Friday, September 29, 2017

Top Ten Things: September PPV Matches

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I compile a list of ten, well, things.

Today it's the ten greatest September PPV matches of all time.  September has often been the beginning of a slump period on the WWE calendar, where the summer angles have long since peaked at SummerSlam and now the company sorta treads water until WrestleMania season starts.  But that doesn't mean there haven't been some great individual efforts.  This list is also not limited to WWE; fans of NJPW and TNA will see a little sumthin-sumthin for them as well.

So let's get to it!

10. Bret Hart vs. Jean-Pierre LaFitte - In Your House 3 - 9.24.95

1995 saw the strange and disturbing trend of Bret Hart being used in lame midcard feuds against cartoonish villains while Diesel and Shawn Michaels dominated the top championship matches.  Case in point was Bret's short-lived feud with pirate character Jean-Pierre LaFitte, over LaFitte's theft of Bret's prized leather jacket.  A sillier schoolyard-esque feud I can't recall in wrestling.  No matter, their two matches were outstanding.  This first one took place at In Your House 3, and was an intense, hard-hitting melee.  Bret set the tone during introductions by torpedoing through the ropes, knocking LaFitte to the floor.  The next sixteen minutes featured grueling offense resembling a Strong Style match before Bret got the win with the Sharpshooter.  Their rematch the next night on RAW was roughly as good as this.

9. Randy Orton vs. John Cena - Breaking Point - 9.13.09

The PG Era was in full-swing by 2009, and that meant no more blading in a WWE ring.  While for the most part this didn't affect the product all that harshly, it did mean gimmick matches might potentially suffer, as Hell in a Cells and Elimination Chambers would now have to be blood-free zones.  That just doesn't seem right.  But at the one-time Breaking Point event (where the main event matches all had submission rules), John Cena and Randy Orton managed to circumvent these rigid new limitations and deliver a masterpiece of understated violence, in an I Quit match.  Their fight played out much like a climactic movie sequence; Orton utilized his exceptional facials and reptilian in-ring persona to make every move seem downright malicious, seemingly relishing each moment.  At one point he handcuffed Cena and proceeded to flog him mercilessly with a kendo stick, leaving sickening welts all over his torso.  Cena eventually made a comeback, applying the STF and choking Orton out with his own arm.  That this I Quit match worked so well despite being pretty tame compared to say, Mankind vs. The Rock speaks volumes of Cena's and especially Orton's ability to get across character and expression.  I'd cite this as Orton's first foray into becoming a true main event-worthy player.

8. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho - Unforgiven - 9.7.08

The best feud of 2008 was undoubtedly Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels.  After a babyface return in late 2007, Jericho quickly turned heel again in early '08, retooling his persona after the character of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men.  Jericho became soft-spoken, sullen, and sanctimonious, insisting that born-again Christian Shawn Michaels was a hypocrite who didn't follow his own beliefs.  Their feud was intended as a one-off match that spring but stretched over nearly six months.  The best match of this saga in my opinion was the non-sanctioned street fight at Unforgiven, which sprung from an incident at SummerSlam.  Jericho invited Michaels and his wife Rebecca to his talk show, and their bickering led to Jericho accidentally knocking Rebecca out with a punch.  Again, this was tame by Attitude Era standards, but in the new PG Era it was treated as a huge deal, and the two wrestlers played it to the hilt.  Their fight was brutal without being bloody, and it ended via ref stoppage when Michaels had beaten Jericho unconscious.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

WCW Monday Nitro #4: Hogan in a Neckbrace, Savage seeks Revengeance

It took 4 weeks, but Vader is finally out of the opening video for Nitro. For a guy who was never on the show, they sure did take their time replacing him with Luger.

WCW Monday Nitro #4, September 25th, 1995
Florence Civic Center in Florence, South Carolina

Disco Inferno vs. Alex Wright

So this is the infamous Disco Inferno. Never seen an Inferno match before this, and really it wasn't as bad as some have warned me it would be. Despite being Disco's Nitro debut, Alex Wright was the star of this match. He was able to clear the top rope on a dive, with no hands, and without much effort. Wright would probably be really popular today, with his cosmopolitan style and look. After a kind of short match, Wright got the pin with the backslide. Nothing special.

Hulk Hogan cut a Hulk Hogan promo in a neck brace. He talked about how the Giant broke his neck and how he won't die, and I'm starting to think that maybe Ric Flair isn't the immortal sorcerer after all. Brother, brother.

They recapped the Randy Savage and Lex Luger confrontation from last week. Pirate shirt, snakes, etc. The two came out to shout at each other, and decide to have a number one contenders, Lex leaves town match next week. But for tonight, they have matches to get ready for.

Kurasawa vs Craig Pittman

Monster Morning Mullet
Well, this match was an unexpected treat. Pittman had a nothing match at the Pay Per View last week, but here he managed to have a really fun match with Kurasawa (who is Manabu Nakanishi.). Fun in the same way I enjoy Ishii and Makabe going at it. The brawl included a lot of Kurasawa going for Pittman's arm, because apparently he had broken Hawk's arm months ago. The match was pretty 50/50, until Kurasawa pinned Pittman with a GERMAN
**1/2, a very fun match.

Music Review: Kesha - Rainbow

Well it's safe to say Kesha's former producer Dr. Luke was definitely holding her down.  Exhibit A?  Her third album Rainbow, an eclectic, defiant, and ultimately triumphant collection of pop, folk, rock, and country-western songs from an artist finally free to make music she truly believes in.  Eschewing the rather adolescent, and for me grating sound of her first two records, Rainbow is a major leap in creative maturity and textural nuance that should please both Top 40 radio listeners and those looking for something more sophisticated and personal.

Kesha's folk influence is easily spotted on songs like the hopeful opener "Bastards," which brings to mind the simplistic guitar/vocal arrangements of Edie Brickell and the brutal frankness of Alanis Morrisette.  The song offers a reassuring message that no matter how bleak things may seem, one must never let the aforementioned bastards win.  This folky vibe can also be found on the saccharin alt-folk tune "Godzilla," which literally places the 400-foot lizard in a mall (a metaphor for falling in love with a suitor the rest of your circle deems unworthy), and on the album's hauntingly atmospheric closer "Spaceship," wherein Kesha states her funereal wish to be picked up by an ancestral spacecraft after she dies (I could totally believe she came from outer space).  This song would feel right at home in a Coen brothers film, with its bouncy-but-melancholy guitar riff and gorgeously ethereal backup choir.

Strong country tinges can be found in the Johnny Cash-esque "Hunt You Down," in which Kesha talks about what would happen to a prospective lover were he to "fuck around" on her.  The song's derisively mad tone can be summed up with her spoken word line over the bridge: "Baby, I love you so much.  Don't make me kill you."  Another country tune is the classic rock update of Dolly Parton's "Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)," which Kesha's mother Pebe Sebert co-wrote.  Parton makes a guest appearance sharing lead vocal duties, while the instrumentation sounds very reminiscent of Abbey Road-era Beatles.

Monday, September 25, 2017

WWE No Mercy 2017: This Was Great, Until It Wasn't

Man, if you shut off No Mercy after the fifth match you'd have two-thirds of an easy PPV of the Year candidate for WWE (Nothing they do this year will ever touch NJPW's top shows).  In the first five matches there was strong action, good variety, and nary a misfire.  And then WWE failed to stick the landing, offering a disappointing main event and a flat-out offensive Cruiserweight match.  But before I really start complaining, let's go through what was good about this show, because I really did like the first couple hours.

The show started with The Miz vs. Jason Jordan for the Intercontinental Title, in a match literally no one was invested in.  But goddamn if they didn't pull out a solid opener.  I've been a reluctant fan of Miz's in-ring work for years, as a guy who can deliver a decent match with almost anyone of reasonable ability.  Miz's strength as a worker is that he's an excellent listener; he knows when to let his opponent lead the way and just go with it.  He's very unselfish in that regard.  As for Jordan, he proved last night why he deserves better than this insipid Kurt Angle angle.  Jordan could be marketed as a blue chip suplex machine, and with some character repackaging could become a great upper midcard heel like The Rock circa late '97.  These two put together a crisply worked match that the crowd was actually fairly into, until outside interference cost Jordan the match (much to the crowd's delight - Jordan needs to go heel).  Nice work by both guys.

Second was the unnecessary Bray Wyatt-Finn Balor rematch, where the company took a backwards approach to this feud.  Balor resorting to The Demon should've been the climax, but instead he just came out as himself, and they had a perfectly serviceable undercard bout.  Nothing terribly memorable, but this was just fine and Balor won to hopefully put this feud to rest.

The show peaked for me with the Tag Team Title match, another wild affair between Rollins & Ambrose and The Bar (Jeezus that's a terrible team name).  These four were having a splendid match until Ambrose catapulted Cesaro into the corner, and Cesaro ate a mouthfull of ring post, knocking out at least two of his teeth.  Holy shitballs that had to hurt.  And Cesaro wrestled another ten solid minutes after that.  I woulda called it a day.  "Sorry fellas, I ain't got no teeth.  I'm goin' home."  Not only that but the energy of the match actually ramped up after that, with wild tandem offense and some great near-falls.  Ambrose and Rollins finally retained after another Rainmaker knee/Dirty Deeds combo.  Excellent tag match.  It's kinda sad both teams can't be champions really.  Cesaro better get a bonus for this too.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Top Ten Things: Iron Maiden Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, where I pick my ten favorite somethingorother and bug all of you about it.

Today it's my ten favorite Iron Maiden songs! 

One of the most influential metal bands of all time, Iron Maiden was formed in the mid-70s by bassist Steve Harris.  Over the first few years the band went through various incarnations, hiring and firing band members with a frequency that would make Spinal Tap cringe.  Finally in 1980 they released their self-titled debut album and immediately gained a strong UK following, in competition with the burgeoning punk scene.  Bands like Maiden, Diamondhead, Venom, Motorhead, and several others formed a musical zeitgeist called The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (which influenced literally dozens of bands here in the States).  Maiden was soon forced to sack lead singer Paul D'Anno due to his increasing drug issues, and his replacement was diminutive onstage firecracker Bruce Dickinson, who brought incredible vocal range/power and athletic physicality to the role of frontman.  Their third album The Number of the Beast was a No. 1 smash hit in the UK and propelled Iron Maiden to international stardom.  A slew of successful albums followed, containing scores of classic songs, until Dickinson left the band in 1993 to pursue a solo career.  His successor Blaze Bayley recorded two albums to a rather tepid reaction, and in 1999 Dickinson was coaxed back into the fold.

Over the past fifteen years Maiden has released five more albums and embarked on several hugely successful world tours, and they remain a chart-topping worldwide phenomenon.  Their music has evolved a bit over the years but they've always maintained their signature galloping energy and  literature-inspired lyrics.  Their onstage enthusiasm continues to defy the band members' advancing age, and they routinely deliver an amazing live concert experience.  A side note: historically just as mythical as the band's music are the album covers and other associated imagery.  For years artist Derek Riggs created some of the greatest cover art in music history, featuring the band's undead mascot Eddie the Head.  A few of my favorite Riggs pieces are the covers of Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and Live After Death.

But enough about that; here are my picks for the Top Ten Iron Maiden songs of all time.

**Note: While I like and appreciate some of their 21st Century work, for me the classic Maiden period was 1980-1992, so all ten picks fall into that timeframe.**

10. The Trooper

Probably the most noteworthy song on 1983's Piece of Mind (Dickinson's favorite album), "The Trooper" kicks off with a start and stop feel, over which Bruce barks a defiant battle cry ("You take my life but I'll take yours too/You fire your musket but I'll run you through").  The band then dives into charging pace as the wordless chorus takes over.  What other lasting metal tunes boast a refrain consisting of nothing more than "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!"

9. The Prophecy

Yeah I know this is from "The Clairvoyant,"
but I couldn't find a "Prophecy"-specific piece of art.

The first of two entries from Seventh Son, "The Prophecy" opens with a gentle clean guitar arpeggio before exploding into a heavy triplet groove.  Dickinson regretfully howls out a warning message to an unnamed group of villagers of their impending doom, which then goes unheeded.  "The Prophecy" is simple but tremendously hooky, jumping from a minor key verse into a major key chorus.  I also love the baroque acoustic guitar outro.

8. Iron Maiden

The one non-Dickinson song on this list is the self-titled final track of the self-titled debut album.  An uncomplicated, nihilistic metal anthem, the lyrics of "Iron Maiden" dare the listener to partake in the graphic violence of the band's music, despite the music's oddly cheery tone.  This song is akin to Metallica's "Whiplash;" simply an ode to the brutality of metal.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Movie Review: mother! (2017)

What to say about mother!?  That's uh....that's a movie alright.

Darren Aronofsky's divisive allegory about a married couple whose tranquil country home is overrun by unwanted guests plays out like a two-hour nightmare directed by Roman Polanski (with a few Kubrickian touches as well).  The wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, seemingly has various repeated hallucinations (including a bloody spot on the floor rotting away into the basement beneath, a beating heart inside the walls, lightbulbs exploding, etc.), while her writer's-blocked poet husband (Javier Bardem) invites more and more guests into the house, seemingly as a way to avoid intimacy with her.  Gradually Lawrence's mental state appears to become further detached from reality, and everything goes completely haywire.

That, on the surface, is essentially the plot of the film.  I can't really say anything more without involving ***SPOILERS***, so from here on in, consider yourself warned.  I'll try to be as non-specific as I can.

First off I'll answer the question of whether I "liked" mother!  The answer truly is this - I'm not quite sure.  While just about every review I've read has either enthusiastically praised Aronofsky's bold, anti-mainstream attack on the senses or comically dismissed the film as utter trash (I'm looking at you Rex Reed, you odiously miserable douchebag), my feelings rested squarely in the middle, somewhere.

I admired Aronofsky's technical prowess; mother! has the off-putting visual claustrophobia of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, with the down n' dirty graininess of The Wrestler.  I admired the performances across the board.  Bardem is somehow warmly menacing, like someone you want to trust if only you could shake the feeling that he's hiding a dreadful secret.  Ed Harris is affable but presumptuous.  Michelle Pfeiffer (great to see her again) nearly steals the show as a prying, socially inappropriate pillar of passive-aggressive.  And Jennifer Lawrence, while not quite giving a career performance, holds the film together as the overwhelmed homemaker who gives as much of herself as she possibly can while clinging desperately to her patience and sanity.  I admired the anxiety-building tone of the first half, where we know something is very much not right in this house but can't figure out why or what.  I admired the absolute hallucinatory anarchy of the second half, where rooms, situations and people seem to morph into something completely different the second we take our eyes off them, as in a vividly bad dream.  It must've taken incredible dexterity and confidence to stage and film these sequences, and from a visceral standpoint they work.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

WWE No Mercy 2017 Preview & Predictions

Wow, it feels like SummerSlam was forever ago, even though it's only been five weeks.  I guess that's what happens when WWE doesn't have four PPVs a month...

This Sunday is No Mercy, which for some reason was moved up a month and changed to a RAW PPV.  I don't get the schedule shuffling they're doing this year.  Hell in a Cell is now Smackdown-only, TLC is now RAW-only, Starrcade is coming back as a Smackdown televised house show essentially.  It's just super confusing.  Whatever...

This show is pretty stacked.  In fact they're giving away two WrestleMania-worthy matches.  On a B-PPV.  I don't get it.  They should both be something special though.  I suppose WWE programming is way more enjoyable when you don't think about it.  On with the picks...

***I'm in the lead with 46/67 (69%), Landon's in second with 36/55 (65%), Dave's third with 21/33 (64%), and Dan's bringing up the rear with 39/67 (58%)***

Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Enzo Amore

I mean, Enzo?  Really?  I get that he qualifies for a Cruiserweight, but technically so do I.  And I wouldn't watch me fight in the Cruiserweight division.  Enzo is literally all talk.  He's good on the mic, stinks in the ring.  'The hell is he gonna do in a Cruiserweight match?  No wonder nobody takes this division seriously.  Enzo has no business winning this.

Justin: Neville retains
Dan: Enzo SUCKS. I don't even like his mic work. He tries to come up with funny shit, but it's cringe-worthy comedy. Neville better effin' retain.
Landon: I DARE them to just kill the division dead. They killed ECW, they can kill cruiserweights. Neville retains, I hope.
Dave: Neville. Enzo has been annoying since he's been in WWE.

Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Jason Jordan

Poor Jason.  He had such potential, particularly as part of American Alpha.  But WWE "creative" decided to split up that great team and put Jason on RAW as Kurt Angle's son.  And literally no one cared.  Therefore WWE doubled down on this stupid move and kept running with it, rather than just letting it fade away.  I can't see them giving Jordan a PPV Title match here if he isn't winning it.  But it's too early.

Justin: Jordan wins and everyone gets pissed.  Maybe he'll make a good heel as a result.
Landon: Let it ride. Jordan to be pushed into burning out, then wondering why it didn't work.
Dave: I'm rooting for the Miz but I think he's gonna lose which is pointless.

Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

I don't know why this feud is continuing, especially in another regular match.  We already saw The Demon at SummerSlam, so anything less than that is a step backward.  I'm guessing the story will be that Finn can't get the job done without being in Demon form.  Meh...the match will be fine but I don't care.

Justin: Bray wins
Dan: Finn for the winn
Landon: Wyatt
Dave: Man, I don't care.  Bray I guess.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

WCW Monday Nitro #3: Pillman vs. Flair, Savage attacked on the Beach

Didn't really feel like doing a full Fall Brawl write up, so here's the quick notes.

Flyin' Brian vs Johnny B Badd had a fucking phenomenal match. I can't recommend this shit enough. It's a marvel it was the opener. I don't even want to spoil the ending for you for maximum enjoyment. ****

DDP won the WCW TV title from Renegade in a nothing match. Watch it for DDP's smoking hot Diamond Doll, and the awesome finish. *3/4

The match between Arn Anderson and Ric Flair was so spectacular that I was ready to give it 5 stars. But the finish, Pillman interfering to set up the main event of this Nitro, ruined that prospect. Still a great match to watch. ***3/4

War Games was wacky. Fuck it. *1/2

WCW Nitro #3, September 18th, 1995
Freedom Hall in Johnson City, Tennessee 

The show opened with The Giant and The Taskmaster coming from an ambulance claiming they killed Hulk Hogan. This show really is stuck right in the middle of the 90s.

WCW Tag Team Championship
Harlem Heat (w/Sister Sherri) (c) vs. The American Males

All of you have to stop. If you've never heard the American Males theme, click the video to the left here.

We good? A'int that so clownshoes it's amazing?

This was going to be the Males vs. The Bluebloods, but Harlem Heat beat Robert Eaton down on camera, and I assume drove a stake through Steve Regal's heart in a vain attempt to kill him because he wasn't on this show. Harlem heat  challenged the free living Americans to try and take their titles. Heat took 80% of the match, before Rob Parker came out to woo Sister Sherri with promises of oil and land. This magically turned the tides, as Bagwell reversed a Pumphandle by Booker into a Crossbody for the pinfall and the American Males won the tag titles!

Monday, September 18, 2017

RIP Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (1944-2017)

The wrestling world (universe?) lost one of its all-time greats yesterday, as legendary manager/wrestler/broadcast journalist Bobby "The Brain" Heenan passed away at the age of 72.  One of the best talkers in wrestling history, in 2002 Heenan sadly developed throat cancer of all things, largely robbing him of his greatest gift, his wonderful voice.

I first became aware of Heenan in 1986 when I started watching the wacky pretend sport of professional wrestling.  Like most kids who first take an interest in this stuff, I was initially a babyface loyalist.  My favorite wrestler at the time was of course Hulk Hogan, and anyone trying to take away his WWF Championship was a reviled enemy.  In the mid-80s Hogan had perhaps no more fiercely staunch onscreen detractor than The Brain, whose Heenan Family stable members frequently challenged for the belt.  During this era Heenan's mission statement was essentially "kill Hulkamania."  Thus I hated him.  I mean, HATED him.  Heenan was one of those heels whose appearance made me cringe, and I wanted to see him (and his wrestlers) get murdered in the ring.  It wasn't until 1989 that I realized "Wait, I hate this guy because he's so damn good at his job."

Wrestling managers are something of a lost art.  In the 80s a good manager could get a mediocre wrestler over just by cutting good promos.  The manager would be the mouthpiece, the wrestler was the muscle.  A heel manager could talk as much shit as he wanted, and he'd have his wrestler or stable there to back it up.  And if the manager was really good?  Whatever new guy he took on was instantly credible, just by association.  Not only that, if any new babyface came along to feud with one of said manager's clients?  Instant heat.  Bobby Heenan was one of those managers.  He took for example a low-card babyface team like The Islanders, who lost pretty much every week, and turned them into a formidible heel team who got the better of The British Bulldogs.  Conversely Ken Patera, a former Heenan client who'd been absent from WWF TV for three years due to a prison term, returned as a reformed babyface who blamed Heenan for his deviant ways.  Their resulting feud was red-hot for a little while, and made Patera relevant again.  Then of course there was Heenan's most famous angle, where he managed to turn Andre the Giant against Hulk Hogan, leading to the biggest match and PPV to date.  Just by his association with Heenan, Andre went from beloved special attraction to the most hated man in wrestling, overnight.  Bobby Heenan was one of those rare managers who could actually draw money.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Top Ten Things: KoRn Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I rattle off ten things I like.  Or don't like.  Or whatever you like.

Today I'll be talking about one of my favorite bands, that ragtag group of nu-metal pioneers, KoRn!  In short, I'll be counting down my ten favorite KoRn songs.

I came by my KoRn fandom rather unconventionally, which is to say I hated (HATED) this band for years before finally embracing them.  I first heard KoRn while working at Strawberries records store in the summer of 1995, when "Blind" was featured on the monthly disc of songs the company was pushing.  I didn't think much of the song and quickly dismissed this messy-sounding metal band as a passing trend.  Fast-forward a couple years and KoRn had become the biggest thing in heavy music, much to my chagrin at the time.  As a fan of traditional, intricate speed metal and the like, I couldn't wrap my brain around the detuned, deliberately ugly sound this band was peddling.  Songs like "Chi" and "Got the Life" actually made me physically angry to listen to, and not in a good way.  Then suddenly in 1999 they released Issues, a more melodic effort with dense vocal harmonies and textured guitar performances, and it all clicked into place for me.  I was able to get past my preconceived notions of what hard music "should" sound like and just enjoy this eccentric new approach.  Soon thereafter I relistened to their earlier albums, and within weeks I was a full-blown KoRn fanatic, and have been ever since.  The band may not get much mainstream attention these days, but I still rush out to buy every album.

But which songs are my favorite?  Well let's take a closer look.....

10. Spike in My Veins

The final single from their 2013 album The Paradigm Shift (notable for the return of Brian "Head" Welch on guitar), "Spike in My Veins" boasts a syncopated groove, complementary back-and-forth guitar overdubs, and a melodically simple but eminently hooky chorus.  The song instantly grabs you but also includes enough intricacies to warrant further listens, illustrating how much stronger the KoRn machine is with both of original guitarists in the fold.

9. Seed

This late-album track from Follow the Leader is seemingly about Davis's relationship with his son and his resultant longing for the simpler days of childhood.  The verse meanders at a slower tempo before shifting dramatically to a driving chorus, and the bridge section features two bizarre scat sections aided by a whammy pedal, giving Davis's voice an otherworldly, demonic sound.  "Seed" is one of the darkest-sounding songs on the album and for me a classic KoRn song.

8. Sing Sorrow

One of the bonus tracks from their untitled 2007 album, "Sing Sorrow" is unquestionably the best song from those sessions as far as I'm concerned.  This midtempo anthem deals with themes of society's values falling by the wayside, and the descending chord progression and elastic melody makes for one of the band's best-written hooks.

Monday, September 11, 2017

WCW Monday Nitro #2: Panic Ensues, The World and US champs Defend Live on TV

Last week's show was a great romp through wackiness. These opening weeks look to be a great bridge between the best parts of the late 80s, and the good things to come in the Attitude Era. Last week did a great job setting up this week's Nitro, when we were promised Sabu, Mr. Wall Street, and what was bound to be an awesomely horrendous Main Event of Lex Luger and Hulk Hogan. I couldn't wait for Nitro from 22 years ago!

Monday Nitro #2
September 11th, 1995, from the Knight's Center in Miami, Florida

We were read the line up for the night, including the Norton and Savage match I've been really excited for, and "The Match of the Century" between Hogan and Luger. Oh, we'll get to that.

Sabu vs Alex Wright

This was Sabu's debut on Nitro, not WCW though. He certainly was Sabu, doing Sabu things like springboard leg lariats, ridiculous dives, shortening his career, etc.. At one point, Mongo compared Sabu to a Full Back in football. I have minimal football knowledge, but a quick Wikipedia search says otherwise. I think I've seen Wright a couple times now, and he's always proven to be really solid technically. His German suplex bridge was particularly good. Eventually, after Bischoff hypes up such things as the Arabian Facebuster and the Arabian Leg Drop, Sabu won with a top rope Victory Roll, which looked a lot more devastating than it sounds.

And then, Sabu needed to be Sabu. He got a table out. not a table as we know it today. This was a table approximately half way between today's gimmick tables, and those tables at your grandma's church when they play bingo. It was a sturdy, meaty table that Alex Wright was leaned against. Sabu took a leap of faith off the top rope, overshot his mark completely and went head first into the table. It was terrifying, and the decision on the match was reversed by Disqualification. What the fuck.

Looks great as a gif, though.

Ric Flair came out and started being Ric Flair. He complained that Arn wasn't out slamming beers and women with him. Not in those exact words, but might as well have. Luger came out halfway through, and Ric started salivating at the sight of his old running mate. He called him "Package" at least once. Lex only came out to say that ric never changes, then left. Why? I have no clue.

WCW United States Championship
Sting (c) vs. VK Wallstreet

As Sting came out, Bischoff told us that Shawn Michaels was winning his match on the opposite channel, and that we shouldn't bother changing over to them. Sting, the great white meat babyface that I maintain every company needs, was able to get a really good match from Wallstreet. no disrespect meant towards Rotunda, but in 1995 his already small window of prime was past him a while ago. Sting went for  a slingshot dive into the ring and became almost the second casualty on this show when Wallstreet wasn't there to catch him. The finish was so simple it was great, just a crossbody by Sting off the top rope. Shit used to be so simple to get right.

Movie Review: It (2017)

If I may be permitted a small pun, holy sh-IT.

Andy Muschietti's new adaptation of Stephen King's horror epic is stylish, lovingly crafted (Lovecraft?), at times very moving, and at others exhilaratingly terrifying.  Muschietti and the screenwriters (Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman) have wisely stripped down King's sometimes disorganized, unwieldy narrative and presented the most effective components: a group of bullied, outcast children, a small town in Maine with a centuries-old curse, and an omniscient, wantonly evil entity that often takes the form of a demonic clown.  But this film excels in its presentation of the details, and especially in its performances.

Films populated with child characters generally stand or fall based on the quality of the acting, and fortunately It boasts a tremendous cast of juveniles with tangible, easy chemistry together.  Jaeden Lieberher brings a pervading sense of uncertainty and sadness as the leader of the kids' Losers Club, stutterer Bill Denbrough, whose younger brother Georgie was killed by It several months earlier.  Jeremy Ray Taylor as overweight new kid Ben Hanscomb is precocious and studious, obsessed with researching the history of Derry, Maine and its inordinate number of child disappearances.  Finn Wolfhard shows wonderfully natural comedic timing as the group's smartass Richie Tozier, who provides most of the film's laughs (Wolfhard's effortless sense of humor reminded me of a young Corey Feldman).  But the standout of the bunch is Sophia Lillis as the group's lone female member, Beverly Marsh.  Bev is the one member of the group who rises above the schoolyard bullying, displaying a defiant confidence and dignity that confounds her antagonists.  And it's with good reason - compared to her father's inappropriate advances at home, bullying at school is a cakewalk.

The character building of the protagonists yields numerous sequences of warmth and camaraderie (King's novels, no matter how frightening, generally include very relatable characters and a kind-hearted tone); we care about what happens to the kids because we genuinely like them.  Watching these kids interact I couldn't help being reminded of both The Goonies and another King-inspired film, Stand By Me.  These actors legitimately seemed like they'd been friends for years, and even without the horror trappings this would've made an engaging coming-of-age story.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Revisiting and Reviewing Green Day's nimrod.

by Michael Drinan

On September 2nd I posted a picture on Instagram (@thesurfacenoise people, what up!) my copy of Green Day’s nimrod. record with the caption: “I love 90s Green Day. So much energy and attitude, mixed with a smart ass sense of humor. But Nimrod never sat well with me. I give them credit for having a different approach on this album, a little musical diversification, but at the end of the day I only like 3 songs off this one, my favorite being "The Grouch". They bounced back for me a couple of years later with Warning but this one still hasn't grown on me.”

I received three comments to my post, one calling me a “stupid face” and that I was wrong, the other two commenters said that they never heard of a fan of 90s Green Day who disliked this album. It’s those two comments that really made me shake my head in disbelief. How could I be the only person who doesn’t care for this album while loving the rest of the band’s 90s catalog? Then I thought, well maybe I’m missing something. The album was released in 1997 when I was seventeen so maybe my interpretation of the songs would be different since my musical palette has certainly expanded within the twenty years of it’s release. Also, it has been a while since I last listened to this album so it wouldn’t hurt to revisit it.

So I did. Here’s my review.

Let’s begin with what I like about the album. First off, it’s not a bad album. It has a consistent sound and the things I like about Green Day are there: the energy, humor and some very creative word play in the lyrics. I’ve always loved the line in “Hitchin’ A Ride”: “Do you brake for distilled spirits?/I need a break as well/The well that inebriates the guilt”, along with the line “Cold turkey’s gettin’ stale/Tonight I’m eating crow”, which sums up perfectly the song’s subject matter about falling off the wagon of sobriety. Billie Joe has always been a good lyricist and who is able string together a narrative for an entire project very well. He continues this on nimrod., even though the album was written to be a collection of individual songs that have nothing to do with one another. It still works.

Before I re-listened to this album, I only liked three songs off it and two of them were the singles “Hitchin’ A Ride” and “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”, the other one is “The Grouch”, my favorite on the album. It’s a song about Billie Joe’s fear of regret, growing up into a person that’s settled in life with a nagging wife and a son that’s a fuck up, and also losing his ideals. The song really served itself as a lesson to me at seventeen and I still hold true to most of the ideals of my youth without the compromising effect adulthood can have.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Eve of Destruction: Previews NJPW in Fukushima, Hiroshima, and Kobe

But...but I have All Japan and NOAH to catch up on still...

Right, we have three upper tier shows coming at us in the next four weeks. Each one has a marquee singles match to catch, and in between all these are several more title matches and multi-mans, many of which are going to be excellent in their own right. Even if someone wanted to skip the filler (like I'm going to in this preview) it'll be a Long September for all of us. Well, if we don't start, we're never going to finish. Justin and I are gonna cover the major matches from all three shows, and let you know our picks for who'll win. The road to the Tokyo Dome is heading through Destruction!

Destruction in Fukushima, September 10th in Azuma Sport's Park

IWGP Tag Team championships
War Machine(c) vs Guerillas of Destiny vs Killer Elite Squadron

Landon- This is going right up here because this match is happening on all three cards in the next month. This is going to be the greatest series of car crashes ever seen in New Japan. All three teams have exactly one specialty; beating the shit out of their opponents. I don't know how many times the titles will change in September. Maybe all three times, but I'm hoping for zero. War Machine should walk out of Kobe with the belts, no matter who wins Fukushima and Hiroshima.

Justin- I find it very odd we're getting this same match three times, but they should all be enjoyable.  Hopefully they'll find ways to make them all different, other than simply changing the titles.  I agree with Landon, the belts should stay put throughout the series.  But I think there'll be at least one title change.  Let's say KES wins the first match.

NEVER Openweight 6-Man tag Team championships
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA, and BUSHI) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Rocky Romero, and Toru Yano)

Landon- I really hope that the CHAOS group doesn't win here. The whole match looks like it's just a backdrop for Okada and EVIL's match coming up in October, and changing the titles here would be a serious mistake. I don't think there's a trio in New Japan right now that is better than SANADA, BUSHI, and EVIL are, and they should be trios champions for a long time, possibly forever.

Justin- Agreed, LIJ retains.

NEVER Openweight Championship
Minoru Suzuki(c) vs Michael Elgin

Landon- Ever since January, when I was introduced to the wonder that is Minoru Suzuki, I've always put my chips down on him. Yeah, I got burned for it at the New Beginning, but since then, he's been a safe bet. But here? I'm putting my faith in Big Mike. Raw power is the one thing that can believably counter just how dangerous Suzuki can be as a striker and grappler. If Elgin doesn't win the NEVER Openweight Championship here, I honestly have no idea who could possibly dethrone the Lonely Warrior.

Justin- This should be a great, brutal fight.  Big Mike has to win here.  He'll be a perfect custodian for the badass division that is NEVER Openweight.

Destruction in Hiroshima, September 16th in the Hiroshima Sun Plaza Hall

IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships
Taguchi Japan (Ryuske Taguchi and Ricochet)(c) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

Landon- Look, I l...I liiiii-la-la-la....I think Taichi is okay. And Kanemaru has proven to be pretty good the more I watch him. My love for Taguichi, however, can only be beaten by a few individuals. Even with my lukewarm respect for Ricochet and what he does, I'm going to be cheering for the Funky weapon here. Also, because we need to stop playing hotshot potato with the Junior Tag Titles.

Justin- Taichi and Kanemaru are the bottom of the Suzuki-Gun barrel, and Taguchi Japan just won the belts.  They keep them here.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA(c) vs El Desperado

Landon- After the Best of The Super Juniors, I think a lot of people realized just how great Despy can be, minus assault with pens. But KUSHIDA two-belts-with-two-trophies (ehh, we'll work on that one) is on the roll of a lifetime right now, and Desperado shouldn't be the one who stops that streak. I think it'll be a good match, but Suzuki-Gun goes 0-2 in Hiroshima.

Justin- This is what you call a filler title defense.  Don't get me wrong, Kushida is hard-pressed to have a bad match with anyone, but I don't see Desperado dethroning him.  Kushida will and should keep the belt till at least Tokyo Dome.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi(c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Landon- I don't know how this one is going to go. The fact coming into this match is that Tanahashi is injured. His arm is probably getting worse by the day. He'll never want to admit it, but at some point it's going to give out on him if he doesn't get the surgery. Sabre may not be the best choice for this title swap, but who would be at this point? With The Dome coming in 4 months, we need to seriously start considering what the Intercontinental Title match will be, and surgery would take Tanahashi out until past the show. So we either have a hurt Tanahashi, or we start to get a new champion ready to defend the belt. Is Sabre the man? Well, he could be.

Justin- Zack Sabre is fucking awesome.  And he should win the strap.  And I think he will.  Clearly the company has plans for him, given how well he fared in the G1.  Tanahashi takes time off to heal or have surgery and hopefully returns in time for WK12.

Destruction in Kobe, September 24th in the Kobe World Hall

IWGP US Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega(c) vs Juice Robinson

Landon- Kenny was recently pulled from all of the shows leading up to Kobe, to heal what is being reported as a meniscus related issue. Even if Kenny comes in at 60%, this'll still be an awesome match. Juice has had a ridiculous rise in stock over the past year, and I actually wouldn't be upset if he took the US title from Kenny. However, I think Omega retains the title.

Justin- This should be pretty great.  Hopefully Kenny's injury isn't serious.  I think he retains till at least WK12 when he faces (Please God, I need this) Kota Ibushi in the semi-main event.

Strap yourselves in, clear your calendars, and get ready for New Japan to give you their all in September. I'm sure we'll see you on the other side of each show.

Why Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy Stinks

by Dan Moore

Let's get this outta the way: that title is clickbait and complete hyperbole.

Even Bruce agrees I'm a nutjob. 

But there's always been a part of those movies that has pissed me off (besides the Batman smoker's voice).

Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham city and heads off to the great expanse of the globe to become a crimefighter. A tale as old as time. No problems there. It's when he returns to Gotham that it starts to get a little messy.

Bruce buys a buncha shit and decides to fight the crime makers. Great. And he's dressed up like a dunce because his fetish gear I mean Bat suit ain't ready yet.

"In my spare time, I rob the 7-Eleven."

Then he becomes Batman proper, beats up Liam Neeson and is told at the end of Batman Begins that the Joker is coming for that ass. The Dark Knight begins with Batsy hot on the trail of the Joker from the previous movie. So he starts fighting It and also beats up on a victim of a tragic accident that has left him facially disfigured. 


Monday, September 4, 2017

WCW Monday Nitro #1: WCW Erupts, Launching the Monday Night Wars

September 4th 1995

The Mortal Kombat movie was on the top of the Box Offices.

People were still waiting for the verdict on the OJ Simpson case.

In less than a week, the Sony Playstation would be released.

And Monday Nitro aired for the first time.

I was one and a half years old when Monday Nitro debuted on TNT. I've been watching professional wrestling now for over a decade, and I think it's time to find out what I didn't get a chance to watch. WWE would have you believe that their rival was fucked up from the first day, only giving grudging respect. But I want to find out for myself. So I'm going to watch Nitro every Monday night, for at least a year, and see just how good, or bad, Monday Nitro was.

Monday Nitro emanated from the Mall of Goddamn America, which is definitely an unconventional venue, but it certainly helped make the product seem different. And it's only an hour long, which was the standard set by RAW at the same time. The commentary team is Eric Bischoff (Okay), Bobby Heenan (Always a Plus),and the infamous, the wonderful, Steve "Mongo" McMichael. I only know the man by reputation, and if you follow along with me, we'll find out if the stories I've heard are true. But, never mind that shit, because we have our first match.

Friday, September 1, 2017

NXT Brooklyn: The Third One

I just got off of a month of G1 matches, and I was afraid being burned out of really good New Japan content would hurt my opinions of this entire show. Plus, I haven't kept up on NXT in so long, that I thought I'd end up just glance over this card and not really pay attention. But I'll be damned if this wasn't the most fun I've had watching a WWE product in some time. Every match was as good, if not better, than was expected. Top to bottom the card delivered, each match felt different from the next.

Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Cien Almas

The crowd was immediately hot for this match, which amazed me. This may surprise some of you but Johnny Gargano is really good at this. He may be the best White Meat Babyface the company has right now. What actually surprised me was Andrade, who seems to have finally clicked in NXT. He seemed a lot more confident and smoother in the ring than he was last time I watched one of his matches. The two had a very good match, for an opener. They kept the psychology simple and everything they did made sense. The ending was also clever, with Almas' manager distracting Johnny with a DIY shirt, before he was hit with a Hammerlock DDT and pinned. Originally I had picked Gargano to win here, but Almas definitely needed the momentum more here for...something we dont know yet.


SAnitY (Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe) vs The Authors of Pain for the NXT Tag Team Titles

Okay, let's get the negative out of the way: Im tired of not being able to tell the Authors of Pain apart. If I'm gonna have to watch these two, I need something better than "one has tattoos on his arm" to tell them apart. I'm begging someone to get their hair cut/not cut. Besides that, this was another really fun match. SAnitY was set up to be a more cohesive unit, and smarter as a whole than Paul Ellering leading the AOP was. Setting them up as a mind game playing stable is great. The teams ended up trading off who was face and who was heel during the match, which was an interesting event. It was the typical Authors of Pain match besides this, until the finishing 4-way made this match awesome. Nikki Cross is a trooper for taking the pain she did, going through a table sandwiched between Dane and one of the Authors. The maneuver that Wolfe and Young used to end the match fell a little flat, but it was still a  decent reaction for their win.


ReDRagon came out after and murdered everyone only as ReDRagon can. So that was awesome, and playing into events that would transpire after the main event.

Top Ten Things: Quentin Tarantino Films

Welcome to another edition of's Top Ten Things, where I compile a list of ten of something and then demonstrate the arrogance to imply my opinion of them is undisputed fact.  Buuut who are we kiddin', it is....

Today I'll be discussing the films of one of my favorite writer/directors, Quentin Tarantino.  Exploding on the scene in 1992, Tarantino brought a "film geek" sensibility to Hollywood, having absorbed decades of movies while working as a video store clerk and using his natural stylistic ability to create a new genre of films.  He sold his first two screenplays to the studios before making his directorial debut with Reservoir Dogs, and then became a household name with his second film Pulp Fiction.  Since then Tarantino has created pastiches of crime dramas, samurai films, Westerns, and even horror movies with unabashed glee and incredible attention to memorable characters and quirky dialogue.  When you sit down to watch a Tarantino film you know you're getting an unforgettable (and likely very uncomfortable) cinematic experience.

Note: I'm including three films Tarantino wrote but didn't direct, as I felt they all warranted inclusion.  Also you'll find Death Proof didn't make the cut.  I absolutely love the first half of that film - the characters are strong and colorful, the villain is compelling, the style feels like a grindhouse flick.  But in the second half I found the characters fairly dull and overly chatty, and the climactic car chase is pretty uninteresting, not to mention QT inexplicably abandoned the "scratchy footage" gimmick.

10. From Dusk Till Dawn

Probably the lowest-quality of these ten films, From Dusk Till Dawn is nonetheless a skillfully-made roller coaster of a horror film starring an exceedingly compelling George Clooney and Tarantino himself as Seth and Richard Gecko, two escaped criminals attempting to reach the Mexican border before the authorities catch them.  On the way they take a family of three hostage and hijack their mobile home before stopping off at a Mexican strip club to await an associate.  The first half of the film plays out in typical Tarantino fashion, with playfully vulgar dialogue and high-tension standoffs, with director Robert Rodriguez lending his own visual style to the proceedings.  In the second half though the film takes a 90-degree turn when it's revealed the strip club is a vampire lair, and our protagonists must fight for their lives against a gaggle of bloodsuckers to make it till morning.  Structurally this plays out like a Romero zombie film but with a much more sardonic tone and a ton of uncomfortable laughs.  Clooney demonstrated in his first major Hollywood role what a strong leading man he was - Seth is an eminently likable bastard - and his chemistry with Tarantino is undeniable.  The two leads and scores of snappy lines of dialogue really carry this film past being a crappy horror film and into the realm of a loving homage.

9. Jackie Brown

The only direct adaptation he's ever written, Jackie Brown is based on Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch, and tells the story of a middle aged flight attendant who works for a gun-runner, smuggling cash into the country from Mexico.  Jackie gets caught by the Feds who recruit her to help bring down her boss Ordell, and she eventually concocts a plan to bring in Ordell's $500,000 in retirement money, in exchange for sparing her life.  However her real plan is to keep all the money for herself and disappear, and she befriends a bail bondsman who offers to help her.  This dialogue-driven heist film is smartly written and full of colorful characters, including Jackie (Pam Grier), the gun-runner Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), the bail bondsman (Robert Forster), ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton), Ordell's girlfriend Melanie (Bridget Fonda), and his old buddy Louis (Robert DeNiro).  The complex story has a ton of moving parts but Tarantino's script keeps everything clear and pretty taut.  While this is a very fine film I've ranked it ninth mostly because it feels the least Tarantino-ish.  While he's made much of it his own, the story and most of the characters still belong to Leonard, who kept everything pretty toned down.  Thus QT's personality isn't as strongly felt as it might've been.