Thursday, June 30, 2016

You Used to Be Soooooo Good: Steven Spielberg

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Soooo Good, where Justin and I, Dan Moore, discuss things used to be awesome but now, eh, not so much. This week we discuss a true master of the cinema. A man responsible for some of the hightest-grossing, most iconic films of all time.

Steven Spielberg:  You Used to Be Soooo Good

DAN:  For decades, Mr. Spielberg has created the most memorable scenes in film history. Chief Brody shooting his fishy nemesis. Henry Jones Jr. getting chased by a Rushmore-sized stone. Elliot chauffeuring ET across the nighttime sky. A giant thunder lizard magically popping outta nowhere and eating tiny bird-like monsters. Incredible moments forever burned into people’s brains…but those were all a looooooong time ago.  For sure, he has made some great movies in the intervening years, especially Saving Private Ryan, which I believe is his last great movie. But for me, his output in the last two decades besides that one stellar film has been…eh…I’ve liked some of them, but none have blown me away, or necessitated repeated viewings like his early Jones movies, E.T., and Jurassic Park.

What an iconic image....

There have certainly been entertaining films. Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can are both enjoyable to watch. But they are one-and-done type movies for me. I remember liking both when I saw them, but not enough to seek them out and watch again. His films in the last few years have not stuck out to me like his earlier works. Perhaps that’s unfair, being that those are some of the biggest hits of all time. But the truth hurts sometimes.

JUSTIN: I'm forced to largely agree with you, though I'll grant Steven one more recent great film, Minority Report.  I consider that one of the best sci-fi movies of this young century.  Great story, intriguing cerebral concepts, fine performance by Tom Cruise.  But even that was 14 years ago (which blows my mind by the way), and while he's had a few other good films (Lincoln, Catch Me If You Can), yeah nothing has compared with his plentiful iconic work of the 80s and early 90s.

What's extraordinary about Spielberg is that he's been able to make films that appeal to a very broad audience without pandering.  His big summer blockbusters have mostly been a lot of fun to watch but also contain heart and a brain.  Jaws, Raiders, E.T., Jurassic Park to a lesser extent - all action or fantasy-driven but with characters we can all relate to and a pervading sense of wonder.  But at the same time Spielberg is capable of making truly important, culturally significant films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a more versatile commercially successful director out there.  Spielberg knows how to create and present stories in a way that mass audiences can be fully swept up in the story but also feel like they were intellectually engaged.

Just a smorgasbord of awesome.....
To be fair, he had some missteps back in the day as well.  Always was hardly an all-time classic, Hook is pretty abysmal, and while I enjoy the first Jurassic Park movie, it's a step down from blockbusters like Raiders and Jaws.  But lately his popcorn fare has been forgettable at best and puke-inducing at worst (Don't get me started on Indy 4 - never happened.  NEVER HAPPENED I SAID!), while his Oscar bait films have mostly just been pretty good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2002)

We've reached the end of road for this ten-year tradition.  The King of the Ring PPV would limp to the finish line with this half-hearted effort.....

King of the Ring 2002 - Nationwide Arena - 6.23.02

2002 was the final year of this PPV as interest in it had waned and by 2003 WWE sorta stopped caring about elevating new people for a while.  The show definitely went out with a whimper with the exception of that year's tournament winner.  This edition was, I believe, the first time it was officially announced that the KOTR winner would get a WWE Title shot at SummerSlam.

The semifinals included a very solid but slightly underwhelming (and controversial) Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam match.  These two had teased a feud six months earlier while Jericho was the Undisputed Champion, but never got a PPV match out of it.  So here they were in the semifinal bracket.  The match was absolutely fine, and by default ended up stealing the show, but I think I, like many people, were expecting an instant classic.  Fans took to the interwebs in droves criticizing the match, and Jericho took the comments very personally.  While many of the comments were admittedly harsh and unnecessary, I can't disagree that this wasn't up to the level Jericho and RVD were capable of.

This was fine.

The other semifinal pitted Test against WWE's newest developmental call-up Brock Lesnar, who had taken RAW by storm and decimated the Hardy Boyz on numerous occasions.  Now he was being very quickly elevated to prepare him for much bigger things.  Infamously of note is that WWE had originally planned for Lesnar to defeat Steve Austin in a tournament qualifying match on RAW, with no buildup whatsoever.  Austin wisely refused, citing what a colossal waste hotshotting such a huge match would be.  This of course led to Austin's WWE hiatus for the better part of a year.  Lesnar and Test were both accomplished big men and aside from a couple awkward moments this was a strong, hard-hitting brawl.  The finish was oddly booked, as Lesnar needed a Paul Heyman distraction in order to win.  Not sure why they protected a midcard heel like Test against their chosen new star, but the match was fine.

Yeah this was a great idea.  Idiots.

The finals would thus be Rob Van Dam vs. Brock Lesnar.  Going into this show I figured RVD would win the tourney given how green Lesnar was.  I thought Lesnar would destroy Van Dam after the match and set up a feud to keep RVD occupied till SummerSlam.  But I clearly underestimated Lesnar's prodigiously emerging skills and the company's commitment to getting him over.  Lesnar made pretty short work of Van Dam, wrapping the match up in under seven minutes.  This was also decent but really should've been a full-length match; once again the importance of the tournament was lacking.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dan's Top 9 - R-Rated Movies That Don't Work When Censored

Welcome to another edition of Dan's Top 9, where my associate Dan Moore counts down the nine best or worst......something or other.


We've all been there. A lazy, hungover Saturday. Laying in your underpants on the couch, flipping channels. And on TBS, a classic movie you love comes on. Then it's ruined by Eddie Murphy calling someone 'a stinking jerk face'. You need swears and blood in your R-rated flicks, and these flicks are the biggest Debbie Downers without those beautiful curse words.

9. Any Horror Movie - I gotta have a broad scope for this first entry. Whenever you throw on TNT and Friday the 13th comes on, you must change it immediately. There is ZERO point in watching, say, a Michael Myers film without the blood and guts. You may as well go to the Louvre during a power outage.

8. Total Recall - Quick, what's the first thing you think of when remembering this classic Arnold Schwarzenegger schlock action movie? Three fuckin' tits, that's what (followed closely by "Get your ass to Mars"). Without that very crucial moment in the movie and dare I say AMERICAN HISTORY, what's the point?

7. Requiem For A Dream - One of the most depressing films ever. Seriously, I've seen it once and wanted to swan dive out a window. Without all the depravity the R rating afforded this, it seems to be about friends on a road trip and a nice old lady winning big on a game show...wait a minute, I'd watch that over and over again! That sounds lovely!

 6. Clerks - This whole movie is a walking fuck/shit/tranny joke. Without the cursing, this movie is a sad, black & white documentary about two losers slinging cigs in a filthy convenience store. Can't see box office lines for that one.

5.  Goodfellas - Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci are in the Swearing Hall of Fame for this flick. No two ways about it. If I can't hear Tommy Devito ask about being a fucking clown or telling Spider to get him a fucking drink, what's the fucking point, I ask ya? Now go get your fuckin' shine box.

4. Robocop - One of the most beautifully over-the-top violent, bloody action movies ever made. Gorgeous vulgarity and hyper violence make this a great R-rated movie. Its balls are completely clipped when you watch it on The WB. Hearing Clarence Boddicker ask the ladies to please get out instead of "Bitches, leave" really hurts the integrity of the bloodbath.

3.  Scarface - This movie would be 8 minutes long without the swears. Maybe there'd be 14 lines of dialogue. Tops. All it would be is majestic shots of the Miami coastline and interiors of drug mansions. So it's an episode of Cribs.

2.  Big Lebowski - THE quintessential vulgarity movie. There's swears in this movie for no reason, no FUCKING reason at all times. I never want to view this without a healthy dose of every swear word known to man. Though the basic cable version does have a glorious dubbing of Walter Sobcheck screaming about a stranger in the Alps. Perhaps it's alluding to some deleted side mission about finding a lost pal in the mountains?!?!

1. Showgirls - Duh. What're ya gonna do, crack stick to the dialogue??  Hold on, that could work...wait a minute.................................yea all right that wasn't bad.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2001)

Time for my personal favorite of the bunch.....

King of the Ring '01 - Continental Airlines Arena - 6.24.01

Going from the 2000 edition to the 2001 King of the Ring is like stepping out of a Justin Bieber concert and being handed a million dollars.  The 2001 incarnation was a thousand times better than its predecessor, and this would prove to be the end of the WWF's amazing 18-month creative run, before the Invasion Angle began in earnest to ruin everything.

The tournament portion was once again reduced to just the final three bouts, leaving plenty of room for the non-tourney matches to dazzle.  The 16-man field was whittled down to four friends, all on the heel side of the aisle - Rhyno, Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle, or Team RECK.  But Edge was slowly morphing into a babyface singles star and this tourney would prove his launching pad.

Angle vs. Christian and Edge vs. Rhyno were both pretty short but quite watchable openers, and Edge's final bout with Angle, while certainly not at the level of Bret vs. Bam Bam, was a damn sight better than most previous KOTR finals.  One of the subplots going into this was the possibility of Angle winning back-to-back tournaments, but also the fact that he might have to pull triple duty as he was booked to fight Shane McMahon later on.  Edge won the final and began his climb through the singles ranks, while Christian began to show jealousy of his tag partner that would lead to their split and subsequent feud.

Angle was almost a two-time KOTR

As I said, the non-tourney matches provided the meat of this show.  After a lackluster Dudley Boyz vs. Kane & Spike Dudley bout (the WWF tag division would never be the same after Edge & Christian split up), the final three bouts comprised an amazing trilogy.

First was Jeff Hardy vs. X-Pac for the Light Heavyweight Title.  X-Pac had developed bad heat to the point that later such crowd responses were dubbed "X-Pac heat," but he could still go in the ring.  This was seven-plus minutes of pretty spectacular highspot wrestling and Jeff retained after a false ending where X-Pac had Jeff pinned but the ref missed Jeff's foot on the ropes.

The last two matches provided an amazing one-two punch, starting with Kurt Angle's aforementioned match with Shane.  Shane had of course purchased WCW and interrupted an Angle segment by threatening that WCW would soon be invading the WWF.  Angle, fighting for Vince's honor, would meet Shane in a Street Fight.  What ensued was one of the goddamndest matches I've ever seen.  For 25 minutes these two beat the bejeezus out of each other all around the arena, and the visual I'll always remember is of Kurt hitting an overhead belly-to-belly suplex on Shane into one of the glass panes in the entranceway.....except it doesn't break.  And Shane lands on his head.  I can't imagine how petrified Kurt must've been at that moment.  I also can't imagine being the owner's son, a non-wrestler, and saying "Yeah I think tonight I'll let a guy throw me through two panes of glass."  Say what you will about Shane McMahon, but that guy's got balls.  After nearly killing his boss's kid twice, Angle won with an Angle Slam off the top rope.  This match was absolutely incredible and for me the Match of the Year 2001.

Oh dear Jeezus.....

The main event was a huge deal for me, as the two Chrises, Jericho and Benoit, challenged WWF Champ Steve Austin in a Triple Threat.  Both Jericho and Benoit had separately come up short in title matches on RAW and Smackdown in previous weeks, but now Austin had to face them both.  The match was a step below Angle vs. Shane but was still a very worthy main event.  At one point Booker T interfered, putting Austin through a table and firing one of the first shots of the WCW Invasion.  Austin suffered a minor back injury as a result of the spot, but he finished the match, eventually capitalizing on a Benoit top-rope superplex on Jericho, and covering Benoit for the pin.  Benoit would take a year off for spinal fusion surgery, while Jericho was one of the top WWF stars in the Invasion Angle.  But this was a helluva match.

This match may or may not have happened.

The 2001 KOTR for me is the best edition in the event's ten-year history.  Not one match on the show was bad, the main event was a good four-star affair, and the Angle-Shane Street Fight stands as one of my favorite matches of all-time.  On top of that a rising singles star was established in Edge.  Sadly the ensuing Invasion Angle would go down as the most botched storyline in wrestling history, but this PPV is one of the all-time greats.

Best Match: Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon
Worst Match: Dudleyz vs. Kane & Spike
What I'd Change: Very little.  Maybe the anticlimactic finish to the main event, but that's nitpicking.
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really
Most Pleasant Surprise: I had no idea Angle vs. Shane would be that good.  I expected something along the lines of Shane vs. Test from two years earlier, but got an epic Match of the Year.
Overall Rating: 10/10


Monday, June 27, 2016

Game Of Thrones Season Six Finale ("The Winds Of Winter")

by Dan Moore

Another season in the books (or more accurately, past the books. Take that you reading snobs “Oh I can read, have you heard about this thing called Red Wedding?” Go screw, I saw King’s Landing EXPLODE). Now for us viewers, winter is here, as we have to wait next April for new episodes to drop. I feel like the Hound now, wandering aimlessly, looking for someone, anyone, to give my life purpose.

Last night’s finale was everything GoT fans have been waiting for. There was intrigue. Betrayals. Twists and SPLOSIONS!! Let’s start there. After SCREWING us out of the Cleganes fighting each other, Cersei has to head to the Sept of Baelor to face her charges with the High Sparrow. After Loras bent over (heh) and accepted all his punishments and denounced the Tyrell name, it was time for the Queen Mother to show up and stand trial. But the bitch never did. She had the Zombie Mountain grab her son, had Qyburn get the kids from Hostel to off Pycelle, and then they ran to the hills because they done gonna blow everything up, son.

And there was Predator blood EVERYWHERE

I found it strange that everyone all of a sudden had this panic looked on their face, as if something eminently awful was about to occur. Why would all the folk in the Sept think something terrible like that would happen? They all had looks of fear but it's not as if explosions are a commonplace occurrence there.

Having destroyed all her enemies in one fell swoop (The Tyrells are all mostly dead, the Sparrow, the Faith militant, lotta corpses this week) with the Mad King’s hidden cache of wildfire, Cersei was looking good to start ruling behind the scenes with her son King Tommen as the figurehead. But Tommen had other thoughts, as all those dead folk really messed up his head and he took a swan dive off the Red Keep and went ker-splat.

This kid's about to have a real king's landing

Now, Cersei is the Queen of Westeros. She’s playing the Game of Thrones all right. Where does this leave her? Well, she can’t be having anymore of Jamie’s kids, I’d say. They’re 0-3 there. It seems she needs a proper husband again, and there’s a certain King in the Iron Islands that’d be prime material.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2000)

King of the Ring 2000 - FleetCenter - 6.25.00

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

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

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

Again with the stupid crown and sceptre

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

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

Seriously, was anyone buying the PPV for this?

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1999)

King of the Ring 1999 - Greensboro Coliseum - 6.27.99

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

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

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

Mr. Ass beats up Mr. Pac

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1998)

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

King of the Ring 1998 - The Igloo - 6.28.98

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1997)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Bitches, prepare to eat armpit!"

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Independence Day

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, 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 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


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

Jeff Goldblum

I've liked Jeff Goldblum in pretty much every film I've seen him in.  He plays more or less the same character in everything, but it's a compelling, quirky character with an unusual speaking cadence and subtle sense of humor.  His character David Levinson is easily my favorite character in the film, just as his Jurassic Park character Ian Malcolm stole that movie.  If you want your big dumb action film to seem intelligent and multilayered, cast Jeff Goldblum.

"Your aliens were so preoccupied with whether or not they could
that they didn't stop to think if they SHOULD!"

Will Smith

Independence Day essentially launched the career of Will Smith as a huge box office action star.  Yes he was in Bad Boys a year earlier, but this film was really where he became a perennial tentpole draw.  Smith has always been a gifted everyman actor, able to instantly win the audience over and pull them into his character's story.  In this film Goldblum's character is the brains of the operation but Smith's is the muscle.  Smith would cement his station as Hollywood's hottest action star a year later with Men in Black, another film dealing with aliens.

The Fresh Prince of the Air

So that's about all I got for the Awesome section.  Now for what doesn't hold up...

The Shitty

Stock Characters

Just about every character in this film has one easily identifiable trait or quirk that gets hammered home just so the dopes in the audience can pick out what their "thing" is.  Jeff Goldblum is a science nerd, Will Smith is a pilot who wants to be an astronaut, his girlfriend Vivica Fox is a sassy stripper, Judd Hirsch is a borderline offensive Jewish stereotype, Harvey Fierstein is a borderline offensive gay stereotype, Randy Quaid is a paranoid drunk, and Bill Pullman is a robot-- er, I mean President.  Could even one character have been written as something resembling a three-dimensional person?

Alien Design

I found the creature design simultaneously phoned-in and overthought.  The body armor they wear is pretty clearly ripped off from Alien, while underneath the creatures seem assembled at random and also heavily influenced by the BrundleFly creature in The Fly.  At any rate their physical structure seems wholly impractical to fit inside a traditional fighter jet seat.  Their heads are enormous and cumbersome, especially when they're wearing the body armor, plus they have half a dozen fifteen-foot tentacles all over the place and their feet bend around from the front.  Did the creature design team and the spaceship design team even talk to each other during pre-production?  By the way, apparently the aliens' Giger-esque biomechanical armor doesn't offer much protection since Captain Hiller was able to knock one unconscious for three hours with one punch.

Looks like Giger's Alien crossed with a trouser snake

Alien Motivation (or Lack Thereof)

Even the first time I watched this film (The one time I actually liked it), I kinda groaned when it was revealed the aliens just wanted to destroy humanity.  What a dull, unimaginative, vague motivation for an antagonist.  Going into this I'd hoped it was all some kinda misunderstanding, like maybe eons ago people from an Earth-like planet attacked them and it was a case of mistaken identity.  Just gimme something, anything more interesting than "They travel around the galaxy and consume other planets' resources."  If that's the case, how come we never see them, ya know, consuming any of our resources?  All we see them doing is blowing stuff up real good.  Furthermore I'd imagine having to sift through miles-wide swaths of rubble would make accessing said resources much more arduous.  Why would they need to destroy everything first?  It kinda makes a movie boring if we don't understand why the bad guys are doing what they're doing.

Be very afraid.....

Randy Quaid

I think Randy's a solid actor.  But in just about every movie he's cast as an insufferably cartoonish comic relief character.  This film is no exception.  He's "hilariously" drunk the whole movie, until the plot calls for him to sober up and fly a fighter jet, at which time he's in over-the-top, applause-inducing revenge mode.  "In the words of my generation, UP...YOOOOOOUUUUURRRRRSSS!!!!"  But wait, his plane hasn't flown up into the alien laser cannon yet.  One more zinger for the road: "Hello boys, I'M BAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!"

Bill Pullman

I'm sure Bill Pullman is a perfectly decent guy, but I honestly dunno if there's a worse actor in the film industry today.  I've yet to see a performance of his that wasn't passable at best and cringe-inducing at worst.  Every line of his in this movie comes off like a middle school drama club performance.  He makes William Shatner look like Daniel Day-Lewis.  And don't get me started on that speech....

Wait, isn't that Mitt Romney????

The Speech

....Fuckin' hell, that stupid Presidential speech.  Even in the hands of an accomplished thespian (which Bill ain't), that speech is just about the most trite, uninspiring twaddle I've ever heard anyone claim gave them goosebumps.  And what's the nonsense about invoking the Fourth of July?  Aside from that being the date the movie's set on, what does trying to stop aliens from blowing up the entire planet have to do with Independence Day?  The aliens aren't levying taxes without representation.  They're not demanding loyalty to King Martian the Third.  This movie may as well have been set on December 26th and been called Boxing Day.  At least that sounds like a fight: "We will not go down quietly in the third round!"

No One Cares About All the Death

Aside from Bill Pullman, who delivers his big post-invasion lament so badly the point nearly gets lost, none of the characters seem all that upset by the literally millions of lives lost in the attack.  For example Harry Connick's character is totally out of place at this point in the movie - almost everything out of his mouth is a joke or one-liner.  Dude, any of your friends or family who live in a major city are probably dead now.  Maybe ease up with the misplaced humor.  And all the other characters just go about the business of doing whatever the plot requires them to do.  You'd think the script would spend just a little time exploring how the decimation of Earth's population and every major city affects the survivors.  I know I'd be curled up in a ball in a puddle of my own piss & shit for probably three or four weeks before I'd be of any use.

The Birth of Disaster Porn

Upon its release Independence Day seemed like it would influence summer popcorn movies for years to come, much as Star Wars had two decades earlier.  Unfortunately it did, in a bad way.  Independence Day marked the birth of the Disaster Porn genre, where every summer action movie needs to be GIGANTICALLY HUGE and depict massive citywide destruction, with dozens of buildings (particularly landmarks) blown up or collapsing and thousands upon thousands of people dying horribly in the streets.  This movie was followed shortly after by films like Godzilla, Deep Impact, and Armageddon, and then later by The Day After Tomorrow, War of the Worlds, Transformers, 2012, World War Z, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and scores of other overly depressing action fare.  You'd think after 9/11 Hollywood might've toned it down a bit with all the buildings gettin' blowed up, but no.  Just about every summer season since has yielded at least one uncomfortably close-to-home reminder of it.  Remember when summer movies were fun?

Great, thanks a lot Roland.  Now EVERY movie looks like yours.


-The film's opening shot depicts the US flag planted on the moon just before the alien mothership appears.  The flag is completely still since there's no atmosphere on the moon to blow it around, but then when the ship flies by we see dirt and dust being kicked up all over the place.  Umm, if there's no air on the moon to blow the flag around, there's no air on the moon for the ship to blow dirt around, nor air to vibrate, causing a lunar tremor as the ship flies past.  So the filmmakers got the first part of the scene scientifically accurate before pissing all over science immediately afterward.  That's quite a turnaround.

-Lemme see if I have this clear - the aliens need to use Earth's satellites to coordinate their attack, because the "curvature of the Earth" prevents these super-advanced saucers from communicating directly with each other....despite the fact that they have the entire planet surrounded and presumably they could at least communicate with the mothership hovering near the moon.  Also I'd imagine the ships all have some kind of chronometer on board, which they've taken the time to sync beforehand?  Kinda like when you call your buddies and say "Meet me at the bar at 7:30?"  It's almost like the filmmakers threw this nonsense into the script just so Jeff Goldblum would have a way of uploading a virus onto the mothership....

-....which brings me to my next point.  A fucking computer virus??  Do they honestly expect me to believe Seth Brundle is so brilliant he can figure out how to write and install a virus onto the aliens' far more advanced main computer?  How'd he get past their firewall?  How'd he connect his Earthbound laptop to the aliens' obviously much more sophisticated network port (This of course assumes the 50-year-old fighter they stole has compatible technology to the aliens' present-day mothership)?  How does a species this technologically superior not have any sort of virus protection installed?  Oh and by the way, since the smaller saucers' shields were disabled due to the mothership's computer being infected, I guess that means they were able to communicate directly with the mothership.  So the whole reason for the satellite thing even being in the movie is inadvertently what exposes it as a plot hole.  Sweet Jeezus, the irony.

Nope, no satellites in THIS diagram....

-Along the same lines, how did Stephen Hiller know how to fly the alien fighter jet?  Oh right, he's "seen them in action."  I guess that means I could fly one too, since I'm watching this movie.

-Speaking of alien fighter jets, why would gigantic saucers with impenetrable shields need to send out single-pilot fighter crafts to combat the US planes?  Just let 'em keep wasting their missiles and fuel until they have to turn around and go home.

If you can destroy an entire city in one blast, what's even the point of this?

-How did the aliens know to target the White House and NORAD?  It seemed like they were primarily going after the most densely populated areas, but apparently they've also figured out where the President lives and where our aerospace defense system is located.

-Late in the movie Hiller steals a chopper to go looking for Jasmine....and he miraculously finds her among the miles and miles of ruins that used to be Los Angeles.  Wow, that was lucky!

-Why was there a one-scene subplot involving the Secretary of Defense being adamantly against David's virus plan (To be fair, said plan made no sense), leading to the President immediately firing him?  Why even waste the screen time on that?

-Wait, why was this movie nicknamed ID4?  So it's....Independence Day 4?  When were Parts 1-3?

-Multiple bits of dialogue are rather shamelessly lifted out of earlier, MUCH better films, and in one case delivered by the same actor.  "Must go faster!" "I've got a really bad feeling about this." "There's too many of them..."  You're straying dangerously into ripoff territory, Roland.

-Also multiple sequences are blatantly recycled from the Star Wars trilogy.  The chase through the canyons is from Empire, right down to Hiller's plane flying sideways through a tight spot, the control hub inside the mothership looks suspiciously like the second Death Star reactor in Jedi, as does the "Pull up, they have a shield!" moment, and the final sequence where the good guys have to blow up the big saucer before it arrives at their base and destroys it?  Hmmm, that's familiar....

-Okay, so they figure out how to destroy the giant saucers, which break into multiple pieces and then crash land nearby.  Thus killing how many more civilians?  Hooray!!  Celebration time!

-I know this movie came out 20 years ago, but it's actually kinda shocking how little the womenfolk are given to do.  The First Lady, Jasmine and Connie contribute literally nothing to the cause (except that Jasmine rescues the First Lady from the LA ruins so she can die comfortably in the medical center instead of under a pile of rocks).  They all essentially just stand around the whole movie just being supportive while the men handle the heavy lifting.

-Alright look, I get that this is an American movie and it was released July 4th weekend and therefore called Independence Day (for no real reason), but the events depicted in this film affect the entire globe, and yet there isn't a single solitary important character from another country in this entire movie.  Not one.  All the people we're supposed to give a shit about, and all the landmarks we see destroyed, are in the United States.  This seems like a staggering level of Ameri-centric conceit if you ask me.  Christ, the American characters even get to be the ones who figure out how to destroy the saucers.  If this actually happened today we'd surely lose that particular race to South Korea, Japan, Finland, or one of the other ten or so countries with a superior education system.


Independence Day sorta became hugely influential in all the wrong ways.  Where summer action movies were already fairly thin on plot and character, ID4 and its spiritual offspring began the trend of every popcorn movie relying completely on special effects and explosions and making the characters secondary.  As effects technology now allowed for nearly any epic set piece imaginable to be realized, filmmakers no longer needed to think of clever ways to get around budgetary and technical limitations.  Sadly it would take years for audiences to start demanding more substance to their popcorn movies again.  It's crazy now to go back and watch pre-1996 smaller-scope action films.  They seem so simple and quaint by comparison, and I mean that in the best possible way.  I guess what it all boils down to is "Bigger is not always fact usually it sucks."

Thanks for reading!  Hit me up with your comments below.....

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1996)

King of the Ring 1996 - MECCA Arena - 6.23.96

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1995)

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

King of the Ring 1995 - Corestates Spectrum - 6.25.95

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

Even Shawn was bored shitless

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

Mabel?  Mabel.  MABEL??!?

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Game of Thrones Season Six, Episode 9 ("Battle of The Bastards")

by Dan Moore

NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT. For six seasons, this show has given us characters we’ve come to know and love and beaten the ever-loving snot out of them while allowing characters we know and loathe to thrive.  Scumbags the likes of which the land of television have never seen have become king on this show, or have become lords of many lands for butchering the nice guys we grow attached to. But not this week. Finally, we get some payback.


Jon Snow and his ragtag army are headed to Winterfell to take it back FOR THE GOOD GUYS. Outnumbered and outgunned, Snow has to make a stand Ramsay Bolton and his troops because the script says so. God forbid his sister Sansa tell him that she invited Littlefinger’s army to show up. Why would she not tell Jon that she sent a message to Littlefinger asking for help? That’s quite vexing to me.

Anyhow, they head to the battlefield, but not before Ser Davos talks a stroll around the place and finds Shireen’s toy that he made for her, all burned up. That gets the ol’ Onion Knight a-thinking. Is he gonna put 2 and 2 together and figure out Melisandre burned up that poor little girl? Is Mel gonna be looking down the business end of Davos’ no fingered assault? I kinda hope so. That scene with Shireen last year (check out what I had to say then  was BRUTAL. I hope she gets her own fiery end.

Before the armies engage, Ramsay pulls out his trump card, the youngest Stark, Rickon. He tells Rickon to go join his brother by running across the huge expanse of earth between them. As Rickon starts running, Jon jumps on horseback to grab his brother as Ramsay starts firing arrows towards the young lad.  Now, farbeit for me to tell this kid how to get away from a murderous torture man, but for Christ's sake, when someone is firing arrows at you, DON’T RUN IN A STRAIGHT LINE. Jesus, kid, zig zag for me one time.

Rickon's entire Madden playbook

Rickon clearly eats arrow and croaks. Which holds no real dramatic effect. He wasn’t a character; he was a plot device. I knew nothing about him except I was supposed to care about him because he was a Stark. But nah. This sets off the bloodiest, goriest and just plain grimiest battle in GoT history. Bodies everywhere, mud all over, and giants dispensing justice. It was a grand spectacle. As Jon’s army is out manned and out gunned, things start to look bad for our favorite bastard.

But then this week’s deus ex machina shows up in the form of the Vale’s army, led by Sansa and her man friend Littlefinger. I must say I saw this coming. I thought the whole battle itself was quite predictable and you KNEW they couldn’t kill Jon Snow again. It just woulda killed all narrative credibility. That being said, I still very much enjoyed the whole thing. It was predictable, sure but it was still visually stunning and quite well done.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1994)

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

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

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

Dammit Jim....

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

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

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

How was this match not epic?

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

WWE Money in the Bank 2016: The Return of the Babyface

Well Money in the Bank was nothing if not eventful.  WWE is clearly trying to shake things up following some pretty terrible ratings in recent weeks (Heavily featuring a babyface Champion nobody likes will do that), and last night's PPV felt like a company finally trying to right the ship again.  I wouldn't call it a great show and it was missing at least one Match of the Year candidate, but it was a solid outing built on the backs of three strong main events and a huge, potentially game-changing finish.

WWE's new PPV format is apparently no longer constrained by a three-hour limit, as this show ran about 3.5 and both bouts previously announced for the Pre-show were included.  I have mixed feelings about this development.  On the plus side, this allows more of the roster to be included on the actual PPV and no matches need to be shortchanged.  On the minus, it enables WWE's already sloppy time management and may tend to burn out the crowd both in the arena and at home.  But we'll see how it goes in the long run.

The show opened with a fun 4-Way Tag Title match.  I went into this thinking New Day probably wouldn't escape with their belts, but also knowing none of the challengers were really ready to wear them yet.  This match had some nice fast-paced action and everyone had ample time to do their thing.  There were more than a few awkwardly timed moments however and the inexperience of the two NXT teams was exposed a bit.  Once Michael Cole mentioned New Day's longevity as Tag Champs I figured they'd be retaining, and that's exactly what happened.  Of course he cited Paul London & Brian Kendrick as the longest-reigning WWE Tag Champs, forgetting that Demolition are actually at the top (as World Tag Champions).  But whatever.  The New Day will probably eclipse London & Kendrick.

Next up was hopefully the final match in the Baron Corbin-Dolph Ziggler feud.  I'd call this easily the best of their series.  Ziggler made Corbin look good, and Corbin still needs to put together an actual moveset.  Passable stuff.

Third was the women's tag match, which was pretty forgettable RAW-quality fare.  It was sad to see the Women's division so minimally represented after so many months of growth.  But the aftermath set up a very promising story.  Becky Lynch inadvertently cost her team the match and Natalya got pinned after Charlotte's Natural Selection finisher.  Nattie was sobbing after the loss (Rather an odd touch; it's not like the Title was on the line here), but suddenly leveled Becky with a clothesline.  I like this as a new feud, and what's more it's a secondary Women's feud that doesn't involve the Champion.  So I think we're in store for a bit deeper focus on the women.  That's a good thing.

The other former Pre-show match was next, as Apollo Crews made his WWE PPV debut against Sheamus.  These two had decent chemistry, and aside from a slow first half this was reasonably entertaining.  I'd have preferred a more decisive win for Crews, but once Sheamus dominated so much of the match I figured Crews would pull out a flukish win to set up a rematch.