Monday, March 27, 2017

The History of WrestleMania: 25-XXVII

Welcome to Part 9, beginning with the 25th Anniversary....of the year before WrestleMania started!



Reliant Stadium - 4/5/09

Speaking of WrestleMania cards I wasn't excited about, we now arrive at the "25th Anniversary" of WrestleMania (good lord that marketing drove me nuts - does WWE think people can't count?).  Early 2009 was an extremely stagnant time for the company, where the same 5 or 6 wrestlers were being shuffled around the same 5 or 6 spots and no new talent was breaking into the main event scene.  If you take the seven participants in the top three matches of 'Mania 24 and compare them to the top three matches of 25, swap out Flair for The Big Show and you have the same seven guys.  Couple this with very poor buildup for both Championship matches and you have a recipe for an anemic WrestleMania season.  As it turned out though, the show was pretty good. 

Triple H vs. Randy Orton took the main event slot and despite an awful, awful buildup (Explain to me again why I'm supposed to cheer for the all-powerful McMahon family just because Randy Orton beat them up?  Didn't Steve Austin make a megaface career out of beating up the McMahons?) and a suitably disinterested live crowd, they managed to salvage a solid Title match out of it.  But really the only good segment leading up to this match was when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the bottom rope and forced him to watch Stephanie be DDT'd and kissed by his arch-rival.  Then the following week all the tension was immediately diffused as Triple H broke into Orton's house and beat the snot out of him.  I thought the whole point of the PPV match was to get the audience to want to see the villain get his comeuppance.  If that happens a week before the big match, why should we care?  Also given the highly personal nature of this feud, you'd think WWE would've made the match a no-DQ match of some sort.  Instead the only stip was that if Hunter got disqualified he'd lose the Title.

Oh look, it's the only good part of this feud

The Smackdown Title match was a Triple Threat that I was equally blase about - Edge vs. John Cena vs. The Big Show.  Their feud centered around some twisted love triangle with Vickie Guerrero, yadda yadda.  Bottom line is that the match was actually really entertaining.  I was very shocked by how much fun it ended up being.

But the real standout of 'Mania 25 was of course the epic 30-minute war between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either and by this point was so fed up with WWE's lack of star-building that I half-expected this to be mediocre.  I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends showed us all how it's done.  This match ended up being one for the ages.

Movie Review: Raw (2017)


French newcomer Julia Ducournau's gripping psychological body horror brings to mind many of the great aspects of Roman Polanski's Repulsion, including and especially the idea of a young woman's sexual awakening.  Starring an exceedingly gifted Garance Marillier as freshman veterinary student (and staunch vegetarian) Justine, Raw begins during her first week at school - a cruel, rather torturous hazing period during which new students have their rooms ransacked, are dragged to mandatory late-night raves, are doused with animal blood, and are forced to eat rabbit kidneys.  The latter incident seemingly triggers a long-repressed hunger in Justine which manifests itself as a constant, overwhelming craving for human flesh.

This haunting, disturbing film unfolds as a metaphor for Justine's budding sexual maturity and self-discovery.  Her older sister Alexia, an upperclassman at the same school, serves as both mentor and tormentor, in very unexpected ways, and the story soon begins hurtling toward a showdown for the role of alpha-female.

Ducournau uses bleakly gorgeous cinematography and somewhat muted colors as an understated canvas on which to render her vivid character study.  The coldness of the setting reminded me of Kubrick at times, with expansive, wide-angle shots showing the characters' tiny forms off in the distance.  At other times she uses shaky handhelds to plunge the viewer directly into the chaos, like when the diminutive Justine tries to navigate her way through overcrowded decadent parties.

The guitar/synth-driven score by Jim Williams heightens the severity of the horror elements in much the same way as Disasterpiece's superbly unnerving score for It Follows.  Moments of revulsion are made that much more jarring with Williams' piercing strains; one particular bit of Justine's new self-awareness merged amazingly with the music underneath to hammer home the severity of we've just seen.

I can't say too much about the narrative itself without giving away spoilers, and it's better if you go into this movie cold.  Suffice it to say Raw delivers multiple shocks that resonate far more  effectively than your garden-variety jump scare, gruesome imagery that unsettles on a very elemental level, profound and universal themes that resonate long after you've left the theater, and deliciously unexpected, horrific twists.  The acting is understated, internalized, and wholly believable, particularly from the two leads, Marillier and Ella Rumpf, both relative newbies who fully embody the two halves of this perverse sibling rivalry.

Raw is one of the best, most original horror films I've seen in recent years; thought-provoking, urgently captivating, and thus far for me a psychological lingerer.  I can't wait to watch it again.

I give this film ***1/2 out of ****.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The History of WrestleMania: 22-XXIV



Rosemont Horizon - 4/2/06

'Mania 22 reminds me a little of the old-school WrestleManias, where there was a whole host of different kinds of matches and a little something for everyone.  It ended up being a much more fun show that I expected, particularly since I was less than thrilled about most of the matches going in.
WWE was fully in "I'll do what I want and you'll like it" mode in 2006, making booking decisions that were absurdly perplexing to many of the fans.  John Cena was not getting over in the expected fashion, as about half the crowd started booing him on a regular basis.  His match here against Triple H was possibly the most infamous example of this, as easily half the Chicago crowd were rabidly cheering for Hunter to destroy WWE's new posterboy.  The match itself was very solid, partly thanks to the fans in the arena, and Hunter repeated his 'Mania 20-ending tapout in the center of the ring to help elevate Cena.

This looks awfully familiar....

The Smackdown brand's champion Kurt Angle defended his Title in a Triple Threat against Randy Orton and 2006 Rumble winner Rey Mysterio, in a match that fell horribly short of expectations due to the time constraints.  I'll never understand why this match only got 9 minutes when it was supposed to elevate Mysterio to the main event.  It was an excellent free TV match but just an okay 'Mania bout, and Mysterio would go on to have one of the worst Title reigns of all time as the company seemingly went out of its way to bury him in every non-title match.

Conversely one match that got a stupidly excessive amount of time was Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon, in a glorified 18-minute squash.  This match was completely one-sided for almost the entire duration and most of the action was run-of-the-mill garbage stuff until Shawn hit an elbow drop off a 12-foot ladder, smashing Vince through a table.  Eighteen minutes for one memorable spot.  Simply stunning.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Batman v Superman

Welcome to Enuffa.com!  It's been a while, but the time has come to resurrect the old favorite, Awesomely Shitty Movies!  Some of you know the drill, but for those who don't, ASM is where I examine the good and bad elements of some piece of cinematic tripe.  

And today's entry certainly falls into that category.  That's right, it's Zack Snyder's latest creation, the long-awaited Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice!


This 151-minute superhero mashup marks the first time in history that Metropolis's messiah and Gotham's masked vigilante share the big screen, and I can assure you it ain't to swap gazpacho recipes.  Nope, it's to pummel the ever-lovin' shit out of each other (and also to set up the Avengers-esque Justice League movie in 2017....mostly it's for that reason actually).

Henry Cavill is back as Kal-El, the brooding, reluctant alien hero from Man of Steel who sorta looks like Superman but doesn't share any of his character traits.  In Batman's cape and cowl this time is Ben Affleck, who might just have the greatest superhero jaw in the history of the world, and who is also ENORMOUS in this film.  Huge.  Like, did anyone check who's supplying his "vitamins?"  Plus we have Israeli model Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor(??).  So let's get to it - what worked and what didn't?



The Awesome (For the purposes of this column I use that term loosely)


Visuals

As with most of Zack Snyder's work, the visuals here are super slick, very stylized, and moody.  Just like Man of Steel, the color palette in BvS is very muted and there are a lot of CG enhancements, but the costumes look badass and there's plenty of eye-candy.

Lotta cool-looking stuff in this movie


Batfleck

For all the complaining when he was cast, Ben Affleck makes a pretty good Batman.  It helps that his costume is based on Frank Miller's wonderful version of the suit, giving Affleck a fearsome, bulky appearance.  His Bruce Wayne is older, more grizzled, more cynical, and more ruthless.  Affleck plays possibly the most tortured screen version of the character to date, who's given up trying to be a normal dude, even letting Wayne Manor fall into decay and settling for the modernized guest house nearby (This was a nice touch I thought, and served as interesting symbolism for the character).  Also his electronically-enhanced "Bat-voice" is way cool-sounding and I think they've finally found the right way to execute that.  All that said though, I still never fully felt I was watching Batman.  I was always at least slightly aware it was Ben Affleck in a Batsuit.  But overall no real complaints about Batfleck.

Possibly the best-looking cinematic Bat-suit



Some Superman Scenes

Cavill as Superman is still monosyllabic and therefore almost impossible to identify with.  Aside from his look (which is perfect), Cavill has still not proved to me that he's the correct choice for Kal-El, nor does he even bother playing Clark Kent as a different character.  To all those people who say Lois should know Clark and Supes are the same person because it's unrealistic for her not to figure it out, I say this: If Superman doesn't act any differently as Clark Kent, isn't it more unrealistic for everyone else (including the World's Greatest Detective Batman) not to put it together?

However unlike Man of Steel, BvS at least provides Clark a few scenes where we feel a little something for him, such as the one after he fails to stop a bombing and expresses to Lois that maybe he wasn't meant to be a hero.  This idea doesn't really get explored further, but the scene itself was well done.



Frank Miller Influence

This movie is FULL of visual references to Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.  I already mentioned the Batsuit lifted right out of Miller's artwork, plus the armored Batsuit (which looks INCREDIBLE in movie form), much of the Bats vs. Supes fight itself, and some unrelated moments I'll get to in a bit.  It was cool to see Miller's iconic version of Batman brought to life.

I knew this looked familiar....

Friday, March 24, 2017

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

by Dan Moore
@SouthieDanimal

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



The Cellar Tavern
221 North Avenue
Abington, MA 02351

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


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



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



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

Delicious & cheap. Just like me.



Movie Review: The Great Wall (2017)

by Dave Moore



1000% Garbage.






Thursday, March 23, 2017

Top Ten Things: Avenged Sevenfold Songs

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


Today I'll be talking about my ten favorite songs by crossover metal gods Avenged Sevenfold!  I first became aware of A7X in 2005 when their third album City of Evil blasted its way onto the airwaves.  Songs like "Bat Country" and "The Beast & The Harlot" showed the band's musicianship and dexterity with complex prog-metal arrangements, and those were among the simpler tunes on the record.  I liked the album but wasn't blown away by it.  Then a few years later I gave their self-titled fourth album a listen and was stunned by the versatility on display.  From thrash to pop-metal to country to Broadway, this album had incredible variety and demonstrated the band's lust for new sounds and genres.  For me though their greatest album is 2010's Nightmare, which tempered the excess of City of Evil while preserving much of the flexibility of the self-titled record.  Several tracks were the result of their drummer The Rev's untimely death the previous year, lending the record a palpable expressiveness.  In my opinion the less said about 2013's Hail to the King the better; this was presented as an attempt to record a simple, classic-sounding metal album but to me came across as largely a Metallica "Black Album" ripoff.  But Avenged Sevenfold rebounded huge with their seventh album The Stage, a progessive concept album dealing with themes of space exploration, artificial intelligence, and humanity's self-destructiveness.  A7X was back on top of their game.

What really strikes me about A7X is their neverending determination to reinvent themselves and make every album different from the others.  Always intent on challenging the industry status quo, they've stated they don't care how heavy their music is as long as it's good.  I have great respect for bands who strive to transcend their genre, particularly when they're as musically accomplished as these fellas.

I'll be frank - this list exclusively contains songs from Self-Titled, Nightmare, and The Stage.  For me these three albums are in a class well above the other four (plus Diamonds in the Rough) and nothing from Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, Waking the Fallen, City of Evil, or Hail to the King made the cut.  But I'll include some honorable mentions:

"Unholy Confessions"
"Bat Country"
"Strength of the World"
"M.I.A."
"Demons"
"Until the End"
"Dancing Dead"

Okay, now for my ten faves.  Here we go....



10. Lost


One of the most strikingly radio-friendly A7X songs, this speed metal anthem about man's inhumanity  boasts an impossibly fast tempo, shredding guitars, and a strangely saccharine melody with autotune-assisted choruses.  At first the effect seems out of place in a metal song, but you very quickly get used to it and before long the hook gets stuck in your head.  The song's energy is undeniable, as was the band's growing songwriting proficiency and confidence in trying new things.





9. Creating God


This midtempo, Alice in Chains-esque song about the dangers of experimenting with artificial intelligence would be at home on any rock radio station.  Syncopated guitars create a foundation for grungy vocal harmonies which build to a simple, soaring cautionary hook.  This was the first song on The Stage to really jump out on the inaugural listen, and remains one of my favorites.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The History of WrestleMania: XIX-21

Time for three of my faves.  One amazing, one uneven but pretty great, one very solid......

Safeco Field - 3/30/03

This has to be the most stacked card I've ever seen.  I can't recall any other PPV where the last five matches are good enough and/or big enough to be a main event.  'Mania 19 is really quite something.

The main event was Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title, and this marked the first WWE PPV since December 1997 wher the main event did not include Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, or the Undertaker.  For someone like me who was burned out on the Attitude Era Big Four, this was a real breath of fresh air.  Angle and Lesnar put on a wrestling clinic that featured suplexes and reversals galore, and culminated in one of the most frightening botched spots in wrestling history. 
Brock Lesnar went for a Shooting Star Press, a move he had performed dozens of times in OVW and planned to debut in a WWE ring.  Unfortunately he positioned Angle two-thirds of the way across the ring and there was no way he could've gotten both the distance needed and the rotation.  Lesnar landed on his head and ended up pushing Angle out of the way.  It's a miracle he squeaked by with only a concussion.  But they finished the match and it was a classic.


How this didn't result in Lesnar's untimely demeez is beyond me.

If Angle-Lesnar was the #1 match of 'Mania 19, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho was #1A.  In a classic student vs. teacher-type bout, Shawn proved himself just as good as before he walked away from the ring in 1998, and Jericho proved himself just as good as Michaels (no small feat by any stretch).  This was a dazzling mix of aerial wrestling, mat technique, and plain ol' drama.  Personally I think Jericho should've won, but his kick to Shawn's junk after the match was a great exclamation point on a fantastic bout.

Say it with me: Right. In. The Dick.

'Mania 19 had a pair of huge marquee matches late in the card, the first of which was Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon's violent, bloody brawl that should've been a stinker but ended up pretty damn good, if about five minutes too long.  The match features probably my favorite evil Vince moment, as the camera zoomed in on him peeking menacingly over the ring apron while clutching a lead pipe.
The second match of this one-two combination was the final Rock-Austin encounter; their third WrestleMania match and their fifth PPV match overall.  It ended up being Austin's swan song and allowed him to pass a torch of sorts to The Rock (who also left the company shortly thereafter, but finally got a PPV win over his old rival).  It was arguably better than their 'Mania 15 match but not as good as the 'Mania 17 one.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Stock Drops

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


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



1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker


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

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




2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act


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


Monday, March 20, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mallrats

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I dissect a cinematic clunker that I also happen to enjoy.


Today's topic is Kevin Smith's second film Mallrats.  After the indie success of his smart, slacker-centric Clerks in 1994, Smith was given a much larger budget by Universal Studios to do basically the same type of movie.  But this time our pair of lovelorn, do-nothing 20-something protagonists spend their aimless free time at a mall, trying to repair their failed relationships.  Returning from Clerks are the zany supporting characters Jay & Silent Bob, who in this film are given some action-comedy set pieces and get to directly affect the plot.  The studio more or less took Smith's trademark formula and attempted to make it more mainstream, with very mixed results.  At the time I found this film unequivocally hilarious, but it's probably aged the worst of Smith's View Askewniverse outings.

So let's look at what worked and what didn't....



The Awesome


Jason Lee

Almost everything great about his movie begins and ends with Jason Lee.  The former skateboarder became a major find for Kevin Smith, who would cast him in numerous subsequent films.  But perhaps no role was as big a show stealer for Lee as Brodie Bruce, the mall-obsessed comic book and video game junkie whose lack of ambition has cost him his girlfriend Rene.  Lee's brilliantly vulgar, reactionary delivery is responsible for most of the film's best lines, and his natural charisma allows the viewer to identify and root for this character in spite of his many flaws and obnoxious persona.

I fuckin' love that guy.



Shannon Doherty

One of two principles cast for their name value, Shannon Doherty gives a harsh but oddly likable performance as the strong-willed, no-bullshit Rene, who's reached the end of her patience with her lazy, inattentive boyfriend.  The focus of the movie is on the male characters, but Doherty admirably conveys why the firebrand Rene is such a good match for Brodie.

Brenda??




Michael Rooker

Character actor Michael Rooker plays the film's main antagonist Jared Svenning, whose primary motivation is to keep T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) from dating his daughter.  Svenning is an aspiring game show producer/host whose pet project Truth or Date serves as the film's Maguffin.  Rooker plays this role with over-the-top relish, serving as both a villain and something of a buffoon who, as a television producer, is in over his head.

Don't eat the pretzels!


The History of WrestleMania: 2000-X8

And we've arrived at a new millennium!

Arrowhead Pond - 4/2/00

The year 2000 saw the WWF freshen up its product in a major way.  The influx of WCW castoffs and new homegrown stars led to tremendous improvements in the in-ring product, and the absence of Steve Austin for most of the year forced the company to elevate several other uppercard talents.

That year's WrestleMania goes down as probably the strangest of the bunch, as the roster had gotten so large that everyone had to be crammed into multi-man matches and tag bouts.  In fact this edition of 'Mania featured nary a traditional singles match.

The main event saw entirely too much focus put on the McMahon Family squabbles, as each of the McMahons accompanied one of the participants to the ring.  Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley was a pretty good if overly long main event match, but sadly the company's owners took way too much of the spotlight.  This show holds the distinction of being the first 'Mania card to end with a heel Champion.

Say what you want about him now, but in 2000 Triple H was a BAMF.

Three of the WWF's newest stars got their chance to steal the show as Kurt Angle defended the I-C and European Titles against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in a 2-Falls Triple Threat.  The match was nothing amazing, but it was a solid showing by three of the company's future main eventers.

Also on the card was a highly entertaining six-person tag match between the Radicalz (Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn), and Too Cool & Chyna. The wrong team won, but it was a fun, fast-paced bout.

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Japan Cup: The Opening and Quarter Final Matches




With the opening round and the quarter finals of the New Japan cup in the books, speculation has been reinvigorated in earnest over who will win the semifinals and finals match, and what title they’re going to challenge for. After a loaded set of first round matches, the last two days shape up to certainly be interesting. We have a representative of each faction in the New Japan wars who could take the cup, setting up great scenarios no matter who wins. With the final two days on the horizon, I'm going to go through the first round matches with you all, as well as the quarter finals briefly, and give some insight on the remaining match-ups .  I’m not going to discuss the undercard matches, just know that they serve the same purpose as G1 undercards (Namely to build up to the important singles matches the next day.)

The History of WrestleMania: 13-XV

And on we go....


Rosemont Horizon - 3/23/97 

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

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

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

Sucky main event, but this was a nice moment

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today we're talking about The Phenom, The Deadman, The Conscience of WWE, and his greatest bouts at WWE's biggest PPV of the year, WrestleMania!



Probably the greatest streak in fake sports was the one held by The Undertaker, a winning streak at WrestleMania that lasted over two decades and led to one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history when it was broken.  What started as an organic bit of booking happenstance evolved into possibly the biggest perennial feature on The Showcase of the Immortals.  Suddenly there was a built-in long-term storyline for one of the top WrestleMania matches every year, and for quite a while Taker's match either stole the show or came damn close.  Even after The Streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, Taker's match would continue to be one of the top featured attractions.

But which of his 'Mania showings stand atop the others?  Here now are, in my estimation, The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania bouts....




10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV


Taker's first great 'Mania bout didn't occur until he'd already established a six-match winning streak (Yes, his 1996 match with Diesel was solid, but aside from that his 'Mania outings up until this point were forgettable at best).  In 1997 Taker was involved in a long storyline arc wherein his former manager Paul Bearer revealed he had a long-lost half-brother named Kane (Ironically Kane was actually Taker's first name when he debuted).  The company built up Kane's first appearance for several months before he attacked Taker during the first Hell in a Cell match, and from then on he was established as an unstoppable monster.  Also to the company's credit, they held off giving away too much physical interaction between the Brothers of Destruction, so by the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary.  The match itself didn't disappoint; the two behemoths delivered a very physical fight that Taker was only able to win via three consecutive Tombstone piledrivers.  Even in a loss, Kane was set up as a major star.




9. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21


After a serious in-ring slump in 2003-04, Taker was able to return to form in this underrated match with the Legend Killer.  Orton had just finished a horribly failed babyface run in late 2004 and the company wisely turned him heel again, leading to Orton challenging Taker to a Legend vs. Legend Killer match.  These two worked extremely well together, delivering one of the better matches on the card that ended with Taker reversing an Orton Tombstone into his own for the win.  Taker and Orton would go on to have a series of strong matches throughout 2005, in a feud that helped re-elevate Orton.




8. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII


In 2011 both The Undertaker and Triple H returned from a long hiatus.  Taker's return was teased ahead of time, but just as he was about to cut a promo the familiar strains of Motorhead filled the arena, announcing The Game.  The two veterans stared each other down before Hunter wordlessly made a challenge by turning his gaze to the WrestleMania 27 sign.  The match itself, while full of typical No-DQ frills, was a fairly epic, very dramatic WWE-style main event with some great gasp-inducing nearfalls.  Taker finally won with Hell's Gate but was so exhausted he had to be stretchered to the back on a forklift.  But these two would outdo each other one year later, both in terms of storytelling and action.


The History of WrestleMania: X-XII

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

Madison Square Garden - 3/20/94

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

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

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

Still one of the best matches of all time

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