Monday, July 31, 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3: The Queen's Justice

By Dan Moore

After decades for book readers & a little over 6 years for TV viewers, we finally get the meeting promised in the title of the original book. Ice & Fire have met, as Jon Snow trekked all the way to Dragonstone (in about 8 minutes, it seems) to meet up with the Queen of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. And it...could've gone better. Neither one of them wanted to give up any power as they both refused to recognize each other as a king or queen. Dany was especially skeptical when Jonny boy kept bringing up the White Walkers. She definitely didn't believe him. I think Dany was mostly pissed that Jon didn't come to the meeting with any gifts. He brought nothing. Motherfucker could've at least sprung for some Ring Dings & Pepsi.

She also made a hugely inaccurate claim about her bloodline...

"I am the last Targaryen"


As we all know at this point, Jon isn’t Ned Stark's bastard. Nope, he’s the son of Ned's sister Lyanna & Dany's brother Rhaegar. This makes him a Targaryen and make’s Dany’s claim of being the last Targaryen irrelevant, stupid, idiotic, caca-doody poo-poo. 

Dany essentially takes Jon & his crew prisoner on Dragonstone, but after discussing things with Tyrion, she decides to let him mine the vast dragon glass on her island so he may forge them into weapons to fight the army of the undead. 

These scenes were a lot of fun to watch, as us fans finally get to placate our nerd boners by watching these characters get together. These negotiations seem to be delaying the inevitable, as we all know Jon & Dany eventually have to get along to destroy both the Whites & Cersei, but I'm all aboard for this ride. 

Speaking of being on board (nailed that transition), Euron's fleet of ships caught up to the Unsullied at Casterly Rock after Greyworm & the rest took it down. The Unsullied knew something was up though, as the Rock was guarded by waaaaaaay fewer men than was expected. When Euron's fleet showed up & started firebombing Dany's fleet, Greyworm's sullen expression said it all. I have no clue what happens to the Unsullied now. Do they dig in and fire away at Euron's fleet? Or are they all doomed? I'm hoping we get some dragon fire to help out our no-dick having friends. 


---Back at King's Landing, Euron, who can seemingly TELEPORT, shows up with Ellaria Sand & her daughter as his special gift to Cersei. And she LOVED it. She immediately dumped them into a dungeon and poisoned the SHIT out of the last Sand Snake. A truly brutal from of torture. Cersei is going full bat shit crazy. 

---Even more crazy than that is her letting everyone know that, yea, what the fuck, I bang my twin brother. The secret everyone knew is now just going to be straight up knowledge for the whole kingdom as Cersei just doesn't seem to care anymore. She's got MOXIE!

---Back at Winterfell, Sansa was greeted by a long lost sibling. No, not Arya, but Bran. And she was happy to see him...initially. Then she started talking to him & realized he went all Emo, what with being the Three Eyed Raven and all. She was not interested and got the hell away from him. 

"My poetry is so dark"

---Sam cured Ser Jorah's greyscale by just cutting that shit right off. Then he rubbed some aloe on it. How the FUCK did no one in the Seven Kingdoms think of this before??!?!?

---Finally, over in Highgarden, Jaime led his troops to take over the Tyrells homelands. He had a final meeting with Lady Olenna Tyrell. He let her know that Cersei wanted to fuck her up BAD, but Jaime decided to let her go out peacefully with a poison cup of wine. And once she drank it, she let Jaime know that, yes, she was the one that poisoned & killed his first born son, Joffrey. 

"Oh, why'd you hafta tell me that AFTER you drank it?!?!?"

A fitting end for a great character. Diana Rigg was amazing in this role & I will truly miss her bitchiness & charm that she brought to every scene she was in. Take a bow, Dame Rigg. You deserve it. 

"Bye, Haterz"

Friday, July 28, 2017

Today in Wrestling History (July 28th)

by Cristian Bortoluzzi     


NJPW Osaka Show 1985

There were two title changes on this show. Hiro Saito defeated The Cobra for the WWF Junior Heavyweight Title. Then later in the show The Cobra defeated Hiro Saito to regain the title. Other matches on the show also included Tatsumi Fujinami defeating Jimmy Snuka, and Bruiser Brody defeating Antonio Inoki by disqualification.

AJPW Budokan Hall Show 1994

In front of 16,300 people at Budokan Hall Steve Willams beat Mitsuharu Misawa for the AJPW Triple Crown Title in 27:39. The match was rated 4.75 stars by Dave Meltzer.

ECW New York City Show 1995

On this night Eddie Guerrero took the ECW World TV Title off Dean Malenko - these two in a ring together is absolute magic, two of ECW's greatest. Also, that night Cactus Jack defeated The Sandman by DQ but the ECW World Title stayed with The Sandman.

WCW Nitro 1997

Alex Wright defeated Chris Jericho for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. The main event of that show saw Scott Steiner beat Randy Savage by DQ.

CZW What About Lobo? 2001

This show saw Johnny Kashmere and Justice Pain defeat The Briscoe Brothers for the CZW Tag Team Titles. Also Nick Gage pinned CZW Iron Man Champion Nick Mondo for the title.

WWE Monday Night Raw 2003

This episode of Raw took place in World Arena, Colorado Springs. The main event of Raw saw Molly Holly take on and defeat Gail Kim for the Women's Championship.

PROGRESS Chapter Eight: The Big Boys Guide to Strong Style 2013

This chapter saw Rampage Brown take the Progress Title from fan favorite El Ligero. The show also featured a hardcore match between future CZW TOD winner Jimmy Havoc and James Davis.

NJPW G1 Climax 24 - Day 5 2014

The most prestigious tournament in wrestling, the G1 Climax came to Sendai Sun Plazza in Japan for night 5 of the 2014 tournament.  The show featured great matches, as is expected of the G1. The best of the night came in the main event as Tetsuya Naito took on Kazuchika Okada. The match was rated 4.15 stars by Dave Meltzer. Other notable matches on the card included Katsuyori Shibata versus former WWE Intercontinental Champion Shelton Benjamen (4 stars) and Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tomoaki Honma (3.75)

TNA Impact! Taping 2015

This TNA Impact taping was an eventful one; five of TNA's championship belts were on the line as Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards retained the TNA World Tag Team Titles against the team of Abyss and Manik. A three-way match for the TNA X Division Title had the champion Tigre Uno retain against DJ Z and Sonjay Dutt. This was a stacked taping and the people in attendance knew they were seeing a great show. The duo of Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards had to wrestle for a second time that night, facing Brian Myers and Trevor Lee, who took the titles from Davey and Eddie in a hard-fought match. Up next was Matt Hardy's quest for the TNA World Title against EC3; unfortunately for Hardy he couldn't get the job done as EC3 retained the title. For the last match of the night we saw a new King of the mountain Champion as Bobby Roode defeated PJ Black.

Wrestler Births

Noam Dar in Tel Aviv Israeli (1993)

Wrestler Deaths

Karl Gotch (2007)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

In case you missed them, click HERE for Rise and HERE for Dawn

War for the Planet of the Apes

So, ya know how the third movie in a trilogy is always the weakest one, almost without fail?  That's out the window now.  War for the Planet of the Apes is the best, most poignant, most emotionally engaging film in the series, one that moved me almost to tears several times.  It pays homage to such classics as Apocalypse Now and Bridge on the River Kwai, while spectacularly concluding the trilogy and also providing some of the most breathtaking visuals in the entire series.

Director Matt Reeves and screenwriter Mark Bomback returned for the third installment in which Caesar and his apes must prepare for the inevitable war against a human military force hell-bent on exterminating them.  The human contingent is led by a maniacal Colonel (a fantastic, tortured Woody Harrelson, with a nod to Marlon Brando) who has become so dangerous and bloodthirsty he's begun killing off some of his own men and even using a few traitorous apes to do his bidding.  The Colonel wrongs the ape colony (in ways I won't reveal here), prompting Caesar and three of his lieutenants to seek vengeance while the rest of the apes retreat to a new home across the desert.  The story takes multiple unexpected turns and builds to a spectacular climax, but I'll leave you to discover that for yourself.

Suffice it to say, this film is beautiful, poetic, contemplative, exciting.  Andy Serkis once more delivers a note-perfect, deeply subtle mo-cap performance which transcends the special effects and makes the Caesar character as real as nearly any live-action performance you'll ever see.  Another standout is series newcomer Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, a wonderful character who provides most of the film's laughs but is also heartwrenchingly sad.  Like I said, I found parts of this film deeply moving, and Zahn's performance was one of them.  It's high time the Academy started recognizing motion-capture performances at awards time, even if it's a special category.

The effects team has outdone themselves here; these hyper-intelligent apes look so believable they've somehow dug themselves out of the uncanny valley.  For most of War's running time the analytical part of my brain that notices these things was not on alert.  Caesar and his apes have to be considered the most brilliantly realized CG characters in film history.  I often come down hard on the use of CGI, but Matt Reeves and his creative team have figured out the exact right way to utilize the technology.

War for the Planet of the Apes, like Logan earlier this year, is a film that transcends its genre and provides much more than simple summer popcorn entertainment.  This is a profoundly affecting film that will stick with you long after you leave the theater, and it caps off one of the best trilogies of the past thirty years, amazingly managing to top the first two entries.

I give War for the Planet of the Apes **** out of ****.

Thanks for reading!  Comment below with your Ape thoughts.....

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Note: In case you missed my Rise review, click HERE

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

After his initial spark of genius, Rise director Rupert Wyatt was unable to commit to a sequel on the studio's timetable, and was replaced by Matt Reeves of Cloverfield and Let Me In fame.  While I'd be interested in seeing what Wyatt would've done with a sequel, Reeves proved himself a more sure-footed director, brilliantly handling the larger scope of the second (and third) film.

Set ten years after Rise, Dawn begins by showing us the effects of the super-virus Will Rodman accidentally unleashed.  The human population has been decimated, with only a fraction being naturally immune to the disease.  The apes meanwhile have created their own civilization in the redwood forest.  Caesar, now a full adult with a wife and son, has become the apes' exalted, compassionate leader.  After a run-in with a team of human scouts, a power struggle develops between Caesar and another ape called Koba, who still harbors deep hatred of humans for his mistreatment in their labs.  The humans have set up a colony in the city and need access to a hydroelectric dam within the apes' domain so they can restore power.  A very uneasy truce is formed, and Caesar gradually bonds with a few of the humans - Malcolm, his son Alexander, and his second wife Ellie.  But Koba can't accept peace and he engineers a coup, shooting Caesar and framing the humans as an excuse to attack their compound.  Koba and the apes take over the city while Malcolm helps nurse Caesar back to health.  Eventually a violent showdown ensues between the two apes, and Caesar comes to realize that a human-ape war is now unavoidable.

That this synopsis creates so many potential pitfalls but manages to avoid every one of them is nothing short of miraculous.  Dawn could have easily devolved into a trite, manipulative "apes good, humans bad" story, but the script is so deftly written we are able to understand and empathize with the point of view of every major character.  More than that, it establishes parallels between the apes and the humans, illustrating the similarities of the two species.  Caesar is delicately trying to balance his own desire for a peaceful coexistence with his need to protect his race, and Malcolm feels the same way, understanding that the apes are intelligent, reasonable creatures.  On the other side of each coin, Koba is a severely damaged character who is now defined by his hatred of humanity, while the human leader Dreyfus (an always compelling Gary Oldman) is prepared for a violent showdown and will preserve the human race at all costs.  This creates a fascinating parable of sociopolitics and once again the characters and their motivations are front-and-center, while the action sequences are a byproduct.  I also love that the first act of the film contains very little dialogue; the apes communicate primarily through sign language.  As summer blockbusters go, Dawn is a stunningly quiet film.

Dawn takes the incredible dramatic foundation of the Caesar character and expands on it, showing us his maturity and courage as a leader and father but also the violence of which he is capable when wronged.  Koba has also become an amazingly realized, three-dimensional villain, who deeply respects Caesar but whose anger has swallowed him whole and turned him into a monster.  This installment also improves on the original in terms of the human characters; Jason Clarke as Malcolm delivers a heartfelt, relatable performance as a man clinging desperately to the last vestiges of human compassion, wanting above all to reach a peaceful understanding with Caesar.  Gary Oldman plays Dreyfus as an uncertain military leader, a broken man who has lost everything and refuses to let humanity perish on his watch.  These are all well fleshed-out, fascinating personae with believable and understandable motivations, and the film resists the urge to become a sweeping action epic, preferring instead to stay close and intimate with its central characters.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a significant improvement over its impressive predecessor that further fleshes out the Caesar character and his place in this society, while also providing more substantial human characters for him and the other apes to play against.  Matt Reeves' direction is confident and thoughtful, while the pensive, thematic script by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver defies expectations, grounding the events in complex social and political commentary.  This is how you do a summer sci-fi film.

I give Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ***1/2 out of ****.

Click here for the War review (coming 7/27)....

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Well color me shocked.  When I first learned Hollywood was rebooting the Planet of the Apes franchise I groaned, loudly.  Tim Burton's 2001 PotA remake, while boasting incredible makeup effects and a couple decent performances, was largely a disappointing, drivelous mess with a nonsencial reimagining of the original's famous twist ending.  I thought, "Why in the name of all things holy, THE FUCK, do we need more of these movies??"  So I skipped Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it was released.  Then surprisingly I began to hear some pretty great buzz about it, particularly centered on Andy Serkis's motion-capture performance as the main character Caesar.  But I never got around to watching it, and when the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2014 I read similarly complimentary things about that film and said to myself, "Justin" I said, "You should get your ass to a TV and watch these movies."  But I still never got around to it.  Finally with the announcement of the third movie War for the Planet of the Apes I said, "Goddammit, just fuckin' DO IT!"

So I did.  And here's what I thought of them, starting with Rise.  Stay tuned for the Dawn and War reviews coming soon....

**Note: I've included SPOILERS for the first two films but not the third**

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes drew me in almost immediately with the Frankenstein-esque theme of tampering with nature, as well as family loyalty and the exploitation of animals.  Here was a summer "action" film with hardly any action, but a thoughtful focus on the aforementioned concepts and a deeply explored character arc.  Director Rupert Wyatt took the original premise and asked the question "How might we have gotten there?"  Rise presents a practical, real-world explanation of how the Earth could believably be taken over by hyper-intelligent simians, in the same way Batman Begins explored how a man might take to dressing like a giant bat to fight crime (Wyatt himself made that connection in interviews and I happen to agree with him).

This refreshingly small-scope narrative introduces Will Rodman, a promising scientist (James Franco in a solid if unspectacular performance), who experiments on chimps with a powerful Alzheimer's drug, driven by a very personal motivation (His father suffers from the disease).  Rodman secretly adopts a baby chimp whose mother passed onto him the effects of the drug, naming him Caesar.  Caesar shows incredible intelligence at an early age, but as with all domesticated simians, becomes increasingly difficult to control as he matures.  A violent incident with a neighbor leads to Caesar being sent to an ape sanctuary run by a cruel father-son team, and Caesar becomes a hardened alpha-male, taking over the shelter, learning how to escape, and exposing the other apes to the intelligence-augmenting drug.  This builds to a sensational battle between the super-apes and the authorities, leading to Caesar's army setting up a new civilization in the redwood forest.  Meanwhile the Alzheimer's drug has created a deadly super virus in humans that begins to spread worldwide.

While the human performances in Rise are passably effective, the driving force in the film is Andy Serkis's groundbreaking work as Caesar.  As with his turn as Gollum in Lord of the Rings, Serkis is a revelation here, conveying entirely through facial/body language (and what he calls "digital makeup)" amazingly subtle, tangibly real emotional nuances.  Here is an Oscar-worthy performance with almost no dialogue; we feel every moment of Caesar's growth, suffering, loneliness, and finally triumph.  Had this aspect of the film not delivered, Rise would have fallen apart in a heartbeat.  But both Serkis's acting and the amazingly realistic CG rendering are so effective you forget you're watching an animated character (a phenomenon even more prevalent in the sequels).  And Serkis was just getting warmed up...

I give Rise of the Planet of the Apes *** out of ****.

Click here for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (posted 7/26/17)

Monday, July 24, 2017

WWE Battleground 2017: An Act of Sabotage?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: WWE could fuck up a ham sandwich.

On the raging dumpster fire that was the Battleground lineup, how is AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens not a runaway Match of the Night?  How do you turn a surefire hit into an instantly forgettable shoulder-shrug of a match?  Here's how: you book a match that never gets out of second gear and ends abruptly with the US Champ getting rolled up for a solid seven seconds while a barely conscious referee slow counts him.

Look, I'm fully aware AJ and Owens aren't blameless for their match falling flat, but I can't imagine they chose to take it easy for the 17 minutes they were given, and they most certainly didn't choose that facepalm of a finish.  The ref got bumped a full minute earlier, and while that spot looked fine it wasn't anything that should've kept him down as long as it did.  While he milked the shit outta the bump, we got a series of traded submissions until AJ locked in a crossface, which Owens countered with a rollup that AJ should've easily been able to escape.  The only thing keeping AJ down really was the fact that he still had the hold locked in.  Just let go, dude.  And the ref was still overselling the bump, so he counted the pin in such agonizingly slow fashion the entire crowd was sure AJ was kicking out.  But he didn't.  And everyone just sorta went "Oh.....ok then...."  A surprise finish doesn't really work if the crowd doesn't react to it.

As of now AJ vs. Owens is the only match I've watched from Battleground, but the general consensus is that the Usos-New Day bout stole the show by far, and the rest was entirely skippable.  I intend to watch said tag match later today but likely won't waste my time with the rest.  Incidentally Battleground is the first WWE PPV since TLC 2013 that I didn't watch at least a majority of (I skipped the filler matches from Fastlane 2015).  This is how disinterested I am in the Smackdown brand right now.

Shinsuke Nakamura was booked like just another guy, only defeating the dreadfully mediocre Baron Corbin due to a nutshot disqualification, after which Corbin beat the crap out of him.  The uniquely gifted Japanese sensation is officially no longer a standout, much like everyone else on the roster not named Brock or John.

The women's elimination match was given a paltry eleven minutes during which three of the four eliminations took place within seconds of each other.  I love how whenever WWE adds elimination rules to a match, suddenly everyone's stamina decreases exponentially.

John Cena returned after a three-month hiatus and had an apparently overlong snoozer of a flag match, hardly a career highlight for one of the best performers in the company.

Sami Zayn and Mike Kanellis got the "death spot," further illustrating how little the company thinks of Sami at this point.  Hey, at least he got the win.

And finally there was the 28-minute Punjabi Prison match, which ended when Jinder's old pal The Great Khali made his much-anticipated-by-no-one return to WWE.  Seriously, did anyone in the entire world miss Khali in his absence?  I did a poll - 85% of WWE fans didn't care that he was gone, and the other 15% had never heard of him.  I guess Vince must've asked himself "How can I make this shitshow of a Jinder push even lamer?"  The Great Khali is of course the correct answer.  They're not actually gonna let this guy wrestle again, are they?  Please tell me he's simply a bodyguard at this point.  The man can barely put one foot in front of the other and his in-ring abilities make those of Nathan Jones seem inoffensive by comparison.

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 2: Stormborn

To properly review this episode, I need to start at the ending. Because that's where the meat of the show took place. And this happened.


Somehow, some way, as Yara & her fleet were attacked on their way to King's Landing COMPLETELY BY SURPRISE by another armada of ships. How, you may ask? I have no fucking clue. No idea how a vast plethora of oncoming warships could be completely missed by EVERYONE in Yara's charge. Just defies logic. 

All bellyaching aside, this battle scene was ok. It killed a lotta people, and wiped out a good portion of the annoying Sand Snakes. But the way it was edited & the darkness of the night battle made it really hard to understand what the hell was going on at times. Everyone was dressed in black too. How do you know if you're killing the enemy or your friends? If I was in this battle, I woulda wiped out a minimum of 5 of my buddies. Easy. 

And they're really going all in with Euron as the new big bad guy, huh? He comes in on a ship with an iron drawbridge and crushes a dead. That's a hell of an entrance. Though it's gonna take a little more for me to fear a man whose name sounds far too close to urine. It turns out Euron's promise to bring back Cersei a nice gift is bringing back the very woman that killed her daughter, Ellaria Sand. She's in trouble...

It turns out that Theon had a little more Reek in him than he was letting on. After his uncle dispatched the sand snakes & bested Yara in combat, Euron expected Theon to come on over and try to save her. Instead, he did his best Wile E. Coyote impression and took a dive. 

I regret nothing!!!

I do not give a shit about Theon if he's gonna go back to being all Reekly & cowardly again. They got away from that and had him going in a good direction. If they return to that nonsense again, I hope Yara just offs him real quick to be done with it. 


Not much happened here this week. EXCEPT FOR THE BONING!!! what?

Seriously, for this show to spend SO long on a sex scene involving a guy with no dick when they only have like 9 episodes left is such a waste of time. Don't get me wrong. Missandei gets my Valerian Steel all a flutter. But Greyworm has no sword with which to pierce her lady dragon. Pointless. 

Also, Dany ripped on Varys for trying to kill her years ago, but hey, bygones are bygones, right? What's a little murder attempt in this game of thrones, eh? They also setup their battle plans, with the aforementioned fuckup at sea to King's Landing & the Unsullied with the Dothraki heading to Casterly Rock to take down Tyrion's homeland. 

She also sent out a raven to Winterfell to let Jon Snow she'd like to meet him. Which leads to...


...Jon getting said raven and heading off to meet the mother of dragons, against everyone's will. He leaves Sansa in charge while he's gone. And Little Finger is making all kinds of shady looks at her. Something's going down there, sooner rather than later. 

---Arya was running around the woods and ran into her old direwolf in another random coincidence. Nymeria didn't even recognize it seemed. But the fact she didn't eat her leads me to believe this wolf is coming back to the Stark clan. She also learned from her friend Hot Pie that Jon is in charge of Winterfell & she started heading that way. 

---At King's Landing, Qyburn showed Cersei how he planned to kill the dragons. A giant ballista (I had to look that up). So a huge crossbow is gonna take down these dragons flying in the sky at unbelievable speeds, eh? I mean, logically, this would be nearly impossible to happen. But Chekov's gun and all. One of those dragons is going down. 

---At the Citadel, Sam cut Jorah up like a thanksgiving turkey trying to cure his greyscale. It was pretty gruesome looking. Like when I'm peeling after a sunburn. The transition of the scene from stabbing at Jorah's gross, puss filled skin to a spoon into a hot, pot pie almost made the lady of the house barf. Which filled me with glee. 

---Finally, I'm so glad they essentially wrapped up the Dorne story line with Euron killing just about all of them. I didn't care about them, I didn't know their names, hell, I don't think I can tell any of them apart. They screwed up what could've been a good plot. They seemed utterly unnecessary to the show at all times. Good riddance. 

We're annoying. And then we were naked. Now, we're dead. Toodles! 

WWE's Storytelling, or Lack Thereof

by Christian Bortoluzzi

Is good storytelling more important than match quality in the WWE?

WWE only occasionally put on storylines that have you gripped and ones that you want to see what's going to happen next. But that's not how it's always been. In the Attitude Era, WWE put on storylines that had you dying to see the next episode of Raw or Smackdown, to see what twist would happen next. One thing we don't miss in the Attitude era was the quality of the wrestling WWE was putting out every Monday. While the stars in the match kept you entertained, the actual wrestling didn't. If you compare the Attitude Era's best in-ring competitors like Triple H or The Rock to today's best in ring competitors such as AJ Styles or Shinsuke Nakamura, you could show a non-wrestling fan these wrestlers in their prime and that person could, without doubt, tell you that the stars of today put on better matches than the stars of yesterday.

The Attitude Era is referred to by many wrestling fans as the best era in WWE history. And that's because of the "anything can happen" mentality. Remember Austin stunning McMahon or DX invading WCW?  Stuff like that won't happen in this day and age because WWE has to impress sponsors; they wouldn't tell Impact Wrestling that their owl sucks or anything even close to being that risky.

The best storylines WWE has put on in this "New Era" have been organic, like the Daniel Bryan's triumph at Wrestlemania 30.  It wasn't the original idea but the fans made that happen by hijacking shows, and look at what we got out of it: a storyline that will never be forgotten. And the very recent Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt story WWE pulled out something magical and unexpected when Randy Orton burnt down Bray Wyatt's compound with the remains of Sister Abigail buried underneath. It felt like a flashback to the Attitude Era, like something we would have seen then rather than in 2017. Yes, the match sucked at 'Mania but for the weeks leading up to that match, everybody was enthralled in what was happening; it felt realistic, like what we had seen years previous in the Attitude era.

One of the things hurting storylines in this day and age is all the promos have been scripted down to the comma. So we won't be getting any "pipe bombs" anytime soon and that is having a negative impact on loads of storylines.  The Miz's feud with Daniel Bryan was an exception; that had electric promos on Talking Smack. That feud if you can call it that, was a well-remembered highlight of what Smackdown can do post-brand split. Ditto the Styles/Cena feud, where they were spitting out incredible promos on a weekly basis because they were not as scripted as others. Imagine if The Rock had these obstacles - the greatest talker in WWE history would be nothing.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

WWE Battleground 2017 Preview & Predictions

Anooooother one??  These WWE PPVs are getting old, friendos.  Fortunately after this Sunday we get a full four weeks before Summerslam.  I can't wait!

Smackdown's latest calamity takes place this Sunday, headlined by one of the dumbest gimmick matches they've ever conjured up (I've made my feelings on this match clear HERE).  Quite frankly (to borrow Vince's favorite phrase) there's only one match on this show I really care about, and I may only watch that one match unless reviews of the other six matches are overwhelmingly positive.  I have enough GOOD wrestling to keep track of this weekend with the G1 Climax tournament in full swing.

Buuuut we gotta predict this turd of a show, so here goes.

***Dave is in the lead with 9/13 (69%), I'm in second with 31/47 (66%), Landon's third with 23/35 (65%), and Dan's bringing up the rear with a paltry 27/47 (57%).  How do you live with yourself Daniel??*** (Dan: Typically by not watching wrestling all that much and having sex with women, you fucking dork.)

Have I mentioned I like Dave Moore better?

Pre-Show match: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

This shit again?  We saw this on the Backlash pre-show and no one cared then.  So let's have a rematch two months later.  Pointless.

Justin: 50-50 booking is WWE's M.O. so Aiden wins here
Dan: I have no idea who these people are.  So Dillinger.
Landon: English
Dave: Aiden English I guess

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos vs. The New Day

This match was pretty good last time and the Usos took a countout loss to keep the belts.  This time I think The New Day get the job done and win them.  I mean who else is gonna dethrone Jimmy & Jey?  American Alpha just got split up for some reason ('The fuck are they goin' with this Angle-Jordon nonsense?), Breezango are fun but they're a comedy duo, and the Ascension and the Colons are persona non grata, so there's no one else left.  Jeezus this tag division stinks.

Justin: The New Day
Dan: Usos
Landon: New Day, who cares?
Dave: New Day

Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis

Well apparently WWE read my rant yesterday about how badly they're treating Sami.  Either that or it's a total coincidence.  I'd like to believe the former.  Anyway, good to see Sami's getting a PPV match at least.  Now, does he get his win back or do they continue with Kanellis's momentum?  My brain says one thing, my heart says another.

Justin: Eh, I'll be optimistic and say Sami.  Because WWE clearly read my rant yesterday.  Yeah, that's it.....
Dan: No clue who Kanellis is.  So he's my pick.
Landon: Kanellis.  Still trying to figure out what he has, besides the sexiest woman in wrestling.
Dave: Yeah, that other dude that's not Sami.  He wins.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WWE and The Long, Slow Burial of Sami Zayn

Don't worry, this'll be a short rant.

I'm just looking over this Sunday's Battleground lineup and couldn't help noticing that the guy who beat "Mr. Money in the Bank" Baron Corbin at Backlash a couple months ago is missing.  Not only that, the same guy was used last night to put over Mike Kanellis of all people.  Is there some reason Sami Zayn can't get pushed, on SMACKDOWN???  The show where lifelong curtain-jerkers get to be the WWE Champ?  The show where the least qualified participant in BOTH Money in the Bank matches walked away with the briefcase?  I'm gonna need to know which one of Vince's relatives Sami ran over with a golf cart, because it makes not one lick of sense to me that a very over, likable babyface who routinely crushes it in the ring can't get a meaningful feud/push on the increasingly razor-thin Smackdown roster.  I figured he was simply getting lost in the shuffle on the overcrowded Monday Night Raw, but no, if anything he's been booked even worse since moving to the blue brand.
Once again the most relatable guy in the company is being treated like a chump, much like his female counterpart on Raw, Bayley.  Both Zayn and Bayley could be real moneymakers as underdog characters who win despite their inherent limitations.  Instead WWE books them to lose because of them.  "Nice guys finish last" is obviously one of Vince McMahon's mantras, but in the realm of storytelling that line of thinking ultimately does nothing but turn people off.  Generally audiences don't enjoy seeing characters they genuinely like getting the short end of the stick at every turn.  Yes we want to invest in their struggle, but in order for us to invest there has to be the promise of some payoff, of our faith in the character being rewarded.  The popular everyman should eventually get the win in the end, even if it's just a moral victory.

Instead WWE's philosophy with characters like these is to book them like suckers.  Sami's a nice guy, thus he usually can't close the deal, particularly when there's a championship at stake.  Speaking of championships, was the last time Sami had any kind of one-on-one title match?  Survivor Series?  The guy essentially won his feuds against Kevin Owens last year and Baron Corbin this year, with prominent PPV victories over both.  Yet each of his opponents went on to bigger things (Owens partnered with Jericho and won the Universal Title, Corbin won Money in the Bank) while Sami stagnated (a meaningless pre-show SummerSlam match, a one-off PPV loss to Jericho, and a feud where Braun Strowman killed him).  How does the winner of a high-profile feud go on to have less success than the loser?

Once again a guy who got over organically on his own is treated as an afterthought because WWE didn't handpick him to get over.  Thus they just use him as a utility guy to make their latest midcard heel du jour look good.  No offense to the Kanellises, but if they're still even on Vince's radar in six months I'll shit myself.  I mean that literally, I will defecate in my trousers.  Call me crazy but I don't at all see Mike Kanellis getting a standalone match on the WrestleMania 34 card, ever.  So why job Sami Zayn out to him?  This would be like hiring a world-class surgeon to administer cough medicine to your sick child.  Sami is waaaaay overqualified for this position.  Shouldn't Sami's considerable skill be used to help build up someone the company is serious about pushing?  Or, and here's a wacky idea, shouldn't Sami's skill be used to build up Sami??

In an age where the secondary championships (and even the primary ones) are as meaningless as ever, how has Sami Zayn not even been considered for either the US or Intercontinental Title?  Make him a long-running underdog champion who manages to eke out wins despite oftentimes being overmatched?  Or how about a Zayn-Dolph Ziggler feud, since we never got that match at Survivor Series?  Let those two tear the house down with the winner getting a feud against the US Champion.  It would build up the idea that the US Title is a highly sought-after prize if Sami and Dolph tried to murder each other over it.  Or pair Sami up with another under-utilized babyface and give them a run with the Tag belts.  Just give Sami something meaningful to do, for fuck's sake.  It's astounding to me how much talent this company has under its umbrella and yet they can't figure out how to use at least half of them.  Vince's real mantra should be "pearls before swine."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 1: Dragonstone

by Dan Moore

I'm going back to Westeros, Westeros, here we are. The first of the final 13 episodes (spread over 2 seasons because OF COURSE) of GoT premiered last night. There were a few good scenes, one great scene and a buncha puzzle pieces moving into place. Let's dive in, shall we?

Arya: The Professional

A girl had no name...but she has poison...plenty of poison.

Well, our little Stark girl is all growns up, huh? After slicing the shit out of Walder Frey's neck last season, Arya decides to use her new face swapping powers to decimate the entirety of the Frey clan. And she does this beautifully, getting all those drunks to make a toast with goblets full of poison wine. It's a lovely  scene filled with vengeance and corpses. Arya's revenge tour looks to be her focus this season, and, I for one am delighted. Though I do have a question: so her face swapping also makes her the same size as the person whose face she stole? Cause methinks a teenage girl is a tad shorter than a full grown man...but you, Arya. She also ran into Ed Sheeran and didn't kill him, which shows she still has some restraint.

The Whites


Finally, after being teased for about 88 years, the White Walkers are acutally, really, truly on the prowl. Teased from the first scene of the first episode, the threat of these ice zombies has really been on the back burner, what with all the warring & incest. But now the real threat in Westeros is here. And they have giants. MOTHER FUCKING ZOMBIE GIANTS. This is awesome. An aside: if this show ends up being a prequel to the Walking Dead, I'm gonna off myself. I already stopped watching a show with zombies walking seemingly to nowhere, I don't need another one. DON'T MAKE ME DO IT, HBO!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Movie Review - Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Well folks, we finally have a Spider-Man movie worthy of everyone's favorite web-slinger.  Marvel got Spidey on loan from Sony and added their magic touch to craft the right mix of natural humor, lighthearted adventure, and heavy drama, plus easily the best casting of the role to date.  Spider-Man: Homecoming is exactly what I want of a Spidey film  (It should be noted that I find the universally lauded Spider-Man 2 highly overrated and not much more than a one-time watch).

Tom Holland is note-perfect as Peter Parker, an adolescent, immature, glory-seeking, hormonal dork who hasn't remotely figured out how to handle his newfound super powers.  After a brief assist in Captain America: Civil War, Peter is obsessed with becoming a full-fledged Avenger despite not at all being ready for such a huge responsibility.  He keeps himself busy by foiling small-time neighborhood crimes, frequently stumbling, and at times even making life difficult for the people he's trying to protect.

Meanwhile at school the gifted sophomore Peter is neglecting his studies and his commitment to his Academic Decathlon team, while trying to navigate his way around a romantic crush on a senior student.  He thinks becoming an Avenger will give him purpose and solve all his social issues, but this film conveys better than all five previous Spidey movies that Peter's everyday problems will all still be there when he takes off the mask.  Tom Holland's relatable performance carries this film and for me rings completely authentic, unlike the ineptly nerdy Tobey Maguire or the artificially emo Andrew Garfield.  It's not that I disliked their performances, I just didn't feel that either of them hit the right mark with the character.  Maguire's take was torturous at times, Garfield's was often unpleasant.  Above all, Holland was completely credible as a 15-year-old.  Maguire and Garfield played the role in their late 20s/early 30s, and at no time did I buy either of them as high schoolers.

This film's sense of humor feels effortless, where the Sam Raimi films seemed to belabor the jokes and the Marc Webb films pretty much eschewed humor altogether.  Peter and his best friend Ned have natural rapport, while he and love interest Liz have an uncertain chemistry that worked so much better for me than Maguire and Kirsten Dunst's agonizingly overdone back-and-forth or Garfield and Emma Stone's oddly grown-up interactions.  The romantic story also didn't overtake the entire film and become Peter's raison d'etre.  Primarily he wants to become the hero he envisioned himself to be, but simply lacks the wisdom or experience to make that happen.  He comes to understand that "with great power comes great responsibility" without the script needing to bludgeon us over the head with the idea.

The action sequences have just the right amount of weight to them; they aren't meant to be "epic" set pieces and Spider-Man barely manages to save the day each time.  He's learning as he goes, and the results are quite messy.  My favorite action scene was the one involving the Washington Monument - a sensational and suspensful rescue that puts Raimi and Webb's sequences to shame.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Tool

Welcome back to our semi-regular feature. This one's a tad different. Typically we take something that was once AWESOME but now sucks. This time, we're talking about a band that is badass and great but is MIA except for a bunch of mini-tours over the past year



DAN: I remember the first time I heard Tool. Back when MTV used to be a music channel and not a place for teen whores to show off their bastard kids, I watched the video for "Sober" off Tool's first album, Undertow. The first impression I had wasn't so much about the music but the visual components of this truly bizarre stop-motion Claymation-type video.

The spastic dance this little creep did freaked me out

I knew fuck all about the band, and it stayed that way until MTV once again showed me a video by them. Ostensibly named "Track #1", this song was enough to intrigue to search out the band behind this odd videos. When I purchased ├ćnima I realized the name of that song was actually "Stinkfist" and MTV changed it because EWWW HANDS IN BUTTS.

But that album was hypnotizing. It was MILES away from the grungy pop-ish like rock music I was listening to at the time. The chord progressions, the insanely elaborate drum beats and the one-of-a-kind vocals of lead singer Maynard James Keenan made for a band the likes of which mine ears had never heard. I needed more after listening to ├ćnima. In what turned out to be a pattern, it would be a long wait.

Monday, July 10, 2017

NJPW G1 Climax 27 Preview & Predictions

The G1 Climax. A celebration of all things awesome in wrestling. Boys walk in, and Men limp out, typically with nagging injuries tht last them the next few months.

If you've never watched New Japan regularly, and wanted to get into the product, the tournament here is your best option. You may know some of the bigger names in the tournament already, from reputation, Youtube, wherever. This preview is for you, to give you the stats, need to knows, and opinions on the wrestlers involved in the G1 Climax tournament this year. Again, this is for newcomers into New Japan, or for those who are fresh into the product and would like to learn more.  That being made clear now, we can move on.


"The Once in a Century Talent"
Hiroshi Tanahashi
Age: 40
Debut: 1999
G1s: 16, Won 2 (2007, 2015)
Title History: 2x IWGP Intercontinental Champion (current), 7x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 2x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 2x IWGP U-30 Openweight Champion, 3x NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Champion, 1x GHC (Pro Wrestling NOAH) Tag Team Campion, 1x CMLL World Tag Team Champion

Justin: Tanahashi, the company's former "Ace," is in redemption mode these days.  After several months taking it easy in multi-man tags to heal nagging injuries, Hiroshi recaptured the IC Title last month and should put in several ****+ matches in the G1.  He's certainly not winning this tourney but he's always considered a favorite.

Landon: Justin calls Tanahashi the former Ace of the company (Ace being a person of extraordinary talent and charisma who typically acts as a standard bearer for his or her company), but there are a few who still argue he still is that Ace now. A man who's practically done everything in New Japan, Tanahashi is riding an immense wave of momentum coming into the G1 this year, with a Title win at the second biggest New Japan Show of the year, Dominion. However, the stat working against Hiroshi in the tournament is thus; that an Intercontinental champion has never won the G1. Since the winner receives the Wrestle Kingdom Title match for the Heavyweight crown, there is no logic behind the IC champ doing so. But each match he has in this tournament will be a barnburner for sure.

"El Ingobernable"
Age: 35
Debut: 2006
G1s: 8, Won 1 (2013)
Title History: 1x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 1x IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight Champion, 1x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion

Justin: The former I-C Champion says he's all done with the secondary belt and generally that sort of comment means he's refocused on winning the big one again.  Naito was most people's top pick to win the 2016 G1 and is most definitely a reasonably safe bet this year.  He'll definitely be at or near the top of the A Block.

Landon: Tetsuya Naito is a bizarre story to see; a man who was slated to be the next top babyface, met with immense backlash, and took that rejection and ran with it. From dry toast babyface to an anti-hero who follows only his own whims and desires, gathering around him a select few who follow his views (We'll get to some of them in the B Block). None of this personal growth has changed his technique in the ring, however, as he remains as good a worker as what got him to that grooming spot. Probably the loudest character in his Block of the tournament, the Polarizing figure will prove a great foil to the other men in his block.

WWE Great Balls of Fire Review: Joe Coulda Killed You

Wow.  Kind of a strange main event if I'm being honest.  The long-awaited Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe dream match was, I suppose, the match of the night at Great Balls of Fire, but not in the traditional sense.  It wasn't an epic, grandiose battle of the titans but a short, fierce slugfest with both guys swinging for the fences from the start.

Joe worked the match as the heel, attacking Lesnar before the bell and putting him through the German announce table with a uranage slam.  Lesnar took a few minutes to recover and the match was underway, and then Joe dominated the six-minute fight, grounding and pounding before repeatedly trying to put the Beast away with the Coquina Clutch.  Lesnar made some comebacks that of course involved German suplexes (He hit a scant six of them in this match by my count), but unlike most opponents, Samoa Joe was able to withstand them and regain control.  Late in the match Joe nearly choked Brock out, but Lesnar countered with an F5 out of nowhere for the sudden pinfall.

What's significant about this is the F5/pin came across like an escape route for Brock, rather than the coup de grace that put Joe away.  Joe was the monster aggressor throughout the match and Brock looked more vulnerable than he has since his feud with The Undertaker.  When it was over, Brock slid out of the ring with a grin on his face like he got away with something while Joe, fully conscious after the F5, glared angrily.  Samoa Joe was definitively presented as a match for Brock Lesnar, and this speaks volumes of how the company sees him right now.  If it were up to me I'd have had Joe kick out of the first F5 only for Lesnar to hit a match-ending second one.  But aside from that and the brief length of the match I can't really complain about this.  It had a huge big fight atmosphere and Samoa Joe was put over as The Abomination to Brock Lesnar's Incredible Hulk.  This match needs to happen again.

The rest of the show was quite solid, though missing anything in the **** or above range.  Still there was nothing offensive either.  Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt was a perfectly decent if somewhat subdued opener.  At only 12 minutes this felt like the first match in a series, and Wyatt, the heel, appropriately got a cheap win after a thumb to the eye and Sister Abigail.  The booking of the heels on this show was pretty great actually, starting here.  Bad guys getting underhanded wins?  What a novel idea!

Next up was Cass vs. Enzo, and as predicted this was the weakest match of the night (aside from the impromptu Heath Slater-Curt Hawkins bout, half of which we didn't even see).  Enzo cut a heartfelt promo about being an underdog and never giving up, which would've been effective if he didn't get murdered stone cold dead by Cass minutes later.  This was a five-minute squash, with Cass clearly emerging as the star of the former team.  Enzo really needs to be moved into a babyface Paul Heyman role.  He should manage a stable of talented good guys who can't talk that well.  He'd be of much more use that way.

Friday, July 7, 2017

WWE Great Balls of Fire Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!

We've got a brand new PPV event on the RAW brand, and it's named for some reason after a 1950s Jerry Lee Lewis song.  I can't wait for September's new PPV, Twist & Shout.  That would be fitting.  When you get TWISTED up in a submission hold, you SHOUT in agony.  Hell, that's more appropriate than Great Balls of Fire.  Unless Ric Flair hits you with a nut shot.  Then your balls will be on fire I guess.  Greatly.

Anyway this show is pretty stacked and could finally break the streak of mediocre-to-bad WWE PPVs.  One can hope.  Let's get to it.

***Currently I lead the pack with 24/39 (61.5%), Landon's in second with 16/27 (59%), Dan's in third with 22/39 (56%), and newbie Dave has 2/5.***

Pre-Show Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Akira Tozawa

Even the pre-show match is promising this time.  It's too bad the company thinks so little of this title, particularly since Neville is the best-booked champion in WWE at the moment.  I haven't seen much of Tozawa's work yet but I've read good things.  Should be a fine contest.  I can't imagine they change the belt on a pre-show match, but stranger things have happened.

Justin: Neville retains
Dan: Yes
Landon: Neville, I can't imagine Tozawa just winning. But he's in a group with
Dave: Neville.  Badass Neville is great.

Enzo vs. Cass

Well this finally happened.  It seemed a little premature to split these guys up but I guess if they wanna push Cass there's not much else they could do, other than reduce Enzo's role to that of manager/mouthpiece.  That would've been alright.  Enzo's great on the mic but not much going on in-ring.  Cass has some pretty solid potential as a singles guy, although RAW already has a couple monster heels.  Hopefully he doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

Justin: Cass wins easily
Dan: Cass gonna WHOOP him. Enzo should be a Heyman type for good guys. Cause he stinks in the ring.
Landon: Cass
Dave: Cass. Who cares?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The IWGP Title: Why It's the Most Prestigious in Wrestling

This week on Wrestling Observer radio, Dave Meltzer talked about how well the IWGP Heavyweight Title has been booked over the last five years and how it's raised the prestige and value of that belt.  It got me thinking how much more value the IWGP Title currently holds than the WWE Title.  My colleague Joseph Chaplin (@JosephChaplin20) had similar sentiments.  We thought we'd share them with you.....

Justin: Four.  That's how many different wrestlers have held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship since January 4, 2011.  In six-and-a-half years only four men have won NJPW's most prestigious Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, AJ Styles, and Tetsuya Naito.  Tanahashi almost singlehandedly brought New Japan back from the brink of creative and financial ruin as the company's Ace, AJ Styles is one of the most accomplished athletes to ever set foot in a wrestling ring, Naito sells more merch than anyone in the company and is a huge box office draw, and the current Champ?  Kazuchika Fucking Okada - the man who as of April 2017 had already locked up the Wrestler of the Year award with four astounding main event performances in as many months.  And that doesn't even include his rematch with Kenny Omega, his excellent defense against Cody Rhodes, or his presumably stellar showing in the upcoming G1 Climax tournament.  Okada's had the IWGP Title for just over a year and it's already been one of the greatest title reigns I've ever been privy to.  That old adage about how "the man makes the Title?"  That's true more than ever in New Japan Pro Wrestling.  This is currently the richest prize in the business.

Now let's look at the WWE Title.  In 2017 alone, five different men have held WWE's most important championship.  FIVE.  In the span of six months.  AJ Styles (I must confess, I LOVE that AJ is in both of these groups), John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, and Jinder Mahal.  Go back to January 4th, 2011 and you've got a whopping SEVENTEEN different guys holding that belt at one time or another.  And that doesn't even include multiple title reigns by the same person.  That means in the past six-and-a-half years someone new has won the Title 2.6 times every year.  It would be one thing if every one of those champions were presented as worthy of the company's top title.  But let's be realistic - The Miz, Rey Mysterio, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, and Jinder Mahal haven't exactly been portrayed as strong champions.  Even the super-over Daniel Bryan never got his long run due to injuries.  Only three of those 17 champions held the strap for more than six months, and one of those was Brock Lesnar, who only defended it twice in 224 days.

There's a pattern emerging here.  One of these top titles is treated as a major achievement of which only a select few are worthy.  The other is treated as a prop that jumps around every few months, and simply being in the company for a while is qualification enough to win it.  Not to mention there have been numerous WWE PPVs where the WWE Title wasn't even worthy of the main event.  CM Punk, by far the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the past decade, only headlined five PPVs during his 14-month reign.  Five out of fourteen.  Jinder Mahal's first Title defense failed to headline Money in the Bank; of the eight MITB PPVs, four have been main evented by a one-on-one WWE Championship match and another (2014) featured a MITB match for the vacant Title.  That leaves three times the WWE Champion has taken a back seat to a MITB match, and Jinder is one of them.  What does it say about your World Champion when he often doesn't get to headline a PPV, particularly WrestleMania and SummerSlam?  I can't even imagine New Japan in 2017 pushing an IWGP Title match down on the card to make room for a special attraction match, can you?  Yes, they made Okada-Naito the semi-main event a few years ago at WrestleKingdom 8, but that was based on fan voting and was a reflection on Naito's standing as a credible challenger at the time.  And of course at the first WrestleKingdom they put a Mutoh tag match in the main event slot, but that was before the company's resurgence.