Friday, June 14, 2019

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1996)

WCW was still running on the WWF's old fumes....

SuperBrawl VI - Bayfront Arena - 2.11.96

WCW was nearing the end of its full-on WWF-lite phase, and the landscape was about to change only a few months after this show.  But for now we're stuck in retread mode, and the results are once again quite tedious.  Here we go....

I've said it before but I can't stand listening to Dusty Rhodes' commentary.  His overuse of the phrases "If you weel" and "Dubya C Dubya, where da big boys play" is so beyond grating I wanna stab myself in the face.  Also when did Tony Schiavone begin using the word "telecast" every thirty seconds?  I don't remember him ever saying that word in the 80s.  Jeezus Christ Tony!

The show opened with a mildly entertaining garbage match between The Nasty Boys and Public Enemy, which at the time was probably considered pretty wild.  Both teams were pretty dull to watch in general but this match was a little fun at least.

The surprising hit of the night was TV Champ Johnny B. Badd vs. Diamond Dallas Page.  Pretty decent stuff here, as these guys had good chemistry.  Weird to see Badd go over here since he was WWF-bound a month later.  DDP was morphing into the solid hand he'd become during the nWo era.

Taker musta been pissed....

This show had three very disappointing matches, and the first was a Tag Title match; Harlem Heat vs. Sting & Luger.  A major letdown considering the talent involved.  Too much of this and the followup match against the Road Warriors was taken up with "Is Luger a good guy or a bad guy?"  No one looked terribly motivated.  Hawk & Animal interfered to give Sting & Luger the win (I guess stemming from their feud with Luger?).  Pretty weak.

The US Title was on the line next as Konnan defended against One Man Gang.  Jeezus this was terrible.  I was never impressed with Konnan to begin with, and seriously, someone thought the One Man Gang would get over in 1996??  Gang's offense looked beyond sluggish and one-dimensional, and Konnan was sloppy as all hell.  Konnan won with the worst-looking cannonball-type move ever.  Brutally awful.

Speaking of awful, next was an "I Respect You" strap match between Kevin Sullivan and Brian Pillman.  Now correct me if I'm wrong, but is being forced to say the phrase "I respect you" really that much of a blow to someone's pride?  You can very easily have respect for someone you dislike; it's not like an "I Quit" match where you're admitting you got beaten.  Anyway, Pillman infamously went off-script here and surrendered 45 seconds into the match "I respect you, Booker Man!", and Arn Anderson was sent out as a sub.  Anderson and Sullivan plodded through about three minutes before Ric Flair broke up the fight and got them on the same page, uniting them against Hulk Hogan.  Utterly pointless.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The History of NJPW Dominion (2014)

The Bullet Club has taken over, folks.  It's New Japan, 2014....

BodyMaker Colosseum - 6.21.14

By June 2014 the Bullet Club had gone through a major shift, as founder Prince Devitt left New Japan for TitanLand (following a Loser Leaves NJPW match at Invasion Attack), and was replaced as leader by the industry's hottest free agent AJ Styles.  AJ made a major statement from the start, capturing the IWGP Championship in his New Japan in-ring debut.  Also by this point buzzworthy indy tag team The Young Bucks had been added to the mix, making the Bullet Club a diverse, powerful stable.  The 2014 Dominion show was fairly strange compared to the others; with no IWGP Title match on the card it would instead by headlined by an Intercontinental Championship match (the third of five such NJPW PPVs that year), while IWGP Champion Styles was in a tag match third from the top.  What's weirder about this show is that by my count three of the five pre-intermission bouts scored **** or better, while none of the final four matches did.  What is this, a WWE show??  But Dominion 2014 was still a solid, easy to watch outing with some fine wrestling.

The show opened gorgeously with The Young Bucks vs. Time Splitters for the IWGP Jr. Tag belts.  This began with lots of innovative, fast-paced action, the Splitters mostly frustrating the Bucks.  Matt and Nick eventually took control after their patented head scissor/flying kick combo, and kept outmaneuvering Alex Shelley to keep him from escaping as they worked him over.  The Bucks broke out a slew of tandem moves over several minutes, and finally Shelley evaded them and got the hot tag.  Kushida ran wild, taking out both Bucks, but fell victim to a Doomsday Device dropkick for a two-count.  Time Splitters recovered and hit a tandem Sliced Bread for a nearfall.  Kushida went for the Hoverboard Lock but Matt countered with a tombstone setup for the IndyTaker.  The pin was broken up and the Bucks hit their tandem 450 splash for another two-count.  Finally they went for More Bang for Your Buck, but it was broken up, and Kushida snared a Hoverboard lock on Nick for the tapout finish.  Just an awesome, prototypical Bucks-Splitters match to kick off the show; exactly the kind of match you'd want from these teams.  ****1/2

The shortest match of the night, and the only one under ten minutes, pitted Tetsuya Naito against Tama Tonga in a crisp, energetic match.  Tonga attacked before the bell and controlled most of the early moments, taking the action outside and hitting a TKO-type move to drop Naito throat-first on the railing, which looked brutal.  Naito beat the 20-count and took over the match with a neckbreaker, and the remaining minutes featured quick back-and-forth action.  Tonga got the advantage with a backdrop suplex and the finishing sequence was full of reversals until Naito found a break and hit the Stardust Press for the win.  This was fun.  ***

Maybe the unexpected hit of the night for me (and I'm not sure why I was surprised by this) was Goto and Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata and Tomoaki Honma.  These four guys beat the shit out of each other for eleven minutes and it was glorious.  Honma attacked before the bell, pummeling Shibata with chops and stomps, but Shibata wasn't having it and engaged both guys with traded forearms.  Later in the match Shibata and Honma had an incredible striking battle, trading rapid-fire palm strikes until Honma leveled him with a lariat and tagged Nagata.  Shibata and Nagata then had a sick striking war of their own and traded backdrop suplexes.  Shibata and Nagata eventually spilled out of the ring as Goto and Honma fought inside.  Honma hit a blockbuster but missed his diving headbutt.  Goto landed a yushi guroshi but Honma countered the Shouten with a small package for a nearfall.  Goto then hit a Dominator-type move for the win.  Shibata and Nagata continued brawling all the way to the dressing room.  This was like a NEVER Openweight tag match, stiff as fuck and full of nonstop action.  ****

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Definitive Brewing (Portland, ME)

Our Portland, Maine Brewery Reviewery series continues with Definitive Brewing!

Definitive Brewing
35 Industrial Way
Portland ME 04103

Located next to the Beermuda Triangle as I like to call it (Battery Steele, Austin Street and Foundation), right across the street from Allagash, is a standalone building that houses Definitive Brewing.  Definitive boasts a big variety of flavors and offers a really inviting, wide open tasting room with a full view of the brewing floor.  They're dog-friendly so on this day we met a slew of adorable four-legged pals, and there's a bookcase full of board games to keep you busy (I lost at Jenga but was victorious at the old-school game Shoot the Moon, where you have to manipulate a ball bearing uphill across two metal rails - I made it to Jupiter).

Famous Portland landmark Holy Donuts had a table that day, so we tried a couple of their tasty offerings as well.  These are decadent donuts, folks.

But I'm no donut expert, I'm here to talk about beer.  Definitive lets you order full pours or flights, so we split a double-flight of eight beers, allowing us to try all but the two sours on tap; sour beers are not our thing, sadly.  Let's hit it....

Monday, June 10, 2019

NJPW Dominion 2019: Ospreay Steals the Show, Ibushi Almost Dies

Welp, Dominion 2019 was definitely not on the level of 2018, or 2017, or 2015.  But then those three editions are three of the best PPVs I've ever seen.  Still I have to consider this show, very good though it may have been, as a mild disappointment.  I've come to expect Dominion to automatically be a Show of the Year contender, and this wasn't that.  Fortunately it was a sellout and set up some cool stuff for the future, but I was expecting a grand slam and they only hit a triple.

Before we get to Dominion though, I wanted to talk a little about the three big matches from the Best of the Super Juniors finals, because that show concluded with a trilogy of superb stuff.

Jay White and Hiroshi Tanahashi had a pretty excellent little match, where the returning but still very much hurting Tana muscled through and still managed to deliver.  White concentrated on Tana's surgically repaired elbow for much of the bout and played the asshole to a tee.  Side note: I love White's new facial hair, it somehow makes him look much more like a main event heel.  At one point Gedo distracted the referee allowing White to hit a low blow, but it backfired as Tana hit a low blow of his own and rolled him up for a very close nearfall.  Tana went for the Cloverleaf but White grabbed the injured arm and converted it into a cradle for the three-count.  This was maybe the best match these two have had so far and they did a great job of masking Tana's limitations while letting their characters drive the action.  Oddly Tana's injuries are somehow *less* exposed in a singles bout than in a six-man.  More on that later.  Damn good match.  ****

Even better was Jon Moxley's US Championship debut against Juice Robinson.  These two guys had a rugged, ugly, austere fight, where Moxley busted up Juice's eyebrow early on, using punches and biting to draw some blood.  They used tables and brawled a lot on the outside to evoke a Terry Funk-type vibe, and this was the hardest I've seen Moxley work in quite some time.  He really did come off like a man freed of WWE's creative constraints and seemed to be having the time of his life.  Juice, his dreadlocks shorn (I'm not sure how I feel about this), has reinvented himself as a more serious, tough babyface and dished out just as much punishment as he took.  The match culminated with a series of reversals, and Moxley hit his signature DDT, but Juice kicked out and the place went wild.  Moxley then hit another DDT but this time with elevation, to capture the US Title.  Moxley is now the only man to hold both the WWE and IWGP US Championships, and the first debuting star to win a New Japan title since AJ Styles five years ago.  This was exactly the kind of debut match I wanted to see from Moxley and I can't wait to see him in the G1 tournament.  Helluva fight.  ****1/2

Not to be outdone, by anyone, Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi blew the motherfuckin' roof off the place with their BOSJ final.  Ospreay, who has emerged as NJPW's newest breakout star, and Shingo, who has absolutely crushed it since debuting with the company last fall, pulled out all the stops in a 33-minute war that felt like 18.  I won't even try to recap everything they did, but a few of the really memorable moments included Ospreay hitting a 630 senton on Shingo's back, followed by a shooting star press, an apron OsCutter, a Shingo Last of the Dragon that looked absolutely crippling, Ospreay kicking out after two Pumping Bombers, and finally the top rope OsCutter followed by the Stormbreaker to hand Shingo his first New Japan defeat.  Just a fucking incredible battle that nothing on the Dominion show could possibly have followed.  Ospreay then announced that he is moving to Japan and will wrestle in both the Jr. and Heavyweight divisions.  This guy has to be a top G1 finisher, and should probably win next year's tournament.  Goddamn, this was insane.  *****

Brewery Reviewery: Foundation Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Stop #4 on our Portland, Maine brewery tour brings us to Foundation Brewing Company, also located on Industrial Way, across from Allagash.  Foundation shares walls with Battery Steele and Austin Street, in a building I like to call The Beermuda Triangle (trademark pending).

1 Industrial Way #5
Portland, ME 04103

Like its neighbors, Foundation is nestled in a modest warehouse space, but they make the most of it, with a bright, lively atmosphere, plenty of seating and shelves of board games to keep you occupied while you enjoy some lovely flavor.  You can either peruse their wide-ranging, ample selection with flights or treat yourself to full pours, or pick up some to-go cans.  We went with the flight option so as to get four samples, but there were no fewer than ten options on offer (our dinner reservations downtown sadly wouldn't permit a second flight).

Here's what we came up with...

Dreamboat (NEIPA, 6.6%): Dreamboat is a New England IPA featuring Columbus and Eureka! hops. Our first IPA brewed with an American Ale yeast. Dreamboat pours a golden yellow with a pronounced haze. The soft mouthfeel is like floating on clouds, with no bitterness and flavors of pineapple and resin, with a dank backbone. First served in the tasting room on draft in December 2018.

JB: This here is a smooth NEIPA, citrusy with that pleasant dankness to give it some real complexity.  Probably my favorite of the bunch.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Parents' Night In #20: 2001 A Space Odyssey - Kelly's Live Reaction!

Kelly has never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I know, disgraceful.  But for this special PNI episode we capture her live, real-time reaction to the film.  Spoiler alert: Stanley Kubrick breaks her brain!

Join us as we enjoy some craft beer and watch one of Justin's all-time favorite films, which has now become one of Kelly's as well.  If 2001 was Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece (and most would agree it was), then PNI Episode #20 discussing 2001 is ours!

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

NJPW Dominion 2019 Preview & Predictions

Big goings-on in New Japan these days, not the least of which is this Sunday's Dominion card!  

The Best of the Super Juniors tournament came to a close on Wednesday, and for the second time Will Ospreay has emerged victorious, unseating the previously undefeated Shingo Takagi, who swept all nine of his regular tourney matches.  So Shingo is the 2007 New England Patriots then.  Not to be outdone however, the debuting Jon Moxley made huge waves by capturing the IWGP US Title from Juice Robinson, becoming the first man to hold both the WWE and IWGP versions of said championship.  Both guys have compelling matchups on the Dominion card, but there's a whole lot more to boot.  Let's get to it.

Jon Moxley vs. Shota Umino

What a strange placement for the US Champ, in a last-minute opener against the most promising current Young Lion.  But if given time this should be pretty great.  Umino of course had a fantastic New Japan Cup showing against Hiroshi Tanahashi, and this match almost feels like an after-the-fact audition for Moxley in a way.  Now that he's proven himself against another gaijin/NXT alum he'll get a real taste of native New Japan opposition.

Justin: Moxley is obviously winning
Landon: Moxely kills Shotime.

Shingo Takagi vs. Satoshi Kojima

Another strange undercard match that should nonetheless be fun pits BOSJ runner-up Shingo against veteran Kojima.  I wonder if this means Shingo will be moving up to heavyweight; he is after all massive compared to the other Juniors, and his stablemate Takahashi is returning soon.  Even better, maybe he'll be in the G1.  Seems like another audition of sorts to me.  But I expect a fine bout.

Justin: Shingo gets his first heavyweight division win
Landon: Shingo to win. Still upset he didn't win the BOSJ.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1995)

No WCW.....don't do it!

Ah crap, they did it.....

SuperBrawl V - Baltimore Arena - 2.19.95

Welp, this was only two months removed from the dreadful Starrcade '94, at a time when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff had taken everything that made WCW what it was and chucked it out the goddamn window (except Ric Flair, whom they kept around just to torture for seven more years).  The result was a mostly horrible in-ring product with a bunch of recognizable stars from the old WWF, plus a few guys whose inclusion on the roster absolutely baffles me.

It should be noted that an Arn Anderson-Johnny B. Badd TV Title match was on the pre-show and got a whopping four-and-a-half minutes.  Remember this as you read the list of luminaries that actually made the main card.  Fuckin' hell.....

First up we have Alex Wright vs. Paul Roma, in what was a pretty nondescript opener apart from a few clever moves by Wright.  Not sure why he was facing half of a tag team, but whatever.  He had solid potential but never really lived up to it.  Roma played a good douchebag but was more or less irrelevant by 1995.  Wright won with a rollup after shoving Roma into Orndorff.

The less said about this next match the better.  Jim Duggan vs. Bunkhouse Buck.  Holy shit this match was boring.  Two inept brawlers slogging through an eleven-minute match.  What kinda generic-ass gimmick is Bunkhouse Buck?  A farmer guy.  That's it.  Awful stuff.  Duggan won with the lamest-looking clothesline ever.

I'm in hell.  Next up is Kevin Sullivan vs. Dave Sullivan - also terrible.  Dave Sullivan was of course Kevin's younger brother (not in real life), who moved as though in slow motion.  Where did WCW get all these hack wrestlers in the mid 90s?  Evad, Bunkhouse, The Renegade; all of them useless.  This was just about as dull as the previous match and ended mercifully when Kevin rolled Dave up and hooked the tights.  Who in God's name thought Kevin Sullivan was relevant enough in 1995 to have a singles feud with his pretend brother?  Hilariously enough Brutus Beefcake, the main event challenger from Starrcade '94 two months earlier, was Kevin Sullivan's sidekick in the third match on this show.

Seriously, who was shelling out 30 bucks to see this??

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The History of NXT TakeOver: XXV

Man, for a show that sorta flew under the radar in the wake of AEW's monumental debut, NXT TakeOver XXV really tore the house down, lit the ruins on fire, and peed it out.......that was a compliment by the way.  WWE's one good brand delivered yet another incredible show this past weekend, a fast-moving 160 minutes that boasted three ****+ matches and a couple of very strong supporting bouts.  This brand is on fire.

The show opened with a stellar 15-minute fight between Matt Riddle and Roderick Strong.  I said two months ago that Riddle's bout with Velveteen Dream finally sold me on the former MMA star, and this match solidified that in spades.  These guys went balls-out for 15 minutes and yet still found room to build to a peak, with super crisp, smooth-as-fuck action and tons of nearfalls.  This is how you kick off a PPV.  Spots that stuck out to me were Strong nailing Riddle with repeated running forearms, each of which got a bigger pop than the last, followed by his double-underhook backbreaker for a long two-count that got a huge gasp from the audience.  Riddle failed to put him away with Bromission but instead debuted what was basically a reverse Neutralizer called Bro Derek (cute name) for the win.  This was a fantastic showcase match for Riddle but also displayed what an incredible worker Roddy Strong is.  The intensity and crispness reminded me of a NEVER Openweight fight and I could watch these two smash each other all day long.  Matt Riddle is the real deal.  ****1/2

Next up was the 4-Way Ladder Match to determine the new NXT Tag Champions.  I might be in the minority but I'm burned out on ladder matches.  WWE does them way too often and there's not much new under the sun; it's like trying to stand out from the pack by releasing an action movie during the summer.  That said, this was one of the better ladder car wrecks in recent years.  Certainly not on par with last year's North American Championship match, but definitely a fun outing with lots of cringe-worthy bumps (mostly taken by Kyle O'Reilly).  The talent involved was strong enough to make everything look great and painful.  This was basically twenty minutes of chaos.  Late in the match the Forgotten Sons' third man Jaxson Ryker interfered and laid everyone out, proceeding to set up a ladder for one of his pals to climb.  But all six men he attacked ganged up on him and beat him down with said ladder, taking him out of the equation.  The match boiled down to Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler prepping their ascent only for both Street Profits to take them out after Montez Ford pulled a Shelton Benjamin by vaulting from the top rope to the ladder and retrieving the belts.  Very good ladder match, even if I'm kinda tired of seeing these.  ****

Monday, June 3, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Austin Street Brewing (Portland, ME)

We're back with another Portland, Maine installment of Brewery Reviewery, here at!

Stop #3 on our recent Portland tour was Austin Street Brewery, which has two locations in the area; we visited the Industrial Way location, in the same building as Battery Steele and Foundation Brewing (review forthcoming), and right across from Allagash.

Industrial Way Blending, Bottling & Tasting Room
1 Industrial Way, #8
Portland, ME 04103

Fox Street Brewery & Tasting Room
115 Fox Street
Portland, ME 04101 

This was another modest taproom, with most of the seating available at the outdoor picnic tables and only a few places to sit inside by the ordering window.  The staff was very personable and eager to discuss their ever-changing list of offerings.  We got a flight and sat outside on a lovely May afternoon.

Here's what we thought of the stuff....

ABV%: 5.3

Patina Pale is our flagship hop forward pale ale.  We start with a blend of base malts in the mash tun, then add copious amounts of American hops in the kettle followed by even more in the form of dry hopping.  The result is a very citrusy, slightly piney ale with a crisp malt background and just enough bitterness to balance it all out.

JB: Patina makes perfect sense as a flagship brew.  Crisp, easy drinking, balanced, with a mix of citrus and hops.

ABV%: 3.8

Made with all Maine grain, we use 2-row pale malt from Maine Malt House, flaked wheat and organic flaked rye from Maine Grains.  The beer is then generously hopped with Mosaic.  The resulting beer is loaded with pineapple and orange notes that carry through from the aroma into the taste with a bready malt flavor to balance everything out.

JB: This is a really tasty session IPA that almost drinks like a farmhouse ale.  Nice and citrusy for the summer months and super easy to drink.

ABV%: 6.9

Florens is a double dry hopped IPA loaded with Mosaic, Citra and Equanot hops.  This very aromatic beer has a flavor dominated by pineapple, and grapefruit.  A slightly sweet finish features just enough bitterness to balance.

JB: This one is a bolder but balanced IPA, lightly bitter with some citrus; if you like NEIPAs (and boy do I), you'll dig this one.

ABV%: 5.0

Our kölsch style ale is traditionally brewed with pilsner malt and a touch of malted wheat and then hopped with only noble varieties.  The result is an easy drinking beer that blurs the line between ale and lager.  An aroma of spicy hops followed a flavor of honey and straw with a slight fruitiness makes for the perfect beer to reach for when balance and subtlety is needed.

JB: A really nice Pilsner-type beer that doesn't have the unpleasant sourness at the end like some kolsch beers do.  Light and refreshing.

Austin Street Brewery's Industrial Way location, like Battery Steele, is fairly unassuming, but their product is quite delicious and varied, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.  Definitely worth a stop on your Portland brewery itinerary.

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Friday, May 31, 2019

We Are At War: WWF Over The Edge 1998

A brief note. I put the Meltzer Ratings on my PPV throwbacks for a specific reason. I don't worship Meltzer's word as fact, no one should. His opinions are his own and should be taken merely as that, though very respected and widespread, as an opinion. I post the ratings along with my review to give an insight to what people thought of the product at the time, so that you the reader can understand how the standards of today differ to then. Now usually, I don't post the thumbs up/down parts or the best/worst match segments, but...well...

Fucking telling, isn't it?

Shamrock was nowhere on this show.
Over The Edge, May 30th 1998

Legion of Doom 2000 vs Skull and Eight Ball
I honestly didn't pay much attention to this match, but Sunny was hot as always. Hawk no sold a piledriver early, the only man who I'm okay with completely no selling it. But then the bikers got the heat on the LOD, and immediately no one cared. The tag team scene in '98 was historically terrible and it showed here. The Road Warriors should not be having anything other than a Road Warriors Squash. Twin Magic, but Animal says fuck your twin magic with a powerslam for the win.

Meltzer Rating: 1/2*
Did I mention Sunny was hot?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

NXT TakeOver: XXV Preview & Predictions

Another NXT TakeOver special is here, so let's take a look at the card and make some predictions, shall we?

Hard to believe we've arrived at the 25th TakeOver.  NXT continues to be the one part of WWE programming that is always worth seeking out.  While the main roster product is flying apart due to an unsustainable creative infrastructure with zero long-term direction, Triple H and his NXT team keep churning out a simple (in a good way), easy-to-watch show featuring great matches and angles that leave everyone satisfied.  And somehow despite constantly having their talent raided by an increasingly desperate Vince McMahon, NXT always has more talent ready to step up.  TakeOver: New York was an absolutely stellar card that will almost certainly hold up by year's end as the best WWE-produced show of 2019.

But now let's get to current events.  The XXV card looks pretty great too, and will be the first NXT show since NXT London to not immediately precede a main roster PPV.  So for the first time in almost four years the black and gold brand will stand or fall totally on its own.

Matt Riddle vs. Roderick Strong

This match could end up stealing the show.  Matt Riddle finally sold me on his abilities with a fantastic New York showing against Velveteen Dream, and I expect an incredibly crisp, hard-hitting match with Roddy.  Coming off a major loss to Dream I have to think Riddle takes this one to rebuild his mojo and put him back into title contention.

Pick: Riddle

North American Championship: Velveteen Dream vs. Tyler Breeze

I'm very happy Breeze got sent back to NXT; he's too valuable a talent to be wasting away on a main roster that doesn't have anything for him to do.  I can think of several other misused stars who'd benefit from such a move (Gable, Harper, hell, even Banks), so hopefully Hunter is lobbying for them as well.  Dream on the other hand is a prodigy, already a stellar worker at 23 years old and loaded with charisma.  This should be a fine title match.

Pick: I'll go with Dream to retain

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1994)

The final SuperBrawl before the Bischoff Era.  Was it any good?  Let's find out...

SuperBrawl IV - Albany Civic Center - 2.20.94

I went into this show expecting to like it pretty well.  But I didn't really.  WCW's booking under Flair felt very disorganized, like they were trying to adhere to the tropes that had worked for them in the past, but weren't fully committed to the idea.  So it became an awkward hybrid of 1991 WCW and 1991 WWF almost.  And neither company at that time was producing very good results.  Sadly this was the beginning of the end for WCW as we knew it; the roster would very soon resemble the late 80s WWF and the company would hit its creative nadir.

The show began with the introductions for the scheduled opener, Johnny B. Badd vs. Michael Hayes, only for Hayes to roll out in a wheelchair and claim he was too injured to compete.  Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel then announced that Jimmy Garvin would take Hayes' place, but not until later.  So they used up ten minutes on this foolishness.

The actual opener was Harlem Heat vs. Thunder & Lightning, in a pretty well-worked tag bout.  Both teams looked good here and it made me wonder what became of Thunder & Lightning after this (Just looked this up - Lightning was Jeff Farmer, or the future nWo Sting, while Thunder went on to own NWA Ohio).  The ending was a little weak, as Stevie Ray took advantage of a distracted referee to kick one of the babyfaces in the ear, which was somehow enough for the win.  But not a bad way to kick things off.

Next up was a laughably bad match between The Equalizer (later repackaged as Kevin Sullivan's simpleton brother Dave), and, get this, "Jungle" Jim Steele.  Jungle Jim.  Get it?  Jim was more or less a discount store Ultimate Warrior ripoff, with vaguely similar ring gear, a comparable build, and a few of the same mannerisms.  But yeah, this was terrible.  Tony Schiavone actually went on about the great opening matches we'd seen at previous SuperBrawls, as if to say, "...and now we get crap like this."

Jeezus, did Page EAT his future self?
Clearly DDP Yoga wasn't around yet.

Two rather dull matches followed, the first of which pitted a pretty portly Diamond Dallas Page against Terry Taylor.  This started out fairly strong, as Taylor was always a good worker and DDP seemed determined to prove he was more than just a gimmick.  But the bout dragged on several minutes longer than it probably should have.  Taylor won with a quick rollup after nearly 12 minutes.  Heenan's commentary kept this entertaining....

...And saved this next match, Johnny B. Badd vs. Jimmy Garvin.  Badd looked, well, good here, using some solid grappling moves.  Garvin had returned after a two-year layoff and looked like someone's dad in wrestling tights.  This match was a glorified squash that lasted 10:48.  Garvin hardly showed any offense until after the match when he attacked Badd and hit him with the 9-1-1, or as it would later be known, the Stone Cold Stunner.  Not much to this one.

The TV Title was on the line next, as Lord Steven Regal defended against the returning Arn Anderson (who'd missed a few months after the hotel stabbing incident with Sid Vicious) in a special 30-minute time limit match.  Yeah, that time extension was a mistake; this match was incredibly dull for nearly the entire duration.  Neither guy seemed to know what to do to fill thirty minutes (29:54 to be exact), nor was there any urgency to anything they did do.  Aside from a few near-falls toward the end it didn't feel like Anderson was really trying to win the match; at one point with less than a minute to go he broke out a side headlock before remembering this was supposed to be the climax.  What a disappointment.  How much better would a fast-paced fifteen-minute bout have been here?

Ladies and gentlemen, the first fifteen minutes....

The surprise hit of the night was a chaotic Tag Team Title match pitting The Nasty Boys against Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne.  Payne broke out several suplexes early on (and one botched belly-to-belly at the end that nearly crippled Brian Knobbs), and Cactus did his usual cringe-worthy spots, like taking a back bump off the apron to the unprotected concrete.  This certainly wasn't pretty but it also wasn't boring.  The finish stunk though - Saggs broke a guitar over Payne's head to draw a DQ.  But shockingly this was the best match on the show so far.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Battery Steele (Portland, ME)

Welcome to another Brewery Reviewery here at!

Our recent trip to Portland, ME yielded numerous brewery visits, and six of them are clustered in the same industrial park!  After hitting up our old favorite Allagash we noticed that across the street were four more breweries, three in one building.  This right here is God's country.

The first stop in this treasure trove of delicious beverages was Battery Steele, a modest operation producing audacious, complex flavors out of a mostly unfinished warehouse space, where you can smell the fresh wort being created (Just like my kitchen when I brew at home).

Battery Steele Brewing
1 Industrial Way
Units 12/14
Portland, ME 04103

But don't let the barebones appearance fool you, this place has some killer stuff on tap!  We tried all six pours and there was nary a miss to be found.  Check it out, kids...

Flume (Double IPA, 8.0%):  A blend of traditional English malts combined with loads of wheat and oats give this double IPA a soft, clean malt profile. We hop this beer intensely, imparting huge notes of tropical fruit, citrus and pine.

JB: My favorite of Battery Steele's IPAs, this was super juicy and boasted a hint of that smooth weed-esque dankness.  Pretty great stuff.

Onsight #7 (Experimental IPA Series, 7.2%):  This beer combines a simple grain bill of 2-row, oats and wheat with some of our favorite hops. The blend of yeasts creates a pillowy soft, saturated mouthfeel that carries notes of melon, stone fruit, berries and gives way to a resinous, deep citrus finish.

JB: Similar to the Flume but slightly more bitter on the finish.  Quite nice.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

AEW Double or Nothing: The War is On!

By any metric, All Elite Wrestling's inaugural show has to be considered a success.  Double or Nothing featured three pretty great main event-caliber bouts, an entertaining, easy-to-watch undercard, a massive surprise debut, and a simple, no-nonsense, sports-like presentation in front of an eager sold-out crowd.  And it scored on PPV as well, potentially garnering as many as 100,000 buys, as well as 200,000 Google searches.  AEW is the real deal, folks, and it's just getting warmed up.

The main card kicked off with a fast-paced six-man tag, pitting SoCal Uncensored against OWE's Strong Hearts stable.  The action was quick and furious, and all six men got time to be showcased.  The match built to lots of high spots including a Frankie Kazarian hurricanrana from the apron to the floor and a Scorpio Sky dive over the ropes.  Kazarian and Daniels finally ended the match with a Best Meltzer Ever on El Lindaman.  A very enjoyable hot opening match to rev up the crowd.  ***1/4

The second match included a surprise addition, as Awesome Kong made her long-awaited return to the ring, turning the Britt Baker-Kylie Rae-Nyla Rose triple threat into a fatal 4-way.  Kong and Rose had several power clashes during the match, while Baker and Rae provided most of the faster action.  They broke out a Tower of Doom spot late in the match, as Baker and Rae went to superplex Rose but all three were powerbombed by Kong.  The match boiled down to Baker and Rae, who traded strikes and suplexes, and finally Baker scored a superkick and running knee to win the match.  Solid stuff.  **3/4

Two up-and-coming tag teams were showcased next as Best Friends faced Jack Evans and Angelico in a wildly athletic encounter.  Both teams broke out loads of innovative combination moves and the pace kept increasing as they went on, culminating in Best Friends hitting their finisher on Evans for the win.  Post-match both teams were attacked by the debuting Super Smash Brothers (who legally have to change their name) and an entourage of masked henchmen.  This match/segment nicely established AEW's midcard teams.  ***

Top Ten Things: Mastodon Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

With the recent release of Mastodon's seventh LP Emperor of Sand (a hella good record, my review of which is HERE) I thought I'd look back on their remarkable career and pick their top ten songs.  Every album is represented here except one - sadly nothing from their 2002 debut Remission made the cut for me.  In terms of standout tracks I found that Mastodon's more recent albums put more focus on individual song composition rather than presenting the album as a whole (understandable given that three of their earlier records were concept albums), so this list may seem skewed to their later output.  But feel free to discuss in the Comments section.  Here we go.....

10. Bladecatcher

This instrumental track from Blood Mountain is frenetic and bizarre, and captures perfectly the band's offbeat take on the metal genre.  From the start-stop intro to the blast-beat "verse" to the elastic "hook" guitar riffs, this song is a great introduction for anyone who needs a demonstration of how original and strange Mastodon is.

9. The Sparrow

This somber closer to The Hunter is probably the biggest departure yet from Mastodon's sludge-metal roots, featuring delicate arpeggiated guitars and only one harmonized vocal line that repeats throughout the song.  Inspired by a quote from the recently deceased wife of the band's accountant, the lyrics consist of a single phrase - "Pursue happiness with diligence."  On a stripped-down, song-oriented album like The Hunter, this ballad makes a fitting, poignant conclusion.

8. Octopus Has No Friends

Another standout from The Hunter (an album with numerous standout songs) is this unusual, upbeat tune featuring impossibly intricate guitar riffs and very simple lyrics literally exploring Brann Dailor's observation that whenever he sees an octopus at an aquarium, it's alone in the tank.  Pretty out-there thing to write a song about, but this is a fantastic track with some of Mastodon's most impressive syncopated playing.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Pro Wrestling: A Mark's History, part 3 (Earl Screwed Hogan)

By the summer of 1987 I became an avid reader of the WWF Magazine.  There was a grocery store in my town called Iandoli's, and it was the only place I could consistently find said periodical.  Every single month I made sure to accompany my mom on a grocery trip just so I could pick up the newest issue.  The first one I ever bought was the Feb/March '87 issue with Randy Savage on the cover, proudly holding the Intercontinental title.  That Christmas my sister gave me a year's subscription to the magazine, which I renewed every year until 1998.  I still have a massive twelve-year stack of them at my parents' house.

The cover of the first WWF Magazine I ever bought.

My first house show took place on August 1, 1987.  By this time I was very familiar with the local promos they aired on Superstars every week at the end of each segment, advertising the upcoming house show cards.  The Worcester Centrum was the closest arena to me, so I always paid close attention to what matches were coming up in my neck of the woods.  I'm not really sure why I asked my parents to take me to this particular house show, as it was a pretty weak C-show lineup.  Maybe it was just a case of "I've waited long enough to check this out, so let's do this!" My stepfather somewhat reluctantly took me to the show (He had watched wrestling as a kid but unlike me he actually outgrew it.).

Thursday, May 23, 2019

AEW Double or Nothing Preview & Predictions

Hey kids!  It's the first-ever All Elite Wrestling predictions column, here at!

Landon and I are back to discuss and dissect the fledgling promotion's debut PPV (All In wasn't under the AEW banner).  This Saturday is the first official offering from Cody & company's upstart wrestling troupe, and they'll need to hit a homerun to really generate a buzz leading into their TNT series this fall.  I'd hoped to see the AEW championships decided here, but I guess this is more of a showcase to introduce everyone to the various players before determining the hierarchy.  Still this should feature some spectacular matches and hopefully get everyone talking about All Elite Wrestling.  I'm really rooting for this company to succeed and challenge WWE on their creative and business practices; this industry desperately needs a shakeup.

Let's get to it....

Pre-Show Match: Kip Sabian vs. Sammy Guevara

I know nothing about either of these guys, other than Guevara is a former AAA Cruiserweight Champion.  I have to think this match goes on first to warm everyone up and will be a fast-paced, high flying affair.

Justin: I'll go with Sammy G since he's got a cache already
Landon: Guevara

Pre-Show 21-Man Casino Battle Royal

Unlike WWE's Battle Royals there's actually something at stake here, and that's a title shot.  It was announced this week that the winner of this match will face the winner of Omega-Jericho to become the inaugural AEW World Champion.  Kind of an odd way to crown a first champ, but okay.  The rules of this are, the participants will enter in groups of five at set time intervals, based on luck of the draw, with one super-lucky winner getting the final 21st spot.  Thus far none of the announced participants has a snowball's chance in hell of winning this, based on the stakes.  So one of the yet-to-be-announced names has to be takin' this one down.  Adam Page's match with PAC is off, so if they don't give him a substitute opponent he could easily be one of the four.  Other possibilities include Jon Moxley (I gotta think it's a lock he at least appears on this show if nothing else), CM Punk (who is currently booked to announce an MMA show in California that night), and Joey Ryan (who is booked elsewhere as well).  I'm hoping against hope that Punk is the man here but that seems like a longshot.

Justin: I'll go with Jon Moxley to make his surprise AEW debut a la Lex Luger on the first Nitro episode and win the battle royal.
Landon: Jon Moxley

Top Ten Things: Owen Hart Matches

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things, here at!  Today is the 20th anniversary of what was for me the most tragic death in wrestling history, that of Owen Hart.

For those of you not familiar (by this point that's probably no one), on May 23, 1999 Owen was the victim of a horrific stunt gone wrong, when the harness in which he was supposed to descend from the ceiling released prematurely, causing Owen to fall 70 feet to his death.  Owen was 34 years old.  Unlike so many untimely pro wrestling deaths, Owen's wasn't the result of drugs or steroids or neglect of his health.  Owen was a happily married family man who had planned to retire early from wrestling to enjoy a quiet life as a father and husband.  I've said for years that if I could go back and save one person in the wrestling business from dying young, it would be Owen.  He deserved to live a long, content life and enjoy the fruits of his success.

In the ring Owen was possibly the most athletically gifted of all the Harts, possessing a natural grace and agility surpassing even Bret's.  Bret may have been more technically sound, but Owen seemed innately suited for pro wrestling, employing a mix of grappling and aerial techniques that made him one of the most well-rounded performers of his generation.

Owen toiled in the WWF undercard for a few years before finally getting a big heel push as Bret's disgruntled little brother.  The two had a legendary feud, tearing the house down every time they met, and as a result Owen became one of the most dependable top names in the company, eventually winning every available heavyweight title except the big one (Whenever I'm asked who was the best wrestler never to win a world title, my two answers are always Owen and Davey Boy).  Then in 1997 Bret and Owen, now both heels, reunited to form the new Hart Foundation stable, prompting the best feud of that year which pitted the American wrestlers (and fans) against the Harts (and basically all non-American fans).  On the back of this unprecedented feud, the WWF churned out must-see television nearly every week, and Owen was a huge part of it all.

After Bret's messy WWF departure (along with Davey Boy and Jim Neidhart), Owen was the only Hart Foundation member left, and as an old-school character he struggled to fit into the new WWF Attitude era.  Owen enjoyed modest success for his remaining time in the company, but was repeatedly asked to take part in sexualized angles with which he wasn't comfortable.  The compromise was repackaging him as a dorkier version of the Blue Blazer (his 1989 persona), hence the fateful ceiling descent on May 23rd.

It's a shame the company wasn't able to find something more dignified for him to do, or wasn't willing to release him from his contract when Bret left.  In either scenario he'd undoubtedly still be with us today.

Owen was a one-of-a-kind talent who left the wrestling industry better than he found it, who was beloved by all who worked with him, and who stayed true to himself and his family in a business where such a thing was increasingly rare.  Two decades later, the wrestling business still feels incomplete without him.

Now let's take a look at his best matches.....

Honorable Mention: Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid - King of the Ring - 6.19.94

Yeah I know, this match only went 3-1/2 minutes, but holy lord what a match considering.  These two packed about as much action into 217 seconds as you possibly could, delivering one of only two good matches on this PPV.  Owen made the Kid submit with a Sharpshooter in this semi-final match, on his way to becoming the second PPV King of the Ring.  It's a great illustration of what Owen (and X-Pac) were capable of even with severe time constraints.

10. Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. Vader & Mankind - WrestleMania 13 - 3.23.97

One of the forgotten WrestleMania gems was this rare heels vs. heels Tag Title match, where Owen and Davey had teased splitting up for weeks.  Owen had become jealous of all the attention Davey was getting, particularly after Davey bested him to become the inaugural European Champion.  Between the champs not being on the same page and the physical dominance of Vader and Mankind, it looked like we might see a title change here, but this wild brawl ended unceremoniously with a double countout, as Mankind subdued Davey with a Mandible Claw on the outside.  A better finish would've undoubtedly elevated this match, but as it was I still consider this one very underrated.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The History of NJPW Dominion (2013)

We've entered the Bullet Club era!

BodyMaker Colosseum - 6.22.13

New Japan was firing on all cylinders in 2013, with an incredible slew of big PPVs plus an awesome G1 tournament, and Dominion was no exception.  The company had found its second Ace in Kazuchika Okada, who now enjoyed a lengthy second IWGP Title reign, but a brand new stable was creating a huge buzz and would take the puroresu world by storm.  Jr. Heavyweight babyface Prince Devitt had turned on his Apollo 55 partner Taguchi and formed Bullet Club, a foursome consisting of gaijin wrestlers that also included Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Karl Anderson (by year's end The Young Bucks and Doc Gallows would be added to the group).  Bullet Club usurped Chaos as the most notorious heel stable and would assert their dominance over the next several years.  But the first top for Devitt was NJPW's Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi!

But first the undercard...

The opener featured the burgeoning Jr. Tag division, as Forever Hooligans defended the championship against Time Splitters.  Alex Kozlov began the proceedings by singing the Russian anthem, and all I have to say is Kozlov is no Nikolai Volkoff.  The match started with Alex Shelley putting on a grappling clinic against Kozlov, making use of European style wrestling to control the action.  Soon Kushida and Romero tagged in and provided the wild, fast-paced Jr. moves.  After a skirmish on the outside involving the railing, the heels took over and worked Shelley while Kushida was down, repeatedly cutting off the tag attempts.  Finally Kushida got the hot tag in and cleaned house.  Romero blocked a Time Splitter attempt and nearly won with a small package, then Kozlov came back in and the Hooligans hit their Demolition-style finisher on Kushida for a nearfall.  Time Splitters hit their signature sequence of chain moves, but the Hooligans nailed Kushida with a Torture Rack/flying knee combination to retain the belts.  This was a very fun Jr. tag bout that would soon become the standard match type for New Japan PPV openers.  ***1/2

The next available match on NJPW World (they're missing the Bullet Club-Nagata/Honma/Captin NJ six-man for some reason) is a triple threat IWGP Heavyweight Tag Title match, with champions Tencozy vs. Toru Yano & Iizuka vs. Killer Elite Squad.  KES attacked Tencozy at the bell and dominated both teams during the opening stretch, but Chaos took the fight outside, taping Archer and Davey to the railing and going to work on Tencozy.  After a few minutes KES broke free and had back and forth exchanges with Tencozy.  KES hit their double powerbomb on Yano but the referee had been bumped and there was no pin.  Tencozy hit their Tencozy Cutter on Archer for a nearfall before Kojima lariated the crap out of him to get the pin.  This was mildly fun and chaotic, but a bit tedious at times.  **1/2

Next up was the NWA Championship, with Manabu Nakanishi challenging Rob Conway.  This match was fun after a few minutes when Nakanishi made a comeback, but pretty dull when Conway was in control.  After hitting a dive to the outside, Nakanishi leveled Conway with a lariat and a spear, and slapped on the Torture Rack, but Conway escaped.  Nakanishi went to the top rope but Bruce Tharpe distracted him, allowing Conway to use his Ego Trip neckbreaker for the win.  This was mediocre.  **

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Welcome to another edition of Brewery Reviewery, here at, where I visit a fine beer-brewing establishment and taste as much of their wares as I can while still remaining upright.

Last weekend the wife and I made a trip to Portland, ME, home of basically every brewery on the planet, and took in a slew of these wonderful places.  My goal is to write about all of them, so here goes....

Our first stop was a venue we've visited before, one of our favorites, Allagash!

Allagash Brewing Company
50 Industrial Way
Portland, ME 04103

Most folks who have heard of this lovely institution (which recently overtook Shipyard as Maine's top-selling brewery) know them for their Belgian White flagship beer, a masterpiece of the genre that has for years held a slot in my all-time top five.  The combination of citrus, cloves and that wonderful banana-esque Belgian yeast is always welcome in my gullet.  I've been a fan of their Tripel, Saison, and Black for a long time as well, but Allagash has branched out quite a bit over the years, always experimenting with new flavors and brewing techniques.  My mission this visit was to try some of their limited and obscure releases.

Coolship La Mure: This blend of spontaneously fermented beer is aged on blackberries. We begin brewing Coolship la Mûre with Pilsner malt, 40% raw wheat, and aged whole-leaf hops. The unfermented wort is then transferred to a large shallow pan called a coolship, which allows the hot wort to mingle with wild yeast and souring microbiota in the Maine air. After fermenting and aging in French oak wine barrels for over two years, we add blackberries and let it rest for an additional five months. The finished beer’s aroma exhibits hints of lime zest and an herbal, berry-like quality. The tart flavor evokes multiple facets of blackberry, including just-ripened fruit and rich, juicy berry.

JB: This unusual brew is very tart with prominent blackberry flavor, similar to a Lambic.  I'm not a big sour beer guy but this was a bold, flavorful example of it.

Darling Ruby: Darling Ruby is a refreshing farmhouse ale with a twist: grapefruit juice and zest. The beer’s specific style is a grisette, a light and refreshing cousin of the modern saison. The combination of a grisette and citrus whirls tangy notes together with tropical aromas—all before landing on a beautifully dry finish. A lively ride from beginning to end.

JB: Ruby is dry and grapefruity, with a slighty bitter finish.  A nice, crisp saison substitute.

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1993)

Welcome to the third, and most disappointing installment of WCW SuperBrawl!

SuperBrawl III - Asheville Civic Center - 2.21.93

WCW circa early 1993 still fell under the Bill Watts regime, when the product was stripped-down and gritty.  This made for a nice focus on the in-ring product but also made the bigger shows feel very plain.  I've never been huge on pomp & circumstance, but a touch of it is nice on the big PPVs.  Anyway, the company had come off a creatively pretty successful 1992 and had built up a solid roster of older stars and solid young workers, and their biggest-ever star would make his return on this show.

Steve Austin & Brian Pillman vs. Marcus Bagwell & Erik Watts was a very fun opener.  The future Hollywood Blonds already had great chemistry and used old-school diversionary heel tactics, while Bagwell was once a capable babyface and Watts, despite not at all being over, could work a decent match.  This went probably five minutes longer than it needed to but it was quite good for its place on the card.

Chris Benoit vs. 2 Cold Scorpio was an excellent mix of grappling, counterwrestling, and aerial moves.  These guys meshed really well and despite some slow points in the third act this was easily watchable all the way through.  The finish came when they traded rollups with only seconds left in the time limit, and Scorpio caught Benoit with a pin at 19:59.  Nice timing to get the decision just before the clock reached zero.  Helluva good match, though I wish it had been a few minutes shorter.  By the end it felt like they were filling time to get to the final second.

Wait, I thought top rope moves were banned at this point....

Davey Boy Smith had recently debuted in WCW (a surreal sight if there ever was one), and the third match on this show was a glorified squash to showcase his remarkable skills.  His opponent was the doughy Bill Irwin, who was given very little offense.  The match was passable just because Davey's moveset was entertaining.  But otherwise a throwaway.

Next up was a helluva wild brawl, as Cactus Jack took on Paul Orndorff (freakishly shriveled right arm and all) in a Falls Count Anywhere match.  While tame by today's standards (hell, even by 1996 standards), this was highly engaging and featured several unique Mick Foley spots, like when he got suplexed across the security railing; in 1993 that must've made people cringe.  Orndorff dominated much of the action but Jack secured the win by bashing him over the head with a shovel.  Fun stuff.

How graceful...

Another fun match was next as The Rock n' Roll Express faced The Heavenly Bodies.  This match would oddly take place nine months later on a WWF PPV, which I believe makes it the only match to happen in both companies during the same year.  The only difference was the presence of Stan Lane, who would retire shortly after this and be replaced by Jimmy Del Ray.  This was your basic 80s style RnR Express match, where they control the first half and Jim Cornette's team play the buffoons for a while, then take over on offense after an underhanded spot.  The finish was overbooked and pretty clumsy, like no one was sure how to end it.  Bobby Eaton unsuccessfully ran in, and after several bad-looking near-falls, Robert Gibson won with the worst-executed splash ever.  Decent match overall though.