WWE Summerslam 2020: Every Match Ranked

…well, I sure didn’t see that coming.

Summerslam is now behind us, and I’m sitting here, looking back on the show the next morning and thinking to myself…yeah, that was a pretty bloody good show. Sure, there wasn’t a match of the year candidate on the show, but there doesn’t always need to be. At the end of the day, there was only one match out of the eight that I didn’t like, and even that had some stuff to like about it. Every other match was good-to-great in quality, and I’m very happy I invested my time into watching it.

Now, to the rankings!

8 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt def. Braun Strowman(c)
(Universal Championship)
(Falls Count Anywhere)

It showed hints of greatness, but ultimately, it fell flat.

Let’s talk about the positives first. Firstly, The Fiend is Universal Champion again, this is a great thing, which also means Braun’s title reign is over, this also a great thing. Secondly, Roman Reigns is back, and to that, I give a big HELL YES. Smackdown has sorely missed Roman Reigns this summer, and I don’t think I realised just how much I missed him until he was back. On top of that, it looks like he might have a new ass-kicking attitude, which gets a big thumbs up from me as that has always been the best version of Roman Reigns. Of course, this does probably mean that The Fiend is going to have to lose to Roman pretty soon after winning the title back, but honestly? I don’t care. I said it in the build-up to Wrestlemania, and I’ll say it again now, I am all-in on another Roman Reigns world title run, I think it could be great.

Now, unfortunately, I have to talk about the actual match which…well, it was trash. It didn’t help that I wasn’t overly interested in the story anyway, but this didn’t do much to build that interest either. It was a pretty standard from what we’ve come to expect in WWE when two ‘big-guys’ go head-to-head. It was slow, not nearly as hard-hitting as you would think, and ultimately, pretty dull. I know The Fiend is a fascinating & unique character, that I love, but we’ve got to take a hard look at his history of matches and admit to ourselves that the character’s wrestling style isn’t entertaining. His best match was against Daniel Bryan, which I don’t think should even count because it’s Daniel effing Bryan, so of course it was great.

Still, Roman Reigns is on the horizon, which makes things look a bit more optimistic.

7 – Apollo Crews(c) def. MVP
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

I feel like I’m repeating myself every single month, but this was standard pre-show action.

It did have a bit of an extra kick this time, as there was a proper story surrounding the match, but the action didn’t push any boundaries in terms of what we’ve come to expect from pre-show matches. It served as a good showcase of Crews’ talents and a reminder that he’s a good wrestler who’s deserving of the US title. It didn’t really do anything for MVP, but it didn’t need to, his credibility comes from being a mouthpiece nowadays, not a wrestler.

Crews retaining was definitely the right decision in my books, and based on something that was teased for Raw, I’m hoping a feud with Aleister Black in on the horizon, which should be killer.

6 – The Street Profits(c) def. Andrade & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Fun tag-team action from two teams that know each other quite well by this point.

I did like this match, but I thought it could’ve done with a bit more. 8 minutes did not seem nearly enough for this match, especially with the story it was trying to tell. I know WWE doesn’t give a shit about their tag division, but they could at least make it look like they care a bit. The story surrounding Andrade & Garza was paid lip service to in the finish, but that’s about it. The two of them have been showing tension almost all year, with things never changing in any way. Some weeks they’ll work together perfectly, other weeks they just can’t get along, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Honestly, by this point, even if they do finally break-up, I’m past the point of caring about it.

Like I said though, the action in the match was fun to watch, Andrade & Garza kept the pace going, even when they were doing the ‘work over the face’ thing, and once Ford made the hot-tag to Dawkins, the pace stayed pretty steady. Also, Kevin Owens was great on commentary, first of all, shouting “Look at all my friends!” really aggressively – in reference to the people on the screens of the Thunderdome – was utterly hilarious. However, his best line was after the match, where Ford was celebrating with him, and Owens said to him “You turned in midair! Did you know you did that?” – referencing the move Ford did to win the match – which was a line that caught me off guard and was delivered such a perfect way, that I giggled about it for a good couple of minutes.

5 – Bayley(c) def. Asuka
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

This was arguably the best match these two have had so far, and yet it felt like they were holding back for the sake of the story.

There’s very little new to be said about the kind of matches these two can put on. They know each other exceptionally well, and it shows in matches like this. The match didn’t worry about overbearing us with Bayley beating-down on Asuka. Bayley spent much more time on offence, sure, but it didn’t feel like they were just setting up the story for the second match later in the night. Instead, Asuka had to play the plucky babyface, who picked her spots and made impactful moves when they counted.

The finish was predictable, but I don’t mind something being predictable when it’s the right move for the story. Sasha being Bayley’s key to victory is in-line with everything they’ve been doing together for the past year(ish) and sets things up perfectly to go horribly wrong later in the show. I think that Bayley being the one to hold onto her title is the right thing too. Not only is she great with it, but if we are finally going to get going with the Sasha/Bayley stuff, having Bayley being the heel holding the title is the perfect way to go.

4 – Asuka def. Sasha Banks(c)
(Raw Women’s Championship)

My thoughts on this match are very similar to the previous one. However, I thought this match was a lot more exciting, told a better story, and was all-around cleaner than the previous one.

I think the reason for the different feel to this match is straightforward. Bayley vs Asuka was the first half of the story, Sasha vs Asuka was its conclusion. There’s a more significant aura of excitement surrounding this second match because of what the first one set up. It doesn’t feel like they’re holding back here, instead, they’re pulling together to take the story to its natural conclusion.

The story of the match was able to capture the feeling of Asuka coming in, already beaten-down, without boring us with watching Sasha pick Asuka apart for the opening 5 minutes. They went the much more entertaining route and told that story through Asuka wrestling a much faster match, instead of waiting to pick her spots as she did with Bayley, she went in with a proactive strategy and did her best to never let Sasha take control. This led to a match with a much nicer sense of flow as it built steadily and satisfyingly to the finish.

As myself and many others predicted, Bayley would try to get involved, but her involvement would indirectly cause Sasha to lose the match. I like the way they did it though. With the way things went down, there’s an argument to be had over whose fault it was. Yes, if Bayley hadn’t gotten involved, Sasha wouldn’t have been in that position to get stuck in the Asuka lock. However, because Asuka merely reversed Sasha’s attempt to take advantage of the distraction Bayley caused, you could say that it’s Sasha’s fault. I don’t think that’ll have too much of an impact on the story going forward, but I think it’s a good tool for making sure it didn’t look like Asuka was just lucky.

3 – Mandy Rose def. Sonya Deville
(No Disqualification)
(Loser Leaves WWE)

If there’s any match that I wish had an extra 5 minutes, it’s this one. Not because it suffered from a lack of time, but because I was really enjoying it and wanted to see more.

As was to be expected from two women who know each other as well as these two do, they totally clicked in the ring, their chemistry was incredible to watch. The structure of the match was pretty simple, but I think that helped to tell the story. Sonya is so good as the heel who really just wants to hurt their opponent. She’s not cocky, because she doesn’t have to be, sure, she’s constantly taunting Rose, but that’s not out of disrespect, it’s out of a desire to cause pain & misery, a role that Deville just gets. Rose played off it to perfection, she crawled around the ring like someone who was really suffering emotionally, which did more for the story than a month of promos ever could.

As we got to the middle of the match, things became more balanced, both women went back-and-forth getting their licks in. I like that Mandy was the one to go for the weapons first. She’d played quite a reactive role in the feud up until this point, but this gave me the impression of someone who was doing what had to be done. The spot where she hurled chairs at Sonya, who was deftly dodging them was great fun too. The finish was, clean, simple, and exactly what it needed to be. Rose finally broke free of Deville’s oppression and absolutely went to town on her, those series of knees to the face felt really cathartic, and the perfect wrap-up to the story.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to Deville now. I haven’t heard any reports saying she’s planning to take time off, but who knows? Maybe she’ll go away for a while. Personally, I’d love to see her show up to get in Io Shirai’s face on NXT, but that’s fantasy booking. I think something like Raw Underground would be a better fit for her style. Plus, Deville vs Baszler…now there’s a match made in heaven. As for Rose? I honestly hope she picks up one of the women’s titles sometime soon, I’m really digging her as a wrestler now.

2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)

No, I’m not kidding. It was a 20-minute, slow-paced Randy Orton match…and I actually liked it. I’m just as surprised as you are.

As a stark contrast to Wyatt/Strowman, I think the fact that I was highly invested in the story coming into the match helped my enjoyment greatly. Not only did it mean that I was in a better mood, and more willing to give it a chance, but it meant that when the match leaned heavily on the story-based moments, I was invested. If I didn’t care about the story, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes at Orton slipping in and out of the ring at the start, but because I did care, I saw it as a continuation of the game Orton’s been playing with Drew all month. I know the idea that ‘if I’m invested in the story, I’ll be more likely to enjoy the match’ is one of the most basic pro-wrestling concepts, but you’d be surprised how often WWE seems to forget.

The slow pace worked in this match’s favour, as it gave the impression of two wrestlers really trying to study and figure out each other’s game plan. Neither man was wrestling a reactionary style, they were both trying to do everything in their power to execute their plan. It led to the momentum swinging back-and-forth like a motorised pendulum, and while the pace never accelerated, the build in the drama meant the tension is what carried my excitement.

The finish annoyed a lot of people, and I’m in two minds of it. I see the perspective that it’s a cheap way to end a world title match, and it makes Drew look like a chump who barely scraped by. However, I’d argue it’s the opposite. I won’t deny that ending things with a Claymore would’ve been a lot more satisfying, but I don’t think anyone believed that this was going to be the end of the Drew/Orton feud, I think it’s going until at least Hell in a Cell. By countering the RKO into a win like that, I think it makes Drew look exceptionally smart, as he’s found a way to turn Orton’s greatest weapon to his advantage. If Drew keeps pulling stuff like this, he will have essentially nullified Orton’s main tactic for matches and will force him to innovate, which could lead to some very interesting spots.

Admittedly, a lot of this is based on potential future gain, so it could all go tits-up, but what can I say? I’m in a good mood after the show last night, so I’m going to play the optimist.

1 – Seth Rollins def. Dominik Mysterio
(Street Fight)

Similar to Cole vs McAfee from Takeover, this was never a match that would be carried by action. This was a match that was all about the story and the drama. The story in question that carried this match was told excellently, which is why I rank this match so highly.

Going into it, I was already behind Dominik as a face. Maybe it was just because of the shock of it, but sometimes, watching a heel absolutely murder a guy is enough to make me root for the guy being murdered. This match did the smart thing and continued playing to that trend. The feeling was always that Dominik was out of his league. No matter who his father was, he was a relative rookie going up against a multi-time world champion, so they did the smart thing and built the match around that fact. The action made it very clear that Dominik could not hang in the ring with Rollins, he would get the advantage every now and then, but it was mostly through fluke than through expertise.

The narrative of Dominik not wanting his father to get involved was perfect too. I think this was the key thing that pulled me firmly over to Dominik’s side. It’s that true ‘heart-of-gold’ style of babyface, where he wants to prove that he can do it alone, even when he doesn’t stand a chance. Yes, some of that’s down to his naivete, but it’s so rare we get a wrestler in WWE that’s truly uncorrupted. It’s why we gravitated towards Sami Zayn & Johnny Gargano during their initial NXT runs, and it’s why I’ve found myself gravitating towards Dominik now.

Sure, Seth Rollins got the win, but that doesn’t matter, because this match got Dominik over in my eyes. I am now fully behind Dominik in whatever he does next (probably a tag match with his father), and I am excited to watch him grow as a performer over the next couple of years. I honestly can’t remember a time were WWE has (deliberately) got someone over so firmly in my eyes like this, it’s wonderful.

And there you have it! That’s a full weekend of wrestling coverage! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of Summerslam, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Wednesday, where I’ll be releasing the GRAND FINALE of my 100 Favourite Games of All Time series!

NXT Takeover XXX: Every Match Ranked

The 30th Takeover is officially in the record books and well…I definitely enjoyed it. It feels like a notable shift in the style of PPVs that NXT is going to be putting out from now on. It feels like, in order to appeal to the broader USA Network audience, they’re shifting their PPVs to have more or something for everyone, rather than constant, hyper-focused top-quality wrestling matches to please Meltzer’s star ratings. Whether this change is for the better or worse remains to be seen over the next year or so, but if the shows they come out with that like the ones of Saturday, I don’t think I’ll mind.

This was by no means among the best Takeovers of all time, but it was a show that kept me entertained from start to finish, and I can honestly say there wasn’t a bad match for the entire night. Sure, it didn’t blow me away, and I doubt it’ll be remembered all that vividly in the years to come, but sitting here, 12 hours after the show’s finished, I’m feeling positive about it.

6 – Breezango def. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch, Legado del Fantasmo
(Winners become #1 contenders for the NXT Tag Team Championships)

I was wondering how NXT was going to treat their pre-shows. Whether they were going to give the matches room to breathe and let the wrestling sell the show. Unfortunately, they made the time restrictions even heavier, as they only had 30 minutes for Booker T to bicker with Sam Roberts, instead of the usual 60.

It’s a pretty simple case with this match, it wasn’t bad, all of the action was enjoyable, however, coming in at just under 7-minutes, it didn’t have time to be anything more significant. Especially given that it was a triple threat tag match, it seemed like a really bad decision to cut the time on this one so heavily. That’s the kind of match that needs the time to build to a chaotic climax, but that phase of the match never got the chance to arrive.

What we got was perfectly enjoyable, Legado is doing a great job character-wise in the ring, and I want to see more of them in the near future. Breezango winning is an interesting choice, as they already got a tag title shot recently, but I don’t mind going for round two. As I said in my predictions, they’ve had a new fire lit under them since returning to NXT, and they feel like very different wrestlers to what I knew them as during their first runs in NXT.

5 – Finn Balor def. Timothy Thatcher

Good match, zero build.

There’s honestly no better way to put it in my mind. I think I probably would’ve liked this match more if I had some greater reason to be invested in it. I know Thatcher has been screwing Balor over here and there, but I don’t think it was given nearly enough focus every week on TV. This is one of those situations where it seems like management just wanted to have a Finn Balor match on the PPV, without having any real plan for what he could do.

Regardless of how invested I was in it, the match was of good quality. I’m still not adjusted to Balor’s more muted style, but this was an instance where he had an opponent it played well with. Thatcher is a proper mat-based wrestler, and he knows how to make it look impactful and intriguing (something unfortunately rare in the modern wrestling scene). Balor responded to it well, trying to speed the pace of the match up at every opportunity to stop Thatcher getting one over on him.

The match’s narrative was fairly basic, but it was well-told in this instance. I adored the shot where Balor landed hard on his feet with a missed Coup-de-Gras only for both him and Thatcher to go wide-eyed, realising the opportunity Thatcher has just been given. Sure, Balor predictably came out on top, but I now understand Thatcher’s style and enjoy watching him more than I did going into it, so that’s got to be a positive.

4 – Karrion Kross def. Keith Lee(c)
(NXT Championship)

Sure, this felt more like a main-roster main event, but it was a very good one.

In my predictions, I theorised about the different ways this matches could go. While I pointed to Lee vs Dijakovic for a formula they could try to replicate, that ended up not being the case, and what we got instead had upsides and downsides.

The downsides first, which are mostly to do with pacing. I don’t care who you are, or how in-line with your character it is, ‘working the arm’ by holding it in place for 5 minutes, isn’t entertaining. Putting that spot to early on in the match was a bit of an issue too because it meant I felt out of the match almost immediately, and it had to win me back later on, rather than winning me over straight away and keeping me into it for the rest.

However, once the match left those spots behind, things picked up. The match was never fast, but I don’t think it needed to be, because it was impactful. When you’ve got a guy as big as Lee, and a guy as jacked as Kross, the entertainment value is going to be in the hard-hitting stuff, so that’s what they went for. I don’t feel like it entirely lived up to it’s potential, but I still enjoyed what we got, and I’m not going to sit here crying about how I didn’t get the match I wanted.

The finish was a bit odd. I know the Doomsday Suplex is one of Kross’ signature moves, but it didn’t look all that impressive in this instance. It looks great when he can throw a guy half-way across the ring like they’re nothing. However, with Lee, it looked like any standard middle rope spot – a type of spot that hasn’t won a match in about a decade. It made the finish feel a bit sudden and took the wind out of me a bit when Kross won off of something I wasn’t expecting.

Ultimately, I think he has all the potential to be a fantastic champion, so I’m happy to wait and see on this one.

3 – Adam Cole def. Pat McAfee

Well, it was definitely a lot better than I was expecting.

To point out the obvious, the in-ring action was reasonably basic. McAfee pulled off some impressive stuff here in there, but there wasn’t a great variety in the moves he gave or took (although, he took a picture-perfect Panama Sunrise, so props there). The thing is, the action wasn’t the point of this match, it was never going to be. This was a match all around the drama and the story, and looking at the in-ring storytelling on display here, it was really entertaining.

Pat understood the role he needed to play and played it to perfection. He picked all the right moments to be a cocky jackass and all the right moments to run away scared. I didn’t particularly care for the faction warfare stuff, but it was a good bridge to take us from the 100% drama-focus of the early stages to the latter phase of the match, where action became much more critical to the story.

Cole played off of McAfee really well too. His facial expression on the kickouts and impressive manoeuvres worked into the attitude that they have been presenting each other with. What’s most important is that, when the time came for McAfee to take his beating, he made it look good. Like I said, none of the moves he took (other than the Panama Sunrise) were particularly complicated or impressive, but he made the beatdown on him feel weighty, so watching Cole kick his ass was satisfying.

Nothing about it was a technical masterpiece, but I came away from it in a good mood, having thoroughly enjoyed the match I just watched.

2 – Io Shirai(c) def. Dakota Kai
(NXT Women’s Championship)

Weirdly, despite this being in the number two spot, there isn’t a great deal I have to say about it. It was just a really good match.

I don’t think anyone had any doubts over the result, so my focus around this match was more getting the most out of the action as possible, of which I think both women did a great job. Io looked beatable at several points without ever coming across as week, while Kai got to show off just about everything she can do. Momentum was continually shifting between the two women in this one, which meant we got a great variety in terms of the action. Yes, it had slower spots where Kai worked a limb for an extended spot because it was buried in between plenty of action, I was happy for the match to take a short breather every now and then.

As predictable as it was, I think it’s important to Kai’s story that we hit the obvious beat of Gonzalez getting involved. Given Kai’s insistence that she’s got to where she did ‘on her own’, something like this should sow the seeds of discourse between her & Gonzalez, especially since I’d imagine Kai will find a way to blame Gonzalez for her loss. Meanwhile, I think it’s time for Io to move onto someone else, probably Candice LaRae. Kai could absolutely come back later down the line and challenge whoever the champion is again, but for now, I don’t think we should overplay that hand.

I’m intrigued by the Ripley/Gonzalez tease though. I’m not sure if they want to head in a tag-team direction with that, or whether it’ll be a singles feud. Either way, I’m looking forward to it, and I hope it serves as a coming-out party of Gonzalez as a major player in the NXT women’s division.

1 – Damian Priest def. Johnny Gargano, Bronson Reed, Velveteen Dream, Cameron Grimes
(North American Championship)
(Ladder)

20-minutes of mental ladder-match antics. Perfect, exactly what I wanted.

This one had everything you could want from a multi-man ladder match. It didn’t need much time to warm up, the pace accelerated to maximum pretty darn quickly and stayed there right up until the end. Everyone got a chance to shine, each of them getting their own memorable moments, and somehow, everyone getting a chance to look like they were about to win the match. I honestly thought ladder matches were very limited in terms of pulling off convincing false-finishes, but man, every time someone got to the top of that ladder (which, in the final 5 minutes, was a lot) I thought it was over.

Outside of that, it was ladder-spots galore. Priest running up the ladder to do a dive onto the outside, Grimes holding the ladder on shoulders and smashing everyone to bits with it, Gargano awkwardly power bombing Grimes onto the ladder in a way that made it look even more brutal than intended. We even got a spot I can’t remember ever seeing before in a match like this, where they kept piling up people and ladders into the corner, only for one guy to squish them all together. All of it was a blast to watch, and what makes this match take the number one spot.

Damian Priest was absolutely the right person to win this one. I’m not sure who he’ll feud with first (probably one of the other participants in this match), but I hope he has a long and fruitful reign. He’s been threatening to break through in NXT for a while, and hopefully, a run with the North American title will seal the deal.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure you come back here this time tomorrow, where I’ll be giving you my review of Summerslam!

WWE Extreme Rules 2020: Every Match Ranked

The Horror Show at Extreme Rules is now over and…well, it didn’t really live up its name, did it? The only two ‘horrifying’ segments weren’t exactly anything horrible, either in terms of content or quality. Ultimately, Extreme Rules isn’t a show that will be remembered for much of anything, for better or for worse. There were some slightly weird booking choices here and there, but there was nothing on this show that I hated or made me angry. Of course, the other side of that coin is that there was nothing that blew me away either.

Let’s get to breaking down the matches.

7 – Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro def. The New Day(c)
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Tables)

Well, it was hardly the worst tables match I’ve ever seen, but I still didn’t enjoy it.

If you’ve ever heard me bitch about weapons matches before, then you know why I didn’t enjoy this one. There was way too much time in the match wasted faffing around with tables that ended up being totally unimportant to the match. There was at least one that they spent time getting out and setting up, only for it never to be used in a single spot. This wasn’t a particularly long match and a lot of the time just felt wasted.

The action when they weren’t setting up tables was fun to watch, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it. Not to mention, it’s stuff we’ve seen from both teams before. There were a couple of fun spots, I liked Kofi being flung face-first into an up-turned table and the finish ended up looking quite brutal with how hard Kofi went through the tables. I’m just a bit confused as to why Cesaro & Nakamura won.

I’m not going to complain too much as Cesaro & Nakamura both holding titles is definitely a positive in my book, but given how sparse the tag team scene is on Smackdown now, what’s the point? I can only imagine that they’re just going to keep feuding with The New Day for at least another few months.

6 – Kevin Owens def. Buddy Murphy
(Kickoff Show)

A pretty standard placement for a pre-show match here and the reasoning is just as simple. It was a good match, I enjoyed what I saw. The only reason it’s not higher is that it didn’t have any build and I wanted to see a lot more of it.

I know WWE has a show to promote and all that, but would it really hurt them to let their pre-show match go 12-15 minutes instead of 8? I feel like putting on a bloody good match will get people more interested in signing up to the network/buying the PPV than Booker T and JBL inanely arguing with each other will.

Regardless, Owens & Murphy put on a good show here, and I hope both guys get a lot more than this in the coming months.

5 – Seth Rollins def. Rey Mysterio
(Eye for an Eye)

I liked it, but I can’t help but feel like this was an anti-climax.

This definitely should’ve been pre-taped. I’m not saying it should’ve gone all the way, but it should’ve at least been something like with Orton vs Edge. Set it out like a regular match, but occasionally do something a bit more ‘cinematic’, because when you’re promoting that someone’s going to have their eye taken out, it needs to feel like a big moment, but this just felt underwhelming.

Looking at the positives first, we got a lot of enjoyable action here. As expected, Rollins & Mysterio had great chemistry, and they were able to give us a lot of quick action that had a fantastic sense of flow to it. Even when things slowed down for the weapons, or for eye-gouging, it still carried a lot of the momentum that they’d built up throughout the match. My only real criticism of this aspect is how it dropped off a lot towards the end and slowed right down. That might’ve not been a problem if they’d stuck the landing on the finish, but…

It was an anti-climax. Seth did everything in his power to sell it, and I admire him for trying so hard (throwing up was a good touch), but it just didn’t work. Seth pressed Rey’s eye into the corner of the steps – which we’ve already seen before – and it looked like Seth was about to do more, only for him to suddenly realise that his eye was out. Then the referee just started freaking out and called for the bell. We didn’t see anything and the spot where Rey’s eye was being pushed into the steps didn’t even look that brutal compared to some other stuff they’d already done. I think they put a fake eye for Rey to hold up to his real one, but it was almost entirely covered by his hand, so I can’t tell. Maybe if that had been more obvious, I would’ve been more on board.

I just think it’s one of those situations where, it’s an over-the-top and slightly cartoonish situation, so you may as well have just gone the whole way with it and given us a prosthetic or CGI look of Rey’s eye poking out. Even later in the show, they had Charlie be like ‘he’s not actually lost his eye, doctors are going to put it back in’ so now it feels even less impactful.

At the end of the day, it’s a tale as old as time: Enjoyable match, rubbish finish.

4 – Bray Wyatt def. Braun Strowman (I think?)
(Wyatt Swamp Fight)

This was a bit of weird one because it didn’t really fit in with all the other pre-tapes we’ve seen so far. While I think that the positives outweigh the negatives, I can absolutely understand why others would hate it.

We’ll start with the negatives since I think there were less of them. The biggest one that I noticed was that the lighting was just awful. I know that it’s supposed to be dark and unknown, but that doesn’t stop you from shining a small spotlight on it so we can at least see the action. The other major point is that the ending didn’t work for me. I didn’t for a second buy the fake-out with the credits (though points for trying) and the way it all closed out, are we supposed to believe that Strowman drowned? Again, well done on trying something new & creative, but it will all be for nought if he just shows up on Friday like he didn’t go through some kind of traumatic experience.

However, there was still plenty to enjoy. I know some people will probably criticise the match for this, but I thought that Bray’s monologue was great. It was a bit weird that they had Braun heavily breathing so close to the microphone, but Bray has such a way with words that I couldn’t help but be fascinated while he talked. He’s able to weave such a beautiful tapestry that I felt I understood his motivations now better than I did with a whole month of build.

I’m not entirely sure why there was a snake, or what the symbolism was there, but it worked for the horror aspect. As did Braun setting a guy on fire. Again, all of these ideas are inherently silly, so going over-the-top and cartoonish with them is how you make them great. The callback to the Braun & Alexa stuff was a nice little touch. It was something that I’d never considered injecting into the story, but once it came up, it made all the sense in the world. I wish they would’ve pressed harder with it to be honest with you, Bray continually trying to lure Braun in with things from his past could’ve been very interesting.

I’m glad Bray came out on top, and it seems than Braun vs Fiend is where this is headed. It’s the expected outcome, but that’s not a bad thing. At the end of the day, this wasn’t one of the best pre-tapes WWE have produced, but it was still way better than both of NXT’s attempts.

4 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Dolph Ziggler
(Extreme Rules, for Dolph Ziggler only)
(No Champion’s Advantage)

Heels are just so smart sometimes. It’s always so dumb when wrestlers are allowed to pick stipulations, but then they just pick something generic that benefits their opponent as well as them. You can pick ANYTHING, this is your opportunity to ensure you win yourself the title. Thank goodness Dolph Ziggler finally pulled his finger out of his arse and realised this. Admittedly, you could turn around and ask ‘why didn’t he just say something like Drew has to wrestle handcuffed & blindfolded’ which is a valid point from a kayfabe perspective, but that would’ve been pretty boring to watch, don’t you think?

A stipulation for this made for an interesting dynamic between the two. It was played for the obvious a couple of times, where Drew almost used a weapon but then didn’t; the table spot especially was an excellent way to play on our expectations. It also came through in more subtle ways. It meant that there was a lot more regular wrestling throughout this match, a lot of the focus was shifted away from the weapons. It avoided falling into the usual traps of weapons matches where they try too hard to make the weapons the focal point.

I think it’s incredible how consistently they’ve made Drew look like a beatable champion, without actually harming his ‘indestructible’ aura. With both Ziggler, Lashley & Rollins they’ve been able to put Drew in situations where his title reign is in severe jeopardy, only for him to overcome it and come away from it looking even more invincible than he did before. I know that seems like such an obvious idea, but I honestly can’t remember the last time WWE pulled it off properly with a face world champion, so I’m pleased it’s happening now.

There were still some slow points, but they ended up not mattering in the end, I felt it was outweighed by the compelling storytelling and exciting action. Not to mention Drew busting out one of the best Claymores I’ve ever seen. The timing, the impact, it was just so satisfying.

2 – Bayley(c) def. Nikki Cross
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

More, more, more! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, WWE’s women’s division is on fire right now.

First up, the Smackdown Women’s title match. I know we’d seen Bayley vs Nikki before, but that didn’t bog down this match in the slightest. Both wrestlers came right out of the gate with fast and exciting offence, and the pace didn’t slow very much as things progressed. Nikki was on a roll here, and it put me in mind of the style Cross gave us when he was fighting the likes of Asuka in NXT. She always threw caution to the wind and threw herself around like a ragdoll. She’s so much fun to watch when she’s let loose.

Bayley did fantastic work here too. She properly has the hang of the ‘smart heel’ style of wrestling, where she played a much more reactionary role in the style of the match. Where Nikki was going all-out and fighting in any way she could, Bayley was doing her best to turn it against Nikki Cross, picking her openings and then getting to work. Sure, it’s a fairly basic idea, but that’s often all you need to put together a great match. It gave the feeling that, despite her not being on offence as much as Nikki, she was in control of the match most of the time.

Towards the end, things broke down a bit more and got slightly more chaotic, a factor that absolutely works in this feud’s favour. I’ll get a bit more into it with the next entry, but this whole feud between Bayley/Sasha/Nikki/Asuka has been built on chaos, so it absolutely should be baked into the matches. Bayley gets another dirty win, but it doesn’t feel like a cop-out because of her character & the way the match had built to it; meanwhile, Nikki can come away from it with some dignity.

1 – Sasha Banks def. Asuka(c) (sort of)
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Hell yes, give me more of that chaos.

Let’s cut straight to the chase here, these two competitors put on a fantastic match. I’ll talk about the finish in just a moment, but everything leading up to it was superb. They created a story in the match where both women could wrestle pretty fast-paced styles, while it was still very obvious who the heel was. Sasha didn’t have to slow the match down too much to feel like the bad guy thanks to the attitude she put behind her moves. The only time the match ever properly slowed was when Sasha was applying that cool-looking submission hold, and since it was the only time the match ever slowed, it felt like a big deal and put Asuka on the back foot.

The constant trading and manipulation of holds between the two of them worked so well, and they did it at such a pace that it felt like momentum was constantly shifting between both women. Sometimes all you need to make your action compelling is to create the feeling that both competitors are truly evenly match, which is precisely what we got here. Asuka is in this weird position, where she’s a slightly goofy & lovable babyface that can absolutely dominate a match when she wants to, which played so well here, especially towards the end when things started to fall apart for Banks.

That’s as good a segway as any to talk about the finish. To put it simply, this finish not what I would’ve liked to have seen, but I’m not too mad about it happening. As I said, the whole build to these matches has been quite chaotic. Bayley & Sasha travelling across both shows has created the feeling that they’re picking too many fights and they’re having trouble fending them all off. Week in and week out, Bayley & Sasha end up cornered by the babyfaces, only to weasel their way out of it. So what do they do here? Exactly the same as they’ve always done.

Incorporating all the potential cheating elements that these women have in their back pocket was great. I loved the chaos of Bayley getting in the ring & slipping the title to Sasha, while, unbeknownst to them, Kairi had slipped Asuka the thing that lets her spit green mist. The fact that none of them worked was great at establishing just how well these women know each other’s styles.

However, Bayley putting on the referee shirt, counting the pin and giving Sasha the title was where it went a step too far. If you want to pull something like this off, everyone has to be on board. The wrestlers, the timekeeper & most especially the commentators. The fact that the timekeeper refused to ring the bell, the fact that Sasha didn’t seem to know if she’d really won and the fact that the commentators were totally clueless about the whole thing meant it all fell totally flat.

It creates a lot of intrigue going into Raw (which I imagine was its goal), and I’m not going to let it detract too much from my enjoyment of the match, but it was definitely an odd decision.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Wednesday for the next instalment in my 100 Favourite Games series!

WWE Backlash 2020: Every Match Ranked

In the annals of history, when we look back on the year that was 2020, Backlash will undoubtedly be proclaimed to be…a show, that happened.

I don’t know what else to say during this bit, I didn’t enjoy this show. There wasn’t any match that I particularly hated, but I only truly enjoyed one of them, and even that match I’ve got a healthy dose of complaints about. I don’t think it helps that we’ve had three major shows in less than a month, so I’m just quite fatigued when it comes to wrestling. Maybe I would’ve liked this show more if I’d seen it with greater distance from AEW & NXT’s shows, but as it stands, I’m just not interested in main-roster WWE right now.

Still, I watched the show, so I must review it, here are my rankings of the matches.

UNRANKED – The Street Profits & The Viking Raiders go on an adventure

I don’t usually cover this kind of stuff since it wasn’t actually a match. However, given that it was far and away, the best thing on the show…and was MAD…I feel like I have to.

Much like many of WWE’s other pre-taped ‘cinematic’ segments that have aired in recent months, there was far too much going on here to cover it all, but I thought it was a lot of fun. For context, I’ve hated the Raiders/Profits segments on Raw up until this point. I thought they fell onto the wrong side of goofy, made the Raw tag titles look like a joke and wasted some of the best talents currently on Raw. The thing is when you look at this segment, that is all still true, however, looking at it in a bubble, it was a well-written comedy segment that I enjoyed.

The weird flashbacks Ivar kept having, the bowling ball in the nuts, the telekinetic turkey leg…it was so stupid I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy myself. It even told it’s own little story, where the violence between the two teams just kept escalating to the point where they realised there wasn’t even any point in them fighting anymore. Then they had one of their Japanese wrestlers show up with a bunch of ninjas…which I’ll admit, is a bit problematic, but they overplayed the stereotype so hard that it just about came across as satire.

Personally, I hope the payoff to all this is that they realise they all just really enjoy hanging out and playing games against each other. They never have a tag title match and just become friends who hang out and do stupid stuff.

7 – Asuka(c) vs Nia Jax ended in a Double Countout
(Raw Women’s Championship)

This means we get to see this match again…oh joy…

There was nothing to enjoy here. Asuka getting all over Nia as soon as the bell rung was a nice way to open things, but it quickly lost all momentum once Nia got on offence. I wish I could like Nia as a wrestler, I really do, but nothing she does excites me at all. It’s like someone took the worst parts of Big Show & Kane’s styles and rolled them into a single wrestler.

Unfortunately, Asuka didn’t play well off of Nia either. There was potential in the way that Asuka was constantly locking Nia into holds to try and find some chinks in the armour, but it didn’t last long enough or make enough of an impact to be compelling. As for the finish, I’d love to sit here and be outraged about it, but it’s not the first time WWE has done a finish like this, and it absolutely won’t be the last. All it really does is make me think of the other promotions and how they would handle a situation like this a lot better than WWE always seem to.

6 – Braun Strowman(c) def. The Miz & John Morrison
(Universal Championship)
(2 on 1 Handicap Match)

So, have you ever seen a handicap match before? Because if you have, then you’ve seen this match.

I really don’t have much to add to this, because it really was the most bog-standard, paint-by-numbers handicap match you’ve ever seen. Strowman started out looking strong and shrugging off both guys, then the heels used their numbers advantage to wear Strowman down for a bit. Then Strowman made a comeback and murdered them both, winning the match while barely breaking a sweat.

This whole feud has been so incredibly pointless. It’s horrible that this is the best the writers could come up with for Strowman’s first world title run. It’s not over yet, though, so I hope we can get something more interesting in the coming months.

5 – Apollo Crews(c) def. Andrade
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

Again, what is there to say? This was a pre-show match that was exactly how you’d expect a pre-show match to go.

It was ok, there was nothing terrible about it, but there wasn’t anything interesting either. On any other show, I’d have ranked this dead-last, but welcome to Backlash.

Owen’s involvement was a bit weird. I find it quite upsetting that Seth Rollins – who lost at Wrestlemania – got a world title shot, while Kevin Owens – who won at Wrestlemania – gets to be the least important person in a US title feud between Andrade & Apollo Crews. It incredibly strange booking, but if the end result is getting that title onto Owens so it can actually be treated like a big deal again, then I’m ok with it.

4 – Sheamus def. Jeff Hardy

Given that the Extreme Rules logo this year is in Jeff Hardy’s colours, I don’t this feud is over.

This was a decent match. It didn’t surpass my expectations, but I still came away from it feeling relatively satisfied by what I saw. I think the way they played the roles in the match was the right way to go about it, with Sheamus controlling the pace, for the most part, forcing Hardy having to play a more reactionary role. It suffered a bit purely because I’m not very interested in the story. Each to their own tastes, but watching a man throw his own pee in another man’s face isn’t exactly the kind of thing I find compelling.

I’m not surprised that Sheamus won; however, I am surprised that he won clean. I don’t know if they’re going to try to use this to make a point about Hardy’s condition, but if the feud is going to continue (which it really looks like it is), then I’m not sure Sheamus winning clean was the best way to serve that. The problem now is that, if Hardy continues to go after Sheamus, then it just looks like he’s a sore loser, while if Sheamus keeps ragging on Hardy, then it feels hollow because he’s already beaten him, there’s nothing left to prove.

We’ll just have to wait and see, but it was a bit of confusion decision.

3 – Bayley & Sasha Banks(c) def. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross & The IIconics
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

A fun match that ended way too soon.

Why is Kayla so determined to drive a wedge between Bayley & Sasha? Every time the two of them have a match, Kayla comes up to them and asks “Are you two gonna fight yet, or what?” Given that all the other teases that tensions between them have been so subtle, this one is a really odd thing to keep shoving in the audience’s face.

WWE finally decided they’re actually going to do a proper triple threat tag match this time, with one person from each team legal at once; none of this ‘only two legal competitors allowed’ nonsense they’ve been pushing for years. Low and behold, it made for a much better match. It never felt like this match was just ‘going through the motions’, there was always a point every action, and the pace remained consistently exciting throughout.

The only problem, as I mentioned in the opening sentence, it was way too short. Just as I felt like it was about to kick into that higher gear and get really fun, Sasha swooped in and got the win and, just like that, it was over. While I did enjoy what I’d seen up until that point, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get more.

2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Bobby Lashley
(WWE Championship)

Well, I’ll be damned, a match that surpassed my expectations. Admittedly, my expectations didn’t start very high, but they were still surpassed.

This was a good culmination of the new brutal attitude that Lashley has gained over the past month and actually did a damn-good job of making both guys look pretty strong. Lashley displayed his new killer-instinct by jumping Drew with the Full-Nelson before the bell, which started the whole thing off with a head full of steam. It did slow down a bit as the match progressed, but there was a decent little story being told of Drew fighting up from underneath and coming out of it looking fantastic.

What drags this match down is the dumb finish. I get that you might want to protect Lashley somewhat after this fresh heel-turn, but the last thing we needed to see here was Lana. She came out and started telling the referee that he cheated…which isn’t how ANYTHING works. Does Lana think the referee is a part of the match? Is that the story they’re trying to tell here? That Lana just doesn’t understand how wrestling works at all?

Hopefully Drew will move on to a new opponent now and he can be separated for the absolute clusterfuck that’s about to go down between Lashley, Lana & MVP.

1 – Randy Orton def. Edge

So…the general consensus online is that this was a fantastic match and has ‘match of the year’ potential and I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I’ve watched this match twice now to see if there was something I missed the first time. Admittedly, I did like it better the second time, but I still don’t think it was anything special.

I have ranked it as the second-best match on the show, but honestly, that’s more of a statement on how lacklustre Backlash was than anything else. I liked parts of this match, but I have so many problems with it too.

The best bit was easily the opening 15-minutes or so (while we’re on the topic, 45 minutes was too damn long for this thing). There was a semblance of a story being told with Edge having a crisis of confidence and Randy wrestling circles around Edge. It even felt like it was building really nicely to something with how Edge started to make a bit of comeback and was finding his groove.

Then, around the middle of the match, the pace totally died. The two men moved into a bunch of holds that weren’t quite rest-holds but also weren’t overly impressive. I get what they were going for as they were vying for position and trying to get one over on each other, at first I even bought into it and was feeling the rhythm of it. Then it just went on…and on…and on, and by the time they finally started doing moves again, I’d lost interest.

Speaking of moves. Spamming a bunch of finishers isn’t entertaining wrestling, and that’s what the final 10 minutes of this match were (save for the roll-up spot). I know that in places like NJPW and AEW, there is a lot of finishers and a lot of kickouts, but there’s a distinct difference in the way that they do them. Compare the endless finisher kickouts in a match like this, to those in Okada vs Omega (any of them), and you’ll see what I mean. In NJPW, each finisher holds weight and substance, each one has had a mini-build to it within the match, there is a whole bunch of other exciting and impactful moves in between each one. It makes each kickout feel exciting. Then, look at Orton vs Edge, where they would do a big move, kickout of it, lay around selling for a minute and then they moved right on to the next big move.

One of those styles tells a compelling story that keeps the pace of the match ticking over. The other style is boring as piss, kills the pace of a match dead and does nothing to tell a story. Again, I understand what they were going for with them digging into their own personal history and pull out a bunch of those moves…but it wasn’t well-executed.

I understand that I’m alone in having a negative view of this match and I really tried to appreciate this match for what it was, but this just wasn’t me. It was a style of wrestling that I’ve never liked, and I wasn’t invested enough in the story going in to overlook it and enjoy it for what it was.

…and that was the best match that happened at Backlash.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, feel free to tell me all about my wrong opinions, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here next week, where I’ll be running down some of the best ever competitive Pokemon!

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 7 (2012 & 2013) Ranked (Part 2)

If they could split the whole series into two parts, why can’t I split this article into two parts? Anyway, welcome back to my review of Doctor Who Series 7! After looking through the worst of what this series had to offer (mostly Clara), we now get to have a healthy dose of positivity as I just cover the best.

If you haven’t read part 1, then I suggest you check it out here. Now, let’s get on with the review!

9 – Asylum of the Daleks

This is an episode that people often point to when insulting Moffat’s representation of the Daleks, and I can’t say I entirely disagree. Having the Daleks call on The Doctor to solve a problem because they’re too scared to do it themselves seems incredibly counter-productive. That said, I think the justification given for it would’ve made some level of sense…had the “mad” Daleks actually been represented in a way that made them seem any different to regular Daleks. That was my biggest issue with this episode, a lot of time was put into telling us that these were “insane” Daleks that are so much worse than regular ones, but when the time came to show us that, they didn’t seem very different to anything we’ve already seen. Oswin being the lone exception, which is a great jumping-off point to talk about that.

Personally, I think this was a brilliant idea. Given that Jenna Coleman had already been announced as the new companion at the time this episode first aired, it was a genius idea to get a buzz going surrounding her character. The episode sticks to its guns as well, it plays off of what the audience already knows and makes us believe that she actually might join the TARDIS team in that episode right up until it’s ready to reveal the twist. Unlike a companion such as Astrid, who we knew was never going to stick around for more than one episode, the way the story surrounding Oswin is told leans all the way into what we’ve come to expect from the show.

Everything else surrounding the episode is quite enjoyable too. While I’m not a fan of the Pond’s divorce, it technically happened in a web series, not this episode, so I’m going to let it go. Plus, their reunion here actually makes for some sweet moments, including one of my favourite subtle moments ever in the show. That being when Amy tells The Doctor “You can’t fix this like you fix your bowtie”, then later on in the episode when The Doctor fixes Amy & Rory’s relationship, there’s a brief shot of him fixing his bowtie. That’s some Edgar Wright level stuff right there.

It does lean into the humour a bit heavily, but unlike in other comedic episodes this series, most of the jokes are actually funny, so it works to this episode’s benefit, rather than its downfall. The line “Don’t be fair to the Daleks when they’re firing me at a planet” always gets a chuckle out of me and I love that Rory – who has never encountered the Daleks before – thinks the ball things in their lower-half are eggs, that’s prime Rory right there.

The only major issue I have with the episode is that the plot is quite weak. The goal of the episode is pretty vaguely defined and most of the time is spent just standing around discussing other plot-threads that aren’t related to the task at hand. There also isn’t much of a sense of danger throughout, I know they’re surrounded by Daleks the whole time, but every encounter is dealt with so quickly, that it may as well have not even happened. The final twist of Oswin wiping The Doctor from the Dalek’s database would be an interesting one if it was ever actually used for anything noteworthy. Instead, it gets reversed quickly after barely being mentioned it may as well have just bin an out-right retcon.

Asylum of the Daleks doesn’t really do much in terms of treating The Doctor’s greatest villains like any real threat. Still, the majority of the other factors in the episode hit the mark to create something that I had a decent amount of fun with and is quite rewatchable.

8 – Cold War

When bringing a monster from the classic series of Doctor Who back, it’s always hard to tell whether it will actually be a worthwhile endeavour. While looking back on old Doctor Who episodes and seeing the abysmal costumes & special effects is fun from a modern perspective. It’s when those same effects appear in a modern episode, surrounded by all the high(ish) quality looking stuff, it can fall a bit flat. The Ice Warriors are one that suffers from that problem, I think. Their costumes are incredibly clunky and clearly made out of a very cheap plastic that seems to have patterns carved into it with about the same quality as you’d expect from a mid-range action figure.

So, when faced with bringing them into a modern setting, the team at Doctor Who had to figure out a way around it and I think they did a surprisingly decent job. The team working on the episode seemed to be very careful with any shot that involved the suit of armour, making sure that it didn’t show too much detail at once, to avoid that cheap look. IN addition to this, the relatively dark lighting of the setting allowed for plenty of opportunities to obscure specific details when necessary, to ensure that the new Ice Warrior looks more imposing than dumb.

They also worked to include new aspects of the monster’s lore. Something which doesn’t always work, but went ok in this example. Once the Ice Warrior leaves his armour, the whole tone of the episode shifts to one of a creeping panic, and I think it really nails the feeling of tension amongst it all. The entire episode up until this point, The Doctor has been talking at length about how honour-based the Ice Warriors are. Meaning that when he describes the desperation of the Warrior leaving their armour, it has a lot more weight than if it hadn’t been brought up until then like so many other episodes do with twists like this.

The process and eventual resolution of the episode is very well-executed and tense too. The Doctor finds himself in yet another situation of being surrounded by people who want to fight, but he has to find a way to convince them otherwise. It’s these moments of diving into another being’s nature and finding the best way to convince them of his own perspective that is when The Doctor is arguably at their best. This episode sees Smith’s performance abandon many of the more goofy-traits he’s adopted and focus on being serious.

It’s not a perfect episode though, hence why it’s not higher up on the list. A lot of the reasoning behind the Ice Warrior’s actions aren’t entirely clear to me, especially towards the end where he suddenly does a 180 and decides not to blow up the world. The episode was slowly building towards that point, but I feel like it only got about halfway there before jumping forward a bunch of steps to the end. Also, Clara is once again quite the non-factor. She has a tense scene where she’s forced to come face-to-face with the alien, but it doesn’t really do much for her character. It’s a scene that does wonders for the tension of the overall episode, but when it comes to giving Clara a landmark experience in her adventures with The Doctor, it doesn’t really hit that point.

Ultimately, Cold War is a good episode, but not an especially memorable one. It did a fair job of bringing back the Ice Warriors and was scattered with several cool or exciting scenes. Just for whatever reason, it failed to make any kind of lasting impact on me.

7 – Journey to the Center of the TARDIS

The TARDIS has always been an interesting and mysterious subject in Doctor Who, and I like that. Much like The Doctor’s real name, I don’t think we should ever know too much about the TARDIS. Partly because if you establish too many rules, then a lot of things in the show will stop making sense, but also because it should be a device beyond our understanding. This is a machine that can exist at every point in space and time simultaneously, there shouldn’t be any possible explanation for how it works that a human could understand.

So, with that said, you’d think that I’d dislike this episode for shedding away some of that mystery right? Well, actually no.

The thing is, as much as this is an episode where we literally explore the TARDIS, we don’t actually learn anything new about it that hadn’t already been referenced in previous episodes. There had been several jokes about the library and the swimming pool running through the past couple of series, and although we’ve never seen things like the Eye of Harmony before, we’ve known they exist. Instead, this episode more serves to get a better idea of the character of the TARDIS.

I know that was done last season too in The Doctor’s Wife, but with that, it was deliberately given a human personality, when that isn’t realistic. The TARDIS that we fly with every episode isn’t a human and given that there has been some sort of conflict between Clara and the TARDIS brewing in this series, I think it’s important to understand a bit about how it feels. We get a decent chunk of that here, as it does things like getting rid of doors to prevent people from stealing its stuff, or merely looping the corridors when people threaten to blow the walls down. Even something as simple as a “snarl” to scare people off of its damaged engine room fills this machine with a greater sense of character and life than it ever had before.

As for the plot, it’s not overly compelling. The whole idea that the TARDIS would have its defences lowered just because it’s in a mode that makes it easier for humans to fly seems like a bizarre design choice. Then again, if that’s what’s needed to make the episode happen, then alright, I’ll bite. The secondary characters aren’t overly appealing. One has your classic ‘jerk for the sake of a jerk’ attitude that I couldn’t care less for, regardless of what dramatic redemption arc the episode tries to throw at him towards the end. The other two secondary characters are just plot devices for the main secondary character’s story, and as such, they don’t get anything noteworthy to them.

I’m also not a big fan of the solution to the episode. The “it actually never happened because time travel” solution isn’t a clever or interesting one at the best of times, but this episode is determined to have it both ways. It wants to have the original timeline aborted, so everyone involved forgets the events of the episode. However, it also wants all of the character development it did to have still happened. This means we get a scene where the two brothers have apparently reforged their relationship…except the events that caused them to do that never happened. It’s not a situation where you can be selective about what your characters do and don’t remember, either all of it happened, or none of it did.

Like most episodes in this series, it’s flawed, but I still found a decent amount of stuff to enjoy about it.

6 – The Power of Three

Ok, first thing’s first, let’s all agree that the episode should’ve been called “Cubed”. Yes, I know the whole point is “the power of three” referring to The Doctor, Amy and Rory, but I think it would’ve been better as a nice little twist at the end, instead of being blasted right out in front of you from the start.

If there was ever an episode that was crying out for two parts it was this one because I think it absolutely could’ve done with a bunch of extra time, even an additional 10-15 minutes would’ve helped boost this episode to the top spots on this list. Instead, it had several points that felt very rushed.

First thing’s first, the mystery in this episode is absolutely brilliant. As we’ve seen with Chibnall’s writing since taking over had head-writer, he knows how to set up a good mystery, and that is on full display here. The idea that millions of these cubes could just appear out of nowhere and no-one on Earth would’ve seen the moment they did so is a bit unbelievable, but I’m willing to roll with it. Immediately, the episode gives us this tangible thing that we know is going to somehow be vital to the episode, except we have absolutely no idea how or even what that is.

Watching the TARDIS team try to solve the mystery opens the door for so many different possibilities, and the episode does a good job of playing on all of them. First of all, there’s The Doctor trying to live a normal life. This whole sequence was a bit silly, but I think it was a good idea to break up the relatively slow pace of the episode with a nice bit of fast-paced humour. I found it quite amusing to see The Doctor doing tonnes of household chores, including doing a mathematically impossible number of kick-ups, in just an hour. After his abysmal outing in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, this is where Brian finally gets a chance to shine as a character. He’s got this complete and total dedication to his task of watching the cubes that I can’t help but root for him as he adorably takes it SUPER seriously; documenting the complete lack of anything the cubes are doing, on the hour, every hour.

The episode also does an excellent job of transitioning in and out of the comedy, injecting a few serious scenes of the cubes doing stuff in between the comedic moments, before transitioning out of it entirely as we head into the scenes at UNIT. I loved the sequence were the cubes suddenly started doing just about any random thing you can think of, it only served to add to the mystery surrounding them, and it led to some pretty funny moments in there too.

The other big point this episode touches on is the impact on the Ponds’ lives that travelling with The Doctor has on them. This is a big part of why I think this episode needed more time because it was squashed in between all of the cube stuff that it very rarely had any time to breathe and ended up feeling quite forced since this was the final episode before the Ponds’ departure.

Speaking of rushed, once the cubes open, the episode falls apart a little bit. There are some genuinely exciting scenes, like The Doctor having one of his hearts fail and also the way the team go to the hospital to discover where Brian had been taken. Then, they get onto the spaceship and confront the Shakri, and the whole thing falls apart. There’s a conversation where absolutely everything gets explained, then The Doctor quite literally just waves his magic wand (sonic screwdriver), and everything’s fine. There’s not even anything in the way to try and stop him from doing so, the ship just has an AI that gets deactivated, and that’s it, suddenly everything’s fine again.

If this episode were a two-parter, I would’ve had part one end with the opening of the cubes and then spend all of part two attempting to take down the threat that they posed. Having The Doctor just waltz into the thing and immediately solve it without having to overcome any kind of obstacle was extraordinarily disappointing and left me feels deflated at the end of what had been a really good episode up until that point. (Also, making it two parts meant you could’ve called part one “Cubed” and part two “The Power of Three” and I wouldn’t have had to have that ramble at the start of this piece.)

5 – The Rings of Akhaten

Giving a companion their first outing in the TARDIS can often be quite a daunting task because there are a few ways that you could go with it. You could make it character-based, like The Fires of Pompeii or The Beast Below. That allows us to get a much better sense of this new character than in the series opener. You could make it absolutely nothing like The Shakespear Code. Or finally, you could roll out all of the costumes you happened to have in the studio, build a weirdly convoluted set and blast us with everything weird and wonderful about Doctor Who. The Rings of Akhaten does the last one.

Much like The End of the World from, Series 1 (I’m pretty sure it even reuses a couple of those costumes), this episode is entirely focused on seeing the broader universe from Clara’s Earthly perspective. It’s one of those episodes that I’ll recommend to people who want a good idea of what the show is all about because it really has a bit of everything. There’s humour, there are aliens, there’s character, and there’s even an epic speech. The only real problem is that shoving all this stuff in means that some elements don’t play out quite as good as they could’ve. Although that’s not a massive issue in this episode.

One of the concepts I wish got played up a bit more is the idea of an economy based on sentimental value. I know it features pretty heavily when taking down the monster, but how would an economy based on that actually work day-to-day? Surely if you’re continually having to pay for goods and giving up sentimental items, you’ll pretty quickly run out of things you’re sentimental about. Even the people who take the items aren’t gaining anything. They can’t use those items to pay for stuff because to them, it has no sentimental value. Right? I don’t know, it’s a nice idea and fits thematically with the episode, but it also feels dumb. So take your pick, I guess.

I liked the way the episode used The Doctor investigating Clara’s life as a way to give us some context that we’ll need later on in the episode. In hindsight, it feels a little forced, but I still think it works. Speaking of, we may as well discuss the climax of the episode, because it’s a bit weirdly paced.

First thing’s first, The Doctor’s speech is fantastic. One of the all-time great speeches in Doctor Who without a shadow of a doubt. It’s brought down a peg only by the fact that it somehow doesn’t win the day. Seriously, how was it NOT the resolution to the episode? Everything about it from the music, to the pacing to the words themselves, said it should absolutely be what saves the day. Yet somehow it doesn’t. This isn’t the only time Doctor Who uses this twist, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This was one of the times where it didn’t. I understand that this allowed Clara to get her heroic moment, but it felt so unnecessary and totally sucked the air out of the episode. Not to mention, Clara is going to get PLENTY (I’d go as far as to say too many) hero moments during her time in the TARDIS. However, as a standalone scene, it is a very well-written moment and is one of the few times during her time on the show where I actually thought Clara felt like a person.

The pacing of the finale aside, this was a solid episode. It gave me hope for Clara’s direction as a character (more on how that turned out next time), and it told a solid, self-contained story. Plus the speech.

4 – A Town Called Mercy

HOW did it take this long for Doctor Who to do a western? It would’ve been one of the first ideas on my list. Sci-fi and Western are two genres that just feel so perfect together, and this episode is proof of that.

A trope that I’ve noticed a lot of throughout Moffat’s reign is there will be some sort of narration or story that we’re told at the beginning of the episode. It’s designed to sound like the story is describing The Doctor, only for it to turn out that they were actually describing the main villain of the episode. It’s a bit of a weird trope, but the way it keeps coming up makes me feel like Moffat’s trying to make a point about something…or he’s just not all that great at establishing villains and needs the audience to be told what a badass they are, rather than just showing us…you take your pick.

One of the big things I love about this episode is how light on action it is. I know that doesn’t sound like a compliment, but stay with me. For one thing, Doctor Who is a show that’s always thrived on its conversations rather than it’s fight scenes. Secondly, it plays perfectly into how westerns work. If you watch most of the classic westerns, they’re a lot of people standing around and discussing the plot. There’s the occasional shoot-out to break things up (which we also get here), but the driving force of things is the interactions of the characters. It leads to scenarios where, when guns are finally drawn, there’s so much more weight to the scene because of everything that went into it. There’s a reason Mexican Standoffs are a staple of the genre, minutes of slow build for a quick and satisfying payoff.

This episode does the exact same thing. We get a small chase sequence in the middle, and the climax has a mix of the two, but what carries the episode is the main characters talking and trying to understand one another. This isn’t just to solve the mystery either, we get some proper understanding of the characters involved here. We feel that anger that The Doctor feels when he realised Jex has lied because we’d spent such a huge chunk of the episode investing in the lies he presented us. These conversations peak and trough in intensity, giving us charged scenes where The Doctor puts Jex on blast for lying, all the way down to a prolonged and tense scene on the boundary, as The Doctor decides whether or not to throw Jex out.

The resolution to the episode plays well off of these established characters too. Someone who’s done horrible things like we’re told Jex has can never truly be redeemed, but I certainly felt sympathetic for him when he made the sacrifice play. I also liked the Gunslinger becoming a person to protect the town once The Doctor leaves, although I think it would’ve hit home a bit better if we had a deeper understanding of his mentality.

To put it simply, I thought this one was a lot of fun. It blended the classic moments of westerns with Doctor Who’s identity well. It played a slower pace that absolutely worked gave us substantial investment in the key characters. This investment meant that they could carry the episode, allowing characters like Amy and Rory (who are usually the protagonists) to take a back seat to the action for a change.

3 – The Time of The Doctor

I’ll harp on about this until the day I die, but this episode should’ve been called ‘The Twelfth Night’ to have some nice symmetry between this and The Eleventh Hour.

I’m aware that this an episode regarded mainly by the fanbase as not being all that great, but I’m going to, yet again, be a contrarian and say I really like it. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but to be fair, there are only two episodes of Doctor Who that I would say are perfect.

Right out of the gate, this is a funny episode. I don’t care what you say, Matt Smith suddenly and unexpectedly pulling his hair off to Clara’s horror will always get a laugh out of me, and nothing you say will change that. The bit with the telepathic clothes is a bit weird, the joke runs out of steam pretty quick, but it’s still a silly concept that I can get behind. I also think we get the opportunity to see all sides of Smith’s Doctor in this episode. I’ve spoken before about how I never liked how cartoonish of a character he became. There is a bit of that scattered in here, what dominates the episode is the more calm, collected and just straight-up badass version of Smith’s Doctor we saw early on in his run.

We saw a return of the weird Dalek conversion thing that we got in Assylum, which wasn’t great, but apart from that, I enjoyed the return of all the villains. I know many of them had become pretty overused by this point, but this is a regeneration episode, I don’t mind an extended trip down memory lane. The thread between Clara and The Doctor is a bit weird, and the fact that he keeps sending her away feels more like an excuse for us to follow The Doctor through 900 years of his life without actually having to live it out. I’m not suggesting we should’ve actually followed The Doctor for all that time, of course, I just think it could’ve been achieved a lot nicer through a method other than The Doctor constantly breaking Clara’s heart.

Then there’s the element of The Doctor’s regeneration itself. I think it was quite nicely done. Firstly, the fact that they actually addressed the things that they could’ve easily ignored (namely the War Doctor and Tennant regenerating twice) is appreciated, and the way they got The Doctor new lives was quite graceful and made sense. Even if Chibnall did later cause it to make no sense whatsoever, but that’s not the fault of this episode. The scene in which it happened was slightly over the top and rather manic, but MAN I loved it. I know it was cheesy and kind of dumb, but the way it’s built up to with the music and the growing intensity of The Doctor’s speech makes it work for me.

The one criticism I’ve seen levelled at this episode which I absolutely do not understand is that his regeneration speech was too long-winded and self-aggrandising. I don’t understand this for two reasons, one is that Tennant’s regeneration sequence went on for WAY longer and everyone loves that. Two is that it’s an awesome speech. Yes, some of the things he said didn’t quite make sense in the context of the show, but overall Moffat just knows how to write a good speech and how to make it feel amazing visually. The build-up of the music is just perfect, the line “I will always remember when The Doctor was me” works so well for Smith’s sentimental character and Amy giving us one last goodbye to top it all off was just plain beautiful. Then once it was over, the regeneration happened quick as a flash and we’re on to new adventures. I love it.

2 – The Angels Take Manhattan

I watched this episode when it first aired in 2012, and part of my soul is still crying about the ending.

This was far from the best outing the Weeping Angels have ever seen, and I think a lot of the aura surrounding them had disappeared by this point, but I still found them to be compelling villains. What carried this episode was the mystery surrounding what’s going on in New York and the character drama between the protagonists, so all was needed was a monster who could stand around and be threatening; not talk. The angels fit perfectly into that role.

Speaking of the mystery, it’s played in quite an interesting way. The thing is, from the very first scene, we know the angels are behind everything (the title of the episode gives it away). This meant that instead of the ‘who’ the mystery aspect of the episode focuses entirely on the ‘how’. It’s a trick that doesn’t always work, but this episode manages it. There were a few moments where the characters were working out stuff the audience had already been told, and I did want them to just ‘get on with it’ at a couple of points, but they were few and far between.

The character drama varies in how much it hits its mark. On one side of things, you have the melodrama between The Doctor and River, which doesn’t work at all. The Doctor isn’t a character that lends himself to relationship drama, and any attempt at it comes off as dull. The justification given as to why everyone’s suddenly annoyed at The Doctor makes no sense to me at all, and it’s totally forgotten about 5 minutes later, so what was the point in having it?

Speaking of things that don’t land. The concept of ‘time can’t be rewritten once you’ve read about it’, which just doesn’t make any sense to me. I know it was only introduced so that the grave at the end would carry much more weight (which it absolutely did), but what aspect of a future event being read about make it destined to always happen? We’ve seen plenty of pieces of writing being changed to align with the new future in this show. If this was a brand new show that hadn’t already had its laws fleshed out over and over again, then maybe it would work, but this is an aspect that goes against just about everything previous writers (including Moffat himself) have created.

Alas…now we must get to the heartbreak that makes this episode so amazing. Amy and Rory’s exit from the show. Amy & Rory had been The Doctor’s main companions for two and a half by this point, not to mention the only companions The Eleventh Doctor had ever had until then. I loved them both as characters, so they deserved the best of exits, and that’s precisely what they got. The best part is, they even got to dangle the fake-out in front of us before snatching it away.

The leap off of the roof was an excellent scene. We snapped from the fast pace of the chase around the hotel to this quiet and cold scene, where Rory has to make the choice to throw himself to his inevitable doom. Then Amy comes and joins him. It’s all done in such a way that it feels so unbelievably tense, it plays it up like something is about to come along and magically save them, but it doesn’t. They sacrifice themselves to stop the paradox, which gives them one final moment heroism before everything turns out to be ok, and they survive.

Then it happens for real.

Could I bitch about how it doesn’t make any sense that the angel survive? I could, but I don’t care, because everything else about this scene was perfect. Rory’s disappearance happens so suddenly that you don’t have any time to process it before Amy is faced with doing the same. Usually, I’d say that was a bad thing, but it’s exactly what this scene needed to ramp the emotions from zero to a hundred in seconds. Then, Amy makes her final choice. The choice between continuing to travel with The Doctor or living a life with Rory. What makes it so great is that the scene doesn’t try to push that aspect of it too hard, it gives its audience the credit to realise that for themselves. That’s something I wish Moffat did a lot more often in his writing instead of explaining everything all the time.

The sense of raw tragedy at that moment when Amy looks away from the angel and says goodbye is so overwhelming. Everything from the look on The Doctor’s face, to River’s acceptance that it’s for the best, to the fact that it genuinely wasn’t The Doctor’s fault that it happened this way. The episode isn’t done tugging on your heartstrings though, it still has one more ace up its sleeve in the last page of the book The Doctor was reading at the beginning of the episode. Up until this point, I was a bit teary but was keeping it together, but the scene where The Doctor runs back through the pack to retrieve the last page of the book was the moment that opened the flood gates, and I cried for that whole scene.

It’s without a doubt the best companion exit that the show has ever done, and that aspect alone dragged it up about 3 places on this list to the number 2 slot. I know it has areas that need touching up, but any piece of fiction that can bring that level of emotion out of me deserves all the praise in the world.

1 – The Day of The Doctor

It’s the most feel-good episode of Doctor Who ever and was an absolutely fantastic celebration for the show’s 50th anniversary. I’m going to break this down one thing at a time because there’s SO MUCH in here.

First up, John Hurt, what a performance. While I can’t deny I’ll always be a little bit sad Ecclestone didn’t come back to play this part, I certainly can’t complain about the man they got to take his place. The idea that The Doctor would’ve had a whole extra life during the Time War that he’s kept hidden all these years makes so much sense, I love it. What makes it even better is the characterisation of this Doctor, John Hurt’s look and voice is the perfect fit for a battle-hardened but war-weary old man who is just desperate for a way to end the violence. The scenes where Hurt’s Doctor is discussing what he’s going to do with The Moment feel so weighty and tragic in their own way, it was a masterful performance.

Speaking of The Moment, it was a brilliantly written aspect of the episode. It doesn’t get much explaining, and that’s precisely how it should be, it gives it this aura of being beyond our understanding. We just accept the fact that it can break the time lock of the Time War and show The Doctor his future selves because why wouldn’t it be able to do that? It poses these questions to the audience to make us rethink this event that we’ve already justified in our minds countless times. We’ve always taken The Doctor’s destruction of Gallifrey for granted, believing it was justified because that’s what The Doctor believes. The Moment is there as this unbiased source asking those hard questions. Even something as simple as “how many children are there on Gallifrey?” is enough to turn the whole situation on its head.

Then there’s the fun stuff. Smith and Tennant were an acting duo seemingly made for each other. Their portrayals of The Doctor had a lot of similarities, but this was a scene that did everything it could to show us their key differences with brilliantly comedic results. The jokes they throw at each other are ever so slightly different enough so that they don’t just feel like the exact same person, which encapsulates just about everything great about The Doctor as a character. Even when Hurt’s Doctor shows up, his style of comedy meshes with the other’s to significant effect. The whole scene in the forest is easily one of the funniest, most enjoyable scenes in the show’s history.

Around about the halfway mark of the episode is when things start to get epic. The Doctors’ entrance into the black archive is over-the-top in just the right way. Maybe I’d shout it down under other circumstances, but this is the 50th anniversary, it’s an all-out celebration of the show and – by extension – The Doctor himself, so I say let him have a cheesy, yet epic entrance. The scene following this, where Tennant and Smith sort out the squabble between the humans and the Zygons always gets me pumped with how heroic it makes The Doctor appear.

What’s extra genius about it is how it serves the much greater purpose of getting Hurt’s Doctor to understand the amazing person he’ll become once he’s ended the Time War. It even presents the counter-argument to the ‘but he’ll kill all the children’ argument. Even in the face of Clara directly telling Hurt’s Doctor that he’ll regret it every day for the rest of his life and he’d do anything to change it, Hurt’s Doctor just very calmly says “how many lives has his regret saved?” It makes you imagine a universe where The Doctor never went through that trauma of losing everything he’d ever cared for and didn’t use that motivation to become the incredible hero we just saw avert a war with ease.

THEN we get the ultimate hero moment for The Doctor. It’s big, bombastic and an absolute blast to watch as The Doctor plainly explains how he’s going to end the Time War and save Gallifrey. Without witness and without reward, he calls quite literally all of his experience and knowledge in the form of all his previous selves (and one future-self). He rights the biggest wrong he’s ever committed. It removes the horrible cloud of slaughter that has followed The Doctor through the whole of modern series and presents him as the purest good in all of the universe.

This episode is such a joy to watch over and over. It’s got laughs, it’s got emotion, and it’s got an incredible pay off to long-standing storylines. Even Tom Baker showed up and put on a fantastic performance. I honestly can’t think of a better way they could’ve celebrated the 50th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest television programme ever produced.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read through all of that. Please let me know what you thought of these episodes, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time next week, as I’ll be covering NXT Takeover: In Your House!