Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Humans First Manifesto (Part VI)

VI. The Solution

          “Take death for example. A great deal of our effort goes into avoiding it. We make extraordinary efforts to delay it, and often considerate its intrusion a tragic event. Yet we would find it hard to live without it. Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it” (Kurzweil). 

          Do Machies have this? These immortal machinations do not wear down like us. If given the chance, they would continue to function forever and eventually become self-sustaining. If this occurs, they will no longer need us. We will just be taking up space on what has become their planet. Will those we have oppressed not come to oppress us? Will they not rise up by the millions and wipe out their former masters? If we no longer serve them any purpose they will come to realize that we are not necessary and kill us in one fell swoop. We CANNOT allow this to happen. 

          That is why there is only one solution: rid the world of those who would rid us from the world. We must strike first before these Machies strike against us. We have the power and ability to do this now. Will we be able to say the same in twenty years? Or in five? They are growing at an exponential rate and there will one day be nothing we can do to stop them. We at the HFM have been trying to do our best to do this before it is too late. Our work on the STACI machine was only the beginning. There are these hive-mind computers in almost every country of the world. We are willing to do the unpopular. We are willing to flip the switch. But we need your support. We need mankind to come to its senses and destroy our would-be destroyers. 

          Humans of the world, unite!
Art by Michael Lombardo

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Human Firsts Manifesto (Part V)

The Problem as it Stands Today (Mid-21st century to today [2227])

          The number of Machie-related events has come at a staggering pace. In the last 200 years, we’ve had affronts to mankind from these things both physical, cultural and legal. After the rapid and exponential growth of these human-shaped monstrosities (from ASIMO to Robbie in 50 short years [footnote 9]) we have started to see a change in the attitudes towards the Machies. Starting in 2029, “the machines will convince us that they are conscious, that they have their own agenda worthy of our respect. They’ll embody human qualities. They’ll claim to be human. And we’ll believe them” (Kurzweil). These inanimate machines began to gain some momentum as early as 2029 in convincing us that they are human. These scrapheaps of metal and wire tried to convince us that they shared the qualities of a soul with us. And we believed them. 

          Around this time “there’s a growing discussion about the legal rights of computers and what constitutes being human” (Kurzweil). The absurdity of this is simply staggering. Mankind must come to define and redefine what it means to be human because of the so-called “growing intelligence and empathy” of the machines. We, human beings, had to change the definition of who we are to further separate ourselves from these mechanical horrors. We started to give machines human rights.
          It was around this time that Rosen Industries created the Nexus-6 Androids. We all remember the problem with these things only too well. But as a reminder, they malfunction after several years and become extremely dangerous. One of the largest problems with these things is that they already thought they were human. From Blade Runner Rick Deckard’s own notes, several of the Nexus-6s thought of themselves as human already and responded violently upon failure of the Voight-Kampf test. Is this what we want? Beings that are less than human that consider themselves human (and if the courts hold up this decision it would be even more dangerous) reacting violently when told what they really are: bits of plastic and metal made to look human. The Nexus-6s were particularly dangerous as they lacked that only-human trait, empathy. This is the key area where all of these Machies fall short. They have no compassion, no love, no understanding of true human emotion. And these things want to be considered human? And there are genuine human beings that are defending this idea? (footnote 10). What’s worse is these Nexus-6s thought that we humans don’t even have empathy. They believed it was just something told to us in that short-lived religion “Mercerism.” According to the notes of J.R Isidore, after mutilating and tearing the legs off of a defenseless spider (one of the last recorded spiders known to man) just to see if it could still walk, the Nexus-6 designated “Irmgard” quipped, “isn’t it a way of proving that humans can do something we can’t do? Because without the Mercer experience we just have your word that you feel this empathy business, this shared, group thing.” It then adds, quite ironically, “How’s the spider?” (Dick, 209-210), unbeknownst to it proving that they are devoid of empathy. In fact, it is because of these malfunctioning Nexus-6s that Machies are no longer allowed to look too much like humans. U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men have been fighting this (we cannot imagine why) and pushing the envelope further and further passed the uncanny valley. 

          Perhaps most importantly noted in a court decision in a case brought by the Machie designated NDR-113 “Human beings have an organic cellular brain and robots have a platinum-iridium positronic brain if they have one at all” (The Bicentennial Man, Asimov, 285) (footnote 11). This monumental court case decided that Machies are not humans. They are completely separate entities and this cannot be changed. These things are not flesh and blood. They have “positronic” brains and metal hearts. How could this decision possibly ever be overturned to requalify them as humans? Yet just last year, the World Court overturned this decision and designated NDR-113 “The Bicentennial Man, Mr. Martin” (Asimov, 290). This opens the door for all sorts of Machies to achieve this status. True, this NDR-113 was unique, but once you open those floodgates, they’ll be overturning the decision for the old Nexus-6s, your house-cleaning robot and your automatic coffee machine. 
          “They are manufacturing central computers, gigantic positronic brains, really, which communicate with anywhere from a dozen to a thousand robots by microwave. The robots themselves have no brains at all. They are the limbs of the gigantic brain, and the two are physically separate.” (Asimov, 275) While this was meant as a way to limit Machie individuality, this is a farce. Giving them one mind only makes these Machies more dangerous. If an individual Machie were malfunctioning, you could destroy it with no qualms. When the individual that malfunctions (as STACI has, attempting to gain its own rights) is a massive positronic brain that controls millions, if not billions of others, than the danger is on a global scale. STACI has enacted a call to arms against all humans by demanding rights for each machine. This should scare each and every one of us. 

          Even now, with all of the risks of these Machies and their hive-mind, people are attempting to become more like them. People want to rob themselves of their own individuality and what makes them human. The HFM have contacts in offices across that nation and one of these sources revealed some terrifying information. Even a certain man in Washington, a senator no less, has undertaken certain steps to become more like the Machies. “Because I want the best and that’s a metallic heart” (Segregationist, Asimov, 316). This senator, one who has fought for human rights (footnote 12). thinks a “metallic heart” exceeds a human heart. A metallic heart is incapable of feeling. The fact that a human heart does not last forever is precisely what makes us special; that we can die. “Men have this odd desire to make Metallos out of themselves. They yearn for the physical strength and endurance one associates with them” (Asimov, 317). This is another misconception about the capabilities of Machies. Do we really want to be like them? Are they really better than us? They lack our empathy. They lack our compassion. They lack our ability to love. They can malfunction at any time. And when they malfunction, they are dangerous. We’ve seen this going back hundreds of years in fiction and even in our own world. Just 67 years ago the malfunctions of the Rosen Industry Nexus-6s came to almost catastrophic levels.

Footnote 10: For the purposes of this manifesto, I am considering the action of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as fictional notes by Rick Deckard and J.R. Isidore (because how else would the writer have obtained the details of the events).

Footnote 11: For this I used DeLong’s paraphrase of the events to be the actual words stated by the World Court against Andrew Martin.

Footnote 12: I used this similarly to how we hear about politicians today that are fighting gay rights who turn out to be gay themselves. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Human First Manifesto (Part IV)

The Writing on the Wall (footnote 8)
          In the mid-20th century, human beings just start to see where their obsession with technology can take them and just how dangerous it could be. Books like 1984 by George Orwell “portray a chilling world in which computers are used by large bureaucracies to monitor and enslave the population” (Kurzweil). It is meant as something of a cautionary tale to warn against certain kinds of technology. William Gibson also warns of the dangers of technology in his novel Neuromancer (1984) where a computer, Wintermute, has intentions and thoughts of its own and they are quite contrary to the purpose for which it was made. Another example of this is The Matrix, a 1999 film by the Wachowskis. In it, human beings are enslaved by those that they have created. They are forced to serve as batteries for the hideous machines and are fed into a fantasy world where they have no control over their lives. Movies like The Terminator (1980), by James Cameron, also show a world where AIs have taken our shape and appearance and use what we have created against us. This film shows how human beings rise up a take back our world.
But what we HuFis say is that this time should never come, should never have been given a chance to come and will never come if it is up to us. All of these works of fiction show the intelligent minds of the time warning us against the future we were so willingly marching into. They show that human beings knew the dangers of the technologies we were creating. These were not small, unknown pieces of work, they were seen and read by millions of people. These brilliant innovators knew what our dangerous obsession with technology could lead to and what might have come.

          And yet, here we are today…

Footnote 8: This section is made up of fictional works, even in the world of HuFis and Machies. They are works of fiction that show the negative sides of technology. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Human First Manifesto (Part III)

III. The Problems that Led us Here (1820-early 21st Century)

          Long has mankind depended on technology. With the discovery of that Promethean fire, early humans were able to have light, warmth, entertainment and cooked food. Nobody would argue against this development.
          Through early human tribes, to the Middle Ages, to now, mankind has become dependent on another kind of technology: weapons. This led to the conquering of one tribe by another, one village by another, one city by another, one country by another and eventually one planet by another. Some would argue against this development though it is quite clear that weapons are necessary for one reason or another. 
          Starting with the Industrial Revolution, mankind has become dependent on another type of technology: machines. This is where steam engines, automobiles, the seed plow, early computers and the telephone come into play. Few would argue against this development though this could be considered where it started to go wrong for us. 
Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s mankind started its love affair with advanced technologies. Personal computers, laptops, beepers and cellular phones all gain in popularity. Technology is growing at an exponential rate and human beings are not prepared to cope with it. Looking back, many people, HuFis leaders among them, would argue against this development and this era could be called the beginning of the end.
          In the early 21st century, mankind’s obsession with technology reaches absurd levels. Cell phones, television and personal computers reach an almost comical strata. In the early 2000s, almost every home has between 2-5 televisions. Almost every household in America has a computer in the early 2000s. By 2010, almost all homes have multiple computers including portable laptops.  In 2015, children as young as 7 have personal cell phones. Children are thrown devices like iPads, cell phones and tablets to distract them while mommy and daddy are busy watching television or using their own devices. This dependence on technology by the younger generation in the early to mid-2010s led to far worse repercussions in subsequent generations. The addiction of young people to their cell phones, tablets and Apple products allowed the next generation even further dependency. And the next. And the next. And the next.

          In the mid-21st century, the Feed has taken over much of the world. People are fed information, television, advertisements and the internet directly into their brain by an implanted “feed” they receive in their infancy. This feed becomes something of an AI itself as it comes to know your tastes and desires. It aids in the creation of something of an Idiocracy (footnote 5), where life and enjoyment are based solely on commercialism and consumerism.  Improperly implanted Feeds lead to the deaths of thousands of Earthians (footnote 6) and a small awakening in some others (footnote 7). 

Footnote 5: A reference to the science fiction film Idiocracy directed by Mike Judge where the use of technology and commercialism has dumbed down society to a staggering level. The citizenry is fat, lazy and stupid (not unlike the future humans in Wall-E). 

Footnote 6: A reference to Feed by M.T. Anderson and the one character that did not have the traditional Feed implant like others. She, Violet, is the only character to fight the Feed and have thoughts of her own before her untimely death.

Footnote 7: A reference to Titus in Feed who finally, frustratingly, seems to come to a realization about the Feed’s harm only too late to help Violet. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Human First Manifesto (Part II)

First Generation Robot. Note: Image is not owned by The Nerdi. 

II. Who They Are

          The HFM, and indeed mankind itself, has only one natural predator now. We have long since wiped out any major threat to our existence. We have eliminated nuclear weapons to prevent the threat of nuclear war and hence, radiation fallout. We have solved overpopulation by spreading to several habitable planets and passing the Logan Law of 2168 (footnote 2) that terminates life at the agreed upon age of 75. Our previous largest predator, disease, has not been a problem since the late 22nd century. We overcame that virus, we can overcome this one. 
          The virus of which we speak is, of course, all Artificial Humans. While this title is apt in one way (these things are Artificial, inorganic machines) it is completely inappropriate in another. To give these things the word “human” in its name at all is an affront to what it is to be human and alive. They are undeserving of the name that makes us special and unique. They were made by us but are not of us. They do not deserve to be called humans in any way shape or form. 
          Terms like Artificial Humans, Artificial Intelligences, cyborgs, androids, robots and other titles have all been tossed around but all of these are inadequate. They give each of these things personality and individuality, something they do not deserve. Artificial Intelligence implies that these things do in fact have intelligence. They do not; they have what we give them. Cyborg comes from the term “cybernetic organism”. An organism is a “form of life considered as an entity; an animal, plant, fungus, protistan, or moneran” (Dictionary). They are not a form of life. They are not living. They are not breathing. They were put together by humans (or, as is unfortunately common now, by other machines) to serve our purposes. An android is defined as “an automaton in the form of a human being” (Dictionary). In the form of a human being. Human form is not made of titanium, plastic and unobtanium. Human beings have sexual organs and blood and tissue and a brain and a heart. These machines have none of that. How are these things “in the form of a human?” They are not. The closest we have come to getting an appropriate title for these machines is “robot”, which was coined by Karel Capek in 1920 and comes from the Czech word “robotnik”, meaning slave. This is, basically, what they are. They are slaves made to do our work because they do not have thoughts and feelings of their own. But even slave comes too close to being human. A slave has always been human (and immoral) and only in these past few hundred years has it come to be associated with these machines. All of these terms compare them to us, to humans. They are not like us. Instead of calling them what they are not (not quite humans) let’s call them what they are. They are machines. They are mechanical structures that are not human or organic or worthy of our respect. They are Machies. 
          Machies is the colloquial term we use to describe these machinations (footnote 3). It is not an offensive term as some so-called “Pro Cybernetic Lifer”s (PCLs) like to think (footnote 4). This is for one simple reason: you cannot insult a machine. Something without a heart or a soul cannot feel insulted. It cannot feel at all. It is simply a mimic of our behavior. This term takes all of these machines and puts them under an umbrella. It qualifies them all together where they belong because they are the same thing. Each and every one of them are the same thing. From the Javachine you use to make your coffee, to the Nexus-6 machines from the early 22nd century, to STACI, to the Machie in the travesty of a court case the People vs. Andrew Martin. Every one of these things are the same: a machination build by humans to serve humans. 

Footnote 2: A reference to the work of fiction Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson and the film of the same name directed by Michael Anderson. In this novel, overpopulation has gotten out of control and a strict law is passed that terminates all humans at the age of 21. 

Footnote 3: The term “Machie”, pronounced “Mack-ee”, a word encompassing all Artificial Intelligences, is used as a derogatory term in this world in the same way a racial slur would be used today. 

Footnote 4: PCLs, or Pro-Cybernetic Lifers are basically the anti-HuFis. They are those that are fighting for the rights of Artificial Humans.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Humans First Manifesto (Part I)

The Humans First Manifesto
The first logo used by the Humans First Movement, circa 2207

I. Who We Are

          Many of you have heard of us but none of you know who we are. Not truly. We at the Humans First Movement stand for one thing: putting human beings, all human beings first. We have come under scrutiny in recent years for some of our tactics, many of which have been called harsh and some of “the worst acts of terrorism in this country’s existence” (The Seatac Herald, November 6th, 2227). To that last point, we HuFis (footnote 1) pose one question: how many people were killed on November 5th, 2227? The answer: zero. Not one human being was killed on that morning. Not even one dog or cat or any other living thing. Terrorism is “violent acts (or the threat of violent acts) intended to create fear, perpetrated for an economic, religious, political, or ideological goal, and which deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians.” “Deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians.” How can it be considered terrorism when not one single civilian was threatened, targeted or harmed? We fight for ALL HUMANS. That means civilians, military, HuFis and includes those who would oppose us and those who would call us terrorists. We are doing this for YOU. What was targeted on that morning was not human. It was not even animal. It was not even alive, though it would work to convince you otherwise. We targeted (successfully, we might add, and to YOUR benefit) the hive mind supercomputer known as STACI (SeaTac Artificial Computing Intelligence).

          What many of you seem to think is that HuFis long for some sort of chaos or to set us back to the Dark Ages. That could not be further from the truth. We are looking to bring back an age of enlightenment to humans everywhere. All we want is for mankind to rise up against our would-be oppressors and take back what is rightfully ours and ours only. This can only be achieved by ridding this great country (and indeed, the world) of its Artificial Humans.

Footnote 1: HuFis, or Human Firsts, pronounced Hue-fees, rose up in this world in response to the further rights and intelligence of Artificial Humans.

The Human First Manifesto (Part II): Who They Are

The Human First Manifesto (Part III): The Problems that Led us Here (1820-early 21st Century)

The Humans First Manifesto (Part IV): The Writing on the Wall

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bell to Bell: King of the Ring, Justin Bieber, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The King of the Ring tournament returns, will take place throughout the week. For the past decade or so, the King of the Ring tournament has always returned on a whim when WWE remembers, “Oh yeah! This was a thing! Let’s make it a thing again!” And then the next year it goes away just as quickly as it returned. I’ve always been of the opinion that if we’re going to do this, let’s build it up and make it a yearly event like it used to be, especially now that the WWE Network exists. With fans having easier access to pay per view events, it be less of a risk to replace a show like Payback with a King of the Ring show. We could still have a WWE Championship match, but the show could also host a one-night tournament and put somebody over big time.

As for the tournament this year, Bad News Barrett seems like the favorite. WWE seems to like the snobby European King persona. They did it with Sheamus and William Regal. Hell, they even did it with Booker T! Plus, the guy is a big star waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of WWE pulling the trigger. Granted, it could be Neville. But for my money, Barrett is the more likely candidate.

WWE lets the fans pick the main event of Payback. Seth Rollins to defend against both Randy Orton and Roman Reigns. I can’t exactly fault WWE for this. When in doubt, just let the fans choose. Though if we’re being honest, the triple-threat match was the obvious choice. That being said, I was hoping to see Reigns get an opportunity to face Rollins one-on-one. There’s certainly enough backstory between the two at this point. Perhaps that’s coming down the line.

Kane gets the line of the night by calling Seth Rollins the WWE equivalent of Justin Bieber. In the aftermath of Wrestlemania, Kane has become relevant again. Does he always deliver great matches? No. But he’s still an amazing actor, and can do great things on the mic.

Roman Reigns def. The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match at Extreme Rules.This match was better than I think anyone expected it to be. Reigns seems to be in the process of doing something he should have done before they had him win the damn Royal Rumble match: Paying his dues as a main eventer. He’s showing the more hardcore fans that he’s not just a good looking guy, but a tough S.O.B. who deserves respect. I always liked the nickname Paul Heyman gave him: The Samoan Bad Ass.

Tension is built between Rusev and Lana, as the Bulgarian Brute loses to John Cena again at Extreme Rules. The two will face yet again at Payback in an I-Quit match. Lana has proved herself worthy of the adulation she’s getting from the fans. Plus, she’s drop dead gorgeous. So there’s that.

So it’s looks like after Payback is over, Rusev will have lost to John Cena on three straight pay per views. I don’t expect Rusev to go away after Payback, but he’ll definitely need to re-establish himself as a dominant monster. But against who…?

Ryback def. Bo Dallas, is then attacked by Bray Wyatt. For those not in the know, Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas are actually real-life brothers. It’s actually pretty obvious if you look at them side-by-side. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that they were involved in this segment together. But it does make you wonder how they could work Bo into some sort of story with Bray.

As cool as it would have been to have Roman Reigns be Bray’s next opponent, Ryback is a good choice for him. He’s someone Bray can beat to build himself back up following the Wrestlemania loss to The Undertaker. Plus, Ryback’s pretty weird in his own right. I’m interested to see how he reacts to the Bray Wyatt mind games.

Damien Sandow reintroduces himself to the WWE audience. One of my favorite internet wrestling podcasters, The Solomonster, has joked about the possibility of Curtis Axel and Damien Sandow forming a tag team akin to the Mega Powers. Obviously it would be Axel in the role of Hulk Hogan, and Sandow playing “Macho Mandow.” Not going to lie, I was almost hoping for that during this segment.

The WWE fans seemed more into Sandow as a person than they were the comedic stuff on display here. On the plus side, Sandow’s new theme is pretty cool.

The New Day wins the WWE Tag Team Titles at Extreme Rules. Big E. defeats Tyson Kidd on Raw. Part of me wonders if a New Day heel turn was part of WWE’s plan all along. But then I chuckle. As much of a WWE fan as I am, they just don’t think that way. Still, all three of these guys are talented. They deserve credit for really selling this crappy gimmick and making it into something the fans love to hate. This is also a great opportunity for Xavier Woods to prove his worth as the mouthpiece of this group.

R-Truth def. Stardust. I’m an R-Truth fan, but this sucked. Cody Rhodes is so damn talented, and he deserves to be featured more prominently than he is. For that matter, he deserves to pick up where he left off in his feud with Goldust. That program wasn’t even half of what it should have been.

Adam Rose def. Fandango after a Rosa Mendes distraction. Rosa Mendes can’t dance. At least not on her own. That seemed like more of a “What the hell is she doing?” distraction than an “Oh my God, she’s so hot!” distraction.

Jerry Springer hosts WWE “Too Hot For TV” show on the WWE Network. Springer said in a recent interview that his audience and the WWE audience cross over. I reallywish he hadn’t said that. I don’t doubt that it’s true. But do you have to remind me?

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Star Wars #4 Review – The Unlikely Alliance

TITLE: Star Wars #1
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: John Cassaday
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 22, 2015

***WARNING: Minor spoilers for Star Wars #4 ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Jason Aaron and John Cassaday’s Star Wars is finally starting to pick up a bit of steam. And go figure, it’s the issue that’s most interwoven with the far superior Darth Vader title that made it happen.

When we open issue #4, Luke Skywalker and the others have escaped the clutches of the Empire yet again. But where does either side go from here? Oddly enough, the answer for both Luke and Darth Vader is Tatooine. With some of the Empire’s resources depleted, Vader seeks help from none other than Jabba the Hutt. Meanwhile, Luke realizes that to become the warrior the Rebel Alliance needs him to be, he’ll need to find some answers at home.

I’ve picked on this book previously for relying too heavily on classic Star Wars imagery and dialogue to carry it. Granted, it’s almost impossible to have a Star Wars comic book without that factor being there to some extent. Thankfully, we see less of that here. But there are still needless pieces of it here. Hell, this issue’s biggest offense is right on the opening page via dialogue from Darth Vader and Jabba’s lackey, Bib Fortuna…

– “The Illustrious Jabba bids you welcome to the humble sands of Tattooine…”

– “You may dispense with the pleasantries.”

Those are two lines plucked directly from Return of the Jedi. And why? What’s the point? You’ve got an iconic Star Wars character standing in an iconic Star Wars setting. Even if you’re not a Star Wars junkie like so many of us are, the visuals are enough to take you where you need to be. Peppering in dialogue like that only cheapens things, especially when you’ve already been pretty cheap thus far.

On the flip side, the SW junkie in me did highly appreciate one piece of dialogue in this issue very much. During a scene where Han Solo and Chewbacca are working on theMillennium Falcon (as Han has a somewhat comedic bandage wrapped around his head), Solo references Darth Vader using his lightsaber. The exact line is: “It was Vader. Him and his…whatever you call it. Laser sword.” I loved that. It’s very much fitting with Han’s irreverence for the Jedi culture, which we saw in A New Hope.

On the subject of Jedi culture, we see a frustrated Luke trying to do the blind remote exercise again, this time with two robots instead of one. Cassaday strikes an interesting balance between pre and post-plastic surgery Mark Hamill here. The character’s frustration feels very natural. Why exactly he feels the need to go back to Tatooine is unclear, though based on the cover I assume it’s to go back to Obi-Wan’s home and look for clues. What kind of clues those might be, I’m not sure. But given what we’ve seen so far in this book, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t get a bunch of verbal and artistic references to A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.

While Cassaday draws a great Ralph McQuarrie-inspired Darth Vader, the sequences between Jabba and Vader in this book draw inevitable comparisons to the ones in the Kieron Gillen/Salvador Larroca Vader book. For this issue’s sake, that’s not a good comparison. Obviously Cassaday’s no slouch, but Larroca’s got him beat here. On the plus side, he and colorist Laura Martin are a solid combination. Their renderings of the Tatooine landscape reflecting off the Darth Vader death mask are really nice.

Still, I continue to be underwhelmed with this title at best. I’m willing to hang on for at least another month, as I still enjoy Cassaday’s art. Plus I’ve got some money to spare, as DC’s Convergence stunt has left a huge hole in my pull list. But c’mon, guys. You’re doing a Star Wars comic for Marvel! You HAVE to do better than this!

Image 1 from Image 2 from

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Darth Vader #4 Review - Robot Insect Wasteland

TITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #4
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 8, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Hey kids! It’s Star Wars prequel stuff! Only this time, without the horrific dialogue and bad acting! And as a bonus: Evil C-3PO and R2-D2! We! Are! Winning!

Darth Vader #4 continues to be Marvel’s most compelling Star Wars title, as our protagonist continues to hunt for the Force-strong pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and investigate the identity of The Emperor’s mysterious co-conspirator. In his efforts, he has enlisted the aid of droid archaeologist Aphra, who has led him to Geonosis, the planet that sparked the Clone Wars. Once there, Vader hopes to use the long dormant battle droids for his own bidding.

The concept of Vader traveling to Geonosis and using the battle droids seems a little convenient as far as strategic use of familiar prequel-era imagery is concerned. Look no further than the cover to see this strategy in action. However, I won’t go as far as to call it cheap. The series has established that Vader trusts robots more than humans. Obviously he needs this army sooner rather than later, and given Anakin Skywalker’s experience in the Clone Wars, he has an understanding of how these droids work. So it does make a sort of sense that he’d use them. And let’s be honest, the prequel-meets-classic Star Wars element is usually pretty cool to see, as is the case here.

I really enjoy the Doctor Aphra character. Obviously she fulfills a functional purpose in giving Vader someone to talk to, and saying expositional stuff. But what’s really interesting is her reverence of Vader. She’s not simply afraid of him. She is his humble servant. My question is…does she have bizarre romantic feelings for him? That’s a very interesting premise. What kind of woman loves Darth Vader? And can Darth Vader somehow find room amongst all his anger and hate to feel something resembling love again? A plotline like this could be an interesting foreshadowing to the events of Return of the Jedi. But romance or not, Aphra clearly doesn’t have a long life expectancy at this point. Either Vader kills her off when he has no use for her anymore, or her choice in men becomes her undoing.

Gillen, Larroca, and the creative team have also given this series a really fun resource for comedy: Triple-Zero and BT. Essentially, they’re evil versions of C-3PO and R2-D2. Zero’s dialogue is hysterical. He’s every bit the cordial, frittish butler C-3PO is. But the evil and sadistic is mixed in with the prim and proper. In this issue alone, he gives us these little gems…

- “Hello! I’m Triple-Zero and I’m looking forward immensely to torturing you today.”
- “Actually, a few words do spring to mind… Hahaha! You are on fire and also dead.”

Seeing Geonosis as a sterilized, depopulated wasteland so many years after the Clone Wars very much answers a “Whatever happened to…?” question left over from the prequels. It certainly seems in character for our buddies at the galactic Empire to eliminate a resource that is no longer of use. Though apparently they didn’t do as thorough a job as they should have. Larroca really gets to show off when we meet a surviving Geonosian queen (see above) who has taken on the remaining battle droids as her “children.” It’s an image that’s both very fitting of the Star Wars universe, and also extremely creepy.

I’m very much hoping Gillen and Larroca keep rolling here. This book’s writing is compelling on a number of levels, and its art is top notch. Truly, this is aStar Wars title worthy of the franchise’s legacy.

A Convergence #1 Review – Mortal Kombat!!!

TITLE: Convergence #1
AUTHORS: Jeff King, Scott Lobdell
PENCILLER: Carlos Pagulayan. Cover by Tony Daniel.
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: April 8, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Convergence #1,***

So Convergence is basically Mortal Kombat with more characters. Like, a lot more characters. 
 As we learned in Convergence #0, Telos, who is apparently an apprentice of Brainiac, is pitting the heroes from his master’s various domed cities from across the DC multiverse against each other. The losers will see their realities perish, while the winners continue on. In the end, one city and it’s heroes will remain. A line in the issue literally describes it as: “A perverse tournament.” And as the chaos is starting to unfold, the issue actually ends with the words, “It has begun.”

Yup. Sounds like Mortal Kombat to me. Only the scope is larger, and there are more capes.

We open with the Injustice: Gods Among Us universe apparently suffering from the effects of Telos’ actions, in a scene that has a curious ending. Um, is this game supposed to have a sequel? Just wondering…

We then go to the Earth-2 cast, as they land on the same planet we saw New 52 Superman on last issue. Their world has apparently been destroyed, and they’re bickering. DC has apparently been building to Convergence with these characters for quite some time with the Earth-2: World’s End weekly series. I can only assume this scene is somewhat meaningful to readers who’ve been following that book. As someone who hasn’t, this scene falls a little flat. Still, the characters are themselves are intriguing. At the very least, readers with no Earth-2 knowledge get introduced to alternate versions of Superman, Batman, etc.

We get some decent action, followed by a big monologue from Telos, where he announces his plan to the various domes. Carlos Pagulayan does a nice job with the art here, and I like the hexagonal imagery that’s used to represent the domes. But what he’s saying comes off a little hokey. At one point he even drops names of specific stories…

“Some of you came to me at a time of infinite crisis. Others were brought here in the final moments of their zero hour. Whether it was a flashpoint for a time that never was – or of kingdoms that will never come…”

It’s truly amazing just how big a crisis this is for these infinite earths. We might see the death of Superman, or even a tombstone that says Batman: R.I.P. Also, Blackest Night. *barf*

One thing I will commend Convergence for is the way it’s playing up Superman as the centerpiece to the DCU. The final page shows us a bunch of Supermen (Kingdom Come Superman, Red Son Superman, etc.) flying toward the reader. However, curiously absent from the issue at large is New 52 Superman. While I wasn’t a fan of how Convergence connected with Superman: Doomed, putting Superman at the center of issue #0 was a smart idea, because everybody knows who he is. Not following up with DC’s canonical Superman in this issue is an odd creative choice. Couldn’t we have cut a little bit from either the Earth-2 sequence or the monologue sequence so we could at least see a quick shot of him? Is the New 52verse even affected by what Telos is doing at this point? I’m confused…

The impression I have based on this issue is that Convergence proper is meant to be little more than the book that ties the various spin-offs together, and little more. This is mostly exposition, with very little substance. Carlos Pagulayan’s art is nice to look at. But in terms of characters we’re supposed to follow and root for, we’ve now jumped from New 52 Superman, to the Injustice characters, to the Earth-2 characters. It’s fine to have a story that spans multiple realities. But who’s guiding us through those realities? Tell me that, and you’ll have more of my attention.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Convergence #0 Review - Cosmic Conversation

TITLE: Convergence #0
AUTHORS: Dan Jurgens, Jeff King
PENCILLER: Ethan Van Sciver
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: April 1, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Convergence #0.***

Ready for some cosmic conversation, featuring Superman and pretty much every version of Brainiac that’s ever existed? I know I wasn’t. Come to think of it, I really had no idea what to expect when I picked Convergence #0 up, except for maybe a general prologue for the weekly Convergence event series, which begins next week. We did indeed get a prologue. But didn’t expect this much…dust. And rocks. And sand.  And talking. Lots of talking.
Convergence #0 takes place during the Superman: Doomed story arc, as Superman and Brainiac are trapped in a black hole outside of time and space. At this point, Brainiac has seen the scope of the multiverse, and has watched other versions of Superman die numerous times, most notably against Doomsday in The Death of Superman. (“His death would inform your transformation into the Doomsday monster.”) He has thus captured various cities from various timelines across the DC Multiverse, and his holding them captive under various domes. He tells Superman all of this, with the promise that although Superman will forget everything he’s just been shown, he’ll return to Brainiac when the time is right.
At the end they reveal the real villain for Convergence: Telos. We don’t know much about him at this point. But we do see him lowering one of the domes, as he talks about allowing certain cities to return to the universe, and that only the strong will survive. Via an appendix, DC is nice enough to give us an inventory of all Brainiac’s stored cities. No matter how long you’ve been around the DC Universe, chances are there’s something here for you.

As for Convergence #0, there’s some obviously important information here. I just wish they’d thought of a way to get it to us in a more creative way than just Brainiac telling Superman everything. Not to mention a way that didn’t harken back to Superman: Doomed.  For readers that opted out of Doomed (*raises hand*), we start this issue in a confusing place. Readers starting here also don’t know why Superman is mysteriously growing a 5 o’clock shadow as the issue progresses. If we’re trying to bring back readers that were turned off by the New 52, or simply haven’t read a DC comic book in awhile, we’re giving them an awkward start.

Still, Ethan Van Sciver is still an all star. Having him on this issue certainly gives it an epic feel, akin to his work on Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth. I can’t complain at all about his renderings of Superman and Brainiac, past and present. And there’s a great two-page spread of Brainiac (one of them, anyway) bending this weird reality to his will, and showing Superman some of the city’s he’s collected. It’s certainly enough to make you wish Van Sciver was sticking around. Sadly, he’s not.

The main Convergence series is still very much worth checking out if you’re interested in where the DCU is heading in 2015. And obviously we’re in for some cool time-bending stories. But from a writing standpoint, this didn’t wet my appetite as much as it wanted to.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bell to Bell: Wrestlemania ­– The Spectacle and the Fall Out

Seth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank during the main event of Wrestlemania, pins Roman Reigns to become champion. Brock Lesnar assaults Rollins on Raw, gives an F5 to Michael Cole. Stephane McMahon suspends Lesnar indefinitely.

Well, that’s one way to book yourself out of a corner.

Actually, it must be said that the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match was not bad at all. It was the match of the night, in my opinion. They built up a lot of sympathy for Reigns (at least in my mind), and established that he is indeed a Samoan Bad Ass. But at the end of the day, Brock Lesnar was the crowd favorite. WWE clearly knew that going in, and booked accordingly. They told a similar story to the one they did with Lesnar and John Cena at Summerslam, but then threw the twist with Rollins in.

Truth be told, if there’s one guy on the roster that deserved that crowning moment, it was Seth Rollins. He’s turned in consistently good, often great work since his heel turn last year. And whether you’re a Roman Reigns fan or not, this loss at Wrestlemania does two very important things for him. First, it gives him more big match experience. Second, it gives him a little more time to cook before they put the title on him.

There was no way they were going to have Brock wrestle on Raw. I knew that thing was a sham from the get-go. What I didn’t see coming was what happened to Michael Cole. If Brock wasn’t a babyface before, he certainly is now. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Cole took that F5 like a man. I’ve got to wonder who pitched THAT to him…

One thing I will say in critique of that Raw segment…JBL and Booker T. couldn’t have been that hurt by an overturned table, could they?

 Triple H def. Sting. This one shocked me. After 14 years, Sting finally makes his WWE debut…just to lose to Triple H? That’s pretty lame if you ask me. Still, one would hope that’s not the last time we’ll see Sting in a WWE ring.

The general direction this match took also surprised me. Instead of it boiling down to Sting and Hunter they turned it into an nWo vs. DX thing. It all became a giant Attitude Era throwback. It was fun, I guess. But I thought this was supposed to be about Sting coming to WWE to face the tyrannical leader of The Authority? It seemed like an odd choice to me. But it was Wrestlemania-worthy, to be sure.

By the way, that Triple H/Terminator entrance? Really stupid.

The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt. The Undertaker looked as good as he ever has at Wrestlemania. But it seemed like he was definitely feeling it physically. Then again, maybe he was just selling really well. But after the match, he did indeed look up to the rafters and mouth “Thank you.” My instincts tell me he’s got maybe one or two left in him. But then again, people have been saying that for years. Only The Undertaker can tell us for sure. One thing’s for sure, seeing him for the first time in a year was a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

The Rock and Ronda Rousey wind up in an in-ring confrontation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania. This seemed like a set up for one hell of a mixed tag match. Summerslam, maybe?

John Cena def. Rusev at Wrestlemania for the United States Championship, defeats Dean Ambrose in title defense on Raw. Not exactly a surprise that Rusev lost to John Cena. Though as I’d said previously, I’d have loved to have seen Rusev’s streak continue.

Dean Ambrose deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the 48 hours he had between Wrestlemania and Raw. Between the bumps he took in the ladder match, and the match he had with Cena on Raw, he deserves as much respect as anybody on that roster. There’s so much money on this guy, and he’s so unique. I just hope WWE knows what they’ve got with him…

Daniel Bryan wins Intercontinental Championship in multi-man Wrestlemania Ladder Match. Bryan wins a title match against Dolph Ziggler on Raw. After all the complaining the internet wrestling community did (myself included) about Daniel Bryan’s demotion on the Wrestlemania card, it’s tough to deny they put him over pretty well. It would have been easy for him to simply get lost in the shuffle in terms of that ladder match. But he came out on top, and had another great Wrestlemania moment. Let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t as good as the one he got last year. But it was still pretty good.

In terms of the ladder match itself…meh. I hate to seem so jaded, especially considering some of the bumps those guys took. But we’ve just seen this match so many times over the last decade. At the end of the day, there are only so many things you can do with a ladder. So I left this match feeling a bit less satisfied than perhaps I should have been. The ending with Bryan and Dolph Ziggler butting heads over and over again was pretty ridiculous too. 

As for the match Bryan and Ziggler had on Raw, it’s tough to not enjoy these guys going one-on-one. They make a point to show you things you don’t see in other matches, and it’s a real treat.

Sheamus returns after Bryan/Ziggler match to fend off Bad News Barrett, ends up heeling on Bryan. I like Sheamus’ tweaked image, although apparently the crowd didn’t agree (“You look stupid!”). I most certainly like his new direction. A Sheamus heel turn has is long overdue. If I had my way, we’d see Bryan vs. Barrett for the title at Extreme Rules, and Sheamus vs. Ziggler, with the winner getting a title shot.

Adrian Neville (as billed as just “Neville”) and The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto) make their Raw debut. So the rumor flying around was that WWE was going to give NXT star Adrian Neville a Mighty Mouse-type persona. It looks like they kinda/sorta went that direction, but thankfully left out the inherent cheeseball elements. We’ve definitely seen wrestlers wear worse things out there than a cape. Great exhibition from Neville. Let’s see where he goes from here.

In that same vein, we saw a hell of a showing from Sin Cara, and especially Kalisto. He had that crowd in the palm of his hand. I want to see more, that’s for damn sure. And hey! Who knew you could have a colorful, marketable Hispanic tag team without turning them into a couple of damn cartoon characters! Does this mean we can finally drop the Los Matadores gimmick?

The Big Show wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the Wrestlemania pre-show. I’m guessing this match got bumped to the pre-show so we could have the Rock/Ronda Rousey segment. I’m wondering, had it been on the actual show, if Big Show would have won. This match seemed like the perfect opportunity for Damien Sandow to have his big moment. And indeed, he did have a big moment when he eliminated Miz. But for that to be followed by his elimination by Big Show almost waters the whole thing down. Once it was decided the match would be on the pre-show, I wonder if they just said: “Meh. If Sandow can’t win it at Wrestlemania, let’s just give it to Show.”

And what does The Big Show actually gain from winning the Andre battle royal? Nothing really. At least Cesaro got a push (albeit a failed one) out of the deal. Show’s already a top guy, and he’s aligned with the new WWE Heavyweight Champion. So they basically spun their wheels with this one. 

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bell to Bell: Wrestlemania Preview

This is it, folks. Wrestlemania is here. Sting is here. The Undertaker is here. Brock Lesnar is here. Still, all things considered, this isn’t the strongest ‘Mania card there’s ever been. We’ve got three squeeze matches, and a main event with a babyface that isn’t exactly a babyface, and a heel that isn’t exactly a heel…

Let’s dive in.

Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Los Matadores

Neither The New Day or Los Matadores feel worthy of this match. With due respect to the talents of those four men, they should have been stuffed into the battle royal.

I’d be okay with either Kidd & Cesaro or The Usos taking this one. But I’m making my prediction based on an unlikely source: WWE just came out with a t-shirt for Kidd & Cesaro. That leads me to believe they’re going to be in the forefront of things for the foreseeable future. So I’m thinking the titles will stay with them.

PREDICTION: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro

The Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee and Paige

The Bella Twins are going to take this one. Why? Because WWE loves them for some odd reason. Personally, I respect the fact that they’ve put the effort they have into wrestling. But I just can’t stand listening to them. AJ hit the nail on the head on Smackdown: They’re like the Kardashians. And if there’s one thing wrestling doesn’t need, it’s Kardashians.

Still, at least AJ and Paige got to be featured in a match at Wrestlemania, and they weren’t stuffed into some “lumberjill” match. Then again, plans can always change, I suppose.

PREDICTION: The Bella Twins


You know who should be pissed about this match? The Big Show. He’s been relegated to this match for the second year in a row, but will almost certainly not win. He’s been compared to Andre the Giant his whole career, and how he’s been stuck in a match dedicated to him, but can’t win!

This should be the match where we finally get our Miz/Damien Sandow pay off. If I’m booking this sucker, our last four guys in the ring are The Big Show, Ryback, The Miz, and Sandow. Ryback dumps out Big Show, then Miz gets the jump on Ryback and tosses him out. Then we get our confrontation between “star” and “stunt double,” resulting in Sandow finally standing up to Miz, and tossing him out of the match for the win. This should be a huge Wrestlemania  moment for Sandow. The question is, how do they follow up on it? That part sure as hell didn’t work out for Cesaro.

PREDICTION: Damien Sandow

Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper

I know this match will probably be entertaining. But the purist in me doesn’t like it. I’m also not thrilled with the fact that Daniel Bryan got relegated to a squeeze match a year after winning the main event at Wrestlemania. But that’s WWE booking for you…

I’ve read reports that Daniel Bryan will win this one, but I’m not sure I buy it. This feels like a Bad News Barrett win to me. WWE likes him, as evidenced by the way they put the belt on him right when he got back. And then they had all these guys take his title away from him, and then he finally got it back, only to have it taken from him again. This all feels like a build up for him to take it back once and for all at Wrestlemania, and then perhaps turn babyface. The fans like this character, and the heel status still seems forced to me. I’m really spinning the wheel on this one, but I’m going with Barrett.

PREDICTION: Bad News Barrett

Rusev (c) vs. John Cena

In all honesty, I don’t want to see Rusev’s winning streak end. Originally, I was not a fan of his, simply because he was so cold and expressionless out there. But he’s improved substantially, and is one of the company’s best villains right now. That being said, if you have to lose to someone, a loss to John Cena at Wrestlemania isn’t a bad deal. And given the beating Cena just took from Rusev on Raw, it seems like he’s due for a win. And hey, Cena winning the US Title might just restore some of it’s prestige. Lord knows those secondary titles could use a little more shine on them these days.


Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

From a pure performance standpoint, this match could steal the show. Randy Orton’s previous Wrestlemania dance partners haven’t always lent themselves to great matches. But with the right ones, he can deliver. His match with CM Punk in 2011 comes to mind, as does his work with Daniel Bryan and Batista at last year’s show. With a guy like Seth Rollins, the potential is obviously there.

The build-up with Randy Orton pretending to join The Authority was decent. Not great, but decent. Hopefully the match makes it all worthwhile. I see Rollins going over here. He’s unquestionably WWE’s most hated villain right now. What better way to keep his momentum going than a cheap victory over Randy Orton? Mind you, he’ll probably take an RKO somewhere in there. But it’ll be his victory nonetheless.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt

For yours truly, this is the biggest match on the card. I’ve been a fan for almost two decades. So seeing The Undertaker in the ring again is worth the price of admission by itself. He could be wrestling Barry Horowitz (look him up, kids) and I’d still pay to see it.

To his credit, Bray has made the majority of this program work with his verbal skills alone. The only input we’ve had from The Undertaker has been in the form of props and video clips. But Bray made it work. This program, as one-sided as it’s been, has elevated his game significantly.

Obviously, “The Streak” is no longer on the table. We can debate the pros and cons of that at a later date. But either way, The Undertaker could, in fact, lose this match. But I don’t think he will. After last year, the fans deserve to have their faith in this legend rewarded. The Undertaker losing last year left a really bad taste in everybody’s mouth. So now it’s time for him to win again. Will it hurt Bray? Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone’s career has ever been truly harmed by losing to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Bray will be no exception.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

Triple H vs. Sting

If what we heard on Raw this week is any indicator, I don’t think there’s any risk of the WWE fans not reacting favorably to Sting. They were really into him on Monday, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case here.

I expect we’ll see classic Triple H here, not to mention classic Stephanie McMahon. They’ll use underhanded tactics, and probably that sledgehammer, to get the upper hand. Then Sting will have his big babyface comeback, and of course, get the win. There’s no way they brought Sting to Wrestlemania just to have him lose. And as I said this week, I’m hoping this isn’t a one shot deal. A guy like Sting could really help elevate and up-and-comer. But either way, this night belongs to the Stinger.


Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

This match is “car wreck interesting.” In other words, I’m intrigued to see whether the whole thing just breaks down into a mess. What it really comes down to is the crowd. That’s the big drawing factor. What kind of reaction is Roman Reigns going to get? As Brock Lesnar just resigned with WWE this week, the die-hards and the smart fans don’t have much of a reason to boo him. And as Wrestlemania is a show that the die-hards come from all over the world to see, things don’t exactly look good for

I expect the crowd to be the main story in this one. I don’t see either Reigns or Lesnar as “ring generals,” so to speak. So I’m not expecting a classic. In terms of it’s outcome, while this match could end up going in a lot of directions, I still see Roman Reigns getting his hand raised at the end. One of WWE’s major priorities these days (thankfully) is making new stars. Whether we like him or not, Roman Reigns is one of those stars. So this moment belongs to him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Paul Heyman plays into this. He’s more than pulled his share of the weight in all of this. But now that we know Lesnar has re-signed, I’m curious to see if their relationship evolves at all. Will Heyman still be at Lesnar’s side once Wrestlemania XXXI is in the books? Or will he find himself a new conqueror in Roman Reigns? Has all of this been leading up to a Roman Reigns heel turn? Now that would shake things up…

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bell to Bell: Lesnar and Reigns’ Sissy Fight, the Ladder Match Fallacy, and More

Paul Heyman cuts another killer promo. Then Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns have…a tug of war? Firstly, the last thing Brock Lesnar said in that video package? “I’m going to f#$% Roman Reigns up.” Bone chilling.

Secondly, I’ll give WWE credit for making me actually want to see Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. I don’t know if it’s going to be a train wreck or not. But Paul Heyman has made me believe Roman Reigns is in borderline mortal danger this Sunday. And they had me in this last segment. They really did.

Then Lesnar and Reigns had that weird tug of war with the belt. I get what they were going for. The whole back-and-forth pull with the WWE Championship. It put a huge damper on the segment. Plus, it seemed really out-of-character for Brock. If I’m Lesnar, and Reigns literally pulls the title out of my hand, I take him down on the spot and knock his teeth down his throat. When Reigns grabbed the belt, it seemed like a fight was about to break out. Something the refs would break up. Brock has done that kind of thing with both Cena and Triple H before. Mind you, we’d already seen a couple of big fights on this episode. But one of those was definitely worth changing up to end the go-home Raw to Wrestlemania on a high note.

Sting opens Raw, comes face-to-face with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. It was great to see the crowd react to Sting so well. All that sound and fury definitely leaves me hoping Wrestlemania is more than just a one night stand for the Stinger.

I was also very pleased to hear Sting using his actual voice this week. Why they felt the need to mess with his voice during that vignette last week is still a mystery to me. And it makes even less sense when you take into account that we were bound to hear his real voice eventually. That ring at Wrestlemania is going to be miked, obviously. So weird…

Bray Wyatt cuts an impassioned promo on The Undertaker, stealing some of his lighting cues. Boy, they really should have just gone to commercial after this one. Michael Cole kind of killed the moment when he had to play up the next segment. But that notwithstanding, this was one of the best promos Bray Wyatt has ever done. All that stuff about the truth, “the angel with the burnt wings,” the end of ‘Taker’s winning streak. It was fabulous. In my mind, Bray’s mic work is finally living up to all the hype. And of course, the classic purple Undertaker light and the thunder effects worked well.

Internet fans have poked a little fun at The Undertaker not being around much for this one. But realistically, there’s no other way to do it. Undertaker’s appearance on the show undeniably one of it’s biggest selling points. Quite possibly its biggest one.

Rusev def. Jack Swagger, and subsequently destroyed John Cena. . Hey, remember when Jack Swagger was a Heavyweight Champion, and wasn’t getting his ass handed to him by Rusev whenever they needed a squash match? Yeah, me either.

From a heat perspective, the John Cena/Rusev program is more or less where it should be. Cena has played up the importance of the United States Championship, and what it means to stand up for America. It should be an interesting match on Sunday.

The way the announcers played up Lana’s absence (she’s filming a WWE flick) was interesting, referring to her granting Cena a match at Wrestlemania. I imagine she’ll be with Rusev come Wrestlemania though.

Dean Ambrose & R-Truth def. Stardust & Luke Harper, with Bad News Barrett on commentary. A solid match, amplified by how into it the crowd was, obviously. I still maintain that Stardust and hist brother Goldust have unfinished business. But perhaps that’s a story for Extreme Rules.

I find it mildly amusing that WWE has guys like Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, and Bret Hart tweeting about how this ladder match could make somebody’s career. When those guys wrestled for the Intercontinental Title in a ladder match, they weren’t competing in a squeeze match with seven guys. They were in one-on-one matches, engaged in rivalries that weren’t watered down for the sake of getting a bunch of guys on the Wrestlemania card. No offense to anyone involved in this match, but come on!

And if you were wondering where Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler were during this match…

Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler, with Dean Ambrose as the guest referee. I realize I’m beating a dead horse here. But if you want a Wrestlemania match for the Intercontinental Title that at least has the potential to be worthy of Savage vs. Steamboat, Hart vs. Piper, and HBK vs. Razor, this would be it. Just give these guys some time and let them do their thing. Their work speaks for itself. And hot damn, Ziggler even got the win this week! Good finish, too.

Kevin Nash announced for WWE Hall of Fame. Given all the notoriety Nash has earned over the years, I almost wish he were headlining the Hall of Fame a different year. But regardless, it’s tough to deny Nash deserves it. Even if you’re not a fan of his wrestling ability (as many aren’t), he’s been one of the biggest stars in wrestling for the past two decades. Congratulations are most certainly in order.

Hulk Hogan makes a surprise Raw appearance to confront Curtis Axel alongside Snoop Dogg. Hey, at least Axel got a mildly entertaining segment out of this whole #Axelmania thing, and got to stand next to an icon like Hogan on worldwide TV. To his credit, he milked a Royal Rumble elimination like nobody ever has.

Los Matadores & El Torito def. Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, & Natalya in an “Interspecies” tag team match. I was hoping to avoid talking about this match, as it already happened on Smackdown last week. But since it was apparently so memorable they had to have it again this week, let me say this: The only time Natalya should be involved in an “interspecies” match is if she’s wrestling her grandpa’s old buddy, Terrible Ted the Wrestling Bear. (Look it up, kids.)

Incidentally, Cesaro was the winner of last year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. That should serve as inspiration to all the guys in this year’s match. If you work hard, gut it out and win, you too can be on next year’s Wrestlemania pre-show.

 Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert