WWE Royal Rumble 2021: Predictions & Analysis

There are very few wrestling events that I get childishly excited about these days, but the Royal Rumble is definitely one of them. It’s been said the world over by now, but it really is true that even a bad Rumble is still a lot of fun while you’re watching it. Having two Rumbles on the same show can be a bit exhausting these days, but also screw it, it’s a lot of fun, and I always have a blast, so I don’t care.

Enough rambling, more rumbling, let’s make predictions.

Asuka & Charlotte Flair(c) vs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

You wouldn’t know it based on how they’ve been booked on TV this past month, but Asuka & Charlotte are actually the women’s tag champs. For some reason, WWE has decided to keep them miles apart from each other this month. Each woman has completely separate stories from each other, and only tangentially got involved with their challengers for this match.

When they won the titles, I think we all knew it was just so they could break up and feud for Wrestlemania, but apparently, until they’re ready to pull the trigger on that, WWE is just going to pretend they’re not even aware of one another. I’d like to be optimistic about this match and say that it has all the right competitors to be a good one, but this match will definitely get cut short. Since the pandemic era, WWE has tried to keep their PPVs to about 3 – 3 & 1/2 hours, we’ve got two Rumbles, which are both an hour-long, then four other title matches to deal with. That means that every title match (except for maybe one) will go short, so I’m not expecting much from this one.

In terms of a winner, I would prefer it if Jax & Baszler took the titles back, but I don’t see it happening until WWE are ready to start building the Charlotte/Asuka feud, which I doubt they are just yet. So I’m going to put Asuka & Charlotte Flair to retain, even if it is a stupid idea.

Sasha Banks(c) vs Carmella
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

This was a very odd build. For the first couple of weeks after TLC, it seemed like Banks was done with Carmella, but apparently, WWE realised last-minute that Sasha needed something to do this month, so just kept the feud going while everyone else in the division builds to the Rumble. The stuff with Reginald was pretty good if you ask me, but it didn’t do much to actually hype me up for this match, it was more of just an entertaining, but self-contained oddity.

As with their TLC match, I think this one will be good, but not very long. Banks already dispatched of Carmella with little difficulty last month, and I can’t see Carmella looking much better in this one. All I’m hoping for here is an enjoyable match that lasts about 12 minutes. In an ideal world, I’d like it to go longer, but as I’ve said, the two Rumbles mean that the other matches have got to go short.

As I’ve probably made apparent already, I think Sasha Banks is going to retain. There’s no value in Banks dropping that belt before Wrestlemania, especially not to someone that she’s already beat once before.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Goldberg
(WWE Championship)

Here we are again…

When this match was first announced, along with being disappointed, I also had the cockiness and was thinking there’s NO WAY they’d have Drew drop the title to Goldberg after building him up all year. Then I remembered that was precisely the same thing I thought last year when Goldberg beat The Fiend for the title.

It’s one of those rare cases where, whether or not I think this match is a good idea depends ENTIRELY on the result. If Drew wins, then it will be a great way to lend him some real credibility and bolster his stock even further going into Wrestlemania. However, if Goldberg wins, then it will be a terrible idea that proves that WWE doesn’t listen to its audience and only cares about selling nostalgia rather than creating new stars from the wrestlers we actually like.

I’m picking Drew McIntyre because I have to because I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror if I picked Goldberg. The worst part is, if Goldberg does in, I know that I’m not even going to have the energy to be pissed off about it, I’m just going to be disappointed.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Kevin Owens
(Universal Championship)
(Last Man Standing)

By far the best built non-Rumble match on this show, I am really quite excited to see this one.

Smackdown as a whole has been bloody great this past month, and this feud at the top of everything has been a massive part of why. The original build with Nakamura going long in the gauntlet match, only for Pearce to be forcefully slotted in the match was a great way to kick things off. In all honesty, I was kind of excited to see Roman vs Pearce, but the way they turned the story around was really well-done. Pearce pulled a fast one on Roman, which brought Owens back into the picture with a hell of a lot of fire.

From there, things have built perfectly. Reigns’ heat only seems to build week on week as he wanders around the place, getting to be cocky, snobbish and hilariously sarcastic to everyone he meets. What’s more, is when the face gets one over on him, it feels like a huge moment, like Reigns is getting put in his place, if only just momentarily. Owens’ promos about his tattoos and what this means to him have been so impassioned and genuine that you just have to cheer for him. I’ve said before about how Owens can talk so genuinely, and Reigns has turned out to be the perfect opponent for him.

This build has been so good that I briefly considered the possibility that Owens could win the title. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make much sense for Roman to drop the title now, but the story with Owens has been so good, that it’s made me somewhat forget all of that logic. I’ve not gone all of the way off the deep end though, and I’m still picking Roman Reigns to win, I’m saying, if Owens won, I’d be pleased with it.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Now we get to what we’re all here for, the Royal Rumble matches, and genuinely, I’m really struggling to predict a winner for both of these. It seems counter-intuitive given that there are 30 participants in the match, but we usually go into a Rumble match with one or two legit contenders for the win, however this year…there’s so many! As usual with these, I’m going to run down the handful of participants that I think are in with a shout, and explain a bit about why, before making my final pick.

Rhea Ripley- This is the one I’d probably be the most surprised about if it actually happened, but it’s pretty clear that Ripley is done in NXT. Her debut on the main roster seems to be imminent, and what better way to make a splash than winning the Rumble? She could feud with either Sasha or Asuka, and it would be a match I’d be very excited to see, but ultimately, this is the one I’d put the lowest odds on happening.

Bayley – While the match at Hell in a Cell was terrific, I think we were all a bit surprised when the Sasha/Bayley feud ended after just one match. Immediately there was speculation that they might save the rematch for Wrestlemania. While I think it’s a definite possibility, as the months have gone on, I think it’s become less and less likely. I don’t know what else Bayley could do at Wrestlemania, to be fair, but I think WWE will want something fresh for Banks at that show.

Charlotte Flair – This is probably the most straightforward pick out of what we’ve got, but I don’t think it’s the most likely. With Asuka & Charlotte as tag champs, if Charlotte won the Rumble, that would instantly cause the break-up and the feud. The only problem is it would be quite underwhelming. This isn’t a knock on Charlotte, but she won the Rumble last year, I don’t really want to see her win it again, especially when there are far more exciting options on the table.

Alexa Bliss – This has been incredibly weird, and not all that good, but at the same time, I kind of like the direction it’s going in. It’s hard to tell what the end-game is with the Fiend/Bliss relationship. For the most part, she’s just been a pawn in the feud between The Fiend and Orton, but over past few weeks, she’s been challenging Asuka for the title, breaking out on her own. I think it would be a colossal waste if she didn’t at least get to sniff a major title feud here.

Bianca Belair – For a while, Belair was the top contender for this match in my mind, and she might still be, I’m honestly not sure. After a bit of a slow start on Raw, she moved over to Smackdown, and it instantly became clear that she was a star in the making. While the finish to the Survivor Series tag match was crap, Belair was clearly the MVP of the whole match, and since she’s been feuding with Bayley, she’s been looking good week in, and week out, they even made that WWE Chronicle on her past, which is something they don’t do for just anyone.

This is a really tough choice. In my head, it’s between Bliss & Belair, and since they’re both on different brands, either one of them could theoretically win, then the other just gets their title match via the Elimination Chamber. I’ve genuinely gone back and forth several times while writing this section, but in the end, I’ve got to go with…Bianca Belair. I’m already second-guessing that decision, but I’ve got to make the pick at some point.

Men’s Royal Rumble

Truth be told, I’m actually thrilled that these Rumbles are so hard to predict because it means I’m going to be all the more invested in the match. Not having any idea what’s going to happen just gets me hyped up all the more, and that goes for the men’s Rumble as much as it does the women’s. Let’s run down the contenders.

Shinsuke Nakamura – Technically possible, because they’ve been pushing him quite hard this past month, but I doubt it’ll actually happen. It feels more to me like this is Smackdown’s way of building up more red-herrings in terms of people who could win the Rumble. They’ve been doing this with Cesaro & Dolph Ziggler too. I’m glad they’re doing it, it’s something that should be done every year, but I don’t think any of them are actually going to win.

Seth Rollins – This does depend on whether he’s ready to return after becoming a father (which is the reason I didn’t consider Becky for the women’s Rumble), but if he does come back, I’d say he has a shot at winning. While we have seen Roman vs Seth before, it was a long time ago, and the situation was quite different. Sure, they’re both heels, but you can change that a bit, since Seth will be coming off of a return, it wouldn’t be that weird to do a character shift.

Edge – I had a feeling Edge was going to be in the Rumble, but I thought they would’ve saved it as a surprise entrant. Either way, I think this is more likely a platform to sow the seeds for his Wrestlemania feud. No idea whether they want to do the third match with Orton, or maybe a marquee feud with someone like Styles, but either way, I don’t think he’ll be the winner of the thing. If he were to win, then I think Roman vs Edge would be the way to go, I just don’t see it happening.

John Cena – While reports from the dirt sheets say that there are no Wrestlemania plans locked in just yet, they are also saying that Cena is almost sure to have a match. So why not have him enter the Rumble and win it? Roman vs Cena would be a money match, even if we’ve already seen it, but I think Drew vs Cena could be one hell of a match too. The story can build around Cena trying to break Ric Flair’s imaginary world title record or something like that.

Big E – Since about Summerslam, Big E has been one of the top contenders to win the Rumble, but in recent months he’s gone down quite significantly in my odds. Now he’s got the Intercontinental Championship under his belt, I’d prefer it if he had a decent length reign with that, fighting a variety of opponents, rather than hot-shotting straight up to the world title. Not to say I’d be upset if he did win the Rumble, far from it, I just think that it’d be better for him to build for a while longer and maybe wait until Summerslam to challenge for the title.

Goldberg – So this was a possibility that I hadn’t considered until I saw it floating around online, and quite frankly, it terrifies me. If you’ve not seen it, people have been speculating that maybe Goldberg could lose to Drew earlier in the night, only to enter and win the Rumble. This would be a disaster, but I can 100% see WWE going through with it, especially with the report a few days ago that WWE is considering a ‘really scary’ finish to the Rumble that might piss off fans.

Daniel Bryan – As much as I can’t make all that solid of case for it, it just feels right. Admittedly, it’d pretty ironic that after being majorly snubbed from two Rumble wins in 2014 & 2015, that the Rumble he finally wins could be one in front of no crowd, but that’s life I suppose. Bryan’s expressed his desire to stop being a full-time wrestler over the next year – a position I think he’s more than deserving of – so I think giving Bryan one last big Mania match would be the best way to go, and a Rumble win is the perfect way to get there. Roman vs Bryan is a match that WWE has planned, but never actually executed over the past couple of years (cave for Fastlane 2015, but those were VERY different times), and they already sowed the seeds of it through November and December, it would seem weird not to commit to it now.

As I said, the case is still a bit shaky, and I’m by no means certain, but Daniel Bryan winning the Rumble just feels right to me, so I’m sticking to my guns and making it my official prediction.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think will happen at the Royal Rumble, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Monday, where I’ll be writing up my review!

My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (80-71)

Welcome back to the series! Today, I’ll be covering entries 80 through 71.

If you haven’t read the previous instalment in this series, please do so here, and here’s the first entry if you want to start from the entry 100.

Let’s not waste any more time!

80 – Morphblade

Release Date: 3rd March 2017
Developer: Suspicious Developments
Publisher: Suspicious Developments
Platforms: Window

It’s a game about building a board of hexes with which to murder bad guys.

Morphblade fits into that category of games that are entirely designed to be played for about 5 minutes at a time when you’ve got nothing better to do. However, it shows that games of that ilk have to be mindless trash like we see all over the mobile market.

Morphblade is so simple, and yet every time I play, I find myself blown away by the level of depth it has when you take the time to understand how it works. There are 6 different types of hex that you can have on your board, some are weapons, while others are utility tiles. The idea is that you start off with just two tiles, and with every wave of enemies you defeat, you get to add more to the board. Since every tile does something different, and they can all be upgraded to do different things depending on what is adjacent to them, it creates a virtually endless set of possibilities.

Since it lets you gradually build it up, it means you slowly develop a new strategy as you progress through each game, even if every game is only about 5 minutes long. There are some tactics that you can rely on, but there’s just enough randomness mixed in there to get you to try new things as often as possible. Then it does it’s best to throw a spanner into your plans with armoured enemies, or enemies that destroy your tiles. It’s exceedingly tricky but twice as compelling, so it fits into the casual game market perfectly.

79 – Rumu

Release Date: 12th December 2017
Developer: Robot House
Publisher: Hammerfall Publishing
Platforms: Windows, Linux
Metacritic Average: 78%

It’s a game about a robot vacuum cleaner who wants to meet its owners.

The first game on this list that I’ve already reviewed, Rumu is one of those games that takes you places you’d never expect. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling it, but Rumu is one of those games that reels you in with charm and then sucker punches you with emotions.

I ended up playing through the whole of Rumu in one sitting because I found it that compelling. It started me off by letting me tell a toaster that I love it or to “initiate toast” and then it took me on a journey that is a mixture of puzzle-solving and storytelling that hasn’t been done quite like this before.

I’m trying to give away as little as possible, but the game always kept me guessing. It plotted out its mystery in such a smart way that meant I’d have a couple of theories as to what was going on at any one time. It then paces out the big reveals in the plot to perfection, so that you don’t realise what’s really going until the game wants you to.

It’s a game that is only a couple of hours long, but in that time, it drags you in, chews you up and spits you back out again in such a satisfying way that I can’t help but love it.

78 – Saint’s Row The Third

Release Date: 15th November 2011
Developer: Volition
Publisher: THQ
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux
Metacritic Average: 84%

It’s a game about gangsters…in a roundabout way.

For many years, Saint’s Row was seen as the doppelganger to GTA. Where GTA looks to ground itself in reality (for the most part) with its stories & characters, Saint’s Row goes in the exact opposite direction. Saint’s Row will usually take the realistic setting and blow it wide open, sure it’s a regular city, but it’s full to the brim with ridiculous weapons, over the top villains, zombies and mutants.

It would eventually take this idea too far and ruin it in Saint’s Row 4 and Gat Out of Hell, but I think Saint’s Row The Third is where the balance is just right. It gives you some fun and stupid toys to play with, but it doesn’t go too far, all of the characters and the world still feel at least somewhat grounded, which gives the wackiness the reference point it needs to even seem whacky in the first place.

It’s a game where the comedy is laced throughout and is pitch-perfect pretty much the whole time, admittedly it gets a bit hokey when it tries to be serious, but that’s a rather minor factor in the grand scheme of things. The world also has a tonne of stuff to do, without doesn’t feel too big, with plenty of activities and side quests to complete, you’re always busy but aren’t overwhelmed by how massive the world is.

Saint’s Row will probably never reach these heights again (if another game is ever even made), but this game and predecessors will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

77 – Bully

Release Date: 17th October 2006
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms: Playstation 2, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Windows, Android, iOS
Metacritic Average: 87%

It’s a game about what your grandparents say their school days were like.

When I was talking about Rumu, I touched on its charm, and Bully has that oozing out of every aspect. It was a game that made me feel nostalgic for a time that never was. When I was in school, I never beat up other kids or snuck into places I shouldn’t have, but Bully was able to throw me back to a fictional time where I’d done all of those things.

The world design is exceptional, with kids that you would recognise, and classes that you loved, and classes you hated it was able to capture the essence of what being a tweenager in school was like in the most fun way possible. Once you’ve played Bully enough, it genuinely begins to feel like you used to when wandering around your school, being able to recognise everybody as you passed them in the hall. Even if you’ve never spoken to them or know their names, you still recognise the faces.

No game has been able to draw the feelings of nostalgia out of me as Bully did, and I doubt any game ever will again, it is a truly unique game that uses its setting to its advantage in a way no other high-school game has done to my liking.

76 – Sniper Elite 3

Release Date: 27th June 2014
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 71%

It’s a game about sniping.

Like many games on this list, Sniper Elite takes a singular core mechanic and focuses its entire game around that, and most of the development is clearly spent refining that mechanic to a point.

The sniping in Sniper Elite is absolutely amazing, with realistic physics that provide a proper challenge as you sit atop your perch waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Everything in the game is attempting to make you feel like a sniper would in those situations. It forces you to think three steps ahead at all times, and you need to be completely aware of your surroundings.

I’ve chosen Sniper Elite 3 over the others in the series because that’s where I think the level design was at it’s best in the series. It gave you wide open spaces to let you see across the whole battlefield and take everyone down from one position. Still, at the same time, it wasn’t afraid to force you into claustrophobic areas where you are constantly at a disadvantage and having to be always on the move.

The customisable difficulty level let you fine-tune the experience to be what you were comfortable with. Though, of course, no talk of Sniper Elite would be complete without mentioning the brutal kill-cams that let you see the bullet travel through your enemy’s body. Seeing just what organ it was that you blew to bits helps give you an incredible sense of satisfaction when you nail a shot.

75 – Omensight

Release Date: 15th May 2018
Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 81%

It’s a game about preventing the apocalypse after it’s already happened.

Omensight is a game that’s very clever with how it tells its story. Presenting you as a being that is called upon after the world is destroyed, you get the chance to go back in time and try and figure out how to prevent the apocalypse. The catch is, you have no idea what actually caused it and the only way you can interact with the world is by following one of four key characters on the final day.

Living the final day over and over again allows you to get to grip with every detail of what happened during that final day. In addition, revisiting places several times breeds a sense of familiarity that causes you to grow somewhat of a bond with your surroundings. The way the mystery unravels as you progress is so satisfying as every re-run of the day gives you more clues to piece together how the end came to be.

The combat system is relatively simple compared to most other hack and slash games, but the movement is so fluid. It’s that sense of effortless movement that, when combined with the variety of abilities the game gives you, causes every fight to become so much fun.

74 – Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman

Release Date: 10th August 1994
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Game Boy

It’s a game where Wario and Bomberman try to blow each other up.

A game that is pretty much on here entirely for nostalgic reasons, Wario Blast is perhaps the first game I ever really loved. Part of the reason as to why I love the villainous, bumbling idiot is in large part down to this game.

Going back and playing it now, I still think it holds up as a pretty fun game to play. It hits that mark for a casual game perfectly, as it allows the skilful players to do skilful things, while more casual players can still understand and play it with relative ease.

Everything feeds in to create a very tactile experience. The plodding movement that speeds up as the game goes on, while the music and level layout all come together to give the feeling of playing out some grand strategy, even if you are mostly just making it up as you go along. Every level has it’s own unique variants in its levels as well which means that you can never really settle into a single tactic since the game keeps changing things on you.

The boss design is also fantastic, with each boss expanding on your knowledge of the one that came before it, means that your tactics against every boss are different and continuously evolve over time. It’s the kind of game that I won’t play often, but I always enjoy when I eventually go back to it.

73 – I Expect You To Die

Release Date: 13th December 2016
Developer: Schell Games
Publisher: Schell Games
Platforms: Playstation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest
Metacritic Average: 82%

It’s a game where you get yourself out of all the classic deadly spy situations.

Our first venture into the world of virtual reality on the list, I Expect You To Die is able to capture a couple of different feelings really well. The first of which is the spy movie vibe, it puts you through a charmingly fun musical opening, like from a James Bond movie. In addition to its humour being presented in just the right way to give you the feeling of a cheesy spy movie, without straying into parody territory.

Then there’s the actual gameplay and puzzle design. It provides a quick and easy way to do what is usually quite a fun experience on your own, in your home, which is, of course, an escape room. Every level is essentially a 10-minute escape room that you can play through in your own living room, which is the kind of experience that only virtual reality could really provide.

There are a whole bunch of escape room VR games out there, but I Expect You To Die’s style combined with its short playtimes make for what I think is a better, and more fun overall experience, which takes full advantage of all the opportunities VR provides.

72 – Trine

Release Date: 3rd July 2009
Developer: Frozenbyte
Publisher: Nobilis
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 83%

It’s a game where you take three unwilling participants on a fairytale adventure.

Trine is something a bit different for this list, so much so that I’d argue there isn’t anything else out there quite like it. While it takes lots of ideas that have all been tried and tested before, it meshes them all in a way to make something that feels brand new and most importantly, fun to play.

Regardless of whether you play co-op or single-player, the level design is done in such a way, so you feel like you’re on an adventure. With a mostly linear path with the occasional secret, the focused experience that Trine provides is something that continuously engages me no matter how many times I play through it.

The storytelling is also a big selling point. While it’s not exactly one of the greatest stories to ever be placed in a video game, but the comedic tone throughout is just enough to keep me smiling as the characters interact with each other and bumble around the temples and caves you traverse in the game.

Trine is a franchise I love mostly because of its charm, which all feeds back into its gameplay to ensure that the whole thing is an enjoyable experience, and certainly something a bit different.

71 – ICEY

Release Date: 17th November 2016
Developer: FantaBlade Network
Publisher: X.D. Network Inc.
Platforms: Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Andriod, iOS
Metacritic Average: 84%

It’s a game about following the arrows.

Ever since The Stanley Parable popularised the idea of the meta-narrative, many copycats popped up, and almost all have failed. It quickly became apparent that it was going to take something a bit more innovative to be anywhere near as good as the original, enter ICEY.

Turning heads in 2016, this game takes the idea of a narrator who talks directly to the player instead of the character, refined it a bit and put it in the context of a 2D hack and slash. It’s a melding of genres that I didn’t think would work initially, but it came out fantastic. The writing of the narrator is just as good as in The Stanley Parable, letting you go to uncomplete levels, debug menus and making the narrator so annoyed they hack into the game just to call you a pig.

On top of that you throw in an incredibly smooth and meaty feeling combat system with a complex series of moves and combos to pull off, and ICEY becomes one of the best entries in two of my favourite game genres.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of all these games, either in the comments below, or on Twitter @10ryawoo. The next entry in this series will be uploaded next Wednesday, but in the mean time, come back here on Saturday, where I’ll be diving into the world of 3D Sonic games!

WWE Money in the Bank 2020: Predictions & Analysis

2020 just keeps being…really bloody weird, doesn’t it? While it’s still extremely odd that we’re having all these wrestling shows with no-one in attendance, I think most of us have at least gotten used to it by now. Unfortunately, the one person who doesn’t seem to have gotten used to it yet is Vince McMahon and it’s showing. As a whole, I think WWE has largely been stagnant since Wrestlemania. None of the feuds going into this match feel like they have any real weight behind them, even the one or two they’ve actually been trying to build properly.

There is at least some level of intrigue surrounding the Money in the Bank Ladder matches, as now everyone’s going to be fighting their way to the roof of Titan Towers in order to get the magic briefcase. In addition, both the men’s and women’s matches are going to be happening simultaneously. Which I guess makes sense, otherwise, you’d just be doing a really similar concept twice in one night, but it’s all going to be just a little bit mental.

Will it be a good kind of mental or a bad kind? I honestly have no idea, but I’ll at least try to predict the winners of the matches.

The New Day(c) vs The Miz & John Morrison vs Lucha House Party vs The Forgotten Sons
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

Talk about stagnant…

After the rather excellent ladder match for the Smackdown tag titles at Wrestlemania, I thought there would be a really fun singles feud to be had between Miz & Morrison and The Usos. Instead, a couple of weeks later, The New Day got the tag titles back, leading The Miz & Morrison to pursue them in a feud we’ve already seen a lot this year, meanwhile, The Usos have just vanished. Don’t get me wrong, I like The New Day, but they only just lost the titles at the start of the year and I was really enjoying what The Miz & Morrison were doing with the belts.

As for Lucha House Party, I honestly couldn’t care less. I know that both Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik are great wrestlers, but WWE has spent years treating them like an absolute joke, so my opinion isn’t suddenly going to turn around them because of one decent victory. Then there’s The Forgotten Sons. After being…well…forgotten in NXT, they showed up on Smackdown and immediately got themselves a title shot. I’m a little torn on it if I’m being honest, I never cared that much for the stable when they were in NXT, but they’re something new and at least vaguely interesting, so I don’t think I’d be against them winning the titles.

Do I think they will? Maybe. There’s no way Lucha House Party are going to win and although it’s a real possibility that Miz & Morrison could regain the titles and play hot-potato with New Day for a couple more months, I just don’t quite see it happening. I think the safe choice is picking The New Day to retain, otherwise, what was the point in having them get the titles back in the first place? That said, I always go with the safe choice and I’m almost always wrong, so sod it, The Forgotten Sons are going to win, why the hell not?

Bayley(c) vs Tamina
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Please WWE, just have some restraint, don’t do the turn yet.

So, following the five-way at Wrestlemania, the woman who gets the one-on-one title shot the next month is…the first woman eliminated from that match? How do you figure that one? I know Lacey Evans already had a singles match with Bayley earlier in the year, but I really enjoyed their final-two sequence at Mania and would’ve liked to see the feud continue at least another month.

I’d like to say that I don’t have anything against Tamina, but I do. Admittedly, she’s improved a great deal since the last time I saw her wrestle, but I really don’t think she’s all that good. I’m pretty confident that this match will follow the classic ‘big wrestler vs chicken-shit heel’ that we’ve been seeing in WWE for pretty much the entire televised existence of the company. Tamina will spend the early stages totally mauling Bayley before Bayley uses some underhanded tactics to get the advantage and probably the win too.

Since I skipped ahead a bit there, yes, I think Bayley is going to retain, because I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to handle Tamina as Smackdown Women’s Champion. My main worry with this match is that they’re going to have Sasha turn on Bayley on Sunday. I think it absolutely should happen soon, but I think Sunday is just a bit too early, I don’t see a way to keep the interest in that feud going all the way to a big Summerslam match, which I hope is where all this is leading.

Braun Strowman(c) vs Bray Wyatt
(Universal Championship)

Of course, the problem with Bray NOT wrestling as The Fiend means it blindingly obvious who’s going to win.

I’ve liked most of what I’ve seen in this feud so far, but I also think there’s been a lot of wasted potential. While the idea of Wyatt bringing Strowman into WWE has been the key point of this feud, I haven’t really seen it being played to enough, especially when compared to how much Wyatt & Cena played off of their shared past in the build to Wrestlemania. I also don’t think it helps that Strowman doesn’t feel like that legit of a champion right now. I know he beat Goldberg, but given that we’re all aware he wasn’t supposed to even be in that match, the whole thing feels a bit hollow.

Looking at the match, I think it will be a good one. I can’t quite picture in my head just how these two are going to work together, but as long as it isn’t finisher-spamming, then I think we’re in for a sleeper-hit here. The main problem comes that the result is so very predictable. The only reason Bray wouldn’t be wrestling as The Fiend for this match is that WWE wants Braun to retain, but doesn’t want The Fiend to lose. It’s so very dumb and it probably just an excuse for Bray to demand a rematch where he actually does wrestle as The Fiend. So there you go, Braun Strowman is going to win, which is fine, I guess.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Seth Rollins
(WWE Championship)

Ah yes! Who could be more deserving of a world title shot than the guy who…lost his match at Wrestlemania…twice? Yup, basically anyone, but oh well.

Thankfully, Seth Rollins’ character work has been consistently great since he turned heel and he hasn’t slowed down much going into this feud. I don’t think it’s been anything particularly special, but the build to this match has been relatively enjoyable, I thought the contract signing segment from a couple of weeks ago was particularly good.

While I don’t agree with the circumstances surrounding how it came to be, I do think that Rollins is arguably the best choice for Drew’s first opponent. Not only was Rollins Universal Champion for the majority of 2019, but when it comes to in-ring consistency, there are few better on the Raw roster right now. Speaking of, I think the quality of this match could easily rival the best of what WWE’s produced so far this year, Drew’s been full of fire in the ring as of late and Rollins very rarely puts on a bad match (as long as he isn’t wrestling Baron Corbin).

Naturally, the winner is a foregone conclusion. Outside of some surprise Money in the Bank shenangians (which I don’t think we’ll see), I don’t see any scenario in which Drew McIntyre doesn’t walk away as champion. I know I’ve praised Rollins’ work a lot recently, but him winning the world title would absolutely be the wrong move and completely destroy everything Drew’s built up this year. Admittedly, this pandemic has reportedly made Vince McMahon even more temperamental than usual, so I suppose there’s a chance he could wake up on Sunday and decide he hates Drew’s guts, but outside of that rather specific scenario, Drew’s winning this match.

Carmella vs Shayna Baszler vs Nia Jax vs Asuka vs Dana Brooke vs Lacey Evans
(Money in the Bank Ladder Match)

Right…the ladder matches.

I’d love to sit here and speculate on the multitude of whacky shenanigans we’re going to see during the course of this fight through Titan Towers, but if the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches are anything to go by, what I devise will pale in comparison to what we actually get. I think the idea of both Money in the Bank matches happening simultaneously is a good idea given that both of them are going for the same concept; doing it twice would probably be quite repetitive and boring.

Still, let’s got through each of the competitors and see what I make of their chances.

Dana Brooke – I’m very glad that she got a chance to feature in this match after missing out on Wrestlemania due to self-isolation. Many people have been jumping on the Dana train as of late, calling her one of WWE’s most underrated talents (which, if everyone’s saying it, is rather paradoxical). Unfortunately, I don’t think tonight’s her night. She’s someone who needs some substantial build before getting a push like winning this match would be.

Carmella – I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve taken quite a liking to Carmella as of late. I wasn’t all that big a fan of her as a heel, but since she started running around with R-Truth and the 24/7 Championship, she’s grown this real playful and fun energy that I can’t get enough of. Once again though, I don’t see her winning this. She’s already done it once and while I would be in favour of another championship run as a face for Carmella, I think there are other people who could benefit a lot more from the briefcase.

Asuka – Again, I’d be thrilled if Asuka got the win here, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. She got her big singles feud with Becky at the start of the year and I don’t see WWE investing in her as a singles star over the summer. They absolutely should, but it just doesn’t fit with the direction of the Raw women’s division right now.

Lacey Evans – I don’t think it’s all that likely that Evans will win, but I do think that there’s an outside chance of it happening. Like I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed the stuff between her and Bayley at Wrestlemania and it’s clear she’s come an absolutely huge way as a performer since her matches against Becky Lynch this time last year. It’s honestly hard to say whether or not she’d actually be ready for a run at the top, but I certainly wouldn’t be against giving it a go.

Nia Jax –Now we get to the two wrestlers I’ve been stuck between all week. Nia Jax has a lot going for her that makes her a pretty compelling candidate. She’s just returned from injury and seems to have a head of steam behind her. She’s being booked like a monster heel again, which would be a perfect briefcase holder that could truly threaten even a dominant champion like Lynch. Finally, Lynch vs Jax is a match we haven’t actually seen since Becky’s rise to the top. They have a bit of history after Jax broke Becky’s face and it seems like they’ve just been waiting for an opportunity to rip into each other.

There are a couple of reasons I didn’t pick her to win though, they mostly have to do with the circumstances surrounding the last women in this match, but also, something about Nia holding the briefcase doesn’t really feel right. I don’t quite know how to describe it, because it’s more of a gut feeling, but I just can’t quite picture her holding it.

Shayna Baszler – If her Wrestlemania match with Becky hadn’t gone down the way it did, I’d be much more confident in picking this, but I’m getting real ‘Asuka losing to Charlotte at Wrestlemania 34’ vibes here. Looking at the storyline, it absolutely makes sense. They’ve already established the fact that Shayna isn’t done with Becky and, as it stands, Becky doesn’t really have anything else to do right now.

All signs are pointing to a Shayna vs Becky rematch happening at some point over the next few months and what better way to do that than Shayna winning the briefcase? While I would be happy with her doing the usual heel tactic of cashing-in when the champ is down, I think it would go a long way to reestablishing Shayna as a badass if she came right out and declared the time and place she would cash-in as soon as she won it.

I have my doubts due to the way their Wrestlemania match went down was very worrying to me in regards to Shayna’s future, but I’m going to take this leap of faith and pick Shayna Baszler to come away with the briefcase.

Otis vs Aleister Black vs Daniel Bryan vs Rey Mysterio vs AJ Styles vs King Corbin
(Money in the Bank Ladder Match)

Well, I’ve already talked about the circumstances, let’s just talk about the wrestlers.

Otis – While I came around to Otis during his time in the storyline with Mandy, I have absolutely no desire to see him any higher than the midcard and I don’t think anyone in WWE thinks any differently. I think he could have a very successful run for himself over the next couple of years, but I don’t see a world title being involved at any point during that run, so Money in the Bank is sadly going to be out of his reach.

Rey Mysterio – Mysterio strikes me as one of those guys that’s going to be used as a bit of an everyman while he remains in WWE. I don’t think it’s likely that he’ll ever hold another world championship during his career, it’s still a possibility. Maybe under different circumstances, I could see Mysterio walking away with the briefcase here, but he just doesn’t feel like he fits into any of the world title scenes right now.

Daniel Bryan – Not going to lie, I’m a little bit scared seeing Daniel Bryan being in a multi-man ladder match, where dangerous and nasty looking spots tend to be the order of the day. That said, I’m sure he’s going to go out of his way to put on an incredible performance. I don’t think he’s going to win though, much like Mysterio, the world title scene just isn’t built for his input right now. I’m not entirely sure what he’s going to be doing over the next few months as, over the course of this year so far, he’s failed to win both the WWE and Intercontinental titles, but I’m sure that whatever it is, it doesn’t involve the briefcase.

King Corbin If it wasn’t for past events, I think I’d be a lot more likely to pick Corbin for this match. As it stands, he’s done nothing but lose since the start of the year (although that’s never stopped WWE from giving someone the briefcase before) so he’s in an extremely weak position on the card right now. That said, I still think he’s the kind of guy that WWE are seconds away from strapping a world title to at just about any moment, purely because he’s a very strong heel who gets a lot of heat. The biggest problem I have is his 2017 run with the briefcase, which ended in him unsuccessfully cashing-in on Jinder Mahal of all people, only to be humiliated by John Cena at the next Pay-Per-View.

If I thought Braun was going to be Universal Champion for the rest of the year, then maybe I’d still be convinced by a Corbin argument, but given that by the summer, it’s likely Roman Reigns will be holding the blue belt, I can’t see Corbin fitting in anywhere there.

Aleister Black – This is the first competitor in the match that I see with some real potential of winning. I’ve said a lot so far this year that Black desperately needs something substantial to do, otherwise, people are going to start to get bored of him quick and what better than a face run with the briefcase? I know it doesn’t quite fit with Drew as a face champion right now, but if I’m being honest, I don’t see Drew holding the title all the way until next year, so there’s some good potential for some interesting stuff to happen with Black as champion in the autumn/winter.

The main problem with picking Black to win though, is I don’t quite feel confident that WWE is ready to push Black up to the top of the card like that. I absolutely think that’s where he’s going to end up at some point over the next few years, but I think it might be a bit early, especially considering he hasn’t even had a reign with a midcard title yet.

AJ Styles – I’d like to pretend this was a difficult decision, but honestly, he’s the only competitor in this match that actually fits into any storylines. I know he lost to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, but Rollins losing and then getting a world title shot immediately after if proof enough that it doesn’t matter. Pile on top of that the fact that Raw has a strong, face champion right now and you’re looking at the perfect foil for Drew in the form of AJ Styles. I genuinely don’t think there are many credible threats to Drew’s title on Raw right now, not those that are heels at the very least, so giving a multi-time world champion like Styles the Money in the Bank briefcase just makes all the sense in the world to threaten him.

I’d even go as far as to say that Drew vs Styles for the title would be the perfect match for Summerslam this year, not to mention a match that would be absolutely incredible to watch. Even considering the way in which he entered the match, taking Apollo Crew’s place after making a surprise return, it just seems like WWE are deliberately building Styles up to be the focal point of this match. It’s true that I might prefer someone like Black or Brayn to win the briefcase, but the argument for AJ Styles to win is far too compelling to ignore and I can’t deny it’s the best option going.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read these predictions, please let me know what you think is going to happen at Money in the Bank, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time on Monday to read my review!

The Best Opening Matches in WWE Pay-Per-View History

“If you can’t go on last, go on first”

The opening match of any wrestling show is arguably the most important of the whole night, while the main event is almost always the biggest, most important match of the show that everyone will be talking about the next day, the opening match is what sets the tone for the show going forward and often decides whether or not any given individual will keep watching the show the whole way through. As such, there have been plenty of absolute barn-burners and all-time classic matches that held the prestigious spot of being the first thing the live audience got to see.

To be clear here, I am not counting pre-show or dark matches in this list as these are usually put on before the full crowd has even entered the building and a large portion of the home viewing audience haven’t switched on. I’m instead referring to the first match to take place on the main portion of a WWE Pay-Per-View. This also means NXT Takeovers don’t count because let’s be honest, that wouldn’t be fair.

With that clarification made, let’s take a look at the best of these show openers.

10 – Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler – Bragging Rights 2010

Trust me, this isn’t the last time Daniel Bryan is going to appear on this list.

While the concept of Bragging Rights was one that would eventually bleed over into the annual Survivor Series event – and be much better off for it – looking back at the history of the two incarnations of the event, there was only ever one great match between the two of them and this was it.

Although the IWC (myself included) have all gotten a bit bored with Dolph Ziggler as a wrestler, there was once a time where he was one of the only bright stars in a sea of boring characters and dull wrestling matches. In fact, with the exception of CM Punk, it’s arguable that Bryan & Ziggler were the only two “internet darlings” in the company at the time so naturally, a clash between the two of them was always going to be something special.

What this match is, is two brilliant wrestlers that have flamboyant and exciting wrestling styles going at each other in a match that very rarely lets up to catch its breath. There are some slightly wonky elements, with Vickie Guerrero’s presence at ringside occasionally causing a break in the action and a weird non-finish where Ziggler got a three-count because the referee didn’t see Bryan’s foot on the rope, only for the decision to be waived off and the match continued.

Luckily, none of those issues stopped the match from having a healthy serving of quick back-and-forth action and near falls to ramp up the excitement and get the crowd on their feet for a show that, in the grand scheme of things, really wasn’t much to write home about.

9 – Brock Lesnar(c) vs Seth Rollins –   Wrestlemania 35
(Universal Championship)

This was more of a great moment than a match, however, a bell did ring, so it counts.

Wrestlemania 35 was a show full of crowd please, triumphant moments for the babyfaces and it made sure to spread them evenly throughout the show, this meant that when the show was just starting, we already had ourselves an exciting moment. After the US National Anthem played and Hulk Hogan was…there, Paul Heyman stormed to the ring and declared that if Brock Lesnar wasn’t going to be in the main event, then he was going to have his match now and get an early night.

It’s easy to forget now, but at this point, just about everyone was fully behind Seth Rollins as a babyface who was ready to slay the beast and finally take the Universal Championship away from Lesnar. WWE managed to not only pull it off brilliantly but do it in perhaps the most exciting way possible, with Lesnar beating down Rollins before he made a sudden comeback to pin the beast and win the title in just two and a half minutes.

Paralleling the moment from Wrestlemania 31 where he swiped the WWE Championship from under Brock Lesnar’s nose, Wrestlemania 35 opened up with Rollins swinging world title gold above his head in a moment that had me on my feet with excitement at home.

8 – The Miz(c) vs Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor – Wrestlemania 34
(Intercontinental Championship)

Triple threat matches on WWE PPVs can be a bit hit and miss depending on the participants involved. These kinds of matches need to be fast-paced and varied in their action, so when you’ve got a bunch of slow, lumbering guys in there it just doesn’t work, luckily, the three men in this match were quite the opposite. Rollins & Balor were allowed to completely let loose here, flying all over the place, keeping the excitement flowing the whole time.

The Miz couldn’t keep up with the pace of the other two, but he didn’t need to. Instead, The Miz was the perfect person to provide much more grounded action, stopping the whole thing from spiralling out of control with non-stop dives. The action between the three men had a nice sense of flow, with each combination of men in the ring had a slightly different feel to their fighting style.

There was a nice helping of storytelling in there too as The Miz attempted to renounce his evil ways (even if it didn’t last) sparing us from any interference by The Miztourage. As well as Balor & Rollins being so determined to one-up each other that at several occasions it almost allowed The Miz to slip away with the win. That didn’t happen though as eventually Seth Rollins came out the victor and spent the rest of 2018 in what I believe – from an in-ring standpoint at least – was the best year of his career so far.

7 – The Usos(c) vs The Wyatt Family – Battleground 2014
(WWE Tag Team Championships)
(2 out of 3 Falls)

A match that has been largely forgotten by time here and I can’t exactly say I blame people for that, I sure as shit can’t remember a single other thing that happened at Battleground 2014.

Looking back at 2014 today feels like looking into an alternate dimension, it’s all the wrestlers we know and love today, but not quite as we know them; case in point, The Usos. By mid-2014 I was fully into the world of WWE and I very vividly remember not giving much of a shit about The Usos. Their “tribal chanting” thing sat on the wrong side of goofy to me and, in all honesty, I didn’t see their appeal as wrestlers at all. This was the match that woke me up to the fact that these guys might actually be the amazing tag team we’ve seen over the past few years.

Pretty much everything I love about modern tag-team wrestling features in this match, the early stages where one team isolates the other didn’t last too long and once the match descended into chaos, it ebbed and flowed in such a way that allowed for natural peaks and troughs in the action that aligned with my energy levels as a viewer. The 2 out of 3 falls stipulation did wonders for the pace, allowing the action to slow all the way down at certain points before slowly building the energy and excitement up again.

I highlighted The Uso’s performance, but Harper & Rowan’s contributions to the match cannot be understated either. I know it’s common knowledge now, but at the time I didn’t realise how brilliant of a wrestler Luke Harper could be and Erick Rowan served his purpose as a slower big-guy too. The chemistry between the two teams was near-flawless and it’s one of those situations where everything came together to create a match that had just about all you could want from pure tag team wrestling.

6 – Bad News Barrett(c) vs Dean Ambrose vs Dolph Ziggler vs Daniel Bryan vs R-Truth vs Luke Harper vs Stardust – Wrestlemania 31
(Intercontinental Championship)

Wrestlemania needs more of these, I mean, what else is the Cruiserweight title for these days?

Multi-man ladder matches are always pretty solid bets to get a crowd excited, but this one went above and beyond in terms of pure entertainment value. Everyone in this match served their own unique role that contributed to the break-neck pace of this match. You had Barrett coming in as the heel champion, Ambrose as the hungry challenger that isn’t afraid to get violent, Ziggler a face-technician that can bump like no-one else, Bryan who was making his big return and was beloved by everyone, Truth who was the comedy, Harper who was an all-rounder that could fill any role he needed to in the match and Stardust…who…well, let’s not talk about that.

When you’ve got such a huge variety of characters & wrestling styles colliding like this it’s always going to be an interesting watch and the action in this match was constant. There was very little room to breathe, but the amount of variety of people constantly coming in and out of the ring meant that it constantly felt like the match was being refreshed and doing something different. Just about everyone got a moment where they almost won the match and they were scattered through the match in just the right way to keep the tension rolling over with every single spot.

Speaking of spots, there’s just about every kind of ladder match spot you could want. We had people doing dives onto people and ladders; ladders would be sung around and smack people in the face; there was a big dive onto a sea of people and there was even a brutal looking powerbomb from the ring, to the outside, through a ladder. The finish was extremely crowd-pleasing, with Ziggler & Bryan fighting it out on the top until one of them fell to their doom and it kicked off Wrestlemania 31 with a massively crowd-pleasing win in the form of Daniel Bryan claiming his first reign with the Intercontinental Championship.

5 – Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt – Royal Rumble 2014

While this match is generally remembered as a great one, I think the feud surrounding it is incredibly strange. This feud happened slap-bang in the middle of Bryan’s ascension to the top of WWE and was very much during the phase where WWE was trying everything they could to make sure it didn’t happen. After Bryan suffered yet another disappointing loss to Randy Orton, he found himself under attack from The Wyatt Family. For some reason, CM Punk decided he’d help out and they got the win…so feud over right? Well, apparently not as Wyatt continued their assault, focusing on Bryan as CM Punk had to deal with The Shield.

This led to a 3 on 1 match at TLC where Bryan got destroyed and eventually a slightly interesting, but also slightly bungled, storyline developed where Bryan seemed to join the Wyatt Family. While the moment where Bryan finally broke free from Wyatt was fantastic and led to arguably the best “Yes!” chant in history, it was a bit weird how the entire thing just consisted of Bryan & Bray losing to The Usos for 3 weeks.

Regardless of that, it brought us to this match. A match that was fantastic.  Bray’s style at the time was less of the slow & brutal that we see with The Fiend nowadays, instead, being a lot more frantic and fast-paced; he would still take his time when he got the opportunity to pick his opponent apart, but there was a much greater feeling of urgency to things. This played perfectly for Bryan’s style which was also pretty fast but focussed more on being plucky than being heavy-handed.

On top of the action being top-notch, they hit on some great story beats referencing the entirety of their rivalry up until that point. It had so many of those little touches that we only ever expect to see in NXT Takeover matches these days. Not only did this match help the rise of Bryan’s popularity amongst the fanbase, but it also put Bray Wyatt on the map in terms of the fans seeing him as a brilliant wrestler that could hang with all of their indie darlings.

4 – The New Day(c) vs The Usos – Hell in a Cell 2017
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Hell in a Cell)

Easily one of the best feuds of the past five years, this match was just one of the series of incredible bouts these two teams put on throughout 2017 and into early 2018 and this was arguably the best of the bunch.

By this point in 2017, The New Day and The Usos had wrestled each other on TV & PPV countless times and at face value, it would seem like that’s a recipe for disaster. Normally in WWE, when a feud lasts as long as this one did, people get bored of it and their later matches are met with indifference regardless of how good they actually are (see the Reigns vs Corbin feud from late 2019/early 2020 for proof of this). So, these two teams had to find a way to get p[eople to turn their heads and care about the fact that they’re fighting on PPV for the 4th time in the past year. Luckily, they were absolutely up to the task.

Up until this point in their feud, the two teams had done a great job of making each match feel slightly different in terms of its flow and rhythm, while still keeping up incredible action that got fans onto their feet. After rocking pre-shows and midcards for the better part of 6 months, these two teams were finally rewarded for their stellar work by getting the opportunity to create absolute magic, climaxing their now legendary feud in a Tag Team Hell in a Cell match for the ages.

Needless the say the action was damn-near flawless. Every movement in the match felt like it had so much thought and purpose behind it from the competitors. I often decry weapons matches as being boring, but the two teams here put the tools at their disposal to good use, scattering weapons in as exclamation points for the match, but never making them the focal point. Every inch of the cell was used to full effect and we saw some genuinely new and innovative spots like The New Day trapping one of the Usos in the corner of the cell by building a mini-prison out of kendo sticks. The Hell in a Cell stipulation is one that I think had been extremely played out at this point, but these guys did a fantastic job of finding fresh and interesting things to do with it.

The drama was also through the roof. From the moment the bell rang and the two teams start absolutely wailing on each other, there was so much intensity that absolutely did the epic scale of their feud justice. There were some truly ludicrous kickouts (in a good way) and the final segment where Xavier Woods tried his damndest to fend off both Usos while handcuffed is just brilliant and forged a sense of respect between the two teams that has lasted for years after the fact. Not to mention cemented both of these teams as two of the best tag teams on the planet.

3 – Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio – Summerslam 2002

See? I have watched wrestling outside of the past decade. Admittedly, it would’ve been hard to justify missing out what is undoubtedly an all-time classic Summerslam match.

Rey Mysterio had been in WWE for less than a month at this point and while the majority of the audience at the time knew who he was from his time at the forefront of WCW’s Cruiserweight Division, this was his first major opportunity to make a huge impact on the WWE and show that he was here to stay and hadn’t missed a beat since the WCW days. So, if you’ve got a highly-skilled technical wrestler who needs an opportunity to look great showing off everything they can do, who do you put them with? How about the greatest technical wrestler of the generation? Enter Kurt Angle.

Angle was coming off the back of an excellent feud with The Rock and The Undertaker going into Summerslam 2002 where he had often found himself the butt of the joke. He still got ample opportunity to look like a legitimate competitor, but the match at Vengeance treated him more like a third wheel, where his character elements are what really made him shine. So, this felt like a bit of a reset for his character, a newcomer had just shown up and handed him a loss and it was going to be his job to teach Mysterio a serious lesson, using his entire arsenal of fantastic wrestling.

It was a very simple story but it’s all the match needed. Mysterio was looking to prove himself against one of the best, while Angle was looking to protect his position in the company against a newcomer. What they put together in the match can only be described as a technical masterpiece. I used the term “back-and-forth” in my reviews a lot but this match really was the epitome of the term, as outside of Mysterio’s flurry at the beginning, neither man spent more than 90 seconds or so getting in offence at any single point in the match. There were constant counters, reversals and all kinds of interesting escapes that showed the full spectrum of what both men were capable of in the ring.

While it’s arguable that Mysterio should’ve won as he was the debuting superstar, as we can now say with the power of hindsight, the loss didn’t affect Mysterio’s star power at all in the long-run and the sheer quality of the match was enough to convince all of the fans who were still unconvinced that Mysterio was a top-tier competitor.

2 – Bret Hart vs Owen Hart – Wrestlemania 10

Even though Wrestlemania 10 ended with Bret Hart toppling Yokozuna to become WWF Champion, the moment that was ultimately be most remembered from that night is his loss in the opening contest to his brother Owen.

There was a lot of hype surrounding this match at the time of Wrestlemania 10. Things had been slowly building since the previous November, where Owen became distracted after accidentally knocking his brother off of the Apron in a Survivor Series elimination tag match, causing him to get eliminated. Owen would continuously ask his brother to face him in a match, but Bret kept refusing, not wanting to fight his brother. Eventually, Owen took matters into his own hands and attacked Bret at the Royal Rumble 1994 after the duo lost to The Quebecers.

After both Lex Luger and Bret Hart were declared joint winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble, a coin was tossed and it was determined that Luger would get his match with Yokozuna first at Wrestlemania 10, with Bret fighting the champion later in the night. In order to make it fair, Bret was forced to wrestle another match earlier on in the night and Owen was selected as his opponent.

As you’d imagine from wrestlers the calibre of Bret and Owen, two wrestlers who quite literally grew up training together, this match was virtually flawless. While it doesn’t look as flashy or as exciting as the kind of “masterpiece” matches we’ve come to expect today, I didn’t feel any less invested in this match than I do any NXT title bout. The psychology of the match is simple but incredibly effective as both of the brothers seem to have an answer for just about everything the other can throw at them. It’s so clear that they know each other in the ring better than any other wrestler ever possibly could.

The sly brutality of Owen as he maliciously targets Bret’s injured leg is just wonderfully horrible, made all the better by the way he seems to showboat after every little advantage he gets over Bret. He knows that no-one thinks he’ll be able to beat Bret and he’s relishing every moment he can show people how wrong they are. Then, he only went and bloody won the thing. Catching Bret out and rolling him after following Bret’s attempt at a Hurricanrana, Owen walked away with the shocking win, putting Bret on the back foot for his title match later in the night and triggering a feud with Bret that extended into the summer and brought us some equally brilliant matches.

Wrestlemania 10 is remembered fondly as a Mania with several iconic moments, but when it comes to pure-wrestling, nothing else that happened on the night could top this match.

1 – Daniel Bryan vs Triple H – Wrestlemania 30

Who would’ve guessed that a Triple H match would’ve been the one to top this list?

As I’ve covered before, Wrestlemania 30 is the best incarnation of the show of shows to happen over the past decade (and is also my personal favourite Wrestlemania) and a huge part of that is down to this fantastic opening contest. The story of the rise of Daniel Bryan going into Wrestlemania 30 is still one that’s relatively fresh in the minds of WWE fans the world over and this match was where we would finally see whether or not WWE were serious about giving the fans what they wanted.

Every second of this match was meticulously crafted to milk every last drop of drama and intensity out of the storyline. From the moment the bell rings, the crowd are a huge factor of what makes this match so brilliant. The sight of the crowd going nuts as Triple H and Bryan stare each other down in so incredibly emotional knowing everything that went into it and they are on tenterhooks for absolutely every moment of this match.

The opening few minutes of this match are absolutely fire as Bryan comes out of the gate with the kind of babyface intensity that makes him the most lovable babyface ever before the pace switches and there’s a good 8 minutes or so of Triple H dominating the match and doing everything in his power to put Bryan away. That would normally be boring, but a combination of pacing, variety and Bryan’s selling ability made it gripping stuff to watch. Bryan scattered in a couple of hope spots throughout to keep things ticking over too. The moments where Triple H drops Bryan down on the announce table, or the ring apron, or even locks in the Yes! Lock plays the live crowd and everyone watching at home into the hands of the drama of the match. Even watching it back now I still feel that pit of despair, with the thought that maybe Triple H really is going to win and all our dreams will be crushed.

Once Bryan breaks free of the beat down, the match moves at a mile a minute. Once again, the intensity shoots through the ceiling and the whole match becomes a fever-pitch, back-and-forth contest that doesn’t let up for a moment. Every strike from both men feels weighty and impactful, both in the physical and dramatical sense of the phrase. Even on a rewatch I find myself falling for every near fall and every kickout, remembering the desperation in every fan’s mind at the time, just praying that Daniel Bryan got his time to shine.

The sheer explosion of emotion from both the crowd and Bryan himself when he blindsides Triple H with the Running Knee and gets the pin is absolutely euphoric and makes this a match that I was always connect with emotionally and was the perfect opener for the biggest show of the year.

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 6 (2011) Ranked

After easily knocking it out of the park with Series 5, the pressure was really on for Moffat & Smith to make Series 6 just as good, maybe even better and well…let’s call it an incorrect dismount. I don’t hate this series and I honestly wouldn’t say there are even that many bad episodes featuring, however, there is a lot of mediocre stuff crammed into this one. Furthermore, I’d also say that this is the first series of the revival so far that hasn’t featured at least one “All-Time-Great” episode.

That said, there was still a lot of enjoyment to be had and Matt Smith’s performance as The Doctor hadn’t missed a beat since Series 5 and there are several episodes in this series where I’d argue that his acting alone is what saved it from being awful. Still, let’s take a look at each episode and see how things panned out.

12 – Let’s Kill Hitler

Ok, so now we’ve got to talk about River Song…oh boy.

So first of all, as a character, I like her. She has surprisingly great chemistry with just about anyone she shares the screen with and is one of the only characters whose personality remained consistent throughout the entirety of Moffat’s time in the role. She hits that sweet spot of being exactly the kind of hero The Doctor is while having some minor differences in her outlook on the world to make her feel like she’s actually a different person.

I’ll get more into the mystery surrounding her a bit later down the list because this episode takes place at a point where the mystery has been revealed. We know who she is, we know why she is and this episode decides that it’s going to rip that apart for the sake of a couple “gotcha” moments.

This whole episode suffers from the prequel problem because we know all of the future events that happen past this episode. Doctor Who is usually ok at weaving around these problems by using the “time can be rewritten” line, but the show went to great lengths to establish that the events at Lake Silencio (events in both River’s and The Doctor’s future) are fixed points and thus, can’t be changed.

I’ll admit, the moment where “Mel” regenerated into River was cool and I didn’t see it coming, but that’s pretty much the only positive thing I have to say about this whole thing. The scene immediately after where The Doctor & River are trying to one-up each other was very weird and felt more like a scene that got cut from Sherlock but Moffat didn’t want to let go of and then we have to watch The Doctor crawl around in pain for twenty minutes while rambling on about nothing in particular.

The only thing this episode actually accomplished was introducing the concept of the Teselecta (an concept I like a lot) but it’s not like that couldn’t have been done some other way that didn’t involve a load of Hitler gags along the way.

I think that’s what really bothers me about this episode, is that it lands on the wrong side of silly, while still trying to put forth serious plot developments and emotional moments. Don’t get me wrong, when done right, mixing in the silly and the serious can create some truly special stuff (just watch The Empty Child) but there’s no cohesion between the two sides of the writing here and it ends up just giving me emotional whiplash and causing both the jokes and the drama to become meaningless to me.

11 – The Girl Who Waited

I honestly thought I would like this one more when I rewatched it.

The main problem I have with this episode is the level of totally forced melodrama. For one thing, as an audience, we know that there is absolutely no chance that “old Amy” is going to actually be a part of anything past this episode, so there’s no tension there. There’s also this sort of forced conflict between The Doctor and Rory since The Doctor can’t get directly involved in the action and that’s fine to a certain extent, but it doesn’t really come across as all that interesting and once the business with the two Amys gets going it gets pushed to the side completely.

As for “the business with the two Amys” it doesn’t land for me at all. There was the potential to do something really hard-hitting emotionally here with the older Amy having to look upon the younger version of herself that will never have to suffer what she did but that conflict is quickly cast aside in exchange for them getting along and making jokes about Rory’s arse. Which, in a bubble is fine, but sticks out like a sore thumb when everything around it is being played off so seriously.

This brings me to the ending where The Doctor turns into a total arsehole who refuses to take responsibility for anything. First of all, we all knew he was lying when he said old Amy could come with them, so that twist held no weight for me at all and The Doctor just decides to make Rory make the horrific choice of which Amy to keep just because he doesn’t want to deal with it. I mentioned in the Series 5 review that Amy’s Choice is the only episode that actually nails the drama & tension in Amy & Rory’s relationship and watching this one back really affirmed my point on that one. The drama is forced, meaningless and ultimately forgotten about by the next episode.

10 – Closing Time

I had my problems with The Lodger, but at least it felt like these were characters who were evolving and growing with each other and had personalities outside of “James Corden” but this episode felt to me like it was written with the mindset of “James Corden said he’d do another episode, so we’re going to write one…also Cybermen, cos why not?”

I normally enjoy the more light-hearted episodes like this one, but a lot of the humour doesn’t quite land for me in this one. The Eleventh Doctor seemed to have a very large personality shift towards the end of his run from a serious, war-weary traveller who can still bring fun and joy to those around him into a cartoon caricature who doesn’t act even remotely like any kind of actual person ever would and this is the first time that I notice these features of The Doctor’s character coming through a bit too strong.

There are so many sequences in this that are entirely dedicated to The Doctor being absolutely silly to the point of not even seeming aware of any form of social conventions to ever exist. The Doctor is an alien, I know, he’s eccentric and weird and he doesn’t necessarily understand human culture, but this takes those ideas to such ridiculous lengths that it stops being funny and starts feeling stupid. If you want to take a look at how to do this right, just look at the dinner scene in Boom Town, or the cyanide scene in The Unicorn and The Wasp or even The Lodger from the previous series.

Outside of that, this episode continued the descent of the Cybermen into a total side-show of a villain that poses basically no threat whatsoever and exist only for marketing purposes because casual fans of the show recognise them. The Cybermat was something that was just played off for laughs and the process of being converted into a Cyberman – a process that used to involve removing your brain while you’re still alive and turning your body into metal – is now just a vague energy thing that can apparently be overcome if you just REALLY don’t want it to happen.

It’s no coincidence that when, in Series 12, when it was first revealed that the Cybermen were going to be heavily involved that everyone felt disappointed. Thankfully, Chibnall surprised everyone by doing what I think is an amazing job with them (more on that another time), but it’s episodes like this that contributed to the Cybermen becoming one of the most disappointing villains in the modern era of the show.

It has some saving graces, there are a handful of funny jokes in there and James Corden does do a good job of keeping his character consistent, but there’s just too much dragging this one down for me to say I liked it.

9 – The God Complex

Once again, good concept, nice twist, not the best execution.

One of the biggest problems I have with this episode is how heavily it leans on its secondary cast. This isn’t bad on its own of course, episodes like Midnight and The Impossible Planet are great largely because of their secondary cast, but this is a situation where the characters that are introduced are entirely uninteresting and the episode relies really heavily on them to carry some pretty major scenes.

We’ve got the competent would-be companion, which is something we’ve seen so many times by this point that I knew she was going to die the moment The Doctor said he liked her. The guy who’s already gone a bit mad (I don’t remember their names and I don’t care about to look it up) by the time they get there was a good way of adding the mystery of what’s going on, but he’s not much of a character and the other two secondary characters are just there for the sake of it, one so they can die and the other to make unfunny jokes at their expense.

As for the monster and the mystery of the episode I thought it was fine. The monster doesn’t look very impressive but that’s not all that important, the concept of it being a creature that feeds off of people’s faith is nice and I actually think the idea of using people’s greatest fear to make them fall back on their greatest faith was a very clever twist. What I’m not so keen on, is the solution. The idea that after almost two whole series of travelling with The Doctor and forming such an incredibly strong bond with him, that one speech where he denounces his own actions will totally break this rock-solid faith Amy has in him? Not to mention that Amy has been listening as The Doctor goes through all this, so surely he knows him well enough to know exactly what he’s trying to do.

Then The Doctor just drops them off with a new house and car and is like “I can’t watch you die” out of absolutely nowhere and it makes no sense. It’s such an incredibly quick character turn for The Doctor, especially when you consider that when the start of Series 7 comes around, he’s flopped right back to wanting to keep them around at all times. It has no impact on any episode following this one and was just an excuse to get the two of them out of the way for an episode so we could give James pissing Corden the spotlight again.

Like I said, there’s a lot of really good ideas floating around here, but it has so much dragging it down throughout that I always come away from the experience feeling deflated.

8 – The Curse of the Black Spot

It’s pirate time!

I’m not entirely sure how to feel on this episode. It’s fun and stupid in places but the plot is surprisingly downbeat and muted for the most part. Where The God Complex has a good concept that was squandered, this was a pretty ok concept that was executed just about fine. The whole idea of the medical lady acting EXACTLY like a Siren is extremely weird and doesn’t make any sense if you think about it for any time at all, but I’m willing to forgive that for the purposes of adding to the fun, pirate theme.

I’d say the biggest problems here are a combination of setting and dialogue. A pirate ship is a very cramped setting and there’s not exactly much room for action to take place, this led to large chunks of the episode being very dialogue-heavy and unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling it with this one. Most of the secondary casts and are just generic pirates, even the captain, who gets a much more significant amount of development doesn’t stretch very far away from those stereotypes, even his “redemption” at the end didn’t feel like he’d changed very much as a person, he just has a spaceship now.

When there was action though, I found myself getting into it like I’ve said, it was quite clearly written with a bit of fun in mind instead of being serious or tense and I can appreciate that for what it is. The twist for this one though, I can’t say I’m too thrilled with it – the “they’re not disintegrated, just teleported” twist has been done to death by this point – but I also can’t think of another way they could’ve resolved the episode while on a pirate ship.

It’s one of those rare cases where we have an episode that wasn’t all that great, but I can’t even say it could’ve been great if it was executed better. The concept was fine, but there was only so far it could go, which ironically means I’m not all that disappointed with it like I am with other episodes.

7 – The Wedding of River Song

OooK, time to talk about this series’ arc.

When it comes to set up, intrigue and the pace at which certain things were revealed, I think the series arc of Series 6 was a good one. When it comes to this episode concluding it, I’m somewhat in the middle on it. My main problem with the whole thing is how these series of events even triggered to begin with. How can River sudden overpower the suit? Why does changing a fixed point in time change things to this degree? Come to think of it, what even ARE fixed points in time? I mean, obviously, I know what they are mechanically, but their implications of the universe at large seem to be extraordinarily vague. On the surface, they seem like a clever device to prevent some of the problems that time-travel fiction normally suffers from, but when you think about it for any length of time, you realise they actually just create a whole new set of problems. A set of problems this episode brings right to the forefront of debate.

Aside from that, the whole plot feels quite loose and weird. We’ve got characters with extremely selective memories as to what they’ve retained during the fuck-up with time and it means we can’t really get any kind of emotional character progression or revelations. Why does Amy have to forget Rory again? What does that achieve from any kind of character perspective? All it does is allow the episode to kill about 5-10 minutes trying to push them together again, even though this timeline is going to be aborted by the end of the episode.

The action also has no flow at all. We go from The Doctor explaining past events, to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it action scene, followed by MORE of The Doctor explaining the plot, followed by Amy explaining everything the audience already knows about The Silence. At this point, we’re almost two/thirds of the way into the episode and we haven’t learnt anything new or done anything exciting. When the action finally does kick-off it has very little bearing on anything and simply serves as a stop-gap before our final talking scene to resolve the plot. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking scenes, I think they’re what makes this show shine above all others, but these are scenes filled with information that is either irrelevant because it’s an alternate timeline or stuff we already knew from earlier in the series.

Then there’s the resolution and here’s where I really don’t know how to feel. On the one hand, it was very clever, setting up the Teselecta like they did and having it be the perfect get-out-of-jail-free cards for this plotline, however it does cause a bit of confusion. Was The Doctor in the Teselecta all along or was it only the time where he survives? If The Doctor didn’t die, then how did it create a fixed point in time? And if we were to assume for a moment that The Silence’s plan was a success, wouldn’t that erase the OTHER fixed point in time where The Doctor supposedly dies on Trenzalore?

See what I mean? Fixed points in time create so many problems.

You might think from all of my complainings, that it should be lower down on the list but, for some reason, whenever I go back and watch this one, I actually have a decent amount of fun with it. The “all of history happening at once” thing might not make any sense but the shots of steam trains & hot air balloons running through London as Pterodactyls fly about the place is inherently fun. It’s the right kind of silly that I love this show for.

Like I said, I’m very “in the middle” on this one. It’s flawed, for sure, but it has its moments the keep me mildly enjoying it throughout.

6 – The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

This episode could’ve been something really minor and only ever used to set-up the twist at the end, but thankfully, it turned into something quite good on its own.

The whole concept of the flesh is something that I find really interesting. The idea of creating an exact physical copy of you will always be creepy, even if you’re the one in control of it and if anyone ever pitched the idea in real life, I would almost certainly immediately picture them going rogue like this. That said, given the circumstances of the operation their running, it actually seems like a reasonable solution. It’s too dangerous to send in real people but too expensive to send in machines that will likely get damaged and replaced, so the flesh is a cheap and efficient alternative. But at the same time, of course, they were going to become sentient and try to replace you, you idiots.

The secondary cast are a large part of what makes this episode as good as it is. They really benefited here from having two-parts to work with as we got a really good idea of all of these people’s backgrounds along with their personalities. It makes things all the tenser when people inevitably start dying and we understand the personal stakes of everyone involved.

Speaking of tense, just about every confrontation between a person and a ganger has that in spades. I love the several sequences all the way through part-two where the two factions keep almost coming together as various people keep switching sides. Amy and Rory both get really nice rolls in this too, with Rory being extremely sympathetic towards the gangers, while Amy just can’t quite seem to comprehend them as real forms of life, especially when the ganger of The Doctor comes into play. This creates an interesting dynamic that thankfully doesn’t rely on any pointless relationship drama between the couple and gives The Doctor(s) a great role as the person trying to mediate the two sides.

What I’m not the biggest fan of is how it ends up just being a big “run away from the monster” sequence right at the end. I don’t mind that being a factor of the finish – you’ve got to get some action in there somehow – but I would’ve liked a slightly more peaceful ending than all the gangers killing each other (with a “noble sacrifice” to boot) and The Doctor & co being able to leave without having to worry about any of the consequences of the serious debates they took part in.

Also, the twist with The Doctors and their shoes was a good one, even if I saw it coming a mile off.

5 – The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

From the end of the arc, we now look at the beginning.

This episode is pretty much entirely set-up for the various elements of the series’ arc and, for my money, it did a great job of it. Starting off the episode with watching The Doctor being murdered was quite the shocker and a really good way to kick things into gear in a big way immediately. Subverting that reveal by giving us an earlier version of The Doctor to run with for the whole season made that even better, immediately throwing so many questions into the air.

The plot that follows is great fun. The secondary cast really shines here, with Canton Everette Delaware III being an absolute stand-out in terms of one-off characters. He takes all of the best traits from your stereotypical 1960’s American and portrays this sassy, no-nonsense man that bounces really well off of the entire main cast. Nixon is also a joy to watch whenever he’s on-screen, even though most of the jokes are at his expense, the way he plays this down-to-Earth character that would rather just not have to deal with all this shit is weirdly endearing. I’d make a joke about Nixon as a president, but I’m not American and thus know very little about him other than that thing with Watergate.

As an introduction to The Silence, this does a great job of clearly establishing what they can do and making them seem like a rather formidable foe…aside from the bit where The Doctor and River just shoot a bunch of them, that was really weird. Speaking of River, I would’ve liked her to be a bit more involved in the development of the mystery since she knew exactly who the girl in the space-suit was the whole time. Looking back on it already knowing everything about River, she really does just seem clueless about the whole thing, I think it would’ve been great if she was subtly manipulating the mystery a bit more and pushing The Doctor towards the answers which she already knew.

One of the best things about the episode is the resolution. Them tricking The Silence into wiping themselves out was a very clever way to resolve things and follows the ethos that The Doctor needs to do more often, which is using his enemy’s greatest strengths against them. It was something we saw a lot of in the Davies’ era but it’s been a bit lost since then, with this being the glaring exception to that rule.

I’d honestly expected to have a bit more negative to say on this one, but looking back on it, I think it’s a really fun series opener that hits all the right notes and sets up a good mystery for the rest of the series. Ticks all of my boxes for sure.

4 – The Doctor’s Wife

This is an episode that my first instinct is always to cringe at it purely because of the title, but then I watch it and remember it’s nowhere near as bad as it first sounds, in fact, it’s a hell of a lot better than I could’ve hoped for.

The whole concept in this episode of the TARDIS becoming a human is…well, it’s not a great one. I like the idea of the TARDIS as this entity with its own consciousness and stuff, but to quite literally personify that consciousness seems like it was a bit much to me and I’d rather they hadn’t done it. That said, the writing and performance for the human TARDIS in this episode is surprisingly well done and although I’m not sure it’s how I would’ve liked it to be done, I still had a lot of fun with it.

It’s extremely well performed, for one thing, Suranne Jones who played Idris did a wonderful job of capturing a lot of the modern Doctor’s personalities in her performance, I really got the feeling that this was a being that had been with The Doctor for the entirety of their travels. I quite like how in awe The Doctor is at the whole situation too, the way he can’t seem to wipe the smile off his face when talking about her, even in the face of an undefined entity that’s trying to kill them. Speaking of which, the voicework by Michael Sheen who plays House is so wonderfully menacing, he feels like a being of pure malevolence and it almost gives me chills at certain points.

I wish The Doctor was a bit more active throughout the first two acts of the episode, but he really comes into his own at the finale. He’s able to bring this great confrontational energy to the whole thing and knows that the only way he’s going to beat House is by outsmarting him. My only nitpick about this is The Doctor’s line “fear me, I’ve killed them all” in reference to him wiping out the Time Lords, it’s very out of place compared to every other time The Doctor has ever brought up the Time War. It was a very effective line for the trailers though, so I can’t criticise it too much.

This is an episode that always pleasantly surprises me with how good it is when I watch it back. I never go in expecting very much and always come out the other side having enjoyed the experience immensely.

3 – A Good Man Goes To War

It’s just so much fun. There’s honestly very little else to it.

The longer the modern series goes on, the less often The Doctor gets to look like an out-and-out hero. It’s always weighed down with this darkness to it and often I think it dampens what should be some very triumphant moments. This episode stands as one of the exceptions to that point because, although it does take a bit of a turn at the end, for the most part, The Doctor looks like the hero we know he is all the way through this episode.

I think the pacing in this one is very well written. The way the first ten minutes or so before The Doctor shows up is built up very slowly, giving us an idea of exactly who this organisation are and even a look into some of the people behind it. While I’m generally not a fan of the narrative that The Doctor is this transcendent entity known throughout the entire universe (because let’s face it, in the grand scheme of the universe, 2000 years old is barely a blip) I buy that there’d be certain groups of people dedicated to doing everything in their power to track him down.

Then, once The Doctor does show up, things start moving a mile-a-minute and all I can do is sit back and enjoy the ride as The Doctor calls up just about every favour he’s ever been owed, giving us a fun look at all of the returning monsters & allies that the BBC still have the prosthetics for. The only thing that could’ve made it better is John Barrowman (who was originally planned to be in this episode until scheduling conflicts made it impossible and I’ve never been more upset to hear what could’ve been). It’s pure fanservice but it makes me happy every time I watch it back.

I’m not entirely sure I buy the idea of a child being conceived while the TARDIS is in-flight causes it to become part Time Lord (especially since The Timeless Child went and put a clear bookmark on the origin of the Time Lords) but I certainly think it’s the best explanation anyone could’ve come up with for the story Moffat wanted to tell and my nitpick is admittedly a minor one, so I’ll let it slide.

Then we get to the River Song reveal.

The thing is, while River being revealed as Amy & Rory’s daughter is a cool twist and a good use of time-travel mechanics in fiction, it doesn’t actually make much of a difference to any of the character’s stories as a whole. It doesn’t change the relationship between River and The Doctor at all, nor does it even seem to matter very much to Amy & Rory in the long-run. In terms of affecting the plot on any major scale, all it really means is that we don’t have to waste any time for the rest of the season trying to hunt down a baby. Overall, I felt that it’s a satisfying conclusion to that mystery, I just wish it had a bit more of a knock-on effect past this episode.

Outside of that, this episode is an absolute blast and I’ll never get bored of it.

2 – Night Terrors

I know, I was surprised too.

For every ranking so far, I’ve gone into it having a pretty solid idea of what the top 3 is going to look like and the so far the rewatches have brought no surprises on that front. So when I got around to Night Terrors I was expecting it to land somewhere in the middle purely because I don’t remember very much about it. Then I watched it and discovered that it’s a well-paced, tense and exciting ride through a plot that is way more compelling than it originally sounds.

At its heart, this is a story about a child learning to cope with their fears and trauma, alongside a father learning to understand his son and find the right ways to care for him. Only the child in question is an alien with undefined abilities to trap people in a wardrobe and turn them into creepy dolls. Storytelling 101, if you ask me.

This whole episode has total control over levels of tension at any given moment. The scenes where The Doctor is sitting there and calmly talking to George should be relatively easygoing, it’s just The Doctor trying to comfort a scared child and yet there’s this raw atmosphere to every scene on the estate that makes the whole thing feel absolutely terrifying, even when there’s nothing, in particular, going on. I love the slow pace of every scene The Doctor has in this episode while on the estate, as he tries to navigate George’s fears along with Alex’s insecurities about his ability to be a father and to understand his child. It’s got that same feel as Midnight, where everyone involved is trying to reach the same goal, but the methods through which The Doctor wants to go about this causes tension between the other people around the room; and while I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near the stratospheric quality of Midnight, it certainly does a good job of capturing those same feelings.

It doesn’t just rely on those slow-paced talking bits though as scattered throughout the whole thing are the scenes in the dollhouse, where Amy and Rory slowly discover what’s happened to them and learn more and more about the amount of danger they’re in. Where the pace in the state scenes stays pretty constant throughout, the dollhouse scenes are a gradual acceleration as more and more of the mystery is uncovered and Amy & Rory slowly fall into a more and more desperate situation, climaxing in Amy being caught and converted by the dolls. Obviously, there was no long-term tension in that as there we all knew Amy would be fine by the end of the episode, but in the moment it was very surprising and led to this air of uncertainly surrounding how this is all going to resolve itself.

I can understand how some would view the resolution and ending as a bit cheesy, but I think it was well-earned through the episode. Things were slowly built up between Alex and George through their scenes with The Doctor and I felt I properly understood the perspectives and emotions of both characters. The over-the-top factor was all somewhat the point, as George’s whole fear was that his mum and dad were going to get rid of him, so having him see his father burst through a terrifying danger in order to save him is exactly the kind of thing that would establish that child’s trust in their parents and fix everything.

Maybe I’m ranking it highly because I went into it not expecting much, but I stand by this placement as I found myself loving every second of this one.

1 – A Christmas Carol

During his time as head-writer of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat did three Christmas specials, two of which were loose parodies of existing stories. One was very good, one was terrible. This is the good one. In fact, it’s so good that I’m not even going to spend time bitching about the fact that it completely breaks the rules of how time travel in Doctor Who works.

I like how up-front with it’s premise this episode is. Outside of the title being the exact same as the story they’re parodying, it gets right in and lays out all the information we need to understand every character’s motivation in the story. Amy & Rory are in a ship that’s going to crash because of an electro-storm, The Doctor is trying to stop the storm, but the only person who can is a selfish arsehole; and with all that out of the way, all the episode has to do is tell Kazran’s story in the most compelling way possible.

The way the tale plays out is surprisingly similar to how we saw young Amelia Pond’s story play out in The Eleventh Hour, except this time, The Doctor keeps coming back and we get see Kazran develop throughout his whole young life. While this is a compelling enough story on its own, it gets a whole new layer of genius when we see this story being told through the eyes of old Kazran as he develops brand new memories based on the adventures he has with The Doctor.

Through the use of young Kazran, we get to see exactly how he became the person he does in the present and despite being a total arsehole, he becomes a sympathetic character that we just want to see change for the better. I know Moffat can’t be given all the credit for this as this is an almost identical character progression to Scrouge in Dickens’ original version, but it feels like it’s told from a completely new perspective here.

My favourite moment is the kicker right near the end, the thing that finally makes Kazran change. It wasn’t his adventures with The Doctor, it wasn’t the people he was sentencing to death pleading him, it wasn’t even the love he felt for Abigail; it was his younger self watching the man he had become and realising who he really was. A pretty consistent theme throughout all of modern Doctor Who is how children see the world through different eyes than the rest of us and it took Kazran seeing himself through a child’s eyes to finally make him realize who he was.

Although the ending feels a little bit rushed and the fact that the isomorphic controls suddenly didn’t work for Kazran makes no sense whatsoever, it served the purpose of bringing Abigail into the finale and giving us an ending that is a little bittersweet, but ultimately still leaves me feeling nice and cosy inside. Which is exactly what a Christmas episode should be doing.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and please let me know what you thought of this season, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here next Friday, where my coverage of Wrestlemania 36 begins!