I can’t be nice about this; the build-up to Evolution has been awful. This is the first WWE all-women’s PPV. It culminates many years of fantastic women’s wrestling, despite being constantly minimized and downplayed by main roster. There is no doubt that WWE has extremely talented women on their roster who often do not get their due. Instead, it’s been built on nostalgia and WWE’s favorite rookie. Let’s beat this card up from most appealing to least.
Mae Young Classic Finale
No spoiler, but I’m extremely excited to see how this wraps up. This year’s MYC has been excellent and I can’t wait to see how it ends. We’ve had the whole MYC to build it, even if the MYC has been barely featured on main roster shows.
Sane v. Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship
These two are very talented and this match has had a good build up on NXT, but we’ve seen this match, what, twice? Three times? It’ll be good, but it would’ve been nice to see a different opponent for either of them.
Lynch v. Flair in a Last Woman Standing match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Both of these women are incredible and two of the best the main roster has. We’ve seen this match several times over the years, but it’ll still be good. The stipulation means that the match itself will be full of slow downs as we get numerous near-10 counts.
NXT UK Women’s Championship Match
Again, no spoilers, and literally no build up. This is a wild card. Until Wednesday rolls around, I don’t even know who’s competing and I didn’t know this was on the card until I looked up a list. Could be great, but again, no build.
It’s all down hill from here.
Banks, Bayley, and Natalya v. The Riott Squad (Riott, Morgan, and Logan)
All of these women are talented, with Bayley and Banks putting on some real MOTY contenders in the past, and this is a Raw women’s match. We’ve seen pieces of this for weeks. I’m watching Banks v. Riott right now, with the rest of them ringside. This match is a waste of their talents.
Stratas and Lita v. Bliss and James
Here’s our nostalgia match that has seen a couple Raw promos and zero action. I wasn’t watching when Stratas, Lita, and James were in their primes, and I’m sure they’re talented, but (except James) they likely won’t be sticking around in the ring after this match. There’s no stakes here.
16 Woman Battle Royal
This one is a double-whammy of being a dumping ground for nostalgia (talented, but not staying) and women who’ve had prominent programs and title runs recently. Seriously, there are a ton of great main roster women in this throwaway match. I’m glad they’re getting a payday, but that’s it.
Rousey v. N. Bella for the Raw Women’s Championship
Here it is. Our main event. The flag ship match. The match with the most promotion and TV time. It’s a rookie champion that WWE couldn’t wait to put a title on versus a woman that’s good but not great, obviously dividing her attention between many other business ventures, and not likely to stick around after she loses. Instead of putting the focus on the women who got us to the point where an all-women’s PPV wouldn’t immediately be written off as a joke, we’re putting them behind WWE’s favorite new MMA star and a woman who hasn’t been present, let alone putting on great matches, for the last couple years.
While I was extremely excited to hear about Evolution when it was announced, I now want to just get it over with. I hope it does well enough to warrant another one next year, because I want WWE to get past this “historic first” PPV with all of its tributes to past glory and get on with showing us the incredible women’s matches that got us here in the first place in a proper showcase next year.
I’m really struggling. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is going to be released this week but I’m not sure if I’ll get too play it on the 3rd or the 5th. And I’ve dropped CrossCode but I need to play something so I’m playing the first two hours of Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption for the thousandth time. This week’s Whatever will be one of those two games, Odyssey or Redemption.
Wednesday, October 3rd – 9pm CST – Whatever (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption)
Saturday, October 6th – 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew
OKAY. Now we’re back on a regular schedule. I’m thinking of doing nothing but horror/scary games for Whatever in October. This week, though, will probably be CrossCode, provided I can get out of this damned dungeon I’m currently stuck in!
Wednesday, September 26th – 9pm CST – Whatever (CrossCode?)
Saturday, September 29th – 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew
Hi! I’m trying something new here and I’m posting up my review of a WWE PPV in an already crowded market of average dudes reviewing WWE PPVs. Whatever. I watch this stuff, I have opinions. Enjoy!
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton in Hell in a Cell
Great match with Orton and Hardy displaying their signature styles. Orton methodically tried to destroy Hardy with his punishment based offense, including a spot where Orton shoves a screwdriver through Hardy’s ear lobe and twists (which looks more uncomfortable than it is, but Hardy sold it). Hardy fought off Orton with high flying attacks and using his body as a weapon. The end was almost perfect, with Hardy hanging from the top of the cell and then dropping onto a recently-vacated table face first, the ref calling for medical, and Orton forcing the ref to count the pin because somebody has to win the match. Orton took a beating but was victorious and Hardy was carted out on a stretcher. Solid opener.
Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
This match was alright. Each spent the whole match working each other’s target limb for submission (Flair working Lynch’s legs for the Figure 8, Lynch working Flair’s arm for the Disarm-her), but then Lynch wins it with a roll-through after being speared and pins Flair. It all felt like WWE was course-correcting from SummerSlam. Lynch gets to be heel-ish but now she’s the champion, and Flair is a sad babyface because she lost her championship and her friend.
The Shield (Dean Ambrose and Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins) vs. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler for the Raw Tag Team Championship
Another great match from these two teams. McIntyre/Ziggler aren’t exactly a tag team, but they’re great together and much better than champions than The B Team. This might be the match of the evening because everyone is on their A game and it’s pretty much non-stop chaos. McIntyre/Ziggler get the win with a Claymore/(inadvertent) Zig-Zag combo and Ziggler falling on top of Rollins for the pin. Everyone looks good here but I question why Rollins has the intercontinental title and it’s not a factor in this feud with the former IC champ Ziggler. Feels like we should be adding a champ vs. champ stipulation if WWE are keeping this feud going.
WWE Champion A.J. Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Championship
Another great match from two veterans who know how to work with each other extremely well. The end came with Styles countering the Coquina Clutch into a pin, but there was a Dusty finish as Styles was tapping out to the Clutch while the ref counted the pin on the otherside of Joe. It was almost an exact replica of the finish to Sane/Baszler from Takeover Brooklyn III, except Sane never tapped. Styles retains but Joe still has a credible claim to the championship. Expect another match, maybe with a no DQ stipulation? But why wasn’t this match in Hell in a Cell in the first place? It’s not their first match up, and there was plenty of animosity to warrant the cell.
Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
This was the lowest point in the show. Bryan and Miz are, of course, great, but the mixed match rules make no sense whatsoever, and Brie and Maryse aren’t exactly the hottest competitors in the women’s division. We got the spot where Brie and Bryan are doing the Yes kicks to Miz and Maryse in parallel, and they both do the big wind-up and miss. The big wind-up misses so often that I have to question Bryan’s sanity for continuing to use it. The Miz and Maryse get the win with Maryse pinning Brie. Everyone involved in this match deserved better.
Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship
Not a terrible match, but I have one question: why? Why wasn’t this a Raw re-match? With so many hangers-on at ringside, why wasn’t this in Hell in a Cell? This wasn’t the SummerSlam squash match we saw last month, but why not? Bliss didn’t significantly improve, so Rousey must have forgotten to do her research. Rousey gets another submission win but I really can’t tell who was supposed to look good coming out of this.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship in Hell in a Cell
Woof, what a mess. Let’s start with the buildup. Strowman, Mr. Monster in the Bank, goes from “I’m going to watch you two beat each other so I can cash in on the winner”, which is a smart use of the briefcase because it puts his opponent at a clear disadvantage, to cashing in weeks in advance but getting to set the stipulation that it be in Hell in a Cell. As we are reminded throughout the evening, Hell in a Cell is no DQ’s, so Reigns and Strowman beat on each other with kendo sticks, stairs, tables, etc. At some point, McIntyre/Ziggler do a run in only to climb the cell itself and the remaining Shield members also do a run in to pursue them. While Strowman and Reigns take a nap in the ring, we’re given a little side match between these two pairs on top of the cell, continuing this feud and maybe setting up a Survivor Series match, but definitely detracting from the in-ring action. The match reaches a chaotic climax when Brock Lesner makes a surprise appearance, kicks open the cell door, and attacks both competitors. Heyman sprays guest ref Mick Foley with “pepper spray”, which seems unnecessary as Foley hadn’t been a factor in the match at all. Then Lesnar walks out of the cell and a replacement ref calls for a no contest finish without any count-outs, which doesn’t make a lick of sense because Hell in a Cell is no DQ, no count-outs. The point of Hell in a Cell is that someone has to win. We end with Ziggler and Rollins laying on top of tables they’ve fallen onto, Ambrose and McIntyre somewhere on top of the cell (production kind of forgot about them), Reigns and Strowman laying in the ring, and no winner. Copyright graphic, cut feed. Terribly unsatisfying, bordering on nonsensical. It also has the ignoble distinction of being a second consecutive failed Money in the Bank cash in that didn’t have to happen the way it did. I guess the lesson here is to stop giving Money in the Bank to rookie heels.
Overall, an alright show that peaked with Raw tag team championship match and was terribly marred by the second half. With only seven matches on the show, a lot of very talented people were not here, but I appreciated that they gave every match time to breathe even if it ended 20 minutes early. I would have liked for less crappy finishes and more logical consistency in the booking decisions. There was just too much digging out of previously dug holes, and digging new holes that don’t add anything to the stories.
Some time off, between the holiday weekend and just doing less for the last 10 days, really recharged my batteries so I’m ready to get back into the streaming! But some things going on this week are going to mix up my schedule a bit. First, Whatever will be starting at 9pm CST until November. ALSO I’m going to a local indie wrestling show on Saturday evening, so Saturday Night Stardew is going to be more like Saturday Afternoon Stardew. Still doing this thing on Twitch, so uh, I guess one thing is staying the same. Thanks for bearing with me!
Hey so two days ago, I was doing deadlifts in the gym and something popped and now my back is all screwed up. I’m not going to be a big downer about it, but it hurts to sit up, it hurts to bend over, it hurts to recline, etc. About the only things that don’t hurt is lying down and standing mostly motionless. The doctor thought I might have a pinched nerve, but also I’m missing some cartilage in between spine bones and I have some kind of bone build up in the same area. I’m just hoping this is a temporary thing.
Until I’m comfortable sitting down, I’m not going to be streaming. No one wants to watch me wince everytime I move. I don’t want to talk through a game while I’m messed up on painkillers. I’ll make a big deal out of when I’m ready to do it again.
After a week off for technical difficulties and great wrestling, I’m back and ready to go! This week, I’m going to be streaming at Twitch. I hate to switch over but it’s becoming clear that YouTube isn’t the place for live streaming. I ran a test stream pin Twitch and I was really impressed with the amount of tools they give streamers that YouTube just doesn’t have. No change in schedule, just a change in venue.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 7pm CST – Whatever
Saturday, August 25th, 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew
For the last few years, Gen Con has been something both too close and too far away. I’ve been either too cheap or too broke to attend, even though Indianapolis is (relatively) close to home. I decided to make the trip this year and I had a great time!
As my first Gen Con, I attended as a fan. I came to play games I don’t get to play in my area. Pre-con, I signed up for six games across the four day con, one of The Strange, one of Numenera, and four of The Dark Eye. I knew these would be beginner/introduction type games, but I’ve owned all of them for a stretch of time and I just wanted a guided experience in playing them.
The Dark Eye – The Dark Eye (TDE) is Germany’s version of D&D. It’s their most popular RPG and has had one continuous setting that’s evolved over its 30+ years. As it was described to me at least twice, it’s more Brothers Grimm than Tolkien. Each region of its setting is some form of ancient Europe, from a raiding viking nation, to warring dark age states, to Arabian-esque deserts. In some ways, TDE is more complex than D&D.
The first aspect that stuck out the most to me was contested attack rolls. In D&D, and most RPGs, attacks are reduced to a single roll: your die roll modified by a skill bonus/penalty against a target/to-hit number that belongs to your enemy. The defender, more or less, stands there while the attacker takes a swing at them. TDE makes this a little more interactive. The attacker rolls against their own skill. When the attacker fails, it’s because they missed. If they succeed, the defender doesn’t just stand there. The defender gets to roll a dodge or parry against their own respective skill, which gets more difficult the more you have to do it in a single round. This back and forth can slow combat down even more than in other games, but it feels like it’s giving more agency to both players, which high skill attackers having the ability to miss less often by rolling against their own numbers, and defenders get a chance to user their own skill to avoid the attacks. These are important because the penalties for damage are harsh in TDE, with successive life loss increasingly making it more difficult to act. In three game sessions, I don’t think we killed anything, but we definitely damaged enemies to the point of retreating. I love this because it sets up a game where enemies can have names and grudges and reappear or redeem themselves, while D&D is largely a monster mash. Not that there’s anything wrong with a monster mash.
The other interesting aspect is skill rolls, which require three dice rolls against three of your character’s ability scores. That may sound like it’s inviting three opportunities for failure, but your skill rating allows you to negate failures. This balancing effect means that you can more often succeed at skill checks in things that you’re good at, and your level of success can be quantified because your remaining skill points improve the quality of your success. This also gives built-in narrative reasons reasons for failure. If you succeed on strength and agility during a climbing roll, but fail in courage, you’ve basically described for yourself how you failed; you’re physically capable of climbing that thing, but in that moment you didn’t have the heart.
I signed up for four games, but only attended the first three. In those three games, I bullied a serf as a good-looking viking-for-hire at a wedding between rival nations, I lost my temper and charged as fast as my dwarven warrior’s legs would carry me at handful of orc slavers, and I deftly picked locks as a high-skill but extremely squishy thief. After three games, I’d seen enough to be thoroughly impressed.
Numenera and The Strange – (some light disclosure: I backed a kickstarter for an updated version of Numenera) I’m combining these because they’re the same game system (the Cypher System) for two wildly different settings. Numenera takes place a billion years in the future, where we’ve lost knowledge of how technology and magic work so they’re indistinguishable and wildly dangerous, and The Strange is like The Laundry Files meets Sliders. The Cypher System reduces ability scores to just Might, Speed, and Intellect, abstracts skills, and gives everyone disposable powerful magic items. It’s kind of the opposite of TDE, where the GM rolls nothing but sets difficulty of the action, so every roll is unopposed. To affect these rolls, you can spend points out of your ability score pools. The catch is that these same pools count as your life counters, so physical damage drains your might, then your speed, then your intellect, and then you’re dead. Since this wasn’t an on-going campaign, everyone was pretty loose about using their ability pools, and no one died, but I could see how an on-going game would prompt more conservative play and result in more failed rolls. The settings were both interesting, but I think I enjoyed the octo-post-apocalyptic medieval world of Numenera more than the The Strange’s bioengineered sci-fi dimension of Ruk.
Battletech – Hey, wait a minute. I didn’t sign up for this! But I did skip on that last TDE session. I tried to get into a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics, but it was full, so I hopped over to the Battletech tables for a refresher on that system. It’s still high on the number crunching and wargaming end of the spectrum. But my Jenner outmaneuvered my opponents Panther and I got up in his face and lit him up like a Christmas tree. His PPC would’ve hurt if he landed a hit, but he couldn’t make it happen. We ran out of time, but I scored it as a victory.
The Exhibitor Hall
Whoa. This was my FLGS except packed full of people. Just games on games on utilikilts on dice on games. It was just an unholy amount of people and stuff in one place. I’m not much of a browser though, so my experience here was checking the map for a vendor I wanted to visit, squeezing through the hordes of people slow walking or browsing until I found them, checking out what they had, and then moving to the next vendor. So I saw a ton of stuff, but I’m allergic to pitches so I didn’t stop to play much. I did walk out with my Numenera kickstarter rewards (two massive 400 page tomes), Scum and Villainy (Blades in the Dark in Space), The Sprawl (cyberpunk PbtA), and Vampire: The Masquerade V5.
There was a ton of cosplay, but I learned that for every picture in a Best Cosplay album, there’s at least 50 okay cosplays that didn’t make the cut. Good efforts but sometimes the seams were showing or I could tell what they were going for, sort of.
Here’s a real shocker: no one really stank. I squoze through a ton of people in that exhibitor hall, and I wasn’t constantly gagging on someone’s body odor. Dumb stereotypes of stinky gamers were deeply challenged!
Another shocker: I didn’t come home with con crud. Again, extremely close to a lot of people at times but didn’t get sick at all!
I stayed at a hotel near the airport and that was a mistake. I’m cheap and those rooms were cheaper than downtown, but they’re very isolated from everything (seriously, nearest gas station was a mile away), so everywhere I went was a 15 minute Lyft. I could’ve saved on Lyfts and spent that money on the hotel room. Lesson learned there.
I’m not going to bother taking any books next time I go. I took a small selection, but I got way more mileage out of my Kindle Fire with Dropbox and my game book PDFs. I made the mistake of picking up my Numenera kickstarter books before I was done for the day and had to carry them around everywhere to the detriment of my back.
There was essentially no D&D. Wizards of the Coast wasn’t there. Some other people were running D&D games, but it was very surprising to me that the biggest RPG in America wasn’t at the biggest gaming convention in the world.
Will I go back? Almost definitely. Maybe not yearly, but I had a lot of fun and I’d love to go again. Next time, I’d like to explore more panels and opportunities to learn, but I’m definitely still going to play some games, new and familiar. And maybe take some pictures next time.