Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The 2017 Enuffa.com Pro Wrestling Year-End Awards

Welcome to Enuffa.com's 4th Annual Year-End Awards! 


Man, what a strange year.  One major company soared to new creative and nearly unprecedented commercial heights (at least for the past twenty years), while the other engaged in one baffling, counterproductive decision after another, wasting arguably the strongest talent roster they've ever boasted.  Said company's developmental brand, seemingly on the verge of equaling its main roster a year ago, took a step back in 2017 after losing so many of its stars and being forced to rebuild.

Remember a couple years ago when we were worried about New Japan after they lost several top guys?  Yeah, that's all out the window.  New Japan Pro Wrestling delivered on every front in 2017, offering some of the most incredible matches anyone's ever seen, elevating multiple new stars and building one of the deepest rosters in years, and enjoying some of the biggest financial gains since the Great Muta era.  Not only that but NJPW's fanbase in North America is the largest it's ever been (the company promoted NJPW-only shows on American soil for the first time) and 2018 promises even more significant growth in that area.  Shows like WrestleKingdom 11 and Dominion were shining examples of what a stacked wrestling PPV should be, while the G1 Climax tournament delivered easily a dozen Match of the Year candidates.  November saw the company deliver a bombshell revelation, with the announcement that 18-year WWE stalwart Chris Jericho was jumping ship to New Japan, marking one of the most US-impactful NJPW-related stories in history.  With the card set for WrestleKingdom 12, including one of the company's all-time biggest main events, we could see the largest Tokyo Dome crowd since the company's heyday.  It's a very exciting time to be a New Japan fan.

On the other side of the Pacific, WWE took an incredibly stacked roster and used it in some of the most logic-defying ways imaginable.  At least once a month the company presented a head-scratching booking decision that cumulatively wore down fan enthusiasm, until by year's end the brand seemed about as uncool as 1999 WCW.  Let's take a look at some of WWE's more bumbling creative moves of the year, shall we?  I bet I can name at least one per month.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Movie Review & Discussion: Star Wars - The Last Jedi


Wellsir, my colleague Dan Moore and I have each seen the latest Star Wars epic, which has strangely proven a very divisive film with the fanbase (critics have near-unanimously praised it) due to its flouting so many of our expectations of where the saga was going.  Say what you will about this film, director Rian Johnson and his team definitely did not play it safe; where The Force Awakens was a comfortable, satisfying return to the Star Wars mythology, The Last Jedi was downright subversive.

Daniel, your thoughts on The Last Jedi?

***SPOILERS AHEAD!***

Dan: Probably the most anticipated movie for me since...The Force Awakens. I was very much looking forward to this one. And I was left a tad disappointed. As usual, I took my seat and got all hot and bothered when the STAR WARS title hit and the music swelled (as did my pants). I got annoyed right away, as Star Wars dropped a "YOUR MOTHER" joke. In a galaxy far, far away, they seem to be getting old episodes of Def Comedy Jam transmitted to them. The humor in this flick felt more like a Marvel movie and less Star Wars. I thought they tried way too hard to throw in jokes that didn't belong.

We are then treated to a pretty badass space battle. It's got bombs, it's got explosions and then it's got...the longest, slowest chase scene in movie history. As the good guys are in their ships going 14 miles an hour, the bad guys chase them in ships that can only go 12 miles an hour. That's the rest of the movie. It's RIDICULOUS. You're telling me the entire First Order can't scrounge up a ship that can catch up to them? It's beyond absurd. It's such a lazy plot point. They're not capable of destroying ONE cruiser that is JUST outside of firing range? That reeks of incompetence.


Justin: My overall first impression was "Wow, that's a lot to unpack."  This film took so many unexpected turns I'm still not sure what to make of it all.  It'll take multiple viewings to digest, but my initial reaction is decidedly positive.  This wasn't the warm & fuzzy film The Force Awakens was.  Instead Johnson turned everything on its ear, which has made a lot of people very uncomfortable.

I forget the "Your mother" joke, but I agree some of the humor in this film felt like Marvel's antics.  Overall it didn't bother me, but the one bit of forced humor that did get my goat was Luke looking forlornly at his lightsaber.....and then chucking it over his shoulder like an empty beer bottle.  This moment struck me as just completely wrong, like it belonged in a Mel Brooks movie.  I have to think they did numerous varying takes of this shot, and managed to pick the exact wrong one.  Luke should've looked down sadly at the lightsaber for a moment and then defeatedly let it drop to the ground at his side before walking away.  That would've fit the tone of this broken character.  I hope for the Blu Ray release they change that take.

That aside, the extended chase didn't bother me all that much.  Yes it was odd that the First Order would just continue following them, but a) they know the Resistance cruiser can't go anywhere without being followed and b) they know it'll run out of fuel eventually.  Plus I get the impression a character like General Hux would relish the final chase a while before killing the Resistance dead.  Could the screenwriters have come up with something more creative for these characters to do while Rey, Kylo, etc. do the main stuff?  Sure.  But this didn't bug me really.  It's not all that different from the Star Destroyers chasing the Millennium Falcon for half of Empire's running time.


Dan: The slow chase scene just bothered me so much because I cannot envision a scenario where an admiral would have told Vader "Yo, boss, they're like 90 feet away, we have no idea what to do" and that they'd just keep following slowly.  It's a dopey plot contrivance. You can do this sort of cat and mouse thing with a space ship avoiding another space ship quite well, actually. It's called Wrath of Khan. But watching these bad guys chase along at a steady pace is boring.

I agree with that lightsaber toss over his shoulder. Just doesn't make sense for that scene. Some of the choices they made for Luke I just didn't care for. I hate that he was away from the main cast and conflict for the entire movie. I hate that we didn't get more info about his last 30 years. I liked how he was depressed and basically done with the world after realizing the Jedi did more harm than good. But I wanted more Luke. I wanted a kickass fight scene with him. Maybe a bit more than a 10-second conversation with his sister. And for fuck's sake, why didn't he hug Chewie when he saw him?


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Music Review: Eminem - Revival


Anyone who knows me well, is aware that I am often slow on the uptake when it comes to certain musical acts.  I'll go years without an appreciation for a popular band or artist and then one day suddenly something clicks for me and I become obsessed with them.  It happened with Nine Inch Nails in 2009, it happened with Led Zeppelin and Rush in 2012, last year it was Stevie Wonder, and in 2017 it was Eminem.  Yes, that's right, a mere 18 years after Marshall Mathers took the world by storm, I became a huge fan.  So I'm a little behind, screw you.

I have historically not ever been a rap guy.  It's a genre that, by and large, I've found varying degrees of obnoxious.  But after Hamilton blew down that door I found myself much more accepting of the form, and with Eminem's viral anti-Trump freestyle video from the BET awards making the rounds I said to myself, "Ya know Justin, it might be time to give this fella an honest listen."  So I did, perusing his entire back catalog (2010's Recovery is my favorite album of his), and then discovering a couple months ago that he would be releasing a new album before the end of 2017.  Thus Revival, as it was to be called, became one of the most anticipated albums of the year for me.

But how is it?

Well, in keeping with much of Eminem's recent releases, the 45-year-old has tempered his lyrical venom on Revival, mostly offering a more restrained, somberly introspective approach than his outlandish, darkly comic early output.  Em's work has always been steeped in autobiography, but on the last few records and especially here, he attempts to make amends for some of his past transgressions. 

"Bad Husband" for example is a bittersweet ode to his ex-wife Kim (known to Mathers aficionados as his everpresent antagonistic muse) for his failures as a spouse ("Not bad people, just bad together"), featuring a poignant chorus hook from X Ambassadors.  Another such tune is the Cranberries-assisted "In Your Head," where he more or less apologizes to his daughter Hailey for thrusting her into the spotlight for so many years ("Hailie, baby, I didn't mean to make you eighty percent of what I rapped about").  Then there is the emotional one-two punch of the album's dovetailing closing tracks, "Castle" and "Arose," which deal with Em's drug overdose and road to recovery, while imagining what might've happened had he not made it out alive ("Consider the last four minutes as/That's the song I'd have sang to my daughters/If I'd have made it to the hospital/Less than two hours later").  This album is rife with melancholy self-examination, including the opening single "Walk on Water" (featuring Beyonce) wherein Eminem strips away the cocky stage persona he's built up for so long and becomes his own worst critic.

Eminem's signature rage is on display as well though; Revival features a pair of scathing political pieces, the first being a commentary on police brutality and racism called "Untouchable" ("You don't have to know our plans or what our intentions are/Our cards are close to our chest, you better show your hands/And put our minds more at ease/Or get shot in the thyroid, comply or die, boy"), the second a surprisingly hopeful but no less scornful rebuke of Donald Trump, "Like Home," featuring a sanguine chorus from Alicia Keys that hammers home the message that we as Americans will rise above this troubling time.  Even Em's verses, while taking Trump to task, ultimately carry a positive, patriotic spin that all listeners can relate to ("But you ain't ruining our country, punk/You won't take our pride from us/You won't define us").

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WWE Clash of Champions 2017 Preview & Predictions

We've come to the final WWE PPV of 2017, and what a limp across the finish line it promises to be.  Jeezus, this entire card screams "SKIP IT!"  Why couldn't Clash be a RAW PPV again this year?  There's WAY more going on over at the red brand.  Or, and here's an even better idea, don't do a December PPV.  Leave both brands 9 weeks to build up to the Royal Rumble, thus making it feel more special.  I don't know that I'll even watch this show, honestly, and I don't say that often.


But let's get to the picks.

***I'm leading still, with 68/96 (71%), Landon's right on my heels with 58/84 (69%), Dave's in third with 41/62 (66%), and Dan's in the basement with 58/96 (60%).***



Pre-Show match: Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley


Christ, the team no one gave a shit about has now split so we can see a feud no one gives a shit about.  What a pointless feud.  On a show whose tag division is super thin as far as viable tandems, why break up an underdog babyface team you could use in a Young Stallions-type role?  Anyway, Zack is never getting another push, so there's no chance he wins this.

Justin: Mojo
Dan: Gronk
Landon: Mojo
Dave: Jesus Christ.  Mojo I guess.




The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Breezango


I like that they've repackaged Harper & Rowan.  Harper is one of the most wasted talents on the entire roster - he really should be getting the push Strowman's currently enjoying.  But I'll settle for him and Rowan destroying the entire tag division for a while.  Breezango is obviously getting crushed-- er, BLUDGEONED here.

Justin: The Bros
Dan: Mario Bros
Landon: Bludgeon, who managed to eke out a win against one of my favorite local wrestlers Colin Delaney on Smackdown.  Love me some Colin.
Dave: Bros




Smackdown Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way: The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Gable & Benjamin vs. Rusev & English


Oh good, another clusterfuck match.  This tag division needs a shakeup.  The Usos and New Day are the only two real contenders at the moment, with the Bludgeons soon to be added to the mix.  Gable & Benjamin is okay on paper but the magic was with Gable and Jordan.  Rusev and Aiden English??  Get the fuck outta here.

Justin: Usos retain
Dan: New Day gets 'em back
Landon: Usos
Dave: Usos



Monday, December 4, 2017

Landon Acclaims Paul Simon's "Stranger To Stranger"

This year, Paul Simon celebrated his 50th year as a musician. Which is absolutely ridiculous when you consider that he's been making new music semi-regularly for most of that time. It's been implied, sometime recently, that he's upset people don't like his new music at his concerts and only his classics. I really like some of Paul's new stuff, so I thought I'd help him along and try and get the word out about his most recent album...from last year. I never said I was in a hurry.



The first song of the album "The Werewolf" starts off as a nonsense song backed by Paul's now usual array of instruments. A variety of percussion and acoustic strings, helped along eventually by brass, gives the whole song a very primal feeling to it. The lyrics of the song take a realistic turn, however, when they turn on a dime to the nature of humanity. The greed and ignorance of the upper class, and the eventuality of humanity's self destruction are worked into the song easily, the beat and before mentioned feel of the song is never lost. A great opening song, that can either be digested for it's lyrics or enjoyed simply for the melody.

"Wristband" is a drastic turn from the both the instrumentation and tone. The song is simply the story of a musician who gets locked out of his venue, and the troubles he has trying to get in. I wouldn't be surprised if the first two verses were inspired by a similar event happening to Paul. We switch to a simpler array of a bass, drums, and trumpet for this song, which helps to put emphasis on all of Simon's lyrics. This is all until the third verse, when Paul turns to the issues the poorer children of the world have trying to be accepted at large. This comes off, after one has listened to the whole album, as a weak attempt to connect the song with the themes in the rest of the album. The same might be said for The Werewolf, only in that song the themes fit better and flow from the original topic easily, never thrown in haphazardly.

We get our first instrumental of the album with "The Clock," a simple string of notes played on a xylophone behind a clock's ticking. Nothing truly important to the album as a whole, but a good minute long break to help listeners find focus for what's coming next. In "Street Angel" we see the beginning of the album's overarching story. Much like "Wristband," it comes across more as an experience put to word. The titular street angel in the song comes off as a savant, as a child or young adult who fell through the cracks of society, spouting philosophies of life and his purpose here. The song is backed only by a simple arrangement of percussion and a capella sounds, leading listeners again to focus on the lyrics. The song ends implying the street angel has been taken to a hospital. The song works better as a part of a whole than a standalone, as we will see.

Which actually does not lead into "Stranger to Stranger." The track halts the narrative Paul had barely begun, to give us a dream-like song about the possibilities of love and happenstance. Maybe his intention was to create the feeling of a dream, as we transition from one scene of the story to the next. The song has a wonderfully done accompaniment of woodwinds and chimes creating a floating sense of relaxation, as the man himself very generously rambles about the nature of his relationship with someone. He asks, maybe the person or perhaps himself, if they would fall in love a second time if their meeting had been redone. If fate always meant for them to have the relationship they have, or if what they have is happenstance. It's a very emotionally grabbing piece I find myself putting on repeat for a few loops though before moving on.