Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Review: WWE SummerSlam 2012 – How did the 25th Anniversary stack up against the previous 24 years?

I’m not really sure I can explain what it is that I enjoy about professional wrestling.  By all accounts, it’s probably one of the single-most ridiculous spectacles in the combined worlds of sports and entertainment, a mash-up of (mostly) elaborately-staged fights and soap opera drama.  I know it isn’t real, and yet I still suspend my disbelief and enjoy it unironically.  I know it’s become hip to have an ironic appreciation of things considered “low culture,” but for the record, I enjoy nothing “ironically.”  As best as I can explain, it’s the inherent ridiculousness of what’s on display that draws me in–and it may also have something to do with me being from Kentucky.

It’s still real to me, dammit.

Last night, WWE celebrated the 25th anniversary of its summer pay-per-view spectacular SummerSlam, and since fellow Comic Vault scribe “Savage” Nick Sandilands failed to watch it, the daunting task of reviewing the extravaganza is falling upon the shoulders of me, Double R, Ragin’ Roger Riddell himself.  Ooooooooooo, yeah.

First off, for anyone who isn’t familiar with WWE and the wild world of professional wrestling, SummerSlam is WWE’s second biggest event behind the March/April Wrestlemania juggernaut.  When I first started watching pro-wrestling back in 1997, when WWE was still WWF and they were in the midst of the lewd and outlandish “Attitude Era.”  At the time, there were five pay-per-view events out of the yearly 12 that were considered the big ones:  Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, and King of the Ring.  They existed roughly in that order of importance, and the first four in that list were the company’s originals.  King of the Ring hasn’t existed as a pay-per-view for around a decade now, though, cutting the big PPVs down to just the original four (plus the less important other eight).  The Royal Rumble’s importance also now arguably trumps that of the Survivor Series.

That said, SummerSlam’s 25 years of existence leave a lot for the event to live up to.  The Undertaker fought Ted DiBiase’s fake Undertaker at the event in 1994, and the pay-per-view’s history is littered with all manner of high octane gimmick bouts from boiler room brawls and casket matches to cage matches featuring stars that read like a who’s who of the business’ best.

When it comes to the era I’m most fond of, several years stand out in particular.  1997’s event is probably best known for Owen Hart’s botched piledriver that broke Steve Austin’s neck.  1998 had an amazing main event for the WWE Title with Steve Austin versus the Undertaker, plus a pulse-pounding ladder match for the Intercontinental Title between The Rock and Triple H (though that year was somewhat tarnished by the Insane Clown Posse’s live performance).  In 2000, one of my favorite moments in the history of the event happened when Shane McMahon took a fall from the top of the stage set during a Hardcore Championship match with martial artist Steve Blackman, plus there was a great triple threat match for the WWE Title that year during the feud between The Rock, Triple H, and Kurt Angle.

I’m not trying to say there hasn’t been a great SummerSlam since the “Attitude Era,” because that wouldn’t be true.  We had The Rock versus Brock Lesnar and an amazing Shawn Michaels/Triple H “street fight” 10 years ago, and last year featured CM Punk going over John Cena for the WWE Title in a match that featured some of the loudest crowd pops I had heard in years.  What I’m saying is, 25 years builds a lot of moments like that to live up to.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the match-by-match review of last night’s show, which took place in Los Angeles for the fifth year in a row.

Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler

Chris Jericho is probably my all-time favorite wrestler.  I can’t say I feel the same for his band, Fozzy, but the guy’s an amazing performer and got that “best in the world” reputation for a reason.  Dolph Ziggler is a guy who’s quickly rising through the ranks and will more than likely be pushed as a World Heavyweight Champion by the end of the year.  I honestly expected him to go over in this match since Jericho’s about to briefly leave wrestling again to tour with his band, but can definitely understand why he didn’t.

The one big reason here that Jericho went over is probably to keep him looking like a legitimate competitor.  He has, after all, put his opponents over at every pay-per-view since he returned, so the win (coupled with his recent face turn) makes him look more competent in the eyes of the fans and puts a nice cap on the “Has Chris Jericho lost his touch?” angle they were running. Ziggler is on the verge of being a main event competitor.  He sells moves like a champ and the way he yelled and berated Jericho in the match last night was a nice touch, but he’s perhaps not quite there yet as far as going over a guy like Jericho at an event like SummerSlam.

Daniel Bryan vs. Kane

This was a pretty standard match with a lot of solid action building off of the “anger management” feud between the two.  Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!’ and “No!” chants have gone way over with the crowd in the last year, and the finish was believable as far as a guy Bryan’s size beating a super heavyweight like Kane.  Given the backstage tantrum from Kane following the match, this is a feud that’s likely to continue.

Rey Mysterio vs. the Miz (c) – Intercontinental Championship

I used to hate the Miz back when he debuted.  He still annoys the hell out of me, but I guess that’s a sign he’s doing his job right.  Anyhow, he’s grown by leaps and bounds since his debut and deserves every push he’s had.  In keeping with his frequent big-event, superhero-inspired costume themes, Rey Mysterio had an all-black mask last night with Batman-style ears and entered wearing a cape.  The match featured a ton of great spots, including a hurricanrana reversed into a powerbomb by the Miz–a rarity these days, given the WWE’s PG rating and their avoidance of using moves that target the neck.  Ultimately, Miz went over.  Not surprising, given what I’ve heard about how Mysterio’s a guy who doesn’t mind losing to younger talent in order to legitimize them.  Perhaps it might be a good idea to place him in a tag team with fellow luchador Sin Cara to help with WWE’s current efforts to bring back a solid tag division.

Alberto del Rio vs. Sheamus (c) – World Heavyweight Chamionship

Alberto del Rio continued to build up a much more aggressive side to his “Mexican aristocrat” heel persona last night during his bout with Sheamus.  During the match, Michael Cole’s commentary had me laughing pretty hard for a moment after he talked about how Sheamus was bullied as a kid because he had red hair and ghostly white skin.  He’s from Ireland.  Everyone there has red hair and pale skin.  (The WWE’s anti-bullying campaign also humors me a bit, as well, but mostly because they have heels, i.e. bad guys, break character for appearances as part of it.  It kind of ruins the illusion for me.)

Anyways, Sheamus ultimately prevailed in the match after del Rio’s driver/assistant/personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez distracted the referee and threw a shoe to him, which was ultimately caught by Sheamus and used on del Rio.  Sheamus additionally pushed del Rio’s foot off of the rope during the pin fall before the ref could see, doubling the dirty win and throwing his future as a face into question.

Prime Time Players vs. Kofi Kingston & R-Truth (c) – WWE Tag Team Championship

This was a pretty by-the-book tag match.  It’s unfortunate that the Prime Time Players’ on-screen manager, Abraham Washington, was released from his contract a few weeks ago after making a Kobe Bryant joke (“The Prime Time Players are like Kobe Bryant in a Colorado hotel–UNSTOPPABLE!”) on live TV and then making some questionable Tweets about Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign, but those are the breaks in the ultra-PC world of PG WWE, which is becoming increasingly easy to confuse for the company’s former competition, WCW.  He really added a lot to the PTP’s gimmick.  Kingston and Truth win following a dive to the outside on Titus O’Neill and a What’s Up and pinfall on Darren Young in the ring from R-Truth.

John Cena vs. Big Show vs. CM Punk (c) – Triple Threat for the WWE Championship

Big Show was the wild card in this match, and I honestly thought John Cena was going to go over and win yet another WWE Championship here.  I’m sure Cena’s a great guy in real life, but his super-sanitized character really doesn’t do anything for me and, to me at least, he’s just felt kind of forced on everyone over the age of 8 during the last few years.  He’s Hulk Hogan reincarnated as a white-rapper-slash-super-patriot in jorts.  Oddly enough, this is the closest to the main event a WWE Title match has come to the main event since the beginning of CM Punk’s over 300-day run, despite his matches constantly stealing the show.  In a way, I kind of get it.  Cena sells more merchandise and I guess that justifies burying your title.  At the same time, it also potentially hurts its perceived validity in the long run–but at least it doesn’t get bounced around like a game of hot potato anymore.

Anyhow, this was a pretty great match.  I can’t remember seeing Big Show booked this dominantly since his tag team run with the Undertaker in 1999.  It’s a much more ideal characterization than the goofy, gentle giant that he’s predominately played the majority of his 13 years in WWE.  At least once, I questioned whether or not Big Show might actually win the match.  The match initially ended after Punk and Cena finally took down the Big Show and both applied their signature submission maneuvers to the giant at the same time, resulting in a confusing “no contest” and a “restart” to the match.  Prior to the “restart,” I honestly thought that even that ending made sense–Punk, who is currently teetering between face and heel (very well, might I add), wouldn’t have to lose the title cleanly yet and the WWE could schedule a decisive Punk vs. Cena bout for Night of Champions.  However, that would be too similar to the Punk/Cena storyline from last year.

Thus, the match begins again, Cena performs the Attitude Adjustment on Big Show, and Punk pushes Cena out of the ring and steals the pin on Show, retaining the belt.  Also worth noting, this match had some of the loudest booing for Cena (who’s supposed to be a face) that I’ve heard during any event.

Kevin Rudolph Live Performance Segment

Can someone please tell me who Kevin Rudolph is and why this was necessary?  This music was a strange choice for a wrestling show, and the DJing was definitely über late-’90s.  Either this was staged primarily against a backing track or there was a lot of auto tune and no discernible sound from the guitar that Rudolph was apparently playing.  Hell, I didn’t even hear guitar on the studio track WWE’s been running with all of the promos for this show.  The terrible dancing by everyone at ringside was also unnecessary, and some of the WWE Divas dancing on stage seemed somewhat uncomfortable–but hey, that’s PG for you again.  I would’ve rather seen a divas match (there wasn’t one on the entire card) than sit through that.  There was probably even time for a Ryback squash match or a Brodus Clay segment instead of this.

Also of note, prior to this segment, Fred Durst was pointed out as a “celebrity” in attendance.  The main pro-wrestling fan base is probably the only audience Durst still has any relevancy with outside of frat boys.  Word is, he was allegedly kicked out of the event after the very non-PG move of flipping off the camera when it panned over to him.  Smooth move, dickbag.

Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar

Triple H versus Brock Lesnar is one of those matches that never ended up happening during Brock’s initial run in WWE, back before he left to try out for the Minnesota Vikings and eventually landed in UFC.  It makes sense that it would happen now, and the build-up was pretty solid, with Lesnar “breaking” Triple H’s arm earlier this year during a storyline where Triple H didn’t give Lesnar the contract perks he wanted.  Last week, Lesnar made it even more personal, “breaking” the arm of HHH’s best friend, WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels.

This match didn’t play out as brutal as the Lesnar/Cena bout from Extreme Rules that ultimately saw Cena going over in an unbelievable finish.  Lesnar/Triple H had a much more cerebral pace, with Lesnar focusing on Triple H’s once-broken arm and Triple H eventually focusing on Lesnar’s stomach.  This was a great detail for anyone who knew about Lesnar’s issues with diverticulitis and the stomach surgeries that ultimately led to his departure from UFC.  Lesnar sold every shot to his midsection pretty believably, as did Triple H with the shots to his arm.  Ultimately, though, Lesnar followed up a Pedigree from Triple H with a pin reversal into the Kimura Lock, once again kayfabe breaking Triple H’s arm and leading to a tapout.

The pay-per-view ended about 10 minutes earlier than normal, with a broken and defeated Triple H refusing medical attention and slowly making his way to the back, setting up a potential future “broken fighter returns from the jaws of defeat” storyline.

The Verdict:

Overall, this was a pretty decent pay-per-view.  The matches were pretty solid, but, as mentioned before, it’s hard to compare it to the 24 other SummerSlams that came before it.  The Rudolph performance really kind of killed my attention in the home stretch, but the majority of the matches were better than much of the other pay-per-views this year, with the exception of maybe the Punk/Jericho and Punk/Bryan feuds.  Take out that live performance and it’s a four-star effort.

Moon Knight #12 – That’s A Wrap, Khonshu

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by: Alex Maleev

Moon-Knight_12Moon Knight comes to its logical conclusion this issue. While there might not be many surprises or big oh-shit moment’s in this final send-off, it end’s on a solid note. Snap Dragon is in police custody and is dangled as bait for Count Nerfaria. The trap is set and the Count goes for it hook, line and sinker. Nefaria pulls a Terminator and blasts the L.A. police precint well into next week. Also he rather brilliantly let’s the cat out of the bag that he’s been bribing the police commissioner. He’s gig to fuck him up for not taking care of Snap Dragon before she ratted him out. Moon Knight misses his cue a bit and swoops down on the scene rather late. Nefaria has already disintegrated a few people by the time Moony comes to the rescue. That’s what I love about Marc Spector, even in his last issue he’s remains a flawed crazy fuck-up.The final showdown is a gritty powers vs. weapons kind of brawl. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from these two sluggers, however I felt it could have been taken up a notch. How epic would it have been on a LA set piece rather than a percent office. Just my two cents, but it’s the last battle, the last issue of the series, why not give it a pretty setting. Anyways, Moon Knight has a shrewd Ultron-sized trump card up his sleeve, so you all should check it out and see how it plays out. It’s a slick and effective way tame the ruckus and put Nefaria in his place.

The whole point of the this series seems to be to plant the seed for the Ultron War. The last page confirms this as Bendis let’s you know that Moon Knight will return in “The Age Of Ultron.” Not as cool of a name as Ultron War, I know, but still I foresee that being a bad-ass series. When people as me about this series, the way I always describe it is it’s like a deep cut on your favorite record. Growing up I listen to a lot of Black Sabbath, and the first record that I owned, or rather stole from my old man’s collection was Volume 4. That whole record is practically deep cuts. On one hand you have powerhouse dirges like Supernaut, Snowblind, Wheels of Confusion, on the other you have small intimate tunes and experimentations like FX, Laguna Sunrise and Changes. These demonstrate a soft, orchestral approach and a departure from their trademark style. I think that there is some distinct parallels between the two. Now, I’m not going to call Moon Knight the Volume 4 of the comic book world. That would be insane and heresy. But perhaps it is  the Volume 4 of Brian Michael Bendis’s and Maleev’s Marvel tenure. There’s a lot of story meat that has Bendis signature style of ridiculous super-powered combat, smart-ass dialogue, insults, and snappy come-backs. However there are some softer moments as well. The short-lived fling with Echo. The tired and disappointing failures of Marc Spector. The small reflective conversations with his assistant Buck Lime from S.H.I.E.L.D. Then there’s some completely out of the box experimental shit, like the Avenger’s personality war inside his head. The death of some of the personalities and the also the acquisition of new one’s in some sort soul absorbing way that alludes to the possibility that this actually part of Moon Knight’s power set.\Maleev’s contribution to Moon Knight was is similar to his work on Daredevil. He added that grimy and almost xeroxed inking style. L.A. was rendered like it had been dragged through the Labrea tar pits. It added gravity, mood, and raw texture to the simplest of scenes. The photo references which Maleev heavily relied on for work on Spider Woman are minimized here. There’s a more naturally art-class approach. That’s not to say that some reference wasn’t used, as it obviously was, but it’s more interpreted and stylized rather than a straight replication. Hollingsworth colors added a lot to this series and really tried to make it sing L.A. Noir. Dirty broken neon signs, blood-stained dusk, smog drenched colors, with pockets of hot saturation; Hollingsworth lights the stage Maleev set like hardboiled detective movie being screened in the back of porno shop. It’s skeevvy, slutty and very much L.A. And that’s a good thing.

I like this journey of Marc Spector working on his “Legends of the Khonshu” TV show only to have it cancelled after waging a long and costly war with the kingpin of L.A. It was a fitting end. I feel like I finally have a grasp of his character after this series. This fractured hero tries to figure what’s going on is his head and redeems himself in his eyes and those of his peers as well. Yeah, he’s a fuck-up, but in a lovable way. More importantly he’s not an emo loser. He doesn’t give up and never says dies, although he can be really tempted to at times. Spector fly by the seat of his pants and rolls with the punches as best he can. He goes over the edge sometime, but always seems to pop back over to sanity. I’m sure in a lot of way’s it how people with real mental illness act. Besides that it’s one of the more engaging stories that Bendis has told. You can really just lose yourself in the story because of how decompressed and natural the flow is. The realism just makes engrossing and entertaining. It’s a shame this didn’t see more ground-swell support, because Bendis did to Moon Knight, what Brubaker did to Iron Fist… he took a C-string character and gave him A-string development. Nicely done. I look forward to the “Age of Ultron.”


Story: 9
Art: 8
Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Moon Knight #9 Review – Moon Knight Goes on a Hellride.

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by: Alex Maleev

Moon-Knight_9Bendis’s reboot of Moon Knight is a off-beat superhero book that is hard to nail-down. You can draw some similarities to Image’s 2009 Cowboy  Ninja Viking (a comic by A.J. Lieberman and Riley Rossmo), but it doesn’t get much beyond surface detail. Marc Spector (aka Moon Knight) and Duncan both have 3 personalities. While Duncan had a cowboy, ninja, and viking running around his head; Spector has Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. The personalities in Moon Knight speak with color coded speech balloons (Capt. America is blue, Spider-Man is Red, Wolverine is Yellow), akin to how Cowboy Ninja Viking had their icons (a katana for the ninja, a gun for the cowboy, and an axe for the viking). However that’s where the likeness ends as each series varies in plot, tone, and complexity. Those comparisons aside, Moon Knight is unlike any comic I have read.

The plot is new-school noir with a dash of Sybil and a Hollywood twist. Marc Spector moves to LA to work on some TV show about his adventures as Moon Knight called “Legends of the Khonshu”. On one of his patrols as Moon Knight he intercepts the delivery of a Ultron robot body (a seed for the upcoming Ultron War?) and decides to try to find the kingpin of LA and shut him down. He’s losing his shit and seeing things. Visions of Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine show up to give him advice along the way. Spector teams up with Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend Echo, and ex-SHIELD agent Buck Lime as his R&D weapons guy (like Q from James Bond) as he fumbles around LA’s underworld. While the plot may seem like standard comic book fare, it’s really the nuanced decompressed approach that Bendis takes to the narrative that makes this a worthwhile read. He takes Moon Knight, a long-lost character that basically nobody cares about anymore, and gives him some real depth, personality and charm. Marc Spector is a flawed hero, arguably one of the most flawed ones in the Marvel Universe because of his history with schizophrenia, demon possession, multiple personalities and blood lust. Bendis makes small moments matter. He brings out the more humanistic qualities of Moon Knights faults. The kind of thing a reader can connect to. Spector is an eccentric outsider that’s self-conscious about being a d-listed super hero. He’s brash and makes hasty decisions leaving him prone to easy mistakes. He tries to be a cad, like Tony Stark, but just ends up kind of being a crappy flirt and having a lot more heart than you’d think. He’s kind of funny in a pathetic sort of way. In short, Marc Spector fails more than he succeeds, and is a lovable loser trying to redeem himself and pull out of a downward spiral. He’s that crazy underdog that you can’t help rooting for.

Last issue we learned that Count Nefaria (an old X-men and Avengers villain) turns out to be the LA kingpin and are left with a cliffhanger showdown. Issue 9 opens with a B-Story flashback to a scene with Buck Lime from a week ago. Marc basically tell’s him that he wants weapons like Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine (a shield, web-shooters, and claws). The whole issue cross-cuts between the B-story of how his weapons get engineered and the present battle with Count Nefaria. He uses these weapons to narrowly escape powerful attacks and throw Nefaria off his game. Meanwhile, Marc Spector’s personalities start to bicker and fight as combat between Nefaria, Moon Knight, and Echo intensifies. Captain America think he should call in the Avengers and get out of there, Spider-Man is smart ass about the whole affair, and Wolverine just wants to kill Nefaria. The issues climaxes with a critical injury and Spector’s mind going haywire. Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine fight to the death inside his head and he begins to unravel. Just as things start to really get interesting it concludes with one mother of a cliffhanger. I was left a bit gobsmacked by it to tell you the truth, but am reluctant to spoil it. This is the strength of decompressed storytelling. By the building up small scenes and cross-cutting with action like an editor you can really drive the narrative to a dizzying climax and make it feel as if you just watched a crucial episode of a TV show. Like the episode right before a season finale. The only thing I think we are missing from Bendis is perhaps some big set-piece that really screams Los Angeles. How about a fight scene at Mann’s Chinese Theater where Moon Knight can’t tell between the dressed-up characters and his visions. Or Explosions on Hollywood & Vine; Spector having duel in the Viper Room; A chase scene through a full crowd at Venice Beach; An escape through the LA River. You get the idea. Moon Knight is in LA, let’s fuck it up.

Alex Maleev’s art on this is very textural, almost like something you would see coming out of a figure drawing class. There’s a rough, expressionistic and somewhat scratchy quality to his inked brush work, which contrast to some of the smooth fine lines that are penned in the background. He doesn’t shy away from logotypes or typesetting in signage, giving credibility to even the most mundane scene. Also I got to say that I like that Maleev got away from the heavy use of photo references like he was using on Spiderwoman. He relied on it so much that they gave credit to the model he used for Jessica Drew and it distracted format he content of the story. It’s still apparent that references are used, but they are much more loosely interpreted. Matt Hollingsworth, who also worked with Maleev on Spiderwoman, colors in a way that pops off the page and makes LA feel like the neon-soaked broken playground that it is. It’s the coloring that really sets the mood and atmosphere for the comic. This issue is more about the night and royal blue tones are used in the same way the movie Heat was color graded with cool tones for night. Hollingsworth helps the separation that Maleev creates between the layers of foreground and background, and knockouts the inked lines where appropriate with a color overlay. Special effects radiate subtly, and are not overly photoshopped. The panels are richer for it. The cover, which is all Maleev, is striking in its color and design. It’s a blue-man Spector with yellow eyes, tearing through his Moon Knight cloak on a textured painted background. It’s stark design that possibly alludes to Spector shedding some of the baggage of his personalities.

Bendis puts Moon Knight on overdrive and sends his ass over-the-edge. Whether he lands or even come out the other side is up in the air. Literally anything could happen. That’s what great about this series. It’s an unpredictable wild ride with a fractured super-hero that’s falling apart. This series was a slow-burn to start with and now it finally has the momentum and interest to be truly great. I’m hooked and somehow I care about Moon Knight now. Making Spector vulnerable and crazy worked. He’s a good guy and I hope he pull his shit together. I’m curious to see what happens next.

Story: 8.5
Art: 7.5

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds