Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NXT Takeover: San Antonio Review

by Landon Wayne
@LSWayne21


The Road to Wrestlemania Weekend began here, in San Antonio on a Saturday night. In what seems like a quickly settling tradition, the Takeover events seem to all align before Big Four PPVs, which is brilliant both as a showcase for the NXT stars to people getting ready for a weekend of wrestling anyway, and to make the Sunday event feel bigger because of it. Takeover: San Antonio, like the Rumble to come after it, sets the board for the weekend upcoming in Orlando, as we may get a better feeling for who will challenge for what titles. But before we can go to Wrestlemania weekend, we have to get through Texas.


Eric Young defeated Tye Dillinger in an opening match that was better than I think many were giving the two a chance to give. It told a very good story of Tye being the superior athlete to Eric, but for the numbers game of Wolfe and Dane (Wait…). I really don’t know what the plan is with Tye, despite continuing to look good. He is destined to be a mediocre mid-card man in WWE if he ever leaves NXT. Eric Young and Sanity looked really strong as a unit coming out of this match. Young was able, with the finish the way it was, to show that his finisher could be hit from a variety of situations, something I think every finish needs. Sanity should be groomed for a tag title shot, IF DIY were the tag champs. But they’re not. Oh, we’ll get to that.



Roderick Strong defeated Andrade “Cien” Almas in a match that felt a lot like a match midway through the G1. There was a general sense of stake, but no specific motivations for either man. There was a clear sense that the man who won would get more opportunities or better ones than the other. Both Roddy and Andrade looked very strong in their performance. The biggest news is that they’ve decided to call Roddy’s running dropkick the Sick Kick.

The Authors of Pain defeated DIY for the NXT Tag Team Titles in a match that was as good as it really could have been. Like I mentioned in the preview, I’m not high at all on the Authors of Pain idea. I liked them better when they were called The Ascension, and The Dudleys…and Demolition, and finally the Road Warriors. I don’t know where we go from here, because we really don’t have any face teams to go up against the Walls of Meat. And I don’t know where DIY goes from here. Really an odd choice, but they must have ideas behind it.

Top Ten Things: Must-See Samoa Joe Matches

Welcome to a very topical edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best or worst of whatever's on my mind.  Today it's the mighty Samoa Joe, and his fantastic career.


For those of you not familiar with this extraordinary talent, Samoa Joe was a Ring of Honor cornerstone from 2003-2007 (which included the longest ROH World Title run in company history), and a TNA headliner for the last decade before finally opting not to renew his contract.  He was then the hottest free agent in the business for a few months until this past Wednesday, when he appeared on NXT's Unstoppable special to challenge NXT Champ Kevin Owens.

I first became aware of Joe in 2003 when I attended a live ROH event, and upon hearing his name thought he'd be some kind of lame cartoon character.  When he appeared from behind the curtain I still wasn't convinced, based on his unconventional physique.  And then I saw him wrestle.  Folks, take my word for it: from 2003-2009 Samoa Joe was as good as anyone in the entire world at professional wrestling.  Unfortunately by '09 TNA had already spent about three years either underutilizing or completely wasting Joe's immense skillset, and he became rather unmotivated as a result, failing to build on his already stellar body of work.

Now free from the creative clusterfuck that has long plagued TNA, Joe seems refreshed and ready to start a whole new career saga in WWE.  The potential dream matches Joe could have at the Big Dance are too numerous to name, but here's hoping WWE takes full advantage of this one-of-a-kind talent.

So this list is for anyone who hasn't seen a Samoa Joe match, or who is looking to brush up on his work.  Here we go....



10. Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk - ROH: Joe vs. Punk II - 10/16/04


Largely credited with putting both Punk and Joe on the Indy wrestling map, the second match of their much-heralded trilogy is widely considered to be the best.  Punk and Joe went a full hour for the second time, wrestling to a draw, in a match that pulled out all the stops and earned the elusive "five-star" rating from the Wrestling Observer.  I don't love it as much as others do, but it is quite an accomplishment from two of the best workers of the past decade.


Monday, January 30, 2017

WWE Royal Rumble 2017: Best Rumble PPV Ever?

Well damn.  Last night's Royal Rumble was about as good as can be expected in 2017.  Better than that even; I'd say the 30th edition was on par with the best Rumble PPVs they've ever done.


I've read a lot of negative feedback about the show, mostly due to the booking which was admittedly pretty unexciting.  No one new was positioned to be "made" with this match; it centered around the "safe" choices and we didn't get the expected Samoa Joe debut or a Kurt Angle return.  However we did get a very unpredictable Rumble with a larger field of potential winners than we've had in a very long time.  There were easily ten or so guys who could reasonably have walked away with the WrestleMania title shot, and that's nothing to sneeze at.  Aside from that, the Rumble match had a couple little surprises, like Tye Dillinger entering at #10 and Jack Gallagher making the most hilarious use of an umbrella I've ever seen.  Other highlights were Jericho as the long man once again (lasting just over an hour), Braun Strowman pulling a 1994 Diesel and killing a buncha guys before being eliminated, Goldberg besting Brock for the second time, and Roman Reigns eliminating The Undertaker and setting up their WrestleMania match (a prospect many are grumbling about but I'm actually fine with - it's something different and maybe we'll see Reigns go heel).  This Rumble match was not unlike the 2001 version in some ways - the surprise entrants were minor but the match had a good amount of star power and primarily served to reinforce the established names.  That's ok as long as a) the build to 'Mania unfolds logically and b) future Rumbles create some new stars.  I have few gripes about this Rumble match, except that the frequency of these two-time Rumble winners is gettin' to be a lot, and it's taking away from the specialness of that achievement.  But that's fairly minor.  Also in our Rumble pool I ended up with Roman Reigns and was ultimately the runner-up (Second time that's happened with Reigns, fourth time overall).


What really made this show stand out was the undercard.  I say without hesitation this was the finest Rumble undercard WWE has ever produced.  Two stellar Title matches and two solid title matches, with not one stinker on the entire PPV (I'm not counting the pre-show - Jax vs. Banks was a throwaway).  One can't really ask for more than that out of a Royal Rumble undercard, which generally trends toward uneven at best.

The Women's Title match opened the show and this was the absolute right move to get the San Antonio crowd invested.  Charlotte vs. Bayley felt like the first match in a series, and they got a respectable 13 minutes to tell a story.  Charlotte is such a major star right now in every facet of her game, it's really quite something to behold.  Bayley still hasn't quite recaptured her NXT magic on the main roster but it'll come.  This match didn't blow the doors off the place but it wasn't designed to - we'll doubtless see numerous superior rematches in the coming months.  For now this felt just about right for its place on the card, and the finish was novel if sudden - Charlotte nailed Natural Selection on the ring apron before rolling Bayley away from the ropes and scoring the pin.  Good opener.

Friday, January 27, 2017

WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to your official Enuffa.com predictions for the 30th Annual Royal Rumble!  Or as Vince McMahon would like you to call it, "The 30th Anniversary of the Royal Rumble." 


We're about to begin a pretty unpredictable Road to WrestleMania, as only a few matches on that show are set in stone right now (Rollins vs. Triple H, Goldberg vs. Lesnar, and apparently Big Show vs. Shaq????).  Thus the Rumble and the Title pictures on both shows are very hard to call.  Generally speaking that's a good thing, though it does open the door for WWE to make some horrendous creative decisions as they scramble to arrange the pieces on the chess board (see Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon, 2016).  But overall I'm pretty jazzed about this show for those reasons, also because WWE is returning to the Alamodome after 20 years.  The 1997 Rumble, though it hasn't aged all that well, was a thoroughly entertaining PPV that felt like a big deal in no small part because of that expansive venue.  They're also extending this show to a four-hour format as they've done with SummerSlam and Survivor Series, so every match should get enough time.

Anyway let's get to the predictions.

***I lead Dan 65/101 to 59/101.***



Pre-Show Match: Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks


I'm actually quite interested in this match and feud so it kinda sucks they're stuck on the Pre-Show.  After finally losing her epic feud with Charlotte, Sasha has run into a brick wall by the name of Nia Jax.  Nia showed great potential in NXT that's blossoming on the main roster, as she's been presented as an unstoppable force.  This match will likely be a typical David vs. Goliath; Jax's dominance vs. Banks's resilience.  The female version of Strowman vs. Zayn, if you will.  If the rumors are true and the WrestleMania plan is a four-way for the Women's belt, this match and feud will need to be booked to make both women look strong.  But I see Nia winning here.

Justin's pick: Nia Jax
Dan's pick: Sure




Pre-show RAW Tag Team Championship: Sheamus & Cesaro vs. The Club


This'll be a solid tag team brawl.  Sheamus & Cesaro just won the belts a month ago so I don't see them losing already, especially not on the Pre-Show.  Not much else to say about this match.  It'll be fine.

Justin's pick: Sheamus & Cesaro retain
Dan's pick: I hate them putting a Championship match on the pre-show.  Kills whatever prestige these fake championships should have.  S&C should retain.




Pre-show Match: Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya vs. Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella & Naomi 


Wow, the Smackdown women's roster is actually a full boat.  We have three separate feuds going on right now and this match is a way to advance them all.  Feels a bit like a Saturday Night's Main Event kinda thing, but whatever, it'll be fun.  Mickie James's addition to the roster can only be a good thing - she's still got it by the way (See her match against Asuka for Exhibit A).  Also Nattie's back to being a heel and that makes me happy.  This match will need to establish Nikki as Alexa's next challenger.  So....

Justin's pick: Team Nikki wins
Dan's pick: Team Alexa, because I don't know


The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 10 (2015-2016)

We're almost up to date.  Read on.....


Royal Rumble - First Union Center - 1.25.15

For the second straight year Vince McMahon's stubborn tone-deafness backfired on him at the Royal Rumble.  The egregiousness of the booking was even worse than 2014's Rumble, and here's why: at least in 2014 an argument could be made that WWE didn't realize how badly Batista's comeback and Rumble win would be received.  I mean, those of us with the capacity for logical thought knew Batista's return wasn't going to galvanize the fanbase like Vince hoped, and that 2014 was clearly Daniel Bryan's time.  But WWE realized they'd made a mistake and worked diligently to correct it, and eventually we got the WrestleMania we deserved.  But WWE learned nothing from this fiasco apparently, as you'll see.

Before I go on any further about this turd of a Rumble match, let's recap the undercard.

The Ascension experiment fell on its face out of the gate, as the fans didn't buy these two generic-looking Indie-style midcarders as the second coming of the Road Warriors.  But no matter, they still got a decisive win over The New Age Outlaws.  This stunk.  Moving on.

Another tag match followed, this one a WWE Tag Title match between The Usos and Team Mizdow.  Not bad but not much more than a run-of-the-mill RAW match.

Third time's the charm?  Not so much.  The Bella Twins faced Paige & Natalya in the third consecutive tag match on this show, and while probably the best bout so far, this also wasn't much to tell the grandkids about.

Amazingly, a memorable and awesome match broke out in the semi-main slot, as WWE Champ Brock Lesnar defended against John Cena and Seth Rollins.  Man, what a stunningly worked match.  All three guys wrestled like this was the main event of WrestleMania, packing the bout with non-stop action, near-falls, and high spots.  Lesnar dominated early with German suplexes galore (including a double GS on Rollins flunkies Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury) before being put through a table by Rollins mid-match.  Rollins would then turn in a career performance, nearly defeating John Cena for the Title if not for Lesnar's third-act comeback.  Lesnar finally finished off Rollins by countering a Curb Stomp with an F5, retaining the Title and capping off his best match since SummerSlam 2013.  One of the best Triple Threats I've ever seen.


Had the Rumble match been anywhere near as good as the three-way this PPV would've been saved.  Alas it wasn't good.  At all.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NXT Takeover: San Antonio Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another edition of Enuffa.com Predictions, as my colleague Landon Wayne and I pick apart this Saturday's NXT Takeover special from San Antonio!



The landscape of NXT has gone through quite a number of changes since Toronto, with several new faces added to the mix.  The Women's division in particular is in a rebuilding phase, as Asuka has destroyed everyone in her path since arriving on the scene a year and a half ago.  The Tag Title picture for the first time in about a year isn't focused on The Revival.  The NXT Championship has bounced back and forth between Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura (who is right now the sole face of the promotion).  It's an interesting and somewhat unpredictable time on the yellow brand.  So let's take a look at the matchups....



Roderick Strong vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas


Once again poor Almas is being used to put over an NXT newcomer.  They need to figure out something to do with this guy.  He's got the in-ring talent in spades, but his character isn't connecting.  As for Roddy Strong, it should be fun to see how he fares in NXT.  He's an obviously very accomplished indie star with a track record of fantastic bouts and I'm excited to see him interact with Austin Aries when Aries returns.  This match will be a fun opener and a great showcase for Strong.

Justin's pick: Roderick Strong
Landon's pick: This is the one match on the card that I think has the potential to be better than its placement. I have full confidence that these two will be able to make a great match out of what they’re given. I think Almas has a lot to offer the company that he isn’t, though that’s no fault of his. Strong’s place in the company is still to be determined in my mind, and the result of this match will tell all. My prediction is Almas, regardless.




Eric Young vs. Tye Dillinger


Dillinger is another solid hand who seems destined to make incoming guys look good.  I've never been much of an Eric Young fan but the Sanity gimmick is at least intriguing.  This'll be another competitive showcase match with an obvious outcome.

Justin's pick: Eric Young
Landon's pick: Eric Young. Tye needs to be number 10 in the Rumble or there’s gonna be riots.



Top Ten Things: Coen Brothers Films

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll count down my ten favorite something-or-others....


Today's topic is Joel and Ethan Coen, the co-director brothers who specialize in strange characters, meticulously crafted dialogue, and sometimes head-scratching endings.  The Coens have built a tremendously diverse and idiosyncratic slate of films spanning multiple genres, often involving film noir elements and seedy criminals, but sometimes taking the form of a sardonic comedy or scathing satire.  I've been a fan of theirs more or less since they debuted with Blood Simple, but it was in the mid-90s that Joel and Ethan reached their full potential, and they've helmed multiple classics over the past thirty years.

But which Coen films are the best?  Let's look at the top ten now, shall we?




10. A Serious Man


This uncomfortable dark comedy about a physics professor whose life begins spiraling out of control was quietly nominated for multiple Oscars and largely flew under the radar.  Michael Stuhlbarg stars as Larry Gopnik, a husband and father of two whose wife wants to leave him for his best friend, and whose slightly delinquent kids don't respect him.  Stuhlbarg carries the film with an understatedly comic performance, reacting to each new hardship with annoyed disbelief.  The Larry character reminds me a bit of Barton Fink in that he never seems to give up hope or accept that he's simply screwed.  The film has a philosophical tone but ultimately appears to arrive at the conclusion that bad things sometimes happen to people just because.  An unexpectedly strong inclusion to the Coens' filmography.





9. Raising Arizona


This zany western-comedy stars Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a robber and cop, respectively, who inexplicably fall in love and decide to steal a baby from a rich couple who has just had quintuplets.  But soon Cage's ex-cellmates escape prison and pay him a visit, and he goes back to armed robbery, while the baby's actual parents hire a grizzled bounty hunter to retrieve their child.  The film blends screwball elements with those of Mad Max to show off the Coens' bizarre sense of humor, and also marks their first of several brilliant collaborations with John Goodman.





8. Barton Fink


Possibly the weirdest Coen Brothers film is this dark, moody period piece set in 1941, about a playwright-turned-screenwriter plagued with writer's block.  John Turturro's title character lives in a Hollywood hotel and befriends his next door neighbor Charlie (John Goodman), who turns out to be a brutal serial killer.  This psychological drama was written over three weeks while Joel and Ethan struggled to complete the Miller's Crossing script, and though difficult to fully categorize, contains elements of film noir, horror and surrealism.  Barton Fink is read by some as symbolic of the rise of fascism in Eastern Europe, while others see it as a parable about a man trapped in Hell.  Whatever the interpretation, Barton Fink is a darkly unique, haunting entry in the Coen pantheon.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

WWE Royal Rumble Favorites: Who CAN Actually Win

by Dan Moore
@SouthieDanimal


January is Royal Rumble time. My favorite PPV to watch, the Rumble has up to 30 (and sometimes 40) men that enter the squared circle to possibly win a chance to be the WWE Champion. But let’s be realistic. Of the 30 (or sometimes 40) there’s only a handful that actually have a shot to pull off the victory. I mean, as funny as it would be to have watched Drew Carey win (or at least I assume that’s what Vince thought), most of these guys have no chance. Here now are the dudes that might have a shot to be the last man standing at the end of the night.


JB: I'll my adding my two cents to each section, just to annoy everyone.




NAMES BUT NEVER-WILLS

Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, The New Day, Sheamus, Cesaro

These are all the mid tier of the WWE at this point. They’ll all put in a good showing, they’ll all get the crowd going, and they’ll all do something bad ass in the match. But none of them have a chance to win this thing.


JB: I would add Sami Zayn to this group.  He'll have a solid showing and give us all some fighting spirit, but he'll fall short.




LONG SHOTS

Kurt Angle ODDS 100-1
One of the greatest superstars ever. He could potentially end up being a surprise participant in the Rumble, but I put his odds at winning at ZERO.

AJ Styles ODDS 80-1
The man doing the best work week in, week out has to be put on this list. But I expect him to hold onto his Smackdown Title and move onto another feud for 'Mania.

John Cena ODDS 75-1
I mean, he’s always got a shot at it. Always.

Finn Balor ODDS 50-1
Due to come back from injury any time now, it’s not unprecedented to see a returning star win the Rumble in such fashion. However, I don’t see him pulling off the win here. Just doesn’t seem right from the storyline perspective.


JB: If Balor does indeed return on Sunday I'd put him in the group of Contenders, or at least the Possibles.  He'd be pulling a 2008 John Cena or a 2010 Edge.  And it would be awesome.  Also you gotta add Samoa Joe at probably 60-1 odds, as he's a very likely surprise addition.  He's all done with his NXT responsibilities and isn't even booked at Saturday's NXT TakeOver.  He'll be in this Rumble to kill a lotta people, but he won't win.  But it will set up a feud for him with someone, which is gonna be great.  #JoesGonnaKillYou


The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 9 (2012-2014)

Welcome to part 9.  Let's get on with it....



Royal Rumble 2012 - Scottrade Center - 1.29.12


What a phoned-in show this was.  Considering the company had two excellent World Champions in January 2012 they sure put on a shoddy Rumble PPV.  An undercard with only one really good match (which was underwhelming), and a Rumble match featuring one of the worst lineups in history.  Let's examine this turd.  God, even the poster for it sucks.

The show opened, as so many PPVs of the time did, with the World Title match.  New Champion and smarmy dickish heel Daniel Bryan defended in a steel cage against two of the biggest men on the roster, Mark Henry and The Big Show.  The match told a good story and much of it consisted of Bryan using any weasely tactic possible to evade a toe-to-toe fight.  But at under ten minutes and with two massive opponents Bryan was hardly put in a show-stealing position.  This was okay, and the right guy won.

The obligatory Divas match was next as Beth Phoenix and Natalya (dubbed The Divas of Doom) teamed with the Bella twins against Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox and Tamina Snuka.  The DoD were the primary focus of the division at this point and seemed poised for a good heel run which would lead to a Beth vs. Natalya match at WrestleMania.  Alas none of that came to fruition and Natalya was saddled with an "uncontrollable gas" gimmick (who wouldn't get over with that?) while Beth got the privilege of being pinned cleanly by talk show host Maria Menounos at 'Mania 28.  Lovely.  This match was what it was, i.e. five minutes of "meh."

The ill-conceived John Cena vs. Kane feud was kicked off third.  Typical WWE nondescript brawl ending in a double countout, necessitating a rematch in February.  Given how thin the Rumble roster was, couldn't these two have just been included there?

Do I have your attention now?

Oh lovely, a squash match is next.  Brodus Clay (Remember him?  He was gonna be a huge deal.) destroyed Drew McIntyre (Remember him?  He was gonna be a huge deal.) in 65 seconds.  Thus began the disturbing 2012 trend of routinely including squash matches on PPV.

The one highlight of the evening was the WWE Title match pitting CM Punk against Dolph Ziggler, with GM John Laurinitis serving as the guest ringside enforcer.  I'm not sure what company officials were smoking when they elected to give Johnny Ace an on-air role, but he was terrible.  Like embarrassingly bad at everything.  And this is a guy who used to be a moderately successful wrestler.  This match was fine but the Johnny L bullcrap got in the way and they weren't given enough time to knock one out of the park.  Punk retained at about 14:30.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!


Today's entry is for me one of the great disappointments in cinematic history.  In 1994 Francis Ford Coppola followed up his critically and commercially successful Dracula adaptation with a production of Frankenstein, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, with Robert Deniro as the creature.  Like Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was an operatic, gritty, almost pulpy screen version of the novel that featured fairly graphic blood and gore, and appealed to the mid-90s culture of excess.  Unfortunately it wasn't nearly as well-received as its counterpart and flopped in the States, though it did pretty well overseas.

Being a huge fan of Coppola's Dracula, I was salivating at the prospect of a faithful Frankenstein adaptation, and for a solid five years I tried to convince myself that this film worked.  But it doesn't.

So what went wrong?  How did such a promising endeavor fail to connect with its audience?  Let's take a look....



The Awesome


Robert Deniro

In an odd bit of casting against type, Robert Deniro was tapped to play the reviled, misshapen creature, and even stranger, his character/performance is the most understated and relatable.  In a film where almost everyone has comically histrionic moments of distress and anguish, Deniro oddly provides an anchor, portraying the creature as a misunderstood brute who is pretty gentle by nature until pushed too far.  Despite having to act through heavy makeup, Deniro, like Boris Karloff in the 30s, was able to convey a wide range of emotions and make us care about him.

Looks like Leatherface almost



Helena Bonham Carter

She's asked to go a bit over-the-top occasionally (to go along with her absurdly large hairstyle), but overall Carter's performance as Victor's fiancee Elizabeth is tender and nuanced, making the romantic elements of the story ring true even as the rest veers into parody.  She comes across as a strong 90s cinematic love interest while staying true to the period setting.  

"The hair needs to be bigger on top!
It's gotta be a wall, a wall!"

Monday, January 23, 2017

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 8 (2009-2011)

Welcome back to our Royal Rumble History retrospective!  We've come to the end of the 2000s!


Royal Rumble 2009 - Joe Louis Arena - 1/25/09

Here's a rather tepid event if I've ever seen one.  The 2009 Rumble was thoroughly mediocre and frankly not all that memorable.  It had a series of middling undercard matches followed by a Rumble match where nearly all the big names entered early and overstayed their welcome.

The opener was a match for the now-defunct ECW Title, as new monster heel Jack Swagger (a guy in whom I saw tremendous potential at the time) vs. Matt Hardy.  This was a solid match that showcased the All-American American pretty well.

The All-American American, JACK THHHHHHWAGGER!!

Next was a Women's Title match featuring Beth Phoenix defending against Melina.  Your basic six-minute Divas match.  Melina captured the belt.

Third was one of the weaker World Title matches in recent memory as John Cena faced JBL.  This was against the backdrop of a godawful JBL-Shawn Michaels feud, in which Michaels supposedly had financial problems and was hired by JBL to help him win the World Title.  First off, Shawn had been a WWE employee on and off for 20 years and was easily one of the higher-paid stars in 2009.  Are we supposed to believe he's in such financial peril he'd accept a manservant position working for another wrestler?  The feud was awful and this match was devoid of suspense since obviously JBL wasn't winning the Championship.

The best undercard match of the night was WWE Champ Jeff Hardy defending against Edge.  This was a well-worked 19-minute match with a lame ending.  It was rumored leading into this that the returning Christian would interfere and cost Jeff the Title, leading to a feud between them.  Instead WWE opted to have Matt Hardy (who had just wrestled earlier as a babyface) turn against Jeff so they could fight at 'Mania, and then make up a month later.  Nevermind that Edge's longtime best friend Christian would have a much more logical reason for helping Edge.  The Hardy vs. Hardy feud yielded a couple decent PPV matches but was a terribly ill-conceived angle.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 7 (2006-2008)

Welcome back to Enuffa.com and our Royal Rumble History!  We've entered the John Cena Era!


Royal Rumble 2006 - American Airlines Arena - 1/29/06

Aaaaand we're back to another one-match Rumble PPV.  The 2006 edition featured a flat-out abysmal undercard with not one but two shitty Title matches, BOTH OF WHICH went on after the Rumble itself.  That's correct, the Royal Rumble went on fourth out of six.  Unbelievable.

The show opened with a decent enough Cruiserweight Six-Way match, as Kid Kash defended against Gregory Helms (having shed his Hurricane gimmick), Funaki, Nunzio, Jamie Noble and Paul London.  This went just shy of eight minutes but was a fun opener.  Helms got the pin to capture the Title and was set up for a promising heel run.  Unfortunately, as was common with Cruiserweight Champions, the company more or less forgot about him.

Next was a nigh unwatchable women's match as hot new heel Mickie James (who was amazing in this role) faced glorified model Ashley Massaro, with Women's Champ Trish Stratus as guest referee.  Utterly pointless, and even a talented worker like Mickie couldn't carry Ashley to a passable bout.  But ya know, Ashley was on the cover of Playboy so they had to feature her heavily.

Another throwaway was next as The Boogeyman defeated former WWE Champion JBL in just under two minutes.  The Boogeyman character was cartoonish but well executed, however the performer Marty Wright couldn't wrestle a lick.  Just dreadful.

Fourth out of six was the Rumble match.  This edition centered around the tasteless exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death two months earlier, as Rey Mysterio had begun dedicating everything he did to Eddie, repeatedly talking to the ceiling on camera.  Mysterio delivered a career performance here though, drawing number 2, going coast-to-coast, and breaking Chris Benoit's longevity record.  The match boiled down to Rey, Triple H (who drew #1), and Randy Orton.  Rey as usual played the underdog to perfection, outmaneuvering both heels to win the match.  This appeared to be setting up Rey vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania, which would've been spectacular, but unfortunately the company added Randy Orton to the World Title mix and then only gave the three guys 9 minutes at 'Mania.  Rey would go on to have one of the worst World Title runs ever booked.  Anywho, this Rumble match was well-done and made Rey look great for one night at least.  Other highlights included the returning Rob Van Dam, and both members of MNM having impressive stints.

Rey beat two-thirds of Evolution in one match.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dead Poets Society

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  It's time once again for me to cut open a beloved classic and tell you all why it's not as good as everyone seems to think it is.


Today's example is the critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning 1989 film Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams as an anti-establishment teacher at a prestigious prep school, who forms a close bond with his students and encourages them to be forward-thinking and to follow their dreams.  His unconventional teaching style comes into question and soon has repercussions quite at odds with the school's cookie-cutter approach to education.

This film was a big hit and built on Robin Williams' Good Morning Vietnam success as a serious (albeit slightly comedic) actor.  It would be his second consecutive role to earn him a Best Actor nod.

So why do I consider DPS an Awesomely Shitty Movie you ask?  Well let's take a closer look....



The Awesome


Robin Williams

Dead Poets Society was the second mainstream film to showcase Robin Williams' considerable dramatic chops.  Generally known for his manic, zany comedy antics, Williams mostly delivers a nuanced, understated performance as the benign, free-spirited Literature professor, and we believe it when the students become inspired by him.  The scene where he coaxes a spontaneous, evocative poem out of the cripplingly shy Todd Anderson is genuinely touching, while his emotional breakdown after Neil's death is a briefly heartbreaking moment.  Aside from a few moments where he veered way too far into typical Robin Williams territory, this was a fine performance that elevated Williams as an Oscar-caliber actor.

Stop making me cry, Mork!



The Students

Most of the students are given pretty fleshed-out characters and the performances are generally top-notch.  Standouts include Robert Sean Leonard as the conflicted-but-idealistic Neil Perry, Ethan Hawke as the hopelessly bashful Todd Anderson, and Gale Hansen as the brash, rebellious Charlie Dalton (probably my favorite character).  The students are all quite relatable in one way or another and they make a colorful ensemble of protagonists to guide us through this repressive 1950s setting.

'Tis a good buncha lads....



Locations

The film was shot almost entirely at St. Andrew's School in Middletown, DE, providing a visually striking backdrop for the story.  Its gothic architecture created a suitably old-world metaphor for the stifling, conformist ideas pushed on the students.  The landscapes are initially bathed in lovely fall colors before giving way to peaceful snowy panoramas.  Lovely spot for an academic tragedy.

Seems like a swell campus



Final Scene

You all know it, it's the "O Captain, my Captain" scene, where Mr. Nolan has taken over Keating's class until they hire a replacement, Keating comes back to pick up his things, and most of the students salute him by standing on their desks and reciting that old Walt Whitman phrase (while a red-faced Nolan barks orders for them to sit down).  Sure it's cheesy, it's sappy, it's kinda pedestrian, but it chokes me up every time, particularly considering Robin Williams' tragic suicide a couple years ago.  As an emotional climax it packs a solid punch.

I do love the composition of this shot



Ok, put the tissues away.  Now here's a whole buncha stuff about this movie that doesn't work....



The Shitty


Shamelessly Manipulative

Now look, I enjoy this movie on many levels as stated above.  But there's also a lot wrong with it, most of which comes back to the script being unabashed in its low-rent audience manipulation.  Just about everything I'm going to talk about in this section relates to this theme in some way.  The film dials up certain characters to almost comical degree in order to make us feel one way or another about them, wedges in story developments that don't feel earned, or takes sharp turns that simply aren't believable, in order to get from Point A to B.



Kurtwood Smith

The first of two mustache-twisting "bad guys" in a movie that really shouldn't have any, Neil's father, Mr. Perry, played by the excellent Kurtwood Smith (To be clear, Smith's inclusion here isn't a reflection on his acting ability, but on what the script and direction asks of him) is such tyrannical bastard it's amazing his son hasn't either run away from home or murdered him in his sleep long before the events of this film.  He goes from being a cold, undemonstrative paternal figure to a raging asshole.  There's a scene where he angrily confronts Neil about joining the school play and his delivery is so over-the-top it's unintentionally hilarious.  "Is that clear?........IS THAT CLEEARR!!??"

Hey Clarence Boddicker.  Lighten up a little, will ya?



Norman Lloyd

Same kinda thing here - Norman Lloyd is so reptilian as the school's Headmaster the role may as well have gone to Ian McDiarmid.  Lloyd uses this faux English accent and a nasal, flinty delivery, there's nothing realistic or three-dimensional about the character.  If he isn't laying down inappropriately high expectations of new student Todd Anderson ("We expect great things from you Mr. Anderson, your brother was one of our finest.") he's bashing Charlie Dalton's asscheeks in with a racquetball paddle.  "Evaluate this poetry with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the Ivy League will be complete!"

Christ, the guy's even DRESSED like a Sith Lord



Cameron

I said there were two bad guys in this movie but in the third act the script adds another.  The Cameron character starts as a reluctantly willing participant and morphs into a slimy little informant in the blink of an eye, and this plays out more like a 90-degree turn than an arc.  In about ten minutes of screen time he goes from "I'm not sure about all this insubordination but I kinda like it," to "Let Keating fry."  The character becomes what the script needs him to, just to get to a cheap scene where the audience is happy to see him get punched in the face.  This payoff would've felt much more organic if the filmmakers had the discipline to gradually turn Cameron into a self-preserving jerk.

Nice face Cam.  Be a shame if someone punched it.



DPS Meetings

The most frequent (and titular) example of rebellious behavior on the part of our protagonists is a series of secret meetings held in a cave in the woods, wherein the students take turns reading poems, in between shootin' the shit, enjoying a snack, and trying to impress some girls.  Presumably these gatherings are supposed to be the inspiration for the boys' newfound free-spiritedness, and their love for poetry is meant to spill over into their daily lives.  But the DPS scenes are so awkwardly written and executed the point of it all gets lost, and outside the Society and the classroom the boys don't seem to give the slightest of shits about poetry itself.  It all just comes off as an excuse to socialize after hours.



Knox Subplot

One student, Knox Overstreet, gets a tediously trite subplot where he falls desperately in love with a girl named Chris during a chance meeting at her boyfriend Chet's house (Chet is written as a mindless jock archetype, supplying yet another heel figure).  Before long he's moping around like he wants to off himself, creepily patting Chris's head while she's passed out at a party (and subsequently getting his face pounded in by Chet), writing cringe-inducingly awful poems about her, and eventually barging into her classroom to read her one of said compositions.  The upshot is that she finally agrees to talk to him and even accompanies him to Neil's play, where they end up holding hands.  How quaint.  And then.....well, that's it.  This subplot is completely dropped once Neil rides the ol' bullet train.

Just go in the janitor's closet and get it over with, ya little turds!



Neil's Suicide

This movie takes a bizarre (and pretty contrived) turn in the third act, when after defying Dad's orders to drop out of the school play, Neil is withdrawn from Welton and enrolled in military school.  Unable to face this new future, and too chickenshit to stand up to or even have a heart-to-heart conversation with his dad, Neil goes into the study, takes out Mr. Perry's revolver (Way to leave it loaded in an unlocked drawer Dad, ya fuckin' deadbeat!), and fires a bullet into his brain.  From then on the movie becomes a belabored tragedy, as Mr. Perry and the school launch a full-on investigation so Mr. Keating can take the fall for Neil's suicide.  Keating predictably gets fired and the school goes on with the business of browbeating all free thought out of its students.  The whole thing is way over the top and feels unearned and manufactured, as though the filmmakers couldn't figure out a resolution that would be both memorable and plausible.  Once Neil's gone all the subplots are forgotten about and the movie hurtles toward the final victimization of Mr. Keating, so we can get a tearful climax.  And with that we've come full-circle; this movie is shamelessly manipulative; a tearjerker just for the sake of being a tearjerker.

They forgot to add the brains all over the floor



Nitpicks

-There's a scene where Keating is making all the students laugh by reading Shakespeare in different voices, such as John Wayne and Marlon Brando.  But his Brando impression is clearly based on The Godfather, a film that wouldn't come out until 13 years after this film takes place.  Also this scene strikes me as a blatant case of shoehorning Robin Williams' standup schtick into the film.

-I get that "carpe diem" is supposed to be the movie's catchphrase, but would high school students honestly adopt it as such?  By the same token would Knox, upon completing a promising phone call with Chris, the girl he's hot for, yell out "YAWP!!" just because he learned about the Walt Whitman poem in class?  This all seemed very forced to me, like the filmmakers were hoping high school students everywhere would start talking like this.

-The whole situation with Keating goes to hell within one semester of his tenure at Welton.  Well, that escalated quickly.  Seems like a teacher with a penchant for turning kids defiant that fast would never have been hired at such a stuffy, conformist school.  He must be a helluva bullshit artist at those job interviews.

-How did Mr. Perry pull Neil out of Welton and enroll him in the other school so damn fast?  The way he announces it, it sounds like he made a couple phone calls on the way home from the theater.  The Admissions offices wouldn't be open, nor would a new school enroll the kid without receiving a deposit.

-Is it really believable that a school would outright blame a teacher for one of his students committing suicide at home?  I get that they needed a scapegoat, but this seems like quite a stretch.  Moreover the school conducts this little investigation into a student's death, apparently without ever contacting the authorities.

-As much as I like the final scene as a way to close a movie, it kinda doesn't hold up as a real-life scenario.  After Keating leaves the room, then what?  Do all the kids standing on their desks get expelled?  Does the class just resume as it was?  Does Nolan ease up a bit on the students (This seems implausible)?  It's a scene designed to create a moving, dramatic moment but it can't really ever have a satisfying resolution.

-Roger Ebert mentioned this in his review at the time, but how is there no mention of the beatnik writers and poets, in this 1950s-set film about poetry?

-Presumably the whole point of this movie is "Be yourself, be nonconformist, challenge authority," yes?  But look what happens to the three characters who most embody that philosophy - one gets fired, one gets expelled, one kills himself.  What are we supposed to take away from this movie again??



Conclusion

As I said earlier, I do like many things about this film.  When it's on cable or streaming I almost always have to sit down at watch at least part of it.  It's been ingrained in my memory since my early teen years, and thanks largely to a fine Robin Williams performance it's become THE prep school movie for most people (although I consider 1992's School Ties superior).  But unfortunately Dead Poets Society's story scarcely holds up to scrutiny.  It's ironic that this movie won Best Original Screenplay, when the writing is really it's largest problem.  It's a pandering script that seems to take on more than it can handle and isn't prepared to resolve almost any of it in a satisfying way.  A shame really, there's a very good film in here somewhere....


Well that does it for today's lesson.  Don't forget to read Chapters 4 and 5 of your Understanding Poetry textbook for next time.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 6 (2003-2005)

Here we go with Part 6 of The History of WWE Royal Rumble!


Royal Rumble 2003 - FleetCenter - 1.19.03

What a perfect illustration of how much better Paul Heyman's Smackdown was than RAW in 2003.  The '03 Rumble holds a special place for me because I was in attendance.  The WWE product at this point had spectacular highs coupled with absolutely dreadful lows, and this PPV showcased both.

The big story of this Rumble was the mega-face push of Brock Lesnar, who had been betrayed by Paul Heyman two months earlier (in one of the most nonsensical angles of the era), and who was now returning from a brief injury.  The opening match was a Rumble qualifier between Lesnar and The Big Show which, while better than their Survivor Series '02 encounter was still only about six minutes.  But it accomplished what it needed to and provided a decisive win for Lesnar on his way to the Rumble.

Next was a Tag Title throwaway - The Dudley Boyz defeated William Regal and Lance Storm for the straps.  This was inoffensive but pretty dull.

Third was the culmination of probably the worst storyline of 2002 - Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie.  Weeks earlier it was revealed that Dawn had been banging Torrie's father Al, and there was a storyline wedding complete with Al Wilson stripping down to his skivvies (Just what we all wanted to see!).  A week or so later Al "died" while he and Dawn were on their honeymoon, specifically during the physical act of love.  Torrie blamed Dawn for killing her father and thus we were subjected to this matchup.  Three and a half minutes of pointless.

But at least Torrie vs. Dawn was bad and short, unlike our next bout.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Things: Kurt Angle Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be counting down the top ten matches of probably the greatest pure athlete ever to lace up a pair of pro wrestling boots, Kurt Freakin' Angle.  Angle made easily the most successful-ever transition from the amateur/Olympic mat to the WWF/E ring, picking up the mechanics and storytelling nuances faster than possibly anyone before him.  After only a few years in the business Angle became a company MVP, delivering dozens of Match of the Year candidates during his seven-year WWF/E run.  He then very unexpectedly signed with TNA and repeated his in-ring success there, proving himself a cornerstone for the better part of a decade.


Angle is now a free agent and has long expressed a desire to finish his career where it started, in WWE.  I for one would very much like to see this happen; Angle was in my estimation the Wrestler of the '00s and his storied career deserves to end on the highest note possible, on the biggest stage of them all.

For now though, let's take a look back at the best matches in Kurt Angle's remarkable career....



10. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle - WWE WrestleMania XX - 3.14.04


The billed semi-main event for the 20th WrestleMania was Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE Title.  This was an instant classic with fantastic performances by both men, and had one of the cleverest endings I can remember (Eddie loosened his boot so that when Angle put him in the anklelock it would slip off his foot.  Then when Angle charged at him, Eddie nailed a small package for the win.  A perfect way for the Eddie Guerrero character to steal a victory.)




9. Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe - TNA Turning Point - 12.10.06


Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle was easily the greatest (and most profitable) feud in TNA history, and this was their best match together.  Only weeks after his TNA debut, Angle won their shockingly brief first encounter at Genesis, but now it was time for Joe to even the score.  After 19 minutes of spectacular back-and-forth chain wrestling and submissions, Joe finally made Angle tap out to the Coquina Clutch, ending one of the best matches of 2006.




8. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - WWE Unforgiven - 9.22.02


The two best technical wrestlers in the company (and probably the world) at this time engaged in a legendary on/off feud from 2001-2003, and while not the apex of said rivalry (Hint: there's more Angle vs. Benoit on this list), this match is near the top.  There was no major angle taking place between Angle and Benoit, this was just a battle for dominance.  They built on their 2001 match series and delivered a blistering 15-minute clinic with nary a low point.  Benoit eventually won with a quick rollup, and these two would go on to become reluctant tag partners in the quest for the new WWE Tag Team Titles.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Movie Review: La La Land

Well Mr. Drinan and I have finally both seen La La Land, the new musical that's getting all kinds of award buzz (along with a host of awards).  Did it live up to the hype?  Mike and I will break it down a little for ya.  ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** 



Justin: Alright let's get into this.  What did you think of La La Land?


Mike: Over. Rated. I don't think it's a bad movie, it's just okay. However, the amount of praise being heaped on this movie, I feel, is undeserved and overblown. It seems like Hollywood is falling over itself because this movie is about Hollywood and LA and plus, it's a musical! Hooray. Okay great, it's a musical, but it's nothing different than what's already been done. Everything about this film is drenched in nostalgia and tribute. I couldn't count how many old time movie posters were hanging on the wall during Emma Stone's number before the ladies went out on the town. Is LA really covered with lamp posts from the 1950s on every corner? Ryan Gosling's wardrobe was also old timey with the wing-tipped shoes. I thought this movie was going to be a modern take on the musical and all I got was a movie that had the 1940s and 50s written all over it.

I found the plot to be generic and boring. What was the plot? Two white people are having a tough time breaking into show business. **Yaaaawn**  No one needs a two-hour musical to realize that show business is tough to break into, so spare me the pity party. Also, the characters barely have any backstory and the script makes them uninteresting to the point that I don't care about them or feel invested in whatever happens to them. All movie long I was waiting for something to happen and nothing ever did. I was bored to tears over this movie.

Now, the music was the best part of this film for me even though I didn't think it was all that great. In fact, there were only two songs in the film that I felt lent anything to the story. The first was "City of Stars." I loved how it was the recurring song throughout the film. The other was Emma Stone's "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)." Other than those two, the film didn't benefit from any of the other musical numbers, they were just spectacle. The opening number made me feel as if I was watching an Old Navy commercial. Plus, there was a long stretch in the middle of the film that didn't have any musical numbers at all. I even wondered to myself, "Wait, is this still a musical?" before the music started up again. It was almost as if the film itself forgot it was a musical at that point.

This film was straight out of the "Old Hollywood" playbook. It was so formulaic and obvious. Again, okay movie but undeserving of all the praise it's getting.

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 5 (2000-2002)

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's Royal Rumble History as we kick off the new millennium!


Royal Rumble 2000 - Madison Square Garden - 1.23.00

Night and day.  That's how I'd compare the WWF product from 1999 to 2000.  After Vince Russo left, overly contrived angles, abbreviated matches, and a lack of focus on in-ring all went out the window.  In their place were excellent matches, a blossoming talent pool, and storylines that made sense.  The 2000 Royal Rumble was the perfect way to kick off what was probably the best single year in the company's history.

The first match saw new WWF star Kurt Angle against a mystery opponent.  The roof came off MSG as the surprise was revealed to be former ECW Champion Tazz.  While I hated, HATED the extra "z" in his name, Tazz made short work of Angle with a dominant three-minute win.  Sadly this was the last time Tazz was used correctly as a WWF wrestler.  He faded into the midcard almost immediately after this and transitioned into an announcer role.

An unlikely Match of the Year candidate was next as The Hardy Boyz faced The Dudley Boyz in the first-ever Tables Match.  These two teams cut the most blistering pace I'd ever seen, assembling a dizzying array of death-defying high spots which climaxed with Jeff Hardy performing a Swanton off the loge entranceway onto Bubba Ray, and through two tables.  This match would be the prototype for the TLC series.

Shit's about to get real.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 4 (1997-1999)

Welcome to Part 4 of Enuffa.com's History of the Royal Rumble!  And welcome to the Stone Cold Era!


Royal Rumble 1997 - AlamoDome - 1/19/97

The 1997 Rumble has unfortunately not aged all that well, but at the time I absolutely loved this show.  The card was pretty stacked and sprinkled with several Mexican lucha stars (Nevermind that WCW had already scooped up all the GOOD lucha stars - I didn't yet know any better.), the Rumble match had a strong field of contenders (largely due to most of the undercard participants pulling double duty), and the huge venue added to its splendor, making this show feel more like a WrestleMania card than 'Mania 13 did.

The opener was an I-C Title match - Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Goldust.  At this point the company was struggling to find a sidekick for Hunter after Mr. Perfect left the company, and they saddled him with perennial midcarder Curtis Hughes.  Fortunately a month later Hunter would bring in Chyna, and his career would never be the same.  As for this match, it was passable but nowhere near as good as their 'Mania rematch would be.

Why wasn't WrestleMania 13 held here?

The next match featured the in-ring return of Ahmed Johnson, out for revenge against Faarooq, who had injured him the previous summer.  I was excited to see this, and while it was brief and inconclusive, it was a fun brawl.

Third was a dream match of sorts between The Undertaker and Vader.  There wasn't much going on in this feud but the pair worked pretty well together.  Underwhelming but decent.

Next was a showcase of B-grade Lucha stars, as Hector Garza, Perro Aguayo and Canek took on Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal and Fuerza Guerrera.  As Lucha six-man tags go I now know this was a pretty shabby representation, but at the time some of this stuff blew my mind (I didn't watch Nitro enough to take in much of the real Lucha action.).  I was particularly impressed with Hector Garza, as was WCW apparently (He debuted there later that year).

The Rumble match was once again in the semi-main slot, and featured a star-making performance by Steve Austin.  Austin entered the match fifth and cleared the ring multiple times, eventually eliminating a record-shattering ten people.  One of the match highlights occurred while Austin was alone in the ring waiting for the next entrant, and Bret Hart's music hit.  The crowd erupted to see Austin and Bret resume their landmark feud, and the two of them engaged in a blistering 90-second slugfest.  This Rumble match has one of the best closing stretches of any Rumble - ten men left in the ring after number 30, five of them potential winners.  It boiled down to Austin, Bret, Vader, Taker, and Fake Diesel.  Suddenly Bret dumped Austin out, but since the officials were distracted by Mankind and Terry Funk brawling at ringside the elimination went unnoticed and Austin slid back in, eliminating Vader, Taker and Bret.  Bret flew into a rage at Austin's tainted victory, furthering his gradual heel turn.  This match is another one of my all-time favorite Rumbles.

Man, evil Austin was great.

Participants: Crush, Ahmed Johnson, Fake Razor Ramon, Phineas Godwinn, Steve Austin, Bart Gunn, Jake Roberts, British Bulldog, Pierroth, The Sultan, Mil Mascaras, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Owen Hart, Goldust, Cibernetico, Marc Mero, Latin Lover, Faarooq, Savio Vega, Jesse James, Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler, Fake Diesel, Terry Funk, Rocky Maivia, Mankind, Flash Funk, Vader, Henry Godwinn, Undertaker
Final Four: Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Undertaker, Vader
Long Man: Steve Austin (45:07)