Friday, January 1, 2021

The Winners And Losers Of 2020

So 2020 has been a rather turbulent year of pandemics, human rights nightmares, speaking out on unimaginable horrors, and another round of politicians caring more about their own rep and numbers than the lives of their constituents. Another round of companies throwing generic statements of solidarity for the sake of lip service. Another round of people yelling and opening the doors to riots that have broken down into warzones that were once only the stuff of B-movie action schlock.

Suffice it to say, it's been one of the more trying years in recent history. We've all had our problems - some graver than others - and it would be a great pleasure in leaving this year behind.

And as I try to compile this list and fulfill an annual tradition, a realization dawns on me; this year has been the drizzling shits from top to bottom and not even the brightest spot this year could overcome the mounds of dookey that we've been saddled with. I want to spotlight some good stuff on here, but the truth is that the few bright spots are outweighed by the many, many, MANY negatives. No matter how hard I try to make this somewhat amusing for a lark to read, I honestly don't feel that positive.

So the thought occurred to simply bin it.

I had almost considered not doing this list because... are there any real bright spots in 2020 that are really worth celebrating? I'm sure Americans are happy they no longer have Trump for another four years, but... is that really going to solve anything? Is the guy going in really going to make things better? When the only reason for voting for the other guy is that he's better than Trump, is that really a good thing? Don't forget; better doesn't necessarily mean good. It may very well means less bad. And as I've said in the past, whatever happens in America afterwards is on them... but I've said more than enough and I'm digressing from the main point.

I didn't want to do this list because I don't believe 2020 deserves to be celebrated. Hell, even after compiling this admittedly rushed list, I still don't think we need to celebrate anything in 2020 and we should just bury it. And for the month of January, with the 100-post challenge - one hundred written pieces throughout the month of January before the return of reviews starting February 1st, kicking off two months worth of daily reviews - but then I realized that the Winners And Losers, the Years In Review lists are something of a historical document; a look back at things that were good, bad, and anything in between worth mentioning.

So here's the deal; I've picked out five winners for 2020 and five losers for 2020. And there's also a couple middle grounders. In a change of format, each entry (save one or two) will have some length to it and not just a quick blurb.


Picking five winners was a difficult thing, because it required five positives for a year that has been defined by the negatives.

You know, it's funny that I had considered giving Brodie Lee a mention in the next entry because the move from WWE to AEW has been a huge boost for the man formerly known as Luke Harper. A major player and presence from the moment he debuted in AEW, Brodie Lee immediately became one of my favorite guys to watch. Whether it'd be his BTE skits or his fierce presences in his matches with Jon Moxley and Cody Rhodes, I always looked forward to his stuff.

And then the news broke that Brodie Lee died due to lung issues... just ten days after celebrating his 41st birthday.

I'll parlay my thoughts on Brodie in a future post, but suffice it to say, this was a guy who had a presence in WWE, a couple title runs, and felt like he should've been a bigger deal than he was. The jump to AEW proved that he had what it took to be a major player. And now it's become a question of how far he could've gone... I suppose we'll never know and honestly, I can come up with no more fitting tribute than to make him the top entry on the Winners of 2020 list... and the headliner of this year's annual tradition.

RIP, Brodie. You'll be missed.

The story of All Elite Wrestling will be that of a young wrestling promotion with a large roster of relative unknowns overachieving and profiting during a period when crowded arenas were a thing of the past, replaced with the realities of dealing with an omnipresent pandemic. But more importantly than that, AEW has managed to produce a weekly wrestling show that happens to be the most enjoyable two hours of weekly television and it's something I look forward to each day, due to its great and varied cast of talent, catalogue of great matches, and compelling stories with compelling characters.

It has familiar names in Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley, the latter of whom carried the World title throughout the year and made it a prize to be coveted and protected rather than a participation trophy given to those who "deserve" it. The young talent are spotlighted in top matches, either scoring vital wins or looking good even in defeat. There is actually talent whose names I can recall and find interesting. The stories they tell are intriguing and the matches they have range from fun and flippy to good old-fashioned beat the shit out of each other.

AEW isn't perfect; it has warts that needs fixing and it doesn't always hit the mark with its programming, but it has developed enough good will and enough of a good standing that people are willing to forgive the warts because they know they'll get it right. That isn't something you'd expect from people; that's something you earn. And AEW has certainly earned that.

A year in and I've probably logged more hours on my Switch than anything else. And there's probably a good reason for it; it's a wonderful little system that works just as a handheld system as it does a home console. The fact that it's not quite on par power-wise with its PS4 and XboxOne contemporaries is a non-factor - I've got a PC for that kind of shit - but I've got plenty of little games for the system as well plenty of new ones on them carts.

If you want a good indicator as to how much I've enjoyed Switch... of the 60 reviews that I've posted this year, 17 of them are Switch. That's the most reviews I've done for a single system in a year's time, with only the NES edging it out with 18 reviews in 2013. To put it simply, I've probably played more Switch than anything this year. And that includes PC and Mega Man Maker, which has been slacking as of late.

This is probably stretching it, because when you sit down and watch the actual episode, it's a typical Irate Gamer offering. Some lame jokes, some copyrighted clips being used, that sort of thing. But it does feature a video where the Angry Video Game Nerd (played by James Rolfe) and the Irate Gamer (played by Chris Bores) are not only in the same video, but they're actually interacting with each other and trading barbs.

I had made a video relaying the significance of this, but to summarize, this was the feud of angry reviewing back in the day perpetuated by the fans and the thought of both sides converging had been slim. However, with this video happening and Mike Matei seemingly giving his nod of approval, the fact that this happened at all is a winner in my book. Would it lead to more? Probably not, but once is more than enough.

The fact that the death of Shad Gaspard took place this year and I had completely forgotten about it is pretty criminal. So let's rectify that now because Shad Gaspard died a hero. He and his son were caught in a wave and when authorities came to the rescue, Shad directed them to save his son first and they do so, but in the process, Shad himself was lost in the wave.

Gaspard was one-half of the tag time Cryme Tyme with partner JTG and was probably best known for their WWE run from 2006 to 2010. The duo did get back together in the indy scene and continued to have bookings until Shad's unfortunate passing. And while there are plenty of memories of their wrestling careers that I'm sure are worth highlighting, it is the memory of a father directing rescuers to save his son at the cost of his own life that was shine strongest. And for that, he bookends this list of winners of what has been a year with few positives.


Much like the Winners bracket, it was difficult to narrow the Losers list down to five entries. Although not quite as difficult...

Yeah, that's right. Topping the list of losers is everyone's favorite gimmick in WWE. The sweater-wearing Mr. Rogers knock-off dude with a sinister edge one minute and then the next, a guy in a silly mask with supernatural powers and such. I'll admit that at first, I was remotely intrigued. And then he wrestled and I hadn't watched a whole WWE PPV since then, with a couple exceptions at most.

The Fiend entered 2020 as the toy belt champ before losing it to Goldberg because WWE felt they needed a big star. Suddenly, they're doing empty arenas and they stumbled on the idea of cinematic wrestling. The Fiend can own that department! It'd be great! Except it wasn't great! The matches, when they took place in a ring, suck. The cinematic things that they'd film were really bad. At this point, the Boogeyman was a more compelling and nuanced character than the Fiend - and he was largely a joke character.

Goofy shit happens in wrestling all the time. Sometimes, it's fun and stupid. Other times, it's painfully bad and dreadful. The Fiend is the latter. He sucks. Even with marginally good booking, the gimmick is still shit. But hey, they set him on fire on the last PPV, so surely, he's gone for good and we can bring back the cult leader Bray Wyatt gimmick that was the only really good thing he's done in WWE... ah, you poor deluded fool.

Bray's already got a spot reserved for the 2021 list.

Picard had an interesting premise; dealing with the fallout of the Romulan supernova and the near-extinction of the Romulan race. Yes, this sort of thing was the setting for Star Trek Online, but here was new canon added to the lore and it was going to feature the return of Jean-Luc Picard and build towards the future of Star Trek.

Instead, we got Sir Patrick Stewart playing Walter Blunt - the dimwitted journalist who bumbles and fumbles his way into ridiculous situations - playing the role of Jean-Luc Picard, retired Starfleet admiral, who wants to solve the mystery of Data's daughters. And then we get the return of classic characters - most of whom get killed off or portrayed as sad parodies of themselves. Not to mention the lack of subtlety in terms of relating future events with the world of today and a much more prominent use of colorful metaphors.

Suffice it to say that I'm not a fan of this show. Much in the vein of what the current generation does best, it took something that was wholesome and pure and turned it into something ugly, petty, and mean-spirited. It is more of a devolution of Star Trek than anything. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick with TNG.

* There was a consideration to slap the entire output of current Trek in this entry, but I found Lower Decks to be drivel not worth the attention and the third season of Discovery has been somewhat... lacking. Ultimately, neither were as bad as Picard and so they've been spared from any mention beyond this one blurb.

I'm going to repost something I wrote back in March of this year and that'll more than sum up my feelings on Twitter.

something relatively minor turns up; whether it'd be a critical viewpoint of something beloved or a naughty thing that someone said years ago suddenly popping up - it usually results in a Twitter uproar. Things of sociological and political natures - no matter how minor - result in protests and online petitions and stuff that in the grand scheme of things, don't matter or are approached in a way that a lot of noise is made over nothing.

It seems like every other day, there is a big controversial nature that starts trending on Twitter and everyone jumps on the bandwagon in agreement, all for the sake of more likes. So when something like this comes along and it's something that you need to take really seriously, but you ultimately don't because every blow-up that came before was over something so trivial and pointless that this ends up being something that's trivial and pointless.

And this is not me saying that treating others equally regardless of sex, race, or orientation is trivial - I'd love to live in a world where everyone is treated as humans and not branded with labels - but rather, this is a plea to the so-called social groups who cause outrage because of a single word in a piece of fiction that doesn't matter to tone it down a little. This is a plea to the folks who live their lives on social media platforms to show a little restraint and thought into your posts that doesn't come across as something that's posted for the sake of a few likes.

What I'm trying to say is... don't treat every minor piece of business like it's a big colossal disaster. Because when a real big colossal disaster comes along, nobody is going to care.

Use social media to keep track of your loved ones, the news as it happens, to keep informed on this pandemic that's going, and basically not to be an ass. There'll be plenty of times down the road where being an ass will be fine for a lark, but this isn't it.

Okay, so here's the thought process. Chris Bores announces the return of the Irate Gamer and starts doing episodes again. They are the usual Irate Gamer fair and as I've said on numerous occasions, when you see one Irate Gamer show, you've pretty much seen them all. Now is that enough to warrant a Loser spot? No, not necessarily. In fact, this season's fare of Irate material includes a much-hyped (but otherwise business-as-usual) appearance by the Angry Video Game Nerd... which is probably the best and most notable thing the Nerd has done this year. That isn't particularly high praise.

What places Bores in the Loser spots are the Cameos... as in, he pays x number of dollars to any celebrity who has a Cameo account and asks them to record a little video that he can put into his review. Whether it'd be Ernie Hudson for Ghostbusters, Peter Weller for Robocop - the THIRD time he's reviewing that game, by the way - or Rob Paulsen for the TMNT games, you have promises of stars in this productions and they're just things you can get off the Cameo site for a couple hundred bucks. Prevailing circumstances or otherwise, that's a pretty lame thing to do; hype up what ends up being a glorified CAMEO video... unless it was a good CAMEO, like Undertaker's Cameo to Granny.

Credit to Bores, though; this is the first time in the history of the Year In Review that an individual has garnered both a Winner and Loser spot in the same year.

This was released in Japan in 2019, but got a worldwide release in 2020, so it counts as a Loser of 2020. Listen, the Darius series is a celebrated series of shooters that's right up there with the likes of Gradius, R-Type, and Cyber-Lip. Getting a collection of games for the Switch is not a bad idea in and of itself. What is a bad idea is making two collection of games - one for the arcade releases and one for the console releases - and charging each collection about the same price as a typical AAA title gracing the Switch.

To make matters worse, there are variations of these collections released in different formats and regions that alters the game list somewhat. Which means forking over hundreds of dollars to grab a collection that contains a specific game that the "normal" collection wouldn't include. An absolutely despicable act.


Three entries merit mention, but neither fit the Winners or Losers categories.

So, let's get this out of the way. The WWE product continues to be largely terrible, with its terrible storylines, its inability to create stars and compelling heroes for people to get behind, and its continued insistence in trying make people believe that rubbish like Miz and "The Fiend" are good things. This isn't even taking into account the behind-the-scenes stuff; the poor response to COVID, the mass releases, poor use of popular NXT call-ups like Keith Lee and such, and a decree preventing talent from making money off social media accounts during a time when there's no touring schedule... among other things.

Oh and the ratings for their television shows are shit. I believe a couple weeks ago, RAW hits its lowest ever viewership across the board. (Smackdown Chrismtas did big numbers at least... probably because Big E is a draw.)

On the flip side, though, there are some positive aspects. Wrestlemania from an empty arena turned out to be watchable in two parts and a quality Boneyard match, they gave us a WWE Champion in Drew McIntyre who comes across as a star and champion, they finally gave us a compelling Roman Reigns character, and the wrestling had been largely good if you can bothered to sit through a show. For what it's worth, there's enough little nuggets of good that keeps WWE from the dreaded Loser slot... despite their last PPV.

Yeah, this gets a mention because I've heard good things about the second season and apparently, it's the only good new Star Wars being produced right now. However, because I haven't seen the new season, I can't give it one or the other. So we'll give special mention and place Mando firmly in the middle. I'll promise you this; if I get around to watching the rest of the show in 2021, I'll make sure to reserve a slot for Mando.

2020 has proven to be a trying year for humanity and shines a painful reminder that when things are down, we are capable of really good things. Unfortunately, when things are down, we're also capable of really dispicable things and both sides of the coin have been given equal spotlight. We've got a long ways to go before things are on the up and up. Let's try to make the ride as smooth as possible, let's deal with our problems in a civilized manner, and for fuck's sake, GET OFF TWITTER, YOU TWATS!

That's it for another year.


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