Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Ultimate Dream WrestleMania, Part 1

Welcome to a special presentation - The Ultimate Dream WrestleMania!

I've presented a few WWE vs. NJPW dream cards which can be read HEREHERE, HERE and HERE, but I thought I'd put together an ultimate fantasy WrestleMania card using stars of the past and present, and including a bevy of dream matches we all wanted to see but never got to.  The one self-imposed rule for this show was every match had to be something we'll never see in a wrestling ring (minus one partial exception in Part 2).  Also for the purposes of this piece, assume every competitor is in his respective prime years.

For a show of this magnitude, a) the only appropriate venue is The Pontiac Silverdome as it looked in 1987, and b) the lineup is so huge it would take place over two nights (and this column will be in two parts)!  Nearly 100,000 fans would pack this majestic stadium (TWICE!) in anticipation of twenty of the greatest and most colossal bouts in the history of our sport (Thanks Tony!).

At the commentary table is Good Ol' JR and Jesse Ventura, and the ring announcer is of course Howard Finkel.

Let's take you to the action!


Anderson & Blanchard vs. The Hardy Boyz

It's the quintessential flashy aerial babyface team vs. the rugged, no-frills veteran heels.  The Hardy Boyz would dominate the early going with tandem offense and impossibly quick tags, keeping their slower opponents off-balance.  But after several minutes Arn and Tully would find an underhanded tactic to turn the tide, isolating Jeff and working to destroy his legs.  Jeff would fight valiantly, finally tagging in Matt, and all hell would break loose.  After twelve minutes The Hardyz would hit the Twist of Fate/Swanton combo on Tully, but a distracted official would miss Arn coming off the top rope with an elbow on Jeff and rolling Tully on top of him.  The sneak attack would be good for three.

Lex Luger vs. The Ultimate Warrior

This power vs. power match would be succinct and intense.  Luger would try to counter the Warrior's ferocity with a more measured approach, slowing the pace and working the back to soften it up for the Torture Rack.  Warrior meanwhile would attempt to pummel Luger into oblivion and go for a quick finish.  After eight minutes, Warrior would escape the Rack, bouncing off the ropes with a devastating flying tackle.  Luger would regain his feet only to be leveled with a second, and a third.  Luger would stumble back up and walk into a gorilla press/big splash combination, giving Warrior the duke.

Randy Orton vs. Mr. Perfect

Possibly the two cagiest participants in this whole extravaganza are Mr. Perfect and "The Viper," both of whom would start this match very cautiously, each prepared for the other to use the most devious of maneuvers.  Orton would find a break early on and work over Perfect's head and neck with his methodical, sadistic attack.  Perfect would rally late in the match with a faster-paced assault.  After eleven minutes Perfect would take advantage of a missed Orton dropkick and hook on the PerfectPlex, but Orton would knee him in the face with his free leg, twist his body, and level Perfect with a game-winning RKO Outta Nowhere!

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at

In anticipation of this year's spring extravaganza, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania demotions in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or semi-main evented a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order.  Here we go.

1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker

"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s.  His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise.  Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal.  Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc. 

Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T.  Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history.  At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco.  Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Stock Drops began.

2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act

King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986.  He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring.  He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout).  While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title.  Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis.  After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver.  A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: 13-XV

And on we go, into the Attitude Era!

Rosemont Horizon - 3/23/97 

1997 was the WWF's ratings nadir during the Monday Night War with WCW.  They were right in the middle of an 82-week trouncing, and their PPV buyrates reflected that - 'Mania 13 did an abysmal .72 I believe.

But early '97 was also the very beginning of the Attitude era, before the WWF even fully acknowledged that the business was radically changing.  Snow-white babyface characters were no longer cool to cheer for; instead it was a foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, redneck bully named Steve Austin who captured the fans' imagination and became their hero.  The company was about to switch gears in a major way.

The WWF's original plan for WrestleMania 13's centerpiece was a rematch of Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels from the previous year.  Shawn apparently suffered a knee injury just 6 weeks before the big show (which may or may not have been a way to avoid doing the job for Bret) and announced that he'd be taking time off indefinitely, thus relinquishing the WWF Title.  This left the company scrambling for a new main event to build the show around. 

Sucky main event, but this was a nice moment

Two title changes later, and the belt was back around the waist of Sycho Sid, who it was announced would be defending against The Undertaker (marking the first time Taker would challenge for a championship at WrestleMania).  Seemingly Taker and Sid tried to emulate the Taker-Diesel match from 'Mania 12, but unfortunately it failed to live up to that match, and a subpar main event was the result.  This match went too long and, as was often the case, Sid looked lost for much of it.  Taker finally won the WWF Title however, giving the show a feel-good ending.

The other big matchup was the aforementioned Steve Austin vs. an angry, edgier Bret Hart in a no holds barred Submission match, with UFC import Ken Shamrock as the guest referee.  The ensuing battle was nothing short of legendary.  From an action standpoint there have certainly been better matches (including Bret-Austin 1 at Survivor Series '96, IMO), but I can't think of a better example of pure storytelling in a wrestling match.  Bret went into this match the babyface and left a reviled, vicious heel.  Austin went into the match a nasty bully and emerged as a gallant, tough-as-nails hero.  The visual of Austin being trapped in Bret's Sharpshooter as torrents of blood streamed down his face became one of pro wrestling's iconic images.  Masterful work by both guys.

Is there a more violently iconic image in the history of wrestling?

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania X

Welcome to another edition of The Great PPVs, here at and!

Today I'll be revisiting another classic WrestleMania PPV, specifically the apex of the New Generation era, WrestleMania X!

'Mania 10 was the first WrestleMania I ever ordered on PPV (I'd gone to see WM5 on closed-circuit TV), and also the first WWF PPV in a while that I was urgently stoked for.  At the time I was a huge Lex Luger fan (yeah I know), and had been following his main event babyface push intently.  Vince was for several months banking on Luger becoming the next Hulk Hogan, repackaging him as an all-American hero, feuding him against the monstrous WWF Champion Yokozuna, and giving him a countout win in the main event of SummerSlam '93.  I was disappointed that he'd failed to capture the belt that night, but figured it was all building to a rematch at WrestleMania.  When Luger and Bret Hart became co-winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble (something that's never happened before or since), I thought, "This is his time, it's gonna happen!"  Due to the double winner, it was announced that Yokozuna would defend the title against one Rumble winner, and the second would face the champ later in the show.  I was sure Luger would finally unseat Yoko and then successfully defend against Bret in the main event, a match I was beyond excited to see.

Little did I know that the fans overall just weren't that into Luger as the top guy, and it was Bret who'd captured their attention and affection.  WrestleMania X would be a transformative show for me; as my childlike fascination with the already past-his-prime Luger would begin to fade, and my new appreciation for the company's two best workhorses, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, was just beginning.  Bret was one of those wrestlers I liked a lot, but he was never my favorite guy.  When he beat Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Title in 1991 I was a little bummed because I liked Perfect better.  When he upset Ric Flair for the WWF Title I was excited at the company's new direction, but was sad that Randy Savage was no longer the focus.  By late 1993 I was all aboard the Lex Express, and Bret was probably my third-favorite babyface, after Lex and The Undertaker.  Meanwhile Shawn had caught my attention with great performances at Survivor Series 1992 and 1993 (both against Bret, coincidentally).

Bret had just begun a feud against his brother Owen, which I figured would occupy him for months and thus he wouldn't regain the title just yet.  After a coin flip that determined Luger as the first challenger, Bret would face Owen before getting his own title shot.  This was another match I couldn't wait to see, and I expected a classic.

The other bout of interest was Shawn Michaels challenging Intercontinental Champ Razor Ramon, which was changed to a Ladder Match shortly before 'Mania.  My only familiarity with Ladder Matches at this point were a pretty terrible Dusty Rhodes-Tully Blanchard match in 1985 and a disappointing Bret-Shawn bout that took place in 1992.  Thus my initial reaction to this announcement was "Dude, whyyyy??"  Keeping with this show's apparent theme of defying my expectations, the Ladder Match would prove me wrong in a profound way.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Top Ten Things: Debut WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things, here at!

It's WrestleMania season and that means my brain looks for 'Mania-related nonsense to write about.  You can read a few of my previous such lists HERE, HERE and HERE.

Today I'll be talking about the greatest WrestleMania debuts in history.  By that I don't mean wrestlers who actually debuted at WrestleMania; that would be a short list that more or less begins and ends with Fandango (God, they actually jobbed out Chris Jericho to that guy....).  No, I mean the first WrestleMania match of a given wrestler or tag team (or in some cases multiple stars in the same match).  Looking back at the history of this great annual tradition, there have been some quite notable WrestleMania rookie performances.  In some cases a new star was launched right into the main event of the biggest show of the year, something that's basically unthinkable in today's WWE, where WrestleMania is more often than not The Showcase of Semi-Retirees.

But enough complaining; here, in chronological order, are the ten greatest performances by WrestleMania rookies (plus four honorable mentions).  As noted, there are a couple of entries where I included every participant in a given match due to all of them being 'Mania first-timers.

Honorable Mentions

Ted Dibiase made his WrestleMania debut in the 1988 WWF Title tournament, lasting all the way to the finals and the main event, and coming withing a hair of winning the championship.

Kane's first 'Mania match was a near-show stealer of a semi-main event, as he took his onscreen brother The Undertaker to the limit.

Japanese sensation Shinsuke Nakamura made his 'Mania debut in a very good (not quite great) WWE Title match against AJ Styles, after winning the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.

Former UFC crossover star Ronda Rousey made her WrestleMania debut in 2018 as well, tagging with Kurt Angle to defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and shining a much bigger spotlight on the women's division.

1. British Bulldogs - WrestleMania 2

Davey Boy and Dynamite became a WWF tag team in 1985 and pretty quickly climbed the ranks, due in no small part to the excellent matches they were having with fellow Stampede Wrestling alums The Hart Foundation.  Their tag team feud was pretty legendary and brought new levels of athleticism to the WWF tag division, which up until that point mostly consisted of informal pairings of singles stars.  The Bulldogs would challenge Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake for the straps at the second WrestleMania, stealing the show in a hard-hitting, action-packed bout that culminated in one of the more unorthodox finishes I can remember; Davey rammed Valentine's head into Dynamite's rock-hard skull, knocking both of them out, and covered "The Hammer" for the win.  It was unusual but it got the job done, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a 10-month reign before being dethroned by their old rivals, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.

2. Demolition - WrestleMania IV

Echoing the Bulldogs' quick rise to fame, in 1987 longtime WWF midcarder Bill Eadie was teamed with NWA import Barry Darsow to form a Road Warriors-esque tandem called Demolition.  Ax and Smash, as they were now known, instantly caught the attention of the fans, with their rugged, smashmouth brawling style and colorful, intimidating appearance.  Strong booking and solid in-ring performances helped Demolition stand out from both the other WWF teams and their inspiration The Road Warriors, and by WrestleMania IV they were challenging Strike Force for the titles.  After a 12-minute battle, Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji handed Ax his cane, which was used to knock out Rick Martel and win Ax & Smash the championship.  Their first reign would "smash" all previous longevity records in the tag team division, lasting a whopping 16 months (a record that stood for 27 years) and cementing Demolition as one of the all-time great teams.

3. Nasty Boys - WrestleMania VII

Wow, ANOTHER tag team.  I'm gonna be honest, I never got why Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were pushed in every promotion they wrestled for.  I was never impressed with them in any capacity, and in the case of their WWF run I'm sure at least part of it was because of their friendship with Hulk Hogan.  But whatever the reason, Knobbs & Sags became number-one contenders for the tag belts a scant three months after their WWF debut (by winning a tag team battle royal), and at WrestleMania VII they captured the titles from the Hart Foundation, after which Bret and Jim went their separate ways.  The Nastys held the belts until SummerSlam when they ran into a brick wall known as The Legion of Doom.  They'd never win the titles again, and by early 1993 they were fired from the WWF.  But their 1991 rise to the top was shall we say, meteoric.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Cape Cod Beer (Hyannis, MA)

Welcome to another installment of Brewery Reviewery, here at, where I visit a local purveyor of craft beer, sample some flavors, and report back.  This past weekend I hit up Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis, MA, where no fewer than 15 beers were up for the tasting, plus a whole lot of other local goings-on.

Cape Cod Beer
1336 Phinneys Lane
Hyannis, MA 02601

The tasting room is located in part of their warehouse building, behind the retail store (which offers take-home growlers, cans and official Cape Cod Beer merch).  In addition to beer pours there was a slew of local vendors peddling their wares, from specialty salts to hot sauces to crafts.  The brewery also features a pop-up kitchen with rich & tasty comfort food.

In terms of beer options, Cape Cod lets you either order full-pint pours or go with a flight of five beers.  I started with the latter before settling on a favorite.  Here's the rundown:

Narrow Lands NEIPA: Soft malt character and little-to-no yeast character, juicy, double dry-hopped New England IPA is easy-drinking with a crisp, clean base that allows the hops to shine through.  Double dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic, this easy-drinking beer has the bright fruit notes of grapefruit, guava, mango and orange rind.  The hops give this beer another level of thirst-quenching bite that is still soft and mellow.  Clean mouthfeel, juicy hops and a crisp-dry finish.  ABV: 5.9%

JB: This New England-style IPA was a little less citrusy than I could've wished, but it was balanced and pleasant, and easy to drink.  I've recently become obsessed with NEIPAs so I go out of my way to try new ones whenever I can.  This one was alright.

Big Sea Saison: Big Sea Saison is a single-hopped farmhouse ale that features Sorachi Ace, a hop that was originally developed in Japan.  This hop is cultivated from the famed Brewer's Gold and Saaz hops and is known for its lemony flavor.  The beer has a bright citrus overtone matched with an effervescent, dry finish.  ABV: 5.25%

JB: I'm a big fan of saisons and this was one of the standouts of the day, with a good mix of citrus flavor and a bit of spice.  I ended up buying a couple four-packs of this, both because I really enjoyed it and because as a seasonal offering it was 50% off.  Lovely stuff, this one.

The History of WrestleMania: X-XII

Yeah, you know the drill.  Moving into the era of The New WWF Generation.....

Madison Square Garden - 3/20/94

For the tenth edition of 'Mania, the WWF returned to the hallowed Madison Square Garden.  This installment featured not one, but two WWF Title matches, as co-Rumble winners Bret Hart and Lex Luger each got a crack at Yokozuna's championship.

However it was the opening bout and a match where Shawn Michaels danced with a ladder that stole the show.

Since Luger won the coin toss to face Yokozuna first (not sure why that's winning exactly, but ok), Bret had to wrestle a secondary match prior to getting his own title shot.  Luckily for everyone, he had just begun a feud with his brother Owen, and the Hart brothers tore the house down in the opening contest.  Famously the brothers had worked out an action-packed, high-flying match but Bret realized the night before the event that a bunch of aerial moves would get Owen cheered instead of booed.  So they scrapped everything and started over.  No complaints from me - this match was twenty minutes of some of the finest wrestling I've ever seen, capped off by a career-making win for Owen. 

Still one of the best matches of all time

One of the weirder matches I've witnessed took place third on the card, as Randy Savage fought Crush in a variation of a Falls Count Anywhere match.  Now I'm not sure if someone in charge was drunk when they came up with this, or if they were just confused by the FCA rules, but in this case the object was to pin your opponent outside the ring, roll back into the ring, and hope the opponent couldn't get back in within 60 seconds.  There were three falls in this match before Crush finally failed to get back within the time limit, which meant that in a 9-minute match, nearly 3 full minutes consisted of one of the wrestlers waiting inside the ring for the other to climb back in.  Did TNA come up with these rules?

Friday, March 15, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: VII-IX

Continuing with WrestleManias 7-9....

L.A. Sports Arena - 3/24/91

The seventh installment ended up being one of the most forgettable.  What was intended to be a record-smashing supershow in front of 100,000 fans at the L.A. Coliseum was relegated to the 15,000-seat Sports Arena when ticket sales fell horribly short of expectations.  That will happen though when your main event is little more than the exploitation of a minor real-life skirmish in the Middle East.  Why the WWF thought the US vs. Iraq angle would draw big business I'm not sure, especially since the real conflict ended over a month before WrestleMania.

Sgt. Slaughter was inexplicably brought in as a turncoat and almost immediately handed the WWF Title at the Royal Rumble, all so he could face the American Hero Hulk Hogan.  Surely a Hogan vs. Warrior rematch would've drawn the numbers they wanted, so I'm still unclear why they didn't go that route.

The match was what it was.  It certainly could've been worse, but it definitely wasn't good.  It's widely considered one of, if not THE worst all-time WrestleMania main event.  Slaughter was about as unworthy a WWF Champion as there's ever been and it was a sad day indeed when Hulk Hogan is by far the better worker in a given match.  This meandering brawl lasted over 21 minutes before Hogan mercifully put an end to the proceeding with the ol' big boot-legdrop combo.

Yep.  Can't imagine why this didn't sell 100,000 tickets.

'Mania 7 was saved however by the semi-main event of Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior, with the stipulation that the loser would have to retire.  This feud had been brewing for several months while Warrior was WWF Champion, but Savage was battling nagging injuries and was thus unable to compete for a while.  Though I don't consider this match nearly as great as most do, it was easily one of the WWF's best of 1991.  This match paved the way for the overuse of finishers in big matchups (see Austin vs. Rock).  Savage hit five flying elbow smashes in a row and failed to get the pin, and the Warrior finally won after three flying tackles.  Post-match Savage's manager Sherri Martel attacked him, having lost her meal ticket due to the retirement stip.  Who should come to Savage's rescue but Miss Elizabeth, much to the delight and tears of the crowd.  Savage would spend the next several months as a commentator before returning to action that November.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: IV-VI

Welcome to Part 2 of's History of WrestleMania.  Today I'll be covering 'Manias 4 through 6.  Let's get to it!

Trump Plaza - 3/27/88
'Mania IV was assembled with the intent of giving us the biggest edition to date, with the centerpiece being the first-ever WWF World Title tournament, the result of a controversial Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant match on NBC that saw Hogan screwed out of the Championship only for Andre to turn around and sell the belt to Ted Dibiase.  WrestleMania IV featured a huge roster and was expanded to four hours to accommodate the sprawling 16-match card.

Unfortunately this show suffered from simply having too much going on.  The tournament involved 14 men and all by itself necessitated 11 matches.  As a result almost none of the tourney matches, including the final, were given enough time to be very memorable.  The venue is also a far cry from the Silverdome, Trump Plaza being a rather cavernous arena where the crowd consisted largely of Donald Trump's business associates who showed almost no enthusiasm for the four-hour wrestling bonanza.

This was goofy fun

The undercard featured a battle royal (which was fun but of little importance except as a way to turn Bret Hart babyface after he was doublecrossed by Bad News Brown), Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules in a clash of powerhouses (which was so short as to barely warrant a mention), a British Bulldogs/Koko vs. Islanders/Bobby Heenan six-man tag (which was nowhere near as good as the previous year's Bulldogs-Harts match).

There were also two title matches - I-C Champion The Honky Tonk Man faced the wildly popular Brutus Beefcake in a brief and forgettable DQ loss, while Strike Force and Demolition was one of the few strong matches on the card, ending with Ax murdering Rick Martel with Mr. Fuji's cane in a finish very similar to the WrestleMania I Tag Title match.  Thus began Demolition's record-breaking title run.

The WWF Title tournament itself was fine in theory but very diluted in execution.  Only four of the 14 participants really had a chance of leaving 'Mania as the Champion, and two of them were eliminated in their first match.  The Hogan vs. Andre quarterfinal bout marked the first time a WrestleMania featured a rematch from the previous year.  Sadly where their 1987 encounter was extremely memorable and has achieved legendary status, its 1988 threequel was little more than a throwaway designed to get both men out of the tournament.  Really the only standout match in this entire tourney was the first-round match between Ricky Steamboat and Greg Valentine.  Everything else was either too short (Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang for example), inoffensive but instantly forgettable (Dibiase vs. Don Muraco), or yawn-inducing (Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: I-III

Hello and welcome to this special blog, The History of WrestleMania!  This 12-part column will discuss and dissect all 34 previous installments of the annual supercard and determine what I feel were the highlights and lowlights each year.

WrestleMania season is usually one of my favorite times of the year, and I always find myself reflecting back on the storied history of this great spectacle.  I think about some of my favorite 'Mania matches, what makes a great 'Mania card, and why some shows were so successful while others really don't deserve to fall under the WrestleMania banner.  For the record, I'm writing this piece completely from memory, which should give you some idea of how sad and twisted I am.

So without further prattling on, let's get to it.

Madison Square Garden - 3/31/85

This of course was the show that started it all.  The great McMahon gamble that paid off not in spades, but truckloads of money.  This was one of the first truly mainstream wrestling events on a national scale, and the hype allowed the WWF to break into the pop culture vernacular.

Surprisingly though, the inaugural 'Mania card more resembled a house show than a true supercard.  For one thing, having a tag team match as the main event rather than a WWF Title match seems like such an odd choice.  Hulk Hogan's ongoing feud with Roddy Piper was such a draw it seems like a singles match for the belt would be the natural main event.  However the WWF put that match on MTV that February as a way to hype 'Mania.  Clearly it worked, but it made for kind of a watered-down main event for the supercard.  Hogan/Mr. T vs. Piper/Orndorff was fine for what it was, but I hardly consider it a classic.

I always dug this poster for some reason.
These two guys together would beat Rocky Balboa's ass!

This match also began the trend of celebrities getting involved in big money matches as actual competitors.  It occurs to me that the match would've been greatly improved by swapping T out for Jimmy Snuka.  But I suppose seeing T wrestle was part of the draw.  Mr. T certainly looked like he could hang in the ring with the actual wrestlers but I've always felt that having celebs wrestle damages the business somewhat.  More on that later....

The show was also not very stacked for such a marquee event.  To be fair, the WWF's roster would expand considerably after this show (Savage and Jake would arrive, the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs would form).  Elsewhere on the card we had Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd in a bodyslam challenge (again, this felt watered-down since it wasn't a traditional wrestling match but ended when one man bodyslammed the other) which aside from the spectacle was just two nearly immobile guys plodding through a short match.

The first 'Mania also inexplicably featured several glorified squashes.  Tito Santana vs. The Executioner opened the show and was roughly the kind of match you'd see on Wrestling Challenge.  King Kong Bundy vs. S.D. Jones and Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne also fell into that category.  Hardly worthy of the biggest show of all-time (at that point anyway).

First match in WrestleMania history

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Movie Review: Captain Marvel v. Internet Trolls

Sorry trolls, Captain Marvel is not only a hugely successful female-led blockbuster, but it's a pretty darn good one at that.

Marvel's latest entry in the decade-plus MCU centers around Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), an Air Force pilot whose DNA gets supercharged during a mission gone wrong, transforming her into a galactic ubermensche.  As part of the Kree Starforce, Vers as she is now called helps police the universe under the tutelage of Yon-Rogg (an austere Jude Law), waging war against a race of shapeshifters known as the Skrulls.  Only problem is Vers begins having flashbacks to her previous life and feels a compulsion to learn what she's seemingly forgotten.

Captain Marvel refreshingly turns the idea of the origin story on its ear by presenting Vers' past as a mystery to be uncovered; she and the audience glean information about her past together, making the presentation much more engaging than your average superhero origin.  Amid some James Bond-esque action set pieces with a sci-fi tinge, information about our lead character is doled out gradually, while she simultaneously builds a rapport with her new ally Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson in a spry variation of the grizzled character).  Vers finds herself on Earth in the mid-1990s, hoping to locate a prototype light-speed travel device before the Skrulls find it, and the film provides lots of 90s-themed easter eggs, like grunge references and a scene in an internet cafe (remember dial-up?).

My Favorite WrestleMania Moment

by Dan Moore

Over the years, WWE’s biggest event has given its fans tons of moments that are forever implanted in your brain as truly memorable and awesome. Hogan slamming Andre the Giant. The Macho Man parading Miss Elizabeth on his shoulders in a victory march. Stone Cold bleeding his face off against the Hitman. Shawn Michaels ending the iconic career of the Nature Boy with the words "I'm Sorry. I Love You." And then of course this.

18 seconds

Sheamus decimating Daniel Bryan in double the time it takes me to find a rubber (Just kidding, I don’t use those, who am I, Justin? Or Derek even?!?!?). But that’s not my favorite moment. No, my favorite moment was this.

Right at the count of three, this is the moment before he screamed,

That right there, friends, is Justin Ballard filled with rage as his hero D-Bryan was pinned. This man loves wrestling (in case you can’t tell by the ENDLESS wrestling columns). He has his favorites but man oh man they were all trumped by the scrappy bearded fellow from Oregon (Editor's Note: It's Washington, fuckface). He was so looking forward to this matchup. And it was over before he sat down from taking a leak.

The sheer joy his absolute misery gave us that day is immeasurable. Much like the screams of children fueled the creatures of Monsters, Inc, the tears of this man filled me with enough energy to move mountains that day. It gave me unexplainable joy. Food tasted better. The air seemed fresher. I had more energy and self-confidence than I ever dreamed of.

To this day, I’m SHOCKED he didn’t throw us all out of his house the second this happened. We needled him endlessly all night and each time you could see the red flickering light of anger grow bigger as the vein in his head almost exploded with rage. Easily the greatest WrestleMania memory of my life.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

WWE Fastlane 2019: Roman Gets Cheered, Kofi Gets Buried

Fastlane 2019 started life as a Vince Russo-esque calamity of a PPV and ended up being an okay show by the end.  Despite numerous nonsensical booking decisions that have accelerated in recent months amid WWE's ratings desperation, there was enough good wrestling here to save the show and give it a passing grade.  The first third of the PPV was bad, the second third was okay, and the final third achieved "good."

The show opened with the Usos-MizMahon rematch, which was probably a step up from their previous efforts.  Still, Shane really needs to quit it; he was once again out of breath and purple after not much activity.  The big spot came late in the bout, when Shane was about to go for a coast-to-coast dropkick on Jey but Jimmy climbed the opposite turnbuckle, intending to hit a big splash on the Miz.  Both men jumped simultaneously and Shane ended up dropkicking Jimmy midair, but unfortunately the timing was a bit off and Shane hit Jimmy's knees.  Still the spot got a good reaction.  Miz then went for a frog splash on Jey, who got his knees up and cradled Miz for the win.  Post-match, Shane turned on Miz and beat the piss out of him in front of his father, who turned in one of the worst performances I've ever seen on a wrestling show.  Surely if a father were watching someone beat up his son in real life he'd react, right?  Show some hint of being upset?  Maybe jump the rail and try to help?  Nope.  Miz's dad just sat there like a deer in headlights and didn't go over to help his son until after Shane had left.  This angle was pretty terrible.  Is anyone legitimately interested in Shane vs. Miz, by the way?  Anyway the match gets ***.

After an interminably long lull involving Elias and various commercials, the show finally got going again with Asuka vs. Mandy Rose, a more or less nothing match that went six minutes and ended with Sonya Deville grabbing a kendo stick from under the ring but leaving the apron all bunched up under the ropes.  Mandy bounced off the ropes and slipped on the apron, stumbling right into an Asuka kick for the pin.  Why Asuka should even need a banana peel spot to beat Mandy is beyond me.  Mandy and Sonya then teased a breakup as they walked to the back.  Can we for Chrissake give Asuka a real WrestleMania opponent?  Maybe call up Kairi Sane?  This match wasn't good.  *1/2

Music Review: Gary Clark Jr. - This Land (2019)

by Mike Drinan

There are artists that you know are great, you can hear flashes of it, but for whatever reason they just don’t have that great or classic album in their catalogue. I felt that way for years about the Foo Fighters until they released 2011’s Wasting Light. Even Beyonce didn’t prove it to me until she released Lemonade, an album that I think needs to be in my life.

Gary Clark Jr. was that kind of artist for me ever since I heard his 2010 Bright Lights EP. There were flashes of brilliance, great songs and a guitar playing mastery that had many anointing him as the next great blues guitarist to carry the torch of the genre from...whoever it was that came before him. The problem was that it never coalesced into a great album. His first two albums sounded flat and disjointed, never coming close to the energy and the guitar mojo of his live performances. Maybe he was trying too hard to be the next great blues artist? I don’t know, but the albums weren’t working and there didn’t seem to be much of “him” coming through the songs.

That all changed this past Friday when he dropped his third studio album, This Land, and completely changed the course of his career. To put it plainly, this album kicks fucking ass and is the album I’ve been hoping for from him. There’s not one element to this album that can be pointed to that makes it so good. He’s pissed, worried, sad, in love, excited, energized and teeming with regret. Contrary to his previous work, it all comes through at a volume of eleven.

The record kicks off with the title track, a synth heavy blues track with a hip hop delivery that boils with rage, detailing racist experiences at his home in Austin, Texas. This anger quickly culminates with the lyric “We don't want, we don't want your kind, We think you's a dog born, Fuck you, I’m America’s son, This is where I come from”. Yeah, you didn’t hear any of that on his other two albums.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Dive Bars of America: The Cellar Tavern (Abington, MA)

by Dan Moore

This column features some of the greatest and grossest dive bars in the U.S. of A. I’ll be using a rating system between 1 and 4 handlebar mustaches, which is the preferred mustache by 9 out of 10 old timers in dive bars.

The Cellar Tavern
221 North Avenue
Abington, MA 02351

Thar she blows.  It's an actual cellar.  Under someone's home.  With an old timey truck thereabouts.

I recently moved even more south than the south shore, and have been looking for a dark place to wet my whistle. And lo and behold, this beautiful basement arrived on the horizon. The Cellar has a long bar that’s also combined with a horseshoe shaped part. It’s got a buncha tables for your eating and boozing pleasures too.

Fun Factor: This place is a drunkard’s heaven. They do all kinds of specials during the week. Like a ladies night on Thursdays with raffles and half-priced food.  It’s got the requisite Keno, dart boards abound, a killer juke box and Yahtzee for grownups. Throw a few bucks around and who knows, maybe you’ll walk outta here with enough cash to buy some Advil for your next hangover because…

Booze Choices: ARE DIRT CHEAP. My dear lord. You saddle up to this stick with 20 bucks, and you are going home in a body bag. Ice cold Bud Light drafts are 2 bucks and they have a myriad of cheap mixed drinks all over the place. If you had a bad day at your shitty job (and all jobs are shitty unless you’re a porn star or 3rd string NFL quarterback), this is the place to drown your sorrows.

Delicious & cheap. Just like me.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Top Ten Things: Stanley Kubrick Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at!  A couple weeks ago I made a list of Quentin Tarantino's ten best, and thought it might be appropriate to give Stanley Kubrick similar treatment.  

Kubrick was one of the all-time great film auteurs, creating a unique visual style characterized by fluid camera movement, unnervingly symmetrical deep focus photography, and often a cold emotional detachment.  His films often contained deep subtext and were generally much more about the human condition as a whole, than about the fate of the individual characters.  He would build his stories around lofty philosophical concepts and themes, which he hammered home with every sequence.  Kubrick was notorious for being a perfectionist, often asking his onscreen talent for dozens upon dozens of takes before he saw one he liked, and demanding strict continuity on the set.  Considering he was active for over 45 years his filmography was quite sparse, and in later years his filmmaking process was so painstaking it became infamous.  His last film Eyes Wide Shut for example was in production for a staggering 17 months, and he just barely lived long enough to see its completion.

Stanley Kubrick was one of the most controversial, divisive, and thought-provoking filmmakers of all time, and he left behind a stunning body of work containing some of the most amazing visuals ever put to film.  Lending themselves to varied analyses, his films demand repeated viewings and tend to reflect humanity's virtues and (more often) deep-seated flaws.  What a tremendous talent this man was.

Here now is a list of his ten best works.

10. Lolita

This 1962 adaptation of Nabakov's provocative novel was met with vehement scorn from religious groups upon its release, to the point that Kubrick had trouble even getting it distributed.  The story concerns a middle-aged man's love affair with a 12-year-old girl and his subsequent fall from grace.  Kubrick enlisted Nabakov himself to adapt the novel into a screenplay but changed several elements and played up the dark comedic aspects, such as the supporting character of Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers).  Beholden to the MPAA, Kubrick also had to keep much of the lurid material implied rather than explicit.  The result was a pretty outrageous "dramedy" with strong performances from its lead actors, in particular Sellers and the 16-year-old Sue Lyon, whose turn as the title character is well beyond her years.  I consider Lolita one of Kubrick's lesser efforts, but it's certainly never dull.

9. The Killing

Kubrick's third feature (though only his second "official" release as he pulled his first film Fear & Desire from theaters) is an early example of the heist-gone-wrong story.  Based on the novel Clean Break, The Killing is about an intricate plot to rob a racetrack of $2 million, and the aftermath of the crime which leaves most of the conspirators dead.  The theme of "even the best laid plans..." is prevalent in this film, and the carefully orchestrated robbery ultimately fails due to multiple unforeseen events.  The standout performance belongs to Sterling Hayden, who brings a cynical, grizzled quality to criminal mastermind Johnny Clay.  In assembling the film, Kubrick played around with the timeline, presenting certain events from multiple points of view.  I have to think The Killing had a big influence on Quentin Tarantino when making Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown.  The Killing is an early example of Kubrick's considerable intellect as he moves his characters around like chess pieces.

8. Full Metal Jacket

The late 80s saw a bevy of Vietnam-related films, and Kubrick's adaptation of The Short-Timers was one of the most noteworthy.  Though later to the game than he'd hoped, Kubrick nonetheless presented a fascinating take on the evils of war and their effect on the human psyche.  The film is split into two parts, the first (and best) of which depicts Parris Island Marine Corps basic training, where Private Joker (Matthew Modine) witnesses the complete mental breakdown of Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio) at the hands of a brutal drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey, in a brilliantly vulgar performance).  The second half of the film then picks up with Joker's exploits as a war correspondent in Vietnam.  While still atmospheric and beautifully shot, the second half is unfortunately nowhere near as strong as the first, given that it's missing the two best characters in the film.  Still, Full Metal Jacket remains one of the best films made about Vietnam and about the dehumanization of those who lived through it.

NJPW New Japan Cup 2019 Preview & Predictions

We're on the cusp of the biggest New Japan Cup in history, with a whopping 32 participants, the winner getting a shot at the IWGP Championship at G1 Supercard on April 6th.  Usually the winner gets the title match at Sakura Genesis, but the instant sellout Madison Square Garden show has replaced that on the NJPW calendar, and thus we're looking at the highest-stakes New Japan Cup tournament ever assembled.  But who's walking away with the Cup?  Let's take a look at the field.

1. Yuji Nagata
2. Tomohiro Ishii
3. Tomoaki Honma
4. Taichi
5. Manabu Nakanishi
6. Yoshi-Hashi
7. Chase Owens
8. Juice Robinson
9. Kazuchika Okada
10. Michael Elgin
11. Mikey Nicholls
12. Hikuleo
13. Will Ospreay
14. Bad Luck Fale
15. Toa Henare
16. Lance Archer
17. Hiroshi Tanahashi
18. Shota Umino
19. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
20. Ryusuke Taguchi
21. Kota Ibushi
22. Tetsuya Naito
23. Evil
24. Zack Sabre Jr.
25. Togi Makabe
26. Colt Cabana
27. Toru Yano
28. Davey Boy Smith Jr.
29. Satoshi Kojima
30. Minoru Suzuki
31. Hirooki Goto
32. Sanada

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

WWE Fastlane 2019 Preview & Predictions

We've reached our final PPV Predictions piece for the 2018-2019 season, so get ready to kick into high gear on the Road to WrestleMania, because it's time to rev up your engines in the FASTLANE!!!  God what a stupid name for a PPV...

Anyway, this show is strangely not stacked, like an old In Your House show from the 90s.  But there's some potentially very enjoyable stuff on tap here, including a one-last-time Shield reunion, a big women's rematch with WrestleMania implications, and the one I'm excited about, a dream match of ROH alumni (Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't recall ever seeing Danielson vs. Steen back in the day).  This should be the second consecutive WWE PPV to go less than 3-1/2 hours, which is always refreshing these days.

Let's get to it.

***Heading into the final PPV of the season I'm ahead with 69% (88/127), Landon's next with 66% (84/127), and the Moore boys are tied with 65% (83/127).***

Pre-Show: Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade

Okay, this is fucked that these guys are on the pre-show.  This is I think the fourth televised singles match of this feud and deserves to be on the main card.  They'd better at least be building to a 'Mania match that'll get a good spot, because Rey and Andrade tear it up every time.  I'll go with Andrade to win here, setting up their big rematch.

Justin: Andrade
Dan: Rey
Landon: Andrade
Dave: Andrade

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos vs. Shane McMahon & The Miz

Ugh, this again.  Their match at Chamber was fine, if forgettable, but Shane desperately needs to stop trying to do this shit.  He looks winded, sweaty and purple halfway through every match and seems hell-bent on dying in the ring.  Stop it.  Shane vs. Miz is obviously happening at 'Mania so they're not winning the belts back.  This is the beginning of the end for MizMahon.

Justin: Usos retain
Dan: Twinsies
Landon: Usos
Dave: Usos, but let this be it with this feud.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

RIP King Kong Bundy, plus WWE's Booking Mess

Another wrestling legend has left us, as King Kong Bundy passed away yesterday at the age of 61.  I first became aware of the 450-pound monster heel in 1986 or so; I'd started watching the Hulk Hogan cartoon on Saturday mornings but hadn't crossed over to the actual wrestling product yet.  But flipping through the TV Guide one day I saw an ad for Saturday Night's Main Event, which promoted a King Kong Bundy match.  No picture of the guy though.  Being a fan of the film King Kong, the name immediately caught my attention and I began to try to picture what a wrestler named after The Eighth Wonder of the World (a moniker applied to Kong way before Andre) would look like.  A few months later I caught my first glimpse of the bald behemoth and instantly found him terrifying.  Just a giant wall of humanity with a shaved head and missing eyebrows, whose two big moves both involved squashing an opponent under his massive girth.  I soon learned that Bundy had challenged Hulk Hogan (my favorite at the time) for the WWF Title in a steel cage at the second WrestleMania and went out of my way to find that match.  As an eleven-year-old I loved it - an easily digestible ten-minute titanic struggle inside a blue bar cage.  Bundy was certainly no in-ring workhorse, but his fearsome appearance and stature made him a credible monster, plus he could cut a fine promo.  His "five-count" gimmick was a clever way to get over his physical dominance as well; in all his squash matches he'd hit his Avalanche finisher (think the Stinger Splash but with twice as much weight behind it), and insist the referee count to five instead of three for the pinfall.  His run at the top of the WWF was relatively brief, but King Kong Bundy was always one of my favorite superheavyweight heels of the 80s, who could always be booked as a major threat to our babyface champions. 

RIP King Kong Bundy (1957-2019)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Wrestling Do-Overs: WWF WrestleMania IV

What up fools?  Welcome to Wrestling Do-Overs, where I'll take a famous pro wrestling card or angle and reimagine it the way I would've booked it.

Today I'll be talking about WrestleMania IV, which took place March 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.  This show is best remembered for the first-ever WWF Title tournament which saw Randy "Macho Man" Savage win four matches to become the new Champion.  Now all that is great, but the show itself from a wrestling standpoint, well.....kinda sucked.  They tried to cram sixteen matches on a four-hour PPV, only one of which lasted more than twelve minutes (that being a terribly dull fifteen-minute draw in the first round).  There was simply too much going on and not enough time for any of the individual matches to properly deliver.

So I'm going to overhaul the card and present it the way I think it should've gone down.  Before I do though, let's look at the card the way it actually transpired:


20-Man Battle Royal
Honky Tonk Man vs. Brutus Beefcake
Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules
British Bulldogs/Koko B. Ware vs. Islanders/Bobby Heenan
Strike Force vs. Demolition

See what I mean?  There just wasn't enough good wrestling going on, and even the tournament final/main event was an overbooked nine-minute mess when it should've been a potential Match of the Year.

So first off, let's change the 14-man tournament to an 8-man.  Now I know what you're thinking; but Justin, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant are supposed to get a bye into the second round!  And they still do; Hogan and Andre are automatically entered into the tournament, whereas the remaining six competitors have to win qualifying matches on WWF Superstars of Wrestling in the weeks leading up to the show. 

Tournament Qualifiers

Ted Dibiase defeats Don Muraco
Jim Duggan defeats One Man Gang
Randy Savage defeats Butch Reed
Ricky Steamboat defeats Greg Valentine
Jake Roberts defeats Dino Bravo
Rick Rude defeats Bam Bam Bigelow

So your first-round bracket looks like this:

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania III

What's up folks?  Time for a new weekly feature called The Great PPVs, where I revisit a wrestling show that captured the imagination and carved out a place for itself in the annals of the business.

This being the first installment I thought I'd start at the beginning.  Or more precisely, at the beginning of my time as a wrestling fan.  I started watching this pretend sport in November of 1986 (after having been sucked into the characters and pageantry via the Hulk Hogan's Rock n' Wrestling cartoon).  The first three major angles I was privy to as a fan were Randy Savage trying to crush Ricky Steamboat's neck with the ring bell (for which I absolutely HATED Savage at the time), referee Danny Davis screwing the British Bulldogs out of the Tag Team Titles (for which I absolutely LOATHED Davis), and Andre the Giant turning against his best friend Hulk Hogan, challenging him to a WWF Title match (for which I absolutely REVILED Andre).

Around the same time the WWF had been showing ads for something called WrestleMania III.  I was like, "What's that, some sort of convention?  And when were WrestleMania 1 and 2??"  Then when Andre challenged Hogan to a match at WrestleMania it all fell into place.  "Oooooh, WrestleMania III is like a special wrestling show."  I didn't yet grasp the concept of PPV, so this was all new to me.

Those three aforementioned angles, along with the retirement of Roddy Piper, would form the backbone of the WrestleMania card, a lineup so magnanimous it could only be held in the massive, 90,000-seat Pontiac Silverdome.  To help build the main event, the main draw for this monumental PPV, the WWF touted Andre's seeming imperviousness; he had not, according to the WWF, ever been defeated in a wrestling ring (in fact he had lost a couple matches outside the WWF), nor even body slammed (even a cursory knowledge of wrestling history of course disproved that factoid - Hogan himself had slammed Andre only seven years earlier).  They also booked a special battle royal on Saturday Night's Main Event a few weeks before 'Mania, where Andre eliminated Hogan before being tossed out by numerous other wrestlers.  The WWF Magazine published a Tale of the Tape, claiming Andre was 7'5", 520 pounds to Hogan's 6'8", 294 pounds (down from his usual billed weight of 303 - nice touch).  All signs pointed to the four-year WWF Champion's time being up.  There was no way he could beat the unbeatable.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Top Ten Things: Well-Deserved Oscars

Welcome to another Oscar-related edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

You might say I've got Oscars on the brain, because today's edition is comprised of occasions when the Academy absolutely got it right, in terms of awarding acting performances.  I've talked before about times Oscar has snubbed a great performance, and about shocking upsets, but there have certainly been times the right person won for the right role.  In fact there have been years when I've decided, "Regardless what wins Best Picture and all the others, as long as this person wins this award I'll be happy."  Below is the list, in chronological order.

1. Robert DeNiro (Raging Bull)

The Academy may have dropped the ball in many other categories from 1980 (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor), but one award that absolutely went to the right guy was the Best Actor statuette.  Robert DeNiro's tormented, violent turn as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta remains his most famous performance, and it's also the most noted example of an actor altering his body shape for a film (DeNiro gained about sixty pounds for the later scenes in which LaMotta lets himself go and becomes a seedy nightclub owner).  Had anyone else walked away with this award it would've been a crime.

Key Scene: Probably the most purely visceral scene is the one in which LaMotta goes to prison and throws a self-loathing-induced fit, pounding the crap out of the cement wall and wailing like a madman.  I can't imagine an actor having to endure more than a single take of this scene.

2. Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda)

A rare case of a comedic performance outshining the competition, Kevin Kline's brilliantly hilarious turn as Otto provided dozens of quotable lines and managed to steal the show from comedy legends John Cleese and Michael Palin.  Kline brought to life a dimwitted character in the smartest way possible, with an amazingly nuanced, uproarious delivery.

Key Scene: Probably my favorite moment (and my favorite to quote) is the profanity-laced chain of insults Otto hurls at Archie (Cleese) after catching Archie with Wanda.  Such a magnificent tirade.

3. Kathy Bates (Misery)

Stephen King's thriller about a crazed fan taking her favorite author hostage was skillfully adapted by Rob Reiner in 1990, and the main reason the movie version worked so well was the performance of Kathy Bates.  A relative unknown at the time of her casting, Bates adeptly alternates between matronly warmth and terrifying emotional instability.  She is totally effective as this obsessed manic-depressive, but in a very realistic way, making the whole ordeal that much more harrowing.

Key Scene: Upon learning her guest Paul Sheldon has been out of his room, she ties Paul up and drugs him, and explains both her discovery, and his punishment.  The calmness she conveys as she prepares to hobble him is truly chilling.