did Isaish shockingly retain his NXT North American Championship after a damn good match with Santos Escobar, but Carmelo Hayes cashed in his title contract to actually win the very same title soon after. Isaiah got to remain strong on his way out the NXT 2.0 door and a talent that’s being built for greatness got to win a championship & come off like an even bigger star. Simply put, good booking and genuine surprises are just…well, good.

Botches: I can definitely get jiggy with Toxic Attraction’s theme song. But the stable itself? I couldn’t care less about anything they do. I wasn’t all that keen on their verbal assault aimed at NXT Women’s Champion Raquel Gonzalez and NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Io Shirai & Zoey Stark. I’m not really looking forward to the gang’s matches with their respective rivals at Halloween Havoc, either. The women’s tag team match was uneventful – I’m just not feeling anything involving Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta. I’m not at all excited about watching them get a title shot at Io and Zoey, either (even though I’m not much a fan of them, I wouldn’t be too upset if Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro get another shot at the straps).

Lash Legend and her cornball talk show segment “Lashing Out” made its unwelcome return. Sis really made a Squid Game reference and came off like one of those old folks that are struggling to stay hip and be all “I understand that reference!” Ugh…she’s insufferable. I can’t say I cared all that much for Andre Chase and Tony D’Angelo’s backstage segments, either. It’s going to take a lot for me to drum up even a sliver of interest in those two underwhelming guys. And sadly, I feel the exact same way about Duke Hudson. His match with Grayson Waller was just…alright, I guess. Grayson impresses me way more than Duke these days – he’s the one that needs to get some meaningful wins at this point.

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: KAZI NI NARE! The “Murder Grandpa” Minoru Suzuki is finally coming to Impact! I damn near backflipped off of my couch when his teaser vid popped up. If Sami Callihan wasn’t injured, I would have loved to have seen him try his luck against Minoru. Since he’s down and out at the moment, I’d be perfectly fine with watching Minoru come to blows with Eddie Edwards upon his arrival. It’s pretty wild that this episode finally saw Heath sign an official contract with the company he’s been with since last year’s Slammiversary. Now he’s set to face off with Violence By Design at Bound for Glory with Rhino by his side, but the chances of the “Man Beast” actually showing up are looking pretty slim in Scott D’Amore’s eyes. I’m sure the big guy will show up to support his former WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship partner. 

Shout out to the X-Division! Most of the talent belonging to the “no limits” portion of the roster showed out on this episode. The three-way opener was a fast-paced barnburner that resulted in one of my NJPW faves getting the win. El Phantasmo is now my pick to win the X-Division Championship at Bound for Glory! Chris Sabin looked like the Sabin I fell in love with back in 2003 during his strong showing against Chris Bey. Team FinJuice got one over on their Bullet Club rivals and gave Sabin a much-needed victory for once. Ay, Savanna Evans is a beast! That big boot of hers was nasty, wasn’t it? After making short work of Lady Frost, Knockouts Champion Deonna Purrazzo came out to acquire her services and set her up as Mickie James’ in-ring comeback opponent. Can’t wait to see how that one unfolds. Speaking of the Knockouts, I definitely giggled a bit when Gail Kim got some snail mail from The IInspiration. That was a cool little gag right there.

Imagine how excited I was when Trey Miguel and Alex Zayne talked each other into a future matchup! That’s going to be quite the banger once it finally comes across my TV screen. ALEX FTW! Trey’s obviously gonna win though since he’s competing at Bound for Glory. And at the end of this episode, Josh Matthews showed up as the mediator for Impact World Champion’s Christian Cage and challenger Josh Alexander’s Impact Summit. The Canadian greats spoke highly of each other, but Christian took aim at Josh’s hot-headed nature to make a point. Josh ended up storming at the end, which played right into the champs’ hands. This was a cool ending segment that added an unexpected wrinkle to the main event for Bound for Glory.

Botches: Ugh…so Steve Maclin spoke. It doesn’t get any more painful than that. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the match between Rich Swann and VSK, either. It was a wee bit short for my liking and never really got to enter that second gear I was hoping for. Johnny Swinger and his cringe comedy segment “Swinger’s Palace” finally closed up shop. I was delighted to see it go, but that means I had to sit through another unfunny batch of backstage comedy during Johnny’s last hurrah. 

Those Good Brothers promos have finally run their course, wouldn’t you say? I just wished we would have found out who their Bound for Glory opponents are at this point. Here’s hoping some surprise tandem from AEW, NJPW, or AAA shows up to challenge ‘em. Proud N’ Powerful, perhaps? And finally, I wasn’t too fond of the battle royal meant to hype up another battle royal. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and I think Impact would have been better off just waiting for the one booked at Bound for Glory. Congrats to W. Morrissey for the win, though.

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: This two-and-a-half-hour edition of SmackDown capped off an evening that saw WWE and AEW battle for ratings supremacy. This episode started off with one of Edge’s rage-fueled promos that got me even more fired up for his Hell in a Cell match against Seth Rollins at Crown Jewel. Seth really made the mistake of his life pushing Edge over the…well, edge. I cracked a smile when Edge mentioned how Seth took from his playbook by mentioning the one time he slapped the hell out of John Cena’s dad. Good time, good times. Seth responded in kind with a fiery promo of his own and made it clear that known how much the HIAC can change someone. Seth’s already been scarred by the towering structure, so he’s more than ready to go back inside and attempt to end Edge for good. I usually tune out of all the Middle East WWE specials, but this HIAC match between Edge and Seth actually has me excited to give this year’s Crown Jewel an actual chance.

In a King of the Ring semifinal match, Finn Bálor came to blows with Sami Zayn. The winner of this match was clearly not in doubt since we already know Sami never appears on WWE’s Middle Eastern shows, but at least the bout itself was still a good time. Now am I officially burned out on all the matches we’ve seen between The Street Profits and The Usos? Yes. But I’d be crazy to ignore how fun the Street Fight between them was for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. Watching Montez Ford fly through the to land the best Frog Splash in wrestling today never gets old! The Usos overcame their longtime SmackDown foes in a match that clearly looked like it finally brought that feud to an end. The clear match of the evening came when Sasha Banks engaged in a commercial-free war with Becky Lynch. They got all the time they needed to work the crowd into a frenzy with lots of intense back and forth action & clever counters. Bianca Belair had Becky shook as she swung her ponytail at her hand at one point, which pushed Becky right into a Backstabber from Sasha for the win!

To bring this Super SmackDown episode to a close, WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and his Crown Jewel opponent Brock Lesnar met for a contract signing to finalize their marquee matchup. Roman called Brock a whole dumbass for signing the contract so fast without even bothering to read it, but then Brock outsmarted him and caused further doubt for the “Tribal Chief” when he noted that he already read over the contract with his advocate. And we all know who that is! I love how Brock was short and sweet with his response and caused an even bigger divide between the champ and the man he’s losing trust in each & every week. YOU’RE ON THIN ICE, PAUL E!

Botches: While “The Man” and “The Boss” offered some great representation for the women’s division on this episode of SmackDown, the rest of the pack came off looking pretty bad here. The handicap match that saw Sonya Deville bring Shayna Baszler with her to the ring to take on Naomi in a Handicap match was more of an angle than an actual competitive contest. It wasn’t that good, though. Why does Sonya hate Naomi again? Kinda wished they’d explain that already. 

As for the Queen’s Crown semifinal match between Carmella and Zelina Vega, it was yet another case of a match primarily being used to advance an angle. And to make matters even worse, it was far too short to matter and didn’t do any good for either woman. The first-ever Queen’s Crown tournament has been a complete wash and it really shouldn’t have been that way. Do you know what really irked me on this episode, though? That completely unnecessary “Happy Talk” segment that ultimately saw Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs interrupt Happy Corbin & Madcap Moss. The jokes were horrible, of course. But the main thought I had running through my head during this whole thing was “they gave this more time than the Queen’s Crown match? Why?” That was a clear head-scratcher of a booking decision right here…

AEW Rampage

High Spots: On the other side of the Friday Night War, AEW Rampage came out swinging with a 2-hour edition that was split between the YouTube Buy-In and the second half that aired on TNT. And those two hours delivered the very best of this show to date. At the start of the Buy-In, Tay Conti battled Santanna Garrett in a decent match that showcased the former NXT stars in a stronger fashion. Tay’s improvement in the ring continues to wow me and I can’t wait to see how she factors into the TBS Championship tournament. Next up was a technical contest between Lee Moriarty and Bobby Fish. Both guys put on an excellent clinic that started slow and gradually increased in intensity as it wore on. Lee’s definitely someone to watch now that he’s a part of the AEW roster and he showed why Tony Khan signed him in the first place. Bobby got the win since he’s heading into Saturday Night Dynamite against the “American Dragon.” Good effort from both guys there!

In the clear match of the night, “Murder Grandpa” Minoru Suzuki took on Bryan Danielson. What we got here was the sort of match you’d see in the second to last spot on a major New Japan Pro Wrestling card. Both men clobbered each other with stiff elbow shots, nasty kicks, hard chops, and plenty of tight submissions. This match was a heated war that had the crowd going insane from start to finish! I winced at some of the blows both men exchanged, which should let you know how brutal the offense was during this epic clash. By the time Bryan clocked Minoru with his Busaiku Flying Knee and got the winning pinfall, I still wanted more! That…was…awesome. Once Rampage ended on YouTube and got going on TNT, we got another banger of a match between CM Punk and Matt Sydal. It was the sort of match you’d see on an early 2000s Ring of Honor encounter – there were slick hold exchanges, a wealth of snappy kicks, and a pretty sick bodyslam on the ring apron. Punk pulled out with a win, Matt got to look as good as he always is on a bigger stage, and the crowd appreciated every moment of it.

The ladies of AEW got a second match here as Ruby Soho locked up with The Bunny. And to my surprise, it was better than the Buy-In women’s match! Ruby shined and so did The Bunny (I always get a kick out of her superkick into the corner and top-rope German Suplex combination!). After Ruby shocked her opponent with a surprise backslide pin, Penelope Ford came out to aid her twisted friend and KO’d Ruby with those infamous brass knucks. I’m guessing Ruby and Penelope will settle their differences if they end up booked against each other during the TBS tourney. 

And in the biggest surprise of the night, The Inner Circle’s Chris Jericho, TNT Champion Sammy Guevara, and Jake Hager had a damn good match against Men of the Year’s Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page alongside MMA fighter Junior Dos Santos. My expectations for this trios match were kinda low going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised by how hot of a match it ended up being. JDS didn’t trip over his feet and looked a lot better than I thought he’d be. He had to hold back on his punches, of course. But they didn’t look terrible by any means. The ending stretch of this match had the crowd on its feet as Sammy came flying over the top rope onto…well, someone since the camera missed him by a split second. I also popped for Jaker putting JDS right through a ringside table. Scorpio scored the win after Jorge Masvidal clocked Jericho with another flying knee to break up the Walls of Jericho. After the match, American Top Team went to town on Jericho some more and gloated in their big win. Santana and Ortiz may have taken their sweet time coming out to save their Inner Circle compadres, but they sent Scorpio and Ethan in just a few seconds. We got a hot ending to a very hot edition of Rampage!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: Saturday Night Dynamite was a whole vibe, guys! And for someone as introverted as yours truly, getting to stay inside to watch some wrestling was perfect. Yes, I’m washed. Whatever! Anyway, we were treated to some great in-ring action here. After CM Punk bathed in all that live audience adoration, Malakai Black and Dante Martin competed in the first match of the evening. There was smart limb work on display here as Malakai had midsection issues, while Dante’s leg got worked over throughout the match. Dante’s high-flying work was heat as usual, but it all came down to a swift Black Mass kick from Malakai. Lio Rush tried to help his boy Dante get the win by avoiding another springboard maneuver, but the Top Flight member ignored his pleas. At least Dante got some recognition from Malaki, though! Based on the backstage beatdown handed down by The Elite to Jurassic Express, I’m fully prepared for a major grudge match between the two stables at Full Gear. Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, and Christian Cage vs. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks in a rematch with a special stipulation works for me!

I’m kinda diggin’ this whole American Top Team vs. Inner Circle feud now! After that hot trios match we got on Rampage the night before, I actually care about what happens between the two stables from this point forward. Adam Lambert is a friggin’ heat magnet and one of the biggest heels in wrestling, which is pretty wild when you think about the current heel landscape. We’re due for a 10-man tag between the groups at Full Gear, I say. And hopefully, another singles match between Scorpio Sky and Chris Jericho, plus a TNT Championship match between Sami Guevarra and Ethan Page on Dynamite in the coming weeks. So Andrade El Idolo promised us a masked duo for this episode’s AAA World Tag Team Championship (Campeonato en Parejas AAA) match against The Lucha Bros. Here I was expecting a AAA tag team, but instead, we got a mysterious new duo. And after a few minutes of watching them work, it became increasingly evident that it was FTR under the masks. My initial confusion turned into excitement as both teams ended up having quite the exhilarating tag team contest! The lively Miami crowd loved every moment of it and so did I.

The end result of that match was the most shocking as FTR escaped with the belts. It turns out an earlier business transaction between Andrade and MJF led to that whole affair coming together in the first place. It’s gonna be pretty wild once FTR makes the trek over to Mexico to get embroiled in some AAA action! Backstage, we learned that Lio has something new in mind for his young protege Dante – a new tag team partner. And of course, it’s gonna be Lio himself. That’s pretty dope, actually! Can’t wait to see how well those two mesh together. Another backstage vignette saw Serena Deeb embrace her new heel role by making it clear that she single-handedly saved AEW’s women’s division. Hikaru Shida put hands and feet all over her to disrupt that promo, which has me excited to see them run it back in the ring once again. Jon Moxley’s on a warpath, it seems! Wheeler Youta just so happened to be on that path and got himself a swift beatdown for his troubles. I wonder if Orange Cassidy will step in to defend his boy Wheeler and step up to Moxley at Full Gear…

Three words, folks – SOCKO! SOCKO! SOCKO! Evil Uno went to the Mankind well during an insane trio match between The Dark Order and the SuperKliq. I realize The Bucks’ balls to the wall match formula is off-putting for many, but I just can’t get enough of it. This match was another example of just how awesome it is to witness PWG trios matches being broadcasted on cable TV. The Dark Order had some renewed spirit thanks to Adam Page’s return, but Cole and The Bucks’ combined awesomeness overcame them. Afterward, Jungle Boy came back to enact some revenge on the guys that jumped him earlier in the show. Brandon Cutler got his ass whupped as usual while his stablemates left him behind. I loved that moment just cause the super-live Miami crowd sung along to “Tarzan Boy” all the while. We got a much stronger Cody Rhodes and Arn Anderson training vignette on this episode. Arn and Cody’s wrestling school trainees showed him some tough love in an effort to get him refocused on being the best he can be. This is all leading to a rematch with Malaki at some point, so count me in for this new version of Cody once that third meeting between the two comes to pass.

MJF sure loves the word “mid” now, I see! He sprinkled it into his scathing promo aimed at Darby Allin and the entire city of Miami. I think we’re due for a major grudge match between the two at Full Gear but based on what happened during the ref’s countdown, Sting wants a piece of the privileged slimeball first. Just imagine MJF getting to go one on one with Sting! I’m hoping we get that on the next Saturday Night Dynamite. AEW’s ladies got to shine a bit! It looks like Britt Baker and Anna Jay is starting to take shape, which I’m slightly intrigued by. In the ring, we saw Kiera Hogan and Penelope Ford deliver a solid exhibition. It started off a bit sloppy at first, but it gradually grew into something I got some enjoyment from. Kiera has a sick superplex, I must say! Penelope ultimately got the win, but her celebration was short-lived as Ruby Soho came out to dish out some revenge. It’s looking like all these women’s division mini-feuds are going to have a huge impact on the TBS Tournament! COWBOY SHIT! COWBOY SHIT! COWBOY SHIT! “Hangman” Adam Page spoke to the crowd and delivered an emotional promo that covered everything that’s gone on in his AEW career thus far. Fresh off the heels of him winning an AEW World Championship opportunity at Full Gear and the birth of his son, Page is ready to realize his dream and capture the big strap.

“The Redeemer” Miro is now questioning the very same God he fought for as TNT Champion. That promo of his was so convincing that I thought he was about to enter a feud with the man upstairs! I can’t wait to see which direction Miro goes next. This airing of Saturday Night Dynamite was capped off with a hard-hitting scrimmage between former Ring of Honor greats Bryan Danielson and Bobby Fish. Both men were all about that “tap and snap” game plan during their heated main event. Bobby was definitely on one here as he talked super spicy with the crowd and tore up Danielson’s leg with stiff kicks and submissions. The “American Dragon” responded in kind with some debilitating kicks and leg locks of his own, which made their match especially brutal when compared to the rest of the evening’s card. Bryan got the W and sent me & the Miami crowd home happy after another eventful evening of AEW action! 

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: Ever since I learned about Buddy Murphy’s unceremonious release from WWE, I’ve been awaiting news of the next major wrestling company he decided to sign with. I finally got an answer to that burning question as it was revealed that the man now known as Buddy Matthews will now be competing under the NJPW banner. On November 13, Matthews will make his debut for the company’s Battle in the Valley event in San Jose, California. Can we please get Matthews vs. Taiji Ishimori? Pretty please? It’s a safe bet that Matthews will do great things as the newest member of the NJPW roster.

Botches: Another week, another heartbreaker of an episode for Dark Side of the Ring. Luna Vachon’s mental health issues and her many struggles as a professional wrestler became that much more clearer to me. And I was shocked to learn about her drug addictions, family strife, and mistreatment by the powers that be during her WWE stint. I’ll always be a fan of the woman thanks to her distinctive look and badass persona. She deserved so much more than having to put over Sable and her horrid offense at the height of the Attitude Era. That story about Medusa’s willingness to drop the WWF Women’s Championship to Luna on a random house show showed how much love and appreciation her peers had for her back then. Man, she ruled during her Bam Bam Bigelow days! Rest in power, Luna…

Categories
Sports Strength

The 8 Biggest Winners of the 2021 WWE Draft

Since 2002, the WWE has indulged in splitting up its massive roster by enacting a draft. 

The men and women of wrestling’s largest organization are split up among the red and blue brands, which are Raw and SmackDown, respectively. And ever since WWE’s developmental brand NXT came onto the scene, the many talents from that extra arm of Vince McMahon’s company have also been called up to Monday and Friday nights. The 2021 WWE Draft has finally come to a close and its finalized rosters will come into place after Crown Jewel comes to a close. Some major names stayed right where they’ve been, while a couple of other monumental superstars got a new lease on life by getting moved onto the other show.

After looking at the entire landscape of the WWE fans can expect to see after the big show in Saudi Arabia, we came away with some clear draft picks that have the most potential to prosper. The names on this list are set for greatness in the form of PPV main events, championship victories, and plenty more amazing moments within the WWE sphere.

1. Drew McIntyre – SmackDown
WWE

Once Drew McIntyre dropped the WWE Championship, his proceeding run felt a little less inspired by everything he had done before. While he got more shots at the title and ended up in the 2021 Money in the Bank match, his feuds with the likes of Jinder Mahal were a complete bore. Now that he’s been moved over to Smackdown, Drew’s career is capable of being exciting once again. Drew’s Survivor Series match with Roman Reigns from the year before was amazing, which is why we’re excited to see him reignite his feud with the “Tribal Chief” once again. And with fresh opponents such as Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, and Ridge Holland on the same brand as him, Drew’s top match prospects are a lot more enticing now.

2. Hit Row (Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Top Dolla, Ashante “Thee” Adonis, & B-Fab) – SmackDown
WWE

Anytime an NXT talent gets called up from the developmental brand to one of the main shows, fans grow concerned. For every Charlotte Flair, The Shield, and Asuka success story, there’s a disappointing array of failures in the form of Bo Dallas, Tyler Breeze, and Apollo Crews. For fans that feel like Hit Row may just flop as hard as those aforementioned botched runs, it’s easy to understand why. But thanks to the new synergy seen between the creative visions of the main roster and NXT 2.0, Hit Row’s graduation to SmackDown may just go a bit smoother than expected. A ton of fans enjoy their gimmick, plus its leader Isaiah “Swerve” Scott is a true gem in the ring. With all that going for the group, Hit Row may just overcome the usual pitfalls NXT call-ups, unfortunately, go through. 

3. Austin Theory – Raw
WWE

Remember that random call-up Austin Theory when he popped up on Raw to run alongside Zelina Vega and Angel Garza? That was an odd choice to begin with when it came to showcasing the former EVOLVE Champion. After he went back to NXT, he steadily improved as a character thanks to his fun alignment with Johnny Gargano. Watching him fine-tune his overall game has clearly done wonders for the young superstar in the making, which is why we’re super optimistic about his second go-round on Raw. He’s already gotten one over on Jeff Hardy, which sets him up for even bigger opportunities to prosper down the line. As a midcard talent, Austin has all the tools needed to run wild as a future United States Champion. At some point, we’d love to see him produce in-ring magic with Rey Mysterio, John Morrison, Riddle, etc.

4. Shayna Baszler – SmackDown
WWE

Shayna Baszler is finally free of Nia Jax and is back to dislocating limbs just like her NXT days. We’ve been waiting patiently for the former MMA pro to ditch her ho-hum tag team run and atrocious paranormal storyline with Alexa Bliss. And thankfully, Shayna has gotten back to what brought her to the dance as she transitions over from Raw to SmackDown. Her rebuilding phase is off to a great start – she’s already done plenty of limb damage to Nia Jax and Eva Marie. We can’t wait to see her move to Friday Nights and try to do the exact same thing to the competition. Shana has future SmackDown Women’s Champion written all over her, plus future clashes with fresh foes like Toni Storm and Xia Li all sound enticing. And we’re more than ready to see her lock up with Sasha once again!

5. Xia Li – SmackDown
WWE

When you compare the refreshed women’s rosters of Raw and SmackDown, Raw looks a bit stronger when you really think about it. That’s not to say that SmackDown is super weak in that department – Friday Nights will now be home to Charlotte, Shayna, and Natalya. When it comes to new blood, one of the most exciting prospects is WWE’s first-ever Chinese competitor Xia Li. Xia has shown steady improvement during her NXT stay and truly came into her own as a formidable superstar thanks to her alignment with the Tian Sha stable. Now that she’s competing on SmackDown, Xia adds a much-needed shot to the arm for the women’s division there and can morph into one of its top talents in the years to come.

6. Ricochet – SmackDown
WWE

“The Man That Gravity Forgot” has been down bad tremendously ever since he got demolished by Brock Lesnar at Super ShowDown 2020. While he still puts on good to great matches when he’s given the perfect opponents and match length to do so, Ricochet is more prone to taking L’s instead of making any sort of upward advancement on the Raw roster. Maybe we’re being a bit too optimistic about this one, but we feel as if Ricochet has a better chance at doing bigger and better things on SmackDown. He has so many new faces to deliver in-ring greatness with – Roman Reigns, Hit Row’s Isaiah, and Mansoor are just a few of the incredible Smackdown talents Ricochet can take on. This move to Friday nights might just do Ricochet some good and award him with a decent Intercontinental Championship reign in the process.

7. Gable Steveson – Raw
WWE

The biggest shock announcement from this year’s draft was Olympic wrestling gold medalist Gable Steveson moving to Raw. Like, how crazy is that? Someone who probably hasn’t even trained all that much in the art of professional wrestling yet has already been called up to WWE’s #1 show. It’s quite apparent that the powers that be envision Gable evolving into this generation’s version of Kurt Angle – a legit amateur wrestler that catches on quick to the sports entertainment side of things and eventually becomes one of the greatest to ever do it. That’s a lot to ask from someone that skipped NXT entirely if you ask us. But even still, Gable comes off like the type of guy that we could see competing in the main event of a future WrestleMania. We see big things in Gable’s future.

8. Ridge Holland – SmackDown
WWE

Ridge Holland is a complete boulder of a man. While in NXT and NXT UK, he turned heads due to his imposing physique and badass demeanor. After recovering from his broken ankle injury, Ridge got back into the swing of things as a member of NXT 2.0 and maintained his status as a world-beater. With the move to SmackDown, Ridge now has the world at his leisure. Here’s someone that has future Universal Champion written all over him. With a steady slow build and a legit mouthpiece in his corner, Ridge can quickly ascend the WWE ladder and become the company’s first-ever United Kingdom-born world champion. We can totally see Ridge being a major facet on SmackDown within a year’s time.

Categories
Sports Strength

ONE37pm’s Future WWE Champions Predictions

If you’re an avid wrestling fan, then your mind is most likely running wild with visions of the future. 

The crystal ball sitting inside your brain is usually filled with prophetic visions of wrestlers adorned with championship gold. While looking at the current WWE landscape, it’s easy to recognize just how packed the roster is and the vast array of championship material within it. The Raw, SmackDown, NXT 2.0, and NXT UK brands all have their own titles that are furiously fought over on a regular basis. Since the 2021 WWE Draft has finally come to a close, now seems like the perfect time to drop some predictions. 

Here is the talented crop of WWE superstars that we can totally see becoming champions in the near (and even far-flung!) future.

1. WWE Championship: Gable Steveson
WWE

Vince McMahon and all the suits in WWE are setting up Gable Steveson for greatness. Once we learned that he was drafted to Raw without having to step foot in WWE’s developmental system, that aforementioned statement became clear. Gable is a legit athlete whose credentials are as follows – he’s a Dan Hodge Trophy winner, the reigning NCAA Division I National Champion, a two-time Big Ten Conference champion (three-time finalist), and a two-time All-American out of the University of Minnesota. We can envision a future where Gable realizes his full potential and morphs into this generation’s Kurt Angle. With the WWE machine behind him and his already impressive skill set in mind, we just know Gable has a WWE Championship reign in his future. Brock Lesnar vs. Gable for the strap at WrestleMania 39 in 2023 sounds like the perfect coronation moment to us!

2. WWE Universal Championship: Ridge Holland
WWE

Roman Reigns has been unstoppable as the reigning, defending WWE Universal Champion. The “Tribal Chief” evokes memories of champions from the 80s and 90s that held championships for months on end. Thanks to the 2021 WWE Draft, we now have a long list of fresh challengers for Roman to clash with. One of the most intriguing draft picks that we think we’ll be built up enough to knock Roman off the mountain is NXT 2.0’s former UK brawler, Ridge Holland. Ridge is a powerhouse with the body build and intimidating stature Vince loves so much. Even though he’ll most likely begin his time on SmackDown as a heel, we think he’ll eventually transition into a babyface role and morph into a huge star for the brand in 2022. And at some point, Ridge will get enough steam behind him to relinquish Roman of his most prized possession.

3. WWE United States Championship: Keith Lee
WWE

Keith “Bearcat” Lee is getting built back up into the domineering behemoth we missed during his health scare-related absence. As one of the best big men on Raw, everyone has been keeping their eyes on him as a top prospect that has numerous championship wins in his bright future. At some point, he’ll get his hands on either the WWE or Universal Championship. But we think it’s going to be a while before he gets his massive hands around one of those top prizes.

This is why our gut is telling us his first title win on the main show will be the United States Championship. Damian Priest is getting the push of a lifetime as the current US Champion, which is amazing to witness since we adored him so much during his NXT run. Once WWE finally revisits the incredible series of matches Keith and Damian competed in by replicating them on Raw, greatness will ensure all over again. And Keith will emerge victorious from that feud as the all-powerful US Champion.

4. WWE Intercontinental Championship: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
WWE

One of the most shocking draft picks resulted in NXT 2.0’s Hit Row making their way over to SmackDown in full. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott is the leader of this stable and runs with the trio of Ashante “Thee” Adonis, Top Dolla, and B-Fab. Isaiah now competes on a show that’s jam-packed with some quality midcard talent, such as Ricochet, Cesaro, Sheamus, etc. Shinsuke Nakamura currently has the Intercontinental Championship within his grasp and has been enjoying a solid reign with Rick Boogs by his side. Isaiah is a top prospect now that’s on the main roster, plus he has a bigger group of allies by his side. With all those great attributes in his favor, we can totally envision him being the one to defeat Shinsuke and inject some exciting new blood into the midcard scene as the new IC Champion.

5. WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Piper Niven
WWE

Okay, so first thing’s first – “Doudrop” is a terrible gimmick name and we refuse to call Piper Niven that. Secondly, we’re ecstatic now that she’s no longer tied to Eva Marie and is making waves as a solo competitor. During her lengthy tenure on the NXT UK roster, Piper competed against the very best and solidified herself as one of the best women’s wrestlers on the scene today. The Raw women’s roster is pretty strong right now thanks to the fresh presence of Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, Mia Yim, and Tegan Nox. The competition sure is strong for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship, that’s for sure. At some point, Piper will get a run with the title and emerge as one of the most likable babyfaces on the main roster. The thought of Piper putting on classic matches with all the ladies we mentioned earlier fills us with glee!

6. WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler
WWE

Things weren’t looking too good for Shayna Baszler during her tag team tenure alongside Nia Jax. She found herself competing in the sorts of matches that were usually below average, plus she got caught up in a corny feud with Alexa Bliss. But someone in the back rewatched Shayna’s NXT reign of terror and realized “hey, let’s go back to that!” Now she’s back to destroying limbs and not looking remorseful about any of it. She’s been switched from the Raw brand to SmackDown, which means she has a whole new lineup of ladies to torture. Sooner or later, she’s going to get her hands on the SmackDown Women’s Championship and give us a replay of her dominant run in NXT. Here’s hoping she wins the first-ever Queen’s Crown tournament!

7. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: Alpha Academy
WWE

Before the draft took place, we got a teaser of The Usos’ next championship feud. Chad Gable and Otis, otherwise known as the Alpha Academy, stepped to them backstage and made their intentions clear. Sadly, we won’t be getting to see that clash unfold now that Chad and Otis have been moved over to Monday Nights. Currently, the Raw tag division is ruled by RK-Bro. The rest of the pack includes AJ Styles & Omos, Rey & Dominik Mysterio, The Street Profits, The Dirty Dawgs, and Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander. Out of all those duos, Alpha Academy has the most potential and the perfect team to overcome the power of friendship between Randy Orton & Riddle. They’re the perfect combination of speed and power. And they’re overdue for their first tag team title reign.

8. WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Viking Raiders
WWE

Man, WWE sure knows how to kill a good thing while it’s going strong! In a move that left us completely befuddled, they broke up the enjoyable tandem of Mustafa Ali and Mansoor before they even got a chance to sniff the tag team scene on Friday Nights. Now we’re down one tag team on SmackDown post-draft, which is really disheartening. The Usos are fine mainstay tag team champs over on the Blue Brand, but it’s looking like they’ll have to contend with a powerhouse duo that we feel could topple them.

And that duo is none other than Erik and Ivar, who’s otherwise known as The Viking Raiders. They’re the only team that poses a serious threat to Jimmy and Jey Uso. Before 2021 comes to a close, we fully expect The Viking Raiders to knock off The Usos and enjoy a solid title run into the new year. With a new lease on life, Erik and Ivar have a shot at making big things happen on their new home brand.

9. WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: Liv Morgan and Toni Storm
WWE

The Queen’s Crown tourney kicked off on a very…lackluster note, to say the least. Two of the women everyone expected to go far got beat in a combined amount of time that’s not even enough for your average Kickoff Show match. Liv Morgan and Toni Storm deserve so much better than what they’ve been given lately. And an easy fix for their horrid treatment by WWE is by letting them run with the Women’s Tag Team Champions. The women’s tag team division got decimated by the draft – SmackDown’s main women’s duo of Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox is no more. This just leaves the random pairing of Morgan and Storm to get their hands on the belts at some point. Anything’s better than Rhea Ripley and Nikki A.S.H. if you ask us!

10. WWE 24/7 Championship: Veer
WWE

We’re going to match the random energy the 24/7 Championship division has had from the jump and pick a future holder of the belt out of thin air. *looks at the entirety of the Raw roster* VEER! Yeah, him. Alright, let’s move on…

11. NXT Championship: Bron Breakker
WWE

If you’ve been keeping up with the NXT 2.0 relaunch since its debut, then you already know who’s been getting primed for the developmental brand’s top spot. And that’s none other than Rick Steiner’s son (who sounds just like his uncle Scott Steiner when he cuts a promo, funny enough!), Bron Breakker. For someone that’s never done a whole lot of wrestling on the indie scene before he got signed to WWE, Bron always looks great whenever he’s in the ring. Ever since viewers have been introduced to the blue-chipper, he’s been presented as NXT Champion Tomasso Ciampa’s next challenger and the one who’s eventually going to topple him. If Bron doesn’t capture the NXT Championship at Halloween Havoc, then consider us shocked. Even if he doesn’t win it then, we see him capturing the belt before 2021 comes to a close. 

12. NXT North American Championship: Kyle O’Reilly
WWE

One of the best midcard title scenes within the modern-day WWE landscape is attached to the NXT North American Championship. From the inaugural titleholder Adam Cole right up until its current wielder Carmelo Hayes, NXT diehards have been treated to a wealth of legit superstars competing for and winning it during hotly contested matches. NXT 2.0’s mixture of past indie greats and developmental newbies has produced a roster full of superstars that could make a good run for the North American strap.

We get the feeling that Kyle O’Reilly will be the one to step up to Hayes in the near future and make a winning attempt at claiming his first singles gold in the company. Kyle just strikes us as the sort of talent that can further improve the midcard division through his matches with a host of title contenders. Think John Cena’s United States Championship Open Challenge – Kyle has the tools needed to win the North American title and hold it for a lot longer than many expect as a workhorse champion.

13. NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Trey Baxter
WWE

Let’s be quite honest here, folks – the glory days of the Cruiserweight Classic are far behind us. And the greatness of former champs such as Neville, Buddy Murphy, and Cedric Alexander may not come back as strong with future titleholders. But at least we can be comfortable knowing that many of NXT 2.0’s stars have it in them to continue the longstanding legacy of the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.

Do you know who we can’t wait to see capture that belt? The criminally slept on Trey Baxter. He looked great during his NXT Breakout Tournament showing and has done some great work on NXT & 205 Live ever since. We envision him winning the title in a shocker of a match that no one will expect him to win. And once he finally runs wild with the Cruiserweight Championship, he’s going to raise his stock even further and open a lot of eyes to his maximized potential.

14. NXT Women’s Championship: Kay Lee Ray
WWE

Kay Lee Ray turned heads during her extended NXT UK run. The “Scary Queen of Scots” turned doubters into believers thanks to her eventful NXT UK Women’s Championship run. Her title defenses with Jinny, Piper Niven, and Toni Storm painted her as one of the NXT UK’s brands most impressive competitors. NXT 2.0 is Kay’s new home for the time being, which means we’re going to see her work the same magic she did with the women’s title in NXT UK in its American counterpart. Mandy Rose is clearly being built up to take a stab at beating current NXT Women’s Champion Raquel Gonzalez. But we think she’ll fail in her attempt, which will make way for Kay to rise up the ranks and eventually topple the powerhouse titleholder. 

15. NXT Tag Team Championship: Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen
WWE

NXT 2.0’s barroom brawling duo of Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen gives off serious Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch mixed with APA vibes. And from what we’ve seen of their work thus far, we’ve been nothing short of thrilled. We’ve already prepared ourselves for much of the new blood stepping over the old blood of the NXT tag team division for future title reigns. The odds of Grizzled Young Veterans and Imperium winning the NXT Tag Team Championship are extremely low, in our eyes. Right now, the brand new faces of the division will reign supreme for the foreseeable future. The first fresh duo for the NXT 2.0 era that will capture the NXT Tag Team titles first has to be Josh and Brooks.

16. NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship: Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro
WWE

Io Shirai and Zoey Stark have been halfway decent NXT Women’s Tag Team titleholders since capturing them from The Way. Since the NXT 2.0 relaunch, we’ve been treated to one title defense from the strange bedfellows. And it was a successful one against the up-and-coming duo of Toxic Attraction (Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne). Since they’ve knocked off the map for a bit, we think they won’t be getting their hands on the women’s tag team straps anytime soon. This is why we think the ongoing partnership between Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro is going to be adorned with tag team gold out of nowhere. And we think it’ll most likely come from a miscommunication from Io and Zoey that’ll lead to a shocker of a win from Kayden and Kacy.

17. NXT UK Championship: Rampage Brown
WWE

Walter’s reign of complete dominance as the NXT UK Champion came to a definitive close at the hands of Ilja Dragunov at NXT TakeOver 36. And based on the epic length of Walter’s run, we just know Ilja’s run with the strap will go on for an equally long time. When we take a look at the landscape of NXT UK, some of the top contenders for the top prize in our eyes are Dave Mastiff, Joe Coffey, and Rampage Brown.

We’re going to go out on a limb here and go with the master of the “Doctor Bomb” himself. His impressive stature, power-based arsenal, and past clashes with NXT UK’s best have set him up as a must-see prospect for the NXT UK Championship. At some point in the next two or three years, Rampage will finally climb to the top of the mountain and best Ilja for NXT UK’s top prize.

18. NXT UK Heritage Cup: Walter
WWE

Walter’s gone ghost ever since relinquishing the NXT UK Championship to Ilja. We’d love to see the Austrian juggernaut go to the main roster and provide Big E or Roman Reigns with a worthy challenge. But we’ve heard through the grapevine that Walter has no desire to stay in the States as a member of the WWE main roster. So once he makes his return, we feel like it’ll be in his home brand of NXT UK. And when he steps back into the ring, it’s more likely that he’ll switch his focus to the NXT UK’s midcard championship glory.

Thus far, we’ve been treated to two champions – A-Kid and Tyler Bate. Walter needs a new challenge to confront and it’s clearly going to be the NXT UK Heritage Cup. And we’re betting he’ll get his hands on NXT UK’s grand trophy on his very first try after a hard-fought encounter with one-half of Moustache Mountain. Walter as the new NXT UK Heritage Cup holder means he’s not going to drop it for a very long time. And we’re totally open to watching that reign from start to finish.

19. NXT UK Tag Team Championship: Trent Seven and Tyler Bate
WWE

Our previous prediction leads right into this next one. When Tyler inevitably drops his status as the NXT UK Heritage Cup champion, the odds of him teaming back up with Trent Seven to capture tag team gold will skyrocket. It’s hard to believe that Moustache Mountain has never enjoyed a single reign with the NXT UK Tag Team titles all this time. We love us some British Ambition (Adrian Neville and Oliver Grey). But we’d definitely prefer Trent Seven and Tyler reuniting to get their hands on the tag team straps for just one good time in NXT UK. They did some amazing work during their all too short NXT Tag Team Championship run, so we just know they’d enjoy one of the best modern-day tag team reigns in WWE when they get their hands on the NXT UK Tag Team Championship.

20. NXT UK Women’s Championship: Aoife Valkyrie
WWE

Aoife Valkyrie is a relatively fresh face when it comes to the rest of NXT UK’s ladies contingent. She made her debut for the brand in 2020 and nabbed some major victories over Amale, Isla Dawn, and Jinny. Even though she’s already failed in her first attempt at defeating the NXT UK Women’s Champion Meiko Satomura, that doesn’t mean she can’t prevail in her next attempt. We believe in Aoife due to her legitimacy as a serious threat that can capture the women’s strap at any time. With the right storyline build, she has the best chance at getting her hands on the NXT UK Women’s title and birthing a new era of supremacy.

Categories
Gaming Interviews

Draynilla Goes ‘Inside The Screen’ With Aaron “Don” Dukes

This week’s Inside The Screen, hosted by Aaron “Don” Dukes, features special guest Draynilla. Draynilla is a prominent Apex Legends player and content creator whose electric personality garners plenty of laughs and positive vibes. The first-person shooter genre lies at the heart of his passion for gaming/streaming, plus he also makes sure to keep everyone’s Twitter timelines peppered with hilarity thanks to his outlandish thoughts. Draynilla chopped it up with Aaron about everything from good shower habits to focusing on one’s goals and not comparing oneself to everyone else’s accomplishments.

Draynilla leaves his mark on the gaming sphere through his full-time Twitch streaming gig. And as a member of SoaR Gaming, his lively Apex Legends content is regularly showcased on an even larger scale. Thanks to his father and his love for gaming, Draynilla grew to appreciate it as much as him during his early days running and gunning on the Xbox 360. When Aaron speaks highly of his “demonic” Apex Legends skills and being surprised that he’s not a competitive player, Draynilla speaks on not being all that interested in going pro – “I sometimes think that maybe I could compete or do something like that, but to me, it’s just boring. I just like to run around in pubs (public games) and have fun. Just shoot people and game instead of trying to strategize, pick a position, hold it down, and sit here & shoot people as they come in. I like watching it, but for me I personally just like running around and having fun.”

Even before Draynilla’s passions for FPS games took shape, he became enamored with the Sega Genesis and its mascot Sonic the Hedgehog. Draynilla reminisced about his 16-bit glory days in full – “dude, I’d play like Sonic. I’d play like Judge Dredd.” And when the topic of grinding hard at games came up, Draynilla showed even more love to the “Blue Blur” – Sonic Adventure 2, bro! You remember that one where you’d like, grind the Chao’s and stuff like that? It was on the GameCube. I’d also play Super Smash Bros., too. Then I switched to Xbox 360 and started playing Halo. And that was the first game I really grinded. I used to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, too.” Back in the day, Draynilla was a traditional controller player. But now, he lights up the Apex Legends leaderboards through his expert mouse and keyboard skills.

When Aaron brings up one of Draynilla’s past tweets that tells his followers to stop comparing themselves to everyone else’s victories, Draynilla breaks it down from a content creator perspective – “Just be the best you. If you keep comparing yourself to people around you, you’re never going to appreciate what you actually do have. Just keep working on what works for you and brings you happiness rather than just focusing on what the other person brings and what works for them. Focus on what you got going for you. And if you can improve that every single day, you’ll be one percent better every day and just keep going.” A simple and concise statement such as that one should provide all the inspirational talk one needs to keep upgrading oneself at a steady pace.

Be sure to check out the rest of Aaron and Draynilla’s inspiring and hilarious conversation on the latest episode of Inside the Screen. You’re definitely going to want to watch as Draynilla reacts to his past tweets and reflects on one in particular that came to fruition in the form of a new Tesla.

Categories
Consoles Gaming

ONE37pm’s Official ‘Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles’ Review

Japanese development studio CyberConnect2 has mastered the art of the anime arena fighting game.

Once it stepped into the ninjitsu-filled world of Naruto, it churned out some of the best games based on the hit manga/anime via the Ultimate Ninja Storm series. After bringing that series of games to an end with the fourth installment and its accompanying DLC, CyberConnect2 turned its attention to other titles based on popular anime properties, such as .hack//G.U. Last Recode and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Thankfully, the studio has returned to the anime fighter realm to adapt the story being told thus far by Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. If you enjoyed the Ultimate Ninja Storm games and have been on the lookout for a similar experience, then The Hinokami Chronicles will quickly become your next go-to favorite.

From a purely visual standpoint, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles looks incredible in motion. The anime itself is already a feast for the eyes – somehow, someway, CyberConnect2 managed to perfectly replicate the show’s striking art style. Everything from the cinematics right on up to the awe-inspiring Ultimate Art finishes exploding off the screen due to their beautifully animated flair. The audio is just as strong – the English dub, sounds of swords clashing, and signature style of music lifted from the show all sound amazing. The one blemish you’ll quickly notice is instances where the spoken dialogue doesn’t quite match up with the characters’ lips as they speak on screen. While it’s a rare occurrence, it’s still hard to ignore and just sweep under the rug.

The Hinokami Chronicles’ main source of gameplay is derived from its story mode, which follows series protagonist Tanjiro Kamado’s origin as a demon slayer right up until his “Mugen Train” adventure. Just like the Ultimate Ninja Storm Game’s story mode structure, players witness the retelling of the anime’s most impactful moments through extended cinematics. The fun really begins when you get to hop into battle and play out the most epic clashes fans still look back on fondly. If you’ve kept up with the anime, then your mileage may vary when it comes to the game’s main campaign – fans who are open to replaying everything they’ve watched thus far will enjoy their playthrough as they navigate linear locales, relive memorable events, and engage in epic quick-time events. But for those Demon Slayer fanatics who’d rather play a wholly original storyline made specifically for this game instead of covering the events from the show, they’ll be disappointed. Just know that you’ll mostly be playing through a series of events that are already familiar to you. Thankfully, the fun factor during that campaign is quite high.

Sega

When it comes time to do battle, The Hinokami Chronicles shows its best hand. Yes, the control scheme is simplistic as expected – CyberConnect2 lifted its gameplan from the Ultimate Ninja Storm playbook, which should come as no surprise. Even with that simple approach to combat, the game’s fights are still entertaining thanks to a mix of character assists, parrying, normal/special move links, etc.

Another cool aspect tied to combat is the ability to boost your character’s strength for a limited amount of time – an extra layer of strategy is added to each skirmish as you decide to boost a second time to enter Surge mode or spend your special gauge on unleashing a super flashy Ultimate Art. Calling on your secondary character to either extend a combo via their attack, save you from further harm, or tag them in altogether also adds some more fun mechanics to The Hinokami Chronicles’ heated clashes. Anyone who’s spent some time with an Ultimate Ninja Storm game will be familiar with everything that’s on offer here. And for those who’ve never explored those quality Naruto games before, they’ll get a nice bit of casual enjoyment out of the fast-paced battle The Hinokami Chronicles has to offer.

The rest of the content suite for this anime brawler is a bit lacking, sadly. Besides the main story mode and offline/online versus modes, there isn’t a whole lot to stay busy with. Watching additional cutscenes, completing assorted training mode clashes, and spending all the Kimetsu Points you earn over time on rewards are fine and all. But most players will be left feeling unsatisfied with the game’s lack of additional playable content. The presence of character customization and a more open exploration mode on par with Ultimate Ninja Storm 4’s Adventure Mode that includes fresh story threads could have done a lot more to make this game more replayable. Plus the lack of playable demons at launch is also a huge letdown. However, the future arrival of those extra characters as free DLC updates will remedy that glaring issue. Here’s hoping the inevitable sequel goes above and beyond to give players more modes and Demon Slayers to stay busy with.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles is an above-average attempt at replicating the grand tale told by the manga/anime – it excels thanks to gorgeous graphics, incredibly fun battles, and a quality retelling of the events fans have witnessed thus far. However, the game is held back from true greatness due to a lack of additional meaningful content and some spotty lip-synching from time to time. All in all, The Hinokami Chronicles is a solid anime arena fighter that diehard fans will still derive a good amount of enjoyment from.

Categories
Events/Tournaments Gaming

HyperX Reps Rising Content Creators With ‘Queued Up’ Initiative

HyperX is recognized as one of the top gaming peripheral makers in the world and a major force within the esports arena.

The company’s applaud-worthy success (they recently announced total lifetime sales of 20 million headsets sold!) and commendable community efforts present them as an entity worth championing. Another awesome effort HyperX indulges in is its partnerships with popular content creators, such as herculyse, TimTheTatman, and LoochyTV. Now, HyperX is readying a brand new initiative that’s looking to highlight up-and-coming content creators within the gaming, music, artist, etc. spheres.

Starting this year, HyperX will kick off its annual “Queued Up” showcase by showing a ton of love to a new class of creatives through its many social media channels. From this point forward, the Queued Up campaign will focus on a class of five content creators on an annual basis. Each of those five picks will get the ultimate “HyperX Heroes” treatment and also get the opportunity to collaborate with select members from that special group. Alongside that massive networking juncture, those five creators will get a complete gaming room setup revamp that will come with a slew of HyperX products. And finally, each chosen creator will walk away with a six-month paid contract as a brand new HyperX Ambassador.

The inaugural HyperX Queued Up roster of 20 individuals has already been chosen via an internal selection process by an inner committee – the finalists have also been voted on by the HyperX community at large. Now fans have the opportunity to vote online from October 12-22 to determine the highest-ranking finalists for the 2021 Queued Up class (think of it along the lines of the XXL Freshman Class).

The 20 creators fans can vote for are as follows: Lucrity, Kohlive, MicawaveTV, Asivrs, Cahlaflour, emijuju, Tuonto, Elix, SenseiCJ, BearDaBeast23, Rhett, Yoojin, Ludilue, Draynilla, Iough, AshleyRoboto, Samora, Jordielocks, ToriPareno, and Krystalogy.

Once October 30 finally rolls around, the top five picks will be announced during a livestream event that will emanate from the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas. The 2021 Queued Up class and a collective of HyperX talents will be showcased during that livestream as they hop into their favorite games and generally vibe with each other & the viewers.

Stephanie Winkler, director of marketing for HyperX, is super excited about this brand new company-wide enterprise. “We continue to be amazed by the rising number of content creators and we want to highlight and celebrate their talent with our new annual Queued Up showcase,” she stated. “By providing helpful resources and an avenue to elevate and empower dedicated content creators, HyperX is focused on helping the next generation of talent grow and scale their brand.”