Monday, January 21, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 9 (2012-2014)

Welcome to part 9.  Mediocrity ensues.  In terms of the Rumble events, not my writing.  You know it and you love it.  Let's get on with it....


Royal Rumble 2012 - Scottrade Center - 1.29.12

What a phoned-in show this was.  Considering the company had two excellent World Champions in January 2012 they sure put on a shoddy Rumble PPV.  An undercard with only one really good match (which was underwhelming), and a Rumble match featuring one of the worst lineups in history.  Let's examine this turd.  God, even the poster for it sucks.

The show opened, as so many PPVs of the time did, with the World Title match.  New Champion and smarmy dickish heel Daniel Bryan defended in a steel cage against two of the biggest men on the roster, Mark Henry and The Big Show.  The match told a good story and much of it consisted of Bryan using any weasely tactic possible to evade a toe-to-toe fight.  But at under ten minutes and with two massive opponents Bryan was hardly put in a show-stealing position.  This was okay, and the right guy won.

The obligatory Divas match was next as Beth Phoenix and Natalya (dubbed The Divas of Doom) teamed with the Bella twins against Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox and Tamina Snuka.  The DoD were the primary focus of the division at this point and seemed poised for a good heel run which would lead to a Beth vs. Natalya match at WrestleMania.  Alas none of that came to fruition and Natalya was saddled with an "uncontrollable gas" gimmick (who wouldn't get over with that?) while Beth got the privilege of being pinned cleanly by talk show host Maria Menounos at 'Mania 28.  Lovely.  This match was what it was, i.e. five minutes of "meh."

The ill-conceived John Cena vs. Kane feud was kicked off third.  Typical WWE nondescript brawl ending in a double countout, necessitating a rematch in February.  Given how thin the Rumble roster was, couldn't these two have just been included there?

Do I have your attention now?

Oh lovely, a squash match is next.  Brodus Clay (Remember him?  He was gonna be a huge deal.) destroyed Drew McIntyre (Remember him?  He was gonna be a huge deal.) in 65 seconds.  Thus began the disturbing 2012 trend of routinely including squash matches on PPV.

The one highlight of the evening was the WWE Title match pitting CM Punk against Dolph Ziggler, with GM John Laurinitis serving as the guest ringside enforcer.  I'm not sure what company officials were smoking when they elected to give Johnny Ace an on-air role, but he was terrible.  Like embarrassingly bad at everything.  And this is a guy who used to be a moderately successful wrestler.  This match was fine but the Johnny L bullcrap got in the way and they weren't given enough time to knock one out of the park.  Punk retained at about 14:30.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 8 (2009-2011)

Welcome back to our Royal Rumble History retrospective!  We've come to the end of the 2000s!


Royal Rumble 2009 - Joe Louis Arena - 1/25/09

Here's a rather tepid event if I've ever seen one.  The 2009 Rumble was thoroughly mediocre and frankly not all that memorable.  It had a series of middling undercard matches followed by a Rumble match where nearly all the big names entered early and overstayed their welcome.

The opener was a match for the now-defunct ECW Title, as new monster heel Jack Swagger (a guy in whom I saw tremendous potential at the time) vs. Matt Hardy.  This was a solid match that showcased the All-American American pretty well.

The All-American American, JACK THHHHHHWAGGER!!

Next was a Women's Title match featuring Beth Phoenix defending against Melina.  Your basic six-minute Divas match.  Melina captured the belt.

Third was one of the weaker World Title matches in recent memory as John Cena faced JBL.  This was against the backdrop of a godawful JBL-Shawn Michaels feud, in which Michaels supposedly had financial problems and was hired by JBL to help him win the World Title.  First off, Shawn had been a WWE employee on and off for 20 years and was easily one of the higher-paid stars in 2009.  Are we supposed to believe he's in such financial peril he'd accept a manservant position working for another wrestler?  The feud was awful and this match was devoid of suspense since obviously JBL wasn't winning the Championship.

The best undercard match of the night was WWE Champ Jeff Hardy defending against Edge.  This was a well-worked 19-minute match with a lame ending.  It was rumored leading into this that the returning Christian would interfere and cost Jeff the Title, leading to a feud between them.  Instead WWE opted to have Matt Hardy (who had just wrestled earlier as a babyface) turn against Jeff so they could fight at 'Mania, and then make up a month later.  Nevermind that Edge's longtime best friend Christian would have a much more logical reason for helping Edge.  The Hardy vs. Hardy feud yielded a couple decent PPV matches but was a terribly ill-conceived angle.

The Rumble match itself had a strong cast of characters but unfortunately too many of the top stars entered early in the bout and almost all of them lasted well over 30 minutes (four of them lasted over 45!).  The result was a Rumble with the same faces being present throughout the duration and essentially no potential winners entering during the later portions.  Look, I'm all for having one or two guys last a long time in the Rumble but when it's six or seven it removes the specialness of the accomplishment.  If all the top guys can stay in 30-45 minutes, the Rumble must not be that grueling a match.  It was a different way of booking the Rumble but overall I didn't think it worked.  The final four were Orton and his two Legacy partners Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase, against Triple H.  Hunter somehow survived this 3-on-1 scenario long enough to dump out Cody and Ted, but was ultimately ousted by Orton.  The next two months featured a ludicrously-booked Triple H-Randy Orton feud culminating in one of the worst-received WrestleMania main events in history.

....And that's for kickin' me out of Evolution!!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 7 (2006-2008)

Welcome back to Enuffa.com and our Royal Rumble History!  We've entered the John Cena Era!


Royal Rumble 2006 - American Airlines Arena - 1/29/06

Aaaaand we're back to another one-match Rumble PPV.  The 2006 edition featured a flat-out abysmal undercard with not one but two shitty Title matches, BOTH OF WHICH went on after the Rumble itself.  That's correct, the Royal Rumble went on fourth out of six.  Unbelievable.

The show opened with a decent enough Cruiserweight Six-Way match, as Kid Kash defended against Gregory Helms (having shed his Hurricane gimmick), Funaki, Nunzio, Jamie Noble and Paul London.  This went just shy of eight minutes but was a fun opener.  Helms got the pin to capture the Title and was set up for a promising heel run.  Unfortunately, as was common with Cruiserweight Champions, the company more or less forgot about him.

Next was a nigh unwatchable women's match as hot new heel Mickie James (who was amazing in this role) faced glorified model Ashley Massaro, with Women's Champ Trish Stratus as guest referee.  Utterly pointless, and even a talented worker like Mickie couldn't carry Ashley to a passable bout.  But ya know, Ashley was on the cover of Playboy so they had to feature her heavily.

Another throwaway was next as The Boogeyman defeated former WWE Champion JBL in just under two minutes.  The Boogeyman character was cartoonish but well executed, however the performer Marty Wright couldn't wrestle a lick.  Just dreadful.

Fourth out of six was the Rumble match.  This edition centered around the tasteless exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death two months earlier, as Rey Mysterio had begun dedicating everything he did to Eddie, repeatedly talking to the ceiling on camera.  Mysterio delivered a career performance here though, drawing number 2, going coast-to-coast, and breaking Chris Benoit's longevity record.  The match boiled down to Rey, Triple H (who drew #1), and Randy Orton.  Rey as usual played the underdog to perfection, outmaneuvering both heels to win the match.  This appeared to be setting up Rey vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania, which would've been spectacular, but unfortunately the company added Randy Orton to the World Title mix and then only gave the three guys 9 minutes at 'Mania.  Rey would go on to have one of the worst World Title runs ever booked.  Anywho, this Rumble match was well-done and made Rey look great for one night at least.  Other highlights included the returning Rob Van Dam, and both members of MNM having impressive stints.

Rey beat two-thirds of Evolution in one match.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 6 (2003-2005)

Here we go with Part 6 of The History of WWE Royal Rumble!


Royal Rumble 2003 - FleetCenter - 1.19.03

What a perfect illustration of how much better Paul Heyman's Smackdown was than RAW in 2003.  The '03 Rumble holds a special place for me because I was in attendance.  The WWE product at this point had spectacular highs coupled with absolutely dreadful lows, and this PPV showcased both.

The big story of this Rumble was the mega-face push of Brock Lesnar, who had been betrayed by Paul Heyman two months earlier (in one of the most nonsensical angles of the era), and who was now returning from a brief injury.  The opening match was a Rumble qualifier between Lesnar and The Big Show which, while better than their Survivor Series '02 encounter was still only about six minutes.  But it accomplished what it needed to and provided a decisive win for Lesnar on his way to the Rumble.

Next was a Tag Title throwaway - The Dudley Boyz defeated William Regal and Lance Storm for the straps.  This was inoffensive but pretty dull.

Third was the culmination of probably the worst storyline of 2002 - Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie.  Weeks earlier it was revealed that Dawn had been banging Torrie's father Al, and there was a storyline wedding complete with Al Wilson stripping down to his skivvies (Just what we all wanted to see!).  A week or so later Al "died" while he and Dawn were on their honeymoon, specifically during the physical act of love.  Torrie blamed Dawn for killing her father and thus we were subjected to this matchup.  Three and a half minutes of pointless.

But at least Torrie vs. Dawn was bad and short, unlike our next bout.

The World Championship would be decided between Triple H and the latest WCW import, Scott Steiner.  Steiner had debuted awkwardly at Survivor Series and after a pretend bidding war between the WWE brands, showed up on RAW and announced that he was contracted to get a Title shot.  Now I could be wrong about this but I'm pretty sure he didn't wrestle a single solitary match leading up to this one.  And it's clear no one in WWE bothered to watch any of his late WCW bouts, because I can't imagine he'd have been in line for a main event push based on any of those "classics."  The RAW team must've been desperate for someone to feud with Hunter, since they'd buried all the top babyfaces over the previous four months.  I guess maybe they should've presented Booker, Kane or RVD as worthy challengers at Survivor Series, hmm?  It was also baffling that they took this Big Poppa Pump character, a 'roided-up freak who used uncomfortable sexual humor to get crowd heat, and tried to make him a likable babyface.  There was nothing heroic about Scott Steiner in this incarnation, and therefore no reason to want to see him beat up Triple H.  Plus the horrific buildup to this match consisted of posedowns, arm wrestling challenges and gibberish Steiner promos, resembling a late 80s Ultimate Warrior feud, and not in a good way.

How much did these two spend on PEDs that year?

During the match intros the live crowd gave Steiner a lukewarm reception and popped pretty big for Hunter despite him being the heel.  But their reaction changed within the first few minutes of the match, when it became clear what a shit-show we were all watching.  By the end of this clumsy, repetitive crapfest the entire FleetCenter audience was booing both guys, and after botching some suplexes and being clearly winded for much of the bout, Steiner's days as a main event babyface were numbered. 

Look it's Kurt Angle slapping the Anklelock on some dude.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Stuff I Drew, part 2 (Champions of the Galaxy again)

Here's the next wave of drawings I did for that wrestling game I was talking about.  The first character was an original of mine, who I ended up reusing later when I needed original characters for the Smackdown videogames (my RPE friends will sorta recognize Zombie even though he looks very different here).  The other two are makeovers of existing game characters.

For Zombie I based his facial structure on a pic of Owen Hart.  Reason being that on TV Owen's character had snapped, turned heel, and started biting people a lot.

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Matrix

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I take a closer look at a film that is either beloved in spite of its faults or reviled in spite of its virtues, or that simply has such a mix of those two things it's stuck somewhere in between.


Today's subject is the 1999 cyberpunk action smash-hit, The Matrix!  The brainchild of the Wachowski brothers, The Matrix was a hip, new take on the humanity vs. machines theme that's been explored extensively in science fiction, driven by a capable cast and revolutionary special effects.  It became a touchstone at the time of its release, having such a profound and immediate influence on the genre that its visual tropes actually became obsolete by the time the sequels came out four years later.  In a way it was too big a hit for its own good, and the second and third films were viewed as a pretty massive disappointment.  But however botched the follow-through on this saga, the first film remains a visually engaging, conceptually neat sci-fi/action vehicle that could've been even more had the producers not dumbed it down for us popcorn-gorging slobs.

So let's take a look at what still works, and what still doesn't, about The Matrix!




The Awesome


Concept

The plot of this movie is super cool.  It's a dystopian future and machines have become self-aware and taken over the world, imprisoning the human race as an energy source while plugging them into a virtual reality designed to keep them pacified and complacent.  Nearly every person left after the apocalypse was born into this matrix, occupying a cryo-pod but under the impression they're all living normal human lives in the late 20th century.  A few resistors like Morpheus got wise and dared to pull back the curtain, hoping to free the others and bring down the machines.  Our main protagonist Neo is a highly sought-after computer programmer/hacker, whom Morpheus believes will be "the one" to free humanity.  It's high-concept sci-fi fun, with lofty, existential themes that are eminently relatable; who wouldn't be able to get behind a small band of heroes trying to save the world?  It's the cinematic embodiment of Rage Against the Machine!





Effects

The special effects invented for The Matrix were possibly the most influential of that era.  Nearly every action sequence features "bullet time" effects, where a computer-controlled ring of cameras rapidly spins around a subject, firing off a single frame in quick succession.  When blended with a CG-modeled background, the effect creates the illusion of time stopping as our hero manipulates space-time within the Matrix.  The martial arts scenes made liberal use of this effect and it was unlike anything ever put to film at that time.  It was so successful and popular nearly every action movie for the next few years ripped it off in some form, even when it didn't make sense in context (which was usually the case - see Charlie's Angels or Mission Impossible 2).  The visual effects here were hugely groundbreaking.

This move was so popular WWE wrestler Trish Stratus started using it.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 5 (2000-2002)

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's Royal Rumble History as we kick off the new millennium!


Royal Rumble 2000 - Madison Square Garden - 1.23.00

Night and day.  That's how I'd compare the WWF product from 1999 to 2000.  After Vince Russo left, overly contrived angles, abbreviated matches, and a lack of focus on in-ring all went out the window.  In their place were excellent matches, a blossoming talent pool, and storylines that made sense.  The 2000 Royal Rumble was the perfect way to kick off what was probably the best single year in the company's history.

The first match saw new WWF star Kurt Angle against a mystery opponent.  The roof came off MSG as the surprise was revealed to be former ECW Champion Tazz.  While I hated, HATED the extra "z" in his name, Tazz made short work of Angle with a dominant three-minute win.  Sadly this was the last time Tazz was used correctly as a WWF wrestler.  He faded into the midcard almost immediately after this and transitioned into an announcer role.

An unlikely Match of the Year candidate was next as The Hardy Boyz faced The Dudley Boyz in the first-ever Tables Match.  These two teams cut the most blistering pace I'd ever seen, assembling a dizzying array of death-defying high spots which climaxed with Jeff Hardy performing a Swanton off the loge entranceway onto Bubba Ray, and through two tables.  This match would be the prototype for the TLC series.

Shit's about to get real.

An ill-conceived bikini contest took up ten minutes of valuable airtime and culminated in Mae Young taking her top off, to the delight of no one.

The I-C Title was next, as co-Champions Chris Jericho and Chyna (such a dumb angle, don't ask) faced Bob Holly in a Triple Threat to determine the Undisputed I-C Champ.  Not sure why Holly was included - surely the co-Champs should've settled their feud one-on-one.  Anyway, Jericho prevailed.

A throwaway Tag Title match was next, as The New Age Outlaws had a quick two-minute win against the Acolytes.

The semi-main went to the WWF Title match.  New heel Champion Triple H, whose main event run had thus far been shaky at best, set out to prove that he did indeed belong at the top of the roster by taking on Cactus Jack in a Street Fight.  Much as he had done to establish The Rock as a main event heel in 1999, Mick Foley went above and beyond to cement Triple H as a new headliner worthy of carrying the company into the next decade.  Triple H himself proved he was more than just a cowardly heel Champion by taking vast sums of punishment over the course of this 27-minute bout.  This match featured one of the more grotesque endings I've seen, as Foley took a Pedigree face-first onto a pile of thumbtacks.  This was the match where I became a full-on Triple H fan (until mid-2002 that is).  Also a Match of the Year candidate (though I think their Hell in a Cell match at No Way Out was even better).

Dude.  Thumbtacks in face.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Stuff I Drew, part 1 (Champions of the Galaxy)

It is now time for the Fine Arts portion of the site.  Below are a few pieces of artwork I've done, all of which are from this SUPER nerdy wrestling dice game I used to play, called Champions of the Galaxy.  There were character cards with wrestling moves on the back and you rolled dice to see which move your character did.  Anywho, I created some of my own characters and revamped some of the existing ones.  So while I'm not exactly proud of how these drawings came to be, I am proud of the drawings themselves.

I'll show you some more artwork in the future, but here's a few for now....

This was an existing character in the game but I used a picture of Goldberg as the basis and then altered him to look like Holocaust.



An original character of mine, his look is based on a pic of Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity.



Thantos is one of the flagship characters in the original game but I used Sycho Sid's facial structure.



Click HERE for more....



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Top Ten Things: Beatles Albums

Welcome to another Top Ten Things!  Today I'll be talking about one of the most celebrated, universally beloved bands of all time, The Beatles!


The Beatles were possibly the first music group I was ever introduced to as a kid.  My parents played me some of Sgt. Pepper and I was hooked instantly.  By sixth grade I began making mix tapes of their tunes (Yes, this was when mix tapes were still a thing), and thanks to the Compleat Beatles documentary I became an expert very quickly.  In 1987 my parents bought a CD player (I felt so ahead of the curve), and The Beatles' entire catalog was one of the first available in that format.  I devoured their music like crazy and for a couple years they were one of very few bands I listened to (until I discovered metal that is).

Today, along with Metallica, The Beatles are my favorite band in the universe, and when I fire up one of their albums on the ol' iPod it's a ceremonious moment.  I tend to listen to their whole catalog front to back, over a period of several days.  Yeah I'm a dork.  Shut up.

Anyway, here's a list of what are, in my opinion, The Beatles ten greatest albums.




10. A Hard Day's Night


In 1964 The Beatles had conquered both the UK and the US, becoming such pop culture icons they were tapped to star in a feature film.  Directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night starred the Fab Four as themselves, in a "day in the life" kind of story.  The band travels by train to an auditorium where they'll perform for a live TV special, and in tow is Paul's troublemaker grandfather who tries to turn everyone against each other.  The soundtrack album featured numerous classic early Beatles songs, like the energetic title track, the bittersweet "If I Fell," the instantly catchy "I Should've Known Better," the bluesy "You Can't Do That," and the morose "Things We Said Today."  A Hard Day's Night followed up The Beatles' first two pop albums with slightly more mature content and showed a band beginning to temper their signature sound.




9. Help!


After the huge success of A Hard Day's Night, a second Beatles film was inevitable.  This time it would be a big-budget James Bond-inspired screwball comedy about a Far-East cult hunting down the band in the hopes of recovering a sacrificial ring mailed to Ringo.  The movie featured numerous action-comedy set pieces, plus seven brand new Beatles tunes.  The music showed a bit more depth and some instrument variation, and the album boasted probably the first major departure - a somber guitar ballad of Paul's called "Yesterday."  Paul was the only Beatle on the recording, and would be accompanied by a string quartet, a first for the band.  Other highlights included the mellow waltz of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," the urgent "The Night Before," and the anxiously bouncy "I've Just Seen a Face."  Help! showed the band continuing to expand their musical range on their way to arguably the most creative period in their career.




8. Let It Be


Originally intended as a live concert film entitled Get Back, Let It Be eventually morphed into an album/documentary that showed The Beatles coming apart at the seams.  Their interpersonal relationships were in shambles and the live recording sessions were filled with palpable tension.  So unpleasant was the experience that the band opted to shelve the album and move on to Abbey Road, as a way to end their career on a high note.  As the band dissolved, producer Phil Spector was hired to sort through the dozens of songs and takes, and whittle everything down to a concise record.  The result was a solid-if-inconsistent album that would serve as the band's denouement.  Side 1 is full of good-to-great songs, like John's strangely lyriced "Dig a Pony" and his existential ballad "Across the Universe," and Paul's iconic piano-driven title track.  Inexplicably Spector also included a one-minute snippet of "Dig It," a ponderous go-nowhere jam, and their brief take on the traditional ditty "Maggie Mae."  Side two's highlights were both contributions from Paul; the optimistic "I've Got a Feeling," and the energetic "Get Back."  Despite Spector's orchestral embellishments on songs like "The Long and Winding Road," Let It Be features a stripped-down, intimately live snapshot of The Beatles at their lowest point.  Yet even as the band crumbled they managed to churn out some undeniably great songs and cement their legacy as a transcendent rock group.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 4 (1997-1999)

Welcome to Part 4 of Enuffa.com's History of the Royal Rumble!  And welcome to the Stone Cold Era!

Royal Rumble 1997 - AlamoDome - 1/19/97

The 1997 Rumble has unfortunately not aged all that well, but at the time I absolutely loved this show.  The card was pretty stacked and sprinkled with several Mexican lucha stars (Nevermind that WCW had already scooped up all the GOOD lucha stars - I didn't yet know any better.), the Rumble match had a strong field of contenders (largely due to most of the undercard participants pulling double duty), and the huge venue added to its splendor, making this show feel more like a WrestleMania card than 'Mania 13 did.

The opener was an I-C Title match - Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Goldust.  At this point the company was struggling to find a sidekick for Hunter after Mr. Perfect left the company, and they saddled him with perennial midcarder Curtis Hughes.  Fortunately a month later Hunter would bring in Chyna, and his career would never be the same.  As for this match, it was passable but nowhere near as good as their 'Mania rematch would be.

Why wasn't WrestleMania 13 held here?

The next match featured the in-ring return of Ahmed Johnson, out for revenge against Faarooq, who had injured him the previous summer.  I was excited to see this, and while it was brief and inconclusive, it was a fun brawl.

Third was a dream match of sorts between The Undertaker and Vader.  There wasn't much going on in this feud but the pair worked pretty well together.  Underwhelming but decent.

Next was a showcase of B-grade Lucha stars, as Hector Garza, Perro Aguayo and Canek took on Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal and Fuerza Guerrera.  As Lucha six-man tags go I now know this was a pretty shabby representation, but at the time some of this stuff blew my mind (I didn't watch Nitro enough to take in much of the real Lucha action.).  I was particularly impressed with Hector Garza, as was WCW apparently (He debuted there later that year).

The Rumble match was once again in the semi-main slot, and featured a star-making performance by Steve Austin.  Austin entered the match fifth and cleared the ring multiple times, eventually eliminating a record-shattering ten people.  One of the match highlights occurred while Austin was alone in the ring waiting for the next entrant, and Bret Hart's music hit.  The crowd erupted to see Austin and Bret resume their landmark feud, and the two of them engaged in a blistering 90-second slugfest.  This Rumble match has one of the best closing stretches of any Rumble - ten men left in the ring after number 30, five of them potential winners.  It boiled down to Austin, Bret, Vader, Taker, and Fake Diesel.  Suddenly Bret dumped Austin out, but since the officials were distracted by Mankind and Terry Funk brawling at ringside the elimination went unnoticed and Austin slid back in, eliminating Vader, Taker and Bret.  Bret flew into a rage at Austin's tainted victory, furthering his gradual heel turn.  This match is another one of my all-time favorite Rumbles.

Man, evil Austin was great.

Participants: Crush, Ahmed Johnson, Fake Razor Ramon, Phineas Godwinn, Steve Austin, Bart Gunn, Jake Roberts, British Bulldog, Pierroth, The Sultan, Mil Mascaras, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Owen Hart, Goldust, Cibernetico, Marc Mero, Latin Lover, Faarooq, Savio Vega, Jesse James, Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler, Fake Diesel, Terry Funk, Rocky Maivia, Mankind, Flash Funk, Vader, Henry Godwinn, Undertaker
Final Four: Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Undertaker, Vader
Long Man: Steve Austin (45:07)

Friday, January 11, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 3 (1994-1996)

Welcome to Part 3 of our Royal Rumble History piece!  The Bret Hart Era has officially begun!


Royal Rumble 1994 - Providence Civic Center - 1/22/94

This here is your classic one-match show.  After one of the worst-ever Rumble undercards, we were treated to a damn fine Rumble match which at the time was probably the second-best edition.  The company was rebuilding after the roster losses of '92 and '93, and the New Generation was in full-swing.

The show opened with Tatanka vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (subbing for an injured Ludvig Borga).  Since there was no feud here the match meant nothing, and wasn't very good anyway.  Next?

Match #2 is one of the more overrated I can remember, but it was important in setting up one of the biggest feuds of the year.  World Tag Champs The Quebecers defended against Bret and Owen Hart.  At the time I found this an oddly contrived setup.  Bret was rather above the Tag belts at this point and it seemed clear this would just be leading to the Bret vs. Owen feud.  Sure enough that's exactly what happened.  Bret took several minutes of Quebecer offense but opted not to tag in a fresh Owen.  Finally Bret's knee was so injured the referee stopped the match (also very contrived - why not just have the Quebecers pin Bret with a rollup or something?), and Owen went ballistic, attacking his brother and turning heel.  The match worked alright as an angle but really wasn't much of a wrestling match.

We returned to Throwaway City next, as I-C Champ Razor Ramon defended against IRS (one of the weaker perennial I-C contenders).  I never saw much chemistry between these two, so this was two-star fare at best.

The World Title match was next, as Yokozuna faced The Undertaker in a Casket Match.  Going into this I was very excited to see Taker finally get another Title shot after over two years, and I actually thought he might take it down.  As it turned out I'd be disappointed with the result, and nauseated by the match itself.  This was one of the worst-ever World Title matches, featuring slow-motion brawling, cartoonishly excessive overbooking (Ten, count them, TEN midcard heels would interfere on Yokozuna's behalf), and a laughably bad aftermath.  Taker was shut into the casket and his "ghost" would rise from the arena floor and ascend to the ceiling.  Said "ghost" was of course Marty Janetty (who incidentally is about 9 inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than Mark Callaway), and said "ascension" was accomplished through the use of clearly visible harness wires.  Good lord this was campy and idiotic.

Wait, how'd he end up on the TV screens? 
They couldn't possibly have prerecorded this bit, could they?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Starship Troopers

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll examine a movie I have mixed feelings about and separate what works from what doesn't.  Today's entry is the monstrously violent political satire from Paul Verhoeven called Starship Troopers!


The 1997 film was based on Robert Heinlein's 1959 militaristic, rather pro-fascist novel about a group of high schoolers who enroll in the military to wage war against an army of alien "bugs."  In the novel the main character Johnny Rico has a fairly triumphant arc, becoming a respected officer and leader as the war wages on.  The film however has a decidedly satirical thrust, mostly poking fun at the very subject matter on which it was based.  On the surface this movie seemed like the usual alien invasion sci-fi/action tripe, but as he did with Robocop, Verhoeven created something much more substantial and sociopolitical.  He got a lot of things right with this film, but while Robocop is basically perfect for what it is, Troopers unfortunately leaves some things to be desired.  So let's take a look at this Awesomely Shitty Movie....



The Awesome


Satire

The militaristic tone and pro-meritocracy slant (having to earn full citizens' rights) of the novel are cleverly satirized by director Paul Verhoeven in a way that rides the line between honoring and lampooning Robert Heinlein's work.  In fact Verhoeven found the novel unreadable and still managed to make a capable film adaptation.  The officer uniforms are also clearly inspired by those of Nazi officials, and the propaganda films shown throughout are flagrantly a riff on Nazi indoctrination such as Triumph of the Will.  Structurally this film is strikingly similar to All Quiet on the Western Front, following a group of high school kids (who in this case seem lifted right out of 90210) who get duped into enlisting and have horrible things happen to them.

Who designed these space suits, Michelin?



Ultra-violence

Like with Robocop, Verhoeven sprinkled (or more accurately slathered) this movie with over-the-top, graphic violence which becomes both disturbing and oddly amusing.  There are countless battle scenes with humans being stabbed through various body parts by the bugs' spear-like legs, and plenty of scenes depicting bugs being inefficiently blown to gooey pieces by the soldiers.  Plus there's the climactic scene where the brain bug sucks Zander Barcalow's brain out through his skull.  It's not for the squeamish, but man is it entertaining for us sick folk (fucks).

Dammit Paul, I wanted to see what happened to the cow!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

All Elite Wrestling: This Is Gettin' Pretty Exciting....


With last night's rally in Jacksonville, we're getting a much clearer picture of this All Elite Wrestling thing everyone's buzzing about.  It's an exciting time to be a wrestling fan, as we're on the cusp of being offered a whole new option from which to get our fake fighting fix.  More importantly, the talent is about to potentially get a whole new avenue in which to make a good living as a wrestler, away from the creatively homogenized WWE atmosphere.  The fact that AEW was able to snag a name as big as Chris Jericho is pretty huge.  Jericho lends them instant legitimacy and somewhat mainstream recognition.  All signs seem to be pointing to Kenny Omega following suit, which would provide AEW their cornerstone guy.

Even aside from the roster announcements (So-Cal Uncensored and PAC are among the biggest supporting characters thus far), the Khan family is worth literally billions of dollars, far more than Vince McMahon, which means AEW will theoretically be able to offer real money deals to top stars.  This could be enormous when contracts come up.  WWE may have to start working much harder to keep their talent happy. 

Provided they can land a good TV deal and some sort of streaming arrangement for PPV events (I can't see many people wanting to go back to shelling out $50 a pop for PPVs), this company could very well change the North American wrestling landscape.  How poetic would it be by the way, for TBS or TNT to scoop up this programming?  Set the flagship show on Tuesday nights where Smackdown's about to not be anymore.

While all this is very exciting, I'd really like to see them partner with NJPW (and ROH for that matter).

As of now NJPW will be continuing their relationship/talent exchange with Ring of Honor.  Understandable, as both companies have been good for each other.  But it seems to me that New Japan and All Elite kinda need each other as well.  NJPW can't afford to lose a star like Kenny Omega at this point (not to mention the cast of supporting characters like Cody and the Jacksons), while AEW's roster (for now anyway) could use the supplemental talent NJPW would provide.  The All In 2 show wouldn't be nearly as stacked as its predecessor without the New Japan talent that was involved with the first show.  From New Japan's perspective I can't see a reason not to work with both AEW and ROH.  From AEW's perspective I can't see a reason not to work with NJPW.  Ring of Honor is the only company of the three that might stand to lose anything, but it would behoove AEW and ROH to work out something so both can remain in collaboration with New Japan.  The three companies will be so much stronger together than in competition.   

That leads me to my next point - I've been saying for a while that New Japan would benefit greatly from a women's division.  A partnership with AEW (and ROH) would allow them to borrow women's talent from those two promotions while building their own roster.  A women's division in New Japan would lessen the need to rely so heavily on repititious six- and eight-man tag matches on the less important shows.  This is the one area in which NJPW is way behind the curve.  I was very pleased to hear that AEW's women wrestlers will be paid equally to their male counterparts (I assume based on their standing in the company; Penelope Ford is obviously not making the same as Chris Jericho), as it sounds like they're serious about building female stars to rival the men, as WWE is currently doing.  A relationship between the three companies would even allow for a string of women-only supercards that could conceivably be a much bigger deal than WWE's first one.

It's going to be an angst-ridden few months as we wait for more details to trickle in about AEW's future, but there are some seriously promising elements in place that could lead to the first true wrestling boom since 2001.  A company with the finances to lure away WWE talent and offer a much more creatively free environment would force Vince & co. to actively step up their game.  A partnership with New Japan would strengthen both promotions and give their shared venture a global footprint. 

Now, can we give CM Punk a ring and see if he's interested?


Thanks for reading - follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube....






 

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 2 (1991-1993)

Continuing our Royal Rumble retrospective, let's look at the end of the Hogan Era.



Royal Rumble 1991 - Miami Arena - 1/19/91

The '91 Rumble was the first WWF PPV I ever ordered.  Why I chose that particular event to jump in the water I'm not sure.  It wasn't good though. 

The show opened amazingly, with an absolutely killer tag match - The Rockers vs. The Orient Express.  I know on paper that doesn't sound mindblowing, but trust me.  This was nineteen minutes of just spectacular action, and I think this was the moment when I really started to appreciate The Rockers, Shawn in particular.  I'd go so far as to call this the 1991 Match of the Year.  I shit you not.

It was kinda all downhill from there though.  Next was The Big Bossman vs. The Barbarian.  This wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly good either.  Passable.

Third was one of the sloppiest brawls I can remember, as WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior defended against Sgt. Slaughter, in the first WWF Title defense on a Rumble card.  I figured Warrior would mow over Slaughter and resume feuding with Randy Savage for the belt, being that they hadn't yet wrestled since the start of their rivalry (Savage was obviously not cleared to wrestle but I didn't know that).  What happened instead was that Savage smashed Warrior across the skull with his sceptre (a pretty brutal-looking spot I must admit), allowing Slaughter to win the WWF Title and become one of the worst Champions ever (Even in 1991 I recognized on some level the concept of devaluing a championship.), and setting up probably the weakest WrestleMania main event in history.  This was pretty awful stuff.

How pissed was Warrior at losing the belt?  THIS pissed.

It was followed by two throwaway matches - The Mountie vs. Tito Santana in a quick squash that didn't belong on a PPV, and Ted Dibiase & Virgil vs. Dusty & Dustin Rhodes.  This would be Dusty's last televised WWF match, and I believe it was Dustin's only match in the company until he returned in 1995 as Goldust.  Despite Team Dibiase's win, Ted was upset with Virgil's performance and berated him after the match.  Virgil had taken all the abuse he could stand, and blasted Dibiase with the Million Dollar belt, turning babyface.

The 1991 Rumble match was easily my least favorite to date.  I had four wrestlers I was rooting for (The stip about the Rumble winner earning a WWF Title match was not yet introduced so it was anyone's ballgame.): Randy Savage, Undertaker, Hawk and Animal, none of whom lasted more than 14 minutes.  After all four of them were out of contention (Randy Savage actually no-showed the match after costing Warrior the belt) I more or less tuned out, as it was clear Hulk Hogan would be winning his second-straight Rumble match.  Yawn.  Hogan eliminated Brian Knobbs (gee I wonder why Knobbs got to be in the final four) and Earthquake to once again reign dominant over the entire WWF roster.  This match was notable however for two men exceeding the 44-minute longevity mark: Greg Valentine and Rick Martel.

Oh super, two of my picks just eliminated another one of my picks.
Thanks a lot, Legion of Dicks!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Top Ten Things: Opening PPV Matches

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

With WrestleKingdom 13 in the books and the fantastic match that kicked off that show, I got to thinking about my favorite PPV opening matches over the last 35 years or so.  I eventually narrowed it down to 25, and in a fairly agonizing process, managed to pick my favorites.  Like a killer opening song on an album, a great opening match can instantly grab your attention and set the tone for the rest of the evening.  It gets the live crowd excited, which in turn lends more energy to the rest of the PPV.  The quality of the opening bout can leave almost as big an impression as that of the main event; if a show starts well and ends well you tend to remember it as a damn fine show (I do anyway), even if the stuff in the middle isn't so hot.  At the very least a great opening match makes me want to watch the show a second time.  Most PPVs tend to feature shorter bouts to kick things off, but every so often the first match either steals the show outright or comes pretty damn close.  Here are ten such examples.....




10. AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon - WrestleMania 33


The main card of the 2017 edition of WrestleMania kicked off with a match I wasn't at all happy about.  AJ Styles, by far the most accomplished star in the company over the previous 14 months, was saddled fighting Vince's son instead of tearing it up with someone of his caliber.  But I'll be damned if it wasn't incredibly entertaining.  AJ was amazing as usual, and Shane had his working shoes on just trying to keep up.  Many of the spots were over-the-top, including Shane countering AJ's 450 splash into a triangle choke, Shane missing a Shooting Star Press, AJ trying the Van Terminator but running into a trash can, and Shane doing his own Van Terminator.  AJ finally took the win after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, capping off what was shockingly the best match of the night.  This match proved that AJ Styles could have a good match with anyone, and also earned AJ the company's permanent stamp of approval.





9. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler - Bragging Rights 2010


Probably D-Bryan's first true standout match in WWE was this sleeper hit to kick off the second and final Bragging Rights PPV.  By far the best match on the show, this US Champ vs. IC Champ bout allowed Bryan to show off his technical prowess against an opponent who could hang with him move-for-move.  This see-saw match went a thrilling 16 minutes, including a false finish where Ziggler seemed to have won the match but Bryan's foot was on the rope, before Bryan tapped Ziggler out with the LeBell Lock.  The pair followed it up with an equally good rematch the next night on RAW.  At year's end, WWE cited this as one of the best matches of 2010, ranking it second (I believe) only to Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker.  This was the first instance of the company openly showing appreciation for Bryan's abilities.





8. Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Thunder Liger - SuperBrawl II


The second SuperBrawl PPV, the best in the series, had the show stolen by this groundbreaking opening contest for the newly minted WCW Light Heavyweight Title.  This 17-minute bout was full of great false finishes and big high spots, demonstrating this wonderful alternative to the norm known as cruiserweight wrestling and showcasing a style of wrestling North American fans weren't yet accustomed to.  Pillman won with a bridging leg cradle after Liger missed a top-rope splash, regaining the short-lived championship.  While Jr.-style wrestling wouldn't catch on for a few more years, this match served as one of the templates.

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 1 (1988-1990)

From the wrestling-addicted putz who brought you The History of WWE WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series comes the Enuffa.com History of WWE Royal Rumble!


The annual tradition that generally garners one of WWE's best buyrates of the year, the Royal Rumble is considered the official kickoff to WrestleMania season.  Angles and feuds are set up at the January PPV that lead directly to WWE's biggest show.  It all centers around the 30-man (or occasionally 40-man) Rumble match, where the participants draw numbers to determine their order of entry.  Two men start the match and the rest are added at regular intervals (usually either 90 seconds or two minutes).  The object is to eliminate your opponents by throwing them over the top rope.  The last man standing is guaranteed a WWE Title match at WrestleMania.

The Rumble is usually one of the most fun matches of the year, as it's heavy on surprises and twists, and superstars are created or solidified.  This match type more than any other lends itself to group viewing and betting pools (For example my friends and I each draw numbers and whichever wrestlers correspond to our numbers, that's who we bet on).

Initially the Rumble match was simply a novelty, and the first edition was offered on free cable as counterprogramming to the NWA's Bunkhouse Stampede PPV.  Once again Vince tried to put the kibosh on Jim Crockett's PPV hopes, and once again Crockett's show flopped (In retaliation Crockett ran the free Clash of the Champions event opposite WrestleMania IV).  The inaugural Rumble match only featured 20 wrestlers, and no main event stars.  The following year it was expanded to 30 men and broadcast on PPV, and a few years later the stakes were raised by making the Royal Rumble winner the automatic top contender for WrestleMania.

The best Rumble matches tend to be the ones heaviest on star power, as the field of realistic winners is larger and less predictable.  But there have certainly been exceptions to that rule. 

Here now is the History of WWE Royal Rumble!


Royal Rumble 1988 - Copps Coliseum - 1/24/88

As I said before, the first Rumble was a free TV special and mostly featured midcard bouts.  It was the brainchild of Pat Patterson, who test-ran the concept a few times on house shows with enough positive feedback to make the match a televised event.

The show opened with a singles bout between Rick Rude and Ricky Steamboat.  This was fine but ran a bit long, especially given the DQ ending.  It was the first instance I ever saw of the fans chanting "Rudy Rudy RUUU-DAAAY", which I found amusing.  Nothing too memorable, but it was an okay match.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Top Ten Things: Film Directors

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be discussing my all-time favorite filmmakers.  As a cinefile I've spent years seeking out quality films made by gifted directors, and there have been more than a few whose careers I've followed very closely, at least for a while.  Some directors fell off my radar after a downturn in quality (Rob Reiner anyone?), but in each of the below cases I actively seek out films by these directors.  In some cases they are essential viewing for me.

Here now is the list....




10. Paul Thomas Anderson


One of Hollywood's quirkiest, most adventurous directors, Anderson has made a career of creating non-traditional films centered around flawed protagonists.  He often wears his cinematic influences on his sleeve, but always injects his own style and sensibilities into every picture.  His noirish debut Hard Eight garnered positive reviews, but it was his sophomore effort which brought him to my attention.  Boogie Nights chronicles the rise and fall of adult film star Dirk Diggler, set against the messy transition from the artsy smut of the 70s to the more utilitarian, VHS-driven industry of the 80s.  Anderson created such a fully realized universe and cast of characters in this movie I couldn't help being totally immersed, and Boogie Nights remains one of my all-time favorite films.  He followed it up with the uneven but superbly acted Magnolia, the Kubrick-esque opus There Will Be Blood, and the puzzling but never dull The Master.  Even in light of his two (in my opinion) misfires Punch-Drunk Love and Inherent Vice, Anderson has enjoyed a stellar career thus far, directing two masterpieces and three other uniquely admirable efforts.

Top Three Films: Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, The Master





9. David Fincher


Perhaps no other director seized my fascination so early on in his career as David Fincher.  His debut film Alien 3 (which he later disowned) disappointed me severely, but there was still something about his visual style that struck me.  His ability to play with light and darkness lent Alien 3 a richness that its script sorely lacked.  He brought that sense of intensely tangible dread to the forefront in his second film, the overwhelmingly bleak Se7en (another one of my all-time favorites), and again in his Hitchcockian thriller The Game.  But it will probably always be Fight Club that audiences most closely associate with Fincher.  This mindfuck of a movie had such a profound impact on our cinematic lexicon, and along with The Sixth Sense, made plot twists a must-have in any thriller for several years.  Much of Fincher's recent work has been a little more conventional (but often still excellent), from the police procedural Zodiac, to the Gump-esque Benjamin Button, to the darkly droll The Social Network.  His two most recent films (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl) were both based on bestsellers, with mixed box office results, but they cemented Fincher as a visually gifted event filmmaker.

Top Three Films: Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network





8. F.W. Murnau


One of cinema's earliest visionaries, Murnau created some of the most optically stunning images ever photographed for a film.  At a time when most moving pictures featured static, flat camera angles, Murnau brought expressionist atmosphere and movement (In The Last Laugh for example he used a swing and a wheelchair to create motion).  He also made use of deliberately fantastical special effects to lend his films a moody, dreamlike quality.  Consider the opening passages in his horrific epic Faust, which depicts a struggle between God and Satan.  These effects don't strive for realism, yet they're more effective in conveying the story than some of our modern CGI.  Undoubtedly Murnau's most famous film is Nosferatu, the first major adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Murnau set the bar for all future versions of the immortal Count, inventing a loathsome, disease-spreading apparition.  Some of film horror's most iconic images came from this film and it remains mandatory viewing every Halloween.  Murnau was sadly killed in a car accident shortly after being imported by Hollywood, and it's a tragedy we never got to see his intended American filmography.  His first American film, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, won three awards at the first Oscars ceremony.

Top Three Films: Nosferatu, Faust, The Last Laugh


NJPW WrestleKingdom 13: This Show was Fantastic, So Why Am I Sad?

I'm not sure there's ever been such a great PPV that left me with such mixed feelings as WrestleKingdom 13.  From a booking standpoint everything was done really well.  From a match quality standpoint there wasn't a bad bout in sight, and a few were flat-out excellent.  But the decision to limit the show to four hours when thirty extra minutes would've elevated it to the Best PPV Ever conversation, coupled with all the uncertainty surrounding the All Elite situation and potential WWE talent steals, made what should've been a triumphant moment feel kinda jaded.  This is how I felt after WrestleKingdom 10 to a certain extent, but it's magnified here.


In the opening match, which has to be on the short list for best openers ever, Will Ospreay defeated Kota Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Title.  This match was fast paced and dazzling as expected, with loads of back and forth offense, some intense striking battles, and tons of athleticism as only these two can deliver.  My favorite spot involved the two of them trading strikes while Ibushi was hanging upside down from the turnbuckles (which is where the legit concussion occurred).  Late in the match Ospreay kicked out of a Last Ride and avoided the Kamigoye knee (though Ibushi at one point hit him with the Boma Ye, in tribute to Nakamura), knocked Ibushi loopy with a driving elbow to the head, and landed the Stormbreaker to win the title.  Ibushi was stretchered out with a kayfabe concussion that in fact turned out to be a legit minor one.  Ibushi, as planned, is off the New Beginning tour but will hopefully be back soon (though who knows if he signs with All Elite or not).  These guys left enough on the table for a rematch so I'm really hoping there is one.  Regardless, this was an incredible opener that set a high bar for the night.  ****1/2


Next up was the Jr. Tag triple threat, with El Desperado & Kanemaru defending against RPG3K and Shingo & Bushi.  This match was fine and all action but was too short to amount to all that much.  It was far better than a WWE throwaway but still felt like a throwaway.  This was one of four or five matches that could've used five more minutes, hence my earlier comment about the show needing an extra half hour.  Shingo was the star of this match, dominating the later minutes and finishing of Sho with Last of the Dragon to win the belts.  **3/4

Another match that could've used more time was Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for the RPW Heavyweight Title.  As expected this was a stiff, gritty fight pitting Ishii's strikes against Sabre's grappling.  Sabre dominated a lot of this match, which made for a pretty shocking ending when Ishii submitted to Sabre's new double-arm octopus hold.  This match was very good but about five minutes short of greatness.  Sabre continues to shine though as one of the company's top gaijins.  Here's hoping for some IWGP Title matches in his future.  ***1/2

The heavyweight tag match was definitely superior to its Jr. counterpart, as Guerillas of Destiny, The Young Bucks and Evil & Sanada had a wild, energetic match.  The big story element here was Tama Tonga's apparent change of heart at wanting to be a "good guy."  So GoD refrained from their usual illegal shenanigans and it ended up costing them.  The last few minutes of this were insane, with big move after big move.  With GoD knocked out of commission, Evil and Sanada hit Matt Jackson with a Magic Killer, followed by a Sanada moonsault to win the belts and officially move into the tag team centerpiece spot.  The Bucks have of course signed with AEW and are done with New Japan for the time being.  Considering they had just become a top heavyweight tag team, this is a major loss for the division.  But Evil and Sanada will be great custodians for the tag belts, like a modern-day Tencozy.  ***1/4



Friday, January 4, 2019

Late to the Party: Hamilton

Welcome to a new Enuffa.com feature called Late to the Party, where I discuss a movie, an album, a recording artist, a book, what-have-you, that for me was an acquired taste of the tardiest kind.  Something everyone else seemed to get right away, but for which I was slow on the uptake.  Case in point, Lin-Manuel Miranda's epic Broadway musical Hamilton....


As with so many artistic ventures that seem to come out of nowhere and take the world by storm, I was initially quite resistant to Hamilton when I first became aware of it.  Not really being a musical theater enthusiast (I like some musicals, but it's a pretty select few) and most certainly not being a hip-hop guy (Aside from Outkast there's very little in this genre that interests me), the idea of a rap musical centered around one of the less celebrated founding fathers didn't exactly pique my interest.  Couple that with the almost hysterical devotion this show has generated since its January 2015 debut, not to mention the astronomical prices being charged for tickets, and my first reaction was something along the lines of "Get the fuck outta here with this...."

Fast-forward two years, and my wife finally gave the Cast Recording a listen after much prodding from a close friend who was already obsessed with the show (We'll call her Shamilton).  By the third or fourth go-round my wife was all, "Justin, you HAVE to listen to this."  "Yeah yeah yeah, whatever," I replied.  Then one weekend we had a drive up to the beach, roughly 80 minutes each way, and she chose that as the time to make me a captive audience.  I'd been expecting an hour-long soundtrack album, not realizing Hamilton had no dialogue outside of the songs, and said, "Jeezus, how long is this thing??"  So I listened to it front-to-back and found it mildly interesting.  I'd be lying if I said it blew me away the first time.  The music was so densely composed and covered so much ground, and I wasn't sure who was singing what to whom, that a lot of it was in one ear and out the other.

But like so much of the best art, the Hamilton album isn't about instant gratification.  It slowly burrows its way in, and only after you've become familiar with the story being told and fully absorbed the music does it yield its true rewards.

About a week later, after hearing the album again in the background at a pool party (I will say this stuff doesn't make for the best passive listening experience), I decided to give Hamilton a really honest try on my own iPhone, with no distractions.  And goddammit, everyone else was right.  I was wrong.

As a double album, Hamilton is a grandly concieved, meticulously detailed, obstinately ingenious concept record about the rise and fall of this underappreciated co-architect of the American experiment.  The 47 tracks cover the ambitious Hamilton's journey from orphaned immigrant (born in the West Indies and grew up in the Caribbean) to Revolutionary War officer to the first Secretary of the Treasury, and depict his numerous sweeping contributions to America's inception, as well as his various political and personal battles while helping shape the ungainly, chaotic system of government known as democracy.  Indeed, Hamilton makes no effort to lionize the founding fathers; they, like all human beings, are flawed, ego-driven, and prone to mistakes.

Top Ten Things: Haken Songs

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten things at the top of the mountain (get it?)....


Today I'll be talking about the ten finest compositions by British prog-metal masters Haken!  I discovered Haken only recently, after seeing in a Newbury Comics newsletter than their newest album Vector was set to be released.  I looked 'em up and read all about their brand of progressive rock, not to mention all the accolades their albums have gotten, and gave them a listen.  I was hooked immediately, and have spent the last few months immersed in their catalog.  Haken's music somehow grabs the listener instantly with stunningly crafted songs, but also rewards multiple spins with loads of ear candy, unusual influences, odd time signatures, and dense vocal harmonies.  This six-piece is unquestionably the real deal, and one of the most exciting bands of any genre that I've encountered in years.  Where I find many prog bands too eager to dazzle at the expense of good old-fashioned songwriting, Haken's songs are rock-solid first and technically marvelous second.  Their music is instantly addictive but simultaneously reveals new layers with each listen.  I can't recommend them enough.  Click HERE for my full review of The Mountain....

Here are my ten Haken favorites....




10. Earthrise


One of Haken's most uplifting songs, "Earthrise" starts out with a sycopated verse and builds to a soaring, harmonized chorus (one of their most instantly hooky), eventually returning to a modulated version of said chorus toward the end of the tune.  Like "Insomnia," my only gripe with this song is that it's too short.  This is a chorus that could be repeated on a loop without getting old.  This is one of the standouts from the Affinity album.






9. Crystallised


The 19-minute epic from Haken's Restoration EP, "Crystallised" kicks off with a bouncy 7/8 jazz fusion verse that opens up into a wondrous rock chorus.  Right away the song sticks with you (as do so many of Haken's tracks), but the bridge takes it to another level with an a capella counterpoint piece that builds into full minstrel-inspired segment.  It's unlike anything else in their catalog and immediately captures your attention.  The song finds its way back to the chorus and then to a climactic, multi-layered outro about accepting change and moving on.  This section reminds me of some of Dream Theater's long-form tunes and is yet another instantly memorable hook in a song full of them.  This is one of Haken's great marathon tracks.






8. The Architect


The extravagant centerpiece of Affinity is this near-sixteen-minute epic, featuring a guest death vocal by Einar Solberg of Leprous.  The greatest strength of "The Architect" is its ever-changing Fear Factory-esque chorus hook over a jackhammering syncopated guitar riff.  At the end of the song this chorus is brought back over a totally different riff and in a different time signature, but the melody is so strong you almost don't notice the change at first.  "The Architect" is one of many Haken epics whose running time flies by.