Tuesday, July 17, 2018

WWE Extreme Rules 2018: A Microcosm of Vince's Shitshow


Move over Backlash, there's a new sucky PPV sheriff in town.  Extreme Rules felt like WWE was actively trying to put on a bad show, between the filler matches, the multiple instances of counterproductive booking, and the noteworthy moments WWE expects everyone to remember in place of good wrestling.  This felt like a Bischoff-era WCW PPV, except without a show stealing Cruiserweight Title match.  I'm hard-pressed to pick a match of the night; only two bouts are in contention but neither of them was even on par with the opening G1 match on night 3 (Michael Elgin vs. Hangman Page).  WWE's product is in absolute shambles right now and it requires on my part a Herculean effort to even get annoyed with it.  That's how little I care.

The show opened with a pair of utterly forgettable matches, one of which featured a title change.  The B-Team defeated Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt for the RAW tag belts in a nothing, free TV-caliber match, and then Finn Balor "upset" Baron Corbin with a small package in another free TV-caliber match.  It's adorable they're still trying to present Corbin as any kind of threat, but no, I'm not buying it.  Balor's position in this company is so far beneath where he should be, but they have so many more issues beyond that I can't even focus on him.  *1/2 for the B-Team match, *3/4 for the Balor one.

Case in point, the systematic sabotage of Asuka in service of the least deserving women's champion since the Kelly Kelly era, Carmella.  I just want to sit down with Vince and ask him, "Why do you hate Asuka so much?"  I also want to sit down with Triple H and ask, "Why are you letting Vince destroy stars you've so carefully built?"  Going into WrestleMania 34 Asuka was something special.  An undefeated, legit badass with gargantuan charisma.  Three months later Asuka is just another one of the girls, just another dimwitted babyface who gets distracted by shiny objects at the expense of her title aspirations.  That a nothing in-ring talent like Carmella even beat Asuka to the championship, let alone got to pin her twice on PPV is a microcosm of how ass-backward Vince's booking philosophy is these days.  After five minutes of forgettable action, James Ellsworth predictably escaped his shark cage but got stuck hanging upside down, at which point Asuka forgot all about winning the title and instead beat up Ellsworth.  And then Carmella rammed her into the shark cage and pinned her.  Asuka could not have been made to look more ineffectual if WWE were deliberately trying (and I'm convinced they were).  DUD



Monday, July 16, 2018

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1990)

The New Revolution - Baltimore Arena - 7.7.90

1989 to 1990 was quite a dropoff in quality for the NWA, and the Great American Bash PPV falls right in line with that.  The long-awaited Ric Flair vs. Sting showdown had been in the works for months, and was originally booked for WrestleWar that February.  But a knee injury sidelined Sting for four months and Lex Luger took his spot, turning babyface and feuding with Flair until Sting was ready.  While this was certainly a huge marquee match, I wasn't a Sting fan at the time and therefore wasn't particularly excited about his inevitable Title win.  I was also pissed that the company reverted just about all the top stars to where they were in 1988.  Flair and the Horsemen were the top heels, Luger was a babyface again.  It all felt like a retread.

As for this show, once again they crammed way too many matches in, and this time it was an astonishing eleven bouts, nearly half of which had no business on a PPV.

First up was Brian Pillman vs. Buddy Landell.  This was a decent enough opener, as Pillman was obviously quite accomplished and Landell was a solid hand.  I'm not sure what the purpose was though.  They weren't feuding and Pillman had come off of a really strong US Title program with Lex Luger, followed by a US Tag Title run.  Why was he being wasted in a throwaway showcase match?

Next was Mike Rotunda vs. The Iron Sheik.  Seeing mid-80s WWF guys like Sheik, Orndorff, Bob Orton, and Junkyard Dog show up in the NWA in 1990 was so strange.  I guess they just wanted recognizable names to help put over the younger NWA stars at this point.  Rotunda had given up his Varsity Club gimmick in favor of a sailor persona, which was beyond stupid.  Rotunda didn't have babyface charisma at all and the Captain Mike thing reeked of 80s jobber.  Mike won a brief match that was out of my head the moment it ended.

The third consecutive throwaway match on this show, Dutch Mantell vs. Doug Furnas was designed to showcase newcomer Furnas, but the match went on far longer than it needed to, and again, I'm not sure why this was included on a PPV.  Furnas won with an impressive belly-to-belly suplex after eleven ponderous minutes.

The oddly pleasant surprise of the night was Harley Race vs. Tommy Rich, in an incredibly physical match given Race's age (He was 47 but looked 60), that proved Race could still turn it up when he needed to.  Contrary to expectations, Race did most of the crazy bumping, including his usual back somersault over the ropes ending with his head hitting the ring apron.  This match had historical value since nine years earlier Rich upset Race for the NWA Title, but otherwise this was a superfluous match that was better than it had any right to be.

How'd Eaton not suffer massive spinal compression?

The proper PPV began with the Midnight Express vs. Southern Boys, another classic effort by Eaton and Lane.  In the tradition of MX's battles against The Rock n' Roll Express and The Fantastics, this match began with babyface team dominance as The Southern Boys stayed one step ahead of the Champs for the better part of ten minutes.  Eaton and Lane eventually took control after some heel tactics, and the match built to a melee with multiple finishers before Eaton rolled up Tracy Smothers in a small package for the win.  The Midnights were in peak form in 1990 and this was one of the highlights of their year.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a film that is horribly, deeply, life-wreckingly flawed but for one reason or another I can't help tossing it into the DVD player every so often.


Today the film in question is the third installment of the original Mad Max Trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.  I'm a huge fan of this series - the inaugural Mad Max is a mercilessly bleak dystopian film with an unrelentingly frantic pace, wherein our protagonist loses everything he cares about and becomes a sadistic revenge-seeker.  The second film, The Road Warrior, is simply one of the greatest action films I've ever seen.  This hugely influential piece of pop culture is essentially a Western set in a post-apocalyptic future, where Max has been aimlessly roaming the wasteland scavenging fuel and food, and lends his considerable survival skills to help a small band of colonists defeat a gang of homicidal marauders.

The first two movies make up two-thirds of a near-perfect trilogy.  Unfortunately, as with many trilogies, the third episode falls devastatingly short of expectations.  With Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, director George Miller stepped back into a Co-Director role after his longtime producer Byron Kennedy was killed in a helicopter crash.  Right off the bat this movie would lack the main driving creative force behind the first two films.  Still there was an interesting story to be told here, and some aspects of it worked quite well.  Let's take a look at the pros and cons of Beyond Thunderdome.


The Awesome

Mel Gibson

None of these movies would work at all without Mel Gibson's thoroughly compelling turn as the emotionally broken Max Rockatansky.  Gibson has lately revealed himself to be a totally crazy person with serious bigotry issues, but it's impossible to deny what an onscreen talent he used to be.  When I first heard they were making a new Max film without Gibson I couldn't possibly picture anyone else in the role (I have to admit though, Tom Hardy's a fantastic choice).  Like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Bruce Willis as John McClane, Mel Gibson was born to play Max.  He brought rugged, taciturn charisma and a hardened heroic quality to this lonely but honorable character.  We're able to completely sympathize with him despite his moral ambiguity.

Max is a BAMF

Top Ten Things: Worst NWA/WCW/WWE US Champions

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com.  I'm on a freakin' roll with this Worst Champions series, so here we go again.


This time I'll be talking about the US Title, which started as the NWA's number-two Championship in 1975.  The US Title was extremely prestigious for many years, with the NWA automatically recognizing its owner as the #1 contender to the World Championship.  I always found this odd, since the US Champ almost never got a shot at the World Champ, but nonetheless it hammered home the idea that this was an extremely valuable belt that could headline a house show any day of the week (as long as the NWA Champion wasn't on the card).  Like the Intercontinental Title, winning the US Championship often served as a stepping stone for younger talents on their way to the big belt.  Between the NWA, WCW and WWE incarnations of the title, 18 men have won the US Championship on their way to one of the respective World Titles.  Still, as with any championship, this one was not without its share of weak-ass winners.  Here are ten such examples....





1. Michael Hayes (1989)


The flamboyant Michael Hayes was a well-known star by the time he returned to the NWA in early 1989.  He was a babyface initially, but turned heel on Lex Luger, joining Hiro Matsuda's short-lived stable that had replaced The Four Horsemen.  Hayes and Luger feuded, and Hayes captured the US Title, but lost it back two weeks later at WrestleWar.  The idea of Hayes winning the belt wasn't inherently a bad one, but the execution was terrible.  The feud with Luger was clearly just a stop-gap until the summer, when Luger himself turned heel on Ricky Steamboat.  Meanwhile Hayes reformed the Fabulous Freebirds and got a run with the NWA Tag Team Titles.  This US Title run however just felt tacked-on and pointless.  It's like they weren't sure what to do with Hayes when they brought him back, and just tried a bunch of different things before he settled back into the role he was best suited for.





2. Jim Duggan (1994)


WCW circa 1994 was when Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan jettisoned nearly everything that made WCW what it was.  It instead became WWF-lite, where Hogan recycled numerous feuds already done better a decade earlier, brought in a host of his old pals, and gave them prominent spots on the roster.  Homegrown stars like Steve Austin got pushed aside in favor of former WWF stars from the 80s.  Case in point, when Jim Duggan debuted at Fall Brawl 1994 as the surprise challenger for Austin's US Title.  Austin was scheduled to challenge Ricky Steamboat, but Steamboat was injured and the belt was awarded to Austin via forfeit (a nonsensical way to have a title change hands, as I previously mentioned HERE).  Enter Duggan, who proceeded to squash Austin in 35 seconds for the strap.  Good thing Austin didn't have any star potential, huh?  Absurd.  Duggan would go on to get killed by Vader three months later, and remained a lower midcard guy the rest of his WCW run.  Oh, and that Steve Austin guy ended up making a different company quite a bit of money.






3. One Man Gang (1995)


Along those same lines, Hogan also brought in the One Man Gang, fresh off, well, four years of not much (He had a brief 1991 run in WCW but was fired late that year). Gang returned to WCW, got to be the last man eliminated in the inaugural World War 3 60-man battle royal (shades of the first Royal Rumble), and one month later upset Kensuke Sasaki for the belt at Starrcade '95......in a dark match at the end of the show.  Yeah, they booked a US Title match to take place after the PPV went off the air and had a title change occur.  Not only that, the match was restarted immediately and Sasaki regained the title, but the company didn't acknowledge the second title change.  'The fuck sense does that make?  You book two dark match title changes but ignore the second one?  Gang would hold the belt just over a month before dropping it to Konnan and disappearing from WCW only weeks later.  Just another case of WCW trying to revive the career of an irrelevant 80s WWF star and failing miserably.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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!


NJPW G1 Climax 28 Preview & Predictions

It's mid-July and that means it's time for the most exciting four weeks on anyone's wrestling calendar, when twenty of New Japan's top heavyweights compete in a round-robin tournament for a slot in the WrestleKingdom main event.  That's right, the G1 Climax is upon us!


This year's lineup is stacked as all hell, and similar to last year's (I'm not complaining by the way, the 2017 edition was pretty unanimously considered the greatest wrestling tournament of all time), but with championships having changed hands and certain participants looking to climb back up the mountain the stories should play out a little differently. 

For those of you new to the G1, the format is two blocks of ten, each of whom wrestles everyone else in his block once over the four weeks.  A win gets you 2 points, a draw gets you 1, a loss gets you 0.  The two block leaders at the end face each other in the Finals, and the winner gets the #1 Contender's briefcase to challenge for the IWGP Title at WrestleKingdom, but with a caveat.  Whoever had defeated the eventual winner during the course of the tournament gets to challenge him for said briefcase, which plays out over the fall PPV season.  Thus far the briefcase has never changed hands, but there's a first time for everything.  Also of note, since the implementation of the G1 briefcase in 2012, no G1 winners have gone on to dethrone the champion at the Tokyo Dome.  It is a great honor and accomplishment to win the G1 Climax but by no means is it a guarantee of becoming the IWGP Champion.  The G1 winners in the briefcase era were Kazuchika Okada in 2012, Tetsuya Naito in 2013, Kazuchika Okada again in 2014, Hiroshi Tanahashi in 2015, Kenny Omega in 2016, and Tetsuya Naito again in 2017.

But anyway, let's get to the analysis.  I'll talk briefly about the 20 participants and then offer predictions and most anticipated matchups in each block.



Block A

Kazuchika Okada

The former IWGP Champ enters his first G1 in four years without the cherished gold.  This radically changes the dynamic of his performances here, as he'll no longer be playing defense.  Instead Okada will need to scratch and claw his way to the top of the standings if he wants to main event WrestleKingdom for the fifth straight year.  We should feel a greater sense of urgency in his matches this time.  Okada is, I would think, a lock for the Finals and a heavy favorite to win it all.


 


Hiroshi Tanahashi

The previous company Ace still has some gas left in the tank.  Can he climb back up the mountain and get one more run with the belt?  Tanahashi's big matches the past year or two have carried a greater sense of desperation, as he struggles to stay at the level of his prime years.  Tana will last deep into this tournament but likely fall short on the last A block night, falling to Okada again.  Or will he?





Jay White

Fresh off losing the US Title in what has to be considered his best match to date, Jay White has gone full-on asshole heel and I love it.  Being a former champion, he'll obviously have a bigger chip on his shoulder which should garner electric heat and make his matches emotionally engaging.  Looking forward to seeing him grow as a performer over these four weeks.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WWE Extreme Rules 2018 Preview & Predictions


.......Sigh.......another lackluster WWE show is upon us, folks.  Time to pretend any of it's interesting and make some predictions.  It continues to baffle me how badly WWE wastes their insanely talented roster on boring, tired matchups while leaving potentially great ones on the table (or ruining them with stupid booking, a la AJ vs. Nakamura).  Of the ten scheduled matches this Sunday only two interest me, and there are a few others that should be decent despite my not caring about them.  Sooo, let's get to it I guess.  How did the B-PPVs actually get LESS interesting since they dual-branded them??

***Dave has taken the lead this season, with 26/42 (62%), Dan and I are tied with 25/42 (60%), and Landon has fallen slightly behind with 24/42 (57%).  But Jeezus, none of us are doing well, thanks to the nonsensical booking that's plagued the product since 'Mania.***





Pre-Show Tables Match: The New Day vs. SAnitY


This was just added.  Christ there's a lot of matches on this show.  Tables matches are usually lame.  New Day matches are usually good.  I'm so torn.  Anyway, SAnitY are the new team on the block so they win here.

Justin: SAnitY
Dan: 'The fuck is Sanity?  I don't even watch the shows anymore.  I don't care, Sanity wins.
Landon: SAnitY
Dave: New Day





Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin


First off, how the FUCK did this make the card but Sasha vs. Bayley still hasn't happened yet?  They've been teasing that goddamn feud since February!  Shit or get off the pot, for fuck's sake.  Anyway, I have zero interest in seeing Finn attempt to get a good match out of Corporate Corbin or whatever the hell they're calling him now (Yeah, I know, it's Constable - because there's been one of those in this country in the last 200 years).  Two years ago Finn became the first Universal Champion.  Now he's curtain-jerking (or worse) against a hump like Baron.  Welcome to WWE, home of the reverse ladder to success.

Justin: I guess Finn takes this?  Christ, I hope so.
Dan: Yeah Finn
Landon: Corbin
Dave: Finn I guess.





RAW Tag Team Championship: Deleter of Worlds vs. The B Team


I have a feeling this gets bumped to the pre-show.  Does anyone care about this match?  A mongrel tag team defending against a jobber tag team?  Pointless.

Justin: Matt & Bray retain
Dan: Matt & Bray
Landon: Champs retain
Dave: Matt & Bray





Extreme Rules RAW Women's Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax


Oh good, this match again.  Look, I enjoyed their first two outings.  In fact I'm one of the few who did.  But why do we need it again?  Ronda Rousey is going to be sitting at ringside for this so obviously it's setting up her next title shot at SummerSlam, presumably against Alexa.  I guess the Extreme Rules stip could make this different.

Justin: Alexa retains
Dan: Alexa
Landon: Alexa
Dave: Alexa but who cares?

Top Ten Things: Guns N' Roses Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, Enuffa.com fans!  You know the drill.  It's a countdown, there's ten items, I rant about each of 'em for a bit, and you either agree with me or not.

Today it's the top ten greatest songs by one of the most controversial rock n' roll bands of all time, Guns N' Roses.


Formed in 1985, GNR combined the lineups of singer Axl Rose's Hollywood Rose with that of guitarist Tracii Guns' band L.A. Guns, creating a dangerous hard rock powderkeg that drew from the decadence of the '80s L.A. music scene along with the blues-rock sensibility of '70s supergroups like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

Their first full-length album, Appetite for Destruction, was released in 1987, and about a year later on the heels of the wildly successful singles "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle," reached Number 1 on the Billboard charts.  The band was the hottest act in rock music, seemingly overnight.  Appetite went on to become one of those universal records that literally everyone owns, like AC/DC's Back in Black, Michael Jackson's Thriller, or Metallica's "Black Album."

Three years later came their long-awaited followup, a double album called Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 that featured several epic songs and a much larger musical scope.  The albums contained a combined thirty tracks spanning over two-and-a-half hours, and spawned multiple radio hits.  The band had graduated to touring stadiums and it seemed they'd remain one of the biggest groups in the industry for the rest of their career.


But soon after releasing a rather ill-conceived covers album in the early 90s, Guns N' Roses split up due to personal and creative differences and went dormant, with Axl retaining rights to the band name, while the other members pursued their own projects.  The band seemed to have almost been erased from rock history, becoming largely irrelevant, until rumors surfaced a few years later of a new GNR album with a new lineup, called Chinese Democracy.  After several aborted recordings and lineup changes, Democracy was finally released in 2008, and while it failed to reach the success of previous albums, it was pretty well received by the critics and proved that Axl could still deliver that signature high-pitched howl.

GNR continues to tour (now with Slash and Duff McKagan back in the band!) and are working on a followup to Chinese Democracy, but given their track record who knows when it'll actually come out?  My money's on 2062, Axl's 100th birthday.

Anyway, enough history.  Here now are the ten best GNR songs in my estimation....




10. Don't Cry


A classic GNR-style ballad about Axl's breakup with Erin Everly (which inspired several songs on Use Your Illusion), "Don't Cry" was recorded in two versions.  The first was released as a radio single and had simpler, more radio-friendly lyrics - "Talk to me softly/there's something in your eyes/Don't hang your head in sorrow/And please don't cry," where the alternate version on UYI2 has a darker tone with more complex and introspective lyrics - "I thought I could live in your world/As years all went by/With all the voices I've heard/Something has died."  In either case, "Dont' Cry" is a somber but very hooky breakup song that builds to a soaring final chorus and that weird, sustained multitracked vocal note at the end.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Intercontinental Champions

Welcome back to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I recently posted my list of the worst WWE Champions of all time, and now I'm back with its counterpart, counting down the ten worst Intercontinental Champions of all time.


The I-C Title has a rich history dating all the way back to 1979, when Pat Patterson was named the first champion (winning a fictitious tournament in Brazil, just as Buddy Rogers had done 16 years prior).  This secondary championship was used as both a major drawing card, particularly to headline "B team" house shows, and as a stepping stone/litmus test for future WWF Champions.  18 men have won this championship on their way to the WWE Title (and a few, like Pedro Morales, The Big Show and The Miz, won this belt after that one).  During the first two decades of this title's existence it was a pretty huge deal to win it.  Becoming the Intercontinental Champion was not only a major vote of confidence from the company, but it usually signified you were one of its workhorses.  During the Hulk Hogan era, the I-C Championship match was often the most technically impressive match on the card, the one the diehard fans most looked forward to.  But then around the turn of the century it began to devolve into more of a prop that almost anyone on the card could win at one time or another, and by 2010 it became almost a career liability for its wearer.  The I-C Champion was now one step above curtain jerker, and was often less likely to be included on PPVs than before he won the belt.  In recent years the company has made more of an effort to rehab the value of this once-prestigious championship, but it's still a long way from being what it was.

Regardless though, every era has had its share of stinker champions.  Here are the ten weakest Intercontinental Champions in history (according to me).....





1. Kerry Von Erich (1990)


Let me get this out of the way: I never thought Kerry Von Erich was any good as a wrestler.  The guy had literally two moves, the claw and the discus punch, and he used each of them roughly a thousand times per match.  In 1990 the WWF brought him in and renamed him The Texas Tornado.  That name is stupid.  What is he, Sy-Klone from He-Man?

Look at this asshole.  Actually I'd put the belt on him over Kerry....

Anyway, at SummerSlam 1990 the Intercontinental Championship match was scheduled to pit Mr. Perfect against challenger Brutus Beefcake.  But a parasailing accident left Beefcake with a shattered face, and a last-minute change to the card became necessary (Coincidentally Beefcake was supposed to challenge for the belt at SummerSlam two years earlier but suffered a kayfabe injury, leading to an identical situation).  Hoping to recapture the magic of The Ultimate Warrior's surprise I-C Title win in 1988, the company trotted out Mr. Tornado as Mr. Perfect's new challenger, and had him pin the accomplished veteran in five minutes.  Kerry won the I-C Title just one month after his WWF debut, and within a matter of weeks he was getting booed by live audiences.  That November they put the belt back on Mr. Perfect, and Von Erich spent the next two years floundering in the lower card before vanishing from WWF TV in late '92.  This situation should've been a valuable lesson to the company about not rushing a guy to the belt too fast, lest the crowd completely turn on him.  Sadly they've repeated this mistake many times, particularly with this title.






2. The Mountie (1992)


In the grand tradition of weak-as-fuck transitional heel champions, Jacques Rougeau, now playing the character of an evil Canadian mounted police officer (I guess Vince never watched Dudley Do-Right?) upset Bret Hart for the belt at a house show (Bret was going through contract negotiations and I guess they didn't want to allow for the possibility of him walking out with the belt - Jeezus, did Vince EVER trust that guy?).  Two days later The Mountie dropped the belt to Roddy Piper at the 1992 Royal Rumble.  This was by far the most significant thing Rougeau ever did as a singles wrestler, and it's a pretty shabby accomplishment.  He went on to lose a lot of matches over the next year before re-emerging as one half of The Quebecers and winning two Tag Team Titles.  Piper meanwhile, held the strap till the WrestleMania VIII classic match where he lost it to Bret.  I have to think that if Bret hadn't been undergoing contract negotiations he would've just kept the belt the whole time and we wouldn't even be talking about this now.






3. Dean Douglas (1995)


In October of 1995, Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels got into an altercation at a Syracuse bar that left him pretty badly beat up.  The kayfabe explanation was that nine dudes attacked him unprovoked in the parking lot, but in actuality he drunkenly mouthed off to a group of Marines and they let him have it.  Regardless, he was unable to make his scheduled PPV title defense against Dean (Shane) Douglas, and rather than simply vacating the belt, the company oddly announced Douglas as the winner and new champion by forfeit.  His first defense was against Razor Ramon and he lost, thus Dean Douglas is in the record books as having been Intercontinental Champion for 20 minutes.  Douglas had only been with the company for three months prior to this (Remember what I said about rushing guys to the belt?), there was no logic in him automatically winning the belt on a forfeit, and he left the company only two months later.  Shane Douglas played this silly character pretty well and could work a match, but the company stuck him in a no-win situation here.  Taking a new guy most fans aren't familiar with, having him win a championship without wrestling a match, and then having him lose said title 20 minutes later is just counterproductive.  Who's gonna take him seriously after that?  It's almost like they didn't want Shane to succeed.




Monday, July 9, 2018

NJPW G1 Special Review

New Japan delivers again.  The G1 Special at the Cow Palace was yet another pretty stellar effort from the world's best wrestling promotion, featuring three excellent marquee matches and a host of fun undercard bouts, plus some newsworthy items.


The first three tag team matches were just a fun way to warm up the crowd, starting with a 10-man tag between the lower-tier Bullet Club members and the supporting members of CHAOS (RPG3K, Gedo and Yoshi-Hashi).  The SanFran audience popped big for King Haku, who teamed with two of his sons (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa), plus Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens.  The match was a briskly paced nine minutes and ended with Tonga scoring the pin on Gedo.  Not much more than a showcase, but it didn't overstay its welcome and Tama Tonga in particular looked like a star here.  More on that later.  **

Next up was the best of the three undercard tag matches, as Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre resumed their feud with Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano.  As expected this match shined when Suzuki and Ishii were pounding the snot out of each other.  Their inevitable singles match will no doubt be a brutal spectacle.  The finish came out of nowhere as Yano tried several times to hit a low blow on Sabre only for Sabre to block and counter.  But Ishii leveled him with a clothesline, allowing Yano to cradle him for the pin.  Very entertaining stuff.  **3/4

The third showcase match pitted Tanahashi and Kushida against Hangman Page and Marty Scurll, and accomplished a lot in elevating Page.  Very early in the match Page hit a death-defying shooting star press off the apron to the floor, landing on his feet(!) and knocking Kushida down.  From there the pace was furious as the heavyweights and the juniors paired off, but in the end Page finished Kushida with his Rite of Passage finisher (reverse Tombstone piledriver).  Page is rapidly proving himself a worthy New Japan star and I'm interested to see how he does in the G1.  **1/2

The first important bout was next as Hirooki Goto defended the NEVER Title against Jeff Cobb.  This was a rugged display of athletic power wrestling, full of suplexes and high-impact moves.  This was my first time seeing Cobb and thus far I'm duly impressed.  From what I understand this wasn't even one of his best efforts (at 12 minutes it felt a little short), but I'm hoping New Japan will bring him on board officially.  Goto retained after the GTR.  Solid midcard match.  ***

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1989)

This one's generally considered the best of the bunch....


Glory Days - Baltimore Arena - 7.23.89

1989 was in my opinion the best year in NWA history.  The company had undergone major management and booking changes with the sale to Ted Turner, but the emphasis was still on simple storylines and athletic wrestling.  It's no surprise that the 1989 Great American Bash was and is considered a classic PPV, with loads of star power and several standout matches.  It's also a source of a bit of frustration for me, because with a bit of retooling this show could've been basically perfect.  It was the first hour that got in the way.

The show opened with a two-ring Battle Royal showcasing several midcard stars and some of the company's newest talent.  The 14-man bout included Eddie Gilbert, Terry Gordy, Steve Williams, Scott Hall, Bill Irwin, Brian Pillman, Ranger Ross, Mike Rotunda, Ron Simmons, Rick & Scott Steiner, Kevin Sullivan, and the Skyscrapers, who won the whole thing and split the winnings.  While the two-ring format set this apart from traditional Battle Royals (and made for a nice unusual visual the whole night) this was pretty nondescript stuff, really only notable for monster heels Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey getting a big win.

I thought the Skyscrapers were pretty boss at the time

What didn't make sense were the next two bouts that followed.  First Brian Pillman faced Bill Irwin in a ten-minute squash that clearly didn't belong on a PPV, then The Skyscrapers showed up again to annihilate The Dynamic Dudes, in another glorified showcase match.  These two matches took up nearly 20 minutes that should've gone to some of the later bouts.

Another pointless match was next as Jim Cornette faced Paul E. Dangerously in a Tuxedo Match.  I'm generally against manager vs. manager bouts full-stop, but especially when both of them are involved in one of the headlining matches designed to help settle their issue.

The show really got going in match 5, as the Steiner brothers faced Mike Rotundo and Kevin Sullivan in a wild Texas Tornado match.  This was about as good as could be expected, with all four guys doing a lot with what little time they were alotted.  Imagine how much better this could've been with five more minutes.

The really stacked portion of the show kicked off with Sting vs. Great Muta for the TV Title, a blazing match that's about as good as any 8.5-minute match you'll ever see.  Sting began the bout by diving from one ring to the other on top of Muta.  They crammed everything they could into this, with lots of wild top-rope spots and over-the-rope dives which were unheard of in 1989.  It's too bad they weren't given fifteen minutes to really steal the show.  After Muta accidentally spit mist into Nick Patrick's eyes, the finish was the old back suplex into double-pin spot, where it wasn't clear whose shoulders were down.  Sting was declared the winner but the belt was later held up and Muta won the rematch.  This was a damn fine little match but should've been a MOTY contender.

PLANCHA!  PLANCHA!  PLANCHA!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Face/Off

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll examine a movie that is horribly entertaining but also entertainingly horrible.

Today's entry in the series is John Woo's 1997 action thriller, Face/Off



Face/Off stars John Travolta as FBI agent Sean Archer, whose son was killed by his arch-nemesis Castor Troy, a manic, sadistic terrorist played by Nicolas Cage.  Six years later Troy announces to the FBI that there's a bomb hidden somewhere in Los Angeles which could potentially kill millions of people.  The FBI attempts to capture Troy in an ambush but Troy ends up in a coma before they can learn the location of the bomb.  After unsuccessfully interrogating every member of Troy's gang, Archer reluctantly submits to a radical new procedure wherein his face will be removed and replaced with Castor's, allowing him to impersonate his enemy and infiltrate the maximum security prison where Castor's brother/accomplice Pollux is being held.  Archer's subterfuge fools Pollux, who reveals the bomb's location, but before Archer can arrange his release from prison, the real Castor Troy emerges from his coma, forces the surgeon to apply Archer's face to his, and then kills everyone who knew about the procedure.  The real Sean Archer is now trapped in prison as Castor Troy, while the real Castor Troy takes over Archer's life.

This is one of the most convoluted premises of any action movie I've ever seen, but somehow the filmmakers managed to pull a pretty entertaining piece of crap out of what probably should've been a disastrous effort.  So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't.



The Awesome

John Travolta & Nic Cage

First and foremost, the two leads do an excellent job in this film of convincing the audience that a) this scenario is at all believable and b) that for most of the film's running time they are each playing the opposite character.  Travolta plays Archer as a spiritually broken man, haunted by the death of his son and consumed with catching the bastard who killed him.  His relationships with his wife and daughter are in shambles and the only thing that will bring him peace is taking Troy down.  Cage plays Troy as a high-wire act - oozing evil charisma and relishing his own depravity. 


When the ol' switcheroo occurs, each actor gets to explore the other character.  Cage as Archer brings an even greater sense of melancholy and develops a rather tender relationship with Troy's girlfriend Sasha (Gina Gershon), while Travolta's Troy rekindles the romance with Archer's wife (Joan Allen), and is actually able to identify with Archer's troubled teenage daughter (Dominique Swain).  He also becomes an FBI hero when he locates and diffuses his own bomb and uses all the Bureau's resources to chase down "Castor Troy."  Both actors are fantastic in both roles and have a lot of fun imitating each other.


Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Champions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best (or in this case, worst) of something.


Today what's on my mind is shitty WWE Champions.  The WWE (formerly WWF, formerly WWWF) Championship is the most celebrated wrestling title in the history of the business.  While it's not currently the most prestigious (as my colleague Joseph Chaplin and I discussed HERE), it has the richest overall lineage and is by definition the most well-known championship.  Just about every luminary to make his mark in North American wrestling the last 40 or so years has won or at least contended for that belt.  When WCW went belly-up in 2001, the WWF Title became the only recognized worldwide championship, and while WWE has had two top belts for most of the the intervening years, it's generally the WWE Title that's been presented as the most important.

But there have been times when a wholly undeserving fellow has been graced with a Title run, much to the chagrin and puzzlement of those of us with logical thought processes.  Then there have been times when a perfectly viable guy has won the belt but the company never really got behind him or presented him as worthy, thus his title reign was a big honkin' flop.  In each of these cases, the value of the Title has taken a nosedive or at least been temporarily damaged.  Below are ten examples of these two scenarios, in chronological order.




1. Stan Stasiak (1973)


The old WWWF was what they called a "babyface territory."  The promotion depended on a heroic, long-running Champion to sell tickets and drive revenue.  Thus whenever a heel won the belt, it was simply as a transition so they could quickly put the belt on a different babyface.  Case in point, the weakest of these early heel champs, Stan "The Man" Stasiak.  In 1973 Pedro Morales was enjoying a nearly three-year run as the face of the company, but fans began clamoring for their former hero Bruno Sammartino to win back the Title he'd held for 7-1/2 years (Still the longest title run in wrestling history).  Not wanting a babyface vs. babyface title change, the company decided at the last minute to book Stasiak in a "banana peel" win over Morales (The ol' spot where the babyface hits a belly-to-back suplex on the heel, but the heel raises his shoulder and the babyface pins himself).  Stasiak was now the unlikeliest of WWWF Champions.  So unlikely in fact that he dropped the belt to Sammartino just nine days later.  When you realize that Killer Kowalski (a major heel draw for the promotion) never held the belt but Stasiak did, it's even more baffling.





2. Sgt. Slaughter (1991)


WrestleMania VI was headlined by the hugely successful Hulk Hogan-Ultimate Warrior match, wherein Warrior scored an ultra-rare clean pin over the company's golden (more like golden-brown) goose.  The match was considered such an epic encounter (For the record I was never a fan of this match but I get why others liked it so much), that it seemed inevitable we'd see it again at WrestleMania VII.  It made perfect sense after all; 'Mania 6 drew a huge stadium crowd and the company wanted to fill an even larger venue (the 100,000-seat LA Coliseum) the following year.  What match could be bigger than the biggest rematch in WWF history?  But instead Vince opted to have perennial midcarder (and only marginally coordinated worker, who incidentally had just returned to the WWF five months earlier) Sgt. Slaughter defeat Warrior for the strap at the Royal Rumble, position him as an Iraqi sympathizer to cash in on the Gulf War, and let Hogan be the conquering American hero.  This booking was totally rushed and contrived, and it was the first time as a fan that I felt they had devalued the WWF Title.  Slaughter wasn't remotely believable enough in the ring to be the company's top champ, the exploitation of the Gulf War felt sleazy and cheap (and by the time 'Mania 7 rolled around the skirmish had been over for a month), and not surprisingly ticket sales for the event tanked, to the point they had to move 'Mania to the much smaller LA Sports Arena.  This was an epic failure that signaled the end of the 80s boom period.





3. Hulk Hogan (1993 & 2002)


This entry is a little different.  Yes I know Hulk Hogan was one of the company's greatest champions, but of his six WWF Title reigns, only three were any good.  The fourth lasted only a few days, as he was stripped of the belt due to a controversial win.  But his fifth and sixth reigns were downright insulting to the intelligence, and thus warrant inclusion on this list (Incidentally this entry pushes JBL off the list - you're welcome John).

In 1992 Hogan walked away from the business to pursue an acting career.  That didn't work out so well, and Vince brought him back in early 1993.  The WrestleMania main event that year was Bret Hart, the WWF's new top babyface vs. Yokozuna, its newest monster heel.  Yokozuna won the belt in cheap fashion, and then Hogan inexplicably ran down to the ring to protest the decision, despite never having interacted with Bret at all leading up to this.  Yokozuna even more inexplicably challenged Hogan to a match on the spot, and Hogan won back the Title in seconds.  Thus WrestleMania IX ended with both main event participants looking like chumps while the increasingly irrelevant Hogan stood tall with the strap.  The plan was for Hogan to face Bret at SummerSlam, but Hogan balked at the idea and went home for two months, leaving house shows without the WWF Title being represented.  Vince had to scramble to get the belt back on a full-time guy, and Hogan vs. Yokozuna II was booked at King of the Ring.  Hogan dropped the belt and left the WWF again for nearly a decade.  The ending to WrestleMania IX stands as the worst, most counterproductive PPV climax of all time.


In 2002, after the demise of WCW, Vince decided to resurrect WCW's most successful angle, the nWo.  Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash returned to the company at No Way Out and ran amok for two months.  This set up Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X8.  What no one bargained for though was the Toronto crowd giving Hogan a white-hot hero's welcome.  Those damn Canadians came unglued for Hogan, and during the post-match shenanigans the company turned him babyface, thus nullifying the nWo stable.  Vince was so blinded by the 'Mania crowd reaction in fact that he scrapped plans for new champion Triple H to defend against The Undertaker at Backlash, and had him face the 48-year-old Hogan instead (Incidentally, Hogan's win-loss record post-return was 1-1 at that point).  Hogan's sixth title win was wrong on multiple levels.  First, the WWF had redefined itself in the late 90s by showcasing young, edgy, exciting stars to combat WCW's focus on former WWF names from the 80s.  Putting the belt on Hogan in 2002 was completely inappropriate given how far past his prime he was, and how hard he'd tried to put the WWF out of business.  Second, the WWF audience had for years been conditioned to the top champion being a strong in-ring worker.  Bret, Shawn, Austin, Rock, Triple H, Taker, Angle, Jericho, all of the significant champions of the era could deliver restaurant-quality matches on a consistent basis.  Hogan could still entertain, but he was never an accomplished in-ring talent, and this was simply not acceptable for a WWF Champion in 2002.  Third, Triple H was just being established as the company's new top babyface.  Taking the belt off him only four weeks after his big WrestleMania win undermined everything they were trying to do with him.  Hogan's title run was understandably not well-received; he dropped the belt to The Undertaker a month later, and was gone again by August.  It's rare for a star of Hogan's caliber to have two terrible WWF Title runs, but by golly he did it.  



Thursday, July 5, 2018

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1988)

We've entered the PPV era of the Great American Bash.....


The Price for Freedom - Baltimore Arena - 7.10.88

Jim Crockett's NWA dove into the PPV market in late 1987 and again in January of 1988.  Both events flopped, largely due to the WWF airing shows opposite, but in July of '88 JCP finally had a chance to run a PPV unopposed.  This PPV would be a streamlined, five-match card, much as the first two Clash of the Champions specials had been.  The buyrate hinged on the popularity of new babyface Lex Luger, and his quest to dethrone former mentor Ric Flair for the NWA Title.  While the lineup was strong and most of the matches worked to some degree, the booking would be questionable at best.

The show opened with a wild, very exciting World Tag Title match, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff.  Structurally this was your typical Tully & Arn match where they get their asses kicked for the first ten minutes before using some underhanded tactic to take over on offense.  In this case it was JJ Dillon distracting Koloff and baiting him to go for the Russian Sickle on the outside.  Koloff missed the clothesline and hit the post, and the Horsemen smelled blood.  Tully and Arn worked over Koloff's arm until the hot tag spot when Sting cleaned house.  Sting nailed Tully with the corner splash and applied the Scorpion Deathlock, but time ran out before he could get a submission (Strangely this match only got a 20-minute time limit).  Aside from the formulaic structure this was a helluva fun tag match with an absolutely NUCLEAR crowd.

The biggest standout of the show was the Fantastics vs. Midnight Express US Tag Title match. Taking over where the Rock n' Roll Express left off, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton gave the Midnights one of their greatest feuds, as both this and their previous match at Clash of the Champions were full of athletic, high-impact tag wrestling.  The big stipulation here was that Jim Cornette was locked above the ring in a cage, wearing a straitjacket - a hilarious visual, but it took forever to get Cornette in there due to his repeated protests.  The match finally got underway and was almost non-stop motion.  Just a super display of tag team work that didn't follow the traditional formula.  The Midnights won the US Tag belts when Bobby Eaton hit Fulton with a chain.

Heh...

NJPW G1 Special in San Francisco Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NJPW Predictions here at Enuffa.com!  Landon Wayne (of FalconArrowEmporium.blogspot.com) and I are back to sort out the matches and predictions!


In what is now an annual tradition, New Japan will be visiting American soil once again just before the G1 Climax, with a special PPV that airs live on AXS TV and then on-demand on NJPWWorld.com.  The company really stacked their championship fields with gaijin to try and capitalize on the western audience, and with this show taking place at the Cow Palace in San Francisco this will be the largest American event in NJPW history.  Stagnant ticket sales initially stoked fears that the company had tried to expand too fast, but from what I understand the event is mostly sold out now.  Going from a 2300-seat venue last year to a 5000-seater this past March to 10,000 now was certainly ambitious but it looks like they'll be just fine.

Anyway this show is fairly stacked, with five big title matches and some showcase tags.  Let's get to it...



10-Man Tag: Yoshi-Hashi/Gedo/Roppongi 3K vs. Chase Owens/King Haku/Yujiro Takahashi/Guerrillas of Destiny


Oh look at this, father and son teaming together.  What a strange turn of events.  Should be a fun little opening match.  I'm not expecting it to go very long but it'll be a showcase for RPG3K (who are still chasing the Jr. Tag belts). 

Justin: I have a feeling Haku will be super over, so they may give Bullet Club the win here.
Landon: Do we know if Haku is still the linear WCW Hardcore Champion? If not him, who is? Bullet Club





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


It's a rematch from Dominion.  This'll be great whenever Ishii is in the ring and silly whenever Yano is.  Ishii vs. Suzuki is still being built as a blood feud and I imagine we'll get to see that at either Destruction or King of Pro-Wrestling, or both. 

Justin: Suzuki-Gun pins Yano again
Landon: MORE. LANDON WANT MORE ISHII SUZUKI. Yano Pins Sabre





Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kushida vs. Hangman Page & Marty Scurll


Shocking to see Tana in such a low undercard spot, but I guess he's got less name recognition than most of the western wrestlers.  This should be another fun tag match.  Kushida and Scurll will have excellent exchanges I'm sure.

Justin: Tana & Kushida get the win
Landon: Fucking weird, but Team WMB wins here


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Independence Day

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I overanalyze some big dumb slab of escapist entertainment to the point that you unfriend me on social media*.

*Please don't unfriend me, I'm so lonely....

Today's victim-- er, subject is the 1996 blockbuster event picture Independence Day, directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman.


Independence Day's release twenty-plus years ago was preceded by mucho fanfare, with moviegoers anticipating that generation's defining summer movie, a la Star Wars.  Its interest bolstered by promotional images of landmark buildings being decimated by giant alien saucers, ID4 made an absolute KILLING at the box office, garnering over $800 million worldwide on a $75 mil budget.  It was assumed this would be the first of a trilogy since it was supposed to sorta be the next Star Wars and it grossed a fuckton.  But oddly a sequel was never made until two decades later.  Maybe the filmmakers didn't have another story to tell.  Maybe they still don't....

Anywho, you might ask yourself "Why does ID4 qualify as an Awesomely Shitty Movie?"  Well my reasons this time are slightly different than usual.  For me, this film was unabashedly awesome the first time I watched it, and agonizingly shitty on every repeat viewing.  This is a prime example of a film you should only watch one time.  Then throw it away and never speak of it again.  Don't even think about it.  You'll only break your brain and end up in a home.

So let's pick apart this ham-fisted clod of a summer movie, shall we?



The Awesome

Effects

The special effects in this movie looked amazing at the time and for the most part still look at least pretty good twenty years later.  Some of the compositing is a little messy, particularly when they show the Earth from space, but the alien craft are still convincing, the model work (which I almost always prefer over excessive CG) looks tangible and believable, and there are multiple shots in the first hour or so that still hold up.

This part still works



Alien Ships Appear

For example the moments when the giant saucers appear over the various major cities.  We see several shots of the massive ships emerging from behind the clouds and it looks great.  The filmmakers expertly conveyed the scope of the spacecraft, showing us just how insanely huge and intimidating they are.  Few things are as immediately threatening as an alien ship blocking out the sun and spanning the width of an entire city.  Super cool-looking stuff.

So does this



Iconic Imagery

This film also provided several lasting images, such as the saucer blowing up the White House, the Empire State Building, etc.  These moments would have a huge influence on Hollywood blockbusters even to this day (More on that later).  Even the poster looked boss, depicting one of the ships hovering over New York City.  The marketing team certainly earned their keep with this movie.

And this