Saturday, 23 January 2016

It's Officially Wrestlemania Season

Wrestling, sports entertainment, something that continues to polarise opinions across the world, but remains one of the most watched regular episodic programmes on television. And this time of year is its most important, the Road To Wrestlemania from this Sundays Royal Rumble through to the biggest event the company puts on at the end of March/beginning of April, Wrestlemania.

So with the biggest, and possibly most profitable period for the company in full swing, it would be the perfect time to put out their best product on their main shows (Raw). However if anything, regular viewers would have noticed that the main event product just isn’t provoking the entertainment and excitement that this season should to bring fans in. A big reason for that, at least in my opinion, is that much of the storyline is what we’ve seen before, it’s the same old thing, and the characters that are doing it just don’t provoke the same emotion as the first time we saw it (see Stone Cold Steve Austin compared to Roman Reigns).

There is an original and popular 1 hour weekly show that the WWE currently produce which in my humble opinion regularly trounces the 3-hour behemoth that is Monday Night Raw, and that’s their developmental brand NXT. Developmental is no new thing, but the way NXT is used and promoted is far different to what OVW and other brands were for WWE rookies. It is its own brand, its own part of the WWE universe, with its own fans that have made this brand the success that it now is. The stars are learning the ropes, trying out their characters in front of a live, highly opinionated audience, and putting on some of the best matches in the company right now. With established “indie” stars coming in as well to add validity to the brand, it continues to grow and take over.

The success of these talented guys is there for all to see, with last years Wrestlemania being full of NXT alumni, every match save for one featuring guys who have made the step up. The progress is continuing too, with guys like Tyler Breeze, Adrian Neville and Kevin Owens making the successful transition to the main stage. Their matches are always some of the best on the card, but they can only do so much, the booking on RAW sees the same old storylines come our way, whilst NXT these guys appear original and give fans a fresh look on the business. Supposedly RAW & Smackdown, well the guys behind it, are realising this, but that remains to be seen in the end product. The main roster shows need something fresh, need something new and need to have the guts to take chances and follow it through to the (hopeful) payoff.      

The WWE must know this, and have seemingly (as we still have no official confirmation on the shows) gone all out to mix things up by bringing in some of Japans biggest current stars to the WWE ranks, including one of the best wrestlers in recent years in AJ Styles. Now Vince McMahon has brought in big names from other companies before, and with the WWE being the only real name in town since the demise of both ECW & WCW, Vince’s ego has been known to keep him from pushing them to the top. It remains to be seen if a) these guys have actually been signed up, and b) if they’ll be used in the most appropriate way for their respective star powers.

It could all be a big work by the WWE guys, and the fans could be left disappointed yet again, but it’s the Road To Wrestlemania season, there’s always hope that something big will happen to get the fans buzzing again and wanting to watch every show without fail. Either way, there’s one big bright light for WWE right now, and that’s NXT, if you’re a wrestling fan then quite simply you should be watching it.  

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

My New York Jets Journey (So Far)

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog, which is a shame really as it means that the writing I have been doing has been elsewhere, mainly the Concord Rangers matchday programme. With the obsession I have ensuring that a different article goes into each programme, it’s easy to forget that I used to write these blogs purely because I enjoyed doing so, not out of any sort of responsibility!

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the writing, rambling on about my opinions and thoughts so that the few people that buy a Concord programme get to read them, but there’s something about doing these blogs that just made it easy for me to write! Anyway, I’m back to waffle on about the NFL, and there’s not much call for that in a football programme!

In 2002 I went to New York for the first time, did the whole sightseeing thing, and as one of a number of souvenirs I bought a bath towel, a green one emblazoned with a New York sports team emblem. At the time it was just as souvenir, nothing else, it was only around a year later when I realised what it represented, and even then I had no idea what would lay ahead as a result.

So in 2003 I caught highlights of an NFL game on Sky for the first time, I remember it having a pretty close ending, and I thought maybe there’s something to this game. Soon after I bought an old preowned Madden game for my PS2, it helped me understand the game I’d watched, and I had a much better idea as to how the whole thing went together. Of course, once I realised this was something I enjoyed, I needed to pick a team to follow, and that’s where the towel comes back. It was a New York Jets towel, at the time it was just a souvenir, but I thought I’ve already got something associated with a team, so that would be the team I follow.

As the years went on, I got a much better understanding of the game, my attachment to the team grew, watching more games and getting much more of a passion for the whole thing. I also soon realised that whilst the Jets weren’t the worst team around, they provided a hell of a lot of ups & downs over the seasons.

Now, all these years later, the New York Jets are one of the three main sports teams I follow, they provide a rollercoaster of emotions much like any sport & team. The passion I have for the team is something that has seen me jump and scream for joy, and most recently sit in solemn silence after a very tough loss. I’ve been lucky enough to see the Jets live 3 times, twice over at Metlife stadium and once here at Wembley, all of which increased my passion and love for the team and my fellow Jets fans. The people I met in NY either at the tailgate (always representing L7!) or at the games themselves, have all become like an extended family. Pretty sure it was Brian Signorella (pictured being carried by me and Kyle) who said it best to me last year, once you put on that green & white, you’re family!

This season was one of rebuilding for the Jets, after a 4 win year last season things had to improve under new coach Todd Bowles, and improve they did. 10 wins came the Jets way (2 of which I saw live), and numerous franchise records were broken by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Fitzmagic) and WR Brandon Marshall, but as great as it was, the biggest and most emotional moment came on the last weekend of the season. Needing to beat the Buffalo Bills (led by former Jets coach Rex Ryan) to reach the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, the Jets crumbled, couldn’t get control of the game and ended up losing in heartbreaking fashion, ripping the playoff opportunity from our grasp.

The loss hurt for so many reasons, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism going forward too. This team improved massively from the previous season, looked a threat on offence and turned over some decent teams. We’ve a young HC who is learning & improving, along with a lot of young, talented players who will be impacting this league for many years to come. My New York Jets journey/story isn’t a long one, but it’s been a great one so far, having met some incredible people (including the team owner!) and I look forward to seeing where it takes me, the team and every other Jets fan in the future!

To Talk, Or To Write? A Bloggers Return!

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