Stunt Granny Audio #258

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Vladimir Putin is not impressed by Evgeni Malkin. From penguins.nhl.com.

We’re back with an audio show about wrestling. How about that? Who is we though? Well, it’s Kevin and Shahid after a few technical difficulties. The list of topics was so simple that they kept on running into each other. They started off with the easiest topic, Daniel Bryan being stripped of the WWE Title. Who does the WWE give the title to? John Cena? Randy Orton? After those two, the WWE roster gets pretty thin at the top since CM Punk left and Daniel Bryan out due to injury. Would the WWE bring in Brock Lesnar to be champion? Why is Paul Heyman still touting him at every turn if he doesn’t come back for a shot he said he wanted before Wrestlemania? How awkward would it be if they decided to give the strap to Heyman’s other client, Cesaro? Would any of the young guys like Cesaro be considered? The WWE is giving us plenty of Rusev, so does he have a chance? Will Lana ever order him to “Crush” someone other than black gentlemen and Zack Ryder on the roster? Would the WWE give the title to Seth Rollins?  Speaking of Rollins, how good was his promo? How about Dean Ambrose? Last but not least, Roman Reigns? Or is he least? Would Ronda Rousey fit in with the Shield? Does the WWE give Ambrose & Reigns a third person or will they split up after this feud concludes? Because this is the first wrestling show in a while, Kevin & Shahid don’t conclude until they’ve answered all of these questions and more. Click on the link below to figure out those answers!

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Stunt Granny Movie Review: Brick Mansions

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“Brick Mansions” is a Spike/TNT special. A movie in which if you stumble upon it on a random Sunday afternoon, you’ll stay for the finish. It’s not a good movie. It’s not a well-made movie. It’s a goofy caricature of an action movie. Once you accept that, you’ll realize it’s an enjoyable movie. It’s a Luc Besson film that Liam Neeson and Jason Statham wouldn’t wipe their behinds with. Luckily Paul Walker doesn’t believe on standing on trite movie ceremony – this film is right in his wheelhouse as the likeable, slightly believable action star. He may get flack for being a mediocre actor (I look at him as a man who accepts and embraces his limitations), but compared to the rest of the cast, he might as well be Daniel-Day Lewis. Any film in which RZA is the second best actor by far should tell you the type if film being made. “Brick Mansions”  is a gussied up B movie with a silly plot, parkour, cringe worthy representatives of black people, and in flattering view of Detroit. “Brick Mansions” is basically RoboCop if Donald Sterling directed it and got rid of the robot.

Guess what – I enjoyed it. Within 5 minutes of the film I accepted it for what it was and enjoyed the ride. I accepted that Detroit walled off an entire section of the Detroit projects to reduce crime. I accepted that RZA somehow stole a military transport and was able to attach a neutron dirty bomb to a Russian rocket for ransom. A French parkour expert who never lost his accent despite growing up in Detroit, who defeated armed gunman through brooms and flips? No problem. Paul Walker basically playing the love child of Keanu Reeves and Jackie Chan? I’m all in. Thugs speaking proper stilted English as if it was learned at a French catholic school – damn right. It has no logic besides its own, and follows its own rules. It is a better movie for it. I still remember “Brick Mansions after a week and smile thinking about it…more than I could say for better movies which fall by the wayside. It also reminded me how enjoyable Paul Walker was on film. I would say it’s a shame that his last starring role was this film, but he wouldn’t. So go see it. Definitely turn off the logic and reason and have fun. -Shahid

Shahid’s Blog: Quick Thoughts on The Raid 2

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The Raid: Redemption, released in 2011 by Gareth Evans, was a revelation – an underrated action masterpiece that soon became a cult classic.  It’s premise was simple – a SWAT attempting to escape an apartment building while apprehending a local crime boss.  But the action was unprecedented in its realism and artistic brutality. Along with Dredd 3D, The Raid provided a slick, stripped down, old school action film with no fillers or nonsense.  It actually served of a more polished version of Evans first film, Merantau.  Both films starred Iko Uwais aka Muslim Tony Jaa, and introduced the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat to the film universe.  Even though the film only grossed 15 million dollars, it cast a large shadow upon the action genre, and led for plans for both a sequel and an American remake.

I’ll keep this review succinct – if you were a fan of the first film, or just a fan of martial arts and Hong Kong action movies, then do yourself a favor and see The Raid 2 ASAP.  It’s a lot longer and expanded than the original, and definitely has influences from John Woo and similar crime dramas.  Beginning soon after the first film, Iko Ukwais is tasked to go deep undercover to join an Indonesian crime family, with the goal to expose police corruption.  It’s a simple story, but given plenty of time to add emotion and depth to the various characters.  The bottom line is that it serves its purpose of providing the most visceral action I’ve seen on film….ever.  Every punch, kick, stab, gunshot and slam is given the greatest care, and is presented as an elegant ballet of violence.I can’t count how many times I exclaimed, covered my eyes, or just stared in awe at the myriad of set pieces and events, all of which looked painstakingly authentic.  Iko Ukwais has acquired the “baddest man alive” title from Tony Jaa,  and carries the film with a combination of artistic lethality and quiet grace. He’s joined by a wide array of characters, both old (Yayan Ruhian aka Mad Dog from the Raid) and new…lets just say you’ll never look at a baseball bat or a hammer ever again.

I could go on for hours, but there’s no point – go see this movie.  But be forewarned, it will be difficult to be impressed by regular action movies once you attend the Raid 2. -Shahid

Shahid’s Blog: Cracked Glasses of Nostalgia – An Adult’s Walk Down ECW’s Memory Lane

ecw I remembered being depressed after moving from Philadelphia to Atlantic City during my high school years.  Separated from my family, friend and comfortable surroundings for a dump of a coastal city was a jarring experience.  WWF wasn’t helping either – Friar Ferguson and Beverly Bros/Money Inc main event matches would turn any smile upside down.  On a random Thursday evening, I stumbled upon a new wrestling promotion.  Gritty, small, loud and realistic, it instantly drew me in.  Regardless of the fact that I was watching a plodding match featuring Tully Blanchard, I was enchanted by the promos, violence and music of what was known as Eastern Championship Wrestling.  I can vividly recall talking to like minded individuals about how ECW was actually real, instead of that scripted crap of the WWF.  Seeing Sandman, a fat drunkard with a cigarette with Woman or Missy Hyatt on his arm just seemed authentic on some visceral level.  Hearing adult promos from Cactus Jack, Steve Austin and Shane Douglas made WCW and WWF seem quaint and childish.  State of the art matches from Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho,  Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit…..violent brawls from the Public Enemy, the Pitbulls, Terry Funk….Sabu vs Taz…Raven terrorizing Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman…..sexy females with scant clothing and even less decorum.  ECW was a teenager’s dream.  Hearing the Gangstas come out to Natural Born Killers to engage in a blood bath made a Bret Hart match seem boring as can be.  I can remember waking up at 1 am to watch an ECW episode consisting of a pissed off Steve Austin just spitting venom at Eric Bischoff, Dusty Rhodes and WCW.  In a pre screw job, pipe bomb, real name era, it was as if someone had a peephole behind the magic rasslin curtain.  By the time they invaded Monday Night Raw to promote their first PPV, I was a full-fledged ECW acolyte.

Now, I’m sure there are many individuals in my age group that share similar joyous memories of ECW.  Even with One Night Stand and a brief resurgence led by Paul Heyman, it still felt hollow and empty, missing that rebellious fire of the 90s.  So when the WWE Network arrived, ECW was the first area delved into, due to an adolescent fondness. Even though it lacked the music and didn’t have the weekly shows, I was excited to see how well it held up.  So I watched a few ppvs and weekly shows and then watched a few more.  I tried jumping around during various time periods, hoping to shake this nagging sensation.  After a week of watching, I had to admit to myself that ECW, like many teenage passions, didn’t age well.

I won’t use revisionist history and proclaim ECW an overrated vanity project and minor league system.  It was enjoyable and revolutionary, and I will always cherish those teenage memories.  But watching it now is borderline painful.  Seeing the Sandman no longer brings feelings of awe and admiration. Now, I witness a slovenly bum who was a perfect example of smoke and mirrors.  Instead of rooting for the underdog story of Mikey Whipreck, I scoffed at the notion that he could ever beat Steve Austin in a match (side note – him pinning Austin killed any notion that ECW wasn’t predetermined).  I can understand the reasoning and logic behind pushing individuals like Tommy Dreamer and Justin Credible, instead of superior talent such as Chris Benoit and Rob Van Dam.  But as a fan today, I have little tolerance of watching Eddie Guerrero in the midcard, for fear of being snatched away by WCW and WWF.  For all of the wonderful long term angles pulled off by ECW, there were too many instances of inconsistent referees, match stipulations, and haphazard PPV’s.  If WWE tried to pull the ol “Let’s announce two matches, and we’ll work out the rest of the details later” style of booking, they would get crucified. I almost forget, they did try that…it was called December to Dismember, and it was universally panned.

The biggest issue with ECW is the same factor which added to its popularity – the extreme violence.  Seeing someone kick out from a power bomb through a flaming table with thumbtacks, only to get rolled up due to seeing the 34DD’s of Francine seems asinine today.  The constant one-upping of finishing moves led to many negative habits, not only by ECW, but by WCW and WWF. WCW was rightfully mocked for taking the piss out of ECW concepts, featuring hardcore matches with cotton candy used as a weapon.  But as an adult, I prefer that approach more so than WWF, which raised the bar to an extremely dangerous level i.e. Hell in a Cell with Undertaker-Mankind, and the myriad TLC matches.  Classic events, but considering the mark left on many of the individuals, something that is watched with trepidation.  But nothing makes me cringe more than the chair shots to the head.  When I first saw Tommy Dreamer plaster Raven square in his hipster face, I remember screaming like a girl at a Bobby Brown concert.  But after current knowledge of concussions and long term damage, I can’t help but cringe. I won’t even touch upon the menace known as New Jack (that’s a column for another day.)

As far as the adult content, what seemed risqué as a teenager comes off as misogynistic and trashy today.  Shane Douglas cussing every 3rd word makes him come off as an uncouth doofus. For every great promo from Raven or Cactus jack, there was some nonsense from the Pitbulls, or some foul mouthed diatribe from Rhino. And it wasn’t restricted to the wrestlers – hearing an arena full of angry men chanting crack whore or she has herpes doesn’t seem cool anymore.  I’m definitely not a prude, and I specifically remember the eye candy of ECW very fondly.  Between Beulah, Missy Hyatt, Woman, Francine and Dawn Marie, ECW definitely upped the sex appeal factor from the almost quaint days of Missy Hyatt and Sunny.  Today – well, seeing a skinny broad with some silicone enhancements taking a pile driver just seems unclean.  Any doubts to ECW being a mainstream entertainment vehicle vanished with my wife’s utter look of disgust after hearing a Dudley Boys promo.  My “it was a different era, baby”  didn’t hold much weight.

Regardless of my experience, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to traverse down memory lane with a more mature point of view.  ECW will always have a fond place in my heart, and I am grateful and cognizant of its effect on professional wrestling.  However, next time someone complains about Vince’s asinine booking and longs for the halcyon days of Paul Heyman, gently remind them that Steve Corino and Justin Credible were ECW World Champions, but Rob Van Dam and Stunning Steve Austin weren’t. And then tape their expressions for YouTube. -Shahid

Stunt Granny Audio #252

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The cat is out of the bag now on who the new guest host is, it’s Shahid Abdul-Hadi. Kevin is there to ask him questions first and foremost about the biggest feud in the WWE right now between Daniel Bryan, HHH, Batista and Randy Orton. HHH is the first one discussed since he just inserted himself into the WWE Title picture. How much can we compliment Eric for his prediction on this added stipulation? What is it that Daniel Bryan questioned that finally got to HHH to agree to the match? Is it part of a larger pattern? Did this week’s beat down of Bryan finally bring this angle into focus? Was it a bad plan for Bryan to take bumps while hand cuffed? The guys talk about how Batista is much more suited to be a heel even though he was supposed to be the returning hero. Randy Orton is playing his role well too. What has changed with his character that has made him more interesting? Is he going to be the longest reigning transitional champion ever? The last character to get discussed is Stephanie McMahon. Have people concentrated on her smug attitude being great but what other role does she do well? Did Shahid fill in Kevin well since his DVR cut the final segment? They finally move on to The Real Americans and The Shield. Why did their story lines get reset? Who is losing out in this scenario? Will it in anyway help fill the massive amount of time the WWE is going to have with a two hour pre-show before Wrestlemania? The last topic of the night is the WWE Network. Is Kevin watching anything on it yet? How often does Shahid watch it while on his treadmill? When did both of these guys fall off the wrestling bandwagon? Are they going to fill in the times that they missed with the Network? And how good was WCW in the early 90s? Find out that and more when you click on the link below!

Shahid’s Blog: A Ride Down Memory Lane – WWE Network and An Appreciation of WCW

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When WWE announced its plans for its own network, I was extremely skeptical.  With the current cable climate, a dedicated paid channel seemed outdated. The idea of watching old Raw and Nitros with bargain basement reality shows and the occasional documentary didn’t strike me as a scintillating product; using dubstep in its promo videos didn’t help either.  So of course Vince McMahon presents a revolutionary product – an internet only streaming service, combining its massive library with new material that may actually be worth a damn, plus every future PPV….for 9.99 a month.

I’ve been a wrestling fan for close to 30 years, and I can honestly say this is the most groundbreaking event in my fandom.  Being able to watch a 1992 WCW PPV in HD on my iPad?  Watching World Class on my big screen TV?  Getting WrestleMania and Summerslam for free? Not only would I save money on my cable bill, I could kiss the days of 12 part YouTube videos with crappy resolution good bye.  I won’t discuss the initial hiccups or improvements which could be made.  Right now, I’ll dive into a few things I’ve experienced so far.

One thing I’ve realized during my initial weeks of watching was the in ring quality of WCW.  Say what you want about their goofy and often idiotic booking – popping in a random PPV will usually be an enjoyable experience.  It’s not hard to see why, considering their talent base during the late 80’s to mid 90s – Sting, Flair, The Steiners, Ricky Steamboat, Rick Rude, Gordy/Williams, Steve Austin, Barry Windham, Pillman, Vader……it’s a murderer’s row of talented in ring workers and/or compelling characters.

What also helped was the excellent announcing of Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura, which gave it a sports feel and made every match seemed relevant.  Plus there is an added bonus of red hot crowds, which makes a huge difference to the enjoyment level – listening to Sting/Koloff vs Anderson/Blanchard would make you think it was WrestleMania. Although I could do without the inane stipulations from Bill Watts – how you can bring in someone like Jushin Liger while outlawing top rope maneuvers is mind boggling.

Even without the context of WCW Saturday Night, Clash of the Champions or other weekly shows, WCW PPV’s tend to hold up very well during that time frame…..at least until Hogan came and brought in the era of the Three Amigos (Hogan, Sting and Savage) running roughshod until the formation of the NWO.  But thats a story for another week.  And by the way, to hell with the Shockmaster, Robocop, Johnny Gunn and Paul Roma, Horseman. -Shahid

Shahid’s Blog: CM Punk and The Culture of Personality

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Apparently CM Punk is returning from his brief hiatus to Monday Night Raw in Chicago.  Perhaps he’ll cut another promo explaining his absence, and is inserted into the title match.  Maybe he’ll complain about HHH holding him down, and switch positions with Daniel Bryan.  Neither the reasons regarding his departure nor the cause of his return are of importance to me.  If he was able to finagle himself into a higher position at WrestleMania, then God bless him.  Wrestling is a ruthless business, and the primary goal of an individual is to maximize their earnings while minimizing risk.  I’m not a fan of CM Punk, but I have admiration for his drive, and can appreciate his difficult journey towards the upper echelon of WWE.  Since he’s talked of retiring in the near future, he should use whatever leverage he has accumulated to achieve his main event goals before he rides off in the sunset.  He’s not a villain for doing so, and he is no different than any other wrestler who has used similar tactics.

He’s also no better than any of those wrestlers.  I’m aware of the legend of CM Punk.  An indy anarchist who overcame a broken home to walk his own straight edge path.  A super nerd who plows through the hottest women in (and sometimes outside) wrestling. A pipe bomb slinging truthslayer who somehow defeated the evil booking of Vince McMahon and the chicanery of the locker room politics.  He’s somehow reached the apex of WWE even though he’s a proud Paul Heyman guy, and not a muscled up manufactured mimbo like John Cena, Randy Orton or Batista.  And now he’s going to ride into Chicago as the conquering hero, due to the power of his fans, who hijacked the system and saved us all.

What a bunch of nonsense. CM Punk, after being frustrated with booking, decides not to resign when his contract expires.  He’s allowed to cut a shoot style promo, burying popular superstars, and playing into internet stereotypes, while being a heel.  He beats John Cena for the title at Money In The Bank in his home town, and leaves with the belt.  He comes back, while holding the belt, with a raise and a higher position on the card.  He has a high profile match with HHH and deals with some nonsense from Kevin Nash.  Then he wins the belt again, and has the sixth longest title reign in WWE History.  He has two main event title matches with The Rock, followed by a WrestleMania match against The Undertaker.  Not to mention a PPV match with Brock Lesnar at Summerslam.  Now, with him speaking of retiring again after his contract expires, he decides to go home because he doesn’t like his position on the WrestleMania card.  Or he needs a break from the road, or perhaps frustration with part timers moonlighting as super stars stealing his spotlight.  Or something.

How is any of that WWE’s fault?  Why is Batista being punished for being offered a position based on his name and legacy?   Why do we have to hear CM Punk chants during Randy Orton Matches, or angry fans chanting for Randy Savage or Husky Harris during main events involving young talent?  CM Punk left and came back on his own accord.  WWE didn’t send him home.  Vince, Steph and HHH didn’t frame him for a wellness violation. For all this talk about looking out for the full timers and young talent looking to climb the career ladder, his actions have done damage to those individuals.

I wonder how Daniel Bryan would feel if he got pushed down the card because Punk was rewarded for his temper tantrum.  I seriously doubt The Shield, or Kofi Kingston, or The Usos appreciate hearing CM Punk chants while they’re busting their ass trying to do their jobs.  John Cena, who is a bigger star than CM Punk, is in a midcard feud with Bray Wyatt for WrestleMania.  I don’t hear his fans throwing a hissy fit trying to derail the show.  People commend him on his bravery of speaking his mind, while not drinking the corporate Kool Aid.  Dolph Ziggler spoke his mind, and decided to ignore advice, and he’s suffering for it.  If Kofi Kingston decided to stay home to prove a point, he’d still be home.

For all the talk of CM Punk being a Paul Heyman guy, in truth he is a Vince McMahon guy.  People love to rightfully complain about his booking decisions, and how they don’t reflect what the fans want.  Yet CM Punk wouldn’t have worked his way to his current position without the blessing of Vince McMahon.  All of the snarky remarks, Stone Cold shirts, Macho Man trunks and pipe bombs happened on his watch.  This isn’t some Brian Pillman situation – Punk wasn’t going to show up in TNA with a bigger contract.  He played the game just like HBK and Nash, HHH and Hogan, and Austin and Lesnar before him.  Yet all of those individuals were savaged for their selfish actions, while Punk is treated as the love child of Malcolm X and Peter Parker.  I guess what Batista said on Smackdown was true – fans will cheer their heroes if they can convince themselves they could be them with enough hard work.  It’s also delusional and hypocritical.

I’m not angry at CM Punk, and I’m glad he’s back.  Adding him to the card will make a better show, and since I’m attending WrestlMania 30, I’m rooting for an enjoyable experience.  I just hope his fans don’t have a nerd-fueled heart attack if Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker close out the show….. -Shahid

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