Monday, May 21, 2018

Top Ten Things: Wrestling PPVs of the 90s

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at!

Today it's a countdown of the ten best PPV events of the 1990s!  In the middle of the decade the PPV calendar exploded, as the WWF and WCW were jockeying for position as the top wrestling company in North America.  What had been a sparse schedule of 4-5 PPVs a year turned into a monthly rotation of special events.  WCW expanded first, increasing their offerings to ten per year, which prompted the WWF to create two-hour PPVs to supplement their Big Five schedule.  The B-shows were dubbed In Your House, and each had a sub-title to distinguish them.  You all know the Monday Night War history - both companies raised the stakes on an almost weekly basis hoping to win the ratings battle, and by the end of 1997 each was offering a full 3-hour PPV every month.  The wrestling landscape evolved quickly and abruptly during this time period, and the product on both sides became a pop culture phenomenon, breaking buyrate records like crazy.

So which PPVs were the best of the decade?  Given the deep pool of shows to choose from it was tough narrowing it down, but I think I've assembled a list of ten that holds up quite well.  Here we go....

10. Royal Rumble '93

The 1993 Rumble had no right to be as good a show as it was.  Despite a very depleted roster the WWF managed an exceedingly fun Rumble PPV - from the fast-paced opening tag featuring WWF newcomers The Steiners vs. The Beverly Brothers, to the much-anticipated clash of former partners Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, to the excellent Bret Hart-Razor Ramon WWF Title match, the undercard was easily the strongest of any Rumble show to date.  The Rumble match itself suffered from a paper-thin lineup and very few viable contenders, but amazingly it was still a well-worked match with several memorable moments.  This was the year Yokozuna emerged from the pack to become the company's monster heel Champion, enjoying the longest run of any heel WWF Champ since the late 70s.  Even with very little star power the '93 Rumble boasted two good-to-great Title matches, two solid undercard matches, and a decent if thin Rumble match - hardly a thing to sneeze at.

9. Spring Stampede '94

WCW's last great PPV before its transformation into 80s WWF was this somewhat forgotten gem featuring a spectacular Ric Flair-Ricky Steamboat Title match that, while not quite on the level of their legendary 1989 trilogy, was still one of the best matches of 1994.  The two masters grappled to a grueling 32-minute draw which ended with a double pinfall.  Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel held up the Title pending a rematch on WCW Saturday Night, itself a stellar contest.  Elsewhere on the card Vader and The (Big) Boss(man) had a bruising 9-minute fight, Steve Austin defended the US Title against The Great Muta, and The Nasty Boys had a crazy Chicago Street Fight against Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne.  WCW was sadly about to lose its identity, but Spring Stampede hearkened back to the company's glory years with a consistently entertaining card capped off by a fantastic main event.

8. SuperBrawl II

In the early 90s WCW introduced a new annual PPV, SuperBrawl, which in many ways became the new flagship show.  Part of that had to do with Starrcade being repurposed as a BattleBowl special in '91 and '92, but also the early SuperBrawl PPVs had loaded match lineups with big-time main events.  Case in point was the second installment.  Leading off with a Brian Pillman-Jushin "Thunder" Liger Jr. Heavyweight classic set the tone for a memorable night.  After a few somewhat forgettable undercard bouts like Marcus Bagwell vs. Terry Taylor, Cactus Jack vs. Ron Simmons (which should've gotten more time), and Van Hammer/Z-Man vs. Richard Morton/Vinnie Vegas (which should've gotten less time), the show hit its stride with four big matchups in a row.  Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes faced Steve Austin and Larry Zbyszko, Tag Team Champs Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton defended against The Steiners, Rick Rude retained the US Title vs. Ricky Steamboat, and Sting regained the WCW Title over former best friend Lex Luger, who left for the WWF after this show.  While SB2 lacked a true Match of the Year contender, it was nevertheless a pretty unrelentingly good PPV with a lot of early 90s WCW star power.

Top Ten Things: Chris Cornell Albums

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things here at

Chris Cornell's suicide last week has left a ragged, gaping hole in the music world many of us are still struggling to come to terms with.  As my colleague Dan Moore talked about HERE, Cornell was a golden-throated force of nature, whose mindbending vocal range and soulful power were unmatched in rock music.  He rose to prominence as one of the pioneers of grunge but later explored genres as wide-ranging as singer/songwriter rock, adult contemporary, folk, and even dance pop.  Few artists have created such a wildly divergent body of work, and for me no other singer ever wielded his instrument with such effortless agility and emotive grace.  My coping mechanism has been to learn and record as many of his songs as I can and hope I do them even a modicum of justice (You be the judge).

But today I'll be talking about his amazing discography as I count down my ten favorite Cornell albums.  Here we go.....

10. Chris Cornell - Scream

Cornell's most divisive album was 2009's Scream, an electronic pop collaboration with hotshot producer Timbaland that combined Chris's rock songwriting sensibility with a hooky R&B sound.  The results were understandably mixed, but the album yielded some excellently written songs, like the bleakly syncopated "Time," the anthemic, strikingly mature love song "Never Far Away," and the title track, a gloomy ode to relationship strife.  While far from Cornell's best work, Scream showed an artist cheerfully exploring new territory and reinventing himself.

9. Soundgarden - King Animal

Cornell's grunge quartet had split in 1997 but reunited 13 years later for a tour, and began writing new music for their sixth studio album.  The result was King Animal, a safe but fairly triumphant return for one of the genre's earliest paradigms that fit right in with their previous output.  Album highlights included the Sabbathy "Blood on the Valley Floor," the eccentric, off-balance "Bones of Birds," the folky "Halfway There" which would've been at home on a Cornell solo record, and the classic Soundgarden feel of "Eyelid's Mouth."  It was a long time coming, but King Animal would be a worthy Soundgarden record and ultimately the band's final completed work.

8. Audioslave - Out of Exile

After his first solo album's disappointing commercial performance, Cornell was able to reinvigorate his career by forming a supergroup with three members of then-defunct Rage Against the Machine, creating an unusual groove-rock hybrid.  Their second album is our #8 entry on this list.  Released in 2005, Out of Exile may not have been the hard rock powderkeg of the band's debut, but it was a perfectly sturdy followup, providing trademark Tom Morello guitar riffs in songs like "Your Time Has Come" and the title track, and some gentler, more thoughtful tunes like "Be Yourself" and "Doesn't Remind Me."  Out of Exile built on the successful formula of the first record and in retrospect serves as a fine companion piece.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1997)

SuperBrawl VII - Cow Palace - 2.23.97

We've entered the first full year of the nWo era, when WCW was killing the WWF every week in the ratings.  Hogan & co. had taken the company by storm, winning most of the belts, and by this point even Eric Bischoff had joined the heel supergroup, which put them more or less "in charge" of everything.  It got to where nWo guys would lose a belt and Bischoff would just reverse the decision the next night and give the title back to his buddies.  This of course begs the question, "Why bother having the match then?"  But whatever, it was working like crazy for ratings in 1997.  Between that and the wild Cruiserweight action, Nitro had become destination TV, while RAW scrambled to counter it with anything they could think of.  The WCW PPVs on the other hand suffered a lot due to the overemphasis on storylines over in-ring action.  SuperBrawl VII is one such example...

Once again, Dusty Rhodes joined Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan on commentary, more often than not blathering on about god-knows-what and offering little to no insight.  No disrespect meant to Dusty, but as a color commentator he was approximately as bad as Booker T is now.

Syxx vs. Dean Malenko was a solid Cruiserweight opener, with Malenko out for revenge against Syxx for insulting his father.  Malenko laid into Mr. Waltman from the opening bell and dominated the first half, even pulling Syxx up during two early pin attempts so he could inflict more punishment.  Syxx came back in the second half and was about to hit Dean with the belt until Eddie Guerrero ran down and tried to yank the belt away, only to lose his grip on it, allowing Syxx to whack Malenko in the face and score the pin.  A decent match but already with the run-ins??

Gee, I wonder where this is gonna go....

Next up was a lucha showcase six-man with Konnan, La Parka and Villano IV facing Juventud Guerrera, Super Calo and Ciclone.  This was your basic late 90s spotfest with everyone doing as much as possible in nine minutes.  At one point Ciclone went for a twisting Asai moonsault and completely missed Villano, landing on his face on the floor.  Late in the match they broke out some over-the-top moves that involved all six guys (like four of them doing "The Star" while La Parka put Guerrera in a Mexican surfboard in the center).  Finally Konnan nailed Juvi with Splash Mountain to win a pretty sloppy but mildly entertaining schmozz.

The next two matches were shaping up to be solid outings until outside nonsense happened.  TV Champion Prince Iaukea defended against Rey Mysterio in a fun little match that featured crisp action and some nice death-defying lucha stuff from Rey.  But then Steven Regal showed up at the end and cost Rey the match, pulling him off the ring apron in such a way that Rey hit his face on the apron and Iaukea was able to just pin him.  Stupid ending to a decent bout.

Chris Cornell: July 20, 1964 – May 17, 2017

By Dan Moore

Another rock legend, gone far, far too soon. 

You knew when you were listening to Chris Cornell the second his 'voice' was heard. I use voice in quotations as I believe whatever that man had living in his vocal chords was more a force of nature than a mere voice like us common folk. His multi-octave screech could be heard for miles, be it from your radio or live in concert.

Cornell died last night amid circumstances that are still up in the air. But that’s neither here nor there. If it turns out that his personal demons were enough that he decided there was only one way out, then the end of his life was as dark as his middle years were bright.  

He came from the Seattle grunge scene with Soundgarden, along with other great Seattle bands, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney & Screaming Trees, among many, many others. But his sound was far and away the most unique. That distinctive screech of his is something you didn’t just hear, you absorbed. One of the first songs I ever heard him sing was “Birth Ritual”.

Try going back to your pop songs after that one. 

After hearing that, the quest was on to collect as much Soundgarden as possible. Superunknown was the first album I bought by them, but that was quickly followed by Badmotorfinger, which I consider their magnum opus. It has the classics “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Rusty Cage” & my personal favorite, "Searching with My Good Eye Closed". The Temple of the Dog followed that. It was a collaboration of Pearl Jam & Cornell. Essentially, Cornell fronting Pearl Jam for an album. And my god, it’s glorious.

But Cornell was more than grunge, as he proved with a later solo career, which was anything but routine. His solo outings ranged from rock to blues to pop to, no shit, an almost hip hop like album, Scream. He had no real genre that could define him.

And, get this, when he decided to go back into straight ROCK MAN, he fronted a new band, Audioslave, which was him DESTROYING vocals in front of Rage Against the Machine. That’s right, he decided to rock out with one of the best rock bands in the world at the time. No big whoop. He could do no wrong.

In these most recent years, he had continued his solo work and got back together with the band he’ll be most known for, Soundgarden. I’ll remember him as that small looking guy with that gigantic tornado sound emanating from his throat. He was a legit one of a kind talent, and the musical world is so much smaller now without him in it. 

Say Hello to Heaven...

Friday, May 18, 2018

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.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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??

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1993)

Welcome to the third 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.

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1991)

Welcome to another PPV History series!  Today we'll be talking about WCW's secondary tentpole show, SuperBrawl!

Introduced in 1991, SuperBrawl was obviously meant as a flagship show on par with Starrcade.  The first edition was in May of that year before it was moved to February going forward.  In many cases SuperBrawl featured rematches from the previous Starrcade, and in some cases, particularly when Starrcade had a non-traditional format, SuperBrawl felt like the bigger show.

But let's take a look at the full history of this PPV series.....

SuperBrawl - Bayfront Arena - 5.19.91

The inaugural show was built around an international rematch from the WCW/NJPW Supershow, where Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World Title, but not the WCW World Title.  This was during the messy NWA-to-WCW transition period, where the lineage of the two championships was muddy at best (New Japan only recognized the NWA Title in the first match).  So a rematch was signed to reunify the belts, but in the US only the WCW Title was acknowledged for some reason.  The PPV was loaded up with 12 matches, several of which could've easily been trimmed, but still had some worthy bouts, particularly toward the end.

The show opened with The Fabulous Freebirds vs. the Young Pistols in a decent little tag bout for the vacant US Tag belts.  Pistols got screwed thanks to outside interference.  Nothing compared to the Pistols' match with the Midnight Express, but solid enough.

Dan Spivey vs. Ricky Morton was a shockingly entertaining squash, and what's more shocking is how agile Spivey used to be.  If only that Dan Spivey had played Waylon Mercy, he'd have been a great upper midcard heel in the WWF.

Nikita Koloff vs. Tommy Rich was another glorified squash to get Koloff over again as a monster heel.  Rich's career high took place when he won the NWA Title at 21.  He never got pushed hard again.

Dustin Rhodes vs. Terrence Taylor was pretty good.  Dustin looked more jacked than I ever remember seeing him.  He'd just returned to WCW and got an undefeated streak, which continued here after failed outside interference from Mr. Hughes.  I definitely underrated Dustin for many years, as even in a minor undercard match he could go.

Two pointless squashes followed, taking valuable time away from the real bouts.  Big Josh (soon to be Doink the Clown) beat Black Bart, and Oz (soon to be Vinnie Vegas, later to be Diesel, later to be Kevin Nash, later to be Mr. Quad Tear) killed Tim Parker.  Why anyone thought these were PPV-worthy I don't know.

Lotta blood

A shockingly good Taped Fist match was next (what a dumb stipulation) as Barry Windham beat the piss out of Brian Pillman.  Both guys bled early and this had some pretty violent action, particularly a spot where Windham pulled Pillman off the entrance ramp and carried him down head-first on the security railing.  Looked great.  For only six minutes this was pretty damn good.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1992)

Welcome back to The History of WCW SuperBrawl!

SuperBrawl II - Milwaukee Theater - 2.29.92

The second edition was a streamlined eight-match show that made great use of WCW's thinning roster and put the focus back on a strong in-ring product.  1992 was the year the company got back to basics and this show set the tone.  Flair's 1991 departure had left a huge hole in the roster and this was where that wound finally started healing over.  Jesse Ventura made his WCW debut on this show and it's great now to hear him and Jim Ross as a broadcast team.  Interestingly Ventura was the first to point out that if Ross wore a cowboy hat he'd look like JR from Dallas.  I think Vince owes Ventura credit for Ross's WWF marketability as Good Ol' JR.

Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Brian Pillman was a goddamn helluvan opening match, for the Light Heavyweight Title.  This match showcased all kinds of action North American fans weren't yet accustomed to and helped introduce Liger to a new audience.  There was a miscue or two but overall this was full of great false finishes and big high spots.  Pillman won with a bridging leg cradle after Liger missed a top-rope splash.

This was crazy goddamn stuff for 1992

Second was Terry Taylor, under the Ted Dibiase-esque "Taylor Made Man" persona, against Marcus Bagwell.  What really should've been a throwaway was actually pretty entertaining while it lasted.  The ending was totally flat and felt like a mistake (the wrestlers even kept going after the pin was counted), but otherwise not too bad.

Cactus Jack vs. Ron Simmons was next and these two beat the hell out of each other for six-and-a-half minutes.  Much like Pillman vs. Windham the year before, this was way better than its running time would suggest.  Damn good slugfest.

Mankind beats up Faarooq

The one match I was dreading was Van Hammer & Tom Zenk vs. Richard Morton & Vinnie Vegas, but actually this was not as bad as it looked on paper.  The action was fine when Zenk and/or Morton was in the ring but Kevin Nash was pretty bad in 1992.  I'm not sure why they thought turning Morton heel was ever a good idea.  This went longer than it should've but it was still watchable.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Parents' Night In #7: Wayne's World (1992)

Kelly and Justin are back with another beloved comedy, Wayne's World, starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey!

Join us on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (@EnuffaDotCom), and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Jurassic Park

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I dissect a beloved classic and explain why it doesn't quite hold up for me the way it does for everyone else, while also demonstrating why most of my friends don't like me.

Today it's Steven Spielberg's 1993 megahit Jurassic Park.  Based on Michael Crichton's 1990 novel (also called Jurassic Park), Jurassic Park tells the story of an eccentric billionaire who gets the bright idea to open an ecological preserve on a remote island near Costa Rica.  The rub is that this preserve is populated with DINOSAURS!  That's right, a team of scientists has recovered fossilized mosquitoes containing dinosaur blood, from which DNA has been extracted and complemented with genetic material from frogs to create a whole new race of giant lizards (ahem, bird ancestors)!  The billionaire flies in a team of scientists and a lawyer, plus his grandchildren, to evaluate the park so they can get the go-ahead from the investors to open the place to the public.  Of course all the dinosaurs get out and all hell breaks loose, and what ensues is one of the most successful blockbusters of all time, which spawned three sequels and counting.

So why can't I just sit back and enjoy the goddamn dinosaur movie you ask?  Well, read on and I'll lay it all out for ya.  Here we go....

The Awesome

Fucking Dinosaurs!

Jurassic Park was the first movie in a long time to portray dinosaurs in a realistic way, and it's light years ahead of every film before it in that respect.  The dinosaurs in this film look and sound amazing.  They're scary, they're awesome, they're occasionally funny, and they have little behavioral quirks like real animals do.  The blend of state-of-the-art animatronics and early CG almost totally holds up to this day, and represents one of a long list of spectacular achievements by ILM.  When we sat in that theater in 1993, we were plunged into a world of goddamn fucking dinosaurs and it was incredible.

My god, just LOOK AT IT.

Jeff Goldblum

The one actor who steals the show from the dinos, if such a thing is possible, is Jeff Goldblum as the peculiar, sardonic mathematician (chaotician, chaotician) Ian Malcolm.  Malcolm provides most of the film's humor but also has several great lines and speeches about how dangerous the idea of a dinosaur park is, both in the immediate sense and in the long-term.  From the comedic standpoint he's basically the Han Solo of Jurassic Park, and his character was so popular they made him the lead in the sequel, despite Malcolm having been killed off in the original novel.  Yes, Michael Crichton had to resurrect Malcolm via retcon in the The Lost World so Goldbum could be in that film.  Of course in the second movie he's a total wet blanket and nowhere near as cool as in the first.  Goldblum would essentially reprise this role in Independence Day as well.

You might be cool, but you'll never be
Ian Malcolm backlit by a projector, wearing sunglasses inside cool.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Top Ten Things: Wrestling PPVs of the 80s

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at, where I count down the ten best whatevers.....

Hey, who remembers a time when there wasn't a PPV or "special event" every 2-3 weeks and wrestling promotions could actually build their big shows up for months at a time?  Back in the 80s during the dawn of PPV, most of the big matches took place at house shows and occasionally on free TV specials like Saturday Night's Main Event.  But a few times a year the WWF and the NWA would assemble a card so big and so special it could only be seen on TV if you paid for it.  Initially the PPV calendar only included 1-2 shows, but by the end of the decade the WWF had established a Big Four, while the NWA expanded to five events.  Here now are the ten best PPVs of the 1980s....

10. SummerSlam '89

The sophomore SummerSlam holds a special place for me.  It was far from a perfect show but at the time it just felt like a big deal, and from a star power perspective it was a pretty stacked PPV.  I was at the Saturday Night's Main Event taping a month prior when the company started building in earnest toward SummerSlam, so I really got into the hype for this show.  The main event was like an updated version of the '88 edition except now Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were on opposite sides, tagging up with Brutus Beefcake and Zeus, respectively.  The match was similar in tone to the previous year's main event - lighthearted, with a feelgood ending.  But the undercard was where this show really shined.  From the amazing Hart Foundation-Brain Busters opening tag, to the Rockers/Tito vs. Rougeaus/Martel six-man melee, to the fantastic Rick Rude-Ultimate Warrior Intercontinental Title rematch, SummerSlam '89 delivered big where it counted.  Sure there were some throwaways, but overall this is still a very fun watch.

9. Starrcade '83

Technically this wasn't a PPV event, but I'm still including it since it was the prototype for the medium.  Before the phenomenon known as WrestleMania swept the country (and later the world), Jim Crockett Promotions assembled what was at the time the biggest televised wrestling event in history.  Headlined by an epic Harley Race-Ric Flair cage match for the NWA Title, with a brutal Roddy Piper-Greg Valentine dog collar match and an athletic Brisco Brothers-Steamboat/Youngblood Tag Title bout, the inaugural Starrcade had more than its share of memorable early 80s action.  While the first half of the show could certainly be deemed forgettable, the big matches are all considered timeless classics.  On November 24, 1983 the NWA gave birth to the modern supercard, and it still makes for a fascinating pro wrestling history lesson.

8. Halloween Havoc '89

The first Halloween Havoc is sentimental for me because it was the first PPV event I ever ordered.  Why I chose this particular show as my first I'm not exactly sure, but it was actually a pretty stacked PPV with a ton of NWA star power.  The action-packed main event was the first-ever Thunderdome cage match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta.  Elsewhere on the show, Lex Luger and Brian Pillman nearly stole the show for the US Title, The Road Warriors and the Skyscrapers engaged in a monster slugfest, the Steiners faced the brand new masked team called Doom, and The Midnight Express teamed with Steve Williams in a wild battle against the three-man Samoan Swat Team.  I consider HH'89 a bit of a forgotten gem, as it was one of the most consistently entertaining shows of a pretty packed NWA calendar year.

Top Ten Things: May PPV Matches

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

Today I'll be talkin' wrestling (What a shock), specifically the ten best PPV matches to have taken place in the month of May.  WWE's PPV calendar has only included May for the past 20 years, but those two decades have yielded some veritable classics.  I've also included multiple New Japan matches, from their annual May event Wrestling Dontaku.  .....And that's enough of an intro.  Let's get to it!

10. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - Judgment Day - 5.20.01

In 2001 the two best technical wrestlers in the WWF began a rivalry that would last nearly two years on and off.  After a 14-minute gem at WrestleMania 17 and a 30-minute Submission match the following month, Angle and Benoit faced off at Judgment Day in a Three Stages of Hell match, where the first fall would be a standard match, the second would be submission-only, and the third would be a Ladder Match for Angle's Olympic Gold Medal.  Benoit would quickly win the first fall (probably too quickly) but Angle came back to take the second and third (with help from Edge & Christian) in a tremendous match.  The two would resume their feud in late 2002 and add several other classics to their respective resumes.

9. Prince Devitt vs. Low-Ki - Wrestling Dontaku - 5.3.12

This Jr. Heavyweight Title match stole the show at the 2012 Dontaku PPV, starting out meticulously but gradually ramping up the intensity and high-risk offense.  Both guys showed why they're more than just small spotfest wrestlers, as this match was full of drama and psychology.  In the second half of the match they broke out the innovative offense and quick reversals, and after twenty minutes (not to mention both guys kicking out of each other's finishers) Low-Ki won with a Ki Krusher.  One of several New Japan classics from the future Finn Balor.

8. The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules - 5.4.14

One of the best feuds of 2014 culminated in this enormous six-man tag at Extreme Rules, between the dominant anti-establishment trio known as The Shield, and Triple H's reformed stable of former WWE Champs, Evolution.  This rivalry reminded me of the old Road Warriors vs. Four Horsement battles, and this match was a crazy melee that went all over the arena.  The final moments of the match saw Seth Rollins leap off the loge entranceway onto his enemies, in the bout's most memorable moment.  With four of the six men occupied outside, Reigns finished Batista back in the ring with the Superman punch/Spear combination to end a fantastic brawl.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Top Ten Things: Marvel Cinematic Universe Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  This being the tenth anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the release of the climactic Avengers: Infinity War (part 1 of 2), I thought I'd take a look at the MCU series and pick my ten favorites.  

Partly inspired by the rebooted Avengers series The Ultimates, the MCU had a rather modest launch in 2008 with the somewhat unexpected smash hit Iron Man (which ONLY pulled in a measly $585 million worldwide).  If you asked me ten years ago if I thought Tony Stark and his suped-up metal rocket suit would become a household name and the central character of a 19-movie series I'd have laughed all up in your face.  The average moviegoer back then hadn't clue fucking one who Iron Man was, aside maybe from "some guy made of iron."  That Marvel was able to take such a comparatively obscure superhero and use him as the backbone of this extended, multi-billion-dollar film series is astonishing.  That a decade later they found even more success with an even more obscure character like Black Panther speaks to how focused and diligent Marvel Studios is in producing quality, crowd-pleasing popcorn film entertainment.  Where most blockbuster film franchises are subject to the law of diminishing creative and commercial returns, Marvel has somehow managed to actually improve on their formula over time, taking this universe in new, unexpected tonal directions and even making pop culture icons out of third and fourth-string comic book characters.  This is a film company with discipline, attention to detail, and a thorough understanding of the dozens of characters involved, plus a comprehensive long-term vision for exploring them.  The result (so far) is $16.5 billion over 19 films.  An incredible accomplishment, and there's much more to come.

But which are the best of the bunch?  Let's count 'em down.....

10. The Avengers: Age of Ultron

While perhaps a bit disappointing compared to its predecessor, the second Avengers film was nonetheless an enjoyable potboiler in the same spirit as the first, with our heroes teaming up to fight an omniscient robot named Ultron.  Created by Tony Stark, Ultron becomes self-aware and goes all Skynet, attempting to destroy humanity to "cleanse" the Earth.  The six Avengers, plus Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Stark's other creation Vision, engage in a battle with Ultron's robot army in Sokovia, where Ultron intends to crash the capital city into the planet to cause an extinction-level event.  AoU is a tad messier than the first Avengers film but still has a lot of fun set pieces, such as the scene where a hypnotized Hulk fights Iron Man in a Hulkbuster suit (reminiscent of a similar sequence in The Ultimates comic book series).  I also liked the new additions to the team, and James Spader as Ultron's voice delivers a delightfully sinister performance.  Age of Ultron is a flawed but worthy culmination of MCU Phase 2.

9. Avengers: Infinity War

The latest MCU epic is the first half of the Phase 3 climax, centered around Thanos's plot to acquire the six Infinity stones, allowing him to eradicate half of all life in the universe and "restore balance."  The Avengers have put their Civil War aside to stand in Thanos's way, assisted by the Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man and Black Panther.  Nearly every established MCU character is present in this 150-minute film, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo do a pretty stellar job of making this overcrowded movie work, while leaving lots unresolved for the second half.  As a standalone film it's hard to judge Infinity War, but as part 1 of a season finale of sorts, this is pretty damn good stuff that mixes exciting action, heavy thematic and character elements, and signature MCU comedy moments.  Overall it's an affirmation that the Marvel film series is in very capable hands.

For a more in-depth look at Infinity War, click HERE.

8. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Leave it to Marvel Studios to do what, for me at least, Sony never could: produce a Spider-Man movie that really captures the character as presented in the comics, starring an actor who fully nails the portrayal.  The third film incarnation of the web-slinger in 15 years, Homecoming stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spidey and expands on his brief appearance in Civil War.  Parker was thrilled to assist the Avengers and has been pestering Tony Stark and his right-hand man Happy Hogan ever since, hoping to officially join the team.  Stark insists Parker isn't ready to be a full-fledged member and urges him to stay in school while fighting small-scale neighborhood crime.  Where his movie forerunners were either overly dorky (Tobey Maguire) or overly emo (James Garfield), Holland is note-perfect in this role, finding just the right mix of smart-aleck geekdom and naive enthusiasm.  Just as much of a standout though is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes (The Vulture), a city contractor who has a very valid beef with Stark Industries and begins selling advanced weapons fashioned from Chitauri technology (recovered from Loki's 2012 attack on New York).  Keaton is legitimately scary as the film's villain, particularly in a scene where he and Peter each realize who the other is.  Homecoming is everything one could want out of a Spider-Man film, improving immensely on the two previous versions and tying in nicely with the larger movie arc.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

WWE vs. NJPW Supercard IV

Welcome to the Fourth Annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard, here at!  Back in 2015 I pondered what would happen if the two biggest wrestling companies in the world went head-to-head, and the following year I decided to turn it into an annual event.  Both promotions currently boast their most stacked rosters in ages, and it's gotten to the point that just picking who should be included here is becoming a challenge.  I think I've risen to said challenge, but you be the judge.  Let's see which company is superior these days, shall we?

Take a look at the three previous editions here: 2015  2016  2017

The Bar vs. The Young Bucks

Sheamus & Cesaro have become one of WWE's most accomplished tag teams over the past two years, winning numerous championships and cementing their place as one of the RAW tag division's cornerstones.  That such an unlikely duo was able to find lasting success is a testament to the versatility and staying power of both stars.  It's possible we'll eventually see prime singles runs for Sheamus and Cesaro, but for now they've carved out a helluva niche as RAW's most durable team.

What can be said about The Young Bucks?  They're the most innovative tandem in wrestling, having eschewed the WWE machine for years to become major drawing cards just about everywhere else.  Their grassroots success has served as the prototype for making it outside WWE, and they continue to produce countless in-ring classics year after year.  I'd like to see them move up to the IWGP Heavyweight Tag division since they've won the Jr. Tag belts so many times; it would create a ton of first-time matchups and really solidify their legacy as one of the all-time great teams.

This opening match would be fast and furious, pitting the Bucks' blazing aerial assault against The Bar's gritty, pummeling offense.  After 12 minutes of nonstop action, look for The Bar's power to be the difference maker, as the bulky Sheamus slips out of a More Bang For Your Buck attempt and drops on all fours for Cesaro to launch himself off Sheamus's back and level Nick Jackson with a European Uppercut.  Sheamus then spikes Matt with a Brogue Kick for the sudden win.

Winner: The Bar

Finn Balor vs. Will Ospreay

Finn has struggled to win WWE gold since his 2016 shoulder injury forced him to relinquish his newly won Universal Championship, but he's gotten very close many times.  He's been featured in numerous high profile #1 contender matches, bested Bray Wyatt in their feud, defeated AJ Styles in a RAW vs. Smackdown dream match, and been the long man in the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.  Balor remains a threat to both major RAW championships, and is also one of RAW's most popular and consistent upper-card stars.

It's a testament to NJPW's Jr. Heavyweight division that WWE has no Cruiserweight equivalent to the impossibly gifted Will Opsreay (or Kushida, or Takahashi, or Marty Scurll).  The current Jr. Heavyweight Champion has had a hugely successful year, nearly repeating his 2016 Super Juniors tournament win in a bona fide MOTY candidate against Kushida in 2017 before finally unseating him later that year for the title.  He dropped the belt to longtime rival Marty Scurll only a month later but regained it at the Tokyo Dome and defeated Scurll one-on-one in a rematch this spring, following that up with another win over Kushida.  Ospreay is pound-for-pound one of the absolute best in the world and continues to push the envelope, always delivering ****+ classics that showcase his unparalleled athleticism.

This showdown would be an aerial masterwork.  No stranger to Jr. Heavyweight bouts, Balor would be well within his element, attempting to temper Ospreay's high flying and bring the match down to a moderate pace.  After several minutes of Balor controlling the tempo, Ospreay breaks free and scores a flurry of high-risk offense, culminating in a match-ending OsCutter at the 14-minute mark.

Winner: Will Ospreay

Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal: When Logic Goes Bye-Bye

Alright, so to recap the events of the past two days: Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe had a main event match at Backlash.  A main event match that was so dull, so plodding, that many fans in attendance LEFT THE SHOW THEY'D PAID FOR, before the match was over.  The thinking is that Samoa Joe, despite being a heel, is such a well-respected in-ring worker that his usual well-rounded offense would be counterproductive in getting Roman Reigns over as a babyface, because the crowd would cheer Joe and boo Roman.  Yes, the same Roman Reigns that Vince McMahon has been unsuccessfully trying to get over as a babyface for FOUR YEARS now.  Vince's thinking was apparently that if Joe wrestled a boring, one-dimensional 70s heel style replete with uninteresting rest holds, that Reigns's eventual comeback would be met with enthusiastic cheers by the WWE faithful.  Now look, I get that you generally don't want your heel doing anything so flashy that the crowd likes him more than the babyface.  But in what alternate reality does Vince live where the heel putting on the most boring match possible will magically make everyone cheer the babyface, WHEN THEY HAVEN'T BEEN CHEERING HIM FOR FOUR YEARS?

So this plan obviously didn't work, as illustrated by the walkouts during the main event of a PPV.  You'd think this would give the man pause long enough for him to think, "Hmm, the crowd hated Roman's WrestleMania main event, and people actually walked out of his Backlash main event.  Maybe it's time to try something else."


Last night on RAW they started a feud between Roman Reigns.......and fucking Jinder Mahal.  Yes, the same Jinder Mahal who proved himself more or less cosmically inept in the ring during his 2017 main event push, and actually HURT ticket sales in the one country his push was designed to attract them.  Vince McMahon actually thinks the millions of fans who have booed Roman Reigns unmercifully the past four years will suddenly go "Oh, Roman's feuding with that hack now?  Yay, go Roman!!" 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Movie Review: Avengers Infinity War (2018)

The first half of the MCU's climax is in the books.  Avengers: Infinity War is a monumental, sweeping epic, with literally dozens of characters teaming up, traversing the cosmos, searching for various objects, and of course trying to stop Thanos from acquiring the six Infinity stones and annihilating half the entire universe.  This film, directed by the Russo brothers (of The Winter Soldier and Civil War fame), certainly tests the limits of how much content can be packed into a superhero movie before it bursts.  Amazingly it succeeds for the most part, thanks largely to Marvel's patience in building up all these characters over the past decade so their introductions here can be kept in shorthand.  We don't need long expositional scenes involving Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, etc. because the other films in the series have prepared us for a headlong dive into this particular episode.  In the hands of lesser filmmakers, Infinity War would be an incomprehensible mess, but this film flows nicely from one episode to the next, with our heroes split up into smaller groups across the galaxy, each objective fitting into the larger context.

The plot this time centers around Thanos, introduced briefly in the first Avengers film (via a post-credits cameo) and more thoroughly in the first Guardians of the Galaxy.  Thanos's home planet Titan was once a thriving utopia, but due to overpopulation became ravaged by decay and destruction; he now believes the only solution to preserving balance in the universe is to thin out the herd across the board.  While this once again falls somewhat into the "doomsday weapon" scenario, Thanos is a bit different from your run-of-the-mill popcorn movie villain.  He's given understandable motivation for his psychotic plan and even presented with some pathos.  Ultimately of course the success or failure of this character falls on the shoulders of Josh Brolin, who delivers a measured, note-perfect motion-capture performance as the gigantic purple overlord.  Brolin doesn't overplay anything; his captured facials are subtle and at times even touching (Brolin and Zoe Saldana's Gamora share some of the film's most poignant scenes).  And it's a good thing Thanos works so well, because he's effectively the lead character, almost certainly getting more screen time than any one of the dozens of protagonists - if you're looking for a deep exploration of Steve Rogers or Tony Stark for example, this isn't your kinda movie. 

Our heroes in this film don't get a ton of opportunities to steal the show from each other, but the Guardians come closest, providing many of the movie's ample comedic moments; this intergalactic group of misfits remain one of my favorite aspects of the MCU.  Other minor standouts include Chris Hemsworth's Thor, who gets more to do than in either of the previous Avengers outings, Tom Holland's Spider-Man, who has wonderful chemistry with Tony Stark, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, finding himself in a battle of sardonic wits with Stark but also cursed with knowledge the others lack.

WWE Backlash 2018: Seriously, What Are You Doing?

Welp, leave it to WWE to take a surefire good PPV and make it not good.  I won't say Backlash was horrible like many reviews are, but it was sure as shit disappointing, mostly because of (big shock here) stupid booking decisions.  I felt like the Royal Rumble (the real one in January, not the superfluous one in Saudi Arabia), Elimination Chamber and FastLane were all well-booked shows that were elevated by adhering to logic and mostly giving the audience what they wanted.  Then with WrestleMania the decision-makers (Vince) went insane and threw together multiple nonsensical finishes which hurt match quality AND pissed people off.  And they haven't recovered from it since.  Vince ran out of his meds apparently, and is on a waiting list to get more.  WWE could fuck up a peanut butter sandwich.....

Backlash started out so promisingly, with an excellent Seth Rollins-Miz bout for the Intercontinental Title.  Harkening back to the days when that belt really carried importance (with Seth holding it and delivering matches like this it certainly could again), this was dramatic, athletic, and the crowd bought into every minute of it.  How Seth isn't Vince's pick for The Guy instead of Roman is beyond me.  Seth is better than Roman in literally every respect, and while not as bulky, has a fantastic look.  More importantly, the fans actually LIKE Seth.  Just look at the reactions for this match vs. the main event.  This match got as much time as just about anything on the show and built to a fever pitch after Seth missed a Revolution Knee on the apron, drilling his own knee into the ring post.  Miz then locked in the Figure Four and we were treated to one of the most intense Figure Four spots in recent memory, as Seth fought the pain for a long time before eventually reversing the move.  This was so well done I thought we actually might see Miz tap out from the reversed F4, something I don't think we've ever seen.  They ended up in the ropes however, and the match continued until Seth hobbled around just long enough to hit the Curb Stomp for the win.  If Seth gets to keep this title long-term his reign could be in the same conversation as Bret Hart's or Randy Savage's.  This is how you book an Intercontinental Champion.

The show would never reach this level of quality again.

Next up was the Nia Jax-Alexa Bliss rematch, which was on par with their 'Mania bout.  So quite solid.  Alexa's stellar heel character work adds storytelling heft to her matches, even if mechanically they aren't perfect.  They may have booked Jax to struggle a bit too much considering the size difference, but this match was engaging and had some cool spots, like Bliss DDTing Jax on the ring steps.  Jax eventually retained with a Samoan Drop and cut a fairly awkard promo about bullying.  Don't get me wrong, I agree with the sentiment, but Jax's mic delivery needs a lot of work and of course the promo was written very hamfistedly.  Overall, another good showing from Bliss and Jax.

Third was Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton, in a perfectly serviceable but not terribly memorable US Title match.  Like, off the top of my head I remember the finish and that's about it.  I was glad to see Hardy retain since he can have some decent title matches with the Smackdown challengers.  Orton has long since ceased to interest me and I'm not even sure what you can do with him at this point.  His character and his in-ring style are horribly ill-suited to being a babyface and he comes across as not at all motivated.  Anyway, this was fine but nothing more.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Top Ten Things: Christian Bale Roles

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I rattle off ten things I like (Duh...).

Today I'll be talking about probably my favorite film actor in the world today, the eminently gifted Christian Bale.  I first became aware of Bale in 2000 (I'd seen him in a couple films prior to that but had no idea who he was), and from that point I was fascinated by this charismatic, chameleonic actor.  For a few years it seemed he'd simply be a cult hero, but starting in 2005 he became a household name playing one of the most iconic characters of all time.  Since then his filmography has been a mesmerizing blend of crowd-pleasing blockbusters and smaller, more challenging roles, but the constant throughout has been Bale's complete dedication to the characters he portrays.  Known for wildly changing his appearance and accent for each role, Bale often becomes unrecognizable from film to film, and for me it makes each new performance an event.

Here are my ten favorite Christian Bale performances.....

10. Dan Evans (3:10 to Yuma)

This 2007 remake starred Russell Crowe as adventurous, charming outlaw Ben Wade, and Bale in the somewhat thankless role of rancher Dan Evans, deputized to bring him to justice.  But even as the taciturn protagonist Bale still imbued his character with considerable pathos and we root for him to succeed over the much more outgoing villain.  A lesser actor might've played Evans as a morose bore, but Bale's natural onscreen magnetism makes his character an honorable, reluctant hero and an excellent foil for the bankrobbing assassin.

9. Alfred Borden/Fallon (The Prestige)

Bale's character in Christopher Nolan's period piece makes an unexpected transition from shifty tortured artist to sympathetic protagonist.  The Prestige centers around Alfred Borden's professional-turned-personal rivalry with fellow magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), and at the outset Bale's character seems the clear antagonist, seemingly so consumed with his profession that he cannot relate to other people.  But as the film progresses we sympathize more with Borden and his ingenieur Fallon, as Angier's obsession with destroying Borden consumes him.  Bale adeptly handles this character transition (as well as the surprise double role), manipulating our sympathies with prodigious skill.  Incidentally Borden is the only character on this list whom Bale played with anything close to his real Welsh accent.

8. Michael Burry (The Big Short)

Contributing to Bale's reputation as a chameleon was his Oscar-nominated turn as eccentric investor Michael Burry, the antisocial drumming enthusiast with a glass eye from The Big Short.  Much of his screen time in this film was spent behind his desk and on the phone with various colleagues and bankers, but Bale made the character both memorable and amusing, as Burry comes off as the smartest (and weirdest) dude in the room.  As the film wears on, Burry goes from a cocksure know-it-all to quietly increasing desperation; the housing bubble he's predicted will burst shows no signs of doing so until after he's lost himself and his colleagues millions.  As usual Bale conveys this character arc with a proficient dedication to the character.