Monday, January 1, 2024

The Winners And Losers Of 2023

Hey, kids... it's that time, again.

The Winners And Losers of 2023 is here and... well, we'll see.

2023 has been a rather trying year both personally and entertainment-wise. It got to the point where finding genuine winners of the year was a bit of a struggle. When I revisit the list every few weeks, I end up with more losers and middle-grounders than actual winners and that is somewhat troubling. There are memorable aspects to this year, but nothing that can be considered true highlights. With that in mind, it isn't a total wash of negativity and there are some bright spots to be had... so let's start with those.

As expected, the Winners pickings are fairly slim, but when all was said and done, it turned out much larger than I had originally anticipated.

Classic Game Room Returns
The biggest surprise of 2023 was seeing brand new videos from CGR creator and host Mark Bussler that weren't just samples of his current musical endeavors (which are actually quite nice, I'll admit), but rather new episodes of Classic Game Room. These episodes were more laid back yet still had their share of goofiness, but the fact that we're getting new CGR and just in time for that program's 25th anniversary puts a smile on my face, especially considering how disenchanted with the whole thing Mark was that caused him to give up on the show originally. Even if this return is going to be short-lived and the show goes back into hibernation afterwards, the return of Classic Game Room is an event worth celebrating and damn straight it gets the top spot. I need something I actually like to occupy this space for once and not just another wrestling-related thing, so fuck it. I will take it.

Perhaps the biggest piece of business to occur is the acquisition of WWE by UFC owners Endeavor and its merging with the mixed martial arts giant to become TKO Holdings. Regardless of what you think of the TV product - which is better than it's been in years no matter how you slice it - the merging of these two companies is a major stepping stone and something that will and has made waves. Honorable mention goes to Vince McMahon; who "retired" last year due to shady business and forced his way back into WWE in order to secure a hefty payday and a powerful position in the new company. Good for him, I suppose.

Admittedly, Activision is the consolation prize when Microsoft really wanted to purchase Nintendo, but since that ain't happening any time soon, we had this merger of sorts. A rather contentious road in getting there, but it finally happened and Microsoft now has another major company under its belt. It might not seem like it now, but this is going to be a major deal in the future... now if only Microsoft would get its Xbox affairs in order.

Star Trek: Lower Decks - Season 4
I did not start off as a fan of Lower Decks. I thought the humor was juvenile, almost in a Rick and Morty sort of way that I didn't care for. I didn't care for the characters. It was not all that fantastic. The show slowly but surely started to grow on me and Season 4, in my book, may have been the show's best so far. There's a plot involving a mysterious ship, our lower deckers all get promotions and we dive deeper into why Mariner is the way she is, and there's a nice little tie in to the TNG episode from which this show gets its name that plays a major role in the last couple episodes. This started off as a show that I wanted nothing to do with and ended up being one of the better Trek offerings in a good long while, even more so than the nostalgia-filled final season of Picard or the WTF inconsistency of Strange New Worlds's second season.

E3 Ending
The end of E3 as a fixture in the video gaming summer season is a bit of a blessing. With online events and other similar events popping up and more developers dropping the once-esteemed event, it only made sense for E3 to come to an end. Why is this a winning entry? Well, let's be honest. E3 hasn't been that relevant in years and people haven't really cared about anything at the show other than what went wrong. E3 has given us plenty of memories, but it's time to put it to bed... maybe that Game Awards show people like to complain about every year will be next.

LA Knight
The man once known as Eli Drake had a bit of a rough patch starting off in 2023, with a rather "interesting" match with the late Bray Wyatt to put it nicely. But his stock has risen considerably to the point where he main-evented a Saudi show with Roman Reigns... and lost, of course, but that didn't seem to hurt him. I liked Eli as a personality and it's nice to see him get some much deserved time on WWE TV that isn't him posing as some model manager dude. Good on him, bro.

Super Mario RPG Gets A Remake
Just the fact that this gets a remake is enough to make it to the Winners list. I have not tried it myself, but I've heard good things aside from some game-breaking bugs that have been fixed apparently...

The End Of The DC Extended Universe
With James Gunn at the helm and promising a brand-new DC cinematic universe, 2023 sees the current (now former) DC Extended Universe of cinematic malarkey come to a close. Admittedly, there were a couple bright spots here and there - and the fan support in giving Zack Snyder another shot at finishing his Justice League movie is something worth celebrating even if you're not a fan of the man's work - but a lot of this run had been a confusing, almost convoluted mess of movies rushing things, fuck ups galore, and just ruining what should have been a truly momentous deal. DC wanted their own Justice League movie, but weren't willing to put in the work, rushed it out, and the end result is... well, people might be sad that this is getting a reboot, but I'd call it a mercy kill and that's probably for the best.

You know, I was wondering when I was going to get to a year where there were a lot of losers and sure enough, 2023 has graced me with MOAR than its fair share.

CM Punk
The sad, downward spiraling tale of Phillip "Collision Monkey Punk" Brooks' time in All-Elite Wrestling came to an end this year following an altercation at the All In PPV with Jack Perry. You'd figure almost a year on the shelf would get him to focus on the positive aspects and keep things in check... maybe give him a nice little Saturday night wrestling show to headline and keep certain folks from the premises... but Phil gonna Phil apparently and now he's a member of the WWE roster, where he's just another old guy they'll trot out and make Roman look really strong. Oh well.

(For the record, I wrote that blurb shortly after the All In incident and before my formal declaration of no longer touching anything involving Punk going forward. Needless to say, I wasn't shocked.)

Tony Khan
I make this entry with a bit of reservation. He's the head of the second biggest wrestling promotion today and while it's not quite as strong as its initial years, AEW has been consistently producing some good to great shows. A lot of these shows have been hampered with drama that have garnered more eyeballs than the actual wrestling and a lot of that blame has to go to TK, who will hype important announcements that don't seem important, go into more Twitter spats than Dave Meltzer, and just come across as a bit unhinged. You could argue this started with that Ariel Helwani interview from earlier this year, but honestly, I think the whole "WWE turning the tide" thing might not have helped, either. Some people will find this entertaining, I find it tiresome. Maybe TK should focus on giving us good wrestling shows instead of wasting time on social media looking like the snowman detractors accuse him of being.

Disney Plus
Such a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE non-functioning piece of a shit streaming service that locks up every so often. This would've been higher on the list, but I got three months for less than ten bucks total, so it wasn't a total loss. Still not worth having to put up with such a non-functioning piece of shit streamer that simply does not work. Netflix works fine, Amazon Prime (amazingly enough) works fine, even those one Streaming things work better than Disney Plus. Not even the addition of Home Improvement could save this shit sandwich from getting the Loser spot on this list.

Casper Kelly's Very Short Treks
I give praise for Lower Deck's fourth season being the best Trek in recent memory, but on the flip side, you also have these Very Short Treks, a series of five shorts made in the style of the old Star Trek animated series from the 70s and even more juvenile humor than Lower Deck's first season. Admittedly, a couple shorts were actually enjoyable, but the rest of them? Dump 'em out the airlock for the sake of all living beings. Fucking awful.

Mortal Kombat 1 on Switch
Mortal Kombat got another reboot - again - with their latest entry and while reception had been positive, the Switch version of MK1 was noteworthy for its shambolic state - subpar graphics and performance were the main culprits and the game was deservingly raked for being put out. Apparently, it got better with patches, but that doesn't excuse the original release and my feelings remain the same; if you can't be bothered to get a team that can put out a quality port on Switch, then either find a team that can or don't do the port in the first place. As much as people whine about something like this not needing to happen again, let's be honest; it will happen again and gamers will more than happily pre-order their dreck so they can complain about it on Twitter or X or whatever the fuck it's called.

WWE'S New World Title
So Roman Reigns is unbeatable, right? So unbeatable that when he gets drafted to Smackdown in the occasional WWE Draft that establishes hard roster splits until they're no longer convenient to our "storytelling" or whatever, we need to establish a new participation trophy championship for RAW. So let's have a tournament featuring guys from RAW and Smackdown to compete for this title that has even less credibility than the retired 24/7 title. Hell, even the World Title that was held by McSon-In-Law during the "Reign of Terror" in 2002-2005 held more prestige than this thing. I'll give them credit in making a moderately nice looking belt - even if the big ol' WWE logo in the middle looks to be an eyesore.

Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny
The fact that another Indiana Jones movie was released in 2023 baffles me... was anyone really clamoring for another one after the railing that Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull got back in the day? So a new Indy movie with new people behind it (and Kathleen Kennedy as well) results in... another piece of modern cinematic stodge that was quickly forgotten about until I was compiling entries for this list. The original trilogy is all the Indy I need... hell, I'll even settle for Young Indy if I'm that desperate.

A retro video game store selling retro video game consoles at seemingly exuberant prices, claiming to refurbish their products to justify the high costs. But as folks such as ReviewTechUSA and Austin Evans will attest, their products are anything but "refurbished". Even worse, their online interactions have become somewhat questionable, associating with the worse of social media influencers. While I've had no interactions with DKOldies themselves - I live in Canada and their shipping costs are almost as most ebay resellers - the fact that I know about them and their shadiness is enough to merit an entry on this list.

The Flash/The Marvels
Two movies for one entry, but pretty much the same deal. One is a milestone movie for DC's cinematic efforts. Another is a Marvel movie. Both bombed at the box office. You can blame it on various factors (lack of star promotion for the Marvels due to the ongoing strikes and lack of interest in the Flash, as well as controversy over its main star), but neither film proved to be the surefire hit that everyone claimed they'd be, despite the media's best efforts to convince you otherwise.

AEW's Devil Storyline
The story of who is the mysterious Devil tormenting MJF has been a complete and utter waste of time that went on far longer than it needed to. And the payoff wasn't all that great, either. Maybe you'd be better off revealing Tony Khan as the devil and he gets to do his best "It's me all along, Max" or some stupid shit like that.

For the first time ever, I've hit a Year In Review where the list of notable middle grounders is comparable in size to the winners and losers lists.

Star Trek: Picard
Yes, Picard had its third season this year - essentially a glorified TNG reunion show. Yes, it is probably the best of the three seasons of an otherwise sour program. Yes, it is a much better ending to a cast of characters than the rather anemic Star Trek: Nemesis almost two decades prior... you want to know what a better send-off for this crew was? All Good Things... It's been a fun ride, but now it's on to new, fresh ideas... like that Star Trek: Legacy show everyone is clamoring for. Sigh.

Star Trek: Strange New World - Season 2
Wow, what a drop-off, huh? I actually enjoyed the first season tremendously and thought it was a breath of fresh air from the other Trek stodge being offered at the time, but then the second season hit and while there were some high points in the season, there was also quite a bit of rubbish. The Lower Decks crossover episode was surprisingly not one of those rubbish episodes; that was actually quite nice. The musical episode can burn in the sun for all I care, the annual Spock comedy episode was just cringe, and on a whole, there was just a whole lot of "meh" to this season. Hopefully Season 3 picks up the slack, but... yeah, not exactly what I was looking for in the follow-up to an actual solid first season.

Adam "Edge" Copeland Jumps To AEW
It's a big moment, sure; a guy long associated with WWE and those who thought would be a lifer with the company decides to ply his trade with AEW and play with Uncle Jay. We'll have to wait a bit before we see if this ends up being a good thing or not, but honestly, not mentioning it here in some capacity would have been criminal.

Shazam: Fury Of The Gods
Listen... I liked the movie. I thought it was a fun movie... probably not as good as the first, but still a fun ride. But this was released during a time when the DC Universe was undergoing a somewhat massive shift, ditching the "old" continuity for a fresh new one and this one got lost in the shuffle. Doesn't help that The Rock wanted nothing to do with this movie because he'd rather have his badass Black Adam face off against Superman than against the character that has always been his classical arch rival (that would be ol' Captain Marvel/Shazam to you younguns... but not that Captain Marvel.) Not a winner, not a loser, but worth a mention.

Doctor Who
They introduced a new Doctor and then brought back David Tennant... and then found a way to give both doctors their own paths in what may seem like something of a divisive decision. It's been my first foray into Doctor Who since Peter Capaldi left show and I did enjoy the specials that aired, but left uneasy for the future. Are the specials supposed to be a celebration or an epilogue to make way for the new shit coming soon? Hopefully, Ncuti Gatwa's run will be a good one and that will ultimately boil down to the writing and the stories told because the guy's got the Doctor in the bag... is there some kind of context I'm missing? Who knows? Who cares? I just want a good show... or more free time. Either way works.

Billy Corgan's NWA
Signed a deal with the CW, then did a cocaine snorting spot on PPV, which prompted the CW to pick up NXT instead and relegate Billy to the CW app... well, it's not the ideal deal, but it's better than nothing. At least, that's my opinion. I'm clapping my hands now in resignation... or is it apathy?

Impact Wrestling Changing Its Name Back To TNA
Mind you, this doesn't come into play until 2024, but Impact announcing that they're going back to TNA as their actual name was announced at their Bound For Glory show this year, so it bares mentioning. Not a winning move, not a losing move... that's reserved for 2024, but the company has been making some strides and trying to get back into the game. And people still care about the promotion despite its turbulent history. So I will wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

Street Fighter 6
They released another Street Fighter game this year and... I didn't play it. But I felt the need to mention it for some reason or other. I've heard some good things about it, but the monetization turns me off on the whole deal. That's okay. I'm fine with the Street Fighters that I already have.

That's the list for 2023, kids. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. Looking forward to big things coming soon... hopefully.

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