Cara Noir vs. PAC (Riptide, 2019)

This match is available to watch for free here.

The post-WWE career of PAC has already been tumultuous and fascinating, despite us only being a year in.

In the ring; early reviews were mixed. But the former Neville quickly proved he still had it – with match of the year contenders with Kzy, Walter, and Will Ospreay in the first half of 2019.

From there, however, the conversation has shifted to PAC’s seeming inability to lose while he’s a champion in Dragon Gate — or perhaps his unwillingness to do so.

While the purpose of this review isn’t to speculate on that, or open the can of worms that is debating what amount of loyalty is “right” in pro wrestling – it’s a crucial bit of context for this match.

For the last few months, PAC has been a world beater. He has dominated in Japan and Europe. He’s put away everyone from Chris Brookes to Pentagon Jr – and anyone who came close to scoring a win had their efforts go up in smoke via a disqualification. Coupled with the fact he’s jacked to the gills, as well as finely tuning the minutia of his sneering bastard character – and PAC has cultivated quite the aura. He’s an ass-kicking champion, whose primary objective is to win; he has no time for your post-match hug or ‘this is why we love wrestling’ promo. He sees himself above it.

And then he comes to Riptide Wrestling.

While the promotion’s billing as ‘Cinematic Professional Wrestling’ immediately makes sense to anyone who sees it — with their atmospheric lighting and super high fidelity video making them stand out from the crowd — the company has developed a new unique selling point in the last few months.

Riptide very much feels like the ‘Land of Misfit Toys‘ in British wrestling. A boutique promotion that feels almost hand-crafted in how it’s run. It’s a passion project, scooping up talent others seem to not believe in; or haven’t yet given a chance to. It hosts the rebounding TK Cooper on his journey to redemption; it gives a much more prominent role to Spike Trivet than its larger peers; and in this match it pits a top star on the international scene against a cult favourite among the local crowd.

Cara Noir

Cara Noir’s entrance coupled with Riptide’s production is a match made in heaven; an instantly arresting visual that will make immediate fans of anyone watching for the first time. It’s such a refreshing change from other promotions where so many people are varying degrees of ‘I’m the toughest guy’ or ‘I’m the zaniest guy.’ Cara is very much his own person.

And then we get PAC. Black trunks, title belt, thoroughly unimpressed look on his face.

The tone is set immediately for the character dynamic of the match; it’s like a full on culture clash — as though PAC is so out of his element in Riptide that his appearance is like something from a ‘What If’ edition of a comic book.

But when the bell rings, it doesn’t matter what the setting is for PAC. He is the man. He is the international champion. And he takes charge. He dominates things early, as Noir constantly gets back to his feet and requests a handshake. PAC doesn’t just ignore the handshake; he mutters something to Noir every time, in disgust. This is a fight for respect for Noir — and it doesn’t come easy.

Cara handshake

The thing about this match is that they don’t convey Noir is on PAC’s level by having him go 50/50 with the man, and having them exchange moves endlessly. Such is the way with matches like this, more often than not, and it’s starting to feel passe.  This wasn’t a squash by any measure, but the story of the match was PAC, the world-traveled champion, was the better man and won. Noir was elevated not by any kind of elaborate booking or “protection” near the finish — he was elevated by using his natural charisma to garner sympathy from the crowd — due in part to his tremendous selling in the second half. While wins and losses will always matter, there is so much more to being a successful pro wrestler than that – and earning sympathy in defeat will always be a pillar of the art.

With this match, PAC is confident and assured, and when the resilient Noir gets his flurries – the Dragon Gate star is caught unaware and is left flustered. They don’t need to do ten 2.999 nearfalls to illustrate Noir has heart; he illustrated that in the match regardless. Likewise, true to his character, PAC doesn’t raise Noir’s hand and tell the crowd what a sport he is — why would he? And with the match they just had; it wasn’t needed. The crowd didn’t need to be told ‘Noir came THIS close to winning!’ – his performance was so endearing that they respected him for fighting to the bitter end, despite the unbeatable aura of his opponent.

This was wonderful pro wrestling.

AEW Fyter Fest

With their debut event in May, AEW made an unflinching declaration of war. They have money, they have an eclectic talent pool, they have some fresh ideas, and most importantly; they have already amassed a cult following. The first show, Double Or Nothing, was energetic and memorable, with seemingly everyone working with a chip on their shoulder.

With June’s Fyter Fest, they had the unenviable task of following themselves, and proving that they could be more than a high-production super indie – especially as their shift to episodic television is looming.

The results were mostly positive, but as the promotion chugs along, with two fully fledged events and dozens of ‘road to’ videos under their belt; their identity remains muddled.

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“I’ll Never Forgive You”

As the familiar strings of ‘Allegro con fuoco’ rang around the National Basketball Arena, it was hard to process everything that had unfolded in the last ten minutes. Despite being over 20 chapters deep; the Walter/David Starr story continued to get my heart racing and keep me guessing. I was certain Walter was winning. Of course he was. This story that began in earnest in wXw was hardly going to culminate here in Tallaght, was it? And to be even more cynical; current WWE UK champion Walter wasn’t going to lose to outspoken WWE critic David Starr, was he?

But as the match entered the fourth quarter, all that rationale went out the window. In a true representation of everything that’s great about pro wrestling, and how the medium can physically pull you in like no other comparable genre of entertainment; the misdirections and elaborate plays on previous matches had me doubting everything. It speaks to Starr and Walter’s in-ring intellect, and their understanding of what wrestling fans understand about the art. It speaks to their understanding of the language of pro wrestling, that they were able to signify to fans three or four times that the match was over, usually by alluding to one of Starr’s previous errors that lead to his demise, only to flip the script yet again; all without feeling like overkill. I jumped to my feet, I bought every nearfall — and I was one of hundreds in attendance who did, all bellowing at the top of our lungs with every violent flurry and every defiant kick-out.

Beyond just being yet another great match in a series of great matches, this match represented the latest evolution of the story – a story that spans years and many promotions, but has taken a fascinating slant since arriving on Irish shores in June of 2018.

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Banshee (Season Four)

This review contains mild, early episode spoilers for Banshee season four.

Thus far when reviewing Banshee, I’ve talked a lot about the show’s pacing. For all its bombast, it’s a very smartly constructed show, always advancing stories and informing you about the characters and their dynamics. With season four, the show crescendos wonderfully as it sunsets its various pulpy heroes and anti-heroes; but not without a brief stumbling block along the way.

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Banshee (Season Three)

This review contains spoilers for Banshee season one and two. There are mild spoilers for season three.

In my review of the first season of Banshee, I talked about how its gung-ho violence and titillation were satisfying in a shallow way, but there was undoubtedly heart and (some) brains beneath it all. With season two, I felt they really amped up the emotional stakes without compromising the show’s visceral nature; delivering a more thoroughly engaging season of TV. With season three, the show’s status as a cult classic became crystal clear, with a breathless, twisting, wrenching collection of ten episodes that showcased all its best elements, with scant few complaints.

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Katana Zero (2019, Switch)

Having spent the majority of my life playing video games, I have skipped an untold number of time-wasting conversations. You know the drill; the text box slowly fills up with meaningless NPC waffle, warning you of impending doom or making an unfunny quip. You mash ‘A’ to make the box fill quicker, then again to skip to the next line. And repeat.

Sure, sometimes you want to hear it. But other times when a game makes no effort to grab you with its story in the early goings; the ‘skip’ button gets a workout.

Typically, brushing off what a character has to say doesn’t manifest itself on your character or in the game world (with some exceptions). You’re simply speeding the conversation up.

Katana Zero changes that. And while there’s lots of exciting things to talk about in this twitch-y, psychedelic, action-platformer; I’m mainly fascinated by this.

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Banshee (Season One)

Here’s a brief synopsis of Banshee season one.

The fuckin’ coolest guy in the world is released from jail, where was locked up for 15 years for being too much of a badass. He briefly stops shagging every woman he looks at to track down the love of his life, another ex-con who has taken on a new identity to hide from their former mob boss patriarch; a scary stoic Russian with a cool nickname. When sombrely drinking whiskey at a bar, like a cool guy does, our hero bodies some troublemakers – but a soon-to-be-appointed sheriff is killed in the crossfire. Because he’s an antihero, the most badass of character alignments, our protagonist steals the sheriff’s identity in an attempt to cover his own tracks from the afformentioned big bad Russian.

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Top Ten Video Games of 2018

If there’s one St. Patrick’s weekend tradition that I truly love and respect; it’s finally bothering to sit down and make a list of my favourite games from the previous year. That’s right, it’s March 2019, so here’s my favourite games of 2018.

Usually it takes me four months to write a list like this because I’ve committed to finishing everything in the running. This year I’ve been so scatter-brained that I didn’t even do that. Instead I’ve compiled a list of games that I’ve enjoyed, some of which I finished, some of which I’ll take at face value and assume they don’t ruin themselves at the final hurdle.

Failing to make the cut is Red Dead Redemption 2, a game that’s ambition and technical achievements are to be respected, but is desperately betrayed by, well, the part where you actually play it. I don’t want to make a ‘most disappointing game’ post, nor do I want to dump on this game too heavily given all it does right; but it would feel wrong to not at all acknowledge why it isn’t listed here.

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2018 was… Pretty Bad!

When I set this site up, I added a ‘blog’ category just in case I had any non-review, personal writings I wanted to make. Nothing really came of it because I pretty much commit every thought I have to the internet anyway, so who needs more of that but without a character limit?

Anyway, it’s year-end and I’m feeling awful reflective. I wanted to jot something down other than what my top five Call of Duty maps are this year (Nuketown remains undefeated), so here we go.

This year was bad. I’m not sure how to write this without sounding extremely dramatic, but it’s the only phrase coming to mind right now; I feel like every aspect of myself unravelled this year, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be back to the way I was before.

Continue reading “2018 was… Pretty Bad!”