WWE Summerslam 2020: Every Match Ranked

…well, I sure didn’t see that coming.

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

Now, to the rankings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NXT Takeover XXX: Every Match Ranked

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 – Finn Balor def. Timothy Thatcher

Good match, zero build.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Adam Cole def. Pat McAfee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Summerslam 2020: Predictions & Analysis

The biggest party of the summer is upon us! Only, it’s not much of a party this year, is it? To think back in March we were all expecting fans to be back in time for this show…

WWE’s been a bit of a mixed bag over the past month or so. I’d argue Raw has had a pretty decent hit-rate week-to-week, with a lot of fun storylines. Smackdown, meanwhile, is definitely better than it was a couple of months ago, but it’s still not great. Still, I think WWE has put together a show with a lot of potential, the main event matches especially are looking pretty tasty.

Let’s break down the matches.

Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville
(No Disqualification)
(Loser Leaves WWE)

Honestly, it’s amazing that we’ve had to wait this long for a payoff to this feud. It’s not like WWE has carefully spent time building to this match either, they just straight-up dropped the storyline for a couple of months before suddenly remembering about it in July. As it stands though, I’ve been enjoying this one a lot. I think shifting the focus of the story slightly was the right idea. Otis is wildly entertaining, but his presence is no longer necessary in this feud, so I’m happy that the recent instalments have focused just on the animosity between Rose & Deville.

As for the quality of the match, I honestly don’t know, but I’m optimistic. Deville has been on fire since turning heel, and she’s quickly becoming one of my favourite wrestlers in WWE’s women’s division. Rose, meanwhile, I think is a far better wrestler than many fans think she is. I think we’re so used to 00s-10s WWE’s style of ‘gimmick centred around attractiveness = bad wrestler’, I don’t believe that to be the case with Rose. These are two women who know each other incredibly well, so I have no reason to doubt the fact that they’re probably going to kick some ass.

I can’t quite decide who’s going to win though. When it was hair vs hair, I thought Mandy was an easy pick, but now the stipulation’s changed and I don’t see where this is going. I don’t believe there have been any reports that either woman is legitimately thinking of leaving or even taking a hiatus. I suppose the loser could go to NXT, or maybe even Raw Underground, you could argue those would count as ‘leaving WWE’. It’s a tough call, but I’m going to stick with what I think the story was leading to anyway, which is Mandy Rose coming out on top. I just hope there’s something interesting planned for Deville going forward because I want to see her do so much more.

The Street Profits(c) vs Andrade & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

This match feels incredibly familiar. I wasn’t quite sure why at first, but then I remembered that this feud has been going on, on and off, since Wrestlemania.

As such, I’m not sure there’s much more that can be said about it. Bianca Belair has been doing great work, and I’m glad Zelina Vega is getting to show some skill outside of a managerial role, but it’s only tangentially related to this match. At the end of the day, this is a match containing four incredibly talented performers, and I have no doubt there will be plenty to enjoy once it’s all said and done.

In terms of a result, I think there are two ways it could go. The fact that Andrade & Garza can’t seem to get along has been running for months now, so I’m pretty confident that will play into the result of this match. They could pay it off by having them come together and finally win the tag titles, which I think has a decent chance of happening. Street Profits have been champions for roughly 6 months now, and changing the titles just for the sake of it is precisely the kind of thing WWE would do with its tag titles.

Alternatively, the pair could finally fall apart and start beating the crap out of each other, allowing The Street Profits to retain. I think this is more likely, and also more beneficial. If the two of them launch off into a singles feud, I hope that it’ll give Angel Garza a more prominent platform to get himself over, something I believe he is more than capable of. Meanwhile, The Street Profits can keep doing what they’ve been doing, which, for the most part, has been very entertaining.

Apollo Crews(c) vs MVP
(United States Championship)

I’m of two minds with this match. On the one hand, I think there are a lot of wrestlers who need the opportunity at the US title a lot more than MVP. Not to mention, I think a lot of wrestlers would put on a better match with Crews. That said, MVP has been crushing it on the microphone so far this year, and he’s pretty much the only reason I have any interest in this feud. Between this feud with Crews and his semi-takeover of Raw Underground alongside Lashley & Benjamin, I think we could be praising the entertainment value of MVP for a long time to come.

As to what I think the match will be like, you can pretty much just copy/paste whatever I said during my Extreme Rules predictions. Except this time, I expect we’ll actually get to see the match, rather than it be surprise announced on the show that it’s not happening (I know it was because Crews was ill, but still).

My prediction is the same too, I think Apollo Crews is going to retain. Admittedly, I do see value in putting the title on MVP, and I won’t complain if it happens, but keeping on the younger guy in Crews feels like the right way to go. I think I spent so long not caring about Crews that I forgot how good he can be, so now I’d like to see him carry this on for as long as possible.

Dominik Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Street Fight)

We all knew this was going to end up here, and yet for some reason, I was still surprised when this match was announced.

I know I wasn’t much of a fan of the eye-for-an-eye match at Extreme Rules, but I think the build of this story has been great. I’m still not entirely sure why guys like Black & Carrillo are wasting their time with it, but the stuff between Rollins and the Mysterios has been fantastic fun to watch. I was expecting to have a difficult time getting used to Dominik showing up and fighting every week on Raw, but the writing team did a great job in getting me invested in him. Admittedly, it was through the method of having Rollins & Murphy beating the crap out of him, but what can I say? I’m invested.

The match itself is a bit uncertain though, purely because we have no idea what Dominik is like as a wrestler. He might have taken to the sport miraculously quickly and will blow us all away, but there’s an equal possibility that he’ll be really green. As such, I’m not if a weapons match was the right choice for his first match. The positives are that it allows for plenty of interference, so the pressure isn’t all on Dominik to help carry the thing, plus, a slower pace will work better with his relative inexperience. The problem is that it takes two very skilled performers to make a slow-paced weapons match work, which means he could be in trouble. Also, I don’t like weapons matches, but that’s beside the point.

I could theoretically see this one going either way, but I’m reasonably confident in picking Dominik Mysterio. Rollins has won the entire feud up until this point, so I think it’s only appropriate for this to be the time for him to take the loss. If Dominik is going to be sticking around as a permanent fixture of the Raw roster, then giving him a big win like this right out of the gate is an excellent way to build him up. I know people are arguing there’s a believability issue with Dominik beating someone as big of a star as Rollins, but if Rey gets involved, then I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

Braun Strowman(c) vs The Fiend Bray Wyatt
(Universal Championship)
(Falls Count Anywhere)

How is THIS the match I care the least about? On paper, it’s an absolute winner, both of these guys have a history, and both of them have significantly evolved since 2016 when they were together. Yet, this story has been running for roughly 4 months now, and I’m bored with it. I can see what they were trying to accomplish with getting Bliss involved, and I commend them for trying to switch things up in regards to the heel/face alignments. The thing is, I don’t think it’s been very well executed. This is a war between a destructive monster and a brutal psychopath, why are they sitting around arguing all the time?

I used to love Braun Strowman around 2017/2018 because he’d come in full of adrenaline and absolutely demolish anyone or anything in his path. It was much the same with The Fiend, he was this seemingly invisible force of destruction that would tear his opponents to shreds. This should be the most straightforward story in the world to tell, all you have to do is slowly escalate the violence week on week. Have it reach the point where their conflict starts to intrude upon every aspect of Smackdown until management has to step in to try and put a stop to it, only for them to keep causing mayhem anyway. It’s the kind of story that, somehow, WWE don’t tell very often, and with characters like these, it would be an absolute blast to watch. The final segment on Smackdown proved my point on that front, it was by far the best part of the whole feud, and this whole story should’ve been full of cool stuff like that.

When it comes to the match, I’m not sure what I’d prefer. On the one hand, they’ve already had two very drama-focused matches, so part of me wants to see a much more action-focused match. Then again, maybe doing another drama-focused match is the way to go? Bray is a world-class in-ring storyteller, so if anyone could make it work, I’d say it’s him.

The result is a tough one, so I’m just going with what I’d prefer, which is The Fiend Bray Wyatt to win the title. To be blunt, Braun’s title reign has been crap. He’s been boring as a character and none of his matches have been any fun to watch. Sure, The Fiend having the title again may create some problems down the line, but I honestly don’t care at this point. If we’re going to have anyone hold the title until Roman’s ready to come and take it, I’d rather it be Bray than Braun.


Sasha Banks(c) vs Asuka
(Raw Women’s Championship)


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

Bundling these two together because their stories are essentially one and the same.

So, there’s plenty of theories as to how this whole story with Banks, Bayley & Asuka could turn out, which is why I’m so invested in it right now. There are a bunch of different options, all with their own exciting storyline potential.

First of all, what I don’t think will happen: Bayley & Sasha BOTH retaining. I feel confident that Asuka is walking out of Summerslam with at least one of those titles, the question now remains, which one? Or perhaps even both? I seriously considered the ‘both’ option, and I very nearly made it my final decision, but I think it would create some problems. While it’s become almost a cliche to say it at this point, I think we’re headed to a break-up of Bayley & Sasha, which would mean that they’re going to be feuding with each other in the near future. While I agree with the sentiment that it’s a feud that doesn’t need the title, I think it would unquestionably be enhanced by having a title on the line.

So, which title will it be? Here’s my pitch.

Bayley takes the hit for her friend and has her match against Asuka first, and it plays out mostly how you would expect it to. The two of them have a fun match for 12-15 minutes, then things go into overdrive, and the shenanigans ensue. I don’t know the specifics of it, but Sasha does her thing, screws over Asuka and Bayley escapes with her title. Then, a little later on in the night, it’s time for Asuka vs Sasha. Already we’ve got a great story to tell in the match as Asuka is starting on the back foot in a major way. Things boil to a climax where, somehow, someway, Bayley costs Sasha her title, letting Asuka walk away with the Raw Women’s Championship.

Whether Bayley does this through deliberate sabotage, an accidental miscommunication or simply inaction, something is going to happen that causes Sasha to lose her title. From there, you’ve got a whole bunch of directions to take it. You can either do the break up there and then, or you can let the tensions simmer for a little while, through the pair’s defence of the tag titles at Payback.

It’s an ambitious theory, I’ll admit, and I can’t wait to see how horrifically wrong I am, but let me have my fun, dammit.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)

I cannot believe that I’m sitting here in 2020, excited for a Randy Orton world title match.

I know I wasn’t a fan of Orton vs Edge at Backlash, but I’ll be damned if Randy Orton hasn’t become one of the most entertaining characters on all of WWE TV right now. I don’t know what it was, but something lit a fire under his ass, and he’s become more motivated, animated and downright exciting than he’s been for years. He’s entertaining to the point where I’m sitting here thinking that if he won the world title on Sunday, I’d be perfectly ok with it; even when he’s taking the title away from my beloved British wrestling hero, Drew McIntyre. NOW, to clarify, just because I’d be ok with it, doesn’t mean it’s what I want to happen, I would still prefer Drew to retain, however, if it happens I won’t be mad about it. There’s just something about the idea of Orton vs Edge for the WWE title that gets me very excited indeed.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from this match. I have no idea how the styles of these two men will mesh in the ring, whether it will be a slow burner, or fast and furious, I really couldn’t tell you. However, I’m choosing to take the optimists route and say that I think it’ll be something we’ll look back on fondly at the end of the year. Maybe not a match of the year contender, but definitely something we’ll have been glad to have invested our time in.

Now…I’ve got to pick a winner, and I’m really struggling. Every logical bone in my body is telling me, Orton. Looking at his story since Wrestlemania, it makes all the sense in the world and, as I said, Orton vs Edge III still needs to happen…but I just can’t do it. This a decision made almost entirely by my heart rather than my head, but I’m picking Drew McIntyre to win. He’s had an absolutely cracking reign as WWE Champion, and I’d very much like to see it continue.

NXT Takeover XXX: Predictions & Analysis

NXT Takeover time! A time where we can all rejoice and feel happy that great wrestling is going to be on our screens very soon. Except…this time around, I’m not nearly as excited as I usually am. At least 3 of the matches have unlimited potential, that is true, but weekly NXT TV the past month or so has felt pretty soulless to me. None of the builds to any of the matches have been anything unique or exciting. The only build that’s done things differently ended up being killed dead in the water on Wednesday when Pat McAfee cut the world’s most generic heel promo.

Maybe the pessimism of the world has gotten to me, who knows? Let’s try to stay positive as we break down the matches.

Breezango vs Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch vs Legado del Fantasma
(Winner becomes #1 contender for the NXT Tag Team Championships)
(Kickoff Show)

You know, the NXT Tag Team division became utter barren so quickly, I barely even noticed.

The tag division on NXT has heavily suffered from Imperium very rarely being on TV week-to-week. I like Imperium as champions, and I hope they hold onto the titles for a while, but they were such a bad choice given the current situation. This isn’t like Lesnar with a world title, where him not showing up as much adds to his drawing power, with the NXT tag titles gone from TV most of the time, it just means we stop caring. I want to care about the NXT tag titles, they’ve given us some of the best matches in NXT history, but right now, they’re in serious trouble.

That said, I’m confident this will be a fun match. I’m not entirely sure what the point was on putting this on the pre-show but provided it gets a respectable amount of time, I have no reason to doubt the excitement we could be in store for. Breezango have had a new fire lit under them since returning to NXT, Lorcan & Burch have always been extraordinarily reliable in situations like this, while Legado del Fantasma are the exciting new prospect and still feel quite fresh.

There’s a couple of ways to go in terms of a winner here. My first instinct was that Legada del Fantasmo would win because they’re the fresh guys and even if they aren’t going to win the tag titles, a high-profile match with the champions would be great for them. However, I’m actually going with Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. My logic behind it is pretty simple, I think they’ve been killing it over the past year, and while their role is mainly to put guys over, I think it would be really cool to see them go for the titles. I don’t think they’d dethrone Imperium, but it’d be great to watch.

Finn Balor vs Timothy Thatcher

This is one of those matches that most people won’t give much thought, but could absolutely tear the house down on Saturday. I’ve still not made my mind up entirely about what I think of Thatcher, but there’s definitely a lot to love about his character. His stuff with Riddle was a great way to bring him to prominence, and I like the idea that he’s someone who slowly crawls his way up through the ranks in NXT over the next couple of years.

I don’t really know what this match is going to be like, these are two guys who have pretty different styles, and that always makes it hard to tell how they’ll mesh. I have faith in them though, so I’m remaining optimistic that it’ll be good. I’m torn for a winner though. As much as Balor’s in a position where nothing will hurt his stock too much in the long-run, I still don’t think he should lose too often. Looking into recent history, he got a win over Damian Priest at the last Takeover, but that’s it, he’s lost to just about everyone else with name value. That said, beating Balor would be an excellent way to turn some heads towards Thatcher.

It’s a tough call, but I’m going with what I think is the more sensible pick in Finn Balor. I just don’t think Thatcher has been built up enough to the point where he could beat someone on Balor’s level. That said, I would certainly be on board if Thatcher won.

Adam Cole vs Pat McAfee

Ok, just to get it out of the way, I don’t know if the radio show blow-up was a work, or a shoot that NXT turned into a work, and quite frankly I don’t care.

I’m of two minds with this feud. There’s the optimistic side of me that says McAfee is going to blow us away. I have no idea how long or hard he’s been training for, so I can’t make a judgement call yet, but he’s been around the industry long enough, and he’s in the ring with Adam Cole, so I think there’s a good chance this could be a killer match. Then there’s the pessimistic side, which says this is going to be like every other time an ‘outsider’ tried to come in and have a serious wrestling match.

The story’s been ok, it certainly had a decent amount of heat to it following the blow up on McAfee’s show, but I don’t think they capitalised on it all that well. Things started alright, with them seeming to patch things up, only for them to come to blows on NXT again, I even liked Cole’s rant about the situation, because Cole can talk with the best of them. What killed my excitement for the match was McAfee’s promo on Wednesday. I alluded to it in the intro, but it was dull and generic, not just with the words he was saying, but the style he delivered them, it was like what a trainee would put out after their first week of promo classes.

I’m a bit torn with a winner because I think there’s a chance McAfee is going to stick around and wrestle semi-frequently on NXT. If that’s the case, then I think he should win, not to mention, with a draft coming later in the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cole is leaving NXT sometime soon. That said, this is Adam Cole we’re talking about here, he’s just off the back of a 400+ day title reign and is bouncing back from a high-profile loss. Surely he’s got to win? Admittedly, I don’t think it would do all that much damage to Cole in the long-run, but it just doesn’t feel right to pick anyone other than Adam Cole to win this one.

Damian Priest vs Cameron Grimes vs Johnny Gargano vs Bronson Reed vs Velveteen Dream
(NXT North American Championship)

Ahhh, a good old fashion multi-man ladder match. These will always be entertaining, regardless of which promotion they take place in. That said, the last time NXT had a ladder match for the North American Championship, it was arguably one of the best multi-man ladder matches ever, so…

That doesn’t answer the question of who wins though, so let’s take a look at the participants.

Velveteen Dream – I don’t think Dream was even supposed to be in this match initially. Given the uncertainty surrounding his return, I think NXT management decided that the only thing they could do with him so close to the PPV was to shove him in this match. On top of that, Dream’s already had a run with the North American Championship. There are indeed a lot more opponents he could face now, but I don’t see what could be gained from it.

Bronson Reed – The case with Reed is that I think just being in the match will be enough to raise his stock. He’s still a fresh face in NXT, and this is the perfect opportunity to show everyone what he can do. That said, I don’t see him winning the title for at least another year, he’s just not been built up enough yet. Hopefully, his performance in this match will go some way to remedying that.

Johnny Gargano –  It’s really starting to feel like the NXT writers have no idea what to do with Gargano. That’s the problem when he’s been in NXT for so long – Ciampa’s got the same problem – as great as he is, NXT doesn’t have as deep of a roster as Raw or Smackdown, so there’s very little for him to do nowadays other than to take high-profile losses to the new guys. That’s not to say he won’t add anything to this match, I think he’ll be fantastic, but much like Dream, there’s nothing to be gained from him winning the title again.

Cameron Grimes – Now we’re getting to the people that I think have a chance of winning this thing. To me, the North American title seems to be the perfect tool for taking someone who’s not quite a huge star yet and getting them over and a main eventer in the eyes of the fans. This is technically the role of any mid-card title, but in practice, it very rarely works out that way. However, Grimes is in the perfect position to pick up a mid-card title right now, if he were to go on a bit of tear for it for 8 months or so, it’d be the perfect launching pad to send him to the main event scene. I’m not picking him to win though, as I think there’s one guy that NXT is more likely to invest in right now.

Damian Priest – Honestly, I think Priest is the only real choice for this one. It’s felt like he’s been on the cusp of breaking through for around a year now, so we’re coming very close to ‘now-or-never’ territory. Priest has all the makings of a top guy in NXT, and I think his feud with Balor was a mini-test of that fact. The way I see it, Priest is a perfect fit for the North American title in his current state. NXT in need of a heel champion, and who better than a man who will probably be one of NXT’s biggest stars in a year.

Io Shirai(c) vs Dakota Kai
(NXT Women’s Championship)

It’s amazing how briefly Charlotte was champion. It already feels like it was years ago.

I’ll speak plainly, Io Shirai has been absolutely killing it since winning the title. I was pessimistic about waiting this long to put the title on her, but all my doubts have since been cleared. Sure, she’s not been wrestling as much, but when it comes to pure force of personality, there is no woman better in NXT in right now. There’s nothing about her character that inherently draws her to a heel or babyface alignment, a fact that I think will be fantastic for her stories throughout her title reign. Dakota’s been on fire too, she grasped her heel persona almost instantly, and since then it’s been built to an incredibly compelling degree.

I honestly think we could be in for one of the best WWE matches of the year so far, I really do. Io has already proven that she can go with just about anyone, and I really get the feeling that we’ve not seen anywhere near the limits of what Kai can do yet. I firmly believe that these two women will have near-flawless chemistry, and we could be in for a fast and fun fight.

That said, I think this is by far the easiest match to predict. Io Shirai is winning this one, her title reign has barely begun and has so much potential. Meanwhile, Dakota’s story can be enhanced by a loss here. She’s already getting a bit too full of herself, so if she blames Raquel Gonzalez for her loss, then there could be months of great TV in that. Not to mention, Io herself is proof that Dakota could easily come back in a year’s time and pick up the title without it feeling any less of an accomplishment.

Keith Lee(c) vs Karrion Kross
(NXT Championship)

Colour me impressed, I really thought they were going to wait on this one.

There’s so much to break down here and so many directions the story could go. First of all, Kross is incredible. He’s the first person in so long that I think genuinely gives off a Lesnar-esque vibe of indestructibility. Not only has he torn through everyone he’s come into contact with, but everything surrounding his persona & characterisation gives him an aura of an unstoppable badass. Meanwhile, Keith Lee is the purest human being on the planet, so watching him being pushed to his mental limits by Kross is very compelling stuff.

I have all the confidence in the world this match is going to rock. Lee’s shown time and time again that he can wrestle any style he needs to for a match. Kross has a wide range as a performer too, so I think there are several ways this one could play out. Personally, I think this will be akin to Lee vs Dijakovic in January, with plenty of big & explosive moves and a pace that refuses to ever let up.

This is where it gets tricky though because honestly, neither man should be losing here. However, I don’t think we’ll get a screwy finish, that’s not the NXT way. The thing is, Keith Lee has only just won the title, he’s barely held onto it for a minute, which, under normal circumstances should mean there’s no way he’s losing the title this quickly. The problem is when you look at NXT’s history, the brand’s biggest babyface always have insultingly short title reigns; Sami Zayn, Johnny Gargano & Drew McIntyre are all clear examples of this. On top of that, Kross has been built up like no-one else has since he debuted. He SLAUGHTERED Tommaso Ciampa, and if that isn’t a sign that he’s destined for stardom, I don’t know what is.

The way I’ve rationalised it to myself is thus: Keith Lee can recover from a loss, a hell of a lot better than Karrion Kross can. Sure, Lee won’t have the title anymore, but people are still going to love him regardless because of everything he is as a person and a performer. Meanwhile, Karrion Kross’ whole persona has been built around his unstoppable nature, so taking such a high-profile loss this early on in his NXT run could be catastrophic in regards to the audience’s view of him. Maybe I’m overanalysing it, but I’m going to go with the logic I’ve laid out and pick Karrion Kross to be crowned our new NXT Champion.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read these predictions. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Saturday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time tomorrow, where I’ll be running down my Summerslam predictions!

My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (40-31)

Welcome back to my 100 favourite games of all time series! Today, I’ll be covering entries 40 through 31.

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.


Just a heads up that there will be full SPOILERS for every game I’m going to talk about in this series, so be careful if I talk about something you don’t want spoiled.

Let’s not waste any more time!

40 – Driver San Francisco

Release Date: 1st September 2011
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 80%

It’s a game about driving around San Francisco while you’re in a coma.

Driver San Francisco is something so incredibly unique that I can’t even say I’d want to see more of it in the modern era because I’m not sure it could even be pulled off quite as good as this ever again. The concept of Tanner being in a coma gives the game so much freedom to do many weird and wonderful things.

For one thing, it’s incredibly open, almost like a sandbox. The mechanics let you float around any part of the map at any time and enter any car that you see. So much of the fun I’ve had in this game is just messing around in the open world, possessing a bunch of different cars in the same area and getting them all to completely mess each other up.

Arguably the game’s best feature though is it’s missions. I usually find missions are the least exciting parts of open-world games, however, the mechanics of the game allow for such incredibly innovative ideas of missions. You can act as the police and take down getaway drivers by hopping between every car on the road and boxing them in. You have to go through chase scenes where literally any car on the road could suddenly start darting towards you, or the stupendously impressive mission that you play from a second-person perspective.

This was a game that went above and beyond when it came to creative mechanics, and these mechanics all came together to create a ridiculously fun game no matter how you try to play it.

39 – Rocket League

Release Date: 7th July 2015
Developer: Psyonix
Publisher: Psyonix
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 87%

It’s a game about playing football with cars.

I don’t like sporty games for the most part. By that, I don’t just mean games about sports, I mean the kind of games that are popular in the esports scene. I like CS:GO, and when I’m particularly bored I’ll drop into a game of Overwatch, but that’s pretty much it. Yet, you add the phrase ‘but with cars’ to the end of the sentence, and suddenly I love it. As much as I never play it competitively (in fact, I very rarely play it with another human), it’s one of those games that has such a broad appeal that I think it’s quite hard to hate.

The concept is so simple too: football, but with cars. It hits that perfect niche of a casual game that lets the skilful people do skilful things, while the casual players can still jump into a game, have some fun and do pretty well. As you’d probably guessed, I fall into the latter category. I have plenty of fun just knocking the ball around against the decent AI every now and then. The game has such a strong sense of fast-pace that I find it so easy to just drop-in and play a match or two when I’m bored.

It’s also become quite the expansive games with all the different game-types and variants that you can tack onto those game types. Everything about it seems entirely designed to pump as much fun out of every match for casual players, while still maintaining the integrity of the standard modes for competitive players. It really is a game that lets you play however you want to play, and I think that’s what makes it such a widely popular game.

38 – Superhot

Release Date: 25th February 2016
Developer: Superhot Team
Publisher: Superhot Team
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux, Oculus Quest, Google Stadia
Metacritic Average: 84%

It’s a game about recreating that scene from The Matrix where you dodge the bullets in super-slow motion.

(From my Favourite VR Games article)

It may not seem like it on the surface, but what really makes Superhot great is how you’re always having to think a few steps ahead of each move. The slowed time concept gives you almost as much time as you need to think about each series of movements and despite having to focus on reacting to what’s going on, you’re forced into a proactive mindset to avoid certain doom.

Stick this formula into VR and you’ve got something so incredibly unique and special that I almost can’t comprehend what makes it so great. It’s still that idea of thinking a few steps ahead and making precise movements, only now those precise movements are going to have to be made by your body. It’s easy to avoid movement when you’re using a keyboard or controller, but when you’re in the situation yourself and every little wasted movement you make costs you precious seconds of reaction time, the stakes of the whole thing become so much more.

I’ve never felt so aware of every movement I’m making while in VR. It almost feels like the game heightens my senses, I become aware of almost everything that’s around me as I quickly calculate the best movements to escape the current situation. These plans almost never work and I probably look like a twat while executing them, but who the hell cares? I’m an action hero in slow motion and that’s what matters.

37 – Stardew Valley

Release Date: 26th February 2016
Developer: ConcernedApe
Publisher: ConcernedApe, Chucklefish
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacLinux, iOS, Andriod
Metacritic Average: 89%

I’m a game about running a farm and making friends.

The modern indie scene has done weird things to my brain. Whenever I see a game like Stardew Valley that presents itself as a cute & happy farming game, I expect there to be some weird and meta-narrative twist on the whole thing. That’s not the case in Stardew Valley, it turned out that it genuinely was just a cute and happy farming game, but I’ll tell you what, it’s a really bloody good one.

I only spent about a month playing through Stardew Valley, but during that month I was playing it CONSTANTLY, I just couldn’t put it down because everything about the world was so engrossing. The thing that gets me, though, is the way in which it was engrossing. It wasn’t because of some lucrative story or addictive mechanics, it was the simplicity with how every little activity in the game is dripping with a light, fun tone.

From the big and obvious things like the visual & audio style to even the smallest little things like the touches on the animation as you character sows seeds or waters crops. With every character having a very distinctive personality, the whole village feels alive, so you really do become part of a little community as you get to know everyone.

The farming stuff is pretty simple, but that makes it perfect to be the driving motivation of the game. The pacing of the farming is extremely refined to the point where I never got bored of it, despite being somewhat repetitive in nature. An in-game day is long enough to just about everything you want/need to do, while not giving you so much time that you’re sitting around waiting for the clock to tick by. On top of that, the different crops/animals in the game grow/produce at just the right speed so that you’ll always be making progress. Even if you haven’t got anything grown today, chances are there’ll almost certainly be plenty ready for you tomorrow.

Combine that with a wealth of side-activities and clear goals the entire duration of the game (something many of these games lack), and you’ve got a cute little life-sim game that is among the best of it’s kind.

36 – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Release Date: 18th June 2019
Developer: ArtPlay
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 84%

It’s a game about murdering everything in the world’s most ambitiously designed castle.

(From my Game of the Year 2019 article)

I’d never got around to playing a Castlevania game before, but they always seemed right up my street. So, when I heard there was a game coming out made by the original creator of Castlevania in the style of Castlevania (but not officially called Castlevania because Konami doesn’t like using the historic franchises they own) I knew I had to check it out. I was absolutely blown away by what I found.

Bloodstained always keeps you on a journey of discovery. The items, enemies and powers it’s possible to acquire/encounter mean you’re always going to be finding something new and the map itself is packed with an almost overwhelming amount of variety. Every area feels extremely different to the ones that surround it and they’re all just the right size so that once you get comfortable in an area, you’re thrown right into a new one.

The combat system is wonderfully designed, it took a little getting used to, but once I got the pacing of when I should be striking and dodging I had so much fun with it. Every room presented a great challenge and I had a lot of fun trying to work out how best to tackle each combination of enemies that got thrown my way. It nails that balance of enemy design, where every enemy is easy on its own, but when a bunch of different ones are thrown together, it creates a great challenge.

That was also a game that reminded me how amazing boss fights can be, because not since NieR Automata have I had so much fun fighting bosses in a game. They follow that ethos that so many, typically old games do in that every boss has clear and recognisable patterns that are easy to dodge/counter and the skill comes from being able to react to them in time to deal out the damage. It’s a game that makes sure that every single failure and death I experienced was because I wasn’t skilful enough in order to pull it off, not because I got unlucky.

Bloodstained makes sure that every room and every enemy teaches you something, not necessarily something about the mechanics, but about what is the most optimal way to fight. This sense of pushing forward and constantly getting to experience new stuff is what pushed me towards achieving 100% completion without even realising I was doing it until suddenly I was 95% there and had to get that last little bit.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a game that is constantly pushing you deeper into it using its world & enemy design along with its combat system to enthral you in its world and give you the best Metroidvania experience I’ve had in many years.

35 – Quarantine Circular

Release Date: 22nd May 2018
Developer: Bithell Games
Publisher: Bithell Games, Ant Workshop Limited
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 73%

It’s a game about talking to an alien.

I often struggle to engage with pure-story games like this. I often find it difficult to get involved and focus when my attention isn’t being drawn continuously with gameplay. When it comes to Mike Bithell’s games, however, it’s an entirely different scenario. I’ll break down his style more in future entries of this list, but the main thing that I think makes Quarantine Circular so special is the understanding and insight it gives you into all of your characters.

In each chapter, you take control of a different person and see the story from their perspective. You get a chance to fully understand exactly how each character operates and why exactly they take the stances they do. The writing is intelligent enough to let you slip into answering questions and scenarios exactly how you believe that character would, perhaps without even realising it. It’s so tightly in control of your outlook and feelings on the situation at any given moment, and yet, you don’t even realise what it’s doing to you until you finish it and have the time to reflect.

Once you understand all the characters so deeply, it gives the critical choices so much weight, it deepens the emotional investment in the story so much more than almost any other game. Not because of any kind of world-ending stakes, but because of the personal stakes between each of the characters.

34 – N++

Release Date: 28th July 2015
Developer: Metanet Software
Publisher: Metanet Software
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 90%

It’s a game about being a Ninja who dies, a lot.

When it comes to controls in a platformer, I don’t think this game has an equal. In N++, even the most minute movements feel precise and make you feel totally in control of every single jump and manoeuvre you make; Which means that when you miss the jump by half a millimetre and fall into a pit of mines, it’s entirely your fault. Every jump feels so smooth, and when you get good enough to chain a lot fo these movements together, the sense of flow you get is easily on par with that of the Sonic games.

It also has the difficulty to boot, with one of the most well-constructed difficulty curves I’ve ever seen. Every level is designed so creatively and given the literal thousands that there are in the game, it’s quite frankly amazing that they managed to keep them all confined to a single screen. Each different element that will kill you in a level is placed so perfectly that you can almost instantly see the way you’re supposed to get past them, but that doesn’t make doing it any easier than it should be.

The game knows precisely how forgiving it wants each level to be and they seem to have been laid out in an order that means you’re always mastering the skill you need to push through to the next set.

33 – Overgrowth

Release Date: 16th October 2017
Developer: Wolfire Games
Publisher: Wolfire Games
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

It’s a game about rabbits murdering each other.

This one is a real oddity, and seeing “2017” as the release date blows me away because this game has been around for about a decade in some form or another. As you can probably tell from the lack of any on this list, I’m not really a fan of fighting games, I’m not entirely sure why they’re just not for me. However, even though at its core, Overgrowth is a fighting game, it doesn’t really follow the rules of any other game in the genre.

Instead of having health bars and the like, Overgrowth instead uses a system of body parts that slowly take damage and get crippled over time. I don’t know anything in the way of specifics, so I’m not going to explain anymore, but it leads to a high-speed, but very weighty fighting game where no two fights ever quite feel the same. The details of the sounds and blood when you take hits in certain places are almost too gruesome to look at in some cases, but it’s precisely those responsive mechanics that make fighting so much fun and drive me to do it over and over again.

32 – Heat Signature

Release Date: 21st September 2017
Developer: Suspicious Developments
Publisher: Suspicious Developments
Platforms: Windows
Metacritic Average: 79%

It’s a game about performing space heists where you inevitably fling yourself out of an airlock accidentally.

Heat Signature has just about everything you could want from a heist game because that’s essentially what each mission is, a mini heist inside of a spaceship. You can sit there and survey the entire scene before you as you craft a highly detailed and skilled plan to reach your target. Every movement you make is slow and clever…until you get seen, at which points it descends into chaos where you have to either use your various tools to escape with your life or be flung into the cold vacuum of space.

The set of tools you have at your disposal hold a bunch of surprisingly unique concepts that do things like reverse forcefields, magnetise enemies and just cause general chaos to your targets. The catch is, the enemies have all of these tools too, and these dynamic systems are so cleverly interwoven to create plenty of unique experiences that are always sure to surprise you in terms of just how spectacularly they go wrong.

Heat Signature that understands that it needs to let the mechanics speak for themselves and gets you to learn by doing. This means you’re bound to form your own tactics and strategies that will vary wildly from anyone else’s but will still lead to equally as hilarious fuck ups.

31 – WWE 2K19

Release Date: 5th October 2018
Developer: Yukes, Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Metacritic Average: 77%

It’s a game about wrasslin’.

My original plan when I was putting this list together was to put the whole WWE 2K series in this spot because they’re all of pretty equal quality. Then WWE 2K20 came out and was an utter shit-show, so 2K19 gets the spot instead.

I know may people prefer many other wrestling games, but as a modern wrestling fan, these are more than enough to satisfy my needs for video game graps. Once again, it’s a fighting game that doesn’t follow most of the traditional rules of fighting games, and I think it’s much more fun to play because of it. The gameplay is so easy to grasp, and it really captures the feel of a live WWE show in interactive form.

The many different game modes mean that whatever kind of way you want to play the game you’re covered. Whether you just want to do random matchups with your friends, play through written stories or craft your own grand storyline and shows. Since the series first came to PC with 2K15 I’ve put over a 1000 combined hours into the games, which isn’t even including the time I spent playing it on consoles before then. I just have so much fun putting all these matches together. The fighting mechanics are enjoyable enough that I don’t even mind playing against AI all the time.

However, when you’re not a loner, it’s easily one of my favourite games to play with friends. Not only is there a rapid and easy learning curve, but once you’ve both got the hang of it, you can have very intense matchups. On top of that, I’ve had many friends (myself included) who played the games first, and that led to them becoming wrestling fans, which makes it all the better. Except for 2K20, fuck that one in particular.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of these games, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back this time on Saturday, where I’ll be running down the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who!