Triple Threat Review: Absolver, Descenders, Tiltagon

It’s back! New! Improved! Well not really, it’s pretty much the same.

You can check out my older reviews here, but for those of you who don’t know, over the past few years I’ve accumulated a lot of games on my Steam account that I’ve never even heard of thanks to Humble Bundles and giveaways and such like and I’m terrible at getting around to playing any of them, so they just keep building up.

So, I came up with a solution, where every fortnight I would pick 3 of these games at random and play them for an hour or two until I felt I’d got a good idea of how the games play, then I write a review for each of them. I also score the games, but I don’t use the traditional system of ranking games out of 10 or 100, instead, I rank them out of 3.

A 1 means that I didn’t like the game and don’t recommend it; A 2 means I thought the game was ok and I would recommend it if it looked like your thing and finally a 3 means I thought the game was great and definitely recommend it. Maybe one day I’ll find a game so bad I want to give it a zero, but that hasn’t happened yet.

So now we’ve got the concept down, let’s get to the games.

Absolver

Developer: Sloclap
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Released: 29th August 2017
Steam Reviews: Mixed
Price: £24.99/$29.99/€29.99

Absolver is quite an interesting game which seems to draw inspiration from many places. It’s a game focusing all on hand to hand martial arts combat, with systems that allow you to customise your moveset and an RPG like progression system.

The combat at the base level is pretty fun, I didn’t get too heavily into customising my movesets, but I experimented a bit and found some success with what I came across. Each strike both for and against you feels very weighty, and the blocking and parry systems create a great feel for every combat encounter. Every fight feels like a proper challenge, and the visual and sound design of the combat system, along with the meat of it, means that no two fights feel the same.

I also quite like the way the game takes you through its early stages, it takes you through one linear level during the tutorial and then throws you into a sprawling world with various branches that you can go through in any order you like. It’s quite sudden and a tad confusing at first, but once you get your barings, it’s quite a nice world to explore.

It’s also at this point in the game that you realise it’s an online game, which is good and bad. The good thing is the world feels a bit more lively, even though you don’t see many people, the realisation that you’re not on your own can add to the experience a little bit. The main problem I have is the that the online isn’t optional, which would be fine except for the fact that, more people there are in an area, the more enemies spawn in packs, including the mini-boss fights. I understand it from a balance perspective and it encourages co-operation between players, unfortunately some of these areas can be rather big and in my experience it was quite hard to get anyone to help you out, you instead had to stand just outside the boss arena and wait for someone else to come along, otherwise you’re going up against 3 tough enemies on your own and it’s damn near impossible when you’re new at the game.

This brings me to the biggest issue I had with the game – a problem I have with a lot of Soulslike games – is that it’s extremely unfriendly to new players. The learning curve in this game gets extremely steep very fast to the point where after lucking my way through the first mini-boss fight because someone else showed up to help me at the last second, I could barely touch the second. The game gives you the barest explanations of how it’s systems works and then just shoves you into the world to work it out.

Doing that to some extent is fine, I wouldn’t want a game that holds my hand the entire time either, but there’s got to be some middle ground that doesn’t leave me frustrated because I feel like I haven’t been taught enough to face the challenges in front of me. Even Dark Souls holds your hand a little more than this and that’s mostly thanks to its pretty linear path, which is something I think this game could’ve benefitted more from.

If you’re looking for a game that you can really sink your teeth into and are prepared for a challenge, then you’ll probably get loads of out of this, but if you’re looking for a more casual experience, then you’re not going to have a nice time in this one.

Score: 2/3 – OK

Descenders

Developer: Rage Squid
Publisher: No More Robots
Released: 7th May 2019
Steam Reviews: Very Positive
Price: £19.49/$24.99/€22.99

So, as anyone who checks my Steam account will know, I’m cheating the rules ever so slightly with this one, as I’ve actually played Descenders for over 400 hours. However, it came out of early access recently and it’s not getting nearly as much attention as it deserves, so here I am.

Descenders is a game where you ride your bike downhill through increasingly extreme environments, and you can do all of the tricks you’d expect from a biking game such as this. That’s the whole game.

When I first picked up Descenders, I really thought it would be one of those games that I play on and off for about a week and then completely forget about it, but I never did. Instead, it became my game to play when I don’t feel like playing anything, to the point where I play it for around an hour almost daily. So what keeps pulling me back into it and avoid boredom?

Well first of all, this game was made by the same people who developed Action Henk, which was a game based all around momentum and timing, trying to nail jumps and tricks at the perfect moment to get through the level as fast as possible and it’s safe to say that the philosophy of Action Henk very much carried over to Descenders. The feeling of speed and momentum as you speed down the extreme hills that this game presents to you is so satisfying to play. As I fling myself off the end of a ramp at a speed that is clearly way too fast, it gets this pure sense of joy out of me that I find almost addictive in how much fun it is.

There’s also a suitable level of challenge since in every run of the game you start of with 4 lives if you come off your bike you lose one, and you can gain more by completing bonus objectives (such as doing certain tricks or completing the level quickly etc). This means that if you’re looking for more of a challenge then this game has you covered, but at the same time, if you just want to ride casually, then there are modes for that too.

Each of the 9 environments that the game gives you provide a very different style of play, but it’s very subtle. If you go into each environment with the same mentality you’ll find yourself burning through your lives very quickly. To use the standard career environments as an example: In Highlands you can pretty much just go at your own pace, cutting across the fields of grass with little risk of disaster; Then you move into Forest, with lots of tight corners and precise tricks and obstacles, you go off the track you’ll quickly find yourself wrapped around the tree, so you have to focus on the precision of your riding; Following that is Canyon, which is a bit of a mix of the first two environments, it’s got some very fun, wide-open paths to roll down, and if you go off the path, you’ll find some very fun challenges come your way that you can just about manage if you’re skillful enough; Finally there is Peaks, with very step paths and long drops if you come off, this environment is about finding the balance between careful riding, and the speed required to send you flying over the most over the top tricks in the game.

Descenders really fit into that niche for me of what a good casual game should be, in that it lets people of any skill level do reasonably well at it while allowing those people who are really good at it to do incredibly skilful things. You don’t have to dig very far to find video clips of people doing some insane tricks that someone of my skill level could never even dream off pulling off.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a game to occupy a bit of your time every now and then, this will be a great game for you and if you’re looking for a game that you can really sink your teeth into and hone your skills to become a master, then you’ll be very satisfied with what Descenders can offer as well.

Score: 3/3 – Great

Tilatgon

Developer & Publisher: Kiemura Ltd
Released: 29th March 2016
Steam Reviews: Positive
Price: £1.99/$2.99/€2.99

When it comes to cheap games on Steam, the one genre that is almost entirely contained within it is the Reflex game. A genre mastered by games like One Finger Death Punch and Super Hexagon, that style of easy to learn, impossible to master is one that I find very enthralling and I love to see so many different game’s take on it.

Tiltagon’s gimmick is rolling a ball around on a variety of different hexagons, that contain various obstacles for you to overcome as you roll around each level. As I’ve mentioned before in this series, I judge these games on three main factors: Movement, Difficulty curve and Death. So let’s jump right into them.

First up is movement, which in Tiltagon is very strange and I’m honestly not entirely sure how it works. The name of the game implies that you move Super Monkey Ball style by tilting the level and dealing with the momentum of the ball and that also appears to be what visually happens when you move your controller around, as the level will tilt slightly in the direction you’re rolling the ball. However, as I was experimenting with the controls, it seems like the tilting of the level is purely visual, and you actually control the rolling of the ball directly with the analogue stick.

Personally, I think it’s to the game’s benefit that you control the ball directly given some of the platforms you’re faced with, however, the tilting can create this weird disconnect between what you expect the ball to do and what it actually does, which can take a little bit of getting used to. That said, once you do get use to it, I think the movement is very smooth and I had fun rolling around the levels.

Next up is the difficulty curve and this one’s a little difficult to tackle given with how this game presents itself. There are set levels, 10 of them and from as far as I got (level 5) before getting stuck, it seemed to progress very well. Each level provided you with one or two new obstacles to throw at you, and every level after that mixes all of the mechanics together in a really nice way to create a good challenge.

There are slanted hexes, moving hexes, hexes with holes in the middle, blocks and sweepers that spin around to knock you off and every combination thereof are just a handful of the obstacles I came across during my time with the game. There’s a nice variety in what’s being thrown at you, so no section in each level feels the same and they’re plotted out in such a way that makes for a well-scaled challenge, instead of just feeling randomly plonked down.

The other mode in the game (and seemingly the main one the game is centred around) is the endless mode. Where hexes will generate one at a time and you have to grab a cube somewhere on each hex to generate the next one. I found this mode is a lot faster paced than the levels and that’s generally to it’s benefit. This game seems to be at it’s best when it’s forcing you to take risks and play just a little bit faster than you’re comfortable with.

Finally, death. Death in this game is pretty standard for the genre, the death animation doesn’t take very long and restarts are pretty much instant, which is great to avoid frustration. For the most part, it felt like every death was my fault too, although there were a couple instances where I could’ve sworn I pushed the stick in the opposite direction to where the ball went, those were quite rare, so I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

While not every death felt like a learning experience, I never got frustrated when I died, partly because I was having plenty of fun as it was, but also because it honestly never felt like the game was screwing me over. Everything’s perfectly completable, I just wasn’t good enough. This added to the satisfaction of finally completing levels.

Ultimately, Tiltagon is a good addition to the reflex genre and if you’re into that style of game then I’d definitely recommend picking it up, even if you’re not, it’s so cheap that it’s worth giving it a go and seeing if it can’t win you over.

Score: 3/3 – Great

That’s Triple Threat Review! Thank you very much for taking the time to read, I’d love to know what your thoughts are on this format either in comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Also, make sure you come back next weekend as I’ll be ranking every Wrestlemania of this decade!

WWE Summerslam 2019: Every Match Ranked

Summerslam is now in the books and as always it ended up being a surprisingly good show. Admittedly I don’t think this year was quite as good as it has been for the past couple, but I still think there was plenty to enjoy for your average wrestling fan on this show and there’s really only one match from last night that I would consider bad.

Let’s not waste any time and get right into it, as I rank every match from Summerslam 2019.

12 – Kofi Kingston(c) vs Randy Orton ended in a Double Count Out
(WWE Championship)

Going into this show, this was arguably the match I was the most excited for, so I’m not happy at all about how this one turned out.

I’ve never been a fan of Orton’s style of wrestling, in small doses I think it can work but that’s never what happens, instead, we always get a match like this. I don’t care how much you like the slower-paced matches, you cannot tell me 10 straight minutes of Orton standing around and occasionally hitting his opponent is fun to watch. Kofi got in a scatter of offence, and the last five minutes or so started to pick things up a bit, but it wasn’t nearly enough to drag it out of the boring ditch everything up until that point had got it into.

Then, just as it felt like things were starting to get exciting, the referee makes the fastest 10 counts I’ve ever seen in WWE and calls for the bell. Last year the WWE Championship match had a similar finish when Styles got himself DQ’ed against Samoa Joe, but the thing about that finish is it helped enhance the story of the feud, this didn’t enhance anything. Kofi “snapping” doesn’t feel like it means anything because Kofi’s frustrations had been a part of the match up until that point, so it seemed like it came out of nowhere with no real explanation.

Even if the match preceding the finish was good, I’m never going to be happy about using the WWE Championship match on the second biggest show of the year to set up another WWE Championship match between the same two guys a month later.

11 – Drew Gulak(c) def. Oney Lorcan
(Cruiserweight Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

I’ve got to say this was definitely up there on the disappointment factor.

The cruiserweights have been killing it on PPV’s this past year, even if they’re mostly confined to the pre-show and I really thought this match was going to be another example of just how brilliant they can be, unfortunately, that’s not really what we got.

Don’t get me wrong, the match certainly wasn’t bad, it just never felt like it got going at all. There were some nice little sequences where the two were exchanging strikes, but it lacked any kind of drama. I remember when Drew locked in the GuLock for the first time and thinking that there was no weight or meaning behind any of what was going on.

Like I said, it wasn’t a bad match, but it also wasn’t anything worth getting excited about.

10 – Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross(c) def. The IIconics
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)
(Kickoff Show)

Again, what really is there to say?

This is another kickoff show match that was perfectly fine and nothing more. While I’m a bit upset that The IIconics lost the titles on Monday, at least around Alexa Bliss’ waist they stand a chance of actually appearing on TV more than once a month and I certainly can’t complain about the titles getting defended, even if it is on the pre-show.

The match itself was your classic heel vs face tag team formula. The IIconics did everything in their power to wear Nikki Cross down and stop her making the tag until eventually, Alexa got the hot tag that was that. I’m interested to see what angle they take with Alexa as a character now, because her and Nikki were clearly positioned as the faces in this match, but Alexa didn’t change her demeanour very much at all; she didn’t do any of her normal gloatings, but she also wasn’t in the match for very long, so this will be an interesting one to watch develop.

9 – Buddy Murphey def. Apollo Crews via Disqualification
(Kickoff Show)

Woah! Buddy Murphey! I remember you.

After disappearing off the face of the Earth in April it’s nice to see Murphey getting to wrestle some matches for a change, even if this was mostly just a plot device for the Roman Reigns story.

Before the DQ we got a nice little match between these two guys where Murphey got a chance to get pretty much all of his major moves in, it worked as a showcase for the guy and hopefully means that we’ll be seeing more of him week-to-week on Smackdown going forward. Ultimately, I’m ok with this match ending in a DQ because it’s not like we really needed a clean finish between these guys and it likely means we’ll get to see a rematch on Tuesday, which I’m happy with.

It’s also quite strange that, outside of a video package, this is the only time the Roman Reigns storyline featured on the show, in fact, we didn’t see Roman Reigns in person at any point last night. It makes me wonder if anyone in creative actually has any idea what the plan is for this story, or if Vince keeps changing it every day.

8 – Bayley(c) def. Ember Moon
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

A good match that didn’t get anywhere near the time it needed.

For what it was, I enjoyed this match and I hope it’s not the last encounter between these two (although I think it probably will be). This was a match that was filled with plenty of simple, solid wrestling which was quite enjoyable to watch, but it didn’t have a chance to get into any sort of a higher gear thanks to only getting 10 minutes.

I’m happy that this at least gave Ember a featured role on a PPV and got Bayley a title defence where it actually felt like she mattered to the match. It’s also nice to see that they’re protecting the Eclipse as a finisher, although it’s not going to seem all that great if she never gets to pull it off in a big match. I also liked the Bayley-to-Belly from the top rope and it looked like Ember hit quite hard and that made for a nice finish. Unfortunately, I can’t put it any higher because it didn’t have a chance to really wow me.

7 – Charlotte Flair def. Trish Stratus

Time for some controversy.

From the general reactions I’ve got from social media, it seemed like a lot of people really liked this match, but in all honesty, I wasn’t all that into it. Trish could still go, of course, which meant that there was still a baseline of quality that this match hit, but I didn’t really get on board with the pacing.

I felt that too much of the match was spent with Charlotte heeling it up and tossing Trish around. For the first half/two-thirds of the match, Trish got in very little offence and it dragged the match down into a bit of bore to watch for a good 5-8 minutes in the middle. Once Trish started to get more offence in and the match became more back-and-forth I started to get back into it and by the time the finish rolled around I was enjoying myself, but a solid final act does not a good match make.

There was a bunch of stuff to like from this match, but for me, that good was just about outweighed by what the main bulk of the match was.

6 – Kevin Owens def. Shane Mcmahon
(If Owens lost, he would have to quit WWE)

I don’t think this story’s over just yet, I’m sad to say.

My views on this match are much the opposite of Trish vs Charlotte, in that there was a bunch of stuff in here that you could rightly call out for being crap and boring, but I think in this case the good outweighed it instead.

First of all, Shane’s a total idiot. If his plan was to rig the deck, instead of having Elias be “special guest enforcer”, have Elias simply come down to the ring, slap Shane right across the face and that’s it; Shane wins by DQ and Owens is forced to quit. That aside, the early stages of this match didn’t make Owens look particularly smart either since he kept getting distracted and tripped up (both literally and figuratively) by Elias on the outside.

However, once we moved past the early stages of the match, I really got into the action that played out. Elias being at ringside ended up taking a lot of the pressure off of Shane to carry the bulk of the match, which is definitely a good thing and the focus of the match seemed to be more on Owens than it was on Shane. Ultimately you could see the finish coming a mile away but the action that led up to it was good enough to ensure that I was enjoying myself while watching it.

5 – Goldberg def. Dolph Ziggler

So I normally put squash matches like this very low on the list unless they do something special and while the match itself didn’t do anything unique, the aftermath was entertaining enough to pull it up this high.

I think we all knew Dolph Ziggler would be the best at selling a Goldberg spear, but man did he go above and beyond what I was expecting from him, the dude got some serious air time, it looked fantastic, I considered putting this match at number 1 just for that in all honesty. Well, that and Ziggler calling Goldberg a “dipshit”. Other than that, this was exactly what you’re picturing in your head, but it was enjoyable to watch all the same.

4 – Becky Lynch(c)  def. Natalya
(Raw Women’s Championship)
(Submission)

Well, shut my mouth, if that wasn’t the best Natalya match I’ve ever seen.

I still had my gripes with it, such as Becky somehow being even worse at the Sharpshooter than Natalya; the fact that there’s no rope break in a submissions match now, even though that seems like the opposite of what the match should be about and of course the fact that the Sharpshooter HURTS THE BACK, not the legs which is something that everyone involved in this match seemed to totally forget.

In the grand scheme of things though, those are fairly minor complaints because there was plenty to enjoy when it came to this match. Sometimes two people just click in the ring and it really felt like Becky and Natalya had brilliant chemistry during this match. Natalya’s movements were smoother than ever, they got a good back and forth going with some quite nice looking mat wrestling spots to boot.

I know when to hold my hands up and say I was wrong, and this is definitely one of those times, I honestly hope we see more matches like this from Becky Lynch going forward.

3 – AJ Styles(c) def. Ricochet
(United States Championship)

This was always going to score highly now, wasn’t it?

The thing about this match is that there’s nothing new to say about it that hasn’t already been said about all of the other matches between these two because this was ultimately just more of the same. Luckily “the same” in question is great action between two great wrestlers so it’s hard to complain really.

My only worry about Ricochet losing is I’m not sure where he goes from here. I suppose they could drag this out another month but Ricochet’s likely to lose that match two and it’s got to the point where OC involvement is becoming a weak excuse for a loss. That said, I’m not sure who else there is that he could feud with right now that would both give him a featured spot on a PPV and a solid win to bolster him back up after these losses to Styles.

It’s Ricochet, so it’ll be great whatever he does, I’m just worried about whether or not it’s going to be on TV.

2 – “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt def. Finn Balor

Holy shit.

If we’re going purely on moments then The Fiend was far and away my favourite thing on the whole show. It’s been so long since we’ve seen something that feels this fresh and exciting in WWE and it’s really cool to see. There are so many little details in every facet of this performance that I could gush about for ages like the head-lamp, the lighting, the amazing remixed theme song and of course the nuances that Wyatt has brought to the character in the ring.

When The Fiend made its entrance and the lights came back up it felt like there was genuine tension and fear in the air, both from the audience and from Balor. Even the style of wrestling is something I can’t recall seeing before, the way he moves like both a man and an animal at once is so compelling to watch, not to mention the viciousness is something I’ve never seen before.

This is lightning in a bottle and if treated correctly, could become the biggest thing in all of wrestling, they really need to treat this properly.

1 – Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar(c)
(Universal Championship)

Oh, thank fuck for that.

I’ve been confident since Wrestlemania that this is where we were going to be come Summerslam and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t doubt that at several points over the last couple of months, but I’m very glad this turned out good. A 3 month long Baron Corbin feud dragged people’s opinion on Seth Rollins through the mud and given the injury angle going into this match I was very worried we were going to get a snoozefest here.

Thankful that’s not what we got, as instead, we got the best kind of Lesnar match, one where he’s actually vulnerable against a guy he should be able to swallow whole. This match echoed what made Lesnar’s matches against Styles and Bryan in recent years so brilliant and I’ll be damned if Seth Rollins didn’t win over nearly everyone in that arena during the course of the match. Seriously just listen to the chorus of boos when Seth makes his entrance, compared to the sea of cheers when Seth was holding the title high at the end of the match.

Hopefully, this is just the start in revitalising Seth Rollins, more matches like this against more great opponents and you’ve got a winning formula for the face of the company. For once I sit here at the end of a WWE PPV optimistic about how the coming weeks are going to play out, which is just one part of what made Summerslam such a great show.

So there are my thoughts! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this review, feel free to let me know what you thought of Summerslam either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Join me later this week as we go back to the gaming sphere for the return of Triple Threat Reviews!

NXT Takeover: Toronto 2019: Every Match Ranked

I feel like we say this every time an NXT Takeover show has finished but holy crap what a show!

As usual, this show did not fail to deliver the goods when it came to its action and once again I came away from it feeling incredibly satisfied and a bit blown away by the fantastic wrestling that was gifted to us last night. Although the show as a whole isn’t in the running for best Takeover ever unlike seemingly the rest of them from this year are, there were still some matches in here which I’d rank among the best to ever take place on a Takeover. Not to mention, even a sub-par Takeover would still be better than most wrestling shows on the planet.

Still, among this heavy competition which matches rose to the top? Let’s discuss it as I rank every match from NXT Takeover: Toronto 2019.

5 – Shayna Baszler(c) def. Mia Yim
(NXT Women’s Championship)

When a match like this happens of a Takeover it’s always a bit difficult to talk about because as much as this match was still great, it wasn’t quite up to the very high standard we’ve come to expect from these shows.

That said, similar to Bianca Belair’s match against Baszler, this was a great showcase for Mia Yim. While I’d been enjoying her work on NXT TV, it wasn’t until now that I felt like I had a good sense of who she was as a wrestler. Baszler did what Baszler does best for a big chunk of this match – being domineering and mean spirited – but for the first time in her title matches, it seemed like there was extra emphasis on Baslzer showing weakness.

After some great moments where Yim took a couple of cheap shots and gave Baszler a taste of her own medicine, Baszler did a brilliant job of playing the victim for a bit. In the end it served both characters well, it showed us that Mia Yim isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and isn’t going to try and be a pure face if it gets in the way of her goals, while to the contrary it grew the sense of intelligence and strategic mastery of Shayna Baszler, with her taking no time at all to realise her injured arm made the Kirifuda Clutch impractical and seamlessly switched to a brutal looking leg choke.

This might not quite have been as good as we were hoping but it was still a brilliant showcase for Mia Yim and laid the groundwork to further this feud going into the autumn.

4 – The Street Profits(c) def. The Undisputed Era
(NXT Tag Team Championship)

NXT Tag Title matches seem to be the perfect show openers.

Seeing The Street Profits spouting bollocks every week on Raw this past month or so almost made me forget that they’re brilliant wrestlers as well. This matchup was a great contrast of styles between Profits and UE and it made for some great phases in the action as O’Reilly and Fish tried desperately to stop Dawkins and Ford from gaining any kind of momentum, although it was ultimately futile.

As always, this match reached it’s peak once things descended in chaos and everyone started flinging themselves about everywhere. Almost all of the action in the second half of this match perfectly incorporated all four guys in order to create some really fun sequences. I really wasn’t expecting The Street Profits to win, but ultimately I think it’s the right decision, partly because they had much more to lose if they dropped the titles and also it means we won’t be losing them from NXT anytime soon, which is always the best.

3 – Io Shirai def. Candice LeRae

First off, can we just take a second to appreciate how AMAZING Io looked last night?

Admittedly, I wasn’t into this match early on, but around the halfway mark things really picked up. I’m a little salty about the reports saying that the original plan for this match was Io vs Kairi, but that doesn’t take away from how great this match ended up being. I’ve not been over familiar with Candice as a wrestler until now but I can most certainly say I was impressed by this performance.

By the same token, even though I’ve never seen Io’s work as a heel before she joined NXT, it’s obvious from her performance here that she’s an absolute natural at it. One of my main criticisms about Io so far in NXT was her general lack of a persona, but all of those complaints have been totally washed away with this match because everything she did was dripping in personality.

In addition to that, you throw on a match with a lot of fast-paced and impressive looking action (including one of the best looking top rope Spanish Flys I’ve ever seen) and a couple of shocking kick-outs from Candice and this was a brilliant way to get people behind both characters going forward.

2 – Velveteen Dream(c) def. Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong
(North American Championship)

I swear, any other show this would’ve been number 1.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a triple threat match on a Takeover and it’s generally a type of match that I always find fun to watch even when I don’t particularly care for the participants, so when the idea of such a match where the participants are the best character in NXT, one of the best technical wrestlers in NXT and Pete fucking Dunne, I was pretty excited and sure enough, this match did not disappoint.

The action in this match was paced to perfection, I enjoyed when all three men were jockeying for position early on and quite honestly I was ready to praise this match for being brilliant by the two-minute mark, but things only got better from there. There was very little time in this match where any one man was down and out, it was an almost constant rolling line of these three men in the ring together and it made for some brilliant watching.

My favourite part of the match was easily the finish because of how out of nowhere it was. I really thought Strong was going to win when he sent Dream flying and hit the End of Heartache on Dunne, but unbelievably Dream suddenly dropped out of the sky to shitcan Strong and steal the pin, incredible stuff. That’s just one spot in a 20-minute match where the action never lets up, definitely one of my favourite matches of the year so far. However…

1 – Adam Cole(c) def. Johnny Gargano
(NXT Championship)
(3 Stages of Hell)

Let’s face it, nothing on this show could’ve topped this match.

I’ve seen some criticize this match for being “overindulgent” and at 50 minutes I can understand where those people are coming from, however, I think this was paced really well.

The first fall was necessary to ramp up the tension and intensity going into the following two. There was plenty of great action the whole way through the first fall and I was very much a fan of how the finish to that fall played out. I knew Cole was never going to be stupid enough to give up a fall like that, but teasing it only for Gargano to be the one to do it was brilliant.

The second fall seems like the kind of match I normally label as boring but something about how these two went about throwing each other around the arena worked for me. It was slower than the other two falls but given how long this match ended up being, we needed it to catch our breath before some of the mental shit that happened during the final fall.

I wasn’t sure about the weapons-based cage when I first heard about it, but I think these two did a great job at avoiding the gimmicky feel that came across when Ambrose & Jericho did this a couple of years ago, also the faces of Gargano and Cole as the cage descended was a nice little touch. As I mentioned this was in danger of crossing into the gimmicky territory, but every weapon was worked seamlessly into every spot it was in, the only time the action ever really stopped was in order to set up the finish which is quite impressive for a match as long as this.

The spectacle in this match was through the roof and I felt it helped aid this idea that Gargano and Cole’s whole rivalry is being encapsulated in one match. I’m still undecided on whether this was my favourite match of their trilogy, but it’s certainly close.

So that’s what I thought of NXT Takeover: Toronto! Thank you very much for- Oh there’s Matt Riddle!

Anyway, thank you very much for reading, let me know what you thought of the show on Twitter @10ryawoo or in the comments below. Make sure you come back here Monday where I’ll be giving my thoughts of tonight’s Summerslam!

WWE Summerslam 2019: Predictions & Analysis

So, after a couple of months of spinning our wheels, this is the show we were spinning them for and well…I’m actually quite optimistic about this show. There are a couple of matches that I’m not particularly excited for, but for the most part, I think this is going to be an entertaining show.

Not only that, but I think the winner of a good number of these matches are up in the air a bit. Be it for good or bad reasons, WWE has managed to do a pretty good job of keeping us guessing when it comes to who’s going to be winning on Sunday. Still, let’s give it a go, here are my predictions for Summerslam 2019.

Drew Gulak(c) vs Oney Lorcan
(Cruiserweight Championship)

Match of the night incoming right here.

Drew has been absolutely fantastic as cruiserweight champion so far. Both of his PPV matches for the title this year so far have been show-stealers and his character work week to week is unparalleled. Then you’ve got a guy like Oney Lorcan, who is absolutely stellar in the ring but isn’t the most convincing of characters. He has an over the top-levels of intensity that I’ve never been able to buy from wrestlers, but like I said, he’s got a really great wrestling style that is also fairly unique compared to the rest of the cruiserweight division.

I’m struggling to pick a winner with this one though. I’ve felt for a long time now that Lorcan was going to end up with the Cruiserweight Championship at some point this year but I didn’t expect him to be in this position quite so soon. More importantly, Drew’s only just sunk his teeth into this title reign and it also feels like his story is something a bit more long term, so it doesn’t make a great deal of sense for him to lose the title just yet.

Ultimately guys like Mustafa Ali have proved that you can be a big star in the Cruiserweight division without ever winning the title and I could potentially see Oney Lorcan becoming one of those guys, so I’m going with Drew Gulak to retain here.

Goldberg vs Dolph Ziggler

Oh…Dolph didn’t go away after losing to Kofi? Alright then. Oh…he’s entering another feud with The Miz? Alright then. Oh…he’s actually facing Goldberg instead? Alright then.

I don’t really think there’s much to say about this match, losing out on Miz vs Ziggler isn’t much of a loss and it’ll hopefully be nice to see Goldberg looking a lot better than he did in June. Of course, like any Goldberg match, it needs to be short and sweet, with Ziggler bumping his ass off like he always does and Goldberg is most definitely going to win.

Finn Balor vs “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

I could sit here and complain about how shitty Balor’s been treated since Wrerstelmania, but instead, let’s talk about how awesome Bray Wyatt’s return has been so far.

The Firefly Funhouse stuff was a stroke of absolute genius. It let Wyatt really flex those creative muscles we all knew he had and it got the fans invested in a major way. Then since showing up in person, it’s been really well done, the way the lights and music came down before Wyatt attacked Balor made for a great atmosphere and the way the lights flicked around The Fiend’s face as he appeared was over the top and cheesy in just the right way. On top of that, the promo’s Bray’s been cutting from the funhouse talking about The Feind has made it so much more creepy and creates such an interesting dynamics between the two sides of Wyatt’s personality.

Personally, I’d like to see The Demon, although I doubt we will just yet as I think they might be saving it for the eventual rematch, but either way I think the match is going to be something special to watch and it’s such a great feeling to be excited about Bray Wyatt again for the first time in a long time.

Of course, Bray Wyatt is definitely winning this; I’d call it an absolute lock. Not only is this Wyatt’s much-hyped return match, but all of the rumours are pointing to Balor taking a couple of months off following Summerslam, so there’d be nothing to gain and everything to lose by Balor picking up a shock win.

Kevin Owens vs Shane McMahon
(If Shane wins, Owens will quit WWE)

You know, Shane McMahon became a fulltime wrestler so gradually I didn’t even notice.

Honestly, this really feels like what Shane’s heel turn has been leading to ever since his original feud with Owens in 2017. We all shouted and bitched back then about how Shane was being a totally unreasonable arsehole despite being a face and we were expected to boo Owens. Now we’re two years down the line and the face/heel roles are finally the right way around. So far, Owens’ face turn has been pretty well this time around, but it’s important that they keep their foot on the accelerator over the next few months, otherwise, it will pretty quickly peter out.

I’m really not sure what this match will be like since Shane McMahon’s matches this over the past couple of years have been quite hit and miss, although this year specifically it’s been mostly hit. There’s a lot of heat behind this one too, given how everyone’s sick and tired of Shane eating up so much TV time and Owens has been a house on fire, but I could just as easily see it being a shocking squash.

Either way, I think it’s a given that Kevin Owens is going to win. If the quitting stipulation wasn’t there then I think it’d be a bit more up in the air, but when you consider that there’s no way Owens is leaving or taking time off for the foreseeable future AND he’s just starting this role as a face, it would be an incredibly stupid decision for Shane to beat him now.

Trish Stratus vs Charlotte Flair

Well, this was a nice surprise.

I know there’s a bit of trepidation towards this match and I can understand the argument that Charlotte doesn’t really have a lot to gain from beating Trish considering everything she’s already done. However, we’ve seen in recent years that Trish can still go so the match will most likely be a fun watch and considering the alternative was likely Charlotte inserting herself into ANOTHER big 4 title match, I’m quite happy with having this match instead.

As I touched on above, I think this will be a great match to watch. Trish’s small appearances in the women’s Royal Rumble have shown she’s still got the athleticism to do everything she used to and her match at Evolution showed that as long as she’s got the right opponent to help her out, then she can carry a longer match and Charlotte is absolutely the right opponent.

Of course, with any legend vs current star match, the result is pretty easy to pick, especially when the current star in question is one of the most heavily pushed women in WWE history. Charlotte Flair will come out on top in this one and we’ll likely get a sweet hug and show of respect after the match to top it all off nicely.

AJ Styles(c) vs Ricochet
(United States Championship)

I don’t think anyone’s going to complain about seeing these two wrestle again. Admittedly they’ve had quite a few matches together in recent months, but there are some combinations of wrestlers that you can just never get tired of, like Ricochet & Will Ospreay, or Ricochet & Adam Cole, or Ricochet & AJ Sty-you know I think there might be a common thread here.

Hopefully, this will pay off the wonky finish we got at Extreme Rules, although even if it doesn’t I’m sure this match will still be great as long as we don’t get the same finish again. I’ve sung the praises of Styles as a heel for a while now, but I’m not entirely convinced this run has brought anything new to the table yet. I suppose it’s a bit too early to judge, but I’m not sure a lengthy US Title reign is something that he’d benefit from, at least not as much as Ricochet.

As it stands, I’m struggling to pick a winner. Ricochet only lost his title thanks to heel shenanigans and it wouldn’t be a good look for him to be shut out of the scene after such a short reign. Then again, Styles is still fairly fresh off of a heel turn and a second clean loss to Ricochet might not be the best move. Ultimately, I think both men stand to suffer fairly equally from a loss so I’m going to look at the other side of the coin and judge who I think would benefit more from the win, which I think is Ricochet.

Bayley(c) vs Ember Moon
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

While I’m glad it’s not Charlotte Flair, what exactly has Ember Moon done (in kayfabe) to earn this title shot? She lost in pretty quick fashion to Sonya Deville not a month ago and yet she gets the title shot because Bayley said she fancied a fight with her? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy we get to see this match, but it’s a little confusing.

The main problem I’ve had with Bayley’s title reign so far is that, apart from when she won it, she’s been a background character in all of her stories as champion so far. When she was fighting Alexa & Nikki the focus was almost entirely on those two and their friendship and aside from one promo the week of Stomping Grounds, it could’ve been anyone in the champion role and the story would’ve been exactly the same. This story with Ember so far is going a little way to resolving that problem, but I still don’t feel like Bayley as a character is getting a chance to shine through. I’m not sure who’s feet the blame should lay at for this (probably a little of all parties) but the fact still remains that Bayley just doesn’t feel like anyone special on TV right now.

With any luck, this match will have some good character moments in it (as well as having brilliant action) which will help out both women immensely but as much as I’d like to say otherwise, I can’t see Ember walking out of this one with the title. For one thing, creative has not invested nearly enough time or energy into her as a character or a wrestler to warrant a title win. On top of that, another Charlotte Flair title challenge seems just around the corner with a win over Trish Stratus coming like a freight train and at the end of the day, Bayley can recover from a loss to Charlotte a lot better than Ember ever could.

Becky Lynch(c) vs Natalya
(Raw Women’s Championship)
(Submission)

I’ll level with y’all, I really can’t stand Natalya as a wrestler.

All of her movements in the ring seem so clunky & unnatural and the way she talks makes her sound like a robot with the most threadbare understand of emotions and voice patterns. Then you consider the fact that the only reason she’s even got this title match in the first place is the fact that the show’s taking place in Canada AND pile on a stipulation that forces the match to focus heavily on smooth technical movements and you can imagine how unhappy I am about this.

I’m not going to instantly right it off though, Becky was able to get some half-decent matches out of the green as goose shit Lacey Evans after all, so she could do wonders with someone more experienced like Natalya, I’m just not optimistic about it is all.

Oh and Becky Lynch is going to win or I’m going to tear my hair out.

Kofi Kingston(c) vs Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)

Well, it’s 10 years later than we all wanted to see this, but it’s finally here.

I’m normally very much anti-Randy Orton, I think he’s quite a boring wrestlers and an even more boring champion, but in this instance, I’m totally down for this match. The story wrote itself and creatively executed it as well as we wanted them to, it’s been common knowledge for years that Orton killed Kofi’s initial push in 2009 so this match essentially brings Kofi’s entire WWE career up until this point full circle.

I’m not entirely sure about how good the match is actually going to be though, all of Kofi’s title defences have been ok, but not great and most of them were against opponents I enjoy watching, which as I mentioned before, Orton isn’t. That said, this match has the right kind of heat behind it and when Orton’s into a story he tends to put on some pretty good performances (just look at his match with AJ from Wrestlemania this year) so there is some hope.

Last month I said that Samoa Joe was the first opponent where it actually felt like Kofi might lose the title, but in hindsight that was a stupid thing to say and this is where Kofi’s title reign could realistically end. Orton’s always been a guy who could win the WWE Championship at any moment and with Smackdown’s move to FOX just around the corner WWE might want someone more widely recognised like Orton as champion. That said, this whole story has been about Orton holding Kofi down and saying he’s not ready, so I feel like WWE would be shooting themselves in the foot a bit if Orton wins. It’s a risky move, but I’m going to pick Kofi Kingston to retain this time.

Brock Lesnar(c) vs Seth Rollins
(Universal Championship)

Talk about missing an open goal.

This seemed like such an easy story for WWE to write. NO-ONE wants Lesnar to be champion anymore and Seth Rollins is one of the best wrestlers in all of WWE right now, so surely it would be so easy to get the fans behind Seth right? Well apparently not, because damn near everyone is hoping he’ll lose on Sunday, despite the alternative being Brock Lesnar disappearing with the title for another 6 months.

I get what they were trying to do on Monday with having being beaten down again and cutting that downbeat promo, but it was far too late and all you have to do is listen to the crowd’s reaction to see how flat it fell. All that said, hopefully, this match will be really good. Lesnar’s matches with the smaller guys are always brilliant and Seth Rollins is able to work a David & Goliath story with the best of them. The main reservation I have that’s stopping me getting too excited for it is Seth’s kayfabe injury, it makes me wonder if they’re going to lean too heavily on it for the story of the match because 15 minutes of Seth selling his ribs before a sudden comeback will be really boring.

If you’d have asked me who was going to win this match the night after Extreme Rules I would’ve said Seth without even thinking about it. Since his 2 minute win over Lesnar at Wrestlemania, I was confident this was where we were headed and I’d always known Seth was going to win, but now it’s really hard to judge. WWE is “desperately” trying to make Rollins cool and that says to me that they’re going to continue to push him as the face of the company, which would imply he wins here, but it’s hard to bet against Brock Lesnar retaining.

I’m sticking to my guns and picking Seth Rollins to win here and hopefully going into the autumn Rollins can have a whole bunch of great matches like his match against Styles earlier in the year to remind us exactly why we all got behind him in the first place.

So there are my predictions! Thank you very much for reading, let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Make sure you check back here over the weekend as I’ll be posting my reviews of both Summerslam and NXT Takeover!

 

 

NXT Takeover: Toronto 2019: Predictions & Analysis

Another big 4 weekends, another show much better than the big 4 show itself. It’s time for an NXT Takeover.

While this card still looks fantastic, it doesn’t quite feel like it’ll be as good a show as previous months by virtue of a couple of rematches and some untested talent. However whenever I think this about a Takeover it generally ends up being one of my favourites, so who knows what to think.

Fantastic or not, there will still be winners and losers, so let’s get about picking them, shall we?

Candice LaRae vs Io Shirai

So I don’t know much about Io’s reputation before she joined NXT, but I’m told that “attempted murder” Io is best Io and based on what I’ve seen on NXT weekly so far, I can’t say I disagree. So throwing her in the mix with Candice LaRae, who is just as much of a lovable underdog and fantastic wrestler as her husband and you’ve got the making of a match of the year candidate.

Although, as much as I’d like to see an absolute classic between these two, I also wouldn’t be against Io ripping Candice limb from limb, dancing around in the blood shouting about how she doesn’t need friends….or you know, beating her really dominantly. Which brings me to the obvious because Io Shirai is definitely coming out of this one the victor, she’s been losing to Shayna a lot recently and this new burst of character would go to waste if she lost this early, even if it was a “flukey” win on Candice’s part.

The Street Profits(c) vs The Undisputed Era
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

One day, NXT will be allowed to just have tag team champions without someone stealing them away.

Once again, I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone when I say that I think this match is going to be brilliant. considering how long they’ve been around, it’s weird that this is their first straight-up tag match on a Takeover, but I have no reason to doubt that they’ll knock it out of the park; not to mention they’re in the ring with Undisputed Era.

The real problem I’m having here is picking a winner. Street Profits have basic wrestling logic on their side since they’ve just won the titles it wouldn’t make a great deal of sense for them to lose the titles so soon, especially to a team that’s already held them. That said, the Undisputed Era has a pretty strong case too. For one thing, Street Profits seem to have already been called up, with this weird role where they sit around and chat about everything that’s happened on Raw, but does that really count as a proper debut? Then there’s the driving force of Adam Cole’s promise that The Undisputed Era will be draped in gold, and tonight has all the makings of that promise coming true.

I really want to say Street Profits will retain because I think that’d be the right move, but the case for The Undisputed Era to win is just too strong to ignore, so I’m going with them.

Velveteen Dream(c) vs Roderick Strong vs Pete Dunne
(North American Championship)

Wow, they really did a good job of making so many of these matches hard to pick huh?

First off, the fact that Dunne is finally in NXT Prime is brilliant because quite frankly he should’ve been on every single Takeover anyway because he keeps knocking it out of the park. Secondly, I’m very happy to see a Triple Threat Match on a Takeover for once, we see them so rarely on these shows and given how good main roster Triple Threats are, I’m sure an NXT one – especially with these guys – will be incredible.

Once again, I’m really struggling with picking a winner. As much as I’d be very happy with Velveteen Dream retaining, I feel like this match is where he drops that title, especially given he seemed destined to drop the title to Dominick Dijakovic before he got injured. I’m just not sure who it’ll go too. On the one hand, Pete Dunne is fantastic and should never be without a title ever, not to mention you risk making the UK division look like chumps if Dunne comes to NXT Prime and gets his ass kicked. Admittedly the case for Roddy pretty much begins and ends with Cole’s aforementioned promise of draping Undisputed Era in gold, the thing is, I think if that promise is ever going to come true, it has to be now so I’m picking Roderick Strong to pick up the title.

Shayna Baszler(c) vs Mia Yim
(NXT Women’s Championship)

Mia Yim’s one of those competitors where it always seemed like it was a matter of time until she got a big chance to show her stuff like this and here we are. Despite having a build and look that would seemingly favour a more heelish persona, Yim’s done a great job wrestling as a face and has got a large portion of the NXT fanbase behind her going into this match.

As I alluded to, this should be Mia Yim’s big coming-out party, much like Bianca Belair this match with Shayna will hopefully be when everyone sits up and takes note that she’s just as good a wrestler as all the women who came before her in the division. I imagine Shayna will do what Shayna always does in this match, which is be the most wonderful bastard in the world, which will play right in Yim’s strengths as a babyface.

As much as this will be a big spotlight for Mia Yim, I highly doubt she’ll win. It’s pretty rare in the women’s division that anyone wins the title in their first shot at it, not to mention Baszler’s been such a dominant champion it would be almost a waste to have her lose the title like this. I think Yim will ultimately be the one to unseat Baszler, however, I don’t think it’s going to be on Saturday, so I’m going with Shayna Baszler to retain.

Adam Cole(c) vs Johnny Gargano
(NXT Championship)
(3 Stages of Hell)

I know it’s not being advertised as 3 Stages of Hell, but that’s what it is. Plus “2 out of 3 falls where each fall has a different stipulation” is far too long for a header.

As much as it feels like this feud has gone on for a bit too long already, it’s hard to argue with another match considering both of their previous two were among the best in WWE history. The stipulations seem to play into each other’s hands too and I imagine in some sort of ironic twist, each man will win the fall where the other picked the stipulation (Cole wins the Street Fight, Gargano wins the standard match) and I fully expect to see Undisputed Era get involved during the Street Fight.

As for the final fall, which William Regal will reveal if (when) they are tied up after the first two, a ladder match seems like the easy pick. It’s easy for the crew to quickly set up without killing the pace of the whole match and the condensed time frame will add a great sense of urgency to the whole thing. They could surprise us and throw out NXT’s first-ever Hell in a Cell match, but the only issue with that is the crowd would be able to see the cell up in the rafters (or if they use screens to hide it, it’ll be obvious) so it won’t really be much of a surprise.

Once again, I find myself really struggling to pick a winner. If it wasn’t for one factor I’d say Cole was an easy pick, but the thing is: Tommaso Ciampa. We’ve got confirmation that August is when he’s set to return so with him just over the horizon, could we be heading back to the Gargano vs Ciampa match we were robbed of in April? I know that the ending of Takeover New York changed their relationship slightly but it could still work just as well. Then again, what about the other side of the coin? Imagine Undisputed Era standing in the ring triumphant with all the gold only for Ciampa to appear at the top of the ramp and stake his claim. How cool would that be?!

No amount of logic I apply is going to help me decide one way or the other, so I’m going with my heart and picking Adam Cole.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for- wait a minute where the hell’s Matt Riddle? Odd.

Anyway, thank you very much for taking the time to read this piece, let me know what you think is going to happen on Twitter @10ryawoo or in the comments below. Make sure you stick around over the weekend as I’ll be covering both Takeover and Summerslam!

10 Biggest Title Changes In Summerslam History

While no show WWE produces will ever reach the of spectacle or importance of Wrestlemania, the one show that comes the closest is Summerslam. It’s position at the opposite end of the year from the grandaddy of them all means it’s a good mid-way point for the wrestling calendar, generally Summerslam is when we get an idea of what the stories are going to be for the rest of the year and there are even cases where WWE start to lay the ground work for Wrestlemania season.

A huge part of those storylines are the championships. It’s what everyone in the company is supposed to be fighting for after all and whoever is holding a title can be a big influence on what path the storylines go down. As such a big show like Summerslam is a great place to do some big title changes that can act as shifts in attitude for what the company will be doing in the months to come. Whether it’s the ending of a long-lasting storyline or the start of a new one, Summerslam has been home to some of the biggest and most fondly remembered title changes in WWE history, so I thought it would be nice if we looked over some of the biggest.

10 – Charlotte Flair def. Carmella(c) & Becky Lynch
(Smackdown Women’s Championship) – 2018

This title change isn’t big because of who won the title, who lost the title or even the story going into it, it’s what it started that makes this title change so important.

Support for Becky Lynch was big going into Summerslam 2018, people were sick of Carmella’s boring reign as Smackdown Women’s Champion and Becky had been underappreciated and underused ever since she lost the title at the tail end of 2016; so when a singles match between Carmella and Becky was booked for Summerslam people were excited. It seemed like it would finally be Becky’s time to shine…enter Charlotte Flair.

Charlotte had been away for a few months due to needing minor surgery and upon her return she was immediately inserted into the title match at Summerslam, making it a Triple Threat, people were not happy about this, to say the least. While Charlotte was a face at the time, people were getting increasingly tired of her dominance at the top of the women’s division (this being just off the back of her ending Asuka’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 34) and her insertion in this match that was supposed to be Becky’s coronation seemed like a slap in the face.

So imagine everyone’s displeasure when Charlotte won the title. No-one was happy about this, least of all Becky Lynch because after the match the two locked eyes only for Becky to unleash a vicious attack on Charlotte. This was intended by WWE to be a heel turn on Becky Lynch’s part (no matter what Road Dogg says on Twitter) but it ended up having the exact opposite effect as the crowd in the Barclay’s Center exploded with cheers and Becky unleashed on Flair. This is what ultimately led to Becky becoming “The Man” in WWE becoming the most popular wrestler in the whole company.

Ironically, as much as we all hated this title change at the time, without it we may never have gotten the perfect storm that was required for the first-ever women’s Wrestlemania main event this year, which ended in Becky’s true coronation as The Man.

9 – Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Owen Hart(c)
(Intercontinental Championship) – 1997

The Stone Cold character wasn’t quite in full swing yet, but when you talk about moments in Austin’s early WWF career, it’s hard to ignore this moment for both good and bad reasons.

Come 1997, Austin’s 3:16 persona was in full swing and although he hadn’t reached the height of his popularity yet, it’s clear he was only months away from permanent main eventer status. However, this was during a time in the WWF where in order to get to the main event, more often than not you would have to go through the Intercontinental Championship.

When Austin won the belt, it was officially his first singles championship in the WWF and was a clear omen of things to come for the superstar, although not quite as soon as we’d all hoped. As has been well documented by this point, a sit-out piledriver from Owen Hart to Austin in the match caused a severe neck injury that required Austin to undergo surgery and although Austin would return by that October, it would ultimately see him end his career so much earlier than we’d all have hoped in 2003.

That said, this title change was still a fantastic moment for Austin’s career and the injury meant that he was hotter than ever when he returned that autumn to take the title from Hart a second time.

8 – Ronda Rousey def. Alexa Bliss(c)
(Raw Women’s Championship) -2018

We’ve already talked about one half of the Wrestlemania 35 main event, now let’s talk about the other.

There are plenty of mixed opinions out there on how good of a wrestler Ronda Rousey is (I personally think she’s great), so naturally there was plenty of mixed opinion going around when Rousey won the Raw Women’s Championship from Bliss in extremely dominant fashion, just 8 months after debuting in WWE.

Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to deny that Rousey’s mainstream appeal and raw star power elevated the title to a level that it hadn’t been seen at in quite some time and given that Ronda would actually defend the title on a monthly basis, it gave us some great matches against the likes of Nia Jax and Sasha Banks along the way. Of course, it would be remiss of me to go without mentioning the part Ronda had to play in the Wrestlemania 35 main event this past year.

While Becky Lynch’s newfound persona was what got the fans so invested in the hype surrounding the match that would become the main event of Wrestlemania 35, I’d argue the match never would’ve been given that spot if it wasn’t for the star power and marketability of Ronda Rousey. Becky was what got the fans involved, but Ronda Rousey is what got the sponsors, the press and the mainstream public involved in that match becoming the monumental milestone for women’s wrestling that it was, and that makes this title change a massive one.

7 – Randy Orton def. Chris Benoit(c)
(World Heavyweight Championship) – 2004

You can’t argue with the making of a future HOFer.

Now, I’m well aware that this decision was only made in-part so Brock Lesnar would no longer be “the youngest world champion ever” after he left the WWE earlier that year, but it’s undeniable that this title win confirmed the fact that Orton would be a mainstay of the main event scene in WWE in the years to come. Benoit’s title reign was pretty disappointing as a whole, as it’s clear since the only things notable about it, is who he won it from and who he lost it to, but being tied in with Evolution the whole way did at least make this title win make a decent amount of storyline sense.

The thing that doesn’t make this title reign nearly as big as it could’ve been is what happened in the month after it. The next night on Raw, Evolution turned on Orton and Triple H demanded Orton hand the title over. This created a fantastically done face turn where Orton spat in Triple H’s face and laid him out. Orton quickly became the biggest babyface in the company (because anyone who faced Triple H in the early 2000s was the biggest Babyface in the company) however as many of these stories from this time period would end, Triple H beat Orton the next month at Unforgiven clean as a whistle and that was that.

As much as Orton would quickly have the rug swept from under him, this title win was a clear indication that the company had faith in him to carry a world title, and he would go on to carry many more before the present day.

6 – Brock Lesnar def. John Cena(c)
(WWE World Heavyweight Championship) – 2014

Brock Lesnar’s WWE return had been pretty lacklustre before 2014 rolled around. He lost to John Cena, lost to Triple H and beat CM Punk in matches that were all very good, but were completely inconsequential. Then 2014 happened.

Brock Lesnar would be responsible for the most shocking moment in WWE history at Wrestlemania 30 when he ended the undefeated streak of The Undertaker, this turned Lesnar into the most unstoppable force in all of WWE and he was going to eviscerate the next person he came up against. Conversely, the WWE title scene in the summer of 2014 was a little bit of a mess, Daniel Bryan was forced to vacate the title after facing a neck injury so the title was quickly placed back around Cena’s waist until they could work out what to do.

When it was announced Lesnar was going to be fighting Cena, there was alot of trepidation about how things were going to go down. Many thought Cena would do what Cena does and win even when he really shouldn’t and others thought Lesnar’s win over The Undertaker guaranteed a win here, but I think it’s safe to say no-one was expecting what actually happened.

In completely shocking fashion, Lesnar absolutely destroyed Cena. In this 15 minute match, Cena only got in about a single minute of offence and the rest was Lesnar throwing Cena all around the ring. By the time Lesnar pinned Cena to win the title it was clear we were going to see a title reign like never before, which is exactly what we got…over and over again for the next 5 years with various titles Lesnar would hold. So yes, this title reign may have lead us to years of Lesnar being an absentee champion for months at a time, but you can’t say that this moment in 2014 wasn’t a huge deal.

5 – The Ultimate Warrior def. The Honky Tonk Man(c)
(Intercontinental Championship) – 1988

Ok, so there’s not much to this one, but you can’t deny that it’s a moment that has endured stronger than most others over the years.

Although he was by no means the first, Honky Tonk Man is arguably the man who made the idea of a modern heel champion so popular, to the point where on the current WWE roster, there’s almost always at least one champion that follows this archetype. Getting counted out, disqualified and cheating to his hearts content, there’s nothing that The Honky Tonk Man wouldn’t do to ensure he held onto the Intercontinental Championship as long as he possibly could and for 454 days, it worked and when a champion uses heel tactics to hold onto a title for that long, when they eventually lose it, it’s huge.

Summerslam 1988 was the night in question for that huge moment to happen. After Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake – who was originally set to challenge for the title – was laid out and unable to compete, everyone was in the dark as to who The Honky Tonk Man would defend his title against that night. Until to everyone’s delight, The Ultimate Warrior came sprinting down to the ring and 30 seconds later he was the new Intercontinental Champion.

Warrior’s title reign didn’t end up being all that notable in the long run, but that didn’t matter, as the manner in which he won it would go down in the highlight reels for decades.

4 – Daniel Bryan def. John Cena(c) &
Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan(c)
(WWE Championship) – 2013

We got ourselves a twofer because Summerslam 2013 was the night that set up one of the biggest moments of the decade.

John Cena vs Daniel Bryan was an excellent match and one in which the fanbase at large was completely and totally behind Daniel Bryan and no-one was really sure if WWE would actually let a guy like Bryan beat a guy like Cena. To our amazement, after a great match, Bryan pinned Cena clean as a whistle with the Knee Plus to win his very first WWE Championship and it was a brilliant moment. The biggest indie darling ever had finally reached the pinnacle of WWE and it seemed clear that times were changing in the WWE landscape. It wasn’t to last though.

As the confetti fell, the music of Mr Money in the Bank Randy Orton hit and the two men stared each other down. Orton then looked to back away, until special guest referee Triple H hit Bryan with the pedigree, allowing Orton to become WWE Champion. This set off the Daniel Bryan vs The Authority storyline that would be the A story for most of the way from that show until Wrestlemania 30 the next year.

If it wasn’t for these title changes here (and a little bit of pushing from the fans) it’s entirely possible that the wonderful moment of Wrestlemania 30 ending with Daniel Bryan holding both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships aloft might never have happened.

3 – Brock Lesnar def. The Rock(c)
(WWE Undisputed Championship) – 2002

Say what you like about his push nowadays, but no-one before or since has seen a meteoric rise like that of Brock Lesnar in 2002.

The moment he showed up on WWE TV it was clear that Lesnar was ear marked to be the next major star for the company, quite literally being labelled as “The Next Big Thing” as an onscreen nickname. Debuting in March of 2002, it took a mere 5 months for Lesnar to be defeating The Rock for the WWE Championship. Lesnar made very short work of opponents like The Hardys and RVD and when he won King of the Ring, a title victory seemed inevitable.

Although Lesnar would sour WWE’s investment in him a couple of years later when he left the company, Lesnar left a lasting impression on the WWE and by the time he returned to the company in 2012 his star power had grown tenfold, as seen by the fact that since 2014 he’s almost always been holding championship gold. Lesnar probably would’ve reached this level of star power anyway, but WWE certainly did him all the favours in the world by building so quickly to this moment.

2 – CM Punk def. John Cena
(WWE Championship) – 2011

When CM Punk won the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank 2011, it was a huge moment. Not only was this the first time an “indie darling” had won the WWE Championship, but the storyline in play meant that Punk was now leaving the WWE for an extended period of time. Of course, that ended up not being the case, since 8 whole days later Cena had won the new WWE Championship and Punk reappeared to face off with him.

Eventually, a match was put in place for Summerslam to crown an undisputed WWE Champion, since both men claimed their title was the legitimate one. The matched carried on the threads from their match the previous month to create a pretty great match and ultimately Punk’s win here solidified him as more than just a flash in the pan champion. It would take a little longer for him to have his 434-day title reign thanks to a sudden Kevin Nash and Alberto Del Rio appearance after this match, but this certainly put everything in place.

1 – The British Bulldog def. Bret Hart(c)
(Intercontinental Championship) – 1992

I mean come on, what else could it be?

We’ve all seen the clip a hundred times by now because it really was that huge a moment. Wembley Stadium, London, England in 1992, the first (and to date, only) time a big 4 WWE PPV has been held in the UK, so what other match could you possible have outside of British Bulldog and Bret Hart, two of the best wrestlers of the time going at it for the Intercontinental Championship.

Obviously, I don’t have the same kind of emotional connection as many people as my birth was still 7 years away when this match took place (sorry if that made you feel old), but all you have to do is listen to the reaction of the crowd when Bulldog pinned Hart to see just how magical a moment it was for everyone in attendance at the time. It would ultimately be a short title reign for the Bulldog, but it didn’t matter in the end because, in a single moment, he had secured his legacy forever.

And that’s this list! Thank you very much for taking the time to read, let me know what you think of it in either the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Make sure to come back here next week as the Summerslam festivities continue with my predictions for next Sunday’s show!|

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 3 (2007) Ranked

Series 3 had quite the challenge ahead of it because it was the first series of New Who to not feature Rose as the companion. You can sit there and debate all day about how good of a companion Rose actually was, but in 2007, Rose was still a beloved companion that was fresh in the mind of the fanbase at large, so anyone that came along next was going to be heavily scrutinized.

I’ll get into detail on what I thought throughout this list, but overall I think Martha was a worthy replacement to Rose that took the characterisation of a companion in enough of a new direction to avoid feeling like “another Rose”.

However, there was a lot more to this series than just Martha, so let’s get into it and rank every episode of Doctor Who Series 3.

10 – The Lazarus Experiment

One of the things that distinguished Series 3 for me, is that even in episodes I consider bad, there’s usually a decent amount of elements that I liked. This episode is the one exception to that thought.

This entire episode really gives of “last minute” vibes. I’ve no idea what the situation was surrounding the writing of the episode, but everything just felt so rushed, and like the writer just needed to sit there for a while and think everything through and flesh it out a bit more. Even the CGI feels rushed, the visual of the Lazarus monster seems like it was supposed to be the rough render of the creature, but they just sent it out for broadcast instead.

Martha’s family are definitely the worst out of the domestic characters that we get to know throughout new who and I think that’s mostly because we never had any time to flesh them out. They’re in multiple episodes during this series, but this is the only episode where there’s any attempt at fleshing them out as people and unfortunately, it’s not a very good attempt. Martha’s mum is nagging and overprotective, her brother’s a bit too lax about life and her sister’s fairly useless but lucks herself into high-status roles. That’s pretty much all we get, not the mention her dad, who we get pretty much nothing on, other than he’s a bit of a player.

The bulk of the episode is pretty mindless running away from the monster, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I really think this episode needed more to it than that. The conclusion is pretty underwhelming too, with a chase scene that’s nothing special and The Doctor using sound waves to mess with Lazarus’ DNA, which works because…I honestly have no idea how that makes any sense.

The moment at the end of the episode where Martha puts her foot down about just “being a passenger” in the TARDIS was a nice development for the relationship between The Doctor and Martha, but other than that, it’s best to leave this one buried in the middle of the series.

9 – Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks

A little tip for you, don’t spend 3 quarters of the episode setting up a big mystery about who the big bad guys are when the word “Dalek” is literally in the title of the episode.

If you ignore the fact that the big reveal is given away in the title of the episode, the mystery is plotted out pretty well. We find out people are disappearing, we find out it’s linked to something in the sewers until we get the reveal of what’s happening to the people who go down there. The pig slaves are a bit of a weird one because they don’t really thematically make any sense if the Daleks can manipulate genetics to this level, why not create creatures far more useful?

Then there’s the main focus of the plot, which is Dalek Sec taking on a human form and evolving. This is a really interesting concept, that I wish had a bit more time to flourish. I loved the scenes were Sec was confused, but also amazed at some of these human concepts that he’d never experienced in his life and how they slowly affect him, unfortunately, this sort of stuff gets swept under the rug a bit too quickly in order to get to the Daleks murdering everything in sight.

One thing I’ve noticed looking back is that The Tenth Doctor’s attitude towards the Daleks is actually quite inconsistent. The Ninth Doctor pretty clearly wanted to wipe them all out, but it’s never really made clear how this incarnation of The Doctor feels about them. He obviously hates them, but specifically how much is made unclear. In Doomsday, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with getting rid of them all, but in this episode, he’s suddenly all emotional about not wanting to cause another genocide.

I understand that it’s largely because he just saw the human/Dalek hybrids murdered, but not enough weight was really put on that moment for me to actually get the feeling that something had changed in The Doctor’s mind; these are his greatest enemies, it should take longer than a few seconds for him to change his mind about killing them.

This is one of those episodes that I like the concept of, but don’t think the execution lived up to what I wanted from it. If the human Dalek thing had a bit more time to grow I think it could’ve been a lot better, but unfortunately, the second part didn’t spend as much time on it as I would’ve liked and it meant the whole thing just devolved into The Doctor fighting the Daleks yet again.

8 – The Shakespear Code

This episode doesn’t do anything to break the pattern of “historical figure” episodes, The Doctor spends most of it fawning over Shakespear, they mention the darker sides to the character and then they find a way to save the day. I really enjoyed all of the little jokes throughout about Shakespear stealing some of his most famous lines and it puts me in mind of that “Bootstrap Paradox” scene from Capaldi’s era.

The thing is, these episodes tend to live and die on how compelling the historical figure actually is and honestly, I wasn’t overly thrilled by Shakespear. He doesn’t really possess much of a will of its own it seems and I’m not just referring to that bit where the witches possessed him. Shakespeare himself doesn’t seem to serve to move the plot forward at all, everything just tends to happen around him and he goes along with it, he contributes very little of his own thoughts.

On top of that, I’m not really a fan of the Carrionites either. I know they’re cheesy and over the top by design to mirror Shakespear’s writings, but they don’t really fit in with the tone of the rest of the episode. Their powers are also really vaguely defined and I really don’t buy the idea that you can do magic just by saying the right words, not least because it decides to stop working when the plot finds it convenient. That’s just a step too far for me to suspend my disbelief.

Also in this episode, The Doctor and Martha’s relationship accelerates way too fast. That scene where they’re laying in bed in the hotel and Martha just stares at him like she’s already head over heels for him and lets out a sigh is way too much, way too fast. They’ve known each other for a little over a day at this point and sure, if a guy like The Doctor comes along, you’re bound to fall for him quicker than other people, but this was so heavy-handed in only their second episode together, it doesn’t sit right with me.

The climax was actually quite fun to watch though, the sense of terror ended up being delt on quite heavy as the witches emerged from the crystal ball and I love the touch of the red tint to the whirlwind it creates. Although I’ve railed on the idea of words being magic, the solution to the episode does at least work well using that logic, although I’m not the biggest fan of “expelliarmus” being the word to seal the deal. It capped the episode off with a nice fun climax that just about hit the right notes to redeem some of the problems I had with the episode up until that point.

7 – 42

This is another episode that feels pretty throwaway in the grand scheme of things, but I think it has a lot more excitement to it than The Lazarus Experiment. The concept is given to us very concisely in the cold open, broken down spaceship, vaguely defined monster aboard,  42 minutes until everyone dies. It’s simplistic but honestly, I think that’s better for the episode, as where this one falls down is when it tries to add the complexity.

I’ll start off with what I liked. I thought the tension in this episode was done pretty well, the monster tended to pop-up when you weren’t expecting it to and it made for some really good scenes as it slowly killed people. As far as secondary characters go, I thought the crew on the ship was quite good for one-offs, Kath had a decent backstory to her and for what little we got to see of her, I thought she was a pretty well-rounded person. The moment where Martha and Riley are ejected towards the sun and The Doctor shouting “I’ll save you!” but it’s silenced by the vastness of space was a beautifully shot moment and the eery calmness of the conversation Martha has with Riley as they hurtle to what they think is their death was a very touching moment.

There was also a lot of not so great stuff in this episode. The pub-quiz to override the security deadlocks seemed very contrived and all of the questions were conveniently centred around 20th & 21st Century trivia, it really felt like Chibnall desperately needed a reason for Martha to call her mother, and this was all he could come up with.

I also thought the reasoning as to why the monster was attacking the crew to be quite lacklustre. It was because they absorbed the heart of a living star as a heart, I mean…ok? It makes sense and fits in with the story, but it doesn’t explain how this star can possess people and just generally seems quite uninteresting of an explanation. It also means that all they have to do to escape is dump the fuel, which again, makes sense in context and you can see why no-one would’ve thought of that, but the episode didn’t centre around the mystery of “why?” it just centred around trying to get the ship working, which means that the solution doesn’t feel satisfying, because it ignores what the characters were trying to accomplish up until that point.

The concept for the monster is good though, and I liked the visual of the possessed men lifting their visor and evaporating people, but some of the core elements of this story don’t work for me and it really overwhelms the good.

6 – Gridlock

Gridlock is an example of an idea Doctor Who attempts every now and then that I really like to see, even if the execution wasn’t perfect, which is taking a really mundane idea (in this case, a traffic jam) and taking it to its logical extreme, and then having that be the whole episode.

The bulk of the episode spent in the traffic jam, I think has a lot of stuff to like about it. Once Martha gets kidnapped by the couple and you begin to learn about the motorway, it becomes a very tragic tale, the episode is able to change your mind very quickly on what kinds of people these are because they’re just looking out for their family. The scene where the whole motorway lights up with song is such a heartbreaking moment as well, as these people hold on to the little hope they have that someday they might be freed.

It also manages to fit in its fair share of fun and humour into the episode without compromising all of the tragedy around it, with The Doctor’s journey through endless cars on the motorway, seeing all kinds of people who are in these cars. It also gives a really good impression of exactly the situation their in, because it’s all well and good knowing these two cars very well, but seeing flashes of these people living their whole lives in these cars gives a great view of the exact scale of what’s going on.

Unfortunately, I found everything outside of what’s going on in the motorway to be a bit lacking and it suffers from a notable lack of focus when it comes to exactly why everything is going on. The Macra are a fine enough villain and really the only place they could possibly fit is in a story like this, where there’s just something at the bottom of the motorway that kills people. The problem is, it’s never explained how they got there, I understand that they feed off of pollution, so all of the exhaust smoke is the perfect living space, but how did they actually get there in the first place and breed to be able to cover the entire motorway, which as far we’re told covers the length of the whole planet?

Then there are the emotion patches, which are never explained at all. We know they can make you feel certain emotions, but they can also induce sleep and cause amnesia and that really seems like the kind of thing that needs explaining. All we ever get is the knowledge that they’re some kind of drug, so making them the main explanation as to why everything’s gone wrong seemed like an odd move. We’re told that a virus mutated in the “Bliss” drug, but that means absolutely nothing to us when we don’t understand how these patches work, how can a virus possibly mutate in something, that from the audience’s perspective, is just a magic sticker?

I did like the classic Doctor Who twist at the end though where it’s revealed that trapping people in the motorway was actually an act of heroism, not villainy, whenever Doctor Who pulls something like that it always gives me a nice feeling inside, because I always like to think Doctor Who as a show that gives the attitude that humans are flawed but ultimately good.

The core idea of Gridlock hits the mark really well, and if the episode had focused on it a little more and cut some of the pointless guff, it probably would’ve ranked a lot higher. Unfortunately, the lack of focus at either end of the episode takes away from the impact of everything a bit and leaves me feeling unsatisfied when the episode reaches a conclusion.

5 – The Runaway Bride

This is quite the rarity for Doctor Who since we actually get to meet a future companion, a season out from them actually joining the TARDIS. However, at the time, this was intended as a one-off appearance for Donna, so I’ll be treating it as such.

As with most Christmas specials, there isn’t a lot to them in the way of grand plots or introspective narratives because it’s designed to be a healthy dose of fun for the family on Christmas Day, not to mention this didn’t have any heavy lifting to do in terms of establishing a new Doctor or companion which I personally think works to its benefit. The cliffhanger from the end of Series 2 was a great way to ensure that we could get into the whimsy of this episode quite easily, as there was a risk of everything being dragged down by The Doctor being mopey about Rose, but luckily Davies was able to avoid too much of that in this episode.

While this episode isn’t afraid to take it slow at certain points, it tends to keep it’s foot on the gas as much as it can, which would usually make for something quite boring, but I think the action here ends up being varied enough to keep the fun in it. The scene where The Doctor has to fly the TARDIS along the motorway while trying to convince Donna to jump is a joy to watch back, it hits the action, the fun and the small dose of emotion it throws in in just the right way to make it a great scene to watch.

I’m not a big fan of the Racnoss though. The spaceship looked very nice and the idea of a Christmas star made out of spider webs is something I like, my problem with the Racnoss however mostly comes from the queen herself. For one thing, it’s so obvious she was struggling to talk through the mouthpiece she had in and while they did try to make it into more of a style, I can’t help but hear someone who’s struggling to talk properly.

On top of that, the fact that she’s so stationary is really jarring when her torso upwards moves about a lot. I understand why that was the decision, of course, it would’ve been very expensive indeed to make the giant base move, but it creates such a disconnect when the part that is actually the actress is sitting there swaying around on the spot and being extremely animated, while the base just sits there lifeless. Then we get to the Racnoss’ plan, which at the very least makes sense, but I’m not sure it’s all that compelling, not least because most of it happens off-screen or in flashbacks.

I think there would’ve been something to be had in starting the episode with about 5-10 minutes of Donna going about her job and meeting Lance before hitting the wedding and reaching the cliffhanger point. I think it would’ve made the whole thing be woven into the story a lot better because it sticks out pretty hard when Donna has to explain it in the middle of the episode, not least because the whole thing just stops dead in order to let her tell it.

Overall, The Runaway Bride is a good episode to watch if you’re looking for a bit of lite fun from your Doctor Who, which is ultimately what Christmas episodes are designed for after all. That said, if you’re looking for something a bit deeper, then you’re best looking elsewhere in the series.

4 – Smith and Jones

I’ll be honest, this one landed higher than I thought it would.

This episode has so many moving pieces to it, that you almost wouldn’t think it was the first episode in a series, since they normally focus almost exclusively on establishing whatever new stuff needs to be established (in this case, Martha Jones) however, instead of specifically focusing on Martha the whole way through the episode, we only focus in on her for the first 10-15 minutes, before letting the plot and The Doctor take over, which actually does a better job establishing Martha than I think focusing solely on her would do.

Instead of making the episode about her, like Rose did, or anything involving Clara would later do, the episode instead makes sure we’ve got a rough idea of who she is and then just throws her into the thick of it to see how she’ll cope. That scene between her and The Doctor as they step onto the balcony of the hospital, looking out at the moon is brilliant. The way Martha just can’t quite take it all in, but still does her best to keep her cool and instead just starts talking to The Doctor about her family instead.

Not to mention, we also have a number of other trainees at the hospital around the place to better exemplify why Martha is the one that The Doctor gravitates towards. You have the woman who Martha is with for most of the first act, who acts panicked and clearly isn’t thinking straight given what’s going on. The way she panics when Martha goes to open the window, thinking they’ll lose the air even though the windows aren’t air-tight anyway, it shows someone who can’t keep calm in a crisis, which is someone who would be awful at travelling in the TARDIS. Then we’ve got the male trainee who spends most of it toadying to the Judoon and acts like he has things under control when actually he’s got no say in the matter, only to take credit for the whole thing after the fact. It’s always important in episodes where we’re introduced to a new companion to allow us to understand exactly why The Doctor picks them over anyone else and characters like the ones I’ve mentioned are the best way to make Martha look great.

The plot itself is pretty solid. Given the actual role of the Judoon in the universe of Doctor Who I do find it odd that they’re totally fine with potentially murdering everyone in the hospital just to find one alien, not to mention, surely if they have the technology to transport a specified piece of a planet to the moon, they’d also have the technology to provide enough Oxygen. I quite like the Plasmavore as a villain though, it has a genuinely scary concept behind it and the idea of someone sucking all of the blood out of your body is quite horrific when you think about it. The solution to the episode was quite clever, even if it was rather sudden and it keeps to The Doctor’s general ethos of out-thinking the villain.

Like most introduction episodes, it’s not the strongest overall product, but it’s very good at what it needs to do, in this case establishing Martha as the next companion.

3 – Human Nature/The Family of Blood

You know, I’m starting to think it isn’t a coincidence that these late-series two-parters keep landing so high on these lists.

There’s so much to this story that I couldn’t even begin to cover all of it, so I’m just going to cover the highlights. First off, is the performance of John Smith, it’s absolutely amazing how both the writing and the performance involved int his episode genuinely makes John Smith feel like a completely different character from The Doctor. I know that’s the point but given that it’s the same actor playing the role you’d expect they’d feel somewhat similar but they really don’t.

On top of that, because John Smith feels so different to The Doctor I find myself actually getting invested in him over the course of the story as a completely separate character. I want to see his romance work out with Joan, I want to see him discover the mysteries of these strange dreams he has and honestly I think there’d be some entertainment in watching him go about his day-to-day life in the school and interacting with the boys; and it’s exactly that sort of investment that makes the climax to this episode so heartwrenching.

The thing is, as much as I’d love to see this character grow and see his stories resolved, we never can, because we need The Doctor and that scene in the cottage where John, Joan and Martha are talking with him and arguing over whether or not John wants to sacrifice himself for the greater good is so emotional. What makes it sting the most though is having Joan there as a way to frame it all, because if she wasn’t there then as the audience I think we’d all just want The Doctor to hurry up and come back to get it over with, but keeping Joan there is such a brilliant way to tear the audience’s emotions and that scene after The Doctor returns where Joan asks him “Can you change back”, he tells her “Yes”, but when she asks “Will you?” He has to say “No” and it’s truly heartbreaking.

The Doctor as a human could’ve ended up being such a rubbish gimmick for an episode, but so much care was put into getting every detail just right that it actually ended up being one of the better Doctor Who stories to come out of the modern series. It’s an episode that my appreciation for grows every time I re-watch it and I’ll not tear up at the climax.

2 – Blink

I’m sure everyone’s very annoyed that this isn’t number 1, but my list, my rules.

It’s very rare that I actually find an episode of Doctor Who legitimately scary these days (of course, when I was a kid, it was easy) and the thing is, I don’t think there’s anything inherently scary about the Weeping Angels, in fact I think many of the later Angel stories proved that it’s very easy for them not to be scary, so what makes this episode so damn terrifying?

Simply put, this episode is a master at controlling the feeling of tension. For one thing, our protagonist is someone we’ve never met before, which instantly means anything can happen. We know that The Doctor or Martha would never be in any real danger if it were them because we’re only part-way through the season, but Sally Sparrow? She could easily die at any moment which means we’ve instantly got a protagonist that can actually be in extreme danger.

On top of that, the visual and sound direction in this episode is absolutely phenomenal, every time an angel moves and the camera cuts with an audio sting it sends chills down my spine. On top of that, throughout so much of the episode it’s always framed so that the angel is never in the foreground, which is brilliant at hiding the mystery early on and then once the audience knows what’s going on, the trick becomes a fantastic method of creating tension, because you know that something’s about to go down the moment you notice one in the background.

On top of that, the episode is great at slowly revealing it’s mystery to you, as Sally’s friends slowly disappear, first getting a letter and Sally being in total denial about it, only to come to that tragic scene where she finds an old Billy in the hospital, not an hour after having a conversation with the young version of him. Then you’ve got the elements of The Doctor having the conversation already written out in front of him for the DVD that ends up fitting everything The Doctor says, it even creates that nice timey-wimey loop of Larry writing a transcript of the conversation from The Doctor on the DVD, only for Sally to give it to him so he can say it on the DVD, so who originally wrote it?

This is an episode that manages to nail making you think and throw you through a loop with the mystery, while still nailing the horror aspect of it and creating an iconic monster in the process.

1 – Utopia/The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords

This version of The Master is one that tends to divide opinion and it really depends what you want from your villains. If you prefer more serious menacing villains then this definitely won’t be for you, but if you’re more like me and prefer watching off-kilter psychopaths going around being psychopathic, then this is the best version of The Master there is.

As it stands, I think this was the right version of The Master to go with, not just because it’s the kind of villain I prefer, but because it’s the most interesting type of character to go up against Tennant’s Doctor. Tennant is a Doctor that often relies on being over the top with hyperactivity, making quips and bouncing off the walls while thinking his way out of problems, so I love the idea of a villain like this version of The Master, who forces The Doctor to act more seriously, while the villain himself is being rediculous all over the place. Not that I don’t see the appeal in a Master on the level of Anthony Head’s performance in School Reunion, but I think this one works best for the story being told.

First off, Utopia is an amazing episode all on its own. Derek Jacobi’s performance as Yana is absolutely inspired, the way he plays the confused old man that gives off the same vibes as The Doctor, only to suddenly turn into a menacing villain and nail that too is absolutely incredible to watch. The mystery builds so slowly and brilliantly, so when it finally hits the climax and everything goes bombastic it feels HUGE and the cliffhanger at the end of Utopia is my favourite cliffhanger in TV history.

Then we get into Sound of Drums and this is electric. Any time The Doctor and The Master are talking in some way it’s rivetting. The Doctor needs to stop The Master, but he still wants to hold on to the one part of Galifrey that wasn’t destroyed. More so than that, the chemistry Tennant and Simms have together is absolutely unstoppable, just listening to the two of them go back and forth weaves such a brilliant tapestry in the story that it really feels like these are two people who have known each other for centuries.

All three parts also do a great job of pushing Martha to her limits as a character, The Sounds of Drums systematically tears her life apart, taking away her family, her home and eventually even The Doctor, which is what makes The Last of the Time Lords so compelling to watch.

In The Last of the Time Lords, we’re not watching the crew attempt to stop something horrible from happening, The Master’s already won and has ruled over the Earth for a year. So we’re instead seeing a bunch of people who have nothing, try to build themselves back up take down The Master. It’s so clear that despite what Martha’s been doing for the year we didn’t see, she can’t forget the horror of what The Master did to the world and there’s also the worry that her family might not even be alive when she finally gets there.

This episode is what truly defines Martha as a character for me, because sure, The Doctor told her what to do and she undoubtedly had help from various people along the way, she travelled the war-torn world all on her own and became a totally different person because of it. No longer is she afraid to stare The Master in the eyes, or laugh in his face as he points his laser screwdriver at her. She spent so much time spreading this message around the world and it’s clear that all this time she was telling it, she started to believe in it too and became a better person because of it.

Say what you want about Tennant gaining Jesus powers as the solution to the episode, but I think it worked for the story. Setting up the archangel network as the downfall of the human race in the Sound of Drums, only for it to be the solution in The Last of the Time Lords was a very clever twist and I like the symbolism in the whole world being the ones to cause The Master’s downfall.

What’s even more compelling to watch is The Master’s breakdown once he knows he’s lost. Refusing to accept The Doctor’s forgiveness, threatening the Black Hole converters, only to realise that would be an incredibly stupid thing to do until finally beating The Doctor at his own game, be taking away the one thing he wanted more than anything else, another Time Lord. The Earth is safe and all the good guys survived, but in refusing to regenerate, The Master is causing The Doctor more pain than any death ever could and the moment where The Doctor is completely inconsolable as he holds The Master’s corpse in his arms is genuinely heartbreaking.

Everything in this finale pulls together so perfectly, all of the important characters get complete arches over the course of the three parts and by the end of it, you can clearly see the impact on each of them. Nothing is left as a loose end and there’s not a second wasted in terms of what’s shown on screen, it’s exactly what a series finale should be.