Thursday, December 12, 2019

WWE TLC 2019 Preview & Predictions

It's time once again to predict a WWE PPV that the company has deemed unworthy of announcing a full lineup ahead of time.  This Sunday is the annual Tables, Ladders & Chairs event, and we have a terribly underwhelming seven matches announced three days out.  Missing are several of the company's top stars, such as Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Bayley, and others.  I don't understand what this company is doing anymore.


So yeah, just like with Hell in a Cell two months ago, WWE is taking for granted that their audience will watch a minor PPV event sight-partly-unseen.  Seven matches is better than three, but how hard is it to plan three weeks of television so that the entire card can be made clear by the final week?  I'm assuming the obvious Rollins-Owens match isn't happening yet, even though it's been set up already.  Kinda like Roman vs. Bryan should've happened at either SummerSlam or Clash of Champions.  The way this company works I fully expect Rollins and Owens to be teaming together in two months...

Let's get this over with.



Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy


After six-plus months of literally doing nothing with the guy, they're finally giving Aleister a goddamn PPV match.  And it's against a more-than-capable opponent, so I expect good things out of this.  'Course they'll probably end up bumping it to the pre-show just to piss me off.  But as of now this is one of three matches I'm interested in.

Pick: Black obviously wins this





Tables Match: Bobby Lashley vs. Rusev


Jeezus H. Christ do I not give a shit about this.  WWE should just stop doing love triangle-type angles; I'm pretty sure the only good one ever was Triple H-Steph-Angle, which still ended badly.  This feud has been full of nonsensical crap, like Lashley being arrested after Rusev violated his restraining order.  On top of all that, Tables Matches are dumb.

Pick: I hope it's Rusev so this nonsense can finally end.  It's been what, three months?



The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1999)

This right here is one of the worst wrestling shows I've ever seen.....

Starrcade '99 - MCI Center - 12.19.99
By late 1999 the wheels were fully off the WCW wagon, and the company decided to steal away the WWF's two head writers, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, in the hopes that their supposed magic could save WCW.  The problem was of course that without Vince McMahon and others as filters for Russo's wacky Crash TV style, there was no magic.  Instead Russo and Ferrara made a bad product even worse, and it was reflected in this parody of a flagship PPV.  Abbreviated matches, gratuitous run-ins, nonsensical finishes, it was all plainly on display at Starrcade '99, one of the worst PPVs I've ever had to endure.

It should be noted this was the third consecutive Starrcade held at the MCI Center, and their attendance dropped from 17,500 in 1997 to 16,000 in 1998 to 8600 in 1999 (to 6600 in 2000).  Yeesh.

The Mamalukes faced Disco Inferno & Lash Leroux in a watchable tag match to open the show.  Vito and Johnny the Bull had pretty crisp offense, but their mob gimmick was pretty goofy.  This was inoffensive, which is more than I can say for basically the rest of the show.

The next ten matches were assorted piles of puke, starting with Madusa vs. Evan Karagias for the Cruiserweight Title.  This was in the era when intergender matches were fairly common, and watching them now is pretty uncomfortable.  Madusa won in 3:30 after Evan's valet Spice turned on him.

Next was the Hardcore Title match between Norman Smiley and Meng.  Late '99 WCW involved numerous attempts by Vince Russo to out-WWF the WWF, and the newly formed Hardcore division was one of those.  Sadly WCW's HC division consisted almost entirely of comedy matches.  This was mildly amusing but ultimately pointless.  Smiley retained after Fit Finlay and Brian Knobbs knocked Meng out with a lead pipe.

One good match out of thirteen.  What are the odds?

Shane Douglas's Revolution stable was next, against Jim Duggan and three mystery partners, who turned out to be the reformed Varsity Club.  Yes, in 1999 WCW trotted out a midcard stable from a decade earlier.  This match was wretched (as was Shane's over-the-top commentary) and ended with the Varsity Club turning on Duggan, allowing the injured Douglas to get the pin.  However the VC continued beating up members of Revolution all the same.  Ok then....

More bad comedy followed as Vampiro took on Steve Williams, with Oklahoma (you remember, Ed Ferrara doing a tasteless one-joke Jim Ross impression) locked in a cage.  If Vampiro won, he'd get five minutes with Okie.  Williams got himself disqualified after five minutes of brawling, leading to a three-minute Vampiro-Oklahoma match that was apparently No DQ?  They oddly gave Okie a lot of offense in this match (Oh wait, Ferrara was one of the bookers, of course), until The Misfits (yes, the punk band) got involved.  This was crap.

And so was our next match, Curt Hennig and Creative Control (Don & Ron Harris) vs. Booker T and Midnight.  This was supposed to be a six-man tag but Booker and Stevie Ray were about to start feuding, so Stevie mostly sat this one out.  The match was shite regardless.  Also it was sad how far out of their way WCW went to take cheapshots at the WWF during this period.  The Harris brothers were renamed Patrick and Gerald, and the former Virgil went from being called Vincent to Shane.  Methinks Russo should've spent more time trying to make WCW watchable and less time making fun of his former company, who at this point was kicking WCW's ass on a weekly basis.

Jeff Jarrett wrestled the first of two matches against Dustin Rhodes in a Bunkhouse Stampede (read: Hardcore Match) that saw Curt Hennig interfere repeatedly.  Since Jarrett was billed as "The Chosen One," ordained by the as-yet-unseen authority figure as WCW's next big star, the announcers mentioned "The Powers That Be" (Vince Russo's unofficial name) about 700 times during this bout.  Jeezus H. Christ.  Oh, also the announcers kept talking about Dustin going by his real name instead of using the Seven "gimmick."  Hey dickheads, we know wrestling's fake, but you're not supposed to actually present it as a work.  If the announcers and the wrestlers all acknowledge on-air that it's fake, why are they all fighting each other?  This amounted to eleven laborious minutes of forgettable, generic brawling.

Still it was a masterpiece compared to the DDP vs. David Flair Crowbar on a Pole Match (Russo apparently loved anything hanging from a pole, because this era was full of dumb crap like this).  Flair whacked Page with the crowbar before the bell to at least give himself a chance, but DDP wrapped this one up in just under four minutes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ten Christmas Gifts That Changed My Life

What's up folks?  Well it's Christmastime, and that means hanging lights, trimming trees, and buying presents for your loved ones so they can promptly return 'em to the store on the 26th.  But this time of year always triggers childhood memories of how magical it all used to be.  The seemingly endless suspense of wondering what cool shit your parents/Santa was gonna leave you, the seemingly endless get-togethers with the extended family on Christmas Day, while you're bored shitless just waiting to get back to all your new toys, the seemingly instantaneous week off from school before that sad, lonely return on January 2nd, when you and your school friends compared Christmas toy hauls.

And speaking of Christmas toys, I got to thinking, what were my favorite gifts over the years?  Which December 25th surprises made my big toe shoot up in my boot, as Little Richard would say?  Well lemme take you back to a simpler time.....




1978: Muppet Drum Kit


My big Christmas gift at age three was a toy drum set with pictures of the Muppet Show band Dr. Teeth on it.  I fell in love with this stupid kit instantly, and while I never actually learned to play the drums, I had a grand ol' time beating the crap outta those skins.  It outlived its novelty and usefulness within a couple years, but this was the fist major gift I ever remember getting.  For me it's what set the tone for this massive December festival so many of us hold dear.





1982: Atari 2600


I imagine my household was one of millions that got this console for Christmas around this time.  Our big family gift in 1982 was the legendary Atari 2600, which came with the incredibly diverse Combat (featuring tank battles, airplane battles, boat battles, and any other 4-bit vehicles you could blow up real good), but my parents also picked up Asteroids, Surround (which I loved because it was essentially Tron's "light cycle" sequence), and Video Olympics (a massive collection of sports games that utilized the "paddle" controllers), plus a couple other games I can't recall at the moment.  This console became our very lives for a few years, and the whole family enjoyed it.  Everyone who was anyone in the early 80s had one of these damn things, and the game cartridges were plentiful.  By 1985 we had probably 30 games, and it wasn't until '86/'87 that another game console had taken its place in America's heart....





1982: Castle Grayskull


My other big gift in '82 was this classic He-Man playset, a badass-looking castle with a ton of accessories but in retrospect, very little playability (A castle with only two floors?  And an elevator??  And a laser cannon???  The hell sense does that make?).  But at age 7 I didn't care, this thing was fuckin' fantastic.  I had a handful of the figures by this point and played with this castle like it was my job.  A few years later Snake Mountain followed and now I had lairs for both the heroes and villains.  Now that I think about it, who exactly was supposed to live in Castle Grayskull?  Was it He-Man's house?  I dunno.

Seriously, why would an ancient castle have an elevator??


The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1998)

And now for the night WCW cut Goldberg's legs off......


Starrcade '98 - MCI Center - 12.27.98
And I thought Starrcade '97 was bad.  Jeezus, that was a magnum opus compared to this disorganized mess.  1998 was the year WCW really started collapsing under its own weight.  The top stars had so much control over their characters that nothing involving them made any sense, and when one homegrown star somehow managed to surge in popularity certain egos went out of their way to hobble him (Hmm, that sounds familiar).  We were at the height of the nWo Wolfpac run, which involved the heel nWo faction feuding with the vaguely babyface nWo "red & black" team comprised of Kevin Nash, Lex Luger, Randy Savage, Konnan, and the formerly huge babyface star Sting (How badly was Sting's mystique damaged by his association with this stupid group?).  So let's examine this shitshow....

Things started out okay with a double Cruiserweight Title match.  First it was Billy Kidman vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera in a crazy fun opening match.  Kidman and Mysterio attempted to stay allied but that was short-lived.  Guerrera had recently joined Eddy's LWO (Yet another nWo offshoot - Christ) so he was a cocky heel here.  Lots of high-risk moves and innovative pin attempts.  All three guys did a great job of selling exhaustion by the end to make the Cruiserweight offense mean something.  Eddy got involved toward the finish but his interference backfired and Kidman retained.  Once again the Cruiserweights got more time than any other match, which is pretty shocking.

The Cruisers continued to be the one bright spot in WCW.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1997)

Starrcade '97, the night WCW effectively handed the WWF the Monday Night War....

Starrcade '97 - MCI Center - 12.28.97

Starrcade '97 was the night WCW killed all their momentum.  They'd been dominating the ratings for well over a year with arguably the hottest angle of all time coupled with a miles-deep roster, and had just taken away yet another top WWF star.  This time it was Vince's franchise player, Bret Hart.  To be fair, Vince helped broker the deal, citing the inability to pay Bret the amount he'd agreed to.  But with all those factors, plus the loooooong-awaited in-ring return of Sting (who'd adopted a Crow-inspired gimmick and hadn't wrestled a match in over a year), Starrcade '97 should've been WCW's WrestleMania III.  It should've been the PPV that launched WCW into the mainstream stratosphere, solidifying them as wrestling's number-one brand, and been the big payoff to the nWo storyline: the returning WCW hero conquers the villainous invaders and restores balance to the besieged company.  But nope, Hulk Hogan and his ego got in the way.  Again.

The two masters Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko kicked things off for the Cruiserweight Title.  These guys couldn't possibly have a bad match, so this was a fine opening contest.  While it wasn't at the level of their ECW classic series, it still got 15 minutes and had strong action, plus had the role reversal with Eddie as the heel and Malenko as the no-nonsense babyface.  Good stuff so far.

Eddy vs. Dean was always a fine showing.

Not-so-good stuff followed it, as The Steiners & Ray Traylor faced Randy Savage, Scott Norton & Vincent.  How odd to see Savage and Elizabeth on the heel side and Dibase managing the babyfaces.  This wasn't much of a six-man.  Scott Steiner had some good moves as usual but he was already an over-muscled, bloated oaf by this point.  I'm not sure why he felt the compulsion to get so big.  The action here was mostly clumsy, with everyone well past their prime.  Jeezus Elizabeth looked amazing in the 90s.  Savage's top-rope elbow however did not.

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1996)

A surprisingly entertaining Starrcade thanks to a strong undercard....

Starrcade '96 - Nashville Auditorium - 12.29.96
By 1996 WCW was dominating the WWF in the ratings and had become the most popular wrestling promotion in the world, fueled by the ongoing nWo storyline and the influx of international talent most North American fans had never been exposed to.  Starrcade '96 was a pretty perfect cross-section of the overall WCW product.  Most of their in-ring strength was in the undercard, while the main event matches were storyline-driven and featured very little actual wrestling.  Having run roughshod over WCW, Hulk Hogan and the nWo were then challenged by Roddy Piper, returning after a 13-year WWF association.  True to form, WCW was still regurgitating 1980s WWF feuds, but now Hogan was the heel and Piper was the babyface.  It was a very odd hybrid product; the smaller names were doing their damnedest to steal the show, while the big names were lumbering around the ring like it was 1987 WWF and the crowds were eating it up.

The announce team once again consisted of Tony Shiavone, Bobby Heenan (hilarious as always), and Dusty Rhodes (A more long-winded, barely intelligible announcer I cannot recall).  Plus Mike Tenay sat in during the Cruiserweight matches and Lee Marshall during the Women's match.  Four men is way too many for a commentator team.

The opening match, for the Cruiserweight Title (plus 8 other belts) pitted Dean Malenko against  Ultimo Dragon.  This was great for its spot on the card; a very strong opener that amazingly got more time than any other match.  Nice crisp action from both guys, a little slow in the middle, but it ramped up again for the third act, capped off by a cool finishing sequence full of reversals.  Cruiserweight wrestling was one of the few things WCW did way better than the WWF at this point.

The second of three matches involving New Japan stars was next, as Madusa battled Akira Hokuto to crown the first WCW Women's Champion.  This was a good little women's match and I had forgotten how good Madusa could be.  Too bad the company did very little with her after this.  The WCW Women's Title was vacated after Hokuto left the US and WCW never resurrected it.  So in the end this match didn't mean anything, but it was still very watchable.

Probably the best match of the night was third, as Rey Mysterio faced Jushin Thunder Liger in a true Cruiserweight dream match.  Nice high-impact offense from both guys.  Liger had slowed down a little but Mysterio brought the movement and played the usual underdog role.  Pretty weird to see New Japan go 3-0 on a WCW PPV.  A hotter crowd would've elevated this to the next level.  This just needed some drama added to it.

Ka-BOOOM

Monday, December 9, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1995)

We've arrived at the start of the Monday Night War!

Starrcade '95 - Nashville Auditorium - 12.27.95

Hulk Hogan's shadow was temporarily lifted from WCW in late 1995 due to a kayfabe suspension, so the focus for this show was on in-ring wrestling and several homegrown WCW stars.  WCW once again went back to a standalone tournament-type format for Starrcade - this time it was a WCW vs. New Japan series of matches with the winning team earning a World Cup trophy, which in the long run meant absolutely zero.  Despite WCW putting together a team of both babyfaces and heels, their guys were all greeted as heroes by the Nashville crowd.  Aside from the tourney there would also be a Triangle match to determine a number-one contender to Randy Savage's WCW World Title in the main event.  Two of those contenders and Savage himself were also in the New Japan series, which was just strange.  But unlike say Starrcade '91, this show at least had a handful of memorable bouts, even if the tourney concept was once again pointless in the grand scheme.

Bobby Heenan was great as usual on color commentary but unfortunately had to compete with Dusty Rhodes, who I've always found insufferable as an announcer.  He probably took up about half the talking time of the three-man team and most of his comments were incomprehensible.  So that was quite distracting.

The WCW-NJPW series kicked off with a pretty great on-paper match: Chris Benoit vs. Jushin Thunder Liger.  This did its job as an opener but was frankly a little underwhelming given the talent involved.  I imagine their matches in Japan blew this one out of the water.  Kevin Sullivan ran down to distract Benoit (thus ruining the ending) and Liger executed a really bad hurricanrana and hooked Benoit's legs for the pin.  Not nearly as good as you'd think.

On the flipside though, Alex Wright vs. Koji Kanemoto was a shockingly good followup; better than the opener and with a nice fluid feel to it.  They got almost twelve minutes and did a lot with them.  This match felt almost like a lighter, less stiff version of a New Japan match.

The first throwaway was next as Lex Luger wrestled Masahiro Chono.  Not much to this one but at least it was short.  Chono dominated most of the match, even slapping on his STF finisher, but Luger made it to the ropes and mounted the shortest comeback ever before applying the Torture Rack for the win.

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 3 (Judgment Day 2001)

Continuing into May 2001.  Check out Part 2 if you missed it.....


Judgment Day

Austin shows up on RAW and talks about Booker T's challenge, saying he'll fight anyone who wants to try and take the belt away from him.  "Why don't we find out who the Undisputed Champion is, ya dumb sonofabitch?"  Vince interrupts to a chorus of boos and says everyone should calm down because Austin vs. Booker T is not happening.  "Not tonight, not any night.  Why?  Because WCW superstars don't deserve to wrestle in this ring.  They haven't earned that right, and I don't sanction B-players from a second-rate company competing against WWF Superstars."  Austin asks the crowd "If you wanna see this WWF Superstar kick the crap outta the WCW Champion at Judgment Day, gimme a 'Hell yeah!'"  The crowd of course obliges.  Vince again puts the kibosh on Austin vs. Booker.  "I'm still the boss, and I decide who your opponent for Judgment Day will be.  Tonight, in this very ring, we'll see a Battle Royal to determine the new #1 Contender!"

Elsewhere on the show, Undertaker and Kane defeat The Dudley Boyz in a Tag Title match, before DDP & Kanyon show up on the Titantron again, challenging them for the belts.


The #1 Contender's Battle Royal boils down to Triple H, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle.  Benoit and Angle take each other out of the match, grappling until they both go over the ropes.  But before Hunter and Jericho can determine a winner, the masked men surround the ring again, pausing a moment before laying waste to the two WWF stars.  Booker and Bischoff unmask, Bischoff grabs a mic and says, "Vince, this is gonna happen every week until you give my WCW Champion a match with your WWF Champion!"  The WWF locker room runs down again but the WCW crew retreats.

The following week Triple H wins the rescheduled #1 Contender's Battle Royal.

But in the weeks leading up to Judgment Day Austin continues pushing the issue of wanting to fight Booker, while Vince keeps resisting.  Security is beefed up to prevent further WCW interference but several attacks on WWF wrestlers happen outside the building.  DDP and Kanyon assault the APA at a bar, smashing them with beer glasses.  Booker T knocks Rikishi out with a shovel and slams a car door on him.

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1994)

This Starrcade......this is not my kinda Starrcade.....

Starrcade '94 - Nashville Auditorium - 12/27/94

1994 was the year WCW evolved....into the WWF of the 1980s.  Eric Bischoff had taken the reins the year before and urgently hoped to make the company profitable, and as fate would have it he was able to sign Hulk Hogan in the summer of '94.  This of course immediately brought WCW mainstream attention and lapsed fans from the 80s began watching wrestling again.  The unfortunate side effect of all this was the annihilation of the historic WCW culture.  Gone was the emphasis on athletic, scientific wrestling and simple angles.  In their place were the over-the-top characterizations, convoluted heel turns, and rudimentary brawling of the WWF circa 1988.  Hogan had so much pull he populated (polluted?) the roster with all his old WWF pals, and the in-ring product became a less entertaining version of everything Vince had more adeptly presented a decade earlier.  And you thought Black Saturday was bad.  On the bright side though, at least Bobby Heenan was on color commentary, even if he and Tony Schiavone had zero chemistry together.

The opening match for the US Title pitted Jim Duggan (who infamously defeated Steve Austin for the belt in under a minute - good call on that one Eric) against the man who by all rights should have main evented this show, Vader.  The match was actually better than I expected.  Probably the best Duggan match I've ever seen, which isn't saying much for him.  The first half or so was pretty hard-hitting, then it settled into a plodding second act before ramping back up toward the end.  They recycled the Starrcade '92 finish where Vader came off the top and got powerslammed to the mat, but this time Harley Race interfered to distract the official.  Vader then won with a wheelbarrow slam which Duggan took pretty poorly.

The unexpected standout of the night was Alex Wright vs. a young blueblood character named Jean-Paul Leveque.  From a mat wrestling standpoint this was quite good.  Sadly it went about five minutes longer than it needed to, and there wasn't really anything at stake.  It's so weird to see Triple H in a WCW ring.  This was technically a good match but little more than a showcase for two young dudes.

It's Triple H vs. Berlyn!!

The TV Title was on next, as Johnny B. Badd defended against Arn Anderson.  This wasn't too shabby; both guys could work and they gelled fairly well.  It's criminal that the only reason Arn got on this show was due to the original challenger, the Honky Tonk Man, being injured.  Hogan's spray-tanned fingerprints were all over the WCW product at this point and it was ugly.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Top Ten Things: Christmas Movies

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  These are ten things I like or don't like, and I'm here to tell you about 'em.  Makes sense.

Today it's my ten favorite Christmas movies!  As one who has loved the holiday season since childhood, a big part of my celebrating is in the form of watching Christmas-themed movies.  Some are required viewing every December, while others I only revisit once in a while.  But they all help me get in the ol' holiday mood.

Some notes about this list - I'm only including movies where Christmas itself figures heavily in the plot.  There are a lot of films simply set against the backdrop of the Christmas season, and while some of those are great (Die Hard and Lethal Weapon for example), I don't really consider them Christmas movies in the strictest sense.  So I've limited the list to films that couldn't really work without the Christmas theme/imagery.

Also I'm not including the standard half-hour TV specials from back in the day.  The Grinch, Charlie Brown and Rudolph are all great, but they're TV shows, not movies.  So there.

Finally there are three beloved movies you won't find on this list: A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation.  I hate all of them.  I know most people think they're essential viewing, but I can't stand them.  I find them pretty cynical and unpleasant, which defeats the whole purpose of watching a Christmas movie.  Sorry.

On to the list!



10. Elf



Jon Favreau's 2003 Christmas romp stars Will Ferrell as a Buddy, a human who stowed away in Santa's bag as a baby, and was raised as a North Pole elf.  As Buddy grows to adulthood he begins to realize he doesn't fit in with the other elves, and he seeks out his birth father, a grumpy New York publishing executive played by James Caan.  Filled with lighthearted humor and Ferrell's signature flair for physical comedy, Elf is a classic Fish Out of Water story involving Buddy finding his way in the human world while also managing to save Christmas.  The film peters out toward the end for me, as there's too much emphasis on Santa being chased through Central Park by the NYPD.  But otherwise Elf is a fun little holiday movie that has something for everyone.





9. Edward Scissorhands



Tim Burton's cult classic Edward Scissorhands stars Johnny Depp as the titular character, a Dr. Caligari-inspired artificial man whose inventor died before he could be finished, leaving him with scissors where his fingers should be.  This of course makes for a very inconvenient existence (As Seinfeld's barber pointed out, "What's he gonna do on-a the toilet?"), and after moving in with Dianne Wiest and her family he becomes a suburban outcast.  This film, like most of Tim Burton's work, takes place in a visually bizarre world full of social misfits and outsiders.  But even among these weirdos Edward doesn't fit in, and the ultimate result is a bittersweet and surprisingly touching love story.

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1993)

Ric Flair's big homecoming resulted in a very good main event atop a mediocre Starrcade....

Starrcade '93 - Independence Arena - 12/27/93

The Bill Watts experiment ended in early 1993 and a young, ambitious fella named Eric Bischoff soon took the reigns of WCW.  Initially the product didn't change a whole lot except in cosmetic ways.  But a host of new and returning talent found themselves on WCW TV, such as Davey Boy Smith, Sid Vicious, and of course the company's former cornerstone, Ric Flair.  The "Nature Boy" was brought in as a babyface and immediately reformed the Horsemen with Arn and Ole, and a mystery partner, who was revealed as Paul Roma.......ummmmmm.....okay....

The WCW Title was kept in a stranglehold by the monstrous Vader, who was set to feud with Sid Vicous leading into Starrcade.  Then during an overseas trip Sid and Arn Anderson got into an absolutely insane real-life slugfest which escalated into a scissor stabbing contest.  Both men were hospitalized, and Sid was fired.  The company scrambled, but found a much more suitable challenger for Vader, taking Starrcade back to its roots.  Ric Flair would now vie for the WCW Title in his hometown, with his career on the line.  The top of the show included a vignette shot live at Flair's home as he kissed his family goodbye to leave for the arena.  The cameras followed Flair into his limo, where he discussed with Gene Okerlund the grave situation he was about to face.  This came off as quite melodramatic, but it made for a nice little bit of window-dressing.  Before we get into the Flair-Vader showdown, let's look at the rest of the card.

The show kicked off with a tag match, as Pretty Wonderful (Paul Orndorff and failed Horseman Paul Roma) faced Marcus Bagwell & 2 Cold Scorpio.  This was a fun little opening match, and I liked both combinations.  Bagwell was actually a decent wrestler before he got Buff, and Roma & Orndorff made a fine heel team.  Solid work by everyone involved.

Speaking of failures, The Shockmaster made his Starrcade debut next against Awesome Kong.  Everyone of course remembers The Shockmaster as "Tugboat" Fred Ottman, who was supposed to be Sting's big equalizer at that year's WarGames, against Vader and Sid's team.  Ole Anderson provided the easily-identifiable voice for this character, and the fools in charge stuck a glitter-bedecked Stormtrooper helmet on Ottman as a disguise.  Ottman was supposed to break through the wall of Ric Flair's talk show set and make a grand entrance, but unfortunately he tripped on the way through and fell on his face, losing the helmet in the process.  This was all broadcast on live television, so the gimmick was D.O.A., and Ottman became more of a comedy wrestler instead.  Anyway, this match went 94 seconds.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1992)

Now this felt like a Starrcade show....

Starrcade '92 - The Omni - 12/28/92

Well this was a whole lot better.  The previous Starrcade featured ten forgettable, awkward tag matches and a convoluted battle royal main event.  Yes, the Norfolk Scope was dressed up nicely, adding to the splendor of the event, but not one match from that show stood out or warranted a second viewing.  SC'92 on the other hand featured a handful of big matches (two of which were truly inspired) and even though half the card was still taken up by Battlebowl proceedings, the four mongrel tag bouts were concise, fast-paced, and moved along with a purpose.  I still had no interest in the tournament format but Starrcade '92 was a rare show with nary a bad match.  This PPV took place during the Bill Watts era, thus The Omni had a stripped-down, barebones look with gloomier lighting and minimal Starrcade decor.  The focus in 1992 WCW was almost entirely on the action in the ring, and the play-by-play was called by the dream commentary team of Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura.  While their chemistry wasn't as strong as say Jesse & Gorilla or JR & Lawler, I loved hearing these two work together; my favorite play-by-play announcer with my favorite color man.

Side note: I know Rick Rude was injured but where the hell were Steve Austin, Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton??

The first four matches were all Lethal Lottery tag bouts, none of which overstayed their welcome, fortunately, and all of which were at least a little fun on some level.  Cactus Jack teamed with Johnny B. Badd vs. Van Hammer & Dan Spivey in a decent opener with some good wrestling from Team Cactus.  I'm not sure what they were thinking giving Hammer & Spivey the win though; what's the point of two obvious non-winners being in Battlebowl?  Next was Vader & Dustin Rhodes vs. The Barbarian & Kensuke Sasaki in a very entertaining slugfest reminiscent of a Japanese Strong Style match.  This didn't go long but felt urgent.  Vader beat the piss out of Rhodes after getting the win.  The standout of these tag matches was next - The Great Muta & Barry Windham vs. Brian Pillman & 2 Cold Scorpio.  I liked the Muta-Scorpio/Muta-Pillman exchanges a lot; Muta vs. Pillman should've been a major feud at some point.  Another brief match where they crammed in a lot of good action.  Finally we had Sting & Steve Williams vs. Jushin Liger & Erik Watts, which had good wrestling all around except for Watts, who was clearly not ready for prime time but was being pushed due to his father's position as head booker.  Still this was a fine match, particularly when it was Sting vs. Liger.

Lotta talent in that ring.

With the Lottery bouts out of the way the show settled into a more traditional format with four title matches.  First was The Great Muta challenging Masahiro Chono for the NWA World Title (now separated from the WCW version).  I liked this quite well actually.  Nothing about it was mindblowing, and at 12 minutes it couldn't be epic, but it was well-worked by both guys.  Muta unexpectedly submitted to Chono's STF.

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1991)

Another Starrcade experiment thrown at the wall that didn't stick....

Starrcade '91 - Norfolk Scope - 12/29/91

I'm really not sure what the higher-ups at WCW were smoking when they invented the Battlebowl concept.  I'd like to think there was some variety of substance abuse going on, but who the hell knows?  Evidently having learned nothing from the box office disaster that was Starrcade '89, WCW went with another "tournament" format for the 1991 edition.  Only this time the card would consist entirely of mongrel tag teams decided at random, competing so both members could enter a main event two-ring battle royal.  The winner of that would get a future WCW Title shot.  What a convoluted way to establish a number-one contenter.  And what if Lex Luger had won this?  Ugh.  So of the eleven matches on this show, ten involved pairs of partners with no chemistry and in some cases little or no tag team expertise facing other such pairs.  Few of these matches had any kind of story to them either, except in rare cases when two enemies were forced to team together.  Wow, did this get monotonous fast.

The first four matches sorta blurred into each other and were varying degrees of lackluster.  Marcus Bagwell & Jimmy Garvin vs. Tracey Smothers & Michael Hayes was noteworthy only for the anticipation of seeing the Freebirds fight each other, which barely even happened.  Rick Rude & Steve Austin vs. Van Hammer & Big Josh was a case of two big stars on one side and two gimmick-saddled utility guys on the other.  Also, in what wrestling universe did the 5'10" 220-pound Matt Osborne qualify as "big?"  More like About Average Josh.  Dustin Rhodes & Richard Morton vs. Larry Zbyszko & El Gigante was pretty awful; anything involving the future Giant Gonzales is by definition a turd.  The story here was Gigante not being able to understand Zbyzsko's instructions and eventually getting fed up and attacking Larry.  Pretty bad stuff.  Things picked up a little in Match 4 as Jushin "Thunder" Liger & Bill Kazmaier faced Mike Graham & Diamond Dallas Page.  The Graham-Liger exchanges were intriguing but with no heat between them there wasn't anything to get invested in.

Ka-BLAMMO!

Finally in the middle of the show we got a few memorable bouts.  For starters, WCW Champ Lex Luger & Arn Anderson faced Terrence Taylor & Tom Zenk.  This is more like it.  The match was entertaining from start to finish and had some nice conflict with Taylor slowly turning babyface.  Ricky Steamboat & Todd Champion vs. Cactus Jack & Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker was fun just for the Steamboat-Cactus interactions (Did they ever have a singles match together?), but not much going on besides that.  Abdullah the Butcher attacked Parker during his entrance, which meant Cactus wrestled almost the entire match by himself.  The most unexpectedly good match was Sting & Abdullah vs. Bobby Eaton & Brian Pillman, a wild battle where Sting and Pillman worked together despite being on opposite teams, and Abdullah was just trying to kill Sting the whole time.  Chaotic but enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Parents' Night In #26: Die Hard - Is It a Christmas Movie or Not?

It's that time of year, when the eternal debate begins again: #IsDieHardAChristmasMovie?  Kelly and Justin are back to address that and more, as we watch the legendary 80s action classic starring #BruceWillis, #AlanRickman and #ReginaldVeljohnson.  It's time to watch #DieHard!

Don't forget to LIKE and SUBSCRIBE to our channel - thanks for watching!



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The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1990)

Right here the Starrcade series drove temporarily off a cliff.....

Starrcade '90 - Kiel Auditorium - 12/16/90

I'm not sure what happened in 1990 that ruined the world, but both the WWF and especially the NWA spent that particular calendar year serving up a menu of dog crap a la mode.  Case in point, Starrcade 1990.  Man, what a difference a year makes.  While Starrcade '89 was no all-time classic, the NWA as a whole was at its apex in 1989, and suddenly with the new year they reset just about everything, crowned Sting their new top babyface (which made sense, he was super over), and had him feud with one of the stupidest mystery characters ever created in any medium, The Black Scorpion.  This nonsensical six-month angle climaxed at Starrcade '90 with a payoff in the same ballpark of stupid as the WWF's "Who Ran Over Steve Austin?" angle ten years later.

Look, the WCW logo is sinking.  Rather symbolic, don't you think?
On top of their flagship PPV being headlined by a World Title match involving an unknown challenger, the company decided to cram an entire seven-match tag team tournament onto this show as well, bringing the total number of matches to fourteen.  Fourteen matches on a three-hour PPV.  What was the object of said tournament?  A trophy.  Which teams would be competing?  The Steiners.....and seven other teams, mostly comprised of dudes no one's ever heard of.  Super.  I wonder who's gonna win.....

The show started out promisingly enough, with Bobby Eaton vs. Z-Man.  Pretty good little opening match with two guys who could work and had faced each other in tag matches numerous times.  Nothing mindblowing but this match did its job as the kickoff.

We then plunged into the tag tournament, with four mostly pointless, abbreviated matches that just cluttered up the card.  Konan & Rey Misterio Sr. vs. Chris Adams & Norman Smily was the only standout of the opening round, but even that was too short and a little sloppy in spots.  The Russian team of Victor Zangiev and Salman Hashimikov had interesting amateur-style grappling moves but Zangiev's back hair was so long it was parted in the middle!  So all I could think of during his matches was "Jeezus, someone actually has to touch that furry creep??"  That match had an awkward ending, like the ref forgot he was supposed to count to three, so he hesitated and then counted anyway.  The other two first-round matches were either done in the blink of an eye or totally forgettable.  All of these teams were wrestling like they knew they only had 3-5 minutes.

Next up was a battle of former stablemates, as Michael Wallstreet faced Terry Taylor.  This felt like a free TV match on a WCW Saturday Night undercard.

For some reason, and despite Sid Vicious now being a Horseman, The Skyscrapers faced The Big Cat & Motor City Madman in a sloppy one-minute squash.  On the biggest PPV of the year which had thirteen other matches.

Moving right along, the Freebirds were next against Ricky Morton & Tommy Rich (subbing for an injured Robert Gibson).  Jeezus, this Freebirds-RNR feud lasted like eight months.  This match could've been decent had it gotten five more minutes.  I wonder if the wrestlers on this show were pissed that they had no time to do anything.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1989)

This show was a cool idea in theory but in practice it wasn't totally successful....

Starrcade '89 - The Omni - 12/13/89

For Starrcade '89 the NWA inexplicably (for the first of four consecutive Starrcades) went with a non-traditional card format, in this case two round-robin tournaments, one singles and the other featuring tag teams.  I can only assume they got this idea from New Japan's G1 tournament and wanted to try their hand at such a gimmick.  I've already published my own revised version of the show HERE, but in short, there were three major things wrong with using the Iron Man/Team tournament concept at the company's flagship PPV.  1. They'd already given away the blowoff to the year's biggest feud (Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk) on free television a month earlier, so the singles tournament featured no hot rivalries at all.  2. They never made it clear what was at stake in these tournaments other than bragging rights, so the audience had no real reason to invest in the outcome.  3. Twelve matches is a lot for a three-hour PPV.  Oh, and 4. In both tournaments they totally buried someone unnecessarily.

Still this show had a lot to like about it.  Of the twelve matches about eight or nine were watchable or better, and this show marks one of only two times (I think) we ever got to see The Steiners vs. The Road Warriors.  In general the concept of a round-robin tournament is fun and presents some intriguing pairings you wouldn't normally see (just watch some of the recent NJPW G1 tournaments for evidence of that), but Starrcade was just the wrong show for this experiment.  The attendance numbers certainly reflect this; the 17000-seat Omni was only about a third filled, to the point that the house lights had to be dimmed midway through the show to cover up the vast areas of empty seats. 

The singles tourney featured the NWA's top four stars - World Champion Ric Flair, US Champion Lex Luger, and two former TV Champions, Sting and The Great Muta.  On paper every one of the six singles matches should've been gold.  Unfortunately the time contraints (fifteen-minute time limits for all twelve bouts), somewhat hindered the wrestlers' ability to deliver standout matches.  In some cases, mostly those involving Muta, the matches were criminally shortchanged; Flair vs. Muta theoretically could've been the main event of Starrcade had they built it up properly.  In actuality that match was given under two minutes and Muta looked like a chump after it was over.  The innovative, tremendously exciting young Japanese import was jobbed out three times and ended up leaving the company right after Starrcade.  Not the best way to treat one of your top heels of the year.  Flair's other two matches, against Luger and Sting respectively, were both headliner-worthy but not up to their 1988 efforts.  Luger was the only man to go undefeated, beating Sting and Muta and going to a draw with Flair.  But Sting scored a major upset in the final match, defeating his former rival and current mentor Flair with only thirty seconds left in the time limit.  This gave Sting enough points to win the whole tournament, and he was soon named the #1 Contender.  Flair and the Andersons made Sting an honorary Horsemen but soon turned heel on him once the reality of Sting's impending challenge set in.  Had the company made it clear beforehand that the winner of this tourney would receive an automatic title shot, that probably would've gotten people much more interested.  Sadly this wasn't the case, and all Sting officially won that night was a trophy.

It's Champion vs. Champion!

Monday, December 2, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1988)

Arguably the greatest of all Starrcades, and ironically the first one not produced by Jim Crockett Promotions....


Starrcade '88 - Norfolk Scope - 12/26/88

The first Starrcade of the Turner Era was an unabashed classic.  Held the day after Christmas to avoid having to compete with Survivor Series, this show was the culmination of the year-long Ric Flair-Lex Luger feud, as well as the first Starrcade to not feature a single gimmick match (I was super pissed about this at the time - as a thirteen-year-old I thought gimmick matches ruled).

1988 saw a disturbing number of heel and face turns in the NWA.  It's pretty staggering when you think about it.  Lex Luger turned face, Barry Windham turned heel, Ronnie Garvin turned heel, The Midnight Express turned face, The Road Warriors turned heel, Ivan Koloff turned face, Rick Steiner turned face, Steve Williams turned heel.  That's gettin' to be a lot.  Anyway, the first match saw Williams team with his new manager Kevin Sullivan to challenge The Fantastics for the US Tag belts.  Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton had won a tournament for the vacant Titles due to The Midnight Express having given them up after winning the World Tag belts.  Sadly their World Tag Title reign was over well before new US Tag Champs were crowned.  What a gyp.  This opening contest was quite good, and the New Varsity Club captured the belts clean.

The second bout was one of my favorites, as The Midnight Express, Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane, faced The Original Midnight Express, Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose, managed by Paul E. Dangerously.  Prior to this feud I wasn't familiar with Dangerously, but I liked his heel manager antics right away.  These two teams gelled superbly and put on a tag team clinic, which Cornette's Midnight Express won with a Double Goozle after nearly 18 minutes.

The only throwaway match of the night was next, as Ivan Koloff teamed with NWA newcomer The Junkyard Dog, against former allies The Russian Assassins.  Not much going on in this one, and mercifully it was over in less than seven minutes, when one of the masked Assassins stuffed an object into his mask and headbutted Koloff.

The rest of this show was smooth sailin'.

Parents' Night In #15: Rocky (1976) - The Podcast

It's Thanksgiving, so why not go back and take another listen to our special Parents' Night In episode about the classic film Rocky!


Check out our podcast episode version at Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/parents-night-in/id1473621580?uo=4

For Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/4qPxkRJyQaGLMl9B62McAe

For Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/9Xy2

For the YouTube version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UQwUhG32fE

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Friday, November 29, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1987)

I know most people don't think this show has aged well, but I still love Starrcade '87....

Starrcade '87 - UIC Pavilion - 11.26.87

The 1987 edition was the first-ever PPV broadcast by Jim Crockett Promotions.  Crockett was expanding rapidly with designs on competing with the WWF, and moved into the non-traditional locale of Chicago for his flagship show.  Unfortunately Vince McMahon had designs on squashing the NWA's PPV hopes and ran the inaugural Survivor Series against it.  Not only that but he issued an ultimatum to the cable companies: Run Starrcade and you can't have WrestleMania IV.  The ploy worked, and only a handful of cable providers kept Starrcade, which meant it got destroyed by Survivor Series (which to be fair was an awesome PPV).

Starrcade '87 holds a special place for me, as it was the first one I ever watched all the way through.  I mail-ordered the VHS tape in 1988 after reading glowing reviews in Wrestling's Main Event magazine, and upon viewing it for the first time I was blown away.  The action was athletic, physical and intense, and at the time I loved that the NWA did so many gimmick matches (When you're 12 years old nothing is as cool as a Steel Cage match, except maybe a Scaffold Match).  Amazingly this show ran under 2.5 hours but it doesn't at all feel incomplete.

SC'87 was built around Ric Flair's quest to regain the NWA Title.  The Board of Directors wanted Flair to drop the belt to someone a few months earlier and win it back at Starrcade, I guess hoping to recreate the magic of SC'83.  The problem was, no one wanted to be a two-month lame duck Champion, and the only babyface who agreed to it was perennial midcarder Ronnie Garvin (who was a fine worker but no credible World Champion).  Garvin won the Title in a cage match that September and then announced he wouldn't be defending it until Starrcade.  Not much of a story for a PPV main event, but the match itself was pretty goddamn good.  Flair and Garvin beat the bejeezus out of each other, engaging in a war of chops and Figure Fours, and frequently using the cage as a weapon.  After 17 minutes Flair caught Garvin off the ropes and hotshotted him into the cage (in one of the least painful looking spots ever), and cradled him for the win and his fifth NWA Title.  Lame ending aside this was a pretty great match.

Garvin slaps on the Figure Four

The rest of the show was nothing to sneeze at either.

Three of the undercard bouts involved recently-acquired UWF talent, as Crockett had bought the former Mid-South territory from Bill Watts and staged a UWF Invasion.  Unfortunately he botched it completely by presenting most of the UWF wrestlers as far beneath his homegrown stars (a mistake Vince would repeat 14 years later after buying out WCW).

Still the invasion yielded some decent stuff on this show, starting with a pretty fun six-man opener pitting Larry Zbyzsko, Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner against Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, and a young facepainted powerhouse named Sting.  This was nothing amazing but it was a nice way to warm up the crowd, and Sting was already hugely over.  The match inexplicably ended in a draw; Sting really should've pinned one of the heels given how quickly they pushed him.

Second was the only bad match on the show, as UWF Champion Steve Williams defended against Barry Windham.  On paper this sounds fantastic, but when they're only given six minutes and the match ends with a cradle out of nowhere, you can't expect much.  Since the show ran so short this should've gotten at least five more minutes.

The show got a huge boost in the third spot, as the Skywalkers gimmick match was brought out again.  This time though The Midnight Express would face their greatest rivals, The Rock n' Roll Express.  The scaffold match is one of those gimmicks that sounds cool but is very difficult to execute well, given how dangerous it is.  Fortunately the Midnights and RnR delivered an entertaining little fight twenty feet above the ring.  As a kid I thought this match was all kinds of awesome, and it was actually much better than the previous Skywalkers Match.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1986)

Starrcade took to the sky in 1986.....

Starrcade '86 - Greensboro Coliseum/The Omni -
11.27.86

Starrcade '86 was the first one I was aware of as a wrestling fan.  On Saturday mornings I'd watch World Wide Wrestling and see ads for the VHS release.  I must say those commercials were GOLD.  Whoever put those together had me at "hello."  When I used to watch those Turner Home Entertainment tapes I looked forward to the previews as much as the event itself.

The 1986 edition suffered greatly from its main event plans being derailed only a month out.  Jim Crockett Promotions had intended a major World Title push for Magnum TA, which would've kicked off at Starrcade with a huge win over Ric Flair.  Who knows what would've happened, had that come to fruition.  Magnum was enormously popular, built like a brick shithouse, and had rugged good looks that appealed to a crossover audience.  The NWA could've had another Hulk Hogan on their hands, and may very well have been able to compete with Vince.  But unfortunately it was not to be, as Magnum suffered a career-ending car crash in October, and the promotion had to scramble to put together a new main event for its biggest show of the year.  The bookers cleverly turned Nikita Koloff babyface by having him show compassion and remorse over his longtime enemy's injury.  I like that choice a lot actually.  Thus Nikita took Magnum's place in the main event and became one of the NWA's top faces for the next two years.

The company also put the spotlight on one of the secondary main events, even naming the show after it.  Starrcade '86 was the television debut of the Scaffold Match - a horribly dangerous gimmick bout where the combatants are forced to fight twenty feet above the ring on a three-foot-wide platform.  They renamed it The Skywalkers Match (I wonder if George Lucas ever considered suing) and it took on a pretty mythic quality.  But before we get to the top-billed matches, let's take a look at the rest of the show.  For the second consecutive year Starrcade emanated from both The Omni and the Greensboro Coliseum.

Starrcade '86 opened with Tim Horner & Nelson Royal vs. Don & Rocky Kernodle, which sounds pretty nondescript on paper but featured surprisingly good action and a fast pace.

Next was Jimmy Garvin vs. Brad Armstrong in a very strong undercard bout.  These two had good chemistry and worked hard.  Brad Armstrong was a pretty underrated talent, always good for a solid opening match to rev up the crowd.  This went to a time limit draw which was probably a mistake given its spot on the card.  A blazing ten minute match with a decisive finish would've been more appropriate.  Still, this was good stuff.

The next two matches were throwaway tag bouts - Hector Guerrero & Baron von Raschke vs. Barbarian & Shaska Watley; and Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev vs. The Kansas Jayhawks.  Both were quite forgettable and about the only intrigue came later during the evil Russians' promo on their former friend Nikita.  One thing that I found disturbing was the sound of the live crowd cheering when von Raschke did his goosestep bit.  That's not something a sane person would cheer.

The first of many gimmick matches was next, as Wahoo McDaniel faced Rick Rude in an Indian Strap Match.  While the concept of two enemies bound together is always intriguing, I hate the "touch all four corners" rule.  I find it silly and cumbersome and it really disrupts the flow of the match.  As expected this was mediocre, and I found it strange that both guys were bleeding from a piece of leather.  This would also be the first of many blood-soaked bouts on this card.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Worst Thanksgiving EVER

Since Turkey Day is upon us, my associate Dan Moore and I would like to share with you our worst Thanksgiving memories.  Enjoy, if you can.....


Dan's Worst Thanksgiving

Gather 'round children, as I tell you a tale conjured from the combined nightmares of Jason Voorhees, The Babadook and Khloe Kardashian. At a Thanksgiving feast a few years ago, my family trekked to Auntie Patty and Uncle Benny’s house. Uncle Benny was the best cook in the family, and also a true vulgarian, so it was always a blast to eat some bird and listen to him say outrageous things to the old ladies in attendance. A marvelous human being.

A typical Thanksgiving scene welcomed me with open arms as I walked into my aunt’s house. There was bread being baked, glass cornucopias filled with fake fruits, and a banquet table with a giant, steroid-filled turkey and all the fixings. Stuffing, squash (the baby puke of sides), corn, cranberry sauce (the Jell-O from hell) and that’s it. WAIT. WHAT? In one of the most preposterous moves in the history of gluttony, Uncle Benny decided that year NOT to make mashed potatoes. Seriously. Just gone. The fucking glue of the Thanksgiving meal was cast aside like a late hobo at the soup kitchen.


It was, to put it mildly, disappointing. There were many tears shed that day at the lack of the beautiful mound of swirly goodness. We should’ve been laying our heads on the opaque pile of buttery flavor. Instead, we were pelted in the head with starchy, overcooked rocks.  He decided on roasted potatoes that year. ROASTED. The red-headed stepchild of the potato family. Motherfucker coulda thrown French fries my way and I woulda been happier. At least with the abundance of gravy about, I coulda made some poutine. It’s still brought up to this day in our family, and I for one will never forget that blackest of holidays.  It was a truly brutal nut punch. That’s the worst kind of punch. Right on the nut.

The only way that Thanksgiving could’ve been worse:





Justin's Worst Thanksgiving

I got that beat.  I got that beat.

In the late 90s I joined my parents for Thanksgiving at their friends' house.  It was a large gathering, with kids and grandkids running around, making so much noise I couldn't hear myself fantasizing about Steve Austin fighting Bill Goldberg (Listen, you fantasize about what you want to and I'll fantasize about what I want to.  Assholes....).  We proceeded to gather around the two adjacent tables (since there isn't a dining table in the free world big enough to accommodate this bloated roster), and after piling roughly 64 pounds of Thanksgiving accoutrements onto my structurally stressed plate, I discovered to my horror that my hosts did not provide gravy.

I'd like to repeat that last part: DID NOT PROVIDE GRAVY.


What kind of Communist jamboree had I been dragged to where I'm expected to eat white-meat turkey (typically the dryest of meats) without drizzling a gushing torrent of scrumptious, buttery, brown fat all over my plate?  This was intolerable.  What's for dessert, a bucket of sand?  Sawdust in a bag? A tablespoon of Nestle Quik?  Now I know what Hell looks like.

No thank you, kind sir and madam.  Good day to you!


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The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1985)

Starrcade bounced back in 1985 with a now pretty legendary lineup....

Starrcade '85 - Greensboro Coliseum/The Omni - 11.28.85

Now this was more like it.  Starrcade '85 was broadcast from two venues again, but this time there were really only ten matches, thus the important bouts all felt long enough.  While not at the level of Starrcade '83, this edition had a handful of memorable bouts, one of which is still considered an all-time classic battle.

For this show Tony Schiavone replaced Gordon Solie on commentary, and right away I noticed two things: #1 Schiavone and Bob Caudle didn't talk much during the matches; there were long stretches of action with no commentary at all.  #2 Schiavone was asked to plug the upcoming Bunkhouse Stampede event (and others) way too many times, during actual matches.  This distractive shilling should've happened in between bouts.

The show opener was Krusher Kruschev vs. Sam Houston.  This was a decent little match, with a good speed vs. power dynamic.  Houston looked good and reminded me of early Shawn Michaels.  Kruschev won after escaping Houston's bulldog with a foot on the ropes and then hitting Houston with the Russian Sickle, after which the referee missed Houston's foot on the rope.

Next was Manny Fernandez vs. Abdullah the Butcher in a Sombrero on a Pole match.  What a ridiculous gimmick; what'd Vince Russo book this?  This was just ok - both guys bled within the first couple minutes, which became a pattern on this show.  That struck me as diffusing the tension very quickly.  After missing a top-rope headbutt Manny then just leapfrogged over Abdullah and climbed the ropes to get the hat, which was a strange ending.

What followed were two 2-part matches in a row.  The first was Black Bart vs. Ron Bass in a Bullrope match where if Bass won he got five minutes with JJ Dillon.  Storyline-wise this was awfully similar to the previous year's Bass vs. Dick Slater match, with two former partners fighting.  Again the blood flowed right at the beginning, and by the end both guys were covered in it.  The finish came out of nowhere (in a bad way) when Bass hit Bart with the cowbell off the second rope and abruptly covered him.  This match could've used more cowbell!  Sorry, had to do it.  Dillon then attacked Bass, starting their followup match.  Short and forgettable, Dillon won after a ref bump when Bart knocked Bass unconscious.

My god this was sadistic.

The other two-part event was an arm wrestling match, followed by a wrestling-wrestling match.  Billy Graham vs. Barbarian was the third match in a row with blood, again right at the beginning.  Graham won the arm wrestling match and Barbarian attacked him, leading to a five-minute throwaway.

Refreshingly we got a gimmick-free bout next: Buddy Landell vs. Terry Taylor.  This was a well-worked wrestling match, though it was like watching Ric Flair's stunt double wrestle his son.  It's so odd that JJ Dillon managed the fake Ric Flair only months before he traded up for the real one.  The ending was clever - Taylor went for a superplex but Dillon quickly swept his leg out from under him and both wrestlers fell to the mat hard with Landell on top for the pin.  Definitely the highlight of the show so far.

The second half picked up pretty well, with multiple Championship matches, starting with Ole & Arn Anderson vs. Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes.  Decent enough little match that started out fast-paced before the Andersons took over on offense.  Sadly this had a pretty silly ending with Arn pinning Billy after a simple forearm strike with Ole holding his leg down.

The most memorable bout on the show was unquestionably Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA for the US Title.  A classic I Quit Steel Cage match that was gritty, realistic and brutal.  This was just a slugfest with lots of vicious ground & pound, great selling, and buckets of blood.  The closing moments with the two fighting over a piece of broken chair are iconic.  Nothing fancy, but a helluva fight.

The I Quit match was tough to follow, and this next match didn't really bother.  The Midnight Express faced Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively in what was a very wild brawl, but the babyface team was impossible to take seriously, particularly with Ronnie Garvin dressed in drag.  Also, three of the participants were bleeding within the first minute, which was unnecessary coming after such a great gorefest.  Not much of a match.

The semi-main slot went to Ivan & Nikita Koloff vs. The Rock n' Roll Express for the Tag Team Titles.  This was a very enjoyable Steel Cage tag match.  Morton & Gibson were expert underdog babyfaces and at the time probably the most consistently good team in the company.  This fine bout built to a cleverly executed finish, as Morton blind-tagged Gibson, bounced off the opposite ropes, and rolled up Ivan for the pin.  Then all hell broke loose as the Russians beat the piss out of the good guys.  One of the best matches on the show.

Flair's hair looks dented; no wonder he's upset.

In a rematch from Starrcade '84, the main event was Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes for the World Title.  This was light years better than its predecessor, but rather unremarkable overall.  The action was a little slow, and I always thought Flair and Dusty had better chemistry as characters than in the ring.  Flair bladed pretty unnecessarily, bringing the total number of matches with blood to eight (if you include the tacked-on Bass vs. Dillon match).  That's pretty excessive; when the majority of matches on a given show feature blood it becomes numbing and it takes away some impact from matches that need it, like the brutal Tully-Magnum bout.  Since Flair's bleeding didn't play into this match at all, it was just gratuitous.  The end came after a ref bump.  Arn and Ole interfered unsuccessfully and then Dusty rolled Flair up into a small package (which Flair visibly assisted with) while the secondary ref counted the pin.  Dusty appeared to win the Title but a week later it was overturned when Tommy Young retroactively disqualified Flair for outside interference.  Rather questionable if you ask me - why reward Flair after the fact for the Andersons' illegal conduct?  Anyway, this match was decent but not great.

Starrcade '85 holds up thirty years later as a pretty good show featuring one bona fide classic, four or five decent bouts, and nothing I'd call truly bad.  The NWA definitely relied much too heavily on blading to ramp up the drama, when less of that would've made it much more meaningful and dramatic.  But this show had a lot to like, so it gets an easy passing grade.

Best Match: Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA
Worst Match: Billy Graham vs. The Barbarian
What I'd Change: Tone down the blood so it means something when it's needed.  The I Quit match was brutal but would've come off much more strongly had it not followed four other bloodbaths.  Sometimes less is more.  Also I generally hate the Dusty Finish.
Most Disappointing Match: The Andersons vs. Wahoo & Haynes
Most Pleasant Surprise: Terry Taylor vs. Buddy Landell
Overall Rating: 7/10


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1984
1986





Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The History of NXT TakeOver: WarGames III

The NXT crew is nothing if not consistent.  This past weekend's TakeOver: WarGames show was yet another in the black & gold brand's loooooong line of good-to-excellent specials, a streamlined 4-match card featuring two double-cage schmozzes.  While not quite on the level of last year's WarGames, this nonetheless stole the weekend.


The first this double main event was, of course, the historic inaugural women's WarGames match, pitting Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair and Kay Lee Ray against Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai (subbing for Mia Yim, who'd been attacked backstage during the kickoff show).  Longtime friends-turned-rivals LeRae and Shirai started the match and wrestled a fairly quick pace for the first five-minute period before Belair entered.  Candice took lots of punishment from both opponents before team captain Ripley entered, tossing in multitudes of weapons before officially getting in the ring (this took a bit too long considering Candice was in peril).  Ripley ran wild and looked like a total badass from the outset, before Kay Lee Ray entered to give the heels the numbers advantage again.  Ripley's next team member was supposed to be Dakota Kai, but Kai turned on her friend Tegan Nox, kicking her back into the on-deck cage and smashing her leg in the cage door.  Officials tried to pry her off, but she kept at it, even getting physical with William Regal.  The crowd went ballistic for this, and moreover it meant that Ripley's team had lost both the deserting Kai and the injured Nox.  Baszler entered, relishing the 4-on-2 advantage, and attempted to handcuff Ripley to the ropes before Candice made the save.  Candice hit a top rope reverse rana on Ray, but then Shirai came off the top of the cage with a gorgeous moonsault on Candice and Bianca, taking all three of them out for the remainder of the match.  Ripley whipped a trash can into an oncoming Ray (brutal-looking) and it was down to the two captains.  Shayna locked in the choke, but Ripley handcuffed herself to Baszler and then hit her with the Riptide through two chairs to get the shocking upset win.  This was a pretty great WarGames match, a step below last year's, but I'd say the best match of this show.  The story took unexpected twists, and while overcoming a 4-on-2 scenario is a tad unlikely, it was handled well and Ripley was a made woman by the end.  I said it in my Survivor Series review, but PUSH HER TO THE MOON RIGHT NOW.  ****1/2


Given the unenviable task of following that match was the #1 Contender's 3-way of Pete Dunne, Damien Priest and Killian Dain.  These three cut a ferocious pace from the start, maybe too fast given how long they had to go.  There were a ton of big moves and reversals, and everything looked fantastic, but it was missing the flow that a great match should have.  Highlight moments included Dain using a Michinoku Driver on Dunne, on top of Priest, Priest Razor's Edge-ing Dunne onto an announce table, Priest hitting a heart-attack sudden corner dive, out of an Irish Whip, onto Dane on the floor, and Dain countering a chokehold with a senton onto Priest, leading to Dunne kicking Dain out of the ring and pinning Priest to win.  This would've been a great 15-minute match but it went almost 20 and was therefore just very good.  ***1/2

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1984)

The classic inaugural Starrcade was followed in 1984 by a.....not so classic one....

Starrcade '84 - Greensboro Coliseum - 11.22.84

The NWA's sophomore Starrcade effort was rather a far cry from the original, with eleven matches crammed into a three-hour format, and precious few of them memorable.  On paper the top-billed bouts looked solid but unfortunately nothing was given enough time, and some of the booking was questionable at best.

I'm just gonna get this out there: I know Gordon Solie is right up there with Jim Ross as the most respected wrestling announcer ever, but I've always found his style pretty bland.  He never seemed emotionally invested in the matches, and he drastically overused the phrase "There's no question about it."  Legit, on this PPV he says that phrase 3-5 times per match.  If there's no question about anything, why even bring it up?

The opening match, Mike Davis vs. Denny Brown had decent enough wrestling but it was too short, and the finish with Mike Brown pinning himself after a back suplex was so confusing even the ring announcer and Gordon Solie called it wrong.  Next up was Brian Adidas vs. Mr. Ito (Mystery Toe?), which had promising action but only went four minutes.

The first standout of the show was Jesse Barr vs. Mike Graham.  This was easily the best thing so far, and possibly the best match on the card.  Really strong mat wrestling and reversals, and Barr had some great heel moments like quick hair pulls and stepping on the ropes momentarily to gain leverage.  Barr won with a schoolboy while hooking the tights.

How was this not a four-star classic?