Thursday, March 31, 2016

WrestleMania 32 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to a brand new season of WWE PPV Predictions, with myself and Dan Moore.  Dan won last season 67/94 to 64/94 but the slate is now clean and I'm fixin' to Reign supreme this time (Reign, get it?  Like Roman?  Eff you.).

This Sunday is WWE's 32nd annual flagship PPV, WrestleMania, and much like last year it's lookin' like kind of a stinker.  What was once the most fun period on WWE's calendar has become just another shitty couple months where the creative team phones it in and the wrong guys get prime spots on the card.  I will say though, there are a few matches I'm actually excited about this time, which was not the case for me last year.  So let's get to predictin' this crap.

Pre-Show Match: The Usos vs. The Dudleyz

This year the two-hour pre-show will boast not one, not two, not three, but FOUR matches.  Yup, of the eleven bouts booked, 35% will take place before the PPV even starts.  When did WWE become incapable of fitting 8-10 matches on a four-hour show??  The first of these unfortunately placed showdowns pits The Usos against the recently heel-turned Dudleyz.  I don't even remember what they're feuding over, but they're feuding apparently.  Nothing at stake here, but the match should be fine.

My pick: The Usos
Dan's pick: I JUST DON'T CARE. Go Dudleyz

Pre-Show 5-on-5 Divas Match: Total Divas vs. Team Bad & Blonde

Yeah, this is pointless.  There is some good talent in this match (Natalya, Paige, Naomi) but none of it will be used in a meaningful way.  This is one of three "Let's get everyone on the card" bouts.

My pick: Total Divas win.  Because ratings on E!
Dan's pick: Divas

Pre-Show Andre the Giant Battle Royal

Only took three years (two really) for WWE to make the Andre Battle Royal completely irrelevant.  After Cesaro got a huge moment in 2014 and was then not pushed at all, WWE booked The Big Show to win in 2015, and not get pushed at all.  So who will 2016's winner be, who won't get pushed at all?  Since basically no one announced for this match thus far matters in the slightest it's a hard one to pick.  My personal choice would be Tyler Breeze, because he's really good and they haven't done dick with him since he got called up.  But Vince doesn't like him.  Because of brass rings.

My pick: Someone Vince does like, despite his complete lack of talent or overness, Braun Strowman.  For fuck's sake.
Dan's pick: I'll go with his brother in arms, Bray. But I don't care.

Pre-Show US Title Match: Kalisto vs. Ryback

New rule, guys.  Stop putting Title matches on the Pre-Show.  If a Title isn't important enough to be defended on a PPV it shouldn't exist.  Period.  This should've been the 7-man Ladder Match since Kalisto is a high-flier and there's zilch going on between these two other than the US Title (which isn't important enough for a PPV apparently).  The match itself should be fine, though I'm not invested much in either guy.

My pick: Ryback wins the belt
Dan's pick: Ryback will win and will also probably injure Kal with some sort of botched move.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nut Up for the New Season of Archer (HEY! PHRASING!)

by Dan Moore

New episodes of the animated series Archer start on March 31st and I for one literally can’t wait for them. Archer is the story of…um, Archer, who was a spy for The International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) who then became a drug dealer before going back to spying for the CIA after ISIS was disbanded (moreseo because of the actual ISIS appropriating the name) and who is now a private detective. But it’s so much more than that.

It’s probably the second funniest show on television (1st place goes to another FX program, Always Sunny, which just concluded a stellar season). The animation is excellent. And the voice cast is top notch. Seriously, the group of actors they’ve employed on this show works so well together. They’re all so good that from season to season, I’ve had to pick a new favorite character (Currently, it’s the handicapped homosexual cyborg with a transplanted African American hand, Ray Gillette).


It’s truly the supporting cast that makes this show shine. H. Jon Benjamin is of course great as Archer, but everyone else on this show is so goddamn hilarious you almost forget about him. The show works so well after all these years because the cast of characters act like a bunch of friends hanging out in a bar giving each other shit ALL THE TIME. Not to mention the fact that essentially all the characters have all slept with one another. From Judy Greer as the sexually demented Cheryl to Lucky Yates as the SERIOUSLY demented Dr. Krieger, the one liners and callbacks to previous season jokes fly around as if they’re in some kind of dangerous type zone.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

NXT TakeOver: Dallas Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions, here at!  It's a busy week since WrestleMania weekend now has two big events.  We'll have two rounds of 'Mania 32 predictions coming in a few days, but first I'll be prognosticating the other major show, which for me is a mortal lock to overshadow and outclass WrestleMania from start to finish.  That show is of course NXT TakeOver!

Holy lord this show is stacked.  On paper this should easily be in WWE's top three for the year.  NXT has been such a godsend, from a company that is otherwise running on creative fumes.  Were it not for NXT in fact, it'd be hard for me to justify remaining a Network subscriber right now, so terrible has been the build for this year's WrestleMania.

Fortunately Triple H and his creative team have put together an incredible-looking show for this Friday, which includes two major in-ring debuts and three big title matches.  The NXT brand has grown into a totally viable alternate WWE product by presenting simple, logical, easy-to-follow angles and spectacular in-ring action, and this TakeOver special looks to be a perfect cross-section of that product.  So let's get to predictin'....

Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin

Aries technically made his NXT in-ring debut at a house show, but this will be his first televised match with the company.  This feud is all about revenge, as Corbin beat the crap out of Aries during the latter's first NXT appearance and Aries is looking for payback.  Corbin has been improving in the ring, while Aries is one of the best pound-for-pound workers in the business.  Should be a fine match, though I imagine given the storyline it'll get out of hand rather quickly.

My pick: I think this goes to an indecisive finish of some kind to keep the feud going.  Aries wins by DQ probably.

NXT Tag Team Championship - The Revival vs. American Alpha

Both these teams are great.  The workrate in this one should be off the charts; think Anderson & Blanchard vs. Haas & Benjamin.  American Alpha has incredible main roster potential if handled correctly.  Both are stupendous between the ropes while also possessing a  goofy charisma.  Can't wait for the fireworks here.

My pick: American Alpha capture the belts

Apollo Crews vs. Elias Samson

If there's a weak spot on this card, this is it.  I'm not crazy about Samson or his gimmick, but hopefully Crews can get a decent, brief match out of him.

My pick: Apollo Crews

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dan Reviews Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

by Dan Moore

I liked it. I went in thinking it was gonna be garbage, but I liked it. BVSDOJ is everything you’ve heard or read about from other reviews. It’s too long. It’s way too dark. There’s nary a fun moment in the film. And the narrative, to put it nicely, is clunky. Despite all these faults, I still found myself enjoying this movie.

First, the bad:

The main issue I found with this movie was the fact that they skipped over a shared universe and delved right into it. In the Marvel movies, you know that Captain America and Iron Man have conflicting views on things as it’s been boiling over for a few flicks. But in this movie, it’s clear why Bruce Wayne isn’t too fond of Superman, but Superman’s reasons for disliking Batman are glossed over. He doesn’t like his vigilante justice…and then he just shows up and tells him “The Bat is dead”. There’s no history between the characters, so their conflict seems rushed and forced.

Same could be said for Lex Luthor’s issues with Supes. We know Lex hates Superman because he’s hated him for about 80 years in various forms of media…but in this movie, he just does. His motivations to want to kill Kal-El seem to change throughout the movie. He’s never really focused on a sole reason to off this alien fella. And Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex is UNREAL annoying. I have no idea why he played the character as a whiny, petulant dickhead, but that’s what’s on the screen.

They also try to cram waaaaay too much into this movie. Between setting up Batman’s history, Clark & Lois’ ongoing relationship, the government issues with Superman, Lex doing Lex things AND jamming in five more superheroes, this movie is beyond bloated. It’s also way too fucking long. Do I need a nearly 3 hour movie of guys in rubber underpants beating each other up? Well…yea, ok, I do, but it coulda been a bit better than this one.

Onto the good…

Ben Affleck nails the Batman portrayal. He’s more Bruce Wayne in this than Bats, but he’s damn good in it. He has the pretend rich boy act down perfect. And he still shows the angst needed to perform as Batman. He’s also RIPPED in this movie. The man is in perfect shape right now.

The One Thing Wrong with The Dark Knight Rises

by Dan Moore

Ah Batman movies. There have been literally hundreds of these flicks made. Yea that's right, hundreds. Literally. And they've all been scrutinized and enjoyed on many different levels (except for Batman & Robin, which sucks shit through a straw). The films of the Christopher Nolan trilogy have been universally praised and loved. The high point was The Dark Knight, the second of the trilogy, looked upon by many as the perfect comic book movie. Its follow up, The Dark Knight Rises was also well-received but got its fair share of criticism.

Now I'm not here to point out the obvious flaws in this movie (such as a CIA agent nonchalantly taking three unknown, hooded terrorists onto a prison transport. Or the letdown of a climax when Bane, the physical threat we had been waiting to see fight Batman after his return to Gotham, gets bumped off by a motorcycle missile from a pointless secondary character, which then causes the plot to focus on a different villain, another pointless secondary character). Plenty have done that. I'm here to point out this one thing wrong with TDKR. This scene right here:

In case you don't know, this scene here is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as young GCPD officer John Blake being called 'hothead' by Matthew Modine as Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley. Blake is perhaps the only levelheaded, non-moron on the whole squad (Don't get me started on Commissioner Gordon. One bad decision after another from that guy.) and he's being derided by probably the biggest idiot on the force. And it's not even the fact that he insulted him at that point in the movie. It's the insult he used. Who the fuck calls another grown man a hothead? What is this, the 1920s? Is he mad cause Blake made a move on his dame and she thought he was aces?

Not only that, Foley calls him that like three more times in the movie. It's his go-to criticism for the one up-and-comer in the whole precinct. Christ, Foley got Gordon to say it about Blake! It's INSANE. I Haven't heard that since Sister Catherine called me that back in the 5th grade in catholic school. Call him a pain in the ass, a jerk, anything else. Christ, where do they learn their insults in Gotham, from Superman?!?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dan's Top 9: Batman Actors

by Dan Moore


Batman v Superman gets released this Friday. I'm looking forward to seeing this flick with a mixture of awe and bewilderment. Part of me thinks it could be great but a bigger part of me thinks it's more likely to be a flaming shit burger. With this new chapter in the Bruce Wayne mythos coming out, I've come up with my list of the top Batman performances in screen history, with #9 being reserved for the worst.

9. George Clooney (Batman & Robin)

Nevermind the myriad of problems with this legendarily putrid film ("Hey we cast Arnold, known for his bulgy muscles, lets stick him in a garbage can for the whole movie!"). The fact that George Clooney decided to just play George Clooney in this movie is baffling to me. He did nothing in this flick to make himself a memorable Batman. I wanted a dark knight and all I got was Danny fuckin' Ocean.

8. Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman)

Yeah that's right, I haven't even seen Benny play this role yet and the son of a bitch is better than Clooney. Christ, he was bad.

Regardless if this movie is any good, the armored Batman is BOSS

7. Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)

In this shitty Batman movie, Mad Martigan plays a less crappy Bruce Wayne than Clooney. He's not bad in this but he's completely forgettable. And the movie SUCKS.

6. Clark Bartram (Batman: Dead End)

This one is based solely on visuals. In this fan film, Bats chases the escaped Joker and runs into some more trouble.  The Batman in this flick looks like he jumped straight out of an Alex Ross comic book cover.  Such a striking depiction of the Dark Knight detective.

The History of NXT TakeOver: R Evolution

R Evolution - Full Sail - 12.11.14

Aside from a really dumb name ("R Evolution?" Like "Our Evolution?" O-U-R, as opposed to A-R-E?), this TakeOver special was a pretty freakin' good show.

The festivities started with the in-ring debut of Kevin Owens (formerly Steen) against CJ Parker.  This was about as good a three-minute match as you're likely to see. Owens got in most of his big moves, which the audience exploded for, and Parker accidentally broke Owens' nose with a palm strike before falling to the pop-up powerbomb.  Helluva debut, and the visual of Owens standing triumphant with blood gushing from his face added to his ultra-tough persona.

That's gotta hurt

The Tag Titles were up next as Lucha Dragons defended against The Vaudvillains (love this goofy gimmick) in a fun little seven-minute battle.  This was fast-paced and both teams got decent time to show off their movesets.  Kalisto got the pin with Salida del Sol after a back-and-forth affair.  Nothing mindblowing but a fun little match.

Another Baron Corbin squash was next as he killed Tye Dillinger in under a minute, with the crowd counting the seconds.  I'd still have given these Corbin squashes a good two minutes to get in all his stuff.

The Ascension's last hurrah in NXT was fourth as they faced Hideo Itami and vaunted newcomer Finn Balor (formerly Prince Devitt).  Balor had appeared on NXT TV but this was the NXT debut of his alter-ego The Demon, and it was an absolutely spectacular entrance.  Balor's theme music is probably my favorite in all of WWE right now.  The match itself was middling, with not enough offense from Itami and way too much from The Ascension.  Sorry, I just find Konnor and Viktor's movesets totally generic and not very intimidating.  The third act had some nice false finishes and Balor looked great.  This match gets a pass for Balor's entrance, the hot crowd, and the last few minutes.

Best entrance since The Undertaker

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The History of NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way

Fatal 4-Way - Full Sail - 9.11.14

The Fatal 4-Way special served as a follow-up to the previous show, as the top four men's wrestlers faced off in one match.  Also Kalisto was back with a new partner to challenge for the Tag Titles, and Charlotte began her game-changing Women's Title run.  Finally the show would feature a big debut of a well-respected imported talent.

The show opened with The Ascension vs. Lucha Dragons, which was easily the best Ascension match thus far on these specials, but still only about a two-star affair.  The Dragons provided most of the movement in the bout and the crowd ate up everything they did.  A botched sunset flip powerbomb aside, this was fine for its spot and resulted in a big title change.

Next up was Baron Corbin vs. CJ Parker in a thirty-second squash to give Corbin a dominant win.  Not much else to say about it, other than it probably should've gone 90 seconds to better showcase Corbin's offense.

The weakest match was probably Enzo Amore vs. Sylvester Lefort.  This was a hair vs. hair match that in the end didn't deliver the promised head-shave, at least not to the right guy.  Instead Lefort's sidekick Marcus Louis got shaved.  The match itself wasn't good and never got out of first gear.  Pretty banal stuff.

Another squash followed, as Bull Dempsey mauled Mojo Rawley in just over a minute.  Not sure why they needed two matches like this on the same show, nor why Dempsey was ever a candidate for a big push.

At the time one of the biggest NXT debuts of all-time, KENTA was introduced on this show and  announced that his new name would be Hideo Itami.  The Ascension, pissed about having lost the Tag belts, attempted to ruin Itami's moment, but he fought them off.  It's strange to see this segment now, since Itami's NXT run was quickly derailed by a long-term injury.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Monday Night RAW: Poor Dolph....

More unpleasant WrestleMania takeaways from last night's RAW....

1. The Undertaker once again confirmed he's fine with being Vince's bitch.  Shane literally pointed out as much to his face, and yeah, Taker chokeslammed him, but he's still going through with the match, isn't he?  I've asked the question before, but why in the name of Jeebus would Taker agree to participate in this nonsense, onscreen or off?  In the storyline, why would Taker want to work on behalf of Vince and The Authority?  Does Taker fundamentally agree with their management style at all?  Is Taker a believer in the idea of a ruling class?  Does he like their constant screwing over of all the babyfaces?  From a storyline perspective nothing about this makes sense.  From a backstage perspective it makes even less.  Why would Mark Calaway, who in recent years has prided himself on having potential show-stealing matches at WrestleMania, agree to fight Vince's non-wrestling son?  And yeah, I know Shane has a history of crazy stunts and all that crap, but let's be real.  The man is 46 years old, and WWE is not the company it used to be.  The days of Shane flying through windows and jumping off the Titantron are over.  What we're left with is likely a very tame, unnecessary Hell in a Cell match with pretend-control of the company at stake.  I keep seeing people posting stuff like "I can't wait for Shane to take control and fix RAW!"  Guys, you realize he's not actually taking over the company if he wins, right?  This is all an angle.  Vince will still actually be in charge, making the same stupid decisions he's making now.  So this debacle is all for nothing.  Remember the last time The Authority was ousted from power?  How long did that last again?  Two months maybe?  I'm also seeing rumors that Shane vs. Taker could CLOSE THE SHOW.  So lemme get this straight: CM Punk wasn't good enough to main event WrestleMania, but Vince's kid is?  Fuck off.

2. Roman Reigns is back!  And as unpopular as ever.  Reigns returned to RAW last night to get himself a little payback for Triple H's beatdown a few weeks ago, by doing the exact same thing to Triple H.  And once again the crowd didn't care for Roman's shenanigans.  I can't ever remember a less popular top babyface.  Diesel is about the only one who comes close, and even he had fairly solid crowd support once he reunited with the white-hot Shawn Michaels.  Reigns got justifiably violent revenge on the top heel in the land, and no one cared.  Also, this echoes something WWE did in the lead-up to WrestleMania 25, when babyface Champion Triple H broke into Randy Orton's house and beat the piss out of him in front of his wife.  This just three weeks before the biggest show of the year, for which fans were expected to shell out $55 to see Triple H get his hands on the dastardly Orton.  Except we already saw it.  On free television.  Triple H kicked Orton's ass literally all over his house and then threw him out the front window.  So what could Hunter possibly do in a sanctioned, traditional wrestling match three weeks later?  WWE followed up a savage home invasion with a tame wrestling contest in which Triple H would lose the WWE Title if disqualified.  Boy, now I'm on the edge of my seat.  And this is exactly what we have here.  Roman Reigns already got revenge for Hunter beating him up three weeks ago, by beating up Hunter.  So the match at WrestleMania is more or less superfluous except for the fact that Hunter's still the Champion.  But as booked, this feud has mostly been about a personal vendetta, not the Title.  So what are we tuning in for in three weeks?  A civilized athletic contest?  This approach to hyping a big PPV match is totally backwards.  The babyface should get beaten down and then attempt to get revenge for weeks only for the heel to escape unscathed.  OR, the babyface should say "I could kick your ass all over this arena tonight but I'm gonna wait till WrestleMania when the Title's on the line."  It's pretty simple 101 booking formula, and it's only ever worked ALWAYS.  Stop trying to reinvent the wheel, for Chrissake.

The History of NXT TakeOver: TakeOver

Time for a restaurant-quality show....

TakeOver - Full Sail - 5.29.14
While technically the second NXT Network special, this was the first to carry the name TakeOver, and it was a major improvement over Arrival.  The streamlined card featured five matches, three of which were in the four-star range, and one of which truly kicked off the so-called "Divas Revolution."

The first two matches were nothing spectacular; Adam Rose vs. Camacho opened the show.  I figured this would be a squash win for Rose but Camacho actually dominated the match.  One (of many) problems I have with the Rose persona is he never seems to be trying to win the match, he's all about the comedy aspect.  So when he makes a late match comeback and ends up winning suddenly it feels false.  Short and inoffensive.

Next up was NXT Tag Champs The Ascension vs. Kalisto & El Locale.  While another example of The Ascension's limited in-ring ability, this was easily a step above their Arrival match, as Kalisto was able to carry most of the action.  Locale however was pretty awful.  It seemed like he used to be able to do the high-flying lucha moves but was now far overweight to pull them off.

The final three bouts were quite a trilogy of awesome.  Sami Zayn faced Tyler Breeze for the #1 Contender's spot, and what a match!  These two meshed perfectly and everything looked incredibly crisp.  Both guys left it all in the ring with crazy aerial moves and tons of counters.  Breeze blocked Zayn's Helluva Kick and inadvertently hit him in the groin, then capitalized with his finisher for the upset win.

The Women's Title tournament final took the semi-main event slot, as Natalya faced Ric Flair's daughter Charlotte.  This for me was the true genesis of the NXT Women's division.  While the Paige era helped condition the fans against WWE's version of women's wrestling, where two inept model-types stumble through a match, Nattie vs. Charlotte was the first truly great NXT women's match.  This was a classic game of human chess, full of grappling and counterholds a la Flair vs. Steamboat.  After years of being misused on the main roster, Nattie got to show what an incredible talent she is by leading the extraordinary-but-inexperienced Charlotte through a bona fide classic.  Aside from a few telegraphed moves here and there, this match was one of the best things WWE did in 2014.

The main event had quite a task following the Nattie-Charlotte match, but Adrian Neville and Tyson Kidd certainly gave it their all.  Like his wife in the previous match, Kidd finally got to show what he was capable of after consistently being relegated to punching bag status on RAW and Smackdown.  Neville had also fully come into his own as an NXT main eventer, and these two delivered a fantastic Title bout.  The opening minutes were all about the mat wrestling, but as the match wore on the risks got higher and higher.  Neville finally scored a top-rope hurricanrana and followed it with the Red Arrow to retain.

Where Arrival was a pretty uneven show that made it seem like NXT hadn't quite found themselves, TakeOver was a confident, stacked Network special that really set the tone for the "developmental brand" outclassing the main roster.  After two lackluster matches the show kicked into high gear with a trio of brilliant showings, particularly the dazzling Women's bout.  Women's wrestling in WWE was reborn with a vengeance thanks to two second generation stars (I guess Nattie's actually third-gen), and stealing the show would become a regular occurrence for this division.

Best Match: Natalya vs. Charlotte
Worst Match: Adam Rose vs. Camacho
What I'd Change: Not much, though Adam Rose's act got old about a week after his debut
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really
Most Pleasant Surprise: I knew the women's match would be good but I had no idea what a masterpiece it would be.  This was at the time probably the best women's match I'd ever seen.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10


Monday, March 14, 2016

The History of NXT TakeOver: Arrival

What's up kids?  I'm back with another PPV History series!  Taking a break from WWE's main roster PPVs, I shall now tackle the vaunted NXT TakeOver specials.  

The NXT brand has blossomed incredibly since Triple H assumed control of it back in 2012.  Once viewed as little more than a feeder system for the main roster, NXT under Hunter's direction has actively recruited the best Indy talent from all over the world, lending the brand some much-needed credibility and helping season the homegrown rookies.  NXT is now one of the most beloved brands in all of pro wrestling, based at Full Sail University but having sold out full-scale arenas like Brooklyn's Barclays Center.  It's become commonplace for NXT specials to outclass the main roster PPVs, as Hunter's brand features a much greater emphasis on the in-ring product, simple, easy-to-follow storylines, and perhaps most notably, a Women's division that's been consistently as good or better than anything else in the entire company.  While the main roster has quite often failed to properly utilize NXT call-ups, there's no denying the "third brand" has begun to leave its mark on WWE as a whole, many of its graduates having won multiple main roster championships.  Let's take a look at the brief but already storied history of NXT: Takeover!

Arrival - Full Sail - 2.27.14

The first WWE Network live special was not a main roster PPV, but an NXT showcase.  With WrestleMania XXX approaching as the first-ever PPV to be aired on the Network, WWE used NXT: Arrival (the TakeOver name wouldn't be used until the second special) as something of a guinea pig, broadcasting the two-hour event live during the Network's first week.  The show featured all three NXT Championships on the line, plus a much-anticipated rematch between two ROH alums.

The show opened with an incredible 22-minute war between Cesaro and Sami Zayn, which brought to mind both men's ROH work.  The counters here were off the charts as both guys pulled out every move they could think of.  The match told a great story of Cesaro being the overconfident bully and Zayn being the determined underdog who refuses to stay down.  What a way to kick off the first NXT special.  If you weren't hooked after watching this match there just might be something wrong with you.

Next up was Mojo Rawley vs. CJ Parker (better known today as Juice Robinson).  This was little more than a squash to show off Rawley's stuff.  He wasn't terribly accomplished in the ring at this point, and he's got one of the worst finishers in the game (think Earthquake's finisher but 150 pounds lighter), but few guys in NXT boast as lively a persona.  Parker's character was that of an obnoxious environmentalist and it's a little disturbing that such a persona would only get over as a heel.  But whatever, this was a throwaway.

The first Title match took place next as The Ascension faced Too Cool in a match between two teams I'm not fond of whatsoever.  The Ascension have to be the least successful Road Warrior knockoffs of all time.  Konnor at least looks the part, but at 5'11" and 220 pounds Viktor is hardly the right guy for a team like this.  Too Cool's schtick got old back in 2000 and they weren't given much to do here.  I'm not entirely sure why they were picked for this Title defense, actually.  Not much of a match.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Superman II

Welcome back to's Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I examine what exactly draws me to certain films that so spectacularly fail to live up to their potential.

Continuing with the superhero theme from last time, today I'll be dissecting the only good sequel from the vaunted Christopher Reeve franchise, Superman II!

In 1978 Richard Donner was tasked with directing two epic Superman films back-to-back.  Unfortunately budget and schedule issues would force him to shelve the second movie and focus on delivering the first, lest producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind fail to see a return on their massive financial investment.  Released in December 1978, Superman: The Movie was a huge commercial and critical success, ensuring the intended sequel could now be completed.  But after months of creative tension during the incredibly long shoot, the Salkinds opted not to bring Donner back to finish the second movie (It was estimated that about 75% of the footage was already completed).  Instead comedy director Richard Lester (of A Hard Day's Night fame) was brought in, and in order to officially receive directorial credit he'd need to not only complete the remaining 25%, but also reshoot a third of the already-completed footage.

The result was an immensely entertaining but horribly inconsistent sequel, featuring very divergent visual styles from two completely different directors.  This coupled with obvious continuity problems stemming from the principle actors' appearances noticeably changing between 1977 and 1980 gave Superman II a rather disjointed feel.

So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't, about this beloved Superman sequel!

The Awesome

Christopher Reeve

As with the first movie, Reeve embodied the perfect fusion of wholesome farmboy shyness and statuesque physical presence to bring to life what is still thus far the best cinematic interpretation of the Man of Steel.  This is one of those roles that a particular actor was born to play.  Reeve just captured the essence of this iconic figure and his alter-ego so brilliantly I'm not sure anyone will ever match his performance.


UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Talk Show (1997 Album)

By Dan Moore

Back in the 90s, Stone Temple Pilots were one of the most popular bands around. Their biggest song “Plush” was impossible to run away from.  They had a huge hit with “The Big Empty” from The Crow soundtrack. They were everywhere…and then the band got sick of dealing with Scott Weiland’s drug problems and got themselves a new singer.

In 1997, Dean DeLeo (guitar), his brother Robert (bass), and Eric Kretz (drums) formed the band Talk Show with lead singer Dave Coutts, formerly of Ten Inch Men. They released their first (and only) album in late 1997. Being a devout STP fan, I felt this was a complete betrayal from the band and didn’t buy the album. Years later at Nuggets, a used CD shop near Fenway Park, I saw the disc for $2. By this point I was A FUCKING GROWN UP and realized that, yes, musicians can make music with different music-making people. So I bought it.

The album is very much Stone Temple Pilots with a different guy singing. The DeLeo brothers were at the height of their catchy tune writing. After STP’s albums Purple and Tiny Music, this album essentially perfects the sound they were going for on both those albums. The music is incredibly pop-sounding but also quite good. The lead single “Hello Hello” is hella catchy and is the highlight of the album.

Coutts is a very capable singer. He’s got a raspy crooner-type voice, very reminiscent of the vocal style Weiland went with in Tiny Music. With Coutts leading STP, they have a real Spacehog-esque sound to them. But…it just doesn’t gel completely. The biggest problem is that it sounds just like a Stone Temple Pilots album without the trademark Weiland singing. If STP hadn’t existed, this wouldn’t be a problem. The album and band would’ve been able to stand on their own. But it’s such a jarring difference from their former musical stylings. It never completely feels like its own thing. The album seems like a space-filler until Scott Weiland could get his shit together and the band could go back to their full-time gig. The DeLeos would form another band years later, Army of Anyone, with a new singer Richard Patrick from Filter, minus Kretz on the drums. That to me is a much more successful “STP without Weiland” album than this one.

Not to say this is a bad album. It’s a fine example of where alternative rock music was back in the late 90s.  It still gets some play in my house on my CD player (Yeah, I still got one, fuck you, I’m old). But without the esteemable vocals of Scott Weiland, the album and band have been lost in the annals of time. In fact, my friend and site founder Justin Ballard didn’t even know this band existed, and this is a man who made music FOR A LIVING. What a loser.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Pro Wrestling: A Mark's History, part 27 (An-gle! An-gle! An-gle! An-gle!)

Early 2006 saw a couple big shakeups in WWE.  World Champion Dave Batista went down with a torn tricep, forcing him to vacate the Title, and the company held a Battle Royal on Smackdown to determine the new Champ.  In general I find Battle Royals a pretty lame way to fill a Title vacancy but on this occasion I was thrilled to see Kurt Angle jump to Smackdown and claim the Big Gold Belt.  Immediately the SD Title picture became intriguing, until I realized they were proceeding with their original plan of Mark Henry being the top challenger.  Batista vs. Henry was yet another Hogan vs. SuperHeavyweight Heel-type matchup, but Angle and Henry had no chemistry together and their resulting match at the Royal Rumble was a big ol' stinker.

The other shakeup that month was John Cena losing the WWE Title to brand new main eventer Edge, after the latter became the first man to cash in Money in the Bank.  Now, when this concept was invented in 2005 everyone assumed the man holding the briefcase would simply come out on RAW, announce he was challenging for the Title at the next PPV, and there would be your next main event feud.  Instead though, in a stroke of genius rare for this era, Edge waited until after Cena had just won an Elimination Chamber match and cashed in the briefcase then, leaving Cena easy prey.  This fit Edge's "ultimate opportunist" character perfectly, and I was over the moon for a lengthy Honky Tonk Man-esque Title run for Mr. Copeland.  But once again prior plans got in the way.  WWE had long ago penciled in Cena vs. Triple H as the main event of WrestleMania 22, and by God that's what we were gonna get.  Edge was treated as a totally undeserving transitional Champ, and dropped the Title after only three weeks.  Fucking yawn....

This was all kinds of awesome

The 2006 Rumble PPV was pretty goddamn awful, featuring two phoned-in Title matches, both of which took place AFTER the Rumble itself.  The Rumble was of course won by the diminutive Rey Mysterio, who turned in a fantastic record-breaking performance (his 62:12 ring time still holds today).  Unfortunately WWE saddled him with a horribly tasteless "I'm doing this for Eddie" theme, and implied that every stroke of luck Mysterio had on his way to WrestleMania was through Guerrero's mischievous, beyond-the-grave intervention.  I was however psyched that the 'Mania World Title match would pit Angle vs. Mysterio.

But wait, WWE had to ruin that too, by shoehorning Randy Orton into the fold.  After beating Rey Mysterio for his World Title shot at No Way Out (in what was, to be fair, a pretty great little match), Rey was only reinserted after Smackdown GM Teddy Long felt bad for him.  Yeah, there's a great way to get your underdog hero over; he loses his Title shot but gets it back anyway out of pity.  No Way Out also featured a stellar Angle vs. Undertaker main event, that outclassed everything at WrestleMania.

WrestleMania 22 was on paper a cobbled-together mess, with almost nothing that excited me.  Aside from Angle vs. Rey vs. Orton, which got criminally shortchanged at 9 minutes (I'm still baffled by this horseshit), and the remote possibility that Edge and Mick Foley might have a solid outing (which turned out to be an early MOTY candidate - goddamn that match was brutal), I found very little to look forward to about this show.  In reality though it was most certainly watchable, and the Cena vs. Triple H main event was fascinating if underwhelming, due to the rabid Chicago crowd being split down the middle.  Cena had been getting some audible boos for several months, both against Chris Jericho and against Kurt Angle, but 'Mania 22 was on another level.  Easily half that crowd HATED John Cena, and it led to some of the earliest "Let's go Cena," "Cena sucks" chants I can remember.  As it turned out Edge was the only top heel in 2006 able to keep the live crowds in Cena's corner, which in hindsight was quite an accomplishment.

This could've been all kinds of awesome but they fucked it up

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Monday Night RAW: Taker Will Beat Up Vince's Kid

And the Road to Shitsville continues.  Sorry, did I say "Shitsville?"  I meant "What Passes for  WrestleMania These Days."  This week's RAW featured two events of significance, noteworthy for very different reasons.

The first involved The Undertaker, who appeared on RAW to respond to the news last week that his match at WrestleMania this year would be against The Boss's Kid.  After an interminably long entrance, Taker listened to Vince prattle on for a few seconds before grabbing him by the throat and essentially saying, "Sure, whatever, I'll beat up your son at 'Mania.  But if I kill him it's on you, not me."  Really?  That's all the vaunted legend has to say about being forced into a match and used as a hired goon to do Vince's bidding?  No scruples about beating up a clearly lesser opponent?  No issues with his 'Mania match generally being a fairly epic encounter, or at the very least settling some sort of personal issue (Personal to Taker himself I mean)?  Nope, Taker's just gonna go along with this because he's got nothing else planned that day.  Not only that, this beloved hero to millions won't even take personal responsibility for whatever he does to Shane?  He's already absolving himself of any wrongdoing.  "Fine boss.  If your son never walks again it's your fault."  Not, "I'm not gonna break your son's spine just to settle your personal vendetta.  You got a problem with Shane, you deal with it."  What a fuckin' hero.  "But," you may be saying, "perhaps this is how they turn Undertaker heel."  To that I reply, "Hey dumbass, it's the fucking Undertaker in his home state.  Remember that other time they tried to turn a universally loved Texan wrestler heel - IN TEXAS - by aligning him with Vince McMahon?  How'd that turn out again?"

Nothing about this angle makes a single bit of sense.  None.  WWE is actually banking on a sold-out AT&T Stadium cheering like hell for a 46-year-old businessman to become the "2" in 22 and 2, joining Brock goddamn Lesnar in the I Beat Taker at 'Mania club.  If people were pissed about a legit MMA fighter and freak of nature like Lesnar beating Taker at WrestleMania, how do you think they'll react when Taker has to lay down for Vince's kid?  Did Vince and the creative team forget to take their pills this month?

The other bit of significant business from RAW was Dean Ambrose getting all up in Triple H's grill and challenging him to a WWE Title match.  Hunter responded by beating a rain check into Dean's ass, and for the second week in a row the Cerebral Assassin laid out a top babyface.  Only difference is, when said babyface was WWE's top hero Roman Reigns, the crowd cheered Hunter like he'd just announced the Beatles were back together.  This week, Hunter's assault on Reigns' sidekick Ambrose was met with the appropriate crowd hatred.  So WWE.....what have we learned here, hmm?  Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, you're pushing the wrong goddamn guy as the company's flag bearer for the next decade?

Post-beatdown Hunter accepted Ambrose's challenge, and it was announced today that the two will meet on March 12th, at the newest WWE Network special, Roadblock.  So in other words, we're getting the WrestleMania main event we all wanted....three weeks early.  Now I'm as intrigued by this matchup as anyone, but it raises this question: What does WWE think is going to happen when Ambrose fails to close the deal on March 12th but Reigns gets the job done on April 3rd?  I once again fail to see the logic behind "The fans prefer Ambrose so let's get his WWE Title shot outta the way.  Then at 'Mania everyone will have forgotten about him and they'll love Reigns again."  How little does Vince McMahon think of his audience?  We're not stupid, sir.  When Hunter is still the WWE Champion at 'Mania and Roman Reigns is still the #1 contender, everyone's still going to react with apathy or scorn for Reigns.  WWE really just refuses to accept that the fans simply don't like Roman Reigns.  Vince lives in this fantasy bubble where things just magically work themselves out.  He's like a spoiled little kid who's so used to getting his own way he can't fathom that anything would ever not go as planned.