Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The History of NXT TakeOver: Chicago II

NXT's latest TakeOver special, simply entitled Chicago II, featured five matches of the good-to-excellent variety and was headlined by an epic grudge rematch.  Gargano vs. Ciampa is the most personal NXT feud since Owens vs. Zayn, and these two have been stellar in conveying the pure good vs. evil nature of their rivalry.  The undercard featured all three titles being defended, plus a pretty great little athletic showcase between Ricochet and Velveteen Dream.  So let's get into it.

The show opened with The Undisputed Era (I still hate that name) vs. Oney Lorcan (and that one) & Danny Burch for the NXT Tag belts.  These teams pulled out every stop they could find, as though they were desperately trying to steal the show.  The last third got perhaps a little overindulgent with the false finishes, but this was still a helluva good tag title match.  Roderick Strong in particular looked great, and the challenging team were made to look incredibly resilient, despite not much experience together.  A damn fine opener.  ***3/4

The second bout came very close to actually stealing the show.  Ricochet and Velveteen Dream felt like a main event in itself, starting out pretty methodically but gradually ramping up the action like crazy.  At one point Ricochet got suplexed from the apron to the floor, which looked positively brutal.  Velveteen's motivation was that Ric stole his thunder as the promotion's new aerial wizard.  The last few minutes were super dramatic and Ric got the duke with the 630 splash, a move I still can't believe is humanly possible.  ****

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Bald Guy Walks Into a Bar: The Cottage Bar & Restaurant (Weymouth, MA)

Welcome to a new feature here at Enuffa.com, A Bald Guy Walks Into a Bar, where I visit a local watering hole I WOULD be caught dead in, and tell y'all what I thought of the food & drink, the atmosphere, and the special attractions if any.

Today's subject is a recent addition to Weymouth, MA, an Irish-style pub called The Cottage, which offers tons of comfort food favorites, a modest lineup of draft and bottled beer (plus wine, and the hard stuff I'm too much of a puss to drink), and a rotating event calendar that includes live music, open mic nights, and Stump Trivia.

26 Union St.
Weymouth, MA 02190 


Right as you walk in it's clear this is a relaxed, care-free environment, with ample bar seating and plenty of tables.  As it's inspired by classic Irish pubs, there's a very basic decor and the walls are covered with Irish art, photos and tchotchkes.  Nothing fancy going on here, and that's what I want in an Irish drinking establishment.  We sat at the bar (where the stools were solidly comfy) and our bartender was friendly and accomodating.  No complaints here.

Rating: 3 Baldies out of 4


Good comfort food is a thing of beauty, and The Cottage has some pretty fantastic eats at cheapo prices.  I ordered the Irish Beef Stew, a traditional stew topped with mashed potatoes (sweet Jeezus that's a genius idea).  This stuff was tasty as all hell and even more filling.  My wife Kelly had a Cobb Salad topped with steak tips, and these things were unreal.  Tender, firegrilled hunks of red meat.  I'm ordering a plate of those next visit.  Our two entrees combined ran us $31.  Hard to beat that unless you're at some shithouse like Applebee's.

Rating: 4 Baldies out of 4 

WWE Money in the Bank 2018: The Night Asuka Became Stupid

Alright look, can someone answer me this question?  Does Vince McMahon have some kind of genetic commitment to including at least one infuriatingly baffling booking decision on every single PPV?  Money in the Bank 2018 was, overall, a decent show.  It was about an hour too long, with a few matches that belonged nowhere near a live audience, but it wasn't a bad show by any means.

But everything good about it was overshadowed for me by one of the stupidest finishes maybe ever, when Asuka, moments away from beating Carmella for the Smackdown Women's Title, got distracted like a cat confronted with a dangly object, because someone dressed in her ring entrance gear (quite obviously a man judging by this person's meaty hands) got up on the ring apron and stood there.  Asuka reacted as though a demon from her past showed up to collect a debt, so I thought maybe they were doing some kinda character building with her, like when Christian first showed up during Edge's matches.  But no, it was just James Ellsworth under there.  He unmasked and Asuka was still frozen in place, despite already kicking out of a Carmella roll-up.  One superkick later and Carmella pins Asuka to retain.  How fucking dumb are we expected to believe Asuka is?  How dumb does WWE think we are for being expected to accept a finish like this?

Now, a few logical questions:

1. Did Carmella and Ellsworth plan this ahead of time?  If so, why didn't Ellsworth show up one of the half-dozen other times Carmella was in serious trouble?

2. Did Ellsworth know the appearance of some stranger in an Asuka mask would halt Asuka dead in her tracks, or was that just a lucky break?

3. If it's the latter, what did he think was gonna happen?  What if Asuka just said "Oh, that's weird," and proceeded to kick a rain check into Carmella before pinning her?

There is nothing more deadly to a babyface character than booking them like an idiot.  No one wants to cheer for an easily duped shmuck.  So congratulations Vince, you've once again taken someone Triple H spent a lot of time and money building up in NXT and made them not special.  Between her premature first loss at 'Mania and now being made to look like a complete fool (after the inexcusible indignity of having to struggle against Carmella of all people), Asuka is just one of the girls now.  Fuck you.

Friday, June 15, 2018

NXT TakeOver: Chicago II Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NXT Predictions, here at Enuffa.com, where we predict the special events of the one part of WWE that still works consistently!

Look, I don't even watch NXT's weekly show, but even when I think I'm not up-to-date enough on the brand's goings-on, I can still sit down and watch the fuck out of a TakeOver special and feel like I spent my time wisely.  That's the mark of a good wrestling product, when you don't necessarily HAVE to catch every weekly show to understand and appreciate what's happening on the big ones.  Simple stories in wrestling are still the most effective.

Anywho, the black & yellow brand has once again put together a great-looking card that won't feel like it lasts five days, with three title matches, an undercard bout between two up-and-comers, and an all-time grudge rematch.  Undoubtedly this will once again trounce the main roster show in terms of quality and enjoyment, begging the question (again), does Vince not care that developmental's audiences are WAY more enthusiastic than RAW & Smackdown's?  It's just fucking baffling to me.

Anyway let's take a look at the matches....

Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream

This could actually steal the show if given enough time.  Dream has already impressed everyone with his charisma and athletic ability, and Ricochet is superhuman.  I'm just lookin' to see some fireworks here.

Justin: Ricochet wins his first big singles match in NXT
Landon: Ricochet

NXT Women's Championship: Shayna Baszler vs. Nikki Cross

Baszler is a legit scary woman and carries herself like a goddamn monster.  Nikki Cross is a crazy person with zero fucks to give.  This oughta be a wild one.  Shayna's calculated precision attack vs. Nikki's unruly brawling.  It's like Ken Shamrock vs. Mankind.

Justin: Shayna retains
Landon: Baszler

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2000)

King of the Ring 2000 - FleetCenter - 6.25.00

The 2000 edition has to be one of the most disappointing PPVs of all time.  Considering how amazing the WWF product was in 2000 and how strong the roster, anything less than a homerun would've been a letdown, but with this show they didn't even seem to try.  The tournament began with a field of 32 wrestlers, making it the largest in history.  That the company even had 32 viable competitors for such a tourney was remarkable, and I was incredibly excited to see this play out.  Unfortunately the booking of the PPV made no sense, wasted some of the company's best talents, and they tried to cram eleven matches onto a three-hour show.

The massive first-round field boiled down to Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle (Stop right there, that should've been your Final Four, period.), Rikishi, Val Venis, Crash Holly(?), and Bull Buchanan(??).  Right off the bat they got the brackets wrong, wasting Angle vs. Jericho on a quarterfinal match while pitting Holly and Buchanan against each other.  One of these matches had immense potential, the other did not.  On top of that, three of the four best candidates fell short of the semis.  Chris Benoit pointlessly got himself disqualified against Rikishi, Eddie lost to the no-longer-relevant Venis, and Jericho got beaten by Angle.  So yeah, Crash Holly made it to the semifinals but Benoit, Guerrero and Jericho didn't?  Anyone else find that scenario just wrong?  By the way, not one match in this tournament lasted even ten minutes, and the two longest bouts were in the quarterfinals.

The semis saw Kurt Angle make quick work of Crash Holly, while Rikishi trounced Venis in just over three minutes.  The Angle-Rikishi final was fun while it lasted, but failed to even crack the six-minute mark.  Again.  Why would the final match of a supposedly prestigious tournament fail to reach double-digits?  In the positive though, this tournament win helped solidify Kurt Angle as a future main event star.

Again with the stupid crown and sceptre

The non-tournament matches ranged from pretty good to Worst Match of the Year.  The one bright spot on this show was a four-way elimination match for the Tag Team Titles, as unlikely Champions Too Cool (What the hell kinda move was that?) defended against Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and T&A.  Edge & Christian managed to regain the straps in a solid show stealer.

Next was the match voted Worst of the Year by the Wrestling Observer, as Pat Patterson faced Gerald Brisco in a Hardcore Evening Gown Match.  Another example of "What demographic is this aimed at?"  Fortunately it was very short.  Much like my patience by this point in the evening.

Seriously, was anyone buying the PPV for this?

A fairly pointless, convoluted handicap match went on just before the tourney final, as X-Pac, Road Dogg and Tori faced the Dudley Boyz in a Tables Dumpster Match.  After nearly ten minutes of run-of-the-mill table spots and hardcore action, DX's numbers advantage took its toll on Bubba and D-Von, and they were stuffed into the dumpster.  But they got their heat back immediately by hitting X-Pac and Road Dogg with 3-Ds and powerbombing Tori through a table.  This feud stunk.

Speaking of convoluted, the main event was a six-man tag for the WWF Title.  Champion Triple H teamed with his future in-laws Vince & Shane against The Rock, Undertaker and Kane, where whomever scored the pinfall would be the WWF Champ.  In the match's closing moments this of course led to dissension among the babyface team as they fought over who got to score the pin.  Ultimately The Rock pinned Vince following a People's Elbow and won the belt.  What a tremendously stupid way to win a Championship.

The Rock pins Vince McMahon......
to win Triple H's WWF Title.....wait, what???

So yeah, this show was a great big disorganized dump heap.  Only three matches were even worth watching, and most of the tremendous roster was wasted.  Despite the WWF product being top-notch in 2000, only one of the Big Five PPVs really lived up to expectations, and it wasn't this one.  I actually waited in line to get tickets to this turd, and fortunately it was sold out by the time I got to the front.  Dodged a bullet there I tell ya!

Best Match: Too Cool vs. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. T&A
Worst Match: Pat Patterson vs. Gerald Brisco
What I'd Change: Cut the show down to the tourney plus two matches, make the main event a Triple H-Rock-Taker-Kane four-way, have Benoit, Jericho & Eddie make the semifinals of the tournament, and overall get your shit together!
Most Disappointing Match: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho, which was fine but nowhere near what they were capable of
Most Pleasant Surprise: NNNNNNNNope.
Overall Rating: 2/10


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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WWE Money in the Bank 2018 Preview & Predictions

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's WWE Predictions!  It's been a while since WWE dropped a mediocre-at-best turd on PPV.  Feels like I haven't bitched about their misuse of their stacked talent roster in ages.  And with New Japan having just delivered an amazing Dominion card headlined by possibly the best match I've ever seen in thirty-plus years of watching wrestling, Money in the Bank is gonna feel very anti-climactic.  But we got a job to do.....

As much on-paper potential as this show has, WWE's writing has been so stilted and goofy I'm having a hard time bringing myself to give a shit.  Styles vs. Nakamura has been a terribly booked feud, robbing them of what should've been a classic series of matches.  Daniel Bryan is still saddled with trying to give Big Cass any credibility as an in-ring performer.  Sami Zayn is being used to get the robotic Bobby Lashley over.  And bafflingly they're pairing Ronda Rousey up against Nia Jax, who isn't at all ready of carrying someone so new to pro wrestling in a match.

On top of this, rumors are rampant that Brock Lesnar will finally be dropping the the Universal Title, at SummerSlam.  To Roman Reigns.  For the love of fucking Christ, enough with the Brock-Roman shit.  They've wrestled three times, each match getting worse feedback than the last.  Roman isn't your guy.  Seth Rollins is.

Sadly with WWE's recently announced deal with Fox, giving them an exorbitant amount of cash for broadcast rights to Smackdown, Vince is about to start caring even less about putting out quality television.  There's no longer an incentive to do so.  Christ....

Anyway, let's get to the picks.

***Little Dave Moore is in the lead with 69% (22/32), I'm in second with 66% (21/32), Landon is next with 63% (20/32), and Dan's right in the rear with 56% (18/32)***

Pre-Show Match Smackdown Tag Team Championship: Bludgeon Brothers vs. Anderson & Gallows

Welp, this got pushed off the main card.  Just as well, it's a throwaway (though it could be decent) and 10 matches on a B PPV is way too many.  Karl and Luke have zero chance of winning the belts here.

Justin: BB retain
Dan: Bludgeon me.
Landon: BB
Dave: I liked Karl & Luke when they first came up. WWE buried them and they will stay buried. BB retain

Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

Fuck me....this feud is built around stupid comedy segments involving Lashley's fake sisters, obstacle courses, and other non-wrestling crap.  The company better be paying attention to how good a heel Sami is, because that's all that's being accomplished here.  No one gives a rat's butthole about Lashley the Charisma Vacuum.  He wasn't relevant in 2007 and he certainly isn't now.

Justin: Lashley wins anyway
Dan: Lashley STINKS, but he'll win.
Landon: Lashley
Dave: Who cares?  Lashley.

Smackdown Women's Championship: Carmella vs. Asuka

Okay, here's how this should go.  Asuka kills Carmella dead in 28 seconds, new champion.  Anything other than this scenario is an insult to Asuka.  Also tell me again why Vince had Charlotte end Asuka's streak just to have her drop the belt to Carmella?  Was it just to knock Triple H's hard work down a peg or two?

Justin: Asuka better win this
Dan: I agree.
Landon: Asuka
Dave: It's Asuka time.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1999)

King of the Ring 1999 - Greensboro Coliseum - 6.27.99

As with the product in general mid-1999, the King of the Ring showed major chinks in the WWF armor.  This show restored the full 8-man bracket to the PPV with very rushed, mixed results, and while a pair of solid main event brawls and the overall tournament made for a fun one-time watch, this PPV doesn't hold up too well to scrutiny.  Also, like in 1995, the company handpicked their intended new main eventer despite the fans not buying into him.

The first round consisted of three abbreviated bouts - X-Pac vs. Bob Holly, Kane vs. ex-WCW star The Big Show (heavily favored to win the whole thing but unceremoniously knocked out in the first round), and Billy Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock.  None of these were long enough to be memorable.  However the final first-round match pitted former friends The Road Dogg and Chyna.  While no in-ring masterpiece, it was certainly intriguing seeing Chyna go head-to-head with one of the male stars in a major singles bout.  Previously she had only really appeared in mixed tag matches.  This probably got more time than it deserved but I never found it boring.  Road Dogg won after 13 minutes.

The semifinals saw Billy Gunn quickly defeat Kane and X-Pac even more quickly defeat best friend Road Dogg, leading to what should've been a solid big man vs. underdog final match.  Unfortunately Billy Gunn and X-Pac were only given 5:35, harkening back to the half-assed mid-90s tournament finals and once again undermining the whole tourney concept.

Mr. Ass beats up Mr. Pac

Not surprisingly the three non-tournament matches constituted the real meat of the show.  The first was a brief-but-thrilling #1 Contenders match for the Tag Titles, as Edge & Christian began their storied rivalry with The Hardy Boyz.  This was one of those matches that ended up better than it should've given how short it was.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1998)

Possibly the best-remembered King of the Ring is this one....

King of the Ring 1998 - The Igloo - 6.28.98

The WWF got back on track in a huge way in 1998, fueled by Attitude and with Steve Austin at the wheel.  Between Austin's white-hot run as World Champ, DeGeneration X's crass-but-lovable antics, and The Rock oozing charisma all over the place, the WWF finally pulled ahead of WCW in the ratings after nearly two years.  While the King of the Ring won't win any points for scientific grappling, the intensity of some of the brawls on this show (one in particular) makes it an essential chapter in WWF lore.

The tournament once again took a bit of a backseat to the two main event matches, but after two forgettable semi-finals (The Rock defeating Dan Severn, and Ken Shamrock trouncing Jeff Jarrett), we were treated to a pretty damn good final match.  The Rock and Shamrock had faced each other several times on PPV already, both in tag matches and in singles bouts, but this was the first time they were given long enough to really shine.  In a tremendous back-and-forth match (aided by Triple H's amusing guest commentary), Shamrock finally scored a decisive win over the I-C Champ to win the tournament (No ceremonial crown and scepter for Ken).  While Shamrock never reached the heights of the previous two KOTR winners, it did solidify him as a reliable semi-main eventer.

You don't see the seated anklelock anymore...

The non-tournament matches on this PPV were numerous and varied, beginning with a fun little six-man tag.  Taka Michinoku teamed with The Headbangers against his former (and future) teammates Kaientai in a near-seven-minute whirlwind.  Nothing amazing but a good way to kick things off.

The one stinker on this show involved Jerry Lawler refereeing a match between Too Much (later renamed Too Cool) and Al Snow & Head (Al's disembodied mannequin head).  The story here was Al trying to win a WWF contract after spending several months in ECW.  He lost, but ended up on the roster anyway.  This was crap.

Next up though was a neat little singles match as Owen Hart took on the newly-returned X-Pac.  Now equipped with one of the coolest characters in wrestling, Sean Waltman put on a strong showing against the massively talented Owen, and the two created a midcard highlight.

An underrated Tag Team Title match was next, as the hugely popular New Age Outlaws took on the New Midnight Express (Bob Holly and Bart Gunn).  While the NME gimmick may have been ill-advised, at the time I liked this pairing, and they gelled quite well with Billy and The Road Dogg.  Solid stuff there.

Monday, June 11, 2018

NJPW Dominion 2018: Okada-Omega Is the New Yardstick

Dude.  Holy actual fucking shit.  If Okada-Omega IV wasn't the greatest match of all time, I dunno what is.  I went into this saying "Well, they're gonna try to top everything they've done before, and if two guys could do it, it's Okada and Omega.  But let's be realistic, it'll probably be their second or third-best match.  And that's good enough."  But no, they actually fucking topped everything they've ever done before.  If there had previously been a case to be made against Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega being the two absolute best wrestlers in the world (and really, there wasn't), there definitely isn't now.  These guys set an impossibly high bar for themselves at WrestleKingdom 11 and somehow managed to clear it at Dominion 2018.  This main event was about as perfect a match as I've ever seen.

But first let's talk about the rest of the show.  Even if the undercard of this PPV had sucked, the main event was so incredible it's an 8/10 show for that alone.  But fortunately the undercard did not suck at all.

The opener was a short but entertaining Jr. Tag Title match, with Roppongi 3K challenging El Desperado & Kanemaru, hoping to regain the straps.  The heels took advantage of a slight ref bump and Kanemaru used a whiskey bottle on SHO for the win.  Very odd choice keeping the belts on SZGN here but I imagine RPG3K will get them back sooner or later.  Nothing spectacular in this opener, it was fine.  **

Next up was Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay in another short bout.  This was all about setting up White vs. Robinson, which it did nicely.  Robinson got the pin on White with Pulp Friction, and these two will face off for the US Title at the G1 Special.  Just a quick 7-minute match.  **

A third undercard tag match pitted Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano against Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.  This was the best of the three openers, mostly due to the Ishii-Suzuki interaction (a big singles match is upcoming and should be glorious).  Sabre got the win for his team by tapping out Yano, but after the match Ishii and Suzuki brawled into the back.  Another fun little match.  **1/4

The first really noteworthy bout was the NEVER Openweight triple threat.  Hirooki Goto and Michael Elgin carried most of the weight here while Taichi played the chickenshit heel who picked his spots and tried to stay out of danger.  After some nice three-way spots and some good powerbrokering from Goto and Elgin, Elgin won by buckle bombing Taichi into Goto and then Elgin bombing Taichi for the pin.  Elgin vs. Goto is already announced for Kizuna Road, so that should be a helluva fight.  This match wasn't your usual NEVER slugfest but had some clever spots and was well worked.  ***1/2

Here's where the show really started to take off.  The Young Bucks, freshly moved up to the heavyweight tag division, challenged Evil & Sanada in an energetic, dramatic bout where both Bucks sold injuries - Matt's back became an issue again, and Nick missed a kick on the apron and whacked his foot on the post.  Both injuries played into multiple spots and the Bucks were in peril for much of the bout.  Matt and Nick Jackson have successfully transitioned from spotfest wrestlers to really great storytellers, and this match felt different than their Jr. division stuff.  I'm really excited to see how the heavyweight class looks with them in the mix.  After multiple exciting false finishes, the Bucks took the match and the straps with More Bang for Your Buck.  One of the best heavyweight tag title matches I've seen in NJPW.  ****

Friday, June 8, 2018

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1997)

King of the Ring '97 - Providence Civic Center - 6.8.97

The KOTR took a step back down in 1997, as a disorganized tournament coupled with last-minute card reshuffles made for a muddled show and a thin roster.  It was also something of a do-over for Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who had been pegged to win the tourney in 1996 but was instead punished for the infamous "Curtain Call" incident the night of Diesel and Razor Ramon's WWF exit.  So this show was an endeavor to set his career back on track.

What made no sense though was that Helmsley had been eliminated by Ahmed Johnson in the first round on free TV (the PPV would again only feature the semis and finals), but kayfabe threatened legal action since he was supposedly unaware he could be ousted due to a disqualification (even though that precedent had been set in numerous tournaments already).  So Hunter won the next qualifier against Crush, and would face Ahmed again in the semis.  Their PPV match was brief and just as forgettable as the first, but Hunter won, earning him a finals spot.

In the other semifinal the now-sympathetic, complex babyface Mankind faced Jerry Lawler in a pretty slow, meandering brawl in which Lawler used an invisible foreign object.  By that I mean he motioned pulling something out of his tights that evidently fit all the way into his fist and repeatedly punched Mankind with it.  Now, even if that was supposed to be a ball bearing or some such object, would that really add much oomph to a regular punch?  Did Lawler forget to actually stuff something in his drawers before the match?  Regardless, Mankind won, and would face Helmsley for the crown.

"Wait, I gotta wear this...ridiculous thing?  I resign..."

Their finals match was good but not great - it had some intense spots but was longer than necessary and felt like it never got out of second gear until the waning moments.  Highlights included Hunter hitting the Pedigree through the announce table, and Chyna bludgeoning Mankind with the royal scepter.  After nearly 20 minutes Hunter was crowned the '97 King of the Ring, and thus began in earnest his path to main event status.

Non-tourney matches included a RAW-quality Goldust-Crush match, a fun but middling six-man pitting Owen Hart, British Bulldog & Jim Neidhart against Sycho Sid and the Legion of Doom, and the double main event.

First up was the current WWF Tag Champions Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin facing each other.  The background of this match started with the newly formed Hart Foundation targeting all of the American WWF wrestlers (sparking the awesome US vs. Canada feud).  Owen Hart and the Bulldog had been Tag Champs but lost the Titles to Austin and the returning Shawn Michaels (whom you'll recall went home three months earlier to "find his smile").  Shawn was then set to feud with Bret Hart again and it was announced they would have a ten-minute time limit challenge at King of the Ring (not sure what the point of a ten-minute match was), while Austin would face former friend Brian Pillman.  But Bret sustained a knee injury in a real-life backstage skirmish with Shawn, and would miss the PPV.  The Hart Foundation suggested instead that Shawn fight Austin since the two didn't fully trust each other.  "Divide and conquer" I believe it's called.  The match was quite good but didn't quite live up to my lofty expectations of a masterpiece, and after nearly 23 minutes it ended in a double disqualification.  The best moment though was watching the two walk back to the dressing room while suspiciously keeping an eye on each other.  Hilarious.

My God...look at that team....

As for the main event, recently-crowned WWF Champion The Undertaker would face Nation of Domination leader Faarooq.  Yeah, this wasn't any more exciting than it sounded.  Faarooq was a pretty non-threatening opponent for Taker and there was little suspense here.  Taker won a mediocre match with the Tombstone before Ahmed Johnson ran in and eventually attacked Taker.  The prospect of a Taker-Ahmed match was very intriguing to me, but Ahmed got hurt again before it could ever take place.

"Bitches, prepare to eat armpit!"

King of the Ring 1997 was roughly a two-match event.  Austin vs. Michaels is obviously worth seeking out, and Hunter-Mankind has some good moments and some historical significance, but otherwise this PPV wasn't much better than your average RAW (though at least nothing was terrible).  The WWF would find its creative footing over the coming months with the US-Canada feud hitting high gear and the emergence of the Attitude approach.  But KOTR '97 was a rather shabby entry from a company desperately in need of a fresh approach.

Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin
Worst Match: Mankind vs. Jerry Lawler
What I'd Change: The tournament felt very half-assed in general.  I know the roster was thin, but it was only an 8-man field and Owen, Davey, Pillman, Vader (who may have still been stuck in Singapore after roughing up a TV host there), and Sid were all left out.  Also, Faarooq as the #1 contender??
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the tourney final, which wasn't bad but wasn't anywhere near as good as their subsequent matches
Most Pleasant Surprise: Nothing really
Overall Rating: 5/10


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Top Ten Things: Star Wars Films

Welcome to a Special Edition (See what I did there?) of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  With the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, we now have ten live-action theatrical films in the series, so here I am to rank them for ya.  

I literally can't remember a time before Star Wars came into my life.  I was 18 months old when it came out, and I'm not sure when exactly I saw the original film.  I think it was probably during the 1979 re-release but I can't be sure.  I am however certain that I saw Empire multiple times in the theater between 1980 and 1982, and rushed out to see Return of the Jedi in '83.  The original unaltered trilogy is still my favorite series of films (I can't watch the Special Editions anymore, I just can't), and it's still the yardstick by which I measure every other movie trilogy.

When the prequels were released from 1999-2005 I was hooked on those right away too.  Only later as I actually thought about them did I realize how far short they fell, and for the better part of a decade I'd resigned myself to being an OT purist.  But then Disney bought the property and took the series back to all the things I'd originally loved about it - enduring characters, profound themes, thrilling battles, and visually stunning worlds and creatures.  The Star Wars series was ready to expand, for realsies this time.

But how do the films stack up against each other?  Well if you read my intro the lowest-ranked entries should be no surprise.  So let's get to it - here are my rankings for the Star Wars live-action films.....

10. Attack of the Clones

Sigh... yeah, I gotta get through the three bad ones before I get to the good ones.  Look, when the prequels first came out I was so blinded by my love of Star Wars that I couldn't see the glaring, logic-defying, nonsensical plot contrivances that made the story being told incomprehensible.  And I was so dazzled by "oooh, lightsabers!" that I forgave the embarrassing performances from nearly every cast member (Seriously, Natalie Portman is an Oscar-winning actress and George Lucas failed to get even one passable performance out of her in these films).  The specific problems with the prequels have been explored ad nauseum, so I won't go into too much detail, but suffice it to say, there really isn't one redeeming thing about Attack of the Clones.  The storyline of Obi-Wan discovering an illegally created clone army that the Republic then actually uses(??) makes no sense and is pointless as the main plot of a film.  Why wasn't the middle chapter of this trilogy dedicated to the actual Clone Wars?  Isn't that what everyone was looking forward to, aside from seeing the creation of Darth Vader?  Instead we get the very beginning of the Clone Wars here and it turns out to be a fake war orchestrated by Palpatine just so he can remain in power, while not one of our protagonists can see through this shove-to-the-face obvious ploy.  Plus we get the worst love story every put to film.  Plus we get PlayStation One-esque CGI in every frame.  Plus the aforementioned terrible acting.  Plus the "I don't like sand" speech.  This stuff is Ed Wood bad.  Attack of the Clones is the worst live-action theatrical Star Wars film.

9. The Phantom Menace

Only slightly less terrible is Episode I, in which the dialogue is every bit as cringeworthy, the story every bit as preposterous, and the acting equally wooden.  Plus fucking Jar Jar.  Damn, this is a tough call....  But what The Phantom Menace has over Clones is twofold - the pod racing sequence is fun, despite being a totally convoluted way just to get Anakin off Tattooine, and Darth Maul is a badass villain, despite only having ten minutes of screen time and no real character to speak of.  From a technical standpoint the lightsaber duel in this film is the best of the series (Sure, there's exactly zero going on between the participants, but the choreography is cool at least).  So those two aspects are enjoyable, even if the rest of the film isn't.  But yeah, The Phantom Menace is drivel.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1996)


King of the Ring 1996 - MECCA Arena - 6.23.96

What a difference a year makes.  The 1996 edition was everything the previous KOTR wasn't.  Exciting, fresh, memorable, and the tournament elevated someone who actually deserved it.  For the first time only the semifinals and finals would take place on the PPV; the first two rounds would be decided on RAW and Superstars.  The sparser PPV format allowed the WWF to stack the card, and while it de-emphasized the tourney to a certain extent, it made for a much stronger overall show.

To kick things off we were treated to an excellent semifinal matchup between WWF newcomers Steve Austin and Marc Mero.  These two former WCW talents delivered a fast-paced, action-packed bout which infamously included an errant Mero kick that split Austin's lip open.  Austin finished, and won, the match before being rushed to the hospital for stitches.

Hard to believe Mero was hired at three times Austin's pay
The other semi pitted tournament favorite Vader against the newly-returned Jake Roberts, and was more of an angle than anything else.  Vader was disqualified early on and went ballistic, destroying Jake with multiple splashes after the bell.  This beautifully set up the eventual final, where a stitched-up Austin took advantage of Jake's injury to dominate him for four-plus minutes before tying up the tourney with a Stunner.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Music Review: Ghost - Prequelle (2018)

After an ugly lawsuit between current and former members, Swedish metal band Ghost have returned with their fourth LP Prequelle, and the results are, well, underwhelming.  Feeling less like a fresh set of new songs and more like a plate of leftovers from Meloria (their killer 2015 album), Prequelle pretty much explores the same sonic territory but lacks the instant throat-grab of songs like "He Is" and "Cirice."  Where Meloria and its 2013 predecessor Infestessumam (my personal favorite Ghost record) were chock full of excellent 70s and 80s-esque hard rock that channeled bands like Blue Oyster Cult and even (gasp!) ABBA, Prequelle is just a slate of competently written and performed tunes that satisfy without dazzling.

Even minor standouts like the glam metalish "Rats" and "Dance Macabre" and the intriguing but incomplete-sounding closer "Life Eternal," with its numerous key modulations and emotive hook, sound like B-side material rather than album highlights.  The choice to put two full-length instrumentals on one record strikes me as odd too - the second of these, an atmospheric waltz called "Helvetesfonster," keeps my attention at least, but the first, called "Miasma," feels like a song for which they just couldn't come up with a vocal part (though I did like the use of saxophone toward the end).  Couple that with the truncated intro track "Ashes," and you're left with only seven songs that feature the band's frontman and primary creative force. 

That's not to say Prequelle doesn't sound great, it certainly does.  The slick, full-sounding production on Meloria is back on this album; the instruments all sound huge and thunderous, and Cardinal Copia's dense vocal harmonies provide plenty of ear candy as usual.  It's just that the prodigious songwriting of the last two records is missing here.  I don't hate any of these tunes, but I don't love any of them either. 

Prequelle is a decent effort, but unlike Infestessumam and Meloria, sadly doesn't feel like an essential Ghost record.

I give the album *** out of *****.

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NJPW Dominion 2018 Preview & Predictions

Holy jumpin' shitballs this show looks good.  Like, "the most fun you can have with your clothes on" good.  Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself - welcome to another round of PPV Predictions here at Enuffa.com.

As I was saying, Dominion has all the markings of an all-time classic PPV.  Epic main event?  Check.  Awesome special attraction match?  Check.  Wildly athletic Jr. Heavyweight match?  Check.  Guest stars?  Check.  Potentially division-altering Tag Title match?  Check.  Literally the only thing missing from this show is Kota Ibushi (where the hell is he??).  There's no reason this can't be the PPV of the Year.

So let's get to the predictions....

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Roppongi 3K

This'll be the hot opener to kick things off.  Now that the Super Juniors tourney is over, RPG3K needs to regain the straps and go back to being the division's new featured team.  I'm not expecting an incredible match here, but this should be fun.

Justin: RPG
Landon: Let's get these straps on RPG so that Desperado can challenge for the Junior Heavyweight title.

Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi

This is one of the few New Japan shows where even the throwaway tag matches early on the card hold some intrigue for me.  I often skip these types of matches, but this and the next match could both be quite entertaining.  I like that White and Finlay are feuding over a championship, now that they're all growns up.  White is still looking for his career-defining match, but I have no doubt he'll find it.  I have a feeling this is to set up White vs. Juice over the next couple months.

Justin: I guess I'll go with Juice and Dave
Landon: Juice and Dave.  Sorry Yoshi.

Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano

Again, this could just be a filler match but I'm actually interested in it; anytime Ishii mixes it up with Suzuki or Sabre I'm on board.  I'd like to see a real feud between Ishii and Sabre.  This should have some nice brutality mixed with Yano's comedy antics.

Justin: Suzuki-Gun
Landon: SZGN

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Parents' Night In #8: Star Wars - The Last Jedi (2017)

Join Kelly and Justin for a super-sized episode of the hottest show on YouTube*, as we drink booze and talk about the most controversial Star Wars film of all time, The Last Jedi!  Is it as bad as some people say?  As great as other people say?  Is Rose the worst character ever?  Are "butthurt fanboys" overreacting?  Let's take a closer look!

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*According to a panel of experts who live in our house.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1995)

Dear God, what are we about to unleash on the world???

King of the Ring 1995 - Corestates Spectrum - 6.25.95

As bad as KOTR '94 was, that show was WrestleMania 19 compared to this putrid collection of dog vomit.  In one of the earliest examples of tone-deaf booking on Vince's part, the tournament this time around was meant to elevate midcard tag wrestler Mabel, who was now a heel, much to the delight of no one.  Shawn Michaels, having just returned to action after a sudden babyface turn and a brief kayfabe injury, was heavily favored by fans to win the crown.  When Shawn was eliminated in the first round the live crowd tuned right the fuck out.

Even Shawn was bored shitless

The pre-show match didn't bode well for the PPV, as Razor Ramon had to miss the tourney due to a rib injury.  To determine his replacement, IRS would face midcarder Savio Vega on the Free For All show.  Savio won the forgettable bout and would make it all the way to the tournament final, defeating heavy (no pun intended) favorite Yokozuna by countout and besting Jeff Jarrett's sidekick The Roadie (why Brian Armstrong made the PPV but I-C Champion Jarrett didn't I dunno).  But since Savio wasn't established no one cared.  Other tournament lowlights included The Undertaker first-round elimination at the hands of Mabel (with an assist from Kama), and the Shawn Michaels-Kama time limit draw, which even the great HBK couldn't make work.  The Philadelphia fans HATED this tournament, and the eventual winner King Mabel would prove one of the least successful pet projects in WWF history, despite headlining that year's SummerSlam.

Mabel?  Mabel.  MABEL??!?

Elsewhere on the card, Bret Hart would settle his longtime feud with Jerry Lawler in a vile Kiss My Foot match where the post-match stipulation overshadowed the worse-than-mediocre bout.  Bret won the match and stuck his big toe into Lawler's mouth, in one of many WWF/E examples of "What demographic was this aimed at?" before shoving Lawler's own foot in his mouth.  Between the disappointing Bret-Backlund I Quit match, this stinker, and Bret's awful SummerSlam bout with Isaac Yankem, 1995 had to be one of the worst years in The Hitman's career.

The main event was a completely forgettable tag team brawl tailor made for your average RAW episode, pitting Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow against Sycho Sid and Tatanka.  There's really not much to say about this match; it was 17-plus minutes of your garden variety punch-kick offense that Vince loves to flog himself to, and it exemplified everything wrong with the WWF product in 1995.  It's no surprise Diesel was the worst-drawing WWF Champion of all-time, and this match was Exhibit A.

King of the Ring 1995 had nothing redeeming about it.  Literally not one match on this show exceeded two stars, names like Owen Hart, Lex Luger, Davey Boy Smith, 1-2-3 Kid, Hakushi and Jeff Jarrett were absent from it, and the absolute wrong guy was elevated to a main event slot.  I'm as baffled by it now as I was then.  This stands as possibly the worst WWF/E PPV of all time.

Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Kama, by default
Worst Match: Take your pick, but we'll go with Mabel vs. Savio
What I'd Change: Everything.  I should write up a Wrestling Do-Overs piece about this turd.
Most Disappointing Match: Shawn vs. Kama - When Shawn Michaels can't save a show, you've got problems.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Ummmm.....
Overall Rating: This is unprecedented, but I can't in good conscience award even a single point to this calamity of a PPV.  0/10


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Monday, June 4, 2018

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1994)

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's History of WWE King of the Ring!

King of the Ring '94 - Baltimore Arena - 6.19.94
Yeesh, what a downturn this show took from the previous year.  Where the 1993 tournament carried real weight and accounted for the two longest and best matches of the PPV, this time the company skimmed through the tournament (allotting only 8.5 minutes to the LONGEST tourney bout), and inexplicably put a one-off Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler match in the main event.  Not to mention football player Art Donovan was part of the announce team, and knew exactly zilch about wrestling.  Thus his commentary was laughable at best and distractingly nonsensical at worst.

Of the three non-tournament matches only one was worth seeing, and despite being the billed main event it took place in the middle of the show.  WWF Champion Bret Hart defended against Intercontinental Champion Diesel, in a shockingly good bout.  Diesel was a very unproven monster heel at this point but he had excellent chemistry with Bret as it turned out, and this was a fine 22-minute main event.  Diesel won by disqualification when Bret's old partner Jim Neidhart attacked Diesel, hoping to negate the unfair advantage caused by Shawn Michaels' interference.

Dammit Jim....

The second non-tourney match was for the Tag Titles, as The Headshrinkers defended against Yokozuna and Crush.  I'd hoped for the heel tandem to win the straps here, as they would've made a dominant pairing.  But a distraction by Lex Luger cost them the match, and Crush & Yoko would never team again.

For some bizarre reason the main event slot went to the aforementioned Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler debacle.  This amounted to twelve-plus minutes of nondescript brawling leading mercifully to a Piper win.  In what universe this could be considered a fitting main event I have no idea.  Now let us never speak of it again.

The tournament took up seven of the ten matches on the card, and despite some intriguing pairings nothing really stood out given the abbreviated length.  The one memorable match in the tourney was the Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid semifinal, which was about as good as any 3.5-minute bout I've ever seen.  They crammed a ton of action into such a short time. Still though, it was only 217 seconds, so it could only be so good.  The Owen vs. Razor final could've easily been a 4-star affair had it gone 15-20 minutes, but the company only gave them six and a half.  I dunno about you, but for me a guy winning the final of a tournament in such short order when said tourney is meant to elevate him kinda negates the importance of it all.  Owen won the tournament in part thanks to Jim Neidhart, who revealed himself to be in cahoots with Owen the entire time, having preserved Bret's Championship for the eventual Bret-Owen rematch.  Still the crown went to an eminently deserving new heel who was now the top antagonist in the company, setting the stage for SummerSlam.

How was this match not epic?

This was a one-and-a-half match show.  There's no other way to describe it.  The WWF Title match was great, and the Owen-Kid semi was a spectacular short match.  Otherwise this show stunk to high heaven.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Diesel
Worst Match: Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler
What I'd Change: Skip the Piper-Lawler nonsense, leave Art Donovan at home, and give the tournament matches a feeling of actual importance.  Owen vs. Razor only being allotted 6:35 is inexcusable.
Most Disappointing Match: Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon
Most Pleasant Surprise: How well Diesel worked with Bret
Overall Rating: 3.5/10

Movie Review: Solo - A Star Wars Story (2018)

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the type of movie Rogue One really should have been - a gritty, small-scope heist film with an assortment of unseemly, well, roguish types we can't help but identify with.  Where Rogue One didn't give any of its characters an arc or relatable traits (aside from the smart-ass droid), Solo actually has colorful characters who are fun to spend a couple hours with and keeps the action sequences pretty toned down (though that Rogue One space battle is fucking awesome).  It blends elements of crime movies and Westerns to finally give us a different kind of Star Wars film (with an admittedly way-too-dark palette - sometimes it was hard to see who we were looking at).

Alden Ehrenreich stars as the young version of everyone's favorite intergalactic smuggler, in a performance that doesn't equal Harrison Ford's iconic turn (Honestly, how could it?), but captures enough of that Solo swagger and cocksuredness that we aren't distracted by the fact that it isn't Ford.  Ehrenreich is likable, smarmy and generally in way over his head, like Han Solo should be.  There were rumors of the filmmakers being unhappy with his work early on, to the point that he had to be sent to an acting coach.  I'm not sure how much of that is true, but whatever they did worked just fine.  So no complaints about the film's lead, which is half the battle in and of itself.

Solo also boasts several engaging supporting characters, including Donald Glover's much-anticipated portrayal of Lando Calrissian.  Glover does solid work here, emulating Billy Dee Williams' natural charisma and distinctive manner of speech, while dialing up Lando's more scoundrel-ish traits.  When we meet Calrissian he is a gambling aficionado who seemingly spends all his time in seedy underworld locales, loving the action at the card table.  Han and Lando immediately have an uneasy rapport, neither trusting the other in the slightest but each finding something irresistable about the other.  They don't get a ton of screen time together but the seeds are planted for their later interactions.

Chewbacca is lovable as usual, and his chemistry with Han is instantly established; right away it's clear these two are buddies for the long haul.  Chewie's introduction was handled nicely, in such a way that the two characters believably feel indebted to each other.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Great PPVs: NJPW Dominion 2015

It's been a while, but welcome back to The Great PPVs, here at Enuffa.com and TheGorillaPosition.com, where I take a look back at a wrestling show that just kicked all kinds of ass and left me asking for seconds.  With New Japan's Dominion show coming up I thought I'd look back at the first Dominion show for which I was an NJPW fan, Dominion 2015!

This PPV was the culmination of a year-long arc for Kazuchika Okada, who'd been unseated for the IWGP Title by AJ Styles (partly due to Bullet Club shenanigans), and spend the rest of 2014 and the first half of 2015 trying to climb back up the mountain (with a heartbreaking loss to Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom 9).  Okada's road to Dominion had been a troubled one, with a couple losses to Bad Luck Fale before a big win at Invasion Attack that put that feud to bed and set the stage for The Rainmaker to face Styles at the second-biggest show of the year.

But first the undercard...

Dominion was in my estimation the second-best PPV of 2015 behind WrestleKingdom 9.  The show's nine matches flew by, with the two headliners falling well into ****+ territory and several other bouts approaching that.  Only two matches could even be considered weak, and one of those was more of an angle than a proper match.

The show opened with a wild, fast-paced offering from the Jr. Heavyweight Tag division, as The Young Bucks defended their Titles against reDRagon and RPG Vice.  NJPW does cruiser-style action better than anyone, and these three teams got the crowd warmed up nicely, delivering a fun 14-minute sprint that ended with More Bang for Your Buck.  Very enjoyable opener.

Next up was one of the weaker matches of the night; Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma and Tetsuya Naito.  This took place during the very early stages of Naito becoming the Ingobernable we all know and love today, so if nothing else the match has some historical significance.  Naito sauntered down to the ring, in no hurry to help out his partner who was already being ambushed by the two Bullet Club members, and even refused to tag into the match until very late.  Eventually Honma got the surprise win, but Naito bailed immediately after the closing bell.  Turning the bland babyface Naito into the scoundrel he is today would of course prove to be a major box office boon for New Japan.

The really stacked portion of the card began next with the Katsuyori Shibata-Kazushi Sakuraba fight.  And I mean FIGHT.  This was one of the best simulated MMA bouts I've ever seen and I'd rank it right up there with Sakuraba-Nakamura from WK7.  The grappling looked totally convincing and snug, and Shibata's strikes were brutal.  Sakuraba dominated the match with some amazing submissions, clinging to Shibata like a spider monkey, until finally Shibata broke free (at one point reaching the ropes with his mouth, as all his limbs were unavailable) and took the match with the Penalty Kick.  This was a fascinating watch.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1993)

From the wrestling weirdo who brought you The History of WWE WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble, it's the official Enuffa.com History of WWE King of the Ring!

That's right, now that I've tackled WWE's Big Four PPV histories, I'm strapping myself into the ol' time machine to take another look at what was temporarily one of the Big Five.

The King of the Ring tournament was originally a special house show attraction held annually in New England, before the WWF decided to add it to the PPV schedule in 1993.  At the time the WWF calendar only featured the Big Four PPV events, so creating a fifth was a pretty huge deal.  Over the next decade the annual PPV was used as a springboard for many up-and-coming stars, with mixed results.  In 2003, due to sagging buyrates, the company discontinued the event, replacing it with Bad Blood, and only brought the tournament itself back on free television every few years.  Here now is a look back at this sometimes great, sometimes awful PPV....

King of the Ring '93 - Nutter Center - 6.13.93
The inaugural PPV edition of the tournament was centered around re-establishing Bret Hart as a top babyface after the mindbendingly stupid booking of WrestleMania IX, where Bret lost the WWF Title to Yokozuna only for the returning Hulk Hogan to swoop in and take the belt in an impromptu match.  Widely considered the worst WrestleMania of all time, that show did no favors for the man presumably pegged to lead the company through the 90s.  On top of that, Hogan took the belt and went home after previously agreeing to drop it back to Bret at SummerSlam.  Instead Hogan refused to appear on any house shows for two months and insisted on losing it back to Yokozuna at the KOTR PPV.  Is it any wonder I can't stand that guy?

The non-tournament matches included a decent Intercontinental Title defense by Shawn Michaels against Crush, a forgettable eight-man tag pitting The Smokin' Gunns & The Steiners against The Headshrinkers & Money Inc., and of course the godawful Hogan-Yokozuna rematch.

Par for the course at this point in his career, Hogan just kinda went through the motions, once again feebly attempting to recapture the magic of his 'Mania 3 match with Andre.  After 13 pretty rancid minutes, Harvey Wippleman climbed on the ring apron in the guise of a ringside photographer, and his camera exploded in Hogan's face.  Yoko capitalized and reclaimed the Championship, in one of the stupidest match finishes since, well, WrestleMania IX.  Hogan vanished from WWF TV for nine years, and the "exploding camera" incident was never explained.

Screw you Hogan.  YOURE FIIIIIRED!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Top Ten Things: Christopher Nolan Films

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

With the release of his latest film Dunkirk, and this being his tenth feature, I thought I'd take this opportunity to rank Christopher Nolan's filmography!  I've been a Nolan fan since Memento's 2001 theatrical release, and over the past two decades this cerebral English director has already compiled an extraordinary body of work, creating a singular brand of intelligent, crowd-pleasing blockbuster films.  Nolan's affinity for challenging, puzzle-like movies was apparent from the beginning, but he also reinvented the Batman franchise by grounding it in reality and making its protagonist a deeply flawed, real-world hero trying to redeem his broken city.  Nolan's films generally demand repeat viewings, keeping the viewer on their toes and often letting the editing drive the narrative so there's no cinematic fat on the bone.  Every new Christopher Nolan film is truly event viewing for me, guaranteed to present a story in a genre-defying way audiences have never seen before.

Here now are Christopher Nolan's films, ranked....

10. Following

Nolan's feature debut was this neo-noir with a non-linear narrative, about an aspiring writer who looks for inspiration by shadowing people he sees on the street.  He falls in with an experienced burglar and begins to make a habit of breaking into strangers' homes, stealing various items, and selling what he can.  Soon though he becomes romantically involved with one of his "victims," whom he learns is mixed up with a local mobster.  Meanwhile nothing he comes to believe about her or his mentor is what it seems.  Following was made for a paltry $6,000 and is thus quite rough around the edges, but already Christopher Nolan showed his gift for labrynthian storylines and devilish plot twists, two things he'd execute much more assuredly in his second film, Memento.

9. Insomnia

Nolan's remake of the 1997 Swedish thriller of the same title, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as an aging LAPD detective assigned to a murder investigation in Alaska during the "midnight sun" season.  The Pacino character accidentally kills his partner during a shootout, after said partner has revealed he intends to testify against Pacino in an Internal Affairs case.  Complicating the matter is the murderer at large (a superbly creepy Robin Williams), who witnessed the shooting and attempts to blackmail Pacino into pinning the murder on the victim's abusive boyfriend.  What follows is a fascinating moral dilemma, where the flawed protagonist must choose between saving himself or bringing a killer to justice.  Insomnia takes the suspense thriller genre and turns it upside down, throwing curve balls at the audience every step of the way.  Pacino and Williams have splendid chemistry together, and Nolan's direction lends this noirish thriller a modern edge.

8. Dunkirk

Nolan's streamlined, visceral account of this World War II rescue tells the story from three different points of view: the air, the sea, and the land.  The film intercuts between the three locales, expanding time in some instances and showing us some of the same events from multiple points of view.  There's little historical context presented, so the material depicted must speak for itself and create an immersive viewing experience.  For the most part this element works, though I would've liked to see more about who these characters were and what the battle itself meant in the grand scheme of WWII.  Still Nolan and co. deftly handle the genre, presenting a gritty, palpably harrowing war film and adding yet another impressive entry to his resume.