Friday, April 24, 2009

Tech News: March 2009

Haven't done one of these in a while. Pick a few news stories and pick 'em apart. There have been slim pickings in the news as of late, but I was able to find a couple at a glance tonight.

India unveils world's cheapest car
Ooh, I want one. The good news? For $2000 (or $2200, sources differ on this) you can get a four-door car, seats four, and in addition to being the world's cheapest car, it's among the smallest as well. "Smaller than a Mini Cooper" small. And it gets 47 miles to the gallon. The bad news... no heater, no A/C, no automatic transmission, and no radio. Top speed of 65mph... and you might get teased for driving what's being called a street-legal lawnmower. But the good news in that is that for the higher-end model with all of those features is still only $3800.

It must not ever get real cold in India. No heater? You probably couldn't sell a car in North Carolina without a heater. You get in your car which is covered in ice, you scrape the ice off the windshield, what stops it from reforming? And as you race down the road, even if it's only at 45mph, that actually lowers the perceived temperature. You go numb, your little car is now a liability, a hazard to every other car on the road. I can only imagine the problems with selling one up in Wisconsin or somewhere like that.

Still, a little car like that is all most Americans need. Now I'm not one of those Republinazi "do it my way or you're going to hell" types, but most SUV drivers really don't need an urban assault vehicle to carry them to Starbucks for a latte. But, people have issues, and they feel the need to compensate for something, maybe they got picked on in school, maybe they just have underdeveloped genetalia, and need to feel like they're on top of the world. One of these popular celebrities really needs to endorse these small cars, make "small" the new "big".

Oh yeah... they've received over one million orders, but they're only going to make 60,000. Smart, business-wise. Stupid overall, but par for the course. I mean, it's not like we're in a recession or anything.

Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock: Coming in May
Good news for those of you playing Rock Band who haven't got your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 connected to the Internet (or have a Wii or PlayStation 2, the former of which hasn't got a hard drive and the latter can't get online). Depending on your system, Harmonix is releasing the third or fourth track pack, 20 songs you can play independent of the original game and its songs. Track Pack 1 was only released for the Wii and the PS2. The first real track pack, available for all four platforms, was Track Pack 2. Then they put out the AC/DC track pack, only 18 songs but all of them top-dollar songs.

Here's how a track pack works. Rock Band isn't just a game, it's really just an interactive media player. Rock Band and Rock Band 2 have three elements: The media player (Quickplay), the songs, and the game (Tour). The track packs are simply the media player and 20 songs. Unfortunately and stupidly, it's the first version of the media player, not the second. That is, it's the Rock Band 1 engine rather than the updated Rock Band 2 engine. Not a big deal, but it's silly that the track packs don't represent the latest and greatest.

On the business side, Rock Band downloads go for $2 apiece, except in special cases where it's an independent artist and the song's only $1, though there are plenty of independent artists up there whose songs cost the same $2 as famous artists. The problem with downloads is that only two of the four consoles Rock Band is available for support them, and the lower-end Xbox 360 doesn't, either, unless it gets upgraded with a hard drive. (You can buy them separately, or in my younger brother-in-law's case, you can have an older sister who sprung for the 120GB drive and wound up with a spare 20GB drive in need of a happy home.) Then, not all PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles are online. Furthermore, for whatever reason, not everyone who can download, does. But they will buy track packs. Harmonix knocks $10 off the price of the 20 downloads, which would be $40, nevermind the cost of the disc and packaging, shipping and handling (to the store) and all that. Because not all the songs on the track pack are songs you'd pay $2 for. They give you some good ones and some not-so-good ones. It depends on your taste, but anyone can look at the list of songs and see songs they'd swap for something else. Some boil down to opinion, but some are just plain fact. Like the Lenny Kravitz song, "Let Love Rule". How about "Are You Gonna Go My Way"? I could do this all day, but instead I'll just post the list and let you decide if it's worth $30 for the lot:

Boston - Peace of Mind (1976)
Boston - Rock and Roll Band (1976)
Dead Kennedys - California Über Alles (1987)
Dead Kennedys - Holiday in Cambodia (1987)
Free - All Right Now (1970)
George Thorogood & the Destroyers - Bad to the Bone (1982)
James Gang - Funk #49 (1970)
Jethro Tull - Hymn 43 (1971)
Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule (1989)
Pat Benatar - Hit Me With Your Best Shot (1980)
The Police - Can't Stand Losing You (1978)
The Police - Truth Hits Everybody (1978)
Rush - Closer to the Heart (1977)
Rush - Red Barchetta (1981)
Siouxsie and The Banshees - Kiss Them For Me (1991)
Steve Miller Band - Take the Money and Run (1976)
Steve Miller Band - The Joker (1973)
The Stone Roses - Love Spreads (1994)
The Who - Baba O'Riley (1971)
The Who - Behind Blue Eyes (1971)

Some of those are pretty good. Both of the Who songs are excellent. Bad to the Bone and The Joker are evil if you're a bassist. Pat Benetar's song is fun as hell - for a bassist, at least.

Despite my comments about some songs not being as good as other offerings by the same artist, if I wasn't on Xbox Live, I'd get this in a heartbeat. But at the same time, if I had $30 to spend on Xbox Live and had no downloadable songs, I could come up with 15 songs I'd rather have than these 20 (though the 15 would include some of these). But since I do have DLC, I'll point out that I have all the songs on this list I want, though I don't have Closer to the Heart (Rush) and wouldn't mind having that. We have the Who songs, we have the Steve Miller songs, the first Boston song, the Free song, Bad to the Bone, Funk 49, and the Benetar song. Plus a bunch of other great songs.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Review: El Tapatio, Washington, NC

It would appear that MySpace's new Local service is for Corporate restaurants only. I tried to review an independently-owned Mexican restaurant closer to where I live, and it pretty much said no. It did, however, give me the option to suggest a restaurant, so I suggested it, and I will copy this there when, and if, they decide to add it. If not, well, I'll have reviewed it here anyway, and that's fine.

Washington's El Tapatio restaurant, conveniently located on Highway 17 in Washington, next to Taco Bell, is the best place Jen and I have found for Mexican food in Beaufort County. In fact, I asked her, and we both agree that if we lived in Greenville, it would be worth it to drive 25 miles or so to Washington for El Tapatio if we were craving Mexican. In fact, when we're craving Mexican, El Tapatio is automatically assumed.

When you see the place, it's not impressive at all. It could be anything, and in fact used to be a Golden Corral before GC moved to the Walmart shopping center, just a quarter-mile to the north. Two cheesy fake palm trees (which light up at night) stand between the restaurant and Hwy. 17, but the parking lot is spacious and easily accessed from either the northbound or southbound lanes, even in rush hour, as the nearby McDonald's light (yes, Washington has a dedicated traffic light for McDonald's) often provides cover. The building exterior could use a paint job, and the little lobby is littered with fliers advertising mostly local Mexican music and wrestling/fighting events.

Once you come inside, it's much nicer. Murals inside show Mexican revolutionaries, and are nicely done. They have one of those new Internet jukeboxes which can download all kinds of songs, and you're liable to hear just about anything in there. Oftentimes it's Mexican music, but a lot of times it isn't. Either way, it isn't loud, so you can hear it, but it won't overwhelm you. I haven't sat at their tables, but their booths are all pretty nice, and they can be moved if you need more or less room, depending on your size. From the door, the entire right side is non-smoking, and the entire left side, with the bar and jukebox, is for smokers, so it's well separated.

I cannot stress how fast the service is. As soon as you're seated, you'll be asked what you want to drink. Drinks are brought out very promptly with freshly made tortilla chips and homemade salsa, both of which are very good. Once you order, they can have your meal out in as little as five minutes. We have fast food restaurants out here that can't serve you in five minutes (mostly Hardee's). You can't make a decent meal at home in five minutes, but El Tapatio can have good, hot Mexican food in front of you in five minutes. Unless you are extremely impatient, and they are very busy, you will not find yourself wondering when your food will arrive.

The food itself is great. It's served hot, and you'll often be advised not to touch the plate. The portions are generous, even when ordering side items. When I'm not very hungry, I just order three enchiladas. They come covered in sauce and the ground beef just falls out of them, no shortage of food. When I'm really hungry, I order their special nachos without guacamole (I'm allergic to avocados) and it's always more than enough. I have never once finished it. Jen usually orders lunch or dinner specials, of which they have a couple dozen. Chances are they'll have a combination you'll like, otherwise you can improvise with the sides. Neither of us have ever been disappointed with their food.

The service is also very good. Everyone we've seen there speaks fluent English. We never feel like they don't understand us, and everyone is friendly. After our food comes, within 5 minutes, the server will return and ask if everything's alright. After that, however, they tend to leave you alone for a while, so if you need a drink refill or more salsa, you might have to flag somebody down, and Jen said I should note that, but at the same time, I like to be left alone when I eat. Plus, I order my soft drinks without ice, so they don't get diluted and they fill the glass. I really don't need a refill - the cups hold 16-20 ounces. They are shy about bringing the check, but have no problem finding your order in their computer if you just walk up to the register to pay. We've never paid more than $20, including a good tip, for both of us to eat and have soft drinks. We have drank beer and/or mixed drinks there once before, and I don't recall the prices, but I do recall that they were fair.

All in all, El Tapatio offers a great Mexican dining experience; the best we've found in eastern North Carolina. If you're in New Bern, Williamston, or Greenville, or anywhere in between, and want something good that won't break your wallet, give them a try. If you're near Hwy. 17, just head up/down the road. Look for the Taco Bell; they're right next door. If you're in Greenville, take 264 to Washington, turn left on 17 (there's a Kangaroo Express gas station on your left) and it's about a mile up the road on your left. Here's a map:

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Review: The Olive Garden, Greenville, NC

This week, MySpace launched a new service called MySpace Local. There doesn't seem to be anything for my neck of the woods, so as a project, I'm going to review restaurants in and around Greenville, North Carolina (including Washington and Chocowinity) to represent my (current) part of the world. From this blog you can read all of my reviews (though, this is just the first one) by browsing my labels and looking under Review. The review follows:

Greenville's Olive Garden restaurant, on Greenville Blvd., is nice, but the overall experience is not all that spectacular.

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The building itself is very nice to look at, and it's nice and cozy inside. The waitstaff are all clean and sharp, and I've never seen anything damaged or worn inside. However, as it's very close to the mall, plus it's in a badly designed parking lot, the lot immediately surrounding the restaurant is almost always full. If it's cold, don't forget your jacket, you might have a fair walk to and from. If it's raining, forget about it. (And it rains hard in North Carolina.)

The service is well organized, but it's not good for handling large loads. On Valentines' Day, for instance, customers were asked to wait outside in near-freezing temperatures. They were telling people 2 hours. (In the cold. With no offer of breadsticks or anything. We waited about 50-55 minutes. Not quite an hour. On a given Friday or Saturday night, you can expect a wait of 15-30 minutes, and they have those coasters which double as pagers, and you can usually wait inside.

Seating is conservative, meaning they will try to seat you at a table first. The chairs are not very comfortable; I've sat in worse but also much better. Upon request they'll seat you in a booth, but as these are in higher demand, you'll have to wait a few minutes.

Once you're seated, you can expect to get your drinks in relative short order, provided you know what you want when you sit down. If so, they'll ask as soon as you sit, and they get them out quickly. That's for soda and sweet tea, anyway - for fancy beverages, your mileage may vary.

One of Olive Garden's "big things" is the free breadsticks. They are quite good (if a little salty) but you have to ask for them sometimes. You can usually get them soon after you get your drinks if you have a nice server, but most likely you'll have to wait until you have your soup and/or salad.

I have only tried one soup at Olive Garden, and it's the single best thing on their menu. I'm not lying. I can't say enough good things about their Zuppa Toscana soup. It's potatoes, sausage, and spinach in a broth. As we sometimes say on the Internet, it's made of pure win. My wife has never complained about their salad, however.

Olive Garden has two menus. The first is their regular menu, subject to change but almost always the same stuff. The second is the seasonal menu; this changes every month or two. Their regular menu doesn't offer much variety. Their seasonal menu, however, will often have at least one good thing on it, but that depends if you like the theme. Last time we went, it was seafood, and I'm not a seafood person, so I wasn't attracted to a single thing on that menu.

Mostly, their food is as good as you can expect for Italian food. It's hot, just the right amount of spice, and very flavorful. The portions are generous; if you're not a big eater, after the soup and breadsticks, you'll be likely asking for a to-go box. As such, we don't often try the dessert, but last time, I got a tiramisu, and it was good. Not great, but good. The white chocolate cake (cheesecake?) with the raspberry drizzle is also very good.

The prices are high, but not unfair. Two people can expect to run up a $40-45 bill between two soft drinks and an entree each plus the breadsticks and soup or salad, and that usually comes to $50-55 after the tip. So we go to Olive Garden and plan to spend "about sixty bucks". As such, we don't go often, but we do go a few times a year when we can.

This Olive Garden can't help its location, at least not in the present, but if there's one thing it can do, it's increase accuracy. The servers pride themselves on remembering your order (at least until they get to the back, and can jot it down for the kitchen) but this doesn't always work. It doesn't happen every time, but when it does, it's kind of annoying considering what we pay to eat there. When we say something, they're good about fixing it, though.

This review came out a little longer than expected, but that's fine, I gave a lot of good information that I hope helps you, the reader and restaurant seeker, make a better choice about where you want to eat in Greenville, NC. I do recommend this Olive Garden, but I'm not hesitant to point out the caveats. I give them an 8/10; or in school grades, an A-.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Music Mysteries #1

There's nothing like a good mystery, especially when it's about something cool, like music, more so if it's about a band we like. I'm sure there are a lot more, but I'm going to look at three of varying degrees of importance.

1. November Rain
The most interesting music mystery I've found is the secrets of the "November Rain" video by Guns n' Roses. A brief history lesson, if you don't mind: In the mid-1980s, Guns n' Roses exploded onto the rock scene with "Appetite for Destruction", still considered a great album 23 years later. Between that and the lesser-known "GnR Lies!" album, Guns n' Roses rose above most hair metal bands (though not enough to be pretentious). That changed with their double album, "Use Your Illusion", volumes 1 and 2. Three videos were done for the double album that were a little different than the other videos, and they were sort of linked, though it wasn't clear why. The strangest one was "November Rain".

Summary of the November Rain video: Tossing and turning in bed, Axl Rose wakes up from what seems like a terrible nightmare. He takes a drink of water and settles back down into bed. We see a symphony playing in an opera hall, and then a wedding, Axl Rose marrying real-life girlfriend Stephanie Seymour. Immediately after the kissing of the bride, guitarist Slash gets up and leaves, performing a wicked solo in the desert. As the couple leave, the newlywed bride looks unhappy. There's an afterparty, which is washed out by rain. Back in the opera hall, Axl, who was playing piano, changes the tune, and Slash gets up on top of the piano to jam. All of a sudden we're back in the church and there's a funeral - for the wife. A quick shot of the open casket shows nothing wrong, makes you wonder how she died, and why. The video ends with Axl crying over her grave, and the ominous note, "Based on the short story Without You by Del James".

Here's where things get interesting. Del James is a friend of Axl's, and as it would come to turn out, they worked together on the video. "Without You" is a short story about a band which is based on Guns n' Roses. Problem is, James' book, "The Language of Fear" was never published widely. After a run of just a couple hundred copies, the publisher went out of business. eBay was new then, and the few existing copies of the book went for hundreds of dollars. For the better part of 15 years, the meaning of November Rain remained a mystery. Axl wasn't saying anything, and the people making a killing on eBay weren't about to threaten their own livelihood by letting others in on it for free. To know, you had to pony up the cash and buy the book, read it, and then hope to make some of your money back. Every few months I'd search for it, and always come up empty.

Well, finally, somebody broke the silence and posted the entire short story online, including Axl's introduction he wrote for the book. The story follows a band called Suicide Solution and its crazy vocalist Mayne Mann, based on Guns n' Roses and Axl Rose. The band's success story mirrors that of GnR - crazy hair metal band puts out a rock ballad which changes everything for them - GnR's was November Rain; Suicide Solution's was Without You. In the story, Mann is newly married (like in the video) but the band is on tour. Mann calls his wife and asks if she'll come along for the last leg of the tour. She says no, she has a life of her own (she's a model or something). Last show on the tour, Mann's got a couple groupies in his bed, and there's a knock at the door. His wife thought to surprise him, but got a surprise of her own. So she went home, put "Without You" on on the stereo, and blew her brains out. Mann gets home, sets the place on fire, and plays along on the piano as his home burns around him. It's a really cool story, actually, and it's told from his point of view.

But wait, Stephanie Seymour didn't blow her brains out in the video. She was clean in the casket - it was an open casket funeral. But here's where things get interesting. Watch the best quality copy you can find of that video, and freeze-frame on the open casket. You'll notice there's a mirror installed. You can only see half of her; the other half is behind that mirror. Funeral homes can do a lot for a corpse, but sometimes damage is too extensive, and that's why we often have closed-casket wakes and funerals when the deceased died a violent death. However, for celebrities, public figures, open-casket is ideal, so they have reconstruction technologies which will pass a passive examination by grieving relatives. The mirror clearly indicates only that half of the body (most likely the face) was able to be reconstructed at all.

So there you have it. The November Rain mystery solved. There was more to the story than the video let on. The wedding and funeral were not on the same day. They were shown as such to illustrate the importance of the two events and to show that what happened in between doesn't matter (as much). He cheated on her with a groupie or a pair of groupies, and she blew her brains out. (Like Axl's worth it! But that's another matter.) And somehow, "Estranged" and "Don't Cry" tie in as well.

At some point I'll do #2, and it concerns a more recent band, though a significantly less important one.

Monday, April 6, 2009

WrestleMania 25 Reviewed

For the second year in a row, Jen and I ordered WWE WrestleMania on pay-per-view and held a WrestleMania party. This makes the third WrestleMania I've seen live, and the second one I've bought and paid for and seen start to finish. (In 2006, I saw the second half of WrestleMania 22 at Jen's brother's place. We didn't see 23 live.) While it wasn't the best 'Mania I've seen (I still favor 22), it had some moves which still blow my mind as I think about them. Jeff Hardy, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and others all brought their best game to Houston, TX this past Sunday and put on a hell of a show.

The first match was probably my favorite match; it's an annual match that started at WrestleMania 21 called the "Money in the Bank ladder match". In a traditional ladder match, an object is suspended about 20-30 feet over the center of the ring, and the only way to win is to climb a ladder and retrieve it. Anything else goes. As such these are historically title matches, with the object being the belt itself. In this case it's a suitcase which contains a contract which guarantees its owner the right to create a championship match with any champion at any point in the next 12 months. The champ can be knocked out, or injured, it doesn't matter, the challenge is automatically legal. Every cashing in of the contract has resulted in the title changing hands. Edge was the very first winner, and smartly cashed his in when his longtime rival, John Cena, had just been beaten bloody, but had still - barely - won his match. Edge easily scored a victory and left as the new champ.

Money in the Bank V featured Kane, Mark Henry, CM Punk (last years' winner), MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Finlay, Kofi Kingston, and Christian. The two superheavyweights were targeted from the start and were largely a non-issue in the match. We saw two men fighting at the top of one ladder, four men fighting on the tops of two ladders, and something I've never seen in a ladder match. With the main ladder erected in the middle of the ring, another was carefully wedged between two steps and the ropes of the ring. A third ladder was then erected outside the ramp, going down to the floor. We saw someone go up the traditional way and someone - Kofi perhaps, maybe MVP or Shelton - go up the unconventional way, from the outside. Up a leaning ladder, across the "bridge", and then the rest of the way up the main ladder. Speaking of the "bridge", you know someone had to take a fall on it. That someone was Finlay. That Irish bastard can take a beating. Didn't seem to phase him. At one point one of the big guys (I'm thinking Kane) carried a tall ladder into the ring, closed but upright, and one of the lighter guys (most likely Kofi) ran up the closed ladder and almost got the briefcase! And speaking of Kofi, Kane and someone else (Henry?) were trying to clothesline Kofi with the ladder. He jumped over it twice, and then dropkicked it, knocking them both over. You get the best aerodynamics in pro wrestling out of ladder matches, and when it comes to ladder matches, MVP, Shelton Benjamin, and Kofi Kingston are all a lot of fun to watch. I was pulling for Kofi, but CM Punk took the victory for the second year in a row, becoming the first person to win Money in the Bank twice. (Edge had it twice as well, but the second time, he won it from Ken Kennedy, who actually won it at WrestleMania 23.) Jen's brother, who looks at pro wrestling from a technical point of view (he's managed an independent, amateur wrestling circuit), said that there were a lot of mistakes in this match, and I understood a couple of them, disagreed with one, but in any case I maintain it was still a fun match to watch.

Immediately following CM Punk's victory at Money in the Bank, the man himself, Kid Rock, came out and belted out a half-dozen of his biggest hits in a medley, starting with Bawitdaba, going into Cowboy, All Summer Long, and others, and finishing with So Hott, while 25 divas ran out to the ring. They weren't identified, but this was the 25-Diva over-the-top battle royal for the title of "Miss WrestleMania". Perhaps halfway through the match, if one didn't notice that divas weren't being named and divas who were pushed out of the ring but not over the top ropes were eliminated anyway, one certainly noticed that one diva looked out of place, avoiding conflict. This "diva" was really Santino Marella in drag - no joke - and when it came down to him, his girlfriend Beth Phoenix, and Melina, he eliminated both of them to win. When accused of being a man, he swore he was Santino's twin sister, Santina, and was crowned Miss WrestleMania with no further investigation into his identity. Cute, but what a waste of time for WrestleMania. Also, as this was the only event to feature women, it was a missed opportunity to show off the WWE's female talent. Though the departures of Trish Stratus, Lita, and others have dminished "female talent" overall in the WWE, it's still present and shouldn't have been made a mockery of.

Then there was the "Chris Jericho match". No other good way to say it. Handicap elimination match; Jericho had three opponents, and he had to beat each of them in succession to win; for their side to be victorious, any one of them only needed to beat Jericho once. Since the movie "The Wrestler", Jericho has made it his crusade to expose wrestling legends who used their past fame to profit from their career long past their prime. Ric Flair, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, and "Supafly" Jimmy Snuka all took offense to this, and the latter three challenged Jericho to this match, with Flair in their corner. Jericho first beat Piper, and then Snuka, each victory sadder than the one before. Only Steamboat offered a real challenge, but after a good match, Jericho finally got him. Flair tried to intervene but was punished as well. With no legends left to bury, Jericho extended his challenge to "The Wrestler" lead Mickey Rourke, who was in attendance. After much coaxing, Rourke got into the ring, and following some dancing, KO'd Jericho with a couple good lefts - turns out Rourke knows a thing or two about boxing.

Next, and the last of the non-title matches, was the Brother vs. Brother match, contested under Extreme Rules - in other words, a hardcore match. Matt and Jeff Hardy worked as a tag team, real-life brothers from just outside Raleigh, NC, but went their separate ways in the early part of this decade. Both returned to the WWE in the past few years but were kept separate, and when younger brother Jeff won the WWE championship after a campaign lasting nearly half a year, Matt was jealous, and turned on Jeff; first secretly, and then openly, in the form of a steel chair to the face. Jeff was reluctant to fight his brother until Matt revealed that he had set the fire destroying Jeff's artwork and killing his dog. Then it was on. We saw a great match with two of the most talented young(er) performers in the WWE who also happen to be brothers, but it was also predictable for a lot of it, and while the stunts were cool, the payoff wasn't quite what it should have been and we were left with a mediocre match that could have been a little better.

The first championship match of the night introduced JBL, the oilman from Wall Street who used to be known as Bradshaw, defending his Intercontinental championship from Rey Mysterio. Now, Rey Mysterio is almost never seen without a mask, though unmasked pics do exist online, and his masks vary by color, but never really by style, always adhering to a particular design he's used for years. There's no better way to say it; he pretty much came out as Heath Ledger's Joker character last night. It was great. He had a hell of an intro, came to the ring, where he was bullied by JBL. The referee requires the combatants to start a good distance apart, and as soon as he could get JBL to back away, the bell rang, at which point Mysterio took JBL completely by surprise and had him pinned in 21 seconds (announced) for the victory. As Mysterio left with IC gold, JBL didn't know what had hit him. After looking around the crowd aimlessly for a minute, JBL announced that he was quitting, and stormed out of the arena. Of course, a pro wrestler doesn't announce that he's quitting. Bobby Lashley, perfect example, quit after WWE released a black woman (aka she was fired). Lashley thought it was discriminatory so he left on principle. He was cleverly phased out and not heard from since. When someone announces they're quitting like that, either they're going on vacation, going to shoot a movie, or changing roles. Jen's brother, our resident expert on pro wrestling, both believes and hopes that JBL will return to being Bradshaw. "JBL, but not a wuss"? Sounds good to me.

Following JBL's embarrassment was the annual Undertaker match. The Undertaker has won every WrestleMania match he's competed in, and for a few now, he's been maintaining a streak, which was 16-0 when the match started. 2009 was the first year that people actually competed for the opportunity to face Undertaker, as opposed to just putting Undertaker up against whoever he was feuding with at the time (which at this point was really nobody since his feud with Big Show was resolved). Shawn Michaels and JBL (then not yet Intercontinental champion) had a match to determine who'd face Taker. Then, Smackdown's Vladimir Kozlov announced his interest, so he challenged Michaels for the right, and lost, leaving Michaels to contend with the Dead Man. Undertaker pulled out all of his tricks, but Michaels stayed one step ahead of him leading into WrestleMania. At nearly 31 minutes, this was the longest match of the night, and one of the best. The Undertaker threw a chokeslam or two, a Last Ride, a Devil's Gate submission hold, and two Tombstone piledrivers at Michaels, and Michaels superkicked Undertaker at least twice. Finally, Undertaker barely beat Michaels, boasting a new 17-0 streak.

And then we came back to championships. Big Show vs. Edge vs. John Cena for the WHC. John Cena lost his title to Edge at No Way Out when Edge, having lost his own title in his Elimination Chamber match, inserted himself in Cena's to win. Big Show was the number-one contender; however, John Cena blackmailed Edge's on-screen wife and general manager to let him into the match, on the understanding that he wouldn't air certain video footage of her cheating on Edge with the Big Show. After getting into the match, Cena released the video anyway to stir up tension between Show and Edge, which Vickie countered by saying that she would stay with the winner of the match and leave the other (unless, of course, Cena won; nobody planned for that outcome). Show and Edge were introduced as usual, but Cena's original music hit, and 200+ John Cena lookalikes ran down the ramp, lining both sides. They all then proceeded to do Cena's "you can't see me" salute as the real Cena charged down the ramp to his modern theme. It wasn't as cool as 2 years ago, where he drove that new Mustang into the arena (reminiscent of JBL with the limo, or more accurately Stone Cold Steve Austin with the truck), but it was entertaining as hell. After Cena's brilliant entrance however, the match quickly became average, with the highlight seeing Show tangled up in the ropes and Cena and Edge squaring off for the thousandth time (but, to be fair, they work well together so it was good). Rather predictably, Cena took the victory here by pinning Show and bringing the World Heavyweight Championship back to Monday Night RAW.

The last match, the so-called main event, featured Randy Orton challenging Triple H for the WWE Championship. The roots of this match go way back nearly 5 years to 2004 where, at the age of 24, Randy Orton won the World Heavyweight Championship (becoming the youngest performer to do so to date), and Orton's mentor Triple H sacked him in jealous rage. Orton won at the 2009 Royal Rumble, the victory from which guaranteed him a title match at WrestleMania with a champ of his choosing. Following a verbal assault on Stephanie McMahon, Vince McMahon intended to fire Orton on the spot, but Orton knocked him out with a boot to the head. Shortly after, Vince's son and Stephanie's brother Shane sought retribution for his father and was similarly knocked out. Stephanie ran to his rescue and found herself on the wrong end of Orton's signature move, the RKO. Following this, Triple H acknowledged publicly what we've all known for years: that, in real life, Triple H is Stephanie McMahon's husband, making him Vince McMahon's son-in-law. His relationship with the McMahon empire has up until recently been secret, and separate from the product as sold to the fans for various reasons; however, it's in the open and part of the storyline now. In any case, a series of escalations led to this match, but when it finally happened, it was mostly boring. With a strict disqualification policy in place, neither of Orton's lackeys Cody Rhodes or Ted DiBiase Jr. were on hand to help him cheat; nor were Vince or Shane present to give Triple H the upper hand. And the fans got left with a dreadfully average match.

Last year, WrestleMania was awesome. This year, something was off. Two of the three main events were mostly boring. The two best matches were Undertaker/HBK and Money in the Bank, and the latter was cooler in concept, but in execution, botch after failed botch. It wasn't a bad show, but could have been so much more. For the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania (actually the 24th, but WWE insists otherwise) they could have done better. Vince McMahon needed an active part, at the very least. A lot of talent was shelved for this event. And it doesn't compare to WrestleMania 22, so far, my favorite.