10 Matches for People Who Don’t Watch Wrestling

© World Wrestling Entertainment

Wow, it has been a while since I’ve posted.

2020 hasn’t been kind to us. Some are returning to a version of normal, while others are still struggling. I’m in the middle of a 14-day quarantine after recently returning to my office for the first time since March.

I was nervous about the test results since I had some symptoms a few days after exposure. Knock on wood; my COVID test came back negative.

Like most people, my wife and I have spent a lot of time with various streaming services. My ever-growing list contains many movies and television shows that I wouldn’t have watched otherwise.

I wondered, what if I wrote a blog that might get people into professional wrestling?

There are many great matches and moments from a multitude of wrestling promotions all around the world. I stuck to WWE since it is the brand most people associate with wrestling.

This isn’t a “best-of” list. Consider this pro wrestling 101 for the uninitiated, citing ten matches that best illustrate the squared circle’s essential story elements. Continue reading

Looking Back at ‘Avengers: Endgame’ One Year Later

Hello,

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these crazy times. With so much evil in the world right now, I wanted to do a quick write up about something fun. Then, I remembered that today is the one year anniversary of Avengers: Endgame.

What does Avengers Endgame mean to me?

Well, on the one hand, it’s the culmination of an eleven-year investment with huge dividends. On the other hand, it’s one of those moments that shaped the way we look at things.

Endgame isn’t just a movie, it was a cinematic event the likes of which we’ll never see again. Many grew up with these legendary characters via comic books, toys, cartoons, and more. They’ve certainly inspired us in ways we’ve really only begun to imagine.
When my father and I exited the theater on opening night, he was surprised at the reactionary nature of the audience. Key moments, both joyous and sad, put many through a wide array of emotions. To my father, it was a great movie, but why cheer? Why get scared? Why cry?
I get it. It’s only a movie. So, why take up so much emotional stock? That is the endgame of all films. To draw out as much emotion as possible. This fourth gathering of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” took everything because we’ve given everything to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Our time, our patronage, our passion.
In many ways, life is about experience and moments. Whether it was Cap being worthy, I love you 3000 or making some of the previous films even better than they were before, Endgame provided both in ways no other film has done.
The MCU will go on and continue to make enormous amounts of money. The next film, Black Widow, has been pushed back from its May 2020 release date to November. In times where fans want something to escape from the world at large, thank goodness Avengers: Endgame is a gift that keeps on giving.

Coronavirus Slams Pro Wrestling

While many hoped the second half of the New Japan Cup could be salvaged, the remainder of the tournament has been canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Japan. The first half of the tournament was canceled last month, with the second half scheduled to occur between 3/16 and conclude on 3/21.

New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) announced the decision on their website following a meeting with the Japanese Health Ministry. According to CNN, Japan has come under immense international scrutiny for how they’ve handled quarantine and testing efforts. On 3/4, Japan recorded 33 new cases of the virus, which is the highest one day increase since the outbreak began.

“We apologies to fans who were looking forward to the remainder of the New Japan Cup. Ultimately, the health and safety of our fans, wrestlers and staff, as well as society at large is our utmost concern, and we will make announcements about events scheduled after March 22 upon careful monitoring of this developing situation,” The site reads

NJPW is not the only Japanese promotion to cancel events. All Japan Pro Wrestling, DDT, Stardom, and Dragon Gate have also canceled events due to the coronavirus outbreak. The cancelation of significant events across the country has prompted speculation about the status of this year’s summer games. The Olympics are scheduled to begin on 7/24 in Tokyo.

The winner of the New Japan Cup would have challenged IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito on March 31 at Sakura Genesis. In years past, the tournament winner gets to pick which title they challenge for. However, it made sense to streamline the victor’s prize since Naito holds the two top singles titles in New Japan.

New Japan already had to shift their booking plans by moving the annual G1 Climax tournament from its traditional summertime calendar to the fall due to the Olympics Games. Now, they’ve canceled the second biggest tournament of the year.

There is no word yet as to the status of Sakara Genesis on 3/31. Even if the event goes on, it will be interesting to see how New Japan adjusts since the show is built around the winner of the New Japan Cup challenging for the title. It’s kind of like holding the Royal Rumble event without a Royal Rumble match.

The Wrestling Observer noted these event cancellations hurt the Japanese wrestling promotions more that it would if WWE had to cancel their events. New Japan earns the bulk of its revenue from ticket sales while WWE is propped up by billion-dollar television contracts.

There has been talk of canceling this year’s WrestleMania in Tampa, Flordia. Despite WWE’s hefty cushion, such a cancelation would be a financial hit. WrestleMania draws a broad international audience who travels from all over the world.

WWE has stated they will not cancel the show, but that is impossible know right now. Flordia has had 20 cases of the coronavirus with the first two emanating in Tampa.

Even if New Japan took a cue from Nippon Professional Baseball and held their events in empty arenas, most, if not all the foreign talent wouldn’t be able to work the shows due to their country’s travel adversaries.

The economic impact on not just professional wrestling but the entertainment industry is a real shame. If people stop spending money, industries will suffer. In the end, health and safety are paramount. Wrestling is small potatoes in the larger scheme of things going on around the globe. Hopefully, things will improve moving forward.

Be safe out there and wash your hands.

WrestleMania Begins to Takes Shape

credit wwe.com

We’re on the road to WrestleMania 36 as the “granddaddy of them all” goes down on Sunday, April 5, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Several matches are confirmed, while others are all but official due to budding feuds on television.

Online reports, rumors, and speculation cited massive changes to the card over the last few weeks. Let’s take a look at the WrestleMania lineup, confirmed and otherwise.

-Officially Confirmed Matches

WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre

WWE Universal Championship: Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns

NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte

John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

-Matches that are all but confirmed

Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Bazler

The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles

Edge vs. Randy Orton

Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins

-Speculated/Rumored Matches

SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley vs. Naomi

Intercontinental Championship: Braun Strowman vs. Sheamus

Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler

If all of these matches come to fruition, along with the event’s annual Andre The Giant and Women’s Battle Royal, that will make for a total of fourteen matches.

Here’s where I make some people angry.

While it’s a nice sentiment to have every wrestler on the roster appear on the show, you don’t need every single wrestler to appear on the show. Yes, that means a lot of wrestlers wouldn’t get their moment to shine. WrestleMania is too long as it is (two-hour pre-show/four-hour main card). If the above card stands, there are already several notable names that will be relegated to a battle royal spot such as Daniel Bryan, Shinsuke Nakamura, The Miz, and more.

Looking at the star power of the first eight matches, that’s a stellar card with more than enough star power to excite the masses. Those eight matches also represent all of the major storylines that will play out on television between now and April 5th. Instead of squeezing as many people on the show as possible, just give us the premium goods. That way, all of the big matches will have plenty of time to tell a great story.

Ok, ok, I’ve climbed down from my soapbox. I’m done being mean. What do you think? Should WrestleMania be reserved for the most significant attractions, or should everyone get a chance to play? Make your thoughts heard in the comment section below.

AEW Revolution (Review)

It’s time to hop on my wrestling soapbox and discuss AEW’s latest pay per view offering, Revolution. The Chicago crowd was on fire for the entire show as they witnessed seven matches and one significant title change. AEW has had some hits and misses since their debut on Wednesday nights. Besides one match, this was a fun show worth the price of admission.

Jake Hager choked out Dustin Rhodes: This was a decent opener between two wrestlers with distinct characters. Hager is Jericho’s bodyguard in the Inner Circle stable who broke Dustin’s arm a couple of months ago. Dustin has been on a career resurgence since he had a match of the year candidate with Cody last year.

Hager was a little rusty since he’s been focused on MMA and hasn’t had a pro wrestling match in awhile. There was nothing fancy about this match. It was merely a device to get the crowd going. Rhodes hit a Canadian Destroyer and followed up with an armbar to give Hager a taste of his own medicine.

The finish came when Hager hit a low blow behind the referee’s back and applied a standing head and arm triangle choke for the submission. When the characters are over, and there is a story in place, you don’t have to go all-out crazy. The match was designed for story over insane wrestling moves and Rhodes and Hager did their job.

Darby Allin pinned Sammy Guevara: Darby Allin is ridiculously over with the AEW faithful despite not being the best wrestler in between the ropes. He does his big moves extremely, but it’s the little things such as selling, kicking, and punching that leaves a lot to be desired.

AEW is trying not to make the same mistakes WCW did by actually pushing the younger talent. The difference was in 1998, Jericho, Benoit, Malenko, and Guerrero were ready for primetime. Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara are not, yet.

Guevara has shown a lot of improvement since his AEW debut while Allin has remained the same. I’ve seen a lot of young wrestlers over the years who believe as long as they can do the big moves, there is no need to focus on the little things. I hope Allin won’t be that guy.

As for the match, it was a fast-paced stunt show where both wrestlers exhibited an intense will to win. Allin’s foot got caught on the rope during a tope suicida and crashed to the floor, which could have gone a lot worse. Guevara hit a 630 through a table and followed up with a beautifully executed and filmed Spanish Fly.

Allin hit a stunner and followed up with a Coffin Drop (trust fall from the top rope) for the pin. Jim Ross said these two could be AEW’s top guys in two or three years. Guevara has the makings of a great villain, and Allin has an undeniable connection with the audience.

 

World Tag Team Titles: Kenny Omega & Hangman Page retain over The Young Bucks: This is one of the great wrestling matches you will ever see. There was lots of tandem offense from both teams. Some of it was stuff we’ve seen before, while a lot of it was innovative and spectacular. All of it was thirty minutes of awesome.

Using everything but the kitchen sink in a match is annoying because often there is no story to the chaos in the ring. That wasn’t the case here. All four men in the match are friends, but Hangman has had a chip on his shoulder for months.

The Bucks were surprisingly booed by the audience. Instead of fighting it, they went with it and increased their heel tactics as the match progressed.

Omega’s injured shoulder and Matt Jackson’s injured back played a role. Hangman didn’t hold back while Omega and the Bucks didn’t go too far due to their friendship. Hangman tried to powerbomb Nick Jackson through a table but Omega stopped him. Page made good the second time around, which forced everyone to throw caution to the wind.

Omega went for a One-Winged Angel, but couldn’t pull it off due to his injured shoulder. Hangman tagged in delivered the One-Winged Angel for a super close near fall. That should have been the finish, but I get it. It’s Omega’s move, and no one does it better.

Hangman followed up and drilled Nick and then Matt with a Buckshot Lariat for the 1-2-3. After the match. Omega and The Bucks reluctantly shook hands. Hangman teased a heel turn on Omega, which couldn’t have been better executed if it was directed by Scorsese.

 

Women’s World Championship: Nyla Rose pinned Kris Statlander to retain: I did not envy these ladies having to follow the tag team match. The fans wanted them to succeed, but they were in a no-win situation.

The tag match did big moves with a story in mind. Here, the big moves were done for the sake of doing big moves with some botched spots along the way. Statlander and Rose tried to do more complex stuff than their experience allowed. They went for two big moves off the top rope. The first one barely worked, and the second one was a top rope powerbomb from Rose that almost broke Statlander’s neck.

I hoped that was the finish, and thank goodness it was. AEW did not serve them well here.

 

MJF defeated Cody: This was the most hyped match on the show. Under the guise of friendship, MJF cost Cody the chance to ever get a world title shot ever again. The match didn’t live up to the hype that the build created. However, it came super close.

Sometimes, it was overbooked with smoke and mirrors. Other times, it was just right. After the match reached its apex, Cody gave MJF the beating people paid to see.

Cody was about to seal the deal until MJF nailed Cody with the Dynamite Diamond. MJF slipped on the ring, hit Cody, hid the ring, and covered Cody so fast that the audience couldn’t believe what happened as the referee counted to three.

 

PAC defeated Orange Cassidy: This match was about one thing and one thing only. Proving that Orange Cassidy can wrestle. Cassidy’s sloth/slacker gimmick is over like gangbusters.

I had never seen Cassidy’s work before AEW, but many had told me he’s great in the ring. Well, he was and showed it in a way they didn’t betray his character.

PAC is the most underrated rated top-flight talent in the world. PAC and Cassidy worked well off each other. The slacker is the perfect foil for PAC’s “angry bastard” persona.

Some might say PAC made Cassidy look good, and he did. However, Cassidy more than held up his end, making for a white-hot crowd reaction.

 

World Championship: Jon Moxley defeated Chris Jericho to win the title: Meredith Bell led a gospel choir in singing Jericho’s entrance theme, Judas. Jericho and Moxley brawled from the jump and took the action out into the crowd. Once they got back into the ring, Jericho immediately worked over Moxley’s injured eye.

Le Champion was unrelenting as Moxley fought him off. Moxley gained the upper hand and cut off interference from Hager, Santana, and Ortiz on the entrance ramp. Guevara emerged from the crowd on the opposite side of the ring and cracked Moxley with the championship belt. This was well done.

Upset that Moxley kicked out, Jericho began to work over Moxley’s good eye, assumedly blinding him completely. After pretending he couldn’t see, Moxley ripped off the eye patch and revealed that his damaged eye was healed and hit Jericho with the Paradigm Shift DDT for the win.

This match served as an example of a great main event brawl. There were a lot of ingredients thrown in, but the finished product was cooked just right. I initially thought Jericho should have held the title a little longer. After seeing the reception Moxley received for the win, it is safe to say I was wrong. Plus, with heels going over the three previous matches, the show needed a happy ending.

The Revolution count down special showed Moxley training with UFC legend Randy Couture and specifically learning how to counter the Walls of Jericho. Moxley used those techniques in the match to avoid being placed in the walls. It’s a small detail, but I appreciated seeing meaningful connectivity between various forms of content.

 

Final Thoughts: With the evident growing pains of a ten-month-old major wrestling promotion, AEW needed a big win. All of the matches told a different story, which rewarded the viewer for the time invested in the product.

The women’s division needs dramatic improvement. Maybe even a complete overhaul. It’s s shame considering AEW is a wrestling centric promotion, and women’s wrestling has never been more popular.

The tag team title match will go down as an instant classic. MJF is well on his way to becoming the best heel in the business. Orange Cassidy is a unique enigma. Hangman Page will be “the guy” sooner than later and Moxley capturing the title was the perfect bow on a fantastic night of wrestling.

Revolution was a big win for AEW.

NJPW Returns to MSG in August

New Japan Pro Wrestling is returning to Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, August 22, for an event called Wrestle Dynasty. New Japan’s official website wrote “stay tuned” for ticket information.

NJPW and ROH co-promoted last April’s G1 Supercard at MSG over WrestleMania weekend. The show sold out in minutes and saw Kazuchika Okada beat Jay White to capture his fifth IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

Wrestle Dynasty is taking place on the same day as NXT TakeOver in Boston, where WWE is hosting SummerSlam weekend. It is feasible that one could go to the New Japan show on Saturday, and attend SummerSlam on Sunday, which would mean sacrificing NXT.

Usually, the G1 Climax tournament starts in July and ends in early August. This year, it will begin on September 19 due to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

I went to G1 Supercard, and it was indeed a tale of two cities. The audience was electric for everything New Japan and cared little about Ring of Honor. ROH hurt its stock in the Garden even more by putting on a worked shoot with Enzo & Cass, followed by not putting the world title on their most popular wrestler, Marty Scrull.

It was stated on Wrestling Observer Radio that historically, wrestling promotions that sell out MSG for their first event have a significant drop in attendance the second time around.

I can’t argue with history; however, it’s a 100% New Japan show this time. That could mean the difference between another sell-out or a respectable attendance figure instead of the usual drastic decline.

Unless a deal with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) can be reached, Chris Jericho and current IWGP U.S. Champion Jon Moxley won’t be on the show. Their AEW contracts stipulate they can’t work for another promotion in America.

I don’t have the words to describe it, but there was something special about seeing Okada win the IWGP Title live on such a grand stage. That’s why I’ll probably go to NJPW in NYC over WWE in Boston, and I’m from Massachusetts.

‘Transformative Changes’ Coming to the WWE Network

wwe.com

On Thursday’s WWE investors conference call, Vince McMahon revealed the company is in talks with major stream service providers to sell the rights to major events such as WrestleMania. McMahon cited the potential deal as “transformative” as distributing more content to “the majors”  could increase company revenue. It would also cannibalize the WWE Network.

WWE hit record revenue numbers in 2019, which is due to the large television contracts they signed for Raw, SmackDown, NXT and Saudi Arabia. However, network subscriptions, live event attendance, television ratings, and consumer products continue to decline.

The reason 1.42 million people (worldwide) currently subscribe to the WWE Network is because of the low price point for pay-per-view events. If they end up on another service such as Amazon Prime, the network essentially becomes a digital archive with a docuseries here and there.

In other words, subscriptions will plummet.

UFC is having great success with their pay-per-view events streaming exclusively on ESPN+. Connor McGregor vs. Cowboy Cerrone drew one million pay-per-view buys at $59.99 a pop. UFC Fight Pass is the world’s largest digital MMA library, which also airs live events from regional and international promotions along with grappling and kickboxing cards.

WWE might have seen UFC’s success and are looking to replicate it.

There is a big difference, however, between the two promotions. UFC never used Fight Pass as the exclusive provider for their premium content. UFC heavily relied on traditional pay-per-view until they signed with ESPN last year.

WWE, on the other hand, dissolved their pay-per-view market share by giving fans the option of paying $9.99 on the network instead of forking over $49.95 to their cable provider. The lower price point has been the norm for six years.

Popularity in WWE is low. Now, they want to reset the market to increase revenue?  Asking people to pay more for a dull product while changing the way they consume said product is not conducive to a successful endeavor.

Streaming companies are overpaying for content right now. WWE is smart to take advantage of the trend. However, that bubble could burst, on them, sooner than later. According to Variety, Fox reported their 2019 4th quarter earnings took a hit due to SmackDown underperforming on Friday nights.

Fox is paying WWE $205 million a year for SmackDown. According to the Wrestling Observer, Fox wants a 1.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic, and right now, that number is not even close.

If Fox is already blaming WWE for their lower earnings, only four months into a five-year deal, other networks might take heed. This could hinder WWE’s progress in selling the rights to its marquee events.

The big four, WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series are WWE’s most valuable events. Money in the Bank could be in the conversation, but the rest are not only considered B shows by fans but are treated as such by the company.

If I’m Netflix, I’m not paying a dime for Extreme Rules or Super Showdown.

WWE is facing a precipice at the doorstep change. Such a seismic shift in content consumption will make the company a lot of money in the short term. However, if WrestleMania is going to cost more money on another streaming service, the quality of the content needs to improve.

WWE only has the bandwidth to increase the quantity of their content, not the quality. If this trend continues, these deals will not pay off long term. Right now, the odds are not in their favor.

NWA Means What Now?

The following is a personal story from my childhood that is wrestling related in the most unusual way imaginable. In hindsight, if you look at it from the perspective of a black nine-year-old who grew up in an all-white neighborhood, it’s quite funny.

Enjoy!

On a summer afternoon in 1990, two of the neighborhood kids, brothers Paul and Andrew ran up to me with a big ol’ smile on their face. The older brother, Paul could hardly contain himself when he asked

“Hey Atlee, do you know what N.W.A. stands for?”

“For real?” I thought to myself as I replied, “National Wrestling Alliance.”

National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was the second biggest professional wrestling organization in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

“NOPE,” Paul said with glee as he replied with unmitigated swagger. “It stands for NIGGAS WITH ATTITUDE!!!”

I charged right at Paul as I thought, “No, this dude did not just call me the n-word, and with attitude no less.”

Paul ran and tripped up the stairs of his porch. I caught him and salivated at the notion of knocking his block off.

“No, Atlee, wait. That’s what they’re really called, look.” Paul screamed in desperation as he pulled out a cassette tape labeled Straight Outta Compton. The cover didn’t say N@#$% With Attitude. However, it did say N.W.A.. Where I expected to see Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard holding up four fingers, I saw Eazy E pointing a gun.

Plus, the provocative song titles listed on the back of the tape suggested that Paul might have been telling the truth. I was still skeptical. So, I asked my father, who is a music encyclopedia.

I entered my father’s stereo room with an earnest educational pursuit. “Hey, Dad, does N.W.A. really stand for N@#$%& With Attitude?” I asked eagerly. He replied, “Yes,” and followed it up with a stern, “Now go to your room.” I know I had just said the n-word in the house, but I figured I get a pass on this one.

Nope.

I sauntered to my room, shocked at what I had learned. My big take away: I was the only black kid in the neighborhood, and the last to discover N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton gave white suburban kids a license to use the n-word.

An annoying consequence to a dope album.

At least the day wasn’t a total loss. I was still allowed to watch the Great American Bash that evening as Sting defeated Ric Flair to win his first NWA World Heavyweight Title…Man, I was such a nerd.

Drew McIntyre is a Made Man

wwe.com

Drew McIntyre won the 2020 Royal Rumble match on Sunday, which emanated from Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX. The big story going in was WWE Champion Brock Lesnar voluntarily entered the rumble match as the number one entrant.

Lesnar’s dominance was on full display as he threw out the first thirteen entrants in succession to tie the record for the most eliminations. After Ricochet got flattened, the 6’5” 265 lbs. McIntyre entered at number 16 and eliminated Lesnar with a Claymore Kick (and a low blow assist from Ricochet).

McIntyre has been pegged to receive a megastar push since he returned to the WWE main roster in April 2018, where he was one of the top heels on Raw until his quiet babyface turn a few weeks ago. McIntyre received a couple stop and start pushes during his heel tenure.

Such activity prompted reports that the company was hesitant to go all the way with the Scottish native. There is a litany of wrestlers who the fans lost faith in due too many stop and start pushes. Many believed McIntyre was unfortunately headed in that direction.

Many also believed going into the show that one person would eliminate Lesnar, and someone else would win the rumble. WWE pulled the trigger with McIntyre by having him solve both of the rumble’s prominent story threads.

McIntyre had six eliminations that were bookended perfectly. He eliminated Lesnar to get the night started and kept his eye on the champ to ensure he didn’t blindside him in a fit of rage. Then, to end the night, McIntyre dumped out the guy who had his number all last year, Roman Reigns, to win it all.

In the coming months, we will see more of Drew McIntyre anchoring Raw’s opening promo segment. This is a prerequisite of being cast in WWE’s lead role. Last night, McIntyre handled himself exceptionally well during his first at-bat. He was charismatic, engaged the crowd, spoke well, had a natural presence, and came across as someone easy to like.

Following the promo. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows were fed to McIntyre in a handicap match. Some were not pleased with The O.C. being the sacrificial lambs. However, Seth Rollins’ new stable supplanted them. McIntyre needed to steamroll an act with credibility, making it the right call.

Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship is officially the main event of WrestleMania 36 on April 5 in Tampa Bay, FL. Lesnar typically commands an opponent with a big name to capitalize on the match’s money-making potential. This is the genesis of McIntyre becoming a superstar.

This is a layup from a creative perspective. Drew McIntyre is everything a promoter wants in a professional wrestler. He’s big, handsome, looks tough, has commercial appeal, good on the mic, and he’s a great wrestler. I’m cautiously optimistic WWE will serve him well heading into Mania. However, right now, Drew McIntyre is a made man.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Review)

Welcome to my much-delayed review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I needed a lot of time before penning my thoughts on the film. Some people love the movie, and some people hate it. However, after multiple screenings, it ultimately came down to three things for me.

The Force Awakens left me with unimaginable joy that brought my favorite franchise back to glory. The Last Jedi threw me through a subversive loop that made me question what I had seen. The Rise of Skywalker made me feel nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The final chapter of the Skywalker saga is brutally hampered by the film’s breakneck pace. It moves from scene to scene without allowing anything to marinate, keeping many pivotal moments from being earned.

Emperor Palpatine returns and is revealed as the mastermind behind everything that transpired in the sequel trilogy. I had total faith J.J. Abrams wouldn’t resurrect such an iconic character without a great reason.

“The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”

That’s all we get. It’s a cool line from Episode III, but it’s lazy storytelling

There is A LOT crammed into this rapid-fire 142-minute feature. Rey, Poe, Finn, and Chewie have to find a thing, that leads to another thing, that leads to the thing that finally leads them to Palpatine’s hidden Sith planet, Exogol. If that’s not enough, there is a plethora of fan service along with several moments that retcon the narrative strokes Rian Johnson established in The Last Jedi.

The most significant plot point altered is Rey’s parents being nobody. While Johnson’s idea of Rey not being related to Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi created a beautiful message that anyone can be strong with the Force, it wasn’t a satisfying answer since the previous film teased something more.

Rey is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, the most powerful Sith Lord ever, which explains why she was so naturally powerful without any training. Rey being a Palpatine ties in well thematically. However. the familial connection felt shoehorned in because Palpatine’s return wasn’t earned.

J.J. Abrams spent so much time retconning what Rian Johnson presented; none of the new characters except for the tiny droid smith, Babu Frick, got time to shine. D-O is the new droid on the block who is cute, has a backstory, but his lack of screen time will make him forgettable by the time the end credits roll. Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), whose character was just as divisive as the film she debuted in, is reduced to an extra with a couple of lines.

Sadly the script gave Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine very little to work with as his looming presence over the film was emphasized more than the man himself. The performance is fine, but there is nothing memorable about it, which is crazy. Palpatine is one of the most quoted characters in the franchise, but he was given just enough material to move the plot forward.

starwars.com

One of the main plot points involved Finn wanting to tell Rey something important was left unresolved. It’s revealed that Finn is Force-sensitive near the end of the film when he felt Rey’s passing. The thing is, the average moviegoer doesn’t equate a feeling to one having force powers.

My wife is as casual as casual gets when it comes to Star Wars. She didn’t pick up on it and was disappointed that we never got the answer. J.J. Abrams confirmed in an interview that Finn wanted to tell Rey that he feels the Force.

Why wasn’t that moment in the film?

I’m a diehard fan who listens to every interview. My wife, not so much. If it wasn’t for me telling her about the interview, she would never know, but that still doesn’t make up for the experience in the theater of not getting the answer to a question that was asked.

Despite the film’s problems, there are some good things. The dynamic between Kylo Ren and Rey is the film’s emotional epicenter. Abrams built upon their relationship and delivered a satisfying conclusion. The humor was very much on point, which was not the case in The Last Jedi, where Johnson’s use of Marvel humor failed. When it comes to hilarity in Star Wars, Abrams gets it.

The smooth-talking smuggler Lando Calrissian brought the magic as only Billy Dee Williams can deliver. His screen time was short but sweet. We learn why he was absent in the trilogy’s prior films, and he serves a purpose in the story.

The passing of Carrie Fisher made many wonder how Lucasfilm would handle using her unused scenes from The Force Awakens to say goodbye to Princess Leia. Besides one scene, her presence flowed and felt natural. Even that one-off moment didn’t feel intrusive considering the situation. Leia’s swan song was handled with love.

If Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, and J.J. Abrams had owned the choices made in The Last Jedi, warts and all, The Rise of Skywalker would have had more time to flesh out the narrative. This would have allowed pivotal moments to breathe, provide substance to the new characters, and focus on being its own movie instead of trying to make everyone happy.

Star Wars fandom has become a toxic place these days. I didn’t like The Rise of Skywalker. However, I’m not going to insult people who liked the film or publicly bash those who made it. You will not find a single creator in any form of entertainment who purposefully puts out lousy material. Abrams did what he felt was best, and for me, it didn’t work.

Regardless of how I feel about Episode 9. I’m still going to buy the Blu-ray the first day it goes on sale,  and watch it several times when I get home along with intermittent viewings going forward. I’ve loved Star Wars since I was five years old, and I’m not about to abandon it simply because they got one wrong. After all, a wise man once said: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”