My 2017 NXT Match of the Year Final Rankings

When NXT released their nominees for their annual awards for 2017, I wanted to seriously consider my votes, and that meant having to go back and re-watch every match on their list for Match of the Year. I knew there were a few that I wanted included and many of them are. A few of them aren’t, as well, but that’s okay. Can’t win ’em all, I suppose. It’s still a highly impressive list with a ton of top quality matches that every wrestling fan should see, and if you’re not a fan, a few of these might convince you to start watching. It’s good stuff.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll cut this intro short because some of my summaries are going to run a bit long, especially in the first half of the list. So without further adieu, let’s talk about the nominees for NXT’s Match of the Year in 2017.

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Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III – August 19th, 2017

Stylish Grapple Boys

There wasn’t much story leading into this opening match from this event, and I was a bit skeptical of Almas at this point. He didn’t seem to be living up to his hype, but NXT introduced Zelina Vega as his “business manager” and it appeared to be working, so if Almas was going to step up, this was his chance.

Early on, Gargano shows his stuff with some great mat wrestling and Almas stays with him. The thing with Gargano is that he never has a bad match, and you can see how good he really is in this one. The momentum shifts between the two are executed really well and felt natural. The crowd was clearly on Gargano’s side but you can sense that they respected Almas more as the match went on. Playing off the recent DIY story was a plus for the finish, which featured Almas’ new finishing move.

Looking back, this match was a great start to an angle that is about to culminate at TakeOver: Philadelphia TONIGHT (1/27/2018) as Gargano takes on Almas for the NXT Title.

Best Moment: After two failed attempts at his old finishing move, Almas gets caught in the “Garga-No Escape” for an extended time, but powers out and hits the turnbuckle knees for a very tense near-fall that lit up the crowd.

Ember Moon vs. Asuka (C) for the NXT Women’s Championship
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III – August 19th, 2017

Asuka had been champion for a LONG time at this point, and was undefeated leading into this match. During that time, Ember Moon had been built up nicely and seemed to be Asuka’s biggest threat. Coming off of a mild shoulder injury, Moon was even more determined to win, but that didn’t seem to throw off Asuka one bit. The build-up was big with this being one of the more important Women’s Title defenses in a long time, and the WWE made a point to have Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch show up at ringside for this one.

Moon comes to the ring looking to fight, and Asuka puts on the best cocky swagger as only she can. Moon fires a kick to begin the match, looking to surprise Asuka early on. Some hard bumps taken by both women outside the ring, which is a testament to their toughness and ability. Asuka turned on the “dangerous” in a big way and worked on Moon’s bad shoulder for much of the bout, even mocking Becky Lynch in the process by stealing her “Dis-Arm-Her” submission move and flashing a defiant smile in her direction. Some of Moon’s comebacks felt a bit contrived and sloppy, but she still gave a great performance, especially as the two combatants transitioned into the power moves.

A very strong match to boost the always strong Women’s division in NXT. In the end, nobody, not even Ember Moon, was ready for Asuka.

Best Moments: Auska kicking out of the Eclipse, and the finish of Asuka reversing a pin attempt directly into an Asuka Lock.

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Drew McIntyre (C) for the NXT Championship
NXT TakeOver: WarGames – November 18, 2017

After reaching the goal of his comeback to the WWE, McIntyre didn’t really have a worthy contender after beating Bobby Roode for the NXT Title, and after giving a shot to Roderick Strong, it was unclear who would be next in line. Enter El Idolo.

Zelina Vega and Almas were finally looking like superstars, and Almas played his angle perfectly, leaving McIntyre lying on more than one occasion leading into the event. Drew seemed poised to be a fan-favorite and hold the title for an extended time, so I wasn’t sure how much I was invested into this one. That said, I was impressed with how it turned out.

Kind of a slow start to this one as it seemed to take a while for both grapplers to feel each other out but they quickly get into a fine rhythm. Vega unsuccessfully tries to make herself a factor early, but is triumphant later in the match. You could see Drew start to favor his arm a bit after a few attacks to it but it didn’t appear to hamper him. The longer the match runs, the more Almas gains momentum, and you can really see how much better and confident he’s become of late.

The finish to this one feels hella awkward, though. Not sure if the move came off smoothly but it didn’t look right. I also didn’t expect Almas to take the title. As I watch, I can’t help but speculate that it might’ve been changed mid-match. Still, a better battle than I expected, and I really like seeing Almas get rewarded for his improvement throughout 2017.

Best Moment: The finishing sequence to this one is fantastic, but instead of the best moment, I want to point out the interesting nature of McIntyre’s response to his loss. Doctors come in to check out his arm but he waves them off in obvious frustration.

I repeat… not in pain, but in frustration.

They did say McIntyre was legitimately hurt and I don’t doubt that given his initial body language after the pin, but he looks defiant in a different way than just to indicate an injury. I truly think the result was changed during the course of the contest. Hopefully this isn’t a hamper on McIntyre’s comeback.

DIY vs. The Revival vs. Authors of Pain (C) for the NXT Tag Team Championship
NXT TakeOver: Orlando – April 1, 2017

Triple “Thrat”

You’ve got the power of the Authors of Pain, the quickness of DIY, and the unmatched intelligence of The Revival, so know that this had no chance of being a bad match. DIY and The Revival have a long history of setting buildings on fire via their rivalry, and this one is no exception.

Oddly enough, the old enemies form a quick alliance to start this war, given that AoP have a huge power advantage. Since this was an elimination match, getting the big boys out would leave the other two teams remaining with no outside threat. Of course, once the chance showed itself, The Revival attempts to backstab their short-term friends and DIY repays the favor to them.

There’s a fast pace to this match, but that’s just how triple tag matches seem to go. AoP displays their power to the limit at every opportunity. Later, Ciampa builds great momentum off a hot tag that blows up the crowd. A forgotten table brought out by DIY is used later on in classic “make ’em wait” fashion. As the goal to get AoP out first hovers over the match, the smaller teams join up for a great double submission spot, but are unsuccessful.

As expected, the crowd was invested from the gun for this one. Rightfully so, since these teams could do no wrong. It’s hard to top anything involving DIY and/or The Revival, so we’ll see if any of the other matches on this list will be able to.

Best moment: Gargano and Dawson performing DIY’s knee/kick-to-the-head combo, followed up by Ciampa and Wilder doing The Revival’s “Shatter Machine.” It gives me legit goosebumps every time I see it.

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate (C) for the WWE United Kingdom Championship
NXT TakeOver: Chicago – May 20, 2017

This match goes back to the WWE UK Tournament, where Bate beat Dunne in the finals to become the first-ever UK champion.

While most matches start with some mat wrestling and basic spot work, the British take it to a whole other level. I haven’t seen this kind of technicality since I watched Dean Malenko dismantle fools in the late ’90s. The exchanges that these two have early could rival with some of the best in the business.

Dunne lives up to his moniker of “Bruiserweight,” delivering moves with impact throughout the match. Bate is easily the more fresh-faced of the pair at a very young 20-years-old, but his ringwork is remarkable. The British Strong Style is in full-effect here, and everything looks as painful as advertised.

Once this match goes into high gear, it never lets up. Bate shows his strength with a couple throws that use very little body momentum, while Dunne later reverses a splash that cleverly gets Bate into a submission hold. Even a rare Airplane Spin gets utilized, and eventually the two just have a Pub Fight in the middle of the ring. Strike after strike connects from both combatants until Bate is thrown into the ropes but comes back with a powerful clothesline.

It’s so good, even the rowdy Chicago crowd couldn’t help but show their love.

Best Moment: That fistfight.

WarGames – Sanity vs. Authors of Pain + Roderick Strong vs. The Undisputed Era
NXT TakeOver: WarGames – November 18, 2017

Three teams of three. Two Rings. One steel cage.

Sit back and enjoy. This one is gonna hurt.

Originally created by the late Dusty Rhodes, this match is as brutal and as intense as its name foretells. Traditionally, two teams of four or five grapplers would choose one from each side to begin the match. After a couple short minutes, another member from one of the teams would be allowed in the rings. Minutes later, another from the other respective team would enter. This would alternate back and forth until both full teams were in the rings, and it was at this point when the real match began.

From creation in the ’80s and until its then-final use in ’97, the match would only end if a member from one of the teams expressly conceded victory. Upon this revamp, however, it was changed to include pinfalls or submissions into the mix, while also adding the stipulation that if a wrestler escaped the cage, his entire team would be forfeit from winning the match.

Got all that? No? That’s fine. Just understand that people got their bodies beat to hell in this one, and after 20 years, I was excited as all hell to see it return.

I wasn’t sure how this match would play out, honestly. The Undisputed Era was made up of three hot signees that I had no deep knowledge of, and I was curious how they’d hang in a rough match with Sanity and the Authors of Pain/Roddy Strong. Also, I missed the ceiling on the cage.

But I digress. Let’s get to the match, itself.

At the start, things are even between the three starting team members, much like the beginning of a standard Triple Threat match. I was pleased to see the Authors of Pain display their impressive power with authority. At one point, they throw every opponent from one ring to the other, then follow it up by tossing their temporary teammate Strong into the pile. AoP keeps everyone at bay for the duration of their entry period until Sanity is released from their pen. That’s when all hell finally breaks loose.

The match officially begins now. All nine competitors are in the rings. Alexander Wolfe brandishes a nightstick and starts taking out man after man, and then Killian Dane raises the bar, throwing in chairs, trash cans, chains, and Kendo sticks. The crowd lights up. They demand brutality. They demand destruction. They demand tables.

They get tables.

All that follows is carnage. Weapons are used with abandon. Bodies are thrown around like beach balls. It’s just 25 minutes of mayhem and it’s beautiful. It’s truly a match worthy of the War Games legacy that you absolutely have to watch for yourself.

Best Moment:

Nikki Cross vs. Asuka (C) – Last Woman Standing Match for the NXT Women’s Championship
NXT TV – June 28, 2017

With the Women’s Revolution™ in full-effect up in the main WWE roster, one mustn’t forget that it all started over in NXT years ago. They had the first special event with a Women’s Main Event in the company, which was also the first 30-minute Ironwoman Match in NXT. These ladies kill it night after night, and this title match was no exception.

Nikki Cross plays her (in)Sanity character to perfection, but Asuka remained undefeated in NXT at the time of this contest and showed no signs of slowing down. To make things more exciting, this was the first Last Woman Standing match in NXT history, so the stakes were raised quite significantly.

A thing I always forget is how hard Asuka hits her opponents. I am only reminded when I hear the impact of her strikes. Kudos to Cross, though. She takes them like a champ. There are a couple of spots involving piles of steel chairs that look real painful. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t wanna get back to my feet after either of them. Of course, since we’re in a no disqualification situation, the match naturally ends up outside the ring and all over the arena, building to a climactic end involving hardware and furniture items.

Also, on an unrelated note, this was ring announcer Mauro Ranallo’s return to WWE after being away for some time, so it was cool to have him back. He does good work.

Best Moment: Ladder. Table. Suplex.

DIY vs. Authors of Pain (C) – Ladder Match for the NXT Tag Team Titles
NXT TakeOver: Chicago – May 20, 2017

At the beginning of this ever-expanding blog, I talked about how good Johnny Gargano is. Unsurprisingly, this match is his third on this list of twelve. It’s also the Authors of Pain’s third mention, which shows how strong of a year they had in the tag division.

The ladders come into play early in this one, and in some very painful ways. In fact, Ciampa lands awkwardly from a fall about seven minutes into the match and tweaks his right knee, which was later announced as a torn ACL. Still, as wrestlers do, he stayed in the match and gave it another 20 minutes or so to finish telling the story.

Speaking of storytelling, these teams do a great job of that in this bout with plenty of recoveries, momentum swings, and inventive ladder use. Even AoP’s manager, the great Paul Ellering, does his part. The angle going into this was that it might be DIY’s last shot at getting the titles back, and they gave an effort worthy of that urgency. I won’t spoil the result of the match, but I will say that this tale goes beyond the bell.

Best Moments: A DIY double-splash off a ladder onto AoP, who were lying on ladders themselves, and that sweet, sweet aftermath of the match.

Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Roode (C) for the NXT Championship
NXT TV – July 5, 2017

Roode was the NXT champion for the better part of 2017 and a great one to boot. Conversely, Strong had always seemed on the precipice of contention, but failed to make good on multiple attempts. Eventually, he got his chance at a title shot.

This match has some really good work. Strong shows off his trademark quickness and delivers a number of punishing backbreaker maneuvers, as he does. Roode is a long-time veteran in the wrestling business, and it shows in his style of pacing and move selection. Not only that, but Roode plays his heel persona quite gloriously (heh heh), performing methodical moves to his opponent and gloating in the faces of Strong’s mother and fianceé who were sitting at ringside. We even got a false finish that is called back due to a rules technicality, which never fails to get a crowd riled up.

While a lot less spot-heavy than others on this list, both guys put in solid and consistent work worthy of championship caliber and made each other look great throughout the battle. Matches are supposed to tell a story, and this one does a simple and effective job of doing so.

Best Moment: The finish.

16-Woman Battle Royal
NXT TV – October 25, 2017

Nikki Cross hates photo day so she ditched school.

Since the title was vacated after Asuka was promoted to the WWE, NXT decided to hold qualifiers for spots in a Fatal 4-Way match at TakeOver: War Games. After three spots were filled, the final spot was to be determined in this battle royal a mere 3 days before the event.

This type of match is tough to rank. Unlike a Royal Rumble where contestants slowly enter the ring in timed increments, this one starts with everyone in the ring and is basically a mess for the first 7 minutes or so. Once a few people are cleaned out, that’s when things develop a bit more clearly.

Nikki Cross was likely a strong favorite to win, and she’s able to eliminate quite a number of women in varying fashion. Bianca Belair takes advantage of her chance and displays some great strength, as well. Overall, it’s nowhere near the best match of the year, in my opinion, but it entertained me quite a bit more than I’d expected.

Best Moment: Billie Kay is saved by a hair, then suffers the consequences of her actions.

Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
NXT TakeOver: Wargames – November 18, 2017

One thing I love about NXT over the WWE main product is that their rivalries feel much more organic than their big sibling’s efforts. It never feels like anything is just thrown at the wall in the hope that it sticks, but rather, feuds feel like they’re born from actual circumstances that matter.

Now, I don’t remember when this feud began, but they took at least 6 weeks building momentum for Dream vs. Black. It was a great journey that gave actual stakes and anticipation to the match.

Now, I just want to take a moment to show my undying love for Velveteen Dream’s character. It’s like a pseudo-Prince thing that’s so fun to watch. I mean, he’s got three-eyed shades, for fuck’s sake. If that doesn’t garner a response, then you’re likely dead inside. It’s impressive to see Dream at this high of a performance level given that he’s only been wrestling for three years.

But don’t get me wrong. Black is great in his own right, and these two put on a match so good, I might be inclined to call it the best of this particular TakeOver event, and that’s saying quite a lot. Everything from the feud that led to here is addressed in this match, even down to the two of them throwing their patented taunts at each other. The ringwork is great, the momentum shifts pull you in, and the crowd is invested on another level.

Don’t miss this one. You’ll be happy you didn’t.

Best Moment: The exchanging of the taunts. Also, Velveteen Dream’s tights.

Kassius Ohno vs. Johnny Gargano
NXT TV – December 6, 2017

Hey look… another match featuring good ol’ Johnny wrestling.

I told you, the man never has a bad match. The funny thing is, he never should’ve been in this one. Velveteen Dream was originally expected to face Ohno in this one but he was left on the sidelines after suffering a minor injury in his big match against Aleister Black. At least, that’s what we were told. This is wrestling, after all.

Here’s another match with two very consistent performers that both have solid technique and a good command of the crowd. Adding to that, this match was for a spot in a Fatal 4-Way for the Number One Contendership for the NXT World Title, so both men had a reason to give their all. Ohno is known for his hard striking ability and BOY HOWDY, do we get to see it on display, here. Gargano takes advantage of his quickness and size disadvantage to great extent. Not a lot of surprises in this battle, but that’s totally okay. As with some of the later matches on this list, it’s not a bad thing to just have a strong match.

Best Moment: In the middle of the match, Ohno delivers a series of strikes to Gargano that look vicious as fuck. I winced at every one of them.

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Alright, we’ve made it through all twelve nominees, but what’s the best of the best? Who takes the crown for the entirety of the year in NXT? I’ll admit, I thought this list was very front-loaded, with 6 strong contenders right off the bat. As I made my way thru the list in my rewatches, I felt a lot of the later ones just didn’t hold my attention as much. I also realized that it was no coincidence that Johnny Gargano was in a full third of the list. He really is that good and every time he’s scheduled to go, I get legitimately excited. The Tag Team division is also really, really good and it wouldn’t be wrong to go with one of their many fantastic fights.

It was a strong year with so many strong matches, but there can only be one Top Match of 2017. The following is my final rankings, from “Least Best” to “Most Bestest.”

12 – Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Roode
11 – 16-Woman Battle Royal
10 – Kassius Ohno vs. Johnny Gargano
9 – Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Drew McIntyre
8 – Nikki Cross vs. Asuka
7 – WarGames: Sanity vs. Authors of Pain + Roderick Strong vs. The Undisputed Era
6 – Ember Moon vs. Asuka
5 – DIY vs. Authors of Pain
4 – Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
3 – Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate
2 – DIY vs. The Revival vs. Authors of Pain

And finally, YOUR NXT Best Match of 2017 is…

Aleister Black Vs. Velveteen Dream

This match is an instant classic, and one I plan to go back to regularly. Granted, I totally love everything about Velveteen Dream, but Aleister Black is growing on me. I can’t help but cheer for every minute, every knee-to-the face, every taunt that the competitors give. Their match psychology just sucks you right in and never lets go, and hearing the crowd go nuts for both competitors makes it all the more enjoyable.

I haven’t even addressed their ringwork, yet, which is next-level in this bout. Black’s strikes are vicious, and Dream makes them look even more destructive with some expert selling. of course, when Dream goes on offense, it looks brutal but in an oddly graceful way. His movements really play into his persona, and that’s a thing a lot of young wrestlers don’t get a feel for so early in their careers. At one point, Dream lays Black over his bent leg and transitions it into a high-impact DDT that looks damn near crippling.

It truly is the best example that NXT has to show off why the promotion is something special. WWE stars can attest that their time is NXT is sacred, and while the likes of Finn Balor, Sasha Banks, and Kevin Owens are no longer there, superstars like Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream are right there to continue building NXT’s legacy with remarkable matches like this one.

Say my name.

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And with that, I bid thee farewell. Stop reading my dumb words and go watch all of these matches. Pay the $9.99 (per month) and treat yo self. Or just piggyback on someone else’s WWE Network subscription. Either way, make it happen.

And that’s the bottom line, cuz… well, cuz it’s the last one I wrote.

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‘Tis the Season…

The past few Christmases, I’ve had no income. I was laid off from a job and was barely affording food and such. It always devastated me because I like to give during the holidays. I’m a bit of a giver by nature, and it just always felt good to make someone else’s Christmas a little brighter in whatever way I could.

Lacking that ability is draining for me. There are people that I wanted to give a gift to so badly, but I just couldn’t and it would tear me apart. Those same people would buy me things and I’d be very appreciative. It brightened my spirits just a little bit. Enough to not feel like a total loser. but then I’d remember that I couldn’t return the favor and I’d fall into that mental pit again. It has been the case far too often for the past 6 years.

This year, I have been working, but the job doesn’t feel as secure as I’d like. That aside, I have money and I’m giving. I promised myself that I would if I had the ability to – which I do – so I am. It make me wince a little when I see the bank balance drop into the depths of Hell, but when I hear the appreciative words of my friends, it makes it all money well spent.

Even that has its ups and downs, though. There are some people that I feel a need to buy for out of obligation, and that kinda annoys me. But I try not to let it get me too upset. Things could be a whole lot worse.

This year, I’ve done some great shopping. I decided to buy some special friends a few gifts that I know they’ll love, and I’m quite proud of my ability to find thoughtful items on one day’s efforts. The rest of my buying as of this writing is basically gift cards, so I’m all set. The whole process of giving has made me feel less shitty.

But I also feel a bit empty. Giving to wonderful friends is great, but I feel like it would all be that much better if I had someone special in my life to share the festivities with. A lot of single people get all pissy and crybaby when Valentine’s Day rolls around, but for me, it’s Christmas that makes being alone harder to deal with.

Of my group of friends locally, I’m one of the rare single people, and it can be difficult hanging around a bunch of couples and realizing that they get to go home and have that person alongside them to talk with and just wind down from gatherings or share moments or whatever the case may be. On my end of things, I return to my bootcave and fire up youtube or the Xbox/PS3 or get wrapped up in Twitter. There’s no snuggling on the couch while watching TV or cuddling in bed at the end of the night… just myself and my mind left to ponder how things are.

As trying as that can get, I still have to say that I enjoy the holiday season whenever it rolls around. It’s a mostly good time, and I have nothing against the traditions of Christmas. I also know that there are people out there who just complain about it to no end, and I wonder if they know what it’s like to feel genuinely happy. Is Christmas perfect? No, but that’s not because the holiday is flawed. It’s because people can make it shitty for others. Because people are – on the grand scheme of things – idiots. Whether it’s competing with others or themselves about the gifts they give, or giving grief to other parents about how they handle what Christmas is for their kids, or even just downright being a Grumpy McGrumperton in general, the masses just know how to fuck it up for a lot of people. The trick is to just appreciate the things you can do to bring a little joy to the world. Should that be done on every day BESIDES Christmas or other holidays? Of course it should, but that doesn’t mean that celebrating on a certain date cheapens anything. The gestures should remain heartfelt and be received as such. If you can manage to let yourself be uplifted by the Christmas cheer, you should be fine. And if you absolutely just can’t stand the holidays, then that’s okay… but don’t be that assdrip that has to go around shitting all over it in the hopes of killing other people’s fun. That’s just plain selfish.

Anyway, I’m done ranting/whining. I’m just happy that I was able to celebrate this time and not hate myself. Whatever the near future holds, at least I can look back at Christmas 2013 and know that I put smiles on faces. It’s a good thing.

May your holidays be joyous and heartwarming and full of tasty burritos. Merry Christmas to all of you.

Just a Thought: Competition Vs. Community

Back in 1997 when I was barely 19 years old, the internet wasn’t anywhere even close to what it is now in terms of an entertainment source. Television and terrestrial radio were still the most viable options, and Howard Stern was considered the “king” of the radio airwaves. Here in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Stern was just arriving to the market. I wasn’t hugely familiar with his radio work outside of the E! Network TV show he did, and the autobiographical movie Private Parts – which I actually really enjoyed and found humanized him – but his local debut was still an event that I looked forward to witnessing.

I had grown up listening to the local ratings champ The KQ Morning Show for years up to this point. They were very good, and the host Tom Barnard was always one of my major influences in terms of radio and creative ventures. So much so that I even pursued and was granted an interview with him a few short months ago. When Stern eventually arrived, I decided to check out his first show here in Minnesota. I didn’t expect to be pulled from KQ completely, but I thought that it’d be a nice thing to check in with every so often, and if it did win me over, I felt that I could like both equally for different reasons.

* * *

These days, my preferred media of choice is largely podcasts. I listen to anywhere from 8-15 per week, and I wish I had time for more. It takes me back to those old radio morning shows I loved where the banter was great and the personalities varied across the spectrum. The benefit now is that we can choose what topics we want to hear about. Video games, music, politics, comedy, advice, sex, comic books, etc… all of it is fair game and there’s an audience for each topic and show.

One of the best discoveries I made along the way were community podcasts; independently-run shows from fans of a genre that just wanted to talk about the things they liked. Hearing these shows influenced me to want to do my own program even more and I eventually started the BlankShowCast with my friend, Tim, whom I met out of a mutual podcast fandom. While many of these shows were of similar topics, they each had their own flavor and were able to share real estate in my mind as separate yet equal entities.

* * *

When I remember back to hearing that first Stern show, I remember not being entertained at all. There were long periods of dead air, the comedy wasn’t as great as I’d expected, and it just didn’t seem to have any flow. Perhaps the most standout aspect of it was when Stern and his gang dedicated a large amount of time to trashing the KQ Morning Show and picking apart its programming. Not only were their assessments totally false, but they were overly cruel and attacked parties that weren’t even involved in this newly-formed ratings battle.

KQ’s response was simple; “do nothing.” Somebody at the station had the foresight that acknowledging the drama wouldn’t do any good for them, and so they left it alone. Meanwhile, Stern and his goons continued to fire potshots at them in the hopes of garnering a response. This was Stern’s M.O. in every market he arrived in, and it was often the retaliations from his opponents that would become their undoing, making them look petty and scared in the process.

Terrestrial radio was highly competitive during that era, and for good reason. For the stations, it was all about ratings and profit and with two big names battling for market share in a small market like the Twin Cities, being #2 meant a huge difference in revenue for each of them. You had to win and win BIG in order to succeed because the number of ears on your airwaves was limited.

That is no longer the case in current times. With the growth of the internet and social media, an audience is no longer limited to one city and its surrounding suburbs. Youtube videos, podcasts, livestreams, blogs, fandom sites, and their ilk can reach anyone around the world. Supporters can number in the millions for a particular creative outlet and it happens regularly. Fans of internet entertainment can consume media whenever they like and can be into a number of different and/or similar things of their choice. The viewer/listener has total freedom.

Sadly, there are still some creators who either fail to recognize this or perhaps just choose to remain in a competitive mindset. They see other shows comparable to their own as threats or as outright “thieves.” It’s a thought process that feels antiquated and a bit regressive. Whenever you see two online ventures go toe-to-toe in some sort of clash, one or both parties can often come out of the ordeal looking petty, vindictive, or downright foolish.

***

In 1999, after the two-year Morning Show War was all said and done, the Twin Cities chose their champion. The locally-grown boy from North Minneapolis and his friends had defeated the self-proclaimed “King of All Media” and sent him packing. The tactic of silence worked in their favor. By remaining unresponsive to Stern’s prodding, Barnard and his crew dedicated their efforts to creating a quality show for their listeners and the show retained its loyal following. All the while, the cockiness and brash behavior of Stern and his troupe became off-putting and abrasive to the public. It was only a matter of time until the station that brought Stern to Minneapolis/St. Paul decided that his presence was unnecessary and unprofitable.

Here in 2013, media is taking the opposite approach. Programs of various styles are beginning to see that community wins over competition, and that there is a place for everyone to produce content and find a following. Prolific vloggers on Youtube – collectively known these days as “youtubers” – are seeing the benefits of collaborating. Appearing on each other’s videos only spreads good will and popularity and usually boosts the audiences of any and all creators involved. People like Grace Helbig (DailyGrace) constantly feature other vloggers like Hannah Hart, Felicia Day, Harley Morenstein, and others in an effort to help out their peers.

We are even now at the point where Youtube hosts themed weeks of programming, such as Comedy Week or Geek Week, in which they have a number of notable creators contribute to the theme and promote said videos as a group effort. The crossover can only benefit those involved. The same has also happened in podcasting, to an extent.

But again, there are those who seemingly want to exclude. The other night, I witnessed someone state that they felt as if one of their ideas had been plagiarized. Normally, this could be a notable accusation among content creators, especially if it’s one based on an intellectual property or other artistic vision. In this case, however, the idea in question was merely one of basic format and scheduling.

While these two groups may share a number of viewers, there is very little reason for them to compete with each other. Both are independent productions and are not monetizing their content in any way (as far as I know), so for there to be any kind of clash between them is pointless. Each endeavor should be free to establish an audience and attempt to thrive however they choose, free of the environment of accusations and publicized grumbling.

How this specific situation will play out is up to the parties involved, but if the video gaming community and, by extension, the streaming community want to grow as a whole, there has to be a mentality of inclusion within them. If two or more outlets want to create and happen to share a schedule for their work, then it falls to their supporters to decide which they choose to watch and when. Luckily, most outlets archive their stuff so that we can elect which to view live and which to go back to after the fact. Either way, creators must allow each other to produce content without discouraging one another from doing so. Embracing others’ efforts can only serve to establish positivity and a stronger community for all participants. Being competitive and possibly divisive will only lessen the sense of inclusion, and would likely intimidate newcomers from becoming a part of the fun.

* * *

Currently, the KQRS Morning Show is on its presumed final stretch, according to its host. Barnard tires of terrestrial radio and its outdated revenue model. However, he still loves performing for his loyal fans and friends, and so he has also dived into the podcasting world with his own show, The Tom Barnard Podcast. Recently, he has taken the show to a live streaming format similar to radio but without the ad interruptions and incessant station messaging that usually goes with it. His embracing of social media and its power to reach a wide audience has inspired him to produce something that he enjoys doing without having to worry about ratings and ad sales and my butt of corporate machinations hanging above him. He’s even reached out to other radio personalities and former “enemies” – except for the aforementioned Stern – to appear on his show as guests. In his eyes, he also wants to help build the community he is now a part of.

And that’s really the underlying message that I feel should be focused on. If you want to produce content, do it because you enjoy doing so; because you like the process of creating and showing what you’ve made to the world. At the same time, others are probably doing something similar but instead of getting catty about it or wanting them to disappear, we as creators should embrace that growth in both our respective media and the communities that surround them. It’s a whole wide world out there on the web, and we all have plenty of room to coexist and still have fun doing what we do. Let’s actually practice this message of inclusion that we hear so much about and maybe we’ll all be better for it.

A Birthday Wish

The holidays have been a struggle for me in recent years. I’m not bothered by their commercialism or family gatherings or any of that superficial garbage that most people get upset over. It’s just not my way to care about it all. I like to just roll with the situation and do what I can to spread joy in what is supposed to be a happy time.

Lately, however, that’s been the part I’ve had trouble doing. I’ve spent the better part of the last four years out of work and when I did have a job, I was let go before the holidays happened and didn’t have the spare cash to buy gifts for most of the people who deserved them from me.

But this blog isn’t about me and my emo feelings. This is a tribute.

As one does with any sibling, I’ve had ups and downs with both my older brother and younger sister, but they’ve always been there (mostly) to help out with whatever issues I may have had. These days, it’s my sister who has been coming forward and giving whatever she can to help out. It’s tough for me to accept it without feeling worthless because her situation really is far worse than mine.

Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease where the body decides that perfectly normal and healthy tissues are foreign and need to be attacked. In her instance, it started in the kidneys.

She was sick for almost a full year before getting it checked. At first she didn’t think it was a big deal but as time went on, it became more apparent that this was serious. The snafu came in the form of her not having health insurance, therefore keeping her from wanting to accumulate a giant medical bill that she’d never be able to pay off.

Fast forward to now. She takes a pill cocktail every day and goes to dialysis three times a week because of her kidney failure. The staff at the clinic is incompetent to the point where they sometimes damage her arm while getting the needles in place. Last month, they put the needles in backwards which effectively lessened the amount of cleaning of her blood. She told me this, and I immediately wanted to firebomb the building.

Because of the disease, she’s currently receiving disability money from the state. It’s not much at all and most of it goes to her medicine costs and basic expenses. And yet, she always offers to help me and I am forever grateful.

Really, she has no business giving me anything, and yet she never hesitates to ask if I need anything. I don’t know if a lot of people in the world would be so selfless and caring, and having no way to return the favor bothers the fuck out of me.

Today (the 6th) is her birthday. All I can really do is tell her “happy birthday” and be a nice older brother, but I wish I could do more. One day, I’ll do something special for her kindness. Lord knows she deserves it.

Happy Birthday, Sara. Thank you for everything. You’re one of the strongest people I’ll ever know.

My Thankfulness

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a celebration of the things we’re thankful for. As a somewhat heavy participant in social media – namely, Twitter – it often feels like people love to take this opportunity to be thankful for a chance to make snarky comments about how the world is or how much they hate the holidays. Heaven forbid that they might want to feel some joy.

I suppose it’s their right to be that way. Hell, I know I have some reason to fall into the same trappings, but I’m not really like that. I like to smile and focus on good things and I feel very thankful for a lot, so I’m just gonna sit here and list a few off. This isn’t everything, and some stuff is gonna get passed over. These are just some of the important ones in my head.

Family – Obviously, they’re always there for any of us. Sure, some of them can be a little hotheaded, but that’s in every family. When we have to, we band together. Zunigas don’t fuck around.

Music – I’m often too busy doing things that don’t allow me to listen to much these days and I get withdrawals. It calms me. I often wonder if it’s due to its sense of structure or its complexity or both. Whatever it is, I like it and it’ll always be important to me. Special thanks to my late uncle Paul (RIP) for exposing me to it so young and letting me monkey around on his keyboard.

Gaming – The only hobby aside from music that’s been present in my entire life. It can be an escape one day or an inspiration the next.

Hockey – I love this sport. It’s been too long since I last played regularly, but now that late Fall is upon us, it’s time to get back to the office and embarrass fools.

BOOOOOOTS!!!

My Health – While I haven’t been as on top of it as I once was, I’m still in far better shape than I was at my lowest point. I’m thankful that I know I can achieve that goal if I dedicate to it. I just need to find that willpower again.

Podcasting – I’ve been involved with the BlankShowCast for a year-and-a-half now, and I still enjoy it immensely. It’s probably been my main source of creativity in that time, and it certainly satiates that desire within me. As long as I can keep doing it, I’ll be pretty happy. I’m even looking to expand into a network of sorts, but that’s for another time…

Twitter – Words cannot properly explain the effect it has had on my life. I’ve made many a friend there and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes people in my personal life give me shit for being on it too much, but I don’t care. It’s what I like, it’s what I choose to be a part of. I’ve made some great bonds with great people because of it, and I’m grateful for all of it.

Speaking of which, I owe some fine people a special acknowledgment:

Tim, Isabel and Holly – My original partners in podcast crime. Tim and I basically started the BlankShowCast during a game of Portal 2. Izzy later played along with me as well and has been a good jolt for the show, especially when she comes with questions for Tim and I. Holly was only with us for a short time but her contributions were always appreciated and, more importantly, is still one of the best people I know. If only she’d played Portal 2 with us, we might be a 4-person show. Oh well, maybe at some point we can convince her to return for an appearance in the future.

The Original Triumphant Trio

Unfortunately, none of us have met in person, but that’s something I hope will change soon.

Natalie – When I offered to write sporadically on her DojoRetro blog, I was unaware of what it would actually be turning into as time passed. Now it’s becoming a full-fledged website. What’s even more shocking is that even while doing seemingly very little (in my eyes), she’s put a lot of faith in my extremely limited ability and knowledge. The main thing, however, is that she’s made me realize that I still love gaming as a whole and helped me shake a jaded feeling I’d recently developed toward the industry and its coverage. It’s a hobby of fun and I want it to stay that way, and I think that’s our ultimate goal. As long as it continues to be enjoyable, I’m in. I couldn’t thank her enough.

Ellie” D – My twitter bestie and one of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever met. She’s always willing to listen when I have to gripe and is never without words of encouragement. We’ve both helped each other through some rough times and I’ll always respect her for her kindness. Another one I need to meet, someday. We have a production company to start, after all. %

BlankShowCast Guests – Before it was a three person operation, we often had outside people join us to help keep it fun. For that we thank the following people immensely: Aenne Schumann, Nate Hales, Sam Alegria, “Retro” Chris Carboni, Melissa Kay, Jared Larson, Marc Lynch, Cyrus “Fozzy” Fayazi, Sarah Strickler, Brendan van der Vlist, Brian Eskelson, Jason Ericsson, Brittney Brombacher, William Milby, and the reigning champion with 4 appearances, Stephanie Gutowski. Thank you all for helping us not be as boring as we would’ve been without you.

Various Podcast Special Guests – I’ve been lucky enough to have been granted a few serious interviews, all of which were exciting and super fun to do. For this, I’d like to extend serious thanks to voice actor Courtenay TaylorMeg Turney from SourceFed, Emily Reese from Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s Top Score Podcast, and Tara Theoharis from the webseries Job Hunters. It was an honor for you all to join us and give insight into your worlds. Also, Kristina Horner for the musical number.

My Bro and Our Friends – I seem to see these guys less and less as time goes on, but if not for them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. There’s not much else to say, really. They mean the world to me and they know it. I hope they do, anyway.

I think that pretty much covers all of the bases. I know a lot of people are about to get stupid cranky about Christmas and all that, but I like happy. I’d rather enjoy the positive reflection that the holidays bring rather than focus on which part of the family I don’t like or how much of a hassle holiday travel and shopping is. We go through that out of duty, out of respect, and even out of love. The world could use more of that. I say we all put some out there.

-Happy Holidays, everyone!