A year on this website wouldn’t be complete with a rundown of some of the games I managed to play in the preceding twelve months; almost none of which came out that year! Frankly unless it’s a big Nintendo release or something REALLY up my alley like a Hideo Kojima game, I rarely buy games when they come out and 2020 proved to be pretty anemic for big releases that caught my attention. Still, my backlog is enormous and it’s worth pointing out what games were really good (or really bad) even if they aren’t the freshest things out there. I mean heck, with Steam and online storefronts being what they are, who can even say what’s relevant anymore and what games can or cannot capture a bit of the spotlight? Probably not most of these games though as I tend to not have much in terms of “taste” but let’s see take a glimpse at what kept me entertained in the bad year to end all bad years!
Batman: Arkham Knight (PC)
Developed by Rocksteady Studios
My big purchase of the year was a brand spanking new graphics card for my very old and out of date system, and one of the games I got to kind of benchmark it was this. The Batman games to me are kind of like Dynasty Warriors in that I ignore pretty much everything going on around them when they’re released and will just pick and choose the ones I want to play years after everyone stopped caring. To its credit, whatever bugs plagued this game on release don’t SEEM to be there anymore as I had a very smooth experience, and while the narrative is eye rolling tripe the gameplay was interesting enough for me to stick with it for a while. What kind of sticks out about the Batman games is that they do go the extra mile to make things feel like a “Game” and not just an open world sandbox of repetitive action. Sure, you can while away the hours picking off random things if you really want to, but the story missions aren’t just concentrated arenas for the same open world gameplay. The last mission I played before I put it down for a while (I’ll try to get back to it at some point) was the blimp level, and the fact that they bothered to introduce this shifting angle mechanic to give it something distinctive was very much appreciated. If you liked the Batman games and aren’t burnt out by them just yet then this is more of the same with a next gen sheen to it (though I guess at this point it’s decided CURRENT if not LAST gen) and one of these a console generation seems to be the right amount.
Everyone needs a hobby and as much as I enjoy writing for this website, I needed something else to pass the time and reignite my passion to create. Now if you’ve been following me on twitter (which if you’re not you can VERY EASILY START DOING) you’ll know that this hobby I came up with was to create a Virtual Wrestling Federation; to create essentially from scratch a roster of fighters and a brand for them to fight on. The initial fruits of that effort can be viewed above which is the pilot episode Phenomenal Fighters Wrestling: Melee, but hopefully I won’t be stopping there considering just how much work I put into this thing already, but if nothing else I can at least tell the tale of how it all came together.
IN THE BEGINNING… wait, where do I begin?
The two things I knew right off the bat is that I wanted to use WWE 2K19 and that my system could not handle it at anything above PS2 level graphics settings, so while I saved up some money to finally upgrade my system, I started just writing things down. I needed some sort of structure to start with, so I bought the World Wide Wrestling RPG books by Nathan D Paoletta just to get an idea of where I needed to begin. Ultimately I didn’t really end up using them, but the character sheets gave me a starting point; come up with a name, a general outline, and a few wrestling moves. From there I came up with my initial roster as well as the name of the company. From there it expanded into an Excel Spreadsheet I’ve called THE BOOK that has like twenty different tabs at this point with all my ideas, all the details I need to keep track of, and so on. With the groundwork laid, I knew I had to bite the bullet and buy the game.
Fyter Fest and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan
We’re back with another PPV brought to you by the throne smashers themselves, AEW! Things have certainly changed since Double or Nothing, haven’t they? For one, WWE has completely lost the plot from what I’ve heard and responded to AEW with nonsense, bad story lines, and an overabundance of Shane McMahon. With their primary rival of sorts doing such a poor job of responding to the new challenger, which is surprising in its own right, it only got stranger when AEW announced that THIS PPV would be completely free; a move that still baffles me considering how successful they’ve been up to this point. Sure, Double or Nothing MIGHT have been a bit pricey at fifty bucks, but they could have at least charged twenty or even ten for it which would have gotten them a heck of a lot more money than ZERO! I guess TBS and the Khan family have the money to throw around, and I’m not about to complain TOO much about not having to pay for a show like this. The bigger question is what’s different in this show and have they improved since Double or Nothing? Eh… sort of. As far as commentary, Excalibur has improved but JR still sounds a bit rusty and out of touch; especially when he referred to Cima as “an Oriental.” I mean look, we can argue about how much of a slur that is or whether JR has any genuine ill feelings about Asian wrestlers (and I can think of WAY worse people they could have gotten as an announcer where the answer to those questions wouldn’t even be debatable), but it really does make him seem like an awkward fit for what is supposed to be a very modern and forward thinking wrestling company. While the announcing has improved, sadly the camera work still has a few rough patches that will hopefully get ironed out before they go to TV. I only mentioned this very briefly in my last recap, but the editing sometimes misses spots or more often will miss whenever there’s drama at the end of a match. Someone does a low blow, someone else enters the ring, stuff like that will almost go by unnoticed because whoever is running the cameras is focusing on something else an nearly misses the action. Again, this is the kind of thing that can be easily fixed with experience and I’m not gonna begrudge them this learning curve, but it is even more noticeable here than it was last time. In fact, I’d say that’s the overall vibe I’m getting from Fyter Fest. It’s still really good stuff, but I think the high from Double or Nothing has started to wear off and so it’s easier to see and evaluate its flaws. The big one that MOSTLY stayed in the pre-show but kept coming back to annoy me was the show’s theme where they didn’t JUST name it after something topical but had to do little skits to make sure we ALL KNOW that they saw the documentaries too. Kenny Omega is trying to find instruments for bands that don’t exist, The Young Bucks lost their luggage and need to find new costumes, and they even brought models out before swiftly replacing them with mannequins. It all just felt so corny and unnecessary when they could have used that time to put up a few promos for the matches which frankly were desperately needed as many of them seemed to have a story but one that we weren’t informed of ahead of time. Let’s put all that aside though and just focus on the matches! So how did the pre-show kick things off?
Six-man Tag Team Match
Private Party: Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen
vs. SoCal Uncensored: Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky (Schuyler Andrews)
vs. Best Friends: Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta
There’s a lot going on in this first match which is good because you want to get the crowd on board right away so they can carry that energy for the rest of the show. We’ve got Private Party as the newcomers who I think AEW is trying to push as future superstars of the company considering they got a whole episode of Road to Fyter Fest dedicated to them. We’ve got two thirds of SCU who had one of the best matches in all of Double or Nothing, and while I wasn’t really impressed with The Best Friends last time (definitely a victim of the last show running long), they get a pretty good pop from the crowd so I was willing to give them another chance. The only thing that I didn’t like right off the bat was the fact that this was a Triple Threat tag match and they always use this weird rule where only two compeitors can be in the ring at a time; leaving one team to just sit on the sidelines while the other two actually fight. I don’t understand why they don’t have one member of each team in the ring like say… an ACTUAL Triple Threat, but we’ll get back to this later on in the match. For now, I just want to point out that everyone in this looks great and does some very impressive acrobatics! SCU continues to be the best tag team as far as I’m concerned as they can take already impressive wrestlers like Private Party and Best Friends and make them look even better than they already are! There’s this really impressive spot where Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen go back to back on Kassiran in beautiful and brutal fashion! If I could say one thing about the match it’s that it FEELS a bit too much like an exhibition; like everyone is here to help the other team show off their moves instead of win the fight, but frankly that’s a rather minor complaint when the moves are THIS impressive!
Double or Nothing and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan
Welcome to all you Marks, Smarks, and everything in between, to my very first recap of a wrestling show!! Now I’ve been watching WWE pretty consistently for the past year as wrestling is something I’ve always been interested in but I always felt there were barriers to entry that kept me away from it. Well thankfully WWE solved that problem right away with the amazing WWE Network that only costs ten bucks a month, had more or less up to date content (the shows there are a month behind the live broadcast) AND it had the ENTIRE BACKLOG OF CONTENT stretching back to its earliest broadcast days in case you wanted to catch up on anything that you didn’t know the full story of! Even so, becoming a fan of this stuff has also let me in on some of the more pernicious things about the company that can sometime temper my enthusiasm. Vince is still a MASSIVE jerk, the Saudi Arabia deal is a total disaster, healthcare for the talent is still a problem, and the company keeps scumbags like Hulk Hogan and Randy Orton on their payroll. It’s almost like there should be a viable alternative brand out there or something, but where are we gonna get one of THOSE!? Anyway, let’s take a serious look at what Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and a couple of billionaires managed to put together in what is no doubt the most hyped and anticipated wrestling show of the year!!
Before we get to any of the matches, I wanted to point out two key points that apply to the show as a whole. First, the production is FANTASTIC! I’ve seen a couple of TNA shows and a bout or two of Ring of Honor, and they always looked like the lesser version of what WWE can put together; what with their massive screens, multi-camera setup, and detailed set design to really give them a flashy and professional presentation. Fortunately AEW has realized that this is gonna be a key thing to figure out right off the bat because if they LOOK like a second rate company then people will TREAT THEM like a second rate company, and after this show I don’t think anyone will be doing that! Sure, it’s not WRESTLEMANIA or even some of the higher end PPVs as far as production, scope, and sizzle, but its right up there with what Raw and SmackDown pulls off each week. Where it DOES lag behind WWE however, is the commentary; particularly that Excalibur guy who doesn’t have a particularly commanding voice and seems to fumble over his lines a fair bit. It’s not just him though; the other guy (I don’t even remember his name) and even JR seemed a bit rusty here and they seriously need to work the kinks out of this before they get to their television deal. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start with the Pre-show matches!!
Casino Battle Royale
The Clubs: Dustin Thomas, MJF (Maxwell Jacob Friedman), Sunnny Daze (James Dylan), Brandon Cutler, and Michael Nakazawa The Diamonds: Brian Pillman Jr, Orange Cassidy, Jimmy Havoc (James Mcahren), Shawn Spears The Hearts: Billy Gunn, Glacier (Raymond Lloyd), Jungle Boy (Jack Perry), Marq Quen, and Ace Romero The Spades: Luchasaurus (Austin Matelson), Marko Stunt, Sonny Kiss, and Tommy Dreamer The Joker: Adam “Hangman” Page
Now the thing about Battle Royale matches is that while they can be flashy and fun, they’re also kind of a mess to stage and so a lot of the time you have people hanging out in corners for a long time or someone getting a bit of momentum before being stopped in their tracks so someone ELSE can have the spotlight. With the right timing and a lot of flexibility on the participants though, it CAN be great. This one? Eh… I wasn’t all too into it. The first thing that felt odd was that they set up these rules about people going out in waves and how it was ALL random, but it still felt incredibly staged so why not just say that AEW management set up four groups themselves? Why the elaborate explanation about a deck of cards; especially when we don’t SEE anyone draw from it? I guess that’s the benefit of a weekly show where you can spend ten minutes having your wrestlers dramatic draw cards and set up the dynamics for each bracket, but on a PPV it felt needlessly complicated. Ignoring that though, the Battle Royale itself felt like it moved at a snail’s until at least three of the brackets came in, but there were some highlights! MJF cemented himself as the de-facto heel right off the bat by kicking Dustin Thomas in the face and calling him Lieutenant Dan. In case you didn’t know, Dustin Thomas is a wrestler with no legs, which proves that MJF hasn’t seen a movie since the late nineties. I bet at some point he’s gonna shout RUN FOREST, RUN at someone who’s running to the ring or maybe even do a SHOW ME THE MONEY gimmick. The other great thing that happened very early in this match is Michael Nakazawa busting out a bottle of baby oil and just COVERING himself with the biggest smile you could ever imagine! I mean it DID help him out of a jam at least, but you’d think someone would want to do that BEFORE they got into trouble!