Fixed a link, Inoki BOM-BA-YE, and other stuff...

The link for Jeremy Norris' blog should work now. Again, I urge you to check it out.

Now, with that said, I think someone really has to stop Antonio Inoki before he damages another promising New Japan wrestler's career.

For those that aren't into Japanese wrestling ("puroresu", pronounced as "pro-wres"), there's been a disturbing trend in the last few years -- spearheaded by puroresu legend (and almost as shitty a worker as Hulk Hogan) Inoki, to get professional wrestlers entered into mixed-martial arts competitions. Now, most puroresu grapplers are well-versed in skills that are useful in MMA fights...the vast majority of them being proficient in amateur wrestling ("amaresu"), judo, some in jiu-jitsu, that sorta thing. But, pro wrestlers are at an immense disadvantage in MMA fights...for several reasons. First off, MMA fighters tend to train only in MMA, and that's their profession. All year, all they do is train in MMA, and fight in MMA. Pro wrestlers, while in a better schedule than their American counterparts (they go on 20-day or so tours, and then are off for a few weeks), still spend almost all of their time performing on pro wrestling shows. Sure, a pro wrestler who enters a MMA fight will usually take a tour off or so to train, but what good is a few weeks against a guy who will have been training nonstop for said fight for months? Not only that, but MMA has evolved into a sport where a fighter with only one skill is going to get weeded out in short order. You can be the world's best amateur wrestler, but if you can't use strikes or defend against them, you're toast. Likewise, even the most devastating boxer or kickboxer would lose an MMA fight, simply because they would be lost in the woods the millisecond a proficient wrestler went in for a takedown on them. Pro wrestlers are usually great at using devastating strikes within the framework of a pro wrestling match...which does absolutely no good when you DON'T want to pull your punches/kicks/kneestrikes/whatever. A pro wrestler's strikes LOOK devastating, while a MMA fighter's strikes ARE devastating. That is an extremely important distinction inside a MMA ring.

Tomorrow (actually, starting at 4 AM EST), 7 New Japan wrestlers are participating in MMA fights. On Inoki's "BOM-BA-YE" show, Tadao Yasuda, Josh Barnett, Kazunari Murakami, Yuji Nagata, and Kazayuki Fujita are all fighting. Meanwhile, on the K-1 show "Dynamite!" that's running against it (how weird is it that NJPW wrestlers are fighting on a show that's against the one that an NJPW legend is promoting?), Masayuki Naruse and new IWGP World Heavyweight champion Shunsuke Nakamura are appearing. Here's a quick look at what this could mean for these guys:

Tadao Yasuda - Well, if anything, this man emobodies the "reward" half of the risk/reward potential of wrestlers fighting in MMA. He beat someone or another (I don't follow MMA as much as I'd like to, so I don't recall who), and translated that into The Most Undeserved IWGP Heavyweight Title Reign Ever. You see, if you're a wrestler, and you actually WIN, then you're immediately vaulted into "Conquering Hero" status. However, Yasuda has been found out for the limited (read as: fat useless sack of shit) worker that he is, and thus, he can only gain from this. If he can beat Rene Rooze, then he can get his struggling career back on track (just at the loss of match quality at the top of the card, that is). If not, then he's still the mid-card useless sack of crap that he is right now.

Actually, let me correct myself. The reward can come even in defeat...Japanese wrestling is built upon the concept of "fighting spirit". The best way to explain that for a non-fan would be a quote from the Dynamite Kid's book: "Always take a step forward...never, EVER take a step back." In Japan, being brave and spirited in defeat can do more for a guy than even victory. Yoshihiro Takayama was just another quasi-shootstyle midcard guy until his legendary MMA fight with Don Frye. Takayama lost, and when it was over, he looked like a cruise liner ran over him. But, for him to trade punches for about 2 minutes straight (I wish everyone could see that...no attempt at defense was made by either man...it was just several minutes of both guys eating right hand after right hand) with a fantastic striker like Frye vaulted him into the upper echelons of the Japanese puro scene. He's now a freelancer, at the top of the card and a former champion in not one but two promotions (and, these days, the two biggest ones). With that in mind...

Josh Barnett: Well, this is the anamoly. Barnett came into pro wrestling from a MMA background (he's actually defending the King of Pancrase title in this fight), and the Strongest Foreigner can only be hurt if he gets his ass kicked in humilating fashion. Since that's highly unlikely, he'll be all right.

Kazunari Murakami: The "Terrorist of Heisei" is an interesting case study. He apparently is the type that has a chance in an MMA fight, but he also has little to lose pro wrestling-wise -- for a different reason, of course. The Makai Club member is in the midcard, and solidly so at that. He's trotted out in 5 or 6-minute American-style matches, and he hasn't been a threat to any major title in recent memory. Again, this can only help him if he can overcome Stefan Leko. Also, reading through his background on SSS, he apparently won a fight on PRIDE's first-ever card, so I suppose he has that going for him, too.

Kazuyuki Fujita: He's another guy who came from an MMA background (actually, SSS says he nearly made the 1996 Olympics as a wrestler), and it actually led to The Second Most Undeserved IWGP Heavyweight Title Reign Ever. He's an upper-midcard guy, so he has a *little* to lose. However, for the most part, he has everything to gain...he hasn't been in the title picture for quite some time.

Masayuki Naruse: He also has almost nothing to lose. He's a junior heavyweight, and hasn't been doing much lately. But, if he can knock off boxer Imamu Mayfield (and, if he hasn't been trained in takedowns, Naruse probably even SHOULD beat him), then you can bet he'll beat Yasuda at the Tokyo Dome on 1/4 (especially if Yasuda loses his fight earlier in the evening), and then either he'll go on to be Heat's V1 defense of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, or he may even catapult himself into the heavyweight division. Naruse has everything to gain if he can win.

Yuji Nagata: Now, this is interesting. Poor Yuji emobodies the "risk" half of this particular coin. In 2001, he had a highly-publicized MMA fight in PRIDE against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filopovic. At the time, Nagata was a rising star, widely-thought to benext in line to serve as the company's "ace" (usually the IWGP Heavyweight champion, as Masahiro Chono has managed to rise to something even above "ace"). Then, he got into the MMA ring against Cro Cop, and promptly lost in 20-something seconds to a roundhouse kick to the head. Nagata plummeted down the card, and almost had his career ended. Luckily, his heart, determination, and TRUE fighting spirit saw him claw his way back up the NJPW ladder, and he had a 1 1/2 year-long Heavyweight title reign that set a record for successful defenses (V10, I believe), and only ended in April of this year (it took Takayama's second attempt to do it). Now, he's fighting Fedor Emelianenko, a man who actually beat Cro Cop recently (in somewhat convincing fashion to boot). On one hand, as he's perhaps my favorite pro wrestler from ANY promotion, I want to hope that Yuji can somehow take down Feodor, David vs. Goliath style. However, he's talking in the Japanese press about how he's going to use one of his pro wrestling finishers -- the Nagata Lock II (known on these shores as the Crippler Crossface) -- to defeat him. Right. Already at a major disadvantage, he's going to sink one of MMA's rising stars with the fucking Crippler Crossface. Uh-huh. This has "disaster" written all over it, but Yuji can save face if he can at least survive the first round.

Shunsuke Nakamura: However, THIS is the most interesting case of all. Nakamura just recently became the youngest IWGP Geavyweight champ in history, at just 23 years of age (only 1 year, 2 months into his pro career). Keep in mind that in NJPW, it usually goes down like this: When you debut, you start in "Young Lion" matches, where both guys have to wear regulation black trunks and boots, and are only allowed to use the most basic of moves (they all go about 4-5 minutes, and always end with a Boston Crab). That goes for about 4 months, then you start to last 6-7 minutes. Then, after another 2 or 3 months, you finally win your first match. Then, after the year mark or so, you get shipped off to Mexico or the USA or Germany for a "learning excursion". Upon your return, you get to dress in colors and use the moves you've learned, but you're dumped right into the bottom of the lower-midcard. However, Nakamura (then known as "Super Rookie") rocketed past those parts, and was beating big names while his dojo classmates were still getting housed in Young Lion matches. Now, he comes into his fight with Alexey Ignashov (who's supposed to be insanely tough) as the IWGP Champion, with the most promising career of anyone who has come down the pipe since Nagata (but even more so, as Nagata didn't even come back from WCW until he was like 30 or so). Now, the thing is that Nakamura has fought in MMA matches recently, and has won them...decisively, at that. So, you can't be too quick to bet against him. However, he too is talking about using his pro wrestling finish (the Shining Triangle) to sink the Belarussian. Now, the Shining Triangle is a flashy version of the triangle choke, a legitimate, dangerous MMA finisher (stems from jiu-jitsu, I believe). If he wants to go for the triangle, that's fine, but if he tries that flashy bullshit, I think Ignashov is going to kill him. And, he has to realize that he has NJPW's entire legitimacy in his hands...if he loses in similar fashion to how Nagata did back in 2001, it's not going to be just him that's the joke...it'll be the whole company that loses face. Not only that, if he loses, they're going to take that title off of him before you can say "There goes THAT career". If he even can recover (don't count it out...Nagata did, albeit not having lost when he was the champion), it could take years to get him back to where he could challenge for the belt again. And, he won't have that extra little mystique that he has now, where he could be the next Chono or maybe even Inoki if he plays his cards right. He has everything to lose, and only the status quo to gain.

So, there you have it. Back to Diablo II for me.

So I'm watching the EPL Review Show...

...and while Chelski may be overrated, overappreciated, and overly-expensively produced, my god are they fun to watch when they're on. All three of the goals against Portsmouth were of the highest quality. In particular, beg, borrow, or tape the next showing of the Review Show to see Geremi's goal (Chelski's third)...in full stride, from outside the area, he hits it on a full volley up and over the leaping Wapenaar. Absolutely sublime, a contender for goal of the season, and from a somewhat unlikely source (if anyone on Chelsea was going to score that goal, I would have bet the farm on Crespo).

Magnificent, sensational goal.

An old friend...

...has a blog. It's good. Over there, on the right...Jeremy Norris.

Then, make sure you check out Todd's Paralysis of the Mind. He's also an old friend, and even a former roommate/housemate in college.

They're good. CONSUME!!!!!!!!


Since I'm always late to the party...

...I figured now (right around mid-season) would be the perfect time to do my Yahoo fantasy Premiership team. Considering it's so late on, and the later you join, the harder it is to salvage a decent side, I thought I did pretty well for myself.

Shay Given in goal, Phil Neville, Colin Cooper, and Glen Johnson in the back, Stan Laziridis, James McFadden, Scott Parker, David Prutton, and Robert Pires in midfield, Alan Shearer and Alan Smith up front.

Well...it's a side that could beat the Portsmouths and Wolverhamptons of the world, at any rate!

Awww yeah....Arsenal 1-0 Southampton

Arsenal vs. Southampton

1' Southampton gets a quick free-kick, but it comes to nothing.
2' The Saints fans are in fine voice tonight...and why not? They have a chance in this one, I think.
3' Arsenal's settled into the game, and have come up with some probing runs to worry the Saints defense a little.
5' Vieira makes a brilliant run right down the heart of the park, but the one-two with Ljungberg is muffed by the Swede. What a run, though! Toure then makes a similar run, but can't quite control it in the end.
6' The Arse look real, real good so far.
7' Bergkamp has twice tried his old volley-over-the-defense trick, but he just doesn't have that level of magic anymore. This time at least gives Parlour a free shot from outside the area, but Parlour fires well wide.
8' It's weird when you say that the home side has to weather the storm in the first 10-15 minutes or so, but there you go...Arsenal is just dominating the possession.
8' Southampton's back four has also been good, though...they're not letting Arsenal get a pass into the area.
10' Prutton hacks down Pires, but rightly only gets a warning. I was afraid we'd see a yellow already.
11' Clichy sure isn't afraid to make a run right into the teeth of the opponents' defense. I like that in an attacking fullback.
11' Beautiful pass from Henry up to Pires, but he's closed down by three Saints defenders.
13' Wonderful ball from some Saint up to Phillips, but his low shot is right at Lehmann. Actually, replay shows it was a better save than it looked.
14' Henry takes a pass from his own half, runs right through everyone, and fires high from the top of the area, only for Niemi to make a fantastic leaping save. Corner comes to nothing.
15' Henry continues to terrorize the defense, as he runs from the touchline down to the goalline, and then crosses right onto the head of a wide-open Bergkamp...but th header is terrible, and trickles well wide. DB10 should have done much better, and this SHOULD have been 1-0.
16' A Saints' free kick goes into the area and troubles the Arsenal briefly, but it's cleared into touch. The resulting throw-in to Svensson catches everyone by surprise except Lehmann, who gathers well.
18' Southampton is starting to see much more of the ball now.
19' Parlour steals a bad square pass off the foot of a Saints player, and his shot takes a deflection, forcing Niemi to go down well to save.
20'' Vieira finds Pires, and his drive from outside the area is held well by Niemi.
22' Bergkamp wastes a beautiful build-up from the back with a terrible square pass to nobody in particular. He won't go the full 90...bet on it.
24' Southampton gets a nice cross from the wing into the area, but Lehmann punches it out well.
25' Bergkamp makes Niemi panic on a back-pass, and actually deflects the kick. Sadly, it went into touch instead of in the net...good effort, though.
26' All this possession, all the shots on goal for the Arsenal...yep, this has a Saints goal written ALL over it.
28' Parlour gives is away, they get it out to Beattie who's all the way on the wing, and his cross is kicked out for a corner.
29' Some handbags are going on in the area...Phillips stamped Lehmann on the foot...no yellow, of course.
29' The corner rebounds out to Higginbotham, whose volley goes well over the bar. Good effort for someone who isn't an offensive threat, though.
33' The beautiful interplay of the first part of the half has downgraded into missed passes and miscommunication from both sides.
34' Henry does a wonderful job to get away from Telfer, but his shot goes about 9 astronomical units wide.
35' GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL! Henry with a sensational through-ball to spring Pires past the defense. Super Rob, one-on-one with the goalkeeper, easily slots home low past Niemi's left. One-Nil to the Arsenal!
38' Ljungberg gets shoved down, gets right back up, passes up to DB10, who earns a corner.
39' Short corner comes to nothing.
40' You know, I miss the stale-beer smell of Nevada Smith's when I'm watching a match at home.
40' Arsenal's travelling fans are revelling in the Tott'Scum being in a relegation place, as it stands now.
41' The Saints can barely get a touch on the ball, now...Arsenal are just smothering them.
42' Henry makes a wonderful play to steal the ball, it comes out to Ljungberg on the flank, and his brilliant cross is headed out well by the Saints. The rebound comes to Henry, but his shot blazes well over the bar.
44' The Saints finally threaten again, as Prutton steals, and it's worked up into the area. Griffit's nice ball into the area catches Phillips a bit by surprise. It comes back out the flank, and the cross is flicked on wide by Phillips.
45' Vieira hacks down Beattie, and I imagine he's very lucky to not get a yellow.
45' Kolo clears well on the ensuing freekick.
45' Griffit does very well to earn a throw-in against two defenders, but the call goes Arsenal's way. I think the Saints got hosed, there.
45' Steven Dunn blows for half-time. Overall, Arsenal dominated the half, but Southampton has threatened JUST enough to convince me that they're still in the reckoning.

47' Vieira shows a wonderful touch in getting past a defender, up to Ljungberg, who gets hacked down outside the area. No call, of course. Real highlight-reel stuff from PV4, however.
48' A bit of miscommunication between Lehmann and Clichy, Clichy does wlel to clear it out for a corner. The corner comes to nothing for the Saints.
51' Svensson takes down Bergkamp...giving the Arse a free kick from 30 yards out.
51' Henry goes for goal, and his beautiful curler goes just an inch or two over the bar...Niemi never moved.
52' The Saints have a new record attendance today...32,000+. Good on them, I say.
54' A bouncing ball in the box from a bad clearance comes to a wide open Freddie, but Niemi makes a wonder save force a corner.
55' The corner is cleared easily by the Southampton defense.
57' Brett Ormerod is on for Griffit. Good change...Ormerod scores big goals on occasion. 3 strikers for Saints now.
59' Another change for Saints...Darren Kenton is on for Baird. I know absolutely nothing about this guy...the announcer says he played 200 games for Norwich.
60' Telfer takes down Kolo, free kick from the touchline.
61' The kick rebounds out for Henry, but his shot is amazingly bad. Happens to the best of us, mate.
62' The Saints get a halfway-dangerous free kick, but they make a total mess out of it. Gotta convert those set pieces.
63' Parlour with the foul, so Southampton gets another chance. This one from Telfer is better, but the Gunners clear.
66' Shouts for Higginbotham handballing in the box, replay shows that it was close. However, if it's not a dead-on lock, there's no reason to call a penalty in a match this close for something that certainly wasn't diliberate.
67' Niemi makes something of a hash out of a tame low shot from Ljungberg, but there's nothing around him but red-and-white striped shirts.
67' Henry is hacked down, free kick to the Arsenal. This is probably 35-40 yards out.
68' Short free kick to Kolo, who turns it over immediately.
69' Pires with another freekick, this time from the touchline, but it's cleared out by Southampton.
70' Phillips does well down the touchline to avoid two Arsenal defenders, but his cross is taken very well by Lehmann.
71' Kanu is warming up for the Gunners.
72' Clichy makes a nice run down the wing before being forced off the ball. In two years, this kid's going to be awesome.
72' Actually, someone else on Arsenal is going to come on, too, but no mention has been made yet. OK, they just did...it's Edu who is also waiting.
73' Phillips makes an incisive run, but PV4 forces him into a less-dangerous open space, out to Telfer, who finds Beattie, but the defense easily cancels him out.
74' Ljungberg is off for Edu, DB10 is off for Kanu. Told ya so.
76' Rory Delap with the worst throw-in in recorded history, as he tosses it right over Arsenal's endline.
76' Henry finds some space outside the area, but the defenders close him down enough to force him into a bad wide shot.
77' Another change on the cards for Saints...I admire Gordon Strachan quite a bit. He's not afraid to throw caution to the wind to get something from a game.
78' Long ball into Arsenal's box, Beattie collides with Lehmann, JL1 drops the ball, but gathers it quickly.
78' Telfer is off for Neil McCann. That's all 3 subs for the Saints now.
80' Henry turns on the gas, but gets tackled by two Saints defenders at once. Make your own joke about how it probably takes that many anyway. Niemi easily punches out the ensuing corner.
81' The Saints are hanging around...one mistake, and this is tied. I hope Arsenal keeps that in mind.
82' Edu tries a drive from well out, but it ends up in row Z.
83' Pires returns the favor from the first goal, finding Henry. Henry slips, recovers, then gets a shot away. Niemi gets a paw on it, but Pires slips when he could have had an easy tap-in. Lucky for the Saints, but where on earth were the markers?
84' A bit of a nervous sequence in Arsenal's box leads to Pires clearing out for a long throw-in.The Saints are starting to find their way again.
85' The ball comes tantalizingly into the area, but Phillips is called for a foul on Lehmann. Rightly so, too.
87' McCann hacks Pires from behind, and we have our first yellow card.
88' Pires is coming off, as Lauren makes a welcome return from injury.
89' Lauren's first touch goes awry, and he has to foul his man to prevent a counter-attack.
90' Kanu with a nice ball for Henry, but's it's just a tad too strong for TH14 to catch up to.
90' Parlour called for a foul on the touchline, but it seemed like six of one, half-dozen of the other with Higginbotham.
90' 2 minutes of stoppage time, says the fourth official.
90' Lauren puts it out for a throw, which ends up with a nice cross into the box. Arsenal clears, though.
90' Arsenal's fans are the ones singing now.
90' Ormerod with a dangerous flick-on, but Arsenal clears.
90' McCann with the cross in, Lehmann catches it easily. He must have gotten bumped by someone, as he loses it and hurls the ball at a Saints player. Dunn is about to card him, then thinks better of it, and just blows the final whistle. JL1 probably should have gotten a yellow.
90' So, that's it. Another 3 points in the bag, thanks to a scrappy, ugly win. Still only 1 point behind the Manks, and now three

A quick NBA note...

The Lakers just absolutely demolished the Celtics tonight....

Can we just get on with making the Eastern Conference a minor league to the West? Is this possible? I REALLY don't want to sit through another "New Jersey gets mauled in the Final" playoffs.

Seriously, Mr. Stern...work on this?

I'm going to be lazy and cross-post...

...from something I did over at In This Very Ring. New Japan is doing a big Tokyo Dome show on 1/4/04, which will incorporate everyone on their active roster who isn't injured. I was asked for my predictions, and thus, here they are (last time I did this was Strong Style Spirit's G-1 Climax prediction competition, and I was one of like 10 people out of 120 who predicted the semifinals and finals correctly, almost right down to the finishing moves).

Dark matches:

1. Naofumi Yamamoto vs. Hirooki Goto

This it the Young Lions match between the losers of the competition they held on some midnight special they just had. Actually, Hirooki Goto beat Akiya Anzawa, but the two places in the Young Lions match that will make TV were decided by phone-in vote, and Anzawa's brave display (he lasted almost 7 minutes for the first time in his career) got him in. Meanwhile, I follow NJPW's results religiously, and Goto is quite far ahead of Yamamoto, it seems. Goto wins in 6 minutes with a crab hold.

2. El Samurai vs. Katsushi Takemura

For some reason, Takemura isn't coming to mind....checking SSS now...ohhhh...right...he's the guy that's hanging out with Jado and Gedo these days. They were pushed to somewhat of a ridiculous level lately, but that push has hit a wall...Jado lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight belt convincingly to Heat, for example. Sammy wins in 6-8 minutes with the chickenwing armlock.

3. Enson Inoue, Hiro Saito, Tatsutoshi Goto & Michiyoshi Ohara vs. Makai #1, Makai #5, Ryushi Yanagisawa & Ryota Chikuzen

The Old Guys and Other Guys match. Enson's presence is the only thing that separates these teams, really. It goes around 10, and Enson wins with a front sleeper or some such thing.

4. Blue Wolf & Wataru Inoue vs. Shinya Makabe & Toru Yano

Openweight U-30 match here. Toru Yano is well behind everyone else win/loss-wise, so despite his partner getting somewhat of a push lately, Wolf sinks him with a Mongol Slam in 7 minutes.

5. Masayuki Naruse vs. Tadao Yasuda

The last of the dark matches, and by far the most interesting one. They're doing a "Heavyweight Hunter" gimmick with Naruse the last few weeks...but, Yasuda is going to cheat like mad, and probably have one of the Makai Club guys interfere. This'll go around 12-15, and Naruse is going to get a few real close falls with the Crazy Cyclone, but Yasuda will cheat, then Tiger Driver him for the duke.

Televised Matches

6. Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Akiya Anzawa

Taguchi is WAY ahead of Anzawa. He'll coast to victory in 4-5 minutes with a dropkick (Hey Ryusuke, get a real fucking finisher, will you please?)

7. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title: Jado & Gedo (c) vs. Heat & Tiger Mask

New Japan is realizing their mistake with these guys....halfway decent tag team, but not worthy of all the junior belts. Heat and Tiger Mask 4 flip them like cheese omeletes, Tiger pinning Jado in 5 minutes with the Tiger Suplex Hold.

8. GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title: Takashi Sugiura (c) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

This is the hardest one to predict so far. NOAH has already lost the GHC Tag Team titles to New Japan opposition, so in one respect, I can't see them handing over their junior belt too. However, only a moron bets against Liger in a title match...the guy ALWAYS seems to win them. But, Liger has never won this title, and I'm sure backstage-wise, he'll be pressuring NJPW to pull strings to get him to wni it. Also, Suguira beat Liger clean as a sheet in the BOSJ, so Liger brainbusters him for the title in 12 minutes or so.

9. U-30 Openweight Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Yutaka Yoshie

I think this one may be the easiest to call for the entire night, outside of Anzawa's match. Tanahashi does not need the title anymore, and Yoshie probably needs it right now, as he's about to turn 30. This'll probably get 16-17 or so, with Yoshie coming off the top with the big splash for the title.

10. Josh Barnett & Takashi Iizuka vs. Kazunari Murakami & Katsuyori Shibata

This'll be a wild bloodbath, most likely. Iizuka's been losing a lot of matches lately, but I can't see the Strongest Foreigner's team losing at the Dome. Barnett gets one or the other with the Captured Buster in 6 minutes.

11. Osamu Nishimura vs. Minoru Suzuki

The Pancrase star hasn't lost in NJPW in an age and a half, but I think they're about set to push Mr. Muga...he's already won the Tag Titles with Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and something tells me that Suzuki will fall to the dreaded backslide in 9-12 minutes.

12. Manabu Nakanishi vs. Genichiro Tenryu

Nakanishi's in a pretty bad run of form for him, and Tenryu isn't going to come in to lose this one, I think. Tenryu in 11 with the 53 Years Old.

13. Yuji Nagata vs. Kensuke Sasaki

Sasaki supposedly has a lot of heat with NJPW types for the way he left the company for the now-doomed World Japan...so, what better way to capitalize that then give him a big win at the Dome, and cash in on a perfect natural heel? Sasaki wins in 20 mintues with two consecutive Northern Lights Bombs.

14. Masahiro Chono Return Match: Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Keiji Muto & Bob Sapp

This is so going to suck, I bet. Most people tend to lose in return matches, even if they don't get pinned themselves. Tenzan is coming off a bad IWGP Heavyweight title loss to Nakamura, so Muto gets him with the Shining Wizard off of Sapp's back.

15. Unification Match - IWGP Heavyweight Title & NWF Heavyweight Title: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (c)

Takayama has had one of the better win-loss records in all of Japan in 2003, but, I think NJPW is really starting to realize what they have with this Nakamura guy (who I'd love to see wrestle sooner or later). In 27 minutes, Nakamura locks in the Shining Triangle for the tapout and both titles.


Wow. Just...just wow.

For the last 45 minutes or so, I've been going to the Blogger front page, and constantly reloading it, checking out random links from the "10 most recently updated blogs".

In all of that, I found one good...no...fantastic one, which is newly-linked over there on the right. That, because of a brilliant use of humor and an excellent writing style, is the exception to the rule regarding the type of blog I'm going to rant about right abooooooooooout.....................................now.

The "This is my life" type of blog irritates me to absolutely no end. From what I've gathered in my 25 years of human study, people's lives tend to follow the same basic template, with many of the same problems, small victories, and daily nothings occuring in everyone's life at one point or another. I don't see how it can be of any interest to a random surfer, and furthermore, I feel kind of dirty reading something like that. It's essentially like peeking in someone's window...or wiretapping their phone. If you work it like you can on Livejournal, where only friends can read it, that's one thing. Actually, in a Livejournal setting, I have no problem with this sort of thing...that seems to be geared more towards a "bitching for your friends to read, who then post nice replies to cheer you up" setup. Blogger doesn't have that, and in my opinion, seems to be more useful for those who have a freaking OPINION or ANALYSIS about something. Something to spark debate, to make you think, to amuse, to entertain, to somehow justify the use of bandwidth.

The vast majority, though, seem to be of the infinitely useless "Like, today, I totally talked to Chad! And, like, he talked back to me! OMG I'M GONNA DIE!!! <3 ^_^" variety. Blargh! Gak! And, other vaguely-vomitous type noises too!

The one I linked, however, is what those who use a blog in place of a diary or journal should aim for. No names are used, which is fine...I'll never meet these people anyway. However, the author has the type of style that turns "Random People A, B, C, D, and E" into a fascinating cast of characters....kind of like an actually-watchable sitcom (which life can be, sometimes). I found myself laughing at loud at just about everything, and the author has turned the normal life event of nearing 30 years of age into an engaging, witty, must-read blog. Well done!

Oh, and memo to the endless "My life is such shit, everything is pain, blah blah blah" bloggers....good lord, people. Drink a beer, smoke a joint, watch a good movie, and chill out a bit, will you? Or, if you insist on being a miserable prat, keep a pen-and-paper diary that you keep in a locked drawer, will you? Doesn't anyone do that anymore? (OMG CRANKY 25-YEAR OLD!)

Added an e-mail link, and need an excuse to republish

I realize the thingie at the top of the page mentions pro wrestling and music, and I haven't gotten to those much lately. The thing is, I've always liked soccer, but now it's evolved into straight-up love...kinda like in one of those terrible teen 80s movies, where the protagonist has the somewhat cute female friend that he ignores incessantly until the end of the flick, when he realizes that she's really the girl for him (Random: There's a more recent movie with that plot called "Trojan War", that shockingly was very fun and watchable...it doesn't hurt that the "somewhat cute friend" was Jennifer Love Hewitt).

...and yes, I think that's the worst analogy I've ever used in this blog. Get used to them...as one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Rich Vos, always says: "I stink."

So, very quickly, one thought about each topic:

-- Bands I've recently gotten into that may surprise anyone who knows me: The Pogues, The Replacements, anything Duff McKagan has done solo. Check them out sometime. Also, two bands worth checking out that never quite made it as big as they deserved -- Ugly Kid Joe, and Candlebox.

-- NWA-TNA is paying WGN to air a television show. The good news is that WGN has almost a completely national presence, which is an important step for a promotion that's dying to reach that brass ring of "Legit #2 Promotion". The bad news is that they've decided to make it just like TNA Xplosion (their syndicated show) with one big match at the end. I'm sorry, but I honestly believe that you can't have a real Number Two whose big weekly show is on PPV. You need a strong presence on free TV to make a dent in Vinny Mac's empire. Also, I can't say I see the business sense in paying a hefty price to put out a show that's like a version 1.5 of their syndie show. Sadly, I think it's doomed to failure, and it may be the death of TNA. However, exactly zero people believed the initial PPV system would last more than a month or so, and they're already up to what...80-something episodes?


Boxing Day in the EPL, and why the NFL bores the shit out of me...

Well, was that the greatest Boxing Day as a whole, or what? Usually, from what I could tell, Boxing Day served a noble purpose: getting all the dreary 0-0 draws out of the way all on one day, allowing the rest of the season to have the goals we love so much. However, the goals were flying in from everywhere this year, including a "major upset" that isn't so major if you do the smart thing, and not listen to all the know-it-all pundits out there.

Anyone who actually, you know, pays attention could tell you that Charlton Athletic is a dangerous squad. They have a should-be England international (Scott Parker) in the center of the park, a fantastic goalkeeper in Dean Kiely, and a very solid back four to go along with a hard-working midfield. They don't have a true scoring threat, which is why they won't be challenging Arsenal or Manshit United anytime soon. However, on any one given day, they are certainly a side that any intelligent manager does NOT want to face. I've been saying this all season (go on...check the archives of this very blog), and they certainly have as much chance as Fulham or Southampton or Newcastle of finishing fourth.

That reminds me of something else, before I get to the actual match. Pundits amuse me...greatly. Most of them are former players, or at least guys that probably watch a lot of football. However, it's just like the pundits we have here...in sports, politics, movies, or anything else -- you have to take what they say with the entire shaker of salt. The biggest mistake these types usually make is a fascinating reliance on inertia...which is fine for a physics test, but not so much in sports or politics or life in general. Just because Chelsea or Manshit United or even Arsenal win most of the time, it's treated as a league-altering event any time they so much as get a draw with anyone outside that group of three. Now, unless it's Manshit United in one of the Championship Manager games, any squad in real life is going to lose 4-5 matches, and draw at least 4-5. Out of a 38 game season, even a top-three side is going to drop points a tad more than one quarter of the time. And, any real fan that watches a zillion matches a year knows where the real potential land mines are...Charlton, Bolton (this season, anyway), Everton when Wayne Rooney is healthy, any relegation-threatened squad towards the end of the season, etc. But, look at any match preview, and it may as well be saying: "Well, Chelsea will most likely stroll into the Valley and beat Whatstheirnames 9-0."

Well bucko, it doesn't work that way most times...especially against one of those aforementioned landmine teams like Charlton. Chelsea may have had a Christmas hangover, maybe they read one too many idiot hack pundits who continue to rate Charlton as favorites for the drop (The hell?! I'd love to see the reasoning behind that besides the Selig-esque "OMG THEIR STADIUM IS SMALLISH AND THEY ONLY HAVE ONE STAR LOL." Whatever the case was, their defense was a shambolic disgrace, their midfield dominated possession but never actually DID much with it, and their strikers wasted most of the chances they got (and, it wasn't even a case of Kiely being god-like today...he was only "really good"). When it was all said and done, the Addicks thumped Chelsea to the tune of 4-2, and it perhaps should have been even more.

What struck me about Charlton's performance is that they play a total team game...their passing is intelligent as well as breathtaking at times...their defense refuses to give an inch, and when they do get beaten, Dean Kiely is there to mop up most of the mistakes. Striking-wise, Jonaton Johannson and Jason Euell aren't going to strike the same kind of fear in the hearts of men that Theirry Henry, Hernan Crespo, or Ruud van Divingprick do, but they tend to take enough chances to keep Charlton up towards the elite. I watched the Dallas-Sacramento NBA game on Christmas, and when Sacramento was really going (minus their big stars, Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic), they struck me a lot like Charlton does...the passing, the pressing defense, the total team game (how the HELL did the Kings manage to lose that one, anyway?) So, good on you, Charlton! I would love nothing better than to see them or Newcastle finish fourth...hell, the way Chelsea played, maybe third and fourth respectively. Heh!

As for the Arsenal, they're not going to be on TV this round, sadly...not even on a delayed basis. However, they easily dispatched Wolves 3-0, while the filthy drug-test-missing Manks won 3-2 against Everton. So, status quo in first and second places, while Chelsea loses ground in third (and, coincidentally, also loses ground towards the 4th and 5th clubs, as Charlton moved to 5th with the win, and 4th-placed Fulham won against Southampton).

Now, as for the NFL...I don't know if I mentioned it in this space before, but I have the NFL package on DirecTV, thanks to the promotion they were doing when we signed on (first 4 months free, all we had to do was get the package, which worked out to be cheaper). And, for about 4 or 5 weeks now, I think I've watched one quarter's worth of American football. It's not that I despise the game now...I've been a fan since the Joe Montana days, and football's given me no small amount of enjoyment over the years. But, as I've grown, and been introduced to many of the world's sports, I find it just can't compete in my mind with the real football, or ice hockey, or rugby, and even basketball these days (and I've always been a supremely casual fan at best).

Here's why, explained to the best of my ability.

-- It's sllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. I love how mainstream sports media types are quick to jump on soccer, because they equate low scoring with boredom (not that they've watched a match in their life, I bet). But, in soccer, and rugby especially, there is ALWAYS something going on. The clock doesn't stop, play doesn't stop, there's only breaks in play when really necessary, and the action is fast and continuous. In American football, there's one play every 40 seconds, and each play only averages a few seconds in length. How's that for excitement? On top of that, when a coach calls for an instant replay, it takes longer than a UN meeting. In rugby, they look at a few angles, and make a fucking decision.

-- It has a childish mentality. At this point in my life, I can't get into a sport where defensive players (and both sets of linemen) brag about injuring others, while offensive players live only to show up the opposition. American football players and fans alike buy into the idea that this mentality equates to toughness, and that's why everything else (especially soccer) are "pussy sports". That's about two or three steps down the evoultionary scale, isn't it? For the record, rugby is just as "tough" as American football, with the added bonus that they have no equipment, and play two halves of 40 minutes...straight, with none of this "9 substitutions every play" that American football has. Anyone who says soccer's a pussy sport should be sentenced to 90 minutes of getting slide-tackled and "accidentally" elbowed in the face by Roy Keane, or Robbie Savage, or Patrick Vieira. Also, these are the types that probably haven't run 90 minutes in their entire life, let alone the span of one match. Get back on your couch and keep swilling that lite beer, football-boy. Not only that, but the way the football community treats its kickers and punters is absolutely atrocious. Both are highly-specialized skills, that are crucially important in any game. Any NFL coach will tell you that field position is vitally important, and punters are right at the crux of that battle. Also, look at any list of most points scored in a career....know who populates the entire top of that list? Why, kickers, of course! Ishn't that veerd? They get treated like absolute shit most of the time, and especially when they happen to miss an important kick. But, they're the first to get mobbed by their teammates when they do make that all-important kick. John Hall makes a 50+-yard field goal against the Raiders to get the Jets into the playoffs what...two seasons ago? And now, he's on the Redskins? How does THAT work? Go down to your local high school sometime, and try to make a fucking extra point, without even another team trying to block it, let alone kick even a 35-yard field goal. Meanwhile, field position and kicking are just as important in rugby, but flyhalves and people who can nail conversions and penalty goals are just as big of stars as anyone else...maybe even more so (JONNY~! WILKINSON~!). In soccer, the tough d-mid who gets stuck in and wins loose balls is just as revered by real fans as the guy who scores 30 goals, and just as much as the brilliant goalkeeper, or the central midfield engine that every play has to go through at some point. Also, you won't see any cell phones or pom-poms or plain general malice in soccer or rugby celebrations. When a goal or a try is scored, you see something that usually relates pure, child-like exuberance. The day Terrell Owens runs around with his shirt over his head doing the airplane thing with his arms....well, no sense finishing that thought...it'll never happen (and hey, I LIKE Owens). It's fun to watch someone from Cameroon or South Korea or Italy celebrate a goal...much more so than some cynical multi-millionare prick, at any rate.

- Enforced parity. Godfuckingdammit, this is the worst. Any league that essentially passively punishes you for running your team well is a crock, a joke, and any other synonym you want to throw out there. While it can be frustrating in soccer that many leagues have those two or three teams that are always up near the top, you have to tip your hat to them...they're up there for a reason. It's like in baseball...the Yankees' best players tend to be the ones they produce on their own, through their scouting and youth development. Also, for the ones they do pay top dollar for, they tend to make their top dollar go further than, say, the Rangers' top dollar (and, interestingly enough, that fits for Rangers of both the Texas AND New York varieties).

- The X-Boredom Factor. You want to say soccer is boring because scores are lower than many sports? Fine. Be that way. But, please be so kind as to explain how football is better, when boring-as-hell squads like the Baltimore Ravens and this year's Carolina Panthers often tend to be among the most successful. The most fun-to-watch team this year is definitely the Kansas City Chiefs, but they're not going to go far in the playoffs, are they? I bet you the Super Bowl is going to have at least one of these Baltimore-Carolina type teams that offensively are about as fun as watching paint dry. Seriously, how does any football fan in one of these cities make the "soccer is boring" argument with a straight face?

- The Super Bowl. Taking out the St. Louis-Tennessee masterpiece of a few years ago, when was the last exciting Super Bowl? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I STILL have nightmares about the Baltimore-NY Giants game, the blowouts that perpetuated the '90s (well, I'll be honest and say excepting San Fran's demolition of San Diego...they ARE my team, after all), and even the late 80s (any Super Bowl the Broncos were in up until the Mike Shanahan era, for example). I think the last good Super Bowl before the St. Louis-Tennessee one was the San Fran-Cincinnati one, although my memory IS bad these days. Meanwhile, when was the last good FA Cup final? Oh, right...last year, when brave Southampton very easily could have beaten the mighty Arsenal if things had gone differently. The Rugby World Cup final was perhaps the most exciting game in any sport I've ever seen, with a finish better than almost any scripted pro wrestling match I've ever seen. A drop goal (the hardest scoring play in rugby) to break a deadlock with the last seconds of extra time expiring? If it were in a movie, you'd deem it ridiculous and corny. In real life, it's a all-too-rare blinding bit of magic.

- It's so bloody American. And, I don't mean that as a knock on America in any way shape or form. I love America, and I love being American...most of the time. It's just that when a sport is only played by one country, it loses a lot of credibilty to me, as I see myself as much more a citizen of the world, rather than a citizen of just America. I find myself being drawn more and more to games that many countries play. I love how, if you can get past the language barrier, I could talk soccer with someone from Papua New Guinea, rugby with someone from South Africa, basketball with someone from Angola, baseball with someone from Japan, ice hockey with someone from Belarus, etc etc etc. To the rest of the world, American football is a bastardized, less-interesting version of rugby, and I can't say I disagree.

So, there you have it. If this makes me a pussy, or an idiot, then so be it. Arsenal-Southampton live on Fox Sports World this Monday for me, please.


Canadiens 4, Penguins 1

Habs 4, Penguins 1.

If you told me that Les Habitants would be ONE point behind Boston and Ottawa at this stage in the season, I would have laughed at you, and/or taken a swing at you for getting my hopes up.

I still am somewhat convinced that a post-Christmas swoon of epic proportions is on the horizon, but for now, we're a playoff team, bitchez!


Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Arsenal

Sorry, no minute-by=minute this time around, as I had to watch the match in my room. It was just as well, because that meant I got some sleep in for long stretches of this snoozefest. Look, I understand that the weather was shite, and both teams did themselves proud with the bags of honest endeavor shown in the match.

Doesn't mean it wasn't boring as hell to watch, though. That, combined with my rough night last night, meant I got some Z's in. Works for me.

The first half was pretty much all Bolton, except for two terrible misses by Henry and DB10. I fell asleep the first time during halftime, and then woke up just in time to see Bolton's keeper (whose name is fucking impossible to spell) save brilliantly from a drive by Ljungberg, but Pires' rebound shot fortuitously bounced off a Bolton player, and into the net. The way the Trotters were playing, that was the only type of goal we were ever going to score...there were never going to be any Thierry Henry specials on this day.

Then, I woke up in time again to see Pedersen's equalizer -- a very well-struck ball from just outside the area. Lehmann had no chance to save it, and I don't think you can fault Cygan too much in not being able to get to the loose ball.

So, that was our lot. Chelsea won away at Fulham, and Manshit United has a slam-dunk game against the Tott'Scum on Sunday. So, if that result goes as it should, the filthy Manks will be top of the league by 1 point, with us second on goal difference from Chelski. At this point in the season, I'll take it. None of the top three are done dropping points by any stretch of the imagination...believe that.


Rio...or, in other words...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Turns out Rio Ferdinand (who, if you don't know, "forgot" to take a drug test) was given an 8-month ban, and was fined 50,000 pounds. Ha. Most excellent, I say. It's great to see a Manshit United player actually have to face up to the consequences of something...and the fact that it was this smug son of a bitch makes it all the sweeter.

Moan on, Man United...just spare a thought to what the punishment would have been like if Rio was a Gunner.


Some random shite...

-- The Arsenal kids beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 to get into the semifinals of the League Cup. You know, it really says something about our youth academy, and for our general squad depth as a whole. It's nice to see that when Jens Lehmann moves on, or if he gets hurt, Stuart Taylor will have stiff competition from Graham Stack for the No. 1 shirt. Oh, and Jeremie Aliadiere scored again, so I think it's safe to say that he's everything that Francis Jeffers wasn't. We get Middlesbrough in the semi, and I have to say I'm somewhat torn on this. The other semifinal is Aston Villa vs. Bolton Wanderers, so if Boro gets by us, they have a real chance to win the whole thing. Now, keep in mind that Boro has been around since the 1890s or something like that, and they've won nothing...ever. They have never even won promotion by winning a league. They don't have so much as a Third Division title. So, I have to admit that there's a pretty big part of me that hopes Boro beats us...I mean, what the fuck does the League Cup mean to us, in the long run? It'd be somewhat neat -- for about twelve seconds -- and then we'd go right back to worrying about the dogfight in the league, and our European Cup tie (assuming we get past Celta Vigo, which we should). I won't actively root for Boro, don't get me wrong. All I'm saying is that I won't shed many tears if we get upset. Of course, if we win, it'll be nice knowing that the Final will only be vs. Aston Villa or Bolton.

-- By the way, my money's on Bolton in that other semifinal...they have a bit more backbone than the Villians do, in my estimation.

-- The Canadiens came from behind in the dying seconds to tie up their game with Nashville tonight, then won in overtime. Defenseman Sheldon Souray led the way with a hat trick (!!!) AND an assist...damn. Saku Koivu's starting to get going offensively, and Jose Theodore has gone back to being the guy we pay 5 million a season for. They stand at 6th in the Eastern Conference, which is just fantastic. All credit has to go to the tag team of coach Claude Julien, and general manager Bob Gainey...they've made the tough decisions, and they're going a long way with not a lot of raw talent. I still am a little skeptical of us making the playoffs this season, but we've got a good young core developing, and a brilliant goaltender to back them up while they learn the ropes. However, with that said, if we DO manage to make the playoffs, we're going to be a very dangerous team come May. If Theodore plays then like he's playing now, there's no reason we can't pull an Anaheim, especially in the not-so-impressive Eastern Conference.

-- Celtic lost 2-1 to Hibernian in the quarterfinal of Scotland's League Cup. Well, as long as the Scum don't go on to win it, then whatever. The Bhoys have bigger fish to fry, just like Arsenal. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the most recent moves that Martin O'Neill has made, however. Dear Martin: MAGNUS HEDMAN FUCKING SUCKS.

-- As far as the A-Rod situation goes, may I humbly suggest that Tom Hicks be strung up and beaten by Texas' fans? He's the jerkoff that signed the contract to begin with, and now he essentially wants A-Rod to take a 30 million pay cut to pay for Manny Ramirez's salary. Uh-huh. Keep in mind that he's already coming out like 80 million ahead just by getting rid of A-Rod. Prick.

-- I still don't want to talk about the moves that Brian Sabean has made for the Giants since the Pierzynski trade. Michael Tucker doesn't exist. Really.


Arsenal 1-0 Blackburn

1' Right off the opening kick-off, the defense does their impersonation of a statue park. Good thing Dwight Yorke sucks, eh? Completely wide-open, with only Lehmann to beat, his shot wouldn't even have scored on the wide posts in Aussie rules football. Good one, Yorkie.
11' Championship Manager 4 is NOT something you can play while watching a game, I find. Losing 0-1 to the Tott'Scum is sign enough to quit, especially with how much harder 4 is than '01-'02..
12' Arsenal with an awesome build-up, very Brazil-esque. Kolo Toure takes on Vlatislav Gresko, leaves the Belarussian for dead, and gets it over to Dennis Bergkamp. DB10 is left with the simple finish past Brad Friedel, and it's 1-0 to the Arsenal..
13' Barry Ferguson pushes over Robert Pires, just minutes after Gresko nutted Frederik Ljungberg. Blackburn are still quite the hack artists, apparently.
15' Gresko is having an absolute mare today. Thierry Henry steals the ball off his foot, and gives Pires a free header...but right at Friedel, sadly.
17' Blackburn has had a lot of early pressure, and their midfield has done well. But, Jens Lehmann cuts off so many attacks with his ability to gather up crosses and loose balls...that, to me, is even more of the reason why he's such a major upgrade over David Seaman than even his shot-stopping ability.
18' Announcer Ian Crocker tells us that we had 14 straight passes leading up our goal. Wow. "Brazil...it's just like watching Brazil..."
20' Gresko makes a NICE cross, but Ferguson can't connect on a diving header. What a goal that woulda been, and the replay showed that Ferguson was wrenchingly close to getting on the end of it.
21' More stuff from the Brazil playbook, as Freddie produces an UNBELIEVABLE ball to Henry, great side-foot to Vieira, but, well, PV4 is NOT a striker.
26' Blackburn is still hanging around...you can't discount the possibility of an equalizer quite yet, but our back four has been good since that appalling error in the first minute..
28' Sol makes it look so easy. He's been great so far.
28' Another thing about Lehmann - it's nice to have a keeper where every backpass isn't an epic adventure.
29' Gilberto Silva takes a silly yellow. I love it when that happens. It's his first yellow in 2 seasons though, apparently.
30' Pires hits the post out of nowhere...the ball just kinda rebounded to him, and Blackburn is very, very lucky to not be 2-0 down. Replay shows that Pires did very well to take the ball, then cut inside through three defenders to get the shot away from a very dangerous area.
31' Freddie is so casual taking it away from Andy Todd, and he finds Henry, but, even the French wizard can't win 1-on-4 this time around..
32' Lehmann cuts off a dangerous cross again. I'm going to make that a macro, if I keep doing this.
33' I hate offside calls where the guy (DB10, in this case) is offside by the width of a foot (the appendage, not the unit of measurement). Stupid ticky-tack shit...wastes a great ball from Henry, too.
34' Terrible corner from Emerton. Blackburn are going to have to start taking chances like this, as they've been smothered otherwise for the last 10 minutes or so.
35' This time, DB10 was well and truly offside.
36' The Arsenal fans are in fine voice...we're top of the league again if this holds. Thanks, Bolton Wanderers!
37' GREAT tackle from Ashley Cole sets up another attack, but a weak header from Pires in the end goes well wide.
39' Henry with a world class pass, but Friedel wins the footrace with Pires and gathers it well.
40' Tugay with a BAD giveaway to Bergkamp, up to Henry, but Friedel does very well to get a leg on it.
41' Right back the other way, but Kolo wins it with ease. He's been amazing this season, in the center or at right back.
41' Actually, Craig Short deflected Henry's shot, otherwise, it may have ended up in the far corner instead of hitting Friedel's leg on the near post.
42' Markus Babbel gets a yellow, joining Gresko and Ferguson. Guess it isn't a shock, this fixture's always been a nasty one.
43' Ljungberg just misses with a cross, but damn, it is a beautiful thing watching Ashley and Kolo run up the flanks.
45' Blackburn hasn't had an attack of consequence in some time, now.
45' Now they do, but Pires clears easily with his header. Good ball from Ferguson up to Gallagher, though.
45' Henry is hacked down after sending in a cross...Babbel is the culprit, but there's not even a foul. If it were us, it probably would have been yellow.
45' Corner comes to nothing, and Andy D'Urso blows the halftime whistle. Bad first minute, great 44 after that.

45' Steven Reid is coming on for Gresko. That isn't much of a surprise, to be honest.

47' I'm ecstatic that the second half didn't start like the first.
47' Another bad pass gives Freddie a great chance, but he shoots right at Friedel.
48' Lehmann catches another cross. Incidentally, I can't believe this guy was only 1.5 million pounds.
49' DB10 is roughly a mile and a half offside, but it was a nice flick-on by Henry to get it up to him.
50' Kolo makes a great interception on his way back to defense, starting another attack. Didn't go anywhere, but what a great play.
51' Blackburn needs black numbers on their shirts, I think...it's impossible to tell who's who.
52' Oh no, Andy Cole is warming up! I'm scared now!
52' Crocker says that Kolo was recommended to Le Boss by "Fred". That's it...no last name, just Fred. Outstanding.
53' Phew...the one time Lehmann looks dodgy on a corner, there's a foul in the box, resulting in a goal kick. Nice.
54' Apparently, the longest unbeaten streak to start a season is 29. Good lord, I've never even managed that in Champ Man with Celtic!
55' Emerton with an inviting cross, but Pascal Cygan does really well to clear. Can we get off the fucking guy's back now?
55' The resulting cross was terrible...Emerton isn't having one of his better matches.
56' A bad pass ends another Blackburn attack, but they've had much better of things the last 5 minutes or so.
57' Cole on for Gallagher. Crocker calls him "a man who knows where the goal is"...yeah, too bad he couldn't hit the floor if he fell out of bed.
58' Tugay shoots well over the bar, but he's dangerous from right outside the area. I think it was Sol who pressured him *just* enough.
58' Freddie is so dangerous down the flank, but he couldn't come up with a good pass to Pires this time.
59' Pires has to stop going down so easily...referees are on to him, and he probably could have kept the attack going if he just fought through it.
60' Ferguson with a brilliant cross to Babbel, whose header beats Lehmann low into the far corner. But, Babbel was blatantly climbing over Sol's back, and rightly, no goal on the play.
60' The ref's had a good game, I think.I don't say that very often with English referees, but there you go.
61' Earlier today: Aston Villa 3-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves are probably going down, but goddamn if they aren't giving it a go.
62' I think Ashley could be a winger if he wanted to. All the way up by the other goalline, he forces Todd into kicking it into touch.
63' Great ball by Gilberto, but the flag rightly goes up...Henry's offside this time.
63' Emerton with a pass to no one in particular. Somehow, the throw goes to Blackburn.
65' Pires with a fantastic lead pass for Henry, but Short clears it away. Arsenal are so good at through-balls into the area.
66' I can't help thinking that we need to see Ray Parlour come on at some point. This is exactly his type of match.
66' Cygan takes a yellow, but it looked like Patrick Vieira was the one that actually fouled the man...PV4 took him down from behind.
68' Cole with a fantastic ball up to Ferguson, but his slow roller was stopped beautifully low to his left by Lehmann...just did get a paw on it, and covered up the rebound. A better shot ties this match up, though...no doubt about it. Oh well...he IS a former Rangers man...sod him.
69' Pires takes it on the counter-attack, runs most of the way up the field, and passes over to Henry. But, the future World Player of the Year was pushed by Todd. Corner kick, but the shouts for a penalty were unfounded...it wasn't enough for a foul, I think. Henry could have dived if he wanted, but it's nice to see he's above that sorta thing.
70' Friedel paws away the resulting corner, and the rebound is cleared out. Dammit, that was a real chance.
71' Lucas Neill fouls DB10, free kick for Arsenal outside the area over by the touchline.
71' DB10 finds Henry with the free kick, but Friedel was in perfect position, and he catches it easily.
73' Pretty good cross from Emerton looked less dangerous than it was, and Ashley had to nod it behind. Pires easily clears the resulting corner.
73' Steven Reid with the long throw, out for a corner.
74' Emerton with a good corner into a dangerous area, but Lehmann was right there to catch it.
74' Overall, this has been a fairly even half...actually, now that I think about it, the visitors have shaded it so far since the restart.
74' Hey! I was right! Razor comes on for DB10. Are we playing with just 1 striker, then?
75' Henry is miles offside on Campbell's long ball. Random: The last time Blackburn won twice in 2 years at Highbury was 1910. DAMN.
76' Our offense is sputtering a bit. I hope we're not intending on bunkering...if we do, this'll be 1-1 in short order.
77' Pires with an awesome ball over the top to Vieira, but Tugay cuts out the pass to the open Henry.
77' Pires makes a fabulous run, and this time, he stays on his feet from Babbel's challenge. Colin Todd has to foul him, earning a yellow card, taken out of a 1-on-4.
78' Henry is over the ball...this is in a dangerous spot, and it was taken quickly, but it bounces fairly wide. He should have done better.
79' Blackburn with a throw deep in Arse territory...their guy did well to win it.
79' Razor makes a nice tackle to get himself into the game.
80' The corner flag saves a corner kick, ironically, and the Arse clear. Blackburn takes it right back down, Yorke finds Emerton in the area, but Ashley Cole says no.
81' You can even say Blackburn are dominating now. Tugay over the top for Yorke, but Lehmann does well to come out and claim it.
81' Maybe another sub is in order...the team needs to be shaken up, I think.
81' Emerton with another teasing cross, but Lehmann is right there...again.
82' Henry does well down the flank, but can't link up with a wide-open Pires.
82' Dino Baggio is on for Markus Babbel. I understand he's on loan and all, but why isn't this guy statring for them?
82' Crocker says Edu is warming up. Good.
83' Cole wins a corner, 1-on-2. Well done by him. Reid with the corner, and Short gets his header on target. Lehmann is forced into a great reflex save, and Yorke shovels the wide-open rebound over the bar. Memo to Blackburn: This guy is done. D-O-N-E....done.
84' Edu comes on for Freddie. He had a good game, but he was invisible for the 20 minutes previous to this.
85' Blackburn with a fabulous build-up, but Cole is a full body length offside.
86' Reid with a pass to nobody, but he does well to get back upfield and foul Pires to slow the counterattack.
86' Off that freekick, it comes to Edu on the flank, and his fantastic backpass finds Henry at the top of the area. But, he shoots low right at Friedel, who really hasn't had to do much of consequence since our goal...his positioning has made everything easy for him.
87' The nerves are fraying a bit...this has definitely been a good effort from the visitors, and they continue to threaten. They may even look good for an equalizer.
88' 37,677 at the park today...it's actually not a sell-out.
89' Kolo tries a bicycle kick to clear, leaving Cygan a difficult clearance. Do we always have to try the flashy option, even if heading into touch would be better?
90' Cygan clears twice in quick succession. He's been nothing short of awesome today.
90' On the counterattack, Henry wins a corner 1-on-2. Excellent work, there.
90' Two minutes of injury time, sez the 4th official.
90' Henry and Pires waste time in the corner...out of nowhere, Pires bolts into the area, beats two defenders with a spin move, and just does miss Edu's diving header attempt with his cross.
90' The Arsenal are getting stuck in now. Blackburn are still threatening...this half's been a far cry from the sexy football of the first.
90' Edu clears. Henry beats Short, but Neill slides and blocks the pass to Pires. Corner to Arsenal.
90' And that's it! One-Nil, to the Arsenal, and we're top of the league! Excellent stuff! It was scappy, it was difficult, but it's three points in a game we needed to win. What a week it's been overall!

In just 30 short minutes...

...Arsenal will beat Blackburn Rovers by a score of two goals to one. Yep.


Catching up...

-- Montreal 2 - 1 NY Rangers was a fun. fun little hockey game. It was excellent to see the Canadiens get the points after two shitty periods, and it was also nice to see Jose Theodore in such fine form. But, the one thing even better was that it was the rarest beast in hockey this year: a free-wheeling, up-and-down, offensive contest. The coaches both probably had coronaries, but goddamn, it was fun to watch. It's too bad most people don't have dishes, cause I actually saw a 6-5 game happen between Boston and Washington...I don't want to see those types of games every time out, but they're great once in a while...especially this season. When you look at a full out-of-town scoreboard, and see only 0, 1, or 2, that is kinda lame, and indicative of something that needs fixing.

-- Olympique Lyonnais 3 - 2 Glasgow Celtic: One piece of shambolic defending + one schoolboy howler from our shit goalkeeper + one bullshit penalty in the 86th minute of a tie game = a missed-out Champions League knockout phase place. Fuck.

-- Arsenal 2 - 0 Lokomotiv Moscow: Welcome to the new "Arsenal in Europe" - composed, professional, solid in the back, hardworking in the midfield, clinical in their finishing. I think we have a real chance to do some damage in this competition this time around. As long as we stay healthy and focused, why not us this year?

Predictions for the Round of 16: (in aggregate scores)

VfB Stuttgart 3 - 3 Chelsea (Stuttgart wins on penalties)
Porto 1 - 4 Manshit United
Real Sociedad 0 - 5 Olympique Lyonnais
Celta Vigo 1 - 3 Arsenal
Bayern Munich 2 - 3 Real Madrid
Sparta Prague 0 - 6 AC Milan
Deportivo La Coruna 1 - 1 Juventus (Juventus wins on away goals)
Lokomotiv Moscow 0 - 5 Monaco


Added a link, and need an excuse to republish...

...yeah, as far as the draw for the 2006 World Cup qualifiers go, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland getting drawn in the same group is NOT an accident. Kinda funny how that just HAPPENED to go that way just after the Euro 2004 playoff draw HAPPENED to go the way it did?



Arsenal 1-1 Leicester City

Didn't see it. Too poor to get to the pub. What a shit result, especially with Leeds holding Chelski to a draw. Fucking blah.


I never got around to this...

...cause Championship Manager 4 and Diablo 2 have eaten MY soul (put them together, you have Championship Diablo Manager 6...heh heh heh).

But, Arsenal's 5-1 demolition of Wolves in the League Cup was the one match in that competition I wish I could have watched. I mean, a bunch of kids absolutely annhilated a full-strength Premiership side. This tells me one of two things (or, it could even be both).

1. Put Patrick Vieira (even just coming off an injury) in the center of ANY midfield, and they become 500% more dangerous.

2. Our kids rival that great class of the early 90s that Man United had...Beckham and Giggs and the Nevilles and whatnot.

I think anyone with a brain knew Jeremie Aliadiere is starting to be ready for the bigtime, but the other kids -- Gael Clichy, Justin Hoyte, Francesc Fabregas et al, are rapidly coming into their own as well. I'm already starting to get wonderful visions of people calling me "glory hunter" for supporting Arsenal sometime around 2008. With guys like Vieira and Thierry Henry and Ashley Cole to help bring them along, I think we're going to be awesome.

Of course, us Gooners are never an entirely optimistic lot...I can just as easily envision a barrage of career-ending ACL injuries. Que sera, sera...I guess.

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